International scientists find evidence on how marine pollution could cause orca infertility

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A scientific study carried out by international experts in cetacean health reveals the first evidence of the harmful effects that contraceptives have on orcas and contributes to understanding how the chemical pollution of the seas affects the reproduction of cetaceans.  The study led by veterinary specialist Doctor Geraldine Lacave and recently presented at the International Congress on Aquatic Animal Medicine held in South Africa, demonstrates the serious damage that chemical toxins cause in regular ovulation cycles, thus affecting the reproduction of this species of cetacean in the long term.

The suspicion that chemical toxins such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) interfere with oestrogen receptors (female sex hormones that regulate reproductive cycles in orcas) and affect the reproduction of marine species dates back in time.  However, it was from the case study of the orca Lulu, stranded in 2017, in Scotland, when the concern for the study of the effect of oestrogens was markedly accentuated, since this female had the highest levels of PCBs found so far and evidence was found that she had never reproduced.

In this regard and in order to investigate the matter, Dr. Lacave analysed more than 57,000 videos of the ovaries of the orcas housed in Loro Parque, Tenerife, obtained during more than 4,500 ultrasounds performed by the veterinarians and trainers of this zoo since 2012.  And it was thanks to access to this information that it has been possible to reconstruct the entire process of ovulation of the orcas. It should be noted that this type of research can only be done with animals in controlled environments such as zoos, as it requires regular access to the animals to be able to perform ultrasounds and follow in detail the entire process of ovulation of the females.

Thanks to this opportunity to carefully analyse the ovulation of orcas, dozens of ovulations have been followed day by day and irregular cycles have been detected (abnormally shortened or lengthened), as well as cycle delays, very long periods without ovulation, follicular cysts and even one ovulation during contraceptive treatment.  Given that this study has been carried out more intensively in the last five years, there is still no information available on the problems that could be caused by long-term contraceptive treatments, but the intensity and variety of the ovulatory problems give reason to suspect that they could be serious.  Since it’s believed that PCBs could block oestrogen receptors in orcas by a mechanism similar to that of contraceptives, these results would explain that even small concentrations of these toxic substances seriously affect the reproductive cycles of the orcas, reducing their fertility.

The most important thing about this scientific finding is that the information studied in the zoo will contribute to the conservation of this species of cetacean in nature, since the knowledge obtained of how oestrogens affect and disturb regular cycles in orcas could help to understand how chemical pollution is affecting the reproduction of the wild populations, not only of orcas, but also of dolphins, and in the future of other species of marine mammals.  This is clear evidence of the role modern zoos play in species conservation.

Loro Parque commemorates Canary Islands’ Day with a top-notch celebration

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This Thursday, May 30, Loro Parque celebrated, the traditional local holiday to commemorate Canary Islands’ Day.  Once again, the Parque has demonstrated, through the different organised activities that they value the culture and customs of the Archipelago and that the traditions of the autonomous Canarian community also have their space in what is recognised as the best zoo in the world according to the travel portal TripAdvisor.

The undisputed protagonists of the day were the regional costumes, typical food –sweetcorn, potatoes and ribs- and Canarian music, which helped locals and tourists to enjoy a different day where the importance for the Canaries of this date became clear.

In this latest edition of celebrations, the event had the invaluable collaboration of the Association San Antonio Abad – Fiesta de las Tradiciones de La Florida, from La Orotava.  With their support, the Loro Parque team turned the Thai Village (the entrance to the Parque) into a stage where pieces of art and crafts were created and various traditional dances were demonstrated – all under the attentive gaze of visitors, the mayor of La Orotava, Francisco Linares, and other authorities of the municipality, as well as the president of Loro Parque, Wolfgang Kiessling, who stressed the importance of valuing Canarian traditions.

Around three o’clock in the afternoon, as a gesture from the organisers, those present could taste a delicious traditional dish of sweetcorn, potatoes and ribs, paired with local wine and enjoyed in a spectacular atmosphere that was attended by hundreds of people.

