Tilikum vs J34 A Tale of two Killer Whales

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Original article: Tilikum vs J34 A Tale of two Killer Whales

The Southern Resident Killer Whales are dying. It is happening now, it is happening quickly, and it is happening before our eyes.

Deceased J34 – image via CBC

In 2016, the number of Southern Residents plummeted from 83 to 78, one of the smallest populations since record keeping on the whales began in the early 1970s. One of these whales, J-34, or “Doublestuf,” a well known member of the J-22 matriline, washed ashore in British Columbia on December 20th, 2016. A breeding age male of 18, the BC Ministry of Agriculture’s initial examination revealed blunt force trauma and a hematoma as the cause of death. There is a high probability, though unconfirmed, that J-34’s injuries were caused through a vessel strike.

People examine J34’s corpse – image via CBC

In other words, J-34 was struck violently on the head, and continued to live for up to a few days, before succumbing to his injuries and dying, most likely alone, in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Photo by Erin McKinney

In another part of the country, 3 weeks after J-34’s body washed ashore, another well known male killer whale died. At age 36, after years of veterinary and behavioral support for a complicated chronic infection, SeaWorld Orlando’s Tilikum passed away quietly, in the early hours of January 6th, 2017. He was in the company of the trainers and killer whales he’d known for much of his life since his move to SeaWorld in 1992.

Photo by Erin McKinney

Tilikum was well past the average life expectancy (30) listed by the NOAA for a male killer whale. He had been ill, and supported medically, for years, with an infection found in both free-ranging and zoological animals. His death was not violent or shocking, yet it garnered exponentially more news coverage and discussion then the fate of J-34.

Why? Where were the so-called “animal rights” crusaders, so abundant on Twitter and Facebook, when J-34 was suffering? Why is the death of a geriatric, professionally cared for animal a national ignition point, but the slow and steady destruction of a group of wild whales a special interest story?

Tourist disrupting the natural habitat of Killer Whales – image via NOAA

By all logic it should be reversed: J-34 was the 4th death (out of 6 adults and 3 neonate calves) for the embattled Southern Residents this year. His passing was violent, likely caused by human interference and marked the removal of another breeding animal from a population where the survival rate to 1 year for a calf is less than 50%. But animal rights activism, from PETA to The DoDo and beyond, is big business, and it’s a lot easier to sell ethics if you have a shiny corporation like SeaWorld to demonize.

While leveraging Tilikum’s death might do a lot for Ingrid Newkirk’s bottom line, addressing the death of J-34 means confronting a complicated and uncomfortable fact: humanity is failing the Southern Resident Killer whales. Their numbers are dropping. They’re listed as an endangered species. Over 50% of pregnancies are miscarried, and 43% of calves are lost in the first 6 months of life. They are some of the most contaminated animals on the planet, with nauseating levels of toxins building up in their blubber supply. Their supply of Chinook salmon, their primary food source, is being rapidly depleted. The negative impact of vessels, including whale watching boats, is becoming more and more apparent. All of these factors have been confirmed again and again by federal and NGOs seeking to help the whales recover.

And yet, with the overwhelming information that the Southern Residents are crying out for help, it is Tilikum who makes the headline, SeaWorld who catches the outrage and moral grandstanding, all while Justin Trudeau’s federal Canadian government approves a tar sand pipline project through the primary habitat of the Southern Residents that may turn out to be the death warrant for one of the most well known and well studied killer whale populations on the planet.

Tourists disrupting natural killer whale behaviors in the wild. – Image via WhaleResearch.com

There is no time left for British Columbia’s whales. They are dying, and every time the public is told that attacking SeaWorld is how to help orcas, their chances of recovery grow even slimmer. On December 31st, 2016, “Granny,” the J-pod matriarch, was announced missing, and presumed dead, the most recent in 2016’s alarming Southern Resident fatalities. Even that wasn’t enough to draw the spotlight toward the silently vanishing whales.

There is no true “wild.” Everywhere is marred by humanity’s impact. We must make a decision as a society to turn the tables for the wild whales. We must decide what dies with J-34: either a romanticized and outdated vision of the ocean, or the Southern Resident whales themselves.

Works Cited:

James Borrell: Eight reasons why zoos are good for conservation

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Original article: James Borrell: Eight reasons why zoos are good for conservation

The shooting of a gorilla earlier this year reignited the debate about whether animals should be kept in captivity, but we must remember the essential work that good zoos do.

The Biologist 63(5) p9

This summer, a child fell into an enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo with a western lowland gorilla named Harambe, and to protect the child the gorilla was shot. This tragic and much-discussed event rekindled the debate over the role of zoos and aquaria – and much of the coverage was negative.

One would hope that zoos themselves would be proudly showcasing their work, but as I discovered while contributing to an Al Jazeera report on the incident, many are reluctant to speak up due to the barrage of attacks that Cincinnati experienced.

Zoos are not perfect. Should they continue to keep large predators or intelligent primates? Over the next few decades, probably not. Should large new animals be collected from the wild? No, unless there is a compelling case to develop a captive breeding programme.

