2008 Briefs : October - December

Wellington Zoo Raises $6 Million for New Vet Hospital

October 1, 2008  www.stuff.co.nz

Wellington Zoo has raised nearly $6 million to build a state-of-the-art animal hospital where visitors will be able to watch veterinary staff treat sick animals.  Work began last week on building "The Nest", which will replace the outdated 1930s bungalow currently used by the veterinarians. Chief executive Karen Fifield said this was the zoo's largest and most ambitious project. "The Nest will be a hub for conservation in the Wellington region ... and will treat native wildlife as well as zoo inhabitants.  It will also function as a research and teaching facility for vets, researchers and biologists. It will contain a saltwater pool for marine animals to be treated on site. A transparent time capsule containing artefacts from the old facility will be displayed.  Wellington City Council contributed about $4.5 million to the project. Other donations have come from the Lottery Grants Board, community trusts and individuals.

New Hosts for Equine Herpesvirus 9

October 1, 2008  www.cdc.gov

Equine herpesvirus (EHV) 9, the newest member of the equine herpesviruses  was first described in an outbreak of disease in Thomson’s gazelles (Gazella thomsoni) and subsequently in a giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) with encephalitis.  Initial fi ndings of the virus’ virulence and potential for transmission between equids and artiodactyls were alarming and provided the impetus for experimental studies, which showed that disease could be induced in members of an additional 8 mammalian taxa:  dogs, cats, horses, mice, hamsters, pigs, goats, and marmosets. Preliminary data suggest that equids are natural hosts of EHV-9 and experience little or no illness when infected.  Seroconversion was detected in 60% of wild Burchell’s zebras (Equus burchelli) in Tanzania without any associated illness.  The potential vulnerability of diverse species to EHV-9 has raised concern about the virus as an anthropozoonotic pathogen    A team of researchers from the Zoological Society of San Diego’s Center for Research in Endangered Species  (Mark D. Schrenzel, Tammy A. Tucker, Taryn A. Donovan, Martin D.M. Busch, Annabel G. Wise, Roger K. Maes, and Matti Kiupel report natural EHV-9 infection and resultant disease in an ursid and 2 equid species, confi rming the virus’ promiscuity and pathogenicity and supporting its natural residence in wild equids.  The article was published in the October issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 14, No. 10.

In July, 2007, a 12-year-old polar bear (Ursus maritimus) at the San Diego Zoo showed progressive neurologic symptoms. The animal was housed ~200 feet from a herd of recently relocated Grevy’s zebras (E. grevysi).Ultimately, the bear was euthanized, and the EHV-9 virus identified during postmortem procedures.  EHV-9 had been detected previously in 2 Grevy’s zebras from the same herd that was located near the polar bears. One of the infected Grevy’s zebras was 8 days old and had viral interstitial pneumonia; the other was an adult with rhinitis Both zebras were immunocompromised as a result of other concurrent conditions (i.e., sepsis, diarrhea, and tracheitis in the neonate and a traumatic nonhealing wound with fungal infection in the adult).  EHV-9 was also found by a retrospective analysis of tissues from an aborted Persian onager (E. hemionus onager) fetus from the National Zoo. The onager fetus was aborted after the dam came in close proximity to a Grevy’s zebra.  Thus, the natural host range for this virus is extended to 6 species in 3 mammalian orders.

London Zoo’s Tiger Problem

October 1, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk

London Zoo’s two Sumatran tigers, were supposed to mate, but the two dislike each other.  It was hoped that female Sarah, a tiger brought in from Dudley Zoo in the West Midlands, would prove to be a good match for London Zoo’s 11-year-old Lumpur.  Next year, the zoo will launch a public appeal for a big cat enclosure which is expected to cost as much as the £5.3 million spent on its Gorilla Kingdom exhibit last year.  Inspectors said that a condition of renewing the license for the 180-year-old zoo was that plans must be submitted for a new outdoor tiger paddock within two years.  Barnardo Luque, a City of London vet who was part of the five-strong inspection team, said that he had recommended new accommodation after noticing a wound on one of Sarah's hind legs. Sarah had successfully mated with a tiger in Dudley Zoo and keepers hoped the same would happen in London to help the shrinking population of Sumatran tigers.  London already had a female called Raika, who they swapped for Sarah, who had been unable to breed with 11-year-old Lumpur.  Since the problems between Sarah and Lumpur, the tigress has been temporarily moved into a second outdoor pen used by lions and zoo managers hope they can swap her back with Raika.

British Wind Farm Study

October 1, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Conservation groups have raised fears that large birds could get caught in wind farm turbines and that other species might also be disturbed by the structures.  But scientists found only one of the 23 species studied, the pheasant, was affected during their survey of two wind farms in eastern England.  The findings published in the Journal of Applied Ecology could help government and business efforts to boost the number of wind farms as a way to increase production of renewable energy. Mark Whittingham, and a team from Newcastle University studied the impact of two wind farms on about 3,000 birds in the area, including five species of conservation concern -- the yellowhammer, the Eurasian tree sparrow, the corn bunting, the Eurasian skylark and the common reed bunting.  The researchers recorded the density of birds at different distances from the turbines and found that aside from the pheasant, the structures posed no problems.  The new findings are important because the European Union is committed to generating 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020 and is also seeking to boost biodiversity.  The study did not look at the danger of the birds colliding with the turbines, which has been a worry of conservationists, Whittingham said.

Marbled Murrelet 12-month Status Review

October 1, 2008  www.fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will conduct a 12-month status review in response to a petition to delist the California/Oregon/Washington population of the marbled murrelet. The marbled murrelet is a robin-sized seabird that occurs from southern California to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, but only the population in California, Oregon and Washington is listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. To ensure this status review is comprehensive, the Service is soliciting information from state, federal and tribal natural resource agencies and all interested parties regarding the marbled murrelet and its habitat, including but not limited to, information on:
    *  Discreteness and significance of the marbled murrelet in California, Oregon and Washington in light of our distinct population segment (DPS) policy
    * Discreteness, significance and status of other portions of the marbled murrelet's range;
    * Differences or similarities in regulatory protection for marbled murrelets in the US & Canada
    * The status, distribution, or population trends of the marbled murrelet throughout its range;
    * Ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat;
    * Threats to the marbled murrelet and its habitat throughout its range. 

Notice of the 90-day petition finding and initiation of status review will be published in the Federal Register on October 2, 2008. Comments and information are due by December 1, 2008. You may submit them via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or US Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FDMS - FWS-R1-ES-2008-0095, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. 

Bristol Zoo’s Bangless Bonfire Night

October 1, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com   By Lucy Parkinson

Bristol Zoo Gardens is holding its first Bangless Bonfire Night for beginners.  Beautiful, bangless fireworks will light up the Zoo on November 5, adding a sparkle to Guy Fawkes Night without the bangs that might frighten little ones or the Zoo animals.  The toddler and animal friendly Bangless Bonfire Night will include singing around the bonfire, free face-painting, mask and lantern making and Guy Fawkes games*.  Bangless Bonfire Night tickets do not include access to the rest of the Zoo - animal houses will be closed for visitors with Bangless Bonfire only tickets. The firework display will be at 5.30pm.

Gibbon Conservation Center

October 2, 2008 www.laweekly.com   By Joshuah Bearman

Alan Mootnick, is director of the Gibbon Conservation Center located on the edge of Santa Clarita, not far from Vasquez Rocks.  It is the country’s largest zoological facility devoted to gibbon research. “We have the rarest group of apes — and don’t forget that gibbons are apes — in the western hemisphere,” he says. “And the most gibbons. We’re also the only place in the world with all four gibbon genera.”  Gibbons have just the right ratio of arm length to body weight to make them the most natural acrobats on earth - effortlessly arcing from perch to perch at 35 miles per hour. The Gibbon Conservation Center survives on a supply of volunteers (including Mootnick, who has never been paid for his years of work) and fund-raising from corporations, individuals, membership drives and a gift shop where Mootnick sells items imported from Indonesia. Twice a year, he hosts a fund-raising picnic for the public. “The last one brought in 400 people,” he says. “A big success.”  Mootnick is hoping to raise enough money for a bigger plot, in Ventura County, where he envisions his ultimate zoo: a system of larger, naturalistic enclosures, without fences, where the public can sit and observe gibbons for hours as if they were on a field study in the wild. The estimated cost? Up to a couple million dollars. A stretch, Mootnick knows, but he points out that it was a stretch to get this far from the 9-year-old banging discarded furniture together in his backyard.  “My next picnic is in October,” he says. It’s a breakfast picnic on October 19.

Cincinnati Zoo’s CREW Receives IMLS Grant

October 2, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has won a National Leadership Grant to research breeding programs for rhinoceroses and small cats.  The $835,000 grant, from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, will allow CREW to continue with its efforts to incorporate genome resource banks and assisted reproduction into the breeding and management of the endangered species.  “CREW’s project will involve collaborative work in five countries, including Indonesia, Brazil, Mongolia, India and South Africa, in addition to numerous zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums,” said Dr. Terri Roth, vice president of conservation and science for the zoo and director of CREW, in a news release.  CREW operates an 18,000-square-foot facility at the zoo, which includes plant and animal research programs.

Detroit Zoo Helps Humane Society Place Animals

October 2, 2008    www.hometownlife.com

DETROIT, Michigan – Last weekend the Michigan Humane Society, and more than 25 other animal welfare organizations from across the state, placed almost 650 dogs and cats into new homes.  The annual fall "Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo,"  was the largest off-site companion animal adoption event in the country and brought the total number of animals adopted to more than 15,000 since the first event in spring 1993. 

IUCN’s World Conservation Congress Begins

October 2,  2008  www.wbcsd.org  

Julia Marton-Lefevre, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is in charge of organizing the October 5-14 World Conservation Congress.  It is held every four years, and begins Sunday in Barcelona. More than 8,000 ministers, UN officials, NGOs, scientists and business chiefs will brainstorm for 10 days to try to determine what can be done to halt a possible tsunami of mass extinctions. Whether through habitat loss, pollution, hunting, or indirectly by global warming, humans are squarely to blame for what may be the first major die-off in 65 million years, they say.  They will also release an update of the famous “Red List", - the global standard for conservation monitoring.  It will include the most comprehensive study ever made on the survival status of Earth's more than 5,000 mammals species. It is the product of 1,700 experts, and scientists who took part in its compilation.  The 2007 edition of the “Red List” already indicates that more than a third of 41,000 species surveyed are facing extinction: a quarter of all mammals, one out of eight birds, one out of three amphibians, and 70 percent of plants.  With 11,000 volunteer scientists and more than 1,000 paid staff, the IUCN runs thousands of field projects around the globe to monitor and help manage natural environments.

Science has identified more than 1.9 million species to date. If microbial organisms are included, this is probably only a tenth of the life forms on Earth.  "No species is superfluous -- each one is the product of millions of years of evolution and plays a role in the ecosystem," explained Wendy Foden, head of the IUCN's climate change and species programme.  There are many reasons to protect the diversity of life on Earth, under pressure from loss of habitat, pollution, climate change and over exploitation, scientists say.  One is the sheer scope of the change underway.  "The evidence is overwhelming -- and we have really good data now -- that what we are seeing is probably a mass extinction," the sixth in 450 million years, said Michael Hoffman, a mammal expert at IUCN who worked extensively on the Red List.  The current pace of dieoff is 100 to 1,000 times higher than the so-called "background rate" of extinction -- the average rate, over millions of years, at which species bite the dust. "Species extinctions across all these groups will have very far-reaching consequences on human beings," he said.

Oregon Zoo Hosts 3 Cheetah Events

October 2, 2008 www.lakeoswegoreview.com

“Since 2000, the Oregon Zoo has helped us raise more than $180,000 to help save cheetahs in the wild,” said Cheetah Conservation Fund founder Dr. Laurie Marker.  Marker is a Time magazine “Hero for the Planet” award recipient and world-renowned cheetah expert.  With only 12,000 cheetahs left in the wild, the Oregon Zoo hopes to raise awareness of their plight by holding three cheetah-themed conservation events on Oct. 10 and 11. The fourth annual Run for the Cheetah is a kids’ half-mile dash at 8 a.m., followed by an 8K run-walk at 8:30 a.m. and a 5K run-walk at 8:45 a.m.  The run is sponsored by the Oregon Zoo, National Geographic Kids Magazine, Java Jacket, CLIF Bars, the Marriott Downtown Waterfront hotel, Northwest Paper Box, Can Do Kid, Comcast, Foot Traffic, NW Natural, KINK-FM and the Lake Oswego Review. Children in kindergarten through sixth grade can attend the zoo’s Cheetah Camp, Saturday, Oct. 11, from 8:15 a.m. to noon. Campers will visit with members of CCF and Kgosi, their rare king cheetah – one of only about 30 on earth. Campers will also create gifts for children in Namibia, where CCF has its headquarters. Further information is at: http://www.oregonzoo.org/Education/families/cheetahcamp.htm    And CCF’s seventh annual “Big Cat, Big Party” takes place Friday, Oct. 10, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. The party includes a  feast, created by the zoo’s executive chef, and a discussion led by Marker, accompanied by Kgosi. Tickets are $140 per person or $1,750 for a table of 10. For reservations, go to http://www.bigcatbigparty.eventbrite.com or e-mail ccforegon@cheetah.org
The zoo is also working to save endangered California condors, Washington’s pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.

Fewer Male Reptiles Due to Warming

October 2, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Matt Kaplan

As temperatures rise due to global warming, so does the proportion of female spotted skinks, reptiles found only on Australia's island state of Tasmania.  In recent years researchers have shown concern that climate change will push the reptiles into extinction by causing their young to be born of one gender, thus limiting future reproduction. Temperature-driven gender also occurs in other reptiles, such as crocodiles and turtles. But an increase in female spotted skinks could lead to larger populations of the reptiles, experts say. Erik Wapstra at the University of Tasmania in Hobart wondered to what extent temperature-driven gender occurred in nature, since most of the studies have been done in the laboratory.  From 2000 to 2007, he observed a wild population of spotted skinks, recording the gender of their offspring and monitoring the air temperature.  Temperatures that averaged around 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius) when the creatures were pregnant led to mostly male offspring, while in warmer years the offspring were more likely to be female.  No one knows why the phenomenon occurs, although a longstanding theory holds that the reptiles' genes have been selected to produce offspring that will best survive their environment.  For instance, if warm temperatures are better for male survival, than males will tend to be born in warm conditions, and vice versa.

Among reptiles, it is common for one male to breed with multiple females. This makes the number of available females the factor that ultimately limits the overall size of the population. So it's possible that more females could mean more skinks in general—at least for the immediate future. However, there is a considerable caveat that warming might also cause the food web the reptiles depend upon to collapse, Wapstra warned.  Evolution could also disrupt the trend of temperature-driven gender.  A mutant mother that produces sons at higher temperatures or gives birth to offspring that aren't influenced by temperature might appear, experts say. The offspring of such a mutant would quickly come to dominate the population.  The only question that remains is whether evolution would work fast enough to keep pace with rapid climate change.

Allison Alberts, the director of Conservation and Research at the Zoological Society of San Diego, said "It has been suggested that species for which the sex of the offspring is determined by the environmental temperature could be seriously affected by global climate change.  This groundbreaking study is the first to demonstrate that such fluctuations actually occur in nature over many years," she said. The impact is likely to be most severe for short-lived species and those that are unable to compensate for rising temperatures by changing their … behavior," she added.  In extreme cases, the extinction of local populations could be the unfortunate result." The research is described online this week in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Illegal Mexican Parrot Trade Targeted

October 2, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Alexis Okeowo

A new permanent ban on parrot sales in Mexico may protect the country's exotic birds from a thriving illegal wildlife trade, conservationists say.  Between 65,000 and 78,000 parrots and guacamayas—a bigger type of parrot—are captured illegally every year, and most of these birds die each year before reaching their intended buyers.  The new ban—an amendment to Mexico's wildlife law—will eliminate the parrot and guacamaya market completely.  The law will go into effect when it is published in the official congressional diary, possibly by the end of October. Juan Carlos Cantú Guzmán, is director of programs for the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife Mexico, which published a report on the illegal parrot market in 2007 and supports the ban.  "Ninety percent of the bird species are in some category of risk, and most are in danger of extinction if nothing is done."  The Defenders of Wildlife Mexico report identified U.S. demand as a major driving force behind the illegal trade for some species, such as the yellow-naped parrot, which is found only in the Mexican state of Chiapas.  "In many cases, the destination of these birds are border cities like Tijuana and Ciudad.

Supporting Zoo Northwest Florida Through Water Bills

October 2, 2008  www.gulfbreezenews.com  BY SCOTT PAGE

The City of Gulf Breeze has joined the fight to save The Zoo Northwest Florida. The city will include an informative flyer highlighting The Zoo's important services to the area and a form that will allow people to donate or renew family subscriptions.  "This is a way that citizens can contribute to The Zoo without it coming from taxpayer dollars," said Buz Eddy, Gulf Breeze City Manager.  The plan was initiated when concerned citizens began visiting and calling City Hall, suggesting that the city do something for the financially strapped zoo.  Eddy, known for his problem-solving expertise and foresight, became a Zoo as a consultant. Nancy Millay, Gulf Breeze Finance Director, said that the flyer and donation forms would be only a one-time deal, but Eddy suggested "We might do it for the next three months." The City of Gulf Breeze will be the third governmental body to aid The Zoo. The Santa Rosa Tourist Development Council and the Santa Rosa County Commission have also allocated funds.

Conservation of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

October 2, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

COLLEGE STATION  The Atlantic bluefin tuna is the largest and most sought-after of all tunas, weighing as much as 1,400 pounds and capable of fetching as much as $50,000 or more in Asian markets where its meat is a prized commodity, one big reason why its numbers have declined precipitously since the 1970s. New research findings reported in the journal Science have critical implications for how bluefin tuna are managed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. A team of international researchers led by Dr. Jay Rooker of Texas A&M University at Galveston studied the population structure and mixing of North American and Mediterranean populations of bluefin tuna. This comes at an important time as new assessments by international scientists suggest that both western and eastern fisheries are unsustainable at their current levels. The study shows that trans-Atlantic movement and mixing of populations was high with over half of the juveniles collected in North American waters being of Mediterranean origin. "North American fisheries for juvenile bluefin tuna appear to be supported to a large degree by the Mediterranean population, and thus the condition of this population will directly impact recreational fisheries for bluefin tuna in U.S. waters," according to Rooker. Despite the high level of mixing, the team also observed that over 95 percent of adult bluefin tuna returned to their place of origin in either the Gulf of Mexico or Mediterranean Sea to spawn. "Rates of homing reported here are extremely high and comparable to Pacific salmon, which are known to return to the streams in which they were initially spawned, with very high frequency," according to co-author Barbara Block from Stanford University.

Cameron Park Zoo Will Expand Asian Forest

October 2, 2008   www.kxxv.com

WACO, Texas -- The Cameron Park Zoo announced Thursday that two new grants totaling $120,300  will go towards the Zoo's newest endeavor, the Asian Forest. The Asian Forest expansion will house the critically endangered Orangutans and the endangered Komodo dragon.  The Cooper Foundation of Waco awarded a total of $35,000 and the Meadows Foundation of Dallas approved a grant for $85,300. The new expansion will be an immersion style display, engulfing the public into an Angor Wat era temple ruin.  This building will house the display for the Komodo dragons while the other portion will be the night quarters for the Orangutans.  One unique feature will include the ability to peek inside one of the holding areas during cold weather.  The Asian Forest area of Cameron Park Zoo currently houses the critically endangered Sumatran tigers. The expansion will develop an area of the Zoo approximately four acres in size.  A second play area for children will be included in this construction project.  The Mysteries of the Asian Forest is scheduled to open summer of 2009.

Coachella Valley's Conservation Plan

October 2, 2008  www.mydesert.com

PALM SPRINGS, California – Signaling the end of a 12-year process, Katie Barrows, director of environmental resources for the Coachella Valley Association of Governments announced the arrival of the USFWS permit to create the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.  The 75-year, $2.2 billion plan was created to preserve land and habitat for 27 of the desert's endangered and protected species. The previous conservation plan protected only the fringe-toed lizard, which the government designated for Endangered Species Act protection in 1980. “We are all looking forward to finally getting to the important work of infrastructure improvements.” She said.  Starting today, Valley officials can start buying up land for habitat, in part with $30 million in designated funding from CVAG.  Officials will collect a habitat mitigation fee of $5,730 per acre from new development projects.  Desert Hot Springs can formally move forward with joining the plan. It was the only Coachella Valley city to initially opt out of the habitat plan, with city leaders expressing concerns that it could negatively impact proposed projects such as the Palmwood Golf Club.

The New Botanic Garden

October 2, 2008  www.nature.com

During the past 30 years, botany research at universities has declined and botanic gardens have become key to documenting plant diversity and promoting plant conservation.  Many are important players in the United Nations' Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. (http://www.bgci.org/worldwide/gspc).  The world's 2,500 botanic gardens are broadening their conservation purpose and embracing their cultural identity.  Herbaria and seed banks have been rejuvenated. As the extinction spasm accelerates, the skills of such institutions in managing threatened species will be vital. The accumulated plant collections, living and preserved, record what we are losing and offer resources for what we choose to restore. These collections are of immense scientific and cultural value, and their viability presents a financial and political challenge.  Botanic gardens are becoming sophisticated business entities and increasingly depend upon the financial patronage of the public. This is a profound change and this new social role has changed the design of botanic gardens dramatically. It is particularly notable in the latest desert botanic gardens. Here, an appreciation of local floras, declining natural resources and ethnobotanical heritage are influencing both mission and design. The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum was established as an early model of this in 1952 — a mix of botanic garden, zoo and museum, with a clear geographical and ecological identity. It has inspired a new generation of desert gardens. The Royal Botanic Garden near Amman in Jordan showcases the country's natural habitats and wild species; similarly, the new Oman Botanic Garden near Muscat exhibits native plants, ecosystems and ethnobotanical heritage. The Al Ain Wildlife Park in Abu Dhabi, set to open in 2010, will demonstrate the biodiversity and cultures of the world's desert ecosystems and reconnect the people of the United Arab Emirates with their desert heritage. In Australia, the Alice Springs Desert Park interprets the local ecology, culture and landscape. The spectacular new Australian Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranborne, near Melbourne, abstracts those same landscapes into a contemporary garden design, acting as envoy for the culture and biology of the 'Red Centre'.

Habitat Designation for the Hawaiian Monk Seal

October 3, 2008   www.epa.gov   

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), announces a 90-day finding for a petition to revise Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. The Hawaiian monk seal is listed as endangered
throughout its range, and currently designated critical habitat consists of all beach areas, sand spits, and islets, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland, lagoon waters, inner reef waters, and ocean waters out to a depth of 20 fathoms (36.6m) around specific areas in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The petition seeks to include key beach areas, sand spits, and islets, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland, lagoon waters, inner reef waters, and ocean waters out to a depth of 200 meters around the main Hawaiian Islands, and to extend critical habitat designation in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to Sand Island and ocean waters out to a depth of 500 meters. We are initiating a review of currently designated critical habitat of the species to determine whether revision is warranted. To ensure a comprehensive review, we solicit information and comments pertaining to this species' essential habitat needs from any interested party. Written com  ments and information related to this petition finding must be received by December 2, 2008. Submit comments, identified by [0648-AX23], via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov ; Fax: 808-973-2941, attention: Krista Graham;  or mail: addressed to Krista Graham, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office, Protected Resources Division, 1601 Kapiolani Boulevard Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814.    All comments received are a part of the public record and will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov  Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Interested persons may obtain more information about critical habitat designated for the Hawaiian monk seal online at the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office website: http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_critical_habitat.html

7-year-old Kills Animals at Alice Springs Reptile Centre

October 3, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

ALICE SPRINGS, Australia -- Footage from the security cameras at Alice Springs Reptile Centre caught a 7-year-old boy killing 13 animals. The attack happened on Wednesday morning after the boy entered the zoo by jumping over the security fence and evading sensor alarms.  Over the next 30 minutes, he bludgeoned some of the animals to death with stones and hurled others over the two fences surrounding the crocodile enclosure.  At one point, he tried scaling the outer enclosure himself to get to "Terry", the 11ft (3.3m) saltwater crocodile.  A turtle, four Western blue-tongued lizards, two bearded dragons, two thorny devil lizards and the zoo's 20-year-old goanna were among those killed.  As children under the age of 10 cannot be held accountable for their actions in the Northern Territory, the zoo would be seeking to take action against the parents.

Pandas at Wuhan Zoo Are Fed Chicken Soup for Stress

October 3, 2008  www.chinaview.cn                         

BEIJING, China -- The Wuhan Zoo experienced an influx of tourists in the first four days of the "golden week" national holiday.  Attendance peaked on Wednesday with 30,000 visitors. Male pandas Xiwang and Weiwei, who came in June from the quake-ravaged China Research Center for Giant Panda Protection at Wolong became restless and were running about around 10 a.m. on Wednesday when more than 1,000 tourists had gathered, talking loudly where the bears were housed.  Fearing the pandas might have too much shock and fatigue, their keepers prepared them chicken soup for lunch, hoping it could pacify them and replenish vital energy.  Other animals, including sea lions, red pandas, monkeys and chimpanzees also received special meals on the day.

Zoos Celebrate World Animal Day with Photos

October 3, 2008 www.marketwatch.com

PARSIPPANY, N.J.-- PNY Technologies(R), Inc. is partnering with National Geographic Kids Entertainment for October 4 World Animal Day celebrations at zoos around the country to help young children become better photographers and learn about animals.  Each zoo event begins with "Photo Safari Camp," where a National Geographic photographer will teach the children new photography skills and valuable lessons about the natural world. The photographer will send them "on assignment" with a digital camera to observe animals at the zoo. PNY is donating 1,700 customized 1GB USB flash drives for the children to save their photo memories. The flash drives are loaded with printable coloring sheets, an episode from "Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies," (an animated show on PBS), a music video, a "Guess the Animal" video, and fun recipes. Parents will also receive a special PNY discount offers and a National Geographic Photo Camp family activity guide providing practical photography and animal exploration tips on how to "look at the zoo from a kids' point of view."  Participating Zoos include:
-- Oct. 4: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Tacoma, Wash.), Kevin Horan
-- Oct. 4: Lowry Park Zoo (Tampa, Fla.), Annie Griffiths Belt
-- Oct. 11: San Francisco Zoo, Jim Sugar
-- Oct. 11: Dallas Zoo, Darlyne Murawski
The World Animal Day events also include premiere screenings of " Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies," a 30-minute animated program with animal themes; and a birthday celebration with a cake and a sing-along. Parents can sign up their children for the events by contacting their local zoo.  The photos taken at the World Animal Day celebrations will also be entered in National Geographic's "Mama Mirabelle's My Favorite Animal" photo contest. Families are encouraged to take photos of their favorite animals and upload them to http://www.mamamirabelle.com  for a chance to win prize packs from National Geographic and Fisher-Price.

Update on Atlanta’s Panda Cub

October 3, 2008 www.ajc.com 

ATLANTA, Georgia -- Atlanta’s panda cub’s eyes should open marginally over the next couple of days,” said Rebecca Snyder.  He was born ton Aug. 31, and is the second cub born to Lun Lun and mate Yang Yang. The pair’s firstborn Mei Lan arrived in September 2006.  The new cub’s development is right on schedule, said Snyder and Dwight Lawson, the zoo’s senior vice president of collections, education and conservation.  He is now just bigger than a cellphone, with a light fur covering his entire body. And the familiar black and white pattern is beginning to replace the pink of his flesh. Lun Lun spent the first weeks cradling the cub to keep him warm and to provide nourishment.  Now, she is leaving him for as much 20 to 30 minutes while she eats or takes a break from parenting.  Zoo officials retrieve the cub whenever Lun Lun leaves him alone to check his weight, height and general health, Lawson said. In the months to come, the cub will begin getting his teeth, but won’t begin eating until he is 13 months to 14 months old. And even then, he’ll still rely on his mother for complete nourishment.  “He’ll nurse until he’s weened at about a year and a half,” Snyder said.  These are the panda cub milestones:
Birth: Cub vocalizes
6-10 days: Black markings appear – Skin becomes dark 25 days: Full coat with characteristic markings
35-49 days: Eyes open (fully open at 72-76 days)
75 days: First baby teeth show up
Three to four months: Walking begins
Four months: Cub can walk well and climb; urinate and defecate without assistance; may ingest very small amounts of food
Five months: Cub can run and climb tall objects
13-14 months: Feed on bamboo
18 months: Ween from mother

Zoo Boise Opens African Plains Exhibit

October 3, 2008 www.ktvb.com

BOISE, Idaho -- Just one year after breaking ground, Zoo Boise will open its new African Plains Exhibit this Saturday. The expansion includes an African rural village where visitors can see a typical African house, a schoolhouse, a ranger station, and of course, exotic animals. Monica Hopkins, Zoo Boise Director of Development & Communication, said “we have brought giraffes and lions to Zoo Boise. We have actually created the experience of traveling to Africa."
There is a limit of 5,000 tickets available per day throughout the month of October for the African Plains Exhibit.

Mogo Zoo Gets State Government funding

October 3, 2008  moruya.yourguide.com.au  BY SALLY FOY

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia -- Last week, Mogo Zoo received confirmation of a $499,000 State Government grant. The money is part of a $10.7 million fund for local climate change projects.  Applications from community facilities and public buildings across the State were lodged in February of this year. It is expected that the 53 projects chosen will become local showcases for the latest in water and energy-saving technologies. The zoo currently operates on town water and uses between 8000 and 12,000 liters of water a day. Top of their list will be the integration of recycled water from various catchment areas around the facility, including enclosure washout water.  “It’s really in keeping with where we want to go in terms of education and climate change,” she said.

Iraq Zoo Recovers with Two Tigers

October 3, 2008  www.avma.com 

Rod Hackney, spokesman for North Carolina Zoo, said his zoo led efforts by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to secure and reconstruct the Baghdad Zoo. The association raised about $300,000 and brought in advisers to help rebuild and refurbish the facility for the few animals that remained.  Tragically, in 2004,  the zoo’s only tiger died after a U.S. soldier shot it.  The tiger was in its enclosure, but one soldier was close enough for the tiger to reach out and grab, so his buddy shot it.  Mindy Stinner, one of the founders of the Mebane, N.C.-based Conservators' Center, provided two new tigers - Hope and Riley to the zoo.  The Siberian-Bengal mix tigers arrived in Baghdad Aug. 4. “The U.S. Department of State and U.S. military had been trying to replace the Baghdad Zoo's tiger for 4 years” said Maj. Freddie Zink, a U.S. Army veterinarian.  Lt. Col. Robert Sindler, another U.S. Army veterinarian, led the seven-month project even extending his time in Iraq by a month to finish the endeavor. Zoo officials have arranged for a steady food supply and a backup food source.  They went to the UK for training, and veterinary staff used telecommunication equipment to take classes from North Carolina State University.  Fourteen Baghdad Zoo veterinarians continue to work with coalition forces and international educational institutions and two are expected to receive advanced exotic animal care training in the U.K.  The U.S. Embassy paid the $66,000 to bring the tigers to the zoo, which is patrolled by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.  A few hundred people were at the Baghdad Zoo when U.S. soldiers delivered the tigers. The zoo has other large animals, including lions and bears, the latter of which are native to northern Iraq, Lt. Col. Sindler said Iraqis take pride in the zoo, and he feels good about adding Hope and Riley.  "It builds a lot of friendship and good will between really the U.S. and the Iraqi people," the lieutenant colonel said.

Shift in Bald Eagle Diet Linked to Sea Otter Decline

October 3, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A newly published study has found that the decline of sea otters along Alaska's Aleutian Islands has forced a change in the diet of the bald eagle. The study demonstrates the extraordinary complexity of marine ecosystems and how far-ranging the impacts can be when there is a population shift in a keystone species like the sea otter.  When abundant, sea otters prey on sea urchins that eat the tissue of kelp, killing it. When unchecked sea urchins can destroy entire kelp beds. And these kelp beds are host to a variety of fish that historically have comprised a part of the bald eagles' diet.  The loss of kelp forest with the decline of sea otters has forced the bald eagles to adapt and target new prey, primarily seabirds, according to Robert Anthony, an ecologist at Oregon State University and leader of the Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit – a partnership between OSU, U.S. Geological Survey and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The research was published in the October issue of Ecology, the journal of the Ecological Society of America.

Egalitarian Society Evolved in Pleistocene

October 3, 2008  www.physorg.com

In many mammals living in groups, including hyenas, meerkats, and dolphins, group members form coalitions and alliances that allow them to increase their dominance status and their access to mates and other resources. Alliances are especially common in great apes, some of whom have very intense social life, where they are constantly engaged in a political maneuvering as vividly described in Frans de Waal's "Chimpanzee politics". In spite of this, the great apes' societies are very hierarchical with each animal occupying a particular place in the existing dominance hierarchy. A major function of coalitions in apes is to maintain or change the dominance ranking. When an alpha male is well established, he usually can intimidate any hostile coalition or the entire community.  In sharp contrast, most known hunter-gatherer societies are egalitarian. Their weak leaders merely assist a consensus-seeking process when the group needs to make decisions, but otherwise all main political actors behave as equal. Some anthropologists argue that in egalitarian societies the pyramid of power is turned upside down with potential subordinates being able to express dominance over potential alpha-individuals by creating large, group-wide political alliance. Some evolutionary biologists theorize that at some point in the Pleistocene, humans reached a level of ecological dominance that dramatically transformed the natural selection landscape. Instead of traditional "hostile forces of nature", the competitive interactions among members of the same group became the most dominant evolutionary factor. According to this still controversial view, known as the "social brain" or "Machiavellian intelligence" hypothesis, more intelligent individuals were able to take advantage of other members of their group, achieve higher social status, and leave more offspring who inherited their parent's genes for larger brain size and intelligence. As a result of this runaway process, the average brain size and intelligence were increasing across the whole human lineage.  Also increasing were the abilities to keep track of within-group social interactions, to remember friends and their allies and enemies, and to attract and use allies. At some point, physically weaker members of the group started forming successful and stable large coalitions against strong individuals who otherwise would achieve alpha-status and usurp the majority of the crucial resources. Eventually, an egalitarian society was established. Although some of its components are well supported by data, this scenario remains highly controversial. One reason is its complexity which makes it difficult to interpret the data and to intuit the consequences of interactions between multiple evolutionary, ecological, behavioral, and social factors acting simultaneously. It is also tricky to evaluate relevant time-scales and figure out possible evolutionary dynamics.  A paper published in PLoS ONE today makes steps towards answering these challenges. The paper is co-authored by Sergey Gavrilets, a theoretical evolutionary biologist, and two computer scientists, Edgar Duenez-Guzman and Michael Vose, all from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  The researchers built a complex mathematical model describing the process of alliance formation which they then studied using analytical methods and large-scale numerical simulations. The model focuses on a group of individuals who vary strongly in their fighting abilities. If all conflicts were exclusively between pairs of individuals, a hierarchy would emerge with a few strongest individuals getting most of the resource. However, there is also a tendency (very small initially) for individuals to interfere in an ongoing dyadic conflict thus biasing its outcome one way or another. Positive outcomes of such interferences increase the affinities between individuals while negative outcomes decrease them. Naturally, larger coalitions have higher probability of winning a conflict.

Large Influx of Penguins on Brazilian Beaches

October 4, 2008   www.dallasnews.com    By The Washington Post

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Each summer and early fall, some gray-and-white Magellanic penguins, ride the plankton-rich ocean currents from their homes in southern Argentina more than 2,000 miles, to the Brazilian shores.  But this year, more than 1,000 of these penguins have floated ashore gaunt and exhausted, often having lost three-quarters of their body weight. Even more have died.  Zoos here are building new storage spaces. Lifeguards are learning how to give them first aid. Animal lovers are taking them in to help the overwhelmed zoos and marine centers. Next week, 50 penguins will be loaded onto a navy ship to begin the journey home. While some scientists have suggested that climate change may be playing a role in the penguin invasion, nobody is actually really sure what’s going on. 

Tampa Zoo’s CEO Takes Leave of Absence

October 4, 2008  www2.tbo.com  By BAIRD HELGESON

TAMPA - Lex Salisbury, Lowry Park's Zoo's embattled CEO, is taking an immediate leave of absence.  He will be paid during his leave, said Bob Merritt, a member of the zoo's executive committee. Salisbury made $271,000 in 2006, according to the zoo's most recent tax filing.  Salisbury won't return before the conclusion of an internal audit and separate city review of the zoo's transactions with Safari Wild, Salisbury's yet-to-open exotic-animal park in Polk County. They should be completed within the next month.  Deputy zoo director Craig Pugh and Larry Killmar, director of collections, will take over management of the zoo while Salisbury is on leave.  The question is whether Salifbury has used zoo staff, resources and animals to help start Safari Wild, which remains mired in county and state permitting problems.  The potential conflict of interest prompted an independent audit from the zoo's executive committee and a separate audit from the city. Salisbury has worked at the zoo 21 years. He became executive director in 1994 and president and CEO in 1997.  He is widely credited with reviving what had been one of the nation's worst zoos. The zoo has grown from a small city-run facility to a highly acclaimed attraction with a $20 million annual budget and a national reputation.  Salisbury has said neither he nor Safari Wild profited from his relationship with the zoo.  He and St. Petersburg veterinarian Stephen Wehrmann bought 258 acres of land north of Lakeland in 2007 to build Safari Wild. For about $50 each, visitors will take African-style tours to see exotic and endangered species.  Late last year, the zoo's six-member executive committee signed a memorandum of understanding with Safari Wild to ensure the facilities will work together and not compete. The full story is at: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/oct/04/na-zoos-ceo-takes-leave-of-absence/  

Exotic Pet Warning

October 5, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

CHICAGO – A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that families with children younger than 5 should not keep hedgehogs, hamsters, baby chicks, lizards or turtles as pets. Besides evidence that they can carry dangerous and sometimes potentially deadly germs, exotic pets may be more prone than cats and dogs to bite, scratch or claw – putting young children at risk because of developing immune systems and the fact that they often put their hands in their mouths.  The report also states that kids that young should avoid contact with these animals in petting zoos or other public places.  The report appears in the October edition of the group's medical journal, Pediatrics.  Dr. Larry Pickering, the report's lead author and an infectious disease specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 11 percent of salmonella illnesses in children are thought to stem from contact with lizards, turtles and other reptiles. Hamsters can also carry this germ, which can cause severe diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Salmonella also has been found in baby chicks, and hedgehogs can be dangerous because their quills may penetrate skin and have been known to spread a bacteria germ that can cause fever, stomach pain and a rash. 

Notable 2008 Births at Columbus Zoo

October 5, 2008  www.snponline.com   By Garth Bishop

Colombus zoo has seen eight notable additions to its family in 2008 -- two fishing cats, two markhor, a colobus monkey, a silvery langur, a bonobo and a flamingo. "All are doing well," said Dusty Lombardi, the zoo's living collection director. Only the fishing cats  are being hand-raised by zoo employees. The rest are being raised by their parents.

Jacksonville Zoo’s Spooktacular

October 5, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com

JACKSONVILLE, FL - The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens announced its 21st anniversary celebration of Spooktacular, on October 24-26, 30-31 and November 1st from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Spooktacular is sponsored by Nemours children’s health system, and has become the largest family-friendly Halloween event in Northeast Florida,” said Dennis Pate, executive director of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. “In addition to all the fun characters, entertainment, lighting and activities, our festival has something that no other Halloween event has—exotic animals. Some of our most popular animals will be on display throughout the event enjoying their own Halloween pumpkin treats.” Families who come to this year’s Spooktacular will once again be magically transported into the mystical land of Pumpkinville, which features beautifully carved and painted pumpkins, costume characters, the Spooky Temple, Mystic Gardens, Monster Mash Sock Hop, Enchanted Forest, Funny Bone Tunnel, and of course Troll Village with the grumpy yet funny troll. All exhibits are decorated with unique lighting and special effects. The paths of Pumpkinville will also be lined with candy and treat stations offering children more candy and treats than ever!  Admission is $9 for the general public and $8 for Zoo members. For more
information or to purchase tickets online, visit the Zoo’s Web site at www.jacksonvillezoo.org .

8 Pets Pose Health Threats to Kids

October 6, 2008  www.usnews.com   Nancy Shute

In the past few years, more and more families have turned to nontraditional pets, largely because they're considered easier to care for than cats and dogs. But they bring with them substantial health risks, particularly for children younger than 5.

Reptiles Small turtles were banished from pet stores decades ago because they harbor salmonella, which causes intestinal problems that can be deadly in children. But other reptiles, including iguanas, lizards, and snakes, also carry salmonella that doesn't sicken them but could land your kid in the hospital.
• Hamsters These small, furry rodents are not just cute. They're carriers of salmonella and have sparked outbreaks of lymphocytic choriomeningitis, a virus that causes brain inflammation and can lead to permanent nerve damage.
Hedgehogs They can spread salmonella, yersinia pseudotuberculosis (which causes appendicitis-like abdominal pain), and rabies. Hedgehogs' prickly spines also make it more likely that they will transmit fungal skin infection.
Monkeys and other primates. Macaques spread herpes B virus, which can cause fatal meningitis in humans, and primates spread a host of other nasty germs, including tuberculosis. A more likely risk is injury, since even "tame" primates have seriously injured trained handlers.
Baby chickens and other poultry Carriers of salmonella. Not to mention that a full-grown chicken can live for 20 years if it doesn't encounter a soup pot.
Ferrets Small children sleeping or lying down have been attacked by ferrets, which have severely mutilated the children's ears and noses.
Prairie dogs Pet prairie dogs have caused outbreaks of tularemia, a flulike illness that can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics.
African Gambian rats These critters spread monkeypox, a relative of smallpox, in the United States in 2003 after being imported as pets. Swift action by public health officials fended off a major outbreak.
Big cats, raccoons, and other wild animals Exotic but way too dangerous to be anywhere near children.
Fish  Aquarium fish spread mycobacterial infections, which cause lung diseases, leprosy, and skin infections. Kids should keep their hands out of the tank and wash hands after feeding fish.
Dogs and cats Some 15 percent of children are allergic to one or the other. Both can spread multiple diseases, including intestinal parasites, toxoplasmosis, tick-borne infections, and cat scratch fever. Bites and scratches are a major source of injury. The pediatricians say that young children should never be left alone with a pet, because they can innocently prompt the pet to attack.

German Keeper Rescued from Python

October 6, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk  

Renate Klosse, a female zookeeper was attacked by a 24-year-old python called Antonia while she was cleaning the reptiles cage at the zoo she runs at Uhldingen near Stuttgart.  "The jaws of the snake opened so wide that, with one lunge, the snake was able to completely cover the woman's face," said a police spokesman.  The nine-stone snake clamped on with its 70 sharp teeth and Renate feared that with a few more gulps her head would be inside.  She instinctively stuck her thumbs into the jawbone of the snake to try to get it to relieve its pressure.  Colleagues at the zoo then picked up hoses and sprayed water on to it. The python finally slithered off and the drama was over.  Jan Knoll, a python expert from Hamburg, said: "Pressure on the jaw would have given the reptile pain. The water would have made it lose its sense of smell and disorient it." Miss Klosse was taken to hospital where she received treatment for bites and shock.

Polar Bear Critical Habitat to Be Designated

October 6, 2008  www.enn.com 

OAKLAND, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace have reached a partial settlement with the federal government of the conservation groups’ lawsuit that seeks to strengthen protections for the polar bear under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and other laws. The agreement, filed today in federal court, sets deadlines for the Secretary of the Interior to designate “critical habitat” for the polar bear , as well as to issue guidelines on non-lethal strategies to deal with bears that pose a threat to public safety under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. Under the Endangered Species Act, critical habitat is supposed to be designated at the same time a species is listed as threatened or endangered. Once designated, federal agencies are prohibited from taking any actions that may “adversely modify”critical habitat in a way that could interfere with the species’ recovery. Species for which critical habitat has been designated have been found to be more than twice as likely to recover, and less than half as likely to decline, than those without. Today’s agreement sets a deadline of June 30, 2010 for a final rule designating critical habitat for the polar bear. A proposed critical habitat rule will be issued next year, and will be subject to public comment and public hearings. 

Nashville Zoo’s Renovated Playground is Popular

October 6, 2008   www.tennessean.com   By WENDY LEE

Nashville Zoo’s renovated 66,000-square-foot playground is a long-awaited update to one of the zoo's most popular attractions. It features a towering, curvy green slide and streams of water that shoot in the air and fall on children.  There are also more animal sculptures that children can climb on, like concrete crocodiles,  The playground's flooring has been changed to rubber mulch; and new roof thatching has been added to the playground's towers;  worn-out ropes, hoses and chains have been replaced and structures repainted. On the property are swings, a picnic area, a cave, a large snake's mouth children can crawl into and other playful structures.  The Jungle Gym was one of the first structures added to the zoo when it opened in 1997. More than 6,000 community volunteers helped build the playground's roughly three-story wooden tower, which children can reach by climbing up blankets of nets or hiking up a labyrinth of staircases.  Kelly and Dan Crockett Zoo officials say they hope the Jungle Gym will give the park the boost it needs to reach its goal of 550,000 visitors this year.  Right now, the nonprofit is about 30,000 people shy of that goal, said spokesman Jim Bartoo. General admission ticket sales represent 45 percent of the zoo's $7 million annual budget. But Nashville Zoo President Rick Schwartz said he is hopeful the zoo will reach its goal and continue its expansion.

Request for Information on Mountain-Prairie Species

October 6, 2008  www.epa.gov

The  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) initiate 5-year reviews of three wildlife species and eight plant species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (see Table 1 under.  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 make recommendations as to whether each of these species is properly classified under the Act. Information must be received no later than December 5, 2008. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time.

June sucker   Chasmistes liorus          Endangered          Range: Entire (UT)          
Pawnee montane skipper   Hesperia leonardus montana.  Threatened   Range: Entire (CO)  Wyoming toad      Bufo hemiophrys baxteri....  Endangered.  Range:  Entire (WY)

Barneby reed-mustard    Schoenocrambe barnebyi.....  Endangered       Range:  Entire (UT)
Barneby ridge-cress............  Lepidium barnebyanum.......  Endangered   Range Entire UT) 
Blowout Penstemon..............  Penstemon haydenii.........  Endangered   Entire (NE, WY)
Clay-loving wild-buckwheat.....  Eriogonum pelinophilum.....  Endangered............  Entire (CO)
Clay reed-mustard..............  Schoenocrambe argillacea...  Threatened............  Entire (UT) 
Maguire primrose...............  Primula maguirei...........  Threatened............  Entire (UT)
North Park phacelia............  Phacelia formosula.........  Endangered............  Entire (CO)
Shrubby reed-mustard...........  Schoenocrambe suffrutescens  Endangered............  Entire (UT)

Planet Fungus 2008 Workshop at Paignton Zoo

October 6, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com   By Philip Knowling

PAIGNTON, UK --   Planet Fungus 2008 will occur at the Paignton Zoo on Saturday 25th October from 10:00am to 3:00pm.  It will be led by Dr. Christian Taylor and supported by Dave Ellacott, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust Reserves Warden. Dr. Taylor is an experienced mycologist and educator who researches the ecological interactions of fungi, insects and plants. The Program will begin with a talk and slide show introduction to the fungi. Then you set off with the experts to discover fungi for yourselves. You round the day off by identifying your finds before cooking up and tasting any edible species and releasing others back into the wild.  Bring wellies, sandwiches, thermos flask, warm clothes, waterproofs, a small collecting basket and – if you have them - fungal identification guides and a magnifiying glass.  The fungal kingdom  possesses more species than all the other groups except bacteria and insects. Some fungi are the most massive creatures on planet Earth.  The day costs just £5.

Interview With Alison Jolly – Ring-tailed Lemur Expert

October 6, 2008  news.mongabay.com   By Rhett A. Butler
Madagascar has more than 100 types of lemurs, but the most famous species is the ringtailed lemur.  The world's leading expert on ringtailed lemurs is Alison Jolly, presently a Visiting Scientist at the University of Sussex in the UK. Since arriving on the Indian Ocean island in 1963, Jolly has documented the behavior and population dynamics of ringtailed lemurs in Berenty, a small private reserve of gallery forest amid a sea of desert-like spiny forest.  She has authored several books on her experiences and research, including Lords & Lemurs, a popular account of Berenty's history; Lucy's Legacy, which offers a unique take on the sociobiology of humans; Ringtailed Lemur Biology, which presents the ecology and behavior of ringtails; and two children's books.  In this interview from fall of 2008, Jolly discussed lemurs and conservation in Madagascar.

Adelaide Zoo’s Amphibian Ark Project

October 6, 2008  www.theaustralian.news.com.au  By Verity Edwards

Primatologist Jane Goodall visited Adelaide Zoo yesterday to discuss the potential mass extinction of frogs and how an international breeding program, dubbed the Amphibian Ark, might be the only hope for hundreds of species. Of about 6000 amphibian species worldwide, it is estimated close to 2000 are now threatened with extinction. The Amphibian Ark project involves zoos, botanic gardens and aquariums.  They are now taking different frog species into specially designed biosecure shipping containers to ensure they can breed safely.  Adelaide and Monarto Zoo chief executive Chris West, who moved to Australia two years ago after heading the London Zoo, is preparing a biosecure facility "just in case" a fungus that is killing frogs around the world spreads to South Australia.  The zoo is also helping to finance a biosecure facility in Central America.  The amphibian crisis will top the agenda at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums annual conference, which will be held in Adelaide later this month, and Dr Goodall will return to Adelaide to address the conference on frogs.  Along with British naturalist David Attenborough, Dr Goodall has been named a patron of the Year of the Frog.

The Dow Jones Index of Biodiversity

October 6, 2008  www.iucn.org/news_events

The IUCN Sampled Red List Index (SRLI) is a new initiative of the IUCN Red List, developed in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London.  The approach takes a randomized sample of species from a taxonomic group to calculate the trends in extinction risk within that group. It tracks the fate of these species, in the same way as the Dow Jones Index tracks the movement of the financial markets.  Although species coverage on the IUCN Red List has increased in number each year, assessments have in general been restricted to the better known species groups such as birds and mammals. As a consequence, until recently the conservation status of less than four percent of the world’s described biodiversity has been known. It can no longer be considered appropriate to base conservation decisions on such a restricted subset of species and the SRLI, which is more representative of global biodiversity, can be used to provide a broader picture. Dr Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation Programmes at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), explains that the SRLI uses a sample of at least 1,500 species from selected groups to show trends in extinction risk. All the world’s birds, amphibians and mammals have now been assessed for the IUCN Red List. The first results from the SRLI are revealed this year and include results for reptile species, giving us a clearer indication of the status of terrestrial vertebrates, as well as other less well-known groups such as freshwater crabs.

IUCN 2008 Red List of Mammals

October 6, 2008  www.iucn.org

BARCELONA, Spain  - The new IUCN study to assess the world’s mammals shows at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction. At least 76 mammals have become extinct since 1500. The real situation could be much worse as 836 mammals are listed as Data Deficient. With better information more species may well prove to be in danger of extinction.  “The reality is that the number of threatened mammals could be as high as 36 percent,” says Jan Schipper, of Conservation International and lead author in a forthcoming article in Science.

The results show 188 mammals are in the highest threat category of Critically Endangered, including the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), which has a population of just 84-143 adults and has continued to decline due to a shortage of its primary prey, the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

China’s Père David’s Deer (Elaphurus davidianus), is listed as Extinct in the Wild. However, the captive and semi-captive populations have increased in recent years. It may be too late, however, to save the additional 29 species that have been flagged as Critically Endangered Possibly Extinct, including Cuba’s Little Earth Hutia (Mesocapromys sanfelipensis), which has not been seen in nearly 40 years. 

Nearly 450 mammals have been listed as Endangered, including the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), which moved from Least Concern to Endangered after the global population declined by more than 60 percent in the last 10 years due to a fatal infectious facial cancer. 

The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), found in Southeast Asia, moved from Vulnerable to Endangered due to habitat loss in wetlands. Similarly, the Caspian Seal (Pusa caspica) moved from Vulnerable to Endangered. Its population has declined by 90 percent in the last 100 years due to unsustainable hunting and habitat degradation and is still decreasing. 

Habitat loss and degradation affect 40 percent of the world’s mammals. It is most extreme in Central and South America, West, East and Central Africa, Madagascar, and in South and Southeast Asia. Over harvesting is wiping out larger mammals, especially in Southeast Asia, but also in parts of Africa and South America.

The Grey-faced Sengi or Elephant-shrew (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis) is only known from two forests in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania, both of which are fully protected but vulnerable to fires. The species was first described this year and has been placed in the Vulnerable category. 

IUCN Red List – All Species

October 6, 2008  www.iucn.org

Overall, the IUCN Red List now includes 44,838 species, of which 16,928 are threatened with extinction (38 percent). Of these, 3,246 are in the highest category of threat, Critically Endangered, 4,770 are Endangered and 8,912 are Vulnerable to extinction.

New groups of species have appeared on the IUCN Red List for the first time, increasing the diversity and richness of the data. Indian tarantulas have made their first appearance on the IUCN Red List, and the Rameshwaram Parachute Spider (Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica) has been listed as Critically Endangered as its natural habitat has been almost completely destroyed.

For the first time, all 161 grouper species have been assessed, of which 20 are threatened with extinction. The Squaretail Coral Grouper (Plectropomus areolatus) from the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific has been listed as Vulnerable. The fish is seen as a luxury live food and is typically fished unsustainably at its spawning aggregations, a major threat for many grouper species.

Amphibians are facing an extinction crisis, with 366 species added to the IUCN Red List this year. There are now 1,983 species (32 percent) either threatened or extinct. In Costa Rica, Holdridge’s Toad (Incilius holdridgei), an endemic species, moved from Critically Endangered to Extinct, as it has not been seen since 1986 despite intensive surveys.

New reptiles assessed this year include the La Palma Giant Lizard (Gallotia auaritae). Found on the Canary Island of La Palma and thought to have become extinct in the last 500 years, it was rediscovered last year and is now listed as Critically Endangered. The Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) is another Critically Endangered reptile, moved from Endangered because of population declines caused by illicit hunting for its meat and its skin, which is used in clothing.

Overview of IUCN and Red List Compilation

October 6, 2008   www.iucn.org

The IUCN is the world's oldest and largest global environmental network.  It is a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts in some 160 countries.  IUCN's headquarters are located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland. The IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of it’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of 7,000 experts. SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation (www.iucn.org/ssc )   Major analyses of the IUCN Red List are produced every four years. These were produced in 1996, 2000 and 2004.  The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies species according to their extinction risk. It is a searchable online database containing the global status and supporting information on 45,000 species. (www.iucn.org/redlist )
•    The IUCN Red List threat categories are the following, in descending order of threat: 
o    Extinct or Extinct in the Wild;
o    Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;
o    Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;
o    Least Concern: species evaluated with a low risk of extinction;
o    Data Deficient: no assessment because of insufficient data. 

•    Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): This is not a new Red List category, but is a flag developed to identify those Critically Endangered species that are in all probability already Extinct but for which confirmation is required (for example, through more extensive surveys being carried out and failing to find any individuals). 

Field Museum Assists with IUCN RedList

October 6, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

CHICAGO, IL – A team headed by the IUCN and assisted by the Field Museum’s scientific staff, is releasing its comprehensive status on the world's mammals, in the Oct. 10 issue of Science.   The comprehensive assessment, which covers 5,487 wild mammal species, represents five years of work by more than 1,700 scientists from 130 countries and is the first update on mammals since 1996. Field Museum scientists helped colleagues from around the world by accessing the museum's data base of 200,000 records that document the existence and relationships of thousands of species. Field Museum zoologists have active survey programs and expertise in Asia, Africa, and the Americas; their recent collections inform and authenticate the status report. Besides information about mammals gathered over the 115 years that the Field Museum's collection has existed, scientists have access to specimens that can provide genetic material and anatomic information to help clarify whether animals are members of different species, are part of a subspecies, or fall into some other category.  Such questions arose during the current IUCN mammal as scientists raised the number of recognized species by nearly 20 percent over what it had been just 14 years ago. This included 349 newly described species and 512 others that saw their status elevated to full-fledged species from some lesser category.  An example is the clouded leopard in Southeastern Asia, which was recently split into two separate species, with one living on the Southeast Asian continent and another native to the island of Borneo. "Scientists are discovering 25 new mammal species a year," said Bruce Patterson, a Field mammal curator and also a study co-author. "We're still describing them. Storing thousands of samples in its collection, the Field can provide scientists access to specimen that may be difficult to find or even extinct. Analysis of DNA is now possible for animals that lived and died before scientists even knew that DNA existed. "We also can do isotopic analysis and study anatomy using a scanning electron microscope," said Heaney, again applying techniques that were unknown at the time when the collection samples were taken. 

Caspian Seal in Danger of Extinction

October 6, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Surveys of the land-locked Caspian Sea by scientists from the University of Leeds, found a 90 per cent drop in the number of Caspian seals in the last 100 years.  Their findings have prompted the IUCN to move the Caspian seal from Vulnerable  to Endangered on its official IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  Dr Simon Goodman of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences says: "Each female has just one pup a year, so with numbers at such a low levels, every fertile female that dies is a nail in the coffin of the species. Many important conservation issues facing the whole Caspian ecosystem."  Commercial hunting, habitat degradation, disease, pollution and drowning in fishing nets have caused the population of the seal collapse from more than 1 million at the start of the 20th century to around 100,000 today.  Results from surveys conducted in 2005 and 2006, published recently in the scientific journal Ambio, show that in 2006 there were only 17,000 breeding females, barely enough to keep the population viable, given the low survival rate of pups.  Moreover, new results from surveys conducted by the team in 2007 and 2008, show that since 2005 the number of pups being born has plummeted by a catastrophic further 60 per cent to just 6,000-7,000, and the number of adults seen on the breeding grounds of the winter ice-field is down by a third on 2005.  Dr Susan Wilson, a consultant in seal conservation biology and one of the authors of the Ambio paper says: "Although there are no easy fixes to the problems facing Caspian seals, we hope to get some concrete measures in place over the next year, particularly in Kazakhstan where the government has been quick to recognize the need for urgent action."

Cost of Running Dudley Zoo

October 6, 2008 

The cost of running Dudley Zoo last year was £2.4 million.  The annual accounts show the attraction would have failed to break even without £250,000 in grants from Dudley Council and the Government. But zoo bosses say the figure for 2007-08 is a  “significant” improvement on the previous year. Its total income was £2,601,133 including £1,583,524 from admission fees and gifts. Donations and gifts have halved over the past three financial years according to the figures which show a drop from £60,000 to £30,981.  Zoo chief executive Peter Suddock was unavailable for comment but the difference in the figures for donations could be to do with an greater emphasis on gift aid through tax via admission fees, according to chairman of the zoo board David Sparks. The Castle Hill site spent £1,733,568 on animal welfare, education and conservation, including £155,632 spent on marketing and publicity. Publication of the accounts come amid uncertainty about a £10 million  redevelopment of the zoo.  The company St Modwen has stalled on starting the scheme which also featires a hotel, garden centre and hosuing for Castle Hill.  Despite the uncertainty the zoo has also announced plans for a new £750,000 chimps home.  Zoo bosses are also spending £150,000 building a new big cat enclosure on the upper level by Lemur Wood for its Asiatic Lions, which hail from Northern India. The zoo recorded a record number of people “adopting” or sponsoring animals last year.

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium Gets Sand Sharks

October 6, 2008  www.wpxi.com

PITTSBURGH – Eight sand tiger sharks will finally be transferred Monday to the 40-foot tunnel exhibit at Pittsburgh Zoo’s Water's Edge exhibit.  After arriving this summer they have been in quarantine, but Dr. Barbara Baker, president and ZEO of the Pittsburgh zoo & PPG Aquarium said,  "Sharks are a very delicate species and we have had challenges with them in the past. Therefore we are introducing them slowly and giving every phase of their transition extra time and care.”  “Each shark weighs between 150 and 300 pounds," said Allan Marshall, curator of aquatic life. "Several people using a stretcher lift them from the holding tank into the carrying pool, and then transport them to Water's Edge. Finally, they will lift them again into the exhibit pool."While the sharks will be introduced to the Water's Edge on Monday, the grand opening for the tiger shark tunnel will be held in the spring.

Unveiling a “Red List” in Science Magazine

October 6, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

TEMPE, Ariz. – Writing in the October 10 issue of Science, ("The Status of the World's Land and Marine Mammals: Diversity, Threat, and Knowledge") 103 authors unveil a "Red List" of endangered mammal species (at the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain), the researchers who worked on the exhaustive study say that from 25 percent to 36 percent of species may be in danger of extinction. The Global Mammal Assessment was conducted by more than 1,800 scientists from more than 130 countries working under the auspices of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It was made possible by the volunteer help of IUCN Species Survival Commission's specialist groups and collaborations between top institutions and universities, including Arizona State University, Texas A&M University, University of Virginia, Conservation International, Sapienza Università di Roma and the Zoological Society of London.  It is a companion assessment to similar documentation of the world's amphibians, released four years ago by IUCN.

"Mammals are important because they play key roles in ecosystems and provide important benefits to humans," Smith explained. "If you lose a mammal, you often are in danger of losing many other species."  The assessment shows that at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction. At least 76 mammals have become extinct since 1500. The real situation could be much worse as 836 mammals are listed as "data deficient." The culprits driving this precarious position include habitat loss and over exploitation for terrestrial mammals, and pollution, global warming and over exploitation for marine mammals.  Habitat loss and degradation affect 40 percent of the world's mammals. It is most extreme in Central and South America, west, east and central Africa, Madagascar, and in south and Southeast Asia. Over harvesting is wiping out larger mammals, especially in Southeast Asia, but also in parts of Africa and South America. These Red List data can and should be used to inform strategies for addressing this crisis, for example, to identify priority species and areas for conservation, and these data can be used to indicate trends in conservation status over time," they added. "Despite the general deterioration in the status of mammals, our data also show that species recoveries are possible through targeted conservation efforts."

New Books On Bird Art

October 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com  

The art of depicting birds emerged in the cave culture of Paleolithic times. The first drawing of a bird (that we know about) was of an owl, found on the wall of a cave in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France.  In “Humans, Nature and Birds: Science Art From Cave Walls to Computer Screens” (Yale University Press, July 2008), Darryl Wheye, a California artist, and Donald Kennedy, an ecologist and emeritus president of Stanford, take a close look at humanity’s relationship with birds. Ms. Wheye and Dr. Kennedy, also the former editor of the journal Science, have collected bird art ranging from the cave painting of an owl to a portrait of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which appeared on the cover of Science in 2005 to accompany a report, much criticized since, that an ivorybill had been observed in an Arkansas.  They depict birds as symbols, a natural resource, exemplars of important biological principles or as species useful in encouraging conservation. And they describe art that reveals bird behavior — individual, intraspecies and interspecies, including relations between birds and people.   “Birds: The Art of  Ornithology” (Rizzoli, April 2008), by Jonathan Elphick, an eminent British ornithologist, is a more conventional, and exhaustive, survey of bird art from the work of medieval weavers to artists painting today. “Audubon: Early Drawings” (Harvard University Press, September  2008), reproduces one of the few extant collections of his early work, the Harris collection at Harvard, and a fourth new book, “Egg and Nest” (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, September 2008), by Rosamond Purcell, Linnea S. Hall and René Corado, collects photographs that Rosamond Purcell made at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo, California. specializing in the eggs and nests of birds from around the world.  Ms. Hall, the director of the foundation, and Mr. Corado, its collections manager, offer detailed explanations of which bird laid each egg or built each nest and descriptions of how collectors gather specimens and preserve eggs by “blowing” out their contents. They even provide an X-ray of a gravid kiwi, “the largest eggs relative to their body size of any living birds.”

Genetic Study of Cacao

October 6, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By HENRY FOUNTAIN

The production of cocoa, chocolate and related products is a huge worldwide industry, with many companies and some economies (Ivory Coast’s, for one) dependent on the health of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao Its genetic diversity, has been poorly understood. For decades, scientists have thought populations could be classified into one of three genetic groups.  But a new study in the online open-access journal PLoS ONE changes this thinking. A team led by Juan C. Motomayor of the candymaker Mars and the United States Department of Agriculture looked at genetic markers in more than 1,200 cacao samples representing geographic regions around the world, and discovered there are 10 genetic clusters, not 3.  The findings suggest that the diversification of cacao occurred in the Amazon as populations became separated by ancient ridges called paleoarches. But the study is far from an academic exercise: the new classification will help in managing cacao cultivation and fighting  diseases that can harm the trees.

Mobile Phones Eavesdrop on Koalas

October 7, 2008  www.uq.edu.au

Mobile phone technology is helping Queensland scientists determine why koalas bellow. “We are studying whether males are talking to other males, or to females, and how vocalizations might stimulate breeding behavior in female koalas,” said Dr Bill Ellis, from UQ's School of Integrative Biology.  He is collaborating with other Australian scientists to open a new area of research. They have tagged koalas on St Bees with GPS (Global Positioning System) collars that record their location every two hours, and solar powered remote sound sensors have been placed around the island. Koala bellows are transmitted using Telstra's Next G network to the QUT site, where the research team monitors the duration and frequency of koala calls.  “For the first time, we are able to monitor the spatial response of all females (and other males) to the vocalizations generated by koalas at our site,” Dr Ellis said. Funded through the centre for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species at San Diego Zoo, Microsoft, Telstra and UQ, this research has the potential to uncover a great deal about the breeding habits of koalas. “Our preliminary data from GPS collars indicate that at the time approximately corresponding to when we think a female conceives, she shows exaggerated movement,” Dr Ellis said. “This might indicate females go looking for males.

Endangered Puaiohi Makes a Comeback in Kauai

October 7, 2008  www.honoluluadvertiser.com   By Herbert A. Sample

Eighteen years ago, puaiohi were diminishing in the Alaka'i Wilderness Preserve. Only 200 were estimated to occupy the 10,800-acre rain forest on Kaua'I in 1994. But scientists have worked hard to repopulate the preserve and yesterday, for the 11th time in the last decade,  juvenile puaiohi have been introduced there.   A total of 23 young birds who were born and raised at the San Diego Zoo are to be released in two groups over the next two weeks according to Alan Lieberman, the zoo's conservation program manager.  The puaiohi, and 26 other endemic forest birds are considered endangered in the state. Another 21 such species are already extinct.  For the last decade, scientists from the zoo, the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey have been working to introduce more puaiohi to the preserve. Under the program, puaiohi eggs are periodically removed from the forest and sent to the zoo's Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, where they hatch and are cared for. "This beautiful forest bird has been our most reliable breeder, producing nearly 300 chicks since the beginning of the program," Lieberman said. Almost 180 have been repatriated on Kaua'i.  There are currently an estimated 500 puaiohi in the preserve, said David Leonard, a biologist with the state forestry division.

Sustainable Tourism Criteria Announced

October 7, 2008   www.enn.com

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Ted Turner announced the Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, a new sustainable tourism standards regime for tourism businesses.  The voluntary sustainable tourism criteria are based on best practices drawn from different standards for sustainability in use around the world today.  Intended as minimum standards for tourism-based businesses, sustainability experts and tourism industry representatives developed the standards over the past 15 months. More that 4,500 criteria were considered. These criteria will allow true certification of sustainable practices in hotels and resorts as well as other travel suppliers," said Jeff Glueck, chief marketing officer of Travelocity/Sabre, a member of the GSTC Partnership. "They will give travelers confidence that they can make choices to help the sustainability cause. They also will help the forward-thinking suppliers who deserve credit for doing things right."  More information is available online at http://www.SustainableTourismCriteria.org

Wildlife Conservation Society Reports on Disease

October 7, 2008   www.eurekalert.org  

BARCELONA, Spain—Today, the Wildlife Conservation Society released a report called The Deadly Dozen: Wildlife Diseases in the Age of Climate Change.  It lists 12 pathogens that could spread into new regions as a result of climate change, with potential impacts to both human and wildlife health and global economies. The best defense, according to the report's authors, is a good offense in the form of wildlife monitoring to detect how these diseases are moving so health professionals can learn and prepare to mitigate their impact.  Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society said, "The health of wild animals is tightly linked to the ecosystems in which they live and influenced by the environment surrounding them, and even minor disturbances can have far reaching effects. The "Deadly Dozen" list builds on a recently published paper titled "Wildlife Health as an Indicator of Climate Change," which appears in a newly released book, Global Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events: Understanding the Contributions to Infectious Disease Emergence, published by the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine

The pathogens that originate from or move through wildlife populations have already destabilized trade to a large extent and caused significant economic damage. For instance, several livestock diseases that have reemerged since the mid-1990s (including avian influenza) have caused an estimated $100 billion in losses to the global economy.  WCS's Global Health Programs currently leads an international consortium that helps to monitor the movements of avian influenza through wild bird populations around the world. The GAINS program (Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance) was created in 2006 with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and now involves dozens of private and public partners that monitor wild bird populations for avian influenza around the world.

    * Avian influenza: The viruses occur naturally in wild birds, though often with no dire consequences. The virus is shed by infected birds via secretions and feces. Poultry may contract the virus from other domestic birds or wild birds. A highly pathogenic strain of the disease—H5N1—is currently a major concern specifically because it has proven deadly to domestic and wild birds, as well as humans, and has the potential to evolve into a strain that can spread from human to human. Current data indicate that the movement of H5N1 from region to region is largely driven by the trade in poultry, but changes in climate such as severe winter storms and droughts can disrupt normal movements of wild birds and can bring both wild and domestic bird populations into greater contact at remaining water sources.

    * Babesiosis: Tick-borne diseases that affect domestic animals and wildlife, and an emerging disease in humans. In some instances, Babesia may not always cause severe problems by themselves but when infections are severe due to large numbers of ticks, the host becomes more susceptible to other infectious diseases. This has been seen in large die-offs of lions in East Africa due to canine distemper. Climate factors fostered heavy infestations of ticks on wild buffalo and subsequent spill-over infection of lions. The lions then became more susceptible to infections with the distemper virus. In Europe and North America, the disease is becoming more common in humans, also linked with tick distributions

    * Cholera: Cholera is a water-borne diarrheal disease caused by a bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, which survives in small organisms in contaminated water sources and may also be present in raw shellfish such as oysters. Once contracted, cholera quickly becomes deadly. It is highly temperature dependent, and increases in water temperature are directly correlated with occurrence of the disease.

    * Ebola: Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus and its closely related cousin—the Marburg fever virus—easily kill humans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, and there is currently no known cure. There is significant evidence that outbreaks of both diseases are related to unusual variations in rainfall/dry season patterns. WCS's work on Ebola in Central Africa has been supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    * Intestinal and external parasites: Parasites are widespread throughout terrestrial and aquatic environments. As temperatures and precipitation levels shift, survival of parasites in the environment will increase in many places, infecting an increasing number of humans and animals. Many species of parasites are zoonotic, spread between wildlife and humans. The nematode, Baylisascaris procyonis, is spread by the common raccoon and is deadly to many other species of wildlife and humans. A close relative, Baylisascaris schroederi, causes death in its natural host—the critically endangered giant panda.

    * Lyme disease: This disease is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted to humans through tick bites. Tick distributions will shift as a result of climate change, bringing Lyme disease into new regions to infect more animals and people. Although effects of the disease on wildlife have not been documented, human-induced changes in the environment and on population patterns of species such as white-tailed deer that can carry infective ticks greatly affect the distribution of this disease.

    * Plague: Plague, Yersinia pestis—one of the oldest infectious diseases known—still causes significant death rates in wildlife, domestic animals, and humans in certain locations. Plague is spread by rodents and their fleas. Alterations in temperatures and rainfall are expected to change the distribution of rodent populations around the globe, which would impact the range of rodent-born diseases such as plague.

    * "Red tides": Harmful algal blooms off global coasts create toxins that are deadly to both humans and wildlife. These occurrences—commonly called "red tides"—cause mass fish kills, marine mammal strandings, penguin and seabird mortality, and human illness and death from brevetoxins, domoic acid, and saxitoxins (the cause of "paralytic shellfish poisoning"). Similar events in freshwater are caused by a species of Cyanobacteria and have resulted in animal die-offs in Africa. Altered temperatures or food-web dynamics resulting from climate change will have unpredictable impacts on the occurrences of this worldwide phenomenon. Effects of harmful algal blooms on sea life are often the first indicators that such an event is taking place.

    * Rift Valley Fever: Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is an emerging zoonotic disease of significant public health, food security, and overall economic importance, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. In infected livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats and camels, abortions and high death rates are common. In people (who can get the virus from butchering infected animals), the disease can be fatal. Given the role of mosquitoes in transmission of the virus, changes in climate continue to be associated with concerns over the spread of RVFV.

    * Sleeping sickness: Also known as trypanosomiasis, affects people and animals. It is caused by the protozoan, Trypanosoma brucei, and transmitted by the tsetse fly. The disease is endemic in certain regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, affecting 36 countries, with estimates of 300,000 new cases every year and more than 40,000 human deaths each year in eastern Africa. Domestic cattle are a major source of the disease, but wildlife can be infected and maintain the disease in an area. Direct and indirect effects (such as human land-use patterns) of climate change on tsetse fly distributions could play a role in the distribution of this deadly disease.

    * Tuberculosis: As humans have moved cattle around the world, bovine tuberculosis has also spread. It now has a global distribution and is especially problematic in Africa, where it was introduced by European livestock in the 1800s. The disease infects vital wildlife populations, such as buffalo and lions in Kruger National Park in South Africa, where tourism is an integral part of local economies. The disease also infects humans in southern Africa through the consumption of un-pasteurized milk. Human forms of tuberculosis can also infect wild animals. Climate change impacts on water availability due to drought are likely to increase the contact of wildlife and livestock at limited water sources, resulting in increased transmission of the disease between livestock and wildlife and livestock and humans.

    * Yellow fever is found in the tropical regions of Africa and parts of Central and South America. The virus is carried by mosquitoes, which will spread into new areas as changes in temperatures and precipitation levels permit. One type of the virus—jungle yellow fever—can be spread from primates to humans and vice-versa via mosquitoes that feed on both hosts. Recent outbreaks in Brazil and Argentina have had devastating impacts on wild primate populations.

Little Rock Zoo’s New Penguin Exhibit

October 7, 2008   www.wxvt.com
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The Little Rock Zoo celebrated the start of construction on its new penguin exhibit not with a “beach-breaking” ceremony.  The new exhibit, set to open in 2010, will mimic an African shore line. The exhibit will be named for Laura P. Nichols, whose family gave more than $600,000 for the exhibit.  It  will feature both underwater and above water viewing of at least eight breeding penguins.

Wachovia Gives $2.5 Million to St Louis Zoo

October 7, 2008   www.bizjournals.com

Wachovia’s philanthropic arm plans to give the Saint Louis Zoo $2.5 million to overhaul the south entrance with a pedestrian bridge and improve aesthetics with animal sculptures.  The Wachovia Foundation’s gift, along with a $5 million appropriation in 2006 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Treasury, Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development and Related Appropriations Act, will finance the project, which includes a new bridge that will span Wells Drive, allowing for pedestrians, strollers and wheelchairs to pass from the south parking lot to the zoo entrance. To accommodate the bridge, the zoo’s iconic Z-O-O sculpture will be moved to a prominent spot on the parking lot, and Wells Drive pavement will be lowered. The zoo’s south parking lot, which runs parallel to Highway I-64, will be transformed into a greener place. Asphalt will be reduced by 30 percent and there will be a modest reduction in parking spaces. About 5 percent of the lot will be surfaced in permeable paving to allow for landscaping, and green space on the lot will be increased 40 percent. New life-size bronze sculptures, which may depict a lioness with cubs, a zebra, baboons, gerenuk, a caracal or a black mamba, will also be erected around the entrance. A 19-feet-tall African elephant sculpture has been made possible by Casa Audlon Charitable Lead Trust, established by Mahlon Wallace III and Audrey Wallace Otto.

Black Rhino Dies En Route to Oregon Zoo

October 7, 2008  www.oregonlive.com  by Katy Muldoon

PORTLAND, Oregon --  Fewer than 3,700 black rhinos exist, 68 of them at AZA-accredited facilities. The AZA’s Species Survival Program hoped to pair an 8-year-old female black rhino named Kipenzi, from the Kansas City Zoo with the Portland Zoo’s male, Pete. The Oregon Zoo's Gilbert Gomez, assistant curator, and Richard Grudzien, Africa keeper, traveled to Kansas and worked with veterinarians and zoo staff there to sedate Kipenzi and load her into a crate Saturday morning. A crane lifted the crate onto a rented flatbed truck and about noon, Gomez and Grudzien began driving west on one of the thousands of U.S. zoo-animal transports that occur each year.  About 90 minutes later, the truck broke down and the rental company sent a wrecker, which towed the rhino-bearing flatbed to a garage. A mechanic was unable to make the needed repairs, so the company sent a replacement flatbed. Two tow-truck cranes lifted the 2,400-pound animal and her crate from one truck to the next, and by about 7 p.m. the Oregon Zoo men and rhino were on the road again.  Then, the weather worsened, they were forced to detour Denver because of predicted snow, so they decided to head south. The route through Arizona and California would add about eight hours but would allow them to avoid the snowy Rocky Mountains. They expected to make Portland late Monday.  As the truck rumbled along, Gomez and Grudzien felt it shift as Kipenzi stood or laid down in her crate, specifically designed to transport rhinos.  About 5 a.m. Monday, outside of Phoenix, they felt the truck shift again and found her lying awkwardly on her right side, one leg in the air." Gomez dialed Lisa Harrenstien, an Oregon Zoo veterinarian. He explained the situation and told Harrenstien he was turning around. The Phoenix Zoo wasn't far. Maybe its veterinarians could help.  Gomez hung up and Harrenstien dialed a Phoenix Zoo veterinarian at home.  Phoenix zoo administrators, veterinarians, keepers, maintenance workers and security guards were waiting for the truck when it arrived at 6:30 a.m.

Someone alerted a crane company and a piece of machinery big enough to lift a rhino arrived within 45 minutes. The crane set the crate down in a stall in the zoo's elephant barn. Rhinos are such dangerous animals that Phoenix's veterinary staff anesthetized Kipenzi and gave her Valium. Workers covered her head with a towel, wrapped straps around her back legs, attached the straps to a winch and inched the enormous beast out of her crate, said Dan Subaitis, Phoenix Zoo's director of animal management.  Repositioning the straps, they moved Kipenzi into soft hay, in a position that would make it easier for her to breathe. In Portland, Harrenstien boarded a flight for Arizona. Phoenix Zoo veterinarians tested the rhino's blood, administered fluids and monitored her vital signs. They X-rayed her leg; it wasn't broken. They gave her an antidote designed to quickly reverse the anesthetic but it didn't work.  By the time Harrenstien arrived midafternoon, Kipenzi still hadn't gotten up. "For all these large animals," she said, "the longer they're down the less likely they are to get up."  Rhinos pose special risks. "They're pretty sensitive to just about everything," Harrenstien said.  She and the Phoenix medical crew, plus a visiting veterinarian from Iran, worked frantically for more than 16 hours. They consulted with the Kansas City Zoo's veterinarian, who is a leading authority on rhinos, and with Mitch Finnegan, the Oregon Zoo's chief veterinarian. They wondered whether Kipenzi had a reaction to medications, whether she was sick, stressed or simply worn out.  They administered stimulants, but the drugs failed to revive her. Keepers, meanwhile, massaged Kipenzi's legs and shortly before 9:30 p.m., she grew a little more alert and lifted her head.  They moved her legs into position, hoping she'd stand, Subaitis said. Instead, the rhino let out one final exhale and died.