The date also served to officially welcome the Jaguar Naya, a specimen of Panthera onca which is part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EPP).  Visitors were also able to learn about the great work that has been done to create the Aquarium’s coral farm.

With the folklore celebration of this event, Loro Parque once again consolidates its commitment to Canarian traditions and the culture of the Archipelago.  To this end, it continues to collaborate with different organisations -such as the association from La Florida, in La Orotava- whose work promotes the conservation of the typical customs and festivities of the Islands.

Loro Parque trusts that Dutch Justice will prove them right again

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After the hearing of the Dutch Council of State which has just taken place in The Hague, Loro Parque is confident that the Dutch judiciary will resolve this appeal by once again agreeing with the Dutch Government in the case of the orca Morgan, as has already happened on all previous occasions (this will be the tenth resolution on the same theme in the Dutch administration and justice system).

The pronouncement of other institutions, such as the European Parliament, has also always supported the action of the Dutch and Spanish authorities in the case of the rescue of this orca which, had it not been for Loro Parque, would have had to be euthanised.  In short, the Free Morgan Foundation has never had a judicial resolution in its favour in the last nine years, despite which it continues with a strategy of trying to force court cases that only seems to seek public visibility.

The position of the Free Morgan Foundation is completely absurd, maintaining an unfounded litigation more than 9 years after Morgan appeared practically dead off the Dutch coast.  Since then, it has been proven that Morgan is deaf, which makes it completely impossible for her to return to the wild and, in addition, she has been perfectly integrated into the orca group of Loro Parque, to the point of having been the mother of a calf, Ula.

With this lawsuit, the Free Morgan Foundation wanted the Dutch authorities to annul Morgan’s CITES permit, arguing that Loro Parque does not carry out scientific research, something totally ridiculous in light of the scientific articles published in recent years on bioacoustics, personality in orcas and immuno-toxicology or audiometry based on studies carried out with Loro Parque’s orcas.  In addition to these publications, many other researches have been carried out and published as communications for scientific congresses and end-of-degree theses.

The only thing certain in this case is that Morgan was fortunate enough to be rescued and escape certain death.  Hundreds of thousands of cetaceans each year are unlucky and end up dying trapped in fishing nets, with their stomachs full of plastic waste or their blood contaminated by toxic substances.  Fortunately, Morgan has been able to survive and is now happy in Loro Parque with her daughter Ula.

Loro Parque Foundation carries out a great clean-up of plastic on the Punta del Hidalgo coast

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The Loro Parque Foundation, last Saturday May 25, carried out a massive clean-up of plastic in the beach area of Punta del Hidalgo, in collaboration with the non-profit association Promemar.

The aim of this action is to collect as much of this environmentally damaging material as possible and then to create large scale artistic sculptures with the recycled plastic that will demonstrate this great problem.

In this area, the Foundation’s mission is to raise awareness of how plastic affects everyone, with special attention to marine biodiversity, whilst promoting the search for solutions to keep the oceans cleaner.

For this collection, the Education Department of Loro Parque Foundation carried out this exercise with over 50 volunteers and intends to carry out another one in June to continue with the clean-up.  By this means, the message of protection and conservation of the environment will reach the greatest number of people, to continue to help care for the coasts throughout the archipelago.

Commitment to the conservation of the Canarian beaches

The Department of Education, through its project ‘Our beaches’ sand’, has collected and analysed the presence of plastic on the beaches of the Canary Islands.  More than 492 students from 12 institutes participated in the project.

As part of the continuous activities carried out by the Foundation, the students have been able to get to know first hand the state of the coasts of the archipelago and contribute to its cleanliness.  The finalisation of the project will be presented in June with the results of the analyses of all the beaches that have been tested.

Loro Parque will exhibit an incredible coral farm

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From tomorrow, the Loro Parque aquarium will exhibit a farm of asexually reproduced corals.  These animals, which form what are known as the ‘marine jungles’, photosynthesise and possess an immense biodiversity that is home to 25 per cent of the marine population.

