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Thursday, March 30, 2017

An Apology from April

Last post, I poked a little fun with Fiona, the Cincinnati Zoo hippo.  Today we'll have some fun with another zoo social media darling, one who is in less good graces than the pachyderm princess.  In all honesty, there really isn't anything that unusual about April, the giraffe, not having given birth yet.  I once spent so long waiting for a zebra to give birth that I was expecting her to drop a full grown stallion one day.  Still, it is fun watching public fascination wax and wane.  Enjoy!

april giraffe

Monday, March 27, 2017

Zoo Joke: Fiona the Famous

Catherine moves across the country for work, resettling in Cincinnati.  As her first day off from her new job approaches, she asks a co-worker what folks in Cincinnati like to do for fun.

"Well," the coworker says, "the coolest thing in town right now is Fiona.  A few of us were going to go and see her this weekend."

"Fiona?" says Catherine. "Who is she?"  Her colleagues gasp.  "You don't know who Fiona is?  Everyone knows Fiona!  She's the most famous baby in the whole city, no the state, maybe the country!"

The next day, they all go to the zoo, where baby Fiona the hippo is on display for the first time.   As the approach the exhibit, a sudden commotion rises up through the crowd.  An old man in a long white robe and a skullcap walks by, flanked by security men.  Catherine stops in her tracks.  "Was that... was that the Pope?"

Her coworkers shrug.  "Like we said, everyone knows Fiona!"  They continue to walk.

A few minutes later, they hear another round of noise.  A woman in a skin-tight catsuit comes strolling from the direction of the hippo enclosure.  As she walks, she hums a familiar tune under her breathe.

Catherine freezes again.  "Isn't that Beyonce?"

Her coworkers don't bat an eye.  "Everyone comes to see Fiona.  She's famous!"

Finally, they reach the hippo exhibit, where Fiona awaits the crowds.  Before Catherine can even raise a camera to her eye, a helicopter descends in the middle of the zoo, just yards away from them.  Several Secret Service agents in dark glasses jump out, forming a corridor.  Then, a deeply tanned man with orange hair and a red baseball cap climbs out.  Walking down the corridor, he throws an arm around the baby hippo and grins for the cameras.

Catherine is absolutely speechless.  After a pause, one of her coworkers breaks the silence - "So... who's that guy with Fiona?"

Saturday, March 25, 2017

From the News: 33 Reptiles Mysteriously Die at Zoo Knoxville

Well... that really sucks.  Life support systems are an integral part of maintaining many species in zoo settings.  When they work, everything is great.  If they don't... you're in for trouble.  Don't believe it?  Look at Audubon's Aquarium of the Americas, where a loss of power during Hurricane Katrina was a death sentence for virtually all of the fish.

Not even able to guess what the problem might be.  A diamondback rattlesnake was one of the snakes to succomb - that should be a snake able to tolerate a drop in temperature.  Amphibians are a lot more sensitive to many environmental changes than reptiles, but I didn't see anything about amphibians dying.  Maybe some gas was in the ventilation system?  Something in the water?  Possibly a disease outbreak?  I'm sure the staff at Knoxville won't rest until they get some answers.

In the meantime, I'm very sorry for their losses.  To many people, snakes are just... snakes.  To the people who care for them, however, they are species, they are histories, they are names, and, in many cases, they are personalities.  And I'm sure they will be missed.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Introducing, Sporcle at the Zoo!

I've always felt that fun games and quizzes are some of the best learning tools that exist.  It's with that in mind that I've always had a soft-spot for the trivia site Sporcle, which is responsible for helping me refine my vast stores of useless knowledge.  From the beginning of this blog, I've use Sporcle quizzes.  Now, I'm unveiling a new series.

"Sporcle at the Zoo" will be a series of species-specific multiple choice quizzes, each detailing a certain animal.  They will feature a mix of natural history, pop culture (animals in fiction, literature, etc), and zoo trivia.  I'm hoping that they'll be picked up the thousands of players, who will then learn a little bit about some of these animals.

My first attempt, Sporcle at the Zoo - Lion, is now online.  Give it a shot and see how well you know the King of Beasts!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

To Dehorn, Or Not To Dehorn?

The recent killing of the white rhino Vince from the Thoiry Zoo and Wildlife Park outside of Paris has set many European zoos on edge.  In an effort to remove any trace of temptation from would-be poachers, one Czech zoo has opted to dehorn its rhinoceroses. The rhinos are sedated and the horns are taken off with a chainsaw.  Twenty-one animals... that's a lot of horn in one zoo and would have made quiet a hull for any ambitious poacher.

