Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye Mum

The last post of this year is a sad one for me. In October my mother passed away after being diagnosed with cancer some years ago. She could stay at home up until only a few days before she died, and fortunately was able to look after herself, with some help, more or less to the end. I will always be grateful to her next door neighbour who helped her so much, and to the hospice where she spent her last days and whose outpatient day centre she so enjoyed visiting.

Mum was born in London in 1924 and was a keen Girl Guide. She should have been on a trip to Switzerland when WWII broke out – she was very annoyed at this and much enjoyed travelling in later life. I once said she should leave an itinerary letting us know which continent she was on! We have relatives on her side of the family in Australia and New Zealand – in fact a relative of hers, William Burton, was the last surviving member of Scot’s expedition to the Antarctic when he died just short of his 100th birthday in 1988 (he was a stoker on the Terra Nova). I am glad to say Mum and Dad met him in Christchurch before he died.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Review of 2011 - Part 2

Gorilla statues at Bristol Harbourside
11th July marked the zoos’ 175th birthday, having opened on that date in 1836. In its early days, the Zoo received the gift of a lioness from Queen Victoria, and in 1868 the Maharajah of Mysore sent over Zebi the Asian elephant, which became renowned for removing and eating straw hats! Rajah, who gave rides to children for many years, replaced her.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Review of 2011 - part 1

To round up this years posts I will review the year at Bristol. This has been a major anniversary for us, as Bristol is the fifth oldest zoo in the world in continuous operation, and the oldest outside a capital city. From the start Bristol has pioneered many exhibit styles, and has majored in zoo education, research, and public service, so even if a visitor may see larger versions in other zoos, there is a good chance we were at least early adopters if not originators. For example, we were among the first to have a reversed photoperiod nocturnal house and walk-though aquarium tunnel (admittedly the latter is very small compared to more recent versions as it was created before modern acrylics came into use).

Saturday, 17 December 2011

In the pink

Greater Flamingos, India
The first aviary a visitor encounters at Bristol is the Camargue aviary opposite the entrance. Although it contains several species, the most instantly recognised are our flock of Greater Flamingos, Phoenicopterus roseus, one of two living species found in the Old World, along with the Lesser Flamingo, Phoeniconais minor. There are another four species found in the Americas, of which the only one found naturally in North America is the American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber. The American Flamingo was formerly classed as a subspecies of Greater Flamingo but has now been split into a separate species. There other three species live in the Andes at high altitudes, and comprise the Chilean, Andean, and Puna or James’ Flamingoes. Very few Andean or Puna flamingos are in animal collections, but some can be seen at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust collection at Slimbridge.The vast majority of flamingos to be seen in zoos or wildfowl collections are Greater, Chilean, or American flamingos.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Part 6: And finally, the show scene

Today the canary is one of the commonest pet birds in the world. Just about every pet shop in Europe or North America at least will have some, and a single bird or a pair is easy to accommodate. As with all birds however, larger accommodation in the form of an indoor or outdoor aviary allows them to keep fitter and more active. Anyone interested should consult any of the innumerable books, websites, or forums where information from other keepers is easily available.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Part 5: Down the mines

Border canary
The canary in the coal mine is a familiar expression today, generally used either for some environmental change or for some ominous economic event, but how did it originate? And for that matter, what were canaries doing down the mines in the first place?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Part 4: Rise of the red factor

Red Siskin
Canaries are yellow. This is one of those ‘everybody knows’ facts that are in reality completely untrue. As you will have seen from images on previous posts, canaries come in all shapes and sizes, and are often greenish-brown rather than yellow. Up until the start of the 20th century however no one had succeeded in breeding a canary colour that was not a variation on the colours in the wild bird.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

How canarys differ

Today a huge variety of recognisably different breeds of canary exist. As with the domestic dog, the difference from the wild ancestor can be extreme, and selective breeding is still altering them further from the wild type. So how do the different breeds differ?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Part 2: Domestication