Through this new exhibition, visitors will be able to closely observe the work that the Parque does with these organisms that occupy an absolutely essential place in nature for the oceans and the production of oxygen.

Unfortunately, as early as 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned that one-third of reef-forming corals face extinction due to over-exploitation of resources, development of coastal constructions, global warming and intrusive tourism, among other causes.  As a consequence, corals lose their colouration, their capacities are affected and the habitat of the thousands of species that coexist with them deteriorates.

As an endangered species according to IUCN, the role of wildlife conservation centres such as Loro Parque is paramount to make their situation visible and to make visitors aware of the importance of protecting them to avoid their disappearance.

Thus, in what is recognised as the world’s best zoo, these corals will act as ambassadors of their fellow creatures in nature, which face serious threats and, in turn, as an example of the action that can be taken in more places in the world to create coral farms and new reefs to preserve the future of these animals and the many others that live within their orbit.

How zoos and aquariums can help save 1 million species from extinction

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Published by: Usa Today/ Robin Ganzert   https://eu.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/05/11/zoos-aquariums-can-help-save-one-million-species-extinction-column/1152477001/

Roughly 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, according to a recent United Nations assessment. As animals find it increasingly difficult to live in the wild, it’s important to leverage the power of zoos and aquariums to protect animals and restore endangered species, even as some activists seek to dismantle these arks of hope.

The U.N. report paints a bleak picture — earth is becoming increasingly inhospitable thanks to irresponsible land and water use, climate change, pollution and other man-made causes.

Right now, zoos and aquariums should be rallying points for conservationists. Unfortunately, between 2007 and 2017, nearly a quarter of Americans became more opposed to zoos and aquariums, according to a YouGov poll.

And an activist group called Empty The Tanks is hosting a global series of aquarium protests Saturday demanding that all aquatic mammals be released into the sea. These so-called activists apparently aren’t concerned with saving animal lives. The U.N. report revealed that more than a third of marine mammals are at risk of extinction.

Bobby the lion in Tirana (Albania) Zoo on May 7, 2019.
Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images
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Zoos and aquariums are tools by which we can preserve animal life while habitats are threatened. A child born today who reaches 80 years of age will live to see half of the world’s current species become extinct, according to Elizabeth Kolbert, author of “The Six Extinction: An Unnatural History.”

Countless species are threatened by human activities such as pollution, overhunting, overfishing and habitat destruction.

Managing the threat of extinction

This female Masai giraffe was born on March 22 at the Phoenix Zoo and is currently in the giraffe barn bonding with her mom until she is big enough to be introduced to the Savanna habitat.
Phoenix Zoo

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would consider classifying the giraffe as an endangered species. That’s after wild giraffe populations fell by up to 40% over three decades. Giraffes may join the nearly 1,500 species of animals that are already considered endangered or threatened by the USFWS.

Fortunately, zoos are stepping up as sanctuaries for these iconic and beautiful animals. Giraffes living at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, located in Goddard, Kansas, have given birth to over 50 calves. That’s important to keeping the species alive.

Last month, we also learned that Halley Bay, home to the world’s second-largest colony of emperor penguins, just finished its third year of almost total breeding failure, according to a study in Antarctic Science, a publication of the Cambridge University Press.
Being a baby is exhausting, as shown here by the penguin chick at the Georgia Aquarium.
Georgia Aquarium

But not all activists see it that way. SeaWorld Orlando is one of the locations where Empty The Tanks is organizing a protest this week.

Zoos, aquariums are arks of hope

In light of the U.N. report, it’s time for activists, ordinary folks, politicians and every one in between to rally behind zoos and aquariums that act as modern arks of hope for many species, like penguins and giraffes.

