Tight times in Ukraine means cramped quarters for its zoo animals

The Kiev Zoo was expelled from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria over poor conditions and mistreatment of animals.

Published: December 22, 2009

KIEV, Ukraine — Tatyana Shvets strode through the Kiev Zoo recently as if it were her own backyard, feeding scraps of bread to the bison (“Hello, my dears!”), cooing to the storks (“Oh, you must be cold!”) and lavishing love upon every creature in sight, as she has since she first visited as a child half a century ago.

City officials said they hoped to have it reinstated.

But often enough, her glee turned to dismay.

The camels’ corral was a mess, she insisted. The elephant was scrawny. The hippopotamus seemed depressed. And the monkeys’ cramped accommodations?

“God, what a nightmare,” she said.

Ms. Shvets chased after and berated zoo workers, making mental notes about complaints that she would send to the zoo’s management. There was a lot to write up.

The Kiev Zoo, it seems, has seen better days. Ukraine’s government is in disarray and the political discord has been unrelenting — and, yes, now even the lions and tigers and bears have been drawn in.

The zoo was expelled from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria in 2007 over poor conditions and mistreatment of animals. Advocates and former workers maintained that a giraffe and other animals died from the zoo’s ineptitude, and that money was siphoned from the zoo’s budget through corrupt schemes.

The zoo’s director was dismissed last year by Kiev’s eccentric mayor, Leonid M. Chernovetsky, after failing to find a mate for an elephant — or so Mr. Chernovetsky said. The new director has stirred an uproar among the staff for her supposedly tyrannical ways, and in October, a brawl erupted among workers during a celebration of the zoo’s centennial.

Lately, animal rights advocates, including Ms. Shvets, have contended that the zoo’s distress has been orchestrated by top city officials who want to sell the zoo’s choice urban real estate to developers and move the animals to the suburbs. The advocates call the strategy, “No animal, no problem,” a play on Stalin’s infamous saying, “No person, no problem.”

“This is being done so there are less and less animals, and they can make money from the land,” said Ms. Shvets, 60, a retired government worker. “The authorities in Kiev these days, all they care about is money.”

The troubles are not always immediately obvious. During a walk around the zoo on a Saturday morning, the place seemed more shabby than squalid, as if it once aspired to great-zoo status but had fallen on hard times for lack of money and attention.

Still, advocates said the worst conditions were obscured behind closed doors, and they have circulated photographs that they said revealed how the animals were treated out of sight.

Many of the primates and bears are held in claustrophobic quarters because the public enclosures are run-down, they said. Construction was begun on a primate pavilion at great cost, then abandoned last year. Workers tell visitors that most monkeys are “under quarantine.”

“I really cried when I went inside and saw the conditions for the monkeys,” said Tamara Tarnawska, leader of SOS-Animals Kiev. “It was absolutely horrible. I felt ashamed to be human.” She said the animals were crammed together in cages that were poorly lighted and dirty.

The zoo’s management disputed many of the criticisms, saying that they were voiced by disgruntled former workers or outsiders with no expertise. The zoo’s director, Svetlana Berzina, did acknowledge that the zoo was in bad shape when she took over last year. She said the previous management was incompetent and had begun projects that were expensive, unnecessary and never finished, like the primate pavilion.

Ms. Berzina said she was replacing workers, spearheading renovations, bringing in consultants and establishing a code of ethics.

“We are consistently dealing with all these issues,” she said. “But I think that you can understand that problems that accumulated over decades cannot be resolved in a single year.”

“A significant number of workers at the zoo clearly were not doing their jobs, and many were simply drinking heavily on the job,” she added. Ms. Berzina denied that there were plans to sell the zoo’s land, and she called publicity over the fight at the zoo’s celebration in October overblown, saying that it was provoked by former workers.

City officials said they hoped to improve the zoo enough to have it reinstated to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, but the association said the zoo would have to wait at least until 2012.

While conflicts over the zoo have been widely publicized, some visitors said they did not see what all the fuss was about.

“Compared to other zoos I’ve been to, the animals live pretty well here,” said Aleksei Nazarenko, 22. “There are all these zoos that travel from city to city in Ukraine, and the animals live pretty poorly there. Here, they seem O.K.”

But Yelena Ryabova, 55, said she was worried that the zoo would be relocated.

“They want to put it 40 kilometers away,” she said, referring to the persistent rumors. (Forty kilometers is about 25 miles.) “That is a long way to go.”

When Ms. Shvets overheard people saying that the animals seemed fine, she shook her head. She said that in her many years of coming to the zoo, things had never been so unsettling. During Soviet times, the zoo’s facilities might have been relatively spare, but the care was far better, she said.

Now, she noted, signs were out of date, animals were mysteriously missing and the zoo was pocked with deserted renovation sites.

And then she stalked off to do some more snooping.

“Where is the hippopotamus?” she demanded of a worker, standing at the edge of an empty outdoor enclosure.

“When the mayor gives us money for repairs, you can see the hippopotamus,” the worker grumbled.

