It’s all happening at the zoo

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1996:

Convincing the American Zoo Association that it
has rectified the many problems noted by media, the public,
the USDA, and AZA itself over the past decade, the Los
Angeles Zoo on September 17 won reaccreditation, 18 months
after getting a “shape up or else” order. Changes have included
hiring Manuel A. Mollinedo as director, removing the zoo
from administration by the Los Angeles City Parks
Department, winning voter approval of a $23 million bond
issue, and breaking ground for a $4.5 million new chimpanzee
habitat. The zoo’s 14 chimps are to get a waterfall, along with
climbing trees and a triple-tiered shelter.


Alleging he was wrongfully dismissed by Little
Rock Zoo director David Westbrook for speaking out about
purported negligent treatment of a giraffe named Stretch, former
keeper Billy Gatlin sued the City of Little Rock on August
7. Stretch died during a hoof-trimming ooperation on October
19, 1995, one of 600 animals who have died at the zoo since
1990. The annual Little Rock Zoo mortality rate reportedly
runs between 12% and 28%, nearly three times the norm for
American Zoo Association member institutions. Gatlin is
believed to have been a key source for a Little Rock Free Press
series attacking Westbrook’s management of the zoo, published
in November and December 1995. Many of Gatlin’s
claims about zoo conditions were supported by a March 1996
AZA inspection visit. The AZA team postponed reaccrediting
the zoo because of multiple perceived health and safety hazards,
both to animals and the public; lack of an effective public
education program; and lack of mates for several animals in
Species Survival Plans. The Arkansas Department of Pollution
Control and Ecology on August 21 added another charge,
ordering the zoo to remove fifty yards of manure that it had
dumped on a baseball diamond in nearby War Memorial Park.
Earlier, the ADPCE ordered the zoo to cease dumping manure
on a flood plain. Still more trouble is ahead: a citizens’ committee
is drafting a detailed multi-count complaint to the AZA
ethics panel, members have told ANIMAL PEOPLE, based
on affidavits from witnesses to alleged animal abuse, together
with USDA inspection documents obtained through the
Freedom of Information Act.
Charged on May 24 with multiple violations of the
Animal Welfare Act, the Detroit Zoo spent the summer
explaining to critics that the alleged offenses were minor, and
were quickly corrected. Noted director Ron Kagen, “In the
past three years, 35 of the zoo’s 41 mammal facilities and
exhibits have benefitted from extensive and significant
upgrades.” Kagen is a member of The Association of
Sanctuaries board of directors; the USDA may have received
anonymous complaints about the zoo as fallout from the ongoing
distribution of anonymous dossiers pertaining to TAOS
officials and persons with whom some have tangled (page 16).
The Philadelphia Zoo, despite raising $1.5 million
to replace the primate house, where 23 animals died last year in
a Christmas Eve fire, has lost at least $2 million in the past fiscal
year, increasing its total deficit to $3.4 million. Zoo president
Pete Hoskins ascribes the losses to the 1990 withdrawal of
a $750,000-a-year city subsidy and a deteriorating public
image, worsened by the use of building funds for upkeep.
A. Lamar Farnsworth, 63, with the Hogle Zoo in
Salt Lake City since 1953, and director since 1964, announced
September 11 that he will step aside to become director emeritus.
Farnsworth’s August 2 opening of a new Primate Forest
featuring colobus monkeys was upstaged when a two-day
USDA inspection found a dozen violations of Animal Welfare
Act care standardss, just six months after the zoo paid a civil
penalty of $25,000 for previous violations associated with the
deaths of two giraffes in falls and the loss of two gazelles to
wild coyotes.
Castor, 26, the senior polar bear at the San Diego
Z o o, died on August 23 of a parasitic disease acquired from
eating the live trout, since removed, whose presence was to be
one of the natural features of the zoo’s $5 million Polar Bear
Plunge, opened in June. Two other bears, Bonnie and Shakari,
suffered from the same disease, and along with a fourth bear,
Chinook, have begun compulsive pacing.
The Zoological Society of Milwaukee County a n d
county executive F. Thomas Ament clashed on August 22 over
the zoo’s request for areview of county funding and governance
of the Milwaukee County Zoo. The Zoological Society, the
zoo’s fundraising auxillary, wants the county to make a guaranteed
funding commitment to the zoo, as it already does to the
Milwaukee Public Museum. The county gave the zoo $3 million
this year, but under the present funding agreement the
amount varies year-to-year, inhibiting the ability of management
to undertake longterm improvements. Already under fire
for facilities that though state-of-the-art 20 to 30 years ago are
now considered obsolete, the zoo caught further flak in August
for making dissection a central activity at a series of summer
science classes attended by 6,000 children, ages 9-13.
Rejecting the Animal Protection Institute’s recomm
e n d a t i o n that the troubled 15-acre Sacramento Zoo should
drop ambitions of being a first-rank facility, and instead try to
exhibit a limited number of animals in first-rate conditions, the
Sacramento City Council voted on September 10 to leave the
zoo management with the Sacramento Zoological Society––”In
our opinion, a good part of the problem,” API executive director
Alan Berger told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
The Virginia Zoo, in Norfolk, is mourning the
August 13 death of Nyla, 31, a hippotamus who died of a
bowel obstruction caused, an autopsy revealed, when she
swallowed a racquetball.

Foreign zoo news
The Toronto Zoo, usually open
year-round, may close for part of this winter to
recoup losses resulting from a seven-week
strike, ended July 9. The 350 zoo workers,
paid an average of $16 Canadian per hour,
struck for job security, but won only a letter of
agreement that full-time staffing will not be cut
below 150. During the strike, zoo attendance
fell 40%, while revenue fell by half.
The poverty-stricken Warsaw Zoo
on August 12 published a newspaper ad seeking
a suitable home for two young hippos,
ages one and three years, whose father will no
longer tolerate their presence in the zoo’s only
hippo pond. Heated ponding for the young
hippos will cost about $250 a month, at current
Polish prices.
The Krakow Zoo could have
improved its financial situation from March
through June by allowing Karolina, a resident
chimp, to pick five stock investments, among
70 possibilities offered in a contest by the
newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. Karolina picked
one of the biggest losers on the list, but her
overall 10% rate of return outperformed treasury
bonds, bank deposits, investment in U.S.
dollars, and participation in the Polish
National Investment fund, along with one of
six competing analysts and brokerages, but
trailed the other five. The stock index rose
19% during the three-month period.
Turned down by the Chilean government,
Gonzalo Gonzalez Rivera, director
of the the Santiago Zoo, is seeking $15 to $20
million in private funding for new facilities.
Built more than 70 years ago, the Santiago
Zoo has never been renovated. About 700,000
visitors a year view a collection of 1,400 animals,
situated on just 18 acres. Recent scandals
have included two lion escapes, the
deaths of four giraffes in an electrical fire, the
deaths of 12 deer due to shock during vaccination,
and the death of an elephant from complications
of repeated ingestion of litter. The
zoo has come under heavy criticism from both
the National Committee for the Defense of
Fauna and Flora and the World Society for the
Protection of Animals.

New at the zoo
A $2.2 million Asian Highlands exhibit f e a t u r i n g
Siberian tigers, Amur leaopards, and red pandas opened July
26 at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo––just the first phase of a
planned 13-part project to depict the little-known wildlife of
the Asian mountains.
The Denver Zoo on July 30 opened a $14 million
indoor/outdoor Primate Panorama, housing about 200 individuals
of nine species on seven acres.

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