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by Al on April 6, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

San Antonio Zoo has a great amphibian exhibit called TOADALLY. It is very pertinent since Amphibians are a class of animals greatly in peril due to loss of habitat, disease, pollution , climate change and invasive species. It lists various important roles they play in pest control, food for some animals,and in research. The excellent signage lists 8 ways we can help amphibians such as learning more about them, enjoying nature, creating a frog friendly back yard, volunteer, save water, don’t pollute, use less energy, and adopt a frog or make a donation. Exhibited are frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians. Scientists have found or have learned about drugs through studying amphibians. This includes drugs for pain, HIV, CANCER, diabetes, and infection. Examples of each type of amphibian are housed. Also a great feature on the golden frog of Panama is displayed telling us that the golden frog is the national animal of Panama like ours is the bald eagle. I highly recommend visiting the San Antonio zoo for many reasons besides the Amphibian exhibit.


Time recently featured an article on the best places to see and save animals. A zoo doesn’t appear on this list, but several ecolodges do.

The places featured include Kakum National Park, Ghana, Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone, Chalalán Ecolodge, Bolivia, Fazenda Rio Negro, Brazil, Wekso Ecolodge, Panama.

Ecotourism is good for everyone.  I am glad they featured the Chalalán Ecolodge.  That lodge is a joint ecotourism initiative of the rainforest community of San José de Uchupiamonas and Conservation International (CI) in Bolivia. It provides employment through nature-based tourism.  Previously, the main employment was logging.

The ecolodge became fully owned by the community in 2001. Today, 74 families receive regular direct economic benefits from employment and management of the ecolodge. They also receive indirect benefits from the sale of sustainable crafts that are sold to tourists.

That’s innovative thinking that benefits both the tourist and the community.  The tourist gets a real experience, not something made up by Disney or some motel six.  They get to see the real community.  The community gets money with the tourism.  The world gets to keep it’s rainforest.

Supporting good ecotourism really is one of the most powerful things that people can do to improve the environment.


Blank Park Zoo Shows Sense of Humor

by amanda on April 2, 2009 · 1 comment

in misc

Blank Park Zoo showed it sense of humor this April Fools Day by setting up their prank call list.

Visitors could call several numbers and hear a funny recorded message. The numbers are as follows:
* Mr. Don Key, 515-974-2673
* Ms. Anna Conda, 515-974 2672
* Mr. C. Lyon, 515-974-2671
* Mr. Albert Ross, 515-974 2670

Very cute idea. Kudos to the zoo. Zoos sometimes get calls from pranksters on April Fools Day warning about various this and that escaping, or someone falling into an exhibit. This is a cute way to “fight back.”

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An article in Science this month found that Atlantic herring form “mega-shoals” of hundreds of millions of fish that span dozens of square kilometers.

It’s the first time scientists have seen so many animals together. To me, the most interesting observation is that small sets of fish emerged as the leaders and the entire shoal would follow them. The scientists noticed a rapid progression from disorganized single fish groups to a massive, synchronized group as the population grew.

Pretty cool stuff. This finding suggests that regardless of animal species or group size, all animals display this kind of pattern.

It’s the first time they’ve seen this behaviors because they are using a new OAWRS technology that can take snapshots of an 100-square-kilometer area every 75 seconds. Previously, the limits of high-frequency beans were about 100 meters. OAWRS sends out lower wavelength sound waves that travel further through the ocean.

What does this mean? Besides being pretty cool, understanding how these how these fish spawn and behave may help in their conservation. The most important thing to their conservation is being able to track how the numbers of fish are falling. Giving people hard data on fish populations is an important beginning to getting money for conservations efforts and getting people to want to conserve them.


Mysterious Bat Disease Caused by Fungus

by amanda on March 20, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

Bats with White-nose FungusBats from Vermont to Virginia are being threatened by a mysterious disease called white-nose syndrome. It affects several species and is believed to be responsible for killing 90 percent of Connecticut’s bats this winter and 1 million bats overall in the Northeast.

Scientists don’t know how to cure the disease or what causes it.  It’s been around for about three years now.  It was first discovered and named “White-nose syndrome” in New York.

White-nose syndrome leaves bats abnormally thin, with a white fungus furring their noses. It wiped out 90 per cent of the bats in the two caves in New York state.  Death isn’t caused by the fungus, but a variety of other diseases that occur in the bats that show the fungus.

Bats are great for our ecosystem.  A single bat can eat 3,000 mosquitoes in a night.  This is the best way to prevent mosquito borne illness such as a West Nile virus.

Bats are not the only animals to be struck with fungus.  Frogs are battling Chytrid fungus, which is expected to wipe out the amphibian population within most of our lifetimes.


