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Tag: zoo

Lion and dachshund: Who’s getting exactly what out of this relationship?

When it comes to animals, there are those softies among us who see nearly everything they do – especially dogs — as magical and motivated by love.

Then there are those – generally not ohmidog! readers — who see dogs as unfeeling beasts concerned only with their next meal and their own comfort.

When a dog does something that seems kind, noble or otherwise amazing, members of that first group will “ooh” and “ah,” while members of the second will say “so what?” Anything a dog does, in their view, is explainable solely by instincts, training and will to survive. That way dogs snuggle with you at night? They are just trying to keep warm. Those goo goo eyes adoringly staring at you? They’re just trying to manipulate you into providing a treat.

For sure, the first group may often read too much into the motivations behind a dog’s behavior. But, just as surely, the second group sometimes isn’t reading en0ugh.

I, being author of a blog on the amazing things dogs do, am clearly a member of the first group. But, also being a realist and even more of a cynic, I can sometimes – just sometimes – see the second group’s point. As soon as I watched this video, for instance — once my “awwwwwwww” came to the final “w” — I started wondering about the motivations of the lion and dachshund, and, realistically, who was getting exactly what out of this relationship.

Bonedigger, the lion, and Milo, the dachshund, live together at Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla. Milo was among a litter of puppies living a the park when Bonedigger, who suffers from a bone disease, arrived as 4-week-old cub. The pups and lion eat together every day.

After the meal, Milo licks Bonedigger’s teeth clean.

I’d venture Milo is not exhibiting love — or at least not love alone — when he sticks his head into the mouth of a lion. I’d submit, too, that Bonedigger’s dental hygiene is not Milo’s top concern. (Then again, you never know.)

More likely, Milo is after a few final morsels, and Bonedigger, for his part, cooperates because he appreciates the attention, or the gum massage, or having a wiener dog who serves as his own personal flossing aide.

Park president Joe Schreibvogel says the dogs and lion have eaten together since they were youngsters. They also cuddle with each other, and sometimes even mimic each other. It’s as if, species differences aside, they’ve become a pack.

“The dogs thought it was just a big puppy and have loved each other since,” Schreibvogel, who goes by the name “Joe Exotic,”  told Today. The video of the lion and the dog has brought some needed attention to the Oklahoma zoo, which suffered about $18,000 in damage during the recent tornadoes. A spokesperson for the zoo says they’ve taken in about 100 homeless animals — domestic and exotic — since then.

But back to Milo and Bonedigger, and the question at hand.

Who’s getting what from this unlikely inter-species relationship, and who is benefitting most – the tooth-sucking canine, or the massive feline, who, rather than roaring at the little dog, says “ahhh” (or is it awwwww?) and lets him have at it?

My guess, is it’s a third species, one whose members sometimes over-analyze, and sometimes under-analyze, but still haven’t loss the ability to be amazed; one whose members – just as Bonedigger seems to appreciate a good tooth-licking — like to have their hearts warmed now and then.

Judging from the half million views this video has gotten in the past month,  I’d say it ’s us.

Dogs suspected in flamingo deaths at zoo

flamingosBaton Rouge Zoo officials think a pack of wild dogs may be responsible for the Sunday night deaths of 17 flamingos, more than a third of the zoo’s flock.

Despite having 24-hour security, the zoo didn’t discover the deaths until staff arrived for work Monday morning,  Phil Frost, zoo director, told The Advocate.

Zoo officials don’t know how the dogs got into the zoo, or through an additional fence and into the flamingo enclosure, but they said canine paw prints were detected.

Besides the 17 flamingos killed, one more bird was injured in the attack and was being treated at the zoo’s hospital, said Mary Wood, the zoo’s marketing director.

The remaining 30 members of the flock who survived were back on display Monday. Zoo officials aren’t sure how they managed to survive the attack.

Elephant treadmill will train Iditarod dogs

maggieWhat do you do with an ever-so-slightly used $100,000 elephant treadmill?

If you’re a zoo in Alaska, you do the same thing you did with your captive elephant – admit it was a mistake and find it a new home.

The Alaska Zoo had the treadmill custom made so that Maggie the elephant — fat, cold and lonely being the only elephant in Alaska — could get some exercise in her otherwise cramped quarters. When the zoo finally came to its senses and shipped Maggie to a sanctuary in northern California, that left them with a contraption that wasn’t in too great demand. Not the sort of thing you can put out at the yard sale. Though the zoo did try selling it on Craigslist.