Though the Phoenix Zoo staff had no connection to Kipenzi, other than trying to save her, a handful of them worked alongside the Oregon Zoo's staffers until 2 a.m., performing a necropsy, or animal autopsy. Two to three weeks from now, the tissue samples they collected could help determine the cause of death  Before the night was over, Harrenstien said, one of the Phoenix zookeepers took impressions of Kipenzi's feet. She planned to send them to the Kansas City Zoo as a keepsake of a favorite animal they'd never see again.

Colchester Zoo Breeds Madagascan Tree Boas

October 7, 2008  www.eadt.co.uk

Deputy head of reptiles Jamie Wood and fellow reptile keepers at the Colchester zoo recently unveiled a nest of Madagascan tree boas,  born earlier this summer.  The eight baby snakes were born in late August and are all doing well.  Part of the zoo’s  reptile breeding programme, the Madagascan Tree Boa is classified as vulnerable in the wild.  “Whilst it is one of the more common snakes in Madagascar, its habitat has been reduced by at least 20% in the last decade due to deforestation”. Said Wood.  The adult snakes are a green color but the babies are born dark red to camouflage them when they are living on the jungle floor for the first few months of their lives.  All boas give birth to live young, and usually produce between four and 15 babies. The Madagascan tree boas were about 40cm long when they were born and about as thick as a pencil. They will reach maturity at around a year-and-a-half and will be around two meters long when fully grown.

Future of China’s Giant Leatherback Turtle Uncertain

October 8, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By JIM YARDLEY

BEIJING — In May of last year, scientists discovered the existence of an 80-year-old turtle at a zoo in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province in southern China.  They then transported her more than 600 miles to a zoo in the city of Suzhou, to mate with a male turtle estimated to be 100 years old. He was considered to be last known male of the species, although in recent months scientists have discovered two more males in Vietnam.  Herpetologist, Gerald Kuchling, helped oversee the mating program, and said the introduction occurred on May 7.  Although males can be territorial and have been known to attack, and neither turtle had seen a member of the opposite sex in decades, the pairing was successful. In June, the female produced roughly 100 eggs and about half appeared to be fertilized. But scientists now say the embryos apparently died in early development. A recent posting on the Web site of Turtle Survival Alliance, said “a number of the eggs had very thin or cracked eggshells, suggesting that the diet of the animals prior to breeding was not optimal.”  Mr. Kuchling said the female had been fed raw beef and pork, rather than a more desired diet of fish and crayfish.  Xie Yan, the China program director for Wildlife Conservation Society, said the diet for the female had already been changed and that her general health was considered good. The discovery of two more males is also good news, she added.  “I still feel optimistic,” Ms. Xie said. Now, the two turtles live in adjacent ponds at the Suzhou zoo. The ponds are connected through a small channel, which is blocked by an underwater door. That door will come open again next May, during breeding season, and the two old turtles will try once again.

Endangered Status for Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander; Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for Frosted Flatwoods Salamander and Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander

October 8, 2008   www.epa.gov    

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are announcing the location and time of a public hearing to receive public comments on the proposal to split the current listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, of the threatened flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma
cingulatum) into two distinct species: frosted flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) and reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishopi), due to a change in taxonomy. We also propose to list reticulated flatwoods salamander as endangered and propose critical habitat for both species. We are extending the public comment period until November 3, 2008. If you submitted comments previously, then you do not need to resubmit them because we have already incorporated them into the public record and we will fully consider them in preparation of our final determination. You may submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AU85; 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 Ray Aycock, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213; telephone: 601-321-1122; facsimile: 601-965-4340. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

Blackpool Zoo Cares for Confiscated Turtles

October 8, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

A zoo in Lancashire has taken in 50 tiny turtles that had been imported from the USA to be sold as pets.  Although the southern painted turtles were declared at customs at Manchester Airport, the importers were unaware they required a special license and they were they were confiscated by Customs and Excise. Ten of the turtles in the consignment from Florida died after their journey, while the rest are being cared for at Blackpool Zoo. Currently the size of 50p pieces, with markings on their backs, they can grow to 10ins (25cm) in length and can live for up to 20 years in captivity. 

Bristol Plans for Eco-Zoo

October 8, 2008  www.thisisbristol.co.uk

Bristol Zoo hopes to open the UK's first national wildlife conservation park on its 136-acre Hollywood Towers estate in 2012.  Work on the £70 million project would start in 2010 on the zoo of the future, which will feature ecosystems such as Congo and Sumatra rainforest, Georgia wetlands, Tanzania savannah and Nepal grasslands.  Costa Rica swamp and Indian Ocean coral reef will also be created.  There will also be a conservation breeding centre, ranger stations, elevated and covered walkways, aviaries and a tiger tunnel.  Structural engineer Birgit Schaffarra, from structural and civil engineering consultancy practice Buro Happold, said: "The zoo wants visitors to walk around and feel as if they are part of the various landscapes. She said the park was intended to be a conservation-led wildlife park that inspired people to think about protection of the natural world.  Bristol-based practice White Design has designed large parts of the scheme.  Every aspect of the park's design will incorporate sustainability, from the individual buildings and the engineering infrastructure to the landscape.  Natural materials such as timber and bamboo will be used in the construction, with eco-friendly power generation and waste management part of the plan.  It is estimated up to 400,000 visitors a year will visit the park.

African Pancake Tortoise Recovers After Surgery

October 8, 2008  newslite.tv

A tortoise is making a 'slow' recovery after undergoing a rare operation which removed a bladder stone the size of a small egg.  The huge stone - which took up almost one quarter of her body -was spotted during a routine X-ray of Polly, an African pancake tortoise at Bristol Zoo.  During the procedure, the zoo’s expert vets cut away a hole in the bottom of Polly’s shell in order to remove the bladder stone, which could have killed her within weeks.  The bladder stone weighed 19g and measured 3.7cm (1.5 inches) by 3cm (1.2 inches) and Polly measures just 14cm (5.5 inches) inches long from head to tail.  Polly, aged five, is now bandaged up and recovering well in the Zoo’s Reptile House.  Sharon Redrobe, Bristol Zoo’s head of veterinary services, said: "We x-rayed the tortoise as part of a standard health check, and were amazed when we saw the size of the bladder stone.  "Anesthetising a tortoise is quite tricky and requires specialist training, but she is likely to have been in some discomfort so we took the decision to remove the stone as soon as possible.

UC Davis Scientists Builds a Better Bee

October 8, 2008  entomology.ucdavis.edu

DAVIS—An enhanced-line honey bee stock has been developed by University of California, Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, that crosses her bee line “New World Carnolians”  with “Old World” Carnolians from Germany, shows genetic promise in aiding the troubled bee industry, research reveals. Cobey, is project leader of a honey bee stock improvement grant, funded by the California State Beekeepers’ Association and the California Almond Board. “The bees are very gentle, very hygienic and very productive, and hopefully will confer increased resistance to pests and disease.”  Cobey initially developed the New World Carnolians stock, a dark race of honey bees, in the early 1980s by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the United States to create a more pure strain.  “Over time, it has proven very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease,” she said. ”For many years I have wanted to work with pure Carnica. Now I can.”   The scientists imported semen from Germany in 2006 and again this year, increasing the purity.  Cobey said genetic diversity, the raw tools for selection, is critical “in maintaining colony fitness and resisting pests and diseases.”  The honey bee (Apis mellifera), initially brought from Europe to America in 1622 and to California in 1853, is declining in population. Mussen and Cobey attribute the decline to multiple factors: diseases, pesticides, parasites, malnutrition, stress, climate change, and colony collapse disorder, in which bees mysteriously abandon their hives.

New Hippo Exhibit for Milwaukee County Zoo

October 9, 2008   www.bizjournals.com

The Dohmen Family Foundation expects to cover the entire cost of designing and constructing a new underwater hippo viewing exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  The new exhibit is expected to cost between $9 million and $12 million and will feature a large, glassed-in aquarium that will allow zoogoers to watch hippos swim from just inches away. The extra space will let the Zoo house three adult animals and several youngsters. The Zoo’s current hippo exhibit includes an outdoor yard, a pond and two hippos.  Robert Davis, president and CEO of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, said “This exhibit fits with the Zoo’s mission to provide excellent animal habitats and upgraded facilities.”

'Acoustic Smog' Threatens Whales

October 9, 2008  www.enn.com 

BARCELONA (AFP) — Underwater cacophony caused by commercial and military ships has become so intense that it is killing whales, scientists at the World Conservation Congress here say. Sounds ranging from the hum of yacht motors to sonar blasts strong enough to destroy a whale's inner ear are wreaking havoc on the ability of these cetaceans to migrate, feed and breed, they said on Thursday as a historic case began to be heard by the US Supreme Court. "The noises generated by ships create what I call acoustic smog," said Michel Andre, director of the Laboratory of Applied Bio-Acoustics in Barcelona.  Many shipping lanes follow the coastal routes that whales have traced for millions of years as they roam the planet's seas. The result is a crescendo of beachings, strandings and collisions as whales and other sea mammals disoriented or physically damaged by noise lose their bearings.

Map Reveals Species at Risk from Climate Change

October 9, 2008  www.enn.com 

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has announced that: of 17,000 assessed species, over 7000 could become threatened with extinction because of climate change. The official report is at: http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/species_susceptibility_to_climate_change_impacts.pdf In order to assess which species need protection first, experts working with the IUCN have spent the past few years reviewing 17,000 species of birds, amphibians and warm-water corals to assess how susceptible they are to climate change.  First they had to decide what made a species likely to suffer from the effects of climate change. The experts identified 90 such "life history traits" – essential elements of a species' behaviour or lifestyle – that were likely to be affected by a change in their local climate. These included:
    * Requirements for a specialised habitat: some amphibians depend on a stream or pond, so if that dries out there is no way they can survive;
    * Specific environmental tolerances: many corals cannot survive if the water temperature or pH exceeds a certain threshold;
    * Dependence on environmental cues: many species depend on changes in day length or rainfall to start breeding;
    * Dependence on interactions with other species: without prey a specialised predator cannot survive; lichen depend on trees, and many plants on their pollinators;
    * Ability to disperse: as their historical habitats become increasingly hostile, species will need to move to new territories but may not be able to do so if there is something – a body of water, perhaps – in their way.

A team led by Wendy Foden then determined which of the 90 life traits each of the 17,000 species had. The study included all known amphibian and bird species, as well as all reef-building corals that are found in warm waters. They also compared  their new maps to existing maps showing where species are threatened by other factors such as deforestation and poaching. Half of all amphibians, one-third of all birds and over two-thirds of assessed corals are susceptible to climate change.

Within each group, some species are more likely to suffer. Among the birds, all albatross and penguin species were deemed susceptible. Herons, egrets, ospreys, kites, hawks and eagles, on the other hand, are less so.  Ultimately, the real threat to a species depends not just on whether or not it is susceptible to climate change, but also on whether it inhabits a region that is likely to change with global warming. Efforts to use regional climate change models to map out this overlap are already underway in some parts of the world (see Climate maps offer wildlife hope of sanctuary).  Conservationists may then have to apply their creativity to finding new ways of protecting species. "Protected areas are fixed pieces of land or sea," Vié, "but the new threats – shifting diseases, rising temperatures, changing rainfall – do not stop at the edge of protected areas."  Debates are raging within the conservation community over what protection methods are reasonable.

The last remaining members of some species may have to be removed from the wild and housed in artificially-controlled environments – this has already happened with some species of frogs threatened by the chytrid fungus. In situations where species are not able to move to more clement habitats, they may need a helping hand (see Threatened species 'need help' finding cooler homes). The welfare of biodiversity and humans is intrinsically linked. "If you lose coral reefs, hundreds of millions of people will be affected – they will have no food, no income from tourism."

Attwater’s Prairie Chickens Reintroduced

October 9, 2008   www.khou.com

VICTORIA, Texas—Environmental groups on Wednesday released nine endangered Attwater’s prairie chickens onto a 6,000-acre private ranch, the latest step in an effort to reintroduce the dwindling species into the wild. In 2006, the Houston Zoo began breeding the prairie chickens in an effort to save them from extinction. The population of the chickens, once numbered 1 million. But as suitable coastal prairie habitat dwindled in Texas, fewer than 100 birds remained in the wild, conservation officials said.  Environmental groups last year began releasing chickens bred in captivity onto private ranches, hoping they would flourish. Just eight of the original 55 birds have survived, said Wade Harrell, coastal prairies project director for the Nature Conservancy of Texas, in a story Thursday in the Victoria Advocate. Hawks and ground predators feed on the chickens. The agencies are hoping for a 20 percent annual survival rate, Harrell said. The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners began releasing another 135 birds in August, Harrell said. The chickens released Wednesday hatched in May from Sea World and the San Antonio Zoo. The others being released come from breeding programs at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose and the Houston, Caldwell and Abilene zoos.

Endangered Status Sought for Sonoran Desert Tortoise

October 9, 2008 www.azstarnet.com By Tony Davis

Two activist groups, Wild Earth Guardians and the Western Watersheds Project may take legal action to try to force the USFWS to protect the Sonoran Desert Tortoise, which lives in a large swath of Arizona.  The tortoise's population has dropped 51 percent in Arizona since 1987, says a new study that analyzed data from 17 tortoise study plots. The groups commissioned the study from two California biologists.  Drought is also a key concern, said Phil Rosen, a University of Arizona reptile specialist. "It would appear that the drought's effects are exacerbated by high temperatures."  The activists say the tortoise’s health is linked to that of the broader Sonoran Desert, activists say. As eaters of grass and other plants, tortoises process materials that wouldn't be used by other wild animals. They serve as food for predators such as skunks, foxes, coyotes and ravens. The wildlife service has 90 days to decide if the tortoise merits a full-scale review. If so, the service has a year from now to decide whether to propose a listing, and another year to decide whether to approve it.

New Species of Iguana Identified

October 9, 2008 www.ocregister.com  By PAT BRENNAN

In 1988, Robert Fisher, a young herpetologist, visited the Fiji islands and  found what turned out to be a new species of iguana.  But it took Fisher 20 years to realize what he'd discovered. He bought the animal from a villager, to add to a collection being kept at the California Academy of Sciences, and at the time, reliable DNA analysis techniques did not yet exist.  Among known species, the newly discovered iguana and its near relatives most closely resemble the desert iguana of the American southwest. A paper to be published later this month by Fisher and his co-authors,  shows that the iguana, Brachylophus bulabula, is a unique species new to science. ”What is really interesting is that this shows the animals have been isolated out there for a really long time," said Fisher, now a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey. "The only way they got to Fiji is by this 5,000-mile rafting event," Fisher said, when drifting mats of vegetation and other debris carry animals and plants across the ocean.  The bulabula is one of three related iguana species on Fijian islands; all the populations could be in jeopardy, Fisher said, hunted by humans as well as the non-native animals humans have introduced.  "They live up in the canopies of the rain forest, heavily impacted by mongoose and rats and people," he said.

Animatronic Technology at Calgary Zoo

October 9, 2008  calsun.canoe.ca

The Calgary Zoo has a new attraction to promote its conservation efforts.  Perched atop the research cabin in the TransAlta Rainforest building at the Zoo, the ING Conservation Lion, is an animatronic beast that will help raise funds and awareness for local conservation projects.  The talking feline, voiced by Calgary Flames P.A. announcer and radio host Beazly, will welcome visitors with a deep roar and for a $1 contribution zoo-goers will be able to watch a quick video on how individuals can help preserve valuable wildlife habitats. The lion was built by a Calgary special effects company, Bleeding Art Industries.  The life-like sculpture took four months to build and is a combination of animatronics, video and fundraising. "The zoo was really concerned about it scaring kids, but it's a great draw and attraction," she said, noting originally the plan had been to make a gorilla until ING Direct came on board as a sponsor.  Newton couldn't say what the price tag for the lion was but said once the zoo's costs are paid off, all net proceeds will go to its conservation programs around world.

Dik diks React to Bird Alarm Calls  

October 9, 2008  www.nature.com

Some social animals with complex calls are able to understand the vocalizations of other species.  Although the dik dik is neither, ecologist Daniel Blumstein and his colleagues at UCLA suspected that Gunther’s dik dik (Madoqua guentheri) a heavily predated miniature antelope, could benefit from eavesdropping.  They played alarm calls of the white-bellied go-away bird and non-alarm calls from the slate-coloured boubon to a group of dik diks at the Mpala Research Centre in Laikaipia, Kenya.  The dik diks in the study decreased their foraging and increased their head-turning only in response to the alarm calls.  The study appears in the October issue of Behavioral Ecology.

Koi Die in Balboa Park’s Japanese Garden

October 10, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jeanette Steele

SAN DIEGO – 22 prized koi living in the Japanese Friendship Garden's pond died due to a problem with the water pumping system.  Workers arrived Tuesday morning to find the fish, worth between $800 and $3,500 dead. The cause was poisoning due to an accidental oversupply of chlorine in the water which burned their gills and suffocated them.  Members of the nonprofit garden are devastated, as all but one fish in their award-winning pond died. The survivor’s tail still bears red streaks from the chlorine burns.  Members of the Koi Club of San Diego have lent several fish from their own collections to fill the Balboa Park group's pond for now. It will cost $25,000 to $30,000 to restock the pond with these show-quality fish that weigh up to 18 pounds. No one knows why this jumbo kumonryu,  or dragon koi, lived through the night Monday while the pond slowly filled with an oversupply of city water because of an equipment malfunction.  “We are actually trying to work out details with our insurance company,” Hansen said. 

Yosemite Warming Causes Small Mammal Migration

October 10, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

BERKELEY – Global warming is causing major shifts in the range of small mammals in Yosemite National Park, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, biologists.  The study, published in the Oct. 10 issue of Science, compared small mammal populations in the park today versus 90 years ago and found that mammals like shrews, mice and ground squirrels have moved to higher elevations or reduced their ranges in response to warmer temperatures, essentially shuffling the species living together in any one spot. Craig Moritz, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and director of the campus's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, said the central Sierra Nevada has seen a general warming, evidenced not only by a 3 degree Celsius increase in nighttime low temperatures, but also the receding of glaciers – Lyell Glacier is half the size it was 100 years ago – and the increase in precipitation as rain instead of snow.  While the population movements have not altered biodiversity in the park, UC Berkeley biologists say rapid changes in less than a century could be a problem. Although half the species shifted their ranges, the other half did not, which means communities have been altered and the species interacting with one another have changed.

Biodiversity in a Warmer World

October 10, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

Biodiversity in a Warmer World, published in the Oct. 10, 2008 issue of the journal Science, illustrates cross-disciplinary research fostered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.  As an extremely diverse region of rainforest and coral reefs, the tropics may have the most to lose as a result of global warming. Some disagree, arguing that tropical organisms will be favored as their ranges expand into temperate areas. Few empirical studies provide specific answers to help us choose conservation and mitigation measures. Jens Svenning, University of Aarhus, Denmark and Richard Condit of the Smithsonian's Global Earth Observatory Network reviewed new papers about species range change:  In a range analysis for plants and insects on a mountain slope in Costa Rica, Colwell et al. show that a 3.2˚ C increase in temperature threatens 53 percent of the area's species with lowland extinction and 51 percent with range shift gaps, meaning that they have nowhere else to go. The other study they reviewed, by Moritz et al., follows historical range expansions and contractions for small mammals in Yosemite National Park in California, USA and shows that ranges may contract dangerously as they are pushed further and further up mountain slopes.

Female Gorilla Killed by Silverback

October 10, 2008  www.omaha.com  BY KEVIN COLE

OMAHA, NE -  Yesterday, Samson, a 13-year-old male silverback gorilla, was responsible for the death of his daughter, Baina, according to zoo director, Lee Simmons.  Baina was born at Hubbard Gorilla Valley at the Omaha zoo on April 8, 2005, to Timu, the world's first test-tube gorilla. When Timu did not show the appropriate motherly instincts and walked away from the baby, zoo staff bottle-fed her as they had done with Timu's firstborn.  When Baina's grandmother, Rosie, showed interest in the baby, the zoo allowed her to become a surrogate mother.  Simmons said it was the second day since Baina's reintroduction to her family in an enclosure away from public view. Baina, who weighed 60 pounds, had been removed during attempts to get the 400-pound Samson to mate with an older female. "(Samson) suddenly jumped and slapped (Baina) and knocked her off her feet and down the side of the enclosure," Simmons said. Baina fell about 7 or 8 feet.  "It had to be that she just hit wrong because, ordinarily, (gorillas) would land on their hands and feet and be all right," he said. "It was just one of those fluke things."  Simmons said the zoo observers never had a chance to intervene.  "It was just a flick of his wrist, and she was gone," he said. "This is very unusual, because male gorillas may fight each other but they are very tender toward the females and offspring.  "She fell and hit her head. There was tremendous head trauma."  Zoo staffers put forth "a heroic struggle" to save her life, Simmons said. The 3-year-old was even taken to the Nebraska Medical Center for a CAT scan. But Baina died at the hospital about 12:30 p.m.

Putin is Given Ussuri Tiger Cub

October 10, 2008  ap.google.com  By AP

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Vladimir Putin has been given a rare, 2-month-old Ussuri tiger cub for his 56th birthday.  In August, Putin had occasion to pet a full-grown female Ussuri tiger after shooting her with a tranquilizer gun. He was visiting a wildlife preserve in Russia's Far East and shot the 5-year-old tiger as part of a program to track the rare cats, also known as the Siberian, Amur or Manchurian tiger.  Fewer than 400 Ussuri tigers are believed to survive in the wild, most of them in Russia and some in China. They are the largest tiger species, weighing up to 600 pounds.

Virgin Birth Confirmed in a Shark

October 10, 2008  www.physorg.com 

An article in the recent Journal of Fish Biology confirms the second case of a "virgin birth" in a shark. DNA testing has proved that a pup carried by a female Atlantic blacktip shark in the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center contained no genetic material from a male.  The first documented case of asexual reproduction, or parthenogenesis, among sharks involved a pup born to a hammerhead at the Omaha Zoo. Author Demian Chapman, of Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook, was assisted in the study by Beth Firchau of the Virginia Aquarium. The aquarium sharks that reproduced without mates each carried only one pup, while some shark species can produce litters numbering in the dozen or more. "It is quite possible that this is something female sharks of many species can do on occasion," said Chapman.  Virgin birth has been proven in some bony fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds, and has been suspected among sharks in the wild. The scientists who studied the Virginia and Nebraska sharks said the newly formed pups acquired one set of chromosomes when the mother's chromosomes split during egg development, then united anew. 

Marbeled Murrelet May Lose 'Threatened' Status

October 10, 2008  www.sciencemag.org  By Rachel Zelkowitz

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed last week to review the protected status of the marbled murrelet, a sea bird that nests in the coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest. The move comes in response to a timber industry-led petition claiming that the bird does not meet key provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). But opponents argue that the industry petition hinges on a flawed analysis. Steven Beissinger, a conservation biologist at UC Berkeley, who surveyed the marbled murrelet from 1995 to 2005, says that even with the existing protections, the birds are suffering from "a triple whammy": lost habitat from logging, lost food resources, and failed nests due to predation. Central California populations have declined by as much as 70% in the past 2 years.  Meanwhile, a U.S.G.S. Survey report released in 2007 concluded that certain segments of the murrelet populations in central California and Alaska are genetically distinct from the larger group, and populations across the range are plummeting. The controversy hinges on whether the birds on the U.S. side of the border are a "distinct" segment of the broader population of marbled murrelets that stretches across the northwestern part of the continental United States and into British Columbia. The fate of the small sea bird could have big implications for old-growth forests. To protect the marbled murrelet and also the spotted owl, whose habitat overlaps, up to 89,000 hectares of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest are off-limits to logging. Delisting the marbled murrelet could remove that barrier.

WCS Finds New Irrawaddy Dolphin Populations

October 11, 2008  www.physorg.com

The IUCN had put five Southeast Asian populations of Irrawaddy dolphins on its list of critically endangered animals. But now a study launched in 2003 by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project, has counted 5,832 Irrawaddy dolphins along Bangladesh's coast and estuaries.  "It's by far the biggest population of Irrawaddy dolphins in the world," said project director Brian Smith.  Rubayat Mansur, who led the research team, said that In other areas populations have been estimated at less than 100.  Although its name is derived from Myanmar's biggest river, the two-metre (six-foot) long Irrawaddy dolphin is mainly an oceanic mammal that favours coastal waters and estuaries.  One of the main threats to their survival is drowning in fishing nets, says the WWF. They are also fished for their oil and meat. The dolphins' ability to live in both salt water and fresh water makes them popular with dolphin shows, where fresh water tanks are cheaper to maintain.

2 Bonobos Join San Diego Zoo Troop

October 11, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

SAN DIEGO – Bonobo cousins Makasi and Mali bonded Friday as they checked out visitors at the San Diego Zoo.  Mali, who is 14 months old, and her half-brother, Tutapenda, who is almost 1 year old, have been raised since birth by keepers at the zoo, but are now getting to know the zoo's bonobo society.  Tutapenda was rejected by his mother shortly after birth, and Mali had medical complications when she was born.  Makasi, who is 4 years old, is often seen carrying the two youngsters in the morning in the bonobo exhibit, zoo officials said.  The San Diego Zoological Society has bred bonobos since 1960 and continues to fund their conservation efforts in the wild.

Kenya Tracks Elephants with Text Messages

October 11, 2008   www.cbsnews.com   By AP

KENYA, Africa -- Kimani, a huge bull elephant residing in the Ol Pejeta conservancy, had a long history of raiding villagers' crops, so to save his live, The Save the Elephants group decided to try to break his habit. He now wears a mobile phone SIM card inserted in his collar.  A virtual "geofence" has been established using a global positioning system that mirrors the conservatory's boundaries. Whenever  Kimani approaches the virtual fence, his collar sends rangers a text message.  They have intercepted Kimani 15 times since the project began. Once almost a nightly raider, he last went near a farmer's field four months ago.  Kenya is the first country to try elephant texting as a way to protect both a growing human population and the wild animals that have less room to roam. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, said so far only two geofences have been set up in Kenya - and it has its problems.  Collar batteries wear out every few years.. And it's expensive work - Ol Pejeta has five full-time staff and a standby vehicle to respond when a message flashes across a ranger's screen. But the experiment with Kimani has been a success, and last month another geofence was set up in another part of the country for an elephant known as Mountain Bull. Moses Litoroh, the coordinator of Kenya Wildlife Service's elephant program, hopes the project might help resolve some of the 1,300 complaints the Service receives every year over crop raiding. The elephants can be tracked through Google Earth software, helping to map and conserve the corridors they use to move from one protected area to another. The tracking also helps prevent poaching, as rangers know where to deploy resources to guard valuable animals. Douglas-Hamilton says elephants, like teenagers, learn from each other, so tracking and controlling one habitual crop raider can make a whole group change its habits.

Toronto Zoo Leadership Questioned

October 11, 2008     by Royson James

The Toronto zoo was once a world-class destination, with dreams of challenging the likes of the San Diego Zoo for prominence. Now, amateurish sparring and infighting, resignations and general chaos reign. Maybe someone at city hall will remember the city's forgotten child.  Toronto owns the zoo and contributed $11.5 million to its operation last year. The zoo is run by an arm's-length board, occupied by five councilors and six citizens.  The zoo has 11,000 animals representing 460 species. Experts still consider it first-class. It is an animal's place rather than a viewer's paradise. There is great opportunity for research, conservation and innovation. The concept of further developing the site as "Zoo U" is exciting and challenging.  But for all that to happen, the facility needs top-flight leadership and vision. But the recent board chairs, and city councilors have all been weak, inefficient, unconnected men without the force of will or stature to instill confidence, command respect or create credibility.

Salt Lake City Tribune Endorses Zoo Bond

October 12, 2008 www.sltrib.com

Salt Lake City has two bond elections coming up - Proposition 1, a $19.6 million bond for the Tracy Aviary and Proposition 2, a $33 million bond for the Hogle Zoo.  Improvements are desperately needed especially for Tracy Aviary, which has lost its AZA accreditation due to substandard facilities and a lack of reliable funding. The zoo bond would add about $4 per year to the property taxes on a $250,000 home, and the aviary bond would add $2.50 per year. We believe the vast majority of homeowners can afford $6.50 per year to improve these facilities, which draw visitors from throughout the state. The aviary fills a unique educational role. Many of its birds are the same species that regularly fly over Utah and spend time in its wetlands at the Great Salt Lake and Bear River Bird Refuge. The exhibits explain the flyway's importance to migrating birds and the importance of the birds to Utah. Hogle Zoo plans to build an Arctic exhibit for polar bears, penguins, harbor seals, arctic fox and wolverines, and to partially construct an African savannah if the bond is approved.  Both must tap private donors in order to get the full amount of the bond. The zoo must raise $11 million up front, and the aviary must collect $1.5 million to get $6.1 million of the total.

Bristol Zoo’s New “EcoZoo”

October 13, 2008   www.independent.co.uk  By Jerome Taylor

Bristol Zoo, unveiled plans last week for a £70m National Wildlife Conservation Park, slated to open in 2012. The 136-acre park north of Bristol aims to be a global leader in the next generation of zoological attractions, where environmentalism takes precedence over entertainment.  The "eco zoo" aims to be to animals what the Eden Project is for plants. Cramped spaces will be replaced with open land, moats and ditches. Food for the animals will be organic, while 80 per cent of the building material will be locally sourced and sustainable.  The park will have four themed areas : The Sumatran lowland rainforest:  Bristol Zoo already has conservation programmes in that part of the world and the idea is that visitors to their Sumatran exhibition will not only be able to see the animals in danger, but will also be able to see via live video link-ups the conservation work needed to save the real Sumatra.  The tropical rainforests of the Congo: The exhibit will include a replica of the Congo river, where bonobos (a species of chimpanzee), and striped okapis will mingle with river birds such as wattled cranes and black-billed touracos.  An Indian Ocean coral reef where sightseers will follow a stream through a forest inhabited by chameleons and Livingstone's fruit bats before heading under the "sea" to mingle with blacktip reef sharks and blue stingrays.

Chytrid Fungus Update

October 13, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk    By Richard Black

Three years ago the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan was launched in Washington D.C. with a predicted price tag of nearly half a billion dollars to save the world’s amphibians. Claude Gascon, co-chair of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group and a senior scientist with Conservation International, said about $10m has now gone directly into tip-of-the-iceberg sites  In Colombia, a link with two other groups, the American Bird Conservancy and ProAves, enabled the purchase of a 1,100-hectare site. Then, money went in for rangers and a bit of infrastructure and training. For an initial investment measured in tens of thousands of dollars, the last remnants of a few species can be saved.”  In Sri Lanka, the government bought patches of forest on an old tea plantation. Any conservation deal has a much higher chance of success when the government and the local community are on board. By the time the Amphibian Conservation Summit convened in Washington, the Global Amphibian Assessment had already shown that one-third of the creatures were on the threatened species list and 165 species were already believed to be extinct.  An estimated 500 species, it was estimated, could not be conserved in the wild. Amphibian Ark also came into existence. A joint initiative between IUCN and the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA), it numbers many zoos and other institutions that are prepared to give shelter to the endangered animals. With species such as the Wyoming toad (Anaxyrus baxteri), whose natural waters are infested with the lethal fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, it is at present the only option. The Atlanta Zoo has even built a portable captive breeding kit facility that can be shipped and used on site.

In some places, the chytrid fungus has basically clear-cut species in a matter of a few years.  It can be cured in captivity; the antibiotic chloramphenicol is one agent that does the trick, and seems to give amphibians some residual protection afterwards. But treating entire water systems in the wild is another matter.  Only discovered a decade ago, chytridiomycosis is still a poorly understood enemy. The pressures on amphibians are many and varied.  In some patches, we're finding individuals that have survived, whereas with others like the golden toad it does seem to be all over," says Russ Mittermeier, CI's president.  "It seems like salamanders are more resistant, and why should that be? So we still have a long way to go."  The discovery that some species, apparently devastated by chytridiomycosis, have just about hung on is giving some hope. The Atelopus genus of Central and South America - is a case in point. Are these individuals immune - as some entire species appear to be - or just lucky? Can they rebuild a population?

This World Conservation Congress saw the release of another Red List. "In the intervening four years, we've had 366 species added to the Red List," says Mike Hoffman, who recently helped co-ordinate Threatened Amphibians of the World, the vast, glossy, information-packed book that CI has just brought out. "And that's primarily new species just discovered, or ones where the taxonomy has been re-arranged." "There are now about 6,200 species - that's 10% more than we had five years ago, and that's probably between 50% and 75% of what there is, because a lot of places remain to be explored," says Claude Gascon. "In Papua, New Guinea and Madagascar, for example, there are probably as many species waiting to be discovered as we know of now." And even if chytridiomycosis can be beaten, there are a myriad other threats. Climate change will raise temperatures and dry wetlands. Other diseases, and pollutants, will spread with increasing human migration. Hunting continues; above all, so does the relentless spread of the human footprint, turning forests into fields, lakes into building plots and ridges into roads.  Keeping alive all the species we know about, let alone the ones we have yet to discover, is a daunting task.

Scientists Map Giant Panda Genome

October 13, 2008  dsc.discovery.com

Scientists in China have mapped the genome of the giant panda, which could yield a better understanding of why the endangered animals are so famously sex-shy, state media said on Monday.  "We hope the genome map could help genetically explain why giant pandas have little reproductive capability so that scientists can help them deliver more cubs," Wang Jun, a scientist with the Beijing Genomics Institute, was quoted as saying by the China Daily. The Chinese-led genome-mapping effort also involved scientists from Britain, the United States, Denmark and Canada, the China Daily said.  The scientists mapped the genome of a three-year-old female named Jing Jing, with the results confirming the widely-held belief that the panda is a subspecies of bear, it said.  A more detailed genome map could be completed by the end of this year, it said.

National Zoo’s Orang-utan Enrichment

October 13, 2008   www.washingtonpost.com  By Joe Elbert

Wander down the National Zoo's Olmsted Walk and look up -- that's the O Line, 490 feet of plastic-coated steel cables that connect eight 50-foot-high towers to provide a swinging playground for the zoo's six orangutans.  Any day, weather permitting, the orangutans swing or just hang out between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. They usually won't go outdoors when it's below 40 degrees, and they don't like rain. When they travel, they generally walk on the cables using all four limbs. Kiki, the adult male, is the exception. He starts out walking, but then releases his feet and brachiates (hanging and swinging with his arms).  The O Line begins at Tower 1, which is in the outdoor orangutan yard at the Great Ape House, and ends at Tower 8 in the outdoor orangutan yard at the Think Tank. The system enables the orangs to choose between the two buildings, thereby choosing which orangutans and keepers to spend time with.  The zoo has four Sumatran-Bornean hybrid orangutans and two Bornean orangutans. Orangutans, in danger of becoming extinct, are the world's largest tree-dwelling animal and rely on their intelligence and well-adapted bodies to survive in the tropical rainforest. Video of the O-line: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2008/06/13/VI2008061301347.html

Bongos Born at Virginia Zoo

October 13, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com

NORFOLK, VA - Three baby bongos have joined the herd at the Virginia Zoo. The babies were sired by Thunder and born to the Zoo’s three females, Esi, Juni and Betty. Eva, was born on September 23, Jasper, was born October 10, and Bella, on October 12. The Virginia Zoo has successfully raised four previous bongo calves, and in 2004, 18 captive bred bongos, including a male born at the Virginia Zoo, were flown to African as part of the Bongo Repatriation to Mount Kenya Project.   Bongos are nearly extinct in Africa’s Mount Kenya, due to hunting, poaching and habitat destruction. Eleven baby bongo have since been born to that herd and are living safely in the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy.  In May 2008, the project welcomed the second generation of bongos born to the repatriated American bongos.   “Conservationists hope that in three to five generations, the bongos will be accustomed to the wild and ready to be set free outside the preserve,” said zoo executive director, Greg Bockheim. 

Wind Energy Not a Panacea

October 13, 2008 www.nytimes.com 

In the past month, four wind turbine parts manufacturers have announced plans to put factories in the heartland, otherwise known as the wind belt. New factories in Arkansas and Iowa will make turbine blades. Two others in Indiana and Minnesota will make gearboxes, which control a turbine’s rotational speed.  This continues a trend. Nine new wind manufacturing facilities — many of them foreign-owned — were announced last year, according to a Department of Energy report on wind power installation released in May (see p. 11 in the embedded document after the jump).  By the end of this year, about half of turbine components installed in the United States will be manufactured domestically, up from 30 percent in 2005, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Locating manufacturing facilities in the United States may shave a bit off wind-power costs, which have risen in recent years. Commercial turbine blades are heavy and huge, with rotor spans of about 200 feet. Transporting them requires a lot of costly fuel, so building them nearer to the wind farms where they will end up can save money.  However, Ryan Wiser, author of a study on wind power costs at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of the Department of Energy Report, suggested that transport is “certainly going to be less than 10 percent” of a wind project’s installed cost. Even so, wind power is not yet a panacea for the country’s manufacturing sector. Job gains from wind power are modest compared with the huge losses from traditional industries.

Environmental Movement Whistle Blower

October 13, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

“Green, Inc.: An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone Bad,” is a new book authored by Christine MacDonald, went to work in the communications division of Conservation International in 2006.  When her position at C.I.  was eliminated within one year, Ms. MacDonald decided to mine her disillusionment with the nepotism, executive salary bloat and cozy relationships with corporate donors that she observed, and uncover reasons for it elsewhere within the “business” of environmentalism. In detailing the salaries and other compensation enjoyed by some of the environmental movement’s chief executives (she reports that Steven E. Sanderson, the head of the Wildlife Conservation Society, collected $825,000 for his efforts in 2006; Peter Seligmann, president of C.I., drew a modest $391,000 in 2005), Ms. MacDonald suggests that big bucks transform these leaders — and their organizations — into mere stewards of their corporate benefactors.  Once conservation leaders get used to such lavish pay, doesn’t it follow that fundraising — to keep those salaries coming — would trump their core mission? Not all of the nearly 12,000 environmental groups at work in the United States are suspect, she said. And her critiques, she said, are aimed not at the thousands of scientists and conservationists making up the rank-and-file within the biggest conservation organizations, but at the leadership.  “What I saw was a lot of gross mismanagement and wasteful spending going on for questionable ends with these corporate sponsors,” Ms. MacDonald said.  “I’m hoping this book will spark a debate about how to reform the movement and make it more effective, because we really need our environmental groups right now, with the challenges of global warming and all the other interrelated environmental issues that we’re facing.”

Chinese Government Protects Dugongs

October 13, 2008  english.people.com.cn

A project to protect the endangered dugong in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is expected to be completed in 2009.  Costing $3.8 million U.S. dollars, it includes the building of a scientific research center, a sea animal rescue center, watchtowers and the purchase of equipment, such as patrol boats, in the Hepu Dugong National Nature Reserve. Dugongs were once common in the Shatian shallow sea area in Hepu County, the animal's major habitat in the country before the 1980s. But the proliferation of fish farms and seawater pollution in the area caused the animal's numbers to decrease sharply. Local residents believed they might have become extinct or moved elsewhere.  Lai Chunmiao, the Beihai Environment Monitoring Center director,  said there was no exact numbers for the animal in the area.  The 350-sq-km reserve was established in 1992 and in recent years, there have been increasing sightings by fishermen of the docile animal.  Australia has the largest concentration of dugongs in the world, estimated at 70,000 in 1991.

Chimpanzee Population in Côte d'Ivoire Declines

October 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

In a population survey of West African chimpanzees living in Côte d'Ivoire, researchers estimate that this endangered subspecies has dropped in numbers by a whopping 90 percent since the last survey was conducted 18 years ago. The few remaining chimpanzees are now highly fragmented, with only one viable population living in Taï National Park, according to a report in the October 14th issue of Current Biology.  This alarming decline in a country that had been considered one of the final strongholds for West African chimps suggests that their status should be raised to critically endangered, said Geneviève Campbell of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.  "The human population in Cote d'Ivoire has increased nearly 50 percent over the last 18 years," said Christophe Boesch, "Since most threats to chimpanzee populations are derived from human activities such as hunting and deforestation, this has contributed to the dramatic decline in chimpanzee populations. Furthermore, the situation has deteriorated even more with the start of the civil war in 2002, since all surveillance ceased in the protected areas."  In the 1960s, the population of chimpanzees in Côte d'Ivoire was estimated at about 100,000 individuals. At the end of the 1980s, when the first and last nationwide chimpanzee survey was carried out, the total population of chimpanzees was estimated at 8,000 to 12,000 individuals. While that already represented a drastic decrease from the expected numbers, it nonetheless meant that Côte d'Ivoire harbored about half of the world's remaining West African chimpanzee populations. Even in protected areas like Marahoué National Park, chimpanzees have clearly suffered since surveillance and external funding support were disrupted by civil unrest in 2002.

Bonobos Hunt and Eat Other Primates

October 13, 2008   www.eurekalert.org 

While chimpanzee males frequently band together to hunt and kill monkeys, the more peaceful female-dominated bonobos were believed to restrict what meat they ate to forest antelopes, squirrels, and rodents. A new study, reported in the October 14th issue of Current Biology, offers the first direct evidence of wild bonobos hunting and eating the young of other primate species, as well. The researchers made the discovery while studying a bonobo population living in LuiKotale, Salonga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The team was lead by Gottfried Hohmann's of the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology over five years. Evidence for monkey hunting by bonobos first came indirectly from studies of fresh fecal samples—one of which contained the digit of a black mangabey, but it was not entirely clear whether the bonobos had hunted the mangabey themselves or had taken it from another predator.  But the researchers have now seen three instances of successful hunts in which bonobos captured and ate their primate prey. In two other cases, the bonobo hunting attempts failed. The data from LuiKotale showed that both bonobo sexes play active roles in pursuing and hunting monkeys. The involvement of adult females in the hunts (which is not seen in chimps) may reflect social patterns such as alliance formation and cooperation among adult females.

Update on Sedgwick County Zoo's Greater Flamingo

October 14, 2008  www.stltoday.com    By Beccy Tanner

WICHITA, Kan. – The Greater flamingo that escaped from the Sedwick County Zoo  in June 2005 is alive and well and has been seen in Texas, Louisiana and Wisconsin, hanging out with some American flamingo chicks, and sandhill cranes.  He is currently featured in the latest issue of North American Birds as part of a 15-page article on migratory bird trends. He began his life in Tanzania and spent time in South Africa before being shipped to the United States and the Sedgwick County Zoo in 2004 with a group of 39 other flamingos. "We are very happy to know he is healthy and happy," said Joe Barkowski, curator of birds at the zoo. Barkowski said the flamingo is capable of living 50 years or more in the wild, and estimate that he is about 10. 

Endangered Species Permit Applications

October 14, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The following applicants have applied for permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species. We must receive written comments on or before November 13, 2008. Send written comments to the Regional Director, Attn: Peter Fasbender, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056; Send e-mail to: permitsR3ES@fws.gov   For further information contact: Peter Fasbender (612) 713-5343.

Permit Number: TE187501
Applicant: Hocking College, Nelsonville, Ohio.  The applicant requests a permit to take Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) throughout the State of Ohio in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Transportation roadway projects. The applicant requests authorization to conduct  resence/ absence surveys; assess habitat characteristics associated with foraging, roosting and rearing of offspring; and evaluate the ecology of adult and juvenile bats. Proposed ``take'' is in the form of capturing, handling, and radiotagging. Proposed research activities are aimed at enhancement of recovery of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE191225
Applicant: Kathleen A. Dunlap, Columbus, Ohio. The applicant requests a permit to take Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) throughout the States of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The activities proposed involve capture using mist nets and harp traps and marking of individual bats to identify populations of this listed species and to develop methods to minimize or avoid project-related impacts. Applicant seeks to provide site assessments and pre-construction surveys for projects such as highway and other development projects. Survey data are used to assist with development of project design features aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE838715
Applicant: The Nature Conservancy, Swanton, Ohio. The applicant requests a renewal of their permit to take Karner blue butterflies (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) at the Kitty Todd Nature Preserve in Northwest Ohio. The activities proposed involve habitat management in the form of prescribed burning, mowing, exotic species control, woody plant control, establishment of oaks, and management of plant community succession. Specified habitat management activities are proposed to enhance the survival of this disturbance-dependent species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE192348
Applicant: USDA-U.S. Forest Service, Mark Twain National Forest, Rolla, Missouri. The applicant requests a permit to take (harass) Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), Gray bats (Myotis grisescens), and Ozark big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townscendii ingens). The applicant proposes to survey and inventory cave resources throughout the Mark Twain National Forest. Disturbance to bats may occur while entering these caves. No direct handling of bats is proposed; disturbance may occur through temporary arousal of hibernating bats. Activities are proposed to enhance the survival of the species in the wild by providing biological data regarding status of bats within cave resources in the forest.

Permit Number: TE193614
Applicant: Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc., Murray, Kentucky. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take listed mussel species throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Activities include diving surveys to determine presence/absence of listed species involving capture and temporary holding of specimens for identification purposes. Data collected will assist entities involved in construction projects, such as bridge projects and others, in implementing measures to protect species in the design of their projects. Therefore, the scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE194099
Applicant: Dr. Michael A. Hoggarth, Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take listed mussel species throughout the State of Ohio. Take activities nclude surveys to determine presence/absence and to monitor populations of listed species. This involves capture, temporary holding of specimens, and release at or near the location of capture. Status surveys and monitoring data collected will assist the State Wildlife Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in recovery activities for the species.Therefore, the scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Number: TE195082
Applicant: Dr. Thomas E. Tomasi, Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and Gray bats (Myotis grisescens) in selected locations within New York, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. While these endangered bats are not the direct subject of the research, take is possible in the form of disturbance to hibernation by arousal while conducting pathology studies for little brown bats. Data collected will assist in the study of an apparent disease epidemic (white nose syndrome) in the bat community. Through collection of important epidemiological data, this scientific research is aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Roads : A Migratory Barrier

October 14, 2008 www.nytimes.com  By JIM ROBBINS

SALTESE, Mont. — The mountains in and around Glacier National Park teem with bears. A recently concluded five-year census found 765 grizzlies in northwestern Montana, more than three times the number of bears as when it was listed as a threatened species in 1975. To the south lies a swath of federally protected wilderness much larger than Yellowstone, and there are no known grizzlies. They were wiped out 50 years ago to protect sheep.  One of the main reasons they have not returned is Interstate 90.  To arrive from the north, a bear would have to climb over a nearly three-foot high concrete Jersey barrier, cross two lanes of road, braving 75- to 80-mile-an hour traffic, climb a higher Jersey barrier, cross two more lanes of traffic and climb yet another barrier.  “It’s the most critical wildlife corridor in the country,” said Dr. Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the USFWS, of the linkage between the two habitats.  As traffic grows beyond 3,000 vehicles a day, crossing a road becomes extremely difficult. The 13 miles of Interstate 90 here, where grizzly bears would most likely cross, has 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles a day, and so is impermeable much of the time. And it is not just bears — wolves, wolverine and a host of other species roam here.  Some experts believe that habitat fragmentation, with roads, homes and other development, is the biggest of all environmental problems. “By far,” said Dr. Michael Soulé, a retired biologist and founder of the Society for Conservation Biology. “It’s bigger than climate change. While the serious effects from climate change are 30 years away, there’s nothing left to save then if we don’t deal with fragmentation. And the spearhead of fragmentation are roads.”

National Zoo’s New Conservation Program

October 14, 2008  media-newswire.com

The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and George Mason University are developing a comprehensive academic program for undergraduates, graduates and conservationists. The Zoo’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability and George Mason’s Center for Conservation Studies are launching the Smithsonian-Mason Global Conservation Education Program to provide academic opportunities for up to 50 undergraduate students per semester and accommodate an additional 60 participants in professional training and certificate programs. Students will have an opportunity to live and study at the Zoo’s 3,200-acre Conservation and Research Center, where the Zoo cares for and conducts research on more than 30 critically endangered species. New facilities, including energy-efficient residential facilities, research and computer labs, classrooms, offices and student amenities will be supplemented by access to more than 2,000 acres of natural study sites on CRC’s property. The National Zoo and Mason will jointly raise funds for the facility’s construction, which begins in 2012. In the interim, the Smithsonian-Mason Semester for undergraduates is being offered annually, and new professional training programs will be developed using existing CRC facilities and research sites.“This community has been designed to provide the most progressive education in conservation studies available anywhere in the world,” said Tom Wood, director of the Mason Center for Conservation Studies. For many years, Mason undergraduate and graduate students have visited the Zoo and CRC as part of their course work. This led to a resident learning community, the Smithsonian-Mason Semester, which was launched in spring 2008 with 15 undergraduates who received 16 units of academic credit. In addition, a joint fellowship program supports eight Mason graduate students in conservation biology.

Benefit Dinner for Orangutans at Auckland Zoo

October 14, 2008  www.scoop.co.nz

Dining in the company of spider monkeys, siamangs and tamarins, and being waited on by zookeepers, is just part of what will be a unique and unforgettable night out for adventurous foodies and animal lovers on Sunday 9 November – the start of Orang-utan Caring Week (9 – 14 November).  The evening will also include going behind the scenes to meet some of the Zoo’s animals up close. First up will be an encounter with elephants Kashin and Burma, followed by the chance to watch them paint – an activity they enjoy as part of their behavioral enrichment program. One lucky guest will get to keep the painting.  Other up-close experiences will include a visit to Tiger Territory to watch a tiger encounter, followed by mystery tours with keepers to meet a range of other animals.  A professionally catered three-course meal, guaranteed to be palm oil-free, will then be served by primate keepers in the heart of the Newstalk ZB Rainforest.  Live music will add to the ambiance of the evening, and scatter feeds will keep the rainforest’s resident animals active and interested. There will also be the opportunity to chat with the keepers – many of whom star on ‘The Zoo’ TV show. The cost per person for this exclusive experience is $200 per person (including drinks). All proceeds from the evening will go to assist the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project (SOCP) and its ‘Wildlife Protection Units’ in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Sumatra’s Jambi province.

L.A. Zoo Installs New Radiography System

October 14, 2008  in.sys-con.com

SANTA CLARA, Calif -- Earlier this year, the L.A. Zoo installed a RapidStart(TM) digital radiography (DR and CCD) systems and RapidPACS(TM) (Picture Archiving and Communications System) from Eklin Medical Systems for veterinary care, at the Zoo's Gottlieb Animal Health and Conservation Center, a 33,589-square-foot facility situated in a restricted area in the upper reaches of the Los Angeles Zoo. Among other features, it includes a state-of-the-art intensive care unit, an on-site commissary, a surgical suite with observation area, and research facilities. "We care for scores of animals of all types and radiographic imaging is essential for aiding us with accurate diagnoses," said Curtis Eng, DVM, chief veterinarian for the LA Zoo. "Eklin technology has been implemented by a number of our peers due to its superb radiographic imaging and image management capabilities. Now we can radiograph the smallest of spider turtles or the largest of elephants with excellent diagnostic detail."

Evolutionary History of Sea Turtles Determined

October 15, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Researchers at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, used five nuclear DNA markers and two mitochondrial markers to test the evolutionary relationships of all species of marine turtles—leatherback, flatback, green, hawksbill, loggerhead, Kemp's Ridley, and Olive Ridley—and four 'outgroups,' or more distantly related animals. The results formed a well-supported phylogenetic tree, or cladogram, that tells the story of sea turtle evolution.  The study is reported in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Eugenia Naro-Maciel, primary author, says "The evolution of a specialized diet appears to have occurred three times, independently. Many sea turtles are carnivorous generalists. However, hawksbills tend to have a diet of glass—they eat toxic sponges—while the leatherback consumes jellyfish and the green grazes mainly on algae or sea grass." Each of the species with specialized diets is positioned uniquely in the evolutionary tree. Determining the evolutionary relationships among sea turtles as well as the species identity of different populations of this highly migratory group of animals has implications for conservation. All sea turtles are included on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, some of them as critically endangered, and an accurate understanding of this highly migratory group is important.

Global Warming Threatens Australia's Kangaroos

October 15, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A new study published in the December issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology finds that an increase in average temperature of only two degrees Celsius could have a devastating effect on populations of Australia's iconic kangaroos.  "Our study provides evidence that climate change has the capacity to cause large-scale range contractions, and the possible extinction of one kangaroo species in northern Australia," write study authors Euan G. Ritchie and Elizabeth E. Bolitho of James Cook University in Australia. The scientists used computer modeling and three years of field observations to predict how temperature changes might affect four species of kangaroos over the next half-century. An increase of two degrees may shrink kangaroos' ranges by 48 percent. A six-degree increase might shrink ranges by 96 percent. The most significant effects of climate change are not necessarily on the animals themselves, but on their habitats—specifically, in amounts of available water.

Lincoln Park Zoo Tests Gorillas IQs

October 15, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com  By William Mullen

Rollie, a female gorilla at Lincoln Park Zoo, is able to correctly solve a seven-step number puzzle on her 42-inch touch-screen computer in the Lincoln Park Zoo to earn a blueberry treat.  A report on her work was recently presented at the biennial meeting of the International Primatological Society Congress in Scotland. Steve Ross, who supervises cognitive and behavioral research for the zoo's primate research arm, the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, says "They aren't as dynamic as chimps socially, and they don't show the mechanical cleverness that orangutans display, but because Rollie has been such a quick learner, it suggests that gorillas in general are smarter than we have given them credit for,"  Ross' immediate aim in studying primate cognition and intelligence is to devise preference tests that allow animals to "talk" to keepers, expressing what foods they like and don't like and reporting on good and bad features of their habitats. Lincoln Park is the only place in the world that is doing touch-screen testing with both chimps and gorillas.

Chimpanzees and orangutans are studied often at primate and medical research laboratories worldwide. But captive gorillas—perhaps too temperamental as adults to be used as research subjects—aren't often kept outside of zoos, so they are far less studied.  "It is exciting to see that [Rollie's] performance is comparable with other great apes," said Tara Stoinski, a Zoo Atlanta primatologist. "What is really exciting is to see this kind of work being done with gorillas because so little research is being done on gorilla cognition."  Ross first started training some chimpanzees in 2005 to do tasks on a touch-screen computer. He waited some months before training Rollie as his first gorilla subject.  At first, she merely had to touch the blank computer screen to get a reward. Later, she would be rewarded only after touching a floating numeral 1 about 2 inches high. When the number 2 was added, she was not rewarded unless she touched the numbers in the right sequence. Rollie can now touch the numbers 1 to 7 in order.

Issuance of Permits for Endangered Species Research

October 15, 2008   www.epa.gov   

Permit No.           Applicant                                                        Permit issuance date
185767       Molecular Anthropology Lab, AZ State University      September 11, 2008
045447      Terrie M. Williams,  Center for Ocean Health, U CA      September 23, 2008

Batman Comes to Columbus Zoo

October 15, 2008  www.marketwatch.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio, -- First came the creation of a brand new water park, Zoombezi Bay. Then a new ride area, Jungle Jack's landing. And most recently, the groundbreaking for Polar Frontier, a 13-acre exhibit that will bring polar bears back to Columbus. But perhaps the most surprising change of all is this: After 81 years, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is changing its name. For two weekends in October, anyway.  On October 17-19 and 24-26 the Columbus Zoo will change its name to "The Gotham City Zoo and Aquarium." The Dark Knight himself will be at the Zoo as part of the annual "Boo at the Zoo" promotion. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Batman in person," said Jeffrey Swanagan, the Zoo's Executive Director. "Of course, all the bats at the Zoo are looking forward to his visit.

Successful Blank Park Zoo Fund Drive

October 15, 2008  www.desmoinesregister.com   By JASON PULLIAM

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Officials at Blank Park Zoo say a $40 million fundraising effort has already generated enough money to roll out two new attractions next year - a new animal exhibit featuring Asian species and a 300-seat amphitheater.  According to Terry Rich, the zoo's chief executive, the zoo expansion is the centerpiece of a major urban renewal plan that aims to transform Des Moines' south-side "superblock" into a regional cultural and recreation hub.  The expansion will be carried out in four phases over the next five or so years. It calls for a renovation of the 40-year-old zoo and an 80-acre expansion that will allow for more than 25 new animal species.  The zoo foundation plans to raise about $25 million through private donations and grants. The city, under a 2003 agreement, is obligated to contribute $8 million.

Recycled Sculpture Exhibit at London zoo

October 15, 2008  www.recycledsculptureshow.co.uk

The Recycled Sculpture Show is an exhibition of 21 sculptures that will be auctioned to raise funds to support worldwide animal conservation at ZSL London Zoo.  Pieces include a great white hub-cap shark, ceramic trees made of human ashes and a wooden horse that evokes Damien Hirst without all of that icky formaldehyde.  The exhibition has focused on raising awareness of worldwide animal conservation re-using only wasted resources and salvaged materials in creating animal sculptures.  Providing much thought about recycling and the interdependence of animals and humans, the show will end when the online auction ends on Monday 20th October.  http://www.recycledsculptureshow.co.uk/Site/Welcome.html

Illegal Primate Trade Soars in Indonesia

October 15, 2008  www.afp.com

JAKARTA (AFP) - The illegal trade in endangered primates is increasing in Indonesia's East Java province as traders market the animals in public, a conservation expert said Wednesday. Primates such as slow lorises and Javanese langurs can be bought on the street in Malang, according to Rosek Nursahid, director of the independent animal rights group ProFauna. "The fangs of the slow lorises are pulled ... (and) they are forced to be awake during the day, when actually they are nocturnal animals as they hunt their prey at night."  He said there were no reliable figures on population numbers in the wild but based on the loss of habitat due to rampant deforestation "their numbers are declining fast." In addition to primates, ProFauna reported that about 10,000 wild hook-billed parrots were being smuggled out of Halmahera and Talaud Islands annually, destined mainly for the Philippines.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Populations Decline

October 15, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

SANTA CRUZ, Calif -- U.S. marine scientists say they have found an excessively high mortality rate among endangered loggerhead sea turtles in the Baja California area. U.C.Santa Cruz researchers said nearly 3,000 sea turtle carcasses were found along a 27-mile stretch of coast from 2003-07.  Graduate student Hoyt Peckham, who led the research, said the finding underscores the enormous impact of bycatch (marine life accidentally killed by fishing operations) on sea turtles. The study is reported in a special bycatch issue of the journal Endangered Species Research. North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles travel more than 7,000 miles from Japan to Baja California Sur to feed and grow in nearshore waters, spending up to 30 years there before returning to Japan to breed. The number of nesting females in Japan has declined by 50 to 80 percent over the past 10 years, Peckham said.

A New Kind of Seed Bank is Proposed

October 15, 2008  www.physorg.com 

The important Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on the island of Spitsbergen in Norway plans to preserve hundreds of thousands of varieties of agricultural plant species, but most of those samples represent only a tiny fraction of that which you would find in a wild population of a wild species.  So a group of U.S. scientists has just proposed a different kind of seed bank in the October issue of Bioscience.  They plan to gather seeds of wild species –– at intervals in the future –– effectively capturing evolution in action. Steven J. Franks of Fordham University, Susan J. Mazer of UCSB, and colleagues, call it the "Resurrection Initiative."  "This seed collection would form an important resource that can be used for many types of research, just as GenBank forms a key resource for research in genetics and genomics," said Franks.  This is to make sure that scientists can maintain a genetically diverse seed pool in the event of some kind of ecological calamity that requires the replenishing of seeds from a certain part of the world or from certain species.  Evolutionary biologists recognize that the gene pool of any species is a dynamic resource that changes over time as a result of random events such as highly destructive climatic events like hurricanes, but also through sustained and ongoing processes like evolution by natural selection.

New WWF Report on Penguins

October 15, 2008  www.enn.com 

WASHINGTON, DC, — Half to three-quarters of major Antarctic penguin colonies — including the iconic Emperor Penguin,— will likely experience significant decline or disappearance as a result of climate change, according to a new report from WWF entitled “2°C is Too Much”  The findings follow a massive rescue operation on Tuesday in which hundreds of penguins that mysteriously turned up on warm Brazilian beaches were returned to their Southern Ocean nesting area, more than a thousand miles to the south. Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, managing director of species conservation for WWF. “Penguin colonies on Antarctica have already experienced sharp declines over the past half century as rising temperatures have diminished sea ice conditions and the penguins’ access to food.” The new report shows that a global average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which climate models forecast could be reached in as few as 40 years, would sharply reduce sea ice coverage in the Southern Ocean where penguins live, breed and feed. The report concludes that such significant warming and sea ice loss would likely lead to the marked decline or complete disappearance of many penguin colonies, including 50 percent of Emperor Penguins and 75 percent of Adélie Penguins.

Saving the Kauai Thrush

October 15, 2008  www.aviationrecord.com

KONA , Hawaii – Twelve endangered puaiohi birds (the Kauai thrush) have been transferred from the Big Island in Hawaii to the Alakai Wilderness Preserve on Kauai, thanks to a collaborative conservation effort by the Zoological Society of San Diego, state and federal agencies, and Hawaiian Airlines. Altogether, 23 puaiohi have been transported and released into their native environment on Kauai over the past week. The flock of birds was raised in a protected setting at the San Diego Zoo’s Keauhou Bird Conservation Center at Volcano on the Big Island. On Kauai, following a one-hour drive into Kokee State Park and a 2km hike to the Alakai Wilderness Preserve, the birds were placed into a protected acclimation aviary where they will live for a week before being released into the surrounding forest. Their numbers had dropped to as low as 250 birds, but they now number over 500 thanks to the human intervention. 

Louisville Zoo Receives $900,000 Grant

October 15, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

The Louisville Zoo received a $900,000 matching grant to be applied toward the construction of its Glacier Run project from the Kresge Foundation, a Michigan-based philanthropic organization. The project, which is being completed in stages, is expected to be fully open in 2010. Based on the theme of an old gold-mining town bordered by a glacier, Glacier Run will include polar bears, seals, sea lions, arctic foxes, snowy owls, reindeer and Steller’s sea eagles. The exhibit also is expected to include classrooms, party rooms available for rental, viewing areas above and below water and a 200-seat outdoor auditorium for watching animal training demonstrations. The zoo has raised more than $17 million of the $25 million it hopes to raise by 2010, through donations from individuals, corporations and foundations.

Charting the Losses of Species

October 15, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By VERLYN KLINKENBORG

Like everyone, I have been reading the graphs and looking at the numbers that measure the convulsions in the global financial markets. And as I do, I keep hearing the echo of another frightening set of numbers — the ones that gauge the precipitous declines in the species that surround us. The financial markets will eventually come back, but not the species we are squandering.  Last week in Barcelona, Spain, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature released results of a global survey of mammal populations. It concluded that at least a quarter of mammal species are headed toward extinction in the near future. Don’t think of this as an across-the-board culling of mammals, of everything from elephants to the minutest of shrews. The first ones to go will be the big ones. And among the big ones, the first to go will be primates, which are already grievously threatened. Nearly 80 percent of the primate species in southern and southeastern Asia are immediately threatened. The causes are almost all directly related to human activity, including, for marine mammals, the growing threat of ocean acidification, as the oceans absorb the carbon dioxide we emit.  The numbers are not much better for other categories of life. At least 22 percent of reptile species are at risk of extinction. Perhaps 40 percent of North American freshwater fish are threatened. In Europe, 45 percent of the most common bird species are rapidly declining in numbers, and so are the most common bird species in North America. Similar losses are expected among plants.

WWF Releases Greenprint Agenda to Obama & McCain

October 17, 2008 www.marketwatch.com

WASHINGTON, DC --  WWF-US has released a “Greenprint” agenda, a policy roadmap for the next US president to address global threats to environmental, social and political stability in four key areas. “Conservation is in America’s long-term strategic interest,” said Bruce Babbitt, chairman of WWF-US’s Board of Directors and former secretary of the Interior Department in the Clinton Administration. “Responsible and sustainable resource management is critical not just to protecting nature, but to avoiding conflict, alleviating poverty and promoting stability around the world.”  The plan has been submitted to Senators John McCain and Barack Obama and their campaign staffs.  It outlines specific policy initiatives that would reduce threats to global peace and security by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and establishing preparedness measures for dealing with the impacts of climate change, ensuring plentiful food and clean water for people around the world, and retooling the U.S. government’s Cold War-era foreign assistance program to ensure more sustainable use of the world’s natural resources.

New BBC Gorilla Documentary Will Air November

October 17, 2008  www.dailymail.co.uk By David Jones

From the moment he was born, in August 1974, Titus, a mountain gorilla in Rwanda has been studied by primatologists. He ruled for 17 years in the Virunga Mountains, but recently a BBC documentary team discovered he had been deposed by a younger silverback – and relegated to the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, along with 2 middle-aged female gorillas.  “Titus: The Gorilla King”  will be screened next month to mark the 25th anniversary of BBC2's award-winning Natural World series. The film contains grainy old video camerawork shot in Titus’ youth, with previously unseen diary extracts recorded by Dian Fossey, who studied the species 40 years ago.  The history of Central Africa's mountain gorillas dates back thousands of years, when the volcanoes erupted, on the lowlands where they then lived and forced them to climb 12,000ft for survival. The gorillas remained there, undisturbed, until 1902, when they were discovered by white explorers.  They became a prized target for trophy hunters and poachers and contracted human-borne diseases, so that when Fossey began her research in 1967, their numbers were being seriously depleted. Titus' story began 34 years ago, when he was spotted by Kelly Stewart.  She was routinely observing a female called Flossy, with a suckling newborn baby.  Professor Stewart named the baby Titus and followed his progress.  According to Yale University Professor David Watts, who has spent more time studying him than anyone, it was Titus' personality that really marked him out from the rest.

Learning to Speak Baboon

October 19, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com    By Michael Blumenthal

In 1989, Rita Miljo created C.A.R.E. -- the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education -- on a 50-acre patch of African bush she had bought in Limpopo Province. Rita’s South African assistant, Lee Dekker, senior animal keeper Bennett Serane and volunteers (between 5 and 25 ) have saved, some dozen troops of once-orphaned baboons, numbering roughly 250, and returned them to the wild all around South Africa.  Not only must the staff locate the appropriate release sites, apply for permits and prepare troops for release and transport, but at least two staff members must be dispatched to the site for up to five months to make sure the baboons can successfully forage on their own. Of the innovative practices Rita and the staff of C.A.R.E. have created, most significant has been the "artificial" formation of coherent troops to be re-released into the wild. Until Rita began combining compatibly aged, sexed and spirited baboons into troops within the cages, it was virtually taken for granted that baboon troop formation was a "natural" process that took place only through matriarchal lineage, with females spending their lifetimes in the same troop and a few dominant males moving in and out as hierarchies shifted.

Spinner Dolphin Communication During Hunting

October 20, 2008   www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study, by scientists at Oregon State University and the University of Hawaii, has found that spinner dolphins engage in a highly choreographed night-time "dance" to enclose their prey, and then dart into the circle of confused fish in organized pairs to feed for about 15 seconds, before backing out and letting the next pairs in line take their turn.  Results of the study were published this week in the journal, Acoustical Society of America.  Kelly Benoit-Bird, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.  The scientists used sonar readings from a "multi-beam echo-sounder" to monitor groups of spinner dolphins. "The degree of synchrony they display when feeding is incredible – especially considering that they are nocturnal and are doing it at night, several meters below the surface where they can't see their prey or each other.  Acoustical eavesdropping allowed the scientists to discover their behaviors without interrupting their routine with lights and underwater cameras. Dolphins are often vocal and their use of frequency-modulated whistles was thought by many to cue their coordinated behavior. But the researchers found they didn't use those whistles at all while hunting prey – just during non-foraging times or when they were surfacing. Instead, they used a series of "clicks," with the highest click rates taking place just prior to foraging. "Whistles are omni-directional, like turning on a light bulb in a room," Benoit-Bird said. "Clicks, on the other hand, are directional like a laser. We think it may be a strategy to communicate only within the group and not to other potential lanternfish predators. Tuna and billfish are looking for the same prey and they can hear the whistles but not the clicks because the frequencies are too high and so focused.

Elephant Sanctuary in San Fernando Valley?

October 20, 2008  www.contracostatimes.com    By Dana Bartholomew

Two years ago, L.A. officials voted to replace the L.A. Zoo's 1/2-acre elephant exhibit with a 3½ -acre "Pachyderm Forest" at a cost of $39 million, plus $8.5 million in debt service.The exhibit,  which will exceed national standards for zoos, would house up to 10 Asian elephants in a lush forest and grassland dotted with cool ponds and waterfalls.  Now one-third complete, Councilman Tony Cardenas wants to replace the exhibit  with the nation's first municipal elephant sanctuary - in the San Fernando Valley. Fellow  Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district contains the zoo, defended keeping the elephants at the zoo. "The people in L.A. deserve a world-class zoo,"  he said. But Cardenas says of the 13 elephants that died at the zoo since 1975,  half didn't see age 20. In the wild, elephants can live 60 years or more.  And elephants confined in zoos suffer from severe arthritis, degenerative joints and foot disease, he added.  A champion for the city's Animal Cruelty Task Force and mandatory spay-neuter law, Cardenas said he had a change of heart about the city's elephant exhibit after visiting Ruby, a former zoo elephant, at the sanctuary where she retired to last year.  Animal welfare activists who have long sought to ban elephants from the L.A. Zoo hailed Cardenas' move.  "This would put L.A. at the forefront of all of the 
zoos in all the cities in the country, in being the leader for compassion and care for elephants," said actress Lily Tomlin, another sanctuary supporter.  Cardenas' first motion calls for Los Angeles to join the dozen cities to shutter their elephant exhibits, while sending its last elephant, Billy, to a sanctuary.  His second motion calls for an advisory group to target 60 acres for an elephant satellite sanctuary to be run by the L.A. Zoo, in addition to a feasibility study by the chief legislative analyst.  He said the move could save the city $20 million, given the estimated $10 million cost of a sanctuary and the $10 million spent to date on the pachyderm exhibit on land that could easily be given over to giraffes. "There is ... a likelihood to locate it in the San Fernando Valley. We've got foothills in the North Valley," Cardenas said.

New Plant Conservation Study

October 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

SANTA BARBARA, California –– The last mass extinction near the current level was 65 million years ago, called the Cretaceous Tertiary extinction event, and was probably the result of a meteor hitting the Earth. It is best known for the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, but massive amounts of plant species became extinct at that time as well. Nearly 50 percent of all species disappeared.  “We are now losing species from ecosystems around the world, and need to know which species matter the most ––which species we should pour our resources into protecting," said Marc W. Cadotte, at UCSB's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). He and his colleagues put together a "meta-analysis" of approximately 40 important studies of grassland ecosystems around the world, and reconstructed the evolutionary history among 177 flowering plants used in these studies by comparing the genetic makeup of the plants. They found that some species are more critical than others in preserving the functions of ecosystems and that these species tend to be those that are genetically unique. Therefore, they are looking to evolutionary history for guidance in conservation efforts and in understanding the potential impacts of species loss. 

Wildlife Needs More Complicated Corridors

October 20, 2008  www.nature.com

Corridors are physical connections between disconnected fragments of plant and animal habitat. A corridor can be as big as a swath of river and forest miles wide that links two national parks, or as small as a tunnel under an interstate highway.  Without such connections, animals cannot travel to food, water, mates and shelter. Plants cannot disperse their pollen and seeds to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations.  Designing and implementing corridors (sometimes called corridor ecology or connectivity conservation) is a new subfield in environmental science. Holland's research is among the first to help land managers and community planners designing corridors to know what will work and what will not.  A new study by Matthew Holland, of UC Davis found that symmetrical systems of corridors may actually do less good for natural communities than designs with some randomness or asymmetry built in. "Human beings tend to think in terms of regular, symmetrical structures, but nature can be much more irregular,"  People trying to help nature by designing corridors for wildlife need to think more naturally. The new study, titled "Strong effect of dispersal network structure on ecological dynamics," is scheduled to be published online on Sunday, Oct. 19, by the journal Nature. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Maternal Stress Leads to Reproductive Success in Starlings

October 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

It is widely accepted that exposure to maternal stress during pre-natal development can have negative impacts on offspring following birth. Evolutionary physiologists Oliver Love and Tony Williams examined how offspring exposure to the maternally-derived stress hormone corticosterone affect maternal fitness in free-living European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).  They experimentally increased yolk levels of corticosterone to mimic the "signal" offspring receive indicating they have a low quality mother. They then paired corticosterone-exposed hatchlings with experimentally manipulated low quality mothers to examine how these mothers fared in raising stress-exposed young compared with "normal" young. They followed mothers within and across years to determine the long-term effects of the original manipulation on future reproductive success and maternal survival.  Their results provide the first evidence that low quality mothers benefit in the long-term from exposing offspring to their own stress: corticosterone exposure better "matches" offspring demand to a mother's immediate offspring-rearing capability. Corticosterone-exposed sons were of lower quality at hatching and when paired with a low-quality mother these sons experienced increased mortality.  However, because these mothers now had fewer mouths to feed, and of the smaller, less-demanding sex (daughters), the offspring that survived were of better quality. More importantly, by reducing investment in their current reproductive attempt, these "matched" mothers began second broods in better condition, had increased future reproductive output, and increased survival compared to "mis-matched" mothers (low-quality mothers that raised "normal'" offspring).

Climate Change Linked to India’s Tiger Attacks

October 20, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

KOLKATA, India -- The number of tiger attacks on people is growing in India's Sundarban islands as habitat loss and dwindling prey caused by climate change drives them to prowl into villages for food.  Rising sea levels and coastal erosion are steadily shrinking the tigers' natural habitat.  The Sundarbans, a 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq mile) area of low-lying swamps on India's border with Bangladesh, is dotted with hundreds of small islands criss-crossed by water channels. The area is the world's largest mangrove reserve and one of the most unique ecosystems in South Asia, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  "In the past six months, seven fishermen were killed in an area called Netidhopani," Pranabes Sanyal of the World Conservation Union said.  "Owing to global warming, the fragile Sundarbans lost 28 percent of its habitat in the last 40 years. A part of it is the core tiger reserve area from where their prey migrated." But as sea levels rise, two islands have already disappeared and others are vulnerable. Wildlife experts say the destruction of the mangroves means the tigers' most common prey, such as crocodiles, fish and big crabs, is dwindling. Sundarban villagers pass through tiger territory on boats to fish in the sea, or to collect honey in forest areas.  Once home to 500 tigers in the late 1960s, the Sundarbans may only shelter between 250 and 270 tigers now, wildlife officials say. The Indian Statistical Institute said the number is as low as 75. There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago. A government census report published this year says the tiger population has fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in 2002, largely due to dwindling habitat and poaching.

Deer Population Influences Biodiversity

October 20, 2008  researchnews.osu.edu

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Reducing the number of deer in forests and parks may unexpectedly reduce the number of reptiles, amphibians and insects in that area.  A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University and National Park Service found that higher deer activity is modifying forest ecosystems in unexpected ways. Out of several species of snakes, salamanders, and invertebrates studied, a greater diversity of animals were found in areas with deer populations than were in areas with no deer activity.  The study, which comes at a time when many states have begun to selectively control deer populations, challenges previous research that has suggested deer populations can negatively impact forest ecosystems through eating plants that many smaller animals may depend on. The areas with higher deer populations may appear to lack the high variety of low-lying plants found in exclosures, but the deer may be creating a richer soil mixture through their droppings. This rich soil may be benefiting some plants in the area, which in turn is attracting a larger diversity of insects and invertebrates. Instead, researchers found that high numbers of deer may in fact be attracting a greater number of species. This may be because their waste creates a more nutrient-rich soil and as a result, areas with deer draw higher numbers of insects and other invertebrates. These insects then attract larger predators which thrive on insect lava such as salamanders, and the salamanders in turn attract even larger predators such as snakes.  The results appear in The Journal of Wildlife Management.

Sustainable Criteria for Tourism

October 20, 2008  www.enn.com 

A coalition of environmental organizations and travel businesses is forming a global sustainability standard for tourism. The partnership - a collection of 27 organizations from the tourism industry and environmental community  The criteria require that tourism operations conduct their business without having an adverse impact on a destination's habitats, local communities, or cultural heritage. For example, the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions a hotel must reduce.  The actual requirements will be established by local organizations or governments based on certain local or regional specifics. "This develops the use of local standards-not like the FSC...it's a locally based financial system," Whelan said.  While the standard would be uneven across the world, the architects of the guidelines said they wanted to avoid more rigid criteria that may discourage businesses from applying. "We don't want the bar to be set so high that it's a barrier to entry," said Kate Dodson, the U.N. Foundation's deputy director of sustainable development.  On the environmental side, the criteria require businesses to measure and reduce their energy consumption, water use, waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions. To address social impacts, a "code of conduct" would be necessary for activities in indigenous and local communities, which the communities would need to approve. Certifiers would also have to ensure that the businesses "respect" cultural heritage and wildlife populations. Sustainable tourism now accounts for an estimated 1 percent of all tourism operations.

Global Viral Forecasting Initiative

October 20, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By ELIZABETH SVOBODA

Dr. Nathan Wolfe started the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative earlier this year believing that If new disease strains could be culled before they had a chance to take hold in humans, health organizations would have to spend less money and energy on developing expensive vaccines and treatment drugs.  Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org announced that it will contribute $5.5 million to the initiative; and that is being matched by $5.5 million from the Skoll Foundation, which supports the work of social entrepreneurs.  Dr. Wolfe chases down bushmeat hunters in Cameroon.  Because animals like chimpanzees and orangutans are genetically similar to humans, the likelihood of virus transmission between species is very high.  Both H.I.V. and Ebola, for example, have documented primate origins, and a paper published in Nature in February noted that 60 percent of emerging human pathogens came from animals. He tries to persuade the hunters to supply him with blood samples, so he can form a better idea of which new animal diseases they are exposed to — and, by extension, which emerging viruses could pose the biggest threat to humans.  Since he began his hunter studies, he has come across several viruses never before seen in humans, including retroviruses from the same family as H.I.V.

To map the emergence of novel viruses, Dr. Wolfe and his colleagues in the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative — more than 100 scientists in nine countries —have recently expanded their investigations of viruses that cross the animal-human barrier, conducting research in field locations in China, Madagascar, Malaysia and Paraguay.  Thanks to new techniques for sequencing DNA in the viruses they find, epidemiologists can quickly identify the most virulent new pathogens — the ones that have high mutation rates or lend themselves to recombination, in which strands of DNA are broken and then joined to other genetic material. A new variant of influenza, for instance, could be dangerous, but it could cause epidemics only if it were genetically capable of staying one step ahead of the immune system’s defenses. Tracking the viral mix in a given population over time is also critical, said Forest Rohwer, a microbiologist at San Diego State University who works with Dr. Wolfe.

Extinct Cockatoo Rediscovered in Indonesia

October 21, 2008  dsc.discovery.com

Oct. 23, 2008 -- A species of cockatoo feared to have become extinct has been "rediscovered". Ten yellow-crested Abbott's cockatoos were found on the Masalembu archipelago off Java island, the Indonesian Cockatoo Conservation group said. The group included four breeding pairs and two juveniles.  Despite the discovery the Yellow-crested Abbott's cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea abbotti) remains the rarest species of the bird on earth, he said.

