Sunday, 29 December 2013

Lions and Tigers and Liligers, oh dear.

So yeah, provided you don't live in a zoological barn or under the general vale of scientific ignorance that seems to absolutely saturate some parts of the world, you'll be aware that just a few weeks back, more liligers were created (I use the term created because these creatures are not the product of a natural process anymore than a mongrel dog is).

Obviously there are the ludicrous individuals who push this sort of nonsense as "conservation" based on absolutely unproven and tenuous theories they probably came up with in the tub, which is obviously no basis at all.

More the point here is that I find it soul destroying that this kind of nonsense is still happening in the world. 1900's menageries with limited scientific understanding and a little unhealthy curiosity? YES, 100 years on when we have mapped entire genomes, lost several species/subspecies of big cat already and have a multitude of legal and practical tools at our disposal to help us conserve on many levels?? ABSOLUTELY NO!

Whats even worse is that whilst this takes place, well meaning people are literally having their minds polluted with nonsense, which in turn only continues to justify these peoples beliefs and actions.

 50% of the problem here is the perpetrators, the ones who breed mutations and create breeds (which isn't the end of the world providing you maintain welfare and don't pedal yourself as some sort of conservation hero) but what is the other 50% of the problem? What allows this kind of approach to get off the starting blocks in the first place??


The very term makes my skin crawl, because in an industry where compassion, conviction an spirit should be defining trait to drive forward our conservation efforts, many seem to be quite comfortably numb towards such detrimental behaviour. THIS SORT OF MISINFORMATION CORRUPTS, DISTORTS AND BACKPEDALS THE MESSAGE WE WORK HARD EVERY DAY T TRY AND TEACH! Our acceptance is contributing to these problems as much as the people who organize them, you and I have a responsibility as educated individuals in the same way that a doctor has a responsibility to highlight a disease risk to his patient. If we can stand by apathetically and do nothing then who will?

There are of course a few individuals inside and outside of the industry who do speak up, and credit to them for taking on their responsibility and embracing it with every fibre of their being, but sadly there are many who would happily stand by and make these people look like fools. Such names as "anti", "activist", "AR", "extremist", "purist" and a host of other labels have been rather harshly thrown at such people as if they were enemies, when in reality these individuals are keepers just like ourselves who want nothing more than progress based on reliable scientific research. To shun them is to shun the future.

If you are not already one of these people, ask yourself what you could do to help push such practices out of the spotlight of mainstream media and underground where they belong, better still out of existence. We don't live in the dark ages and these practices are a hazard to us and the public's future perception of us. SPEAK UP!

I have more to say on the topic and I'm sure I probably will at some point in future as these stories unfold further, but for now I'll leave it at this.

 “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”
― Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle 
For something absolutely cringeworthy -

Monday, 16 December 2013

The dreaded "E" word

You know, that horrible decision people like to dress up under a multitude of guises to mask the subconscious ghastly reality of euthanasia.

Now don't get me wrong, animal euthanasia has it's place, and it's very, very important. People often get me down as a softie bunny hugger because of my views on the topic, but the fact is, I once was in the same camp that can base such decisions on financial of convenience grounds alone, but over the last few years (and a lot of thinking about the subject) I have come through the other side and now find myself strongly disagreeing with the idea of convenience euthanasia.

I feel there are a lot of MASSIVE contradictions in zoo circles which really need to be addressed, now I don't mean to throw a lion among the ostriches, but some of these issues, I feel, are stunting the progress of zoos and are ticking timebombs of PR waiting to be grasped by those who'd wish to see zoological collections consigned to history.

Now granted, there are many people who feel zoos have no place in modern society and will grab at any opportunity to disrupt our progress and indeed there are a few within the zoo fraternity who blur the lines and sow confusion for reasons of their own I can only presume. To protect ourselves from these individuals we must use every possible opportunity to show our conservation contributions, we need to wear them proudly. Too many zoos (in the UK at least) have made enormous contributions to in-situ conservation and continue to do so, but evidence of this in your average zoo day out is seldom forthcoming in any obvious way and this just aids these sorts of people in creating a negative image.

And this is where we come to the euthanasia connection. To avoid any undue connections I'll set up an example to illustrate an idea, which is open to critique (I'm just putting forth my thoughts here).

Situation 1.

Hans is a male unicorn. He has sired 33 foals (that's a baby unicorn right?) the entire studbook population for this species is 255 and his genes are over represented. Hans is a very popular animal at the zoo and visitors really love to see him. A new stallion will be coming to the collection as a replacement for Hans but there is currently no suitable collection for Hans to move to, therefore he must be put to sleep as he's eating another unicorn's hay so to speak.

Situation 2.

Hans is a male unicorn. He has sired 33 foals, the entire studbook population for this species is 255 and his genes are over represented. Hans is a very popular animal at the zoo and visitors really love to see him. A new stallion will be coming to the collection as a replacement for Hans, meanwhile word has spread amongst the public that Hans will be leaving the zoo (maybe with a little extra media help) and attendance numbers have risen slightly with visitors wishing to see Hans off before he leaves, bringing in a little extra revenue to pay for the extra expenses involved. Thankfully for Hans, the collection had priced his transfer into a long term plan for him when he was initially aquired, this means he can be safely returned to Xanadu (or wherever unicorns come from) and be placed into a rehabilitation  programme and eventually re-released, this of course being done in the media eye and raising more positive PR for the collection and the studbook as a whole.  Also all this media attention has drawn attention to Hans replacement too, extra visitors come to see if the new guy is as cool as Hans

Let's not be naive, not all of this is possible straight away nor will it be applicable to all species, but with careful planning, media support and a bit of luck, the extra revenues and PR will easily pay for any expenses incurred during the transfer back to the wild. That's not all either, Overall, if this scheme could be refined there are a multitude of benefits...

- Hans lives beyond his useful lifespan within the zoo, a retirement of sorts for his contributions to his species.

- All of the obvious PR benefits involved with re-release of animals into the wild

- Hans could be castrated before release (providing it wouldn't effect his survival chances) and act as a test dummy for in-situ research and potential re-release of animals in future, further assisting his species and providing a reliable plan to follow when the time comes to re-release further specimens.

- The issue of convenience euthanasia could be entirely removed from the equation, smoothing out another chink in the armour of zoos and putting us all in a stronger position than before.

- We're contributing even more to a bigger picture globally and making that role in conservation crystal clear to our visitors and critics alike.

Granted, it's not the easiest plan, but with co-ordination costs could be cut, plans and protocols put in place to reduce complications and turn the process into routine.

The way things are in some places now, not only are the animals missing out, but in some cases, we could be too.

If anyone's remotely serious about practicing what we preach, we must surely do more to move in this direction and ostracise those that choose to take the easiest/cheapest options.

Bottom line for me is, I think that there are many salvageable situations of this sort which we let pass us by, we owe it to the individuals within our care to do the best by them too, it's easy to pipe up with the old "species over individual" jive, but in reality right now we have many generations of individuals being born and euthanised in collections without a reasonable re-release plan in sight to justify such ideologies. When do we make the call? when is it time to start releasing?? presumably when we have too many in zoos right? 

That's my 2 cents, feel free to comment, I'm always open to debate. Hans and I will be waiting in the stocks for the rotten produce!