Posts Tagged ‘Animal Welfare’

Fulong Means Forest: Our Time with Sun Bears

by | January 3rd, 2014

Time with Bears:

Fulong means forest in Lundayieh, a tribal language in Borneo. A tiny sun bear cub, the smallest of all bear species, was found in the forest by a hunter’s dog and brought to the master who gave him the name Fulong.  The man kept the bear in a cage as a pet — but when he found out he could give her a better life, he relinquished her to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, where we sat this morning in rapt attention as Gloria, the head of education, told us the history of some of the beautiful sun bears at the centre.Bear2

Sun bears and the work of Siew Te Wong was our inspiration to embark on a conservation expedition to Borneo in the first place. We have been in full support of his efforts to give a wonderful home to sun bears that all have a different conservation back story. This new center is right next to the Sepilok Orangutan Center and sure to be a hit. Many visitors to Borneo know about Orangutans, and now many will know about this amazing bear.BearGifts

After six years of helping Wong work as the founder and raise funds for this center, it is a THRILL for our group to be here to help them get ready for their soft opening to the public in January. After a survey of our skills and their needs — Gloria and I put together a schedule – and we rolled up our sleeves and got to work!IMG_7531

What a day we are having! In the rain and heat, one group is moving gravel with shovels and wheelbarrows, watching for venomous snakes and tiger leeches. Another is in the bear house, chopping diets of banana, papaya, green beans – and heating an oatmeal-like super nutritious bear meal. Some even enjoy cleaning the night houses in this sparkling new facility.IMG_7523

Carol and Jereld are off with Ling Mai to set up camera traps. We then work with her to create a matrix for observing bears which we will try out this afternoon. Diana then helps create a program to illustrate the data that will be gathered. Carol and Rob sit together at a laptop editing copy for the educational signage for hours and hours, quite happily. Tina then gives her ideas around signage design. We hardly want to break for lunch, but we do, ‘cause it is hot and we have worked up quite an appetite.IMG_7650

After lunch with the bear staff, Lovesong and Mary go off with the bear keepers, exchanging stories and ideas on how to best care for a sun bear. A crew works with Gloria to envision the visitor center’s future displays and interactives. Another crew gathers around Ernie to discuss the gift shop and other ways to bring in extra funds to the program. Apparently t-shirts and postcards are the big sellers, but creativity is flowing. I get to download about education programs, volunteer positions and conservation action and messaging. I also got the pleasure of taking portraits of the staff for their website.
IMG_7658As the afternoon rolls along, I feel so fortunate to have gotten to be here on this day atthis time in the center’s history. What a joy to share what we could with them, and how inspiring to meet this talented and dedicated staff who shared so much with us. We are all lucky, especially bears like Fulong!

 

Deep Dive

by | January 2nd, 2014

I live for a night like this. It is a perfectly warm and still after an evening rain, there was a beautiful sunset and a magnificent full moon, we are on a gorgeous island in the Celebus Sea. How can this be my last night in the wilds of Borneo? Visiting Mabul Island has been the cherry on top of an expedition that went beyond my greatest expectations. Today, we got to truly witness the wonders of the oceans. Some of us went scuba diving, but most of us snorkeled in the reefs and outer islands around Mabul. It is no-wonder this area around Sipidan Island is rated as a world-class dive site.IMG_4907

Some of the group had never seen such underwater wonders and it was a joy to witness the reactions, such as “I’m in a fish tank! “ and “how can this be real?”. Indeed, there were fish of every color, shape and size, like cigar fish that seemed to stand on their tails, bobbing up and down as they moved, parrott fish who you could hear munching on their lunches, lion fish and harlequin sweetlip fish, peacock rabbit fish and even a ray. You cannot help but respect the ocean after you have seen the wild beauty of a coral reef world.

I am so happy that Intrepid Travel, our travel company, chose Scuba Junkie’ Mabul Beach Resort as our place to stay, because on top of the beauty of the habitat, we got to learn about their excellent conservation work. Roan, their conservation manager, gave us an impromptu presentation on the challenges facing sharks due to shark finning and all that they are doing to help with Project AWARE. IMG_4897

We were so inspired, that late this afternoon we spent a few hours combing the beach for garbage. The island is challenged by this issue due to garbage washing in from the open sea, and to the many nomadic people who are currently living on the island. Scuba Junkie is working with them to do better when it comes to throwing away garbage – and it made me think of the challenges on my own street in Oakland, California – not so very different. Joining them in their beach clean-up efforts felt great.IMG_7871 IMG_7849

It is late and most of the group has lumbered off to bed. We spent the night in joyful competition with other divers in a trivia night that raised funds for the victims of the typhoon (we did not win). We also gave toasts to a wonderful expedition.  Toasts were made to the rain, to the orangutans, to the sun bears, to the leeches, to the ocean, to the forest, to our incredible luck at viewing wildlife, to the flying squirrels, to the inspiring people and to the feeling of having been part of something that only happens once in a lifetime. I toasted to Oakland Zoo, for employing me to help wildlife in Borneo and around the world and for allowing me to give others the gift of experiencing the wildlife first hand. It’s been another deep dive conservation expedition that changes lives.

 

What Measure A1 means for Baboons

by | October 15th, 2012

In Africa, Hamadryas baboons are called Sacred baboons because they were once worshipped in Egypt. Six Hamadryas baboons currently call the Oakland Zoo their home, but until this year, there were only five. We brought in Daisy, an elderly female, from another zoo after her mate passed away. Many Zoos would not have taken on the burden of an elderly animal with so many health problems, but that is what makes the Oakland Zoo different.