But are zoos changing and developing? Yes. More than ever, good zoos are aware of their evolving role in conservation and responding to it.

Would I rather have a species in captivity, than not at all? One hundred times, yes.

Here are my eight reasons why zoos are critical to conservation:

  1. There are 39 animal species currently listed by the IUCN as Extinct in the Wild. These are species that would have vanished totally were it not for captive populations around the world, many of which reside in zoos (or, for plants, botanic gardens).
  2. For species whose survival in the wild looks in doubt, zoos often set up ‘insurance’ populations, captive groups of animals that could in a worst-case scenario assist in reintroduction to the wild should the original population become extinct. The Zoological Society of London, as an example, participates in more than 160 of these programmes.
  3. Reintroductions. It is often argued that zoos are bad because so few reintroductions actually happen. I would argue that it’s not the zoos that are at fault – a reintroduction can’t occur if the reason a species was driven to extinction in the first place hasn’t been resolved.
  4. In 2014, 700 million people visited zoos worldwide. Not all zoos are good at engagement, and indeed not all zoos are good full stop. However, surely that number of visits created some sort of connection with the natural world that might not have occurred otherwise.
  5. Zoos are a living museum. What we learn about wild animals in captivity can help us manage and conserve them in the wild – from animal behaviour, to reproductive rates, to dietary requirements.
  6. Zoos raise money for conservation efforts. It’s difficult to engage people with conservation taking place half a world away. But by enabling people to experience wildlife first hand, we can increase participation in international conservation activities.
  7. Helping respond to emergencies. Chytrid fungus has emerged as a deadly threat to amphibian populations worldwide, and 168 species have become extinct in 20 years. Responding to threats such as this is surely one of the greatest uses of zoos around the world. Many have set up specialist amphibian centres and are pioneering treatment and breeding programmes.
  8. They remind us that we can succeed. Conservation is full of bad news stories, yet on many occasions I have peered through glass or mesh at a species that shouldn’t exist. For me at least, zoos remind us that conservation does work – we just need more of it.

Loro Parque releases a turtle found injured in Gran Canaria to the sea after recovering in the Aquarium

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Loro Parque Fundación recently returned a loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) to the sea that had been recovering at the zoo’s Aquarium for the last two months after being rescued on a beach in Gran Canaria with a fishhook inside its throat. Once the animal was transferred to the Wildlife Recovery Centre of Tafira, experts concluded that the most adequate place for its rehabilitation was Loro Parque, which has ensured a successful recovery and later reinsertion to the sea.

During the release, which took place at a Punta Brava’s beach, educators from Loro Parque Fundación and Pascual Calabuig, the director of the Wildlife Recovery Centre of Tafira, explained the importance of conservation and the endangerment of the animals by pollution, for example by plastic waste to more than 100 primary school pupils from the Punta Brava’s School. The most awaited moment arrived when students formed a central aisle, letting the turtle slide until its yearned destination: the ocean.

Ethical commitment of modern zoos to wild animals in need is an essential matter for the Foundation. Thus, it demonstrates its responsibility and readiness to foster and accommodate animals that need a temporary home – collaboration with other institutions is thus crucial.

Each year, more than 200 marine turtles arrive to wildlife recovery centres in the Canary Islands, most of them due to problems related to the impact of human activities in the sea; a great part of them can be recovered and returned to the sea. Loro Parque Fundación strengthens its commitment to raising awareness within the Canarian society on the need of acknowledging, protecting and conserving the environment and animal species.

Loro Parque welcomes four newborn Rock hopper Penguin Chicks

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Loro Parque extends its penguin colony with four newborn southern rock hopper penguins, which are in good health and are evolving good in the penguin baby station.  These young marine birds were born in December and remained for a certain time in the incubator. They are being fed a particular diet based on fish porridge with calcium supplement, in proportion to 10% of their weight.

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For about two months, they will be reared in the penguin baby station, where the chicks receive the necessary care during the first stage of their lives.  After this period, the integration process will begin to take place, in which they will be adapting to their new environment until they finally obtain the complete integration with the rest of the penguins of the Loro Parque. At this stage, the gender of the chicks is unknown until we process the first blood analysis.

The experts of Loro Parque in Planet Penguin take care for the birds with a lot of knowledge, love and respect, and so Loro Parque has magnificent results, since the breeding of all marine bird species (Humboldt Penguin, King Penguin, Gentoo Penguin, Chinstrap Penguin, Rock hopper Penguin and Atlantic Puffin) has been achieved. The inhabitants of one of the best penguin exhibits in the world enjoy an installation with all the guarantees that produces 12 tons of snow daily, has filters against a microbial contamination of the air and recreates the conditions of light and temperature ideal for an optimal reproduction.

