Foreign zoos fight the budget crunch

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1996:

TV star Joanna Lumley led a May 8 protest
against conditions at the Animal Garden,
the private menagerie kept by Prince
Rainier of Monaco, which Born Free
Foundation president Virginia McKenna
describes as “a slum zoo stuck in the cliff
below the palace.”
According to John Gripper,
DVM, in a recent report to BFF, “tormented
and distressed” animals are kept in cages
far too small for their species. “The animals
are listless and showing stereotypical
behavior,” he wrote. “One monkey
chewed its own tail out of boredom,” and
at the time of Gripper’s visit, “had not been
treated. This suggests to me,” he continued,
“that vets are not regularly monitoring
the animals.”

Rainier himself has reportedly not
responded to BFF inquiries over the past
two years. “We are very preoccupied with
the situation,” Animal Garden spokesperson
Patrick Schwartz told Reuters. “We
have plans to try to improve the conditions
and to give the animals more games to play
with, but it is a very old establishment,
and there is a limit to what we can do,” in
part due to a tight budget.
The Animal Garden has apparently
deteriorated since the 1982 death of
Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, who as
a reported condition of her 1956 marriage
to Rainier obliged him to ban captive birdshoots
formerly hosted in Monaco by the
late Aristotle Onassis, at the time a whaling
magnate who later diversified into other
kinds of shipping.
While American and Canadian
zoos spent the past decade ambitiously
expanding and renovating, borrowing
money in usually successful gambles that
better facilities will boost attendance, foreign
zoos have mostly kept the status quo.
Western European zoos are often
hemmed in by high land prices and historic
neighborhoods, and tend to be managed
more as living museums than as competitors
within the entertainment marketplace.
In eastern Europe and China, the
loss of state subsidies has hit established
zoos hard, most of which previously
charged little or no admission, while newly
formed low-budget equivalents of U.S.
roadside zoos cut into their clientele.
Around the rest of the world,
zoos rarely rise above the menagerie level.
The city zoo in Hangzhou,
China, thought it had found a surefire way
to beat the budget crunch, renting out a
panda named Peipei last November for promotional
use by a business in distant
Haikou. The deal emulated the panda
rentals arranged with U.S. zoos by the
Chinese government, but backfired in midFebruary
when the zoo was fined $600.
The Shenzhen Safari Park, just
over the border from Hong Kong, tried to
raise funds for three years by hosting the
Russian State Circus, but that deal went
bad when the circus ceased attracting
enough visitors to pay for the upkeep of 31
animals, including 15 lions and tigers. On
February 18, after cutting back their rations
for months, the park quit feeding the animals.
A starving monkey attacked a circus
worker, the South China Morning Post
reported three days later, while one 10-
year-old tiger was down from 750 pounds
to just 150 pounds. On February 26 the
park agreed to resume feeding the animals
pending their return to Moscow at the end
of the month––and to pay for three horses
and two tigers who died under unspecified
circumstances during the circus’ residence.
Hong Kong veterinarian Gail Cochrane,
credited with helping resolve the situation,
said the remaining animals were still in relatively
good health.
Pushing public officials to crack
down on abuse of wildlife and habitat in a
series of recent investigative features, the
state-run Xinhua News Service on April 27
ripped the zoo in Nanchang, capital of
Jianxi province, for chaining a Manchurian
tiger to a table and charging visitors 60¢
each to pose for photos astride his back. A
trainer pokes the tiger with a stick to make
him raise his head for the camera,” the
XNS charged. “Because the iron shackles
held it fast so that it could not move,” the
report said, “the tiger would constantly
open its great mouth and roar with indignation,
attracting huge crowds of zoogoers”—and
protest, thus far ignored,
from some local residents and media.
The Beijing Zoo turned to Beijing
University for help in feeding its 15 giant
