Marwell Wildlife

Winchester, United Kingdom

Marwell Wildlife

Winchester, United Kingdom

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PubMed | York University, Research Depeartment and Marwell Wildlife
Type: | Journal: PeerJ | Year: 2016

The use of fences to segregate wildlife can change predator and prey behaviour. Predators can learn to incorporate fencing into their hunting strategies and prey can learn to avoid foraging near fences. A twelve-strand electric predator-proof fence surrounds our study site. There are also porous one-strand electric fences used to create exclosures where elephant (and giraffe) cannot enter in order to protect blocs of browse vegetation for two critically endangered species, the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and the Grevys zebra (Equus grevyi). The denser vegetation in these exclosures attracts both browsing prey and ambush predators. In this study we examined if lion predation patterns differed near the perimeter fencing and inside the elephant exclosures by mapping the location of kills. We used a spatial analysis to compare the predation patterns near the perimeter fencing and inside the exclosures to predation in the rest of the conservancy. Predation was not over-represented near the perimeter fence but the pattern of predation near the fence suggests that fences may be a contributing factor to predation success. Overall, we found that predation was over-represented inside and within 50 m of the exclosures. However, by examining individual exclosures in greater detail using a hot spot analysis, we found that only a few exclosures contained lion predation hot spots. Although some exclosures provide good hunting grounds for lions, we concluded that exclosures did not necessarily create prey-traps per se and that managers could continue to use this type of exclusionary fencing to protect stands of dense vegetation.


PubMed | York University, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Marwell Wildlife and Borana Wildlife Conservancy
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2015

Protecting an endangered and highly poached species can conflict with providing an open and ecologically connected landscape for coexisting species. In Kenya, about half of the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) live in electrically fenced private conservancies. Purpose-built fence-gaps permit some landscape connectivity for elephant while restricting rhino from escaping. We monitored the usage patterns at these gaps by motion-triggered cameras and found high traffic volumes and predictable patterns of prey movement. The prey-trap hypothesis (PTH) proposes that predators exploit this predictable prey movement. We tested the PTH at two semi-porous reserves using two different methods: a spatial analysis and a temporal analysis. Using spatial analysis, we mapped the location of predation events with GPS and looked for concentration of kill sites near the gaps as well as conducting clustering and hot spot analysis to determine areas of statistically significant predation clustering. Using temporal analysis, we examined the time lapse between the passage of prey and predator and searched for evidence of active prey seeking and/or predator avoidance. We found no support for the PTH and conclude that the design of the fence-gaps is well suited to promoting connectivity in these types of conservancies.


Cracknell J.M.,Marwell Wildlife | Bacon H.J.,Animals Asia Foundation
International Zoo Yearbook | Year: 2010

A wide variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases has been described in bears. Some viral (e.g. canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis), bacterial (e.g. salmon poisoning) and parasitic diseases (particularly skin mites and ascarid infections) are of concern. Non-infectious conditions, such as dental disease, degenerative joint disease and neoplasia, are very important in the management of captive bears. Appropriate anaesthesia is essential in both veterinary and biological interventions with bears. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 The Zoological Society of London.


News Article | January 8, 2016
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