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Thanks to the plentiful food supply which becomes available every year in springtime in the Antarctica’s polar ecosystem, penguins form colonies of hundreds of thousands of specimens. Unfortunately, this abundant diet is being seriously threatened by overfishing and by climate change, which adversely affects marine currents. For example, the continuous snowfall and the glaciers, where King Penguins use to nest, are also at great risk of disappearing due to global warming of the planet caused by the greenhouse effect. All these circumstances seriously threaten the future of these amazing birds and Loro Parque in its role of a modern zoo operates to raise awareness about these issues among the public and support the conservations efforts. At the same time, Loro Parque has implemented environmental management system and is developing its own photovoltaic solar energy plant and promoting sustainable and responsible use of resources while protecting the natural habitats of the animals in the wild.

A new hope for the Blue-throated Macaw

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Original article: A new hope for the Blue-throated Macaw

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The discovery of a new roosting site for Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis coupled with an innovative and successful programme geared towards promoting the use of artificial feathers in ceremonial headdresses, gives renewed hope for the survival of this charismatic parrot.

The Blue-throated Macaw is one of South America’s rarest parrots, with a population estimated at around 250 individuals. In the last decade, Asociación Armonía (BirdLife Partner in Bolivia) has been tackling the main threats affecting it: habitat loss, the lack of breeding sites and ending illegal poaching. But their approach to ending the latter has been especially unique and very successful: to give locals an alternative to using real macaw feathers for their headdresses.

During their traditional celebrations, the inhabitants of the Moxeño plains in Bolivia’s Beni department perform with colourful headdresses as they move to the rhythm of bongos and flutes. The dancers, so-called macheteros, dedicate their movements and attire to the colours of nature. Unfortunately, those headdresses are made of macaw tail feathers from four different species, including the Blue-throated Macaw.

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This is where Armonía’s Alternative Feather Programme comes in; it consists of an educational campaign promoting the use of artificial feathers made of organic materials among the macheteros through workshops held in local schools. Those workshops could only be made possible thanks to the financial support of National Geographic’s Conservation Trust and the Loro Parque Foundation.

Since the Moxeños consider themselves to be the guardians of nature and all of its creatures, they were quick to understand the importance of using substitutes.

“Each headdress is made of an average of 30 central tail feathers; that means that one headdress of artificial feathers saves at least 15 macaws,” explained Gustavo Sánchez Avila, Armonía’s Conservation Programme coordinator for the Blue-throated Macaw in Trinidad.

The programme, which started in 2010 with the support of Loro Parque Foundation, not only protects this critically endangered Macaw, but also empowers local craftsmen and women to preserve their natural heritage and their culture.

Furthermore, after seeing the mesmerising dances, many tourists buy the alternative headdresses as souvenirs, providing locals with much needed additional income.

Since 2010, the Moxeño people and Armonía have saved over 6000 individuals of four macaw species and engaged thousands of local people in the conservation of Bolivian nature. Most big Moxeño towns already host alternative feather training workshops, but rural areas still use real feathers. If you wish to help, you can support Armonía so that they can organise additional training workshops this year and save even more macaws.

New rosting site

While conserving the already established populations of the Blue-throated Macaw is essential to their survival, further research remains vital to make sure none of its habitat is left unprotected.

However, entering the Bolivian northern Department of Beni during the rainy season is a huge adventure. As seasonal rainfall merges with melt water from the Andes, the grasslands become extensively flooded, making it impossible for cars to travel around the area for three to five months every year.

The situation forces locals to revert to their old ways, using horses to get across a savannah that is speckled with pools of water, knee-deep mud and head-high grasses. As a result, conservation research becomes complicated and expensive.

But this was not going to stop our team of conservationists at Asociación Armonía, supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Loro Parque Foundation, when they set off last summer to search for more roosting grounds of the macaw in this remote region.

The truth is that the team had had many rough failed trips in the region to verify sites where owners swore they had seen the parrot, only to find they got the wrong bird. So, when they got a call from a local ranch owner who claimed to have seen the Blue-throated Macaw in his fields, the team reacted with some disbelief.

They had seen this happen a few times already: while many ranch owners proudly believe that they have seen the Blue-throated Macaw, to the untrained eye it is often confused with a more generalist species, the Blue-and-yellow Macaw Ara ararauna.

Surprisingly, when they arrived on site, it turned out that at least 15 Blue-throated Macaws had made a small forest island their home. This new roosting site was confirmed only forty kilometres north of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve: the largest concentration of macaws in the world live here, with yearly counts of over 100 individuals.

At one of Beni’s most important events of the year, the Chope Piesta, the macheteros are getting ready to start their traditional dance. Today, headdresses with alternative feathers outnumber natural ones nearly five to one. In the meantime, conservationists rejoice about the new discovery of a roosting site. Developments worth dancing about.