Ms. Shvets located the forlorn animal in a small pen elsewhere. “Good morning, my darling!” she said.



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Houston Zoo’s newest arrivals are three lions

A Real Zoo
Life at the Houston Zoo with Deborah Cannon

NOTE: This reader is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Chronicle.

December 22, 2009
Our Newest Animals

The newest arrivals at the Houston Zoo are three young female African lions.

Born in July 2008 at Ft. Worth Zoo, the girls are African Lion girls beginning to settle into their new home and the keepers are beginning to see signs of their individual personalities.

Matungulu, also known as Mattie is the brave one. The first day they came on exhibit, Mattie was the one who came out first followed by her sister Nimue and then Uzima.

They are only a year and a half old. So, they are still young and still all about being with their sisters and bonding with each other. They’ve seen Jonathan, our male lion and Celesto our female but haven’t formally met. After they meet Jonathan, we’ll see definite patterns of dominance emerge.

Each of the new girls tips the scales at about 200 pounds. That’s a good weight for them. They’re lean and muscular. The new arrivals consume almost 4 and a half pounds of meat each day and get bones once a week. They’ve got very good appetites.

Mattie, Uzima, and Nimue may be seen daily at the Houston Zoo’s lion habitat from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Matungulu (Pron: MA-tun-GOO-loo)

Uzima (Pron: OO-see-muh)

Nimue (Pron: KNEE-moo)



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Scottish laird wants European wildcats, wolves on his estate

Wolves may make a Highland comeback in laird’s reserve plan to apply for zoo licence

Published Date: 19 December 2009


WOLVES, not seen in the wild in Scotland for hundreds of years, could be ready for a comeback on a Highland estate.

The Alladale Estate near Ardgay in Sutherland has announced it is to seek a zoo licence within the next two months so it can let the animals roam in a wilderness reserve. It is the latest move by estate owner Paul Lister, who plans to release a series of wild animals in enclosures on the estate.

Reserve manager Hugh Fullerton-Smith announced his intention to apply to Highland Council for the licence in an advert in a local paper.

European elk and wild boar are already housed in enclosures on the 23,000-acre estate. If the licence is granted, they will be joined by eight European wildcats and three European wolves.

Both Mr Lister and Mr Fullerton-Smith were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Mr Lister, son of Noel Lister, the co-founder of the MFI furniture chain, bought Alladale in 2003 and had indicated his intention of introducing Scotland’s “big five” to the area – grey wolves, brown bear, lynx, boar and bison.

Two years ago, the estate gained a Dangerous Wild Animal Licence to keep elk and wild boar in specially constructed enclosures.

In application papers sent to the council, Mr Fullerton-Smith said: “The Alladale Wilderness Reserve facility will be unlike any present conventional UK zoo, both in types of enclosures it uses and the way in which only a limited number will view the animals.”

The animals will be housed in three separate, fenced areas complete with shelters and service buildings. The wolves will be fed on a range of natural carcasses and game off-cuts, and the reserve will be surrounded by a 37-mile electric fence.

Only guests staying at Alladale will be allowed on to the reserve. The maximum daily number of visitors will be 35, although school parties are expected to increase that to about 70 on some days.

A public consultation will be carried out. Mr Lister

says the reserve would create 75 to 100 jobs. He believes Alladale could benefit from the eco-tourism market.

Dave Morris of Ramblers Scotland said: “We expect to oppose the issue of this zoo licence. Approving it would prevent people exercising their statutory rights of access over a large area of land.”



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Bobcat arrives at Michigan zoo

Bobcat arrives at Saginaw Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square

Published: Monday, December 21, 2009 1:29 PM EST

The Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square in Saginaw has welcomed Kyra, a 4-year-old female bobcat.

Come to the Zoo from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 26, and visit Kyra and the zoo’s residents that enjoy the Michigan winter weather. Then warm up with popcorn, hot chocolate and free kids crafts in the Conservation Classroom. Admission is $2 per person; infants through 11 months are free. Carousel rides are $2 per person per ride. Information, (989) 759-1408 or www.saginawzoo.com



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Snow leopards at L.A. Zoo get holiday enrichment

December 22, 2009

Holiday gifts for fuzzy-faced leopard cubs

REAL SNOW CATS: A snow leopard plays with a cardboard cutout at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens on December 18. A pair of rare snow leopard cubs and their mother were given Christmas packages containing treats and cardboard cutout decorations to investigate as part of the zoo’s behavioral enrichment program, which uses the natural behaviors of animals to keep them active and healthy.

The cubs were born at the zoo on May 26 to a cat named Asia. Native to remote high mountains in Asia, only about 5,000 to 7,000 snow leopards are believed to remain in the wild.

The cats can tolerate temperature extremes ranging from 40 degrees below zero to as high as 104 degrees.

They can leap 45 feet and kill prey that is two- to three-times their size. Snow leopards are at the top of the food chain and considered an indicator species and ecosystems that support a large number of snow leopards are believed to be healthy.



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