The four sandbar sharks celebrate their first birthday in Loro Parque

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The best zoo in Europe and #2 in the world, according to TripAdvisor, is once again celebrating. The sandbar shark babies born in the Aquarium of Loro Parque are now turning exactly one year of age and are full of health and strength. Abel, Airam, Liam and Juan, the first specimens of this species to be born under human care in the entire region of the Canary Islands, will be eventually heading to the soon-to-be-open gran aquarium Poema del Mar in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This innovative project of Loro Parque promises to convert into one of the most impressive aquariums in the world and has already been recognized by the regional authorities to be of strategic interest for the Canary Islands.

Their diet is based on white and oily fish, unpeeled prawn and cephalopods and the feeding occurs 5 times a week. Currently, the young sharks consume an equivalent of 3% of their weight, a diet that allows them to maintain steady levels of growth and health. Despite being so young they are already forming part of the Aquarium’s most advanced and innovative programs – the shark training program. These voluntary exercises under the supervision of the aquarium’s personnel allow for the stress-free procedures with the animals, for example weighing, measuring or medical check-ups.

Sandbar sharks can live up to 45 years and they only breed once every two years. They are viviparous animals, so the pups are born completely developed. Each time, a female can bring to life 7 to 10 specimens.

Here in Loro Parque, these sharks are perfect ambassadors to raise awareness about the hazards and problems that the marine species encounter in the wild. Already today, 11 shark species appear on the list of endangered species, and 100 million die each year as a result of human consumption.

Having inhabited this planet for over 400 million years, these amazing animals are now facing extinction and mainly due to the human actions. Therefore, these young sharks will serve an important role to make us, humans, think about the way we consume natural resources and thus, not let these animals disappear from our planet.

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.

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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.

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.

A study reveals that mammals live longer in zoos

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Zurich / Halle / Berlin, 07/11/2016. Animal living freely in the wild are threatened by factors such as food scarcity, predators, adverse weather conditions and strong animal rivalry. However, animals living in zoos are protected against such hazards. An international research team, together with the University of Zurich (UZH) and the Halle Zoo, carried out a study on more than 50 species of mammals to determine whether these animals live longer in zoos or in the wild. This apparently minor issue about the life of animals is not easy to answer. Particularly in the case of animals living in the wild, since it is extremely difficult to figure out the exact date of their birth and death. On the contrary, zoos usually have a complete report with their animal’s data available. But there are currently enough studies on animals living in the wild to compare their life with animals living in zoos with their precise age data.

Carnivorous animals also live longer The Universities of Zurich and Lyon, led by the research team of Zoo Halle, conducted a study which analyzed the demographic parameters of more than 50 different species of mammals. Researchers found that about 80 percent of the species living in the zoo live longer than they do in wildlife – among them is the Cape buffalo, the reindeer, the zebra, the lion or the beaver. “On the basis of the data obtained, 15 species of carnivores lived longer in the zoo,” said Marcus Clauss, Prof. of Comparative Digestive Physiology of animals living in the wild of the UZH (University of Zurich). “It is clear that survival as a predator in the wild is not necessarily easy.”

The zoos welcome the findings of the study The Association of Zoos (VdZ) representing 70 zoos scientifically directed in the German-speaking area welcomed the study findings. “Animal keeping at the zoo should always be evaluated and developed according to scientific criteria. The findings of the study fully invalidate those arguments put forward by zoo critics about the high mortality rate of animals living in zoos, and they also demonstrate that zoos provide favorable living conditions adapted to each of the animal’s characteristics,” says Volker Homes, director of the Association of Zoos (VdZ).

Complex assessment of zoosResearchers highlight that life span of the animals is only one factor among many to ethically evaluate animal care. “Probably the most important finding from our study is that living in the wild means not always paradise living conditions,” says Prof. Clauss. The study also arrives at the conclusion that certain species, especially those that live longer in the wild, have a slightly longer life expectancy. We talk about chimpanzees, for example. “Particularly in the case of primates, much has been invested in the last two decades in the expansion and improvement of facilities and in new husbandry systems,” says Dr. Dennis Müller, co-author of the study and director of the Zoo Halle. Moreover, he explains that: “The success of these efforts will only be statistically demonstrated by the longevity of these species within 20 – 30 years.” Volker Homes adds that “given the massive extinction of species living in the wild as the consequence of the destruction of natural habitats, zoos are clearly very important for biodiversity conservation.”