One of Tet Zoo’s most popular and influential articles – even though it concerns damage limitation and an effort to minimise mis-education more than my sharing of information – is the 2012 one about David Peters and his pet ideas and observations. As stated in that 2012 article, Peters is unstinting in his plans to get his hypotheses accepted and taken as superior to the hypotheses published in the technical literature by credited scientists. Credited scientists who have had their work critically examined by their peers, have spent time poring over actual fossils (rather than photos of them), and have (typically) had their observations checked or seconded. And when Peters write about things where I have direct experience – examples come from his takes on tyrannosauroid and paravian theropods – I see significant errors involving numerous aspects of anatomy. The ubiquity of Peters’s Pet Projects online can’t be under-estimated: online searches for just about everything involving tetrapod evolution are contaminated by his stuff. In the age of the internet, I regret that I’m one of those people for whom “just ignore it” is not a viable response. Yes, professionals might not be duped, or might be able to spot the errors, but lay-readers generally are not, and you either care about public education or you don’t. For this reason the Peters phenomenon is of wider interest among those who monitor internet culture. During June 2015, writer Graham Templeton wrote an article for Motherboard on Peters and his output. I opted not to help out, since I think I’ve said too much already on this subject. The article was published here and does provide appropriate linkage to the 2012 Tet Zoo article. June 2015 also saw Buzzfeed’s Natasha Umer covering All Yesterdays (yes, a book published in 2012, ok). As per usual, the article focused on the contention, made in the book, that many modern animals would not look as they actually do if reconstructed in the shrink-wrapped style typical of palaeontological convention. Several palaeontologists have responded angrily to this claim – evidently because they object to the implication that palaeontologists are clueless as goes the soft tissue anatomy of extinct animals – whereas what we actually say is that it’s the size and extent of musculature, and the precise distribution of integument, that remains the ‘great unknown’, not more basic stuff concerning overall form. Coincidentally, mid-2015 also saw All Yesterdays receive coverage in a Korean science magazine for children. Can’t say that I’m especially happy to see the artwork get reproduced without appropriate permission or recompense (some extensive and honest apologies were provided), but I suppose it’s all good publicity. Hey, you can buy All Yesterdays here. Inspired by a discussion John Conway and I had about the then-new movie Avengers: Age of Ultron on the TetZoo podcats (I think episode 42), Christian Juul saw fit to create Dino-Avengers… And the end of June saw the publication of another technical paper – a re-evaluation of the Romanian maniraptoran theropod Balaur bondoc (Cau et al. 2015) co-authored by Andrea Cau, Thomas Brougham and myself. The paper appeared in the open access journal PeerJ and was covered on Tet Zoo here. Regular readers will be familiar with the coverage of sea monster carcasses that’s appeared here over the years. A carcass is photographed… journalists say that it’s “unidentifiable” or “baffling”, yadda yadda yadda… photos reveal that it sure can be identified, often pretty easily. And such it was with the Sakhalin Island carcass of June 2015. Examination of the photos showed, pretty conclusively, that it was a Berardius, as was the Sakhalin Island carcass of 1986 (that one was claimed to be an ‘archaeocete’ carcass: I covered it at ver 2 during 2009). And this 2015 monster wasn’t the only ‘sea monster’ to be debunked during the year – read on. Dave Hone and I had special behind-the-scenes access on a Marwell Wildlife trip during the month and got to see various animals (most notably lizards) yet to be out of quarantine. Many thanks indeed to Dan Garrick for his help with this. During July, Tetrapod Zoology saw articles on the spiral-burrowing behaviour of Yellow-spotted goannas Varanus panoptes, placental mammal phylogeny, pangolins and skunks. I went to the New Forest Show in late July. This is always great for spectacular, often obscure domestic animals. I also finally succeeded in photographing the suburban Roe deer Capreolus capreolus that come to within just a few metres of my front door, look… (I’ve photographed their tracks before, but never been able to get any shots of the deer themselves). Much of July and August was taken up with conference preparation. Well, actually, the whole middle part of 2015 was occupied with two grand book projects. During June and July I wrote the better part of a dinosaur-themed book (it’s due out later in 2016), and during July, August and September I wrote a cryptozoology-themed book (also due out at some point during 2016). Throughout all of this time, and before, and after, I also continued to put together the textbook I’m working on. Writing books is a full-time endeavour and taking on a few books at the same time, while juggling life, children and other stuff in the meantime, is definitely the sort of thing that can lead to emotional and psychological breakdown, seriously. Anyway, I covered plethodontid salamanders in a few Tet Zoo articles from August and also reviewed Marc Boulay and Steyer’s amazing new book Demain, Les Animaux du Futur (Boulay & Steyer 2015). Did you know that an English edition is set to appear at some point in the near future? At the end of August I attended the 5th pterosaur meeting at the University of Portsmouth where I spoke about current thoughts on azhdarchoids from Romania and (with colleague Liz Martin-Silverstone) nerve distribution in pterosaurs. This will all be discussed in assorted papers in-prep; my thoughts on this very fun meeting were covered here. My review of the brilliant Kinnaird & O’Brien Asian hornbills book (Kinnaird & O’Brien 2007) appeared in print (Naish 2015). I attended an alpaca-themed event and looked after an alpaca. September started with the SVPCA (= Symposium on Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy) meeting, this year held at Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre (my own academic base). I discussed recent work on Balaur, azhdarchids and Cretaceous lizards (more on these subjects later, possibly) and was also an author on Mike Taylor et al.’s fighting sauropod talk, Mark Witton et al.’s palaeoart talk (see Witton et al. 2014) and a few others. During June I’d worked