Archive for April, 2011
Bosses at Edinburgh Zoo have called a crisis meeting over fears a lucrative giant panda deal is at risk.
It comes after senior executive Gary Wilson was suspended over allegations he stole from a £4.5million monkey house project.
Director of animals Iain Valentine, who helped broker the £6million deal with the Chinese to bring giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang to the zoo, was also suspended. And director of development Anthony McReavy was sacked over an email row.
Members of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, who run the zoo, will question senior management about the scandals at an emergency general meeting on May 12.
The latest development increases speculation that the crisis could jeoparidise the panda deal.
Donald Emslie, chairman of the RZSS board, has agreed to “give what information we can legally provide”.
The RZSS have around 23,000 members but the meeting at the zoo’s education centre will only be able to accommodate around 250.
From: The Weather Network
On the morning of Apr 22, a wild giant panda was found by a local villager when it reached Fenghe Village, Songpan County in Aba Prefecture. After more than 10 hours of rescue efforts, this three-year-old wild giant panda was carried downhill and proceeded to be sent to the China Giant Panda-Protection and Research Center for treatment. Aba Prefecture is on the Southern rim of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and in the northwestern Sichuan Province. China’s largest natural habitat for giant pandas, Wolong Nature Reserve, is located in Aba Prefecture.
Around 9:00 a.m. on Apr 22, villager Yan Dejin of Fenghe Village, Songpan County was about to go uphill to grow rhubarb as usual. When he arrived at Laoying (Glede) Hill of Chengzi Gully, he was surprised to find a giant panda moving slowly and inhaling with difficulty. Then he reported to the Forestry Bureau of Songpan County.
After hearing the information, the Party Committee of Songpan County soon organized staffs at the Forest Public Security, the Panda-Protection Office, the Forestry Station and the Public Security Department to hurry to the scene and carry out the prompt rescue operation. Due to the lack of career anesthetists, they decided to cast a net to seize the panda. At 5:00 pm, up to more than 50 people came to the scene. They overcame difficulties arising from steep slopes and difficult road conditions; they carried out six catching attempts and finally got it and sent it downhill.
After that, the Forestry Bureau of Songpan County contacted the Wolong Reserve with the permission of the Sichuan Provincial Forestry Bureau and, in the evening, career veterinary Deng Linhua from the Panda Research Center of the Wolong Reserve arrived in Songpan, where he made a tentative diagnosis of the giant panda’s condition.
Deng Linhua said this giant panda was relatively weak and, to determine what factors behind its weakness as quickly as possible, they would send it to the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base for rescue treatment.
According to observations and analyses of professionals of the China Panda-Protection and Research Center, this giant panda is about 1.4 meters in length and 60 kilograms in weight. When it was moved downhill, it was dehydrated seriously as it had not eaten food for a long time. So, it was quite weak, seemed timid and nervous and it is in urgent need of treatment. Up to date, this wild giant panda has been sent to the China Panda-protection Research Center for treatment.
A new volunteer project has been established to help conserve the last remaining Qinling pandas, a subspecies of the giant panda. According to WWF China, there are only around 200-300 of the Qinling panda left in the wild following the destruction of habitat, a lack of conservation resources, and poaching.
There have been grave concerns over the future of the species as China continues its rapid economic development. The Western China Development Programme in particular is expected to increase the pressure on the survival of the remaining pandas in the area. The Qinling panda population is especially fragile, since it is distributed in a separate mountain range with little connection to others.
However those intent on preventing the extinction of the giant panda have made some progress. In late 2002, the Shaanxi provincial government officially sanctioned five new panda reserves and five panda corridors to link panda populations, increasing protected areas in Qinling by 130,000 hectares (Source: http://www.wwfchina.org). There are now over 30 giant panda reserves in China, protecting about 50% of the panda habitat.
The challenge now is to ensure that there are sufficient resources in these reserves to ensure that conservation is successful. GVI, one of the world’s most progressive volunteering organisations, has therefore launched an unique two-week expedition to assist trackers in the Foping Nature Reserve. Volunteers will help monitor and patrol different areas of the reserve and will learn to identify panda footprints, droppings and recent feeding areas. Only a few hundred permits are released each year to international visitors to enter Foping, and GVI volunteers have special permission to visit and assist at the research station.