The procedure is painless, horns, again, being a mass of keratin... the same stuff as our fingernails and hair.  The decision has been a controversial one within the zoo community.  Some zoo figures raised concern that removing the horns prevents rhinos from exhibiting all of their species-specific behavior.  That's true... but we do plenty of other things in the name of animal management that prevent some behaviors - feather-clipping storks and cranes to prevent them from flying out of open-top enclosures, for instance.  Others think that it's an admission of defeat that we must avoid, as it would send a "wrong message" (I'm never sure what that even means).

At any rate, no one wants to do this... it's just that the staff at Dvur Karlove Zoo would rather come in in the morning than a bunch of slaughtered rhinos.

 A zookeeper removes the horn of a southern white rhino named Pamir at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. Simona Jirickova / Dvur Kralove Zoo via AFP - Getty Images

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review: Act III in Patagonia - People and Wildlife

"Ultimately, preserving nature in parts of the steppes must be for Argentines and for forever, not just for tourists and for now."

Zoos and aquariums have a sometimes irritating quality of acting like the wilderness of the world is limited to a few select spots, which are endlessly recreated in exhibits.  Foremost among these are the grasslands of East Africa, and islands of Southeast Asia, and the Amazon rainforest.  These are all spectacular places filled with spectacular wildlife.  There is, however, an entire world beyond these habitats... and if we don't pay sufficient attention to these other Edens, we risk losing them.

For much of his life, William Conway, Director Emeritus of the Wildlife Conservation Society, has devoted his time, his energy, and the resources of his institution to saving one such place - Patagonia.  Between the Amazon and the Antarctic, much of southern South America is made up of windswept plains, semi-deserts in the shadow of the Andes, and some of the most productive coastal waters in the world.  It's a rich land, but one that has been exploited mercilessly for centuries, taking a devastating toll on its wildlife.  Guanaco and rhea, once roaming in herds that rivaled the bison of North America, have been exterminated to make room for sheep.  The waters have been fished out, threatening the penguins and other seabirds who rely upon them with starvation.  Seals and sea lion numbers are only now beginning to bounce back from catastrophic overhunting.

Conway has spent years among the wildlife of the Southern Cone (he's most well known for his work with the little-studied flamingos of the Andes) and his knowledge and affection for his subject matter shines through every page.  The subject matter is somewhat depressing (as conservation books frequently are), but still full of charm and winsome characters, from a hitchhiking tortoise to a scientist forced to lie on his back for what seems like hours to avoid being trampled by belligerent elephant seals.  Making frequent cameos (via journal entries, anyway) is the region's most famous chronicler, a young Charles Darwin, who visited these lands during his voyage on the HMS Beagle.

"Act III" denotes that there must have been an "Act I" and an "Act II", and Conway explores those - being the history of humans and Patagonian wildlife - skillfully.  He paints a picture of a land inhabited only the native Indians living off the resources of the land, then displaced by colonizers and settlers, who are then pushed out by outside industries, such as international fishing behemoths.  Finally, tourists arrive on the scene, looking for their own little slice of wilderness.  Amid all of these players with different agendas, Conway asks, what is the future for the wildlife, both terrestrial and marine?  It is that question which the book seeks to explore.

As Director of WCS and its flagship Bronx Zoo, William Conway was responsible for the establishment of perhaps the greatest zoo-led conservation initiative in history, covering dozens of countries with countless projects in the field.  The success of WCS has been its early adoption of the simple fact that, if wildlife is going to survive, it needs to do so with the support of the people that share the landscape.  Act III in Patagonia is a story of the effort to find balance between a nation and its wildlife.  Sometimes that means confronting lies and misinformation, such as farmers who insist that a single endangered goose is somehow out-eating three of their sheep.  Sometimes it means helping local peoples find ways to make a livelihood off of animals in a sustainable manner.  And sometimes its a question of building pride and enthusiasm for wildlife - as Conway experiences when taking part in a condor release.