Obviously, whenever animals live in human care, there can be bad actors. That’s why we at American Humane launched the first-ever, independent, science-based, genuinely third-party humane certification program focused on animals in zoos and aquariums. We wanted families to know that the zoos and aquariums they visit are doing right by the animals in their care.

In fact, both Seaworld and Taganyika Wildlife Park have received certification from American Humane. Through a vigorous evaluation process, they are recognized by our organization as facilities with exceptional standards for the humane treatment of the animals in their care.

The sixth mass extinction of animal and plant life on earth is accelerating, making it necessary to involve people in the conservation of earth’s animals. Animals like penguins and giraffes are counting on us. For their sake, we need to support facilities that protect animal life against harsh environments.

Robin Ganzert is the president and CEO of American Humane. You can follow her on Twitter: @RobinGanzert.  

The Mediterranean Monk Seal reduces its risk of extinction and there are glimmers of hope thanks to international cooperation

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Mediterranean monk seal in Madeira. Source: Nuno Sá.

The Mediterranean Monk Seal, the most endangered marine mammal in Europe and once a frequent sight in all Mediterranean countries and along the African coast and Macaronesia, disappeared almost completely from the face of the Earth.  However, thanks to various international organisations and important awareness-raising work, it’s now improving its chances of survival.  Thus, from this year, The Loro Parque Foundation has collaborated by co-financing the Mediterranean Monk Seal conservation programme in Madeira through the development of a monitoring system of its conservation status (LIFE13 NAT/ES/00974 ), via the CBD Hábitat Foundation and the Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza de Madeira.

Mothers and offspring Mediterranean monk seal, at the entrance of a cave, in Desertas Islands. Source: Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza da Madeira.

It has now almost completely disappeared from all its original locations and its population has been reduced to less than 700 individuals fragmented into three or four sub-populations, making it one of the most endangered seals on the planet.  Accidental death due to fishing gear remains the greatest threat to the survival of this species, which also suffered a severe blow in 1997 when 200 individuals died in the Cabo Blanco colony (Western Sahara) from a red tide.

Mediterranean monk seals in Madaira.  Source: Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza da Madeira.

The project that The Loro Parque Foundation promotes focuses on a small population (estimated at about 25 specimens) and is located on the Islas Desertas, although it has been proven that from there they move around the whole island of Madeira.  The director of the Monk Seal Conservation Programme of the CBD Habitat Foundation Pablo Fernández de Larrinoa considers that “public-private cooperation in the conservation of this species is what will save it from extinction, both at the level of funding for community institutions and the countries involved, as well as private companies with sensitivity to the loss of global biodiversity on the planet”.  It also applies “at the level of the actual execution of conservation work, where citizen participation in a coordinated and targeted manner is increasingly important to complement and help professionals,” he said.

Mothers and offspring Mediterranean monk seal,  with a few days old, inside a cave, observed through a surveillance camera. Source: Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza da Madeira.

The Loro Parque Foundation’s contribution is to collaborate in a project to tag seals with bracelets equipped with GPS receivers, which make it possible to track the specimens and determine their areas of critical habitat, and which will allow the Madeira authorities to establish more effective protection measures.  This monitoring system will also be useful to determine the feeding depths and regular habitat areas of the specimens and determine their degree of overlap with fishing activities.

The experts also point out that it must be borne in mind that the seal population of Madeira is absolutely isolated in the archipelago and there is no current possibility of intermingling.  Furthermore, due to human pressure on their optimal habitat, the Mediterranean Monk Seal lives in caves with rocky beaches and steep coastlines which are difficult to access.  This type of habitat creates serious problems for the conservation and maintenance of the GPS bracelets, that poses continuing challenges for the field team.

Mother and offspring Monachus monachus , with few days old, inside a cave, observed through a surveillance camera. Source: Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza da Madeira.

Another aspect of the project is the monitoring of caves by photo-trapping, to establish which ones are used by the seals to breed, and thus establish protection measures.  These caves are also subjected to extreme conditions of pressure due to the strength of the waves, which together with the splashes of seawater also create new challenges for photo-trapping technology.

