News from zoos

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:

Four months after giving the Los
Angeles Zoo one year to make improvements
necessary to keep accreditation,
American Zoo and Aquarium Association
representive Stephen McCusker credits interim
zoo administrator Manuel Mollinedo, 49,
with accomplishing many of the goals. “He’s
worked miracles,” adds Los Angeles city
council member Rita Walters, a member of
the Ad Hoc Committee on Zoo Improvement,
indicating that Mollinedo could soon be
given the top zoo job on a permanent basis.
A longtime Parks and Recreation official,
Mollinedo took the interim post with no
background in either zoo management or veterinary
science. His hand was strengthened
by a recent report to the Ad Hoc Committee
by Los Angeles chief legislative analyst Ron
Deaton and chief administrative officer Keith
Comrie, who argued that the zoo should
become an independent branch of the city
government, with greater authority over the
Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, the
private fundraising organization that runs the
zoo concessions. Zoo attendance has fallen
since 1990, while the concessions lost
money in both 1993 and 1994.

The Bronx Zoo has begun work
on a $30 million “Rain Forest Trail,” t o
include 300 animals and 20,000 plants of 400
species simulating the central African rainforest.
Two colonies of about 15 gorillas
apiece will share semi-natural habitat with
mandrills, monkeys, Red River hogs, and
rock pythons. Visitors will pay a 50¢ surcharge––and
will be allowed to direct it to
their choice among rainforest projects sponsored
by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Formerly known as the New York Zoological
Society, WCS operates the three New York
zoos and the New York Aquarium, and is
among the world leaders in funding field
research on endangered species. The “Rain
Forest Trail” is in turn subsidized by $9.5
million from New York City. A scheduled $4
million renovation of the Central Park
Children’s Zoo, including $1 million in city
funding over the next four years, has meanwhile
been postponed until 1997 because of a
clash between WCS, which wants to remove
fantasy structures such as Noah’s Ark and
Jonah’s Whale, and Parks Commissioner
Henry Stern, who along with the League of
Urban Landscape Architects wants to preserve
them. The structures were built in 1961
and abandoned when the Children’s Zoo was
closed due to dilapidation in 1991. A similar
but older Children’s Zoo on the Bronx Zoo
site was dismantled in 1981.
A clause in the year-old deal that
separated the Lincoln Park Zoological
Society from the Chicago Park District left
the 70-year-old Indian Boundary Park Zoo
under interim joint management, and allows
either the society or the Park District to close
it permanently after December 31, 1995.
Two alpacas were moved to the Lincoln Park
Zoo last spring, the USDA cited the zoo for
several minor violations of Animal Welfare
Act in July, two Sardinian mouflon rams
were sent to a Tennessee zoo in October, and
zookeeper Richard Trandel said in early
November that he’d been told the zoo would
be shut down. Public outcry apparently
saved it, however, as on December 13 the
Park District committed $50,000 to renovations.
The zoo now houses just eight pygmy
goats, two whitetailed deer, seven pheasants,
and two mute swans.
Fourteen zoos are using a less
toxic antifreeze in their vehicles this winter
as part of a demonstration project coordinated
by the AZA. Spilled conventional antifreeze,
which includes sweet-tasting ethylene glycol,
is a leading cause of accidental animal poisonings.
Although no animals at AZAaccredited
zoos are known to have died from
ingesting antifreeze, the AZA has asked
them all to switch to the safer antifreeze as
soon as possible.
The Milwaukee County Zoo
expects to have a deficit for 1995 of
$726,500. The zoo was ahead of projected
annual attendance on July 11, but was
already running at a loss after several rainy
weekends in April and May. More rain put
final July attendance at the lowest level since
1981––and still more rain made August attendance
the worst since 1983. The run of bad
luck also included the July 10 birth of twin
Siberian tiger cubs whose mother became
pregnant despite injections of Porcine Zona
Pellucida, a pig hormone used as an experimental
contraceptive. The mother had
already raised one litter, and being genetically
represented, was no longer part of the
Siberian tiger Species Survival Plan.
A raccoon killed 11 scarlet ibises,
just purchased for $250 apiece, on November
20, their first night at the San Francisco
Zoo’s Friendship Lagoon. The flightless
birds were trapped on an island, previously
occupied at different times by flamingoes,
geese, pelicans, and swans. General curator
David Robinette said raccoons, skunks, and
grey foxes are a constant problem at the zoo.
Under attack by the Animal
Rights Foundation of Florida for purportedly
intending to take African species from
the wild, Walt Disney World conservation
initiatives manager Kim Sams acknowledges,
“Some animals will come from wild
areas.” In specific, she explains, “we may
take some elephants and hippos from Kruger
National Park,” in South Africa, where
wardens have been shooting purported surplus
animals. “These would only be animals
who would otherwise be culled,” Sams
emphasizes. “The majority of mammals and
birds will come from captive breeding.”
The Lowry Park Zoo, of Brookfield,
Florida, expects to begin attempting
to breed endangered red wolves in March at
an isolated 1,320-acre site in Polk County.
Offspring may be released as part of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service’s red wolf reintroduction
program. The breeding center plans
to raise whooping cranes and Florida sandhill
cranes as well, starting in two or three years.
Three endangered northern white
r h i n o s borrowed by the San Diego Wildlife
Park in 1989 were to be returned to the Dvur
Kravole Zoo in the Czech Republic on
January 1 after failing to mate––but on
November 5 two of them did mate, the first
to do so in the northern hemisphere. The
wildlife park has now arranged to keep them
as permanent residents.
The Port Defiance Zoo in
Tacoma, Washington, has accepted an
apparent orphan female polar bear cub who
was found in October hiding under a house in
Barrow, Alaska. Polar bear cubs are usually
born in pairs and stay close to their mothers,
but an extensive search turned up only reports
that a starving mother and two cubs had been
seen a month earlier, 80 miles southwest.
The December 17 birth of two
polar bear cubs at the Denver Zoo seems to
be quelling public distress over the November
12 transfer of orphan polar bears Klondike
and Snow to Sea World Florida, whose new
“Northern Shores” exhibit is considered by
zoo professionals to be the closest approach
yet to duplicating Arctic habitat in a yearround
indoor situation. The most popular
animals the Denver Zoo ever had, whose
presence doubled attendance and increased
family memberships by a third, Klondike and
Snow had outgrown their quarters.