Too often, conservationists fall into a lazy narrative, wildlife = good, people = bad, or simply shrug and say, "What can we do about it?"  William Conway acknowledges that saving Patagonia is a hard fight, but one that must - and can - be won.  The first step is introducing a magical place to the rest of the world, of showing where it has been and where it is going.  With a little help and support, his book suggests, Patagonia's third act doesn't have to be its last.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Satire: Animal Pornographer

There have been plenty of times over the years when I've worried that something I've said about work - maybe overheard by another diner at a restaurant, or while in line for a movie - could be taken way, way out of context.  How bad could it be?  Saturday Night Live shows us just how bad in this Not-Suitable-For-Work skit.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)

Striped Bass
Morone saxatilis (Walbaum, 1792)

Range: Atlantic Coast of United States and Southeastern Canada
Habitat: Estuaries, Rivers
Diet: Larvae - Zooplankton, Juveniles - Small Fish, Aquatic Insects and Invertebrates, Adults - Fish
Social Grouping: Juveniles less than 2 years old live in small, non-migratory groups.  Adults congregate into larger, migratory groups
Reproduction: Breed once a year, usually when the waters warm up between April and June.  Multiple males mate with a single female; females release anywhere from 500,000 to 3 million eggs per spawning event, the vast majority of which will not survive.  Males are mature at 2-3 years old, females at 5-6 years old.
Lifespan: Up to 30 Years
Conservation Status: Not Evaluated

  • Body length 45-140 centimeters, weight up to 23 kilograms (normally 3-7)
  • Background color of silver-green is covered with long, thin horizontal black lines
  • Migrate between freshwater and saltwater annually, spawning in saltwater
  • During courtship, several males will converge upon a female, herding her to the surface of the water and jostling with each other in what is known as a "rock fight."  This induces the female to release her eggs for all of the assembled males to fertilize
  • Adults are preyed upon by seals and sharks; juveniles are eaten by larger fish, including adult striped bass
  • One of the most highly sought after sport fish on the Atlantic Coast, having been fished since colonial times.  Their population has declined due to overfishing, though their populations are now recovering
  • Have been introduced to several inland bodies of water, as long as the Pacific Coast of the United States, where they are considered invasive pests.  They have also been introduced to waterways in Mexico, Ecuador, South Africa, Iran, and other nations
  • The State Fish of Maryland, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, as well as the State Marine Fish of New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia
  • Sometimes hybridized with other bass, such as white bass, to produce new varieties of sporting fish

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife

Over the past few years, there have been a surprising number of zoo movies, some great, some... less so.  Among the later was the abominable The Zookeeper movie with Kevin James.  Far more enjoyable was the film adaptation of Yann Martel's Life of Pi.  There were also two great fantasy zoo movies: Jurassic World, which let us imagine what it would be like to be a dinosaur zookeeper (minus the running and screaming and dying) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which lets us imagine what it would be like to be a wizard zookeeper.

Later this year, Hollywood is releasing something that we haven't see yet - a historical piece set in a zoo.  The Zookeeper's Wife is the thrilling story of a Polish couple who sheltered Jews from the Nazis during World War II... by hiding them in their zoo.  I read the book years ago, and I have to admit, animals appear much more prominently in the movie trailer than I remember from the pages, but that might just be my memory.  Or Hollywood glamouring up the story.  Either way, I'm going to see it.  

There are many fantastic stories from the history of zoos that would make excellent movies.  Yes, even though this is a human-spirit story, it's still a zoo story, and not just because the protagonists happen to work in a zoo.  After all, lots of Europeans tried to hide Jews and other refuges from the Nazis, but it was the zoo itself - its food stores, its large campus full of hiding spaces, the reputation it held in the community  - that allowed it to work as a hiding place, in this case.  To see how much more of a role the zoo plays in the story, we'll have to see the movie.

Interesting side note - much has been made of the tendency of the Nazis to loot art galleries and museums from their empire, sending the best of the spoils back to Germany.  They did the same with zoos, shipping the rarest specimens back to the Reich.  Many of the rarest, most exotic animals are earth were concentrated in Berlin, Frankfort, Hamburg, and other zoos... where they were all bombed to pieces in one fell swoop during the final days of the war.

But that's another story...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Zoo Review: Bergen County Zoo

Last month, we reviewed the San Diego Zoo - one of the biggest, richest, most famous zoos on earth, one that is often cited as what a good zoo looks like.   Just because a zoo isn't enormous, or world famous, or has three of every animal you've ever heard of doesn't mean it's not a good zoo, however.  Not long after my visit to San Diego, I took a trip to a tiny little zoo that almost never makes the news... and enjoyed it very much.

Located almost in the shadow of New York City's skyscrapers, the little Bergen County Zoo is tucked away in Van Saun County Park in Paramus, New Jersey.  Like many smaller zoos - Beardsley Zoo, Salisbury Zoo - it focuses on the animals of the Americas, as well as domestics.  In fact, the first thing most visitors see upon entering (apart from a tiny reptile house) is a small barnyard area, with goats, donkeys, pigs, and a cow rooting around in stalls or shambling up to the fences to greet guests.

