Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Dubbo, Australia

Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Dubbo, Australia
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Hogan L.A.,University of Queensland | Johnston S.D.,University of Queensland | Lisle A.T.,University of Queensland | Keeley T.,Taronga Western Plains Zoo | And 4 more authors.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2011

The response of animals to handling by humans has been extensively evaluated in domesticated livestock, but rarely examined in wildlife species. Twelve captive wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) were subjected to two treatments in a replicated design: (1) daily handling, involving 15 min of tactile contact 5 d/wk for 12 wk and (2) no-handling, involving no contact apart from that received during routine husbandry. The effect of handling was assessed via overt responses to human approach and touch, a stressor, and a novel stimulus. Daily handling reduced the wombat's flight distance in response to human approach; more in the first handling replicate (-0.16 ± 0.02 m/wk) than in the second (-0.06 ± 0.02 m/wk). A behavioural reactivity score also declined faster in the first than second handling replicate. Synthetic ACTH was used to validate the measurement of faecal cortisol metabolites in L. latifrons by EIA. Faecal cortisol metabolite secretion consistently increased in reaction to a handling procedure involving forced human contact (indicating a lack of habituation) but the magnitude of this response was not reduced by regular handling. Regular handling therefore changed the human-wombat relationship by lowering reactivity to and avoidance of the human handler, but did reduce the stress response, suggesting that the wombats entered into a state of learned helplessness. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.


News Article | December 7, 2016
Site: www.cnet.com

The moment is straight out of a vintage cartoon: A large kangaroo buck and an even larger guy put up their dukes and prepare to go to blows. The human connects a wholly unimpressive jab/hook thing to the 'roo's snout, leaving the animal clearly bewildered. Unlike an old cartoon, though, the kangaroo was lacking cliche boxing gloves and the bout ignited a debate on the internet after the above video of the match went viral this week. Does the video show the unnecessary abuse of a wild animal, or a zookeeper on his day off acting quickly to defuse a dangerous situation? On first viewing to the untrained eye it sure looks like the man sucker punches the 'roo with little provocation, but the whole story might read a little differently under closer examination with full context. The backstory of the blow begins with a boar-hunting trip organized for a young man with a terminal cancer diagnosis (who died shortly after the video was shot). During the hunt on private property in New South Wales, the buck grabbed one of the group's dogs, holding it by a chest plate designed to protect against sharp boar tusks. As 6-foot-7-inch Grieg Tonkins runs to the rescue, the buck tries to land a blow to the dog's gut with its sharp foot claws but misses and the dog breaks free. The kangaroo then turns and advances on Tonkins, squaring up for a battle. This is when that vintage cartoon moment goes down. The punch actually happened in June, but the video wasn't posted to Facebook and YouTube until Sunday. Since then, it's received over 23 million views combined and been licensed and viewed elsewhere all around the world. The response has been mixed to say the least. A morning show host in Australia called for the man to be fired from the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. "He knows the camera is on him and his first reaction is not to run away once the dog is released, but to front up and hit him," says host David Campbell. PETA Australia posted about the incident on Facebook on Monday, quickly generating over 7,000 comments: Reading through the comments or the 30,000 more on the original YouTube video is like an anecdotal education in everything from the training of boar-hunting dogs to Australia's laws against animal cruelty to the mating habits of kangaroos. Meanwhile, at the center of the storm remains Tonkins, who doesn't appear to be losing his job, according to a statement from the zoo where he works: "Mr Tonkins is an experienced Zoo keeper and during his six years at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has always followed Taronga's best practice approach to animal care and welfare. We confirm that there is no suggestion of Mr Tonkins' employment at Taronga Western Plains Zoo ending as a result of this event." The zoo also said it "strongly opposes the striking of animals and does not support the practice of using dogs to hunt, as this can result in negative welfare for both species." In fact, according to the government of New South Wales, the best thing to do in the event of a kangaroo confrontation is to "...move well clear. Try not to attract the kangaroo's attention and keep your head and arms low... If you are attacked, drop to the ground and curl into a ball with your hands protecting your face and throat." There's definitely no hint there that punching a kangaroo in the face is a good idea; in fact, kangaroos are a protected species and injuring them is illegal. But as with most internet freak-outs, this one is largely over nothing. Watching the slow motion section of the video makes it more clear that the kangaroo was acting with an aggressive posture to the dog and then to Tonkins. Government guidelines encourage choosing a controlled flight over fight as the appropriate response, but Tonkins sized up the situation and chose controlled fight over flight. After landing a single (and rather weak) punch followed by a brief stare down, Tonkins stops and retreats, satisfied the situation is diffused. He may have just been lucky that the kangaroo was stunned enough by Tonkins' foreign moves that it didn't disembowel him or gouge his eyes out. Maybe the kangaroo would have let him walk away even if it hadn't been stunned by the punch. Who knows? Still, for that kangaroo on that day it was a choice that ended with a positive outcome -- all parties walked or hopped away with no permanent damage. If there are losers here, it's the rest of us, who lost hours of productivity this week to yet another comment battle on social media (and YouTube's deep, deep well of other kangaroo videos). What do you think? Keep the constant flow of comments on the debate going below, or hit me up on Twitter at @ericcmack.