Tilikum vs J34 a tale of two killer whales

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Source: Tilikum vs J34 a tale of two killer whales

Deceased J34 – image via CBC

Deceased J34 – image via CBC

In 2016, the number of Southern Residents plummeted from 83 to 78, one of the smallest populations since record keeping on the whales began in the early 1970s. One of these whales, J-34, or “Doublestuf,” a well known member of the J-22 matriline, washed ashore in British Columbia on December 20th, 2016. A breeding age male of 18, the BC Ministry of Agriculture’s initial examination revealed blunt force trauma and a hematoma as the cause of death. There is a high probability, though unconfirmed, that J-34’s injuries were caused through a vessel strike

People examine J34’s corpse – image via CBC

People examine J34’s corpse – image via CBC

In other words, J-34 was struck violently on the head, and continued to live for up to a few days, before succumbing to his injuries and dying, most likely alone, in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Photo by Erin McKinney

Photo by Erin McKinney

In another part of the country, 3 weeks after J-34’s body washed ashore, another well known male killer whale died. At age 36, after years of veterinary and behavioral support for a complicated chronic infection, SeaWorld Orlando’s Tilikum passed away quietly, in the early hours of January 6th, 2017. He was in the company of the trainers and killer whales he’d known for much of his life since his move to SeaWorld in 1992.

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Tilikum was well past the average life expectancy (30) listed by the NOAA for a male killer whale. He had been ill, and supported medically, for years, with an infection found in both free-ranging and zoological animals. His death was not violent or shocking, yet it garnered exponentially more news coverage and discussion then the fate of J-34.

Why? Where were the so-called “animal rights” crusaders, so abundant on Twitter and Facebook, when J-34 was suffering? Why is the death of a geriatric, professionally cared for animal a national ignition point, but the slow and steady destruction of a group of wild whales a special interest story?

Tourist disrupting the natural habitat of Killer Whales – image via NOAA

Tourist disrupting the natural habitat of Killer Whales – image via NOAA

By all logic it should be reversed: J-34 was the 4th death (out of 6 adults and 3 neonate calves) for the embattled Southern Residents this year. His passing was violent, likely caused by human interference and marked the removal of another breeding animal from a population where the survival rate to 1 year for a calf is less than 50%. But animal rights activism, from PETA to The DoDo and beyond, is big business, and it’s a lot easier to sell ethics if you have a shiny corporation like SeaWorld to demonize.

While leveraging Tilikum’s death might do a lot for Ingrid Newkirk’s bottom line, addressing the death of J-34 means confronting a complicated and uncomfortable fact: humanity is failing the Southern Resident Killer whales. Their numbers are dropping. They’re listed as an endangered species. Over 50% of pregnancies are miscarried, and 43% of calves are lost in the first 6 months of life. They are some of the most contaminated animals on the planet, with nauseating levels of toxins building up in their blubber supply. Their supply of Chinook salmon, their primary food source, is being rapidly depleted. The negative impact of vessels, including whale watching boats, is becoming more and more apparent. All of these factors have been confirmed again and again by federal and NGOs seeking to help the whales recover.

And yet, with the overwhelming information that the Southern Residents are crying out for help, it is Tilikum who makes the headline, SeaWorld who catches the outrage and moral grandstanding, all while Justin Trudeau’s federal Canadian government approves a tar sand pipline project through the primary habitat of the Southern Residents that may turn out to be the death warrant for one of the most well known and well studied killer whale populations on the planet.

Tourists disrupting natural killer whale behaviors in the wild. – Image via WhaleResearch.com

Tourists disrupting natural killer whale behaviors in the wild. – Image via WhaleResearch.com

There is no time left for British Columbia’s whales. They are dying, and every time the public is told that attacking SeaWorld is how to help orcas, their chances of recovery grow even slimmer. On December 31st, 2016, “Granny,” the J-pod matriarch, was announced missing, and presumed dead, the most recent in 2016’s alarming Southern Resident fatalities. Even that wasn’t enough to draw the spotlight toward the silently vanishing whales.

There is no true “wild.” Everywhere is marred by humanity’s impact. We must make a decision as a society to turn the tables for the wild whales. We must decide what dies with J-34: either a romanticized and outdated vision of the ocean, or the Southern Resident whales themselves.

Works Cited:

  • http://crosscut.com/2017/01/brutal-year-sets-back-orca-recovery/
  • http://www.whaleresearch.com/single-post/2017/01/05/Goodbye-Granny
  • http://whalemuseum.org/collections/meet-the-whales
  • http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/species-especes/mammals-mammiferes/srkw-eprs-j34-eng.html
  • http://www.whaleresearch.com/j2
  • https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/news/features/killer_whale_report/pdfs/bigreport62514.pdf
  • http://www.whaleresearch.com/j28
  • http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/whales/killer-whale.html
  • https://seaworldcares.com/tilikum

Dr. Grey Stafford: The Last Generation of Killer Whales at SeaWorld

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Original article: Dr. Grey Stafford: The Last Generation of Killer Whales at SeaWorld

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Last week, we discussed advancements in animal training with Dr. Grey Stafford. In this interview, I asked Dr. Stafford about SeaWorld’s decision to end the Orca breeding program.

