Snow leopard at the Great Plains Zoo in South Dakota has died after displaying coronavirus symptoms

Photo credits: Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History

SIOUX FALLS: The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History (GPZ) is deeply saddened to announce the death of snow leopard, Baya, on October 7, 2021.

On Sunday, October 3, Baya started exhibiting signs of a cough, which was followed by inappetence and lethargy by October 4. The symptoms displayed by Baya were similar to the symptoms currently being seen from the other big cats in GPZ’s feline complex.

On October 6, 2021, one of GPZ’s Amur tigers, Keesa, tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. On October 7, Baya experienced a rapid decline of respiratory function. GPZ’s veterinarian consulted multiple veterinarian specialists, including members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) network. Broad-spectrum antibiotics and other supportive care were administered. As of October 7, a team was developed to provide 24-hour care to Baya in her critical state.

Unfortunately, despite the staff’s best efforts, Baya passed away on the evening of October 7. A necropsy will be performed to investigate the cause of death. All zoo animals have necropsies performed to gather more information to assist in future cases. The necropsy will help identify the primary cause of death and if there were any contributing factors.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Baya. Our animal care and veterinary staffs fought arduously and did their best to help give Baya a fighting chance. Each day, our animal care staff work to give our animals high quality care and their passion and dedication is evident. This loss is a deep wound, and our team grieves together,” Becky Dewitz, GPZ CEO, said.

Baya was 2.5-years-old and came to GPZ from the Akron Zoo earlier this year as a breeding recommendation as part of the AZA Species Survival Plan® program for snow leopards. Her zookeepers describe her as playful and sweet and say it was an honor to care for her. Strut, the male she was paired with, is still residing at GPZ. He is currently experiencing minor symptoms and is receiving prophylactic antibiotics and other supportive care. Currently his condition is stable.

“It is always tough when you lose any animal unexpectedly, especially one as rare as an endangered snow leopard. AZA has every confidence in the professionals at Great Plains Zoo and the top-notch care they provide to all of the animals living at the zoo,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA.

The IUCN Red List identifies snow leopards are vulnerable in the wild, which was upgraded from endangered in 2017 thanks to conservation efforts across the globe.

Cheetah ‘adopts’ other mother’s cubs at Dutch zoo

The newborn cheetahs Photo: Safaripark Beekse Bergen
A unique event in the Safari Park.  Two cheetahs, Sara and Kate, gave birth to multiple cubs. Sara’s health deteriorated, however, so she could no longer take care of her boy. Kate then adopted three cubs from Sara. She accepted the youngsters right away and takes excellent care of them. Sara is also doing a lot better now.
In total there are four males, given the names Pikachu, Onix, Jynx and Ajabu, and the two females Nyah and Bomani. With the birth of the cubs we contribute to the management program of the cheetah, which Beekse Bergen is coordinator of. The aim of this program is to ensure healthy populations in animal parks of wild endangered species.
The fathers of the cubs, Ash and Rowan, have come to our park as part of the management program. The six youngsters and Kate will soon discover their home.

UK’s butterflies: Concern for many butterfly species despite ‘good year’ for populations

The Large Blue was pronounced extinct in Britain in 1979 and subsequently reintroduced into this country by Natural England and UKCEH

The UK’s butterflies had a ‘good’ year in 2020 but populations of many species remain in long-term decline, according to the latest annual results.

Trends based on records collected by volunteers have been published by the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS), which is led by Butterfly Conservation, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

Analysis of the abundance data shows that 2020 was the third good year in a row for the UK’s butterflies overall, ranking it 10th best, averaged across all species, since UKBMS began in 1976. However, the fortunes for individual species was mixed. Of the 58 species reported on by the scheme, 31 fared better than their long-term average and 27 species worse.

Dr Marc Botham, Butterfly Ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, says: “Despite 2020 being a challenging year for data gathering and conservation activity, we received nearly half a million records from more than 2,500 sites over the year.

“We are incredibly grateful to the thousands of volunteers who were able to carry out COVID-safe monitoring and maintain this invaluable long-term dataset. This enables scientists to better assess how butterflies are faring as well as the health of our countryside generally.”

As numbers decline in the long term, perceptions of what makes a ‘good year’ for butterflies have changed, according to scientists.

Dr Richard Fox, Associate Director of Recording and Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, says: “Perhaps because of the warm sunny spring weather last year and the fact that more people were enjoying nature as part of their day-to-day activities than ever before, butterflies seemed more numerous.

