October 6, 2009
Belgrade zoo lost two of its kangaroos last Wednesday, one to a hit-and-run driver, Associated Press reports.
Serbian police were alerted to the escaped ‘roo, but arrived to find it dead, the apparent victim of a traffic accident.
“Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do,” shrugged senior officer Zeljko Perosevic.
Later that day, bewildered authorities were summoned to Belgrade zoo to investigate the death of yet another kangaroo. An intruder had evidently scaled the wall of the marsupials’ enclosure, slain the mother and made off with the joey.
The deaths come a year after a female kangaroo took fright at an emu, dropped her infant and refused it any further access to her pouch. It is not known whether it was the same macropods who perished in this year’s incident.
According to a recent study back home Down Under, kangaroos have caused over two thousand traffic accidents in the past decade. A human is treated for injuries sustained in just such an accident every three days.
As for the death toll among the marsupials themselves, a 2006 study found that kangaroos were killed at a rate of 0.03 animals per kilometer per day on a sample stretch of road in New South Wales.
The Road Kill Café — motto: “You kill it, we grill it” — has recently expanded into Australia from its native Montana. Whether they intend to open a branch in downtown Belgrade remains to be seen.
October 6, 2009
To lose one Red Panda, as Lady Bracknell might have observed, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both, as Galloway Wildlife Park in Kirkcudbright did last February, looks like carelessness.
The adult female, Pichu, was recovered two months later. Her cub Isla remained at large until last Thursday, BBC News reports.
Sadly, last week Isla was found injured by the side of the road between Kippford and Dalbeattie in Kirkudbrightshire. She was taken to a vet, but later succumbed to her injuries.
At the time of the escape, park owner John Denerley expressed cautious optimism for the future of the pandas, telling the BBC: “To cope with the lack of food during the winter months, red pandas have evolved several ways of meeting their energy demands. They … have a very low metabolic rate – almost as low as sloths – and can slow their metabolism even further in colder temperatures.”
Last week Denerley said: “Amazingly, Isla survived in the wild for such a long period and was in good condition since she escaped … We are devastatingly upset over her death.”
The Red Panda, also known as the Lesser Panda, or Firefox, is of uncertain phylogenetic affinity. Scientists have reached some agreement on what it is not: a cat, a raccoon, a fox or a bear. Indeed it may not even be a panda. But what it is remains a contentious issue.
A recent discussion of the phylogeny of this Asian curiosity can be found in Flynn et al. (DOI: 10.1006/mpev.2000.0819), who place it among the badgers.
August 18, 2009
A flamingo that fled the clutches of Sedgwick County Zoo, KA, has been photographed sojourning on the Gulf Coast, the Wichita Eagle reports.
The bird, one of a pair that escaped the zoo in June 2005, has been spotted a number of times since he slipped his captors. The other, blown northward by a storm, has proven more elusive, having been spotted only once, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in 2008.
“It’s good to know that [the more southerly flamingo] is still doing well,” said Christan Baumer, spokeswoman for Sedgwick County Zoo.
The flamingoes were due a wing-clipping to prevent just such an escape, but their primaries proved too short for the procedure. Days before they were destined for the veterinarian’s knife, strong winds helped them aloft, and thence to freedom.
July 28, 2009
An MoD dog handler has captured video footage of a big cat wandering across railway tracks in Argyll, BBC Scotland reports.
Pc Chris Swallow, a dog handler stationed at HMNB Clyde, Faslane, was helping a friend clear their garden when he spotted the “labrador sized” creature on the tracks.
“There were trains coming and going throughout the day and I was a bit concerned, but when I looked again I saw that the animal wasn’t moving the way I expected a dog to,” he told BBC Scotland.
“It was then I realised that what I was seeing was a big cat and I shouted on my friend to come and have a look. We were stunned.”
Pc Swallow raced to his car to retrieve his camera phone, and succeeded in taking some remarkable footage of the beast.
John Belshaw, pest control officer at the Faslane naval base, said: “I have had a look at Chris’s footage and have to say that I do not believe it is a domestic cat or a dog …. You can tell from the size of the track that it is much larger than a house cat.”
Shaun Stevens, of Big Cats in Britain, said “Knowing the width of the rail tracks in Chris’s video is 4ft 8.5in, the animal photographed by him is clearly in excess of 4ft and as such is certainly not a domestic cat. Initial first impressions are very exciting, as I think this could be one of the best pieces of footage of a big cat in the UK ever.”
Not to be outdone, Stevens boasted “I myself have photographed a black hybrid cat of over 3.5ft in length”.
July 13, 2009
An orangutan at Perth Zoo savoured the sweet taste of freedom for five fleeting minutes before voluntarily returning to her enclosure, WAToday reports.
The escape is remarkably similar to that of Karta, who defeated the electric fence at her Adelaide Zoo enclosure in May, only to give herself up minutes later.
Perth’s pongid Houdini is named Pulang, which, appropriately enough, means “come home” in Malay.
Once again, where humans design new enclosures for apes, hubris swiftly follows: WAToday reports Pulang’s new home was “state of the art”, and designed to “mimic the Sumatran jungle”. Its shortcomings were sufficiently obvious to the fifteen-year-old primate that she immediately loosened a rope from a fixing bolt and swung her way to freedom.