pandas, who won’t mate unless they are
fed abundant arrow bamboo shoots in
spring. Abundance of bamboo apparently
triggers the female pandas’ reproductive
instinct. Because bamboo shoots have
become scarce and expensive, as farmers
have cleared former bamboo patches, the
zoo fed the pandas beef, milk, eggs,
apples, and carrots throughout the winter.
Professor Pan Wenshi collected $120—a
huge amount in China—from 300 sympathetic
students, but the gift isn’t expected
to be enough to assure panda births.
More trouble
In Hungary, Budapest Zoo director
Miklos Persanyi asked U.S. commander
of forward forces General John Abrams for
help in obtaining three 18-month-old gift
giraffes, purchased in Lusaka, Zambia,
last November by entrepreneur Gabor
Varszegi. They would join a lone giraffe
already at the zoo, who at age 20 is reportedly
among the oldest giraffes on record.
The only civilian aircraft tall enough to fly
the giraffes is the Boeing 747. They could
be taken as far as Frankfurt on regular commercial
cargo flights. But there are no 747s
flying from Frankfurt to Budapest. There
are, however, even larger C-5A military
cargo planes taking supplies to U.S. troops
in Bosnia via the Tasar air base in southern
Hungary. At deadline it was unknown if
the U.S. would oblige Persanyi.
Help of any kind came too late
for a Yooyee, a two-year-old female Asian
elephant, who died of starvation on April 2
after a year on exhibit at the Sheraton
Grande Laguna Beach hotel on the island of
Phuket, Thailand. When her plight became
obvious to tourists, she was taken to an elephant
hospital at Lampang, nearly 700
miles away, where director Soraida Sawala
said she had been weaned a year too
early––and then her trainer fed her only
boiled rice with salt, in hopes of saving
money and stunting her growth to keep her
more manageable. Sheraton manager Greg
Maloney pledged to review his policies on
animal exhibits, a common feature of Third
World hotels.
Among many other spring smallzoo-in-trouble
stories, six keepers who said
they hadn’t been paid for a year on
February 22 moved temporarily into a cage
full of geese and herons at the Parque
D’Orleans zoo in Palermo, Sicily. The zoo
concessionaire, Salvatore Lauricella, said
the local government hadn’t paid him
enough even to buy feed. The accused officials
claimed they pay him $127,000 to
$191,000 a year to run the zoo, counteraccusing
Lauricella of spreading false news
and defamation.
Signs of change
Founded in 1923 by Herbert
Whitley, and managed since 1955 by the
Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, the
Paignton Zoo of Devon, England, on April
4 announced a $15 million plan to expand
and renovate along U.S. lines, which it
billed as “a blueprint for zoos in the 21st
century.” The major work was to be done
by summer, with the aid of $7.5 million in
grants from the European Regional
Development Fund. The zoo is being
reconstructed into five naturalistic habitats:
a skylighted indoor tropical rainforest, with
walkways in the upper tree canopy; a
savannah for elephants and hooved stock,
including giraffes; a forested cluster of
exhibits of Asiatic lions, Sumatran tigers,
and great apes, with a walk-through aviary;
a wetland; and 50 acres of native Devon
woods in a nocturama lit by artificial moonlight.
Drawing 275,000 people in 1995, the
zoo expects the renovations to bring in
350,000 people this year.
The zoos of Cologne, Munich,
and Berlin, Germany, are selling stock to
fund similar efforts. The Hellebrunn Zoo in
Munich reportedly raised $2.7 million with
a May 1993 stock offering––even though it
paid no dividends, and the purchase is not
allowed as a charitable donation.
Helping to impel overdue expansions
and renovations is the public response
to a 1994 “European Zoo Inquiry” conducted
by the World Society for the Protection
of Animals, under direction of the late
Stephen Ormrod. A similar “U.S. Zoo
Inquiry” is now underway. Reportedly
attending a mid-March steering committee
meeting in Boston were Andrew Dickson,
John Walsh, Jason Black, and Cindy
Milbourne of WSPA; Paul Irwin and Silah
Smith of HSUS; Kathi Travers of the
American SPCA; Carter Luke of the
Massachusetts SPCA; and Will Travers,
Virginia McKenna, and John Gripper,
DVM, of the Born Free Foundation.

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