Most of the animals are seen along a single, looping trail.  Several small exhibits (honestly nothing to write home about) hold small mammals and birds - North American porcupine, bobcat, coati, screech owl, and crow, among them.  During the warmer months, American alligators occupy an outdoor exhibit (their winter housing is off-exhibit), while a walk-in aviary features roseatte spoonbills, egrets, wood ducks, and other wetland birds.  A cul-de-sac behind the aviary leads to the puma habitat; if there was one animal that made an impression on me during the visit, it was the super-friendly mountain lion, who acted like I was a long-lost friend and greeted me enthusiastically, rubbing against the mesh.

Past the puma exhibit is a series of South American yards - guanaco, giant anteater, Baird's tapir, and a mixed-display of capybara, rhea, and brocket deer.  The yards were all attractive enough on their own, but I was wondering why the zoo didn't open them all up into one large exhibit.  Except for the brocket deer (which I had never seen before), I'd seen all of these species living together at other facilities.  Maybe the zoo had a bad experience?  I don't know... if it worked, it would have looked awesome, though.

Rounding out the Neotropics were black-handed spider monkeys, Andean condor, and a series of habitats for sloths and small primates.  The sloth and tamarin exhibits were adjacent to glass-fronted winter-holding buildings, leaving the animals on display year round.  Set among all of these exhibits is an attractive amphitheater for educational talks.

On the other side of the zoo, a small secondary trail loops past a prairie dog town towards a prairie overlook.  The zoo's most attractive exhibit is it's simplest - a big field, grazed by bison and elk.  Non-releasable bald eagles inhabit a side yard.

Bergen County is an excellent example of a small zoo.  It doesn't try to take on too much or exhibit animals that are beyond its capacity or budget.  Some of the smaller exhibits do look a bit knocked-together and could probably stand to be replaced, but even they aren't too bad.  What I mostly remember aren't the enclosures, they are the animals, looking well-cared for and content - the puma brushing up to say hello, or a tapir splashing in the pool, or a condor sunning itself on a high perch.

The fact that this little oasis of a zoo stands so close to New York - and it's five zoos - as well as the much larger Turtle Back Zoo, just a few minutes' drive away, reinforces a treasured belief of mine: every little town needs a good little zoo.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Stand Up For Science

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."

 - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Over the years, one of my ongoing frustrations with the zoo and aquarium community has been its general unwillingness to take a stand... at least on issues that really matter.  Sure, it's easy to sit in New York or San Diego and rail against the horrors of ivory poaching or shark finning, but that's because those are safe targets.  90% of our guests in the US probably never even gave a thought to purchasing ivory, even fewer probably considered a bowl of shark fin soup.  

Telling visitors about those environmental challenges lets us feel good about ourselves, but ignores the fact that there are greater challenges affecting animals and their habitats - challenges that some of our visitors could actually do something about.  We just have to be brave enough to talk about them.

That's why I was so surprised - and pleased - to see a statement that''s just been released by Dan Ashe, the new President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Head of the US Fish and Wildlife Service during the Obama Administration (the organization that AZA zoos collaborate with on many reintroduction programs in the US), Mr. Ashe understands better than many the threats that imperil wildlife and wild places, from global climate change to the spread of invasive species.  In his statement, however, he calls out our most insidious enemy - not just apathy, but willful ignorance.  The War on Science, so to speak.

"In a time when "belief" in science is waning [Ashe writes], AZA members are educating millions of visitors on a variety of issues including climate change, the growing problem of plastics pollution and why conservation of species and habitat is crucial to all of our futures. Science, and public confidence in scientific information, are key factors in our success.

Many media reports are predicting drastic cuts to federal agencies and programs that support critical scientific discovery. This is disheartening to say the least. Keep in mind, however, that Congress decides how our tax dollars are spent, and your voice, and AZA's collective voice, to Congress can help turn the tide."

For reasons that baffle me, "science" is increasingly becoming a partisan issue.  Which is ridiculous.  Global climate change is going to occur whether or not the occupant of the Oval Office wishes to acknowledge it or not.  Discounting evolution does not mean that highly pathogenic diseases such as avian influenza will not continue to mutate and spread.  You can discount the importance of wetlands as much as you want - get rid of them (and the shoreline protection that they offer) and see how that works out for you the next time a hurricane comes rolling in to town.