While the zoo didn’t get paid for the treadmill, they did find a home for it: Iditarod musher Martin Buser has hauled it to his kennel to be used to train his dogs for the 1,150-mile race, the Alaska Dispatch reports.

While he won’t have it reassembled in time to train dogs for the coming race, Buser, a four-time Iditarod winner, expects to use it in the future. Built for an 8,000-pound elephant, it’s 10,000 pounds and 22 feet long, more than big enough to let a whole team of dogs run on at once.

elephant_treadmillAt Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels, he plans to use it to let his dogs run long distances while getting nowhere, invite scientists to use it to learn more about sled dogs, and possibly entertain tourists who want to see a team of dogs run long distances without getting anywhere — like the Iditarod, only without the freezing cold or the breathtaking scenery.

Maggie the elephant left the Alaska Zoo in 2007, after several years of controversy over whether she should ever have been brought there in the first place.

The treadmill was the zoo’s attempt to get Maggie exercising through Alaska’s long winters. It was one of the steps the zoo took to improve her controversial and cramped living conditions. Critics argued she should be in a warmer climate , with more open space, where she could walk outdoors year-round and be with other elephants.

But the zoo decided to try the treadmill experiment first. It didn’t work out, zoo officials admitted. Maggie would have nothing to do with the treadmill – an objection to which we can relate.

At that point, the zoo gave up and loaded Maggie on an Air Force C-17 for a flight to northern California, where, thanks in part to funding from animal activist/game show host Bob Barker, she’s living the rest of her life at ARK 2000, an animal sanctuary in San Andreas operated by the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

After Maggie left town, Buser called the zoo and inquired about the machine. In exchange for the treadmill, Buser added the zoo to his list of official sponsors.

In addition to drawing tourists, Buser says the treadmill will allow for closer scientific research of his sled dogs. Instruments like oxygen consumption masks and heart rate monitors can yield valuable information, but can’t be used when the dogs are running outside.

Sled dogs cruise at 10 to 12 mph, the Swiss-born Buser said, but he’d like to get the treadmill up to 20 mph so he can put his dogs through some speed workouts. Buser said he probably won’t get his dogs on the treadmill until after the coming Iditarod, which has its ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 6.

Dog serving as mom for rare red panda cubs

Two red panda cubs abandoned by their mother at birth are thriving at a northern China zoo thanks to milk and loving care from a tiny dog serving as surrogate mother.

You can see a photo here.

The cubs, born June 25, were abandoned immediately by their mother after giving birth in front of a crowd of visitors at the Taiyuan Zoo in northern China’s Shanxi province, according to Ha Guojiang, a zoo employee quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

“No one knew she was pregnant. Her plump body and bushy hair disguised her protruding belly until the babies were born,” said Ha. “We hurriedly went about to find a wet nurse for them.”

The dog wet nurse, belonging to a farmer from a nearby suburb, was selected from two other candidates that had recently given birth, according to an Associated Press story.

The dog is now raising the two panda cubs like its own pups, sometimes even refusing to feed its own pup, said Ha.

At 3-weeks-old, the baby cubs have yet to open their eyes and have doubled in length to 8 inches, Xinhua reported.

Unlike the more well-known, giant pandas, red pandas resemble raccoons with long bushy tails. There are believed to be fewer than 2,500 adult red pandas in the world.

Abandoned dog finds home with elephants

A puppy dumped on the side of a road in Alvin, Texas, is now enjoying life with the elephants at a Houston Zoo.

It was Christmas Eve when Alicia Kemery’s neighbor saw someone in a truck dump the pup, a terrier mix only about two months old. The neighbor called Kemery, a keeper at the Houston Zoo, who provided the dog with shelter at her home. Two weeks later — already having five dogs of her own — Kemery sent a zoo-wide e-mail asking if anyone wanted to adopt the black-and-white pup.

Daryl Hoffman, large mammals curator, replied, saying he’d been thinking about adding a dog to the elephant barn — an increasingly popular practice at zoos. Max was an instant hit as soon as he walked into the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat.

Only a few of the elephants were a bit apprehensive when the dog first joined the keepers. “It was this new small thing around, and they didn’t really know what a dog was,” said Dan Calarco, part-time elephant keeper.