Revised Critical Habitat for the Contiguous Canada Lynx

October 21, 2008   www.epa.gov    

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is reopening the public comment period and the scheduling of public hearings on the proposed revised designation of critical habitat for the contiguous United States distinct population segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) (lynx) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We also announce the availability for public comment of the draft economic analysis (DEA), an amended required determinations section of the proposal, and the draft environmental assessment for the proposed revised critical habitat designation. We also seek comment on draft conservation agreements that cover lands in Maine (Unit 1) and in the northern Rockies (Unit 3) that could result in exclusions from the final critical habitat designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. We also seek public comment on whether lands entered in to the Healthy Forest Reserve Program are appropriate for exclusion. In addition, we propose to refine boundary descriptions for two critical habitat units: Unit 3 (Northern Rockies) and Unit 5 (Greater Yellowstone Area) based upon more detailed information we have obtained about lynx habitat in these areas. If you submitted comments previously, then you do not need to resubmit them because we have already incorporated them into the public record and we will fully consider them in preparation of our final determination. Written Comments: We will accept public comments received on or before November 20, 2008. You may submit comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2008-0026; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.  We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov For further information contact: Mark Wilson, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Ecological Services Office, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601; telephone 406-449-5225.

You may obtain a copy of draft conservation agreements for lands in Maine and Montana or the HFRP documents for lands in Maine by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov  or our Web site http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/criticalhabitat.htm

Feds Rush to Ease Endangered Species Rules

October 21, 2008  www.msnbc.msn.com

WASHINGTON - Rushing to ease endangered species rules before President Bush leaves office, U.S. Interior Department officials are trying to review 200,000 comments from the public in just 32 hours, according to an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.  The Fish and Wildlife Service has called a team of 15 people to Washington this week to pore through letters and online comments about a proposal to exclude greenhouse gases and the advice of federal biologists from decisions about whether dams, power plants and other federal projects could harm species. That would be the biggest change in endangered species rules since 1986.  At that rate, according to a committee aide's calculation, 6,250 comments would have to be reviewed every hour. That means that each member of the team would be reviewing at least seven comments each minute.  It usually takes months to review public comments on a proposed rule, and by law the government must respond before a rule becomes final.

Listing of 48 Species on Kauai

October 21, 2008  www.epa.gov
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to list 48 species on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands as endangered.  We also propose to designate critical habitat for 47 of these species totaling 27,674 acres (ac) (11,199 hectares (ha)). Critical habitat designation is not prudent for one species, Pritchardia hardyi, which is threatened by overcollection, vandalism, or other human activity. This proposed rule, if made final, would extend the Act's protections to these species. We will accept comments received on or before December 22, 2008. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing to: 1.  Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov 2.  U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2008-0046; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov  For further information contact:  Patrick Leonard, Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Box 50088, Honolulu, HI 96850; telephone 808-792-9400; facsimile 808-792-9581. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call
the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

              Ecosystem                             Species
Lowland Mesic    Plants: Canavalia napaliensis,
                                        Chamaesyce eleanoriae,
                                        Chamaesyce remyi var. remyi,
                                        Charpentiera densiflora,
                                        Doryopteris angelica, Dubautia
                                        kenwoodii, Labordia helleri,
                                        Pittosporum napaliense,
                                        Platydesma rostrata, Psychotria
                                        hobdyi, Tetraplasandra
Lowland Wet       Plants: Chamaesyce remyi var.
                                        kauaiensis, Chamaesyce remyi
                                        var. remyi, Charpentiera
                                        densiflora, Cyanea eleelensis,
                                        Cyanea kolekoleensis, Cyanea
                                        kuhihewa, Cyrtandra oenobarba,
                                        Dubautia imbricata ssp.
                                        imbricata, Labordia helleri,
                                        Melicope paniculata, Melicope
                                        puberula, Phyllostegia renovans,
                                        Platydesma rostrata, Pritchardia
                                        hardyi, Stenogyne kealiae,
                                        Tetraplasandra bisattenuata
Montane Mesic   Plants: Chamaesyce remyi var.
                                        remyi, Diellia mannii, Labordia
                                        helleri, Myrsine knudsenii,
                                        Myrsine mezii, Platydesma
                                        rostrata, Psychotria
                                        grandiflora, Stenogyne kealiae,
                                        Tetraplasandra flynnii
                         Animals: Akekee, Drosophila
Montane Wet      Plants: Astelia waialeale,
                                        Chamaesyce remyi var. remyi,
                                        Dryopteris crinalis var.
                                        podosorus, Dubautia
                                        kalalauensis, Dubautia
                                        waialeale, Geranium kauaiense,
                                        Keysseria erici, Keysseria
                                        helenae, Labordia helleri,
                                        Labordia pumila, Lysimachia
                                        daphnoides, Melicope degeneri,
                                        Melicope puberula, Myrsine
                                        mezii, Phyllostegia renovans,
                                        Platydesma rostrata, Psychotria
                                        grandiflora, Tetraplasandra
                         Animals: Akekee, Akikiki,
                                        Drosophila attigua
Dry Cliff               Plants: Chamaesyce eleanoriae,
                                        Lysimachia scopulensis, Schiedea
                                        attenuata, Stenogyne kealiae
Wet Cliff              Plants: Chamaesyce remyi var.
                                        kauaiensis, Chamaesyce remyi
                                        var. remyi, Cyanea dolichopoda,
                                        Cyrtandra oenobarba, Cyrtandra
                                        paliku, Dubautia plantaginea
                                        ssp. magnifolia, Lysimachia
                                        iniki, Lysimachia pendens,
                                        Lysimachia venosa, Platydesma
                                        rostrata, Pritchardia hardyi

Critical Habitat for Wintering Piping Plover

October 21, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate revised critical habitat for the wintering population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) in North Carolina.  This final rule becomes effective on November 20, 2008.  This final rule and final economic analysis are available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov   For further information contact:  Pete Benjamin, Field Supervisor, Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office:

WAP Condors Move into New Enclosure

October 21, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By Jeanette Steele

NORTH COUNTY – Last October, the Witch Creek fire bore down on the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park and forced the staff to evacuate the 30 critically endangered California condors housed there.  Losing the birds would have cut the world population by a tenth.  All the condors survived in the park veterinary hospital with other bird species. But a condor enclosure burned in an off-exhibit area. Yesterday, exactly one year later, zoo officials released 5 condors (California condors Simerrye and Ojja, and Andean condors Athena and Appollo and their chick) into to a $1 million replacement home. An insurance policy covered the cost.  Although housed in smaller quarters in other Park aviaries for the past year, they managed to produce seven chicks, on par with a typical mating season, said Michael Mace, curator of birds.  Their population now stands at 334, about half living in the wild.  If you see a California condor over the skies of San Diego County, the San Diego Zoo wants to hear about it. Go to http://cres.sandiegozoo.org/projects/sp_condor_sighting2.html  The last verified sighting in the county was in 1910.  Some of the park's condors will head to the zoo's new multispecies Elephant Odyssey exhibit, scheduled to open in late May.

California’s Plan to Slow Global Warming

October 21, 2008  www.usnews.com   By Ben Block

SAN FRANCISCO— Two years ago, California lawmakers passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a first-of-its-kind law that spelled out the state's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of any federal regulation, the law ordered the state to lower its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, a 25 percent reduction. This week, the California Air Resources Board, the state agency tasked with implementing the law, released the first details of exactly what the state must do to achieve its global warming goals. In a 142-page report many experts believe could serve as a policy template for other states—and even the federal government—the board provides specific estimates of exactly how and where the state could have an impact on climate change. To return to 1990 carbon emissions levels, the state will need to reduce its annual emissions by about 4 tons per person—from 14 tons currently to about 10 tons in 2020. The report calls this goal "ambitious but achievable." According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States as a country produces more than 20 tons of carbon dioxide per capita each year, while countries like Japan and the United Kingdom produce closer to 10 tons per person. The state of Idaho, which, like California, does not rely on coal-powered energy, produces about 11 tons of carbon emissions per capita—the least of any U.S. state.

Safari Park Opens in Vietnam

October 21, 2008   english.vietnamnet.vn

Vietnam’s first safari park has opened in Binh Duong.  The 12.5-hectare open zoo is part of the 450-hectare Lac Canh Dai Nam Van Hien entertainment complex and features rhinos, white lions, tigers, elephants, bears, ostriches, chamois, zebras, gnus, squirrel monkeys and foxes, many of which are not typically found in Vietnam. One of the most important structures in the park is a temple containing historical exhibits and is used as a place of worship. Exhibits of Vietnam’s various dynasties are also on display there. The project also includes 4,500 hotel rooms of different ratings, areas featuring the miniature landmarks of Vietnam and the world, and an area showcasing pottery of Binh Duong.

Audubon / Toyota Conservation Grants

October 21, 2008  www.enn.com 

Forty-one projects in 24 states will receive TogetherGreen Conservation Innovation Grants totaling $1.4 million dollars. Winners were selected for their innovative approaches to inspiring, equipping and engaging people to tackle environmental problems and take advantage of opportunities in their communities. The projects are the first to be funded by the new TogetherGreen Initiative created by Audubon with support from Toyota. A complete list of all 41 grants is available at www.togethergreen.org . Many projects target inner-city and non-English speaking audiences previously underserved by the environmental community. More than 120 applications were submitted in the grant categories of water, habitat and energy conservation. Selected proposals receive grants ranging from $68,000 to $5,000, with lower amounts earmarked for further planning of promising initiatives. The grants leveraged an estimated $4.5 million in additional matching and in-kind support.  Audubon and Toyota launched the five-year TogetherGreen initiative in the spring of 2008 to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer and individual action opportunities that significantly benefit the environment. The TogetherGreen initiative and grants programs are funded by a $20 million Toyota gift to Audubon, the largest grant in the conservation group’s long history.

Rhinos Threatened with Disease at Pobitora Sanctuary

October 22, 2008  www.telegraphindia.com

GUWAHATI, India -- A “mysterious” disease is believed to have struck the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, killing a one-and-a-half year-old rhino calf  while a second calf  is battling for life. The latter has started showing similar symptoms of paralysis of the posterior, fever, loss of appetite and weakness. Park ranger N. Tamuli said the ailing calf was found on the bank of a waterbody last evening along with its mother. The forest department has rushed experts from the College of Veterinary Science, state zoo and Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation at Kaziranga to Pobitora to take stock of the situation. Providing treatment to the ailing calf has become difficult with the mother hanging around all the time. “We used three elephants to chase away the mother this morning and administered saline and vitamin doses to the calf,” Boro said.

Letter to NYTimes from Russ Mittermeier

October 22, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

In reference to the Klinkenborg Editorial on Species Loss:  What would it cost to stabilize our planet’s biological health by protecting species and their natural habitats? An estimated $13 billion a year would be enough to maintain and expand protected areas in the tropics, where the vast majority of plant and animals species are found.  The most recent estimate of what we actually do spend on conservation a year is about $6 billion. Of that, most goes toward conservation in the United States and Europe, and only a fraction is spent to protect tropical forests. As we approve $700 billion to bail out failing banks, what is happening to financing for conservation? The United States is losing its historic leadership position in international nature conservation, as countries like Germany, Norway, Britain and others have made financial pledges that begin to dwarf United States yearly financing rates to address deforestation and species conservation.  With the next administration, the United States has an opportunity to regain that leadership. The huge financial bailout package has been put in place in record time. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on species, which are the basis of ecosystems that give us fresh air, water and countless other natural resources necessary for human well-being worldwide. Once the world’s threatened species are gone, no amount of money can bring them back.

2 Jaguar Cubs Born at Brevard Zoo

October 22, 2008  www.tcpalm.com  

MELBOURNE, Australia --  On Sept. 29, two jaguar cubs were born at the Brevard Zoo. Both are doing well, and bonding with their mother, Masaya, and will go on exhibit for the first time in mid- to late November. Through the zoo’s conservation fund, Brevard Zoo has given more than $7,500 in grants to support jaguars in the wild.  Jaguars live up to 20 years in captivity.

eBay Bans Sale of Ivory

October 22, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

BANGALORE, India - EBay Inc will institute a global ban on the sale of all types of ivory products by January 1, 2009, after a conservation group investigation found more than 4,000 elephant ivory listings on the online auction site.  African and Asian elephants are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the international Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  Every year, more than 20,000 elephants are illegally slaughtered in Africa and Asia to meet demand for ivory products, according to IFAW.  EBay will still allow the sale of some antique items which contain a small amount of ivory, such as a table with a small ivory inlay or an antique piano with ivory keys.  The company said it defines antique as pre-1900 and added that items containing a significant amount of ivory, regardless of age, such as ivory chess sets, broaches and jewelry are not permitted under the new policy.

Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Endangered

October 22, 2008   www.epa.gov

Following completion of a Status Review of the Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Cook Inlet beluga whale) The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has determined that the Cook Inlet beluga whale is in danger of extinction throughout its range, and should be listed as an endangered species. We will propose to designate critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale in a future rulemaking. This final rule is effective December 22, 2008.

Early Wolf Hybridization in Western Great Lakes Region

October 22, 2008  www.medicalnewstoday.com

The genetic status of wolves in the western Great Lakes region (WGLR) has received increased attention following their removal from the U.S. Endangered Species List.  Scientists examined the genetic composition of three historic wolves from the WGLR and showed that they were genetically similar to the present animals in the region, which are derived from eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) and gray wolf (C. lupus) hybridization, and not wolf-coyote hybridization as previously suggested.  This suggests that current WGLR wolves are representative of the animals that occupied the region a century ago.  The article appears in the  Royal Society Journal Biology Letters

Integrated Research on Global Disaster

October 22, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

MAPUTO, Mozambique—in response to the urgent need to reduce the impacts of natural disasters, the International Council for Science (ICSU) has launched a new, 10-year, international research program designed to avert disasters and reduce risk. The program was announced today at the 29th ICSU General Assembly in Maputo, Mozambique. ‘Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) will provide an enhanced capacity around the world to address hazards and make better decisions to reduce their impacts’, said Gordon McBean, Canadian climatologist and Chair of the ICSU Planning Group for Hazards.  IRDR will provide knowledge that will support better decision making processes.  The new program, which builds on existing research activities, will address the impacts of disasters on all scales, from local to global. It will combine experience and expertise from around the world, and provide an unprecedented opportunity for the natural and social sciences to work together.  IRDR will focus on all hazards related to geophysical, oceanographic, climate and weather trigger events—and even space weather and impact by near-Earth objects. The program will also take account of the effects of human activities in creating hazards—or making them worse. The science plan for IRDR is at: www.icsu.org/3_mediacentre/GA_29.html

California Sea Lion Health Study

October 22, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

SAUSALITO, Calif. – October 22, 2008) The Marine Mammal Center is seeing a large number of leptospirosis cases in California sea lions this year and is leading a study to determine when and why the sea lions contract this disease. Every four to five years, the Center sees a surge in the number of sea lions admitted as a result of this bacterial infection that affects the kidneys and can be lethal for patients. The current research will focus on the factors contributing to these cycles of disease so that scientists will have an understanding of how the disease spreads and what the risks are to sea lions and other animals. Recently, the Center began taking blood samples, tagging, and releasing wild juvenile California sea lions in the Bay Area as part of the new research study.  Leptospirosis epidemics were first documented in California sea lions in the early 1970s and are caused by spiral shaped bacteria called leptospires. Many different animal species, including humans, carry the bacterium which can leech into water or soil and survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with contaminated urine, water, or soil. If not treated, the patient can develop kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress. The Marine Mammal Center advises beach goers and their dogs to stay away from marine mammals they may encounter on beaches and to call the Center's 24-hour response line at (415) 289-SEAL should they come across any marine mammal in distress.  Collaborators in this new study include the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, UCLA, UC Davis, Penn State University and the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.

Lowry Park Zoo Explores Solar Power

October 22, 2008  www.nbcsandiego.com  

TAMPA, Florida -- Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is planning to install a solar system that can generate enough clean energy to power the zoo's Skyfari sky ride and will be connected to the electric grid through the zoo's main power system. The zoo will partner with Tampa Electric and the University of South Florida's Power Center for Utility Explorations to develop, design and test the 15-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.  The project, which includes solar panels and an inverter, as well as educational displays that will be installed at the sky ride entrance, will cost approximately $575,000. It will be funded in part by a grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor.  The interactive demonstration project will allow more than one million annual zoo visitors to find out more  about solar power and encourage its use.  "All of the zoo's exhibits and programs are designed to engage and inspire visitors to treasure the natural world and act wisely on its behalf," said Lex Salisbury, the zoo's president and chief executive.  "This partnership offers a great opportunity for the zoo to lead by example," Salisbury said. "By developing and testing a renewable solar energy system, we hope to reduce the impact on the environment by conserving conventional power."  The zoo solar project will allow Tampa Electric and the Power Center for Utility Explorations to train a new high-tech work force in power engineering, the partners said in a statement Monday.   They also view the project as a public education opportunity, saying that the climate change issues that fit within the project framework will be showcased at the zoo for all to experience.

Granby Zoo Silverback Dies at 48

October 22, 2008  www.canada.com

MONTREAL, Canada -- The average life expectancy of a gorilla is 40 years.  Mumba, the Granby Zoo's silverback gorilla, lived to be 48, dying in his sleep of natural causes.  He was one of the oldest gorillas in captivity, taken from a forest in Cameroon and was brought to Canada in 1961 when he was 15 months old. He was raised by humans who bottle-fed him until the zoo built his shelter. He enjoyed listening to soft rock and jazz, and watching Scooby Doo cartoons on  television, but had been in poor health in recent years. In July, The Gazette reported that he was suffering from arthritis and the zoo was preparing for his death. His remains will be preserved and put on display at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.  Mumba leaves no descendants. Attempts to mate him with three female gorillas failed.

Group Seeks to Halt L.A. Zoo's Elephant Exhibit

October 22, 2008  ap.google.com

LOS ANGELES (AP) —  L.A. councilman, Tony Cardenas, and several celebrities. including Bob Barker, Alicia Silverstone and Robert Culp are trying to halt construction of the zoo's elephant habitat and use the money to build a 60-acre sanctuary operated by the zoo. Cardenas filed two motions Tuesday at the City Council meeting to reallocate what's left of the $9 million approved for the elephant exhibit and open the sanctuary in the northern San Fernando Valley. He said the 3 1/2-acre "Pachyderm Forest" at the zoo will be too small to keep elephants happy and healthy.  Los Angeles Zoo officials said they intend to complete the project, which will house 11 African elephants and a breeding program. Zoo director John Lewis said construction is one-third complete and about $10.2 million has been spent.  Cardenas said he was one of the council members who approved the new facility in 2006, but has now decided the city's elephant exhibit needed drastic changes after visiting Ruby, a former zoo elephant, at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in Stockton. "You could see in her eyes, she looked healthy. She was interacting with the other elephants," he said. The sanctuary would cost $10 million. The  unfinished elephant habitat at the zoo could be turned over to giraffes, saving the city $20 million, he said.  A City Council panel will review the proposal Nov. 6.

Baby Orangutan Born at Brookfield Zoo

October 22, 2008  www.nbcchicago.com  

The Brookfield Zoo's Sophia, a Bornean Orangutan, gave birth to a female on Oct. 6.  On Wednesday, visitors got their first chance to see her.clinging to her mother, as she'll do for the next 10 months.  Sophia, now the mother of four, has come a long way since she first
arrived at the zoo. Abandoned by her own mother and raised by humans, Sophia had to be taught by Brookfield keepers how to be a mom, an effort that included giving her stuffed animals to care for -- which she initially destroyed, the "The birth of this infant is significant to the zoo population," Nava Greenblatt, lead keeper of primates for the Chicago Zoological Society, told the Chicago Tribune. "Hopefully her birth will also help raise awareness regarding the plight of orangutans in the wild."  About 61,000 orangutans remain in the world, down from more than 120,000 that roamed wild in the early 1990s, Greenblatt said. At the current rate of decline, researchers believe the animals, which share about 97 percent of their DNA with humans, will be extinct by 2025.  Video is at:

Les Schobert, Former LA Zoo General Curator, Dies

October 22, 2008   www.latimes.com   By Mary Rourke

Schobert worked in zoos for nearly 30 years and was an outspoken critic of some zoo practices. He wanted animals to live in spaces that came close to their natural habitat, rather than in tile or concrete cages. He also advocated community living for animals that are naturally inclined to form social groups.  His main interest was primates. As general curator of animals at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro starting in 1978, he took an interest in the plight of a chimp named Ham, a minor celebrity among zoo animals. Ham had been launched into space by NASA in 1961, before any astronauts made the trip, and spent the next 17 years at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he led a solitary life. Schobert arranged to move Ham to the North Carolina zoo, where the chimps inhabited close to an acre of land. The loner was integrated into the group and lived with them until he died of a heart attack in 1983.  Schobert also served as the chimpanzee studbook coordinator for North America while he was curator of the North Carolina zoo. Starting in 1989, he oversaw the project, which involved collecting genealogies, medical histories and other data on some 300 captive chimpanzees in the United States. Although primates were his main interest, Schobert became increasingly knowledgeable about elephants through his career. In the late 1970s, he helped design a new elephant exhibit for the North Carolina zoo that spanned three acres and allowed the zoo's five elephants to roam freely.  Schobert moved to California to become the general curator of animals at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1993. The following year, the zoo completed renovation of the elephant barn, with heated floors for the elephants' tender feet and hydraulic gates to help keep the elephant keepers safe.   After leaving L.A. Zoo in 1996, he worked as a consultant to zoos and animal welfare organizations.  Last year, Schobert helped arrange for Ruby, a female African elephant at the L.A. Zoo, to be relocated to an animal sanctuary in Northern California.

APHIS Approves 4 New Animal ID Tags

October 22, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

WASHINGTON, DC --The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today approved several new visual identification tags:  three individual animal identification 840 tags from Destron Fearing/Digital Angel, and one premises identification tag from Allflex.  In USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS), identification tags and devices are used to provide a greater level of animal traceability in the event of an animal disease outbreak. NAIS participants can choose from 26 different devices made by 8 manufacturers.  They have the option of visual 840 tags, RFID 840 tags, or RFID 840 injectable transponders for individual animal identification of animals born in the U.S.  The 840 tags can be used for more than just identification--they may be used for animal health programs, movement records, marketing programs, breed registries and genetic programs.  The 840 tags can also be used to document an animal’s origin when meeting country-of-origin labeling requirements.  So far, more than 487,670 premises across the country have been registered as part of the program, and more than 5 million 840 devices have been shipped from the manufacturers. For more information on NAIS, a list of approved device manufacturers and information on how to become an approved manufacturer, please visit www.usda.gov/nais.

New H5N1 (Avian flu) Response is Needed

October 23, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Over the last decade, the avian flu virus, H5N1, has spread across most of Asia and Europe and parts of Africa. In some countries – including Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Egypt – the disease has become endemic. A major international response, backed by over $2bn of public money, has affected the livelihoods and businesses of millions. Markets have been restructured, surveillance and poultry vaccination campaigns implemented, and over two billion birds have died or been culled. Simultaneously drugs and vaccines have been developed for human and animal health. In many countries pandemic contingency and preparedness plans have been devised. Yet coordination at country level has been found wanting; rivalries between professions and organizations persist; and funding and capacities for an effective and equitable global responses to a pandemic remain weak. A new plan - called the One World, One Health initiative is available at http://www.steps-centre.org/ourresearch/avianflu.html#publications  Prepared by Professor Ian Scoones and Paul Forster of the ESRC STEPS Centre, UK, it lays out 10 key recommendations, including rethinking disease surveillance, redefining health security, new responses to uncertainty and ignorance, emphasizing access and equity as well as questions of organizational architecture and governance. Ministers of health and agriculture will formulate a new global plan based on these recommendations at the International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt (October 24-26).

New ICSU World Data System

October 23, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

MAPUTO, Mozambique— More scientific data and information is available now than at any other time in history and the volume is increasing daily, particularly via the World Wide Web. Yet the quality, long-term stewardship and availability of this data is largely uncertain and a large amount of valuable scientific data remains inaccessible. Over 50 years ago, ICSU (a non-governmental organization with a global membership of national scientific bodies (114 Members, representing 134 countries) and International Scientific Unions (29 Members), established networks of data centers and services to provide full and open access to scientific data and products for the global community. It is now time for the existing structures to be integrated into a new expanded system—a World Data System. A new report and more information on the ICSU General Assembly are available at: www.icsu.org/3_mediacentre/GA_29.html   The ICSU is now taking the first steps to establish a global virtual library for scientific data by overhauling existing world data centres and services to create a World Data System.  It will enable the inter-disciplinary research that is necessary to meet major global challenges. These networks must be transformed into a new inter-operable data system and extended around the world and across all areas of science.

Zoo hosts program in support of mountain gorillas

October 23, 2008  www.ajc.com   By Mark Davis

A Zoo Atlanta fund-raiser tonight will raise money for The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.  “Gorillas in Our Midst,” is an evening celebrating the progress of the mountain gorilla populations in Rwanda.  Although they have been the victims of poaching during the past year, they have produced 10 infant Gorilla gorilla beringei.  The Fossey fund, named after the naturalist who spent nearly 20 years studying the mountain gorilla, is based at Zoo Atlanta, and helps fund daily patrols at Rwandan National Park that have curtailed poaching.  The fund got federal money to build a planned rehabilitation center to save gorillas rescued from poachers. The Fossey organization also helped install clean-water systems in communities near the Rwandan park, cutting back on diseases that can be transferred from humans to gorillas.  “Gorillas in Our Midst”  begins with cocktails at 6 p.m. Visitors also can watch the evening feeding of the zoo’s gorillas, plus talk with Tara Stoinski, the zoo’s gorilla expert and a Fossey fund staff member. Clare Richardson, the fund’s CEO and president, also will be on hand.

Sun bear at Akron Zoo dies

October 23, 2008  www.ohio.com    By Jim Carney

Ringo, a sun bear who had battled cancer since early 2007, was euthanized at the Akron Zoo on Wednesday.  The 20-year-old bear was one of the zoo's two sun bears, both of whom were fighting the same type of cancer — squamous cell carcinoma. The other sun bear, a 21-year-old female named Muffin, who came from the San Diego Zoo in 1998 is responding well to chemotherapy and will remain on exhibit.  Ringo was born at the Miami Metro Zoo in 1988 and came to Akron from the San Diego Zoo in April 2000.  He had been getting chemotherapy in the form of a pill.  A necropsy will be performed on Ringo to ''hopefully get some answers, as it is ''a little unusual that two bears at the same zoo would have the same form of cancer.''

Bronx Zoo Launches “Madagascar! Sweepstakes”

October 23, 2008  www.monstersandcritics.com

The Wildlife Conservation Society has launched the “Madagascar! At The Bronx Zoo” Sweepstakes.  In June, their new exhibit  “Madagascar!” opened inside the restored historic Lion House.  A spectacular immersion exhibit, it offers guests a breathtaking view of the world’s fourth largest island, its flora and fauna.  Now, the Wildlife Conservation Society is giving one lucky winner and a guest  a 4-day, 3-night getaway to New York City, including passes to explore Madagascar! at the Bronx Zoo, roundtrip airfare and hotel accommodations at The Westin New York at Times Square.

Lincoln Park Zoo Plans Nature Boardwalk

October 23, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com  

Naturalists with Lincoln Park Zoo have begun setting traps for turtles, frogs and other amphibians as part of a $12 million restoration project designed to turn the 5.2 acre Lincoln Park South Pond, into a model Illinois freshwater habitat. After being quarantined and tested for health, some of the animals will be given new homes and some will be kept for re-stocking the restored pond.  But the thousands of fish in the pond, many of them exotic, nonnative species such as koi and goldfish, will have to be destroyed when workers drain the shallow lake next month, zoo officials said Monday.  It is illegal to introduce nonnative species to the wild by moving them from the pond to public streams or lakes, say zoo and state officials. The fish in the pond's dirty water also are likely to carry viruses and bacteria that would discourage other public or private facilities from taking them on.  The historic pond that abuts the zoo's southern end traces its history to 1865, when the lakeshore area, still riddled with sand dunes, was set aside for parkland and the city dug a series of ponds among newly planted trees and lawns. The handsome Cafe Brauer restaurant hugging the pond's northwest end was added about 1910.  At its deepest spot, the water is about 6 feet deep, David said, but the pond averages only 3 feet in depth. Its shoreline is lined by now-crumbling retaining walls of steel-reinforced cement. Because the pond is so shallow, David said, fish have a difficult time surviving extremely cold winters as the water ices over.  Though the Park District owns the pond, the nonprofit Lincoln Park Zoological Society agreed this year to raise $12 million for the restoration, including a $2.5 million donation from the district. When the restoration is complete, the zoo will be in charge of the pond's maintenance and upkeep. The zoo is creating a 14-acre outdoor wilderness classroom around the pond, which will remain outside the zoo and accessible to all park users. The artificial shoreline will be replaced with a natural sloping edge landscaped with native Illinois plants. That will give natural protection to the pond creatures and allow rainwater runoff from surrounding parkland to nourish the pond.  The plants also will act as a natural filter to cleanse the pond water. Dredging will deepen the pond up to 15 feet to increase the winter survival of fish.  The zoo plans to put up small wind turbines to supply power and will lay recycled-plastic boardwalks along the shoreline. A reopening is scheduled in early 2010, when the South Pond's new natural Illinois ecosystem will become known as the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo  will offer naturalist-led interpretive programs in the area.

Roger Williams Park Zoo Renovation

October 23, 2008  www.projo.com   By Philip Marcelo

PROVIDENCE, RI -- Today, Zoo Director, Jack Mulvena dedicated a renovated Africa exhibit, the first phase of a multi-year, $35-million master plan financed in part by the taxpayers.  Set at the zoo’s entrance, the Africa exhibit was scheduled to open much earlier in the season, and its $11.06-million cost is about $1.5 million over budget.  The centerpiece is the redesigned elephant and giraffe yards, which nearly doubles the space for the elephants (now nearly an acre for the three of them) and allows visitors to get closer to the animals than ever before.  Gone are the perimeter moats and the foliage that limited sight lines.  Instead there is a simple column- and-cable fence, an 11-foot deep, 140,000-gallon bathing pool for the elephants that is backed by waterfalls, and, in between the giraffe and elephant yards, a raised wooden viewing deck that provides the best vantage point for visitors.  The animals’ interior quarters have newer amenities, particularly heated floors that are, in parts, covered with sand or a rubberized mat, both of which provide a softer, warmer ground surface and ease the pressure on the massive animals’ joints.  “We’re helping the animals live better and live longer,” says Tim French, the zoo’s deputy director of animal programs. The renovation also includes a number of new animal exhibits, including new habitats for the zebras and the addition of wildebeests and African wild dogs.  The exhibit, which accounts for about a quarter of the zoo’s developed space, has taken more than four years, off and on, to complete.

Ringling Brothers Stands Trial for Elephant Abuse

October 23, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC-- After more than eight years of legal wrangling, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its parent company, Feld Entertainment, will stand trial to face charges that the circus abuses its Asian elephants in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.  On Monday, Oct. 27, the plaintiffs, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Fund for Animals, Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute, and former Ringling Bros. employee Tom Rider are scheduled to present their case in federal district court in Washington D.C.  The groundbreaking lawsuit alleges that Ringling Bros. circus violates the Endangered Species Act by abusively training and disciplining elephants with sharp implements such as bull hooks and by intensively and continuously confining and chaining the animals for hours and even days on end.

E.O. Wilson’s Encyclopedia of Life Project

October 23, 2008  www.nytimes.com 

Last Sunday, “CBS News Sunday Morning” aired a report on the Encyclopedia of Life project. This is a longer version of the interview David Pogue did with Wilson.  When asked how the project came about, Dr Wilson said, “I’ve been in systematics and the mapping of biological diversity all my life. And a little more than ten years ago, I thought the time had come to undertake a complete mapping of the world’s fauna and flora. It was 250 years ago this year that Karl Linneus, the great naturalist in Sweden, began what became the official form of biological classification: two names, like “homo sapiens” for us, and ranging the species in hierarchies according to how much they resemble one another. 250 years ago. And in that period of time, we have found and given names to perhaps one-tenth of what’s on the surface of the earth. We have now found 1.8 million species. But the actual number is almost certainly in excess of 10 million, and could be as high as a hundred million, when you throw in bacteria.  For full article see:

Promoting Safer Passage for Migratory Birds

October 23, 2008 www.birdlife.org

ABU DHABI, UAE -- Each year millions of birds pass through the Middle East as they travel between Europe and Africa. Now, a joint initiative by the governments of the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom, has produced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to coordinate the protection of 70 migratory birds of prey and owls found in Europe, Africa and Asia.  They hope to control habitat loss and degradation, accidental killing, and climate change.  50% of the world’s migratory bird of prey and owls are under threat, including the Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos and Snowy Owl Bubo scandiaca.  These measures will protect birds of prey along the whole route that they travel on their annual migration, which can cross the boundaries of many different countries with different wildlife laws.

Proposition 2 – Animal Rights

October 23, 2008   www.nytimes.com

Proposition 2, an animal rights ballot measure will affect farm animal housing in California – banishing the restrictive cages that many chickens, sows and veal cattle now inhabit.  But because veal and pork are not major California industries, the battle is focused on the state’s henhouses, which opponents say will be hard hit by higher production costs if the measure passes. Julie Buckner, a spokeswoman for Californians for Safe Food, the leading anti-Proposition 2 group, says “It’s going to wipe out the California egg farmers, and it’s going to raise the food costs for consumers. And this is at a time when our economy is hurting.”  Supporters of the proposition, the first of its kind in the nation, reject those arguments. Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States says the least we can do is treat animals humanely before taking their lives. The two sides do agree that the ballot issue is sure to be expensive. California is the nation’s fifth-largest producer — and No. 1 consumer — of eggs, producing an estimated $337 million worth in 2007. Nationwide, the country produces about 77 billion table eggs a year — 250 per American — valued at about $6.7 billion. Opponents claim Proposition 2 — which would require that animals be provided room to turn around, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs — could expose birds, via contact with their own waste and that of other animals, to such dreaded diseases as salmonella and avian influenza. They also argue that standard egg-laying cages — a little more than eight inches square — actually protect hens from aggression by other birds and predators.  However, the 6,000-member California Veterinary Medical Association, the state’s leading veterinary group, supports Proposition 2.

USDA Proposes Contingency Plan Requirement

October 23, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to add requirements for contingency planning and training of personnel by research facilities and by dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers and carriers. This action would heighten the awareness of licensees and registrants regarding their responsibilities and help ensure a timely and appropriate response should an emergency or disaster occur.  Notice of this proposed rule is published in the Oct. 23 Federal Register. http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2006-0159  
The proposed rule would amend the current regulations and would require all licensees and registrants, which include research facilities, dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers, and carriers, to develop and document contingency plans for the handling of animals during all emergencies or disasters.
• Identify situations the facility might experience that would trigger the need for a contingency plan, including emergencies such as electrical outages, faulty HVAC systems, fires, and animal
escapes, as well as natural disasters the facility is most likely to experience.
• Outline specific tasks required to be carried out in response to the identified emergencies or disasters including, but not limited to, detailed animal evacuation instructions or shelter-inplace
instructions and provisions for providing backup sources of food and water as well as sanitation, ventilation, bedding, veterinary care, etc.
• Identify a chain of command and who (by name or by position title) will be responsible for fulfilling these tasks.
• Address how response and recovery will be handled in terms of materials, resources, and training needed. We are further proposing that the plans be made available to APHIS upon
request and, in the case of research facilities, to any funding Federal agency representatives. Contingency plans would have to be in place 180 days after any final rule following this proposal
became effective and would have to be reviewed by the research facility, dealer, exhibitor, intermediate handler, or carrier on at least an annual basis.
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Dec. 22.  You may submit comments by mail or through the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see above link.)

California Condors Using Tejon Ranch

October 23, 2008  www.enn.com

California condor numbers have rebounded from a low of 28 in the mid-1980s to more than 140 in 2007. The curious condors do not do well near dense human developments. Tejon Ranch contains 130,000 acres of federally designated critical habitat for the California condor, which the birds rely upon today for foraging, roosting and soaring. Data recently acquired from USFWS show continuing high use of Tejon Ranch by California condors, particularly in the proposed development area of Tejon Mountain Village. The Center for Biological Diversity obtained the GPS and satellite data for the past several years through a Freedom of Information Act request. The data, previously unavailable to the public, clearly demonstrate that areas slated for development in a May 8 conservation “deal” are frequently used by condors for feeding and roosting —essential behaviors for condor recovery. A map prepared by the Center showing the data points overlaid with Tejon Ranch’s development plans and with existing designated critical habitat for the condor is available at http://savetejonranch.org/condors/index.html . A high-resolution version is at http://savetejonranch.org/condors/Tejon_condor_points.pdf

Kakapo Lead Poisoning Treated at Auckland Zoo

October 24, 2008  www.stuff.co.nz   By Michael Field

Last April, a kakapo known as Lee was one of 24 males transferred from Stewart Island to Anchor Island in Fiordland.  In August the Department of Conservation (DOC) found Lee had lost a lot of weight and flew him to Auckland Zoo’s New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM).  Zoo vet John Potter found toxic levels of lead in his system, but a calcium compound has cleared that up.  After twice-daily tube feedings his weight is now up to more than 1.7kg.  "We won’t know fully how he is until he’s been back in the wild for a couple of months, but he’s off to a pretty good start." said Potter. DOC’s technical support officer for the National Kakapo Team, Daryl Eason, says lead is a common contaminant in the environment and the source could be something like a fisherman’s sinker or gunshot.  "Lee’s situation appears to be an isolated one, as all our other kakapo on both Anchor Island and Codfish Island are in good health, with no weight loss. "However, as a precaution, we are now blood testing and performing routine health checks," says Eason.  Lee is bound for Codfish Island – his old stomping ground for 25 years.  Lee, one of just 91 kakapo in the world, was found on Stewart Island in 1983 and is at least 25 years old.  DNA results indicate that he could have bred in the past as his genes are represented in other birds, though he has not been observed breeding.  "After this winter’s setback, it’s unlikely he’ll breed this year, but he still has plenty of time for that," says Mr  Eason.

3 Children Kill Kangaroo in Russian Zoo

October 24, 2008  www.themoscowtimes.com   By Anna Malpas

Two 12-year-old boys climbed over a fence Friday evening into the pen where eight kangaroos lived at the zoo in Rostov-on-Don.  They proceeded to beat a young kangaroo to death with sticks while a 10-year-old girl acted as a lookout,. They also threw stones into a building where sea gulls are kept, killing three and severely injuring three others, police said. The remaining seven kangaroos are in a state of "deep psychological stress," police cited a zoo employee as saying. The children were frequent visitors to the zoo and were seen by employees of a cafe on the premises climbing out of the kangaroo's pen Friday. They were detained Wednesday after returning to the zoo and subsequently confessed to police, authorities said.The children have been returned to their parents, who could be fined up to 80,000 rubles ($3,000) if a court finds the children guilty of animal cruelty.  It was not the first time that kangaroos have been terrorized at the Rostov-on-Don zoo with tragic results. Ten years ago attack dogs were sicked on the kangaroos, killing all eight of them living there at the time, the regional Interior Ministry said.

Dingos May Become Threatened Species

October 24, 2008   sl.farmonline.com.au

VICTORIA, Australia -- The scientific advisory committee for the State Government's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act has recommended listing the dingo because it is in danger of extinction in Victoria due to interbreeding with domestic and wild dogs.  Zoos Victoria, which operates Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, has supported the recommendation. "Interbreeding and loss of habitat remain the greatest threats to the pure Dingo population," said Dr Graeme Gillespie, Zoos Victoria Director, Wildlife Conservation and Science. "Dingoes have a positive impact on the conservation of small native animals by keeping numbers of introduced species like fox and feral cat down. "They also help keep kangaroo and wallaby populations at sustainable levels."

Channel Island Fox Population Rebounds

October 24, 2008 www.venturacountystar.com

A breeding program to re-establish the tiny island foxes, found only on the Channel Islands, has worked so well biologists have decided to stop breeding in captivity and let the foxes rebound naturally.  Natural breeding has steadily grown by 20 percent to 30 percent per year since the animal was listed as a federally endangered species in March 2004.  The rapid recovery underscores the National Park's commitment to the species and its efforts to also eliminate the foxes' greatest threat: non-native golden eagles that feasted on the 4- to 5-pound foxes, which were unaccustomed to predators attacking them from the sky. Part of the problem was that scores of bald eagles, which had traditionally occupied the island and chased off the smaller golden eagles, had been decimated by years of DDT poisoning. With no bald eagles to compete for territory, and lured by the presence of non-native pigs and their edible piglets on Santa Cruz Island, golden eagle populations surged as the foxes dwindled. Efforts to trap and relocate golden eagles started in 1999. In 2005, a New Zealand company was hired to kill every one of the 5,036 pigs on Santa Cruz Island, achieving the goal a year later. Bald eagles, which mostly eat marine life, are now nesting on the islands. And the foxes, back atop the food chain, are thriving. Many of the foxes on the islands have radio collars, which are used to track the population in studies that are expected to continue for years.  The fox population on all the islands numbers more than 650. At its lowest point in 1999, there were just 14 each on San Miguel and Santa Rosa islands — a catastrophic drop in fox numbers from the 450 and 1,500 that once thrived on those islands, respectively. 

White Rhino Birth at Budapest Zoo

October 24, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com 

Researchers have  announced the birth of a white rhino after artificial insemination with frozen sperm – a world first. The rhino baby, a male, was born at 4:57am in the Budapest Zoo on the 22nd of October 2008. In June 2007, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin artificially inseminated his mother, Lulu, with frozen bull semen.  The calf weighed 45 kilos, was in good health and was accepted by his mom. The birth is “an important success for species conservation and preservation of biodiversity”, says Dr. Robert Hermes, one of the IZW-scientists performing the insemination.  The successful outcome is reported in the current online edition of the scientific journal “Theriogenology” entitled “how to fertilise a rhino with cryopreserved semen”. For the first time the scientists were able to successfully inseminate a white rhino with cryopreserved semen that was frozen for 3 years at -196 °C in liquid nitrogen. The 38-years old test tube-father Simba, from the UK, is now a first time father. Scientists turned to this older rhinoceros after two young bachelors at Colchester Zoo were unsuccessful in producing any offspring. To the surprise of the IZW scientists Simba's sperm cells were healthy and highly viable after a fertility examination and were therefore extracted and preserved in liquid nitrogen.The sperm were frozen with a newly developed deep-freezing technology which is especially suitable for wildlife sperm. The specialists from Berlin used a non-surgical insemination procedure developed at the IZW. This international conservation project was carried out in close co-operation with the Veterinary University of Vienna. “This scientific success enables us to bring new gene material from the wild to the rhino conservation breeding without having to transport the animals”, tells Hermes. “In the future, reproduction experts can anaesthetise wild bulls, collect semen from them, and use the frozen sperm e.g. for breeding offspring in international zoos. This is a very important result for conservation efforts.  The Northern White Rhino population, in particular, could benefit dramatically from this procedure as there are only three, possibly four individuals left in the wild and only eight individuals in zoos worldwide. Via the establishment of this important method and the patented technology, scientists are hoping to be able to sustain the dwindling populations of these highly endangered species and when needed, fetch them from the “Ice“.

One-Horned Rhino No Longer Endangered

October 24, 2008  www.newkerala.com

GUWAHATI, India --The one-horned rhinos of Assam and Nepal are no longer endangered. They have now been downgraded to 'vulnerable' category by the IUCN.  Besides the rhino, the IUCN has removed humpback whales and African elephants, among others, from its 'Red List' of endangered species, according to NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).  Credit goes to the Kaziranga National Park.  ''Today Kaziranga has more than 1800 rhinos. This is a stupendous number considering the fact in 1925 there were hardly a dozen left,'' said Chief Conservator of Forest Mohan Chandra Malakar.  Malakar said the population of rhinos in Assam had already reached 2000. Rhino is the state animal of Assam.  According to the International Rhino Foundation, there are approximately 2,619 greater one-horned rhinos surviving in the world. But hardcore conservationist are not happy.

7 Orcas Missing from Puget Sound

October 26, 2008   news.yahoo.com

SEATTLE – Seven Puget Sound killer whales are missing and presumed dead in what could be the biggest decline among the sound's orcas in nearly a decade. This is a disaster," said Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, said Friday. While the official census won't be completed until December, the total number of live "southern resident" orcas now stands at 83.  Among those missing since last year's count are the nearly century-old leader of one of the three southern resident pods, and two young females who recently bore calves. The loss of the seven whales, Balcomb said, would be the biggest decline among the Puget Sound orcas since 1999, when the center also tracked a decline of seven whales.  Low numbers of chinook salmon, a prime food for these whales, may be a factor in the unusual number of deaths this year, Balcomb said.  The three pods, or families, that frequent western Washington's inland marine waters — the J, K, and L pods — are genetically and behaviorally distinct from other killer whales. The sounds they make are considered a unique dialect, they mate only among themselves, eat salmon rather than marine mammals and show a unique attachment to the region.  The population reached 140 or more in the last century, but their numbers have fluctuated in recent decades. They were listed as endangered in 2005.

World's Longest Aquarium Tunnel in Thailand

October 26, 2008   www.chinaview.cn

BANGKOK Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The world's longest tunnel aquarium, located in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand, opened on Sunday. The Chiang Mai Zoo's aquarium occupies 1.6 hectares and features freshwater and ocean sections. It is 133 meters long and 66.5 meters wide. The aquarium, being built by the Zoological Park Organization (ZPO), houses about 8,000 aquatic animals of 250 different species. The new 600-million-baht facility is expected to boost tourism in Chiang Mai, and will be the venue of the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit to be held in December. 

New Vampire Moth Discovered in Siberia

October 27, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  by John Roach

A previously unknown population of vampire moths has been found in Siberia. And entomologists say the bloodsuckers may have evolved from a purely fruit-eating species.  Only slight variations in wing patterns distinguish the Russian population from a widely distributed moth species, Calyptra thalictri, in central and southern Europe known to feed only on fruit. When the Russian moths were experimentally offered human hands this summer, the insects drilled their hook-and-barb-lined tongues under the skin and sucked blood.  This is the second population of vampire moths that entomologist Jennifer Zaspel and her team at the University of Florida in Gainesville have found. They discovered the first in Russia in 2006.  Next January, she will compare the Russian population's DNA to that of other populations and other species to confirm her suspicions.  Zaspel's research is funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. National Geographic owns National Geographic News.

Rebels Seize Congo Gorilla Park

October 27, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com 

Yesterday, Rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo led by former Congolese army general Laurent Nkunda forced more than 50 rangers in Virunga National Park to escape into the forest.  The displaced rangers are now trying to make their way to Goma, the regional capital which may be the rebels' ultimate target, according to Virunga park warden Emmanuel de Merode. Park staff in Goma have been in contact with 12 exhausted and dehydrated rangers, who are dodging rebel bullets as they try to make their way to safety, according to a blog entry on the park's Web site. http://gorilla.cd/blog/    Several nongovernmental organizations and conservation groups have evacuated Goma. The Zoological Society of London, a major player in the area, is leaving.  "We'll be moving out of Goma into Rwanda for now," said Alice Henchley, a spokesperson for the Zoological Society of London. "The security of our [staff] is our top priority. It's extremely unstable." Congolese government forces also appeared to be in full-scale retreat Monday. Army vehicles were heading away from the fighting, the Associated Press reported, and UN spokesperson Michele Bonnardeaux said the latest bouts of violence had displaced thousands of civilians.

CO2 Emissions Not a Factor in ESA

October 27, 2008   www.enn.com

Three memos released this month by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) contend that when making regulatory decisions they need not consider the climate-change impact on endangered species, specifically, carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. The memos support recent Bush Administration statements and proposed regulatory changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) This is a sharp reversal for the wildlife agencies, says Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. "Under ESA, agencies that approve large sources of greenhouse gas emissions must analyze the impact of these emissions just like they analyze anything else that impacts endangered species," she says. A draft of the proposed changes is at: http://www.doi.gov/issues/new%20final%20Comments_on_NEPA_draft_EA_finalversion_10-27-08.pdf

Is Conserving “Hotspots” Effective?

October 27, 2008  www.sciam.com  By Robert Kunzig

Bald eagles have recovered from fewer than 500 breeding pairs in 1963, in the lower 48 states to nearly 10,000 breeding pairs. Gray wolves have returned to Yellowstone National Park, as well as to the Italian and French Alps. The California condor has been brought back from the absolute brink of extinction, after the last surviving birds were rounded up and bred in the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos. Stuart Butchart and his colleagues at BirdLife International in England concluded that between 1994 and 2004 conservation efforts had saved 16 species of bird from extinction, at least temporarily. During that same decade, however, another 164 bird species listed as threatened by the IUCN had slipped closer to extinction. For the past two decades, a leading conservation strategy has been to focus on “hotspots”—regions of the world, such as tropical rain forests, that are rich in species and yet losing them fast. The strategy has been arguably successful, yet it has also been controversial.

The word “biodiversity” first appeared in print in 1988, as the title of a National Research Council report edited by E. O. Wilson. Over in the U.K, Norman Myers was also coining a new term in 1988— “hotspots.” The hotspot concept caught on almost immediately. From 1990 on the Mac­Arthur Foundation supported hotspot preservation to the tune of $15 million a year. Later the idea was adopted by CI, which had initially been formed by defectors from WWF and the Nature Conservancy. Those older organizations had also been concerned with preventing extinctions, but CI made the preservation of global biodiversity—that is, the total number of species—its main focus. Working with Myers, it refined his concept, defining a hotspot as a region that had at least 1,500 species of endemic plants (0.5 percent of the world’s total) and that had lost at least 70 percent of its original vegetation. Hotspots brought a welcome rigor to conservation biology, says Peter Kareiva, chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy. “There was a sense before that conservation was ad hoc—that it was about this pretty place or that charismatic animal. The good thing about hotspots is that they were the beginning of being analytical.”  Above all, hotspots made sense to the World Bank and to the foundations that have become increasingly important supporters of conservation work. Hotspots divided a vast and intractable problem into more manageable parts, with definable targets.  When Norman Myers was recently asked which of its impacts he is proudest of, and he says this: “The mobilizing of $850 million.” It is indeed an astonishing sum. CI, which has received much of it into its Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, had fewer than 100 employees in 1990; it now has about 900 in locations all over the world. Recently it increased the number of hot­spots to 34. “If our number-one priority is to save as many species as possible, I don’t see how you can do much better than hotspots,” Myers says.

Possible Digital Dark Age

October 27, 2008  news.illinois.edu  By Phil Ciciora

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois -- Contrary to popular belief, electronic data has proven to be much more ephemeral than books, journals or pieces of plastic art. After all, when was the last time you opened a WordPerfect file or tried to read an 8-inch floppy disk? “Even over the course of 10 years, you can have a rapid enough evolution in the ways people store digital information and the programs they use to access it that file formats can fall out of date,” said Jerome P. McDonough of the University of Illinois.  Magnetic tape, which stores most of the world's computer backups, can degrade within a decade. According to the National Archives Web site by the mid-1970s, only two machines could read the data from the 1960 U.S. Census: One was in Japan, the other in the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the data collected from NASA’s 1976 Viking landing on Mars is unreadable and lost forever.  To avoid a digital dark age, McDonough says that we need to figure out the best way to keep valuable data alive and accessible by using a multi-prong approach of migrating data to new formats, devising methods of getting old software to work on existing platforms, using open-source file formats and software, and creating data that’s “media-independent.

Migratory Birds and Movement of H5N1

October 27, 2008  www.usgs.gov

Wild migratory birds may be more important carriers of avian influenza viruses from continent to continent than previously thought, according to new scientific research that has important implications for highly pathogenic avian influenza virus surveillance in North America. Scientists with the USGS and USFWS in Alaska and the University of Tokyo, have found genetic evidence for the movement of Asian forms of avian influenza to Alaska by northern pintail ducks.  In an article published this week in Molecular Ecology, USGS scientists observed that nearly half of the low pathogenic avian influenza viruses found in wild northern pintail ducks in Alaska contained at least one (of eight) gene segments that were more closely related to Asian than to North American strains of avian influenza.   It was a highly pathogenic form of the H5N1 avian influenza virus that spread across Asia to Europe and Africa over the past decade, causing the deaths of 245 people and raising concerns of a possible human pandemic. Website northern pintail avian influenza research: http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/avian_influenza/pintail_movements.html

Rhino Killed at Virginia Zoo

October 27, 2008,   www.washingtonpost.com

NORFOLK, Virginia -- Officials at the Virginia Zoo are investigating the death of a 36-year-old, 2-ton white rhino named Rufus.  He was charged by another adult white rhino after the 2 males were left in the same enclosure.  Typically the 2 occupied separate areas.  Rufus came to the Virginia Zoo in 1974.

Milwaukee Zoo Polar Bear

October 27, 2008  www.wisn.com

MILWAUKEE – Zero, the Milwaukee Zoo’s polar bear fell into the moat surrounding his exhibit on Oct. 13 after chasing a toy. A net caught him so he was uninjured and although there are stairs he could use to return to his exhibit he seems quite comfortable. Keepers who have been regularly checking on him, say he isn't suffering from stress or depression.  They are making sure he has food to eat and water to drink. Sedating him and having him lifted up by a crane, is the last resort, so after 2 weeks of waiting zoo officials have lowered a crate in the moat area and hope he will be enticed inside by the fish, peanut butter and apples it contains.   The zoo said they also have posted questions and answers about the bear on its Web site.

Comments on New ESA Regulations

October 27, 2008 www.msnbc.msn.com

Government regulations previously required government biologists to be consulted before power plants, dams and other projects were approved — even when a project was unlikely to harm wildlife or their habitat.  But in August, the Bush Administration did away with this policy in some cases.  The administration acknowledges the change will reduce the number of consultations required under the 35-year-old law. But in its evaluation, it concludes that the new regulations will focus government expertise on cases where it is most needed and result in no harm to species or habitats protected by the statute.  Environmentalists charge that the review was completed by lawyers and political appointees rather than scientists and failed to consider all of the environmental repercussions. Tina Kreisher, an agency spokeswoman, said that both the USFWS and NMFS reviewed the assessment and signed off on its conclusions. A 10-day public comment period will help decide whether a more thorough environmental review is needed. The release of the environmental assessment on the proposed rules follows the conclusion of a 60-day public comment period, which ended earlier this month. The agency received 300,000 comments on the proposal, most of them negative. Last week, officials called 15 people to Washington to review all the comments in 32 hours. Interior Department background is online at www.doi.gov/issues/esa .

Black-Footed Cats Born at John Ball Zoo

October 27, 2008   www.mlive.com 

A pair of endangered Black-footed cats born recently at John Ball Zoo and are with their mother in the zoo's Treasure of the Tropics building.  The male and female were born Sept. 12 and have bonded with their mother.  "Pound for pound, they are probably more aggressive than any other cat we have," Malone said. "What they lack in size they make up for in attitude."  There are only 38 zoos in the U.S. that house Black-footed cats.  The animals are secretive, nocturnal and live in burrows, which makes them extremely difficult to track in the wild, she said.

Amphibian Conservation at Brookfield Zoo 

October 27, 2008  www.dailyherald.com  By Deborah Donovan

BROOKFIELD, Illinois -- Amphibian Ark, is a group of conservation organizations that includes the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is dedicated to saving as many amphibians as possible (Half of the 6,000 known species may be endangered due to habitat destruction and the chytrid fungus discovered about a decade ago, that has killed many Central American frogs.)  Eleven types of frogs and two types of toads live in the Chicago suburbs: Bullfrog, Wood Frog, Chorus Frog, Spring Peeper, Northern Leopard Frog, Plains Leopard Frog, Pickerel Frog, Eastern Gray Tree Frog, Cope's Gray Tree Frog, Cricket Frog, Green Frog, and American Toad and Fowler's Toad. The Audubon Society has not seen any major change in populations since it started surveying in 2001, said Karen Glennemeier, science director for the Chicago Region. Both the Audubon Society and the Waukegan Harbor group train volunteer surveyors to check the same spot after dark once late in each month: March, April and May. They probably don't ever see a frog, but write down how many times they hear a male mating call.  This is an indirect reflection of population size. Information about the spring frog survey is at http://habitatproject.org. The Brookfield Zoo is currently involved in saving the endangered Panamanian Gold Frogs.  Kevin Zippel will be speaking October 28, at zoo's Discovery Center. The cost is $16, $13 for zoo members, and a wine and cheese reception is included.  What's the difference between toads and frogs?  Not much, says Tim Snyder who is responsible for amphibians at the Brookfield zoo. Toads are really a type of frog. Generally most toads live on land and frogs in the water, but there are always exceptions.

African Elephants Fear Roads

October 27, 2008   www.telegraph.co.uk   By Paul Eccleston

A study by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Save the Elephants has found that for elephants in central Africa's Congo Basin - where poaching is rampant – roads are a formidable psychological barrier, restricting their movement and producing a siege mentality which leaves them confined and isolated.  The researchers fitted 28 forest elephants with collars which allowed them to be tracked by satellite, Only one elephant was seen to cross a road outside a protected area and it did so travelling at 14 times its normal speed, while elephants routinely cross roads in protected areas.  By keeping away from the roads the elephants may avoid being shot by poachers but it stops them foraging over wide areas for food, restricts their diet and forces them to compete with other animals for limited resources, which leads to over-grazing of vegetation. A dramatic expansion of road building is underway which the report warns will result in the eventual loss of both the forest wilderness and see elephant numbers plummet.  Eventually, the report says, it reduces the genetic fitness of small and fragmented populations increasing the risk of extinction.  The study's lead author, Dr Stephen Blake, said: "Forest elephants are basically living in fear of their lives in prisons created by roads.

Zoo Atlanta’s Pregnant Elephant Dies

October 28, 2008  www.ajc.com

Dottie, an African elephant at Zoo Atlanta, died late Monday of unknown causes. She ad recently entered the third trimester of her 24-month pregnancy, and was 26-years-old. Zoo Atlanta’s veterinary team, along with the Department of Pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, will perform a necropsy. Zoo Atlanta President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Kelly said  “I know our veterinary and animal management team worked diligently to ensure she received the best care and treatment possible. This is especially sad for us because Dottie was pregnant with her first calf,”  Zoo Atlanta officials first became concerned about the elephant’s health Oct. 10 when the animal management and veterinary team noticed her urine was cloudy and she had decreased protein levels in her blood. On Oct. 21, officials noted she had lost about 800 pounds or about 10 percent of her body weight. They began administering antibiotics the next day.  The elephant was in the third trimester of her first pregnancy. A routine ultrasound as late as Oct. 24 confirmed that Dottie still had a viable pregnancy.

Rhino fight at Virginia Zoo leaves 1 dead

October 28, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com  By Martin Weil

NORFOLK, Va. – Rufus, a male rhinoceroses at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk is dead after a fight with another rhino.  Male rhinoceroses "generally don't get along,'' said zoo Director Greg Bockheim. In the wild, the animals have their own territories. But by mistake, he said, "one of the doors was left open between dens, and the animals had access to each other.''  Another white rhino named Alfred, probably charged Rufus. Rhinos have tough hides, but they can charge at aboutes about 18 mph and can do damage with their massive horns. On the outside, Rufus showed only scrapes. "Like scrapes on cement,'' Bockheim said. But Alfred had struck Rufus "right in the area of his liver,'' which was lacerated and traumatized, he said.  Rufus came to the zoo as a 2-year-old from Africa, where the rhinos live in the wild, and had been at the zoo longer than any other animal.

Listing the Dusky Tree Vole

October 28, 2008  www.epa.gov  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), finds that a petition to list the dusky tree vole (Arborimus longicaudus silvicola) in all of its range as threatened or endangered presents substantial scientific information indicating that listing the dusky tree vole as a subspecies may be warranted. Therefore, we are initiating a status review of the species, including the evaluation of the north Oregon coast population of red tree vole and the red tree vole throughout its range, and we will issue a 12-month finding on our determinationTo ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this species. We will make a determination on critical habitat for this species if, and when, we initiate a listing action.  Information must be received by us on or before December 29, 2008. Please use the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or U.S. mail : Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2008-0086; 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: Paul Henson, Project Leader, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE 98th Avenue, Portland, OR 97266; by telephone (503) 231-6179; or by facsimile (503) 231-6195.

Northern Rocky Mountain Population of Gray Wolf

October 28, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The U.S.F.W.S. is announcing the reopening of the comment period on the proposed rule, issued February 8, 2007, to establish a distinct population segment (DPS) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) of the United States and to remove that population from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife,  On February 27, 2008, we issued a final rule establishing and delisting the NRM gray wolf DPS and several parties filed a lawsuit challenging our final rule and asking to have it enjoined. On July 18, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana enjoined the Service's implementation of the final delisting rule, after concluding that Plaintiffs were likely to prevail on merits of their claims. In light of this decision, we asked the court to vacate the final rule and remand it to us. On October 14, 2008, the court issued an order vacating our February 27, 2008, final rule and remanding it back to the Service for further consideration.  We are now reopening of the comment period for our February 8, 2007, proposed rule (72 FR 6106). We will reconsider our 2007 proposed rule and issue a new listing determination. We seek information, data, and comments from the public regarding the 2007 proposal with an emphasis on new information relevant to this action, the issues raised by the Montana District Court (described in more detail below), and the issues raised by the September 29, 2008, ruling of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with respect to the Western Great Lakes gray wolf DPS (also described in more detail below). If you have previously submitted comments, please do not resubmit them because we have already incorporated them in the public record and will fully consider them in our final decision. All comments must be submitted by the close of business on November 28, 2008.  News, information and recovery status reports are at : http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/

Delisting the Caribbean Monk Seal

October 28, 2008  www.epa.gov  

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), is removing the Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) from the list of endangered marine and anadromous species at 50 CFR 224.101 due to extinction of the species. We have reviewed the status of this species and determined that removal of the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the Caribbean monk seal is warranted. The effective date of this rule is October 28, 2008.

Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral Conservation

October 29, 2008   www.epa.gov
On May 9, 2006, the National Marine Fisheries Service has published a final rule listing elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals as threatened under the ESA.  The final listing rule describes the background of the listing actions for elkhorn and staghorn corals and provides a summary of our conclusions regarding the status of the listed corals. For additional background and a summary of Acropora spp. Natural history and threats to the species, the reader is referred to the March 3, 2005, Atlantic Acropora Status Review report and final listing rule available at : http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/esa/acropora.htm">http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/esa/acropora.htm Regulations as of November 28, 2008 make it unlawful, with limited specified exceptions, for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to: import any such species into, or export any such species from the United States; (B) take any such species within the United States or the territorial sea of the United States; (C) take any such species upon the high seas; (D) possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship, by any means whatsoever, any such species taken in violation of subparagraphs (B) and (C); (E) deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign commerce, by any means whatsoever and in the course of a commercial activity, any such species; (F) sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any such species.

Managing San Francisco’s Bison Herd

October 29, 2008 www.sfgate.com

The bison in Golden Gate Park are one of San Francisco's most beloved, long-standing and bizarre attractions. They're also getting old, and the city will soon have to decide if it's worth the cost of buying more - and whether they should once again breed the large beasts. The current herd is made up of six females who are all pretty old: The youngest is 16, while two others are 17 and three are an ancient 25 years old. Bison, commonly called buffalo, generally only live to 20 or 25, although they have been known to live up to 40 years in captivity.  The city still has a few years to decide what to just display the animals or have a breeding herd. The current herd is healthy and recently received $1.2 million for improvements to their habitat, including a new barn to make it easier to provide veterinary care.  The bison were originally brought to the park in 1891 by John McLaren, one of the park's founders and first superintendent, when the species was teetering on extinction. San Francisco was the first city in the western United States to begin a captive breeding program to prevent the disappearance of bison, which are native to North America and hold a special place in American Indian cultures.  The last time the herd was in danger of dying out, in the early 1980s, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, donated a new group.  For many years before and after Blum's donation, breeding wasn't an issue, because there was at least one male in the herd. According to the zoo, more than 500 calves have been born in Golden Gate Park over more than a century. Many of them lived out their years at the park, while some were taken to other zoos and sanctuaries.  But 18 years ago, after six calves were born in a one year period, officials decided to give the dominant male an epididymectomy (vasectomy).  The here is owned by the Recreation and Park Department and cared for by a zookeeper from the San Francisco Zoo.

California Condor Release on Nov. 1

October 29th, 2008   cacondorconservation.org

Two juvenile California condors will be released at Pinnacles National Monument in Monterey County at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 1. The public can witness the first free flight of these birds from a viewing area located approximately three-quarters of a mile from the release site. Seeing a juvenile bird spread its wings and use thermals to maneuver its new surroundings for the first time is an unforgettable moment. And at moments a bit comedic!  These condors were hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo and the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey, two of the four California Condor Recovery Program’s breeding centers. The San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park and Oregon Zoo make up the other two breeding sites.  The newly released condors will join 15 other wild California condors already living in the national park. Today, there are approximately 160 condors flying free in California, Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico. The birds will be “soft released” through a double-door trap, but because condors have been known to sit still despite seeing the doors open, there is a chance that no birds will enter the trap and fly out on the day of the release.

New Deal to Rescue Bornean Orangutans

October 29th, 2008   www.worldzootoday.com    By SEAN YOONG

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia  — Conservationists said Tuesday they were planning a big push to protect Borneo’s orangutans, pygmy elephants and other endangered wildlife by purchasing land from palm oil producers to create a forest sanctuary. The Malaysian-based LEAP Conservancy group is in talks to buy 222 acres of tropical jungle land in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo island from palm oil operators, said Cynthia Ong, LEAP’s executive director.  The territory is needed to link two sections of a wildlife reserve that is home to an estimated 600 orangutans, 150 Borneo pygmy elephants and a vast array of other animals including proboscis monkeys, hornbills and river otters.  The funds are being raised through public and private donations, Ong said. The British-based World Land Trust, which is working with LEAP on the initiative, said on its Web site that 343,000 pounds ($533,000) was needed to acquire the land.  This was the first time that nongovernment activists were trying to acquire land in Malaysian Borneo for environmental protection with the help of government officials, Ong said.  Environmental groups estimate the number of orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia has fallen by half in the past 20 years to less than 60,000, largely due to human encroachment on forests. Researchers say more than 5,000 of the primates have been lost every year since 2004.  Borneo is also home to some 1,000 pygmy elephants, which are genetically distinct from other subspecies of Asian elephants.

Amphibians Disappearing  from Yellowstone

October 29, 2008  www.eurekalert.org  

Sarah McMenamin of Stanford University spent three summers in Yellowstone Park studying common frogs and a species of salamander. She compared their numbers with a study done in the early 1990's and found significant declines in the amounts of water, hatching eggs and populations.  These are all a direct result, not of short-term weather, but long-term climate change.  The paper is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

“Electronic Nose” – Olfaction Biomimicry

October 29, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

In animals, odorant molecules in the air enter the nostrils and bind with sensory neurons in the nose that convert the chemical interactions into an electrical signal that the brain interprets as a smell. In humans, there are about 350 types of sensory neurons and many copies of each type; dogs and mice have several hundreds more types of sensory neurons than that. Odor recognition proceeds step-by-step and the chemical identity is gradually resolved.  Initial information (e.g. ice-cream is fruit-flavored or chocolate) is refined over time to allow finer discrimination (strawberry vs. raspberry). This biological approach inspired researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)  to develop a parallel “divide and conquer” method for use with the “electronic nose”. Described in a recent paper,* their electronic nose is more adept than conventional methodologies at recognizing molecular features even for chemicals it has not been trained to detect and is also robust enough to deal with changes in sensor response that come with wear and tear. The detector could be a potent tool for applications such as sniffing out nerve agents, environmental contaminants, and trace indicators of disease

Arctic History Study

October 29, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Ronald E. Doel, an associate professor of history at Florida State University, is the project leader of "Colony, Empire, Environment: A Comparative International History of Twentieth Century Arctic Science," a $1.1 million project funded by the European Science Foundation. Nine historians from seven nations -- the United States, Canada, England, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Russia -- are working on this innovative research effort. "One of the things I often ask my freshmen in class is, 'When was the first time that the Pentagon got interested in climate change and global warming?'" Doel said. "The brave students say maybe the 1980s; most say the 1990s. But one of the documents we got from the archives shows that one of the first in-depth discussions of polar warming occurred in the Pentagon -- it was labeled secret at the time -- in 1947. And the concern at that time was not over sustainability or the kind of concerns that motivate many currently, but, rather, national security interests. What happens, for example, if the growing season becomes longer in the Soviet Union? What happens if the harbors are ice-free for many more months out of the year? Will that increase the Soviets' strength in the world?"

EPA Plans Ecosystem Service Maps

October 29, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is collaborating with the National Geographic Society and the World Resources Institute to develop tools that will help to fully account for the value of ecosystem services.  Ecosystem services are the goods and services people obtain from natural systems. These benefits include clean air and water, erosion and flood control, soil enrichment, food, and fiber. Researchers will create maps displaying those services to help decision makers in communities, states, regions, and tribes understand the total costs and benefits of proposed land uses.  As part of the partnership, EPA scientists will share scientific tools to help businesses quantify ecosystem services and develop economic and environmental solutions.

Predicting Population Cycles in Nature

October 29, 2008  www.naturemag.com 

University of Calgary biologist Edward McCauley and colleagues have uncovered fundamental rules that may govern population cycles in many natural systems. Their discovery is published today in the journal Nature.  "Ecological theory has always predicted that predator-prey relationships cause large fluctuations in populations but in reality, many ecosystems are very stable," says McCauley.  By studying the feeding and life cycle of a tiny crustacean called Daphnia and their microscopic algal prey, his team observed both very large and very small fluctuations in abundance of these populations over time even under the same environmental conditions.  They were able to show that the key mechanism giving rise to the small-scale fluctuations is how the availability of food affects both the maturity and mortality rate of these freshwater herbivores.  By understanding how food affects juvenile growth in populations, they were able to show with mathematical models why different types of cycles are found in predator-prey systems. Further experiments confirmed that these simple life-cycle features common to many organisms, led to the different cycles. Their results and general models may improve our ability to explain how populations respond to different environmental changes.

WCS Researchers Examine Far Eastern Leopard

October 30, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

NEW YORK --  Wildlife Conservation Society researchers recently captured and released a female Far Eastern leopard in Russia last week.  The capture was made in Primorsky Krai along the Russian-Chinese border by a team of scientists from WCS and the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Biology and Soils (IBS). The team is evaluating the health and potential effects of inbreeding for this tiny population, which experts believe contains no more than 10-15 females. Other collaborators include: Wildlife Vets International, National Cancer Institute, and the Zoological Society of London.  An estimated 25-40  individuals are believed to inhabit a narrow strip of land in the far southeastern corner of the Russian Federation.  The leopardess, was in good physical condition, weighing a healthy 85 pounds (39 kilograms). She is he is believed to be between 8-10 years old. Specialists are continuing to analyze blood samples as well as an electrocardiogram, which will reveal genetic information to assess levels of inbreeding. Three leopards captured previously (2 males and 1 female) in 2006 and 2007 all exhibited significant heart murmurs, which may reflect genetic disorders. She was released unharmed.

International Tuna Commission Will Meet in San Diego 

October 30, 2008  www.eurekalert.org 

WASHINGTON, D.C -- Next week the IATTC, the international body charged with the conservation and management of tuna and associated species in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, will meet in San Diego from Nov. 2-7 to consider conservation measures for vulnerable tuna populations. Tuna populations are showing signs of trouble in the eastern tropical Pacific. Bigeye tuna populations are falling to low levels, the average size of captured yellowfin tuna is in decline and high levels of very small juvenile tuna are being caught accidentally. The Commission's own scientific staff have issued repeated warnings about these signs and urged nations to collectively adopt measures that include establishment of closure periods for overall stock recoveries, special closure areas where fish are most reproductively active and limits on annual catches. Despite five attempts in two years, the Commission has yet to agree on a single measure to address overfishing.

Zero Is Out of the Moat

October 30, 2008 ap.google.com  By DINESH RAMDE

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Zero the polar bear who has been in his exhibit moat since October 13 is now back in his regular quarters.  Officials had hoped the 19-year-old polar bear would use a nearby stairway in the moat to climb back to his exhibit, but he stayed where he was. Zookeepers had been providing him with half his normal food rations, hoping hunger would drive him from the moat, but began to worry about the long-term effects of denying him his full menu.  At 7 this morning, zookeepers used several darts to tranquilize the 1,100-pound bear and 10 staff members used a cargo net to lift him into the crate. A crane donated by Dawes Rigging & Crane Rental lifted the crate from the moat, and a forklift transported it and Zero to an indoor holding area where he is being closely monitored. Zoo Director, Chuck Wikenhauser said zoo planned to look at modifications that could help a bear extricate itself from the moat in the future. Keepers were considering making the staircase easier to navigate, as long as it wouldn't tempt the bears to walk down into the moat.

WWF’s List of 10 Scary (Sounding) Places

October 30, 2008  www.panda.org

These natural destinations are home to rich biodiversity, rare species, cultural heritage and spectacular landscape.  More scary than their names are the threats they face - urban development, pollution, deforestation, overfishing, drought and global warming. They are actually beautiful places that need to be protected and safeguarded for future generations to enjoy and explore:  Black Sea,  Bwindi Impenetrable National Park,  Dead Sea,  Death Valley,  Devil's Gorge,  Dragon Mountains,  Lake Erie,  The Abyss,  Mariana Trench,  The Never Never and of course, Transylvania

Endangered Species Permit Applications

October 30, 2008   www.epa.gov   

The public is invited to comment on the following applications.  All written data or comments must be received by December 1, 2008. Documents and other information submitted with the applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act, by any party who submits a written request for a copy of such documents to the following office within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice: Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: David Dell, HCP Coordinator). For further information conatact: David Dell, telephone 404/679-7313; facsimile 404/679-7081. You may mail comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service's Regional Office via electronic mail mailto:david_dell@fws.gov">david_dell@fws.gov   Please include your name and return address in your e-mail message.

Applicant: Paul Yokley, Florence, Alabama, TE027307 The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, identify, and release 67 species of mussel, fish, snail, and turtle for presence/absence surveys throughout the species ranges in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia.

Applicant: CCR Environmental, Atlanta, Georgia, TE059008 The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, identify, and release 110 species of mussel, fish, snail, crayfish, reptile and amphibian; and to harass five bird species for presence/absence surveys throughout the species ranges in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

Applicant: East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Winchester, Kentucky,TE816862  The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, identify, and release Virginia big-eared bats (Plecotus townsendii virginianus), Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), and gray bats (Myotis grisescen), as well as nineteen species of mussels, for presence/absence surveys throughout Kentucky. Indiana bat surveys are also conducted throughout the species range in the southeast and midwestern United States.

Applicant: Geosyntac Consultants, Inc., Kennesaw, Georgia, TE095972  The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, identify, and release Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi), blue shiner (Cyprinella caerulea), amber darter (Percina antesella), goldline darter (Percina aurolineata), Etowah darter (Etheostoma etowahae), snail darter (Percina tanasi), and Cherokee darter (Etheostoma scotti) for presence/absence surveys throughout the species ranges in Georgia. The applicant requests amendment of this authorization to add eleven species of mussels and to add flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) and eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) for presence/absence surveys throughout the species ranges in Georgia.

Applicant: The University of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Davie, Florida, TE077258 The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, tag, salvage, collect blood and tissue, and release American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) for research and monitoring populations throughout the species range in Florida.

 Applicant: Mark Merchant, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana, TE196632  The applicant requests authorization to capture, collect blood and tissue, and release American crocodiles for research purposes throughout the species range in Florida.

Applicant: Register-Nelson, Inc., McDonaugh, Georgia, TE114088  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: Hopi Hoekstra, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachussetts, TE095962 The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, tag, collect tissue samples, and release, Perdido Key (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis), Choctawhatchee (P.p.
polionotus), and St. Andrews (P.p. peninsularis) beach mice while conducting research activities throughout Florida.

Applicant: Christopher Skelton, Athens, Georgia, TE121073  The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, identify, and release seven species of fish and seventeen species of mussel for presence/absence surveys throughout the species ranges in Georgia.

Applicant: Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida, TE763742 The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to receive and maintain in captivity Florida panthers (Felis concolor coryi) in cooperation with the State of Florida and the Service for species recovery activities.

Applicant: Ronald Rohrbaugh, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, TE108852  The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to harass ivory-billed woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) for survey and research purposes throughout the species potential range in the southeastern and Midwestern United States.

Applicant: James B. Layzer, Tennessee Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Cookeville, Tennessee, TE078207  The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to capture, retain for captive propagation, and release seventeen species of mussels while conducting research and recovery-related activities throughout the species ranges in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

Applicant: Sunlight Gardens, Anderson, Tennessee, TE125626  The applicant requests renewal of existing authorization to sell in interstate commerce artificially propagated specimens of Tennessee purple coneflower (Echinaceae tennesseensis) and Cumberland rosemary (Conradina verticillata).

Western Pond Turtles Born at Seattle Zoo

October 30, 2008  seattlepi.nwsource.com

SEATTLE -- About 95 rare western pond turtles have hatched at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. The hatchlings' eggs were collected from refuges in Pierce County and the Columbia River Gorge.  The zoo is part of an effort with the Oregon Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to save the turtles from extinction.

Boris the Tiger Dies at Valley Zoo

October 30, 2008   www.edmontonsun.com

EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada -- Boris, the Siberian tiger was perhaps best known for his preference of being spoken to in French. The 300-pound cat died Monday from a lower respiratory tract infection - essentially pneumonia, that the zoo tried for weeks to treat with antibiotics.  "Sometimes he would get better and then, of course, relapse. "And when he'd relapse he'd get down into a more serious version of it."  Boris was born at the Granby Zoo in Quebec, but moved to Edmonton in 2006 as part of a species survival program.  Trainers were baffled when he was largely unresponsive to commands, until someone jokingly suggested he be chatted up in French.  It worked, and staff subsequently encouraged visitors to speak French to the feline.  Ness said Boris - likely got sick from an airborne bacteria. The zoo was expecting the arrival of a second tiger this year, but delayed the transfer while Boris was sick. An estimated 431 to 529 cats in the wild.

Details of White Rhino Birth at Budapest Zoo

October 30, 2008  en.epochtimes.com

The artificial insemination using frozen sperm took place in June 2007.  A rhino baby weighing 45 kg was born at 4:57am on October 22nd at the Budapest Zoo, Hungary, and was accepted by his mother Lulu.  The frozen sperm originated from a rhino bull in the UK, 38-year-old Simba.  IZW scientists extracted and froze Simba’s sperm cells for three years in liquid nitrogen at ‑196°C. with a new deep-freezing technology adapted for wildlife sperm. The non-surgical insemination procedure was performed on Lulu in June 2007 by a team of researchers led by Dr. Robert Hermes at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Berlin, Germany. This project was part of a greater international conservation effort closely linked with to the Veterinary University of Vienna. Further details are reported in the current online edition of the scientific journal, Theriogenology, entitled 'How to fertilise a rhino with cryopreserved semen.'  “This scientific success enables us to bring new gene material from the wild to the rhino conservation breeding without having to transport the animals”, said Hermes. “In the future, reproduction experts can anaesthetise wild bulls, collect semen from them, and use the frozen sperm for breeding offspring in international zoos. This is a very important result for conservation efforts.”