After spending time in the reserve and working with local trackers and researchers, volunteers will have a greater understanding about the issues facing pandas and their continued survival, and it is hoped that they will spread this message to a wider audience on their return home.
The Foping Nature Reserve is also home to a host of rare species, as one visitor to the reserve highlighted: “I never imagined to see pandas in the wild, let alone takins, golden snub-nosed monkeys, serow, govel, wild boar and all the amazing birds. To top it all off, we had an amazing staff of guides and trackers to truly make this a once in a lifetime experience.”
The grant will go toward the zoo’s current $25.7 million capital campaign, the attraction’s first fundraising campaign in a dozen years.
The centerpiece of the campaign will be the building of a new amphibian and reptile complex to replace the 1960s-era reptile house that currently is in disrepair.
“The zoo’s plans are very exciting,” said Russ Hardin, president of the Whitehead Foundation. “We have gone from having one of the worst zoos in the country to one of the best. The reptile house is unfinished business in that transformation.”
For Zoo Atlanta CEO Raymond King, this campaign is all about contributing to Atlanta’s profile as a cultural tourism destination.
“We are a very good zoo, but we want to be a great zoo,” King said. “Atlanta deserves a zoo that’s worthy of this city’s place on the world map.”
The reptile complex was designed in the late 1950s and opened in 1962. “It was one of the few buildings that didn’t get redone when we rejuvenated the zoo,” King said. “A lot of the collections are not even on display. It’s one of the most depressing buildings we have.”
Plus, the existing reptile house has become an accreditation liability. Zoo Atlanta is thought to be a well-run zoo, but it has been told that it has to “deal with the reptile building because it is beyond its useful life,” King said.
The zoo made news last August when a rattlesnake escaped from an unsecured cage. It was ultimately found two days later across the street from the zoo.
“The day I think there’s a safety issue in that building, we will shut the building down,” King says. “We have just had a safety audit done.”
So far, including the Whitehead gift, Zoo Atlanta has raised $14.1 million toward its capital campaign. Its top corporate gift was $1 million from Southern Co./Georgia Power Co. The zoo’s board members have contributed $2 million, United Parcel Service Inc. has given $500,000, and there was $2.4 million remaining from the 2007 city of Atlanta bond issue that is going toward the new reptile attraction.
The honorary co-chairs of the campaign are Stephanie and Arthur Blank, and Cecelia and David Ratcliffe. The campaign’s co-chairs are Liz and Mark Lazarus, Danielle and Glen Rollins, and Lovette and Michael Russell.
King, a former SunTrust Banks Inc. executive who was named Zoo Atlanta’s CEO nearly a year ago, said the campaign is to build the first phase of a master plan that was completed years ago.
The problem, however, was that the zoo had lost money for 11 of the past 12 years, and it was important to get the attraction’s financial house in order.
One of the major reasons for its annual shortfall was its panda exhibit and its $1.1 million annual commitment to the Chinese government for panda conservation initiatives. But King’s predecessor, Dennis Kelly, successfully renegotiated a new five-year agreement that lowered the zoo’s annual panda conservation costs to $570,000.
Thanks to that savings and additional cost cutting, the zoo managed to eke out a small surplus in 2010 despite a difficult economy and bad weather that led to a lower than normal attendance with 675,000 visitors. (Attendance is up 30 percent so far this year.)
When King and his board realized that Zoo Atlanta could break even despite depressed attendance, they decided it was the right time for a fundraising campaign and increasing the zoo’s visibility in Atlanta’s philanthropic sector. The zoo receives no annual operating support from the city.
King said the goal is to finish raising the $25.7 million by early 2012. It will take 18 months to build the new amphibian and reptile complex, which will open in either the spring of 2013 or 2014.
As soon as that money is raised, King said the zoo immediately will try to raise another $10 million for a new veterinary facility. The current vet clinic is in the zoo’s former lawn-mower maintenance facility.