But since then Max has settled into a routine with the elephants, the Houston Chronicle reports. After breakfast, he sniffs around the compound until it’s time for the keepers to clean the elephant yard. That signals playtime for Max who loves to fetch, roll and chase the ball that keepers toss for him while they work.

And a Happy Valentine’s Day to You, Too

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? If you were like most Americans, your celebration probably included some flowers or candy, maybe a nice gift of jewelry, perhaps a quiet dinner for two. People in Battle Creek, Michigan and El Paso, Texas had wilder choices.

The Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek hosted a sellout adults-only crowd at their first Zoorotica program on Saturday afternoon. Couples paid $50 to attend  a guided tour of off-limits areas of the zoo where snow leopards, zebras, reptiles, primates, and giraffes are accorded the privacy and surroundings needed to do what comes naturally. According to the zoo’s Website, the three-hour tour (yes!) was led by experienced, unabashed staff members with expert knowledge of the “biting, clawing, scratching and mid-air acrobatics” that spice up the love lives of some of our animal friends. Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, and a souvenir DVD rounded out the event. They didn’t say what, if anything, the animals got for putting up with the visitors.

In case people were–well–overcome by the experience, a nearby Holiday Inn offered a specially-priced overnight getaway for participants. The package featured more conventionally human Valentine options like champagne, rose petals strewn on the bed, chocolates, and dinner for two. Other gift suggestions included one that made a lot of sense: Surprising your sweetie with the gift of a zoo animal adoption.

The citizens of El Paso had a more dramatic Valentines treat last Thursday. When you see a headline on a conventional news outlet that reads, “Half-Naked Women Make Out in Downtown For Animals,” you might suspect our good friends at PETA.  And you’d be right. The purpose of the event, which took place in an area of downtown frequented by families with kids, was to reinforce the idea that vegetarians have more fun because they’re healthier. According to PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne, the event was “a great way to show off what a healthy vegetarian body looks like.”

The event has garnered mixed reviews from the public. If you happened to be a parent with kids in tow, an animal owner, a person who eats meat, a member of the religious right, or just a person who appreciates good theatre, Thursday was probably a bad day to be in downtown El Paso. On the other hand, PETA supporters, slimmed-down vegetarians, and people with juvenile senses of humor had a terrific time.  KFOX TV has video of the demonstration.

Cheers,

Anne & Spencer

Snow leopards enjoy a quiet moment

Snow leopards enjoy a quiet moment

Chapter 3: Will Knut get the boot?

Now fully grown and weighing 440 pounds, Knut bears (sorry) little resemblance to the button-eyed ball of white fluff that stole the hearts of Berlin, Germany and the world.

And, as if he were some TV anchorwoman past what management sees as her prime, zoo officials are saying he may have to go.

This couldn’t be more wrong (be it Knut, or our hypothetical anchorwoman). It’s a clear cut case of exploiting a cute little animal for all he’s worth, then unceremoniously dumping him when he gets fat and grey.

Knut has competition now. Nuremberg zoo officials introduced their own cub, Flocke in April. Another polar bear was introduced a week later, at Stuttgart’s Wilhelma zoo.

But Knut still manages to draw crowds at the Berlin Zoo, where he single-handedly increased visitors by 27 percent in 2007 and brought in $8.6 million in profits from products bearing his image, including stuffed animals, T-shirts, mugs and DVDs, according to an Associated Press report.

Nevertheless the zoo says it must do what is best for Knut — and, given their limited space, that might mean saying goodbye to him.

“The survival of the species is more important than any individual,” bear keeper Heiner Kloes said.

Knut currently lives in a small section of Berlin’s polar bear enclosure, home to four other polar bears, including Knut’s parents Tosca and Lars. That means there is no extra space for Knut.

Kloes said he wouldn’t consider keeping the young bear instead of his father, because by the time Knut is sexually mature the two other females will be too old to bear cubs.

Under a deal with the Neumuenster zoo, which owns Lars, it has the right to Knut. Zoo manager Peter Druewa has said Knut would have to move if the Berlin Zoo is not ready to invest in a new enclosure for him.

“If Berlin doesn’t want to build a new enclosure — or expand one of the existing ones — we’ll need to find a new place for him,” he said.