As is now traditional, a largely pointless “security review” has been ordered by zoo top brass. Chief executive Susan Hunt noted that “orangutans are [one] of the world’s most intelligent, inquisitive and agile creatures … capable of picking locks and undoing bolts and screws.
July 7, 2009
A thirty-strong platoon of chimpanzees escaped their enclosure at Chester Zoo and sacked the keepers’ food-preparation area, Reuters reports.
The hungry hominins’ escape prompted a precautionary evacuation of the zoo. An unnamed spokeswoman told Reuters: “We had an army of chimps eating their way through the keeper’s kitchen and the decision was taken, quite rightly, to evacuate.
“By around 4 pm we had managed to get all the chimps back in their enclosure, some of them with very full bellies.”
Zoo director general Gordon McGregor Reid told BBCNews: “It was a bit like an old-fashioned chimps tea party… they’ve certainly had a ball in that room that’s for sure.”
An enquiry is underway to understand how the apes made good their escape. The zoo’s blacksmith has been summoned to inspect door latches.
Although the foodstore was pillaged, the chimpanzee raiding party mercifully failed to discover the powder magazine.
May 29, 2009
A feral child has been discovered in rural Russia, Reuters reports.
The five year old girl, whose development is more akin to a two-year-old, was found by Russian police in the Siberian city of Chita. Unable to speak a human language, she had taken on the vernacular of her adoptive canine parents.
Natascha, the feral child discovered in Chita, Siberia.
“For five years, the girl was ‘brought up’ by several dogs and cats and had never been outside,” a police statement said. “When carers leave the room, [she] jumps at the door and barks.”
“Natasha” has been transferred to an orphanage while her (human) mother is questioned by police. The whereabouts of her biological father is not known.
Everything you wanted to know about human children raised by animals, including the unique case of the ostrich boy, is available at feralchildren.com.
May 29, 2009
Visitors to Adelaide Zoo were evacuated after a Sumatran orangutan mounted a successful escape bid, the Associated Press reports.
The 137-lb female short-circuited an electric fence by jamming a stick into its power supply, before fashioning a makeshift ladder and scaling the walls of her enclosure.
Karta the orang utan. You may sleep safe at night.
Karta, 27, remained atop the fence for half an hour before deciding to return to captivity.
“I think when she actually got out and realized … she shouldn’t be there, so then she’s actually hung onto the wall and dropped back into the exhibit,” zoo curator Peter Whitehead told reporters.
The zoo was evacuated as a precautionary measure, and vets armed with tranquilizer guns stood by in case things turned nasty.
Zoos South Australia’s Conservation Psychologist Dr Carla Litchfield told ABC’s PM programme that the pongid was probably searching for her mate Pusung, who died last month from a respiratory infection.
“It’s very possible she was looking for Pusung because to her he’s missing and perhaps he’s around here somewhere. That’s possibly what was going through her head but of course we can’t see into their heads and we can’t ask them to tell us,” Dr Lichfield said.
March 31, 2009
The Twin Cities are significantly safer after an escaped goat was gunned down by police, the Pioneer Press reports.
The caprine menace escaped from a meat processing plant, marauding the mean streets of South St Paul, Minnesota, before being dispatched by an officer with a 12-gauge loaded with buckshot.
Police Chief Dan Vujovich defended the officer’s decision to use a shotgun (rather than, for example, a meat cleaver or hand grenade).
“I also think that if there was a situation where a goat did injure somebody, there would be more of an outrage of why we didn’t take more aggressive action when we had the opportunity,” Vujovich continued, before perusing the menu of a local Jamaican restaurant.
Controversy surrounds the goat’s demeanour. Concord Fresh Meat employees claimed the animal was so agressive that it could not be persuaded to return to its pen. St Paul resident Glenn Boche, on the other hand, describes a much more circumspect animal. He witnessed the goat contemplating Christmas reindeer figures in his yard, perhaps wondering when the hell Boche planned to take his decorations down.
In addition to expressing disgust at the bloody entrails left at the scene, South St. Paul residents feared their beloved Oreo, a law-abiding goat who has lived locally for some years, might die in a cruel case of mistaken identity. Happily, Oreo still browses the verdant slopes of Minnesota unmolested.
The escaped goat had been at large for ten days before it was finally brought to justice.
March 25, 2009
Auckland is a couple of penguins short of a zoo after a series of mysterious deaths, the New Zealand Herald reports.
Four of the zoo’s six-strong colony of Little (Blue) penguins have died of a “mysterious ailment.” Symptoms included an unusually oily coat, which can (somewhat counterintuitively) lead to waterlogging and subsequent hypothermia. The convalescent sphenisciformes were hand-fed and washed daily to encourage a return to a maritime existence, but, despite the efforts of their keepers, all passed beyond the veil.
A fifth penguin staged a daring escape from an emergency enclosure, but went straight to Davy Jones’ Locker, having fallen headlong into a bucket of water.
“It was just one of those things you wouldn’t think about in advance – a penguin drowning,” said the zoo’s veterinarian John Potter.
Auckland Zoo hopes to restock with rescue penguins whose injuries compromise their ability to feed in the wild.