Posts Tagged With: captivity

Pay to Play

There are two sides to every story, and two sides to the lives of animals in the tourism industry. Many of the baby animals we find so irresistibly adorable and pettable, live a life or torment.

petting lion cub 2

This is the canned hunting industry.

The opportunity to pet, hold, bottle feed, and play with cute orphan lion cubs sounds irresistible to animal lovers.

Captive lion cub 2

Farmed cubs often show signs of stress like hair falling out and diarrhea.

Well-meaning visitors pay big bucks for the privilege of “helping rear motherless cubs.”  Many of these people are led to believe they are playing a part in conservation efforts, that these little tykes will live to be returned to the savanna one day.

But the reality is much darker. Shortly after birth, the babies are taken from their mothers, causing extreme stress to the cubs and the mother alike. This is done to facilitate immediate breeding again for the mother.

Unlike in the wild when lionesses produce a litter every 2-3 years, in the lion “industry”, they are forced to produce 2-3 litters a year!

Once the “cute factor” has worn off and they become a bit larger, they either move on to the next stage of the tourism industry-walking with tourists, or go straight to the breeding stage to perpetuate the cycle.

canned hunting overcrowded

Overcrowded enclosure on captive lion farm.

Finally, the females are used for continuous breeding (no different from puppy mills). The males are catalogued-their photos taken and displayed in a brochure or in an online list for hunters to choose from. They spend their final moments in small, crowded enclosures awaiting their death.

Is this conservation? Is this how the most majestic creature in Africa meant to live?

With lion numbers in severe decline from habitat loss, disease, and hunting, they should be afforded protection, not treated as a commodity.

Please note, there ARE genuine sanctuaries dedicated to the protection and conservation of the species. NONE of them allow the perpetuating of the species for human entertainment (i.e. petting, picture-taking, hunting).

Please read, sign and share the following petition: President Zuma: Banned Canned Hunting

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sumatrans: The Forgotten Rhino

Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the living rhinos, and probably the most unique in appearance. They are covered in hair and most closely resemble their extinct ancestors woolly rhinos.

sumatran range history and current

Borneo and Sumatra are home to the last Sumatrans.

They are the most vocal, and quite agile. Living in jungle conditions, they climb mountains and riverbanks surprisingly easily.

There are less than 150 Sumatrans left in the wild. In captivity there are only 9; and of them,  just two captive females have reproduced in the last 15 years. Doesn’t make for a bright outlook does it?

Sumatrans live in fragmented areas due to deforestation and an ever shrinking habitat. They also face the same peril as their African cousins-poaching.

The plight to save the remaining endangered Sumatran rhinos has grown more urgent following the death of Gelugob. She resided in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Sabah, Northern Malaysia, and passed away of old age on January 11th.



For 19 years, experts had studied her breeding habits with hopes of her giving birth. She was unable to produce eggs and did not respond to hormone treatments.

Across the world, in Ohio the Cincinnati Zoo is making efforts to save the species  as well. Infamous for a previously successful breeding program with Emi (see previous post: Emi: the World-Famous Sumatran), they are now hoping for success again by breeding resident Sumatran Suci with her brother Harapan.

With intense efforts worldwide, the remaining Sumatrans are being studied, bred and monitored in hopes of keeping the species alive.

Ratu and Andalas son-

Andatu, born in June of 2013 at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In Love With Jello

They say you never forget your first love. Mine’s about 5 feet tall, has a bit of an attitude and a very dirty nose. The moment was magical; I called to him, he ignored me, looked up briefly, then turned away obviously unimpressed. But for me, I was in love.



Jello’s the first rhino I’ve officially met. Originally from Miami, he lives at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing MI. The 9-year-old black rhino is  handsome (as rhinos go), and laid back. He is well cared for, and knows it. With an attitude remarkably similar to a cat, he comes to you in his own sweet time, but loves the attention once he gets it.


Zoo policy wouldn’t allow a “behind the scenes” photo, so to commemorate my moment-rhino dirt from rubbing Jello’s “sweet” spot!

Watching his giant prehensile lip grab for treats, feeling his smooth wrinkled face, and touching his horn, so much goes through my mind. This gentle giant, with no threats except from us, being exterminated for a body part. He is both unassuming and docile, yet emotes an awe-inspiring strength and beauty unlike any other creature, except maybe the elephant.