“We need to be wary of shifting baseline syndrome, whereby we forget (or never experienced) the greater biodiversity that occurred in the UK in former decades and therefore lower our expectations and aspirations for conservation. Here, the UKBMS has a vital role to play in showing how insect populations have declined over time.

“It is worrying that, even after three good years, population levels of so many butterfly species continue to be down compared to 40 years ago.”

Butterfly populations fluctuate naturally from year to year, but the long-term trends of UK butterflies are mainly driven by human activity, particularly the destruction of habitats and climate change.

However, conservation can make a difference to local populations and 2020 was a good year for a number of scarce species including the Large Blue, which had its joint second best year since UKBMS started. The species was pronounced extinct in Britain in 1979 and subsequently reintroduced into this country by Natural England and UKCEH.

Among the UK’s widespread butterfly species, Brimstone, Orange-tip and Marbled White all had a good year, although their numbers were not at the exceptional levels seen in 2019. After a run of four very poor years, numbers of Small Tortoiseshell improved, showing an increase of 103 per cent over 2019 but remaining below long-term average levels and the species still shows a serious (79 per cent) decrease in abundance since 1976.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary has now had nine consecutive years with below average numbers, and its populations have declined by 68 per cent since 1976. Painted Lady, a migrant species, also had a poor year and populations of Wall, Grayling and Small Skipper all remained at a low ebb.

All the data from for 2020 can be accessed at

Counting elephants from space

Elephants in woodland as seen from space. Green rectangles show elephants detected by the algorithm, red rectangles show elephants verified by humans. Credit: Maxar Technologies

Satellite images processed with the help of computer algorithms devised at the University of Bath are a promising new tool for surveying endangered wildlife.

For the first time, scientists have successfully used satellite cameras coupled with deep learning to count animals in complex geographical landscapes, taking conservationists an important step forward in monitoring populations of endangered species.

For this research, the satellites Worldview 3 and 4 used high-resolution imagery to capture African elephants moving through forests and grasslands. The automated system detected animals with the same accuracy as humans are able to achieve.

Location of the study area in ‐Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa. Two example WorldView‐3 images showing 1) Elephants in open homogeneous area around Hapoor Dam, 2) Elephants in heterogenous woodland and thicket area. Satellite image (c) 2020 Maxar Technologies

The algorithm that enabled the detection process was created by Dr Olga Isupova, a computer scientist at the University of Bath. The project was a collaboration with the University of Oxford and the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

Dr Isupova said the new surveying technique allows vast areas of land to be scanned in a matter of minutes, offering a much-needed alternative to human observers counting individual animals from low-flying airplanes. As it sweeps across the land, a satellite can collect over 5,000 km² of imagery in a matter of minutes, eliminating the risk of double counting. Where necessary (for instance, when there is cloud coverage), the process can be repeated the next day, on the satellite’s next visit.

The population of African elephants has nose-dived over the past century, mainly due to poaching and habitat fragmentation. With approximately 415,000 African savannah elephants left in the wild, the species is classified as endangered.

“Accurate monitoring is essential if we’re to save the species,” said Dr Isupova. “We need to know where the animals are and how many there are.”

Satellite monitoring eliminates the risk of disturbing animals during data collection and ensures humans are not hurt in the counting process. It also makes it simpler to count animals moving from country to country, as satellites can orbit the planet without regard for border controls or conflict.

This study was not the first to use satellite imagery and algorithms to monitor species, but it was the first to reliably monitor animals moving through a heterogeneous landscape – that is, a backdrop that includes areas of open grassland, woodland and partial coverage.

“This type of work has been done before with whales, but of course the ocean is all blue, so counting is a lot less challenging,” said Dr Isupova. “As you can imagine, a heterogeneous landscape makes it much hard to identify animals.”

The researchers believe their work demonstrates the potential of technology to support conservationists in their plight to protect biodiversity and to slow the progress of the sixth mass extinction – the ongoing extinction event triggered by human activity.

“We need to find new state-of-the-art systems to help researchers gather the data they need to save species under threat,” said Dr Isupova.

African elephants were chosen for this study for good reason – they are the largest land animal and therefore the easiest to spot. However, Dr Isupova is hopeful that it will soon be possible to detect far smaller species from space.

“Satellite imagery resolution increases every couple of years, and with every increase we will be able to see smaller things in greater detail,” she said, adding: “Other researchers have managed to detect black albatross nests against snow. No doubt the contrast of black and white made it easier, but that doesn’t change the fact that an albatross nest is one-eleventh the size of an elephant.”