Sangster C.,Taronga Zoo | Bryant B.,Taronga Western Plains Zoo | Campbell-Ward M.,Taronga Western Plains Zoo | King J.S.,University of Sydney | Slapeta J.,University of Sydney
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine | Year: 2010

In December 2008, a southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) aborted a 7-mo gestation male fetus. On hematoxylin and eosin-stained sections of fetal tissues, foci of necrosis were noted in the hepatic parenchyma and were associated with low numbers of lymphocytes, plasma cells, and neutrophils. Protozoal zoites were identified within the hepatic lesions and within the cerebellum. Evaluations utilizing immunohistochemistry, polymerase chain reaction, and DNA sequencing identified the protozoan as Neospora caninum. A microsatellite analysis using MS10 marker showed a unique trinucletoide repeat pattern (ACT)6 (AGA)19 (TGA)8 distinct from all studied N. caninum to date. This is the first report of N. caninum-related abortion of a rhinoceros fetus of any species and the first report of polymerase chain reaction-confirmed N. caninum infection in any rhinoceros. Copyright 2010 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.


PubMed | Taronga Western Plains Zoo and Taronga Zoo
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Australian veterinary journal | Year: 2016

A young male southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), which was resident in a zoo as part of a multi-rhinoceros group, died suddenly. Necropsy and histopathological findings supported a diagnosis of death from acute hepatic necrosis. The microscopic distribution of liver lesions was suggestive of hepatotoxicosis. Further investigation revealed potential exposure to a mycotoxin, sterigmatocystin, present in spoiled lucerne hay contaminated with Aspergillus nidulans. It was concluded that mycotoxicosis was the likely cause of the hepatic necrosis and death in this animal.


Burgess E.A.,University of Queensland | Blanshard W.H.,Sea World | Barnes A.D.,Sea For Life | Gilchrist S.,Sea For Life | And 3 more authors.
Animal Reproduction Science | Year: 2013

