U.K. project to trace Barbary lions in zoos


By Laura Wileman, Community Newswire
ANIMALS Lions Kent, 12 Mar 2009 – 16:47

A Kent charity is backing an urgent assessment being carried out to discover if a group of lions which have been extinct in the wild for more than half a century could still exist in zoos.

Barbary lions were once valued as royal gifts from North African kings and used for entertainment in the Roman Coliseum and circus acts.

Scientists are now trying to find the lions in the hope of reintroducing the species into a protected area in North Africa.

Pete Thompson of Wildlink International, in Kent, and Professor Helmut Hemmer and Dr Joachim Burger of the University of Mainz are carrying out the assessment, which has just been launched.

The study is being carried out by researchers in Germany, but Wildlink International says the scheme needs support from all over the globe.

Pete said: “If there are any lions left in captivity that can make the case to preserve the subspecies, there is a huge responsibility to find them wherever they might be. Extinction is forever. Captivity with the highest welfare standards for the purpose of conservation can maybe help people understand the difficult choices wildlife supporters have to make to turn things around.”

Philip Huckin, also from the charity, said if the lions do exist in captivity they will have been bred with different species. He said the barbary lion genes will be diluted. “The barbary lions may become more hybridised in our day beacues different species are breeding,” he said.

He said there were reports that barbary lions existed in about 100 different locations across the world. The ultimate aim is to see if, once discovered, the species can be rehomed in West Africa.

“Unless we find out if there is enough DNA soon we will never get the chance to do it again. There are already lion problems in Africa and it seems incredibly wasteful not to see if there’s enough genetic material to eventually add to the lion pool,” he said.



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Md. mauling: Jaguar to be evaluated for health changes

Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

Thurmont zookeeper, mauled by big cat, is ‘serious but stable’

by Jeremy Hauck – Staff Writer

A Frederick County animal control officer on Feb. 17 will evaluate a pair of jaguars involved in an attack on a Thurmont zookeeper this month.

If the jaguars’ temperament and health appear to be steady, they will return to their normal enclosure at Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo.

“Unless there is a health issue or a drastic change in their behavior or temperament … the quarantine would end,” said Harold Domer, director of Frederick County Animal Control, on Tuesday.

A change in health or temperament would lead to a discussion on further measures for the animals. “We would discuss that with the public health officer,” Domer said.
Diego, a 10-year-old male jaguar weighing between 180 and 200 pounds, attacked a female zookeeper on Jan. 18. Diego has been quarantined since, along with Evita, a 12-year-old female jaguar in the same enclosure at the zoo.

Deborah Gregory, 32, of Severn did not completely secure the jaguar area she was working in at about 11 a.m. on Jan. 18. Diego attacked and bit her. Other employees heard her cries and came to her aid, fending off the jaguar with a fire extinguisher.

Gregory, who had worked at the zoo for about one month, was responsive after the attack, but her injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization.

Gregory’s condition has been improved from critical to serious but stable, according to Deena Holler, trauma coordinator at R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Holler could not discuss Gregory’s injuries, but said, “I think she should do well.”
Michael Douglas, a Frederick County Animal Control officer, is handling the investigation. Douglas responded to the zoo on Jan. 18 and accompanied Domer there on Jan. 19.

“We do have plans to interview the victim,” Domer said.

The 30-day quarantine is standard procedure.

“This quarantine period is a consistent procedure for incidents involving well-vaccinated exotic species,” according to Deborah Roubian, spokeswoman for the Frederick County Health Department, an agency involved in the case.

Diego and Evita are both longtime residents at the zoo, and were born in captivity.
“He’s been there since he was about a year old,” said Whitney Hahn, media liaison for the zoo and daughter of owner/director Richard Hahn. “He was born at another zoo in the U.S. Same with Evita.”

The zoo, owned and operated by the Hahn family since Richard Hahn bought the Jungleland Snake Farm in 1965, has about 450 animals on its 35 acres south of Thurmont.

The zoo is in the middle of its three-month off-season.

E-mail Jeremy Hauck at jhauck@gazette.net.



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