You may remember when I gave you my thoughts when I first heard that Governor Brown signed a bill into law that would ban Orca breeding in California and make killer whale shows for entertainment purposes illegal. You can watch that video here:

Watch the video below to learn what the current President of IMATA, Dr. Grey Stafford, thought about all this and what he encourages the animal care community to do in order to better the lives of future animals in the face of such destructive legislation and SeaWorld’s inability to correct public misconception.

What do you think? Leave me your comments below.

Kyle: Hi my name is Kyle Kittleson and welcome back to our conversation with Dr. Grey Stafford. Thank you for being here. You’ve been in the animal welfare space for 27 years and no question that the biggest announcement of 2016 was SeaWorld’s decision to have the last generation of killer whales. What are your thoughts about that?

Stafford: Well, on a personal level I take it – I’m very affected by it because I started my career with killer whales, back in Ohio, and I know a lot of great trainers have dedicated their lives to that species, so I think like many people I was shocked by the decision. It’s not unusual for zoos, in genera,l to manage certain species to extinction, in our collection, because of resources…

Kyle: And when you say extinction, we don’t mean the whole population…

Stafford: Not the worldwide species, but the animals that live at a facility. And a lot of reasons that is done is because maybe there are enough animals to to maintain the population going forward. And and it’s it’s a question of resources. Where do you devote your time, your energy, your space, and your staffing, to preserve as many species as possible. And that’s a difficult choice. I think in this case with Orcas, the choice was made for all the wrong reasons – primarily politics and pressure from activist groups. Because the fact the matter is Orcas and human care are thriving today. We learn so much more about what’s happening, not only with the ones living in human care, but the ones in the wild. You know Orcas in British Columbia and elsewhere are in huge trouble. And I just saw a study done at SeaWorld, right now, where they’re actually trying to correlate drone data, photographic data, using captive killer whales SeaWorld to correlate those measurements, so they can then use that same process out in the wild to measure the body composition and condition of wild orcas to see if they’re starving or not which we know that they probably are right now.

Kyle: And guess who’s not doing this type of research that can save the wild populations of killer whales? Almost every other organization out there. All of the “activist” organizations. I put “activists” in quotes because they are working in their best interest, rather than the animal’s best interests. In my opinion.

What, if anything, did you do in 2016 to try and get this, you know, decision to stop or to keep from happening?

Stafford: Well, prior to SeaWorld’s decision, which was a corporate business decision, a friend of ours, Carolyn Hennesy, actor, animal advocate, author – she and I went to her Congressman, Congressman Schiff, Democrat based in Burbank California. And Congressman Schiff has proposed a national ban on Orcas in human care – similar to the Bloom bill which did finally pass in California. And Carolyn and I went there last Thanksgiving weekend and pleaded with him and tried to understand how he arrived at this decision. Why he would put so much effort behind this bill which sets a very dangerous precedent for all species, not just Orcas. We have agencies, we have federal laws that deal with the display, the transfer, etc of exotic endangered species. It’s called the Endangered Species Act, it’s called the Marine Mammal Protection Act and so forth. There is a process, a federal process, that goes through, and there’s a lot of oversight done with it. So, for Congressman Schiff to insert a bill that singles out a particular species to me is a very dangerous precedent. And we were talking with them trying to understand why he had arrived at decision and to try to get him to back away from it. Unfortunately our efforts were in vain because the very next morning he set up his office set up an e-mail blast of fellow members of Congress inviting him to join him on his shift bill which still sits in Congress.

Unfortunately, our efforts were in vain because the very next morning he set up his office set up an e-mail blast of fellow members of Congress inviting him to join him on his Schiff bill which still sits in Congress.

I suspect that given the recent election, that bill is not going to go anywhere, but is still out there and it is troubling that a that Congress would take up this issue for one species when we have those mechanisms already in place and well establish for 50 years.

Kyle: No surprise though, that a politician would make a decision based on his own or her own best interests – rather than the best interest of the people or the animals. But what is surprising to me is that, and I can’t speak for Schiff, but I can’t imagine that this decision did not come without the influence from the movie Blackfish, which has been proven to be inaccurate, not factual. And so in some ways that’s like me making a decision about heart surgery because I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It doesn’t mean that I am educated in, you know, surgical procedures it just means I watched a movie.

Stafford: Well and that’s why those of us who work with these species, you know, we have a job ahead of us to promote that education – whether it’s someone in a political office, or regulators, are critics, or detractor,s and especially our support of public. You know, the good news is that far more people support zoos and aquariums and support places like SeaWorld, because of the great work that they do. And we have to push back on some of the misinformation and that’s a that’s a tall order but you know what else what other choice do you have?

Kyle: My my biggest critique, and I’ve been very vocal about this, with SeaWorld is that they have never and still don’t put the truth out there of what they do for wild animals. I remember last summer I think they donated $10 million to wild killer whale research. I called five of my friends who worked at SeaWorld and Discovery Cove. And I said, “how great that SeaWorld did this.” And they said, “did what?” And I said, “donated $10 million.” “Oh, we didn’t know about that.” SeaWorld never thought to e-mail their own staff to tell them what they were doing. And I get why they don’t because they really care about the animals. They don’t think about how we should use this for positive press. They just do the right thing. But if you’re going to do the right thing, you also need to make sure that people understand when you buy a ticket to an accredited zoo or aquarium you’re helping those animals and those animal’s wild counterparts

Stafford: Couldn’t say it any better.

