Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo gets 2 sea lions saved from the brink of death

 Some good news in the wake of the tradegy at SeaWorld:

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Buzz and Annabelle are two young California sea lions who experienced the worst of nature and humanity last year. Both almost starved to death and are nearly blind, and one suffered a gunshot wound to an eye.

But thanks to the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, Calif., and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the sea lions, which arrived here Wednesday night, are likely to live full, healthy lives.
The Cleveland zoo says this is the first time in at least 20 years that it has acquired exotic rescue-rehab animals. Most of these animals are born in captivity and find their way to zoos through an elaborate network within the 221-member Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Alan Sironen, the zoo's curator of carnivores and large mammals, said Annabelle and Buzz are the culmination of a two-year search. The zoo has another California sea lion and four harbor seals and wanted a larger group.
The new sea lions, both about a year old, flew into Cleveland from Oakland, Calif., on a FedEx flight, tended by Dr. Christopher Bonar, a zoo veterinarian, and Travis Vineyard, assistant animal care manager.
The animals traveled in their own 40-by-27-by-30-inch kennel-like enclosure. Sironen said FedEx is the only carrier that allows animals and handlers to travel together.

Read the rest of the article here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Update on SeaWorld Whale Situation

While SeaWorld issued a statement late Friday that killer whale shows would begin again on Saturday, the animal trainers said they would not be getting in the water again with any of the whales until they had time to go over all of their safety procedures. SeaWorld currently has no plans to remove Tilly from the park however, while various groups have been crying out to the media asking for the whale to be either released into the wild (where is would surely die on its own) or even destroyed.
    While looking into this story however, I came across another story I had not seen before. About 5-6 years ago several SeaWorld whales were sent to Loro Parque in the Canary Islands on a long term loan from SeaWorld. Just this past December 24th, another accident took place at that park involving a former SeaWorld whale that caused a death of a trainer there. The whale there involved was thought to be Keto, which I believe is one of the many offspring of Tilly. You can read more and find links to other reports at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Trainer dies in killer whale show at SeaWorld Orlando

Sad news out of Orlando today. A SeaWorld employee died this afternoon during an incident at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium, an Orange County Sheriff's Office official confirmed. SeaWorld, rescue personnel and the Sheriff's Office are not revealing the identity of the victim, although a local TV station is reporting that a female employee was killed after she was grabbed by one of the theme park's whales at the start of a public show.

The Shamu Stadium area of the park has been cordoned off, and many guests are unaware of the incident. The reports are all over the place right now, but early indication is the incident occurred directly after the main show area was closed (the "splash zone wave" at the end of the show didn't go as planned because a few of the whales were being uncooperative).

Trainers were closing off that show and gearing up for a "Dine With Shamu" event. Mixed reports are coming in, and crime scene investigators have arrived - yet to make any statements. All of this happened between 12:30-12:45pm today.

One outlet has reported that this is the same whale that was involved in the death of someone who was trespassing after hours in 1999 - but that seems like conjecture at this point.

Female trainer, highly experienced, 40 years old. Slipped and fell alongside/into a holding tank. Since this is being called a drowning, it seems likely that the killer whale dragged her under. Sad news indeed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends, family and co-workers.

Orlando Sentinel Article 


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Monday, February 22, 2010

A Closer Look at BGT's Endangered Species Tour

Behind the Thrills has a great look at the Endangered Species Tour at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida. They learned several interesting facts like:

  • Giraffes have the same number of vertebrate in their necks as humans, just larger.
  • Their tongue is black and purple to protect it from the sun since they spend most of their day eating
  • They can see the color green from almost a mile away
  • The name "Reticulated" means net, which makes sense since it looks like they have nets thrown over them
Check out the update!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A New Attraction for Gatorland

Gatorland has launched the start of a new attraction at the park that they’re calling the Mile of Monsters, "...a new showcase of reptiles at Gatorland. The self-guided walking tour, which began last week, currently features 10 of the park's most notorious alligators and crocodiles." Apparently, the plan is to expand this new attraction over the next few months to include 24 animal stops, each one starting with a different letter of the alphabet. If you get all the letters and arrange them into a password you’ll be rewarded with a prize from the gift shop on your way out. That sounds pretty cool! Read more about it at the Sun-Sentinel.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Columbus Zoo Polar Bears Arrive

10 TV News in Columbus is reporting that the Polar Bears have arrived at the new Polar Frontier exhibit.

Polar Bears Arrive At Columbus Zoo

Friday,  February 19, 2010 7:50 PM

POWELL, Ohio — Twin polar bears, Aurora and Anana, arrived Friday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The pair were the first residents of the zoo's new Polar Frontier, which is scheduled to open this spring, 10TV News reported.
The young bears were accompanied by animal care staff during their trip from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, where they have lived since December 2008.
The bears were born at the Toledo Zoo in November 2006.
It has been 20 years since polar bears were featured at the zoo, Executive Director Dale Schmidt said.
The new $20-million exhibit will feature animals that live in some of the coldest climates in the world, the zoo said.