with Dean Lomax and presenter Ellie Harrison in the making of a two-part documentary series – Dinosaur Britain – that was effectively a TV spinoff of Dean’s 2014 book Dinosaurs of the British Isles (Lomax & Tamura 2014), itself reviewed here during March. This was screened early in September and my segment (on the palaeopathologies of the Lower Cretaceous dinosaurs Neovenator and Mantellisaurus*) was essentially shown in full… I mean, it wasn’t pared down to a few seconds-long soundbites, as usually happens. My thanks to Dean for setting up this opportunity. * This is yet another of those academic projects where the full technical paper has yet to see print. I blame co-authors. September was another busy month. I finished the cryptozoology book (well, the text), went out a lot due to one of those milestone birthday events, and the ball got rolling on a big, significant project that I won’t be talking about again until 2017. The lecture season started… with fish. And fish were there the whole while, with the lobefin chapter of the Big Book being (essentially) finished in October. Incidentally, you can get some idea of progress on that book (and see images in-prep) by supporting me at patreon. Galliwasps, unusual giraffe deaths, Piltdown man, bird phylogeny and fighting sauropods, dendromurine mice and corvids were all covered on the blog during that month. And September 22nd was World Rhino Day, so I rushed out a blog article on rhinos. A large popular book that I’d written during the summer of 2014 – a multi-author work led and edited by Steve Parker and featuring a foreword by Alice Roberts – appeared in print during August or September. It’s called Evolution: The Whole Story (Parker 2015) and it’s not bad at all. I’m one of 11 authors and you can see who did what thanks to the initials included after each section (a nice touch). I did some of the dinosaur sections as well as various non-dinosaurian reptile and mammal sections. Had no involvement at all as goes the choice of pictures… there’s some brilliant stuff in there but some unbearable atrocities too. Anyway, the book did very well over the Christmas period and has received some very positive reviews. A multi-authored paper on our current understanding of Upper Cretaceous vertebrate faunas in Romania appeared during September (Csiki-Sava et al. 2015). It was discussed here on Tet Zoo. As I’ve said already, over the years I’ve often had cause to comment on alleged ‘sea monster’ images. November 2015 saw the newest of these: a single photo of a grey, smooth-skinned, flat-snouted beast taken by Scottish tourist Harvey Robertson while he was in a boat off the coast of Corfu, Greece. Robertson’s photo was claimed by some to be a new sort of marine mammal that defied explanation, perhaps a cetacean or hippo relative of some sort. However, many people noted the possibility that it might actually be a photo of a plastic bottle or bit of junk. After a few days of seeing headlines and linked new stories on the ‘monster’, I finally decided to check it out. It immediately occurred to me that it might actually be a photo of a freeboard boat fender (an inflatable device used to protect boat hulls from dock walls, jetties and so on), its outline and shape distorted by refraction. Ben Radford wrote about this proposed identification, resulting in widespread coverage. And well done to those clever individuals who sought to debate this by claiming that a monster identity was more likely than the fender one. Much of November was taken up with preparations for the second TetZooCon, the event itself happening on the 14th of that month. My thoughts are here. TetZooCon 2015 was a great success, even though we aren’t exactly raking in the sort of financial return that might be appropriate (read: covering our time and expenses and making a modicum of profit). As I’ve already said, the plan is for TetZooCon to become a two day thing that hosts more content and is bigger and better overall. We’ll get there eventually. Thanks once again to those who gave their time and expertise: to Matt Salusbury, Vicky Coules, Jessica Lawrence-Wujek, David Lindo, Katrina van Grouw, Bob Nicholls, Mark Witton and everyone else. We already have several speakers lined up for the 2016 event (date and venue yet to be confirmed, stay tuned and join the facebook group). I lectured a lot during the last months of the year… in fact, I pretty much did nothing else apart from prepare lectures (bit of a backstory there). I also spent weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks working on the actinopterygian chapter of the Big Book, but the less said about that the better. Fossil hippos and treeshrews were covered on the blog at about this time and December saw John and I record the 50th episode of the podcast (that particular episode isn’t released at the time of writing – we’re still editing it). And so we come to January 2016, and the weeks just prior to the actual 10th birthday event of the 21st. An escalating workload remains an issue, as does lack of time regarding the completion of many planned technical projects, but I’m sure this is true for everyone. During December, Liz Martin-Silverstone interviewed me for the Palaeocast podcast, and the relevant episode (57) was released early in January. It’s mostly about Wealden dinosaurs but we also talk about plesiosaurs and other tetrapods from the Wealden. And I think that’ll do. While this (and the previous article) serve as a messy overview of most things I’ve done and been involved in, these musings are meant to mostly be about progress and coverage at the blog. So – what about that? Well, that’s what I intend to look at next. I can tell you that the news is not good... For the previous Tet Zoo birthday articles, see... Cau, A., Brougham, T. & Naish, D. 2015. The phylogenetic affinities of the bizarre Late Cretaceous Romanian theropod Balaur bondoc (Dinosauria, Maniraptora): dromaeosaurid or flightless bird? PeerJ 3:e1032. Csiki-Sava, Z., Vremir, M., Vasile, S., Brusatte, S. L., Dyke, G., Naish, D., Norell, M. A. & Totoianu, R. 2015. The East Side Story – The Transylvanian latest Cretaceous continental vertebrate record and its implications for understanding Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary events. Cretaceous Research http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2015.09.003 Kinnaird, M. F. & O’Brien, T. G. 2007. The Ecology and Conservation of Asian Hornbills: Farmers of the Forest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Naish, D. 2015. [Review of] The ecology and conservation of Asian hornbills: farmers of the forest. Historical Biology: An International Journal of Paleobiology 27, 954-956.


