tagged w/ Giraffes
Los Angeles Considers Putting L.A. Zoo Operations into Private Hands | Why Not Create a Sanctuary, Instead?L.A. considers putting zoo operations in private hands
Officials say the change would save nearly $20 million over five years and prevent possible closure. Critics question the savings and say the move could mean less transparency in animal welfare.
Los Angeles Zoo
Photo: Zoo patrons view a pair of Masai giraffes at the Los Angeles Zoo. Two potential private operators have expressed interest in running the zoo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
July 28, 2011
Someone else may soon be tending to the misty artificial rain forest at the Los Angeles Zoo where Bruno, a 300-pound orangutan with a wispy orange beard and a hulking frame, makes his home.
The city opened the zoo and botanical gardens in 1966, but officials are now considering a proposal to turn over management to a private operator. That means the gardeners, plumbers and other city employees who help run the zoo could be transferred to other departments and replaced with private workers.
Like any issue involving labor — or animals — the fight over the fate of the zoo has caused a considerable stir.
City officials say the change would save nearly $20 million over the next five years and rescue the zoo from possible budget reductions or even closure. But opponents of the plan question the savings and warn that privatization could mean steeper ticket prices for the zoo's 1.5 million annual visitors and less transparency when it comes to animal welfare.
The zoo plan is only the latest example of a shift in how budget-strapped officials think about "core services" and City Hall's basic obligations to taxpayers. They are also considering proposals to privatize the Los Angeles Convention Center, an animal shelter in the San Fernando Valley and several arts facilities.
Such public-private partnerships are common in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History are two county facilities operated by nonprofit organizations.
"It's not a revolutionary idea," said Miguel Santana, L.A.'s chief administrative officer, who came to City Hall from the county in 2009. "This model has worked across the country as a way of ensuring services are maintained in an era of declining revenues."
According to a draft proposal for the zoo plan, which the City Council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee will consider Thursday, Bruno and the rest of the animals would remain the property of the city, along with the zoo's Griffith Park grounds.
All current staff would remain employees of the city, but those who do not hold zoo-specific jobs might be transferred to other city departments. Future hires would be employees of the new operator.
Two potential operators have already stepped forward.
One is the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn., or GLAZA, a nonprofit headquartered on the zoo's campus that raises money for the institution, manages its memberships and operates its concessions. In 2010-11, it raised about $13 million for the zoo, according to GLAZA President Connie Morgan
The other party is Parques Reunidos, a Madrid-based theme park operator that runs 70 amusement parks, water parks and zoos worldwide.
Dave Towne, a former consultant for the L.A. Zoo, said that if a private company takes over, the face of the zoo may change. "Any private, for-profit operation is going to Disney-fy it," he said. "That's just what they do."
Towne, former director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, oversaw the transition of that zoo's management to a nonprofit 10 years ago. He said private operators run the majority of the nation's major zoos and are often more successful at marketing and fundraising than cities, in part because they are less encumbered by bureaucracy.
Animal activists fear that could result in a lack of transparency. Catherine Doyle, of In Defense of Animals, said that if the zoo is privatized, "it will become even more secretive and insular."
She and others have long accused the zoo's management of not being forthcoming about animal care, and have asked that the operator be required to answer to a city-appointed animal welfare commission.
Adriana Hawkins, a zoo gardener for six years, says everyone will suffer if longtime employees are reassigned. The zoo will lose expertise, she said, and the employees will lose jobs they love.
"I don't want to go down to the harbor; I don't want to spend my life on the freeway," Hawkins said. "I have a passion for the zoo."
Santana and others have said that privatizing the zoo will allow it to flourish. A report he commissioned said that under private management, the zoo would be able to reap up to $3.8 million more each year in revenue, thanks to new opportunities for corporate sponsorship, fundraising and special events.
But City Councilman Richard Alarcon said that's all the more reason to keep control of the zoo. "If a private corporation can make it profitable, why can't we?" he said.
It costs $26 million a year to run the zoo and pay the salaries, benefits and pensions of more than 200 employees. The city contributes about $14.6 million; the rest of the budget comes from ticket sales and donations.
Officials say if the city does not privatize management, that figure could grow as high as $19.4 million by 2015. But even if it does complete a deal, the city will still contribute about $13.8 million to the zoo in 2015, according to the proposal.
The savings may be small in the short term, but Santana insists that it adds up. Next year, he and other officials will have to find a way to close a $200-million budget deficit.
.L.A. considers putting zoo operations in private hands Officials say the change... more
BROEDERSTROOM, South Africa – Lions raised in captivity in South Africa are set loose in enclosed areas where hunters, many from the United States, gun them down. The toll: about 1,000 lions each year.