Dr Martin Brooks, Chairman of the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), said “The southern white rhino have recovered well to about 17,500 in the wild from 20–50, 110 years ago. However it could be good news for the critically endangered northern white rhino.” : “One advantage of using frozen sperm is that they have some from a northern bull that is now dead, and by successfully using sperm, the effective founder number could be increased.” Said Dr. Richard Emslie, Scientific Officer of the AfRSG.  It is estimated that apart from the eight individuals in other zoos worldwide such as the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Dvur Karlove in the Czech Republic, only four others exist in the Garamaba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But after unsuccessful attempts to locate them, it is feared that even these have been killed by poachers, whose numbers have increased due to war and civil conflicts.

When asked whether this procedure could be realistically used to increase the population of northern white rhinos, he said: “The plan is to move the remaining zoo rhino from the Czech Republic to set up a wild population in South Africa, in the hope that a more normal free ranging environment and fresh grass might help stimulate breeding.”  “However the plan is to also continue to try artificial insemination with these animals either before they leave the Czech Republic or in their new home in South Africa. Being realistic there can be no guarantees this combined approach will work. There is probably more chance of it failing; but it is the best option we have to try to save the subspecies for now.” Even if there was successful breeding between them, “With only three founders, chances of success are reduced and one is more likely to run into inbreeding problems in future. However, as artificial insemination techniques are perfected further, there may be a key role for artificial insemination using frozen sperm to try to introduce new blood in future.”

Sabertooth Cats Were Social Animals

October 30, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The sabertooth cat (Smilodon fatalis),  existed in North and South America between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago and is one of the most common species preserved at the Rancho La Brea tar pits of Los Angeles, a fossil deposit in which dying herbivores trapped in sticky asphalt attracted numerous dire wolves and sabertooth cats, some of which also died there.  Because most living cats are solitary, controversy has persisted over the social life of Smilodon. Scientists from UCLA and the Zoological Society of London have concluded that the sabertooth cat was social by using a novel technique – they compared data from the La Brea fossil record and data obtained from "playbacks" used in Africa, in which the recorded calls of distressed prey and the sounds of lions and hyenas are used to attract carnivores. This technique has been used by scientists to estimate carnivore densities in eastern and southern Africa.  Results showed that large social species made up a far larger proportion of the animals attracted than one would expect. Large social carnivores were, in fact, found to attend approximately 60 times more often than expected on the basis of relative abundance. When these results were compared with the records at the La Brea tar pits, the scientists found that the proportion of Smilodon records matched the proportion of the large social carnivores in the playbacks. 

Cheetah gets loose in cargo hold of passenger flight

October 30, 2008  www.myfoxmemphis.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  Two cheetahs headed for the Memphis Zoo aboard a Delta flight made a stop at the Atlanta airport where it was discovered one of them had gotten free in the cargo hold. The airport moved the plane was moved to a hangar where Atlanta Zoo personnel were able to tranquilize the cheetah and is holding them until the Memphis Zoo can retrieve them.  The cheetahs are one-year-old sisters from Wildlife Safari Park in Winston, Oregon.

Dinosaur Communication

October 31, 2008  www.sciencemag.org   By Erik Stokstad

Lambeosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs have skulls have hollow, bony crests connected to the animals' noses. Scientists have argued that the weird headgear was good for fighting, snorkeling, smelling, cooling the brain, or signaling to other lambeosaurs with loud, resonant honks.  At the recent annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Meeting a group presented the most sophisticated evidence yet that the nasal passages within the crests were indeed used for vocalizing, not smelling. Computed tomography scans of lambeosaur skulls revealed that the brains weren't geared toward olfaction but that the inner ears were attuned to the frequencies the crests most likely produced. The findings are in press at The Anatomical Record.

Cave Bear DNA Clarifies Bear Evolution

October 31, 2008  www.sciencemag.org  Michael Balter

Although there are only eight species of living bears, scientists have come up with at least half a dozen versions of the bear family tree.  Now a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week by Elalouf, et al. presents the mitochondrial genome from the extinct cave bear, Ursus spelaeus. And another paper, published with little fanfare last July, by Hofreiter, et al, also reported the complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the cave bear, as well as that of the extinct American short-faced bear, Arctodus simus. Together, the two sets of data illuminate the bear family tree, although the studies disagree about the timing of bear evolution.  Both teams independently leaped a major technological hurdle – sequencing the first complete mitochondrial genomes from specimens that are tens of thousands of years old but not preserved in permafrost. The researchers had already sequenced the mtDNA genome in all eight living species of bears and used the genetic differences among them to create family trees. But because the bears underwent a rapid and fairly recent radiation, those variations are not great. To have confidence in their trees, researchers needed data from extinct animals.

Both groups agree on the outline of the bear family tree. They confirm that the giant panda was the first species to split off from the lineage leading to later bears, and both conclude that the cave bear shared a common ancestor with the brown bear and the polar bear, which turn out to be closely related to each other. Moreover, both teams slash the number of genera of living bears from seven in some schemes, to three for the Hofreiter group and four for the Elalouf group. They assign most species--including Winnipeg's--to the genus Ursus. Adding data from the two extinct bears provides a "robust" tree that is "important for understanding the evolutionary history of this mammalian family," says Ya-ping Zhang, an evolutionary geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China, who published the complete mtDNA genomes of five living bears in 2007. Yet when it comes to the timing of the recent bear radiation, the two groups part company. Elalouf concludes that it was only about 2 million to 3 million years ago, using a previous estimate of the giant panda's divergence at 12 million years ago as a chronological anchor point. Hofreiter's team anchors its tree with the much earlier divergence of the harbor seal and finds that the panda split off earlier, about 19 million years ago, and that the rest of the bears radiated about 5 million years ago. He notes that some aspects of climate changed dramatically about that time, when the Bering Strait opened and the Mediterranean Sea became drier. Other mammals also showed dramatic changes at this time, such as the split between the human and ape lineages.

Buffalo Zoo Expansion

October 31, 2008 www.bizjournals.com

With the Rainforest Exhibit completed, the Buffalo Zoo is preparing to take on its newest series of construction projects valued at nearly $3.55 million. They include a 2,300-square-foot expansion of the veterinary hospital and construction of a new children’s exhibit. Both should be completed within a year.  The vet hospital, at a cost of $1.8 million, is needed for the zoo to meet new standards established by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. The project has been funded primarily through private donations, including an aggressive fund-raising campaign by area veterinary hospitals. The zoo still needs to secure $150,000, however, due to an unexpected rise in construction costs.  The children’s zoo, set for a central location on the Delaware Park campus, will be constructed at the current site of the mouflon sheep and guanaco llama exhibits. Both sets of animals are being shipped to other zoos. The children’s zoo carries a $1.75 million development price tag.  Funding comes from New York state, Erie County and NexGen, an affiliate of the East Hill Foundation. Benderson Development Co., through its Delta-Sonic Car Wash division, also is helping to fund the project and created a $250,000 endowment for an on-site educator.

The new zoo will feature an historic Erie Canal motif, including a miniature canal that flows into some wetlands areas, President Donna Fernandes said. It will feature breeds of animals that were commonly found along the canal, including short-horned devon cattle, a berkshire pig, sheep, rabbits and chickens. The zoo is working with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy to bring in the appropriate species, Fernandes said.  The children’s zoo will feature a 2,000-square-foot barn, designed in a late-1800s style, to play off the Erie Canal theme and make the exhibit a year-round destination.

Black Rhino Born at Chester Zoo

October 31, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

A black rhino has been born at Chester Zoo - the first one to be born there in 10 years. The calf, which is believed to be a boy, was born to 10-year-old mum Kitani on Wednesday. "For a first time mum, Kitani is proving to be a natural and we are delighted with the progress she and her calf are making in these first fragile few days." Both are bonding in the Tsavo rhino house. [IUCN lists Diceros bicornis as critically endangered.  The continental population was estimated to be  4,180 in December 2007. This article incorrectly reports the population to be 700.]

Griffon Vulture Attacks Woman at Bird Show

October 31, 2008 www.guardian.co.uk

A 56-year-old woman was taken to hospital after a Griffon vulture swooped down and attacked her and her friend during a bird of prey show at Tenerife's Jungle Park zoo. "We had been told not to move, so we sat totally still, “ she said, “but it pecked Teresa and then nicked her programme," said Mary Corcoran. "Then the bird went for me, and perched on my shoulder, and before I knew it, I was under it."  Griffon vultures weigh between six and 13kg (1-2st); the weight of the bird pinned Corcoran down and she began to feel a burning sensation down her back and arm as its claws dug into her skin.  "The keeper came over and got the bird away but as he was taking me out of the arena it flew back towards me and the keeper had to thump it really hard to the ground," she said. "That is when the real fear and panic set in as I thought it was coming back to eat me. I was freaking out!'" She was then taken to hospital where she received antibiotics and a tetanus shot. After her wounds were dressed, she was sent back to her hotel in a wheelchair. A spokeswoman for Jungle Park said: "The animals are free so we cannot control what they will do. I have only heard of this thing happening maybe twice in 15 years. The keepers are working with them every day and have insurance for that."

Liger Critically Injures Animal Handler

October 31, 2008  www.msnbc.msn.com   By Mike Celizic

Peter Getz, a 32-year-old animal handler has died after being mauled by a 1,000-pound lion-tiger hybrid he was feeding at an Oklahoma animal sanctuary. He had entered the big cat’s enclosure on Wednesday while it was feeding, a violation of standard procedures. The hybrid cat, called a liger, bit Getz on the neck and back before other handlers rescued him and called 911. He was taken to a Tulsa hospital, where he died Thursday night. Getz had been a volunteer for more than a year at Safari’s Wildlife Sanctuary in Broken Arrow, Okla., and reportedly had thousands of hours of experience dealing with animals at the Tulsa Zoo.  Food is put on a pole that is inserted through the fence to feed the animals. It’s deer season in Oklahoma, and Ensign said that the liger may have been more excited than normal because he was being fed raw venison.

Bat Disease Linked to Fungus

October 31, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Brian Handwerk

Scientists have pinpointed the fungus linked to white-nose syndrome, the mysterious ailment that has wiped out large populations of bats in the northeastern United States.  The fungus, found on the wings, ears, and muzzles of infected bats, is a member of the Geomyces genus. "It's a cold-loving fungus known to be associated with Arctic permafrost soils," said study co-author David Blehert, a microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.  Northeastern U.S. caves maintain year-round temperatures between 35 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (2 and 15 degrees Celsius)—well within the fungus's reproductive range.  Since the winter of 2006 to 2007, white-nose syndrome has caused 80- to 97-percent-mortality rates in some large hibernation colonies, putting some species at serious risk.  The situation has experts worried, since a single bat can eat more than its body weight in bugs each night, aiding the fight against crop damage and disease. Bats are generally considered to have hardy immune systems—they are, for instance, carriers the rabies virus but don't themselves get sick from it.

New Owl Exhibit at Columbian Park Zoo

November 1, 2008 www.jconline.com  By Curt Slyder

LAFAYETTE, Indiana -- Barn owls Abernathy and Ollie as well as Ralph the turkey vulture have a new 350 square-foot exhibit home located in the zoo’s “Americas” area. It features the three Indiana natives, among numerous trees and branches. Subaru of Indiana Automotive and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America donated the full amount - $60,000 for the exhibit.  Claudine Laufman, the zoo's director, said barn owls "are endangered in our state due to loss of habitat," Laufman said. The exhibit, which took several weeks to construct, is part of the zoo's ongoing, multimillion-dollar renovation that is being done in steps as money is made available. "We're working on several projects right now," Laufman said. She said the Americas area will also eventually include North American river otters and Galapagos tortoises.

Calgary Zoo Baby Elephant Dies of Herpesvirus

November 2, 2008 www.canada.com
TORONTO, Canada -- A 15-month-old elephant, named Malti, collapsed and died on Saturday afternoon at the Calgary zoo in Alberta, after being diagnosed with elephant herpesvirus.  Laura Richman, the pathologist who helped with the first identification of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus in 1995, said little is known about the way the disease is contracted. “We know a lot more than we did 13 years ago," said Richman, who diagnosed Malti's condition last week based on blood samples sent to her laboratory at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  There's no vaccine, but we have used a human anti-herpes virus drug and Malti was placed on that drug. It has worked in some cases. But it's a rapidly spreading disease, and can kill within hours of the first signs of infection. Most victims don't last more than a week, and only four elephants are known to have survived with the drug treatment. The virus which can cause internal bleeding is believed to have been around for thousands of years, and has been diagnosed in the wild.  It is responsible for the death of nearly a dozen young North American elephants in the past 20 years," said zoo officials. "Over 40 cases have been documented in North America, Europe and Asia."  Richman's team will continue to test Malti's blood and tissue samples to further identify the genetic fingerprint of the virus that killed Malti in the hope new clues may be found.

Taipei Zoo Anticipates Panda Arrival

November 2, 2008  www.etaiwannews.com

It is believed that Taiwan will officially accept the offer of two pandas when it exchanges gifts with China in Taipei during the visit of Chen Yunlin, Nov. 3-7.  In keeping with normal practice for exchanging animals, Taipei City Zoo will offer Beijing species that are endemic to Taiwan - the Formosan sika deer and the Formosan serow, - as reciprocal gifts for accepting the pandas. Beijing offer was turned down by the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party administration, suspicious that the proposal was part of an effort to persuade the island to unify with China.  It also insisted that any transfer be consistent with CITES guidelines for moving endangered species across borders.  Under CITES, Taiwan would be required to obtain an import license and China an export license  to execute the transfer, which would imply the recognition of Taiwan as an independent state.  China said the transfer would be made between provinces "inside its borders" to get around the convention rules, which proved unacceptable to the DPP government. Incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou has said he would welcome the pandas as a gesture of good will and another symbol of warming ties between Taiwan and China.

5 Baby Tigers at St. Louis Zoo

November 2, 2008  www.stltoday.com  By Jeffrey Bonner

St. Louis Zoo’s male tiger, Khuntami, came to the U.S. from Siberia with his sister, Nadirzda, in 1993, when they were both only a few months old. Khuntami and Nadirzda had lived with their mother, Lena, in the Sikhote-Alin International Biosphere Reserve in far eastern Siberia. This reserve is home to a large concentration of the remaining Amur tigers — probably about 200. In 1992, two American researchers, Howard Quigley and Maurice Hornocker, teamed up with Russian biologists to study the tigers in the 840,000-acre Sikhote-Alin International Biosphere Reserve in far eastern Siberia. Preserve, tracking them with radio collars.  After tracking a female named Lena for 5 months, her collar suddenly stopped moving. The researchers discovered she had been killed by poachers leaving four 10-week-old babies hidden nearby. Two of them, already weak from lack of food, had died. The other two, Khuntami and his sister, were rescued and after a series of frantic phone calls to American zoos for shelter, and to Russian officials for permits, both cubs were flown the following year to the United States. Both Khuntami and his sister went initially to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., and then Nadirzda was flown to a new home at the Indianapolis Zoo. When the St. Louis Zoo’s female tiger, Kalista, rejected all of her previous suitors, the AZA Tiger SSP, recommended Khuntami and Kalista quickly became pregnant   Species Survival Plans are population management programs that are designed to maximize genetic diversity for 100 years. Because Khuntami came from the wild, we can assume that his genes likely weren't represented in our North American population. This makes him (and now his five babies) very important animals from a genetic point of view.

Oregon Zoo’s Baby Elephant Thrives

November 3, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  By Bill LaMarche

Samudra, the Oregon zoo's 2-month-old Asian elephant calf, tipped the scales at 499 today.  Bob Lee, senior elephant keeper at the zoo, said "He's put on about 215 pounds over his birth weight.” Born Aug. 23 at the zoo, he had a rough start to life when his mother, Rose-Tu, who had never seen a birth before, became confused and nearly trampled him. Elephant keepers quickly intervened and worked around the clock during the calf's first week of life to help ensure the critical reintroduction to Rose-Tu. "It took a while," said Lee. "But now Rose-Tu is a loving and protective mother to Sam."  Once Rose-Tu and Samudra had successfully bonded, keepers faced a new challenge: reintroducing the calf to the rest of the herd, in particular “Shine” who didn't was spooked by Sam's birth," said Lee, "so when they met initially, her first instinct was to harm him."  Elephant keepers slowly reintroduced the elephant calf to the 26-year-old Shine, and she has now fully accepted her role as "auntie."  Later, Samudra will be introduced to his father Tusko – a 13,500-pound, 36-year-old Asian elephant, that arrived at the zoo in June 2005 on a breeding loan.  He has successfully sired three calves in the past -- two while living in Canada and one in California. 

In the late 1990s, scientists warned zoos that unless a reproductive management program was undertaken, North America was in danger of not sustaining a viable elephant population. Statistics indicate that if females do not become pregnant by the age of 25, their ability to reproduce is severely diminished.  An endangered species, Asian elephants are represented by an estimated 38,000 to 51,000 individuals living in fragmented populations in the wild. Agriculture, deforestation and conflict with humans pose a constant threat to wild Asian elephants.  The Oregon Zoo has a renowned breeding program for endangered Asian elephants.  More than 25 elephants have been born at the zoo, beginning with Packy in 1962. The new calf is the first third-generation elephant to be born in the United States.

White Rhinos Come to Birmingham Zoo

November 3, 2008  www.bizjournals.com  By Lauren B. Cooper

Two Southern White Rhinos – a mother and daughter, Laptop and Ajabu – will be coming from the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas, to kick off the opening of Birmingham zoo’s “Trails of Africa”  Trails of Africa is a new mixed-species exhibit the Birmingham Zoo is planning, which will include a bachelor elephant herd, red river hogs, giraffes, rhinos, antelopes, mongooses, impalas, kudus, zebras, ostriches and gnus.

Tigress Kills Exhibit Mate at Madrid Zoo

November 3, 2008 www.typicallyspanish.com

A Siberian tigress at the Madrid Zoo attacked and killed another in front of dozens of visitors on Monday. A zoo spokesman said the two tigresses, Trini and Blanca, had shared the same cage for sometime and there had been no previous problems.  The pubic thought the animals were playing to start with, but minutes later there was blood and the injured Blanca fell into the water and there was nothing keepers could do to stop her drowning. One witness, complained about the ‘passivity of the employees’ as he saw it, and reported that the fight generated a great deal of noise. The animal group WWF/Adena voiced their concerns that special activities should have been in place to reduce the stress of such animals being held in captivity.

Loggerhead Release

November 3, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Dr. Kirt Rusenko, Marine Conservationist, and staff from Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton will release two juvenile loggerhead sea turtles raised in captivity into the Indian River Lagoon near Sebastian Inlet.  Named Milton and FeeBee, the pair hatched on Boca Raton's beaches in July 2002 and were part of a sex ratio study conducted by Dr. Jeanette Wyneken of Florida Atlantic University. The gender of sea turtles is determined mostly by the temperature of the sand. Warmer temperatures produce more females, while cooler temperatures produce more males. The study aims to better learn how many males and females are born every year to more successfully determine the health of threatened sea turtle populations. The sex of sea turtles cannot be determined using obvious external characteristics until they are adults.  Milton and FeeBee, along with hundreds of other turtles were raised for 2-3 months until they weighed 4 ounces. Then, their gender was determined by examining internal characteristics using a laparoscope. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires that once turtles reach a shell length of 18 inches they be released. The turtles, which have reached this size, will be released in the Indian River Lagoon because loggerhead turtles of this size are typically found in this body of water.  Milton and FeeBee will be satellite tagged by Dr. Kate Mansfield of the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Captive-raised turtles are rarely satellite tagged, so this release will give scientists a unique opportunity to see if these turtles behave differently than wild turtles. It will also allow the general public to follow the paths of Milton and FeeBee on their journey in the Atlantic Ocean through the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and its site www.gumbolimbo.org .

Antelope Knee Clicking

November 3, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Knee clicking can establish mating rights among antelopes. A study of eland antelopes, published in the open access journal BMC Biology, has uncovered the dominance displays used by males to settle disputes over access to fertile females, without resorting to genuine violence.  Jakob Bro-Jørgensen from the Zoological Society of London [Previously a CRES intern] and Torben Dabelsteen from the University of Copenhagen studied antelopes within a 400km2 area of Kenya. They found that the males (bulls) use a selection of signals to make competitors aware of their fighting ability, based on three different factors, body size, age and aggression. According to Bro-Jørgensen, "Rivals often use signals to broadcast their fighting ability and thereby settle conflicts without incurring the high costs associated with actual fighting.  The article entitled “Knee-clicks and visual traits indicate fighting ability in eland antelopes: multiple messages and back-up signals” appears in BMC Biology at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/

A Conversation with Stuart Pimm

November 3, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By CLAUDIA DREIFUS

Dr. Stuart Pimm, a 59-year-old zoologist, is an extinction specialist.  He holds the Doris Duke professorship of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, and has won the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences, the Nobel of the ecology world.  He now spends a good deal of time in Washington, working for laws to protect species, and spends time training young people to do the same. Something like 12 percent of all birds, a third of all amphibians and similarly large numbers of plants are in serious danger of extinction. What’s more, about 1 percent of all species on the planet are in such trouble that if we don’t do the right things immediately they will be gone in a decade.  The river dolphin in China was declared extinct just last year. Another small dolphin in the Sea of Cortez is in immediate danger.  One of the things he has done is to start an NGO — a nongovernmental organization — called SavingSpecies.org. His organization has been working with local conservation groups and governments in Brazil and Madagascar doing a variety of projects that they hope will halt the potential extinctions there.  Many endangered animals live over large areas, but their populations become fragmented because of farming and development. So They’ve been trying to buy up degraded land around their broken environments and try to create land corridors for the wildlife.

Phoenix Zoo Kicks off $20 Million Campaign

November 3, 2008 www.latinopm.com

Phoenix Zoo officials announced that they are kicking off a $20 million capital campaign aimed at modernizing the zoo and making it world class.  They want to upgrade to emphasize the organization’s mission of connecting urban dwellers with nature, and overhauling the aging site so that the zoo is recognized worldwide. The zoo ranks high in attendance by Latino families, according to a recent study. Latino visitors increased almost 300 percent since 2000, when the zoo started marketing to Latinos in Spanish. The new plan earmarks $3.2 million to create an entry oasis and native-wildlife exhibit that will engage and entertain visitors immediately. The plan will encompass the existing bridge that leads into the zoo. Millions more will go to expand and enhance the orangutan, Komodo dragons and tiger displays, bringing humans and animals closer together.  “We want people to have very intimate experi­ence,” says zoo president Bert Castro.

Critically Endangered Fruit Bat Recovers

November 3, 2008   www.sciencedaily.com

As recently as 1989 only a few fruit bats ( the ‘Pemba flying fox’), existed on the tropical island of Pemba, off Tanzania. ).The bats were hunted and eaten widely throughout the island and 95% of their forest habitat had been destroyed.  Further complicating the situation was their extremely slow reproductive rate (just one young per adult female each year).  In the 1990’s, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) took action to save it by working closely with a local partner, the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry (DCCFF).  Over the past 13 years, FFI has helped to reduce the threat from hunting, set up two new forest reserves to safeguard the bat’s habitat and raised awareness of the need for conservation throughout Pemba’s communities. The species has now been downgraded to ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List for threatened species. An FFI-initiated survey, carried out by Janine Robinson for the University of East Anglia, indicates that the Pemba flying fox population has fully recovered to at least 22,000 but possibly up to 35,600 individuals – proving that conservation can work, even in the most dire situations.

Zoos Protect Mississipi Gopher Frog

November 3, 2008  zanesvilletimesrecorder.com    By JANET McCONNAUGHEY

NEW ORLEANS – When picked up, the Mississippi gopher frog covers its eyes with its forefeet, like someone afraid to see what's coming next. Endangered, it breeds only in ponds so shallow they dry up in summer. Hot, dry springs have stranded tadpoles every year since 1998, when 2,488 froglets hopped out of Glen's Pond in coastal Harrison County, Miss.  The pond held water longer this year. And 181 tadpoles survived a deadly parasite, made it through metamorphosis and headed into the surrounding DeSoto National Forest.  Biologists washed some eggs in well water, apparently removing the parasite, and were able to hatch them in a lab, putting the tadpoles in screen-covered outdoor tanks.  But fewer than 100 mature adults are believed to survive in the wild. Five zoos - in Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis, Miami and Omaha, Neb. - have 75 more frogs.  Joe Pechmann, an associate professor of biology at Western Carolina University has studied the frogs since 2002.  The frogs once lived in longleaf pine forests from western Alabama to southeast Louisiana. Timbering all but eradicated those forests.

Ecologists Study Species Metabolism

November 4, 2008  www.pnas.org

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Researchers at UC Riverside have completed a study of species metabolism rate – how fast a species consumes energy, per unit mass, per unit time.  The study included  3006 species – a wide range of biological diversity– from bacteria to elephants, and algae to trees. They found the mean metabolic rate of the species at rest fell on a narrow range of values – 0.3 to 9 Watts per kilogram.  "This narrow range is in dramatic contrast to the 20 orders of magnitude difference in the body mass of the species we studied," said Bai-Lian Li, a professor of ecology at UC Riverside, who led the study. "At physiological rest, the biosphere appears to run, on average, predominantly at the optimal rate defined by this narrow range of values. This remarkable phenomenon is likely associated with the pervasive biochemical universality of living matter, and could provide us with clues to understanding how life is organized."  The study results appear in the Nov. 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Constructing Elephant Odyssey at San Diego Zoo

November 4, 2008  www.acppubs.com  By Loren Faulkner
SAN DIEGO -- A human construction crew is on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo as it prepares some 7 acres of a former 50-year-old site that had exhibited giraffes and other hoofed animals.  About three of the acres will be the elephant's portion. The rest will become home to pronghorn sheep, tapir, capybara, California condor, turtles, snakes, and more. There will also be a new merchandise area, restaurant, two filtration yards supplying life-support systems to the exhibit pools, as well as new water features. “One of the major challenges,” says John Bunje, project manager for Rudolph and Sletten, Inc., “is learning when to sequence moving to different parts of the work site to keep noise to a minimum. We've also had to shut down equipment while a nearby daily animal show is being conducted just on the other side of the south drop-off, at the Hunte Amphitheatre. This happens sometimes two or three times per day.”  But the major challenge is the 7-acre site itself. With elevation differences, it's difficult to see the entire operation from a single vantage point.  “With so much construction going on in various places, plus a lot of underground work right now, we're having to coordinate site utility systems while we are preserving (animal) life support systems – irrigation piping, electrical work, structural footings and foundations, and various retaining walls at different elevations.

Shotcrete Retaining Walls: There is a series of 10- to 14-foot wall sections stubbed into footings with a keyway underneath to resist rotational overload, Bunje said – with 4,000 psi cast-in-place shotcrete. Shotcrete is hosed into place in 4-foot lifts. Once concrete sets (in about a seven-day cure time), natural-looking tree roots are tied-in and a plaster coat is applied that has an earth tone color. While still wet, earth is applied, giving it a natural mud-bank finish. The shotcrete is a 4,000-psi mixture, compliant with ASTM C-150, the same as other structural concrete. It uses a water-reducing admixture to help it stand up and has a 2-inch slump (versus the standard 4-inch slump for most pumped mixes). The mixture consists of 3/8-inch aggregate, fly ash and sand. It is supplied by Vulcan Materials Company and applied by SJ Rocks.  Shotcrete is applied at approximately 200 psi for the structural concrete, and 60 psi to 100 psi for the topping coat. Rebar sizes vary with wall height, mostly No. 3 and No. 4 bars.

Howlett’s Gorilla Has Surgery

November 4, 2008  www.kentonline.co.uk

Howletts wild animal park gorilla, Tambabi, was experiencing severe weight loss and diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism – overactivity of the parathyroid glands.  She needed surgery to remove two of the four parathyroid glands from her neck.  Surgeon Richard Collins has performed the operation many times on humans but this was his first gorilla surgery.  The 22-year-old was anaesthetised for two hours with the surgery taking just over an hour. It was performed by resident veterinary surgeon, Jane Hopper, with endocrine surgeon, Collins on hand to advise.  Collins said, “I have performed numerous operations of this type but felt that it was a privilege to be asked to be present in an advisory capacity to help one of the famous Aspinall gorillas.”  The operation was a complete success and Tambabi, who has two offspring Kifta, eight, and Moanda, five, is doing well.

St. Louis Zoo To Open Sting-ray Exhibit

November 4, 2008 www.bnd.com

"Stingrays at Caribbean Cove" will open May 1, 2009 at the St. Louis Zoo and operate until September 30. The exhibit will hose 23 cownose and southern stingrays, swimming in a 17,000-gallon saltwater pool. Zoo officials said those particular species interact well with people.  The  stingers on the stingrays will be removed prior to their addition to the exhibit. Visitors will be charged $3 for admittance. Children under two will be allowed in free and members of the Zoo Friends will only have to pay $1.50.

Effect of Climate Change on Bamboo

November 4, 2008   www.enn.com 

A joint study carried out by the University of York and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh with Sichuan University and the Kunming Institute of Botany in China focused on the effect of climate change bamboo, which is the giant panda's principal food.  Researchers discovered that while some types of bamboo reduced in range due to global warming, others actually increased. Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Professor Steve Blackmore, said: "Pandas spend 14 hours a day eating, and bamboo forms 99 per cent of their diet, so they are completely reliant on the right bamboo species being present in order to survive."  The full report is at: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/Climate-change-fears-for-threatened.4656871.jp

Best Wild Animal Photos of 2008

November 4, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

On October 30, 2008, "Snowstorm Leopard" was named best overall photo in the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which is organized by the Natural History Museum of London and BBC Wildlife Magazine. As few as 3,500 snow leopards remain in the wild.  Other photos displayed on the National Geographic site include.  A snowy clash of white-tailed eagles during a Polish winter is also among the winning images at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/10/photogalleries/best-animal-wildlife-photos/photo7.html

Cloning from Frozen Mice Specimens

November 4, 2008  www.npr.org

Japanese scientists have developed a technique for making essentially identical genetic copies of mice kept in an ordinary household freezer for as long as 16 years.  It involves the same kind of cloning techniques Scottish scientists used to make the sheep Dolly. The Japanese scientists say their research might someday be used to save extinct or endangered species whose bodies have been frozen in arctic permafrost.  Teruhiko Wakayama led the research team from the Center for Developmental Biology, Riken, in Kobe, Japan that developed the new techniques. The work appears in the journal PNAS. Betsy Dresser agrees with the Wakayama team that this might be useful some day for saving extinct animals. Dresser is the senior vice president for research at the Audobon Center for Research of Endangered Species. "Anything we can do to save endangered species I'm for," she says. But she says it would take an unlikely set of circumstances to actually be able to use the Japanese techniques in practice to restore and extinct species. "I think we need to keep our focus on animals that are alive today," she says.

Saving the Tasmanian Devil

November 4, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

ScienceDaily (Nov. 4, 2008) — University of Adelaide zoologist Dr Jeremy Austin and colleagues from SA Zoos and the Tasmanian Government will spend the next three years establishing a conservation program and working to suppress the infectious cancer, devil facial tumor disease, which is ravaging Australia’s largest living marsupial carnivore. Because Tasmanian devils have extremely low levels of genetic diversity and a chromosomal mutation unique among carnivorous mammals, they are more prone to the infectious cancer. Dr Austin’s team will analyze genetic material from devil populations to understand the origin, spread and impact of the disease and try to find a vaccine.  “We need to look at how the cancer is affecting surviving populations and identify individuals that may be resistant to the disease.”  Tasmanian devils became extinct on the Australian mainland at least 400 years ago and are now found only in Tasmania. “We have lost over half our devils in the past 10 years, with an estimated population of 20,000 to 50,000 mature devils left. Extinction within the next 20 years is a real possibility unless we find a vaccine, eradicate the disease and establish captive colonies,” Dr Austin says.  Devil facial tumor disease is one of only two known clonally transmissible cancers and appears to have originated from a genetic change of mutation in a single individual. It is spread through biting, without any evidence of recovery or resistance to the disease. The project has received $168,000 from the Federal Government.

627 Species on Brazil’s Endangered List

November 4, 2008 www.msnbc.msn.com

BRASILIA, Brazil - Among the 489 species added to Brazil’s Endangered list are the blue whale, the albatross and the northeastern uru, a type of wild chicken. 627 species are now listed as in danger of extinction,  up from 218 on the last list in 1989. Officials removed 79 species as no longer imperiled -- the guara — similar to a coyote — and the pampas deer.  The list is nearly three times as long as the last list 20 years ago according to Environment Minister Carlos Minc, who blamed development and deforestation for the change. 

Amphibians Threatened in the Czech Republic

November 4, 2008  www.praguemonitor.com

PRAGUE -- 21 frog species are found in the Czech Republic and some 50 percent may become fully extinct by 2050, according to Jan Plisnik of the Czech Environment Protection Agency. Moreover, the living conditions for amphibians deteriorated due to the lack of snow in the mountains this year, which resulted in a lower amount of small water areas necessary for their multiplication.  As a consequence of the decreased population of amphibians, various diseases have spread among these species.  Fourteen zoological gardens in the Czech Republic have participated in European campaigns to protect and begin captive breeding programs of the most endangered species.  with the aim to improve the registration of endangered species, work out plans of their efficient protection and start breeding the most endangered species in zoos and subsequently release the animals bred in captivity into the wild.  Butterflies, fish and bird species are also threatened with extinction, along with some flowers, says the ministry report that the government recently approved.  The paper cites the example of lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) whose population in the Czech Republic decreased by over 90 percent between 1982 and 2007.

Effect of Feed on Feather Pecking

November 5, 2008  wageningenuniversiteit.nl

A graduate in Wageningen showed that the feather pecking in chickens can be diminished by presenting the animals with diluted feed. This way, the chickens spend more time feeding and will peck their feathers significantly less.  Forest chickens spend sixty percent of their time gathering feed, and behaviorists believe that feather pecking may have something to do with this. The feed of laying-hens is rich in energy. During the experiments, the normal feed was diluted with sand and fibres. This way, it took the chickens significantly longer to gather their feed. Due to the fibres, the chickens were satisfied sooner. The adapted feed led to a significant decrease in feather pecking, but only when the chicks received the feed from a young age. When the new feed was presented to adult chickens, it was already too late. The feather pecking was already learned.

Training Giant Tortoises

November 5, 2008   deharpij.nl

Over the past few months Dutch zookeepers have trained, two Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) to climb onto a scale. The animals have to be weighed four times a years and lifting them on the scale led to stress each time.  With pieces of apple, the giant turtles were enticed to climb onto the scale. The animals have also been taught to stretch their neck in order to take blood. The taking of blood and the weighing of the animals is necessary to check their health. These animals can weigh up to two hundred kilos.

Zoo Atlanta Elephant Died of Pneumonia

November 5, 2008  www.11alive.com

ATLANTA -- Zoo Atlanta officials announced Wednesday that Dottie, the 26-year-old pregnant African elephant that died unexpectedly in October was sick with an acute case of the pneumonia, although the cause of death was still undetermined.  The University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine conducted the research, but is not expected to release the full results of the causes behind the elephant’s death until December. She was in her third trimester when she died. "Dottie's pregnancy appeared to be progressing well. The unborn female calf was well formed and weighed approximately 160 pounds," said Dr. Sam River, Interim Director of Veterinary Services at Zoo Atlanta.  Dottie first showed unusual symptoms in early October. Staff noticed cloudy urine and a sudden drop of protein levels in her blood. 10 days later, she had lost about 800 pounds, 10% of her bodyweight and veterinarians started her on an antibiotic regimen, but she could not to be saved.

West Nile Virus Revisited: Consequences for N Am Ecology.

November 5, 2008   www.bioscience.org  By Shannon L. LaDeau, Peter P. Marra, A. Marm Kilpatrick, and Catherine A. Calder.

It has been nine years since West Nile virus (WNV) emerged in New York, and its initial impacts on avian hosts and humans are evident across North America. The direct effects of WNV on avian hosts include documented population declines, but other, indirect ecological consequences of these changed bird communities, such as changes in seed dispersal, insect abundances, and scavenging services, are probable and demand attention. Furthermore, climate (seasonal precipitation and temperature) and land use are likely to influence the intensity and frequency of disease outbreaks, and research is needed to improve mechanistic understanding of these interacting forces. This article reviews the growing body of research describing the ecology of WNV and highlights critical knowledge gaps that must be addressed if we hope to manage disease risk, implement conservation strategies, and make forecasts in the presence of both climate change and WNV—or the next emergent pathogen.  This article appears in the November 10 issue of BioScience, available at: 

Portland Voters Approve Zoo Bond

November 5, 2008  www.beavertonvalleytimes.com  By Jim Redden

In spite of the economy, Portland area voters approved $125 million in bonds for renovation to the Oregon Zoo in Portland.  56 percent of voters in the tri-county region of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties supported the measure.

Salt Lake Voters OK $52.6M for Zoo, Aviary

November 5, 2008  www.sltrib.com   By Matthew D. LaPlante

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Voters have approved two measures raising a combined $52.6 million for the Tracy Aviary and Hogle Zoo. Propositions 1 and 2 - authorizing $19.6 million and $33 million property-tax hikes for the aviary and zoo, respectively - will breathe new life into the parks, supporters say. The aviary was snagged 68 percent of the vote, and the zoo 72 percent. Although the proposals were similar, the campaigns were anything but.  The aviary measure flew under the radar, with advocates for the struggling bird park at Salt Lake City's Liberty Park spending about $40,000 on a low-key campaign. The zoo spentconsiderably more than that on lawn signs alone - and racked up more than a half-million dollars in consulting fees, billboards, car magnets, T-shirts and TV spots.

Jaguars Introduced to Miami’s New Rainforest

November 6, 2008  www.miamiherald.com

MIAMI, Florida -- Reina and Palenque, female and male jaguars, have passed their physical exams and had identifying microchips implanted.  They are being housed separately, for now, in the new $50 million 27-acre rainforest exhibit at the Miami Metrozoo, Both are 2 years old and have been in quarantine since they arrived late last year -- Reina came from Houston and Palenque from Massachusetts. Visitors will also see otters, lizards, crocodiles, snakes, frogs, birds, monkeys, invertebrates and fish -- in a 50,000-gallon aquarium – all native to the rain forest.  Because jaguars are among a handful of water-loving cats, their habitats include bubbling streams and glass-walled swimming tanks. Stingrays will occupy a touch tank. The “Amazon and Beyond” exhibit will include 600 animals from 100 species..

AZA President Answers LA Zoo Elephant Critics

November 6, 2008  www.dailynews.com   By Jim Maddy

Anyone who has had the chance to spend time in the presence of an elephant cannot help but be moved and inspired.  Councilman Tony Cardenas was clearly moved by the time he spent with elephants, and no one can doubt that he sincerely cares about animal welfare. However, when he stopped listening to the elephant experts at the Los Angeles Zoo and started listening to anti-zoo crusaders and their celebrity supporters, he got pointed in the wrong direction. In fact, that feeling of inspiration that the councilman had when he visited elephants is the same feeling that every kid in the city of Los Angeles deserves to have. With its state-of-the-art Pachyderm Forest one-third complete, the Los Angeles Zoo is poised to continue its leadership role, both in elephant care and conservation education. The Los Angeles Zoo joins zoos in San Diego, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Dallas and 60 other cities that have renewed their commitment to elephants through the construction of new habitats. Accredited zoos adopted tough, mandatory standards for elephant care in 2003, which, along with these infrastructure improvements, ensure a healthy elephant population. Cardenas has proposed the city stop work on the new elephant exhibit and either move the zoo's one current elephant to a private sanctuary or build an elephant sanctuary in the San Fernando Valley.  Elephants in accredited zoos receive great care from well-trained experts - veterinarians, conservation biologists and dedicated zookeepers - and it's a good thing, too, because wild elephants are not doing nearly as well. Elephants in Africa and Asia face numerous threats, including intense poaching, disease, predation and dramatic loss of habitat. In the past 25 years, the wild African elephant population has fallen from 1.6million to less than 500,000 - a decline of more than 100 elephants each day. The number of wild Asian elephants, which are endangered, has diminished to less than 30,000. Elephants inspire people and change their behavior. In a Harris Interactive poll, 95 percent of Americans said that seeing elephants in zoos helps people appreciate them more. That same poll found that 86percent of respondents believe that visiting zoos encourages people to donate time and/or money to conservation. In the last 10 years, the Los Angeles Zoo has provided a living classroom to more than 1 million schoolchildren. These school field trips have connected students with the natural world through up-close experiences with wildlife that they might otherwise never have. Let's stipulate for the record that Bob Barker never went to vet school, and that Cher probably never trimmed an elephant's toenails. We can all agree on that, and we should all agree that we love elephants. Most importantly, when it comes to protecting endangered species, teaching our children about nature, and taking great care of elephants, I hope we can find common ground and support the experts at the Los Angeles Zoo.  Jim Maddy is president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He previously served as president of both the National Park Foundation and the League of Conservation Voters.

Lion Genomics Study
November 6, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

An article published November 7 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, an international team of researchers provides insights into the genetic structure and history of lion populations. Their work refutes the hypothesis that African lions consist of a single, randomly breeding (panmictic) population. It also indicates the importance of preserving populations in decline as opposed to prioritizing larger-scale conservation efforts.  Understanding the broader aspects of the evolutionary history of the lion has been hindered by a lack of comprehensive sampling and appropriately informative genetic markers. Nevertheless, the unique social ecology of lions and the well-documented infectious diseases they have experienced, including lion-specific feline immunodeficiency virus (FIVPle), provides the opportunity to study lion evolutionary history using both host and virus genetic information. A comprehensive sample of 357 individuals from most of the major lion populations in Africa and Asia were studied. The authors compared the large multigenic dataset from lions with patterns of genetic variation of FIVPle to characterize the genomic legacy of lion populations. The research reveals evidence of unsuspected genetic diversity even in the well-studied lion population of the Serengeti ecosystem, which consists of recently admixed animals derived from three distinct genetic groups.

Knoxville Zoo Helps Endangered Tortoises

November 6, 2008  www.knoxnews.com  by Amy McRary

A tortoise is a turtle. But a turtle is not a tortoise.  A turtle can be a sea turtle, water turtle, box turtle, terrapin or a tortoise. A tortoise? That's a turtle well adapted to life on land.  The Knoxville Zoo is home to 27 tortoise/turtle species - 15 turtles, the rest tortoises - with names like "spiny hill" and "Burmese star."  Between 225 and 230 individual turtles and tortoises live at the zoo. The biggest and perhaps best known are Aldabran tortoises Al and Tex. Al is well over 100 years old and weighs 550 pounds.  Four of the zoo's five adult spiny hill turtles came to the park after they and 7,540 others were confiscated by the Chinese government in December 2001. The animals were headed for Asian food markets. At the zoo, they've become parents; it now has 15 spiny hill turtles.  As their wild numbers dwindle, many species may find their future in zoos. Over the years, the Knoxville Zoo has been successful in breeding and hatching a number of turtle and tortoise species. Knoxville was the first American zoo and the second in the world to hatch the Madagascar flat-tailed tortoises. It was first to hatch rare Northern spider tortoises, one of three spider tortoise subspecies in its care. It has great success breeding the endangered Indian star tortoise. The zoo acquired these animals in the early 1990s after they were confiscated by the government from smugglers trying to bring them into the country. Since 1995, 150 have been hatched at the zoo.The zoo's first black breasted leaf turtles hatched in 2005. The number of these small turtles, native to southern China, are dropping the wild because they are hunted for medicine and food and as pets. The park's conservation efforts don't only involve exotic turtles native to other countries. The zoo is known for a conservation program that hatches and releases bog turtles into native East Tennessee habitats. The zoo has released 140 bog turtles. All but 11 were bred at the park; those 11 eggs were taken from wild turtles to promote the project's genetic diversity. As supporters raise money for a $4.5 million new herpetology exhibit, keepers are studying ways to help endangered turtle and tortoise species survive and thrive. Zookeeper Michael Ogle is working on a four-year study that centers around the incubation temperature of tortoise eggs. Species in the study are the common spider tortoise, Indian star tortoise, flat-tailed tortoise and Burmese star tortoise. As part of the study, eggs are held in incubators set at four different temperatures from 83 to 89 degrees.  The first eggs in the study hatched in 2006, but it takes three years for the animals to become mature enough that their sex can be determined. So it will be 2009 before Ogle determines which tortoises are male and which female.

Sea Snakes Drink Fresh Water

November 6, 2008  news.ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. —It was previously believed that the ~ 60 species of venomous sea snakes drink seawater, filtering and excreting the salt with internal salt glands. But Harvey Lillywhite, a professor of zoology at the University of Florida conducted experiments with three species of captive sea kraits captured near Taiwan, and found that the snakes refused to drink saltwater even if thirsty — and then would drink only freshwater or heavily diluted saltwater.  “Our experiments demonstrate they actually dehydrate in sea water, and they’ll only drink freshwater, or highly diluted brackish water with small concentrations of saltwater — 10 to 20 percent,” Lilywhite said. in a paper appearing this month in the online edition of the November/December issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. The research may help explain why sea snakes tend to have patchy distributions and are most common in regions with abundant rainfall, Lillywhite said. Because global climate change tends to accentuate droughts in tropical regions, the findings also suggest that at least some species of sea snakes could be threatened now or in the future, he added. “There may be places where sea snakes are barely getting enough water now,” he said. “If the rainfall is reduced just a bit, they’ll either die out or have to move.”

Rhode Island Zoo’s “Fabric of Africa” Exhibit

November 6, 2008   www.projo.com BY RICK MASSIMO

PROVIDENCE, RI -- The Fabric of Africa exhibit, opened Oct. 23, at the Roger Williams Park Zoo and is the final step in a four-year effort to upgrade the African exhibits at the zoo, The elephant yard has now been doubled and enhanced with mud and sand wallows. An 11-foot-deep pond is deep enough so elephants, Ginny, Alice and Kate can submerge themselves in completely.  Waterfalls encourage them to play.  There’s a new platform in between the giraffe and elephant areas, so zoo-goers can get as close as 10 feet away from either species and zebras and wildebeests will be sharing a space nearby.  Next up is a children’s zoo with native New England animals and a veterinary hospital, both slated for completion in 2010.

Elephant Ivory Auctioned in Pretoria SA

November 6, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

The first CITES-accredited auction of South African ivory stockpile, of approximately 47 metric tons, took place behind closed doors at the South African Reserve Bank Conference Centre in Tshwane today.  The sale fetched approximately US $6.7 million. The average price for lot on auction was US$142 per kilogram. The auction took place behind closed doors after accredited buyers from both China and Japan objected to the presence of the media. The CEO of the South African National Parks said the auction was legal because the CITES Standing Committee had  approved the once-off sale in July. He said money will be used to fight poaching. It is the first time in nearly 10 years that international trade in elephant ivory has been sanctioned by Cites.  The sales will continue next week in Zimbabwe and Botswana with a grand total of 108 tons of ivory up for bidding. China and Japan have been approved as trading partners.

Statistical Summary from the 2008 Red List

November 6, 2008   www.iucn.org

Current estimates of the number of species: 5-20 million (best estimate 8-14 million)
Only 1.8 million species have been described.
Only 2.5% of the described species have been assessed by scientists working for the IUCN
The update includes 44,838 species. 869 of them (2%) are “Extinct” or “Extinct in the Wild”.
3,246 are “Critically Endangered”  (257 of these are tagged as ‘possibly extinct’)
4,770 are “Endangered”
8, 912 are “Vulnerable”
16, 928 (38%) are "Threatened"
8,513 (8%) are “Near Threatened”
5,570 (12%) are “Data Deficient” (not enough information to determine status)

“Possibly Extinct” Species

November 6, 2008  www.enn.com  By Reuters

Proving that any individual species is extinct involves long, fruitless searching. About 300 plant and animal species, occupy this category.  The baiji would be the first "megafauna" mammal -- one weighing more than 100 kg (220 lb) -- to die out since the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950s. "To say something is extinct requires quite a lot of proof, of negative evidence, and may take many years to collect," said Craig Hilton-Taylor, who manages Red List. The Christmas Island shrew has not been seen on its Australian island since 1985. The Venezuelan skunk frog, known from a cloud forest habitat of 10 sq km (3.9 sq mile), has not been spotted despite repeated searches. Some 76 mammals have gone extinct since 1500, a much faster rate than in previous centuries, and 29 are "possibly extinct" on the 2008 Red List. One result of declaring a species extinct is that it inevitably ends cash for conservation -- lending agencies such as the Global Environment Facility use Red List data.  And, when one species goes extinct, new ones become endangered, as is happening on the Yangtze River, where the finless porpoise and the Chinese paddlefish, reported to grow up to 7 meters (23 feet), are also in danger. And there are wider threats. The U.N. Climate Panel said in 2007 that up to 30 percent of species will face increasing risks of extinction if temperatures rise by another 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit).  The panel, which says temperatures rose 0.7 C in the 20th century, also forecasts more droughts, heatwaves and rising seas linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases spurred mainly by burning fossil fuels. In a 2006 report, Birdlife expert Stuart Butchart wrote that 150 bird species had gone extinct since 1500, or 0.3 a year. That was 30-300 times the background rate of extinctions -- a natural process deduced from fossil records.

Temperature Change Alters Turtles Nesting

November 6, 2008  www.public.iastate.edu

AMES, Iowa -- Turtles nesting along the Mississippi River and other areas are altering their nesting dates in response to rising temperatures, says a researcher from Iowa State University. Fred Janzen, a professor in ecology, evolution and organismal biology, has studied turtle nesting going back decades and says, "The results have been astonishing. In some cases such as regional populations of red-eared sliders, they are now nesting three weeks earlier than they did in the early 1990s. That is the fastest response to climate change of any species that I know of."  The turtles that changed their nesting habits were not only young turtles that are nesting for the first time, but also older turtles that were changing their habits. This trait, called plasticity, helps animals alter their behavior in the short term until inherited behavior takes over. In the late 1980s, painted turtles started nesting in early June, now it is on the order of 10 days or more earlier," said Janzen. His research took a broad look at the entire species and not just turtle populations that are on the fringe of where the animals can live.

ActionBioscience: Issues in Biotechnology
November 7, 2008   www.actionbioscience.org

Created by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), the ActionBioscience website is designed to promote bioscience literacy through a host of educational activities, worksheets, interactive features, and online demonstrations and visualizations. This particular part of the sitelooks at issues in biotechnology through a range of articles and activities that can be used in classrooms or for personal edification. This section contains over two dozen of these activities, arranged into thematic sections including technology and ethics, cloning, and medical biotechnology. Each article contains a brief introduction, a set of related external links, anda set of references for future use. There is a lot of great information on the Mammoth for staff involved with “Elephant Odyssey”

Surfing Polar Bear Thrills Crowds at NC Zoo

November 7, 2008  www.telegraph.co.uk

North Carolina Zoological Park Keepers provide Wilhelm, the polar bear with a varied assortment of toys as part of their enrichment program to "encourage him to swim, forage for food, search for hidden treats, solve puzzles and have fun. One week he will have his bright lifeguard float, the next a big plastic pickle or even a giant bucket. The float is his favorite toy – when he gets hold of it he loves to jump on it or pull it underwater. Then he'll throw it up in the air and jump after it. He also loves to get on it and 'surf' or balance as best he can. Wilhelm was among six polar bears confiscated from the Suarez Brothers Circus in southern Puerto Rico in 2002.  He also loves blowing bubbles at onlookers watching from the side of his tank and giving 'high-fives' to children who press their hands up against the side of the glass.

Taronga Zoo Staff Saves Pygmy Hippo

November 7, 2008  www.theaustralian.news.com.au

Born October 15th and unable to stand or feed herself, a piglet-sized hippo named Monifa would have died within days, but for the intervention of dedicated zoo staff.  Hippo keepers Renae Zammit and Tracy Roberts have been living round-the clock and hand-feeding with the 3.8kg infant. The infant has now moved into her own pen and is ready to follow the footsteps of her father Timmy, the last pygmy hippo born at Taronga 23 years ago. She has now doubled in weight and is drinking from a bowl, content to suckle the thumb of her keepers. And is showing signs of playfulness.  Video at:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7715037.stm

City Council Panel Supports LA Zoo Elephant Exhibit

November 7, 2008  ap.google.com

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A City Council committee has rejected a move to stop work on a $40 million elephant enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo.  The panel's decision came Thursday despite pleas from celebrities such as Lily Tomlin and Bob Barker to instead fund a 60-acre elephant sanctuary in the San Fernando Valley.  The council committee declined to take a vote that would have sent the proposal to the full council for consideration. Celebrities who want to remove the elephants from the zoo say living there can harm their health and shorten their lives. Tomlin says she thinks "the word zoo is elephant-speak for Guantanamo." Zoo Director John Lewis says the new exhibit will be 6 acres, large enough to make the elephants safe and comfortable.

National Zoo Improvement Plan Approved

November 7, 2008  www.insidenova.com

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A $1 billion renovation plan for the National Zoo that includes an aerial tram, has been approved by the National Capital Planning Commission. The Smithsonian Institution’s long-range master plan for the nation’s second-oldest zoo features a three-station aerial tram similar to a ski lift that would run the length of the zoo’s 163 acres. The tram would make it easier for visitors to traverse the steep terrain. “Our goal is to be the world’s finest zoo,” said zoo director John Berry, adding that the plan’s approval marked “the first step in launching a 20-year renewal” of the place. The plan also calls for a parking garage, an overhaul of zoo infrastructure, seven new animal exhibits, and new plazas and visitor amenities. The approved master plan increases exhibit space from 35 to 47 acres by reclaiming surface parking lots. With the construction of the proposed midpoint garage, the number of parking spaces would increase from 868 to 1,285.  The approval clears the way for it to be implemented, a zoo spokeswoman said, although individual aspects will need separate permission. The projects also are heavily dependent on private donations.

Seed Selection for Restoration Projects

November 7, 2008  www.evolutionaryapplications.org

Land and water degradation resulting from vegetation clearance is a global problem. Effective restoration techniques are essential in reducing the damage and improving the environment."A common belief is that local native plants are the best source of seed for revegetation projects," says Dr Linda Broadhurst from CSIRO, Australia's national science agency."It has been presumed that local seed is adapted to local conditions and therefore it would provide the best results for restoration projects.  However, the research shows that where vegetation loss is high and across large areas, 'local' seed sources are often small and isolated and can be severely inbred resulting in poor seed crops or low quality seed. This can lead to germination failure and poor seedling growth."  In an effort to help, Dr Broadhurst and her colleagues have published a review on the issues associated with collecting seed for broadscale restoration projects in the new journal Evolutionary Applications (Volume 1, Issue 4). "Our findings show that seed sourcing should concentrate less on collecting from local environments and more on capturing high quality and genetically diverse seed." Journal link:

Endowment Supports St Louis Zoo CEO’s Salary

November 7, 2008  www.stltoday.com  By Diane Toroian Keaggy

The Dana Brown Charitable Trust has donated $3 million to the St. Louis Zoo to endow its position of chief executive officer, a job currently held by President Jeffrey Bonner. Interest from the gift will help pay a portion of the president's salary, currently $424,935.  Universities and colleges have long asked donors to show support by endowing its professors. Only recently has the zoo tried to raise money to offset the cost of its key personnel. Last year, the Saigh Foundation donated $1.73 million to endow the position of Children's Zoo curator. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the position of zoo director or president has been endowed," said the chairman of the Dana Brown Charitable Trust. "The St. Louis Zoo has an unparalleled history of executive leadership, dating back to its first director, George Vierheller, and continuing with such illustrious figures as Marlin Perkins, Charlie Hoessle and now its current president, Dr. Jeffrey Bonner."  About $19 million of the zoo's $45 million annual budget is from property taxes from St. Louis and St. Louis County. Individual, corporate and foundation gifts also help cover operating expenses. The Dana Brown Charitable Trust donated $2 million to build the River's Edge elephant habitat, $1 million for the Fragile Forest orangutan exhibit and $250,000 for the new animal nutrition center.

Koalas Are Coming to Calgary Zoo

November 7, 2008  calsun.canoe.ca  By RENATO GANDIA

In early February, a pair of koalas will be the Calgary Zoo's special guests in the Australian exhibit building.  The marsupials will be on loan from the San Diego Zoo until September.  

5 Lion Cubs at Riverbanks Zoo

November 7, 2008 www.thestate.com  By Joey Holleman

On Thursday, Riverbanks Zoo’s Web Cam moved to the lion exhibit, where the three males and two females seem to be having a blast. “The keepers are reaping the benefits of the middle-of-the-night feedings,” said mammal curator John Davis. “Now they get to watch them grow up. The zoo staff had to hand-rear the cubs because the mothers had difficult births. Brynn gave birth to four of them June 7. Lindsay gave birth to the fifth June 13. Brynn and Lindsay are sisters, and Zuri is the father of all five cubs.  The mothers have recovered, but the youngsters were away from them for more than two months, and the mother’s reactions when the cubs were brought to other parts of the behind-the-exhibit enclosure made zoo officials reluctant to re-introduce the youngsters to their parents then.  Re-introduction might come with time, or it might not. Because their genetic line is rare in captive lions, the five newcomers almost certainly will be sent to other zoos as they near maturity. Davis suspects they’ll be moved when the are18 months old.

USDA Releases 2007 U.S. Animal Health Report

November 7, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

FORT COLLINS, Colo.-- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today released the 2007 U.S. Animal Health Report, which provides a national overview of domestic animal health in the United States. The report addresses the many components of the U.S. animal health infrastructure; approaches to animal disease surveillance, control and eradication; animal population demographics and new initiatives.  In addition, the report describes significant epidemiologic events that occurred in 2007.  The 2007 report includes information on:  emergency planning and preparedness; avian influenza surveillance; aquatic health; national animal identification and comprehensive, integrated animal-health surveillance.  New to the report this year is a chapter on animal health diagnostics and veterinary biologics.  This chapter describes, in detail, the fundamental components of the veterinary services infrastructure and how they enhance animal health in the United States. The report is available at:

Watered-down Chicago Elephant Cruelty Ordinance Passes

November 7, 2008  www.suntimes.com   BY FRAN SPIELMAN

After the 2005 death of three elephants at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Alderman Mary Ann Smith.  wanted to prohibit circuses and exhibitors from using "ankus, bull hooks" and other devices that might cause injury to elephants. But the watered-down ordinance approved Thursday by a City Council committee makes no mention of bull hooks. It simply makes it unlawful "to use on an elephant any device or instrument with the intent to cause pain and injury." The ordinance also prohibits the use of chains and restraining devices on elephants, "except as necessary to administer legitimate medical treatment."  Smith said she accepted the compromise for one simple reason: She didn't have the votes. Feld Entertainment, producer of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said it would continue to use chaining and bull hooks in Chicago because the tools are not used with an "intent to cause pain and injury".  Dave Blasko, a former elephant trainer, said the bull hook is a tool used to guide and direct elephants--not to harm them.

French Scientist Discover New Species of Gecko

November 8, 2008   www.physorg.com

French scientists claim to have hatched a new gecko species from an egg taken from its nest in a South Pacific island and carried 12,000 miles to Paris in a box lined with Kleenex. Given the Latin name Lepidodactylus buleli, the gecko makes its home near the tops of the trees that line the west coast of Espiritu Santo, one of the larger islands of the Vanuatu archipelago east of Australia. A 2006 expedition to Espiritu Santo to study the ecosystems of the forest canopy led to the discovery of the 3-inch-long gecko. The expedition included climbers who scoured the canopy for plant and animal samples. Ivan Ineich, a reptile specialist at the museum, said he first noticed the little lizard when he saw a bloody carcass accidentally hacked in half by one of climbers. "I said to myself 'this guy looks bizarre,' but I couldn't tell right away it was a new species because it had been so massacred," Ineich said in a phone interview. France's National Museum of Natural History said it was the first time a new lizard species has been catalogued based on an individual raised from an egg.

Mesker Zoo's Indian rhinoceros Dies

November 8, 2008 www.courierpress.com  By John Martin

Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden announced today that Jordie, an Indian rhinoceros died on Friday. He was born on May 1, 1983, at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, later moved to Tampa, Fla and was acquired by Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden on May 30, 2001. He was 25 and had had been undergoing medical treatment after showing signs of illness recently. He was one of only 57 living Indian rhinoceroses in North America, according to the zoo. Erik Beck, the zoo's general curator said a necropsy has been performed, and officials are awaiting the results to determine the cause of death.

Elephant Thermoregulation Study

November 8, 2008  circusnospin.blogspot.com  By Joey Ratliff

NEW ORLEANS – Michael Rowe, a PhD student at Indiana State University, is studying how elephants are able to bring down their internal temperatures without sweating or panting, and how they deal with cold.  His doctoral research is being conducted at 4 zoos - the Audubon Zoo, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Pittsburgh Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo and Toronto Zoo. He is studying how heat generated by exercise is dissipated in different environments. He hopes to be done in the spring of 2010, after a hot, a cold and a mild season at each of the four zoos. He uses a specially-built accelerometer - a bigger, more complex version of the device used in some running shoes.  It is strapped to the elephant's right rear leg to measure stride length, frequency and speed. He checks a morning and an evening run each day, before and after the zoo closes. "Elephants have extremely low body temperatures in the mornings, so they're active during the mornings, he said. At the start and finish of each exercise session, Rowe takes both thermal energy images and more standard temperature readings ("I have built my own elephant rectal probe, because its not something you can go out and buy").The elephants get treats such as bananas, apples or sweet potatoes at the start and finish, too. They enjoy exercise and are very social, he said. Jeff Andrews, animal care manager for the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park, said "The more we can learn about elephant metabolism and biology, the more we can help save them in the wild, and build better enclosures for them in captivity.

Joey Ratliff, Audubon’s elephant manager said "Elephants are locked into a walking gait -  about 2 ¼ mph -  they don't really run," no matter how fast they move - up to nearly to 10 mph, for short distances .Biomechanical researchers have reported that at their fastest - up to 15 mph - elephants' front legs keep a walking stride but the back legs run. "From my observations of wild elephants, they rarely use that fast speed," Rowe said. "They have no natural predators. Adults don't have to run. My belief is they don't do that because they build up large amounts of heat." After two weeks with the Audubon Zoo's two elephants, Jean, 35, and Panya, 44, Rowe went to Terre Haute, where he's studying at Indiana State University, with his next stop the Indianapolis Zoo. From there, he'll go to zoos in Pittsburgh and Toronto. The 24 African elephants range from two July babies _ not twins _ born in Pittsburgh to two 7-ton bulls about 50 years old, one in Pittsburgh and the other in Indianapolis, so he can see how body size affects the animals' regulation of body heat. Jean and Panya are the first Asian elephants Rowe has studied. He's working on a grant to add another two dozen or so Asian elephants. "I'm shooting for 50 to 60 total," he said.

Saving Mexico’s Axolotl

November 9, 2008   www.redorbit.com

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The axolotl, also known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish," was a key part of Aztec diet, and still survives in the polluted canals of Lake Xochimilco.  But it is endangered and scientists are now racing to save the foot-long salamander from extinction and it is now on the IUCN Red List. Researchers say it could disappear in 5 years. The salamander is a victim of the draining of its lake habitat, deteriorating water quality, and nonnative fish. (About 20 years ago, African tilapia were introduced into Xochimilco in a misguided effort to create fisheries. They joined with Asian carp to dominate the ecosystem and eat the axolotl's eggs and compete with it for food.) The salamander is also threatened by agrochemical runoff from nearby farms and treated wastewater from a Mexico City sewage plant.  The number of axolotls in the wild is not known. But the population has dropped from roughly 1,500 per square mile in 1998 to a mere 25 per square mile this year, according to a survey by Luis Zambrano, a biologist at the Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM.

Houston Zoo’s 2-Year-Old Elephant Dies from Herpes

November 10, 2008 www.chron.com

Mac, an Asian elephant born at the Houston Zoo on October 1, 2006, died Sunday night after a brief battle with elephant herpes virus. Veterinarians began treating him with an antiviral medication and his appetite rallied a bit and he took some water, but then worsened and died Sunday night.  A necropsy will be conducted at the state veterinary diagnostic lab at Texas A&M. Elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus was first identified in 1995 by researchers at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  Many animals and humans carry herpes viruses throughout their lives and never become sick,  but the viruses can come out of latency and circulate through the bloodstream. Most elephants are able to fight the virus and survive, but calves appear to be most susceptible after they have been weaned, veterinarians said.  No cure for the herpes virus has been developed for animals or humans. It typically is detected in elephants only after they begin demonstrating clinical illness. The virus is also found in wild populations.  The Houston Zoo is among the organizations supporting the effort of the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian National Zoo on testing and treatment that will contribute to the long-term survival of the species. 

New Flying Lemur Species

November 10, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Christine Dell'Amore

Flying lemurs are considered the closest living relatives to primates.  The two previously known species are the Sunda and Philippine colugo.  But new DNA analysis of the Sunda colugo, found in Indochina and Indonesia, has revealed that what was thought to be a single species is actually at least three.  "We didn't realize how extensive the speciation events were," said lead author Jan Janecka of Texas A&M University.  Colugos have specialized physical features, such as a skin membrane attached to their limbs, that allow them to live in their unusual treetop habitats.  When species branched off over time, they retained the same appearance, Janecka said—leading scientists to believe the Sunda colugos belonged to one species.  The finding also has a "big conservation impact," Janecka added. If a regional population dies out due to deforestation or other human activities, he said, an entire species could be lost.

Marine Census

November 10, 2008  www.enn.com

A $650 million "Census of Marine Life" is seeking to map the oceans from microbes to whales. Researchers in 82 nations are involved in assessing about 230,000 known marine species with a completion target of  2010. Ron O'Dor, co-senior scientist of the census of the 2007-08 findings by up to 2,000 scientists, says that 5,300 likely new species have now been identified, from fish to corals. So far, 110 have been confirmed as new. Among the findings, genetic evidence showed that the tentacles of the octopus family pointed to an Antarctic ancestor for many deep sea species. Mapping the oceans is helping researchers to work out how to protect marine life from threats including over-fishing, pollution and climate change. The census could identify areas needing conservation, or help define rules for seabed mining. Previously,  95 percent of the ocean was unexplored. The census "will synthesize what humankind knows about the oceans, what we don't know, and what we many never know," Ian Poiner, chair of the census's steering committee, said in a statement.

Saving the Ethiopian Wolf

November 10, 2008   news.bbc.co.uk  By Julian Siddle

Rabies is threatening to kill up to two-thirds of all Ethiopian wolves and the population has dwindled to as few as 500 animals.  Dr Claudio Sillero of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Unit (WildCRU) says vaccinations are the only hope of maintaining the Ethiopian wolf population.  So far, the WildCRU team and the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Authority have caught and treated more than 40 wolves.  The Bale mountains in southern Ethiopia form the most extensive high mountain plateau in Africa and are home to Ethiopian wolves.  The plateau also has an estimated population of 40,000 dogs. Brought in by shepherds to round up sheep, these dogs have become a reservoir for rabies. "Right now we are in the middle of the mating season. Wolf family groups erode; females and males mate outside the packs, and some females are even courted by feral dogs. This leads to increased transmission of the disease."  Outbreaks of the disease seem to occur in cycles. The researchers say they noticed the disease as far back as 1989 and previously ran a vaccination campaign in 2003. This year’s campaign is due to continue until at least mid November.

Abilene Zoo’s New Wolf Exhibit

November 10, 2008  www.reporternews.com  By Kathy Edwards

The Abilene Zoo has a new maned wolf exhibit featuring "Morada" an 11-year-old female and her son "Cerrado" a 4-year-old male.  Both come from the AZA-accredited Wild Canid Survival & Research Center located in Eureka, Mo.  The exhibit was designed and built in-house by the animal management staff, with funds from the 2006 bond initiative. A key design component is an environment that replicates the grassland habitat of Brazil. Maned wolves may travel up to 20 miles a day in search of food in territories up to 10 square miles.  They are omnivores, feeding on small mammals, fruits and vegetation. When stalking live prey, they sniff the air for scents, rotating their 7-inch long ears to pinpoint rodents in the tall grass. Prey is flushed by tapping the ground with one foot and caught by using a stiff-legged pounce onto the fleeing animal.  The Zoo’s conservation efforts include the production of the Maned Wolf Educational Bulletin which is distributed to school children throughout Central and South America in Spanish and Portuguese. The zoo also supports the production of conservation posters that are posted throughout South America. The posters educate people about the problems associated with the trade in bush meat, animal vaccinations and why folklore medicine is a myth. The English version of these posters is on display at the exhibit.

USDA Seizes Circus Elephant

November 10, 2008  southshore2.tbo.com  By TOM BRENNAN 

BALM, Florida  - A 21-year-old Asian male elephant named Ned is adapting today to a temporary home in Tennessee after federal authorities confiscated him over the weekend from a Balm-based circus. Officials with the USDA took him from trainer Lance Ramos on Saturday after they determined Ned was drastically underweight.  Carol Buckley, executive director of the sanctuary, said Ned weighed 7,500 pounds and needs to add about a ton to be considered at a healthy weight.  "He is curious and quite attentive," she said. "But it breaks our hearts to see how timid and fearful he is."  She said he is being fed a diet of hay and produce, in a slow, methodical manner."  Buckley said her facility is dedicated to female elephants so Ned will have to move once he is healthy and his new home is ready in about a month.  Ramos said Ned suffers from a stomach ailment and the animal "can't take in a whole lot of food.”  USDA officials acted in a "drastic" manner when Ned was taken away from him, Ramos said. "I felt like a criminal," he said. "I just love the elephant.”  PETA lodged a complaint with the USDA after learning last year that two of Ramos' tigers died while being anesthetized to implant microchips.  Investigators charged Ramos last year with a number of violations, most dealing with the way he handled his animals.  An administrative judge ruled in the agencies' favor and revoked Ramos' exhibitor's license and levied a $13,700 civil penalty.

Seized Elephant Will Move to California

November 10, 2008  thepinetree.net

PAWS will provide a permanent home for Ned as soon as he is strong enough to make the trip to California. An expansion of the existing bull elephant barn and habitat at ARK 2000 in San Andreas will begin immediately. Ned was born in 1987 in Tampa, Florida, one of the few elephants born in captivity to survive into adulthood.  His parents were Josie and Vance, both captured as babies in Southeast Asia.  Ned and his parents were the property of elephant trainer and circus performer, Roman Schmitt. Mr. Schmitt was manager of the Busch Gardens' elephant breeding program.  At the age of two, Ned was sold to a circus elephant trainer named Buckles Woodcock, where he performed in the Big Apple Circus. When the Big Apple Circus removed elephants from their line-up, Mr. Woodcock transferred Ned to Lance Ramos, another circus trainer and performer.  Recently, it was reported that Lance Ramos and Ned were performing in California with the Royal Hannaford traveling circus.  PAWS was founded in 1984 to protect and provide sanctuary to abused, abandoned and retired performing animals and captive wildlife. The 2300 acre ARK 2000 Sanctuary was constructed in 2002.

DreamWorks Donates to CI’s Panda Efforts

November 10, 2008  www.genengnews.com

ARLINGTON, Virginia -- Conservation International (CI) has received a contribution from DreamWorks Animation .in support of its conservation efforts to protect the endangered giant panda.  The donation was announced yesterday in Los Angeles at the launch for the DVD Kung Fu Panda. CI will use the contribution to jump-start its Giant Panda Survival Plan, in China. Peter Seligmann,  CI’s Chairman and CEO, said "From earthquake recovery efforts to satellite mapping of the species' decreasing natural habitat, CI and its partners will put this generous donation toward meaningful and long-lasting efforts to protect the ecosystems on which pandas rely for survival.” DreamWorks Animation has been closely involved with Conservation International for many years and we have great admiration and gratitude for their tireless work on behalf of this endangered species,"  CI's plan involves the following efforts:
    * The Giant Panda Survival Plan - Planned accomplishments include protecting 100 percent of known panda habitat, providing better protection programs to the reserves, developing at least 12 "conservation corridors" to connect habitats, and creating a comprehensive panda population monitoring plan.
    * The Panda Alliance - This network of leading conservation groups, academics, government agencies, private corporations, and local communities will work to protect habitat, establish a panda guardian program, involve local communities, promote the benefits of panda conservation.
    * Inspiring Action : Through effective working relationships with public and private-sector partners, CI will inform the public about the plight of the panda and what it can do to help.

Shedd Aquarium Celebrates Oldest Fish

November 11, 2008  www.chicagotribune.com  By Lauren R. Harrison

Shedd Aquarium's new "ambassador" is a fish that has been in residence for more than 75 years. “Granddad”, an Australian lungfish took up residence in 1933 and celebrated his 75th anniversary at the Shedd on Monday.  Aquarium officials say the 4- foot, 25-pound scaly creature is the oldest fish in any public aquarium in the world—but officials are unsure of his real age.  The Shedd's former director, Walter H. Chute, wanting to attract visitors to the 1933 World's Fair, arranged for Granddad's relocation from the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.  Granddad is also partly responsible for establishing the Steve Irwin Fellowship, a teen mentorship program that sends a high school student interested in science to work at the Taronga Zoo.

Too Many Elephants in Hwange National Park

November 11, 2008  www.radiovop.com

HWANGE, Zimbabwe -- The 14 000 square kilometer Hwange National Park, has a carrying capacity of 14,000 elephants but currently there are more than 100,000 of them, which deprives other smaller animals of food and water. The normal ecosystem is failing to cope with the increasing number of elephants," said Milton Ckever, a Hwange based wildlife conservationist.  He said the elephants have uprooted most of the big trees in the park depriving the other animals of food.  "Even the few remaining water points in the park are controlled by the elephants who chase away the smaller animals," he said.  The situation has been worsened by the national parks authority's inability to maintain water pumps and supply diesel for the pumps at the artificial water points. This has driven some of the animals from Hwange National Park to cross into neighboring Botswana in search of water.

Panda Bites Australian Visitor to China

November 11, 2008  www.theaustralian.news.com.au  By Michelle Draper

A 15-year-old Australian schoolgirl was bitten by a panda while volunteering with her classmates at the Wild Endangered Animal Protection Institute, near Xian in central China.  The  incident happened after a guide briefly left the students alone in an enclosure where they were going to feed the pandas and clean their cage. "An English speaking guide went off to get something, and the girl began petting the panda.  It started licking the girls' hand and it then bit her," the school’s principal said. Because the students were about to head off into a fairly remote area without hospital treatment the parents decided it would be prudent to bring her back home to make sure there was no damage to nerves or tendons." She underwent surgery today at Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

Wild Animal Park Lion Cubs Birthday Party

November 11, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com

SAN DIEGO WILD ANIMAL PARK – There were presents for eight lion cubs celebrating their first birthdays on Tuesday, but the real gift was for visitors who got to watch them play with cardboard packages, piñatas and other treats. Keepers at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park also gave the cubs two lion-sized birthday cakes made from a smorgasbord of ice, bones, smelt and spleen.  Born in three different litters - the four males and four females have formed their own pride in the park's Lion Camp.

Tiger Kills Keeper at Mexico Zoo

November 11, 2008  ap.google.com

MEXICO CITY — A tiger escaped from an unlocked cage at at Bioparque Estrella and fatally attacked 26-year-old Herminio Rodriguez Palma. Some 150 police officers and zoo veterinarians began an intense search for the tiger at the 300-hectare (740-acre) wild animal park in the countryside northwest of Mexico City. It was captured and killed before dawn.  Mexico has had problems with dangerous animals escaping from their caretakers recently. In September, a five-ton elephant got away from his trainer at a circus, wandered onto a highway outside Mexico City and was fatally hit by a bus. The bus driver also was killed. Three tigers escaped from a circus truck and took shelter in a house in western Mexico last week, but were quickly recaptured. And in August, a 500-pound lion escaped from a local lawmaker's private zoo in southern Mexico, killing two dogs and a pig and attacking a woman and child on a donkey before it was sedated and captured.

Lincoln Park - Tarangire Elephant Study

November 11, 2008  www.chitowndailynews.org  By Jennifer Slosar

Lisa Faust, a research biologist at the Lincoln Park Zoo, crunches data provided by zoos across the country.  Births and deaths, recorded over several decades, provide patterns that Faust uses to inform the Species Survival Plans produced by the AZA. These scientific breeding plans help zoos to cooperatively manage populations of animals that are threatened with extinction.  “Zoos are a great place to start generating some of this information, because you have these historic data sets,” says Sharon Dewar, the Lincoln Park Zoo spokeswoman. “Other than some very well-known field projects, like Jane Goodall's research at Gombe, most wild populations have not been studied for 40 years.”  Elephants are getting special consideration from Faust. Elephant populations are projected to continue declining in zoos and have been fluctuating in the wild.  Her collaboration with researchers Charles Foley and Lara Foley of the Tarangire Elephant Project recently helped the zoo garner an AZA award for international conservation, which it shared with eight other zoos. The zoo has been providing funding and scientific expertise for the Foleys for over 10 years.

Tarangire National Park is a protected wildlife area located in northeastern Tanzania. Elephant herds freely move in and out of the unfenced park, attracted to the Tarangire River during the six-month dry season.  The Foleys began studying the effects of massive poaching on elephant behavior there 15 years ago. Their research produced one of the largest and most developed demographic data sets on elephants in Africa.  Faust is developing a model to forecast the Tarangire elephants’ future population dynamics, which is crucial because the population is growing very rapidly.  As human settlements grow on the perimeter of the park, conflicts between migrating elephants and villagers, as well as competition for resources between animals, have supplanted poaching as chief threats to elephant survival. “We want to give park officials an idea of how the population could grow in 10 or 15 years, if it keeps going at this rate,” Faust says. “You have to make sure you protect the migration corridors and the areas outside the park as well.”

Corporate Contributions to Conservation Groups

November 11, 2008  www.enn.com  By Ben Block, Worldwatch Institute

Conservation groups have turned to corporate donors for more of their funding over the past decade, and the strengthening of corporate ties, has fueled a debate within the environmental movement about the role of industry in conservation work.  The groups accept the funding according to internal guidelines that they say prevent corporate donors from directly influencing the integrity of specific programs.  Yet at a time when more companies are trying to be "green," several grassroots leaders say the relationships allow companies to "greenwash" their public images. Their concern is that the true benefactors of the partnerships are not imperiled species or ecosystems, but the corporations themselves.  The three largest conservation organizations worldwide - The Nature Conservancy, the WWF Network, and Conservation International – had combined revenues in 2007 exceeding $2 billion, more than double the revenues in 2000.  The three groups received at least $35 million more from their corporate partnerships last year than in 2003, although their annual reports do not clarify all sources of corporate funding.  The debate came to a head in October at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. The host, IUCN, was accused of risking its reputation over a five-year collaboration it launched with the energy company Shell International in 2007.  Through the deal, IUCN will attempt to mitigate the environmental impact of several Shell operations. Potential projects include the decommissioning of an oil field northeast of Scotland, natural gas production in Sweden, and oil exploration in the Arctic. Shell would compensate IUCN for the cost of the group's involvement. Shell was also a sponsor for the Barcelona Congress.  Many in the wider environmental community argue that Shell, despite its recent support of renewable energy, carries a significant legacy of environmental degradation and human rights abuse. In Nigeria, oil spills and gas flaring have polluted many parts of the country.