Waller B.M.,University of Portsmouth | Peirce K.,University of Portsmouth | Mitchell H.,Marwell Wildlife | Micheletta J.,University of Portsmouth
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Primate behavioural and cognitive research is increasingly conducted on direct public view in zoo settings. The potential of such facilities for public engagement with science is often heralded, but evidence of tangible, positive effects on public understanding is rare. Here, the effect of a new zoo-based primate research centre on visitor behaviour, learning and attitudes was assessed using a quasi-experimental design. Zoo visitors approached the primate research centre more often when a scientist was present and working with the primates, and reported greater awareness of primates (including conservation) compared to when the scientist was not present. Visitors also reported greater perceived learning when the scientist was present. Installation of information signage had no main effect on visitor attitudes or learning. Visitors who interacted with the signage, however, demonstrated increased knowledge and understanding when asked about the specific information present on the signs (which was related to the ongoing facial expression research at the research centre). The findings show that primate behaviour research centres on public view can have a demonstrable and beneficial effect on public understanding of science. © 2012 Waller et al.


PubMed | University of York and Marwell Wildlife
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

With the number of threatened species increasing globally, conservation breeding is vitally important now more than ever. However, no previous peer-reviewed study has attempted to determine how the varying conditions across zoos have influenced breeding by an extinct-in-the-wild species. We therefore use questionnaires and studbook data to evaluate the influence of husbandry practices and enclosure design on scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) breeding success, at the herd level. Regression models were used to identify the variables that best predicted breeding success among 29 zoos across a five-year period. Calf survival decreased with herd age and the use of soft substrates in hardstand areas (yard area usually adjacent to the indoor housing), explaining 30.7% of overall variation. Calf survival also decreased where herds were small and where food provisions were not raised (and hence likely incited competition), although these were less influential. Likewise, birth rate decreased with soft substrates in hardstand areas and unraised food provisions, although these were less influential than for calf survival. Birth rate increased with year-round male presence, yet this decreased calf survival. Compared to previous studies, the number of enclosure/husbandry influences on breeding were relatively few. Nevertheless, these few enclosure/husbandry influences explained over one third of the variation in calf survival. Our data therefore suggest some potential improvements and hence that extinct-in-the-wild species stand a greater chance of survival with empirical design of zoo enclosures and husbandry methods.