The zoo is Atlanta’s oldest cultural institution. In the early 1980s, Parade Magazine declared the zoo, then operated by the city, the worst in the country. That led to a civic initiative to transform the zoo and create a privately run nonprofit — Zoo Atlanta.
“Today, we are one of the best small urban zoos in the country,” said King. It is one of only four U.S. zoos to have pandas.
The zoo is located in Grant Park on 35 acres, a relatively small footprint. As currently configured, it has a maximum capacity of about 900,000 annual visitors, and it usually attracts about 700,000.
Once the new master plan is fully implemented in multiple phases, King said the zoo’s capacity should double to 1.8 million annual visitors. “I personally think we have sufficient land,” he said.
King said the zoo will be able to generate enough cash flow for its $15 million annual operations budget when it is able to attract about 1 million visitors a year.
The new reptile complex will be on the northeast corner of the zoo’s property adjacent to the zoo’s new front door off Boulevard. It will cover about 1.5 acres and include boardwalks, animal habitats and visitor viewing areas along with 18,000 square feet of air-conditioned interior habitat exhibits, viewing areas, a theater and visitor comfort facilities. The interior space will double the size of the existing 9,000-square-foot reptile house.
It is a bit ironic that the first major project under King’s watch is the new reptile complex. “When I came, I had a major phobia of snakes,” he said. “I have come to appreciate the beauty of snakes.”
Well, to say that we have been lucky is an understatement here at the panda base. We have been so lucky!!!! Yesterday was our first day back at the base since I left with Wang Wang and Fu Ni by my side. It was strange to come back as all the excitement and anticipation of the past events came rushing back! Now 18 months on from my first meeting of Wang Wang and Fu Ni I am back, a lot wiser but still with so much to learn.
When we arrived at the base it was nice to be greeted by many familiar and friendly faces that we had met during our last visit. Straight away we were told that we were very fortunate to have arrived when we did, as they were going to be doing an introduction of a male and female giant panda for breeding that very same day!
We headed to the introduction and birthing facilities and to our surprise (and delight) we were introduced to three visiting staff from other institutions. There is currently one panda keeper from Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, a PhD student from Oregon Zoo (in association with San Diego Zoo) and another PhD and Veterinarian, in association with Washington Zoo!
We were so thrilled when they met us and called us their lucky charms. Two of these visiting staff had already been at the panda base for almost 3 weeks and had not seen any introductions or Artificial Inseminations (AI) procedures. On our first day we were able to see a natural mating, we felt very privileged! We thought that nothing could top that as a first day experience…then today when we arrived we were told we were going to be able to see an AI procedure as well!
So we have only been at the base for two days and have been so lucky to see the two most important things we have come to see. We have already learnt so much and are very hopeful that we continue to see more matings during our stay. This information that we are learning will play a vital role in how successful we will be in the future with Wang Wang and Fu Ni. I am so thrilled and excited for what lies ahead for Adelaide Zoo and our wonderful black and white friends!
Despite recent press reports and unfounded speculation that Edinburgh Zoo’s Giant Panda Project is in any sort of jeopardy, the Board of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland would like to confirm that it is very much business as usual on plans to bring a pair of breeding pandas to Edinburgh Zoo later this year.
The agreement to bring the pandas to Edinburgh was signed at the highest level by the RZSS and our priority is to ensure that everything is in place for their arrival. Our teams of highly qualified and committed keepers, conservation and operational staff are fully advanced in developing all aspects of the project. The new enclosure is well underway and our research collaboration with the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association is agreed. We will be welcoming a delegation from China, possibly in May, when we will be showing them the enclosure and finalising details for the pandas’ transportation and acclimatisation at Edinburgh Zoo. Around the same time, a team from Edinburgh Zoo will be going back out to China to continue the process of learning more about panda behaviour and care from the experts at the Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an where Tian Tian and Yang Guang are now being cared for.
The Giant Panda Project is important not just for Edinburgh Zoo, but for Scotland and, indeed, the UK. Recent internal issues at the Zoo have no bearing on the operational aspects of the Giant Panda project. Edinburgh Zoo remains committed to delivering the world-class collaboration that we have agreed with China and we will continue to liaise closely with the Chinese authorities at every level.
Reinstalled Java, still nothing. Will try everything possible.