And unfortunately, with today’s instantaneous media and 24-hour news cycles, we have to do a better job of promoting the positive things, the successful things, that zoos and aquariums are doing. We can’t rest on our laurels. We can’t, you know, be satisfied with the status quo. And you have to also remember there are entire industries dedicated to shutting zoos and aquariums down. There’s big business in complaining. There’s big business in activism. PETA’s coffers went up 30 percent over the last few years precisely because of their attacks on places like SeaWorld. So, while they’re out there making their money putting others down and trying to put them out of business, we’re busy trying to save species and protecting ourselves and promoting the great work that organizations do. That’s not our focus, that’s not our business plan, but it is something that we have to do a better job of making it a part of the business. And I think unfortunately we have to go that way.

Kyle: You said this and I don’t want to go unnoticed. It’s big business for activism. Yes it is. Remember that. I want people to understand that the name people for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a great name. It’s a great want that I want that. But when you look at the business of activism rather than the outcome of being an activist you may make different decisions and I don’t encourage anybody to take my word for it. I don’t you encourage you or take your word more at all. I encourage people to go out there and do their own research independently as possible and make their own conclusions but be educated with your decision. What do you think this means for SeaWorld to not have killer whales in the next 20 or 30 years.

Stafford: Yes it is.

Kyle: Remember that. I want people to understand that the name People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a great name. I want that. I want that. But when you look at the business of activism rather than the outcome of being an activist you may make different decisions and I don’t encourage anybody to take my word for it. I don’t encourage you to take your word for it. I encourage people to go out there and do their own research independently as possible and make their own conclusions but be educated with your decision. What do you think this means for SeaWorld to not have killer whales in the next 20 or 30 years?

Stafford: Well, SeaWorld is a business and SeaWorld will sink or swim based on its decisions. I worry more for the species and the great people that work there. Those people who get up at 3 a.m. to rescue a sea lion underneath someone’s car in La Jolla. Those stories need to be told. You know, we’re still under a UME, which is an “unusual mortality event” a designation by the federal government, for Sea Lions along the California coastline. Sea lions are starving to death and many of them are not even showing up on our shores anymore because they’re too emaciated even to leave the rookeries where they’re born. And this past year I think NOAA counted the fewest number of new births ever in the last 40 years of studying these rookery islands in the last 40 or 50 years. The lowest number of birth rates. And the reason for that is something is going on in our environment and it’s places like SeaWorld that help us understand what’s going on and hopefully mitigate whatever impact is happening to our oceans because eventually it’s all going to affect the rest of us, right?

Kyle: Absolutely. And I only know of SeaWorld and the Marine Mammal Care Center in California that actively go out and rescue, rehab, and release those animals.

Stafford: No other zoo or aquarium has rescued anywhere near the number of animals that SeaWorld has in its 50 years.

Kyle: That’s right. If you compare those numbers to other organizations and how much they have rescued, rehabbed, and released, there be no question who I would want to support. And by the way, because I know someone will comment on this. SeaWorld pays me this (NOTHING) much money. OK, I do not get paid by SeaWorld.

Stafford: I don’t either. I haven’t worked for SeaWorld and 21 years.

Kyle: I barely got paid when I worked there. I have no vested interest in SeaWorld success. I only have an interest in animals having amazing lives. But those are the animals that live in the ocean. And those are the animals that live under the care of man. So, as long as those animals are happy, I’m happy.

Stafford: Well said.

Kyle: Dr. Stafford, thank you so much. In our final video series which will be coming out next week, we’re going to be talking about what IMATA members can do and what the organization of IMATA can do to really help spread the true message of accredited zoos and aquariums and all the amazing things that they do for animals all over the world. So be on the lookout for that.

Six reasons why most mammals live longer in zoos than in the wild

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Original article: Six reasons why most mammals live longer in zoos than in the wild

Zoos are often the best hope or even last hope for the survival of a species, especially if they are threatened or endangered. Recently, a study conducted by University of Lyon and University of Zurich researchers found that 80% of the mammals studied lived longer in a zoological setting than their wild counterparts. The study analyzed zoological databases and included over 50 different mammal species. Here are six reasons why these animals live longer in zoos.

  1. Life in the wild is not exactly paradise. Animals deal with wild stressors such as competition, social challenges, and the habitat’s carrying capacity (the maximum population size of the species that the environment can be sustain, given the availability of food, habitat space, water, and other necessities available in the environment needed to survive).
  2. Many smaller species live longer in zoos compared to their wild counterparts because lifespans in the wild are shorter due to predation or intraspecific competition. Animals in zoological facilities have no immediate threats or competitors.
  3. Animals have to deal with a decaying word. From pollution to habitat encroachment, humans have a great impact on the planet.
  4. Zoological medicine has allowed animals to live longer in zoological facilities. Animals are under constant disease surveillance. With regular health checks, diseases that may be fatal in the wild are detected early and treated.
  5. Years of research have improved all aspects of managing animals in human care. Most zoos believe in managing animals scientifically based on what has been learned about their biology, behavior, social structures, health, and nutrition.
  6. Animal husbandry practices have greatly improved over the past few decades and continue to improve as we learn more about an animal’s biology. Husbandry programs are animal centered and mimic their natural environment, diet, biological patterns including breeding, and incorporate various types of enrichment to keep the animals active both physically and mentally.

