Helping the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise

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Although the Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is widely distributed in the northern hemisphere, the genetically distinct subpopulation in the Baltic Sea is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the Red List of Threatened Species of the IUCN. The Baltic Sea population is estimated at 600 animals in total, of which fewer than 250 are mature animals, which continued to decline. The most significant threat is incidental catches in fishing nets, mainly various types of gillnets, with smaller numbers caught in trawl-nets. Pollution is another concern in the Baltic Sea, where toxic compounds are described as the likely source for reduced fertility and population decline in seals.

To try to avoid the entanglements in fishing nets, the Loro Parque Fundación is supporting the research of Prof. Dr. Boris Culik of the marine research company, F³: Forschung, Fakten, Fantasie (Research, Facts, Fantasy) being conducted in the South-Western Baltic Sea. In the 1990s, the LPF also supported Prof. Culik (then at the University of Kiel, Germany) to develop and test “pingers” on fishing nets, and their effect on Harbour porpoises in the Vancouver area of Canada. The pingers generate aversive sounds which reduces the by-catch of Harbour porpoises in the gill-nets. Although the porpoises maintain a large safety distance of several 100 metres from pinger-equipped nets, there are disadvantages. They can be excluded from fishing grounds, and also cannot establish a connection between the sound and threatening nets. The maximum distance from which Harbour porpoises may detect a net as a barrier or threat by using their biosonar is only 2-4 m. Furthermore, pingers have the potential to scare Harbour porpoises into neighbouring nets which are not equipped with pingers.

The improved system now being tested on free-ranging Harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea is aimed at overcoming the shortcomings of pingers by alerting Harbour porpoises to nets through the generation of synthetic alarm signals of the porpoises. The electronic Porpoise Alarms (PAL) are designed to enable the generation of alarm calls with variable levels. The reactions of the porpoises are being recorded underwater acoustically, and their swimming and surfacing behaviours are being recorded using a theodolite. The generated signal is successful if it increases porpoise echolocation activity, it leads the animals to change course, away from the sound source, and it reduces the time the animals spend in the vicinity of the sound source. These factors are considered to reduce the risk of entanglement.

This research is a prerequisite for the production of effective porpoise-specific alarms that can be installed in gill-nets to reduce Harbour porpoise by-catch in commercial fisheries. The Loro Parque Fundación hopes that the system will be successful, and that it can be used in the future to save the lives of the hundreds of thousands of other small cetaceans that every year suffer accidental deaths in fishing nets.

Two completely recovered turtles

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A Carei turtle – very rare in the Canary Islands – gets back to the sea from the beach of Las Canteras and together with four other loggerhead turtles, one of which is successfully recovered from the damage caused by a fishing hook stuck in his throat. This turtle leaves Tenerife with a warm educational activity, organized by Loro Parque Fundación and in which 20 children from the primary school La Oliva in Fuerteventura took part.

Once in Gran Canaria and during the transit to the sea, the turtles will receive the breath of other 300 students from the primary and secondary school, who helped the veterinarian technicians to release the animals back yo their natural environment from La Puntilla.

“It´s a great place” to regain their life in freedom due to it is a place of Community Importance, with underwater seagrass and a permament colony of grey whales along with jellyfish, which are part of the food of the marine turtles, explained Pascual Calabuig, chief veterinary of the Wildlife Recovery Centre (CRFS=Centro de Recuperación de Fauna Silvestre) of Tafira in Gran Canaria.

Two of the turtles that will be released tomorrow in Las Canteras – one of the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the “Carei” – return to Gran Canaria after an acclimated stay in Loro Parque in Tenerife, as part as the collaboration porgramme between its Foundation and the Cabildo of Gran Canaria.

The turtles were housed in the aquarium of Loro Parque, which has an educational programme for children, and will now take part at the release organized by the Ministry of Environment of the Cabildo of Gran Canaria and the Department of City Sea of the town hall from Gran Canaria to celebrate the World Environmental Day and the World Oceans Day.