The public connection between Shell and IUCN - a respected, 60-year-old conservation organization - has frustrated several of the environmental groups that are part of IUCN's global network. "People are very upset about how companies use IUCN's name on their promotional material" said Barbara Bramble, a senior international affairs advisor at the U.S-based National Wildlife Federation. "It drags IUCN into the dirt."  Led by Friends of the Earth International and Brazil-based Pro-Natura International, members of the World Congress called for IUCN to terminate its Shell agreement. "A long-term partnership agreement with Shell is not the right way to influence Shell," a Friends of the Earth statement said. "There are strong reputational risks." Claparols used harsher language to describe the partnership. "The Union is being held hostage by extractive industries," he said. "I don't mind dialoging with industry.... But when you put the name of IUCN with Shell, it's like you're endorsing everything Shell does."

Not all grassroots conservationists agreed with ending the contract. Shahid Sayeed Khan, director of Pakistan-based Indus Earth, said dialogue between environmental groups and corporations is essential to prevent widespread industrial degradation. "No question that the Shell experience in the past is not comparable to anything IUCN supports. But people change, institutions change, attitudes change," he told the Congress. IUCN warned its members that ending the Shell relationship could threaten conservation programs. Moreover, breaking such a contract prematurely may be illegal. "In case this agreement is terminated, other businesses will hesitate to engage with IUCN," a statement to the Congress said. "This will greatly compromise the abilities for IUCN to raise money and for businesses to be engaged with conservation activities."

Guide for Primate Disease Research

November 12, 2008  media-newswire.com

There is growing awareness that the majority of emerging pathogens in the world are coming from wildlife. Most of that wildlife is in tropical forests where we have the least disease surveillance.  Thomas Gillespie, a leading primate disease ecologist from Emory University, is the lead author of an article that describes integrative approaches to studying primate infectious diseases, and provides standardized, step-by-step guidelines for properly gathering and storing feces, blood and other specimens from wild primates for laboratory analysis.  It will be published November 17 in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology.  He believes that "By giving researchers from a range of disciplines standardized guidelines for collecting data, and integrating that data across sites, we can build a baseline for patterns of primate disease. That may give us a chance to see something abnormal before it becomes an epidemic." says Gillespie, one of the world's leading primate disease ecologists. The article was in response to a growing outcry among scientists for integrated approaches to studying how outbreaks get their start. A meta-analysis published in the journal "Nature" in February showed that more than 60 percent of epidemics between 1940 and 2004 began when a germ jumped from wildlife to humans.  Gillespie's co-authors were Charles Nunn, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University; and Fabian Leendertz a virologist at the Robert Koch Institute and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

Critical Habitat for the Louisiana Black Bear

November 12, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the reopening of the public comment period on the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) We also announce the availability of a draft economic analysis (DEA)
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 revised proposed rule.  We will consider comments received on or before December 12, 2008.  You may submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov ;  U.S. mail to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2008-0047; 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 Jim Boggs, Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Louisiana Field Office, 646 Cajundome Blvd., Suite 400, Lafayette, LA 70506; telephone: 337-291-3100. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov   You may obtain copies of our 1995 final recovery plan for the bear, is available at http://www.regulations.gov (at Docket Number FWS- R4-ES-2008-0047) or from the Louisiana Field Office   

European Zoos Criticized

November 12, 2008  www.reuters.com  By Marty Swant

BRUSSELS - Zoos often fall short of providing proper space, nutrition and mental stimulation for the animals, said ENDCAP, a pan-European coalition of non-government organizations seeking better care for animals in captivity.  ENDCAP and fellow NGO Born Free Foundation showed video footage to the European Parliament in Brussels, of zoo animals in Romania, Spain and Bulgaria living in what they called poor conditions. ENDCAP coordinator Daniel Turner said. EU countries failed to enforce the bloc's rules on animal care because the regulations were vague and it was not clear how they should be implemented. As a result, zoos failed to meet even basic requirements for animals.

Boise Zoo Giraffe Dies Suddenly

November 12, 2008  www.2news.tv

BOISE - Shingo, Zoo Boise's 2-year-old male giraffe, has died unexpectedly after a short but severe illness.  Shingo arrived at the zoo seven weeks ago as part of the new African Plains exhibit. Steve Burns, director of Zoo Boise said "The veterinarians and animal care staff did everything possible to save him. Initial care for the animal was provided by Dr. Mark Drew, a veterinarian and diplomat of the American College of Zoological Medicine.  A necropsy was performed by veterinarians at the Caine Center in Caldwell. Initial results show that the animal probably died from peracute mortality syndrome, a complex problem with many possible components. Peracute mortality syndrome is known to affect giraffes from several months to 12 years of age. "Giraffes show few outward signs that this problem exists until shortly before the animal sickens and dies," say Dr. Debbie Wiggins, Zoo Boise's veterinarian. "In most other cases of the syndrome, no treatment has proven to be successful." 

Caspian Seal Populations Decline

November 12, 2008  news.mongabay.com

A team from the University of Leeds performed a series of surveys in 2007 and 2008 which revealed that the birth rate of the Caspian seal has decreased from around 17,000 pups born per year to only between 6,000 and 7,000 - a drop of 60%. The team's census further showed that the current number of breeding females was only 17,000, a number barely large enough to maintain the genetic viability of the species.  Pollution, habitat degradation, disease, drowning in fishing nets, and commercial hunting have reduced the seal population from over one million at the turn of the 20th century to an estimated 100,000 today (a 90% decline).  The IUCN has changed their status from Vulnerable to Endangered. 

Amos Morris Named Mesker Park Zoo Director

November 12, 2008   tristatehomepage.com

EVANSVILLE, IN – Amos Morris is the new director of Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden. Morris has over 19 years experience in the zoological profession; more than half of those in management. He was most recently employed as Curator of Mammals at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. There he managed the animals and facilities and supervised a staff of 25. During his seven years at the zoo, Morris was responsible for implementing numerous exhibits and programs, construction projects, and strategic and master planning. His career has centered on animal husbandry/management, education, research and conservation. Morris has been involved in working within the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Most recently, Morris was elected to the AZA Ethics Board and serves as an accreditation inspector for the zoo association. Prior to his work at the Pittsburgh Zoo, Morris was the General Curator at Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI and Associate Curator of Mammals at the Detroit Zoo. He has also been employed by zoos in Dallas and St. Louis. Morris graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science.  He will be taking over the position left vacant by the departure of Dan McGinn.

Buffalo Zoo Renaissance

November 12, 2008  www.buffalonews.com  By Donn Esmonde

Eight years ago, the Buffalo Zoo was on the brink of being officially downgraded to the level of a roadside attraction.  Today it is a point of community pride, and was cited in the current edition of the travel book “America’s Best Zoos.” Attendance is up by 68,000 from 2000. The reason is director, Donna Fernandes who came eight years ago. The Fernandes-era transformation includes Otter Creek, Sea Lion Cove, a larger elephant house, Vanishing Animals and Rainforest Falls. The coming Children’s Zoo will focus on a day in the life of two 19th century farm kids. “Just tossing out information about farm animals or crops — after a while, it’s a big yawn,” Fernandes said. “But if you tell a story, people get engaged.”  She’s dealt with numerous problems:  In 2006, the AZA slapped Buffalo for its antiquated 1912 elephant house.  It has since enlarged. The zoo’s animal care was questioned after the deaths — from natural causes, said zoo officials — of four polar bears in the last two years. The 2005 county budget crisis forced staff layoffs. Fernandes sent a shared-sacrifice message by cutting her own pay 20 percent.  She learned early that success breeds success. The first big Fernandes-era exhibit, 2004’s Otter Creek, injected faith into a community jaded by a regional history of unkept promises and uninspiring projects. It opened the door to $12 million in private donations. The South American rainforest exhibit that skeptics doubted would ever be built opened late this summer. The zoo last week said that it will cap its planned farm-based, Erie Canal-themed Children’s Zoo by not just replicating an old barn, but by importing a 19th century structure. It is the sort of simple inspiration typical of Fernandes’ tenure.

Latest Theory on Amphibian Declines

November 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

There are currently two theories on amphibian extinctions. The first -- chytrid-thermal-optimum hypothesis -- suggests that the declines were triggered by global warming which pushed daytime and nighttime temperatures to converge to levels that are optimal for the growth of the chytrid fungus.  But according to a second theory -- spatiotemporal-spread hypothesis -- amphibian declines were simply driven by the introduction and subsequent spread of the fungus from certain locations.  "Our models suggest that both these theories are slightly wrong," said Peter Hudson, of Penn State. "Neither of them fit available data."  While the researchers do not completely discount the role of global warming in amphibian declines, they believe that evidence linking it with the declines is weak.  "There is indeed a positive, multi-decade correlation between amphibian extinctions in Latin America and air temperature in the tropics," said Jason Rohr, from University of South Florida. "But this relationship should not necessarily be interpreted as causal."
Their paper is published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby Reintroduction

November 12, 2008  au.news.yahoo.com

Ten brush-tailed rock wallabies, critically endangered in Victoria, are being released in the Grampians National Park this morning.  The wallaby population declined throughout the last century because of hunting and predators like foxes and the last of the wallabies found in the Grampians was captured in 1999.  Park ranger, Graham Parkes, says years of work has gone into a captive breeding program and fox eradication.The animals come zoos and sanctuaries in Victoria, South Australia , New South Wales and the ACT.

Navy Wins Sonar Battle

November 12, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By ADAM LIPTAK

WASHINGTON — Courts must be wary of second-guessing the military’s considered judgments, the Supreme Court said Wednesday in lifting judicial restrictions on submarine training exercises off the coast of Southern California that may harm marine mammals.  In balancing military preparedness against environmental concerns, the majority came down solidly on the side of national security. Environmentalists say that sonar can be as loud as 2,000 jet engines, causing marine mammals to suffer lasting physical trauma, strandings and changes in breeding and migration patterns. But Chief Justice said, quoting a 1986 decision that the justices, must “give great deference to the professional judgment of military authorities” in making decisions about personnel, training and priorities.

Fourth AI Attempt for Knoxville Zoo Elephant

November 12, 2008  www.knoxnews.com  by Amy McRary

KNOXVILLE, TN -- This week zoo elephant keepers and a veterinary reproductive specialist, Dennis Schmidt from Missouri State University are attempting to artificially inseminate Edie. Dr. Schmidt, who uses a procedure that’s modified from what's used for horses and cattle, began performing AI on elephants in the mid-1980s; the first elephant calf born as a result of the procedure was in 1997. Lead elephant keeper Todd Naelitz kept Edie calm while Zoo elephant curator Jim Naelitz navigated the instruments necessary for the procedure.  Artificial impregnation of a 4-ton animal involves a 3-foot catheter tube, a light-emitting endoscope, another narrower tube and a large syringe of donated semen. Wednesday's sample was collected earlier that day from Ajani, a 6-year-old Indianapolis Zoo elephant that himself is the result of AI.  Today and again Friday, keepers plan to repeat the procedure using semen from elephants in Pittsburgh and Florida. They're hoping for success because blood tests indicate Edie will ovulate this week. But the zoo won't know for three months if the pachyderm is pregnant. Edie, at 25, will be an older first-time mom.  Edie's AI procedures this week total $10,000. It's the fourth try to impregnate her.

Patna Zoo Trades Rhinos & Gharials

November 12, 2008  timesofindia.indiatimes.com  By Pranava K Chaudhary

With 11 Indian one-horned rhinoceroses, the Patna zoo is second only to California's San Diego Wild Animal Park which has 54.  The first pair of rhinos was brought to Patna from Assam back in 1979. and a breeding program was started in 1988.  In 2005, Patna zoo exchanged three giraffes from San Diego Animal Park for two Indian single-horned Rhino.  Deputy director Subhash Chandra Verma said. "We had exchanged a male rhino to Delhi zoo in 2004-05," he added.  At present, three tigers (one male and two females) 11 big gharials and 100 small ones are available in Patna zoo. We have already gifted six gharials to Vizag zoo in 2006," the deputy director said. Patna zoo has become a breeding centre for 'gharial'.

Singapore Tigers Maul Zoo Worker

November 13, 2008  news.yahoo.com  By Reuters

SINGAPORE  – Three white tigers attacked and killed a Malaysian man who fell into the moat of their exhibit at the Singapore's Zoo.  The man was working as a cleaner according to Biswajit Guha, assistant director of zoology at the zoo.  The noise from the attack caught the attention of zookeepers nearby and they eventually managed to distract the tigers and rescue the worker. Observers said the victim was seen behaving in an agitated manner before he fell into the moat.

Networks of Small Habitat Patches Protect Urban Biodiversity

November 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A study by Dr. Erik Andersson and Dr. Örjan Bodin, both of Stockholm University, was published yesterday in Ecography, and indicates that sets of small habitat patches can host species that require much larger habitat patches for their daily needs than what each patch can individually provide. Many species are actually capable of moving back and forth between neighboring patches, as long as they are not too far apart. Thus, many species are able to make use of the total of the habitat fragments in the network instead of relying on the individual habitat patches for their persistence.  In human dominated areas, such as cities or intensively cultivated landscapes, it is often impossible to set aside large contiguous areas of natural vegetation.

First Rhino Birth From Frozen Semen

November 13, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

PHILADELPHIA, PA,–  Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Zoo Budapest and the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, are reporting in the journal Theriogenology of the first live birth of a rhinoceros resulting from artificial insemination (AI) with frozen and thawed semen.  Using semen collected from a 35-36 year-old Southern white rhinoceros, frozen for 2 to 3 years and then thawed, a 30 year old female rhinoceros was artificially inseminated in two attempts. The first failed, but the second resulted in pregnancy and the birth of a healthy offspring. At the time of conception, the female was housed at the Budapest Zoo in Hungary and the male donor in Colchester Zoo in the United Kingdom. The researchers have demonstrated that semen samples can be collected and preserved from both wild and captive populations to maintain a genome resource bank and to boost reproduction in these megaherbivores. Dr. Robert Hermes, writes, "This achievement joins a fairly short list of fewer than 30 wildlife species, most of which are closely related to domestic species, in which artificial insemination with frozen-thawed semen has been successful in producing live offspring. The use of frozen-thawed semen holds great potential as a means to overcome the crisis most captive and wild rhinoceros populations are facing in various ways."  With less than 20,000 rhinoceros in the world, one species perhaps already extinct and another with possibly only four animals remaining in the wild, successful breeding becomes increasingly important. 

Tiger Attack Victims File Lawsuit

November 13, 2008  www.sfgate.com By John Coté

SAN FRANCISCO - -- Two San Jose brothers who survived a Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo have filed a long-expected lawsuit against the city, zoo and others, claiming slander and civil rights violations in the aftermath of an incident that drew international attention. The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, contends the city and zoo were negligent on multiple fronts, including keeping the 243-pound Siberian tiger named Tatiana in an enclosure that had walls lower that what is recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They also say the zoo ignored workers' warnings about the wall height.  It also contends that Kulbir Dhaliwal wasn't attacked until after an employee refused to allow him into the safety of a zoo cafe. That incident occurred about 20 minutes after the tiger leapt from its grotto and initially attacked Paul Dhaliwal before turning on Sousa who was ultimately killed. An attorney for Sousa' parents, Michael Cardoza, said the negative public perception about the Dhaliwals was probably a key factor in filing their lawsuit in federal court, where the jury pool is drawn from counties including Marin and San Mateo, rather that just San Francisco. Sousa's parents will sue the city before the year is over, Cardoza said.

Fort Wayne Zoo Offers Animal-Career Scholarship

November 13, 2008  fwdailynews.com

The Fort Wayne Zoological Society is accepting applications for the Lawrence A. Ackerman Scholarship, which bestows a one-time $2,000 award to a college-bound high school senior pursuing an animal-related career. Graduating high school seniors in Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley counties in Indiana are eligible to apply.  The Fort Wayne Zoological Society established the Scholarship in 1992 to honor the distinguished career of the late Dr. Larry Ackerman, who served as the zoo's veterinarian for 25 years.  Interested students can download an application at kidszoo.org. The application deadline is Feb. 1.

Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus – Zoo Scourge

November 13, 2008  www.chron.com

Endotheliotropic herpes virus, kills mostly adolescent elephants and is reaching epidemic proportions in U.S. zoos. Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi recently announced the death of 2-year-old Asian elephant, Mac,  while 4 other Asian elephants, all sired by the Houston's bull, named Thailand, have died of the virus. (Three of the young elephants succumbed to the disease after being transferred to other zoos.) The virus triggers uncontrollable bleeding in internal tissues, particularly the heart, and can kill an elephant within hours of the onset of symptoms. Although a number of herpes viruses are known to be present in otherwise healthy animals both in captivity and the wild, experts have not conclusively determined how it is spread or why it is so deadly for young Asian elephants.  Earlier this month, the city of Calgary, Canada, lost 15-month-old Malti to herpes. As a result, zoo managers say the future of their breeding program is uncertain.  Since the discovery of the disease in 1995 at the National Zoo., 31 known cases have been confirmed in the United States, the earliest from 1983. Once it manifests itself, the fatality rate of the disease is 90 percent. A drug used to treat human herpes, famcyclovir, has saved some of the infected elephants.  Animal rights groups are demanding the cessation of breeding programs and transfers of animals between zoos until the disease, its method of transmission and possible cures are better understood. With Asian elephants increasingly endangered in the wild, other preservationists and zoo officials argue that the breeding programs should continue along with intensified efforts to defeat the disease.

Vietnamese Farmers Breed Wild Animals for Profit

November 13, 2008  english.vietnamnet.vn

Farmers in Vietnam are now raising 93 species of mammals, 78 species of birds, 54 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 105 species of invertebrates in danger of extinction, said Prof Dang Huy Huynh, former director of the Institute of Ecological and Biological Resources. Their primary objective is to make money, not preserve wildlife.  The Government has policies to encourage the breeding of rare animals in a scientific manner to protect biogenetic diversity in addition to providing poor farmers with additional income options.  In particular, one of the main objectives of a national action program on managing the trade of wild species by 2010 is to boost the planting and breeding of rare flora and fauna to combat poverty and protect the environment simultaneously. 

According to Dr Vo Van Su, head of the National Institute of Animal Husbandry’s Rare Animals and Biodiversity Department, the recent trend towards raising non-domesticated animals came about in the midst of ongoing problems in the traditional livestock industry, such as repeated epidemics, costly animal feed and high infrastructure costs.  According to a report from the Forest Protection Department of Viet Nam (FDP), there are some 4,000 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – approved establishments raising 2 billion non-traditional livestock animals. Among them are seven kinds of amphibians, 40 kinds of reptiles, three kinds of birds and 58 kinds of mammals. Most common are wild boars, porcupines, pheasants, wild chicken, guinea fowls, turtles, iguanas, crocodiles and snakes. Local farmers are raising many new species that are helping many households escape poverty. Dozens of households have gotten the go-ahead to raise wild boar, and 26 households to raise porcupines. The city now has 63 farms raising about 140,000 crocodiles and 12 large-scale farms raising 17,000 pythons in addition to many other wild species, including other reptiles, wild pigs and porcupines. 

Umbrellabird Helps Chocó Rainforests

November 13, 2008   news.nationalgeographic.com  By Hayley Rutger

The male long-wattled umbrellabird, competes for mates with other males in gatherings called leks.  This endangered species lives only in the Chocó rain forests of Ecuador and Colombia, where it makes vital contributions to the forests' health.  Ecologist Jordan Karubian, Latin America director of the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA is the first scientist to track the umbrellabirds in Ecuador with radio transmitters, documenting their behavior and seed-dispersing habits.  With support from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration, he has shown that "an animal's social behavior can dramatically affect seed dispersal, which in turn may have important consequences for forest ecology."  Karubian and his team discovered that the umbrellabirds sometimes swallow seeds in pristine forests and regurgitate them in damaged areas, allowing those lands to regenerate. They disperse large seeds that many smaller birds can't even swallow.  The umbrellabirds also regurgitate seeds they've brought from various locations at lek sites, a practice that appears to create the dense clumps of genetically diverse fruit trees they need for food, shelter, and reproduction. "They are farming for themselves, " says Karubian.

Humans have destroyed about 96 percent of Ecuador's species-rich Chocó, and the long-wattled umbrellabirds are key to maintaining the ecology of the rest. Still, they can't outpace the logging, oil palm production, and agricultural land clearing that threaten what's left of the Chocó.  Before the forest dwindles further, Karubian hopes to learn much more about the umbrellabird, including whether males share information about fruit hot spots. His team is training local residents both to continue this research and to use sustainable development strategies to protect the Chocó.

Virginia Zoo is Re-accredited

November 13, 2008  hamptonroads.com  By Debbie Messina

NORFOLK, VA -- The Virginia Zoo was granted re-accreditation Wednesday by the AZA, which evaluates animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.  Jim Maddy, AZA president, said the lion area is "one of the finest carnivore exhibits in the country." The exhibit is home to Zola and Mramba and their two 1-year-old cubs.  Maddy said that while the death of white rhino Rufus last month in a clash with another rhinoceros was tragic, he's satisfied with the way the zoo is handling the ongoing investigation.  "It's been handled as professionally and responsibly as it could have been," Maddy said. Rufus was killed when a keeper failed to secure a gate that separated the two males, zoo officials said.

National Zoo Euthanizes Giant Salamander

November 13, 2008  media-newswire.com

Staff at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo have euthanized a female Japanese giant salamander due to her declining health following several months of treatment for liver disease and a skin infection.  Several months ago, keepers noted a decrease in the salamander’s appetite. During an exam this past July, Zoo veterinarians performed an ultrasound, took radiographs, obtained a blood sample and performed an endoscopy—a procedure in which a fiber-optic lens is inserted into the body to look at the digestive tract. The animal’s digestive tract appeared healthy, but blood tests showed elevated liver enzymes.  After the exam, the salamander returned to the Reptile Discover Center where she was treated for liver disease, and her symptoms and blood tests showed improvement. In recent weeks, however, staff noticed she had developed a severe skin infection and they began treatment. After two weeks of treatment and close monitoring, the animal continued to show a severe decline in health, and animal care and veterinary staff made the decision to euthanize her.  Only six other U.S. zoos exhibit the species.

Malaysian Logging Threatens Tigers & Rhinos

November 13, 2008  www.enn.com 

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia: Habitats of the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros and the endangered Malayan tiger are under threat from a plan to clear nearly 19,000 hectares of forest in north-eastern Malaysia.  A Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) has revealed that the Terengganu state government has proposed to extract all commercially valuable timber in 12,630ha of forest, adjacent to the 6,130ha of forest reserve currently being cleared for the construction of two hydropower dams.  The Tembat and Petuang Forest Reserves also act as a water catchment area for Tasik Kenyir, the largest man-made lake in South-east Asia. They are currently being logged to build the Puah and Tembat dams and are home to the Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger. The forest reserves also fall within the dam catchment area. In addition,  30 per cent of the existing elephant population within the project area will be forced into nearby plantations, creating more human-elephant conflict.

Environmental Impact Statement : Buffalo Field Office, Wyoming

November 14, 2008  www.epa.gov 

The Bureau of Land Management intends to revise a Resource Management Plan and prepare an associated Environmental Impact Statement for the Buffalo Field Office and by this notice is announcing the beginning of the scoping process and soliciting input on the identification of issues, proposed planning criteria, and calling for resource information. The RMP will replace the existing Buffalo Resource Management Plan of 1985. Please see: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/programs/Planning/rmps/buffalo.html  for more information or contact Buffalo RMP Revision, Attn: Thomas Bills, RMP Technical Coordinator, Buffalo Field Office, 1425 Fort Street, Buffalo, WY 82834.

Going Ape at the San Diego Zoo

November 14, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com  By Susan Shroder

SAN DIEGO –  Great Ape Awareness Days have begun at the San Diego Zoo to educate the public about endangered bonobos, gorillas and orangutans.  Animal-care staff will talk about what is causing their population declines and about what can be done to help ensure their future in the wild, including responsible consumerism.  There will be daily keeper talks Friday through Sunday. Learn about bonobos at Treetops at 10 a.m. and noon; about gorillas at the Gorilla Tropics habitat at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and about orangutans at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Absolutely Apes exhibit.  The animals will get “enrichment” items to explore in their habitats. The San Diego Zoo added to its western lowland gorilla population this fall. A baby named Frank was born Sept. 4, increasing the zoo's lowland gorilla troupe to 14: eight males and six females. Frank is being fed by keepers because he didn't nurse with his mother. He is being slowly introduced to his outside habitat and can be seen from 11 to 11:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The newest additions to the zoo's successful bonobo breeding program are 14-month-old Mali and and her year-old half brother, Tutapenda. They have been raised since birth by keepers at the zoo. Tutapenda was rejected by his mother, and Mali had medical complications.  Bonobos are considered the most endangered of the great apes. The special events are free with the price of zoo admission.

LEDs Brighten Columbus Zoo's Holiday Wildlights

November 14, 2008 www.snponline.com  By GARTH BISHOP

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's annual Wildlights display gets bigger every year, but this year's display, will be more than a million lights brighter. Wildlights will run from Nov. 21, to Jan. 3. Of the 3 million or so lights the zoo uses for Wildlights, almost half have been replaced by eco-friendly LED lights. They are much brighter than their incandescent predecessors and have a broader range of colors.  In addition, the lights will save the zoo about 85 percent on its electric consumption for Wildlights; will last much longer, with the average light lasting for about 50,000 hours as opposed to the previous lights' average of 2,000 hours; and they are practically indestructible to boot, Revard said.  It is with the support of American Electric Power that the zoo has been able to replace so much of its lighting so swiftly.  An AEP representative attended last year's Wildlights and pointed out the difference LED lights might make, and just a year later, the two organizations have worked together to effect rapid change.  One new attraction is an animated light show based around the zoo's central pond. The nine-minute event begins at 6 p.m. each day and replays every half-hour.  "The whole pond comes to life with lights and movement and popular holiday songs.”  Returning attractions include the model train, Mrs. Claus' Kitchen cookie-decorating workshop, the Disney-themed ice rink,  and performances by local school choirs.

London Zoo Breeds Rhino Rat Snakes

November 14, 2008  www.postchronicle.com

The London Zoo is celebrating the hatching of a clutch of eight rhino rat snakes, a rare species from Southeast Asia.  This is believed to be the first time the snake has been bred in captivity in Europe.  Rhynchophis Boulanger, also known as green unicorns, are a gray color at birth but change to green when they are about a year old.  Adults feed on frogs, geckos and rodents and grow to about 3 feet long.  The Zoological Society of London has already transferred three of the newborns to other zoos as part of exchange programs.

Denver Zoo Turns Waste Into Energy

November 14, 2008  www.kwgn.com   by Jason Boyer

1.7 million visitors / year, and approximately four-thousand animals, generate a lot of trash at the Denver Zoo. Some of that is made into compost, but most of it ends up in landfills so the Zoo is proposing to create energy from the trash through gasification.  Gasification uses super high temperatures, around 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit to convert animal waste and guest’s trash into useable gas as a fuel.  When the system is operational, the heated water will be distributed throughout several buildings, and the electricity that is produced will be used by the zoo, with the excess going back into the grid. The zoo expects ninety-percent of their waste to be converted into fuel through the gasification process.

Frank the Tank

November 14, 2008  travel.latimes.com 

Video from CBS News: http://www.cbs8.com/flv/video_pop_hd3.php?startID=146090&cat=undefined

Feeding Birds Impacts their Reproduction

November 15, 2008  morningsentinel.mainetoday.com  By Herb Wilson

Feeding birds is an activity that has increased greatly in the past 40 years. In the United States, 43 percent of households maintain bird feeders. In the UK, 75 percent of households feed the birds.  Homeowners in the United States and the United Kingdom purchase 500,000 tons of birdseed each year. Food often limits bird populations so bird feeding may have positive benefits But we know surprisingly little about the effects of bird feeding.  Irish ornithologist, Gillian Robb, and colleagues recently published a review of avian responses to supplemental feeding in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The energetic costs of reproduction are huge for birds. Favorable times for nesting are often brief so an early start may be beneficial for breeding birds. In 34 of 59 studies reviewed by Robb, bird feeding resulted in earlier nesting. In most cases the shift was less than a week but in some a shift was as long as a month earlier.  Unfortunately, earlier nesting can sometimes result in negative impacts. Birds given supplemental food may begin nesting before their natural food supply becomes abundant enough to provide enough nutrition for their nestlings. As an example, chickadee adults do well feeding on sunflower seeds but their nestlings need caterpillars and other sources of animal protein to allow the nestlings to grow and thrive. Food supplementation can affect the quantity and quality of eggs laid by female birds. In 44 studies reviewed by Robb, 28 presented evidence that bird feeding increased the number of eggs laid.  As an alternative (or as a second effect), a female bird with access to supplemental food may increase the quality of her eggs by laying larger eggs. Larger eggs cool more slowly than smaller eggs when the adults are off the nest; larger eggs have a greater chance of hatching than smaller eggs. Florida Scrub Jays given high-fat, high-protein food laid eggs with more water and protein in them. Some popular bird foods may be a rich source of macronutrients. For instance, peanuts are high in vitamin E. This vitamin E can be passed into the eggs by a female bird. These enhanced nutrient levels result in better immune responses by nestlings to the threats of disease.

Gibbon Foot Motion Study

November 17, 2008  www.physorg.com  

According to Evie Vereecke, from the University of Liverpool, the modern human foot first appeared about 1.8 million years ago, but our ape-like ancestors probably began walking several million years earlier, even though their feet were more 'floppy' and ape-like than ours. Modern ape feet have a flexible joint midway along the foot (we retain this joint, but have lost the flexibility). Vereecke and Peter Aerts from the University of Antwerp studied a troop of semi-wild gibbons at Belgium's Wild Animal Park of Planckendael. After filming for several weeks they then digitized the animals' foot movements and built a computer model to find out how they walked.  They found that the animals don't hit the ground with their heels at the start of a stride. They land on their toes before the heel touches the ground.  By landing on the toes first they stretch the toes' tendons and store energy in them. When humans put weight on our feet, the arch stretches the aponeurosis, storing elastic energy to power the push off at the end of a stride.  And instead of lifting the foot as one long lever, the gibbon lifted its heel first, bending the foot in two to form an upward-turned arch, stretching the toes' tendons even further and storing more elastic energy ready for release as the foot eventually pushes off.  The study is published in The Journal of 
Experimental Biology on 14th November ( http://jeb.biologists.org )

Dama Gazelle Born at National Zoo

November 17, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com   By Katharine Jarmul

A female dama gazelle calf was born Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008, at the National Zoo to two-year-old Adara.  It is estimated that less than 500 dama gazelles (a type of Saharan antelope) exist in the wild.  The calf, weighed 10 pounds at birth.  Four live at the Zoo and five live at the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal.

Blood Transfusion for Beaten Tiger Cub

November 17, 2008  www.google.com   By GAVIN RABINOWITZ  and RAMOLA TALWAR BADAM

NEW DELHI — Veterinarians carried out a rare blood transfusion in an attempt to save a 7-month-old wild female tiger cub that had been attacked and beaten by angry villagers in central India. The emergency treatment late Sunday after blood taken from captive adults was airlifted to the Nagpur Zoo where the cub is being cared for, said Bimal Majumdar, the chief wildlife officer in the region.  Juhi and her sister were rescued two weeks ago from the villagers. The other cub Jai,  responded well after being brought to the zoo, but Juhi's condition deteriorated, and her hemoglobin levels suddenly dropped to a dangerously low level.  Doctors at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai,  tranquilized two healthy adult tigers and drew three-fourths of a pint of blood from each of them. Four hours later the blood reached Nagpur, said Vinery Jangle, the park's head veterinarian. Jangle, who oversaw the transfusion, but remains uncertain whether it  would prove successful because only rudimentary tests were done to determine whether the donor blood matched Juhi's type.  While rare, transfusions have been done in the past on turtles, pandas and a baby elephant at Western zoos, which sometimes bank an animals own blood in case it needs a transfusion.

Winnipeg Zoo Euthanizes World's Oldest Polar Bear

November 17, 2008  www.ctv.ca  

At 42 years old, Winnepeg Zoo’s polar bear, Debby, had doubled the life expectancy of the average polar bear. But her health had been declining for several months, and she was euthanized Monday, after a clinical exam found she was suffering from multiple organ failure.  Born in the Russian Arctic in 1966, and arriving at the Assiniboine Park Zoo as an orphaned cub in 1967, Debby spent most of her life with her mate Skipper. The pair produced six surviving offspring. When she turned 41, Debby was entered into the 2008 Guinness Book of Records as the oldest living polar bear. At 42 she was within the top three longevity record-holders for all eight species of bears.  The zoo is inviting the public to celebrate Debby's life at a ceremony at the zoo's Animal Tracks Café from Noon to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov.22.

Belfast Zoo's Elephants Listen to Classical Music

November 17, 2008  www.guardian.co.uk  

Researchers at the Belfast Zoo have found that playing classical music to elephants reduces abnormal behaviors such as swaying, pacing and trunk tossing, although the elephants don't seem to have a favorite composer. Dr Deborah Wells at Queen's University in Belfast, said "The rationale underlying this study is really to try and improve their welfare and in particular to try to improve these stereotypic patterns of behavior that elephants are prone to."  Her team recorded the behavior of four female Asian elephants every minute for four hours a day over three five-day periods. During the first five days the animals were not exposed to any music. In the second five days the researchers placed a speaker in their enclosure playing a CD of classical music by the likes of Mozart, Elgar, Handel and Beethoven. During the final five days the speaker was switched off.  The team report in the journal Animal Welfare that the frequency of abnormal behaviors dropped dramatically while the music was playing whereas normal behaviors, such as feeding, remained unchanged.  David Field, zoological director of London and Whipsnade zoos  He said keepers at London and Whipsnade zoos often put a radio on in the enclosures of animals that are alone – for example sick animals or new arrivals at the zoo. Whipsnade's elephants in particular seem to appreciate background music. Wells has already investigated the effect that music has on dogs and gorillas. "Classical had the most beneficial effect. Heavy metal had quite an adverse effect on the dogs," she said.

Pandas Are Coming to Adelaide Zoo

November 17, 2008  www.news.com.au  

When Giant Pandas, Wang Wang and Funi, arrive in Adelaide late next year, they will be the first to live in Australia since 1988.  Facility upgrades include a re-design of the historic entrance. The zoo is also developing tourism packages with local operators and building a function
January 2007: Zoos SA chief executive Dr Chris West and conservation director Kevin Evans begin talks on how to bring Giant Pandas to Adelaide.
August 2007: A Chinese delegation inspects the Adelaide Zoo's facilities to determine if it could provide a suitable home.
September 2007: The Australian and Chinese governments sign an agreement to bring two Giant Pandas to Adelaide.
March 2008: Upgrades of of the Zoo to provide for the expected influx of visitors is announced.
Late 2009: Two Giant Pandas, Wangwang and Funi, are expected to arrive at the zoo.
2011 - 2019: The pandas will reach sexual maturity and are expected to start breeding.
2019: The pandas are expected to be relocated to another country.

WCS "Wild Winterland" Goes Greener

November 17, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  

BRONX, NY - The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is reducing its holiday season carbon footprint.  Its evening light show will now be a daytime experience, called HESS Presents the Bronx Zoo’s Wild Winterland sponsored by PEPSI, which will lessen energy consumption and continue a long-time family holiday tradition.   An added attraction this year: three Clydesdale horses and four spirited reindeer, will create the new “footprint”-- making for a truly wild  encounter. Families can enjoy a special horse-drawn wagon ride from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. ($5 per person/per ride) Guests can also have their photo taken with “The Looking Glass Company” stilt-walking characters, including a fairy princess' see a puppet show in the Childrens Zoo Theater; Witness amazing ice-carving demonstrations; Take part in a craft workshop where kids can make an eco-friendly card or ornament; Experience “Presents to the Animals,” an exciting twist to animal enrichment demonstrations; Listen to one of the choral groups inside the Dancing Crane Café and warm up with some delicious holiday confections or some hot chocolate or roast a marshmallow outside and create your own s’mores (additional fee).

New Home for Detroit's Bald Eagles

November 17, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com   By Patricia Janeway

ROYAL OAK, MI - The Detroit Zoo’s two bald eagles have moved into their new Pierson Lake habitat across from the Asian wild horses, with a view of the lake, more spacious and quieter atmosphere.  Lindy, the male, arrived at the Detroit Zoo in 1988 and Amelia, the female, in 1995. Both birds were wild-born and suffered injuries to their wings that prevented them from being released back into the wild.  The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) gets its name from the Old English word “balde”, meaning white, referring to the distinctive white feathers covering its head and tail. They can have a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet and weigh 7 to 15 pounds, making it one of the largest birds in North America.  One of the first species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, they were removed from the list last year.  The population in Michigan has grown from less than 100 nesting pairs in 1980 to nearly 500 pairs in 2006.

Virunga Conflict Escalates

November 17, 2008 www.enn.com  

Virunga National Park is the oldest and most biodiverse national park in Africa.  In times of peace, the Park brings over $3 million a year from ecotourism — mostly from visits to mountain gorillas. (More than half of the world’s 700 remaining mountain gorillas live inside the park.) The Park is also an important source of food for local communities, with over 20,000 fishermen providing up to 15,000 tons of fish each year.  Now rebel troops have caused more than 50 Congolese park rangers to flee from the Park and more than one million people have been displaced. The rebels now threaten the stability of the entire Democratic Republic of Congo. While previous fighting had taken place inside some sectors of Virunga National Park, this is the first time that the park’s headquarters have been taken over and occupied by  troops.  Because rangers are unable to conduct patrols, the status of the park’s gorillas is unknown.  Dr. Richard Carroll, managing director of WWF’s Congo Basin program says WWF is partnering with the United Nations and other organizations to provide firewood from sustainable sources to alleviate pressure on Virunga National Park’s forests. The park has yet to recover from the period during 1994-95, when hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Rwanda arrived in the region, with no alternatives but to destroy large sections of the park’s forests.  WWF and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) will work to restore patrols and asses the health of the park’s wildlife whenever the security situation will permit us to do so.

Virunga National Park Overview

November 17, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

Eastern Congo is home to almost a third of the world’s last 700 wild mountain gorillas (the rest are in nearby areas of Rwanda and Uganda).  The 240 Congolese game wardens that used to protect them have now been run off their posts.  Last year in Virunga, 10 gorillas were killed, some shot in the back of the head, execution style, park officials said.  The park used to be a naturalist’s paradise, home to more than 2,000 species of plants, 706 types of birds and 218 varieties of mammals, including three great apes: the mountain gorilla, the lowland gorilla and chimpanzees.  Now Virunga is a war zone.  Rebel soldiers command the hilltops. Government soldiers fire mortars at them, blowing up precious gorilla habitat that is rapidly disappearing anyway because of deforestation and an illegal charcoal trade.  “Armed groups hide, train and eat in the park,” said Samantha Newport, a spokeswoman for Virunga National Park.  Eastern Congo has been stuck in a vise of bloodshed for more than a decade. In 1994, with the genocide in Rwanda, which killed 800,000 people, refugees fled into Congo, along with bloodthirsty militias. Since then, various armed groups and neighboring nations have battled for control of this land, loaded with gold, diamonds and other precious resources. Last month, a rebel force widely suspected of being supported by Rwanda routed government troops near the strategic city of Goma and was poised to capture it, when the rebels declared a cease-fire.  That cease-fire remains shaky.

Transfusion Fails to Save Tiger Cub

November 17, 2008  www.google.com/hostednews/ap

NAGPUR, India -- A 7-month-old wild tiger died Tuesday in a central Indian zoo, two days after veterinarians tried to save the cub with a rare blood transfusion.  The cub, which doctors named Juhi, had shown signs of improvement, but suddenly went into convulsions Tuesday.  She had not eaten for days and was severely dehydrated and suffering from hemorrhagic gastroenteritis," according to Dr. Sunil Bavaskar. Juhi and her sister, Jai, had been rescued from angry villagers who had tried to kill the cats, fearing they would attack children and cattle.  Doctors said the cubs, who appeared to have been abandoned by their mother, were weak, starving and wounded when they were brought to the zoo, some 530 miles southeast of New Delhi.  Jai responded well to treatment, but Juhi's condition continued to deteriorate.  This year's census found just 1,411, tigers compared with 3,508 in 1997 and an estimated 100,000 a century ago.  In just the past 10 weeks, six tiger have died from poaching, electrocution, accident or natural causes, the Times of India reports.

Tasmanian Devil Update

November 17, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By ERICA REX

In May, 2008, Tasmanian Devils were added to Australia’s endangered species list.  Since 1996, the deadly cancer, devil facial tumor disease, has decimated its population. Their numbers have plummeted from about 150,000 to fewer than 50,000, according to Dr. Hamish McCallum, of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease Program at the University of Tasmania. All mammalian immune systems rely on certain cells to recognize invaders. An animal’s ability to fight off disease depends on his histocompatibility complex, or M.H.C. genes. The devils’ M.H.C. is identical to that of the tumor, meaning that the devil and the tumor are genetic clones, and the devil’s immune system does not create antibodies.  This year Dr. Greg Woods, at Menzies Research Institute in Hobart,  began an experimental inoculation program and identified one individual that was able to mount an antibody response to the tumor.  The devil, named Cedric, is a 3-year-old male from western Tasmania  who has been living in captivity for several months. Dr. Woods inoculated Cedric and his half-brother, Clinky, both disease-free at the time, with irradiated/dead devil tumor cells. Although they had the same mother, Cedric and Clinky had different fathers. Dr. Woods repeated the vaccination three times and then administered live tumor cells to both. Cedric mounted an immune response and lived. Clinky died of the cancer. His father’s genetics made is immune system more like that of the devils found in eastern Tasmania.  Dr. Woods has since found a second devil that was able to mount an immune response. And three other inoculated devils from eastern Tasmania have developed the disease, supporting Dr. Woods’s hypothesis that devils from the west have maintained greater genetic diversity.

Saving the devil from extinction has become a conservation imperative. According to Dr. McCallum, without major  intervention, the devil will be extinct in five years.  Dr. Woods said he would begin the search for naturally resistant devils early next year. He posits that the devils’ best bet lies within its own genome. Yet even if more M.H.C.-different devils are found, Dr. Belov thinks the immunological arms race is far from over. She has already seen some evidence that the tumor is adapting.  Whereas before, the tumors were clonal, “now we’re seeing slight variation — slight chromosomal differences. “If it does evolve immune evasion strategies, such as turning off the M.H.C. altogether, the tumor has potential to infect M.H.C.-different individuals. If it down regulates its cell surface M.H.C. — that is, switches off its M.H.C. altogether — the tumor not only has potential to infect M.H.C.-different individuals, but it may also cross the species barrier.” If that happened, the most likely victim would be the devil’s closest living relative, the spotted-tail quoll. Another carnivorous marsupial indigenous to Tasmania. Even now, it is considered an endangered species.

Male Bats Dominate with Sound

November 17, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

Research has revealed that greater sac-winged bats react more aggressively to more resonant low-frequency sounds than high-frequency sounds. The 2-inch long mammals live in Central and South America. Oliver Behr of Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany discovered that male bats that make lower frequency calls sire more offspring than their competitors—suggesting that bats with the deepest voices are most alluring to females. A number of other mammals use threat displays to give rivals a sense of their power, experts say. Elk and bison, for instance, do this by bellowing.  Such calls—though loud and energy-intensive—pay off because they usually allow the animals to resolve conflicts without attacking one another.

Sumatran Tiger Cubs Debut at Perth Zoo

November 17, 2008  www.theaustralian.news.com.au 

PERTH, Australia – Three cubs born to eight-year-old Sumatran tiger Setia made their first public appearance at the Perth Zoo today. Two males, Jaya and Satri, and a female, Melati - were born on August 20 from a union between Setia and 12-year-old Hari, who was transferred from the Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve to breed with the Perth-born tiger.  Behind the scenes, the new siblings have already established strong personalities and their own pecking order. The stronger of the males, the bravest, tends to run the show and the other two follow. The cubs will stay at Perth Zoo for at least 18 months before being transferred to new homes in Australia or overseas as part of an international effort to breed more of the species. There are less than 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, and the worldwide captive population stands at 250.  The three cubs are particularly valuable for breeding purposes because neither Hari nor Setia have bred before, so they will be a welcome boost to the gene pool.  Video footage is at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081117-tigers-video-ap.html

Killer Whales Target Favorite Fish With Sonar?

November 17, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Ker Than

Like other porpoises and whales, killer whales, or orcas, emit high-frequency clicks that are reflected back when the sound waves strike an object.  They use sonar information to navigate, hunt, and communicate. Previous research has revealed that some killer whales off the coasts of British Columbia and Washington State have an uncanny ability for finding chinook salmon, even in months when chinook are vastly outnumbered by other salmon species such as coho and sockeye. "Chinook salmon have a higher concentration of [fat] than any salmon species, and apparently killer whales like that," said Whitlow Au, a bio-acoustician at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.  He speculated that killer whales also use natural sonar to select specific types of prey. To test this idea, he and his team used simulated echolocation clicks resembling those of wild killer whales to measure the echoes produced when the sound waves bounced off the bodies of three kinds of salmon.  The team found that each salmon species has a unique echo pattern based on the different sizes and shapes of their swim bladders. The air-filled sacs show up clearly in the echo images because they have a different density than the surrounding flesh and water.  Although Chinooks on average are larger than the other two salmon species, individual sizes overlap between the three groups, so the team doesn't think killer whales are selecting prey based on body size.

The new finding is further evidence for the multiple uses of sonar that some marine mammals have developed, said John Ford, head of the Cetacean Research Program at the Pacific Biological Station in Canada.  Ford, who was not involved in the new study, noted that there is another population of killer whales in the same North Pacific region that seems to favor marine mammals over fish. "It is likely that young whales are born with a blank slate and learn what constitutes food and how to catch it from their mothers and others in the kinship group."  The research will be presented this week at annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Miami, Florida

Funding Cuts for Taronga & Western Plains Zoos

November 18, 2008 www.smh.com.au   By Jano Gibson

NEW SOUTH WALES -- Funding for the state's two biggest zoos will be cut by more than $22 million.  Planned upgrades of exhibits for big cats, white rhinos, Siamangs and kangaroos are among those that will be indefinitely deferred at the Taronga and Western Plains zoos because of cost-cuts over four years   The Zoological Parks Board of NSW is more than half way through implementing a 12-year plan to refurbish the zoos.  A new section for breeding elephants and a $54 million Southern Ocean section for seals, penguins and pelicans are two recent projects completed under the long-term plan.  But a $6.4 million plan to transform the zoo's ageing collection of native animal exhibits into a modern "Australian Fauna Precinct" for kangaroos, echidnas, dingoes and platypus has been postponed. So too has a plan to refurbish an area around the Heritage Seal Pools with gardens, seating and water features.  At Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo $5.4 million worth of wildlife exhibit upgrades will be put on hold, as will $5 million to have been invested in infrastructure.  A planned Tasmanian devil breeding area at Western Plains Zoo will not be affected by the cuts. The postponed upgrades will rely on the zoos' fundraising division, The Taronga Foundation, to generate the required funds. It raised $4.77 million in 2006-07.

Emory University Guide to Primate Disease

November 18, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

An article published Nov. 17 in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology describes integrative approaches to studying primate infectious diseases and provides standardized, step-by-step guidelines for properly gathering and storing feces, blood and other specimens from wild primates for laboratory analysis.  A meta-analysis published in the journal "Nature" in February showed that more than 60 percent of epidemics between 1940 and 2004 began when a germ jumped from wildlife to humans. Tom Gillespie and colleagues from Harvard University, the Robert Koch Institute and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany author the report.

New Penguin Species Found in New Zealand

November 18, 2008  www.physorg.com

A team from the University of Adelaide, the University of Otago and Canterbury Museum in New Zealand, has identified a previously unknown penguin species while conducting research on New Zealand’s endangered yellow-eyed penguin.  The Waitaha penguin became extinct after Polynesian settlement but before 1500 AD, creating an opportunity for the yellow-eyed penguin to subsequently colonise the New Zealand mainland from its base in the sub-Antarctic islands.  “Our findings demonstrate that yellow-eyed penguins on mainland New Zealand are not a declining remnant of a previous abundant population, but came from the sub-Antarctic relatively recently and replaced the extinct Waitaha Penguin,” said team member Dr Jeremy Austin, deputy director of the Australasian Centre for Ancient DNA.  The large-bodied Waitaha Penguin was identified using ancient DNA from prehistoric bones, combined with traditional morphological techniques.  “Competition between the two species previously prevented the yellow-eyed penguin from expanding northwards but environmental changes in the predator population, such as the severe decline of sea lions, may have facilitated their colonisation in the South Island.” The findings have been published in this week's Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Pygmy Tarsiers Rediscovered

November 18, 2008  www.physorg.com

About the size of a small mouse and weighing less than 2 ounces,  pygmy tarsiers have not been observed since they were last collected for a museum in 1921.  The pygmy tarsiers possess fingers with claws instead of nails, a feature that distinguishes them from nearly all other primates which have nails instead of claws. Scientists believed they were extinct until two Indonesian scientists trapping rats in the highlands of Sulawesi accidentally trapped and killed one in 2000.  Now a team led by Sharon Gursky-Doyen, a Texas A&M University anthropologist, has trapped three of the nocturnal pygmy tarsiers. The scientists used approximately 276 mist nets to capture  two males and one female on Mt. Rore Katimbo in Lore Lindu National Park in Central Sulawesi, over a two-month period.  Radio collars were attached to their necks so their movements could be tracked.  It will be the first behavioral and ecological data on this living population of pygmy tarsiers.  The research was funded by National Geographic Society, Conservation International Primate Action Fund, Primate Conservation Incorporated and Texas A&M University.

Wallaby genome mapped

November 18, 2008  www.nytimes.com

SYDNEY, Australia -- Scientists say they have unraveled the DNA of a small kangaroo named Matilda. And they've found more in common with humans than expected. The kangaroo last shared a common ancestor with humans 150 million years ago.''We've been surprised at how similar the genomes are,'' said Jenny Graves, director of the government-backed research effort. ''Great chunks of the genome are virtually identical.''  They also discovered 14 previously unknown genes in the kangaroo and suspect the same ones are also in humans, Graves said.  The animal whose DNA was decoded is a small kangaroo known as a Tammar wallaby and named Matilda. Researchers working with the government-funded Centre of Excellence for Kangaroo Genomics sequenced Matilda's DNA last year. Last week, they finished putting the pieces of the sequence together to form a genetic map. The group plans to publish the research next year, Graves said. Scientists have already untangled the DNA of around two dozen mammals, including mice and chimps, which are closer to humans on the evolutionary timeline. But Graves said it's the kangaroo's distance from people that make its genetic map helpful in understanding how humans evolved. Earlier this year, scientists mapped the DNA of a platypus and found that it crosses different classifications of animals.

Wild Horses in U.S. Will Be Saved

November 19, 2008  www.nytimes.com

DALLAS (AP) — About 33,000 wild horses and burros roam the open range in 10 Western states. The federal Bureau of Land Management wants that population to be around 27,000 to protect the herd, the range and other foraging animals.  Horses that are too old or not adoptable by the public are sent to long-term holding facilities. The bureau now has about the same number of animals in holding facilities as on the range. The agency has said the costs of keeping horses in the holding facilities has caused officials to consider euthanasia as a last resort.  The wife of the Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said Tuesday that she would create a refuge for wild horses, Madeleine Pickens has proposed buying about one million acres to be a refuge for the horses now in holding facilities and the bureau has agreed to give her the horses once she has the land.  Ms. Pickens said the would be sterilized and that horses taken out of the wild each year would be welcome as well. “We will never turn an animal down,” she said.

Signs of Amur Tiger in China

November 19, 2008  www.enn.com 

CHANGCHUN, China — The discovery of Amur tiger tracks in Changbaishan in north-eastern China has given conservationists hope for a species that is rarely seen in that area. Only about 20 remain in the area. “Tiger tracks found in this area show that the tigers are moving deeper into China from the Sino-Russian border,” said Fan Zhiyong, director of WWF-China’s Species Programme. “Therefore, it is of critical importance that tiger conservation occurs in the whole Changbaishan area.”  There are just over 500 Amur tigers in the wild and it is listed as critically endangered on IUCN’s red list.  WWF and its partners are trying to help ungulate populations such as wild boar and roe deer ( the tiger’s main prey) to recover by helping communities find alternative livelihood options; stopping poaching by helping local authorities carry out anti-poaching activities; and increasing and connecting protected tiger habitats so tigers can safely move from one area to another. The fact that tiger tracks have now been found in the Wangqing Forestry Bureau twice in the last two years is an encouraging sign. WWF’s Changchun Programme Office recently developed the Hungchun-Wangqing-Dongning Tiger Conservation Planning tool to enable greater coordination of activities across the region and to help maintain these fragile populations of Amur tiger.

Japanese Clone Embryo of Armani Rabbit

November 19, 2008  news.yahoo.com

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese scientists have had created a cloned embryo of the Armani rabbit or Pentalagus furnessi. and are hoping for a successful birth. The species lives on only two small islands in southwestern Japan. It is designated as endangered species by Japan's environment ministry, with an estimated population of less than 5,000.  Professor Yoshihiko Hosoi of Kinki University in the western city of Osaka said his team had extracted a cell from a dead Amami rabbit's ear and put it into the egg of an ordinary rabbit.  "After we confirmed that the egg developed into a cloned embryo, we put it back into the fallopian tube of the host mother," Hosoi said.  "In about 30 days the host mother may give birth to a baby rabbit which has the gene information of Amami rabbit," he told AFP, but added the possibility of pregnancy was less than 10 percent which is normal for cloned animals.

First Fossils of Swimming Turtles Found

November 19, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

Turtles first appeared in the Triassic period some 210 million years ago. They were exclusively land creatures, according to Jérémy Anquetin, a French Ph.D. student at the Natural History Museum in London.  They had thick, heavy shells with protective spikes.  But the discovery of Four crushed but intact turtle skeletons in a single slab of rock in 2004 on Scotland's Isle of Skye bridge the evolutionary gap between primitive land turtles and modern aquatic turtles. The fossils belongto a pond turtle, Eileanchelys waldmani, They had a domed, tortoise-like shell measuring up to 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) long and it was much more delicately built. "Now we know for sure that there were aquatic turtles around 164 million years ago," Anquetin said. Like modern freshwater turtles, Eileanchelys probably didn't have flippers, which in turtles are first seen close to a hundred million years ago in the first sea turtles.

LA City Council Debates Elephants Again

November 19, 2008  latimesblogs.latimes.com  by Carla Hall

The Los Angeles Zoo’s controversial elephant exhibit was the only issue at an L.A. City Council meeting Wednesday where a packed house cheered and groaned as wildlife experts, animal welfare activists, impassioned schoolteachers, zoo lovers,  Hollywood personalities debated the future of elephants in the city.  Even some council members expressed surprise that they spent 4 1/2 hours debating two motions from Councilman Tony Cardenas: One would halt construction on the zoo’s $42 million "Pachyderm Forest" habitat; the other would create an elephant sanctuary -- a preserve, possibly 50 to 100 acres -- somewhere in the L.A. basin.  They did not reach a decision. In the end, the council decided to postpone any vote, agreeing to refer the issue of shutting down the exhibit to the council’s Budget and Finance Committee for some financial study first.  This is, in fact, the second time that the City Council has voted on whether to allow construction to continue. Two years ago, they approved it.

Captured Jaguar Comes to Phoenix Zoo for Rehab

November 19, 2008  www.azcentral.com   by Kristena Hansen

Lucero is a male jaguar on loan from Mexico to the Phoenix Zoo for at least the next year because of the potentially life-threatening injuries from his illegal capture and for more research on this rare northern breed. He is the only wild-born jaguar in a U.S. zoo.  Lucero is estimated to be 3 or 4 years old, and was captured in a rancher's trap in southeastern Sonora more than a year ago. He wore down his canine teeth almost to the gum line by biting the cage he was held in.  "If that goes untreated, it can cause infection and eventually death," said Ron Thompson, a biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  During Lucero's stay in Phoenix, the estimated 125-pound animal will have DNA samples taken for biologists to research the difference between his northern breed and jaguars from Central and South America that nearly all U.S. zoos have in their facilities. Thompson said that Lucero is obviously different in appearance from southern jaguars, as he is smaller and a lighter golden color and has fewer spots and more-golden eyes.  Jaguars in the U.S. have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1997. Four jaguars have been reported in southern Arizona, but many people don't know that jaguars used to live in Phoenix, Subaitis said.

Woolly-mammoth Genome Sequenced

November 19, 2008  www.eurekalert.org                   

Scientists at Penn State are leaders of a team that is the first to report the genome-wide sequence of an extinct animal. Previous studies on extinct organisms have generated only small amounts of data, according to Webb Miller and Stephan C. Schuster, but their dataset is 100 times more extensive than any other published dataset for an extinct species, demonstrating that ancient DNA studies can be brought up to the same level as modern genome projects. The researchers suspect that the full woolly-mammoth genome is over four-billion DNA bases, which they believe is the size of the modern-day African elephant's genome. Although their dataset consists of more than four-billion DNA bases, only 3.3 billion of them -- a little over the size of the human genome -- currently can be assigned to the mammoth genome. Some of the remaining DNA bases may belong to the mammoth, but others could belong to other organisms, like bacteria and fungi, from the surrounding environment that had contaminated the sample. The team used a draft version of the African elephant's genome, which currently is being generated by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, to distinguish those sequences that truly belong to the mammoth from possible contaminants.  Only after the genome of the African elephant has been completed will we be able to make a final assessment about how much of the full woolly-mammoth genome we have sequenced," said Miller. The team plans to finish sequencing the woolly mammoth's genome when the project receives additional funding. High resolution images are at:  http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/SchusterMiller11-2008.htm

Poor Safety Training Blamed for Biologist's Death

November 19, 2008   news.yahoo.com  By BOB CHRISTIE

A wildlife biologist who was never trained about disease risks, died from the plague after handling a deceased mountain lion without protective gear, according to a federal report by a National Park Service review board.  The 37-year-old didn't wear gloves or a protective respirator in October 2007 while handling and performing a necropsy on a mountain lion that had died of the plague.  He worked in the park's cougar collaring program and fell ill days after he used a locator beacon to track a mountain lion that had stopped moving.  He recovered the body, took it to his home at Grand Canyon National Park and did a necropsy in his garage. Several days later, be began feeling ill and went to a clinic.  The physician he saw wasn’t told of his regular exposure to wild animals and suspected flu.  He was found dead in his home six days after retrieving the dead animal.  Deputy park superintendent Palma Wilson said  "There were protocols in place, but we were not necessarily ensuring that those protocols and safety standards were being followed.  As soon as we got the initial report from the Board of Review we started implementing their recommendations.  An average of 13 plague cases are reported in the United States each year.

Top Five Off-Peak Destinations for Winter

November 20, 2008  smartertravel.com  by Jessica Labrencis   

This year's top five picks include San Diego, London, Washington, D.C., Santa Fe, and Israel. Restaurant Week comes back to San Diego January 11 through 16, with more than 150 participating restaurants. February once again brings Museum Month to San Diego. Throughout the month, more than 30 museums around San Diego offer half-price admission to Museum Month pass holders (passes are available for free at Macy's stores) The Passport to Balboa Park costs $39 (valued at $85) and includes admission to 13 park museums, and a Zoo/Passport Combo pass costs $65, a $130 value. Beyond the park, the $89 San Diego Passport to Adventure includes an Old Town Trolley Tour, zoo admission, a harbor cruise, several museum admissions, two-for-one dining discounts, and more. The ever-popular Go Card and CityPass are available for San Diego as well.

Regenerating a Mammoth for $10 Million

November 20, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By NICHOLAS WADE

Scientists are discussing the possibility of resurrecting a living mammoth for as little as $10 million.  The same technology could be applied to species from which one can obtain hair, horn, hooves, fur or feathers, and which went extinct within the last 60,000 years, the effective age limit for DNA.  The stuffed animals in natural history museums may contain ancient DNA that can be decoded by the new generation of DNA sequencing machines.  If the genome of an extinct species can be reconstructed, biologists can work out the exact DNA differences with the genome of its nearest living relative. There are talks on how to modify the DNA in an elephant’s egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother, and mammoths might once again roam the Siberian steppes.  The same would be technically possible with Neanderthals, whose full genome is expected to be recovered shortly, but there would be several ethical issues in modifying modern human DNA to that of another human species.  A scientific team headed by Stephan C. Schuster and Webb Miller at Pennsylvania State University reports in Thursday’s issue of Nature that it has recovered a large fraction of the mammoth genome from clumps of mammoth hair. Mammoths became extinct in both their Siberian and North American homelands toward the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago.  Dr. Schuster and Dr. Miller said there was no technical obstacle to decoding the full mammoth genome, which they believe could be achieved for a further $2 million. They have already been able to calculate that the mammoth’s genes differ at some 400,000 sites on its genome from that of the African elephant.

Baby Jaguar at Palm Beach

November 20, 2008  www.palmbeachpost.com   By BILL DIPAOLO

WEST PALM BEACH — The baby female jaguar born October 28 at the Palm Beach Zoo now weighs 4.9-pounds.  Keith Lovett, the zoo's director of living collections, says she is a boost to the endangered species.  The cub's mother, Nabalam, has had two previous litters.  The first was a litter of two, and both cubs are now in other zoos. The second litter was also a litter of two. One is now in another zoo. The other, a female named Izel, remains at the Palm Beach Zoo.  Jaguars are especially tough to breed because the males and females can't be kept together all the time. "We have to clock the female's reproductive cycle. When it's right, we put the male and female together. It's not as easy as it seems," said Lovett.  Female jaguars usually have three or four kittens in a litter. This latest cub was larger than normal, weighing 1 1/2 pounds at birth. Lovett said, "She's making steady progress. She has a good mother who is very attentive." http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/content/local_news/slideshows/2008/11/1120baby_zoo/

Oregon Zoo's ZooLights

November 20, 2008  www.compoundsemi.com  

PORTLAND --  Oregon Zoo's  ZooLights 2008 features 654,819 LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, which use only a fraction of the energy of conventional bulbs. This year's ZooLights runs Nov. 29 through Dec.28.  The zoo has been using LEDs for its ZooLights displays since 2001, and continues to add more each year, replacing its conventional bulbs. LEDs use only about 1 percent of the power of standard (C7) holiday lights, and about 10 percent of the power in mini-lights. In the past, an animated display may have used standard C9 lights, which use a whopping 18,000 watts of energy.  The new C9 LEDs use only 144 watts of energy.  A preview of the light display is at  www.oregonzoo.org/Events/ZooLights/preview.htm   .  ZooLights is sponsored by The Boeing Company with additional support from Fox 12,  PDX TV, Clear Channel Radio Portland and United Rentals. Hours are 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.   ZooLights package tickets, which include admission and a train ride, are $10 for adults (12-64), $8.50 for seniors (65 and older), $7 for children (3-11), and free for children under 3.

Amphibian Symposium at ZSL London Zoo

November 20, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com   By Rebecca Smith

LONDON, UK - 2008 has been the Amphibian Ark Year of the Frog which, has sought to raise public awareness of amphibian extinctions. Sir David Attenborough is currently presiding over a  2-day international symposium entitled: “Halting Global Decline in Amphibians”.  It is believed that round 50 percent of European amphibians will be at risk of extinction by 2050, and the forecast for the rest of the world is just as bleak.  The symposium is being jointly led by ZSL, the World Conservation Society (WCS) and Amphibian Ark.  Amphibian Ark is a partnership between the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, and IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. The project aims to develop, promote, and guide short-term captive management of the most threatened amphibians, making possible the long-term survival of species for which adequate protection in the wild is not currently possible. 

ZSL’s scientific research arm, the Institute of Zoology, has been investigating amphibian diseases since the early 1990s. In particular, it has been involved in research into the emergence and spread of the ranavirus in the UK and chytrid in Europe, China and parts of Africa and the Americas. They also investigate amphibian population genetics and other amphibian disease in Europe and work with a variety of governmental and non-governmental organizations to further expertise and inform policy.  Ranavirus is a non-native disease, first discovered in the UK by ZSL in 1995, the origins of which are unknown. ZSL studies have shown the virus to be closely related to those found in North American amphibians. One possibility, yet to be fully investigated, is that the virus was introduced with imports of North American bullfrogs or freshwater fish. Amphibian chytrid is a non-native fungal disease that infects the skin of amphibians, a vital organ through which many drink and breathe. It was identified in 1998 by an international team of scientists led by ZSL.  It is believed to have originated in Africa, with the export of African clawed frogs around the world for human pregnancy testing and lab studies spreading the disease worldwide. Recently, the food and pet trades may have contributed to the problem as well.   The disease is thought to have been responsible for catastrophic declines in some Australian, North American, Central American, South American and Caribbean species. The situation in Europe is less clear through a lack of data, although some species have seriously declined in upland areas of Spain.  ZSL London Zoo is one of the first zoos in the UK to actively incorporate climate change into its education programs which includes an active Climate Change Group, a Climate Change Session for schools and an interactive Climate Change Exhibit; the only one of its kind in the UK

Singapore Zoo Opens Rainforest Kidzworld

November 20, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  

SINGAPORE - Singapore Zoo has officially launched its latest attraction, Rainforest Kidzworld, a three-hectare children's discovery area, revamped area takes the place of Animal Land and Play Land.  Highlights include a Kampung House with nooks and crannies to discover, a Creature Plants section which features plants with animal names, a petting corner, Rainforest Challenge (an obstacle course for young children), paddocks for the ponies and falabellas (a kind of miniature horse), a Birthday Pavilion, Wild Animal Carousel, pony and horse carriage rides and the central Water Play area. Daily keeper demonstrations and contact sessions are also held throughout the day where children are encouraged to get up close and personal with domestic animals such as dogs, goats, guinea pigs and rabbits. The education department has also collaborated with Ministry of Education’s Teachers Network to develop activity books for upper and lower primary students. New activity books will help young visitors learn more about animal conservation and nature in an interactive manner,” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO, Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Construction of Kidzworld took approximately 12 months to complete. Visitors to the park can expect a more interesting pony ride, traveling an undulating path or families can go for a leisurely trot on a horse carriage, which takes them along the periphery of Rainforest Kidzworld, and in view of the pristine Seletar Reservoir. Children can zoom from one point to another via the Cableway. Recently, Michelin Green Guide awarded Singapore Zoo a three-star rating, the highest recommendation for visitors to visit.

Socorro Doves Arrive at Albuquerque Zoo

November 20, 2008  www.koat.com  

ALBUQUERQUE -- The Albuquerque zoo received a group of endangered Socorro doves from Mexico on Thursday. The species is now extinct in the wild and an international endeavor that includes more than 25 institutions in 12 countries is working to return the rare dove to its ancestral home on Socorro Island in Mexico. Albuquerque is the only zoo in this country with the captive-bred doves. 

Common Cold Virus Came from Birds

November 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A virus that causes cold-like symptoms in humans originated in birds and may have crossed the species barrier around 200 years ago, according to an article published in the December issue of the Journal of General Virology. Scientists hope their findings will help us understand how potentially deadly viruses emerge in humans. Studies have shown that by the age of five, virtually all children have been exposed to "Human metapneumovirus” and re-infections appear to be common," said Professor Dr Fouchier. "We have identified sites on some virus proteins that we can monitor to help identify future dominant strains of the virus." Metapneumoviruses have high evolutionary rates, similar to those of other RNA viruses such as influenza, hepatitis C and SARS. By understanding the evolution and emergence of these viruses the scientists hope to develop ways of monitoring and predicting the emergence of new pathogenic viruses. 

California Wildfire Smoke Toxicity Study

November 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The health threat to city dwellers posed by Southern California wildfires like those of November 2008 may have been underestimated according to a new paper analyzing particulate matter (PM) from wildfires in Southern California.  The paper, entitled "Physicochemical and Toxicological Profile of Particulate Matter (PM) in Los Angeles during the October 2007 Southern California Wildfires," will appear in Environmental Science and Technology. Studies by air polllution specialist Constantinos Sioutas of the USC says "Fire emissions produce a significantly larger aerosol in size than typically seen in urban environments during periods affected by traffic sources, which emit mostly ultrafine particles.  Staying indoors may not provide protection from smoke particles in the absence of air conditioning or the ability to recirculate filtered indoor air. This is because the fire particles can penetrate indoor structures more readily than particles from vehicular emissions."  According to Sioutas, the ability of the particulates to penetrate structures, even if windows are closed, and their potential ability to be absorbed by human tissues are a matter of concern. "More aggressive measures to avoid smoke seem to deserve study, including distribution of masks and evacuation to air conditioned environments”.

New Species of Ebola Virus

November 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Scientists report the discovery of a new species of Ebola virus, provisionally named Bundibugyo ebolavirus, November 21 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens. The virus, which was responsible for a hemorrhagic fever outbreak in western Uganda in 2007, has been characterized by a team of researchers from the CDC in Atlanta, the Uganda Virus Research Institute; the Uganda Ministry of Health; and Columbia University.  Ebola virus infection in humans causes severe disease for which there is presently no vaccine or other treatment. Case fatalities range historically between 53 and 90%. The new virus is genetically distinct from all other known Ebola virus species, differing by more than 30% at the genetic level. More traditional ELISA-based assays detected the new virus; however, the unique nature of this virus created initial challenges for traditional Ebola virus molecular diagnostic assays and genome sequencing approaches. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000212

Baboon Society Study

November 20, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

According to a report in the November 20th issue of Current Biology, most baboons in a group will follow their leader to a dining spot of his choosing, even if it means a considerably more meager meal for themselves than they could have had otherwise.  The findings challenge theories predicting that "democratic" rather than "despotic" decisions will be widespread among social animals since they should result in the lowest costs to individuals in the group as a whole. Andrew King of the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London) said "Leadership in baboons appears to work for the very reason that leaders can provide considerable benefits to followers. Despite short-term costs—in this case, less food—followers may gain considerable long-term benefits, like reduced risk of being eaten by a leopard. In the study, wild baboons were supplied with experimental food patches. Those patches were arranged to create foraging benefits amongst group members that were highly skewed relative to the benefits of naturally occurring food resources. Thus, the patches offered consistent incentives for a minority of dominant individuals to lead, and they resulted in consensus costs for the majority of followers. The researchers found that the baboons who followed the leader most closely were the leader's closest "friends" —the individuals the leader spent most time grooming and being groomed by. The researchers therefore suggest that the benefits of following the leader relate to other advantages that come with strong social ties. For instance, for females with young infants, close association with leaders may increase infant survival, as males will protect the offspring from the risk of infanticide by other males, King said. Other followers may gain similar protection as the more formidable, dominant males chase off would-be predators.

California Fish Face Extinction

November 20, 2008   www.upi.com

DAVIS, Calif., -- Most of California's native salmon, steelhead and trout species face extinction this century without quick action to provide proper habitats, a new study has found.  Twenty of 31 species of prized fish are in sharp decline, including the Sacramento River winter run of Chinook salmon, coastal Coho salmon and the Sierra Nevada golden trout, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "Our fish need cold, clean water to survive, but they're getting less and less of it," said University of California, Davis, conservation biology professor Peter Moyle, the state's leading salmon expert.  "Dams block access. Climate change is now looming to exacerbate the threat, and it increases the urgency. All of these things are pushing our fish toward extinction," he said. "If we allow these fish to go extinct, we've allowed the deterioration of the streams and rivers," Moyle said, noting the same waterways also supply clean drinking water to people. One species, the bull trout, already has disappeared. The fish was last seen in the McCloud River, a Sacramento River tributary, in the 1970s, and scientists link its disappearance to the concrete Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River above Redding, Calif., and the McCloud Reservoir dam, the Chronicle reported. The California Trout fish advocacy group, which commissioned the study, said it would use the results to try to persuade legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to direct the state Department of Fish and Game to provide adequate freshwater and habitats.

Invasive Plant Species in the Galapagos

November 20, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By HENRY FOUNTAIN

For years, conservationists have been concerned about the impact of invasive plant species in the Galápagos Islands. Hundreds of species have been identified as nonnative, introduced through human contact. The idea was to remove these plants to help keep the archipelago ecologically pristine.  But there is one problem, according to a study in Science: some of these plants are native after all. They predate humans in the Galápagos by millennia.  The evidence for this is in the form of fossilized pollen grains found in sediment cores from bogs on Santa Cruz island in the heart of the archipelago. Jacqueline F. N. van Leeuwen of the University of Bern in Switzerland and colleagues identified pollen of six species that earlier studies had concluded were probably nonnative. Pollen was found in samples up to 8,200 years old; it is generally agreed that the first humans to reach the Galápagos were Europeans, in 1535.  Among the species revealed to be native are billy goat weed (Ageratum conyzoides) and swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus diversifolius). Swamp hibiscus appears to be spreading on Santa Cruz, which had been seen as evidence of its invasiveness, but instead it may just be reclaiming lost habitat. Similar paleoecological studies on other Pacific islands will help determine whether these species, and perhaps others, have wrongly been categorized elsewhere.

Aukland Zoo Elephants in Jeopardy

November 21, 2008  www.nzherald.co.nz   By Alanah May Eriksen

AUKLAND, New Zealand -- Kashin, aged 40 and Burma, aged 26, both females, could become the last elephants at the Aukland Zoo as a result of Auckland City Council budget cuts. Although only middle-aged by elephant standards, Kashin has arthritis and other illnesses and her keepers believe she will be lucky to live to 50. Aukland is actually hoping to develop a herd of two bulls, who would need a separate enclosure, and up to eight females as part of a succession plan for Kashin.  That means the zoo would need to acquire an extra 7000 sq m. from Western Springs reserve. The council has not set aside the requested $5 million cost in its 10-year budget, and is actually looking to cut spending by hundreds of millions of dollars during the next decade to hold rates to inflation. The Zoo has until March to report to the council on how it plans to develop an elephant herd in New Zealand.

Bird Population Estimates are Flawed

November 21, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Bird populations are the focus of thousands of environmental research and monitoring programs around the world. A group of researchers led by NC State's Dr. Theodore Simons has been evaluating factors that confound estimates of bird abundance. For example, background noise can influence the ability of observers to detect birds on population surveys, and can result in underestimates of true population size.  Simons and his team developed "Bird Radio:" a series of remotely controlled playback devices that can be used to accurately mimic a population of singing birds. Researchers can then control variables, such as background noise, to see whether it affects birdwatchers' ability to estimate bird populations.  The study found that even small amounts of background noise, from rustling leaves or automobile traffic, led to a 40 percent decrease in the ability of observers to detect singing birds. What's more, said Simons, "we also learned that misidentification rates increased with the number of individuals and species encountered by observers at a census point." In other words, the researchers found that traditional means of estimating the abundance and diversity of bird species are flawed due to complications such as background noise and the accuracy of the data observers collect on surveys of breeding birds. The research, "Sources of Measurement Error, Misclassification Error, and Bias in Auditory Avian Point Count Data," is published in the upcoming book "Modeling Demographic Processes in Marked Populations Series: Environmental and Ecological Statistics, Vol. 3" (Springer, 2009).

11,000 Alien Species Invade Europe

November 21, 2008  www.ufz.de

More than 11,000 alien species have been documented by DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventory for Europe), a three year research project funded by the EU and involving more than 100 European scientists.  It provides new knowledge on biological invasions in Europe. Biological invasions by alien species often result in a significant loss in the economic value, biological diversity and function of invaded ecosystems.  The majority of these 11,000 alien species are however, not harmful. About 15 percent of these alien species cause economic damages and 15 percent cause harm to biological diversity, that is the environment, habitats and native plants, animals and micro-organisms, according to findings in the newly released and freely accessible web portal at www.europe-aliens.org and the DAISIE "Handbook of alien species in Europe" that is launched this week.

Beavers Reintroduced in UK

November 21, 2008  www.physorg.com

Four families of beavers have arrived in Britain for a landmark reintroduction project. The wild beavers were captured in the Telemark region of Norway and brought to London, where they arrived Thursday and will spend six months in quarantine. The animals will then be released in Argyll, western Scotland, during the first half of next year. Experts say they hope the beavers will help create new habits for wetland wildlife in the area by building dams. "Beavers are native to Britain but were hunted to extinction over 400 years ago," said Simon Jones, project manager for the Scottish Beaver Trial, which is coordinating the animals' reintroduction.

New Dolphin Species Discovered in Australia

November 21, 2008  www.physorg.com 

Marine mammal experts have uncovered a new species of dolphin in Australian waters, challenging existing knowledge about bottlenose dolphin classifications. Dr Luciana Möller, of the Marine Mammal Research Group and the Molecular Ecology Lab at Macquarie University led a study which found that the coastal bottlenose dolphins from southern Australia should in fact be classified as a new species, rather than considered one of the recognized bottlenose dolphin species. There are currently two recognized species of bottlenose dolphins and both are found in Australian waters: the common bottlenose dolphin generally found in Australia's offshore waters, and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, found in coastal waters.  Dr Möller said that it is difficult to distinguish between some species of bottlenose dolphins using only external body features. The new coastal bottlenose dolphin will be the second dolphin species found only in Australia. Using DNA analysis, the researchers found that the new species was more closely related to the Fraser's dolphin, which is found mostly in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. The report appears this month in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

ZSSD Gets Conservation Awareness Donation

November 21, 2008   www.imperialvalleynews.com
SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Zoo received a $250,000 donation from the Sempra Energy Foundation to fund its conservation awareness efforts, it was announced Friday.   The funds will benefit the San Diego Zoo’s EnviroSchool program, which brings conservation programs into local schools; the 2009 Cans for Critters program, which encourages recycling throughout the community; and the Baja California Condor Education Effort, which works to raise awareness for this critically endangered species. Through this donation, the Sempra Energy Foundation is supporting a project that educates children while promoting the conservation of endangered species,” said Berit Durler, president of the Zoological Society of San Diego. “We appreciate their support and look forward to working with them on these projects in the future.”

Wildlife Rangers Return to Virunga

November 21, 2008  www.cnn.com 

More than 14 months after they fled the fighting between rebel and government troops, the rangers who monitor mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo have returned. Samantha Newport, communications director for the refuge, said that on Friday, 70 rangers had returned.  About 50 other rangers have also come back, and about 150 more will be returning after being away for a month or two. Around 400 rangers never left the nearly 8,000-square kilometer park, with its 250 sq km gorilla reserve. Around 200 of the world's 700 mountain gorillas live in this reserve. Nekunda's rebels still control much of the park and the preserve, but efforts have been made by combatants to protect the gorilla refuge and not interfere with the park rangers' duties. Virunga Park Director Emmanuel de Merode said, "It is a huge step that all sides have agreed that the protection of Virunga."   The rangers will be conducting a census of the gorillas soon.  There were 72 habituated and around 120 non-habituated gorillas in the reserve in August 2007, when the last census was conducted. That number is expected to change because of births and deaths. 