Daisy came to us with a host of age related medical problems. Like many elderly animals (and people), she has arthritis and requires daily medication with anti-inflammatories to make her comfortable. She also gets a glucosamine supplement to ease the strain on her joints. In addition, she needed some pretty extensive dental work when she arrived, so we brought in the experts from UC Davis’ Veterinary Medical School three times to perform the procedures.

None of this care is low cost, but here at the Oakland Zoo we take our responsibilities to the animals very seriously. The welfare of all the animals is our top priority. Getting great medical care means many animals are outliving their normal expected lifespan, which requires even more care. Daisy is 31 years old. The youngest baboon in our group is 22 years old, this means we have an aging group of animals who are going to continue to need geriatric care. If Measure A1 passes, we can continue to provide the high level of care to all of our Sacred baboons as they reach their golden years. Please consider voting “YES” on Measure A1 this November.

Change the Channel for Chimps!

by | February 1st, 2012

Eddie, a former chimp "actor," who now resides at the Oakland Zoo.

In 2012 we are more enlightened by the plight of animal “actors” than ever before, at least we think we are. It turns out that some people still aren’t getting the message. This weekend is the biggest sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl! If you are anything like me, the commercials are sometimes even more exciting than the football game.

However, despite pleas from many well known animal welfare organizations, some companies, namely CareerBuilder.com, have once again produced advertisements using chimpanzee “actors.” This causes two major problems, the welfare (or lack of) for the individual “actor” and the more global problem of misrepresenting the status of chimps in the wild.

I’ve written about the problems of chimpanzee actors many times, but this is important and bears repeating. These animals are forcibly removed from their mothers as infants. They grow up living under dominance and constant threat of abuse. Chimpanzees need their mothers to teach them social skills so “actors” don’t learn normal chimp behavior. Finally their “career” is over by the time they reach 8-9 years old, not even teenagers, and then they are frequently discarded for the remaining 40-50 years of their lives often not able to be integrated with other chimps because they were not allowed to stay with their mothers long enough to learn how to interact with their own kind. For more information on what happens to chimpanzee “actors” click here.

Globally, seeing chimpanzees dressed up in human clothing and performing on TV and in films gives people the mistaken impression that chimps are not endangered. Two studies have confirmed this misconception in recent years and both were published in peer reviewed scientific journals. People simply don’t think that if an animal is on TV that it could be endangered.

So what can we do about it? Change the channel! I’m not suggesting that you don’t watch the Super Bowl, but I am suggesting that when you see a commercial with Chimpanzees in it, just change the channel for a few minutes, even if you are not one of the Nielsen Families. Share this strategy with your friends and family and encourage them to share it with their friends and families.  If we can get the word out to as many people as possible, it WILL show up on the Nielsen Ratings which will send a message loud and clear. To learn how Nielsen Ratings work, click here. In addition, don’t watch the commercials online. YouTube tracks how many views each clip gets, don’t let them think you are watching it.  Advertisers spend millions of dollars to create these commercials and millions more to get airtime during this event. Maybe if no one watches, they’ll get the picture!

Hairy People

by | March 8th, 2010

Chimpanzee, Photo Courtesy of Oakland Zoo

Why are chimpanzees so fascinating to us? Is it because they are so much like us, sharing 98 percent of our DNA? Does this cause people to minimize their wildness? Or is it the reason we forget entirely that they are inherently wild animals? Does our propensity to anthropomorphize diminish our respect for these majestic primates?
According to a 2008 study published in the journal Science, it does. The results of that study indicated that the frequency with which we see chimpanzees in movies, TV, and commercials leads the general public to believe that chimps are not endangered. In fact, they are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red list. Chimpanzees are already extinct in 4 of the 25 countries in their natural range. Since the 20th century, the estimated chimpanzee population in the wild has been reduced by a staggering 70-80 percent.

Chimpanzees in captivity however, are another story. More than 2000 chimps live in captivity right here in the US. Half of those are in biomedical research and about a quarter of them live in sanctuaries. Only 12 percent of chimps living in the US live in AZA accredited zoos. That leaves nearly 250 chimps in unaccredited facilities or private ownership. In fact, there are over 100 chimps documented as private pets in the US.

How did we get to this point? While the IUCN may list chimps as endangered, it has no recourse for individual countries. Each country makes their own list of endangered species that are protected by their local laws. Chimps in the wild are threatened by habitat destruction and bush meat consumption, but it is all too easy to point the finger at a country halfway across the world. We can and should support these far away places. The Oakland Zoo has made a huge impact by supporting the Budongo Snare Removal Project.

Chimpanzee

However, there are still 2000 chimpanzees in the US, and they didn’t get here by accident. Chimpanzees are the only species that our own government has double listed in our endangered species laws. This is confusing because the United States government classifies WILD chimps as “endangered” and CAPTIVE chimps as “threatened.” This means captive chimps are not afforded the same protection under federal law that every other endangered species receives. Therefore, private breeders are selling chimps to unsuspecting families as pets. Chimps are dressed up in clothes for our entertainment in movies and TV.  Because chimpanzees are portrayed this way, many people lack the understanding and appreciation for one of the world’s most intelligent animals.

As an AZA accredited zoo, the Oakland Zoo participate s in the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP). Recently, the chair of the Chimp SSP began an ambitious project to document ALL chimpanzees living in the US and educate the public about their plight, not only in the wild, but here in our own country. The website, www.chimpcare.org, is not only educational, but gives us, as consumers the power to make choices in our daily lives that will affect how chimps are treated here, in our own backyards. Chimpanzees are not just hairy people; they are majestic, magnificent animals that deserve dignity and respect.