The study is available on the following link: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep36361

Independent experts confirm the welfare of the orcas at Loro Parque

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An independent assessment, conducted by experts from the Zoo Animal Welfare Education Centre (Zawec), has certified that the 6 orcas that live in Loro Parque fulfil the diverse welfare standards established by the Welfare Quality protocol. Thus, this assessment, performed on Loro Parque its request in August this year, confirms the great diet of the cetaceans and the availability of an adequate area for the animals, as well as a correct behaviour and the optimum health state.

Under the premise of having a qualified opinion not linked to the park or anti-zoo groups, scientists examined the facilities and condition of the animals, as well as collecting information about handling routines, training programs and veterinary supervision of the orcas. For that matter, experts had free access to veterinary registers and to a research on the social behavior of the orcas in Loro Parque.

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The report’s findings, derived from observation and analysis of these animals are determinant, clear and concise: “The evidence indicates that Keto, Kohana, Skyla, Tekoa, Morgan and Adam get adequate food, both in quantity and quality; the quality and temperature of the pool water is appropriate; the design and size of the pools of orcas meet the recommendations currently available; and the health of the orcas of Loro Parque are mostly good, with the exception of dental problems, although the time dedicated by the keepers to the cure and supervision to avoid pain or discomfort of the orcas, is seen as especially positive.”

Finally, the document notes that “the protocols of medical training and veterinary supervision and intervention are very satisfactory. Moreover, the orcas show a behavior that indicates a relationship of complete trust with their caregivers.”

The Zawec organization has essential objectives training and research in welfare of the animals in the zoo. Its main activities are the elaboration and the validation of welfare assessment protocols for different species in captivity, advice on the welfare of wild animals and the development of research projects on welfare of wild animals in captivity.

Spirtle The Dolphin Was Spotted Speeding To Recovery

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Original article: Spirtle The Dolphin Was Spotted Speeding To Recovery

Scotland isn’t exactly the first place a person thinks of when worrying about getting a sunburn. However, a dolphin affectionately known as “Spirtle” has proved that sunburns can happen anywhere and on any animal. And we’re talking about a really bad sunburn.

Spirtle was first spotted in May, while stranded on a large expanse of tidal mudflats near Aberdeen, Scotland. The bottlenose dolphin, after being stuck in the sun for nearly a day, was rescued and refloated. It took a group effort thanks to a team of multiple organizations, including British Divers Marine Life Rescue, the Scottish SPCA and staff from North 58 Sea Adventures. You can read the full story covering the rescue here.

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Dolphin skin is crucial in their ability to efficiently swim at high speeds. SeaWorld describes their skin as soft and rubbery and it has evolved into a texture that reduces extra drag. They shed their outer skin every two hours in order to keep their skin in prime streamlined condition. In recent years, researchers have noticed that sunburns on cetaceans have been increasing, as noted in Science magazine. Many are attributing this trend to the reduction of the ozone layer.

Before the stranding, Spirtle was already apart of a group of 200 animals that were being monitored and observed by scientists from the University of Aberdeen. Shortly after the rescue, Spirtle was counted as M.I.A. until the later part of July. BBC notes that scientists were actually skeptical that she would survive her serious injury. When she was seen again, researchers were excited to report that she was showing positive signs towards a full recovery. Her most recent sighting was in mid September, when she was seen babysitting her sister’s calf. Spirtle is easily recognizable because of her severe wound, so there was no doubt that the bottlenose dolphin was her.

Researchers are very encouraged by the fact that the wound seems to be healing well and shows no signs of infection. They are hopeful that she will make a full recovery and will eventually even go on to breed and raise little ones of her own.

Loro Parque breeds the first two specimens of Tasmanian yellow-tailed black cockatoo in Europe

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Loro Parque continues to contribute as an essential part for the protection and conservation of different animal species that inhabit the planet. In this occasion, the family of Loro Parque shows its joy at the birth of two Tasmanian yellow-tailed black cockatoo hatchlings (Zanda funereus xanthonotus), a Australian native psittacine that amazes by its spectacular mix of black and yellow plumage.

This is an important event as it is the first officially registered birth of a hatchling of this species in Europe. The good news took place in the park’s facilities with the birth of the hatchlings in early and late Augus respectively. Furthermore, this is good news for the poultry field as it is considered a key step in this species’ behaviour.

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“The few known pairs have not been successful in breeding. After observing that some eggs were not able to develop the embryo, we adjusted some aspects of their nutrition to approach what it was need for their proper development”, explains Rafael Zamora Padrón, biologist at Loro Parque Fundación.

In this regard, Zamora adds that, due to the cockatoo pair’s inexperience in breeding, the eggs were displaced to an incubator to ensure the correct hatching of the eggs. This achievement is certainly a success, as this large, yet lightweight animal has very specific needs to lay eggs”.