Bush Administration’s Plans for ESA

November 21, 2008  www.washingtonpost.com

The Bush administration is finalizing changes to the Endangered Species Act that would ensure that federal agencies would not have to take global warming into account when assessing risks to imperiled plants and animals.  The proposed rule changes, are under review by the Office of Management and Budget and are close to being published in the Federal Register. The main purpose of the new regulations, which were first unveiled in August, is to eliminate a long-standing provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires an independent scientific review by either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of any federal project that could affect a protected species. Under the administration's proposal, individual agencies could decide on their own whether a project would harm an imperiled species. The latest version of the rule goes further than the language Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne issued in August by explicitly excluding climate change from the factors that would trigger an interagency consultation. The move is significant because the administration has listed polar bears as a threatened species under the act on the grounds that their sea-ice habitat is shrinking, but Kempthorne has repeatedly argued that this move should not trigger a federal curb on greenhouse gas emissions linked to the melting of sea ice.

Columbus Zoo Wildlights

November 21, 2008 www.columbusdispatch.com
Cincinnati-area computer wizard Carson Williams has synchronized 15,500 lights to flash off and on to Jingle Bells, a Nutcracker medley and Christmas Eve in Sarajevo as part of the zoo's Wildlights festival. Retired zoo director Jerry Borin,  saw "Christmas Gone Wild" on the Internet and suggested adding a similar display at the zoo.  So program planning director Barbara Revard hired Williams to create a nine-minute show that runs every half-hour around the zoo's lake. "We tried to put a lot of lighted animals and a lot of animal things in it, as well as music with a lot of energy," Williams said in a telephone interview from Florida, where he was working on another Christmas show. "The lake looked good because it's dark in the center."  Williams' day job is with Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions. But he has worked as a holiday-light designer more and more since a video of the 25,000 Christmas lights at his Mason home landed on YouTube, in countless e-mail inboxes, on a beer commercial and on television news shows. This year, he has worked on five shows in locations stretching from Tampa to Toronto. Describing the Williams display is difficult, said Jeff Glorioso, the zoo's marketing director. It's a frenetic blast of color and light that makes dolphins appear to jump, swans sway and hippos lumber as music blares and strobes pulse.The show uses light-emitting diode bulbs. The zoo is replacing its Wildlights incandescent bulbs with energy-saving LEDs over two years, with American Electric Power paying the $365,000 cost. This year, half have been switched out. Once the show is all LED, the zoo expects to save $16,000 a year in electricity costs.

Cryopreservation for Amphibians Proposed

November 21, 2008  www.newscientist.com   By Catherine Brahic

Captive breeding of amphibians can help vulnerable species survive looming extinctions, but getting them to mate is not always easy.  One proposal resembles the doomsday seed vault which opened this year in Norway.  Since June, 2008, the Amphibian Ark project has been doing the groundwork to set up regional amphibian "biobanks".to store amphibian sperm. Expense is another reason for freezing frog sperm. Maintaining breeding populations of every rare species is far more costly than storing cells. But to create these sperm banks, researchers surgically remove a frog's testes,  sacrificing the male - not a desirable outcome in a rare species.  And sperm alone is not sufficient - eggs are needed, but they tend to be too fragile to freeze.  So researchers in Germany are trying to solve the problem by creating viable frog offspring from two male sperm.  Nabil Mansour of Salzburg University is working with a technique called androgenesis. This involves exposing a frog egg with ultraviolet radiation to destroy its genetic material, then fertilizing the enucleated egg with two sperm which, when heat-shocked, combine to form a single genome. A variant of this method is carried out commercially in some fish species, including sturgeon. Various proposals to stem amphibian extinctions were announced at the “Halting the Global Decline in Amphibians” symposium, in London, UK.  "For now, I am working with lab amphibians," says Mansour. "I am able to collect semen without hurting the males, freeze it, and use it to fertilise eggs."  Mansour has also started to perform androgenesis and has obtained tadpoles in this way, but has not yet done the genetic tests to confirm that the tadpoles really are the result of the androgenesis.  "Efforts to cryopreserve various amphibian tissues and gametes are getting underway. But to date, they might be mostly characterised as research rather than creation of a frozen bank," says Robert Lacy, a conservation biologist with the Chicago Zoological Society and chair of the World Conservation Union's conservation breeding specialist group.

Obama Stance on Endangered Species

November 22, 2008  www.chron.com

President-elect Barack Obama has offered few clues as to where he stands on the most pressing public lands and endangered species issues, but environmental groups are optimistic.  Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who as chairman of the House Appropriations interior subcommittee oversees nearly $28 billion in annual funding for the Interior Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, said "We will be able to work with him. Anything will be better than Bush."  When it comes to the environment, Obama has focused his attention almost exclusively on global warming and clean energy. He received an 86 out of a possible 100 in the environmental scorecard for members of Congress published by the League of Conservation Voters. He was also a co-sponsor of a bill that would have protected about 58 million acres of federal lands. Bill Arthur, a deputy national field director for the Sierra Club based in Seattle, said there have been encouraging signs from members of the transition team who have indicated an Obama administration would reverse Bush administration initiatives and bar mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia and block oil and gas leasing in southern Utah's Red Rock area.  Another Bush initiative that almost certainly will face scrutiny is a rule that would allow individual federal agencies to decide whether their actions violated the Endangered Species Act, rather than consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the act.  The new administration also faces more fundamental issues.  The budgets of such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service have been sharply trimmed in recent years. The Forest Service budget has been sliced by a third, while at the same time more than half its budget is now spent in the fight against catastrophic wildfires.  Environmentalists hope the new administration will reverse eight years of setback. 

Calgary Zoo Will Add Four Gorillas

November 23, 2008 www.canada.com/calgaryherald   By Richard Cuthbertson

The Calgary Zoo is waiting for the USFWS and Environment Canada, to issue import permits.  They plan to double their number of gorillas by importing two 6-year-old males and two 7-year-old females from the Bronx Zoo.  The troop will be headed by the Calgary Zoo's silverback, Kakinga, according to Cathy Gaviller, Calgary's director of conservation, research and education.  Calgary's gorilla program has suffered in recent years, with four gorillas dying since August 2006. In each of the cases, a veterinary advisory team from the AZA investigated the circumstances, said Kristen Lukas, chairwoman of the gorilla species survival plan.  None of the deaths could have been prevented.  The gorilla species survival plan regulates breeding and transfers for the roughly 370 captive gorillas in North America.  The group meets every 18 months to two years and looks at the population, genetics and requests from zoos. The body then makes its recommendations. In 2007, there were only 17 breeding recommendations, with the goal of producing 10 offspring. 23 transfers were recommended. Breeding has been curtailed in recent years until housing for males can be sorted out.

Managing Older Gorillas at Zoo Atlanta

November 23, 2008  www.ajc.com  By BO EMERSON

With 22 gorillas, Zoo Atlanta has one of the largest gorilla collections in North America, The zoo’s Dr. Tara Stoinski, head of the national advisory group that looks after gorillas, said the zoo has the country’s largest number of males integrated in social settings, including two all-male groups of three each.  But a more significant challenge is caring for Atlanta’s geriatric gorilla population, which includes patriarch Ozzie, 47; Ivan, 46; Choomba, 47; and Shamba, 49. All are pushing 90 in gorilla years. Here are some examples of their difficulties:   Joint pain: Most gorillas develop arthritis. All Zoo Atlanta’s senior citizens are on anti-inflammatory treatments, including Celebrex and glucosamine. Youngsters can be a pain:  Ozzie finally ran out Willie B. Jr. after living with him for several years.  Nutrition: Appetites wane, so keepers parboil and mash up some food, and they also provide an occasional can of Ensure. “They like the drinks,” said Charles Horton, curator of primates.  Temperature: Older gorillas don’t tolerate cool weather as well, so the elders don’t go out unless it’s at least 50 degrees and sunny. All get flu shots. Mobility: Old apes don’t like big steps. Steep climbs caused Willie B. some pain in his final months. Horton admires the ramps at Gorilla Haven and said Atlanta plans to incorporate ramps in its next structure.

Georgia’s “Gorilla Haven”  for Misfits

November 23, 2008  www.ajc.com  By Bo Emerson

MORGANTOWN —-Jane Dewar, is co-owner of a retreat in North Georgia.  She and her husband, Steuart Dewar, have committed their lives and their considerable fortune to creating refuge for problem gorillas, who don’t have a ready place among the zoos of North America.
Called Gorilla Haven, it occupies a pristine, secluded, 324-acre area in the mountains of Fannin County.  It is the only privately owned gorilla sanctuary that meets the stringent requirements of the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums, including redundant safety precautions, state-of-the-art veterinary facilities and expert staff. Not open to the public, the facility’s computer-controlled gates and doors and the 10,000-volt electrified fences give Gorilla Haven the air of a primate Jurassic Park.  But the Dewars have taken major precautions to preclude any Jurassic Park-style escapes, starting with the 15-foot concrete wall that surrounds the gorillas’ outdoor habitat. “This is way over-engineered,” Steuart Dewar said of the wall, “It increased the cost by about 10 percent, but it will take an F-5 tornado.”

Beardsley Zoo is Re-Accredited

November 23, 2008  www.acorn-online.com

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo will receive its new accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) on Tuesday at the zoo. The accreditation will last through September 2013. The AZA Accreditation Commission works to establish, uphold and raise the highest zoological and aquarium industry standards through self-evaluation, on-site inspection and peer review. Less than 220 institutions have earned AZA accreditation. Most are in the United States. The only other AZA-recognized facility in Connecticut is the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration.

New Children's Book on Zoos and Conservation

November 23, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  By Jim Perry
“Homes That They Share” is a new children's book, available December, 2008. The book is a collaborative effort among three authors. Two visited a dozen zoos in North America and at each, chose a particular exhibit to highlight. The third author created water color illustrations. The book presents conservation issues important to the zoo community and showcases a wide variety of families enjoying their visit to the zoo. Each copy of the book features places to glue pressed pennies, popular souvenirs from a day at the zoo.  Zoos that were visited include the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Minnesota; Chapultepec Zoo, Mexico City; Henry Vilas Zoo, Wisconsin; Lincoln Park Zoo, Illinois; Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C.; and the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri. Other National Landmarks include the nation’s first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, Pennsylvania; and the home of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo, New York. The book also features exhibits from the Minnesota Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Reid Park Zoo, and the Detroit Zoo.

Conserving Important African Bird Habitat

November 24, 2008  www.birdlife.org

The IBA (Important Bird Areas) Programme identifies sites where biodiversity value outweighs the threats of ecologically damaging activities. “IBAs ensure that conservation efforts are targeted at the right places”, said Dr Leon Bennun BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information.  In 2001 BirdLife published a directory of IBAs in Africa and its associated Islands. Since that time, BirdLife Partners in Africa have embarked on a process of advocacy, action and monitoring to protect these sites in perpetuity. A new book, entitled ‘A Toolkit for Important Bird Area Conservation in Africa’ presents the results of lessons learned towards the sustainable conservation of these key sites.  All stages of the IBA Programme are covered, from identification and monitoring, to undertaking conservation action through to training and development. “The toolkit is published in both English and French.

Howletts & Ragunan Zoo Exchange Primates

November 24, 2008  www.thejakartapost.com  By  Mariani Dewi
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Three male gorillas at Ragunan Zoo, Kumbo, Kihi and Komum, will be getting a companion.  "We concluded it was time for them to mate because they have grown into young adults. They are still virgins," said zoo spokesman Bambang Wahyud.  Howletts Wild Animal Park in the United Kingdom, where the three boys came from, has agreed to send a female in exchange for 12 Indonesian primates. Ten have already been sent, with the other two to be flown over once the female gorilla arrives in town.  The zoo is now preparing a cage for the female who should be around seven to eight years old, the age of maturity for a female gorilla.  The deal between the two zoos was not without strict requirements. Ragunan Zoo must convince the British that it is capable of taking care of the gorilla and her future babies.  "They want the zoo to have at least one keeper with five years' experience. But our keepers have only up to three years' experience. To solve the problem, we sent three officers to the UK for three months of training," he said.  A veterinarian, a senior keeper and a database administrator flew to the United Kingdom in October. They are also there to bond with the gorilla to help make her transition to Ragunan easier.

Dolphin Speed Analysis

November 24, 2008  news.rpi.edu

After studying dolphins in 1936, British zoologist James Gray theorized that they were not capable of producing enough thrust, or power-induced acceleration, to overcome the drag created as the mammal sped forward through the water at 20 mph. Gray theorized that dolphin skin must have special drag-reducing properties.  But now, Timothy Wei, and colleagues from Rensselaer’s School of Engineering, have developed a tool that conclusively measures the force a dolphin generates with its tail. The results show that dolphins produce on average about 200 pounds of force when flapping their tail  (about 10 times more force than Gray hypothesized.)  At peak performance, dolphins produced between 300 and 400 pounds of force. Human Olympic swimmers, by comparison, peak at about 60 to 70 pounds of force  Wei said the research team will likely continue to investigate the flow dynamics and force generation of other marine animals, which could yield new insight into how different species have evolved as a result of their swimming proficiency.  “Maybe sea otters,” he said.

Jaguar Dentistry at Phoenix Zoo

November 24, 2008  www.azcentral.com .  by Kate Nolan

PHOENIX, AZ -- Mexican authorities confiscated a 3-4 year old jaguar in January 2007 and placed him in a 400-acre zoo in Hermosillo. He had broken off all four of his canine teeth trying to gnaw his way out of a metal cage. "The tooth damage resulted in infection that could kill the animal. He experienced a lot of pain and needed the best medical care. That was not possible in Mexico," said Dr. Benjamin Alcantar of the Centro Ecologico De Sonora, the state run zoo in Hermosillo.  Phoenix zoologists heard about the problem and called Dr. Chris Visser of Scottsdale, Arizona, one of the leading experts in the country on the dental care of exotic animals. Visser often donates his services to the zoo through his Aid Animal Dental Clinic in Scottsdale.  For the cat's complicated work - four root canals and three extractions - Visser assembled anesthesiologist Victoria Lukasik and his son, Louis Visser, a dentist for humans who has trained in veterinary dentistry. Assisting were Dr. Brian de Guzman, a cardiovascular surgeon from St. Joseph's Medical Center. The zoo's chief veterinarian, Dean Rice, and Alcantar were also involved.

But the appointment had to wait a year until the paperwork between the US and Mexico was approved. The Arizona Game and Fish Department, which partners with Sonora on a jaguar conservation project, accepted responsibility for the cat and its one-year residence at the Phoenix Zoo. The U.S. has listed jaguars as endangered since 1997. Four have been spotted in the state near the border, although Phoenix was once part their range.  The cat's procedure began at 7:28 a.m. Friday, when he was darted with an anesthetic as he dozed in the quarantine cage he is mandated to occupy for his first 30 days in the U.S.  Doped up, he was weighed, tipping the scales at 132 pounds, larger than the average weight range of 80 to 100 pounds for jaguars in northern Sonora.  The jaguar would stay under for the next six hours, monitored by Lukasik, one of the few board-certified animal anesthesiologists in the country.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography Dolphin Study

November 24, 2008  scrippsnews.ucsd.edu

Populations of dolphins in the Eastern Pacific were expected to increase after regulations were enacted to reduce dolphin deaths as a result of fishing "bycatch,"  But the new study, published in the October issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series, reveals that negative impacts from fishing activities remain. Instead of reducing numbers through direct mortalities, the study by Katie Cramer of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Wayne Perryman and Tim Gerrodette of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Southwest Fisheries Science Center shows that fishing activities have disrupted the reproductive output of the northeastern pantropical spotted dolphin. The researchers note that reproductive output of the eastern spinner dolphin also declined, but a direct link to fishing effort was inconclusive.  The new conclusions are based on broad surveys conducted by NOAA Fisheries Service between 1987 and 2003 designed to assess the size and health of dolphin populations in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The surveys included military reconnaissance camera images of more than 20,000 animals.

"The results of this study clearly show that depleted dolphin populations have failed to recover in part due to a decline in reproductive output, and that fishing has had an effect on reproduction," said Cramer, a graduate student researcher in the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. "This shows that the fisheries indeed are still having an impact." Cramer, who participated in helicopter surveys between 1998 and 2003, and her colleagues used the image database to analyze entire dolphin schools, focusing in particular on mother-calf pairs. The scientists compared the data with the number of fishing events in which a dolphin school is chased by speedboats and encircled in a large "purse-seine" net in order to capture the large yellowfin tuna that often swim with dolphin schools. While such fishing led to high dolphin mortalities after purse-seine fishing was launched in the eastern tropical Pacific in the 1950s, bycatch deaths declined by the end of the 1990s due to new fishing techniques that ensured that dolphins are eventually released from the nets alive.

Using the aerial photographic database, Cramer and her colleagues found a strong link between the amount of fishing and reproductive output in a given year for the dolphin population most heavily targeted by the fishery, the northeastern pantropical spotted dolphin. Both the proportion of adult animals in the photographs with a calf, and the length at which calves disassociated from their mothers (a measure of the length at which the calves stop nursing), declined with increasing fishing effort. Together, the results showed that fishing had a negative impact on calf survival rates and/or birth rates. This could be caused when fishing operations separate mothers from their suckling calves, interfere with the conception or gestation of calves or a combination of the two. "The link between fishing activity and ... reproductive output indicates that the fishery has population-level effects beyond reported direct kill," the authors write in their report. What remains unknown is the exact mechanism leading to reduced reproductive output. This question is currently being investigated by researchers at NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla.

Escherichia coli Bacteria Endangers Mountain Gorillas

November 24, 2008   www.physorg.com

A new study appearing in the journal Conservation Biology finds that mountain gorillas are at increased risk of acquiring gastrointestinal microbes, such as Escherichia Coli, from humans. The study examines the exchange of digestive system bacteria between humans, mountain gorillas and domestic animals with overlapping habitats.  The findings show the presence of identical, clinically-resistant bacteria, in gorillas, which implies that antibiotic resistant bacteria or resistance-conferring genetic elements are transferring from humans to gorillas. Gorilla populations that are the subject of research and tourism are particularly vulnerable.  In rural Uganda, for example, antibiotics are easily obtained over-the-counter and may not always be used appropriately as evidenced by high rates of antibiotic resistance in bacteria from people in rural Uganda.  Antibiotic resistance is an emerging problem in humans, and the presence of resistant bacteria in gorillas suggests that targeted interventions are needed to ensure natural disease resistance and overall health among native gorilla populations.

Oakland Zoo Brings Back Zoolights

November 24, 2008  www.insidebayarea.com

OAKLAND, CA -- After a four-year hiatus, ZooLights, which features more than 100 lighted animal structures that mirror the real zoo residents, returns to the Oakland Zoo next month. Hundreds of thousands of energy-efficient lights are used to light up the zoo structures. Visitors can also take in a light show set to music in the zoo's meadow or take a ride on the Snowball Express, a miniature steam-engine train. The event runs Dec. 5 to Jan. 4. Hours are Friday through Sunday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Although children will be able to see giant toy soldiers with oversized candy canes, lollipops and gingerbread cookies in the Oakland Zoo's rides area, it is not a chance to see the zoo animals up close. They will be in their night houses during the ZooLights tours.  Tickets are $7.50 for adults and $5.50 for children. Members of the zoo receive a discount. Parking is free.

Expansion of Marghazar Zoo

November 25, 2008  thepost.com.pk

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Despite financial crisis facing the Capital Development Authority (CDA), development work for the expansion of Marghazar Zoo has been started and the civic body will release Rs. 200 million in the current year.  Director Raja Javed said that the cutting of trees and construction of enclosures for different animals has begun.  The three years expansion project will cost of over Rs. 1400 million, and the zoo would be extended ~80 acre. A hospital will be constructed to serve all the medical needs of the zoo animals as well as the pets of local residents.  A restaurant is also planned for visitors and a Task Force has been formed to keep the entire zoo clean.  The zoo will maintain the Asian Elephant, lion, tiger and some 150 new species of animals and birds. 3,000 people visit the zoo each Friday and Saturday while up to 8000 have attended on Sunday.

Woodland Park Keepers Raise Funds for AAZK Conference

November 25, 2008   blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com

Woodland Park Zoo is offering one-on-one four-hour tours to raise money for an upcoming zookeepers conference.  For a $500 donation, the zoo will give you a behind-the-scenes tour through its “Follow the Keeper” program, including close encounters with zoo residents and a  gourmet, catered lunch with a staff member.  Visitors can choose from among seven different tour paths:  the "Northern Trail" the "Night Exhibit"  the "Tropical Rain Forest" and "African Savanna." More information on the zoo's Web site.  Tours begin Dec. 14.  All proceeds will help fund the American Association of Zoo Keepers and International Congress of Zookeepers (AAZK/ICZ) conference being hosted by Woodland Park Zoo and the Puget Sound Chapter of AAZK in September 2009.  In a February fundraiser, the zoo auctioned off paintings created by Towan, one of the zoo's four orangutans. http://www.zoo.org/orang_paint/

Koala Communication Study on St Bees

November 25, 2008  www.enn.com  By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, Australia – Researchers have tagged koalas on St Bees Island off northeast Australia with satellite tracking devices to monitor movements and placed mobile telephones in the trees.  The phones are programmed to turn on every 30 minutes and record for two minutes.  The mobiles, charged by solar power and car batteries, record the koala bellows, then download the recordings to a computer at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. "Koala bellows can go from really quite short, sharp, and quite agitated sounding bellows to long, slow, deep bellows that can last for over a minute," said researcher Bill Ellis. [supported by CRES]  "Interestingly most of the bellowing seems to occur around midnight, not around dawn or dusk when we thought it might've occurred," he said on Tuesday.  Ellis said he was studying whether male koalas communicate by bellowing to each other to mark out territory and whether bellowing was used to attract females during breeding season.  "Over the breeding season males are quiet active at the start but their movements die down and females have a spike in movement somewhere in the breeding season.  After a male and female encounter, and we can't see what they are doing, the female lets out a high-pitched scream and immediately after the male emits a loud bellow," he said.  Ellis said results from his study could help manage koala populations by informing wildlife officials when is the best time to introduce new animals to a population and when is best time to allow changes to koala habitats such as urban development.

List the Northern Mexican Gartersnake

November 25, 2008  www.epa.gov   

On the basis of the best scientific and commercial information available, the USFWS finds compelling evidence to list the northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops) as threatened or endangered throughout its range in the United States and Mexico.  The species is threatened by habitat curtailment,  predation; and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Currently, listing is precluded by higher priority actions to amend the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Upon publication of this 12-month petition finding, the northern Mexican gartersnake will be added to our candidate species list. We will develop a proposed rule to list the northern Mexican gartersnake as our priorities allow. Any determination on critical habitat will be made during development of the proposed rule. This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov   Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding to : U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021-4951.  For more information contact: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Office, telephone 602-242-0210.

Conservation History of the Socorro Dove

November 25, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  By Phillip Knowling

PAIGNTON, UK -- Government departments and conservation bodies in twelve countries have been working to bring the Socorro dove back from the edge of extinction for 20 years. Seven birds from Paignton Zoo and five from Edinburgh Zoo (6 males and 6 females) were identified by the EEP (European Endangered species Programme) as the best candidates to form a satellite population outside of Europe and free up space in European collections to allow for continued breeding. Paignton Zoo carried out vet checks on its seven birds before sending them north to Edinburgh Zoo, where the whole group was put into isolation and again screened by vets. Meanwhile, UK export documents and US import documents had to be obtained.  The birds were then flown to Los Angeles, and transported to the USDA’s quarantine station in San Diego where they were isolated for the required 30 days. They have now been sent to the Albuquerque Zoo. in New Mexico. Their offspring could be the first Socorro doves to be seen on their ancestral home - an island 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Mexico - in 40 years.  It is hoped the return of the dove will mark a turn in the island's ecological fortunes. Several other species are endangered, including the Socorro mockingbird, which number fewer than 400, the Socorro parakeet and Townsend's shearwater. The Mexican Navy and local conservationists have built a breeding station on Socorro Island which covers about 51 square miles.   

The Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni) was endemic to Socorro Island. The uninhabited island was discovered in the 16th century by Spanish explorers, but the dove was first described by a 19th-century American naturalist, Andrew Jackson Grayson. The bird was once common across the island, but fell victim to sheep grazing and human disturbance. In 1957 the Mexican navy set up a base on the island. The last sighting of this pink-necked dove on the island was in 1972; it was declared extinct in the wild in the early 1980s.  The species was saved from extinction mainly by collections in the UK and Germany, and the efforts of the late Dr. Luis Baptista, founder of the Island Endemics Foundation. His former student Juan E. Martinez Gomez is running the Mexican branch of IE, Endemicos Insulares.   The successful international captive breeding programme was organized by the European Endangered species Programme coordinator Stefan Stadler, based at Frankfurt Zoo. Paignton Zoo has been keeping Socorro doves since 2002. The first chicks hatched in 2003. There are thought to be no more than 100 purebred Socorro doves in existence, all of them until now in collections in Europe. Paignton Zoo Curator of Birds Jo Gregson and Edinburgh Zoo’s Head Bird Keeper Colin Oulton say the project demonstrates how the zoo world and conservation community can work closely with each other to bring species back from the brink of extinction. “We are thrilled that decades of caring for this species are soon going to result in its return to the wild,” said Stefan Stadler, EEP Co-coordinator from Frankfurt Zoo.

Sacramento Zoo Adds 2 California Bird Species

November 25, 2008  www.sacbee.com

The Sacramento Zoo recently opened two bird aviaries featuring burrowing owls and yellow-billed magpies. The aviaries are in the Zoo's Backyard, an interactive area including a garden, nature trail, children's play area and interpretive alcoves.  Burrowing owls, one of the few owl species active during the day, are small birds with long legs that live in burrows as a colony and can be found throughout the state at the edges of farm and grasslands, the release states. The population is considered at-risk in the state because of "shrinking open habitat and destruction of their burrows and hunting areas," the release states. Yellow-billed magpies are only found in central California and are colorful, noisy birds belonging to the crow family. Bird enthusiasts from around the world often travel to the central part of the state to add the birds to their "life list," the name birders use for the record of birds they have seen. The magpies' isolation, however, means they are vulnerable to pressure from human encroachment, habitat loss and West Nile Virus.

Memphis Zoo Gets Third Elephant

November 26, 2008  www.commercialappeal.com   By Jody Callahan

Gina, a 25-year-old African female elephant, has been given to the Memphis Zoo.  Gina came from a Tampa owner who displayed animals at various events, and was retiring.  Zoo curator Matt Thompson said "We feel honored that he thought the Memphis Zoo would be a good home for  Gina."  She becomes the Zoo's third African elephant, joining Asali and Tyranza, 44.   Next summer, a fourth elephant will join the group when 23-year-old Asali delivers a new baby.  Zoo officials are renovating the elephant exhibit, with additional indoor enclosures as well as an expansion of the outdoor area by more than 40 percent. The last such renovation in 2005 added a 130,000-gallon pool.

San Diego Zoo Scientist Studies Arctic Polar Bears

November 26, 2008  www.cbs8.com  

San Diego Zoo Senior Animal Keeper Joanne Simerson spoke to CBS news from Hudson Bay, Churchill Manitoba, where she is monitoring polar bears.  "It's pretty intense to be able to stare eye to eye at a wild polar bear," Simerson said.  "The greatest threat right now to polar bears is global warming. Polar bears rely on sea ice and as the sea ice declines, that means that the polar bears will also decline. Scientists say if current warming trends continue in the arctic, two- thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear by 2050.  "The polar bear relies entirely on it's main food source of the ring seal. The ring seal uses the sea ice to birth to rest, to live on. So as  that ice reduces, so does the amount of food the polar bear can get. Most importantly, the access that the bear has - they do not swim in the water for seals, it's leaning on the ice and using it as their hunting platform," Simerson said.  She and her team are studying how polar bears react to their environment.  "Some of the research projects that we're doing have to do more with finding out more about polar bears in particular. We are now recording what you call sound harvesting here out in the tundra. We have microphones set up and any type of communication that we can record between the bears we're doing so that we learn a little bit more about the communication and how the industry moving into the arctic might impact them.

Tampa zoo president in trouble for dredging, other issues at park

November 26, 2008  www.tampabay.com   By Alexandra Zayas

TAMPA — Lowry Park Zoo president Lex Salisbury is in trouble again, this time for regulatory violations at his for-profit exotic animal park, Safari Wild.  Officials with the Southwest Florida Water Management District say Salisbury never applied for the environmental permits needed to build on his 258-acre Polk County site, which includes wetlands.  In fact, water managers say, he continued to dredge even after they told him not to.  He and his business partner, St. Petersburg veterinarian Stephen Wehrmann, could soon face tens of thousands of dollars in fines for 13 unauthorized land alterations on the site, located near the Green Swamp.  The alterations include dredging wetlands, filling over natural vegetation and replacing pipes that could have an impact on neighbors.  Before April, few people were aware of Salisbury's side project. Then 15 patas monkeys escaped from the island he built.  The incident generated media attention and other problems surfaced. The zoo had paid to build animal-holding structures on its president's private land, and had sent animals there.  The private dealings that emerged began long before the conception of Safari Wild. Throughout his two-decade career at Lowry, Salisbury has been buying, trading, loaning and receiving animals from the taxpayer-funded zoo.  The total: 201 animals.  Salisbury is now on a paid leave of absence while the city — which owns the zoo's land — audits his transactions for conflicts of interest.

Climate Change Wiped Out Cave Bears

November 26, 2008  www.enn.com 

Enormous cave bears, Ursus spelaeus, that once inhabited a large swathe of Europe, from Spain to the Urals, but died out 27,800 years ago, around 13 millennia earlier than was previously believed, scientists have reported.  The new date coincides with a period of significant climate change, known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when a marked cooling in temperature resulted in the reduction or loss of vegetation forming the main component of the cave bears' diet. In a study published in Boreas, researchers suggest it was this deterioration in food supply that led to the extinction of the cave bear, one of a group of 'megafauna' — including woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, giant deer and cave lion — to disappear during the last Ice Age.  They found no convincing evidence of human involvement in the disappearance of these bears. The team used both new data and existing records of radiocarbon dating on cave bear remains to construct their chronology for cave bear extinction.  Dr Martina Pacher of the Department of Palaeontology at the University of Vienna carried out the research with Professor Anthony J. Stuart of the Natural History Museum, London, and the University of Durham.

The brown bear, with which Ursus spelaeus shares a common ancestor, was spread throughout Europe and much of northern Asia and has survived to the present day."A fundamental question to be answered by future research is: why did the brown bear survive to the present day, while the cave bear did not?" said Professor Stuart. Answers to this question may involve different dietary preferences, hibernation strategies, geographical ranges, habitat preferences and perhaps predation by humans. Cave bears were heavily built animals, with males growing up to around 1000kg. The maximum recorded weight of both Kodiak bears and polar bears — the largest bears living today — is 800kg, with averages of around 500kg.

How the Turtle Got its Shell

November 26, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Since the age of dinosaurs, turtles have looked pretty much as they do now with their shells intact, and scientists lacked conclusive evidence to support competing evolutionary theories. Now with the discovery in China of the oldest known turtle fossil, estimated at 220- million-years-old, scientists have a clearer picture of how the turtle got its shell.  Working with colleagues in China and Canada, Olivier Rieppel, PhD, chairman of The Field Museum's department of geology, has analyzed the Chinese turtle fossil, finding evidence to support the notion that turtle shells are bony extensions of their backbones and ribs that expanded and grew together to form a hard protective covering.  The fossilized turtle ancestor, named Odontochelys semitestacea likely lived in the water rather than on land.  The research will appear in the journal Nature.

Land Iguanas Threatened in Galapagos

November 26, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

The Galápagos Islands are home to unique populations of reptiles. But since man's first visit in the 16th century, the islands' native plants and animals have faced grave challenges, including severe pressures from introduced species, habitat destruction and predation by man himself. In the 20th century, conservation efforts began, but according to new research published this week in the scientific journal Molecular Ecology considerably more must be done to insure the long-term survival of land-dwelling iguanas on the archipelago. An article entitled "Galapagos Land Iguanas Remnant Populations," by an international coalition of scientists, led by Michel Milinkovitch, from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, details the 10-year effort to assess the population genetics of land iguanas on the six islands where the reptiles occur today. Galápagos land iguanas diverged from the famous Galápagos marine iguanas 10 to 20 million years ago, and there are currently two recognized species of terrestrial iguanas; Conolophus subcristatus and C. pallidus.

Australian – German Team Perfects Elephant AI  

November 26, 2008 www.theage.com.au

Thanks to advances in sperm freezing techniques and what Robert Hermes from Germany's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research calls a "semen extender recipe", elephant sperm can now survive being plunged into minus 50 degree temperatures.  Hermes says the new formula protects the cell membrane, preventing damage during freezing and thawing. The frozen sperm samples can then be made available to overseas zoos with breeding programs.  Bong Su, the Melbourne Zoo’s 34-year-old bull is an important participant in acquiring elephant sperm.  He is just the second bull in the world to participate in the project, and happens to be one of the world’s most fertile Asian elephants.  Boasting an average sperm count of one to 1.5 billion per millilitre — compared with regular elephant fertility of 800 to 900 million per millilitre — he is among just a handful of breeding males in captivity worldwide. Melbourne Zoo curator Jan Steele said in some samples, more than 90 per cent of Bong Su's sperm was alive. "Even his thawed sperm count is more than 70 per cent, which is high," she said. He also has an accommodating nature

Getting a sperm donation from a five-ton elephant is a four-person job.  Yesterday morning Bong Su was guided into a pen by his keepers. One keeper was positioned at his head, a second at his tail while a third was on stand-by with a long-handled tool to catch the deposit in a vial at the base of a plastic-lined container. A fourth keeper, wearing a generous layer of green plastic, was blessed with the task of getting elbow-deep up the animal's rear to empty out the bowel before using warm water to rinse the interior of the bowel clean. Only then does the prostate massage begin. Dr Hermes said it was vital that the sample was not contaminated by anything else — a drop of water or urine is enough to spoil all the hard work.  Once collected, the sample was walked over to the zoo's laboratory for inspection under the microscope, while Bong Su was rewarded with hunks of butternut pumpkin and mounds of hay.  After a bit of a breather he returned to his pen and was hosed down before being treated to a watery picnic of cut watermelon and whole apples scattered in the pool.  Melbourne Zoo plans to artificially inseminate eight-year-old resident female, Kulab, with Bong Su's sperm this weekend. It will take around 10 weeks before zoo staff  know via a blood test if she is pregnant.  No baby elephant has ever been born in Australia — but two elephants are currently pregnant at Taronga Zoo in Sydney and one, Dokkoon, at Melbourne Zoo, is due in December next year or January 2010.

Rare Vietnamese Turtle is Saved

November 27, 2008   news.google.com   By BEN STOCKING

SON TAY, Vietnam — Douglas Hendrie is director of the Asian Turtle Program at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  He also works with the conservation group, Education for Nature Vietnam. The group had been trying to find a rare turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) after floods washed it out of Dong Mo Lake near Hanoi.  Only three other members of species are known to exist — two are in Chinese zoos and another lives in Ho Hoan Kiem, a lake in downtown Hanoi.  A fisherman found the turtle early Wednesday and demanded $1,400 in exchange for its release, arguing that a Hanoi restaurant owner had offered him 30 million Vietnamese dong ($4,800) for the animal.  He finally agreed to accept about $200 cash and new nets to replace the ones he ruined capturing the turtle.  The turtle was released back into the lake on November 26th.

Two Hyacinth Macaws Sent to Calgary Zoo

November 29, 2008 www.canada.com

Two 3-year-old Hyacinth macaws named Buddy and Chipper have been sent to the Calgary Zoo from the Calgary Humane Society. The rare birds were surrendered to the society when Calgary police seized them in an unrelated raid on a residence.  Hyacinth macaws are the largest parrots in the world. Native to central and eastern South America, they're increasingly endangered due to habitat loss and the pet trade. Jones said the birds' value ranges from $8,000 to $20,000 each. Dr. Doug Whiteside, a zoo veterinarians, said the birds were born in captivity -- one in Ontario, the other in Newfoundland -- according to metal bands on their legs.

Okapi from San Diego Moves to Denver Zoo

November 29, 2008  www.9news.com  By Dennis Dolan

KUSA - Imba, an okapi who will be two years old in January, came from the San Diego Wild Animal Park in October to become part of a new breeding pair for the Denver zoo. He is just finishing his 30-day quarantine, and he'll join the other okapi on exhibit in the next few weeks. It's hoped another female will join the exhibit in the near future. Okapi are not currently endangered, but populations in their native habitat are shrinking and they are rare in captivity. To help build their numbers, the zoo participates in a "Species Survival Plan" or "SSP". SSPs exist for select species of animals in zoos and aquariums in North America. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and geographically stable.

Activists Are Misguided in LA Zoo Elephant Debate

November 29, 2008  www.huffingtonpost.com    By Brenda Scott Royce

A small, vocal group of animal activists in Los Angeles is mounting a campaign to halt construction on the new elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, and to send the Zoo's Asian bull elephant, Billy, to a sanctuary. "sanctuary" is one of those wonderful words that packs a lot of emotion. Serene, safe, peaceful, idyllic -- all come to mind.  Depending on your experience, "zoo" is also an emotionally loaded word. My own mental associations with the word have evolved dramatically over my lifetime. Childhood visits to the Bronx Zoo and others sparked a lifelong love of animals and fascination with their behavior.  In my twenties, I began to question the motives of zoos: Were they jailing animals for our entertainment who could otherwise be allowed to roam free?  My compassion for animals and my fascination with monkeys and apes in particular not only inspired my novels, but also led me to pursue a degree in primatology and to work in both zoo and sanctuary settings.  Having worked at both, I can tell you what zoos and sanctuaries have in common: people who love the animals and are passionate about their welfare. Almost without exception, the people I've worked alongside were tireless in their efforts to care for the creatures entrusted to them.

The main difference, in my experience, is that sanctuaries by and large have fewer resources and lower standards for accreditation. At the sanctuary, we routinely fed expired and rotten food, doing our best to cut off the foul parts of each piece of produce, unable to toss out the whole batch because we were entirely dependent on donations from local grocers. Requests for much-needed supplies went unfilled for months, not due to lack of care, but lack of funds. I depleted my own cupboards to bring in treats for the chimpanzees I cared for, and recruited my fellow primatology students from Cal State Fullerton to help assemble Christmas gifts filled with goodies.  I still have great admiration and respect for my sanctuary colleagues, but most of them, like myself, eventually left the setting because they were heartsick at never being able to do enough.  For the past eight years, I've been involved with the L.A. Zoo, first as a research intern, then volunteer, and eventually staff. Working in a zoo, I was immediately struck by the size and quality of the animal habitats and the ready availability of most resources. And while the staff was as committed to animal care as my sanctuary friends, there were more of them. More vets on hand, more keepers assigned to each section, more volunteers chopping food and cleaning habitats. My only regret in leaving the sanctuary world was that I could not bring the chimpanzees I cared for with me to the zoo.

Animals at the Los Angeles Zoo lack for nothing. They have five full-time staff veterinarians, leaders in their field, on site not only to care for them in emergencies, but to provide routine preventive care using the latest digital diagnostic equipment. They receive fresh produce daily and their diets are determined by professionals trained in the field of animal nutrition, not dictated by what donations were able to be scrounged up that day. Admittedly, there are good sanctuaries and bad ones, and some have deeper pockets than others. I'm not here to bad-mouth sanctuaries, but rather to challenge people's assumptions of zoos and sanctuaries, assumptions often based on gut reaction rather than science.  Working at a zoo put to rest my naïve questions about zoos' ulterior motives. Zoos may have originated as menageries, places to publicly exhibit nature's oddities with little regard for the animals' intrinsic needs, today "displaying" animals takes a backseat to preserving them. The zoos of my sister's money-eating monkey have evolved from places of spectacle to centers of serious science and conservation.

Zoos accredited by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) not only adhere to a very strict set of animal care guidelines--much stricter than the USDA licensing requirements for sanctuaries--they also work tirelessly toward the bigger picture: the survival of species. Conservation is the guiding principal of modern zoos, and it's not just a buzzword. Bringing this back to the elephant, there are fewer than 35,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild. Poaching, habitat destruction, and the illegal ivory trade threaten their continued survival. While caring for the elephants in their immediate care, AZA-accredited zoos also provide funding and field support for conservation programs on the ground in Asia. They are also arks, places where elephants and other endangered animals can breed and be assured a future.

The Los Angeles Zoo is in the middle of constructing an expansive elephant habitat that will be bigger than the gorgeous facility at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, yet the aforementioned well-intentioned but under-informed people have repeatedly attempted to derail the project in favor of sending Billy to a sanctuary, even a theoretical sanctuary that has yet to be designed, built, or tested. If successful here, they will not stop at this zoo (indeed, related attacks have been ongoing at zoos nationwide). Nor will they stop at elephants. Giraffes and gorillas, prairie dogs and pill bugs--any creature living in a facility termed a "zoo" will be targeted by these groups as needing to be "saved." But before you send money or sign a petition to save zoo-dwelling pillbugs, prairie dogs, or pachyderms, I implore you to visit your local zoo, speak to the biologists, veterinarians, researchers and keepers who care for them. If we all learn about what modern accredited zoos do, and share that knowledge with others, then perhaps one day, when people close their eyes and whisper the word "zoo," they'll see the same idyllic images that the word "sanctuary" currently conjures.

North Carolina Zoo Hopes to Expand

November 30, 2008   www.news-record.com  By Mark Binker

RALEIGH - The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro could become a larger attraction and destination for overnight visitors with changes in the way it is funded and run by the state.  Long-term plans include adding an Asia component to the zoo's North America and Africa exhibits. That expansion could lead to more development around the site, including a theater or hotel, according to zoo director David Jones.  As a state-owned zoo, it is expected to have education and research aims while remaining an affordable attraction. At the same time, Jones said, it is expected to operate as a business and support itself with sales and gate receipts.  That dual character means the state zoo - a part of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - sometimes has a hard time fitting within the confines of state bureaucracy.  For example, the zoo often needs specialized gear that is sold by just one company. But state regulations require most major purchases be put to bid. The result can mean more expense and lost time, rather than the savings authors of the bidding regulations envisioned. Longer term, the zoo needs a steady source of funding to pay for repairs to older exhibits and facilities and help build new ones. As it is, the zoo goes to the General Assembly periodically for help with specific projects, making it hard to plan for the future. Rep. Harold Brubaker, one of the committee's cochairmen feels that if the zoo could become an overnight attraction, it would start generating the kind of businesses that could help drive Asheboro's economy. The zoo would also produce the kind of tax revenue, such as hotel levies, that would be a boost to local government coffers. Boosting the number of visitors would make the zoo better able to pay for itself.  A legislative panel is currently studying the Zoo’s future.

150 Whales Stranded on Australian Beach

November 30, 2008  www.enn.com 

SYDNEY -- At least 150 long-finned pilot whales died in a mass stranding off Tasmania's west coast on Sunday, despite the efforts of rescuers who managed to shepherd a small number back to the ocean. The body count was almost double the earlier estimate of 80.  Pilot whales are among the smaller whales, typically up to about 5 meters (16 ft) in length and dark with a grey underbelly.  Mass strandings of whales occur periodically in Australia and New Zealand for reasons that are not entirely understood. Theories include disturbance of echo-location, possibly by interference from sound produced by human activities at sea.

Wildlife Corridor Study

December 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Corridors are thin strips of habitat that connect isolated habitat patches in fragmented landscapes. In 2006, Damschen and Orrock and their colleagues published the first definitive evidence that corridors are effective in extending plant biodiversity in fragmented large-scale habitats in a paper published in Science.  Their new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published on-line Dec.1 as part of a special issue on movement ecology, reveals that by understanding how species move, you can predict if and how corridors work. "We knew coming into this study that corridors work, but we wanted to predict how they work for species, based on simple life history traits that are readily available," said Damschen. "One of the important things we show is not only how a corridor works and affects a community of species in a single year or a few years, but how they work over much longer time scales."

Lemur Virus Could Shed Light on AIDS

December 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

STANFORD, Calif. — The genome of a lemur from Madagascar may help scientists understand how HIV-like viruses coevolved with primates, according to new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Scientists have long believed that lentiviruses — the family of viruses that includes HIV.  It started infecting primates within the past million years. In fact, said Rob Gifford, a researcher in infectious diseases and geographical medicine, lentiviruses may have been present in ancestral primates as long as 85 million years ago. Gifford's find suggests lentiviruses could be discovered in other places they've never been seen, like Asian and New World monkeys. "As far as we're aware, nobody's really looked that hard," said Gifford. He is one of few researchers using genome databases to search for retroviruses.  Finding widespread lentivirus-primate interaction might open doors for HIV/AIDS research. Primates infected with the simian version of HIV are protected from developing AIDS by several genes which code for proteins in the immune system that slow or block retroviral reproduction. Previous research suggests these genes evolved in response to millions of years of retrovirus infection.  The discovery, will be published online on Dec. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New Theory on Salmon / Sea Turtle Homing Instinct

December 1, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

CHAPEL HILL – How marine animals find their way back to their birthplace to reproduce after migrating across thousands of miles of open ocean has been a mystery. But now, marine biologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill think they might finally have unraveled the secret.  At the beginning of their lives, salmon and sea turtles may read the magnetic field of their home area and "imprint" on it, according to a new theory in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The Earth's magnetic field varies predictably across the globe, with every oceanic region having a slightly different magnetic signature. By noting the unique "magnetic address" of their birthplace and remembering it, animals may be able to distinguish this location from all others when they are fully grown and ready to return years later, researchers propose.  Previous studies have shown that young salmon and sea turtles can detect the Earth's magnetic field and use it to sense direction during their first migration away from their birthplace to the far-flung regions where they spend the initial years of their lives. The new study seeks to explain the more difficult navigational task accomplished by adult animals that return to reproduce in the same area where they themselves began life, a process called natal homing.

LA Zoo’s New Pachyderm Forest Controversy

December 1, 2008  www.latimes.com  By Carla Hall

When LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took office, he commissioned a study to look into whether the Zoo should continue with its plans for an expansive new elephant exhibit. The report recommended that it move forward, and the City Council approved it in 2006. LA Zoo’s 3.6 acre “Pacyderm Forest” is under construction and will include a waterfall, water holes, mud wallows and varying surfaces for elephants' problem-prone feet. The exhibit is designed to hold up to five adult Asian elephants and three of their offspring, with more than 3 1/2 acres for the elephants to roam around, plus two pools and a waterfall on the six-acre site. It is about 30 percent complete. Now, Councilman Tony Cardenas (who voted for the project) has asked that it be scrapped. He says that after talking to experts and reviewing veterinary medical records that came to light during a recent, unsuccessful citizen-celebrity lawsuit to stop elephant-keeping at the zoo, the wrong decision was made. Instead, he wants the city to open an elephant sanctuary of at least 60 acres somewhere in L.A.  Today, the City Council's budget and finance committee is scheduled to meet and discuss whether the zoo project, funded by a bond measure, city money and private donations, should be shut down.

Five years ago, there were four elephants at the LA Zoo. Tara, a female African, died in December 2004 at the age of 39. Then Gita, an Asian elephant, collapsed in her outdoor yard and died at the age of 48 in 2006. Last year, the zoo retired its last female elephant, Ruby, a 47-year-old African, to the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in San Andreas. Elephants in captivity often live into their 40s.  Now, the only elephant who remains is Billy, a 23-year-old Asian bull. If the exhibit is completed, the zoo plans to bring in Asian elephants and start a breeding program that would include Billy. "Asian elephants are in a lot of trouble," said zoo director John Lewis "There are only about 30,000 of them left in Asia in the wild."  The exhibit would provide information on how to contribute to conservation programs. "We're not going to compromise on the welfare of the elephants or any other animal just so you or I can see them up close," Lewis said. But he added, "Unless you're standing next to one, unless you can smell one, unless you can see him throw things, you don't have that full animal experience, and that's what we're trying to do."

But Cardenas has put the L.A. Zoo's management of their elephants under a spotlight. The councilman points to 14 elephant deaths at the zoo since 1968. Seven did not live to age 20. Tara and Gita suffered from arthritis, and Gita in particular was hobbled by joint diseases and plagued by abscesses. Gary Kuehn, a veterinarian who worked at the zoo from 1974 to 1997, has criticized some of the zoo's handling of Gita's problems, but he still gives the zoo high marks for its aggressive treatment of a serious foot bone problem in the months before her death. Critics say the medical records are less an indictment against the zoo's veterinary care and more an indication of the conditions under which zoos keep elephants.  Lewis, director of the zoo since 2003, says the zoo's medical records show that 12 elephants, not 14, have died since 1968. Whatever the number, he says, elephant-keeping has evolved. Pachyderms once kept on concrete all night in their barns now have access to dirt yards that are easier on their feet. "Since the zoo staff changed management procedures in 1992, there have only been four elephant deaths," Lewis said.  As for Tara and Gita, he said, "Despite how we took care of them, we're paying the price for how they were treated in their earlier lives -- no exercise, being kept on concrete."

But the key issue for Cardenas remains the space. Critics contend that 3.6 acres is not nearly enough for the half dozen or more elephants that may live there. Zoo staffers say there will be enrichment programs and physical features to enjoy: a deep pool for swimming, fallen trees, and rocks to push or walk around. Principal elephant keeper Jeff Briscoe, who has traveled 15 to 20 times to Asia to attend conferences or search out pachyderms, said, "We'll have everything to mimic what you would find in the wild."  But Joyce Poole, an animal behaviorist who has spent decades studying elephants, mostly in Africa says "Elephants in the wild -- their lives revolve around other individuals, you need big space -- you need to have the elephants have a chance to search for their own food . . . to investigate what other animals are doing." Her dream zoo space is really more sanctuary-meets-savanna -- "like 35 square miles and 35 elephants." She knows that's impossible, but the exhibit is a poor substitute, she said. Poole was also skeptical that any zoo breeding program could be successful. Zoo elephants, she said, "don't seem to breed properly. There are high rates of stillbirths; the mothers don't know how to care for their babies."

And nothing has become more of a lightning rod for animal welfare advocates than Billy's much-noticed habit of repetitive head-bobbing, which they say is neurotic -- or "zoocotic." Lewis said Billy has been head-bobbing since he arrived at the zoo as a young animal. "We have a research biologist on staff that studies all the animals and has been watching Billy since he got here," Lewis said. "What it has become now is an anticipation behavior. So when it's time for the keepers to come over and feed him or work with him, he'll start with this bobbing behavior. Is it a normal elephant behavior? No. Is it pathological? No. It's a Billy behavior." Keepers have worked with him to reduce the head-bobbing. "It's a comforting thing," zookeeper Don Aguirre said. "It's like little babies sucking on their thumbs." Said Poole in response: "Exactly. The reason they're doing that is because they're frustrated and bored and have a life that has no meaning. They don't do this in the wild."

LA City Council Halts Work On Elephant Exhibit

December 1, 2008  cbs2.com

LOS ANGELES ― A City Council committee voted 3-2 Monday to recommend that the city stop work on the $42 million Pachyderm Forest at the Los Angeles Zoo, with one councilman saying he does not want to build an "elephant exhibit to nowhere."  The Budget and Finance Committee's vote, which came at the end of more than three hours of debate, will be reviewed by the full council on Wednesday. Monday's discussion centered on the fiscal implications of the exhibit. Of the $42 million, $12 million has been spent. The city of Los Angeles would most likely have to repay about $9 million of that money and the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association would take back $5 million in private donations.  Councilman Bernard Parks, who chairs the committee, said moving ahead to complete the project is not a fiscally responsible decision when the city is facing a $110 million deficit.  "I'm concerned that we (will) end up building an elephant exhibit to nowhere because if we don't know where the funds are going to come from to maintain it, if we don't know where the funds are going to come from to inhabit it ... the issue that you look at in the long and short-term is can we afford it today," Parks said.  Council members Wendy Greuel and Greig Smith were the two dissenting votes.  "If we don't move forward, in my math, we're not only losing $9 million worth of work, but we're having to pay back $9 million," Greuel said. "Our financial situation is not getting any better."  "I understand the damage we would do on all levels to the zoo -- the reputation of the zoo, our reputation. All things suffer in this," Smith said.
City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who is a major supporter of the project, said the decision left him heartbroken.

Regulating Minnesota Zoo Aquarium

December 1, 2008  www.startribune.com   By KAREN YOUSO

At the Minnesota Zoo aquarium, dolphins, sharks, and otters are unaffected by the weather.  Aquarium supervisor Allan Maguire, works out of sight in a squat concrete building filled with pipes, pumps and tanks. He takes Minnesota groundwater, adds a dash of "Instant Ocean," turns the crank and creates a home where exotic ocean fish thrive. With tons of pickling salt from Cargill, he conjures up a different water fit not for fish, but for mammals of the seas.  Maguire has degrees in biology and mathematics, and worked in research to develop a baby-formula recipe for piglets. But came to the Minnesota Zoo in 1981, and  worked his way through the Zoo's habitats, evolving along with the facility.  He finally landed where he wanted to be, supervisor of aquariums and life support at a zoo that spans 485 acres and entertains more than a million visitors a year. He now oversees about 5 miles of pipes, 70 pumps and 66 tanks holding from 20 to 1 million gallons of water – in an ecological way, of course. 

Oregon Zoo Sets Thanksgiving Attendance Record

December 1, 2008   www.theoutlookonline.com

The Oregon Zoo had more than 40,000 visitors during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, easily blowing past last year’s attendance for the same weekend - 22,647 visitors. Two years ago, 14,227 people visited. The zoo opened its gates to the public for Thanksgiving Day for free as a way of saying “thank you” for approving the $125 million improvement bond for the zoo’s exhibits in the Nov. 4 general election.  Despite some rainy weather, more than 15,000 visitors jammed the zoo on Thanksgiving Day -  the second-highest of any single day in the zoo’s history (12,624 regular visitors, plus 2,606 participants in this year’s Turkey Trot, organized by the Oregon Road Runners Club.) Turkey Trot participants were given vouchers for free admission to the zoo another day, since their race registration included zoo admission. The all-time record of 16,536 visitors was set Aug. 12, 2003, a sunny summer day when admission was free after 1 p.m. The last time the zoo offered free admission, on New Year’s Eve 2007, attendance was 8,100.  Attendance remained strong throughout Thanksgiving Day weekend, as ZooLights drew more than 16,500 people during its first three days (counting Friday’s members preview), its best opening weekend ever, topping last year’s record of 13,646.

Beardsley Zoo’s Baby Ocelot is in Good Health

December 1, 2008  www.connpost.com   By JOHN BURGESON

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- A feisty 1.7-pound baby ocelot, born Halloween night, had his first checkup Monday at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo. Veterinarian Dr. Harold Hochman, said "The kitten looks as normal as can be, his health is sound and he has a bad attitude. His mom is a good mom."  The birth was improbable for several reasons, according to Gregg Dancho, the zoo director. The baby's conception and birth marks only the third time artificial insemination has been successful worldwide with this species. It was performed in August by Dr. William F. Swanson of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. While this is the third "AI" ocelot in the world, it the first one to be born for "species management" purposes, and the first one since 2000. The first two were for research purposes.  Also, the baby's mother, 4-year-old Kuma, is missing her left-rear leg due to an encounter with her own mother soon after her birth at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo. And to further complicate matters, this is Kuma's first birth, and first-time mothers frequently reject their offspring, especially in a zoo setting. Dancho said both Kuma and her baby will remain at the zoo at least another year. After that, the AZA  will determine the best opportunities for mating with other ocelots in captivity. There are fewer than 30 Brazilian ocelots in North American zoos. In the wild, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis),  grows to a length of about 3 feet, not including its 18-inch tail, and is about twice to three times the size of a domestic cat. It weighs between 20 and 35 pounds and lives for about 11 years. Its range extends from Uruguay and northern Argentina, through Brazil, Colombia and Central America and as far north as northern Mexico. It has been rarely seen in Texas and Arizona, as its presence in the U.S. is made all but impossible by highways and domestic dogs. Fences built to stop illegal immigrants keep the ocelot from moving through its traditional range, another impediment to its survival.

Wildlife Phenology Program is Launched

December 2, 2008   www.usgs.gov

The Wildlife Society and USA-National Phenology Network Announce a New Wildlife Phenology Program that will enlist professional and citizen scientists across the country to monitor and record seasonal wildlife events to help managers respond to climatic and other environmental changes. A Plant Phenology Program was started in 2007.  The program will be housed at the National Coordinating Office of the USA-NPN, at The University of Arizona in Tucson.  Phenology is the study of the seasonal timing of plant and animal life-cycle events such as bird, fish and mammal migration; emergence from hibernation; and the leafing, blooming and fruiting of plants. Changes in the timing of these events are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change. Over much of the world, spring events are occurring earlier. Consequently, many time-sensitive relationships, such as those between animals and their prey or plants and their pollinators are being disrupted.  Abraham J. Miller-Rushing will coordinate the new program

N Korean Leader Visits Pyongyang Zoo

December 2, 2008  www.google.com   By KWANG-TAE KIM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il went to the Pyongyang zoo and visited the tigers, bears and aquarium, according to state-run media, depicting Kim as fit three months after his reported stroke. During the visit, Kim praised the reconstruction of the Central Zoo at the foot of Mount Taesong, calling it a treasure of the communist nation.  He noted the zoo houses a variety of animals — some rare — sent as gifts from around the world, and called on zookeepers to make sure to care for them.  Kim, 66, is believed to have suffered a stroke in August, but North Korea has steadfastly denied he was ever ill.  None of the reports provide an exact date for his appearances.

Prairie Dogs Nearly Endangered

December 2, 2008  www.rockymountainnews.com

The black-tailed prairie dog of Colorado's Eastern plains, may be designated an Endangered Species. They once occupied some 90 million acres east of the Rockies, and now they've been squeezed into less than 2 million.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service today announced that Colorado's most abundant prairie dog species has cleared its first hurdle in reaching for the threatened or endangered designation that could protect it from farmers, developers and sportsmen.  The environmental group WildEarth Guardians has provided biological information, and asserted that they are threatened by loss of habitat, urbanization, oil, gas and mineral development,  plague, recreational shooting, and  livestock grazing.  Fish & Wildlife had agreed to consider their petition by the end of November. Black-tailed prairie dogs are found east of the continental divide in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.

Cincinnati Zoo Severs Ties with Creation Museum

December 2, 2008  www.courier-journal.com

The Cincinnati Zoo has scuttled a short-lived ticket promotion with Kentucky’s Creation Museum. The 2-for-1 offer was on the zoo's Web site over the weekend, but was no longer available Monday afternoon. The $25.95 promotion granted admission to the zoo's Festival of Lights and the Creation Museum's live nativity performance. The Petersburg, Ky museum, boasts exhibits featuring Adam and Eve, a massive model of Noah's Ark, a triceratops with a saddle on its back, and is about 25 miles from the zoo.  Scientists and bloggers contacted the zoo on Sunday and Monday to complain that it should not be affiliated with a religious-based, institution that dismisses evolution.  The Creation Museum promotes a religious point of view that conflicts with the zoo’s scientific mission.  Some complained that the zoo, which receives public support through a tax levy, should not become involved with a private museum dedicated to the teachings of the Bible’s Book of Genesis. Thanks to the Internet, the opposition needed only a few days to organize a worldwide e-mail campaign and to set up a zoo boycott through blogs and a Facebook page. The museum, which opened in May 2007, has been praised by supporters as a bulwark against evolutionary teachings. It also has been ridiculed by critics who say its displays are based on pseudo science.   No package deals had been sold, so no refunds will be necessary.

Poles Create New Elephant Playground

December 2, 2008  www.thestate.com By JOEY HOLLEMAN   

Telephone poles donated by SCE&G are the latest ienrichment items for animals at the Riverbanks Zoo. John Davis, curator of mammals, said elephants enjoy scratching their backs on railings and bars in their barn and they often rub against trees in the wild.  But the expense of  building something so large and so temporary made in unfeasible. But a zookeeper mentioned the problem to a friend who worked for a utility pole contractor, and things began to happen.  United Wood Treating Co. in Whitmire offered to donate non-treated, 30-foot poles. Another friend of a zookeeper talked to his supervisors at SCE&G, who agreed to donate the machinery and workers to install the poles.  The crew managed to maneuver a hole-drilling rig across the elephant yard in October and plant seven poles at an angle, producing what looks like the skeleton of two teepees. The poles were arranged around a mud wallow in the center of the exhibit - spaced far enough apart so the elephants couldn’t get stuck between them. Then, the poles were tied together at the top, adding to their rigidity. The operation took four hours, and the  Riverbanks’ elephants at first seemed stunned at the change in their environment, trumpeting loudly when they left the barn that afternoon. Belle, the leader of the four females, curiously poked around the poles, then started pushing one. “She worked on it and pushed it for a couple of days,” Davis said. “She wasn’t going to rest until she broke it. It was a test of her will.”  In less than a week, the first pole cracked. Zoo workers decided its jagged edge was dangerous, so they sawed it off at ground level. Belle later snapped a second pole higher up.  She and her mates seemed fascinated by the poles for several days.  “They go in stages where they put a lot of interest into something,” David said. “Then they leave it for a while, then come back.”  Just like a kid with a new toy. http://www.thestate.com/local/story/608007.html

12 Days of Christmas at Naples Zoo

December 2, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  By Tim Tetzlaff

NAPLES, FL - Holiday Fun at Naples Zoo Starting Dec 13. 
Twelve gators swimming,
Eeleven siamangs swinging,
Ten hyenas laughing,
Nnine panthers prowling,
Eight gibbons singing,
Sseven hogs-a-rooting,
Six spider monkeys playing,
Five wild dogs,
Ffour roaring lions, t
Three spotted leopards, t
Two Malagasy fosas,
And a lemur in a palm tree.

There won’t be that many of each animal, but for 12 days in December, from the 13th all the way to the 24th, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens will be delivering special gifts to the wild animals.  Zoo guests will watch lions claw into beautifully decorated presents filled with meat treats, alligators enjoy a festive turkey leg dinner, lemurs nibble fruity treats off a decorated train, Red river hogs digging into an ice sculpture, African wild dogs eat meaty ornaments and garland off a Christmas tree, and many other animals enjoy holiday-related delicacies with a wild twist including the fosas at the Zoo's newest Madagascar exhibit. The full schedule of daily events is available online at http://www.napleszoo.org/  

New Sumatran Tiger Exhibit for Wild Animal Park

December 2, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com 

NORTH COUNTY – The next big construction project at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park will be an easy-view den for Sumatran tigers. Zoo officials are trying to raise $20 million for “Tiger Trail” - a 5-acre enclosure that would bring guests closer to the park's six Sumatrans.  It will also include smaller enclosures for other animals and some support structures. The new space will have a 14-foot-high overhead bridge so people can see tigers crossing from one side of the enclosure to the other, and a glass viewing wall  The anticipated opening date is spring 2011. More information is at http://sandiegozoo.org/tigertrail .

Celebrities, Economy Endanger LA Elephant Exhibit

December 3, 2008  news.google.com   By NOAKI SCHWARTZ

LOS ANGELES (AP) — On Wednesday, the LA City Council is expected to vote on whether to scrap the Zoo’s new "Pachyderm Forest," a six-acre exhibit that would be seven times larger than the current enclosure and feature open space with pools, mud holes and a waterfall.  The meeting comes amid criticism from animal rights activists and celebrities, including Bob Barker, Halle Berry and Goldie Hawn, that the new exhibit would still be too confining and depressing for the elephants that walk dozens of miles a day in the wild.  Meanwhile, a city budget committee has recommended that construction be stopped as City Hall wrestles with its economic troubles. About $12 million already has been spent on the project, which is 30 percent completed.  On the eve of the vote, the private Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, which has already given $4.8 million for the exhibit, announced a pledge of an additional $1.2 million to help overcome budget difficulties.  The zoo has had a history of problems with elephants. Officials say about a dozen have died since 1968. Seven didn't make it to age 20 — a fraction of the 70 years they can live in the wild, said Melya Kaplan, executive director of the Voice for the Animals activist group.

Rare gorilla twins born in Uganda

December 3, 2008   www.google.com

KAMPALA (AFP) — Rare mountain gorilla twins have been born in Uganda's Bwindi Forest. The twins were born to a gorilla called Kwintonda early last month, said Lillian Nsubuga, spokeswoman for the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).  "It is only the second time in history that we are aware of twins being born in Uganda," Nsubuga told AFP, adding that the twins were healthy.  "The fact that they have survived the harsh rains of November means that they are probably going to be OK."  Bwindi is home to an estimated 340 mountain gorillas, around half the global population, according to the most recent survey conducted between 2006 and 2007. The twins were sired by Safari, a dominant male, who took over the leadership of his group in April after the death of his predecessor. Kwitonda is estimated to be between 15 to 20 years old. Female gorillas begin bearing children between 7-8 years of age and continue up to age 30.

Finding a Home for Knut

December 3, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

BERLIN -- Knut will be two years old on Friday, almost ready to mate – but Berlin Zoo is unable to raise the cash for a new polar bear compound that would give him space to romp around and work off some of his raging hormones. A new compound and the acquisition of a mate would cost more than £7 million; too much in this economy. Knut’s high-earning days, as the star of feature and documentary films, the subject of a dozen pop songs and as the standard-bearer of the environmental movement, have faded.   So the zoo, which has made millions out of marketing the once-fluffy bear, is looking for another home for him, and Berliners are unhappy. Possible homes for Knut, according to zoo insiders, include Orsa, the Swedish bear park, an animal refuge in Norway and Hanover Zoo. The favourite candidate seems to be Gelsenkirchen Zoo, which has not only a suitable compound but also a polar bear cub called Lara who, at the age of 3, is ready to take on Knut.  Gelsenkirchen’s football team, Schalke, is sponsored by Gazprom and there is speculation that the Russian energy company could help to finance Knut’s transfer too. Needs must: Sigmar Gabriel, the Environment Minister, has withdrawn his official patronage of Knut and thus ended the supply of free fodder. Knut is no longer a suitable symbol, it seems, for the Government’s efforts to slow down the melting of the polar ice-caps. Alice Thomson, page 32

Celebrity Animals in Berlin Zoo

December 3, 2008  www.timesonline.co.uk

BERLIN -- The director of the Berlin Zoo, Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, has been concerned for months that the cult around Knut was overshadowing the rest of the zoo population. He has just published a book, Knautschke, Knut and Co, which argues that the zoo has always been full of other animal personalities and is not dependent on Knut.
-- Knautschke, a hippo, one of only 91 Berlin zoo animals to have survived the bombardment of the German capital in WW II  - died at 45 in 1988
-- Kosko the elephant presented to East Berlin zoo by Ho Chi Minh (the Vietnamese communist leader, no relation to the panda bear)
-- Swampy the loveable alligator, from Mississippi, presented by US soldiers in 1952
-- Rike the giraffe, orphaned in a British bombing raid in Novemeber 1943, wounded by shrapnel, evacuated to Vienna, returned to Berlin as a hero in 1953.
-- Chi-Chi, panda bear originally intended as a present from China to the US. The US trade embargo intervened and Chi Chi ended up taking the trans-Siberian express from Beijing to Moscow, then on to Berlin.

Balamuthia Amebic Encephalitis—California, 1999-2007

December 3, 2008  JAMA. 2008;300(21):2477-2479.  MMWR. 2008;57:768-771

Balamuthia mandrillaris is a free-living ameba that causes encephalitis in humans (both immunocompetent and immunocompromised), horses, dogs, sheep, and nonhuman primates. The ameba is present in soil and likely is transmitted by inhalation of airborne cysts or by direct contamination of a skin lesion. Approximately 150 cases of balamuthiasis have been reported worldwide since recognition of the disease in 1990. Since 1998, the California Encephalitis Project (CEP) has been testing encephalitis cases This report describes the 10 balamuthiasis cases identified by CEP during 1999-2007. The preliminary diagnoses in these cases included neurotuberculosis, viral meningoencephalitis, neurocysticercosis, and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. All but one patient died. These findings underscore the importance of increasing awareness among clinicians, epidemiologists, and public health officials for timely recognition and potential treatment of Balamuthia encephalitis.

Balamuthia mandrillaris was first recognized and isolated from the brain of a pregnant mandrill baboon that had died in the San Diego Wild Animal Park in 1989.2 The first human infections were reported in 1990, and in 1993,  B.mandrillaris was described as a new genus and species of ameba.2-3 Since 1993, cases have been reported in western and central Europe, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Australia, Thailand, Japan, and India. Early reports of the disease in humans suggested that the infection occurred primarily in immunocompromised persons, injection-drug users, the elderly, and persons with concurrent health problems. However, many recent cases have occurred in immunocompetent children and adolescents. Since 1990, a total of 15 known human cases with 12 deaths have been diagnosed in California.  Median age of the five patients whose specimens were sent to CDC was 16 years (range: 2-84 years); three of the patients were male. All but two of the 15 cases occurred in persons of Hispanic ethnicity.  Because of the rarity of balamuthiasis, risk factors for the disease are not well defined. Two of five cases diagnosed by CDC occurred in patients who had exposure to soil. In addition to soil, stagnant water also might be a source of infection.  Based on published case reports and positive laboratory detections at CDC and CEP, the disease appears to be more common in the southern tier of the United States (e.g., California, Texas, Georgia, and Florida), with fewer cases identified from states farther north. Similarly, most cases in California occurred in the southern part of the state.

The Jackson Zoo Upgrades Security

December 3, 2008 www.clarionledger.com

On the night of Nov.18, several stray dogs killed two 6-month-old dama gazelles on loan from the Memphis Zoo.  Dogs got into the zoo a second time about a week later and killed five pink flamingos. Two other flamingos suffered bite wounds and continue to recover at the zoo veterinary clinic.  The remaining seven flamingos were moved to the clinic for safe keeping. The Jackson Zoo plans to spend several thousand dollars for security upgrades.  Night houses will be built for its flamingos, which used to roam free around their enclosure. Other plans include installing perimeter fencing deep enough into the ground so dogs cannot dig underneath.  The zoo also is reassigning a staff member to the post of night security, giving the zoo two guards. One will patrol the perimeter and the other the exhibits. The existing front gates have a gap between them and the ground, which will be eliminated with new gates. While there are no signs of how the stray dogs got into the zoo, they probably squeezed through the gap.  Security cameras picked up several dogs roaming the front of the zoo the night the flamingos were killed.  Stray dogs have long roamed the areas near the zoo.  In 2005, a pair of dogs killed 15 flamingos, a swan and two ducks at the zoo. In the past 30 days five dogs have been caught on zoo property, none with tags. The dogs will be kept for eight days. If no one claims them, they will be destroyed.  The zoo and city Animal Control have placed about seven traps near the zoo.

Paignton Zoo Receives Award

December 3, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com

To maintain the “Investors in People Standard” an organization has to demonstrate that it is effective at leading, managing and communicating with all staff as well encouraging staff development.  Executive Director Simon Tonge said: “It is a tribute to the dedication and enthusiasm of all our people – animal care and veterinary staff, front of house, marketing, administration, catering, retail, maintenance, research, gardeners and educators.The benefits include more motivated staff, greater efficiency and improved performance. Investor in People status brings public recognition for real achievements. Importantly, our visitors benefit from improved customer service.”  The Standard was developed in 1990 in partnership with leading national business, personnel, professional and employee organizations such as the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress. The Standard provides a national framework for improving business performance through a planned approach to setting and communicating organizational objectives.

Paignton Zoo’s Bachelor Gorilla Group Grows

December 3, 2008 www.zandavisitor.com   By Philip Knowling

PAIGNTON, UK -  The bachelor group of lowland gorillas at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park will have two new arrivals who are full brothers of one existing member and half-brothers of another.  Brothers Kiri (aged 4) and N’Dowe (pronounced Endover),  5, have arrived from Stuttgart Zoo in Germany, where they were raised in the gorilla nursery. The pair, both born at Barcelona Zoo in Spain, are full brothers to Kiondo and half-brothers to Kivu, although they have never met. In addition, Kiri has a twin sister at Bristol Zoo. Director of Operations and Curator of Mammals at the Park, Neil Bemment said: “We are really pleased that our bachelor group is still fulfilling its essential role for young male gorillas before they move on to breeding situations.”  The Paignton Zoo group was established in 1997 and is part of a European Endangered species Programme for the species. It is important for young gorillas to grow up in a social group. Males from the Paignton Zoo colony have gone on to father young in breeding groups across Europe. Paignton Zoo Research Officer Dr. Kirsten Pullen, who studies gorillas said “Ours was one of the first bachelor groups to be formed and seems to have remained successful even as we ring the changes.” The two newcomers will be in routine quarantine for 6 months, which means keepers will be wearing protective clothing and taking additional biosecurity measures. The plan is for them to mix with the other gorillas during that time. First they will be able to see the others, then they will get some limited contact with Kivu and Kiondo. Later on they will get together with Kumbuka, who is a little older, and after that they will be mixed with the leader of the group, silverback Pertinax, a gentle giant who will teach them how to be gorillas. Paignton Zoo is now home to a group of six gorillas. Pertinax is 26, Kumbuka is 11, Kivu 6, Kiondo 6, N’Dowe 5 and Kiri 4

£7,000 Donation to Bristol Zoo Primate Project

December 3, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  By Lucy Parkinson

BRISTOL, UK - Two Atlantic adventurers who completed the toughest rowing race on earth to raise money for Bristol Zoo Gardens have handed over a check for £7,000.  Niall McCann and James Burge rowed for 63 days, travelling 3,000 miles across the ocean in the 2007 Atlantic Rowing Race, risking shark attack, freak waves, shipping lanes, tankers and extreme weather conditions.  They made the amazing journey to raise funds for Bristol Zoo Gardens’ primate project in Cameroon, in collaboration with the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund (CWAF). This includes caring for baby gorillas and chimps, orphaned by the illegal bushmeat trade. James and Niall made the Atlantic crossing in a specially-built boat they named ‘Komale’ – after Bristol Zoo’s youngest gorilla, and finished the race in fifth place out of 15 pairs. The boat is now on display and up for sale at the Zoo. The pair plan to undertake more challenges in the future. James is planning a 200 km trek through the Amazon and Niall will continue to work at Bristol Zoo by starting a PhD studying gorillas, with Cardiff University.  Bristol Zoo Gardens will also be taking part in the 2009 ‘Year of the Gorilla’ campaign. Launched this week, the Year of the Gorilla is a joint effort between the Convention on Migratory Species, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums to raise awareness of the threats to gorillas and funding for activities to address those threats. For more information about Bristol Zoo and CWAF primate projects, visit www.bristolzoo.org.uk or www.cwaf.org .

Oregon Zoo's Wild World Tours Program

December 3, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com  By Bill LaMarche

Oregon Zoo is offering an 11-day adventure through Belize. Zoo Conservation Manager Anne Warner will lead the tour, which takes place March 1-11, 2009.  The 11-day expedition costs $3,595 per person, and includes accommodations and meals, English-speaking guides, and transportation within Belize and Guatemala.  Animals that may be observed during the trip include howler monkey, violaceous trogons, basilisk lizards, gray foxes, ocelots, toucan, aracaris and possibly even king vultures.  International airfare from Portland to Belize City is currently available for $695 roundtrip including taxes and fees. This fare is subject to change and has been published as high as $800 within the past month; those interested are encouraged to contact International Expeditions to book airline reservations while reduced fares are available.

California Forest Inventory

December 3, 2008   www.fs.fed.us

PORTLAND, Ore. December 3, 2008. The first 5-year forest inventory report for California's private and public lands is now available to the public: California's Forest Resources, 2001-2005: Five-Year Forest Inventory and Analysis Report.  Key Findings:
    * Forests cover about a third of the state's 100 million acres;19 million acres is managed.
    * Houses built in the wildland-urban interface account for most of the housing growth in the state over the last 10 years implying that forest managers will be tasked with fire hazard reduction, prevention, and suppression on an increasing area.
    * Insects, diseases, air pollution, and fire shape the forested California landscape. More than 200,000 forested acres burned on average annually between 2001 and 2005.
    * The capacity of wood-using bioenergy facilities has increased resulting in California facilities being able to generate over 470 megawatts of electricity.
    * Carbon storage for live and dead trees, and downed wood are highest in redwood and Douglas-fir forest types when evaluated on a per-acre basis.
    * More than 13 million acres of forest land is privately held; about 5 million acres is owned by industry, and 7 percent of this acreage is managed by a timber investment management organization (TIMO) or real-estate investment trust (REIT) which may manage the land for a variety of investment purposes.

White Lemuroid Possum May be Global Warming’s First Victim

December 3, 2008  www.news.com.au

QUEENSLAND, Australia -- Scientists say a white possum native to Queensland's Daintree forest has become the first mammal to become extinct due to man-made global warming. The rare creature found only above 1000m in the mountain forests of far north Queensland, has not been seen for three years. Researchers plan to mount a last-ditch expedition early next year deep into the untouched "cloud forests" of the Carbine range near Mt Lewis, three hours north of Cairns, in search of the tiny tree-dweller, dubbed the "Dodo of the Daintree". The loss of the white possum Hemibelideus lemuroids) would be the most significant extinction since the Dodo and the Tasmanian Tiger, according to Steve Williams. director of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University.  The white lemuroid possum had been identified as highly vulnerable five years ago.  "It only takes four or five hours of temperatures above 30C to kill this highly vulnerable species," he said.  "They live off the moisture in the trees in the cooler, high-altitude cloud forests and, under extreme heat, they are unable to maintain their body temperature."  He said record high temperatures in the summer of 2005 could have caused a massive die-off.  "Prior to 2005 we were seeing a lemuroid every 45 minutes of spotlighting at one main site at Mt Lewis," Professor Williams said.  "But, in three years, in more than 20 hours of intensive spotlighting, none has been sighted."  Photo is at: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24744228-662,00.html

Miami Metrozoo’s Rainforest Opens Saturday

December 3, 2008  www.miamiherald.com  BY YUDY PINEIRO

Miami Metrozoo’s $50 million, 27-acre “Amazon and Beyond” exhibit will open this Saturday. The exhibit took 2 years to complete and is just one component of a massive multimillion dollar makeover intended to attract at least an additional 600,000 visitors a year. The remake includes giraffe feeding stations, a toucan exhibit and camel rides. Future plans include building a Disney-like water theme park and entertainment facility.  Zoo officials expect a boost in attendance despite a slower economy. The exhibit features more than 100 new animal species and is split into three sections: The Cloud Forest houses hummingbirds, howler monkeys, jaguars, tropical frogs and snakes. The Amazon is home to the anacondas, harpy eagles and Orinoco crocodiles and a 50,000 gallon Flooded Forest tank that features the Amazon's largest catfish, pacu and turtles. The Atlantic Forest section houses giant river otters, giant anteaters and bats. Tickets cost $15.95 for adults and $11.95 for children. At Saturday's grand opening, there will be face painting, live music, animal encounters and musical performances by children at the Village Plaza. The first 1,000 kids under 12 that enter the zoo Saturday and Sunday will receive free Nick Jr.'s Go, Diego, Go! gifts. A $3 discount on admission also will be available on the zoo website. The coupon can be found at www.miamimetrozoo.com/visit-the-zoo.asp

Critical Habitat for 12 Species of Picture-wing Flies

December 4, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is designating critical habitat for 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies (Drosophila aglaia, D. differens, D. hemipeza, D. heteroneura, D. montgomeryi, D. mulli, D. musaphilia, D. neoclavisetae, D. obatai, D. ochrobasis, D. substenoptera, and D. tarphytrichia) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 8,788 acres (ac) (3,556 hectares (ha)) fall within the boundaries of the final critical habitat designation. The critical habitat is located in four counties (City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai) in Hawaii. This final rule becomes effective on January 5, 2009.  The final rule, final economic analysis, and map of critical habitat are available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov  For further information contact Patrick Leonard, Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office; telephone 808-792-9400.