One of the minor unexplained oddities of human beings is our fondness for keeping pets. Wherever you go, and in every society, you will generally find someone, often but by no means always a child, with a pet animal of some kind. Perhaps the world leaders in the variety of species kept are probably the native peoples of the Amazon – everything from parrots to tapirs has been reported as being kept in the villages. This happens even though the same animal may be hunted for food, or regarded as potentially dangerous (bears for example). True pets or companion animals are not the same as work animals such as hunting dogs, which may be quite badly treated. When people first started keeping them is not at all clear, but for some reason it is more common outside Africa. Given that we now know that non-African modern humans are at least part Neanderthal, I wonder – did the practise actually start with them? Contrary to what may be thought, hunter-gatherer societies are just as fond of keeping pets as settled agricultural ones, so there is no lifestyle objection to that idea.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The story of the canary

Domesticated canary - the 'Gloster'
From ancient times, people have kept a variety of small birds as companion animals, usually for their song. Today a huge variety of species are kept, but probably the commonest is still the first to be truly domesticated, the canary. As they have been kept for so long, their story is entwined with the origins of genetics, conservation legislation, even health and safety. The ‘miners canary’ is still proverbial (at least in English) as a reference to some event which is a portent of far more serious disasters to come, and these days is most often heard referring to some environmental change heralding climate change induced catastrophes. This series of posts will investigate the natural and unnatural history of the canary, and some reflections along the way on its implications for the world as a whole.

Part 1: What is a canary, exactly?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Halloween: Behold the Great Pumpkin

For the last week the zoo has had its Halloween week, with among other special events some displays of pumpkins and squashes grown by the gardeners. Traditionally, the only members of the pumpkin family grown on any scale in the UK were marrows and their smaller relatives the courgette (zucchini), but with more varieties for sale in supermarkets more people are growing other varieties, such as butternut squash and, of course, pumpkins.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

By the light of the silvery Moon (Moth)

A.selene male
Earlier this year we started showing a new species of silkmoth, in addition to the Giant Atlas Moths Attacus atlas and the Rothschild’s Atlas Moth Rothschildea jacobeae. These are the beautiful lime green Indian Moon Moth, Actias selene.Although we do not currently have adults on show, we have larvae growing off-show and should have the adults again in a few months.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Hot off the press

How on earth did people come to decide that chilli peppers were a good addition to a meal? Here is a plant that comes from a family (the Solanaceae) which are often poisonous, and whose fruits contain a compound that specifically attacks mammalian pain receptors, causing a severe burning sensation. Nonetheless, about 8 or 9 thousand years ago, someone in Central or South America tried one and thought ”Hey, that’s great! I will put it in all my food!”

Friday, 7 October 2011

Aquarium Tour: Mushroom polyps

The last tank before you exit the aquarium is a marine tank housing a variety of small to medium-sized coral reef fish (incidentally, an informal count of visitors suggests the phrase “look –there’s Nemo Dad/Mum!” occurs at a frequency of around 10-15 times per hour in front of it). It is not the fish however I wish to close with, but some of the most colourful, and disregarded, animals in the tank, the extensive growth of soft corals of various species, particularly the mushroom polyps.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Aquarium Tour: Lungfish

The last large tank in the Aquarium contains a large variety of Malawi cichlids. While these are fascinating animals in their own right, I would like to write about one of the less commonly visible inhabitants of the tank, the African lungfish. There are actually four recognised species of Protopterus in Africa, with several divided into subspecies, and as they are very similar I am not sure if the two individuals we have are the same form, but they are probably P.aethiopicus. A third individual is in quarantine and will be going on show soon.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Special Delivery!!!!!

Just born today:

Salome with baby
Repost from the BSG website:

Staff at Bristol Zoo Gardens are celebrating the birth of a baby western lowland gorilla.
The baby was born at lunchtime today (Tuesday September 27) by natural birth to Salome, and both mother and baby appear to be doing well.

The Gorilla House has been temporarily closed to allow the gorillas, including Dad Jock, time to bond with the new arrival.

The youngster, which is yet to be named, is the perfect gift for the Zoo, which this year celebrates its 175th birthday and is participating the European Zoo Association’s Ape Campaign, which aims to raise funds and awareness of the threats facing gorillas in the wild.

Senior Curator of Animals, John Partridge, said: “We are thrilled with the arrival of a baby gorilla. It is still very early days, but Salome is a great mother and has been cradling and cuddling her baby affectionately. We are pleased to say that both Salome and the baby are doing well.”