Pascual Calabuig detailed that the “Carei” turtle is smaller than the “Caretta caretta” and it hast the particularity that the scales of its shell are overlapping, it is not a migratory specie and usually remains stable in one area, so it is not common that specimens of this species appear at the Canary coasts.

The one that returns tomorrow to the sea in Las Canteras appeared stranded on the 9th of March in the beach of El Burrero in weak conditions, with scratches and signs of having hit the rocks. His recovery in the CRFS as well as in the aquarium of Loro Parque has been rapid.

The other turtle from the aforementioned aquarium was found the 8th of January of this year in the coast of Gran Canaria with a hook stick in its throat, which caused a hole, possibly because someone tried to get the animal out of the boat lifting it with its 35 kilos of weight from the fishing rod.

This specimen has also completed the last phase of the recovery in the aquarium of Loro Parque and one of the educators of the Foundation, María Fernández, explains to EFE that previously at the Centre in Tarifa the necessary cures and operations that are relevant are done, because sometimes it is necessary to amputate some fin. There are seven species of sea turtles and all are endangered and this is why the work of rescue is so important, although in the Canary Islands it is more usual to find loggerhead turtles, whose usual route passes through the islands after making their nests in the Caribbean.

Many turtles appears with blows on the shell and the biggest damages are caused by ingesting plastic, because this animals sometimes confuse the bags that are floating in the water with jellyfish and because of their digestive tract, when they start swallowing a substance, they are not able to expel it again through the mouth and release it. Also the plastic rings that hold soda are hooked to their fins and sometimes they are found in such a state of decomposition that they have to be amputated, but the animal can survive with three of these legs, explains Maria Fernández.

The stay of these marine animals at the aquarium of Loro Parque provides the opportunity to be part of their educational programme and that the children and the visitors learn why they were rescued and the problems arising from the marine pollution, garbage, oils spills and the risk that provokes the increase of maritime traffic.

In addition there is also the videoconferencing programme “Nautilus”, with which Loro Parque Fundación connects at least once a month with schools throughout Spain, and wherein during this course 256 schools with about 12.000 students have participated. Each month an animal is selected – orcas, gorillas, dolphins, sharks – and material on these specie is sent so that the students can work on it in class and prepare their questions for the connection through videoconferencing with the facilities of Loro Parque, explains the educator María Fernández.

Aqua Viva – The new jellyfish exhibition

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Once again Loro Parque fulfils its commitment to a steady renewal and inaugurates the new jellyfish exhibition – a true spectacle under the sea with hundreds of these magic invertebrated animals shining in all colours and fluorescences. With this new attraction, the most awarded park in Spain warmy welcomes spring.

Their supernatural appearance with surprising and elegant formes make these curious creatures the stars of the new exhibition created in order to highlight the special details of these fascinating animals living in the tropical seas of our planet. Some species stand out for their special way of swimming, like dotted jellyfish, sea nettles and various kinds of fried egg jellyfish.

The exhibition contains an area of 500m² and 65,000 litres of sea water, of which 25,000 litres are meant for the aquariums and the breeding area of the jellyfish. The other 40,000 litres go into an aquarium made for some beautiful blacktip reef sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and some hundreds of colourful tropical fish. This exhibition will furthermore allow us to compare the beauty of the sea animals from two different ends of the food chain.

Jellyfish from all over the world will be exhibited – or rather from all seas of this world. There are animals from the coldest seas of the planet as well as from the warmest seas in the tropics and of course from the sea surrounding the Canarian archipelago.

The visitors will be able to admire a wide range of forms, colours and sizes; and even though some animals might resemble each other, their cycle of life keeps being absolutely different.

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Statement from Loro Parque

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On Monday, 2nd June the Park Management held one of its routine emergency drills. The safety practice took place in the internal security zone of the Gorilla enclosures to which only authorized park personnel have access, and consisted of simulating the escape of a Gorilla.

