Bad news from zoos

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1996:

A year and a half after tiger keeper
Trevor Smith, 32, was fatally mauled at the
Howletts Wild Animal Park in Canterbury, England,
main keeper Nick Marx on May 10 led the staff back
into the cages. A Bengal tiger named
Dodhwa ran to Marx and lay at his feet
for 15 minutes while he stroked her
head and talked to her. Owner John
Aspinall, 70, met a similar reception
the following day. After Smith’s
death, which came 15 years after a
female tiger named Zeya killed two
young keepers within a month and 11
years after an elephant killed another
keeper, Aspinall temporarily barred
his staff from entering the cages, and
the Canterbury city council made the
ban binding. However, an occupational
safety tribunal ruled in February
that the keepers may enter the cages in
pairs, and to Aspinall’s delight the
ruling was upheld on appeal in April.

Aspinall, who believes in close-contact
bonding with animals, had threatened
to close the zoo if all contact was
permanently forbidden. “I’m more
nervous of the press than the tigers,”
he said. “Tigers have long memories,
and remember their friends.”
On May 10, the British
High Court ordered Aspinall to pay
$200,000 in damages to Matthew
McDaid, age 9, of the New Eltham
district of London. A chimpanzee
named Bustah bit McDaid’s left arm
off in March 1989 at the Port Lympne
Estates Zoo in Hythe, Kent. Bustah
had in 1975 bitten off a keeper’s finger;
in 1994 he bit off a female visitor’s
index finger and thumb. Now 35,
Bustah was exiled after that incident
to a wildlife center in South Africa.
The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention reported in
March that a January outbreak of salmonella
spread by one of the Denver
Zoo’s four Komodo dragons had
afflicted at least 50 visitors who
touched the wooden rail of an exhibit,
ranging in age from three months to 23
years, 78% of whom developed
bloody diarrhea. About 90% of all
reptiles carry salmonella, according to
the CDCP. Zoo staff, aware of the
risk, were unaffected.
Badly damaged in August
1992 by Hurricane Andrew, the
Miami Metrozoo survived another
close call on March 23, when a 100-
acre brushfire penetrated the perimeter
fence and forced the evacuation of
2,000 visitors, as well as the temporary
relocation of koalas, kangaroos,
tortoises, and other creatures who
seemed to be in harm’s way.
Animal casualties
Burglars stole 72 juvenile
Yniphora tortoises and two adult
females from the Amphijoroa Forest
Park in Madagascar during the first
week of May, destroying “The
world’s most successful captive breeding
project, for one of the world’s
rarest tortoises,” according to Allen
Salzberg of the New York Turtle and
Tortoise Society. “There are less than
400 of these tortoises,” Salzberg continued.
“Details are sketchy, as the
nearest telephone is miles away and
the news is trickling in, but it is
known the tortoises are headed for the
pet trade.” Anyone who is offered a
Yniphora tortoise, under any circumstance,
is asked to call John Behler of
the Bronx Zoo at 718-212-5157.
Roving dogs killed two
wallabies on April 11 at the Cleveland
Metroparks Zoo, while two kangaroos
hurt themselves so badly trying to
escape the dogs they they had to be
euthanized. The dogs got away. In
1990 a similar dog attack killed five
wallabies. The dogs’ owner was convicted
of misdemeanor charges and
ordered to reimburse the zoo for the
cost of the wallabies.
Two snow leopards h a v e
died of bovine tuberculosis at the
Tulsa Zoo since October 1995, zoo
staff acknowledged on April 5––a year
after the zoo euthanized a mandrill
who tested positive for TB, to keep
the disease from spreading.
The defunct Maui Zoo
reportedly live-trapped and lethally
injected 29 Axis deer in early March,
including 10 bucks, 13 does, and six
fawns, two just one day old, who had
been wandering the grounds through
broken fences and were considered
likely to become a feral herd.
Years of protest against
city plans to liquidate the deer pen
at Mohegan Park in Norwich,
Connecticut, led by Friends of
Animals, ended March 30 with one
last demonstration before the whole
herd was sent to auction in Ohio.
Ousted Humane Society of
the U.S. vice president David Wills
left two “ticking hormonal time
bombs” for the Wildlife Images
Rehabilitation and Education Center
near Grants Pass, Oregon, reports
Eric Gorski of the Portland Oregonian, in a pair of
nearly sexually mature four-year-old Kodiak bears.
The survivors of a trio of orphans noticed by commercial
fishers at Cook’s Inlet, Alaska, in 1992, the
pair––male and female––were flown to Wildlife
Images through Wills’ intervention, and according to
Wills’ widely publicized plan, were to be reintroduced
to the Alaskan bush when old enough. The
Alaska Fish and Game Department won’t permit that,
however, arguing that the bears won’t be able to fend