Although all the efforts so far are bearing fruit, in the coming years we will have to maintain our commitment and verify that the trend of population increase continues in order to be optimistic about the recovery of the species.  Therefore, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) plans to carry out a re-evaluation of the degree of threat to the species in 2020.  These assessments are particularly important in the context of global climate change, the effects of which could seriously affect threatened species with small and fragmented populations.

Baltimore Aquarium: Defamation of a Sanctuary

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Source: http://zoos.media/medien-echo/baltimore-aquarium-schmierentheater-sanctuary/

Author: Philipp J. Kroiß

Those responsible for the Baltimore Aquarium were rightly criticised within the industry for talking about creating a sanctuary for their bottlenose dolphins.  The plan was not suitable for the animals because it included a breeding ban in the facility that would have made it impossible for them to build natural social structures in the long term, and for them this would have been torture.

Apparently, climate change is to blame!

Since this plan was made public, criticised of course in the professional world, but with the corresponding recognition of radical opponents to zoos, they have been looking for a suitable place for the construction of the cage of nets that had been planned.  They wanted it to be ready by 2020.  However, according to CEO John Racanelli, whose proximity to the animal rights industry has been noted several times, this is no longer possible and is due to climate change.

Climate change can certainly be pointed to as the cause of many events, but there is nothing that has changed significantly in recent years that could not have been foreseen at the time this plan was announced, a plan entirely beyond what is realistic.  Just a few years ago, there was a problem with hurricanes in the chosen region, but now those responsible for the Baltimore aquarium, led by Racanelli, are acting as if this problem had just begun. < https://www.npr.org/ 2019/05/05/720041305 / at-the-baltimore-aquarium-change-change-present-challenge-both-inside-y-out >.

This type of drama is not worthy of a modern zoo or aquarium.  People make mistakes or sometimes make wrong decisions, but then they must be consistent and confront them.  Yes, the populist plan of the sanctuary for animal welfare was, from the beginning, a faulty and wrong idea, so you can admit that and there is nothing wrong or reprehensible about that.  This defamatory comedy with climate change as an alibi is not proper to people who really claim to be experts.

Does the concept of a sanctuary have a future?

This type of sanctuary is a project that must function for decades and it is clear that climate change, pollution and other damaging factors will make such projects with net cages impossible.  It will also be necessary to observe how the institutions that hold dolphins and that currently work with the so-called Sea Pens or Bay Pens at sea will continue.  Here one has to act very deliberately and study each case individually.

But all this has been known for years.  It’s not something recent, but it became even more relevant when the mistaken idea of the Baltimore Aquarium was born.  They cannot now suddenly pretend to be surprised by the problems of climate change and pollution, or by the health risks posed by the growing anthropogenic pollution of seawater.

The concept of cage nets was already an obsolete model before it had even actually been developed.  There are simply not enough suitable bays that offer sufficiently optimum conditions and that are not already used for other purposes, or that are too valuable from the point of view of nature conservation, and that are also protected from the negative environmental influences mentioned above.  Institutions with good water quality are needed, but it is well known that this is currently only achieved by filtering, something that is not possible in open net cage constructions such as this one.  For example, Loro Parque, on the Canary Island of Tenerife, in the Atlantic Ocean far from the mainland, draws its water from seawater basins directly from the Atlantic for ecological and economic reasons.  However, this must still be filtered several times before it meets the high requirements for optimum maintenance for the animals.

In nature, there are populations of dolphins whose habitat has a water quality so poor that the animals have a very limited life expectancy, so they should not be kept under human care in equally poor conditions.  This is something that everyone knows doesn’t make sense.  It’s also one of the main reasons why renowned zoological facilities fight pollution, overfishing and many other harmful anthropogenic environmental factors.  Last but not least, bottlenose dolphins are considered charismatic ambassadors to draw attention to precisely these ecological problems.