After the appropriate emergency mechanisms for this type of situation were activated, one of the animal keepers of the terrestrial mammals was accidentally hit by a tranquillizer dart which the veterinarians have to have ready for such cases. Because of this he was rapidly assisted by the Emergency Medical Service and immediately transferred to the University Hospital of Tenerife where he was attended to and subsequently discharged. The employee has fully recovered and was released from the Hospital this morning and he would like to thank everyone for all the displays of concern and affection that he has received.

According to law Loro Parque carries out this kind of routine emergency drills in the park on a regular basis and for different kinds of incident, as happens in all zoos and centres that house animals. These drills are carried out in order to guarantee the security, the efficient function of the emergency systems and the training of personnel who work in the facilities. It is therefore shocking that a procedure done to ensure the safety of our staff and visitors, has been misrepresented in order to damage the image, work, professionalism and experience of a highly accredited zoo.

International Day for Biological Diversity

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May 22nd is the International Day for Biological Diversity, organised by the United Nations to increasing understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. This year’s theme is Island Biodiversity, celebrating the unique ecosystems and endemic species that exist on islands.

From Tenerife, an island of high biodiversity, the Loro Parque Fundación takes the opportunity to thank all its partners who are working to conserve species and habitats on islands. The Loro Parque Fundación has supported 25 projects for the conservation of parrots on 20 different islands in 12 countries. The species depicted is the Imperial Amazon of the Caribbean island of Dominica. During the past year the LPF has helped the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation and the Dominica Forestry and Wildlife Division to conduct a population survey of this endangered species.

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Open letter to the defenders of nature

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In recent months, the company that I have created with great effort and over which I have presided for the last 41 years with great respect for animals, has become the target for criticism from some minority groups who are against conservation and protection of animals, although they boast about it in their media campaigns. This long-lasting controversy, that has reached its peak in the social networks, features a young orca named Morgan. She was found dying on the coast of the Netherlands in 2010 and was rescued by the Harderwijk Dolphinarium. She was just skin and bones and although no one believed she would survive the first night, they managed to feed her and revive her. A year later, a Dutch court decided she should be moved to Loro Parque in Tenerife.

The 23rd April 2014 has become an important date for Morgan. It is the date on which the Dutch State Council, the highest court of the Dutch Administrative Justice confirmed its verdict, the legality of the transfer of the animal to the Loro Parque facilities. This is the 5th time that the Dutch Administration has confirmed the validity of CITES permission to make the said transfer, in spite of successive appeals by those that proclaim themselves defenders of animals, and who are systematically attacking our zoological institution with lies and false, seriously misleading information without caring in the least if the animal could survive in the wild or not. The European Commission in Brussels also ratified the strict compliance in this case. And what was our terrible crime? Helping an animal in need, as we have always done when we have been asked for support. I honestly think that this decision can be seen as a pardon for Morgan because her release would have meant suffering and death.

In August 2011 the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture made an official statement which dictated that, having studied in detail reports drawn up by various independent experts, the two possible options remaining were euthanasia, or for Morgan to be kept under human care in other, more appropriate, installations. In the opinion of the experts consulted and the Dutch ministry, the chances of survival, were Morgan to be returned to the sea, would be minimal. More information about the history and Morgan’s present situation. This opinion has been ratified yet again for the fifth time by the highest Dutch court of law.

Loro Parque never asked to incorporate Morgan into its group of orcas, but the Dutch government requested our help which we accepted, as we always do when a government asks for help to improve the welfare of a rescued or captured animal. However, some members of these animal rights entities systematically insist on holding zoos guilty of all the problems faced. But, interestingly, we have not observed the same effort, or endeavour to inform the public about the real problems of conservation of endangered species.

