From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1995:
SAN DIEGO GETS PANDAS, LOSES RHINOS
SAN DIEGO––The San Diego Zoo
is dusting off plans to exhibit pandas––and
struggling to recover from the abrupt extinc-
tion of its Sumatran rhino breeding program.
Eighteen months after refusing to
give the zoo a panda bear import, Interior
Secretary Bruce Babbitt reversed himself on
January 14, after a personal visit to the facili-
ty, and granted the permit as the prototype for
a new national panda policy to be announced
in mid-March. Two pandas, a 13-year-old
male named Shi Shi and a three-year-old
female named Bai Yun, are expected to arrive
in spring on a 12-year loan from China.
As a permit condition, the zoo
agreed to put all profits from the panda exhibit,
estimated at $1 million a year, into the cre-
ation of three panda reserves. The reserves
will be part of a system of 17 under develop-
ment, to protect about 800 of the estimated
1,000 surviving wild pandas. Eleven already
exist, five of which are slated for improve-
ment this year, while another six are to be cre-
ated. The reserves are to be linked by corri-
dors of bamboo and tree cover. China
announced a key breakthrough in the plan on
March 7: the discovery of means of adjusting
the flowering period of arrow bamboo, a sta-
ple of the wild panda diet. After flowering,
which occurs about once a decade, the bam-
boo dies back before new growth replaces it.
More than 100 wild pandas starved during the
most recent dieback, in the late 1980s.
Humane Society of the U.S. vice
president for wildlife John Grandy said he was
“very disappointed and distressed” at Babbitt’s
reversal, and suggested HSUS might sue to
block the loan.
The Sumatran rhino program mean-
while ended with the deaths of a 13-year-old
female, euthanized on February 22 after a
five-month decline due to kidney disease, and
the sudden death of her mate five days later.
“It’s a disaster,” said Bronx Zoo
general curator Jim Doherty, coordinator of
the Sumatran rhino species survival plan.
Despite spending millions of dollars over the
past decade to save the Sumatran rhino, the
Bronx, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati zoos now
have just three of the rare rhinos left, while
poaching and rain forest logging threaten them
with extinction in their native habitat.
The dead rhinos are not to be con-
fused with the northern white rhinos at the San
Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. Keepers
dehorned the two white rhino females in
December, to encourage them to mate with
two somewhat smaller males.
Ivan goes out
ATLANTA––Ivan, kept in a cage at a defunct
shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington, for 29 of his 32
years, took his first steps outdoors on March 16 at his new
home, a mock rain forest at Zoo Atlanta. Venturing out
several times to grab food, he retreated quickly, but keep-
ers said they were satisfied. Ivan was introduced to a
female gorilla for the first time––through bars––in January.
Eventually, the zoo hopes, he’ll become the dominant sil-
verback of a small tribe, one of several at Zoo Atlanta.
L.A. Zoo gets overhaul
LOS ANGELES––Los Angeles Zoo director Mark
Goldstein, 42, resigned February 16, coincidental with the
release of a report by a blue-ribbon panel of consultants, pre-
sented to management late last year, that warned the city-run
zoo could lose American Zoo Association accreditation due to
dilapidated facilities, vermin infestation, and the loss to dis-
ease of 44 blackfooted penguins during the past 11 years,
reducing a population that peaked at 27 to just four. Causes
of death included heat stress, competition of excessive num-
bers of males for scarce females, raids by an unknown preda-
tor, and poor nutrition. On February 3, animal curator Les
Schobert recommended that the L.A. Zoo relocate the sur-
vivors and cease displaying penguins, who tend to either do
very well or very badly at particular facilities. Schobert also
criticized the polar bear, orangutan, and bear exhibits.
“The zoo has not performed well by any standards,”
consulting panel member Terry Maple said. Maple, as direc-
tor of Zoo Atlanta, is credited with transforming that zoo
from one of the worst in the U.S. into one of the world’s best.
The panel argued that the L.A. Zoo administration should be
separated from the city government, and urged that $50 mil-
lion in improvements be made during the next five years,
including $1 million worth of emergency repairs. $23 million
is to come from a bond issue already approved by voters, but
held up for a year by Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan
during a dispute over priorities, while $27 million would
come from the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association––which
has not yet shown the ability to raise that kind of capital.
The improvements, beginning with building a
“Great Ape Forest” for the chimpanzees and orangutans,
were authorized by the City of Los Angeles on March 1.
Goldstein’s resignation and the upgrading were
applauded by the LASPCA and The Ark Trust. Goldstein, a
veterinarian and former director of the MetroParks Zoos in
Boston, took over the top job at the L.A. Zoo in early 1992,
amid heated controversy over the policies of his predecessor,
Warren Thomas. Goldstein got into hot water himself about
three months later when an elephant named Hannibal col-
lapsed and subsequently died from a suspected overdose of
tranquilizer––which Goldstein himself administered––while
being crated for an already unpopular transfer to a zoo in
Mexico. Goldstein will remain with the zoo for another six to
nine months as a special consultant, chiefly on fundraising.
A $30 million expansion is underway at the Mystic
Marinelife Aquarium, in Mystic, Connecticut, including a
$12 million building to house Dr. Robert D. Ballard’s Institute
of Exploration. Ballard, who led the expeditions that found
the wrecks of the T i t a n i c, the L u s i t a n i a, and the B i s m a r c k,
was recruited in November from the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institute, his employer since 1967. Already
Connecticut’s second-leading tourist attraction, pulling
750,000 visitors a year, the Mystic Aquarium hopes to top a
million in attendance when the expansion is completed.