Mexican Wolf Conservation Plan

December 4, 2008  www.enn.com 

SANTA FE, N.M. — Conservationists have filed a formal petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling on the agency to revise the outdated and legally invalid Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. The old plan was formulated in 1982 and called for breeding Mexican wolves in captivity and establishing at least two viable populations through reintroduction, including enabling the first reintroduced population to reach at least 100 animals. The plan provides antiquated guidance in managing reintroduced Mexican wolves, and does not include benchmarks for downlisting the species to threatened status nor for removing it from federal protection. These shortcomings have enabled a highly politicized Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid taking steps to grow the population, which in a count taken at the beginning of this year stood at 52 animals and just three breeding pairs. Rob Edward, director of carnivore recovery for WildEarth Guardians said a revised recovery plan should be completed before revisions to policies governing the reintroduction project are completed.  A previous Mexican Wolf Recovery Team completed a working draft of a new recovery plan in 1996, but the federal agency never approved it. In 1998, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would revise the existing recovery plan, but did not do so. In 2003, the agency appointed a new recovery team, which was on track to complete an updated plan in 2005. In March 2005, the agency’s regional director, H. Dale Hall — now the national director of the agency — suspended meetings of the team.

Dave Parsons, formerly the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service and now the carnivore conservation biologist for The Rewilding Institute, drove home the imperative of revising the recovery plan. “At the end of 2007, 26 years after adoption of a recovery plan and nearly 11 years following initial reintroductions, the total wild population of Mexican wolves is far short of reintroduction goals. We could lose the lobo in the wild for a second time if my former agency doesn’t get serious about recovery."

Protection for Alaskan Walrus Sought

December 4, 2008   news.yahoo.com

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Wednesday for failing to act on a petition seeking protection for walruses under the Endangered Species Act.  Walruses are threatened by global warming that melts Arctic sea ice. In addition to the climate change, the other main threat is oil and gas development that continues to go forward The group also has filed petitions to protect Arctic seals. Global warming is blamed for Arctic sea ice shrinking to record low levels. The National Snow and Ice Data Center said summer sea ice in 2008 reached the second lowest level, 1.74 million square miles, since satellite monitoring began in 1979. The loss was exceeded only by the 1.65 million square miles in 2007.  Like polar bears, listed as a threatened species in May, walruses depend on sea ice to breed and forage. Walruses dive from ice over the shallow outer continental shelf in search of clams and other benthic creatures. Females and their young traditionally use ice as a moving diving platform, riding it north as it recedes in spring and summer, first in the northern Bering Sea, then into the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea, shared with the Russian Far East, for the last two years receded well beyond the outer continental shelf over water too deep for walruses to dive to reach clams. In the fall of 2007, herds congregated on Alaska and Siberia shores until ice re-formed.

Putin Sends Tiger Cub to Russian Zoo

December 4, 2008  en.rian.ru

MOSCOW, - On October 10, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told journalists that he had been given the most unusual present in his life for his 56th birthday - a two-month-old endangered Siberian tiger cub.  Now the Siberian tiger cub has been sent to a zoo in the Krasnodar Territory. 

Construction Halted on Zoo Elephant Exhibit

December 4, 2008  www.latimes.com  By Carla Hall

The LA City Council has stopped work on the LA Zoo’s “Pachyderm Forest" but did not kill the project outright. The project seemed headed for extinction but for an 11th-hour proposal from the zoo's fundraising arm, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn., offered to contribute millions of dollars more to pay for the new habitat.  As a result, the council referred the matter back to its Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee to examine whether to accept the association's offer and to consider what to do with the 3.6-acre space and the zoo's sole elephant, Billy. The zoo has already spent $12 million on construction costs. But several council members have maintained all along that it is less about money than about the elephants' welfare, arguing that the new facility would be too small for the needs of the huge, social creatures.

The crowd that filled the council chamber expecting a final decision divided as if at a wedding of hostile families. Animal welfare advocates packed the seats to the left of the center aisle while zoo supporters and staffers, some wearing bright green T-shirts proclaiming their position, filled the seats to the right.  When Councilman Bill Rosendahl expressed awe at seeing so many people show up for an animal issue, he wondered if they would show up when the council tackled social issues.  The price tag of the exhibit includes about $20 million in voter-approved bond funds for zoo improvements and nearly $5 million in private donations raised by the zoo association.  The city would borrow another large chunk of the project's financing -- $14.5 million -- and repay it at a rate of $1.2 million a year over 20 years. But on Monday, the council's budget committee decided that was too costly a commitment, and recommended supporting the motion to kill the exhibit.  On Tuesday night, zoo association officials came up with the idea of their group assuming the city's burden of paying back the borrowed money plus interest.  Rosendahl commended the zoo's fundraising organization, saying it had "stepped up to the plate. . . . Even though I'm not for elephants in the zoo, I think we need to respect this."  He urged that the exhibit be granted further consideration, provoking scattered applause from zoo supporters and sotto voce groans from animal welfare advocates who thought they were about to prevail.  After the council's vote, the room fell dead silent -- as supporters and detractors alike tried to figure out what was next. Subdued, all filed out. Then they regrouped, each faction putting an optimistic spin on the council's vote.  "We're glad we have a chance to prove to the city, to the council, that we can provide a fiscally responsible, humane exhibit," said zoo Director John Lewis.

Zoo association President Connie Morgan sounded unfazed by the prospect of raising the extra money during a recession to pay off the city loan.  "We already raise about $10 million a year from various sources," Morgan said. "So, really, raising about 10% is not a difficult thing to do. Our membership base continues to grow, the support for the zoo continues to grow."  But animal welfare advocates saw a measure of victory.  "Overall, we're very pleased that they've stopped construction on the exhibit," said Catherine Doyle, a longtime elephant welfare activist with the group In Defense of Animals. "We still have a lot of work to do, and we'd like Billy to be moved to a sanctuary." If the zoo is allowed to finish the exhibit, it will bring in more Asian elephants to start a breeding program that will include Billy, an Asian bull. But Cardenas said he thinks the council will not vote to restart construction. And he said it will be his job to remind his colleagues of the welfare issues, not just the financial ones. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said that although he still sympathizes with the activists in their opposition to elephants at zoos, he will go along with whatever the council decides. "Obviously they're revisiting the issue and they have a right to do it," he said, stopping in the City Hall rotunda, "and I'll respect whatever they do."

Titus, Duke’s Oldest Lemur, Dies at 25

December 4, 2008   www.newsobserver.com  By Leah Friedman

DURHAM - Titus, a lemur who lived most of his life at the Duke Lemur Center has died.  He was 25 and the last golden-crowned sifaka in captivity. He died Tuesday night after Lemur Center veterinary staff removed a tumor from his liver that was one-tenth of his 9-pound weight. Titus was born in 1983 in the wild in Madagascar. He came to the Duke center in 1993,  A first tumor near Titus' liver was discovered about a year ago and was successfully removed. But during the Thanksgiving weekend, he stopped eating and soon died.

Ban on Lead Ammunition in California Expanded

December 4, 2008  www.latimes.com

The Condor Preservation Act has barred the use of lead in killing big game such as deer, antelope, bear and bighorn sheep, and non-game species such as feral pigs and coyotes within within the California condor’s 2,385-square-mile range.  Now, under a settlement between environmentalists and state wildlife officials, it will be expanded to prohibit its use in the shooting of small nuisance animals, according to a settlement announced Wednesday between environmentalists and state wildlife authorities. The settlement reached by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity and California Department of Fish and Game aimed to clarify rules regarding shooting of smaller pests. The commission has agreed to consider prescribing a similar regulation against using the toxic metal for hunting of small mammals such as rabbits, opossums and tree squirrels, said Adam Keats, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity. "With this settlement, which still requires court approval, we've tied up the remaining loose ends in state hunting laws when it comes to toxic ammo in condor country," Keats said. Exposure to lead was cited as a key factor in the near extinction of the California condor. By the time all the wild condors were rescued in the 1980s for a captive breeding program, only a few dozen remained.  Some biologists, however, believe that the ban on lead does not go far enough. "Until the supply of lead ammunition is completely choked off, it will be really hard to ensure the safety of condors," said Noel Snyder, a retired field biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lowry Park Zoo Chief Fined $46,036

December 4, 2008  www.tampabay.com  By Alexandra Zayas

Water district lawyers hit Lowry Park Zoo president Lex Salisbury with a $46,036 fine Wednesday for excavating ponds and dredging without the proper permits to create his for-profit Polk County exotic animal park.  But Safari Wild owners will get a chance to negotiate that fine, said Stephen Wehrmann, his business partnter and a St. Petersburg veterinarian.  Officials with the Southwest Florida Water Management District say they learned in May that construction had taken place at the 258-acre Safari Wild site, but no environmental permits had been pulled. A dozen unauthorized land alterations were documented. They include a parking area, a rhino pen, a giraffe pen, a hay barn, an office building, a visitor welcome center, a caged monkey building, a horse stable and a 1-acre monkey island. Fences had been built into wetlands, and fill material appeared to obstruct surface waters. Larger pipes had replaced smaller ones. Marshes were created. In all, 3.4 acres were excavated, 1.83 acres filled and 1.22 acres covered with impervious material. A marsh had grown from half an acre to 2 acres when inspectors visited again in August. But Wehrmann said Wednesday that wasn't the case. He claims that he and Salisbury considered the project agricultural — a working game farm that offered private tours. They didn't think to get permits for pole barns or monkey cages, since they didn't think those would be classified as commercial buildings. "We're not big-time developers," he said. "We're both animal people. … We just didn't know all these things came into play." They also didn't think they needed permits to patch up their roads with sand. Or to replace an old pipe with a new one, slightly larger in size. And when they met with water district officials this summer, he said they were never told not to continue creating the marshes. Safari Wild already has started working with the district to secure permits for remaining road work.

Two More Condor Chicks Flying Over Grand Canyon

December 4, 2008  www.fws.gov

This year, two wild chicks hatched and fledged in Grand Canyon National Park, bringing the Arizona population close to 70 and the word's total population (captive and free-flying) to well over 320.  As recently as 1982, the world population was down to just 22 birds; and by 1987, all of the world's remaining California condors were in captivity. Today, about half of the world's condors are free-flying; and since recovery efforts began, nine chicks, including 2008's two Grand Canyon chicks, have been hatched and fledged in the wild in Arizona.  The California condor is North America's largest flying land birds with a wing span of over nine feet. They are primarily soarers, sometimes going for miles without a single flap of their wings. As a result, they prefer to live in areas with mountains, gorges, and hillsides, which create updrafts and provide favorable soaring conditions. Condors also require caves, ledges or large tree cavities for nesting. The birds did nest in the canyon for thousands of years, but as climates changed after the last ice age and, more recently, as human impacts increased, the condor's range shifted and numbers dwindled. The last wild condor in Arizona was sighted just south of the Grand Canyon in 1924.

It was not until reintroduction in northern Arizona began in 1996 that condors were once again seen flying over the Grand Canyon; and in 2003, Arizona's first "wild-hatched" chick in over 100 years hatched in Grand Canyon National Park. The parents of that historic chick, condors 127F and 123M, were one of only two condor pairs to successfully hatch and fledge a chick in Arizona this year. Their chick, 472, was seen taking short flights at the canyon on October 16.  The second chick, 476, belongs to first time parents 133F and 187M. Its mother, condor 133F, has her own place in condor history. She is the last remaining bird from the initial Arizona condor release in 1996. Her chick was seen taking its first short flights in September.

Though it is further from the brink of extinction than it was a quarter century ago, the California condor's long-term survival is far from assured. The birds are normally long-lived, and don't reach maturity until they are about six years of age. As a result, they are not prolific reproducers, usually only tending one egg every other year. Yet, they are regularly faced with threats such as lead poisoning from spent ammunition, predation, and accidental and intentional shooting.  The recovery plan for the California condor calls for the maintenance of three distinct condor populations -- two in the wild and one in captivity -- each having at least 150 members and including at least 15 breeding pairs of birds. There is a long way to go to reach that goal; but recovery efforts by committed organizations continue. The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are only a few of the many organizations that have banded together to work on condor recovery.  More information is available at the Arizona Game and Fish Department : www.azgfd.gov/condor  or the Peregrine Fund www.peregrinefund.org/conserve_category.asp?category=California%20Condor%20Restoration   To learn more about California condors in Grand Canyon National Park, visit www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/california-condors.htm

Listing the Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly

December 5, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti) as an endangered species and designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.  We find the petition provides substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing this subspecies under the Act may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this notice, we are initiating a status review of the species, and we will issue a 12-month finding.  Please submit information on or this species  before February 3, 2009 to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or by U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing,  Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2008-0110; 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: Wally ``J'' Murphy, Field Supervisor, New Mexico Ecological Services Office, 2105 Osuna NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113; by (telephone at 505-346-2525)

Second Sumatran Tiger Dies at Akron Zoo

December 5, 2008  www.ohio.com

An 18-year-old male Sumatran tiger was euthanized at the Akron Zoo, less than a month after the zoo’s 17-year-old female tiger, Aneh was euthanized because of chronic renal disease. She and Binjai were two of the oldest animals at the zoo and two of the oldest tigers in U.S. zoos accredited by the AZA. The 18-year-old Biniai was born March 26, 1990, at the Phoenix Zoo and came to Akron on Jan. 12, 2004, from the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Fla. He was taken to the zoo's animal hospital Saturday after staff members noticed a change in his appetite and behavior. Despite intensive treatments over the past few days, the tiger's condition continued to deteriorate. Lab results indicated the potential of a blood-based cancer.  The zoo's only remaining Sumatran tiger, a male named Roho, will remain on exhibit. There are 69 Sumatran tigers remaining in AZA-accredited zoos in the United States.  Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the five remaining species of tigers with only about 400 to 500 living in the wild. They are found exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Toledo Zoo’s “Lights Before Christmas”

December 5, 2008   media.www.bgnews.com By Matt Liasse

Toledo Zoo is dazzling visitors with 'Lights Before Christmas', their annual holiday event which began in 1986.  There are more than 100 animal displays featuring more than one million lights, and ice carvings. Santa Claus also pays a visit to the zoo's indoor theater for young children every night until Dec. 23.  This year, the very popular synchronized "Dancing Lights," light trees that blink in rhythm with popular Christmas classics. For the first time ever, the popular attraction will feature strobe lights for a more dramatic effect.

Confiscated Tiger Cubs Sent to Gladys Porter Zoo

December 5, 2008  www.themonitor.com

BROWNSVILLE — Six months after a failed transaction in front of a McAllen Wal-Mart, six Bengal tiger cubs have settled into their adolescent lives at the Gladys Porter Zoo.  Through the exhibit's glass pane, the cubs - four white ones and two orange ones - hardly look any worse for wear, bounding through their own private Sumatra. "Most zoos would have turned them away," said Jerry Stones, the zoo's facilities director. "But I guess you could say we're a little more open-minded."  Inbreeding - common in the exotic animal trade - has left him cross-eyed, far from a model of his brethren outside of captivity.  The cubs will each weigh more than 300 pounds in a couple of years and will have cost the zoo thousands of dollars in food and resources.  "We step up when the government needs us," Stones said. "But we're still hoping to get rid of some of these." They could end up in a wild cat sanctuary or another zoo.

Hub City Zoo Works for AZA Accreditation

December 5, 2008  www.hattiesburgamerican.com  By TERRY L. JONES

The Hattiesburg Zoo is still eager to join the ranks of accredited zoos, but that dream won't become a reality until it makes a few upgrades.  AZA says the zoo must improve educational activities and build a new quarantine hospital before it can be accredited.  A year ago the Zoo hired an education curator to address the first concern but the quarantine hospital remains a challenge.  "The quarantine facility that we have here at the zoo is centrally located," said Lori Banchero, zoo administrator. "(AZA) really prefers the quarantine hospital away from the rest of the collection."  The zoo applied for accreditation for the first time in September 2007.  More than 2,500 wildlife facilities are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture but fewer than 10 percent of those are AZA accredited, said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the AZA. "It's great the zoo in Hattiesburg is trying to get accredited. If you're trying for accreditation you're following a road map for success and we hope they get there."  Accreditation will allow the zoo to participate in breeding programs, qualify it for additional federal funding and give the zoo more clout to secure the animals it wants instead of settling for whatever is available. Banchero said design plans for the new quarantine facility are being sketched but she has no idea yet how much it will cost to build the expansion.

UN Designates Forest “Hotspots”

December 5, 2008  www.enn.com 

POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - A U.N. atlas issued at the December 1-12 U.N. climate talks in Poznan, Poland, identified hotspots with a high diversity of animals and plants in forests that were also big stores of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, in trees and soils. "It shows overlaps between carbon stored and areas of biodiversity importance," Barney Dickson, of the World Conservation Monitoring Center of the U.N. Environment Program, told Reuters. The atlas is meant to guide governments in deciding where to protect forests by slowing logging and clearing of forests.  If a government wanted to aid gorillas and other great apes, forests in part of the eastern Congo basin could be set aside. Rare birds and amphibians could be helped by protecting carbon-rich forests in Ecuador.  Elsewhere, it pointed to parts of the Amazon basin, the tip of South Africa, central Papua New Guinea, parts of the Philippines and most of Madagascar as among priority areas. The 187-nation talks of 11,000 delegates in Poznan are examining schemes to slow the rate of deforestation, such as payments to preserve tropical forests.  Current deforestation rates release about 20 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions by mankind, led by burning fossil fuels. Dickson said the maps, due to be expanded in more detail next year, were the first to make the overlaps. "When countries plan they may wish to prioritize action in some areas ahead of others," he said. Other likely factors include protecting indigenous peoples' rights.

Jane Goodall Named 2009 Year of Gorilla Patron

December 5, 2008  www.enn.com 

ARLINGTON, Virginia—Jane Goodall will serve as the official patron of the 2009 Year of the Gorilla (YoG), a 12-month campaign aimed at improving gorilla conservation and their habitats by bettering the livelihoods and incomes of local people. Prince Albert II of Monaco launched the YoG initiative December 1 at the opening of a United Nations wildlife conference in Rome, Italy. The YoG campaign also seeks to improve the management of national and cross-border primate populations, as well as those living in national parks, by strengthening cooperation between range states and providing improved support for rangers and other key personnel. It is a joint initiative of the United Nations Environment Program’s Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP-CMS); the UNEP-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP); and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

UN Boosts Protection for Migratory Species

December 5, 2008   news.yahoo.com

ROME – Representatives of 85 governments who met in Rome this week agreed to boost conservation measures for 21 migratory species.  The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals obligates countries to take measures such as banning hunting of threatened species, removing obstacles to their migration and protecting their habitats from pollution and the effects of climate change.  It also aims to reduce the noise pollution from ships and other sources that is threatening dolphins and whales, who use sound to communicate and orient themselves. New entries into the list of protected species include the cheetah, whose population has declined 90 percent over the past century, as well as seven species of dolphin from across the world's oceans.  The Egyptian vulture, increasingly poisoned by pesticides, and an Asian duck decimated by its status as a delicacy also made the list.

New Population of Snub-Nosed Monkey

December 5, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

A new population of the extremely rare Tonkin snub-nosed monkey has recently been discovered in a remote forested area of northern Vietnam. The exciting finding made by Fauna & Flora International provides new hope for the monkey's future.  Believed to be extinct until the late 1980s, only around 200 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys (scientific name: Rhinopithecus avunculus) are left in the world. As a result, the primate is listed as Critically Endangered.  Unique to Vietnam, the species is now known to be present in just two of Vietnam's northern-most provinces - Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang. In April 2008 an FFI-led team of biologists managed to observe 15-20 individuals in the nearby forest, including three. The monkeys were located in a small forest patch in Quan Ba District, Ha Giang Province, near the Chinese border. While observing this group, the biologists noted that the monkeys were very sensitive to the presence of people, giving warning signs to one another and fleeing the area whenever the team approached. It was apparent that the monkeys associated humans with danger - perhaps due to ongoing threats from hunters.  Reports from local people indicate that another - possibly larger - group also exists.

With urgent funds provided by Twycross Zoo in the UK, the first significant steps have been taken to protect this population and FFI has brought together a range of stakeholders, from provincial officials to village heads, to plan the way forward. Added to the mix is support from the Swiss development charity Caritas, which is working alongside FFI in the same district. They are now planning to provide support to the poor rural communities living next to the monkey's forest, to improve local livelihoods and reduce human pressures on the forest ecosystem, thereby increasing the monkey's chance of survival. Already, cardamom production has stopped expanding in the forest and there has been a government programme to confiscate hunting guns.
Paul Insua-Cao, FFI's Vietnam Primate Programme Manager is leading the effort.

Koala Joey Entertains San Diego Zoo Visitors

December 5, 2008  www.imperialvalleynews.com

SAN DIEGO, California - A female koala joey is out-of-the-pouch at the San Diego Zoo. Born on March 24, 2008, she has outgrown her mother’s pouch, and has started eating eucalyptus on her own, but will continue to nurse for another three months. The joey is usually holding onto her mother’s back but has shown some signs of independence by sitting next to her mother, Osana, in the perching trees at the Zoo. She will stay with their mothers for up to 18 months before full independence. The joey will be named by public vote in conjunction with the Zoo’s first series of Zoo Discovery Days, entitled Koalapalooza, January 16-19, 2009. In addition to the Name-the-Joey-contest, Koalapalooza will highlight other native Australian animals and feature regional music, food and wine.  As part of its ongoing work to preserve the koala, the San Diego Zoo works with the Australia Koala Foundation, the Center for Environmental Management of Central Queensland University and University of Queensland.

Saving the Axolotyl Salamander

December 5, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

MEXICO CITY-- Luis Zambrano is a freshwater ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who is trying to count and preserve the feathery-gilled, 33-centimeter-long axolotl salamanders in their only natural habitat, the Xochimilco network of polluted canals and small lakes in and around Mexico City.  Five hundred years ago, they were common, but as the wetlands receded, so did the axolotls, to the point that Zambrano now estimates a population density of only 100 per square kilometer of wetland, compared with estimates 10 times higher in 2004 and another six times higher than that in the 1980s. The species, Ambystoma mexicanum, is now classified as critically endangered by the IUCN.  Even though the wild type's survival is threatened, thousands of axolotls are raised in laboratories for use in research projects involving regeneration, stem cells, and developmental biology. For example, more than 1000 adult and juvenile axolotls are maintained in aquariums at the University of Kentucky's Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center in Lexington, which distributes between 15,000 and 20,000 axolotl embryos each year to more than 100 research labs in India, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and elsewhere. But although they are propagated as aquarium pets and are considered easy to breed, some axolotl colonies in labs are now under threat from a puzzling disease.--it first emerged when the center was managed at Indiana University in the 1990s and reemerged a few years ago--that has been killing some axolotl larvae. He says, "Very little is known about disease and pathogens of lower vertebrates."

Hellbender Population is in Decline

December 5, 2008  www.columbiamissourian.com

COLUMBIA — Hellbender numbers have been dwindling since the 1990s, and the North American salamander was added to the Missouri endangered species list in 2003.  The Missouri Department of Conservation is working directly with the Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation at the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute to develop a program that would breed hellbenders (a large North American salamander) in captivity and release them into the wild.  The hellbender measures 2 feet long. The eastern and Ozark subspecies (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) are among one of the largest species of salamander in the world, and Missouri is the only state that is home to both.  They are fully aquatic and can’t live out of water or crawl onto land.. A major threat to their survival is changes in watersheds that lead to reduced water quality and carry silt and gravel into stream beds. Jeff Ettling, director of the center at the Saint Louis Zoo, said the amphibian chytrid fungus is another cause of the salamander’s disappearance. The amphibian chytrid fungus is a contagious disease that occurs in amphibians. “It’s the equivalence of AIDS in humans,” Ettling said. “It’s not the fungus that kills them; it’s the secondary infections that develop because the fungus is present.”  Ettling said the center has successfully developed what they call a “heat treatment protocol” that is used to cure the hellbender of the fungus. He said the center is getting closer to breeding the hellbender successfully in captivity.  "We are confident that successful reproduction will occur in the coming years,” Ettling said. A picture can be viewed at : http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2008/12/05/releases-aim-help-endangered-salamanders/

AZA Suspends Lowry Park Accreditation

December 6, 2008  www2.tbo.com   By BAIRD HELGESON

TAMPA – AZA has suspended its endorsement of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.  The Association no longer sanctions the zoo's animal practices, so it cannot exchange animals with other members of the association.  The suspension also jeopardizes the zoo's lease with the city, which requires the complex to carry the AZA endorsement. The zoo's leadership and board will review the findings and determine whether policy changes are necessary. Zoo board chairman Bob Merritt said “We had some technical deficiencies, and we will address them."  Santiago Corrada, the city's representative on the zoo board said Merritt told him the association could reconsider the zoo's suspensions in March. The zoo passed its most recent accreditation renewal in 2004.

AZA Revokes Memberships of Salisbury & Killmar

December 7, 2008   www2.tbo.com  By BAIRD HELGESON

TAMPA, Florida -- The AZA has temporarily revoked the memberships of Lowry Park Zoo President Lex Salisbury, and collections director Larry Killmar for "intentionally failing to abide" by the association's policies when they acquired and transferred animals. Salisbury used zoo resources and animals to start Safari Wild, an African safari-style animal attraction he is building near Lakeland. A team from AZA visited after news reports that the zoo bought, sold, traded or donated more than 200 animals to Salisbury. The association also says Killmar and Salisbury didn't fully participate in its Species Survival Plan, which helps sustain populations of endangered wildlife and potentially at-risk species. The program coordinates breeding and transfers of animals with its members to help ensure the survival of those species. At Killmar's request, the zoo took three rhinos to Safari Wild and allowed Salisbury to keep some of the offspring as part of a now-voided loan agreement.  AZA does not recognize Safari Wild and they have temporarily suspended Lowry Park Zoo’s Accreditation.  AZA spokesman Steve Feldman said he was hopeful that Tampa's zoo would return to good standing by the time the association's board meets in March in Oklahoma City to make a final decision.

Zoo Animal Superstars

December 7, 2008  www.abcnews.go.com

The zoo “superstar” is a desirable addition to zoos around the world. Baby animals, rescued animals and endangered animals bring in big crowds, which generate a lot of press and ticket sales.  Jack Hanna, of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, says "When you have baby animals that are considered superstars, it does a lot for the zoo. Iincreased visitation, is linked to a lot of dollars for the Columbus Zoo. A lot of dollars that go into conservation and education."  His zoo is the home of Colo, the first gorilla ever born in a zoological setting. She turns 52 on Dec. 22 and is the oldest gorilla living in a zoo. Colo is the first zoo superstar; and graced the cover of Life magazine.  The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is still rejoicing in the birth of their first baby elephant, Samson. Other superstars around the country include Nipper, a penguin from the Tennessee Aquarium, who stars in his own commercials.  Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California has a White Bengal Tiger named Odin who dives for snacks of red meat. And at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Patrick the penguin paints.

21 New Species are Endangered

December 7, 2008  www.news24.com

ROME - Twenty-one animal species, including the cheetah, three dolphins and an Egyptian vulture, have been designated “endangered” by a UN conference that ended on Friday.  Six other bird species as well as manatees have also been placed on the list of animals benefiting from increased protection, Appendix I.  The findings were made at a conference of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Several types of sharks have been placed on Appendix II of threatened species, including two families of Mako sharks in the Mediterranean whose population has fallen by 96% in recent years due to overfishing.  The conference also adopted a resolution that aims to reduce noise pollution in oceans caused by the increase in vessels, more seismic surveys and a new generation of military sonars.

Man ‘Visits’ SF Zoo Rhino Enclosure

December 8, 2008    www.ktvu.com

SAN FRANCISCO — The director of animal care and control for the city of San Francisco, said a man hopped the fence mid-afternoon Monday and climbed down a small slope to a large barrier that separates the black rhinos from visitors.  A witness notified zoo employees, and animal control officers responded and cited the man.  The man had not scaled the second barrier and did not make contact with the rhinos. The man was cited for violating a park code making it illegal to bother, harass, chase or throw things at zoo animals after he had left the enclosure.

Blank Park Zoo Gets $500,000 Donation

December 8, 2008  www.desmoinesregister.com

The Blank Park Zoo Foundation has received a $500,000 gift from the Meredith Corporation Foundation as part of a $40 million campaign to renovate and expand the zoo.  Iowa’s three former governors and 2 community leaders are heading the “Wild About Animals Capital Campaign” and have now raised a total of $13.1 million.  The campaign goal includes $32 million for expansion and renovation, and $8 million for an endowment to sustain the zoo after its expansion. When the expansion is complete, the zoo will grow from its current 23 acres to more than 103 acres. Current plans call for walking trails, new animal exhibits, an endangered species carousel, a dugout canoe ride, tram and sky ride along with a new education center in a renovated historic Fort Des Moines building.

Tanya Peterson  - SF Zoo Director

December 8, 2008  www.sfgate.com

Tanya Peterson, a Hewlett Packard lawyer who took over as the San Francisco Zoo's interim director in June, will stay at the post indefinitely.  She was previously a member of the fundraising board that governs the San Francisco Zoological Society, a nonprofit that runs the city-owned zoo.  She assumed the post six months after a tiger escaped from its enclosure and attacked three people, killing a 17-year-old from San Jose. She succeeded Manuel Mollinedo, who was forced out after the board apparently lost confidence in his ability to run the institution.  Peterson has no prior experience in the animal world but has earned praise both in and outside the zoo for her low-key management style, openness and financial prowess.

Listing the Black-Breasted Puffleg Hummingbird

December 8, 2008   www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list as endangered, the foreign species, black-breasted puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis--a hummingbird native to Ecuador). We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before February 6, 2009.  Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-IA-2008-0116; 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 comments by e-mail or fax.

Climate Change May Be Killing Moose

December 8, 2008  www.startribune.com  by Larry Oakes

DULUTH - According to scientists and wildlife managers meeting here to talk about the dramatic decline in the state's moose population in recent decades, climate change is probably to blame. State wildlife biologists estimate the population has dropped 25 to 50 percent in 20 years, with a near-collapse in northwest Minnesota, now estimated to have fewer than 100 moose, down from 4,000 in the mid-1980s.  They said that while disease, parasites, predation and other factors all contribute to moose mortality in northern Minnesota -- on the extreme southern fringe of this historic moose range -- heat stress from a documented rise in temperatures appears to be the root cause of the decline. There was talk of the possibility of a Minnesota without moose by 2050, if present trends continue. "Moose are very heat-sensitive," said Prof. Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University, chair of the 17-member advisory committee, which plans to recommend to the DNR in June how the decline might be slowed and what new research might be needed.

Fire Kills 30 Lemurs at Sanctuary

December 9, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

CUMBRIA, UK -- 30 lemurs have died from smoke inhalation at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Dalton.  The fire destroyed the wooden buildings that were housing the animals.  The cause is currently under investigation.

Lake Superior Zoo Management Change

December 9, 2008 www.duluthnewstribune.com

DULUTH, Minnesota -- The city of Duluth can no longer afford to run the Lake Superior Zoo, according to the city’s Chief Administrative Officer. After 85 years, she is suggesting that the zoo be managed by the Lake Superior Zoological Society  The move will save the city $338,200 in 2009, plus $190,000 in time spent by city employees in other departments.  In the agreement, the city will pay the society a management fee of $680,000 for 2009 — coming from $545,000 in tourism tax revenue and a $135,000 state grant. Compare that with the nearly $1.1 million the city budgeted for the zoo in 2008, a total that doesn’t include those in-kind services from other departments.  Years of city underfunding, lack of capital improvements and inadequate maintenance have brought the zoo to a critical point.  To survive and thrive it needs to follow a national trend of nonprofit management, Potswald wrote.  Such a transfer of operations was recommended by Schultz and William, a national zoo consulting firm that did a strategic assessment of the zoo’s operations in 2006. It also was recommended by former zoo director Ryan Gulker. And it was one of the cost-saving measures proposed by Mayor Don Ness in June.  Since 1993, the Lake Superior Zoological Society has handled the zoo’s admissions, marketing, educational programs and run the gift shop while the city has been responsible for the buildings, grounds and animals. If the City Council approves the management contract, the society will be responsible for it all beginning Jan. 1, though the city will still own the zoo.

Critical Habitat for Wintering Piping Plover

December 9, 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 Texas We also announce the availability of a draft economic analysis (DEA) and a draft environmental assessment of the proposed critical habitat designation and a corrected area estimated for 19 critical habitat units vacated by the court, and amended required determinations. We are reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rule, the associated DEA, the draft environmental assessment, the corrected acreage figures, and our amended required determinations. Written Comments: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before January 8, 2009. Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: or by US Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AV46, 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.

Beardsley Zoo Tiger Swap

December 9, 2008  www.connpost.com

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- The three Amur tiger cubs born in the summer of 2005 at Beardsley Zoo are being sent to other zoos for breeding.  Zoo Director Gregg Dancho said " In return, the zoo will be getting a large, 400-pound male Amur tiger from the Detroit Zoo named Booski, and an adult female from the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y.  It's hoped that the two will strike up a relationship and mate. "But it's not easy to get tigers to mate at a zoo." Of the three cubs, the male, Viktor, has already been moved to the Detroit Zoo. The other two cubs, Nikka and Koshka, will be leaving soon. Nikka will be sent to the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich., later this month, and Koshka will be sent to the Denver Zoo this spring. Amur tigers were formerly known as Siberian tigers. The name change was needed because the species, Panthera tigris altaica, is no longer found in Siberia, but rather lives mostly in the Amur region of the Far East. It's listed as critically endangered, The tigers were all but wiped out of their range in Russia during that nation's civil war, 1917-23 and rampant poaching after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Today, only a few hundred still live in Russia.

Importance of Elephants at the LA Zoo (Essay)

December 9, 2008  www.latimes.com  By Hector Tobar

Visiting the zoo is a Los Angeles rite of passage. I started coming in the late 1960s. For my Guatemalan immigrant parents, it was one more liberating thing about living in California. They had the strange notion that bringing their son to see the animals would somehow make him smarter.  Many L.A. families still think of the zoo that way -- as a window into the larger world we want our children to know. We get angry when the window shrinks and there's less for our kids to see. As a lifelong observer of the city's political life, I wasn't surprised when the council voted last week to take a big step toward a zoo without elephants. History shows you can take away a lot from the working families of Los Angeles without hearing them make an organized complaint.
Animal activists say Billy's current enclosure, at 0.57 acres, is too small. The "Pachyderm Forest" exhibit would be 3.6 acres, which is significantly larger than the field at Dodger Stadium. It's still not big enough, say the animal rights activists. Spurred on by their vocal concerns, the council vote forced the zoo to stop construction.

One of the great charms of the zoo is its audience - visitors reflect the diversity of Southern California. Zoo attendance figures read a bit like the last Los Angeles County census: 45% white, 40% Latino, 7% African American and 5% Asian.  Like Los Angeles, the zoo has suffered through cycles of boom and bust. It opened in Griffith Park to great fanfare in the 1960s. A generation later it had slipped into decline.  In 1989, I brought my future wife to the Los Angeles Zoo on our first date. It was a quiet place then whose sad atmosphere didn't quite live up to my happy childhood memories. A few years later, it briefly lost its accreditation. Attendance bottomed out two years after the 1992 riots. The comeback began with Mayor Richard Riordan in the late 1990s. In 1998, 79% of Los Angeles voters approved Proposition CC, a $47.6-million bond measure to improve the zoo.  A series of new, audience- and animal-friendly exhibits have steadily increased attendance, including "Chimps of Mahale Mountain" in 1998 and the "Campo Gorilla Reserve" in 2007. The new “Pachyderm Forest”, with its waterfalls and mudholes, was to be the centerpiece of the zoo's renaissance.  Now, it may never open.

Billy's defenders want to send him to a sanctuary. That might be good for Billy, but I think it would be a disaster for the zoo. And a subtraction from the zoo hurts all of us because of the zoo's unique place in the life of the city.  The far-from-finished Pachyderm Forest is now a gaping hole in the heart of the 80-acre zoo. The old reptile house and other exhibits were torn down years ago to make room for the expanded elephant enclosure. Longtime visitors say they've grown tired of waiting for the new exhibit.  "It's become a political football. I really don't get it," said Michael Weiner, 46, of Sherman Oaks. "If it's not big enough for the elephants, what about the lions and the jaguars?"  And the sanctuary in Northern California that accepted Billy's friend Ruby charges $200 to visit its public area. 

Twycross Zoo Will Recycle Manure

December 9, 2008  news.bbc.co.uk

The Twycross Zoo has purchased a £150,000 machine to turn the manure produced every year by its 1,000 mammals, birds and reptiles into compost.  About 800 tons of waste is produced each year. The Hotrot in-vessel composting system converts waste into compost in just more than two weeks.  The zoo plans to use the compost on its flower beds and to help grow crops which would be fed to its animals.

Panda Attacks Ocean Park Keeper

December 9, 2008 www.telegraph.co.uk

HONG KONG -- A male panda named, An An, meaning "peace" in Mandarin, attacked a keeper on the leg as he placed food on the ground for the animal.  A park visitor has now posted a video clip on YouTube which claims to show moments after the attack, with the keeper in a green park uniform crawling out of the panda pen as the animal runs back into its den. An unidentified park employee said the keeper did not follow proper protocol, which requires locking pandas in their sleeping dens before putting bamboo leaves in their habitat.  A gift from the mainland Chinese government, An An is one of four pandas at the zoo.  He arrived in Hong Kong in 1999 with female Jia Jia from the southwestern province of Sichuan.  Another two giant pandas were also moved to the territory last year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this former British colony's return to Chinese rule.

Nashville Zoo’s Tactile Safari

December 9, 2008  www.zandavisitor.com    By Jim Bartoo

NASHVILLE, TN - Hands-on displays, large-text signs and Braille make up Nashville Zoo’s new Tactile Safari at the giraffe and elephant habitats. Designed specifically for the blind and visually impaired but enjoyed by all, this new sensory experience lets Zoo guests explore some of the physical parallels between animals and humans.  The new display at the Giraffe Savannah features a life-size replica of a giraffe’s cervical vertebrae that lets Zoo guests feel the similarities between a giraffe and human neck. At the African Elephant Savannah, visitors can compare their molars to those inside a full-size elephant skull. Accompanying graphics and Braille at each exhibit help enforce the comparison message.  “Each display explores a physical component of the animal on exhibit, drawing comparisons to humans,” said Education Curator Shellie Kalmore. “For example, giraffes have the same seven bones, or cervical vertebrae, making up their necks as we do, but each giraffe vertebra can grow up to a foot long.”  Tactile Safari is the result of a collaboration between Nashville Zoo and local girl scouts Lizzie Waldo and Sara Jane Johnston. Zoo docent Mike Modrak and the project’s graphic designer, Tony Kougious, generously donated their time, talent and financial support.

Global Study of  Bird Clutch Size

December 9, 2008  www.physorg.com

A global study of clutch size variation in birds appears in the current issue of the journal PLoS Biology.  The authors combined data on the clutch sizes of 5,290 species of birds with information on the biology and environment of each of these species.  Walter Jetz, an associate professor of biology at UCSD and the senior author of the study said "cavity nesters, such as woodpeckers, have larger clutches than open-nesting species. And species in seasonal environments, especially those living at northern latitudes, have larger clutches than tropical birds."  In the past biologists have generally found  that species that are short-lived or have a low survival rate, tend to lay more eggs while longer-lived species or those with a higher survival rate, tend to lay fewer eggs, investing more time raising their offspring. But clutch sizes can vary widely between closely related species due to variations in their environment, nutrition, health and predation.  The integration of geographic and life history datasets enabled the researchers to simultaneously address the importance of ecological, evolutionary, behavioral and environmental variables involved.. They found that increased environmental variation causes birds to lay larger clutches. Most ornithological research has taken place in the highly seasonal environments of North America and Europe, but most bird species live in less seasonal tropics. Therefore, the small clutch size seen in less-studied tropical birds is the norm. Increased predation pressure experienced by open-nesting birds also causes them to lay smaller clutches than cavity-nesting birds, literally having fewer eggs in one basket to spread the risk."  The authors say they believe this information will become increasingly more important in efforts to protect these birds as rapid environmental changes due to global warming affect these species.

Three Warty Pigs Born at Brevard Zoo

December 9, 2008 www.floridatoday.com BY CHRIS KRIDLER

Three Visayan warty pigs were born Nov. 18 at the Brevard Zoo and are expected to go on exhibit Thursday. Six-year-old mom, Fancy and sire Pandan, arrived with 2 other females from the San Diego Zoo in June.  Another female was born in September to mom Makina. The endangered pigs are native to six islands in the Philippines but are extinct on four of them.

USFWS Increases Import/Export Wildlife Fees

December 9, 2008  www.fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is increasing inspection fees for import and export of wildlife, and wildlife products, in order to recover more of the costs of inspecting shipments from those who use these services.  The Service is also adding new fees for certain types of shipments and eliminating some exemptions from import/export license and inspection fee requirements.  The changes are documented in a final rule that was published today in the Federal Register.  The Service will implement the new fees and requirements on January 8, 2009. The current fee structure dates back to 1996 and does not cover the costs of providing inspections. Under the new fee schedule, commercial importers and exporters will see fees rise gradually over the next four years.  The flat rate "base" inspection fee for a commercial shipment inspected at a designated port during normal business hours will increase from $55 to $87 in 2009.  This fee will rise incrementally each year thereafter until it reaches $93 in 2012. The 2009 base inspection fee for all shipments imported or exported at other ports will be $136.  This fee will also increase by small amounts each year, rising to $145 in 2012.  All importers and exporters using ports where Service inspectors are not stationed will also pay travel, transportation, and per diem costs associated with inspection of their shipments.  The Service will now charge special "premium" fees for shipments consisting of live wildlife or protected species.  Businesses dealing in such wildlife will pay the new premium fees in addition to the appropriate base inspection fee. The Service is also removing some exemptions that waived license and/or fee requirements for specific businesses.  Under the new rules, circuses and animal shows and those dealing in furs from certain captive-bred species must obtain a Service import/export license and pay inspection fees.  Exports of captive-bred bison, emu, and ostrich meat and aquacultured sturgeon food items will no longer be exempt from inspection fees.

Premium fees, however, will also apply to some non-commercial imports and exports involving live specimens or protected species.  Importers and exporters will pay premium fees for shipments moving by air, ocean, rail or truck cargo at designated ports and for any import or export of live or protected wildlife at other ports.  "In the past, businesses paid most of the inspection fees we collected.  But many of the more complex and time-consuming inspections our officers conduct involve live wildlife or protected species imported and exported for non-commercial purposes.  We're no longer going to ask businesses to subsidize these other inspections," said Service Law Enforcement Chief Benito Perez. During 2009, the Service will collect a $37 premium fee for imports or exports of live wildlife.  A separate $37 premium fee will be charged for imports or exports of species protected under Federal law when a permit is required.  Such wildlife includes federally listed endangered or threatened species, migratory birds, marine mammals, injurious species, and wildlife protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. If a shipment contains both live wildlife and species protected under Federal law, the importer or exporter will pay two premium fees.  Premium fees will increase each year over the remaining years covered by the fee schedule, rising from $37 in 2009 to $93 in 2012.

Endangered Species Candidate Notice of Review

December 10, 2008    www.epa.gov  

In this Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), present an updated list of plant and animal species native to the United States that we regard as candidates for or have proposed for addition to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants under the Endangered Species Act. The CNOR summarizes the status and threats that we evaluated in order to determine that species qualify as candidates and to assign a listing priority number (LPN) to each species, or to remove species from candidate status. Additional material that we relied on is available in the Species Assessment and Listing Priority Assignment Forms (species assessment forms, previously called candidate forms) for each candidate species.  This CNOR recognizes 1 new candidate, changes the LPN for 11 candidates, and removes 2 species from candidate status. The current number of species that are candidates for listing is 251. The list is available at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/candidates/index.html  We will accept information on this Candidate Notice of Review at any time. Species assessment forms with information and references on a particular candidate species' range, status, habitat needs, and listing priority assignment are available for review at the appropriate Regional Office

New Candidates Include:
Mammals  Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni)
Reptiles    Northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops)
Amphibians   Jollyville Plateau salamander (Eurycea tonkawae)
Fish      Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis)
Flowering Plants   Sphaeralcea gierischii (Gierisch mallow)

Mother Rejects Newborn Gorilla at SF Zoo

December 10, 2008   www.sfgate.com

SAN FRANCISCO – The birth of a male lowland gorilla Monday, was the first at the San Francisco Zoo in 10 years. Keepers were initially ecstatic because mother Monifa appeared to be caring for the infant. But about two hours later, the she left the nest to eat and did not return. The baby's father is silverback Oscar Jonesy, who is on long-term loan from a zoo in Buffalo, N.Y. Primate curator, Corrine Macdonald spent all Monday night and this morning inside the gorilla house, observing the drama before deciding to separate mother and baby. Monifa obligingly went into another enclosure to allow keepers to remove her infant and take him to the hospital at about 5 a.m.  He is healthy and weighs about 6 pounds. "He's moving around, grabbing things, sucking on his thumb and on our fingers," said Macdonald.  Macdonald said keepers planned to briefly anesthetize and examine the mother, then place the baby on her chest and allow her to wake up.  "Hopefully, she will accept the infant then," Macdonald said.  The baby was given an electrolyte fluid solution but no milk. A newborn gorilla does not require milk for up to three days after birth, Macdonald said.  If Monifa remains aloof, keepers will decide whether to raise the infant by hand or to see if another female gorilla can become a surrogate mother.

Lion from WAP Moves to Sacramento Zoo

December 10, 2008 www.my58.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A 2-year-old male lion named Kamau is the newest animal to arrive at the Sacramento Zoo.  The lion recently moved to Sacramento from the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  Kamau will be paired up with another zoo resident, a female lion named Cleo.  The zoo's other male lion, Luxor, moved to the Peoria Zoo in Illinois in November based on the  recommendation of the Lion Species Survival Plan.

Flora in Tropical Areas is Suffering

December 10, 2008  www.enn.com 

A new study published in PLoS ONE by Jana Vamosi and Steven Vamosi, of the University of Calgary finds that the risk of extinction for plants is higher in countries close to the equator than previously thought.  "The tropics contain many ancient species of plants, leading many to consider tropical species as less susceptible to extinction -- but our study indicates that quite the opposite is, in fact, the case.  The extinction risk for plants is high in countries close to the equator and even higher on islands, even after we take into account factors related to human activities and their use of the natural resources."  Previous studies on biodiversity in the tropics have focused on beetles, birds, mammals and molluscs. The Vamosi study mined worldwide databases for the number of plant species at risk in each country of the world, and looked at human factors such as GDP, population density and deforestation. Vamosi concentrated on data from vascular plants (ferns, conifers, and flowering plants).  "Our findings differ from previous ones in that factors tightly linked to human activity were not particularly important in determining how many plant species were threatened with extinction. Instead, the most important factor seemed to be simply latitude. So, extinction dynamics may be very different between plant and animal species. Plant species near the equator may persist at naturally low population sizes or have small ranges, making them intrinsically more susceptible to a given amount of disturbance."

Protections for the Gray Wolf

December 11, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is issuing this final rule to comply with three court orders which have the effect of reinstating the regulatory protections under the Endangered Species Act), for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the western Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountains. This rule corrects the gray wolf listing to reinstate the listing of wolves in all of Wisconsin and Michigan, the eastern half of North Dakota and South Dakota, the northern half of Iowa, the northern portions of Illinois and Indiana, the northwestern portion of Ohio, the northern half of Montana, the northern panhandle of Idaho, the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, and in north-central Utah as endangered, and reinstate the listing of wolves in Minnesota as threatened. This rule also reinstates the former designated critical habitat for gray wolves in Minnesota and Michigan, special regulations for the gray wolf in Minnesota, and special rules designating the gray wolf in the remainder of Montana and Idaho and all of Wyoming as nonessential experimental populations.

SF Zookeepers Seek Surrogate Gorilla Mom

December 11, 2008  www.sfgate.com  By John Coté

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- The baby male gorilla, born Monday nursed from his mother after keepers had her anesthetized Tuesday in hopes she would give the newborn another chance when she awoke.  "His instincts were right on," said Corinne MacDonald, curator of primates The only problem was that mom, Monifa, still didn't appear to be interested in the newborn. Tuesday night, she bedded down in the gorilla enclosure about as far away as she could from her infant.  The baby gorilla was taken to the zoo hospital overnight and returned Wednesday to a specially set up nursery that is separated from the main gorilla enclosure only by mesh, allowing the baby to hear, see and smell his brethren, and vice versa.  The hope is that Bawang, an elder female in the troop who has already raised offspring, will adopt the infant like one of her own. She already has shown interest since his birth, MacDonald said. It's also possible Monifa will see that interaction and decide to raise her baby.  If neither female gorilla takes to the baby, zookeepers will rear him themselves and try to get him to integrate with the troop when he's older, MacDonald said.  Two specialists in raising gorilla babies are heading to San Francisco from the zoo in Columbus, Ohio, she said. In the interim, zoo staffers wearing hospital scrubs and face masks are caring for the baby.

Central Florida Zoo Expands Recycling

December 11, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

SANFORD, FL -- Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens plans to expand its recycling collection program on Jan. 5.  As part of its partnership with Blue Earth Solutions, the zoo will set up Styrofoam collecting bins near the entrance so area residents and businesses can drop off clean Styrofoam containers.  The recycling system, called StyroSolve, offers a non-toxic, biodegradable alternative to the current practice of discarding Styrofoam in landfills or burning it.

Bobby the gorilla dies in London Zoo

December 11, 2008  www.hamhigh.co.uk

LONDON Zoo's star attraction, Bobby, has died.  Keepers at the zoo in Regent's Park found the 25-year-old silverback dead in his nest last Friday during the early morning check. Tracey Lee, team leader of mammals south said "The last year of Bobby's life was spent happily in his new Gorilla Kingdom - he had his own troop of ladies to look after – Zaire, Effie and his very special love Mjukuu.  It was hoped the new home would stimulate breeding but hings never really sparked between Bobby, and Zaire.  When Mjukuu arrived, however,  Bobby fell in love.  Sadly is life ended far below the usual captive life expectancy of 30 to 50 years. A remembrance service was held yesterday and visitors and staff laid wreaths in the courtyard. Messages have been flooding in to the zoo's online book of condolences. 
http://www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/news/book-of-condolance-for-bobby,1031,AR.html The zoo has also pledged to contribute £500,000 to the conservation of gorillas in the wild through its conservation programme

Climate Impact on Mountain Yellow-legged Frog

December 11, 2008  www.enn.com 

The Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged frog was common in Sierra Nevada high-elevation lakes and slow-moving streams at altitudes ranging from 4,500 to 12,000 feet. But, its range has decreased more than 80 percent in the last 90 years. These lakes and streams were historically fishless, until hybrid trout were introduced.  An article appearing in the current issue of "Herpetological Conservation and Biology" is available at: http://www.herpconbio.org/Volume_3/Issue_2/Wheeler_Welsh_2008.pdf  Kathleen Matthews and Krishna Feldman, US Forest Service scientists at the Pacific Southwest Research Station and Igor Lacan of UC Berkeley have co-authored a 10-year study of the lakes in Kings Canyon National Park's Dusy Basin.  The lakes are mostly fed by snowmelt and one of the principal effects predicted of climate change on Sierra Nevada water balance is a decreased snow pack, with more than half of the current snow water equivalent gone by 2090.  Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged frogs need two to four years of permanent water to complete their development so repeated tadpole mortality from lakes drying up in summer leads to population decline. The scientists found the effect to be a distinct mortality mechanism that could become more important in a warmer, drier climate.  In addition, they believe it was unlikely the frogs were historically restricted to small lakes in Dusy Basin as they are today. Larger lakes free of introduced fish would have provided frogs and tadpoles an important refuge in dry years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that listing the Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged frog as an endangered species is warranted but precluded.

TRAFFIC Exposes Asian Elephant Smuggling

December 11, 2008  www.enn.com 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Around 250 live Asian Elephants have been smuggled from Myanmar in the past decade, mostly destined for “elephant trekking” tourism activities in neighboring Thailand, according to a new report by TRAFFIC.  Meanwhile blatant illegal ivory trade continues in Myanmar, with TRAFFIC surveys of 14 markets and three border markets in Thailand and China finding 9,000 pieces of ivory and 16 whole tusks for sale. Retailers generally displayed ivory and other elephant parts quite openly and rarely hesitated in disclosing smuggling techniques and other illegal activities to TRAFFIC staff .  The report confirms a serious lack of law enforcement and a blatant disregard for international conventions and national laws TRAFFIC and WWF are calling on authorities in Myanmar to work closely with enforcement officers in neighboring Thailand and China to address the illegal trade in live elephants and ivory.

Orangutan Spontaneous Whistling

December 11, 2008 www.genengnews.com

DES MOINES, Iowa -- In a paper published this month in Primates, Great Ape Trust scientist Dr. Serge Wich and his colleagues provide the first-ever documentation of a primate mimicking a sound from another species without being specifically trained to do so. Bonnie, a 30-year-old female orangutan living at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., began whistling a sound that is in a human's, but not an orangutan's, repertoire after hearing an animal caretaker make the sound.  "It counters a long-held assumption that non-human primates have fairly fixed sound repertoires that are not under voluntary control. Being able to learn new sounds and use these voluntarily are also two important aspects of human speech and these findings open up new avenues to study certain aspects of human speech evolution in our closest relatives." Wich said.  The paper also shares anecdotal information about Indah, a female orangutan who lived with Bonnie at the National Zoo before moving to Great Ape Trust in 2004. Indah also began to whistle some years after Bonnie was first observed making the sound in the late 1980s, but Indah died before recordings could be made of her whistles. Scientists believe that Indah's whistling was a vocalization learned from Bonnie. Wich will present the findings on Dec. 18 at a scientific symposium on orangutan genetics at the University of Zrich, Switzerland.

That compares with what scientists assume about social learning in wild orangutan populations. For example earlier work by Dr. van Schaik and colleagues showed that wild orangutans in one population make a "raspberry" sound during nest-making, while orangutans in another population make a "nest smack" sound when engaged in the same activity. Wich said it's unlikely that purely genetic or ecological factors explain the differences in sounds of different orangutan populations. Rather, it's more likely others copy one orangutan's innovative sound because the sound serves a function.  "This is a very strong indication that different sounds among wild populations are learned and are not purely genetically or ecologically based," Wich said. "This is a great indication that orangutans can learn sounds not in their repertoire from another species, and they are flexible in using them."  The scientific investigation with Bonnie at the National Zoo was supported in part by a grant from the David Bohnett Foundation and complements field studies of wild orangutans, where differences have been noted in the call repertoires between populations.

Bush Administration Relaxes Endangered Species Rules

December 11, 2008  www.usatoday.com 

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is reducing protections for endangered animals and plants.  Some mandatory, independent reviews that government scientists have performed for 35 years are being eliminated. The scientists' advice from such reviews can delay or block dams, highways and other projects.  The new rules will take effect in about 30 days. The rules also prohibit federal agencies from evaluating the effect on endangered species and the places they live from a project's contribution to increased global warming.  Barack Obama, who takes office in 6 weeks, has promised to reverse the new rules. Congress also could overturn them.

Time Magazine: Zoos Bad for Elephants

December 11, 2008  www.time.com  By Jeffrey Kluger

A life spent battling predators, famine, disease and the elements may be an independent one, but it can also be a very short one. That is the case zoos and wildlife parks often make when they argue that protective captivity may be a boon for many animals, particularly species that are endangered or threatened. But when it comes to the elephant, a new study suggests that a zoo might be the least safe place.  In a survey of 4,500 captive elephants worldwide, a team of researchers from the U.K., Canada and Kenya found that once you lock up the giant, space-loving beasts, their health suffers, their median life span plummets and they quit breeding.  Among African elephants, zoo-born females live a median of 16.9 years in zoos, while those in the wild make it to a wizened 56. Asian elephants, the more endangered of the two species, live 18.9 years in captivity and 41.7 in the wild. A few superannuated wild elephants have actually reached their 70s, and in Kenya, between 30% and 50% of the non-captive population hits at least 50. "So far," says animal welfare scientist Georgia Mason of the University of Guelph in Ontario., one of the authors of the new study, "we've got 300 African elephants in zoos in Europe and no one's yet reached 50."  The study is published in the journal Science

Worse, what's killing the elephants is often ills they never would encounter in the wild. Obesity, and Cardiovascular disease the result of too many calories and too little exercise.  Baby elephants born in captivity are noticeably chubbier from the start than those born in the wild. Herpes, improbably, is killing elephants too — at least the Asian species. Wild African elephants are often infected with a form of herpes virus that causes them little illness or discomfort, but when the two species were brought together in zoos, the virus jumped to the Asians and mutated into a lethal form. "Zoos have accidentally created this," says Mason. Another reason the babies are dying is, tragically, the mothers. Infanticide is almost unheard of among wild elephants. Mothers invest two years in their pregnancies, they live in stable matriarchal groups and females collectively care for the young. In captivity, mothers are often held in relative solitude, undergo stressful and painful births, and then simply kill the source of all that suffering. Some mothers, Mason says, may even turn to infanticide because they just don't know what the small, squirmy creature that suddenly appeared in front of them is. "Many females in zoos have never seen a calf," she says, "so they may not recognize it."

Zookeepers and policy makers who aren't moved by all this suffering might instead be convinced by the simple fact that it costs a fortune to keep elephants so miserable. In the last 10 years, zoos have spent or committed about $500 million to build or upgrade enclosures designed to improve the lives of 250 animals — but nothing so far suggests that does much to improve captive elephants' health or longevity. In Kenya, on the other hand, the wildlife service has an annual budget of just $20 million to look after tens of thousands of elephants. What's more, while Asian elephants remain in jeopardy — with only about 60,000 of them left — cost-effective wildlife protection programs have allowed the African elephant population to rebound to a robust 500,000. "African elephants are a conservation success story," says Mason. That's true enough much of the free population; not so much for the detainees.

2,000 Elephants Missing from Zakouma Park

December 11, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Elephants in Zakouma National Park, the last stronghold for the savanna elephants of Central Africa's Sahel region, now number about 1,000 animals, down from an estimated 3,000 in 2006. Ivory poachers using automatic weapons have decimated elephant populations – particularly when herds venture seasonally outside of the park.  Civil unrest in has made conservation exceedingly difficult in Chad. Several park guards have been shot and killed in recent years. However, safety conditions have recently improved somewhat and WCS is optimistic that it can increase on-the-ground elephant conservation work in and around Zakouma to protect the remaining population.  “There is still time to save the park's remaining elephants provided we can marshal the forces we need to stop poaching," said WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven E. Sanderson. "We need to continue to work closely with Zakouma's dedicated park guards and give them what they need to do their jobs, while our own field staff provide aerial reconnaissance and technical support."  WCS has established a fund to help save Zakouma's surviving elephants. Members of the public can support this critical effort by going to: www.wcs.org/elephants . History has shown that elephants can recover in Zakouma. Until this recent spate in poaching, elephant numbers have rebounded from an estimated 1,100 in 1985 to as many as 3,500 in early 2006.

Efforts to save the African elephant have come from various levels of government and the international community, including the United States government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its African Elephant Conservation Funds has invested more than $18 million across Africa since 1990. These funds have leveraged an additional $74 million through conservation organizations such as WCS, private donations, foundations, corporations, and other support.  Several WCS supporters have provided funds to purchase a used Cessna 185, recruit seasoned bush pilot Darren Potgieter, and begin aerial surveillance of the Zakouma landscape to strengthen the efforts of the small band of the government's courageous park rangers. These overflights not only facilitate monitoring elephant numbers in difficult terrain, but have proven to intimidate poachers in the act of stalking and poaching elephants. The flights also boost the morale of the park rangers who work in dangerous conditions with little equipment. The African elephant is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and has seen a drastic reduction in total population across its range. In the 1900s, approximately 10 million elephants roamed across sub-Saharan Africa while today less than ten percent of that remain in the wild.

New Classification for Hawaii’s Birds

December 11, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

A group of five endemic and recently extinct Hawaiian songbird species were historically classified as "honeyeaters" due to striking similarities to birds of the same name in Australia and neighboring islands in the South Pacific. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, however, have recently discovered that the Hawaiian birds, commonly known as the oo's and the kioea, share no close relationship with the other honeyeaters and in fact represent a new and distinct family of birds—unfortunately, all of the species in the new family are extinct, with the last species of the group disappearing about 20 years ago.  The findings of the study, conducted by Robert Fleischer, a molecular geneticist at Smithsonian's National Zoo and National Museum of Natural History and Storrs Olson and Helen James, both curators of birds at the National Museum of Natural History, were published in the December 11 edition of Current Biology.  "The similarities between these two groups of nectar-feeding birds in bill and tongue structure, plumage and behavior result not from relatedness, but from the process of convergent evolution—the evolution of similar traits in distantly related taxa because of common selective pressures," said Fleischer, lead author of the study.

Smithsonian scientists obtained DNA sequences from museum specimens of Moho and Chaetoptila that had been collected in Hawaii 115-158 years ago. Analyses show that these two Hawaiian genera descended from a common ancestor. Surprisingly, however, the analyses also revealed that neither genus is a meliphagid honeyeater, nor even in the same part of the evolutionary path of songbirds as meliphagids. Instead, these Hawaiian birds are divergent members of a group that includes deceptively dissimilar families of songbirds (waxwings, neotropical silky flycatchers and palm chats). The researchers have placed these birds in their own new family, the Mohoidae.

AZA Criticizes Recent Elephant Report

December 11, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By CORNELIA DEAN

A new analysis of data on more than 4,500 elephants, collected from 1960 to 2005 on elephants in European zoos, shows that “bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impairs their viability,” according to researchers, from Guelph, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and elsewhere.  They reported  their findings in today’s issue of the journal Science. Their work provoked a sharp response from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Paul Boyle, the senior vice president for conservation and education, called the work “terribly flawed” and said it reflected an antizoo agenda. He said he could not recall “the last time elephants were imported into the U.S. for a zoo. I cannot speak for other countries, but that is not true of the United States.”  And he said the researchers’ mortality comparisons did not take adequate account of wild elephants killed by people. Dr. Boyle, an environmental biologist, said the idea that infant mortality had not improved “is just not right,” and he was critical of the researchers’ use of data going back to 1960. “If you were looking at the success of heart transplants and you reached back 48 years, you would be obviously biasing the success rate,” he said.  Knowledge of nutrition, behavior and other factors, he said, “has improved in the zoo community, just like every other profession.” Dr. Boyle said errors in the paper were so “flagrant” that he had complained to the editors of Science. “I wanted to let them know that they would draw a sharp response from professionals in this community,” he said.

Head researcher Georgia J. Mason said more research was needed to determine what factors contribute to survival of zoo elephants. For example, she said it remained to be determined if large enclosures were crucial or whether social factors, like transfers, were more important. She said their findings suggested that imports of elephants should be limited to zoos that can identify and treat their problems, that transfers between zoos be minimized and that breeding efforts be limited to zoos with a record of success.

New Government Rule for Endangered Species

December 11, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By FELICITY BARRINGER

The Interior Department has announced a rule that has largely freed federal agencies from their obligation to consult independent wildlife biologists before they build dams or highways or permit construction of transmission towers, housing developments or other projects that might harm federally protected wildlife. The rule, quickly challenged by environmental groups, lets the Army Corps of Engineers or the Federal Highway Administration in many cases rely on their own personnel in deciding what impact a project would have on a fish, bird, plant, animal or insect protected under the Endangered Species Act. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said his main intention was to ensure that the 1972 law was not used as a “back door” means of regulating the emission of the gases that accelerate climate change. Without this rule, Mr. Kempthorne said, his decision last summer to list the polar bear as threatened because of the loss of sea ice caused by the warming of the climate could be used to block projects far from the bear’s Arctic habitat. Legal experts said the change seemed intended to ensure that the protection of species like the polar bear would not impede development of coal-fired power plants or other federal actions that increased emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The Endangered Species Act, a complicated law with numerous procedural requirements, has long infuriated business interests and property rights advocates. But the law’s broad sweep, and its impact on a range of issues like hydroelectric power and logging, has largely been supported by federal courts. Conservatives and business interests believed that the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species raised the specter that the law’s impact would be felt far afield. A federal decision to license a coal-fired power plant in Missouri, the reasoning went, could be blocked because the plant’s emissions would indirectly contribute to a reduction of the bear’s icy habitat. But the change to the rule, one of a series of regulatory shifts by the Bush administration in its final months, goes well beyond the concerns about climate change, several legal scholars said.“This goes to the heart of the most important provision of the Endangered Species Act,” said Brian E. Gray, a professor at the Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco said that a core principle of the act was that independent wildlife and fisheries agencies had the major say in determining whether an action could be taken “without jeopardizing the continued existence of the species.” “And protecting the continued existence of the species,” he added, “is the overriding purpose” of the law.

Calgary Zoo Will Reopen Stingray Exhibit

December 11, 2008  www.cbc.ca

The Calgary Zoo is planning to reopen its stingray exhibit seven months after the unexplained death of 41 rays.  The first shipment of five stingrays has already arrived at the zoo, and another is expected to arrive later this month. As a safeguard, the zoo has installed additional oxygenation equipment in the pool, as well as security video monitors. People won't be allowed to feed or touch the rays, for now. An "exhaustive investigation" failed to turn up a reason for the stingray deaths in May, said zoo officials. An independent laboratory tested for bacteria, disease and hundreds of possible toxins in the pool and didn't find anything. "A number of potential causes were eliminated through the course of the investigation, however, several possibilities remain including unknown toxins or a possible deficiency of dissolved oxygen in the water, but a conclusive cause may never be known."

Cincinnati Zoo Andean Condors Release in Columbia

December 11, 2008  www.upi.com

CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden officials said two endangered Andean condors have boarded a jet bound for the birds' native Columbia. The zoo said the female condors, which were hatched from parents at the Cincinnati and the San Antonio zoos, will be released into the Colombian wild as part of an international program aimed at reintroducing species to their native homes, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday. Officials said the condors, the fifth and sixth of their species to be sent to South America by the zoo in the past 14 years, will be outfitted with tracking equipment before they are released.

Mice Threaten Critically Threatened Birds on Gough Island

December 11, 2008  www.birdlife.org

The Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, has suffered its worst breeding season ever, according to research by BirdLife in the UK. The number of chicks making it through to fledging is now five times lower than it should be because introduced predatory mice are eating the chicks alive on Gough island - the bird’s only home and a South Atlantic territory of the United Kingdom.  The mice are also affecting Gough Island’s other Critically Endangered endemic species, Gough Bunting Rowettia goughensis. A recent survey of the bunting’s population revealed that the population has halved within the last two decades. Now there are only an estimated 400-500 pairs left.

Pasturella Threatens Colorado Bighorn Sheep

December 11, 2008  www.aspentimes.com

CARBONDALE — A respiratory disease is killing bighorn sheep in the Crystal Valley and threatening the viability of the Avalanche Creek sheep herd, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Pasturella is a highly contagious disease said John Groves, a wildlife manager for the district.  It tends to kill lambs within six to eight weeks of their of their early June birth dates. Research indicates that 90 to 95 percent of the lambs born annually have died off in the last two years, Groves said.  That high mortality rate has taken a toll on the herd’s standing. Data indicates the Avalanche Creek herd’s population hovered around 250 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Now it is estimated at around 70. The wildlife division feels it must intervene.  “This year we’re going to start inoculating,” Groves said.  The adults will be inoculated so that they don’t pass pasturella to the lambs. As much of the herd as possible will be baited later this winter, then trapped with a net. Wildlife officers and qualified volunteers will administrator the shots.

Zoo Atlanta Discontinues PandaCam

December 12, 2008 www.ajc.com  By Leon Stafford

“Due to limited resources, PandaCam will not be available after Dec. 31, 2008.”  According to an announcement by Zoo Atlanta officials.  The zoo had been running the cam almost nonstop just days before and during the months after the Aug. 30 birth of Xi Lan, Atlanta’s newest favorite son. Several Web sites, including www.ajc.com, linked to the site as Xi Lan’s birth neared. Xi Lan is the second panda born to Lung Lung and Yang Yang. Mei Lan, their first cub, was born in September 2006.  Keisha Hines-Davis, a zoo spokeswoman, said “We’ll still offer photos and videos and updates on our pandas,”  The cam will be available 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays for the rest of the year.

Dry Drowning of Baby Seal at Utica Zoo

December 12, 2008 www.wktv.com

UTICA, N.Y. - The Utica Zoo has received the final report from Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center in the case of the sudden death of the young California sea lion, “Jack.” After extensive examination, it has been concluded that Jack died as a result of “dry drowning.” Dr. Beth Buckles, an expert in exotic animal pathology, consulted in this case and concurs with the findings. All other findings indicated Jack was a thriving, healthy animal. There was no evidence of aggression from his parents, “Lenny” and “Munchkin.” Beth Irons, Executive Director, explained “In the wild, sea lion pups are on their own after just a few months. Jack was almost fifteen months old at the time of his death. So he and his mom, Munchkin, would have gone their separate ways long ago.”  [Dry drowning can occur clinically, or due to illness, accident, or be deliberately induced.  The lungs become unable to extract oxygen from the air.] 

Dwarf Crocodiles Split into 3 Species

December 12, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

Investigating the genes of the African dwarf crocodile, researchers from the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History have found that the group is actually three distinct species. African dwarf crocodiles were previously thought to consist of two closely related subspecies. First-author Mitchell Eaton said, “We found a great deal of evolutionary divergence between populations in the Congo Basin and on the west coast of Central Africa. We also—quite unexpectedly—found a completely new species from far West Africa; there may be even more species that we haven't sampled yet!"

African dwarf crocodiles, genus Osteolaemus, live in the tropical forests of Central and West Africa. Adults typically grow to no more than 5 feet in length and are the smallest living members of the crocodilian family. The three groups identified in this current research include a species from the Congo Basin (O. osborni), another from Central Africa's Ogooué Basin (O. tetraspis), and the new, yet unnamed species from West Africa. All of these crocodiles are widely hunted by local people as a source of food, providing up to a quarter of the non-fish bush meat consumed in some areas of Central Africa. Dwarf crocodiles are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. The research was funded in part by AMNH, the National Geographic Society, WCS, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Rufford Foundation, and the University of Colorado's Natural History Museum and Rozella Smith Fellowship. It is published in the early online edition of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Symposium on Obesity in Zoo Animals

December 12, 2008   www.stltoday.com   2008  By Jay Price

RALEIGH, NC -- An international group of zoo nutritionists, scientists and others,  gathered at North Carolina State University on Friday for a two-day symposium on the problem of obesity in zoo animals.  With so much variation among creatures, nutritionists have to treat the diet of each species almost like an individual scientific study, determining what it eats in the wild and how best to approximate it in captivity, said Richard Bergl, curator of conservation and research at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro.  When your zoo has hundreds of creatures as different as tree frogs, fish, birds and elephants, the task can be overwhelming.  Even among birds, the variation in diet is huge, including hummingbirds that sip nectar, fruit-eating parrots and vultures that chow down on rotted meat. The diet for individual animals may have to be adjusted to compensate for changes such as pregnancy, lactation or simply aging, according to Karen Lisi, a nutritionist at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.  Bergl, an expert on lowland gorillas says captive gorillas get fat for reasons similar to the boom in human obesity.  Humans haven't evolved to handle the huge amount of calories and fat that many are now eating. Similarly, Gorillas in the wild live on a bulky, low-calorie diet of such things as leaves, shoots and bark, but in zoos are often fed specially formulated "biscuits."  The biscuits give them proper nutrition, but aren't bulky and don't take long to eat, making overeating easy. That also means that zoo gorillas -- who spend much of the day foraging in the wild -- have little to do, except sit around and look bored.  Bergl said four gorillas at his zoo have been on a no-biscuit diet heavy in vegetables such as kale, cabbage and carrots for a few months. For some of the gorillas, this meant a change from about 30 pounds of high-calorie food a day to more than 100 pounds of low-calorie chow.  It's too early to evaluate the health aspects, but their behavior has improved, he said. They're more active now, and no longer sit around with blank expressions.  This is good not only for the gorillas, but also visitors, who get a chance to see more normal gorilla behavior.

Avian Dancing

December 12, 2008  www.nytimes.com  By REBECCA SKLOOT

When Aniruddh Patel, at the Neurosciences Institute in California, got the link to the YouTube video “Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo”, he saw not just a funny bird but also a potential solution to a scientific argument dating back to Darwin: some researchers say that human brains have been specially wired by natural selection for dancing, because dancing confers survival benefits through group bonding. If that were true, according to Patel, you would see dancing only in animals that, like humans, have a long history of music and dance, which no other species has. The fact that only humans dance has long been seen as evidence supporting the evolution argument.  So Patel sent an e-mail message to Snowball’s owner, Irena Schulz, and asked to study her bird. “The obvious question was whether he was just mimicking somebody,” Patel said. To answer that, he made CDs of Snowball’s favorite song at various speeds. Schulz videotaped Snowball dancing to each version, and then Patel graphed Snowball’s movement against the music’s beat. “Like a child, he synched to the music for stretches of time, then danced a little faster or a little slower, but always in a rhythmic way,” Patel says. “Statistically those periods when he’s locked onto the beat are not by chance — they really do indicate sensitivity to the beat and an ability to synchronize with it.”

Black-tailed Deer Dying in Oregon

December 12, 2008 www.mailtribune.com   By Mark Freeman

ASHLAND, Oregon — At least a dozen healthy-looking deer have died in city backyards in the past two weeks, prompting Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Niemela to seek lab tests for diagnoses.  Field necropsies done on two deer this week revealed that these animals did not die from ruminitis, a disease killing Jacksonville-area deer that were fatally fed corn by residents there, Niemela said.  "They had lots of fat and looked like healthy animals, but were dead," Niemela said.  One of those two deer showed possible signs of the adenovirus, a highly contagious disease that earlier this decade wiped out deer around Ashland, Jacksonville and other areas where the animals had unnaturally concentrated because some people were feeding them.  One of the dead deer was a fawn with a plastic grocery bag in its stomach, Niemela said.  Niemela said it was premature to conclude the adenovirus has resurfaced here.

San Diego Zoo Negotiates New Rent Agreement for Pandas

December 13, 2008  www.signonsandiego.com   By Jeanette Steele

San Diego, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Memphis – have complained since at least 2006 about China's panda rental rates.  They pay $1 million a year for adult pandas and $500,000 annually for each cub born. In addition there is research money and expertise donated to China's Wolong Panda Center.  San Diego estimated that it spent $30 million on pandas in the decade after 1996, when it signed a groundbreaking 12-year loan agreement with China. That contract expires this year. Next up is Zoo Atlanta, whose agreement ends in late 2009, and then the National Zoo and the Memphis Zoo.  San Diego's new 5-year deal is half the current cost for the adult pandas and the cub price is being negotiated.  “The Chinese are tough, but they also were very helpful and compromised,” said David Towne, president of the Giant Panda Conservation Foundation, which helped the four zoos negotiate with China.  The three other zoos agreed they could live with the terms that San Diego struck, he said.  The San Diego Zoo said details are expected at a Thursday signing ceremony with officials from the China Wildlife Conservation Association.  “What the San Diego Zoo has done is create a friendship with conservationists in China,” said Douglas Myers, San Diego CEO. “Through this friendship, we have created a collaborative effort that will keep pandas in the hearts and minds of Americans so that we may save them in China.”  China's compromising mood may stem from a reversal of fortune at its breeding campus. The Wolong preserve was severely damaged in May's 7.9-magnitude earthquake and needs to be rebuilt. “Right now China doesn't really need the pandas back,” Towne said.

California Adopts Curbs on Greenhouse Gases

December 13, 2008  www.latimes.com

SACRAMENTO -- California regulators adopted the nation's first comprehensive plan to slash greenhouse gases Thursday and characterized it as a model for President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged an aggressive national and international effort to combat global warming. The ambitious blueprint by the world's eighth-largest economy would cut the state's emissions by 15% from today's level over the next 12 years, bringing them down to 1990 levels.  Approved by the state's Air Resources Board in a unanimous vote, the 134-page plan lays out targets for virtually every sector of the economy, including automobiles, refineries, buildings and landfills. It would require a third of California's electricity to come from solar energy, wind farms and other renewable sources -- far more than any state currently requires.  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been a vigorous advocate of the plan. 

Property Tax Helps Detroit Zoo

December 14, 2008  www.freep.com   By John Wisely

Voters in 3 Michigan counties approved a new 0.1-mill regional property tax in August to fund Detroit Zoo operations. The tax, which will cost the average homeowner about $10 a year, is expected to bring in $14 million annually.  Zoo Director Ron Kagan said the millage doesn't make the zoo immune to Michigan's falling home values and the stock market swoon could hurt donations, which typically fund capital improvements. But it does provide a stable base of funding.  "Our membership is solid, and our attendance is up slightly."  Attendance was on track for about 1.1 million visitors this year. And as part of the tax plan, residents in the tri-county area receive a $10 discount on a zoo membership, which costs $45 for an individual and $74 for a family.  "We have the room, we have the expertise, and now we'll have the financial resources to care for more animals," Kagan said.  Facing a $75-million budget deficit in 2002, the Belle Isle Zoo closed. And in 2005, the 101-year-old Belle Isle Aquarium fell to the city budget cuts.  The cuts also prompted the city to turn over daily zoo operations to the nonprofit Detroit Zoological  Society in 2006. The city, however, retains ownership of the zoo and its assets.  The state has cut funding to the zoo in recent years, too. But it did approve $4 million to help facilitate the transition to the nonprofit management.  The zoo also opened a Nature Zoo on Belle Isle showing animals native to Michigan, which are cheaper to care for than the exotic animals at the main zoo in Royal Oak. A partnership with the Huron-Clinton Metro Parks Authority helps share the costs.   Kagan said the next project is likely to be a renovation of the lion exhibit next year. There also are plans to replace the current penguin house.  Plans also are in the works on a so-called green print, a plan that would make the zoo a leader in energy efficiency and conservation.  Educational plans call for more interaction between the zoo, local schools and the community. Kagan said he expects to see more zoo experts in schools, more schoolchildren at the zoo and other connections, including virtual visits.

Audit Condemns Lowry Park Zoo CEO

December 14, 2008  www2.tbo.com

TAMPA -  An official audit has revealed Lex Salisbury routinely took zoo animals, equipment and supplies for his private ranch and for a separate business venture. It also says he overcharged the zoo when selling his animals but paid below market value when he bought.  It is estimated that he should repay at leased $202,000 but the lack of documentation means he could owe much more.  Mayor Pam Iorio said she thinks the zoo's board must fire Salisbury when it convenes an emergency meeting next week to review the audit's findings.  It appears the zoo can terminate Salisbury's employment without paying any severance. Salisbury's letter of employment expired in January 2006.  Along with his salary, Salisbury receives the use of a Range Rover, which cost up to $93,325, and two zoo-paid trips each year for  his wife, one domestic and one international.  Iorio launched the audit after The Tampa Tribune reported Salisbury had taken zoo animals and resources to help build Safari Wild. The audit confirmed the incidents reported in the Tribune's investigation and uncovered several others.  Salisbury often brought his own animals to the zoo for treatment and care, which created added burden for an overtaxed staff, the audit says. At the same time, Salisbury created a culture in which zoo employees feared they would be fired if they didn't help with his private Polk County venture, Safari Wild. Many were so fearful they were reluctant to speak with city auditors.