Farasi and Birth Control in Zoos

by amanda on March 13, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

p1-ap083_hippo_d_20090312171226I’ve got a lot of questions around the zoo lately about zoos and births. T hese are trigger by the story of Farasi, the hippo who was born to a zoo in Switzerland.

Farasi was a star when he was born.  He was the Basel Zoo’s biggest attraction, and is so popular he was named “Swiss of the Year” for 2008, beating out tennis star Roger Federer.  However, now he runs the risk of being lion food because the zoo does not have enough room for another hippo.

Swiss zoos, and many zoos in Europe, don’t have anything like the US zoo SSP.  They believe animals should mate freely without any human intervention or birth control.   If there is not space for the babies, they are typically killed.  Some carcasses are used for research. Meatier cuts are thrown to the lions.

This sounds a bit barbaric compared to American zoos SSP.

The SSP in US zoos is like a dating service for animals.  Not only do they  hook the animals up, they tell the zoos who can breed, when they can breed and how often.  American zoos implant birth control devices in animals and use other methods to prevent pregnancy.

That’s not to say it  ALWAYS works. Just like in humans, there are animal birth control snafus and “whoops” babies, but, in general, those are either kept by the host zoo or moved to another zoo.

There has a been outcry to save Farasi.  Individuals have contacted many zoos to plea his case.  With zoos being crowded and funds being hard to come by, it does not sound like it will have a happy ending.

Hippos are space and food intensive and live for a pretty long time, so they make a hard sell.

It does make you think about baby animals in a zoo though.  Are they a good thing? They make good publicty for the zoo, because everyone loves a baby animal.  However, even American zoos are crowded and underfunded.   I tend to believe that most zoo births are a good thing, and a planned thing.  Occassionally I wonder about the thought process that goes into breeding certain animals (like the hippos in Switzerland, where there is no “need” for them . . . I am honestly not sure about the hippo population in the states).

On the other hand, I admit I am always the first to want to see a cute baby animal. I guess that makes me a hippocrit.


Pink Dolphin Appears in Louisiana

by amanda on March 6, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

Pink DolphinPink dolphins are not unheard of.  As a matter of fact, there is a species of pink dolphin in the Amazon River.  This, however, is a regular bottlenose dolphin and they are normally gray. This little fellow is an albino, which in dolphins means pink.  He even has pink eyes.

I am not sure why the story is making the rounds again, but it is.  Perhaps it is because of the warning to leave the little dolphin alone.  The dolphin was first spotted in 2007 by a charter boat.  You can see some of their photos on their website.

The website says it is the only pink bottlenose dolphin, but that is not completely true.  In the past 20 years, there have been 3 albino bottlenose dolphins spotted in the Gulf, and more in other areas.  It’s rare, but not unheard of.  Albino animals are rare because the coloration makes them more sensitive the sun, have poorer eye site and a better target for predators.

There is a legendary albino humpback whale named Migaloo that didn’t let any of that stop him from getting huge.


Zoo Jobs Attract Overqualified Applicants

by amanda on March 3, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

The economy isn’t just bad in the US.  Almost every where in the world, people are losing jobs and finding it hard to find employment.  So hard, in fact, that in Leicestershire when 150 low paying, seasonal jobs were announced at Twycross Zoo, thousands of people applied.  Some were former company directors and lawyers. Read more.

Seasonal jobs at zoos normally include things like the cafe, ticket taking, collecting money for rides and attractions…not even the coveted positions working with animals.  Most of them only paid minimum wage and some of the applicants had made significantly more than.  Twycross had jobs in the kitchen and waiting tables.

It really is a sad state of affairs when thousands of people will line up for a job that normally goes to students looking for summer work.  Hopefully the ecomony will work itself out soon or you may have to have a law school degree to get a job at McDonalds!


I’m Back!

by amanda on March 1, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

I took a couple of months off (I know, I had only started this thing a few months ago) because I knew I wasn’t going to meet my January launch date, but we’re back and will be updating at least once a week!

Feel free to submit reviews.  While I was taking a break from blogging, I worked some on the review section of the site.


Minnesota Zoo Got Funding Too

by amanda on December 31, 2008 · 0 comments

in news

Hope everyone had a happy holiday.  The last time I posted, I posted about The Zoo of Northwest Florida getting some much needed funding. This week, I just read an article about Minnesota Zoo getting funding from the board of trustees totaling $6 million in 2008.

It’s only because of these gifts that Minnesota Zoo hasn’t felt the pains of the recession.

I recently talked to some volunteers at Maryland Zoo and Maryland Zoo is closing more than usual this winter, due to the economy.  Slowed spending means no visitors to the zoo.  By staying open, zoos have to pay non-animal staff (cafe, visitor’s service, maintainence, etc) that they would not have to pay if the zoos were closed to the public.