Determining the reproductive status of long-term captive animals is essential because the onset of sexual maturity and reproductive activity may necessitate changes in husbandry requirements. This study reports on the first multi-year reproductive hormone monitoring program for captive dugongs of both sexes using feces. Fecal samples were collected from one male ( Pig) over 9 years (4-13.2. y of age; n=288 samples, 0.8. ±. 0.1 samples per week from July 2007 to February 2012) and one female ( Wuru) over 7 years (from neonate to 6.9 y; n=171 samples, 0.5. ±. 0.1 samples per week from July 2007 to February 2012), and from one solitary female dugong ( Gracie) over 10 months (10.5-11.3. y of age; n=54 samples, 1.1. ±. 0.2 sample per week from September 2008 to June 2009). Using enzyme-immunoassay, fecal progesterone (fP) and estradiol-17β (fE) concentrations were assayed in the two captive females, and testosterone (fT) concentration in the captive male, and compared these to concentrations in wild dugongs. Female Wuru exhibited increasing fP concentrations at 5+ y, indicating early onset of ovarian cycling typical of non-pregnant adult females. Female Gracie maintained basal fP concentrations consistent with wild immature dugongs, indicating that she had not reached puberty by 11. y. Nutritional plane may account for differences in age at sexual maturity in these female dugongs. At age 3-4. y, Wuru had fE concentrations 1.4 times greater than maximum concentrations recorded in all wild females, and these concentrations were coincident with a period of rapid weight gain. For the male Pig, increasing fT concentrations at 9. y provided early indications of puberty. Pig's tusks erupted by 11. y, and sexual maturity (indicated by spermatic semen) was confirmed by 12.8. y. Identification of sexual maturation prompted two trials of a male contraceptive treatment using the GnRH agonist, deslorelin (9.4. mg administered in 2010 and 15.6. mg in 2011). Testosterone production was not significantly suppressed by these dosages, and treatment did not terminate sperm production at week 10-11 post-implantation, even at the larger dose tested. Routine analysis of fecal hormones was helpful for making reproductive management decisions regarding individual captives and in guiding the long-term captive management of this cryptic species. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.


Pollock K.,University of Queensland | Booth R.,Queensland Government | Wilson R.,University of Queensland | Keeley T.,Taronga Western Plains Zoo | And 3 more authors.
Animal Reproduction Science | Year: 2010

The Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) is an endangered carnivorous marsupial belonging to the family Dasyuridae. This study investigated the oestrous cycle of this species in terms of its reproductive physiology and behaviour to explore more efficient methods of oestrus detection. Ten sexually mature captive female dunnarts were monitored daily at David Fleay Wildlife Park, Burleigh Heads, Australia, from mid September to late December 2006 for changes in urogenital cytology within the urine (0, 1+, 2+ and 3+), running wheel activity, body weight, uneaten food, faecal steroid metabolites (progesterone and oestradiol) and pouch development. Periods of increased running wheel activity were associated (p = 0.004) with an increase in the proportion of cornified urogenital epithelial cells found in the urine; periods of decreasing weight (p < 0.001) and uneaten food (p < 0.001) were also associated with changes in urogenital cytology but not to the point where they would be useful for oestrus detection. Between 60.3% and 92.0% of peak distances (confidence interval 95%) occurred when the epithelial cell index was 2+ or 3+. Only 15.5-37.5% of peak weights (CI: 95%) and 28.1-49.9% of incidences of uneaten food (CI: 95%) occurred when the epithelial cell index was 2+ or 3+. There was no significant difference in the mean length of the oestrous cycle when measured by urogenital cytology (mean ± SD: 25.0 ± 5.7 days; n = 20) or peak distance travelled (mean ± SD: 25.4 ± 5.7 days; n = 20). Changes in the concentration of oestradiol metabolites in Julia Creek Dunnart faeces were not useful in characterising the oestrous cycle. Wheel running activity declined markedly with increased faecal progestagen concentration. The majority of the pouch variables examined showed maximum development during the inter-oestrus period but as there was considerable variation between animals, the pouch was not considered a useful index of oestrus. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