He added: “Salome keeps the baby very close and we are keen to give the gorillas space, therefore it is still too early to determine the sex of the baby. Naturally the gorilla keepers will keep a very close eye on mother and baby in these crucial first few days and weeks to ensure that they, along with the rest of the gorilla group, are healthy, content and bonding well.”

To see a video of the new baby visit

Monday, 26 September 2011

Aquarium Tour: Freshwater stingrays

Opposite the piranha tank is another large tank containing a variety of Amazonian fish, of which the most spectacular are our group of freshwater stingrays, Potamotrygon motoro. Practically all rays, and their close cousins the sharks, are either confined to the sea or at best occasionally enter fresh or brackish water at estuaries, but the Amazon is home to several species of rays which are fully adapted to fresh water and can no longer enter the sea. It appears that this process began about 15 million years ago, when the rise of the Andes and other earth movements isolated a fairly standard coastal species. Today, around 23 species in three genera can be found across the Amazon basin. Most of these are in the same genus Potamotrygon as those at Bristol. Many are seldom seen in captivity, but P.motoro is perhaps the most widely kept.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Aquarium Tour: Supervillains need not apply

Exiting the walk through tank, on your left is a large aquarium containing what are certainly the most famous fish in South America, Red-bellied piranhas Pygocentrus nattereri. This is the species that is invariably seen on TV and in aquarium shops, as it is one of the commonest species, but actually, depending on how they are classified, there are at least 37, probably more, different forms of piranha throughout tropical South American rivers. How the different species are referred to locally varies, but species of Serrasalmus are often referred to as pirambebas. They are actually closely related to the Pacu I wrote about last week.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Aquarium tour: It came from the Amazon

In the centre of the aquarium is our walk-through tank. One of the first in the world, though now outclassed by many newer buildings, it was actually created from an old 19th century bear pit. That in turn was a modification of the original building, one of two lime kilns that were on the site before it was acquired by the zoo back in 1835. A great deal of the buildings in Clifton and the surrounding area were built with cement made on the Bristol Zoo site.

There are various species of Amazonian fish in the walk-through tank, but the largest are our Pacu, Colossoma macropomum. As you might guess from the name, they are very large fish, about 1m long and probably weighing around 30kg. They are actually fairly closely related to their smaller, but more famous, cousins, the various species of predatory piranha, but unlike them are omnivorous, with a strong preference for vegetation and fruits of trees.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Aquarium tour: The Picasso Triggerfish

One of the most colourful marine fish we have on show is or Picasso Triggerfish, Rhinecanthus aculeatus. Triggerfish belong to the same order as the pufferfish, the Tetraodontiformes, but have a different means of self defence. Their skin is covered with very tough scales, and in the dorsdal and anal fins there are locking spines. When erected, these spines make the fish hard to swallow, and they are also used for wedging the fish into crevices in the reef rock, which is where they spend the night.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Aquarium tour: Arrowhead Pufferfish

Next to the brackish water display is a tank that most of the public walk past, as it appears at first glance to be empty. This is their loss, as it actually contains two of the oddest fish we have, the Arrowhead Puffer fish Tetraodon suvattii.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Aquarium Tour: Archer Fish

The next tank along contains a selection of species from mangrove or estuarine habitats. The most distinctive of these are the Archer fish, Toxotes sp. There are at least seven different species of Toxotes, but the fish we have are probably T.jaculatrix or T.chatareus, which are the species most commonly seen in the aquarium trade.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Aquarium Tour: Here be Dragons

Gold form S.formosus
Next door to the paddlefish aquarium is another large tank containing large fish from Asia. One of the most important species in the tank is some young Asian Dragon Fish, Scleropages formosus. They are especially significant because they are the results of what we believe to be the first breeding of this species in a public aquarium anywhere. Previous captive breeding has been in outside ponds, mostly in Asia.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A Tour through the Aquarium: American Paddlefish