While zoos get a bad reputation from antagonistic animal rights groups, they actually ensure the survival of animals so that they will be around for generations to come. While there are anti-zoo groups, there are actually more open-minded individuals willing to learn about zoos and make decisions for themselves. Unlike animals, humans abuse their environment and it is the animals that suffer. Zoos may be the single most important insurance policy against extinction, not to mention their contribution to conservation and education.

Big oil v orcas: Canadians fight pipeline that threatens killer whales on the brink

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Original article: Big oil v orcas: Canadians fight pipeline that threatens killer whales on the brink

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On one shore there are snow-capped mountains. On the other side loom towering skyscrapers. These churning waters off the coast of Vancouver are marked by a constant flow of ferries and containers ships – but they are also home to 80 or so orcas.

Known as the southern resident killer whales the group has long had a fraught relationship with the urban sprawl they live alongside, leaving them on the knife’s edge of extinction.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, dozens were captured and sold to aquariums and theme parks around the world. Those who remained were exposed to runoff chemicals used in local industry, making them some of the world’s most contaminated marine mammals.

But now the orcas of the Salish sea face what conservationists say is their biggest threat to date: an expansion proposal for a pipeline that would snake from Alberta to the Pacific coast.

Spearheaded by Texas-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan, the C$6.8bn ($5bn) Trans Mountain Expansion project is designed to transport Alberta’s landlocked bitumen to international markets.

The proposal – which still needs the approval of the federal government, led by Justin Trudeau – would expand an existing pipeline to lay nearly 1,000km of new pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver’s coastline. Oil tanker and barge traffic in the region would soar nearly sevenfold, to as many as 408 tankers a year.

Conservationists warn that the spike in tanker traffic would be disastrous for the resident orca whales – a genetically unique population that is already classified as endangered in both Canada and the US.

“The approval of the project is also the approval of the extinction of the population,” said Ross Dixon of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “No one is disputing it. Nobody is saying that’s not accurate. It’s been accepted.”

In May, Canada’s energy regulator wrapped up two years of review into the Trans Mountain proposal, recommending that the federal government approve the project. The approval was conditional, subject to 157 conditions that include 49 environmental requirements. The regulator also noted the project “is likely to result in significant adverse effects to the southern resident killer whale”.

Trudeau’s cabinet has until 19 December to make its final decision.

Analysts have long speculated that the approval of the pipeline is imminent. “The choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one,” Trudeau told attendees at a Vancouver conference on clean technology in March. “We need both to reach our goal, and as we continue to ensure there is a market for our natural resources, our deepening commitment to a cleaner future will be a valuable advantage.”

Trudeau has faced immense pressure from Alberta – where sagging oil prices have sent unemployment soaring to around 8.5% – to approve a pipeline, but promises by Donald Trump to resurrect plans for the Keystone XL pipeline could alleviate some of this pressure.

Many are not taking any chances. The Raincoast Conservation Foundation has joined forces with several other organisations to launch a legal challenge against the energy regulator’s approval of the project, arguing that it failed to take into account the impact on the orca whales and their habitat. The groups are currently waiting to hear whether their application for judicial review, filed in June, will be given the go ahead by the court.

The anticipated increase in tanker traffic will heighten the physical and acoustic disturbances in the water, said Misty MacDuffee of Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “The noise of the propeller and the engine emits at a frequency that can mask the communication of the whales,” she said. “And the overall traffic combines to create sort of a din … so it reduces the actual space over which the whale can hear and be heard by other whales.”

The result could hamper the whales’ ability to catch food, she said. “They’ve got a unique diet, they’ve got a unique language in terms of their dialect and they’ve got a unique culture. And it’s that package that’s in jeopardy.”

Climate change has steadily diminished the availability of Chinook salmon, the whales’ main food source. Drone research has revealed whales with altered body shapes and lacking fat deposits, suggesting they are starving. “You can visibly actually see the ribs on some of these whales,” said MacDuffee.

If tanker traffic increases, the whales will not simply move to another area. “That critical habitat is not just a space on the map. It has these acoustic components, food supply components and water quality components.”

The fate of the orcas is just one facet of the broad opposition the project is facing. More than 20 municipalities and 17 First Nations communities have come out against the proposal while hundreds of youth marched in Ottawa last month to urge the government to shelve the proposal. Thousands more are expected to turn out for a protest march in Vancouver this Saturday.