News Article | April 6, 2016
Site: www.treehugger.com

More rhinos in Africa are being killed than are being born, prompting real estate agent Ray Dearlove to start moving them away harm. With a steady stream of news about animals in Africa being decimated by poachers and the seeming impossibility of putting an end to it, the natural reaction for many of us goes something like this: I wish I could go in and swoop them up and take them someplace safe! For one man in Australia, that wish is becoming a reality as the first six of 80 rhinos will go into quarantine in Johannesburg, South Africa in May as they begin their journey to a “safe house” in the Australian outback. More than 5,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2010, and despite efforts to put a dent in poaching, it's getting worse as time progresses. At this rate, rhinos will be extinct within the next 10 years. With a single rhino horn fetching up to $500,000 on the market in China and Vietnam where it is used for traditional medicine, poachers are financially motivated to outsmart anti-poaching efforts. Conservationist have done just about everything they can think of to save them – they’ve fenced them in, sent out squadrons of anti-poaching rangers, and even cut off rhino horns to make them less appealing, reports Smithsonian: So when push comes to shove, If you can't get the poachers away from animals, then get the animals away from the poachers. Which is where Ray Dearlove comes in. The appropriately named Dearlove is a South African transplant living in Australia and the founder of The Australian Rhino Project. The goal of the Dearlove and the group is nothing short of saving the species should the need arise: “There is no safe place in Africa for rhinos today,” Dearlove tells the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC). “They’ve become extinct pretty much from the top down to South Africa where probably 85 to 90 percent of the white and black southern rhinos that are left in the world.” Over the last three years Dearlove has been wrestling full time with red tape and skeptics – understandable as we're talking airlifting two-ton animals to another continent, with a price tag of $75,000 per rhino. But he now has the blessings of both South African and Australian governments, as well as sponsors and environmentalists like Jane Goodall. After the first six that are slated for Johannesburg finish their quarantine time there, they will head over to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia for another two months of quarantine before heading to their final destination outside of Adelaide. The plan is to move four a year until a total of 80 have been relocated. “The numbers are deteriorating fast," he tells the ABC. “I thought Australia is one of the safest places on the planet to start this breeding herd, with the eventual intention that they would be repatriated to Africa when those [poaching] issues are sorted out.” “If you or I don't do anything about it, who’s going to do something about it?” he adds. Taking the bull by the horns, one airlifted rhino at a time. See more about the project here: And for more information and to support the work, visit The Australian Rhino Project.


Burgess E.A.,University of Queensland | Lanyon J.M.,University of Queensland | Brown J.L.,Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute | Blyde D.,Sea World Australia | Keeley T.,Taronga Western Plains Zoo
General and Comparative Endocrinology | Year: 2012

Assessing reproductive status and monitoring reproductive rates is important in the effective management of vulnerable marine mammal species such as the dugong (Dugong dugon). Knowledge of the reproductive physiology of this species is limited, and determining reproductive parameters (e.g., sexual maturation, pregnancy, and reproductive senescence) has been restricted by a lack of non-lethal methods for assessing reproductive status in free-ranging individuals. The aim of this study was to develop a method to identify pregnant individuals in a wild dugong population. Using an enzymeimmunoassay, we quantified concentrations of fecal progesterone metabolites (fP) in 322 dugongs, including confirmed pregnant females (n= 10), presumed non-pregnant adult females (n= 25), juvenile females (n= 24), subadult females (n= 41), adult females of unknown pregnancy state (n= 63), and males of all sizes (n= 159). External body morphometrics of each dugong were measured, and confirmation of pregnancy in adult female dugongs was determined by ultrasonography or observation of subsequent neonates. Concentrations of fP were different between sexes and reproductive size classes (P< 0.001), and ∼30-fold higher in confirmed pregnant dugongs (2017-7760. ng/g) compared to presumed non-pregnant females (30-221. ng/g), juvenile females (29-195. ng/g), and males (24-261. ng/g) (P< 0.001). Body measures of maximum and anal girths, and teat length were all greater in confirmed pregnant females than presumed non-pregnant females (all P< 0.05). We evaluated a Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA) to provide a model for predicting pregnant and non-pregnant dugongs. Cross-validated results showed that the DFA correctly classified 100% of pregnant and non-pregnant females using fP concentrations, body length, fineness ratio (an index of body shape), and teat length (a female reproductive trait). Using the DFA model, we classified the pregnancy status of all female dugongs and identified a total of 30 females as pregnant and 133 females as non-pregnant from the sampled population over the sample period. Pregnant dugongs in the Moreton Bay population are characterized by fecal progesterone metabolite concentrations > 1000. ng/g, body length ≥ 260. cm, maximum girth ≥ 215. cm, anal girth ≥ 126 cm, and teat length ≥ 5 cm long. In summary, analysis of fP concentrations in combination with body morphometrics may be used to diagnose pregnancy in free-ranging dugongs, and provides a new tool to monitor breeding rates of wild sirenian populations. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Hogan L.A.,University of Queensland | Phillips C.J.C.,University of Queensland | Lisle A.,University of Queensland | Keeley T.,Taronga Western Plains Zoo | And 3 more authors.
Animal Reproduction Science | Year: 2010