The researchers involved in this project were Dr Olga Isupova from the University of Bath, Isla Duporge, Dr Steven Reece, and Professor David W. Macdonald from the University of Oxford, and Dr Tiejun Wang from the University of Twente. The study was designed by Isla Duporge as part of her PhD, which is supervised by the Geospatial department at the University of Twente.

New zebra foal brings joy to Monarto Safari Park

Monarto Safari Park has some great news – a tiny and beautifully patterned zebra foal has joined their wild family!

The little stripy zebra foal, the 14th addition to the herd, was born on Sunday morning in an ‘off limits’ area and has been busy settling in under the careful watch of mum Gina.

Keepers are making sure to give the youngster and mum, aged 13, some space so at this time they’re unsure as to whether it’s a boy or a girl.

Assistant Curator Anna Bennett says: “Mum and baby are doing really well. The little one is sticking pretty close to mum so far.

“There is plenty of space for them so they are keeping to themselves and having plenty of bonding time.

“The foal is looking really strong and healthy and feeding well so that’s excellent news.

“Gina is an experienced mum so she’s watching the foal brilliantly and making sure it feels comfortable within the herd and around keepers,” finished Anna.

The Plains Zebra is classified as near-threatened by the IUCN. Contrary to popular belief, the zebra population in the wild has declined in 10 out of the 17 range states since IUCN Red List assessments. Threats to the Plains Zebra include livestock farming, ranching, hunting, trapping, drought and war and civil unrest.

As a leading conservation charity, Monarto Safari Park is working to save species like the Plains Zebra from extinction. Zoos SA’ s mission is to save animals from extinction and to connect people with nature.

During the current period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoos SA is connecting with animal lovers through a range of interactive online services including live stream camerasFacebook Lives and Keeper Cam. Visit for full details.

UN issues stamps celebrating CITES-listed migratory species

The new stamps highlight 12 migratory bird, mammal and marine species.

Geneva/New York, 17 February 2020 –The 27th edition of UN Endangered Species Stamps series was launched today. For this series the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) and CITES Secretariat engaged with the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) to feature 12 stamps showcasing CITES-listed migratory species, that are listed in the Appendices of both the Conventions.

CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, said: “We are most grateful to the UN Postal Administration for our long-standing cooperation to raise awareness of CITES-listed species through these stamps. We are happy to hear that they are among the most popular series issued by the UNPA. Not unlike the letters on which these stamps might go, migratory species travel around the world to find their destinations and seasonal habitats. This year we are honoured to invite our sister convention CMS to feature CITES-listed migratory species that are also covered by CMS.”

Thanawat Amnajanan, Chief of the United Nations Postal Administration said: “The United Nations Postal Administration is very honoured to be working with CITES and CMS this year to issue stamps featuring endangered migratory species, and to support CMS COP13 in Gandhinagar, India. This is the first time that UNPA has worked with both CMS and CITES – the two UN-backed treaties dedicated to the conservation and regulation of trade of the remaining wildlife on our planet.”

Created by Portuguese designer Sandra Macieira, the 2020 batch showcases a wide range of species found around the world, depicting migratory birds, fish and mammal species including migratory marine species. These include the Great Hammerhead Shark, the Andean Flamingo, the Dalmatian Pelican, Egyptian Vulture,  the Saker Falcon, the Siberian Crane, the Addax, the Argali Sheep, the Kiang, the Lion, the Harbour Porpoise and Narwhal.

The issuance of this year’s series will also give a nod to the13th meeting of Conference of the Parties to CMS, which is due to take place on February 17-22 in Gandhinagar, India, where the stamps are due to be unveiled by the CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero and the CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel.

“Both CITES and CMS work to ensure that these travelers can continue to roam the earth and still find a home to settle in. CITES strives to keep the trade of such species legal, sustainable and traceable. As we mark the ‘biodiversity super year’ throughout 2020, we will also advocate for the conservation of these species and their habitats for people, planet and prosperityin support of the UN SDGs. We will continue to work closely with UNPA to explore creative ways in which the endangered species stamps reveal the various wonders of species biodiversity on our planet”, added Higuero.


As of today, (20th January 2020), circuses performing in England will no longer be allowed to use wild animals as part of their act. The Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 expressly forbids circus operators from using wild animals in a travelling circus in England.

Similar bans in the UK and Ireland have already come into effect. The Republic of Ireland banned wild animal circuses last year, with Scotland too banning shortly after. Wales is also in the process of legislating, with a ban expected by the end of 2020.