Foreign zoos
China in November announced
plans to turn the Wolong panda breeding
center at the foot of Mount Futou in southwestern
Sichuan province into an eco-tourist
destination, to be called China Panda World.
Dongdong, the star of the breeding center, in
late August gave birth to her sixth cub in five
years. About 1,000 wild pandas also inhabit
the Mount Futou area. “Completion of the
park (scheduled for 2020) will liberate pandas
from behind bars, while saving tourists
from the inconvenience and risk,” an official
stated. Developing artificial insemination of
pandas in 1978, to circumvent the species’
notorious reluctance to mate, China now has
48 captive-bred pandas, with a cub survival
rate of 84%, up from 31% a decade ago. Of
36 cubs born at Wolong, 21 lived at least six
months. Seven Chinese zoos have also had
panda births; outside China, only the
Mexico City Zoo has a record of successful
panda breeding.
Police warned residents of Pecs,
Hungary, to stay indoors on December 28,
as a helicopter patrol and detachments on foot
sought a wolf who escaped from a local zoo,
killed an elderly woman, seriously injured
three children, and reportedly bit several
other people. News reports didn’t indicate if
the wolf might have been rabid, but rabies
has recently occurred in Hungary as well as
neighboring nations.
The directors of Nizhny Novgorod
Zoo in Russia on November 30 threatened
to free two Siberian tigers if the city
didn’t feed them. The newly opened zoo
hasn’t drawn enough visitors to support itself.
Moscow Zoo official Natalia
Istratova recently told the Baltimore Sun
that at least 15 bears have been abandoned
in that city this year by failed exhibitors,
while boars and lions have been found in
cramped high-rise apartments. Two bears left
in a vacant building ate a third bear when
handouts from passers-by weren’t enough to
sustain them. The Moscow bird market,
tightly policed in Soviet times, now often
features endangered species, typically kept in
appalling conditions. “It’s not that we don’t
have any law,” said All-Russian Society for
Nature Conservation vice president German
Gan. “It’s that we’re not stable enough to
enforce what we have.”
Scott Connor, 17, of Beaverton,
Ontario, is to receive monthly payments for
life beginning in 1997 from an annuity
bought with $934,000 paid by the Metro
Toronto Zoo––without admitting guilt––in
settlement of an 11-year legal battle that
began when Connor, then age six, followed
his 8-year-old brother and an 11-year-old
friend in climbing over the zoo’s back fence.
Purportedly mistaking the zoo’s Arctic
wolves for big dogs, the trio teased them.
When Connor fell and caught his arm in the
fence, the wolves tore the flesh off to the
bone, requiring the arm to be amputated at
the shoulder. Connor could receive up to
$11.2 million if he lives to age 80.
Matthews Phosa, premier of
Mpumalanga state in South Africa, reportedly
told a newspaper on December 19 that
criminals must be put “in a zoo so people can
go and scorn them.” The comment upset zoo
people as well as human rights advocates.
A ban on cuddling koalas
imposed by New South Wales, Australia,
has diverted Japanese tourism to rival
Queensland, charges Australian Wildlife
Park marketing director Gus Maher.
Cuddling one of the park’s 60 captive
koalas––for a fee––was its mainstay.
The last resident antelope and the
hoses that filled the crocodile pool at the
Kisangani Zoo in eastern Zaire were reported
missing on December 28. State radio said the
thieves “were probably hungry, or just
greedy for money.”

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