for themselves; are too used to humans; and might
bring diseases to the bush with them. There is also
lingering resentment in Alaska of Wills’ campaign
against the Iditarod dogsled race, during which he
appeared to promise to withdraw criticism if certain
reforms were adopted, then called for the abolition of
the race instead. HSUS fired Wills for alleged embezzling
and sexual harassment in October 1995, and
sued him, seeking restitution. Wills, who previously
left the Nashua Humane Society, Michigan Humane
Society, and National Society for Animal Protection
amid allegations of missing money, countersued in
December, claiming innocence.
“Zoocheck Canada is seeking assistance
in checking the conditions in which Canada’s exported
polar bears are living,” says a recent press release.
“Approximately 30 bears have been shipped out of the
country,” to 13 zoos in 12 nations, several of them
allegedly substandard, “through a program of capturing
and relocating ‘problem’ or ‘orphaned’ wild bears.
As far as we can tell, the government does virtually
no follow-up to determine if exported polar bears are
adjusting to their new environment; if the recipient
has transferred, traded, or sold the bears to someone
else; or if the bears have died.” Contact Zoocheck
Canada c/o 3266 Yonge St., Suite 1729, Toronto,
Ontario M4N 3P6; telephone 416-696-0241; fax
416-696-0370; e-mail >><<.
The Edinburgh Zoo lost a 20-year-old
polar bear and the Royal Museum of Scotland gained
a skeleton on March 6 when Barney, born at the
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in 1976, choked to
death on a child’s six-inch-long toy vampire bat.
Mercedes, his mate since 1977, “seems to be a lot
more outgoing and is enjoying herself more,” zoo
staff reported. “She no longer has to compete with
anyone over who gets first pick at the food, and now
she gets to sit on the best rock in the enclosure. She
doesn’t seem to be a grieving widow.”
Tiani, 18, the last Cleveland Metropark
Zoo elephant, was on April 22 sent on breeding loan
to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas,
where she will be housed with Asali, 11, and will be
introduced to Macho, 33, the prospective stud. Her
Cleveland companions, Tribby and Simba, died of
different natural causes on November 10 and
December 10, 1995. The Metropark elephant house
is to undergo extensive renovation in her absence.
Fatma Huseyin, 24, of Palmers Green,
north London, on March 25 sued the London Zoo
for a head injury allegedly suffered when an elephant
threw a tree branch at her. Her boyfriend, Ibrahim
Sabri, 33, told media the zoo’s first aid post was
closed; the zoo contends she received prompt medical
attention “from a qualified first-aid certificate holder.”
Notoriously aggressive both with humans
and other elephants, Suki, 32, was in March
moved to the protected-contact facility at the Point
Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington, after the
Dickerson Park Zoo gave up trying to keep her in a
traditional free-contact situation, a decade after a circus
decided she couldn’t be trained. In Tacoma she
joins Cindi, a fellow Asian elephant, and two African
elephants, Thandi and Moyo.
The Jersey Zoo, founded by the late
Gerald Durrell, in April received five Antiguan racers,
a snake species on the World Conservation
Union’s critically endangered list due to predation by
rats, and will try to induce them to breed in captivity.
The Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, 65
years old in August, has acquired a pair of endangered
blackfooted ferrets––believed to be too old to
breed, which is just what the zoo wanted, lacking the
resources to house a breeding pair. Other new arrivals
include a pair of male wart hogs, with three zebras
and some cheetahs coming soon, and a new Monkey
Forest scheduled to open on August 3.
Nature Quest, a 45-acre semi-natural
habitat in New Forest, Longdown, Hampshire, on
March 21 regained wild boars, 90 years after gamekeeper
Charlie Bessant shot the last native boar. His
great grandson, Forestry Commission staffer Peter
Bessant, released 13 boars into an 8-acre pen, where
it is hoped they will be semi-self-sufficient. Also at
Nature Quest are five coypu, a unique black rat
colony, and the only stoats ever born in captivity.
Northwest Trek, a 635-acre wildlife park
at Eatonville, Washington, enjoyed a first-ever successful
beaver birth in March and the nesting of a bald
eagle pair for the first time since 1983 in April. The
eagle’s nest could be seen only by video monitor, but
visitors could watch the beavers in person. “When
one of the newborns rolled into the water,” reported
the Tacoma News Tribune, paraphrasing general
curator Dave Ellis, “the father rescued her. Dad even
helps move the kits into better nursing positions.”

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