A website called Unibet is running odds on the zoo likeliest to get the bear, with Zoom Erlebniswelt in Germany the top contender, followed by Tierpark Neumuenster in Germany and Sweden’s Orsa Bjornpark. Also tipped but at longer odds are zoos in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Spain.

Knut still has has public sentiment on his side. Doris Webb, who has followed Knut since he was first presented to the world, has gathered more than 21,000 signatures in support of keeping him in Berlin.

“We want to show how important it is for Berlin, for the people here — and for Knut himself,” she said.

The monkey on Sai Hu’s back

An orphan monkey at a Chinese Zoo was being bullied by bigger primates, so zookeepers gave the little fellow his own personal guard dog.

Keepers at Jiaozuo City Zoo said the monkey was always being picked on, and that they had intervened to save his life several times.

“So we put a dog in the monkey cage, hoping he can protect the orphan,” a zoo spokesman told the China News Network.

The zoo said the dog, Sai Hu, does his job well.

“Whenever the baby monkey gets bullied, he dashes up and drives the others away. And the baby monkey is also very smart. Each time he smells danger he runs to jump on the dog’s back and holds on tight.

“The alpha male monkey has been really unhappy since we sent in Sai Hu. He tried to organize several ambushes on the little monkey, but they all failed because of the dog,” added the spokesman.

The class of “71″

    Slated to be sold to a circus after her mother was killed by hunters, a baby elephant from Africa arrived in the U.S. a quarter of a century ago in chains.
    She had no name, just a number.
It was 71.
    Instead of ending up at a circus, she was purchased by a wealthy landowner in Florida and lived on his estate, but — having been taken so young from her mother — she was malnourished, chronically sick and nearly died.
    In an attempt to save her life, Pat Derby and Ed Stewart, founders of the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California, offered to give her sanctuary.

When she arrived at PAWS, again in chains, veterinarians said she would never be healthy, but Derby and Stewart bottle fed the elephant — whose name would remain simply “71″ — until she was strong enough to eat on her own. They slept with her for months.

“When 71 first arrived and walked out of her crate,” Derby recalls, “we immediately cut the chains from around her neck. We promised her right then she would never again be chained. She would never be beaten. She would never have to do anything she didn’t want to do. We kept that promise to her.”

71 peacefully passed away on Friday, September 19,  PAWS reports. She was 26 years old.

“71 was the cornerstone of PAWS. She was the reason for everything that guides PAWS’ founding mission. She leaves a legacy for the other African elephants, Mara, Ruby, Lulu and Maggie, whom she led,” Derby said.

Derby believes captivity — the practice of capturing elephants, tearing them away from their families, forcing them to live in confined spaces, and using often cruel techniques to train them — is ultimately what destroys them.

“I hope everyone who hears 71′s story will remember her when they see elephants languishing in small spaces, rocking and swaying, deprived of their freedom and their families,” she said. 

Founded in 1984 by Derby, a former Hollywood animal trainer (“Flipper”, “Daktari”, “Gunsmoke”, “Lassie”, “Gentle Ben”) and her partner, Ed Stewart, PAWS maintains three sanctuaries for captive wildlife – 30 acres in Galt, California, 100 acres in Herald, California and 2,300 acres in San Andreas, California.

As an animal trainer in Hollywood — one whose methods were based on trust as opposed to fear — Derby was shocked at what she calls rampant neglect and abuse. Her autobiography, Lady and Her Tiger, was the first expose of the harsh training methods that she says once were standard in the entertainment industry.

PAWS is dedicated to the protection of performing animals, to providing sanctuary to abused, abandoned and retired captive wildlife, to enforcing the best standards of care for all captive wildlife, to the preservation of wild species and their habitat and to promoting public education about captive wildlife issues.

(Photo courtesy of PAWS)

Mommy & Me: Dog nurses tiger cubs

A Golden Retriever is nursing three white tiger cubs at a zoo in southeast Kansas.

Tom Harvey, owner of the Safari Zoological Park in Caney, said the tiger cubs were born Sunday, but the mother stopped caring for them.

That’s when Harvey turned to Isabella, his Golden Retriever, who had just finished nursing her own pups.

“The timing couldn’t have been any better,” he said.

The Safari Zoological Park is a licensed zoo that opened in 1989 and specializes in endangered species. It’s other residents include leopards, lions, cougars, baboons, ring-tailed lemurs, bears, seven white tigers and two orange tigers.

(AP PHOTO from Yahoo News)

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