I'm proud of AZA for stepping up and speaking out, encouraging its member institutions to support the March for Science on Earth Day this year.  It's a risky move - there's a decent chance that about half of the country will take political issue with the March (and those affiliated with it).  That would be unfortunate.  Science doesn't care if you are a Republican or a Democrat.  It doesn't care if it ends up being convenient for you or not, or if special interests really want you to ignore it.  To tell you the truth, science doesn't care, period.  

It just is.  Whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hope for the Devil

Zoos and aquariums often tout the three pillars of their mission - Conservation, Education, and Recreation.  Traditionally, there was a fourth - Research.  In the era before field-based wildlife studies were prevalent, zoos were living laboratories, providing scientists with their best opportunities to understand wild animals.  Some zoos (especially larger ones) still do research these days, which is published in journals such as Zoo Biology and International Zoo Yearbook, but you don't hear the "R" word in public as much.  "Research" has fallen out of favor with many people, calling up as it does images of vivisection and rabbits having shampoo poured into their eyes and whatnot.

Research, however (often under the aegis of "Conservation") is still a vital component of the modern zoo.  Most often, it is done to improve the welfare of collection animals -  to better understand their nutritional needs, their behavior, their reproduction.  In other cases, it can have an enormous role on the fates of animals in the wild...  like this case, for instance.

This is earth-shaking research (for Tasmanian devils, at any rate) that could turn the tide on one of the leading causes of endangerment for the largest-living carnivorous marsupials.  It also is research that would have been impossible to conduct under field conditions, and required animals in captivity.  Hopefully, it will be a first step towards finding a cure that can be applied to wild devils and help ensure that the Tasmanian devil doesn't follow it's larger cousin, the Tasmanian tiger, into the void of extinction.

A Tasmanian devil inside its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo, California, in 2015
Picture Credit: Getty Images

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Murder in Paris

Okay, so the crime in question didn't actually happen in Paris - it took place in nearby Thoiry.  But there was no question that it was murder.  Criminals entered a French zoo and killed a white rhinoceros, then hacked off its horn.  Almost certainly, the crime was motivated by the black-market value for rhino horn, a mass of keratin (again, the same substance as our hair and fingernails) that is purported to have medicinal value in parts of East Asia.

A 4-year-old male white rhino named Vince, seen in a photo released by the Thoiry zoo and wildlife park, was killed overnight Monday by poachers who sawed off his horn. (Arthus Boutin/Domaine de Thoiry via Reuters)

There are plenty of tragedies in the world which are lamentable.  What makes the poaching of rhinos so horrible for me, however, is how pointless this is.  It's terrible when humans fight and die over money, or access to resources, or political power... but at least you can understand why they are doing.  Similarly, when people clear-cut rainforests, or pollute, or overfish the oceans, again, there is a reason why.  Here, it's an endangered animal, being killed and mutilated... for TOENAIL CLIPPINGS!  For Pete's sake, let's all take up a collection of our toenail clippings and see if we can find a way to pass it off as rhino horn.  It's all the same thing!

As a society, we often characterize poachers as poor people, impoverished and desperate to support their families, who make the decision that their livelihoods are more important than animals.  Sometimes, that's the case.  In other cases, however, poachers are armed gangsters, terrorists without the ideology.  This isn't about supporting a family, in these cases, it's about tapping into an insatiable demand and making money out of it.  In these cases, they have to be found, caught, and punished.

Of course, responsibility ultimately lies with those who create the demand, and I hope that as that demand dries up, the killing will end.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Women of the Zoo

Today, in honor of International Women's Day, many women walked out of their workplaces, an attempt to highlight the importance of women in the workplace, as driving forces of our economy and social and cultural institutions.  It's a good thing that not many lady-zookeepers took part.  If that did, it would have shut the entire profession down for a day.

It's hard to say exactly when the profession of zookeeping went from male-dominated to female-dominated.  At the turn of the last century, zookeeping was for men - manly men - men who could grab a kudu bull by the horns and wrestle it into a crate, or force-feed a reluctant-to-feed python.  Women, it was thought, had their uses - the petting zoo, handraising baby animals - but the "real" animals were for the men to manage.  It wasn't really until the focus on zoo animal management went from physical domination to a more patient, kinder form of care that women began to crop up in numbers.  A new generation of zookeeper arose, one that focused more of observation, gentleness, and positive relations with their charges over brawn.