The Lincoln Park Zoological Society has assumed
management of the Lincoln Park Zoo from the financially
strained Chicago Park District, which laid off more than 1,000
people between June 1993 and December 1994. The LPZS
will receive $5.5 million a year from the Park District for the
next 30 years, on condition that admission must remain free.
Hoping to found a community zoo to serve
Shreveport, Louisiana, the nonprofit Caddo & Bossier
Zoological Association is reportedly negotiating to buy or lease
a 60-acre site in adjacent Caddo Parish.
Chicory, the nine-year-old dominant silverback
gorilla at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, made a quick recov-
ery after Loyola University Medical Center neurosurgeons
removed a lime-sized brain tumor from him on February 21, in
a precedent-setting 13-hour operation. But experts are uncer-
tain whether the growth was benign, or was a non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma, which may have spread. Zoo staff decided to risk
the operation in light of their experience with Samson, former-
ly the dominant silverback in the colony, who died of a similar
brain tumor in 1988. In the chaos that ensued, a young female
sustained brain damage from a battering by another gorilla,
and a baby gorilla suffered a broken arm in a tug-of-war during
an attempted baby-snatching by a childless female.
The Kansas City Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, and
three others have purchased a restraint rack for elephants––at
up to $100,000 apiece––that inventor Tod Ricketts of
Springfield, Missouri, claims will revolutionize elephant foot
care. Foot infections are a leading cause of death among cap-
tive elephants. Preventive care, including cleaning and toenail
trimming, is the most dangerous routine job of elephant keep-
ers. The rack makes the job safer and easier by enabling the
keepers to restrain an elephant in an upright position, then tip
rack and elephant sideways.
Trying to stop stereotypical pacing, the Calgary
Zoo put a 25-year-old polar bear named Snowball on the anti-
depressant drug Prozac last fall, and began giving her a more
challenging daily routine, including fish frozen into ice blocks.
Results, after six months, are reportedly inconclusive.
Drug treatments for cardiomyopathy have restored
the libido of a 32-year-old Jersey Zoo orangutan named
Gambar, who recently impregnated a pair of females after a
six-year lapse in fertility.
Margaret Davis King, 36, of Little Rock,
Arkansas, was killed circa 5 a.m. on March 3, after climbing
into the lion exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
King, whose death was ruled a suicide, had a history of men-
tal problems. The only other fatal mauling at the National Zoo
was in 1958, when a lion killed a Canadian toddler who darted
into the cage to try to feed her.
High winds and a foot of wet snow combined on
February 4 to collapse the 1899-vintage Bronx Zoo aviary.
No birds were killed, and only one was hurt, but eight grey
gulls, 12 Andean gulls, 12 Inca terns, and a band-tail gull
belonging to an exhibit of Latin American sea birds escaped
from the wreckage. One grey gull was recaptured nearby two
days later. An Inca tern was found in Wayne, New Jersey, on
ebruary 9, but died a week later of a fungal infection acquired
while on the loose. The rest remained unaccounted for. Built
just three years after the founding of the New York Zoological
Society, the aviary was extensively renovated about 15 years
ago, but corrosion within the metal support pipes somehow
More than 100 swans, guinea fowl, and peacocks
were killed in a fire on February 6 at the zoo in Perm, Siberia,
while their keepers were on a drinking binge to celebrate
receiving their wages.
Assen Naidenov, 70, of Sofia, Bulgaria, in early
February donated his lions, llamas, and other animals to a
variety of zoos and circuses, and permanently closed his own
zoo. Earlier this year, meat poachers stole and killed four deer,
four sheep, six mountain goats, 10 golden pheasants, and 13
Staff of the Kolmarden animal park in Sweden on
February 20 reluctantly euthanized a 10-day-old white rhi-
noceros, the first born in Scandinavia. Born with an apparent
brain infection, the rhino received treatment including MRI
scanning and acupuncture, but was only briefly able to stand;
rhinos normally stand within two hours of birth. As a last treat,
he was given a bath. “He really loved it,” said veterinarian
A one-year-old female red kangaroo, crated for
transport from the Milwaukee County Zoo to the Kansas City
Zoo to prevent inbreeding, died February 1 of a broken neck
apparently suffered when she tried to jump. The padded crate
was intended to prevent jumping. Milwaukee County Zoo
curator of large mammals Elizabeth Frank said it was the first
death she could remember in 15 years of moving kangaroos.
Thirteen exotic birds including two kingfishers
belonging to a Species Survival Plan were killed at the St.
Louis Zoo on January 6 when a broken water gauge caused a
boiler to run dry, filling the aviary with toxic fumes.
The Shenzhen zoo in southern China sells live
chickens to visitors, says Rosanna Lai of the Hong Kong
SPCA, who “just throw them into the pits to the tigers, and the
tigers catch them whether they are hungry or not. Their cages
are strewn with chicken carcasses. The half-eaten carcasses are
left to rot.”
Canadian zoo attendance dropped 7.9% in 1994,
from the 1993 high of 6.2 million, according to Statistics
Canada––but most of the decline was accounted for by the tem-
porary closure of the Parc Safari zoo in Hemmingford,
Quebec, due to an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis. Of the
approximately 800 animals at the zoo when the disease was
detected, 630 were killed under orders from Agriculture
Canada to keep it from spreading.
Hatched at the Dallas Zoo on December 17, the
first saddle-billed stork born in captivity died just 26 days later
of septicemia, a blood-carried bacterial disease that infected it
from an unknown source.