This poor sighted, massive beast who could lay me flat if he chose, has a weakness for having the spot right between his horns rubbed. As I discovered, after just a couple of minutes into obliging him, there’s a reason the keepers utilize a wire brush for this purpose. The skin is remarkably thick and tough there.


Doppsee’s favorite treat-peppermint patty.

Jello is not alone. A 6-year-old female, named Doppsee lives in an adjoined exhibit.  According to her keepers, this beautiful girl  is more loving, food motivated and skittish.

So skittish, that when the zoo installed a viewing window in the indoor exhibit, she was extremely fearful. The creative caretakers used a dummy outside the window, moving it every so often, to desensitize her to the new oddity in her home.

The zoo has plans to breed the pair via artificial insemination. Jello is prone to seizures, so for his safety, as well as Doppsees, this is the safer option. Like many other zoos housing rhinos, they are taking regular dung samples from Doppsee to analyze in hopes of finding the optimal time for conception. With a combination of behaviour monitoring and  the scientific analysis, hopefully there is a Jello Jr in the future.

To see more of Jello and Doppsee go to YouTube : The Fight for Rhinos

Categories: Rhino Ramblings, Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Welcome: Ethan, the First 90lb Miracle in the US

The first baby rhino born via artificial insemination in the U.S.

montom zoo baby 2

The Montgomery Zoo in Alabama: 12-year-old Indian Rhino Jeta, was the first in the U.S. to successfully give birth through artificial means. In June little Ethan was born, weighing a healthy 90 lbs.

Ethan is only the second rhino ever born using thawed sperm. His father, Himal,  had his stored in the Cincinnati Zoo’s Cryobiobank. Although Himal resides at the same zoo as Jeta , the two grown rhino were deemed too aggressive to risk them mating naturally.

Montgomery Zoo experts estimate there to be 60 Indian Rhinos in captivity in North America, and only 2,500 left in the wild.

montg zoo 5

Categories: Good News, Rhino Ramblings, Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Charlie the Beloved Rhino of Vancouver

By: Joe O’Connor/National Post

Zoo 574[1].jpg

Charlie knew what he liked. Maynard, for example, was something he liked, a tiny, orange tabby-cat, who would weave in and out of Charlie’s feet by day and fall asleep on his chest at night.

Pedicures were another pleasure. Mud baths. Getting a back rub with a stiff-bristled brush. Having his ears and belly scratched. Charlie was no introvert. He was all about the personal touch. And he had personality. The people who knew him best get all choked up talking about him now, describing him as a “kind soul” — as big as a house and as gentle as a mouse.

But Charlie, gentle Charlie, wasn’t a mouse. He was a Southern White Rhinoceros at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove, B.C. Charlie died this week, at age 46, euthanized by his long-time veterinarian, Dr. Bruce Burton, after he had stopped eating and drinking.

Old Charlie’s teeth, as old rhino teeth will, had completely worn away. Dentures were not an option. So while his mind remained active and his belly remained happy to be scratched, Charlie’s biological clock had decided it was time for him to move on to that great big rhino enclosure in the sky.

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that I say goodbye to my very dear friend, Charlie,” Dr. Burton said in a statement. “I feel immensely privileged to have known you for the past decade and a half, and feel profoundly depressed that so few will ever experience the same intense relationship we had.

“My words seem grossly inadequate and, perhaps, a little self-centred, so permit me to modify a similar sentiment once articulated by [American ecologist] Aldo Leopold.

“For those who have had such a relationship, no explanation is necessary. For those who haven’t, no explanation is possible. Rest at peace my old friend.”


Charlie’s passing has left a rhino-sized hole at the zoo. He was the star, but more than that, he was a source of wonder. Children have been tacking handmade cards and handwritten letters to the side of his barn since his death. The barn sits empty. There are no plans to fill it anytime soon.

Peaceful and loved though he was, Charlie was still a rhino. And a rhino without a sharpened horn is like a big-game hunter without a high-powered rifle. Charlie sharpened his horn on logs. He didn’t have other rhinos at hand to prove his manhood to. So he focused his ire on the birds that occasionally happened into his enclosure. Peacocks, with their showy tail feathers, were a particularly unwelcome sight.