The first large tank in the Aquarium is dedicated to a variety of ‘primitive’ fishes, whose ancestors split from the ancestors of more modern fish such as perch and carp in the distant past. Still surviving today, the Chondrostean fish are characterised by a great reduction in bone and a skeleton that is mostly cartilage. They also often have a shark-like heterocercal tail, and were at one time thought to be close to the sharks. It is now plain that they are modified ray-finned fish, and the surviving forms are not necessarily even closely related to each other. We have two species at Bristol, the Sterlet (a small European species of sturgeon) and the subject of this article, the American Paddlefish Polyodon spathula.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Tour through the Aquarium: The livebearers

Ameca splendens male
 The next tank to the Potosi pupfish contains several species of its fairly close relatives, the Goodeids. Unlike the egg-laying pupfish, Goodeids are livebearers. In any aquarium shop you will find for sale many species and colour varieties of livebearers, such as guppies, platies, and swordtails, which have been the target for selective breeding by aquarists for many years. These belong to another related group, the Poeciliids.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A tour through the aquarium: The Potosi Pupfish

As you enter the Aquarium at Bristol the first tank you meet is a display tank containing a few rather pretty little blue fish. These are male Potosi pupfish, a species of killifish sadly extinct in the wild. Originating in Mexico, from El Potosi in Nuevo Leon, they are examples of a group of species found all over the south west of North America, from Nevada down into Mexico, which are relicts of a very different environment to that experienced today. The group we have at Bristol were originally from London Zoo, and we and London are the only zoos on ISIS to have these species, with a total population of around 400 fish, although there are a few private breeders in Spain, Mexico and the US who also keep them.

Monday, 18 July 2011

175 years and 1 week today!

Utila Iguana
Last Monday the zoo celebrated its 175th birthday with an evening picnic and hog roast, with a variety of stalls for the visitors. Fortunately we had great weather, so a great time was had by all. Bristol is actually the fifth oldest modern zoo in the world, and the oldest outside a capital city. The older ones run like this:

Vienna zoo – 1752
Madrid – 1775
Paris - 1795
London Zoo – 1828, but only opened to the public in 1843

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Something different: the Sundews

 This week I thought I would take a break from talking about animals and instead write about one of their more unusual predators. I grow a small collection of carnivorous plants and last week at Chester Zoo there was an international meeting of growers from all over Europe. As well as plants for sale, there were also great displays, including from the national collections of Sarracenia and Drosera, and I came away with three of the latter for my collection.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Zoo Review: Exmoor

Tamandua tetradactyla
  Last weekend was the Severn Counties annual summer coach trip. We often visit zoos, and this year we decided to try Exmoor Zoo in north Devon. A fairly small zoo, only set up in its current incarnation 8 years ago, it is situated down one of the typical narrow Devon lanes. An accident on the main road forced our coach to take a longer way round than usual, so the trip down took longer than expected.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 8: And finally

In 2009 Bristol added a new species to our waterfowl collection, the Marbled duck Marmaronetta angustirostris. We succeeded in breeding them last year, and a small flock can now be seen in the Camargue exhibit by the zoo entrance.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 7: Meller's Duck

Meller's Duck
 On view in a couple of Bristol’s aviaries are pairs of one of the rarest ducks in the world, the Endangered Meller’s duck, Anas melleri. Originating from Madagascar, where it lives in wetlands in the east of the country and the central plateau, Meller’s ducks superficially resemble a large female mallard, with both the male and female having almost the same plumage. There are several species of ducks, especially in the tropics, which do not have the widely variant plumages familiar from temperate zone species, and this is reflected in their breeding behaviour.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 6: Wild Goose chase

One of the most beautiful geese in the world is unfortunately also one of the rarest. The Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis is currently estimated to have a population of around 35,000 in the wild; perhaps half what it was only 10 years ago, when it was already the rarest in the genus aside from the far more famous Nene Branta sandvicensis.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 5: The Holy Duck of Northumbria

Drake Common Eider
 Sharing a pool with the African penguins in the Seal and penguin Coast Exhibit are three pairs of Common Eider, Somateria mollissima. Along with the other two Somateria species, S.fischeri (Spectacled Eider) and S.spectabilis (King Eider), plus the slightly more distantly related Steller’s Eider, Polysticta stelleri, they are a readily recognised group of Arctic to temperate zone marine ducks which specialise on shellfish (which are usually swallowed whole), plus some other marine invertebrates. They spend almost their entire lives in salt water, except when storm-driven inland, and are among the heaviest ducks in the world.