The existing pipeline – which began operating in 1953 – passes near several schools, at one site running under a school playground, said Karen Wristen of Living Oceans.

It was concerns over this trajectory that launched 92-year-old Elsie Dean into action. “It comes right through our community,” said Dean, pointing to the pipeline’s route through her home of Burnaby, a city of some 220,000 people in British Columbia.

Since 1961, the pipeline system being eyed for expansion has reported approximately 82 spills to the country’s energy regulator, she noted. “It just seems rather insane to consider putting this amount of bitumen in a community of people.”

Dean helped launch Broke, or Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion, four years ago in an effort to steer Canada – whose greenhouse gas emissions rank among the highest per capita in the OECD – away from fossil fuels and towards meaningful efforts to tackle climate change. “We know that if we don’t cut back on fossil fuels, the future generation or certainly my grandchildren will be affected adversely by climate change.”

One First Nations community has countered the proposal with a demonstration of the alternative. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which sits directly across an inlet from the existing Kinder Morgan tanker terminal, recently launched a fundraising campaign to expand the community’s commitment to solar energy. “It’s a poetic way to illustrate the choices before us,” said Charlene Aleck, a councillor with the community.

The Kinder Morgan project was analysed through the same lens as all others that come through the territory, said Aleck. “Is it feasible, is it something good for the water, land and air?” The community of 500 people was unanimous in its opposition. “It didn’t even pass the lowest entry form of how we would run business on our land.”

Chief among the community’s concerns was the possibility of an oil spill, she said. “One accident and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, as well as salmon, dolphins, whales, seals and a multitude of other aquatic and hundreds of thousands of avian species, would be destroyed forever.”

Earlier this month, Trudeau announced C$1.5bn in funding to improve response measures. The move was widely seen as an attempt to quell some of the opposition to the proposed pipeline.

Aleck welcomed the funding as a way to address the issues arising from the industry already in operation in the region. “But the best way to mitigate an oil spill is not to approve the Kinder Morgan expansion,” she added.

When queried on the opposition facing the proposal, Kinder Morgan pointed to a series of links on their website highlighting the company’s funding of orca research and its efforts to engage communities affected by the pipeline.

The project has received 41 letters of support from Aboriginal groups located along the pipeline and marine corridor in Alberta and British Columbia, said the company. More than C$13m in funding had been provided to some 98 communities who wanted to learn more about the project, it added.

The pipeline does not run under any buildings, the company noted. “Living or being active near our pipeline does not pose any health risk.” Where the pipeline runs near schools, it said, “we are open to working with individual schools or districts to fully support their safety efforts and ensure their emergency response plans and ours are coordinated.”

If the project is approved, the company said it would invest more than C$150m in marine spill response in the region. “The investment will fund five new response bases, about 115 new employees and approximately 26 new vessels at strategic locations along BC’s southern shipping lane,” the company said.

The millions in funding does little to address what seems to be a certainty of the project – the risk posed to the resident orca whales, said Dixon of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “If this population goes extinct, it’s gone for good,” he said. “They’re part of our identity, they’re part of the place in which we live. If we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves.”

Loro Parque welcomes the first baby zebra shark born in the Aquarium

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Loro Parque is very happy to welcome the newest family member. The best zoo in Europe and the second best in the world, according to Trip Advisor, welcomes Udra, the first baby zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) who was born in the Park. She is a female baby of 72 grams and 27 centimeters and is in perfect health.

This is a wonderful success of the professional team of the Aquarium, who performed an egg cesarean to ensure that the baby zebra shark could born without any difficulty. If she had born in the sea, and her mother being first-time mother, as the first hatching eggs she would have probably faced difficulties at birth. From her birth on October 24, the animal continues to develop well, and she currently feeds on small pieces of prawn, mussels, hake and squid. The amount she receives does not exceed 4% of its body weight.

Her parents, Marylin and Elvis, live with another pair of zebra shark in the aquarium, so now one more member is joining this wonderful family of sharks. These animals can measure up to three and a half meters, and they have a cream-colored body with dark spots, what allow them to pass by unnoticed when they rest on the sandy bottoms of the sea.

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They have a broad, flattened head, and a ventral mouth with which they can dig at the bottom of the sea and look for small animals. Their tail is almost half of the total length, and they have powerful lateral muscles. The common name of these animals is due to the stripes they have when they are young, which later turn into spots when they are adults.

It is a slow but slippery swimmer. This shark does not chase his preys, he just drives them into small spaces and uses its great and flexible body in order to make them unable to escape. Its jaw is in the ventral part of its head, and has also the special ability of being retractable inward allowing the shark to be more aerodynamic. Although the ability with its jaw allows the shark to swim faster, he is still a slow animal, but that extra speed can be vital when escaping from predators, and during prey hunting.

The breeding and reproduction of zebra sharks is essential to provide more information on how to conserve and guarantee the well-being of endangered species such as angelsharks (Squalma squatima) which is the world’s most threatened specie, and the hammerhead shark (Sphyrna sp.), whom Loro Park Foundation helps through protection projects.