At a time when the planet is home to 7,200 million people , of which 5,000 million (70%) were born in the last 100 years and more than 1,000 million in the last 11 years , what will become of the animals if we close their embassies – the zoos? Who will defend them? Will it be the groups of fanatics which are not known to have improved the status of any endangered species? Will it be those small organizations that are determined to only fight for the 257 dolphins in the dolphinariums across Europe, but have never done anything for the more than 300,000 who die at sea each year unnecessarily?

Loro Parque fully complies with current regulations for Zoos and it did so before the law in Spain was enforced (2003) and even before the European Regulations for zoos were introduced in 1999. Therefore, and owing to its constant effort to improve standards, it is the first zoo in the world to have obtained the certificate Biosphere Parks: Animal Embassy issued by the Responsible Tourism Institute (linked to UNESCO), in addition to EMAS , ISO 14000 and ISO 9000 certificates, all accrediting environmental quality. Numerous prestigious awards support our active engagement in protection of species and, through Loro Parque Foundation, we have developed several research and conservation projects in situ, on 5 continents. In the past 20 years we have invested over US$15,000,000 in 96 conservation programs for parrots and cetaceans. With this effort we were able to reduce the list of endangered species – two species of parrots, one from Colombia and one from Brazil, among other major environmental victories.

Loro Parque is also an active member of the most relevant professional zoological associations: AIZA, EAZA WAZA, EAAM and AMMPA. And, through its foundation, a member of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), and as a modern and committed reserve, we have always worked with all entities that have needed us to provide a home and maximum care to a multitude of captured animals, such as parrots, big cats , chimpanzees , penguins, seals etc.

Every year 700 million people visit zoos worldwide, a figure equivalent to 10 % of the world population . This means that modern zoos are – today – the most effective and powerful tool for raising awareness for the conservation of nature. Therefore, our commitment grows stronger day by day and we will continue to strive to ensure the welfare of our animals and to protect habitats and species seriously in danger of extinction.

I am convinced of the importance of zoos for animals and nature and I am the first to criticize those zoos where the animals are not properly cared for, no effort is made to try and educate the visitors, and no work is aimed at conservation. We will always work together with those looking to make zoos more useful tools for animals and nature, striving everyday for improvement.

Due to the reasons mentioned above and to the many expressions of concern and love for animals that the case of Morgan has generated, Loro Parque profoundly wishes and recommends to all those who – like us – love animals, to stop destroying the work we do for nature, and the effort we devote to the conservation of endangered species that are seriously threatened and need sincere commitment. We are convinced that more than 45 million people who have visited our park have become, without a doubt, defenders of nature.

Sincerely,
Wolfgang Kiessling
President

The truth about Morgan

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On 23 April 2014 the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State in the Netherlands found that the Minister for Agriculture had acted lawfully when it transferred Morgan to Tenerife in 2011 because “there was no sufficiently realistic and satisfactory alternative in this case.”

This is the 5th time that the administration of the Netherlands ratifies the validity of CITES permission to make the transfer of the animal, despite successive unfounded attacks and appeals made by some organizations based on false and malicious information. The organizations proclaim themselves animal defenders and systematically attack Loro Parque.

Morgan is a not suitable candidate for release into the wild. Contrary to misinformed reports, her family group has never been located. Several unanimous scientific reports have advised against releasing Morgan, and have stated that her chances of survival without the family group are minimal or non-existent.

The Dutch government decided to keep Morgan in human care, so as not to expose her to certain death or suffering as a result of release plans that did not guarantee her survival.

Morgan has been perfectly integrated into the social group at Loro Parque since 2011, and behavioral studies conducted by experts at the University of La Laguna prove that allegations about continued aggression are completely false. Over hundreds of hours of observation, it has been noticed that Morgan spends time with all the animals in the group and has social bonds with them all.

Loro Parque has accommodated orcas since 2006 and Morgan has not led to any increase in the number of visitors. Loro Parque never requested the addition of Morgan to the group, but accepted the plea for help, as it has done for 40 years with various species of animals such as parrots, chimpanzees, tigers, gorillas, penguins, etc.