Kevin Richardson hopes a new movie "White Lion," which opens in a few U.S. cities on Friday, will give people second-thoughts about participating in such hunts.
"I just can't understand how anyone would want to shoot a lion that is clearly confined to a finite space with absolutely no hope in hell of ever escaping the so-called hunter," said Richardson, a self-taught "Lion Whisperer" and first-time film producer. "Canned lion hunting, in my opinion, is likened to fishing with dynamite in a pond and then calling yourself a fisherman."
"White Lion" is about a rare white lion, who as a cub is cast out of his pride because of his color. He is near starvation when he befriends an older lion who teaches him the ways of the wild. John Kani, a Tony Award-winning actor and playwright, is the storyteller. A young man helps the lion, whose name is Letsatsi, because his Shangaan tribal tradition says a white lion is God's messenger and must be protected. Tension builds as Gisani becomes a tracker on a game farm where he and a foreign hunter encounter Letsatsi.
Trophy hunting is big business in South Africa, worth $91.2 million a year, according to the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa. Foreign tourists pay up to $40,000 to shoot a lion.
The government promotes hunting as a revenue source and calls it a "sustainable utilization of natural resources." Provincial governments sell permits allowing hunters to kill rhinos, elephants — even giraffes. Hunters killed 1,050 lions in 2008, the last year for which figures are available, according to the South African Predator Breeders Association.
The hunters' association says 16,394 foreign hunters — more than half from the United States — killed more than 46,000 animals in the year ending September 2007.
Almost all lions hunted under permit in South Africa are bred in captivity. But a new report by Animal Rights Africa says animals that wander out of the huge Kruger National Park into neighboring private reserves have become fair game.
About 3,600 lions were kept in breeding facilities in 2009, to be sold to zoos, safari farms and for hunting on game farms, said Albi Modise, spokesman for South Africa's Department of Environment.
Animal Rights Africa says trophy hunting is incompatible with South Africa's push into ecotourism, noting that ad campaigns promoting tourism and game viewing showcase the same species that are offered up to be hunted. The government in 2007 introduced legislation that would reduce the financial incentive to breed lions for the hunt but the Predator Breeders Association challenged the laws and earlier this year won an appeal.
Richardson, the movie's producer, first befriended a pair of lion cubs at the Lion Park outside Johannesburg 12 years ago, when the cubs were 6 months and he was 23. He began shortening his hours as a therapist in postoperative rehabilitation to play with his new friends. Soon, park owner Rodney Fuhr offered him a part-time job which became full time.
Today, Richardson cares for 39 lions at his 800-hectare (2,000-acre) Kingdom of the White Lion in Broederstroom, an hour and a half drive from Johannesburg, where the film was shot to include tawny gold lions as well as those born white because of a recessive gene.
Lions are nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping, so filming was limited to a couple of hours in the morning and perhaps another couple in the afternoon — if the cats were willing. Letsatsi was portrayed by several different lions over the four years it took to make the movie. A cuddly cub filmed in the summer of 2006 might be sprouting a mohawk-style tuft of hair the following year, the precursor to a mane.
Richardson said he breaks every rule in the book in handling lions. On a recent morning, the lions welcomed Richardson with rumbling purrs. One shut his eyes in ecstasy and rolled onto his back as Richardson scratched his chin. Another licked Richardson's hand, the tongue as rough as sandpaper. Too many licks can cause bleeding.
Two 400-pound (180-kilogram) lions wrestled him to the ground and a lioness jumped on his back, covering Richardson for a tense minute. He emerged from a tangle of furry blond limbs, face red. One lion threw a casual paw on Richardson's shoulder.
"Ugh, no claws you naughty boy!" he admonished, slapping away a paw larger than his face.
He's been attacked by his lions twice. Once during filming, a lion named Thor grabbed Richardson's arm and pinned him against the cage holding the camera crews, who looked on terrified and unable to help.
"I thought: There goes my arm, and it's my own fault. I was provoking him to get a fight sequence that we needed," Richardson said. The lion stared him in the eyes for what seemed five minutes but couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds, before releasing him, he recalled.
"Lions are 99 percent chill and 1 percent lethal," Richardson said.;_ylt=AkcLm5W.4n_zZaE9v2PwZT5g.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTRjaW1nNTB1BGFzc2V0Ay9zL2FwX3RyYXZlbC8yMDE... more
Charges are pending against the Fort Langely conservation centre, Mountain View Conservation Centre after a giraffe died during hoof trimming.