“I would see him charge peacocks,” says Menita Prasad, the zoo’s animal care manager. “But in his later years, not so much.”

Charlie, she says, knew his name. He was locked in his barn at night. To get him into his fluffed straw bed all zookeepers had to do was call for him. In his youth he came running. As he aged, however, he stopped running, and his journey to bed became an extended lumber; a few steps, a pause, a few steps more, another pause. At each pause his big ears would flop about, as though savouring a passing breeze, as though waiting for his name to be called, again, by the sound of a human voice.

“Charlie knew exactly what you were asking him to do at night but, in my view, he just wanted you there, with him, he just wanted your attention — of getting him that 20 steps to his barn — because he knew if he stopped in a certain spot that he would get his back rubbed or the soft part behind his ears scratched,” Ms. Prasad says.

“It is very hard to get a rhino to hurry. But then, how often are you going to get a rhino asking for your attention?”


Contrast Charlie to Sweetie, the zoo’s elderly Siberian tiger. Sweetie is one anti-social cat, a creature that inspires, well, cautious respect among the zoo’s staff while Charlie inspired starry-eyed love.

Ms. Prasad’s voice isn’t far from tears throughout our conversation about him.

Charlie’s rhino-ness barrelled through in other ways, besides charging at peacocks. Everything he did was big, and loud. When he peed it was like a fire hose. When he passed wind it was like a trombone solo, blared at maximum volume, drawn out for minutes on end.

Maynard the tabby cat passed away a few years before his rhino pal did. Ms. Prasad can picture the two of them now, wherever they are, enjoying a reunion, snuggling close at night.

“Charlie was all about love,” she says. “Everything he did was monumental.”

Categories: Rhino Ramblings, Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mali: a Symbol of Both Cruelty and Hope

Mali.  She is the lonely elephant who has spent every day for 35 years in a concrete enclosure at the Manila Zoo. (See previous: Suffering  from severe foot problems, an effect of the constant concrete beneath her, and severe depression, she has a new home available. There has been a place secured for her at a sanctuary in Thailand. So what IS the holdup?mali the ele

Veterinary and wildlife experts have assessed her condition and deemed it necessary and appropriate for her move. Foot problems for elephants is the leading cause for their death in captivity. In addition she exhibits signs of severe stress and mental suffering from her isolation.

The campaign to free Mali has been going on for sometime now. It has picked up momentum, with both celebrities and average citizens alike joining the movement. It seems purely political at this point. The Zoo and Filipino government seem to be digging in their heels by constantly finding ways to stall the move.

Mali’s suffering has brought much-needed attention to the fragile condition of elephants in captivity, and will hopefully set precedence for the lives of the many others who are in the same situation as this gentle soul.

Mali’s Life for the last 35 years:

Please help Mali and other elephants. Keep the pressure on.


Categories: Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thandora: Beautiful Release

After a lifetime in the same enclosure, with the same routine, Thandora the elephant is getting a taste of freedom. Thandora lived behind bars for 18 years at South Africa’s Bloemfontein Zoo with one companion. When her companion died, it was decided to “retire” her to the wild.

She is becoming acclimated to her new home at Gondwana Game Reserve  in Cape Town. Having spent the first few weeks in a specially thandora with jeep 2designed boma to get her used to her new surroundings, she is now confidant enough to venture beyond it. She has taken to the team at the reserve, and follows them in their Land Rover. But day by day, the distance between her and the vehicle is increasing, leaving the team confidant she is getting ready to be on her own.

There are two other elephants at the Reserve who have made it clear they welcome Thandora. It is hopeful she will join up with them and be part of the herd.

The change from captivity to the wild is enormous. It is imperative for the elephant to have the appropriate location, care and companions. The mental and physical health of the animal is also watched carefully; they must be able to build up strength to sustain them in the wilderness, alter their diet by learning how to forage, and have the confidence to successfully venture forth into the wilderness.

But it is clear that nature is taking over, Thandora’s instincts are strong and she is on the track to success.

thandora 4

Categories: Good News, Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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