Chimpanzee army storms zoo foodstore

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.

Penguin drowns in bucket during escape attempt

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.

Stone-throwing chimp plans his attacks

March 11, 2009

A chimpanzee at a Swedish zoo has shown an ability to plan for future events by hoarding stones to fling at visitors.

The surly chimp calmly collects stones and broken pieces of concrete while no-one’s around, and stockpiles them for later use. When zoo visitors later appear at his fence to ogle him, he unleashes his cache of weaponry in an “agitated state”.

“We’ve done experimental studies, and the chimps … show very clearly that they do plan for future needs, but … perhaps this was an experimental artefact,” Dr Mathias Osvath, a cognitive scientist from Lund University, told BBC News.

“Now we have this spontaneous behaviour, which is always in some sense better evidence.”

The chimpanzee, named Santino, seems singularly ill-disposed to zoo visitors. Keepers have removed hundreds of his missiles over the years, which are only ever used to pelt members of the public. During zoo-closure periods, Santino neither hoards nor throws his missiles.

The angry ape shows a surprising determination to batter Joe Public. Even when stones are in short supply, he taps portions of his concrete enclosure and listens for weak points, before breaking off pieces loosened by the Scandinavian frost.

During threat displays, chimpanzees are known to throw whatever comes to hand. Frequently, however, this has come straight out of their arses.

“Spontaneous and unambiguous planning behaviours for future states by non-humans have not previously been reported,” Osvath writes in an article for Current Biology.

Goat tops self in Canadian zoo

January 22, 2009

Swingball presents choking hazard

A Turkmenian markhor shuffled off its mortal coil last Friday when it became entangled in an “enrichment toy”. Staff at Calgary Zoo were alerted to the unfolding drama by a horrified visitor, but were slow to grasp the seriousness of the incident, telling Aubrey Williams: “Oh, they do that all the time”.

The endangered Himalayan goat had leaped from a log in its enclosure, strangling itself with a rope in the process.  Medics were unable to save the animal, despite administering “mouth-to-nose resuscitation and CPR”.

Whether the markhor was unhappily betrothed to a Sudanese man is not known.

(tvm: Tim)

Putting the “ape” in escape

July 24, 2008

Another animal gave his captors the slip on Wednesday, as you can see in this video:

When dealing with recalictrant equids, one must usually choose between the carrot and the stick.  With apes, meanwhile, the alternatives are the dart gun or the banana.  This is evidently not the first time Ichiro has had a taste o’ the tranx, and he seems reluctant to repeat the experience.

SeaWorld: aquarium or circus?

June 30, 2008

Readers might be interested in a more recent post detailing the sad events in Orlando, February 2010.

Reuters reports a stunning jailbreak, led by a giraffe, in which several camels, zebras, llamas and some pot-bellied pigs threw off the yoke of human slavery and made a bid for freedom in the streets of Amsterdam.  Sadly all the creatures were subsequently returned to captivity.  I suspect collusion between the three species of even-toed ungulate, while zebras are known associates of giraffes.  The pigs, in all likelihood, simply noted the circumstances and pressed the advantage: Sus domestica have form.

It is nowadays deeply unfashionable to use performing animals in a circus; the public appears to have accepted that animal suffering is too high a price to pay for a couple of hours’ entertainment.  The popularity of human-only ciruses like Cirque du Soleil is perhaps testament to this, though we still see the occasional dog and pony show here in the UK.

Yet having said all that, there is one sphere in which performing animals still seem acceptable: the aquarium.  Read the rest of this entry »