As a result of Salisbury's animal dealing, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums temporarily revoked the accreditation of Lowry Park Zoo, Salisbury and Larry Killmar, the zoo's director of collections.  The suspension means Lowry Park can't borrow animals from other accredited zoos to enhance its exhibits.  The city owns the zoo land and animals. Part of the lease agreement with the Lowry Park Zoological Society stipulates it meet the zoo association's standards.  The zoo should take "any and all steps necessary" to restore its accreditation, the audit concluded.

Plan to Save Lake Superior Zoo

December 14, 2008  www.duluthnewstribune.com   By Sam Maida

DULUTH, MN -- Sam Maida, is the executive director of the Lake Superior Zoological Society.  The Society plans to stabilize, repair and improve the 85-year-old zoo — while simultaneously building partnerships and engaging the community.  This year groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions’ Club, Optimist Club, scout troops, nonprofits, educational institutions and church groups, as well as students, the staff and faculty from Lake Superior College, and many Duluth teachers and their classrooms, adopted projects to benefit the zoo. Local foundations supported the transition of the zoo from public to nonprofit management with substantial funding from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, the Northland Foundation and the Donald Weesner Foundation. As a nonprofit, the society can raise money and leverage resources to get things done without getting bogged down in government bureaucracy. Repairs to animal habitats, pathways and buildings (including the Tiger Deck) will be made as soon as resources are available. We plan to acquire several new animals to fill empty exhibits for the 2009 summer season.  The new operating model will encompass a team approach. Staff at all levels of the organization will focus on providing a stellar zoo experience and top-notch customer service for visitors. We intend to hire the best-qualified animal care staff that we can attract. Our zookeepers  will be trained to specialize in specific areas and to share their knowledge and interact with zoo visitors. The community can expect to find more animal enrichments, behavior trainings and keeper chats beginning early in 2009.

Dams, Roads and Development in Southeast Asia

December 15, 2008  www.worldwildlife.org By Lee Poston

WASHINGTON, DC, December 15, 2008 -- More than 1000 new species have been discovered in rivers, jungles...and restaurants of the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia according to a new report launched by World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “First Contact in the Greater Mekong” reports that 1068 species were discovered or newly identified by science between 1997 and 2007 – which averages two new species a week. This includes the world’s largest huntsman spider, with a foot-long leg span and the Annamite Striped Rabbit, one of several new mammal species found here. The Laotian rock rat, thought to be extinct 11 million years ago, was encountered in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula pit viper was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the WWF-US Greater Mekong Program said findings include: 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. The region comprises the six countries through which the Mekong River flows including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It is estimated thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered during this period.  More information is at http://www.divshare.com/folder/443367-922

Sixteen of WWF’s Global 200 ecoregions, critical landscapes of international biological importance, are found in the Greater Mekong. These landscapes are home to an estimated 20,000 plant species, 1,200 bird species, 800 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 430 mammal species, including Asian elephants, tigers and one of only two populations of the critically endangered Javan rhino in the world. In addition to rare Irrawaddy dolphins, the Mekong River basin is estimated to house at least 1,300 species of fish, including the Mekong giant catfish, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish. By length, the Mekong is the richest waterway for biodiversity on the planet, fostering more species per unit area than the Amazon. Many of the species occur nowhere else on Earth.

Southern California Marine Mammals Have High Levels of DDT and PCB’s

December 15, 2008  newswirescribe.org

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- From the late 1940s through the early 1970s, Southern California manufacturing firms dumped large quantities of waste laden with the pesticide DDT and the chemical PCB into the Los Angeles County sewer system that ended up in a massive sediment deposit at the end of sewer outfall pipes located off the Palos Verdes Peninsula's White's Point. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 9 million cubic meters of sediment contaminated with about 110 tons of DDT and 11 tons of PCB spread across more than 40 square kilometers. Because both of these compounds are lipophilic (are absorbed easily in fats), they don't dissolve in water, and therefore have remained concentrated in the area.  Certain local fish, particularly the bottom-dwelling white croaker, are known to be contaminated. However, contamination in pinnipeds including California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals and northern elephant seals living or feeding in the Southern California Bight -- the Pacific Ocean near-shore area between Point Conception and the Mexico border -- had not been studied, so California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) marine biology master's student Mary Blasius and full-time lecturer Gwen Goodmanlowe recently published a new research article in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin demonstrating that these animals continue to be contaminated.

They obtained samples of blubber from the Fort MacArthur Marine Mammal Center in San Pedro and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach from 145 animals that had stranded on local beaches and subsequently died at the centers. Since the centers preserve tissue from dead animals, they were able to obtain samples covering a 13-year time period, from 1994 to 2006.  "We wanted to study the three species of pinnipeds that commonly occur in Southern California, which are the California sea lion, northern elephant seal and the Pacific harbor seal," Goodmanlowe said. "We thought that there might be a difference in the amount of contaminants they have in their blubber depending on how much time they spend in the Southern California Bight.  Northern elephant seals are not known to spend much time in the bight; although they spend time out at Catalina, their southernmost breeding area on the coast is San Simeon. Juveniles, however, are known to feed in the Southern California Bight," she continued. "Harbor seals are the most resident of the three species and are very strongly tied to where they are born. California sea lions are a mix because the males go farther north to feed while the females stay fairly close to their breeding grounds."

Polar Bears Adapting to Global Warming

December 15, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

As polar bears adapt to a warming Arctic—they may find relief in an unlikely source: snow goose eggs. New calculations show that changes in the timing of sea-ice breakup and of snow goose nesting near the western Hudson Bay could provide at least some polar bears with an alternative source of food. Robert Rockwell, a research associate in Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History said "I've seen a subadult male eat eider duck eggs whole or press its nose against the shell, break it, and eat the contents. Another research group has reported polar bears eating Barnacle Goose eggs on Svalbard, an island near Norway. Polar bears' habitat rings the Arctic south of 88˚ latitude. Most of this area is sea ice from which bears hunt seals, although the breakup of sea ice over the summer forces some bears to move north, to pack ice, subadult males are frequently pushed onto land, where they live, in part, off stored fat reserves.  When bears switch to the tundra, they may enter the nesting grounds of snow geese where the eggs and developing embryos are a highly nutritious food source. Although geese populations were in decline in the early 1900s, the population rebounded and expanded. There are now too many geese for the Arctic to support in the summer, mainly because their over-wintering habitat has increased to cover the northern plains, where they eat waste corn and forage in rice fields. The research article, appears in  Polar Biology. Research and was funded by the Hudson Bay Project and the American Museum of Natural History.

Houston Zoo Selects Agresso Management Software

December 15, 2008   www.marketwatch.com

VICTORIA, British Columbia --  Agresso, has announced today that Houston Zoo has selected Agresso to replace their legacy accounting and purchasing systems. Agresso targets its solutions to change-oriented organizations, such as non-profits, local governments and professional services, which it calls Businesses Living IN Change.  We needed the flexibility and adaptability to make changes to our system over time; no other vendor offered that capability," remarks Leslie Forestier, CFO of Houston Zoo. "We were also very impressed with their 'knowledge transfer' philosophy to product ownership. It was clear that our staff would gain the skills and knowledge necessary to be self-sufficient. We have frequent changes in our reporting structure, new donor funds emerging regularly and numerous new projects that create very challenging reporting requirements." Forestier adds.  The  company's "VITA" architecture allows organizations to continuously change underlying data, operational processes and/or reporting requirements at a minimum level of cost and business disruption. "The more customers we talk with, the more we hear how critical it is to be able to respond to business change, without incurring the significant fees of external consultants," relates Shelley Zapp, president of Agresso North America. "Non-profit organizations are especially interested in taking control of their own ERP systems and having more control over costs."

Review of 7 Listed Species

December 16, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating 5-year reviews of the endangered Appalachian monkeyface (Quadrula sparsa), the northeast population of the roseate tern (Sterna dougalii dougalli), and the shale barren rock-cress (Arabis serotina), and the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander (Plethodon nettingi), the Madison cave isopod (Antrolana lira), the sensitive joint-vetch (Aeschynomene virginica), and the Virginia sneezeweed (Helenium virginicum).  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 make a finding on whether these species are properly classified under the Act. Please submit new information by February 17, 2009. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time. For further information contact:  Ms. Mary Parkin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035, 413-253-8617 or 617-876-6173, or via e-mail at mary_parkin@fws.gov 

Summary of Listing Information, 4 Wildlife Species and 3 Plant Species in the Northeast Region
           Common name              Scientific name         Status           Where listed    
Appalachian monkeyface..........  Quadrula sparsa...  Endangered........      VA
Appalachian monkeyface..........  Quadrula sparsa...  Experimental             TN                                                Population, Non-Essential.

Cheat Mountain salamander...... Plethodon nettingi   Threatened........      Entire Range                                                                                    

Madison cave isopod.............      Antrolana lira....         Threatened........  Entire Range...... 

Roseate tern....................     Sterna dougallii dougallii  Endangered......Northeast population        
                                                                                                                (CT, ME, MA, NJ, NY,                                         
                                                                                                                NC, RI, VA).
Sensitive joint-vetch...........  Aeschynomene  virginica      Threatened........  Entire Range...... 
Shale barren rock-cress.........  Arabis serotina...  Endangered........              Entire Range...... 
Virginia sneezeweed.............  Helenium viginicum  Threatened........             Entire Range


Amendment to ESA Interagency Cooperation Rules

December 16, 2008  www.epa.gov  

With this final rule, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service amend regulations governing interagency cooperation under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  This rule clarifies several definitions, provides assistance as to when consultation under section 7 is necessary, and establishes time frames for the informal consultation process. This rule is effective January 15, 2009.  For futher information, contact:  Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240; telephone: 202-208-4416; or James H. Lecky, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; telephone: 301-713-2332. The Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce share responsibilities for implementing most of the provisions of the ESA. Generally, marine species are under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Commerce and all other species are under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior. On August 15, 2008, the Services published the Proposed Rule. The public was given 60 days to comment. Approximately 235,000 comments were received; of these, approximately 215,000 were largely similar ``form'' letters. After reviewing the public comments and further interagency discussion, the Services made certain clarifications and modifications in the final rule.

Special Rule for the Polar Bear

December 16, 2008  www.epa.gov

We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are amending the regulations which implement the Endangered Species Act, to create a final special rule to provide for the conservation of the polar bear (Ursus maritimus). The special rule, in most instances, adopts the existing conservation regulatory requirements under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and CITES as the appropriate regulatory provisions for this threatened species.  The final rule becomes effective January 15, 2009 and is available at:
For further information contact:  Geoffrey Haskett, Regional Director, Region 7, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503 telephone 907-786-3309.

On May 15, 2008, we published the final rule to list the polar bear as a threatened species (73 FR 28212) under the Endangered Species Act  Additional information regarding previous Federal actions for the polar bear can be found in the combined 12-month petition finding and proposed listing rule or by consulting the species' regulatory profile found at: http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/SpeciesReport.do?spcode=A0IJ
In the United States, the polar bear is protected and managed under three laws: the ESA, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and CITES. The purposes of the ESA are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth in the ESA.  The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) has the discretion to specify the prohibitions and any exceptions to those prohibitions that are appropriate for the species, provided that those prohibitions and exceptions are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the species. Specific prohibitions and exceptions are tailored to the specific conservation needs of various species.

Four Offshore Lease Sales in Polar Bear Habitat

December 16, 2008  www.enn.com 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Department of the Interior released plans this week to open up more 70 million acres of polar bear habitat in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska to oil development. The proposal, is in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the Minerals Management Service -- www.mms.gov/alaska/ref/EIS%20EA/ArcticMultiSale_209/_DEIS.htm  It proposes to auction off this important habitat to oil companies though four lease sales scheduled between now and 2012.  The oil and gas development is slated to occur in an area that provides crucial habitat not only for polar bears, but also endangered bowhead whales, gray whales, Pacific walrus, ribbon seals, threatened spectacled eiders, and other marine birds and fish. The area is also a vital subsistence grounds for Alaska Natives, who live along the Chukchi and Beaufort coasts.  Oil development in the Arctic is particularly troubling given there are no effective technologies for cleaning up an oil spill in icy waters.  “Oil development in the Arctic is bad climate policy, bad energy policy, bad endangered species policy, and given the oil spill risks, a recipe for disaster," said Rebecca Noblin, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity in Anchorage. “Hopefully the Department of Interior under the new administration will quickly cancel these unwise and unlawful lease sales."

San Diego Zoo Partners with “Jump Associates”

December 16, 2008  www.marketwatch.com

SAN MATEO, Calif  -- The San Diego Zoo has hired Jump Associates to develop a new strategy that will build upon ongoing conservation efforts at the Zoo, Wild Animal Park, and Beckman Center for Conservation Research. Zoo and Jump will focus on understanding how ordinary people think about conservation to create a “visual opportunity map” to help the Zoo prioritize potential initiatives, partnerships and new revenue streams within the context of competitors, collaborators, competencies and customer needs.  Jump will develop a “roadmap” of product, service and experience concepts to commercialize the top opportunities identified. "An opportunity map connects an organization's strengths with people's deeper needs. It reveals unexpected sources of competition - like why MTV competes with Nike - as well as untapped areas of opportunity and collaboration," said Lara Lee, Jump leader for the program. "Our work will show the San Diego Zoo where they currently sit in the conservation space, where they need to go to thrive as an organization, and how to make a real difference in the world."

Greater L.A. Zoo Association Comments on Elephants

December 16, 2008  www.marketwatch.com

LOS ANGELES -- Scrapping the Pachyderm Forest now under construction not only defies the wishes of voters who overwhelmingly approved expanding and enhancing the zoo's facilities, it will also cost a minimum of $17 million, according to a new analysis by the non-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn.
-- Within 60 days, the city must drain more than $9 million from its general fund (This would be enough to pay the starting salaries of approximately 150 new police officers for an entire year. The funds also could be used to purchase critical firefighting equipment, fill potholes, keep libraries open and provide other critical services to Los Angeles residents.
-- There will be immediate and future construction job losses. Approximately $3 million spent to date at the direction of voters would effectively be written off should the site never be developed, leaving a 6-acre hole in the middle of the zoo. Alternatively, additional costs would have to be incurred to convert the area to some other use.
-- Another $5 million in private donations from everyday citizens earmarked for Pachyderm Forest would have to be returned.
The nonprofit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn. is committed to structuring a plan that will fund additional amounts needed for Billy's new home. Pachyderm Forest grew out of two bond measures--CC and A--approved by 79% and 65% of voters, respectively, to provide funds to expand and enhance the Los Angeles Zoo. In 2006, the City Council subsequently voted 13-2 to build the Pachyderm Forest.

The small group of animal activists that is currently attempting to pressure the Los Angeles City Council to pull the plug on the exhibit has made clear their goal is to ship Billy out of L.A. to sites that are inaccessible and unaffordable to all but our wealthiest residents, with no guarantees that he will ever receive the level of care that he gets now at a first-class zoo. They have cited antiquated studies from foreign zoos that don't adhere to AZA standards, and splice and dice data to conveniently fit their agenda.  Pachyderm Forest provides for a larger habitat than the area now occupied by either Asian or African elephants at San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, Pachyderm Forest will allow elephants to roam an area the size of Dodger Stadium with 24-hour state-of-the-art monitoring so they remain safe and healthy.  In addition to housing Billy and other elephants, the forest will be devoted to conservation and educational exhibits showing the dangers Asian elephants face today in the wild. Pachyderm Forest will make Los Angeles a leader among zoos in providing a spacious, healthy environment for elephants, something zoos across the country are expected to emulate in the coming years.  Los Angeles citizens who want to preserve Billy's new home, favor fiscal responsibility and want to make sure their voice is heard are encouraged to visit www.billyshome.com

Prospect Park Zoo’s Science Education Program

December 16, 2008  www.brooklyneagle.com  by Brooklyn Eagle  

PROSPECT PARK — The Prospect Park Zoo will hold a SPARKS (Supporting Parents in Advocacy, Reform, and Knowledge in Science) workshop on Sunday, Jan. 11 and Sunday, Jan. 25 beginning at 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. to encourage parents to become more invested in their children’s science education.  This free, two-day workshop gives parents a better understanding of science and how they can help ensure their child’s mastery of the subject. Parents will take part in hands-on activities at the zoo, learn about animal diets, and get tips on making science fun and accessible for their kids.  The workshop taught by Prospect Park Zoo instructors will also highlight school science standards and exciting science activities that can be done at home or in the classroom.  The SPARKS workshop is funded by a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services. Parent participants receive a family science activity book, lunch, a $50 stipend and a certificate of completion. Most of all, they’ll leave with the knowledge that are actively involved in their child’s science education.  For more information or to register, contact Karen Tingley at the Prospect Park Zoo by emailing ktingley@wcs.org or calling (718) 399-7322. The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. It does so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks.

Endangered Species Coalition’s Top 10 List

December 16, 2008 www.stopextinction.org  

The Washington-based Endangered Species Coalition, has released a “Top 10 List” of species most in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.  More than 60 species were nominated by roughly 400 member groups of the Endangered Species Coalition. A panel of scientists and policy experts made the final choices. They were based on the species' populations, their potential to benefit from the Endangered Species Act and the immediacy of the threat of extinction.
1. Pacific Walrus   Alaska
2. Red Knot, rufa population   East Coast, Texas
3. Wolverine   Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington
4. Gunnison Sage-grouse  Colorado, Utah
5. Fluvial Arctic Grayling  Montana
6. Island Marble Butterfly   Washington
7. Boreal Toad, southern Rocky Mountain population   Colorado and Utah
8. Mason's Skypilot  California and Nevada
9. Great White Shark  Coastal States
10. Wood Turtle  Great Lakes and Northeastern States, Virginia and West Virginia
Honorable Mention:  Sand Dune Lizard  New Mexico and Texas, Graham's Penstemon   Colorado, Utah, Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Western Population   Arizona

Critical Habitat for the Alaskan Northern Sea Otter

December 16, 2008   www.epa.gov 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to designate critical habitat for the southwest Alaska Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) under the Endangered Species Act.  In total, approximately 15,225 square kilometers (km\2\) (5,879 square miles (mi\2\)) fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation. The proposed critical habitat is located in Alaska.  We will accept comments received on or before February 17, 2009.  Submit comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: at http://www.regulations.gov   or via U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R7-ES-2008-0105; 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.

Endangered Species Permit Requests

December 16, 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 January 15, 2009.  Submit written data or 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; Please refer to the respective permit number for each application. All comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the official administrative record and may be made available to the public.  For further information contact:  Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, see ADDRESSES, (telephone: 760-431-9440; fax: 760-431-9624).

Permit No. TE-054011
Applicant: John F. Green, Riverside, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) the San Bernardino kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami parvus) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-198929
Applicant: James T. Smith, Carlsbad, 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 in California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-198925
Applicant: Genevieve K. Walden, San Francisco, California. The applicant requests a permit to remove/remove to possession the Phacelia argillacea (Clay phacelia), Phacelia formosula (North Park phacelia), Phacelia insularis subsp insularis (island phacelia), Eriodictyon altissimum (Indian Knob mountain balm), and Eriodictyon capitatum (Lompoc yerba santa) from federal lands in conjunction with genetic research sampling for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-198922
Applicant: Latisha M. Burnaugh, 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 in California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-198917
Applicant: Dirk T. Pedersen, McKinleyville, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, and release) the tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi), in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-198915
Applicant: Trevor M. Lucas, McKinleyville, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, and release) the tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi), in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-198910
Applicant: Lauren D. Dusek, Arcata, California.  The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, and release) the tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi), in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-132855
Applicant: Carly M. Spahr, Port Hueneme, California.  The applicant requests an amendment to take (harass by survey, and locate/monitor nests) the California least tern (Sterna Antillarum browni) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring studies within Ventura County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-200340
Applicant: Andrew R. Hatch, South Lake Tahoe, California.  The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-200339
Applicant: Sarah M. Foster, Sacramento, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-016381
Applicant: United States Geological Survey, Dixon, California.  The applicant requests an amendment to take (capture, collect, and sacrafice) the desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) in conjunction with scientific research in Imperial County, California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-179036
Applicant: Cullen A Wilkerson, Kensington, California. The applicant requests an amendment permit to take (survey, capture, handle, and release) the San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) and the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys within Solano, Napa Yolo, Butte, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Alameda, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara Counties, California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-829554
Applicant: Barbara E. Kus, San Diego, California. The applicant requests a permit amendment to take (collect feathers) the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) in conjunction with genetic studies throughout the range of the species in California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, and take (locate and monitor nests, capture, band, color-band, and release) the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) in conjunction with population monitoring studies throughout the range of the species in Nevada and Arizona for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-032195
Applicant: Sean R. Avent, San Francisco, California. The applicant requests an amendment permit to take (survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Chronic Wasting Disease in Colorado Mule Dear

December 16, 2008  www.coloradodaily.com

A new study shows one out of three mule deer in south Boulder suffers from chronic wasting disease — and those results mean the traditional approach of killing infected animals to fight the disease probably won’t work.  “Everything that’s been tried to control chronic wasting disease fails in the face of that kind of infection rate,” said Heather Swanson, a wildlife ecologist for Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department.  Researchers from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the city teamed up starting in 2005 to study the mule deer population — the first study of its kind to take place in Boulder.  During the study, ecologists tranquilized 115 mule deer, affixed them with radio collars and tested them for chronic wasting disease,  They found that overall, 29 percent of the deer tested had the disease. Forty-one percent of male mule deer were infected, compared with 20 percent of females, because males cover more territory, which puts them at higher risk of being exposed to the disease, Swanson said.  Those animals on average died much sooner than non-infected deer, and they often fell prey to mountain lions. Swanson said many of the infected deer preyed upon by cougars didn’t show symptoms that were obvious to human researchers.  Scientists still don’t know exactly how chronic wasting disease is transmitted, although researchers suspect it’s passed on from the urine, feces or saliva of infected animals.

NC Zoo TV Series Wins Award

December 17, 2008  www.bizjournals.com

A syndicated television series produced by the N.C. Zoo has received a gold award in the 2008 International Ava Awards for video production.  “The Zoo FileZ” was selected for the honor among 2,200 entries from throughout the United States, Canada and several other countries. Slated to begin its 11th season this spring, “The Zoo FileZ” is a series of two-minute video features that focus on the N.C. Zoo’s animal and plant collections, staff members, educational programs, veterinary care, field conservation and other programs. The program airs weekly from April through October on 10 broadcast stations and two cable systems across North Carolina. The series is written and hosted by the zoo’s public relations manager Rod Hackney with Terry Shields of Shields Productions in Charlotte service as director of photography and co-producer. The Ava Awards are sponsored and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

Mexican Drug Lords Exotic Animals Seized

December 17, 2008   www.azcentral.com   By Chris Hawley

TOLUCA, Mexico - In recent months, Mexican police have raided at least four estates populated by zebras, giraffes, monkeys or jaguars. In just one bust in the town of San Simon Guerrero, authorities netted nearly 200 animals, from colorful Chinese pheasants to squirrel monkeys. The raids have left federal officials up to their ears in animals, including some that are malnourished or ill, because many Mexican zoos are refusing to take in all but the rarest specimens.  "We don't want zoos to be seen as animal shelters," said Manlio Nucamendi, director of the Zacango Zoo in Toluca, near Mexico City. The zoo took in some of the animals from San Simon Guerrero and is caring for others while federal officials find permanent homes. The confiscated burros, mules and horses eventually will be donated to government programs that aid small farmers, he said.  In the smuggling underworld, exotic or dangerous pets are seen as symbols of power and wealth, Nucamendi said. But that power has been under attack since President Felipe Calderón began a nationwide crackdown on the drug cartels in December 2006. Since then, the number of drug arrests has soared.

Lehigh Valley Zoo May be Forced to Close

December 17, 2008  www.mcall.com    By Darryl R. Isherwood

SCHNECKSVILLE, PA -- The Lehigh Valley is expected to run out of funds by the middle of next month.  The county is considering opening a $150,000 line of credit to the zoo, but will await the outcome of a commissioners' vote on the funding tonight.  The additional funds would allow the zoo to function into February, but how much money is needed beyond that is unknown. The  most recent budget called for a county contribution of $400,000 per year to keep the zoo going.  Zoo Executive Director Stacey Johnson did not return a call for comment.  The county leased the zoo to the Lehigh County Zoological Society in 2004 and agreed at the time to give the zoo a total of $1.9 million over five years . Earlier this year, the county agreed to advance its 2009 payment of $150,000 early to help the zoo pay this month's overhead. In addition, commissioners agreed to a $100,000 grant in 2009 if zoo officials could raise $218,000.  The cost to find new homes for the animals would range from $600,000-$700,000, however, and there is no telling how long it would take. Another obstacle is the cost of keeping the county-owned bison and elk, which are cared for by zoo employees. If the zoo closes, the county must pay caretakers for those animals, which inhabit the Trexler Nature Preserve.  The 29-acre zoo was built in 1974 on the central range of the nature preserve. The zoo is home to more than 170 animals, including river otters, Dromedary camels, tortoises and the newest addition, eight jackass penguins.

Native Birds May Not Recognize Introduced Predators

December 17, 2008  www.physorg.com 

Endangered native birds are at risk of losing their instinct to recognise and flee mammalian enemies when moved between predator-free and predator-filled sites, says researcher. Sarah Whitwell, at Massey's Institute of Natural Resources in Albany, designed an experiment using a pulley system to dangle a stuffed stoat and morepork at nesting North Island robins to test their fear responses. She says most robins in areas free of introduced predators, such as stoats, failed to get into a flap at the sight of a fake stoat.  Her research adds to growing evidence that native birds' responses to mammalian predators are not genetically hard-wired.  “That's because introduced mammal predators have been here a relatively short time, whereas native birds have been here for millions of years.” She says already endangered native bird species would be at increased risk if moved back to wilderness sites with mammalian predators after inhabiting mammal-free conservation areas without some form of predator-recognition training.

Portable System Enabes In Situ Detection Of Cetacean Hearing

December 17, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

A research project led by Michel André, director of the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya utilizes the world’s first portable system for measuring cetacean hearing sensitivity. The system facilitates in situ diagnosis of cetacean hearing loss, allowing assessments to be run on the survival chances of stranded animals without having to transport them to a laboratory. Researchers in Spain, the UK, France, the Netherlands and the US have taken part in this BBVA Foundation project. Among the system’s innovative features are its portability, quick measurement speed, and its ability to generate stimuli from 10 Hz up to 200 kHz, encompassing the entire human hearing range and, naturally, that of cetaceans.  The system can ascertain how the animals’ brains react to sound signals, as well as measuring cetaceans’ hearing sensitivity to certain frequencies by analyzing the evoked potentials registered through the top of the skull. When an animal hears a sound, its brain registers this vibration through an electrical impulse that can be detected with simple suction cup electrodes. In  rehabilitating a stranded cetacean, this hearing analysis is vital in determining whether it can correctly use its biosonar system and thus evaluate its survival chances on release.

Each of the species making up the cetacean order has its own acoustic repertoire directly related to the habitat where it has evolved over the course of millions of years. The diversity of sound signals complicates the task of extracting the key components that determine the survival of an individual or a population, and is a constraint on our ability to estimate the effects of contaminating sound sources.  All toothed cetaceans, however, share the same method of sound production, which includes the passage of air though their nasal conducts and its expulsion by specialized tissues known as phonic lips located in the upper part of the head. While the mammal is immersed, this air is recycled and allows them to vocalize for the purpose of social communication or echolocation, depending on the need at hand.  The absence of vocal chords is accompanied by another trait unique among the mammals: that of not using an external auditory conduct for the purposes of hearing.  Instead, they pick up sound waves through their jaws which transmit the information directly to the middle or inner ear where it is processed then relayed to the brain.

Plan to Save Florida Panther

December 17, 2008   www.naplesnews.com

NAPLES —The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken years to finalize a plan that will set benchmarks to take the Florida panther off the endangered species list. The 230-page recovery plan is almost identical to a draft issued in January 2006. Eight female Texas cougars were transplanted into the panther population in Southwest Florida replenishing the gene pool and boosting the number of panthers from fewer than 30 in the 1970s to between 100 and 120 panthers today. The new plan sticks to an earlier goal of having three “viable, self-sustaining” populations of panthers totaling 720 animals — a goal that will require reintroducing the panther across the southeastern United States.  New to the final plan is an interim goal of having at least 80 panthers in each of two unspecified reintroduction areas and not losing any ground in Florida. Defenders of Wildlife is a member of a coalition of environmental groups and landowners in eastern Collier County that has its own plan for panthers roaming 200,000 acres around Immokalee.  The coalition has proposed the creation of panther travel corridors, a real estate fee to pay for restoring panther habitat and building wildlife crossings and a 25 percent increase in federal mitigation requirements for projects in the county’s Rural Lands Stewardship Area.

Free-Range Research Sanctuaries for Chimpanzees

December 17, 2008   blog.wired.com  By Brandon Keim

With wild chimp populations plummeting —and captive research slowed by rising costs and ethical qualms, primatologist Pascal Gagneux has a compromise: free-range research sanctuaries.  "You can learn incredible things by not mistreating chimpanzees," said Gagneux, a University of California, San Diego, geneticist. Gagneux, who is noted for both his comparisons of human and chimpanzee genetics and his critical bioethical analysis of chimp research, says it's about time we studied chimpanzees humanely. He'd like to see forest-size chimp-research facilities that would allow scientists to continue studying our closest relative, while protecting the endangered species in something close to its natural habitat.  Instead of cages, chimpanzees would roam forested enclosures. Rather than tiny groups, the highly social primates would live in complete communities. They'd also be permitted to breed — establishing a bastion against extinction, and helping researchers understand the difference between chimps and humans. Estimates that 230,000 wild chimpanzees survive are now considered optimistic.  About 500 chimps live in U.S. zoos.  Another 500 are kept in private research facilities, and 600 are involved in government-sponsored research. Federal researchers are no longer allowed to breed them, and the proposed Great Ape Protection Act would end most medical studies. The last captive generations may soon be retired to the care and relative freedom of existing sanctuaries.  Their peaceful retirement from invasive, often brutal experimentation is long overdue, but the move in some ways poses new dilemmas. Sanctuaries like Chimp Haven and Save the Chimps do not allow breeding — a decision some researchers think should be left to the chimps themselves. And Gagneux feels the 600 chimps now living in government facilities are important to both human science and the species' survival.

Status Change for Canadian Lynx

December 18, 2008   www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that a petition to include New Mexico in our listing of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) as threatened, merits further review and are now soliciting feedback from the public regarding this species. Comments must be received  on or before February 17, 2009. You may submit information through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing,  Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2008-0088; 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. This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov   Supporting documentation we used in preparing this finding is available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the Montana Ecological Services Field Office, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601. Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding to the above address. For further information contact:  Mark Wilson, Field Supervisor, Montana Ecological Services Field Office or phone:  406-449-5225.

Petition To List the African Penguin

December 18, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) as an endangered species and will accept comments and information until February 17, 2009. You may submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or mail to Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-R9-IA-2008-0068]; 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 comments by e-mail or fax. For further information contact: Pamela Hall, Branch Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 110, Arlington, VA 22203; telephone 703-358-1708; facsimile 703-358-2276.
In this notice, we announce a warranted 12-month finding and proposed rule to list one penguin taxon, the African penguin, as an endangered species under the Act. We will announce the 12-month findings for the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome), northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), Fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri), macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata), yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), and Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) in one or more subsequent Federal Register notice(s).

Proposed Rule To List the Five Penguin Species

December 18, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to list the yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata), Fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti), and erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri) as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This proposal, if made final, would extend the Act's protection to these species. This proposal also constitutes our 12-month finding on the petition to list these five species. The Service seeks data and comments from the public on this proposed rule. We will accept comments and information received or postmarked on or before February 17, 2009.  Please use the Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov  or  U.S. mail Attn: [FWS-R9-IA-2008-0118]; 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 comments by e-mail or fax.

In this notice, we announce a warranted 12-month finding and proposed rule to list five penguin taxa as threatened species under the Act, yellow-eyed penguin, white-flippered penguin, Fiordland crested penguin, Humboldt penguin, and erect-crested penguin. We will announce the 12-month findings for the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome), northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), and macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) in one or more separate Federal Register notice(s).

Listing the Southern Rockhopper Penguin in the Campbell Plateau

December 18, 2008   www.epa.gov  
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to list the New Zealand/Australia Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) is warranted, as threatened in the Campbell Plateau portion of its range. This proposal, if made final, would extend the Act's protection to this species in that portion of its range. In addition, we find that listing under the Act is not warranted for the remainder of the range of the southern rockhopper penguin and throughout all or any portion of the range for the northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi), macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), and emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri).  We will accept comments and information on the proposed rule received or postmarked on or before February 17, 2009.  Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-R9-IA-2008-0069]; 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 comments by e-mail or fax.

Pittsburgh’s African Bull Elephant Moves to ICC

December 18, 2008  www.msnbc.msn.com

PITTSBURGH - On Wednesday, Jackson, the top African elephant breeding bull in the country, moved into his new digs in Somerset County.  He has lived at the Pittsburgh Zoo since 1994 and fathered all of Pittsburgh’s calves.  He will be the first resident at the 700-acre International Conservation Center. At 3 years old, Jackson was born in the wild, became a circus elephant and suffered horrible abuse before being rescued. Jackson’s new barn in Somerset will be state-of-the-art, complete with heated floor.  He’ll be alone for the first several months but “one of our goals is not to have him alone out there very long. We’re looking to move the Philadelphia elephants out there pretty soon,” said zoo director Dr. Barbara Baker.. At 29 years old, Jackson is the foundation of the ICC, which aims to boost the dwindling population of African elephants in North America.  More information on the Conservation Center is at: http://pittsburghzoo.org/zoo.asp?ContentID=229

Lion Kills Tiger at Jeonju Zoo

December 18, 2008 www.koreatimes.co.kr  By Kim Rahn

JEONJU, Korea -- A male lion killed a female tiger by biting her in the neck at Jeonju Zoo around 3:40 p.m. Wednesday.  The incident occurred when the five-year-old lion, named ``Cheongi,'' fell into a trench five meters below his yard, while attempting to catch a chicken that a zookeeper had thrown to him.  Right after the lion's falling, the tiger, six-year-old ``Hobi,'' who was in her pen next to Cheongi's, jumped into the trench. She made a poor landing, then Cheongi attacked her, bit a fatal spot, and killed her,'' the zookeeper said.

Dynalectric San Diego Will “Wire” Elephant Odyssey

December 18, 2008  www.businesswire.com

NORWALK, Conn.--  Dynalectric San Diego has received a contract for the installation of electrical systems involved in a remodeling project at the San Diego Zoo.  They will be responsible for the installation of all electrical systems, including extensive site lighting, involved in the remodel of multiple sites over 7-acres at the world famous zoo. The areas to be remodeled include “Elephant Odyssey”, a 2.5-acre habitat for the zoo’s elephants (including a 120,000 gallon pool); a state-of-the-art elephant management facility; exhibits for California condors, lions, jaguars and tree sloths; and merchandise sales, dining and support facilities.

National Zoo’s ZooLights Festival

December 18, 2008  fredericksburg.com  BY COLLETTE CAPRARA

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Friends of the National Zoo are celebrating the second annual ZooLights festival has transformed the animals' habitats into a winter wonderland, with more than 50 light sculptures of zoo animals such as golden lion tamarins, kori bustards and orangutans. New in this year's display are zebras, blue crabs with seaweed, and a cuttlefish (winner of the zoo's children's design contest).  Fifteen of the sculptures are animated, including a fluttering humming bird, a leaping leopard and a prairie dog who pops out of his burrow.  The anteater, which made its debut last year, has been embellished and now scopes out an animated ant hill, and the sea lion sculpture is now accompanied by flipping fish.  There will be giant 25-foot archways and dancing trees at the Panda Plaza and Lion & Tiger Hill that flash to the rhythm of holiday tunes. Throughout the evening, visitors can tour the Small Mammal House, the Great Ape House, the Reptile Discovery Center and the Kids' Farm. The Canadian Evergreen Theatre troupe will be performing "A Midwinter's Tail," a new play written especially for the zoo's celebration about how animals cope with the winter weather, while the Richmond-based Barefoot Puppet Theater will offer a fun-filled twist on "Little Red and The Gingerbread Man."  Parents will also enjoy the harmonies of the Capitol Blend singers and the Washington Revels Singers' performances of music, dance and drama. And last but not least, visitors can partake of seasonal refreshments including kettle corn, gingerbread, hot cocoa and cider.

Salisbury is Asked to Resign

December 18, 2008  www2.tbo.com  By BAIRD HELGESON

TAMPA - Lex Salisbury ran the Lowry Park Zoo for 21 years, but the zoo’s board has decided he used staff, equipment and animals from the taxpayer-funded zoo to help build his for-profit exotic animal park, Safari Wild, and he has resigned.  Ironically, it happened on the day that the last of 15 missing patas monkeys were recovered - eight months after their escape from Safari Wild.  It was this incident that triggered Salisbury's downfall. The zoo board has already has taken steps to become more accountable.  An audit, governance and compensation committees have been created. One committee has begun a review of zoo policies and will recommend improvements. Another committee will review the city's report and decide how much Salisbury needs to reimburse the zoo. The zoo might also hire an in-house attorney to serve as a chief compliance officer. The zoo also must also regain the blessing of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Salisbury's animal bartering cost the zoo, as well as Salisbury and collections director Larry Killmar, their accreditations. The lease with the city requires it.  Merritt said he hopes the association restores the zoo accreditation when it meets in March.  One thing many board members and city leaders agreed on: The next chief executive can't be a collector of zoo animals or have ties to exotic-animal ventures.

Cornell Researcher Decodes Bird Songs

December 18, 2008  www.news.cornell.edu  By Nadia Drake

Cornell behavioral ecologist Sandra Vehrencamp records bird songs in Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and then plays them back to other birds of the same species to try to determine exactly how birds communicate through their vocalizations.  With colleagues in the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology, she also studies birds in such Colombia and Bonaire. She tries to decipher strategies that various species use to attract mates and resolve territorial disputes. The technique allows researchers to study birds' reactions to songs when such elements as overlapping vocalization, finer song structural features and the type of song played back are varied.  She found, for example, that song sparrows in southern California can interpret some forms of playback as "fighting words," because they often resolve conflict by singing the same type of song -- known as song-type matching -- back to one another. Vehrencamp's work also suggests that males that are most successful are those that share many song types with their territorial neighbors. Song sparrows, for example, can learn songs only within a narrow time period restricted to the first few months after fledging, which means that males must learn neighborhood songs quickly to facilitate successful territorial negotiations.

Tasmanian Devil Research Setback

December 18, 2008  www.theage.com.au

A young male devil that initially showed signs of genetic resistance to the fatal facial tumour disease has almost certainly developed it, scientists say.  An insurance program of "clean" animals is now being seen as the only sure way of saving the species.  But the program's organizers said yesterday they still needed to secure hundreds more devils, many in mainland zoos, to guard against loss of the animal in the wild.  The rare transmissible cancer has at least halved the devil population in a decade and is expected to spread across the animal's entire natural range within five years.  Hamish McCallum, professor of wildlife research at the University of Tasmania, said the species could be extinct within 25 to 30 years unless researchers found a way of combating the disease.  The experimental devil, Cedric, had offered researchers a ray of hope to scientists a year ago by producing an immune response to dead cells from the disease. Cedric's father came from an isolated stock on Tasmania's west coast, where the disease is yet to develop, and scientists believed a genetic difference could combat it. Associate Professor Greg Woods, of the Menzies Research Institute in Hobart, said two live strains of the disease were injected into Cedric's cheek and he developed small tumours at the injection point. The tumours were surgically removed on Monday.  Professor Woods said the development was a setback, though genetic research would continue.  Dead cells would be injected into more than 20 other devils to try to replicate the immune response, but there were no more plans to introduce the live disease, he said.

Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico

December 19, 2008   www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intends to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and associated National Environmental Policy Act documents for Culebra National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). We provide this notice in compliance with our CCP policy to advise other agencies and the public of our intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to consider in the planning process. To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments by February 2, 2009. Special mailings, newspaper articles, and other media announcements will inform people of the opportunities for written input throughout the planning process.\ Comments, questions, and requests for information should be sent to: Ana Roman, Culebra NWR, P.O. Box 190, Culebra, Puerto Rico 00775. For further information contact:  Ana Roman; Telephone: 787/742-0115; Fax: 787/742-1303.

Critical Habitat for the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly

December 19, 2008  www.epa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the reopening of the comment period on our January 17, 2008, proposed revised designation of critical habitat for the Quino checkerspot Butterfly.  We also announce the availability of the draft economic analysis (DEA), a revision to proposed critical habitat Unit 2, 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 revision of critical habitat (including the changes to proposed critical habitat Unit 2), the associated DEA, and the amended required determinations section. If you submitted comments previously, then you do not need to resubmit them because they are included in the public record for this rulemaking and we will fully consider them in preparation of our final determination.We will accept comments received on or before January 20, 2009. Submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or U.S. mail to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AV23; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.   We will not accept e-mail or faxes. For further information contact: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011; telephone 760/431-9440; facsimile 760/431-5901.

Rangers Assess Toll of Congo Conflict

December 19, 2008  www.sciencemag.org

In the wake of severe fighting in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), worried rangers began a painstaking census late last month of the park's highly endangered mountain gorillas, nearly a third of the world's known population.  A 2003 census using traditional methods of the entire three-country Virunga Volcanoes area--funded by seven gorilla research and conservation groups--set the region's total population at 380 gorillas, including the 180 to 200 on the D.R.C. side. Together with the 300 or so mountain gorillas in nearby but separate Bwindi, that puts the total known population of the primates at nearly 700. The park's director, Emmanuel de Merode, is leading the census  inside the 7800-square-kilometer park, which is Africa's oldest. Last year, he says, nine of the park's approximately 180 gorillas were killed: one for its meat; one in a botched trafficking attempt; and seven "vindictive killings," possibly by a corrupt army faction involved in illegal logging.  The census, expected to be completed by year's end, is focused on the park's 72 or so human-"habituated" gorillas, which rangers can track and recognize. "We identify the habituated gorillas primarily by unique wrinkles on their noses, which can be recorded as signatures," de Merode said. Each morning, trackers follow forest trails to find a gorilla group; survey teams then try to identify all its members. Tragically, the habituated animals are "the most vulnerable," de Merode says, partly because they "are closest to the forest's edge" and are less fearful of humans.

The nose-count approach has some technical weaknesses: It accurately counts only the habituated animals, about one-third of mountain gorillas in the park, and it depends on the trained eyes of certain rangers. "The fate of the unhabituated groups is unknown" in such nose-counts, says primatologist Martha M. Robbins of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. "Once the area is stable, it will be important to do a census of the entire region so we can get an estimate on the entire population." The densely populated and ethnically diverse eastern D.R.C. has been volatile for decades. Famed gorilla researcher Dian Fossey fled violence in the D.R.C. (then called Zaire) in 1967 to set up her Karisoke Research Center across the border in Rwanda; ever since then, researchers have tended to shun the D.R.C. in favor of outposts in adjacent countries. Although long-term gorilla research is ongoing at Karisoke and in Uganda, there has been a dearth of scientific studies on the D.R.C. side of the border. "The region has been too insecure" in the past decade, says Robbins, who worked at Karisoke before establishing the first long-term field study of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. The danger and lack of resources have so far impeded a more accurate count using techniques such as a "genetic census." It involves a simultaneous sweep of the entire habitat by trackers who find gorilla tracks, identify nest sites, and collect fecal samples from which DNA is later analyzed to genotype every individual gorilla. So far, scientists have conducted a full genetic census of mountain gorillas only at the Bwindi park. In 2006, that census found evidence of 302 animals, 34 fewer than estimated using traditional methods. Max Planck anthropologist Damien Caillaud, who studies the influence of habitat characteristics on the Bwindi mountain gorillas' social system, says the genetic census there "allows us not only to count the individuals but also to know their sex, the relatedness among individuals, … and the dispersal patterns."

Contingency Plan Requirement for Animals Regulated Under the Animal Welfare Act

December 19, 2008  www.aphis.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending the comment period for our proposed rule that would amend the Animal Welfare Act regulations to add requirements for contingency planning and training of personnel by research facilities and by dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers and carriers.  This action will allow interested persons additional time to prepare and submit comments.  Notice of this extension is published in the Dec. 19 Federal Register. Consideration will be given to all comments that we receive on or before Feb. 20, 2009.  You may submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal:  www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064807741e5 to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.  Or send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS‑2006‑0159, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A‑03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737‑1238.  Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS‑2006‑0159. For additional information about this topic contact Jessica Milteer at (301) 734-3265 or by e-mail at jessica.d.milteer@aphis.usda,gov.

Baby Animals Born in 2008

December 22, 2008


Bees Protect Crops from Caterpillars

December 22, 2008  www.sciencenow.sciencemag.org  By Sara Coelho

To defend itself from predatory wasps, caterpillars have developed sensory hairs that detect the air vibrations caused by the beating of wasp wings. When a wasp approaches, the caterpillar stops moving or drops off the plant for safety. Jürgen Tautz, a biologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, wondered whether bees, whose wings beat with a similar frequency to those of wasps, would have a similar effect.  He and colleague Michael Rostás built two cube-shaped tents in the botanical garden of their university, each enclosing 10 bell pepper plants. They then placed about 10 beet armyworm caterpillars (Spodoptera exigua), a crop pest, on each plant. One tent had a window connected to a beehive, and feeders filled with a sugar solution attracted bees inside. The second tent was closed to the outside world. After about 2 weeks, Tautz and Rostás collected the leaves from the bell pepper plants and found that bees do indeed protect crops from caterpillars.  Their findings are reported online today in Current Biology.

Baby Orang Thrives at Milwaukee Zoo

December 22, 2008 www.jsonline.com

Mahal, the Milwaukee County Zoo's Bornean orangutan is now 20 months old.  He came to Milwaukee on Feb. 7 aboard a private jet provided by wealthy industrialists Terry and Mary Kohler, after a chaotic birth followed by hand-raising and repeated, failed attempts to reunite him with his abusive young mother, Hadiah.  He was successfully treated for a foot deformity and bonded with an old surrogate orangutan named Sandra, only to have her die suddenly in her sleep - all before he was a year old.  Now nearly one year after his arrival he is well established with the troop and cared for by a surrogate mom named M.J.  Mahal's story and the plight of orangutans in the wild was told in a three-part series, "Ambassador Mahal: Face of a Dying Species," in the Journal Sentinel in July. The children's book, "Little Mahal and the Big Search for a Real Mom," written as part of the "Ambassador Mahal" series, is available for $3.95 at the Milwaukee County Zoo and Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, as well as online here. A portion of proceeds benefits preservation efforts of the Orangutan Conservancy.

Africa’s Oldest Chimp Dies

December 23, 2008  dsc.discovery.com

Jane Goodall Institute staff members are mourning the death of Gregoire, Africa's oldest known chimpanzee, Gregoire, who was 66 years old.  He passed away on December 17 in his sleep at  JGI's Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo. He died next to a female chimpanzee named Clara, from whom he had been inseparable for many years. For more than 40 years, Gregoire lived in solitary confinement in a barren cage at the Brazzaville Zoo in the Republic of Congo's capital city. The Tchimpounga center houses 142 other primates, mostly orphaned chimpanzees whose parents were killed due to the bushmeat trade, and former house pets. Cheeta, who famously starred in 12 Tarzan films, lives at the primate sanctuary Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes in Palm Springs, California and  is 75 now.  He could very well be the oldest known chimp in the world.

Hantavirus Found in San Diego

December 23, 2008  www.sandiego6.com

SAN DIEGO - Three more wild mice trapped in San Diego County have tested positive for hantavirus.  A harvest mouse was found in the Tijuana River Valley and two Northern Baja mice were discovered in San Marcos and Carlsbad, according to the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health.  So far, 11 mice have been confirmed to have hantavirus locally this year.  Typically, there are between two and eight cases annually. Hantavirus is carried by wild rodents, primarily deer mice. It is found in rodent droppings and urine and can be inhaled by humans when it becomes airborne. The airborne virus can cause a rare illness called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS. To prevent exposure, residents should not sweep or vacuum rodent droppings or urine, and instead use a 10 percent bleach to water solution and rubber gloves to clean up contaminated areas, according to the DEH.

Neanderthal Extinction Due to Competition Not Climate Change

December 24, 2008  www.plosone.org

In a recently conducted study, a multidisciplinary French-American research team with expertise in archaeology, past climates, and ecology reported that Neanderthal extinction was principally a result of competition with Cro-Magnon populations, rather than the consequences of climate change.  The study, reported in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE on December 24, figures in the ongoing debate on the reasons behind the eventual disappearance of Neanderthal populations, which occupied Europe prior to the arrival of human populations like us around 40,000 years ago. Led by Dr William E. Banks, the authors, who belong to the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, l'Ecole Pratique d'Hautes Etudes, and the University of Kansas, reached their conclusion by reconstructing climatic conditions during this period and analyzing the distribution of archaeological sites associated with the last Neanderthals and the first modern human populations with an approach typically used to study the impact of climate change on biodiversity.

Listing Three Foreign Bird Species From Latin America and the Caribbean

December 24, 2008  www.epa.gov   

The USFWS proposes to list three species of birds from Latin America and the Caribbean--the Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus), the Chilean woodstar (Eulidia yarrellii), and the St. Lucia forest thrush (Cichlherminia lherminieri sanctaeluciae)--as endangered. This proposal, if made final, would extend the Act's protection to these species. The Service seeks data and comments from the public on this proposed rule. We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before February 23, 2009. You may submit comments by one of the following methods:  Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov  or US Mail: Address to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-IA-2008-0117; 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 comments by e-mail or fax.

Coral Reef Comeback After Tsunami

December 26, 2008  www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK (DECEMBER 26, 2008) – A team of scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has reported a rapid recovery of coral reefs in areas of Indonesia, following the tsunami that devastated the Indian Ocean coast four years ago.  The WCS team, working in conjunction with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARCCoERS) along with government, community and non-government partners, has documented high densities of "baby corals" in areas that were severely impacted by the tsunami. The team, which has surveyed the region's coral reefs since the December 26, 2004 tsunami, looked at 60 sites along 800 kilometers (497 miles) of coastline in Aceh, Indonesia. The researchers attribute the recovery to natural colonization by resilient coral species, along with the reduction of destructive fishing practices by local communities. Dr, Stuart Campbell, coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia Marine Program said "Our scientific monitoring is showing rapid growth of young corals in areas where the tsunami caused damage, and also the return of new generations of corals in areas previously damaged by destructive fishing. These findings provide new insights into coral recovery processes that can help us manage coral reefs in the face of climate change."

Sumatran Rhino Taken to Sabah Refuge

December 26, 2008  www.physorg.com  

Last August a Borneo Sumatran rhino - a subspecies of the bristly, snub-nosed Sumatran rhino - was found wandering in a palm oil plantation with an infected leg wound.  Nicknamed "Tam" by his rescuers he is approximately 20-years-old. He has now been resettled into a 300,000 acre wildlife reserve in Malaysia's Sabah state. Authorities hope to bring at least five male and female rhinos into the reserve over the next few years for breeding, said Junaidi Payne, the senior technical adviser for the WWF’s Malaysian Borneo chapter.  It is unknown how many Borneo Sumatran rhinos remain in the wild, but estimates range from 10 to 30 individuals, many of them isolated from others  Numbers of Borneo Sumatran rhinos have declined rapidly in recent decades due to habitat loss resulting from logging and the spread of palm oil plantations.  Poachers hunt them for their horns, which are used in traditional medicines. When Malaysian government officials and WWF experts found new evidence of their existence in the wild in May 2005,  Rhino protection patrols were launched to deter poaching.

Grazing Animals Spread Plant Disease

December 29, 2008  www.physorg.com  

Researchers have discovered that grazing animals such as deer and rabbits are helping to spread plant disease and encouraging an invasion of annual grasses that threaten more than 20 million acres of native grasslands in California.  The study will be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by researchers from Oregon State University, Cornell University and the University of North Carolina.  The scientists examined the effect of herbivores and omnivores such as mule deer, rabbits and feral pigs on the prevalence of barley and cereal yellow dwarf viruses, which can infect more than 100 crop and non-crop plant species, reducing their growth and seed yield. This virus is a major concern for cereal crop production around the world.  In places where most plant eaters were kept out of test plots, the prevalence of this virus was only about 5 percent. It rose to 18 percent, a 3.6-fold increase, in areas that the animals grazed.  The grazers did not directly spread the plant virus, but they increased the amounts of annual grasses that are preferred by the aphids which play a role in transmission of this viral plant disease.

Zoo Chimp Survives Respiratory Ailment

December 29, 2008 news.scotsman.com

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Emma, a chimp at Edinburgh Zoo’s Budongo Trail is making a good recovery following a treatment with human antibiotics and techniques normally used to treat cystic fibrosis.  The 27-year-old chimp was taught to display her chest to accept antibiotics through an artificial opening called a stoma, and learned to stay calm when noisy medical equipment was switched on.  Her vet, Gidona Goodman, administered drugs using a nebuliser and carried out breakthrough bronchoscopy scanning which involved inserting a camera into Emma's lungs.  Dr John Simpson, a consultant in respiratory medicine at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, also helped to X-ray her lungs.  Ms Goodman plans to pass on details of the treatment to colleagues at the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife.

Elephants in North American Zoos

December 29, 2008  www.philly.com  By Sandy Bauers

A report printed earlier this month in the journal Science compared Asian and African elephants in European zoos with those in Kenya's Amboseli National Park in Kenya and a Myanmar logging operation. Despite all the veterinary care and absence of predators, zoo elephants lived only half as long as those in the wilder populations. "The article is a house of cards," says AZA's Boyle, He claims the data were misinterpreted and accuses the authors of being anti-zoo.  The study looked at data back to the 1960s – and elephant care has advanced significantly since then.  Assessing more recent trends, lead author Georgia Mason, says lifespans among African zoo elephants are improving.  But for Asian elephants, "the results were pretty clear-cut, and much more worrying." The median lifespan in zoos was 19 - meaning half die by then, half later. In logging camps in Myanmar, the median age was 42. 

Elephants present special challenges for zoos. In the wild, they range over tens or hundreds of square kilometers. Herds of four to 12 related animals stay together virtually for life. In zoos, space is limited and obesity is common. Elephants live in smaller groups and are often transferred between zoos. In 2001, the AZA instituted new standards for elephant exhibits.  The trend is toward larger exhibit spaces and bigger breeding herds, which complement the ultimate elephant enrichment activity - "babies, and caring for babies," says the Indianapolis Zoo's Deborah Olson, who also is executive director of the International Elephant Foundation. Since the AZA's new standards, 61 zoos have improved their elephant exhibits or announced plans to do so. The San Diego Zoo is building a $44 million elephant exhibit. Its state-of-the-art amenities include a 2.5-acre savannah, a nine-foot-deep pool, and rubber flooring to prevent foot problems "There's a serious question of how long we're going to have elephants on earth," says Paul Boyle, a conservation official at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  The AZA standards also require that zoos with elephants fund conservation efforts. Many funnel money through the International Elephant Foundation, which has spent $1.4 million on projects since 1999. Philadelphia has committed $100,000 over five years to a Borneo group that helps villagers protect their crops.  But the sums are dwarfed by what zoos spend to keep elephants in captivity. In the last decade, Western zoos have spent or committed about $500 million to improve exhibits for just over 200 individuals, according to Mason.  "These sums are worrying because they're so staggering compared to what it would take to conserve these animals better" in the wild, she says in a Science podcast. 

Nashville Zoo Offers Tactile Experience for Visitors

December 29, 2008 www.knoxnews.com

NASHVILLE - The Nashville Zoo now offers replicas of a giraffe neck and an elephant skull cast from real-life bones, along with explanatory signs in Braille.  They have been installed at those animals' exhibits. They are the first in what the zoo is calling its Tactile Zoo.The exhibits also enhance the experience for any visitor by linking the animals' physiology with that of humans. "For example, giraffes have the same seven bones, or cervical vertebrae, making up their necks as we do, but each giraffe vertebra can grow up to a foot long," said Shellie Kalmore, the zoo's education curator.  The idea sprang from two Nashville Girl Scouts working on their Gold Awards. Lizzie Waldo and Sara Jane Johnston approached the zoo about developing something for visitors with impaired vision. They had researched the idea, even visiting a sense trail at the St. Louis Botanical Garden.  Other zoos have used small models of animals for visitors to touch, but Nashville's life-size replicas are a first, Kalmore said.  The Tennessee School for the Blind assisted, making suggestions on how to design the signs and proofreading the Braille portions. The two exhibits cost $7,500, which came from Waldo and Johnston's fundraising efforts and other gifts.  Zoo docent Mike Modrak and the project's graphic designer, Tony Kougious, donated their efforts.

Taiwan Pandamania Crashes Web Site

December 29, 2008  www.stuff.co.nz

This week 2 giant pandas arrived at the Taipei Zoo as a gift from China and the zoo's site crashed the day after they arrived, as tens of thousands of adoring fans went online for the latest news.  "On Wednesday, the number of clicks on the panda website surged from 17,000 on Tuesday to 37,000, causing the website to crash," a zoo spokesman said.  "We have asked the Taipei city government to repair it and to enlarge the servers' capability." The site was back up and running by Friday, complete with pictures and the latest updates on the zoo's newest stars, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, poking around their new customised environs. The pair have taken up residence in a new T$300 million custom-made quarters where they are expected to attract large crowds when they officially go on display around the lunar new year at the end of January.

Brookfield Zoo’s Panamanian Golden Frog Project

December 29, 2008   abclocal.go.com  By Frank Mathie

BROOKFIELD, Illinois -- Panamanian golden frogs are native to Central America but have virtually disappeared because of a deadly fungus.  Hundreds of amphibian species worldwide have disappeared because of the chytrid fungus which has no cure. Tim Snyder, curator of birds & reptiles at the Brookfield Zoo hopes Brookfield might be able to help save the species.  "We got two pairs of Panamanian Golden Frogs and they are getting ready to enter the breeding season," he said.  Hopefully their efforts will be successful.

Cheetah Fossil Controversy

December 29, 2008  news.nationalgeographic.com

The most primitive known cheetahs roamed present-day China more than two million years ago, according to new research. The study supports the theory that the big cats originated in the Old World, not North America.  A nearly complete fossil cranium of the new species, found in China's Gansu Province, is similar in size and shape to modern cheetah skulls, but some of its teeth are extremely primitive, said study co-author Ji H. Mazák of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum.  This "mosaic of anatomical features" suggests the Chinese cheetah, called Acinonyx kurteni, represents an early stage in cheetah evolution, he said.  The varied traits also indicate skull and dental characteristics considered unique to cheetahs evolved gradually, according to the study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Fossils of cheetah-like animals have been found throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and even North America that date to between 3.2 million and 2,000 years old, Mazák said.  The newly studied fossils were dated to the late Pliocene, between 2.15 and 2.55 million years ago.   Two prehistoric cheetah-like species of North America are believed by some scientists to be distant cousins of giant cheetahs of ancient Europe. This possible relationship has led some researchers to speculate that the earliest cheetahs may have originated in North America and traveled across the Bering Strait from Alaska to Siberia.  Mazák said the new finds challenge this theory, suggesting instead a Eurasian-African origin of the cheetah lineage. 

But Deng Tao, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, says the newly identified skull is not from a new species.  Deng says his team already described this species as Sivapanthera linxiaensis. He says Sivapanthera is the fossil genus of the ancient cheetah—today's cheetahs belong to the Acinonyx genus.  Mazák says his team and Deng's team studied different species. He argues that Deng's fossils more closely resembled the genus Panthera—which includes the tiger, leopard, jaguar and lion—than Acinonyx.  Deng's fossils were also too big to belong to a cheetah species, Mazák said, adding that Sivapanthera is not a universally accepted species.  Deng argues that Mazák’s skull was not an intact original, but rather a compilation from bones of various individuals and possibly even various species.  Mazák denies this charge, saying his team had carefully examined their cranium and determined that all of its parts—including teeth—belonged to the same individual.

Listing the Ribbon Seal as Threatened or Endangered

December 30, 2008  www.epa.gov   

After a formal 12-month review, the NMFS finds that listing of the ribbon seal is not warranted at this time. Although the ribbon seal population abundance is likely to decline gradually for the foreseeable future, primarily from slight but chronic impacts on reproduction and survival caused by reduced frequency of years with sea ice of suitable extent, quality, and duration of persistence, it is not in danger of extinction or likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Thieves Steal 5 Primates from French Zoo

December 30, 2008  www.google.com

LA FLECHE, France — Two marmosets, two capuchins and a cotton-top tamarin, were stolen in broad daylight from the La Fleche zoo near Le Mans in northern France on Monday.  The thieves appeared to be experienced with primates and cut their way into the enclosures, and employed specialized equipment to capture them.

New Salisbury Zoo Director

December 30, 2008  www.delmarvanow.com

SALISBURY -- Ending the 10-month search, the Salisbury Zoo has hired Joel M. Hamilton as Director. The Connecticut native previously ran his own firm, Environments: Designs for Human-Nature LLC, which has worked with eight zoos in the United States and Mexico to draft "master plans" and create exhibits.  After earning his bachelor's degree in biology from Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Conn., Hamilton pursued a degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management from Moorpark College in California.  An internship at the Los Angeles Zoo offered more hands-on experience for Hamilton, who rotated jobs throughout the facility to learn all aspects of zoo operations, he said. During this time, Hamilton also had an opportunity to construct exhibits. In 1985, Hamilton took a position at the Dallas Zoo, working as a zookeeper, and later the Supervisor of Birds for the Wilds of Africa section for eight years.  When he completed a master's degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1993, Hamilton moved to Evanston, Ill., to work as the senior zoo associate for the design firm McFadzean, Everly Associates.  Three years later, he served as a curator of Australasia and Tropical America at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I.  He founded his firm in 2002.

Santa Ana Zoo Plans $1 million Giant Anteater Exhibit

December 30, 2008  www.ocregister.com  By DOUG IRVING

SANTA ANA – The Santa Ana Zoo has been called the Monkey Zoo because its original founder required that it always house at least 50 monkeys. But it’s now expanding its focus to animals of tropical South and Central America.  Ground has been broken on a $1 million exhibit for a pair of giant anteaters, and is scheduled to open in early 2010.  The exhibit will re-creates the South American Pampas and include huge flightless birds known as greater rheas and guanacos. The zoo is covering the $1 million cost to build the “Tierra de las Pampas” with state and county grants and private donations, but still needs about $53,500 to buy two anteaters and a year's worth of nutritious anteater gruel.  Naming rights are being offered to any big donor who offers to buy the exhibit's two residents.  The Zoo hopes to breed the two it brings in to establish a new line of giant anteaters in the United States.

Calgary Zoo’s Green Greenhouses

December 30, 2008  calgary.ctv.ca

A major renovation of the Calgary Zoo's greenhouses is underway and the goal is to achieve a gold standard for new buildings.  The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating is an international benchmark for green building design.  Officials say as well as the prestige that comes with achieving the rating, the energy savings will be up to 80 per cent over the current rate.  If successful, the conservatory will be the first complex in North America to achieve the LEED Gold standard. The building will re-open to the public in October 2009. The plants housed in the conservatory have been moved to other parts of the zoo and as far away as Edmonton and Winnipeg.

California Sues to Block New ESA Regulations

December 30, 2008  www.nytimes.com   By Associated Press

Jerry Brown, the Attorney General of California, has filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco to block the Bush Administration's last-minute endangered-species regulations. The Interior Department issued the revised rules this month to allow federal agencies to issue permits for mining, logging and similar activities without getting a review from biologists. The changes also eliminate a requirement that agencies consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when reviewing projects on federal land. The lawsuit also names the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service as defendants.  Brown, is asking the court to block the new rules, which could give the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama time to review them.

Final Assessment Report on California Sea Otters

December 30, 2008  www.fws.gov   By Lois Grunwald

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces  the availability of the final stock assessment report for the southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), which shows that the population has grown slowly, on average, over the past five years.  A draft stock assessment report was released for public comment in June 2008. The final report, a result of a court-ordered settlement, summarizes recent information on human-caused mortality and sea otter population trends through 2008.  The final report incorporates the 2008 spring survey count of sea otters, which was not included in the draft report. As a result, it indicates that California’s sea otter population has grown more slowly than reported in the draft: an average of three percent annually from 2003 to the present rather than an average of five percent annually from 2001 to 2007. It also responds to comments received during the public comment period that recommended a more precautionary approach to estimating the minimum population size. The final report also clarifies that the non-essential, experimental population of sea otters at San Nicolas Island off the California coast, which numbers about 41, is included in the overall population numbers. Surveys over the past five years suggest that recovery of the sea otter is continuing, said Lilian Carswell, the Service’s sea otter coordinator. According to the final report developed in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act sea otters remain vulnerable to disease and catastrophic events. Whether sea otters are being taken in commercial fisheries is largely unknown because observer programs do not exist for most of the California fisheries that may interact with sea otters. The report indicates that a very high level of observer coverage would be required to see any indication of mortality in some fisheries. The report is available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/ventura  or by writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003, or by contacting Lois Grunwald at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (805) 644-1766, ext. 332.

One of the goals of the MMPA is to ensure that stocks of marine mammals occurring in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States do not experience a level of human-caused mortality and serious injury that is likely to cause the stock to be reduced below its optimum sustainable population level. To help accomplish this goal, the MMPA requires the Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to prepare stock assessment reports for each marine mammal stock that occurs in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States. The stock assessments are to be based on the best scientific information available. The southern sea otter once ranged from Oregon south to Baja California, Mexico. During the 18th and 19th centuries, otters were hunted for their luxurious pelts; by the early 1900s the species was nearly extinct, with only a small remnant colony surviving off the Big Sur coast. This key species in the California marine ecosystem was listed as threatened in 1977 under the Endangered Species Act and is considered a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Nonprofits in a Tough Economy

December 30, 2008  www.enn.com   By James Post

Few organizations have it all, so private and public industry must continue to collaborate to serve the community. Obama’s new Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits and Social Investment Fund Network purportedly will “build the capacity and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.”  That means better lobbying access, governmental R&D/capacity-building support, a streamlined grant-making process, more explicit encouragement of civic involvement, and greater accountability.  More attention will be paid to the energy, education, and training sectors, meaning added incentive for people to get involved in these areas.  Non-profits competing for governmental attention and support  need to hone their skills and get their teams into shape.  They need to think about long-term strategic planning, more efficient project management practices, and funding innovation.   They need to network with peers in other organizations and report best practices.  They need to insulate themselves from the consequences of our unhealthy economy.  And most importantly they must avoid scandal (or the appearance of scandal) by having unquestionable ethics   They must  engage in new and innovative partnerships — with other nonprofits and with corporations; think like entrepreneurs — creatively, resourcefully, relentlessly.  And they must improve accounting and assessment practices, reject low standards, and raise their sights.  They must find new ways to be heard and taken seriously in a communications landscape that seems to have the bandwidth for only a few stories a week.

Protest Against Indian Tiger Reserve

December 30, 2008  www.enn.com   by Reuters

CHENNAI, India  - More than 15,000 people in southern India protested against the extension of a new tiger reserve Tuesday, despite official assurances that they will not lose their homes to the sanctuary.  It was the third such protest since November against the extension of the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary.  The state government declared Mudumalai as a tiger reserve earlier this year as part of a federal government initiative, called "Project Tiger," to boost the country's dwindling numbers of big cats.  There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago. A government census report published this year says the tiger population has fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in 2002, largely due to dwindling habitat and poaching.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in 2006 that thousands of poor villagers inside India's tiger reserves would have to be relocated to protect the endangered animals from poachers and smugglers. Some experts have put the number at around 300,000. Tuesday's demonstrators were not against the declaration of a 321 sq km (125 sq mile) core area but against the creation of a buffer zone.  A field director for Project Tiger said around 350 families living in the core area have been given a 1 million rupee ($20,800) payout, but those in the buffer areas fear they will be evicted. "We have no intention to dislodge anyone from the buffer zone. In fact, people in this zone will be involved in the project as trackers and guides for eco-tourists to enhance their means of livelihood."  The Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary is part of the larger Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve on a mountain range that spans three Indian states.  There are 48 tigers in the Nilgiri Reserve.

WCS Works to Create Penguin Preserve in Argentina

December 31, 2008  www.physorg.com  

The Wildlife Conservation Society has announced its successful efforts to create a new coastal marine park.  The park was signed into law by the Government of Argentina earlier this month. Located in Golfo San Jorge in Chubut Province, some 1056 miles south of Buenos Aires, the area covers approximately 250 square miles of coastal waters and nearby islands along almost 100 miles of shoreline.  The region is a nesting and feeding ground for some quarter million pairs of Magellanic penguin, estimated to represent 25 percent of the entire population in Patagonia. Its 50 small islands also support two nesting colonies of southern giant petrels (80 percent of its population on the entire Patagonian coast) and the region's only population of South American fur seals.. Other inhabitants include the endangered Olrog's gull, the white-headed steamer duck, and almost one third of all imperial and rock cormorants of Argentina. The park's creation was a joint effort by the National Parks Service of Argentina, Government of Chubut, WCS and its local partner Fundación Patagonia Natural with support from the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility.  WCS researchers, working with Fundación Patagonia Natural, provided data of key wildlife to ensure that the park's boundaries would include both onshore areas and adjacent waters. Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas provided funding for the creation of this unique coastal protected area and for WCS's efforts to safeguard coastal Patagonia, including the Sea & Sky program, which promotes long-term viability of the Patagonian Sea.  Dr. Guillermo Harris is director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Argentina Program. WCS has been active in Patagonia since the 1960s, conducting studies for the conservation of southern right whales, Magellanic penguins, southern elephant seals, and other unique wildlife. WCS manages some 740,000 acres of wilderness on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, part of a major donation of land made by Goldman Sachs in 2004.

California Condor Sighting in Utah

December  31, 2008  www.sltrib.com   By Bill Fenimore

No. 287, a male condor hatched at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park on May 17, 2002, was spotted soaring over Lava Point on the Kolob Terrace in Southern Utah's Washington County recently.  Only 9 condors existed in 1985 [when approval was given to bring them in] They were brought into conservation breeding programs at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo [ the last bird was captured on April 19,1987]. The first release of conservation-bred California condors occurred in 1992 at California's Sespe Condor Sanctuary in Los Padres National Forest.  California condors continue to be released back into the wild in California and Arizona. The condors released in Arizona have been expanding into Utah, which is part of their historic range.  The USFWS has been managing a captive breeding program with other partners. The California Condor Recovery Program is operated jointly by the U.S. and Mexico. www.cacondorconservation.org  Condors have a long (4-to-5-year) maturation process before they breed. Fledging takes more than a year, so adults breed every other year and lead poisoning (from hunters using lead bullets) affects breeding opportunity. There has yet to be a successful hatching of a condor chick in Utah.  Jim Parrish, avian program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), is developing a "lead free" project to protect condors in Southern Utah. The Utah Wildlife In Need Foundation (UWIN) is working with DWR to raise needed capital for this "lead free" project. DWR will provide lead-free bullets at no cost to hunters in the area frequented by condors. Barnes Bullets, a Utah company, will make the lead-free ammunition. 

Lowry Zoo's Deputy Director Takes Charge

December 31, 2008  www.tampabay.com

TAMPA — Craig Pugh, deputy director of the Lowry Park Zoo took over the day after its president resigned amid scandal. The zoo's board put him in charge temporarily while they conduct a nationwide search for a new president.  He is listening to the professional AZA 
accreditors, who suspended the zoo's seal of approval as well as a city audit that described a culture of intimidation under former president Lex Salisbury. And he is listening to the staff, their questions and needs.  He hasn't fired anyone, including a high-ranking official who signed off on animal transactions between the taxpayer-funded zoo and its president's private venture.  But he is using the 60-page checklist created by the city audit to make changes.  Animal record-keeping is lax. So is security. Expenses need to be re-evaluated and reorganized.  He will not renew the zoo's affiliation with the Zoological Association of America in 2009.  The ZAA, a fledgling organization that encourages "conservation through commerce" in trades between zoos and smaller, for-profit facilities closed to the public, does not employ the same rigorous conservation plans as the more mainstream AZA.  Both Salisbury and Larry Killmar, the zoo's director of collections, were officers on the board of the ZAA.  Accreditors said the zoo, Salisbury and Killmar refused to fully participate in species survival plans and ignored animal transfer policies. Killmar signed off on several transactions in which zoo animals were transferred into Salisbury's personal care.  On the day Salisbury resigned from the zoo, both he and Killmar also resigned from their posts at the ZAA. Killmar is still director of collections at the zoo.

Endangered and Threatened Species Permit Applications

December 31, 2008  www.epa.gov

The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act).  To ensure consideration, written comments must be received on or before January 30, 2009. Written comments should be submitted to the Chief, Endangered Species Division, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act. For further information contact Susan Jacobsen, Chief, Endangered Species Division, P.O. Box 1306, Room 4102, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103, (505) 248-6920.

Permit TE-819477
Applicant: Parametrix, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of the following species: Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus), lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae), Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis), and Pima pineapple cactus (Coryphantha robustispina) within New Mexico and Arizona.

Permit TE-195991
Applicant: Bonnie Doggett, Austin, Texas.  Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) within Texas.

Permit TE-198059
Applicant: Christopher Taylor, Plano, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of the following species: Northern aplomado falcon (Falco femeralis), black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla), and golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) within Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico.

Permit TE-198057
Applicant: Blackbird Environmental, LLC, Norman, Oklahoma. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) within Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Permit TE-195191
Applicant: Baer Engineering and Environmental Consultants, Inc., Austin, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) and golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) within Texas.

New Breeding Ground for Right Whales

December 31, 2008  www.sciencedaily.com

A large number of North Atlantic right whales have been seen in the Gulf of Maine in recent days, leading right whale researchers at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center to believe they have identified a wintering ground and potentially a breeding ground for this endangered species. The NEFSC’s aerial survey team saw 44 individual right whales on Dec. 3 in the Jordan Basin area.  “We’re excited because seeing 44 right whales together in the Gulf of Maine is a record for the winter months, when daily observations of 3 to 5 animals are much more common,” said Tim Cole, who heads the team. “Right whales are baleen whales, and in the winter spend a lot of time diving for food deep in the water column. Seeing so many of them at the surface when we are flying over an area is a bit of luck.”  An estimated 100 female North Atlantic right whales head south in winter to give birth in the waters off Florida and Georgia, but little is known about where other individual right whales in the population go in winter, largely due to difficult surveying conditions.  With a population estimated to be about 325 whales, knowing where the whales are at any time is critical to protect them. Finding an aggregation of whales can trigger a management action affording protection, such as slowing ship speeds in the vicinity of the whales. On Dec. 9, new federal speed rules for large ships went into effect to reduce ship strikes, to which North Atlantic right whales are particularly vulnerable.

Rosamond Gifford Zoo Euthanizes Mandrill

December 31, 2008  www.cnylink.com  

BURNET PARK, NY -- The Rosamond Gifford Zoo euthanized their Mandrill, JJ on December 30.  The animal care found him with limited mobility and a reluctance to stand for extended periods on December 21.  Despite intensive care and treatment, his condition rapidly deteriorated, and successive blood analyses indicated that his kidneys were also failing. "JJ has been a longtime favorite of guests and keepers alike," said Chuck Doyle, director of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. JJ was born at the Brookfield Zoo on February 6, 1988 and came to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo on November 18, 1991. His mate, Zenani and daughters Eebi and Kelley continue to reside at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. He has two sons, Kinshasa, who lives at the Asheboro Zoo with his mother, Mandela, and Ouage, who resides at the Granby Zoo with his mother, Kamili. Mandrills are the world's most colorful known mammal, clad in mostly olive colored fur, accompanied by bright red and blue faces. The males are much more colorful than the females, with bright lavender-blue rumps that grow more striking with sexual maturity. When angered, the chest of a male mandrill will turn vivid blue and bright red spots will appear on his wrists and ankles. The largest of the monkeys, mandrills have been listed as endangered since 1976. Additionally, there has been a drastic decline in the mandrill population due to habitat destruction and hunting. The Friends of the Zoo is accepting donations to the recently created the Rosamond Gifford Zoo Animal Healthcare Fund in memory of JJ.

Columbus Zoo's Gorilla Surrogacy Program

December 31, 2008 www.snponline.com   By GARTH BISHOP

Begun in 1982, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has one of the most effective gorilla surrogacy programs in the U.S.  The program is run by the zoo's Living Collection Director Dusty Lombardi and gorilla hand-rearing experts Barb Jones and Maureen Casale.  "For many years, the Columbus Zoo had female gorillas that were not raising their own babies, so we became very proficient at hand-rearing baby gorillas," said Lombardi. "We noticed that it was very traumatic for the babies, when they were raised in a nursery setting, to be taken back over to the gorillas."  To prevent that problem, the zoo's experts hand-rear the gorillas on the other side of a mesh fence from the older gorillas. That ensures the baby and the older gorillas will get used to each other before the baby is put into the group.  Each baby gorilla is hand-reared alongside its older counterparts from day one. Eventually, it is put with its foster mother so the two can develop a bond.  When the baby approaches the fence to get food or the adoptive mother brings over for food, that's a sign that the youngster has been accepted, and it is put into the gorilla community.  As would be the case in nature, the babies are never left alone during the rearing process.  "Either they're with us 24-7 or they're with the gorilla 24-7," said Lombardi.  Gorillas rejecting their babies is not an unusual phenomenon; often, the mothers simply do not know how to raise them because they themselves were hand-reared. Other times, the mother may have a health problem that prevents her from being a dedicated mother. The zoo has raised orphaned gorillas as young as five months old and likely could raise even younger apes, Lombardi said.  The behavior of the staff members also is important -- they raise the young gorillas using behavior reminiscent of that of adult ones, giving them piggyback rides and walking low to the ground.  "We don't treat them like human infants," said Lombardi. "We talk gorilla language to them; we make vocalizations like a mother gorilla would when we're feeding them." The zoo has used similar techniques for other primates, but is best known for its gorilla program.  "Because of this, other gorillas have been sent here ... from Oklahoma, Brookfield (Chicago) and Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado) zoos," said Lombardi.

Chester Zoo Uses Thermal Imaging to Monitor Baby Rhino

December 31, 2008 www.telegraph.co.uk  By Richard Alleyne

Asani, a male Eastern Black Rhinoceros calf, was born at the end of October to mother Kitani, the first black rhino calf at the Chester Zoo in 10 years.  After weeks in the warm Tsavo rhino house, mother and Asani have ventured outside, but the vets are concerned about the cold weather and are using a thermal imaging camera to monitor the calf's core body temperature.  Kevin Buley, Chester Zoo's Head of Zoo Programmes, said: ""The images allow us to determine the [rhino's] body temperatures and gauge how they are faring outside and also how long they can be comfortably outside for.  At the moment they are out for no more than 20 minutes at a time but are enjoying themselves when they are outside."