Economically, Common Eiders have been important since earliest times, as a food item (they are still heavily hunted, especially in Canada), as a potential pest of oyster and mussel fisheries and farms, but most importantly as the source of eiderdown.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 4: Shelducks


A common sight on wetlands in the Old World, from northern Europe across as far as New Zealand, are the various species of large, colourful ducks generally referred to as shelducks. They tend to prefer water in the middle of open country, or on the coast, and their diet tends to be biased towards aquatic invertebrates, although some plant material is also taken.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 3: Diving Ducks

Common Pochard
 As part of the legacy of earlier days when Bristol’s collection of waterfowl was focused on ornamental ducks we still have a couple of species of diving ducks in the collection – Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and Pochard A. farina. When these last individuals pass away they will probably be replaced with more endangered waterfowl species. On the whole, the various Aythya species are common ducks around the northern hemisphere, with a few species south of or near to the equator. One of these, the Critically endangered Madagascar Pochard, was believed extinct and is now the focus of an intensive conservation programme with the aid of DWCT and the WWT. Not in quite as bad a position, but still declining to a worrying extent, the East Asian Baer’s Pochard A. baeri is believed to number less than 20,000 adults, possibly under 10,000, and is classed as Endangered by the IUCN.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 2: Wood Duck

A.sponsa male
  One of the commonest non-domestic ducks to be seen in any waterfowl collection is the American Wood Duck or Carolina Duck, Aix sponsa. With its small size, ease of care, and free reproduction in captivity it is popular with both beginner and experienced amateur keepers as well. The only rival it has is with the very closely related east Asian Mandarin, Aix galericulata.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Bristol Waterfowl 1: Chiloe Wigeon

When Bristol Zoo was opened 175 years ago the centrepiece was a large lake on which a variety of waterfowl were kept. Although the species have changed over the years we still have waterfowl on the lake as display birds and also more important species in various aviaries where they can be better protected from the ever-present urban fox and also receive special care. This series of posts will be about the various ducks (and one goose) held at Bristol.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

New arrival: Pallas' Long-tongued bat

Just gone on show in Twilight World is a group of Pallas’ Long-tongued bats, Glossophaga soricina. These are quite a significant addition to Bristol’s species list, as according to ISIS this makes us the only zoo in the UK, and one of only 10 institutions worldwide, to have them on display.

Monday, 25 April 2011

New Butterflies at Bristol

 For the April instalment, a few new species have been added to the collection to be seen in the Butterfly House in addition to the regular species. El Bosque Nuevo, the Costa rica butterfly farm that supplies us, has at least 70 species available, so the collection manager likes to ring the changes occasionally to keep things interesting for the annual members who visit regularly.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Frogs of Bristol 6: Handle with care

To wrap up this series on Bristol Zoo’s frog collection, there are the three poison arrow or poison dart frogs we currently have on show. Belonging to the Dendrobatidae, almost all the species of dendrobatid are highly colourful, day active frogs which tend to be fairly bold and therefore make good exhibits, unlike the tiny Mannophryne species I talked about last week. They can of course afford to be conspicuous, as their skin secretions are unusually toxic, although of the ones we have only the Golden Poison Frog, Phyllobates terribilis, is toxic enough to kill humans, with a single frog estimated on average having enough toxin to kill ten adult human beings or 22,000 mice. Fortunately, captive bred individuals never acquire the toxicity they have in the wild, as the wild diet appears essential for the production of the multiple toxins found naturally.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Frogs of Bristol 5: Noisy but secretive

One of the least conspicuous, but noisiest, of all the frogs we have at Bristol are our Trinidad Stream Frogs, Mannophryne trinitatis. Originally thought to be found on Trinidad in the Caribbean and part of the mainland of Venezuala, the mainland population is now classed as a separate species, M.venezuelensis. This is only to be expected, as any interchange between Caribbean islands and South America must be very infrequent at best. Our species is part of a group of very similar species mostly found in montane forests of Caribbean islands and Venezuela. Several are listed by the IUCN as declining, near threatened, critically endangered, or at best data deficient, with the Trinidad Stream Frog classed as Vulnerable. At present, they are still reasonably common in suitable habitat.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Frogs of Bristol 4: Splendid Leaf Frog

One of the more spectacular frogs we have at Bristol is the Splendid Leaf Frog, Cruziohyla calcarifer. Unfortunately, visitors usually do not get to appreciate their full colour, as like many frogs they are nocturnal and during the day they spend their time fixed to a large leaf, where their camouflage green makes them hard to spot.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Frogs of Bristol 3: Tastes like?

