Mismanagement alleged at Philly Zoo
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1996:
president Pete Hoskins remains on the job despite
multiple calls for his resignation.
Zoo vice chair Marsha Perelman, treasurer
Frank Reed, and investment subcommittee head
J. Barton Riley all resigned in early May, after which
Hoskins announced the $247,000 the Philadelphiabased
zoo consulting firm CLRdesign, which has reportedly
worked with 50 other zoos worldwide, to
help remedy longstanding problems.
Hoskins and other senior management have
taken multiple hits from probes of the Christmas Eve
fire that killed 23 endangered primates, but so far the
only staff fired have been security guards Joe Villaloz
and Edith Henry, sacked in January for allegedly
making 14 personal telephone calls instead of doing
their rounds during the first two and a half hours of
the blaze. The guards reportedly admitted faking log
entries to show that they visited the World of
Primates as required, when in fact they did not.
Fire officials ruled on March 13 that the
the fire was caused by a misinstalled heating cable in
the roof of the10-year-old primate house.
Philadelphia fire commissioner Harold
Hairston revealed on March 5 that to cut costs the zoo
in 1994 disconnected a computerized alarm system,
without notifying the fire department. This left the
primate house protected only by smoke detectors
wired to alarms inside a closed wooden cabinet within
the Discovery House, a building away. A warning
horn, meanwhile, was clogged with snow.
Deputy fire commissioner Matthew
McCrory found that 21 other zoo buildings were
equally poorly protected.
Since losing a city subsidy of $800,000/
year in 1990, the Philadelphia Zoo has run up a $2
million deficit, including a loss of $1.5 million in
1995. The zoo has $5 million of state funds and $4
million of city funds banked, but the money is allocated
to specific projects that require raising similar
amounts elsewhere. This hasn’t been done. The zoo
still gets $2.5 million worth of free water and sewage
service from the city, including the loss of a million
gallons of water a day through faulty plumbing.
On March 31, 1993, in one of the worst
previous disasters ever to hit an accredited zoo, a
plumbing problem fatally scalded 16 freshwater turtles.
The city gave the zoo $517,000 for emergency
repairs and improving handicapped access on July 15,
1993, but just $120,000 was spent by November
1995. Most of the work was still in planning as late
as the end of February 1996.
Other primates in captivity
Mojo, a western lowland gorilla born at
the Oklahoma City Zoological Park on July 2, 1995,
was euthanized on April 15 when zoo veterinarians
were unable to relieve his pain from acute lymphocetic
leukemia. The only gorilla ever known to get
the disease, Mojo initially responded to chemotherapy,
but later developed infections and suffered loss of
appetite as result of the treatment.
The 480-odd lemurs at the 80-acre Duke
University Primate Center had a rough winter due to
unexpected cold snaps. On January 28 the center was
cited by the USDA for Animal Welfare Act violations
including inadequate shelter and lack of a full-time
veterinarian. Two lemurs and a loris died of cold
within the next week, as director Kenneth Glander
and staff wrapped cages with plastic to break the
wind, and installed kerosine heaters. One hundred
heated shelter boxes are to be installed before next
winter. Begun at Yale in 1958, the lemur collection
is believed to be the largest in captivity.
Bonobos nurse for four years, as often do
humans in pre-developed cultures. Some experts
claim the long nursing is why bonobos have the lowest
birth rate and are the most endangered of any higher
primate. Milwaukee County Zoo bonobo caregiver
Barbara Bell and National Zoo research nutritionist
Olav Ostedal are taking breastmilk samples from the
Milwaukee Zoo bonobo Laura––with her cooperation––to
learn everything they can about bonobo nursing.
Laura’s fifth baby, Yatole, a female, will be
one year old on July 25. Misleadingly called “pygmy
chimpanzees,” bonobos are the closest relative of
humans; walk upright; have a matriarchal social
structure; resolve disputes with sex instead of fighting;
and unlike other chimps are strictly vegetarian.
The University of California at Santa
C r u z is reportedly close to completing anatomical
study of the remains of Bwana, a 380-pound wildcaught
gorilla who died at age 36 in 1994, after 35
years at the San Francisco Zoo. The 1950 dissection
of a deceased resident of the Lincoln Park Zoo in
Chicago produced the only previous complete
anatomical description of a gorilla.
The Oakland Zoo in March borrowed a
five-month-old chimp named Caramia from the
Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta, to give
Amira, age four months, a playmate. Amira was
abandoned at birth by her mother, Abigail, age 13;
Caramia was blinded in her right eye when her mother
excessively groomed her. The zoo hopes they will
adapt first to one another, and later, to the main
Oakland Zoo colony of eight chimps.
A formal wedding––with the bride and
groom in separate cages––drew hundreds of donors
to the April 7 introduction of the orphan orangutans
Mike and Su Su at the public zoo in Lopburi,
Thailand. Mike’s former mate died of tetanus two
years ago; Su Su, an abandoned former pet, was
brought from Taiwan after 18 months of red tape.