The decision to transfer Morgan was taken by a committee of officials from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, later confirmed by a second independent committee, and the whole process was overseen by three judges.

The transfer of Morgan to Loro Parque, as with all zoological operations of our institution, was conducted in compliance with all laws and regulations, including those relating to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora(CITES), European legislation (Directive338/97), the legislation of Spanish Zoos (Law 31/2003) and was verified by the competent bodies of this autonomous community.

It is 41 years since Loro Parque opened its doors for the first time and it has now grown to one of the best known and most respected zoological gardens in the world, both for its exceptional beauty, excellent facilities and as for its focus on nature and the environment. For these reasons Loro Parque is the world’s first zoological park awarded in 2008 with the international environment certification “Biosphere Park – Animal Embassy”, a seal of quality developed by the Institute of Responsible Tourism (ITR), linked to UNESCO, whose aim is the application of sustainable practices in parks and zoos. In this sense, it is the first zoo to obtain this international recognition, together with its compliance of ISO 14001, ISO 9000 and EMAS requirements.

Loro Parque has been also honoured with many national and international awards over the years such as the “Green Tree” from the Ministry of Tourism in Germany, the “Award of Excellence” from TUI UK, and “Merit for Tourism” and the “Gold Medal for Tourism” from the Ministry of Business and Tourism of Spain and the local and Regional Government, the Gold Medal from Puerto de la Cruz and the “Gold Medal” from the Cabildo de Tenerife. It is also the only company in the Canary Islands with the distinction of receiving the “Prince Felipe Award for Business Excellence”.

Cronograma from the last 5 years of Morgan.

Official statement from the Council of State of the Netherlands

Open Letter to the Defenders of Nature

RIO 2 Presentation

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The famous Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha chose Loro Parque for the presentation of his new film Río 2, released on Friday, April 4th, in Spanish cinemas. Among the visitors was singer Soraya Arlena, the Spanish voice of one of the characters. Furthermore, Loro Parque´s president Wolfgang Kiessling and Loro Parque Fundación’s Director David Waugh were present, explaining the commitment of the Foundation to the protection of the Blue Macaws, the protagonists of this film.

The second part of the RÍO films by the producer of the Ice Age saga was eagerly awaited by the young visitors. This was a great opportunity for calling the little ones’ attention to the significance of environmental protection and how human behaviour can lead to the extinction of species. Loro Parque Fundación pursues this target with its education and conservation projects. This film facilitates spreading a more attractive message.

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There are only 79 Spix’s Macaws left in the world. Since 1999 Loro Parque Fundación has invested more than US$1,000,000 for conserving the species in officiall accordance with the Department for Husbandry and Reproduction of the Brazilian Government. Although in the whole world not a single Spix’s Macaw is showed in a zoo, the visitors of Loro Parque get the chance to admire many other impressing Blue Macaws, for example the Lear’s Macaw (of which only 1,200 wild animals have remained) and the Hyacinth Macaw, the biggest parrot in the world measuring more than one metre.

Kea in the snow

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Release of a Neighborhood Farm

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In recent days the neighbours around Loro Parque have informed us about the illegal trespassing of strangers on their privately properties, invading totally the privacy of their land and homes. These strangers announced themselves as members of the organization Free Morgan Foundation, when they were surprised by the owners of the surrounding farms hidden in the vegetation and with powerful photographic equipment, while attempting to violate the security fences bordering our park facilities.

We consider this as a morally improper, offensive and disrespectful attitude and it demonstrates, once again, that the only purpose of these small groups of activists is to discredit a zoological institution, at any price, even committing a crime like this. We also regret that these groups use this type of strategy in addition to false and incorrect arguments to gain visibility and the support of persons of goodwill who, in the same way as Loro Parque, only desire the well-being of the animals.

We also want this momentum to be directed to the real work for the conservation of those animal species that are really endangered and need the truly sincere commitment of everyone.