The concept of sanctuaries is based on the massive error and ideology of the animal rights industry that animal husbandry is bad per se.  In this context, these final animal ‘deposits’ some of which are already in existence, such as so-called elephant sanctuaries, which tend to be of remarkably poor quality, are marketed as a release from supposedly undesirable conditions that, in reality, are not a way out at all.  In most cases, the animal rights industry only tries to ‘hijack’ the animals in order to misuse their image so that they can raise funds, but it does not really care about their welfare, let alone the protection of their natural habitats.

Dolphins are fine in modern dolphinariums

In contrast, modern dolphinariums have been shown to be places of animal welfare.  In well-managed and certified institutions, bottlenose dolphins live longer (Jaakkola and Willis, 2019), are healthier (Fair et al., 2017) and less stressed (Monreal-Pawlowsky et al., 2017) than their wild counterparts.  In addition, they enjoy training and have been shown to release happy hormones (Clegg et al., 2018, Ridgway et al., 2014).  Over 80 of the world’s most renowned scientists in this field support the lifestyle of marine mammals in modern zoos and aquariums, underscoring the enormous importance of these populations under human care for important conservation projects and for scientific research, whose findings also benefit populations at risk in nature.

From these facts, we see that the sanctuaries projects have no meaning or justification and, really, there is no need for them.  All that needs to be done is to work to ensure that the good standards that have already been implemented and are already being carried out by modern dolphinariums are put into practice throughout the country.  Unfortunately, there are also black sheep among the the institutions that hold dolphins, but those which are modern and certified and managed responsibly already do a good job and fight for the welfare of both the animals under their care and those in nature.

Loro Parque hosts the start of TUI’s summer season

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Loro Parque has hosted this Wednesday, May 8, the start of the summer season of the German tourism company TUI.  The zoo, recognised as the best in the world according to TripAdvisor users, was the ideal place to receive the 250 managers, agents and staff of TUI.

During the visit, all the TUI staff enjoyed a complete tour of the Park and learned about the work of the Loro Parque Foundation.  In addition, this great team took part in conferences on various topics that were held in the Natura Vision room.

The event, which forms part of Loro Parque’s and TUI’s long commitment to tourism, culminated with a big cocktail party in the Patio del Loro, to boost the successful start of this new season.

The Loro Parque Foundation helps 20 Red-Masked Parakeets fly back in their natural environment in Ecuador

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A score of parrots, which were captured illegally in Ecuador, have been returned to the wild, through the careful and comprehensive work of a programme of reintroduction into nature thanks to the Loro Parque Foundation.

Captures of this type of parrot are more frequent than you might imagine.  On this occasion, the local authorities were able to prevent the parrots from perishing due to the poor maintenance-conditions and stress to which these animals are usually subjected.  The birds were confiscated through a police intervention and taken care of by a local zoo as part of a wild release project.

This reintroduction project was carried out in a non-gradual release aviary in the Buenaventura Reserve, where the Loro Parque Foundation also collaborates in the conservation programme of El Oro Parakeet along with the Jocotoco Foundation, the leading organisation in this particular reinsertion of the captured Red-Masked Parakeets.

There, the 20 specimens became adapted once more to the environment from which they were taken, after exhaustive veterinary studies that guaranteed the absence of any type of disease.  They were also identified with rings and microchips that will allow them to be monitored and thus prevent them from being recaptured and falling again into the hands of those who work in the illegal market of wild species.

In addition, through the release of these birds, biometric data collection, medical analyses and behavioural observations were achieved, which are part of an important acquisition of knowledge about wild animals.  Thanks to zoos, this data is an essential part of short- and long-term species protection.

This project is added to the many achievements of the Loro Parque Foundation for the conservation of future generations of animals.  Hence, after more than US$19.6 million invested in more than 160 projects over five continents and nine species of parrots directly saved from imminent extinction, the Foundation reaffirms that ‘100 per cent for nature’ is not just a slogan, it’s a reality.