There are two remaining circuses in the UK with wild animal licences; Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus who have a total of nineteen wild animals between them. The landmark legislation means that these six reindeer, four zebra, three camels, three racoons, a fox, a macaw and a zebu will no longer be permitted to used as part of these circuses’ shows. Just as importantly, however, is the fact that no future wild animal circuses will be allowed to start up.

Freedom for Animals’ Director, Sam Threadgill said;

This is a huge milestone towards a world where animals will be free to live their lives outside of captivity. Animal circuses are barbarous relics of a by-gone era and have no place in the 21st Century. Over decades, Freedom for Animals has tirelessly campaigned against the cruel animal circus industry and I am very pleased that this progressive legislation has finally come into effect. The dedication and hard work of many compassionate people has brought us to where we are today, and that is something also to be celebrated.

He continued;

Whilst this is undoubtedly a very welcome step forward, we are concerned about the future for those wild animals who are held within Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus, not to mention the domestic animals who are still forced to perform tricks as part of cruel circus acts.

Irene Heaton founded Freedom for Animals (previously named the Captive Animals’ Protection Society) in 1957 during the perceived heyday of animal circuses in Britain. At the time, one circus alone (Billy Smart’s) toured with 200 animals including elephants, lions, horses, polar bears, camels, sea lions and chimpanzees.

In 1997, following a ten year long campaign by FFA, Blackpool Pleasure Beach finally announced that there would be no further animal circuses on its land. This followed a successful campaign by Freedom for Animals against the prestigious Blackpool Tower Circus, where animals including elephants and horses were confined to the tower’s cellars for six months of the year.

An undercover investigation by the charity in 2009 unveiled horrifying practices at the Great British Circus. Elephants were found to be chained for up to 11 hours a day and a spiked metal goad was used by a trainer on an elephant during the show. These are just a few examples of the suffering that wild animals confined in circuses have had to endure.

Marc Bekoff, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (Boulder USA) said;

This is very welcome news. There is no way that circuses can provide an adequate environment for wild animals. The long journey times to and from shows, the tiny enclosures provided, the lack of enrichment all lead to circus animals pacing, swaying and mouthing cage bars; clear signs of stress caused by captivity. This is not to mention the severe abuses involved in training elephants to perform handstands or tigers to jump through hoops, where fear and submission are needed to coerce these animals to display such unnatural behaviours. Put shortly, wild animals belong in the wild.

Fiona Oakes, elite marathon runner and founder of Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary said;

The Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 is a monumental day for all animals and with it brings further acknowledgement, and universal acceptance, that the exploitation of animals is wrong and needs to cease.  It is a testament to the dedication, determination and devotion Freedom for Animals has exhibited over many years and a reward for their tireless efforts and endeavours to create a better world for our animal friends. I hope that with this historic victory comes more recognition and funding for this amazing charity in order that they can continue and grow the important and inspiring work they have being doing on behalf of the animals since their inception in 1957. What amazing news to celebrate the dawn of a new decade!

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Freedom for Animals has been campaigning against the use of wild animals in circuses for over 60 years. I’m pleased that legislation is coming into effect that finally puts an end to this cruel and outdated practice in England. The abuse of animals for entertainment has no place in a civilised, humane society. It is time that animal circuses are consigned to the history books forever.

The oldest free-ranging black rhino (Fausta) dies at the age of 57 in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Photo Credits: Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority

The oldest free-ranging black rhino (Fausta) dies at the age of 57 in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: It was kept in captivity for the last three years of its survival

Fausta, a cow (female) eastern black rhino (Diceros birconis michaelli), died of suspected natural death at 2029 hours in captive environment in the Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania on 27th December 2019 at the age of 57. Records show that Fausta lived longest than any rhino in the world and survived in the Ngorongoro, free-ranging, for more than 54 years before it was kept in a sanctuary for the last three years of its life in 2016. Fausta was first located in the Ngorongoro crater in 1965 by a scientist from the University of Dar Es Salaam, at the age between 3 and 4 years. Her health begun to deteriorate in 2016, when we were forced to put the animal in captivity, after several attacks from Hyena and severe wounds thereafter. Fausta also lost sight or vision, which further compromise its survival ability in the wild. Rhino Fausta survived 57 years without bearing calves.

Records also show that, Sana, a female southern white rhino, aged 55, was considered the world’s oldest white rhino in captivity died, the western at the La Planete Sauvage Zoological park in France, in 2017. Records also show that on 11th May 2017, Elly, the then the oldest living black rhino in the United States, died at her home in the San Francisco Zoo at the age of 46. The life expectancy of rhinos is between 37 and 43 years in the wild and they can live up to 50 years and above in captivity.