Which isn't to say that the new, female-led generation of zookeepers aren't tough.  I've spent years watching girls tossing hay bales and carrying feed sacks.  Watching them plow through three feet of snow just to reach their exhibits.  And, of course, watching them pushing wheelbarrows filled to the sagging point with hundreds of pounds of unspeakable (but not, alas, unsmellable) foulness.  Sometimes from the back they get mistaken for men.  Sometimes femininity gets thrown completely out the window when they hit the break room and fight you tooth and nail for that last of the donuts that docents brought in.  It can be hard to connect the girls at work, plastered with mud, loose hair tied up with baling twine or a ziptie, with the very different ones who show up after work, cleaned up, combed, smelling of things other than fish and big cat pee, sometimes even wearing make-up.

So today, it's good as any other day to say "Thanks" to the ladies of the zoo.  Keepers and trainers, educators and administrators.  Without them, the place would be nothing.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Tomato Frog (Dyscophys antongilii)

Tomato Frog
Dyscophys antongilii (Grandidier, 1877)

Range: Northeastern Madagascar
Habitat: Lowland Forests, Shallow Pools, Wetlands
Diet: Small Insects and Other Invertebrates
Social Grouping:
Reproduction: Breed in February or March, following heavy rains.  Females lay up to 15,000 eggs on the surface of small pools.  Tadpoles hatch out 36 hours later, complete metamorphosis by the time they are 45 days old.  Sexually mature at 9-14 months old.
Lifespan: 8 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Near Threatened, CITES Appendix I

  • Body length is 6.5-10.5 centimeters, weighing 40-230 grams.  Females are much larger than males
  • Common name comes from bright red-orange color (females usually brighter than males) with paler undersides; some frogs have black spots on the throat
  • Active by night during the warmer months of the year, commonly found burrowed in moist leaf litter, sitting motionlessly and waiting for prey
  • When frightened, tomato frogs will puff themselves up to look larger and more menaching.  If seized by a predator (such as a snake), the frog secretes a sappy, toxic substance which not only sickens the predator, but also gums up the eyes and mouth.  This secretion sometimes causes an allergic reaction in humans
  • The Malagasy name for this species is "Sangongon", an attempt to mimic their breeding call
  • There are three very similar species of tomato frog found in Madagascar; Dyscophys antongilii is the species most commonly encountered in zoos and aquariums
  • Numbers declining due to habitat loss (though they will live in disturbed habitats, such as plantations and drainage ditches) and pollution, as well as illegally collection for the pet trade.  Conservation is difficult due to the similarity to other tomato frogs

Sunday, March 5, 2017

White Whale Wedding Crasher

Remember, a wedding is a very special day for the couple getting married, and it is completely inappropriate to upstage them at their own event.  Unless you are a beluga.  Then it's cool to just do whatever you want...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Waiting for April...

It may only be March, but it seems like everyone is waiting for April.  Not the month, though - the giraffe. 

Over the past week, the 15-year old giraffe, living at the Animal Adventure Park at Harpursville, NY, has become an internet sensation as people have waited impatiently for her to give birth... live, on the net.  Her fame spread when a group of animal rights activists decided to try and get the event banned from YouTube by claiming that the livestreaming video violated social media's nudity and sexuality ban... which I suppose makes David Attenborough one of the world's leading pornographers.

The ban was lifted after a tremendous backlash, and the video is back online.  What is not ready, however, is April, who has yet to give birth.  I can't say I'm too surprised.  Animal births can be unpredictable, and I once spent weeks waiting on a zebra mare who I was pretty sure was going to give birth to a full grown animal.

It's a fascinating internet phenomena, though I can't say it's something that I would ever do.  I'd be too scared that something would go wrong, broadcast over the entire world.  Nor do I like to announce births right away - better to have peace and quiet, letting mom and baby bond alone before the world turns its attention.  Such a tragedy befell Dallas Zoo not long ago.  The entire world celebrated the birth of a calf... who was killed in a tragic accident not long after.

Anyway, a watched pot never boils... and a livestreamed giraffe, apparently, never births.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Live from the Zoo!

I've got to say, zoos and aquariums are really starting to kick butt on social media lately.  We have the #cuteanimaltweetoff.  There's the online voting for the Best Zoo in the USA.  Everyone is talking about April the giraffe and her never-ending, live-streaming pregnancy, or looking at cute pictures of Baby Fiona at the Cincinnati Zoo.  There's Animal Planet's new show The Zoo.

Starting tomorrow, Animal Planet will be broadcasting live, behind-the-scenes footage from over a dozen zoos and aquariums.  The fun begins tomorrow at 9 AM Eastern Time, only on Animal Planet's facebook page.