Watch 10TV News HD and refresh for additional information

This great news! The exhibit was oringinally supposed to open in the fall but the zoo had a hard time finding polar bears to put on display.

Does the Endangered Species Act hurt more than it helps?

I am currently reading the book Super Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner and I found the following passage to be very interesting:

"...the law of unintended consequences is among the most potet laws in existence. Governments, for instance, often enact legislation meant to protect their most vulnerable charges but that instead ends up hurting them.
    The Endangered Species Act created a similarly perverse incentive. When landowners fear their property is an attractive habitat for an endangered animal, or even an animal that is being considered for such status, they rush  to cut down trees to make it less attractive. Among the recent victims as such shenanigans are the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Some environmental economists have argued that "the Endangered Species act is actually endangering, rather than protecting, species."

Wow. That never occurred to me before. I hope this is not actually happening, but if so that is very sad. I will have to do some research and look into this further. Your thoughts?

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Additions to Sea Life Aquarium

The Sea Life Aquarium located at Legoland California in Carlsbad will become the only aquarium in Southern California to feature Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks. Two new shark pups are slated to move-in for “The Daily Dive”. This is one segment of a new three-part presentation that will also feature “The Shark & Ray Show” and well as “Shark Talk”, a funny puppet show.

Are Farm Animal Attractions and Petting Zoos too dangerous for young children? has an interesting article about the dangers of petting zoos. Dangers of petting zoos? I didn't know there was such a thing. Well according to the article: "Following a serious outbreak of E.coli 0157 in the UK, during the latter part of 2009 which saw a number of children hospitalised and several farm attractions closed, Professor Hugh Pennington, Emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that parents should "think hard" before letting children, particularly those under the age of 5, touch animals at petting farms."

You can read the rest of the article here.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Are captive animals better off than animals in the wild?

Which is worse? Taking an animal and putting it in captivity where it gets food, medical attention and safety for decades, or leaving it in the wild where it might die of starvation, succumb to injury and disease or live a few years before getting eaten by a predator or shot by someone who wants to hang its head on their wall? In a perfect world, animals could live safely in their natural habitat, but this isn't a perfect world. The stresses of locking an animal in a cage versus those of living in their natural habitat are not the same. I can't believe that anyone would suggest that there is even a remote similarity between the two. In my experience, you'll typically find that the public displays are as good as it gets for the animals, especially in the best zoos.

As an animal lover, I'm completely against animal abuse but I have a hard time buying into those articles you read about where an animal activist group accuses a theme park or zoo of animal mistreatment. These groups seems like they have an ax to grind and are probably finding a few disgruntled employees that are willing to throw the park or zoo under the bus. Most journalists today don’t even bother to actually contact the zoo and obtain the correct information. Zoos also need to be upfront when something does happen to one of their animals. Was there an accident or disease? Were they abused, or did they die of old age or something else that couldn't have been prevented? I'd like to see the statistics. If there is animal abuse taking place, I wish all the trouble in the world for the park and its lousy employees. But as of now, I'm totally not buying this. Going by what I’ve seen, I have every reason to believe the zoos are doing the right thing and the captive animals are better off than their wild brethren. 
I will add that habitat size is something that some zoos have not respected in the past. Sometimes animals are crammed in together to the point where they have nowhere to move around. However, more recently habitat size is something zoos have become very sensitive to, and they keep building them bigger. In San Diego, the elephants are getting a new place, much bigger than the existing one, and they did something similar in Columbus and Cleveland. Almost every new-to-me zoo I've been to in the last ten years has opened bigger habitats for animals that needed the room.

I would also like to think that zoos engage and treat their animals in ways that the average visitor never knows about. Take Sea World San Antonio for instance. After the water park closed they made the wave pool 100 percent chlorine free and filled it with natural fresh water. Instead of sitting empty and dormant all offseason they turned the waves on and put the sea lions in it to splash and play in a large environment. How cool is that?! Zoos take extra special care of their animals so that they are not always in their cages. It may not be the same as the freedom experienced in the wild, but that is exchanged for health, safety, and longevity and I think that’s a pretty sweet deal.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What is the Species Survival Plan (SSP)?

The Species Survival Plan (SSP) is a cooperative animal management and conservation program of the American Zoo ans Aquarium Association. Created in 1982, the intent of the plan is to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population of the most endangered wild animals that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. SSP species are often "flagship species," well-known animals which arouse strong feelings in the public for the preservation and protection of the in situ population and their habitat, including the giant panda, California condor, and lowland gorilla. Many staff from zoos across the country serve on national committees to insure the success of SSP programs. There are currently 181 species covered by 113 SSP programs in North America. Look for animals in your local zoo that are part of SSP efforts.

For more information.