100 days of our panda twins: Official naming ceremony for Zoo Berlin’s panda boys

One cub raises its head slightly, while the other merely blinks sleepily: the panda twins appear only mildly impressed by their naming ceremony and first little outing at Zoo Berlin this morning, when, in accordance with Chinese tradition, the 100th day of their lives is celebrated with an official naming ceremony.

Together with Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller and Chinese Ambassador Wu Ken, Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem and Supervisory Board Chairman Frank Bruckmann revealed Zoo Berlin’s best-kept secret: the panda twins are both male and have officially been given the names Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan. The two names complement one another well in Chinese and roughly translate as “desired dream” (Meng Xiang) and “fulfilled dream” (Meng Yuan). “We’ve waited a long time for this joyful occasion,” said Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem. “Our two panda boys keep making us smile – despite the gloomy December weather.” The twins will spend the next two to four years in Berlin, after which time they will move to China. “As in Germany, too, the giving of names is very important in Chinese tradition, because names carry blessings and hope,” explained Ambassador Wu Ken. “By naming these young pandas Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan, which mean ‘dreams coming true’ in Chinese, we want to convey our best wishes for the friendship between our two countries and our people.”

After spending about ten minutes on display in their pre-warmed panda bed, the cubs were taken back to the comfort of their mother Meng Meng, who was waiting behind the scenes, calmly munching on bamboo. Mayor Michael Müller said: “All animal and zoo fans in Berlin have been following the development of our two Berlin pandas with great excitement. They are a wonderful gift for our city and, in the year of its 175th jubilee celebrations, for Zoo Berlin in particular. I am delighted that I was able to take part in this next step in the lives of our two new Berliners, and to meet them personally on the 100th day after their birth when, in accordance with Chinese tradition, their official names are bestowed. Just like the rest of Berlin, I have enjoyed the exciting wait to find out their names.” At three and a half months, the twins weigh around six kilograms each and are already making their first attempts at walking. Once the cubs are mobile enough to follow their mother – probably early in the new year – the panda family will be on view to zoo visitors.


Since 2017, Zoo Berlin has been home to Germany’s only giant pandas. On 31 August 2019, female panda Meng Meng (6) gave birth to two cubs weighing 186 and 136 grams. Father Jiao Qing (9) is not involved in the rearing of the cubs – as is normal for giant pandas. Most recent estimates suggest that there are only 1,864 adult giant pandas living in their natural habitat worldwide. Giant pandas are therefore classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Zoo Berlin pays an annual loan fee to keep these rare animals, and 100 percent of that sum is channelled into conservation work such as the breeding, protection and reintroduction into the wild of the bamboo-eating bears. Panda pair Meng Meng and Jiao Qing are sponsored by cooperative banking association Berliner Volksbank.

MEPs call for a reduction in pesticides to protect bees

  • More targeted measures to protect pollinators needed
  • Reduction of pesticide use should be indicator to monitor success
  • More funds to support research into the causes of bee decline

Further reducing use of pesticides, more funds for research and better monitoring are urgently needed to save the EU’s bees, says the Environment Committee.

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on Tuesday approved a resolution highlighting weaknesses in the EU Pollinator Initiative that render it inadequate to address the main causes of pollinators’ decline in Europe.

The committee proposes that a reduction in the use of pesticides be set as a ‘common indicator’ to evaluate how effective national measures are in protecting bees and other pollinators.

To help further decrease pesticide residues in bee habitats, MEPs want the reduction of pesticide use to become a key part of the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The committee finally demands more funds to support research into the causes of bee decline to protect the diversity of pollinator species. Indicators of colony vitality should also be developed to measure if implemented actions have been successful.

EU Pollinators Initiative not sufficient

The approved text is a reaction to the Commission’s EU Pollinators Initiative and stresses its measures are inadequate to protect bees and other pollinators from land-use changes, loss of habitat, intensive farming, climate change and invasive alien species. The Initiative fails to address sufficiently the main causes of pollinators’ decline that are essential for biodiversity and reproduction in many plant species, MEPs agreed.

The resolution was adopted with 67 vote for, none against and 1 abstention.

Next steps

The resolution will be put to a vote at the January plenary session in Strasbourg.


In April 2018, the EU agreed to fully ban outdoor use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, known as neonicotinoids. However, several member states notified emergency derogations regarding their use on their territory.

After calls from Parliament and Council for action to protect bees and other pollinators, the Commission presented its Communication on the EU Pollinators Initiative on 1 June 2018.