Pity the poor Mountain Chicken frog. As if being eaten to extinction on several Caribbean islands by both humans and introduced mongooses is not bad enough, it then had its last stronghold on a volcano in Montserrat blow up and finally the survivors were hit with chytridiomycosis. A frantic effort was initiated by DWCT on Jersey – if you are at all interested in any conservation work check out the Dodo blog on their site – and a few European zoos now hold and breed Leptodactylus fallax. With a wild population on the last two islands where it lives (Dominica and Montserrat) having a combined population of under 8,000 (probably much less) this species is in dire need of help.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Frogs of Bristol 2: The Lemur Leaf Frog

The other species we are currently breeding in the Amphipod, although in somewhat smaller numbers, is the Lemur Leaf Frog Hylomantis lemur. Originating from Costa Rica and Panama, this tiny (3cm) tree frog has undergone massive declines in recent years, almost certainly due to chytridiomycosis, although it is apparently slightly more resistant than some other species. It was assessed as Critically Endangered in 2008.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Frogs of Bristol 1: The Golden Mantella

A recent piece of research into which animals visitors to zoos pay most attention to rated amphibians as next after mammals (especially primates) in popularity. Just over a year ago, Bristol opened its ‘Amphipod’ – a climate controlled timber exhibit with two modest sized rooms for breeding endangered amphibians. Most people reading this blog will be aware of the global amphibian crisis caused by chytrid fungus, so I will not repeat that. I would like to talk instead about the various amphibians we have at Bristol and their current situation in the wild.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

New Arrivals - Black Hornbills

 A new species that arrived at Bristol earlier this year is a pair of Malayan Black Hornbills, Anthracoceros malayanus. One of 54 recognised species of hornbill (plus the closely related Ground Hornbills of Africa) they originate from South East Asia, which is a center of diversity for the Bucerotiformes. Among the close relatives of hornbills are the hoopoes, kingfishers, rollers, and woodpeckers. Most of these were originally grouped together in the Coraciiformes, but these have now been split into separate orders.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A good start to our 175th anniversary year

Finally, after many disappointing years, Bristol has two lion cubs. The proud parents are two (a male and a female) of the around three hundred Asiatic Lion, Panthera leo persica, in captivity. The wild population as of April 2010, comprised 411 individuals, including 150 cubs, all located in the Gir forest and a few neighbouring areas in Gujarat, India.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Society show last week

 Last weekend the cage bird society I belong to, Severn Counties Foreign and British Bird Society, held its annual members Show. The club has two shows a year, with the autumn one open to non-members which results in a higher number of entries from hobbyists from all over, especially the west of England and Wales. Unfortunately, owing to the sad loss of a couple of enthusiastic exhibitors this year, the number of entries was down, but there was still an impressive range of species kept and bred by club members on show.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

February Colloquium: Conservation in Crisis

First of all, sorry about the gruesome picture at the head of this week’s post, but it aptly illustrates the current situation in Madagascar. The research colloquia we have on a monthly basis here at Bristol (open to the public by the way – we will be holding some of them at the city museum this year to encourage attendance) cover a variety of subjects, and the first one of the year discussed the ongoing environmental disaster in Madagascar, especially over the last couple of years. The talk covered a brief history of Madagascar and then moved to the research area in North West Madagascar on the Sahamalaza peninsula, where AEECL supports a research programme. I have added the AEECL web address to the list of useful sites on this blog – please check it out.

It is a pet irritation of mine that so many people with an interest in conservation in developing countries do not know the slightest thing about the people who live with the animals and the environment they wish to protect, their history, or how they see the world and the current situation. In Madagascar that is a particular problem, because the human history of Madagascar is in many ways as unique as its wildlife.