Fort Langely, B.C. - Already under investigation on unproven charges of animal abuse and neglect, the SPCA has said it was preparing to charge the exotic breeding facility with neglect after a third giraffe died at the facility Friday. The SPCA had been investigating the facility since November for accusations of animal neglect and abuse lodged by former staffers. An emotional Eileen Drever, the SPCA officer who had been on site when the giraffe died during a medical procedure to trim its hooves told press
"I'm saddened but I'm really angry that this poor animal had to suffer. I'm preparing charges to send to Crown counsel based on the animal being neglected."
Two other giraffes had died at the facility in December 2009. Drever was on site Friday to supervise a surgical procedure to trim the overgrown hooves of the giraffe named Jerome, a procedure ordered by the SPCA in January. The procedure was carried out by veterinarian, Dr. Bruce Burton. Drever said the death of the giraffe was preventable.
Jerome died while sedated for the hoof trimming. The procedure had been scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed to Friday by Burton. Jerome's hooves were so overgrown that there was doubt the trimming would be successful, and there was talk of putting Jerome down. Discussing the planned procedure with media, Burton said
"He's probably one of the nicest giraffes you'll meet. Everything that we can do we will do to try and save this guy. We very well may not succeed. If we do not think we can help him, unfortunately, we are probably going to have to euthanize him."
Burton had cautioned that the proceedure to trim Jerome's hooves was fraught with danger.
"If [the neck] comes down, it can be fatal. They just don't tolerate anesthetics very well."
An adult and baby giraffe had died at the facility in December during a cold snap. The facility installed heaters in the giraffe barn under orders from SPCA after the deaths of the giraffes. Mountain View founder, Gordon Blankstein, told press in December
“We complied with the SPCA's order to provide heat for our giraffes, but we've kept giraffes in that barn for 10 years without any heat, and they've been fine in much colder winters."
The adult giraffe died from peracute mortality syndrome (PMS) combined with the cold. Necropsy results for the baby giraffe have not been released.
The facility, which bills itself as Canada's "... leading non-profit Canadian facility that breeds endangered wildlife species into thriving family groups for re-introduction back into their natural habitat, here in Canada and around the world" was founded in 1989 by Blankstein and his wife. The facility has 300 acres and 50 animal species.
A spokesman for the facility said that it might change its focus to endangered Canadian species instead of exotic animals. The Centre is currently planning to move all 300 of its exotic species to other facilities.
Former staff have alleged that up to 50 animals have died "under questionable circumstances" at the facility since 2004. The accreditation for the facility is currently being reviewed, and may be revoked. Up until recently, the facility has had a stellar reputation, according to accrediting authorities, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA). National Director of CAZA Bill Peters said
"... not a single complaint was received by CAZA during the latest five-year accreditation period."Charges are pending against the Fort Langely conservation centre, Mountain View... more
After seeing James Cameron's movie Avatar, I got wondering... will humans ever acquire wisdom to save our Earth and its creatures... or will we end up like the future humans depicted in the movie?After seeing James Cameron's movie Avatar, I got wondering... will humans ever... more
More than 130,000 giraffe drawings and models have already been submitted to OneMillionGiraffes.com by people inspired to take up their pencils and paintbrushes in the name of collaborative online art.
What started as an eccentric bet between two friends has grown into a minor web phenomena, with thousands of new giraffes posted on the website everyday.
The entries range from colourful children's scrawls to impressive watercolours, with a few arrangements of fruit and vegetables thrown in to boot.
The 24-year-old web designer who devised the website said that he has been overwhelmed by the response to his project, which grew out of a conversation with his friend Jørgen earlier this year about the creative potential of the web.
"We were just small-talking and discussed the Internet and how amazing it is. I proclaimed that anything is possible nowadays, there are no limits anymore, and said I could easily get one million of anything if I wanted to," Ola Helland, who lives in Stavanger, Norway, explained.More than 130,000 giraffe drawings and models have already been submitted to... more
The Internet is full of people having sex with other people. It is also full of animals having sex with other animals. In this Valentine's Day edition of Viral Video Film School, Brett Erlich explains the art of the well-made wildlife porn.
Viral Video Film School is a recurring segment on the weekly television show infoMania. In each episode of VVFS, Professor Brett Erlich teaches you valuable skills in the discipline of Viral Video making. So sit down, take notes, and try not to piss him off.
infoMania is a half-hour satirical news show that airs on Current TV. The show puts a comedic spin on the 24-hour chaos and information overload brought about by the constant bombardment of the media. Hosted by Conor Knighton and co-starring Brett Erlich, Sarah Haskins, Ben Hoffman, and Sergio Cilli, the show airs on Thursdays at 10 pm Eastern and Pacific Times and can be found online at current.com/infomania. And make sure to check out our facebook profile for special features at http://infomaniafacebook.com.The Internet is full of people having sex with other people. It is also full of... more