PubMed | Marwell Wildlife and Kyoto University
Type: | Journal: Meta gene | Year: 2015

Androgen receptor genes (AR) have been found to have associations with reproductive development, behavioral traits, and disorders in humans. However, the influence of similar genetic effects on the behavior of other animals is scarce. We examined the loci AR glutamine repeat (ARQ) in 44 Grevys zebras, 23 plains zebras, and three mountain zebras, and compared them with those of domesticated horses. We observed polymorphism among zebra species and between zebra and horse. As androgens such as testosterone influence aggressiveness, AR polymorphism among equid species may be associated with differences in levels of aggression and tameness. Our findings indicate that it would be useful to conduct further studies focusing on the potential association between AR and personality traits, and to understand domestication of equid species.


PubMed | Marwell Wildlife and Kyoto University
Type: | Journal: Scientific reports | Year: 2015

Zebras are members of the horse family. There are three species of zebras: the plains zebra Equus quagga, the Grevys zebra E. grevyi and the mountain zebra E. zebra. The Grevys zebra and the mountain zebra are endangered, and hybridization between the Grevys zebra and the plains zebra has been documented, leading to a requirement for conservation genetic management within and between the species. We characterized 28 microsatellite markers in Grevys zebra and assessed cross-amplification in plains zebra and two of its subspecies, as well as mountain zebra. A range of standard indices were employed to examine population genetic diversity and hybrid populations between Grevys and plains zebra were simulated to investigate subspecies and hybrid detection. Microsatellite marker polymorphism was conserved across species with sufficient variation to enable individual identification in all populations. Comparative diversity estimates indicated greater genetic variation in plains zebra and its subspecies than Grevys zebra, despite potential ascertainment bias. Species and subspecies differentiation were clearly demonstrated and F1 and F2 hybrids were correctly identified. These findings provide insights into captive population genetic diversity in zebras and support the use of these markers for identifying hybrids, including the known hybrid issue in the endangered Grevys zebra.


Zoo conservation breeding programs manage the retention of population genetic diversity through analysis of pedigree records. The range of demographic and genetic indices determined through pedigree analysis programs allows the conservation of diversity to be monitored relative to the particular founder population for a species. Such approaches are based on a number of well-documented founder assumptions, however without knowledge of actual molecular genetic diversity there is a risk that pedigree-based measures will be misinterpreted and population genetic diversity misunderstood. We examined the genetic diversity of the captive populations of Grevys zebra, Hartmanns mountain zebra and plains zebra in Japan and the United Kingdom through analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences. Very low nucleotide variability was observed in Grevys zebra. The results were evaluated with respect to current and historic diversity in the wild, and indicate that low genetic diversity in the captive population is likely a result of low founder diversity, which in turn suggests relatively low wild genetic diversity prior to recent population declines. Comparison of molecular genetic diversity measures with analogous diversity indices generated from the studbook data for Grevys zebra and Hartmanns mountain zebra show contrasting patterns, with Grevys zebra displaying markedly less molecular diversity than mountain zebra, despite studbook analysis indicating that the Grevys zebra population has substantially more founders, greater effective population size, lower mean kinship, and has suffered less loss of gene diversity. These findings emphasize the need to validate theoretical estimates of genetic diversity in captive breeding programs with empirical molecular genetic data. Zoo Biol. XX:XX-XX, 2016. 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


PubMed | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, University of York, University of Portsmouth and Marwell Wildlife
Type: Evaluation Studies | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2014

Scientists are increasing their efforts to promote public engagement with their science, but the efficacy of the methods used is often not scientifically evaluated. Here, we designed, installed and evaluated the educational impact of interactive games on touchscreens at two primate research centres based in zoo environments. The games were designed to promote interest in and understanding of primates and comparative psychology, as a scaffold towards interest in science more generally and with the intention of targeting younger individuals (under 16s). We used systematic observational techniques and questionnaires to assess the impact of the games on zoo visitors. The games facilitated increased interest in psychology and science in zoo visitors, and changed the knowledge of visitors, through demonstration of learning about specific scientific findings nested within the games. The impact of such devices was greatest on younger individuals (under 16s) as they were significantly more likely to engage with the games. On the whole, therefore, this study demonstrates that interactive devices can be successful educational tools, and adds to the growing body of evidence that conducting research on public view in zoos can have a tangible impact on public engagement with science.

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