In order to develop a reliable method of oestrus detection in captive southern hairy-nosed (SHN) wombats, the reproductive behaviour of four groups of adult animals (1♂:2♀) was monitored using video surveillance and activity using movement-sensitive radio transmitters for a period of 12 months. During this time faecal samples were collected every 3 days and subsequently analysed for progesterone and oestradiol-17β metabolites. In an attempt to induce and characterise oestrus-specific behaviour, each female was administered a subcutaneous injection of either 0.01 (n = 2), 0.1 (n = 4) or 0.2 mg/kg (n = 2) of oestradiol benzoate in one of two hormone trials. Remote video surveillance was an effective tool for detecting the reproductive behaviour of the captive SHN wombat. Courtship (n = 426) and mating (n = 46) was observed in five wombats and consisted of 13 distinctive behaviours in six consecutive phases: (1) investigation, (2) attraction, (3) chase, (4) restraint, (5) copulation and (6) recovery. Female sexual receptivity occurred at night and lasted for approximately only 13-h. Faecal progesterone metabolite analysis proved to be a reliable method for mapping oestrous cycle activity, but was not useful for the prediction of oestrus. Six out of the eight female wombats displayed periods of elevated progesterone secretion, corresponding to a mean (±SE) luteal phase of 20.9 ± 1.1 days (n = 23). Oestrous cycle length, defined as the interval between two successive luteal phases separated by a follicular phase was 31.8 ± 1.1 days (n = 12) and consisted of a follicular phase of 11.6 ± 0.6 days (n = 12). Changes in the secretion of faecal oestradiol-17β metabolites provided little instructive information on oestrous cycle activity and were not associated with oestrus. Administration of oestradiol benzoate resulted in a spike of oestradiol-17β metabolites in the faeces 3-4 days later, but was not dose dependent nor did it facilitate reproductive behaviour in either sex. Activity was not linked to key events in the oestrous cycle and appears not to be suitable as a method for detecting oestrus in the SHN wombat. We therefore recommend the use of 24-h video surveillance as the most reliable method for oestrus detection in captive SHN wombats. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Burgess E.A.,University of Queensland | Lanyon J.M.,University of Queensland | Keeley T.,Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Reproduction | Year: 2012

Knowledge of male reproductive status and activity in free-ranging animals is vital to understanding reproductive patterns and population dynamics. Until now, almost all information regarding reproductive behavior of the dugong, a cryptic marine mammal, has relied on post-mortem examination. We examined the relationships between body length, tusk eruption (secondary sexual characteristic), seasonality, and group association on fecal testosterone metabolite concentrations in 322 free-ranging dugongs (159 males, 163 females) in subtropical Moreton Bay, Australia. Fecal testosterone concentrations demonstrated biologically meaningful differences in testicular activity between sexes and across reproductive/age classes, and were correlated with circulating concentrations in serum. Male dugongs have a pre-reproductive period that persists until a body length of 240 cm is achieved. Puberty apparently occurs between 240 and 260 cm body length when fecal testosterone levels increase fourfold (O500 ng/g) over juvenile levels, and is associated with tusk eruption. However, social maturity may be delayed until male dugongs are larger than 260 cm with well-developed tusks. In mature males, the lowest (!500 ng/g) fecal testosterone concentrations occur in the austral autumn months with maximal concentrations in September-October, coincident with the onset of a spring mating season. During spring, solitary mature males had fecal testosterone concentrations double those of mature males sampled within groups, potentially suggesting a mating strategy involving roving of reproductively active males. This study demonstrates that single-point physiological data from individuals across a population have value as indicators of reproductive processes. Our approach provides an efficacious non-lethal method for the census of reproductive status and seasonality in live male dugongs. © 2012 Society for Reproduction and Fertility.

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