7:02 PM, October 24, 2008


We don't really think Kelley, the L.A. Zoo's silverback gorilla, above, wants to shout "Boo!" -- although his carrot-hoarding can be a bit scary.  But he and several of his fellow Los Angeles Zoo inhabitants will get pumpkin treats this weekend as part of the zoo's annual Boo at the Zoo event.

The pumpkin "stomp 'n chomp" kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. American black bears get their giant squashes at 11 a.m., Sumatran tigers are fed at 11:15a.m., and hippos at 11:30am. (Yes, we know how to spell 'hippopotamus.') Gorillas will be fed at 12:30 p.m.  At 2 p.m., the rare Chacoan peccaries (they look like furry little pigs) get their pumpkins. The river otters get a chance to chow down at 2:30pm.

In addition, there will be face painting, pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating through a "ghostly graveyard" to learn about extinct animals.

The events run 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the L.A. Zoo. Wear a costume and receive a dollar off admission.

And if you're closer to the Santa Ana Zoo, you can check out another Boo at the Zoo Halloween Festival. It runs 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday and promises a "Merry not Scary" zoo atmosphere.  But to entice kids, whose whole reason for celebrating Halloween is to be scared, the zoo is offering a "Teen Scream" haunted house.

We're not sure what part animals will play in all this, but the zoo did say something about hairy spiders and slimy snakes.

-- Carla Hall

Photo: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times 

11:59 AM, August 5, 2008


There's good news and bad news on the primate front, as reported today by Greenwire:

A survey of vast tracts of forest and swamp wilderness in Congo has revealed a population of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas, an encouraging sign for the subspecies, which was listed as critically endangered earlier this year after its population was ravaged by hunting and outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

The Wildlife Conservation Society's survey findings were to be presented today at a meeting of the International Primatological Society in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The government of Congo Republic has designated one of the studied regions as a national park, but conservation groups warn the government has insufficient funds for protecting the park, especially as the threat of illegal logging looms as demand for tropical hardwood grows....

"Separately, a report released today finds that 48 percent of the world's primates -- a group of humankind's closest relatives that includes chimpanzees, orangutans, gibbons and lemurs -- face extinction.

Photo credit: Associated Press / Thomas Breuer / Wildlife Conservation Society

10:15 AM, June 27, 2008

A_gorilla_dines_out_2Who says that Europeans are concerned only with bad pop music and the strength of the Euro?

Last month, L.A. Unleashed reported that Austrian animal rights activists are fighting to get a 26-year-old chimpanzee legally declared a "person," and they say they have filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Now it turns out that Spain is pondering the idea of extending legal rights to apes. The Times of London reports:

In what is thought to be the first time a national legislature has granted such rights to animals, the Spanish parliament’s environmental committee voted to approve resolutions committing the country to the Great Apes Project, designed by scientists and philosophers who say that humans’ closest biological relatives also deserve rights.

The resolution, adopted with crossparty support, calls on the government to promote the Great Apes Project internationally and ensure the protection of apes from “abuse, torture and death.”

“This is a historic moment in the struggle for animal rights,” Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, told The Times. “It will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades.”

Reactions to the vote were mixed. Many Spaniards were perplexed that the country should consider it a priority when the economy is slowing sharply and Spain has been rocked by violent fuel protests. Others thought it was a strange decision, given that Spain has no wild apes of its own.

-- Alice Short

Photo: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

4:34 PM, June 9, 2008

Before you even get past the cover of the neatly organized and well-researched paperback, "America's Best Zoos", you may wonder: Why was the foreword written by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich?  "Long before I aspired to enter the field of politics, I wanted to be a zookeeper," wrote the once-strident voice of the right in a lengthy explanation of his love of zoos. (As a 10-year-old he lobbied the Harrisburg, Pa., City Council to open a zoo. And, no, he is not named for an amphibian. 'Newt' he explains is an Anglicized version of 'Knut.')

As befits a book extolling the wonders of zoos at a time when they are under frequent fire from animal welfare activists, Gingrich defends them as "as a modern-day Noah's Ark" offering haven from poaching and habitat destruction.

Glenda_the_gorillas_sniffs_at_some_The authors, Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner, self-described lifelong zoo lovers, paint a flattering picture of the Los Angeles Zoo, calling it "one of the most beautiful zoos in the country."  They single out the new gorilla exhibit, the chimpanzee and orangutan exhibits.  (The gorilla at right is one of ours.) They also correctly note that when the zoo gets its expected golden monkeys from China, it will be the only U.S. zoo to have them. The authors give a nice mention to the Oakland Zoo's well-respected elephant exhibit, one of the largest in the country.   

The book reviews 97 zoos across the country -- two-thirds of them in assessments of several pages each. In addition there is a nice primer on various animals -- and where to find them. And the book has Zagat-like appendices categorizing zoos according to which has the best exhibits of certain kinds of animals.

--Carla Hall

Photo: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times

1:49 PM, June 5, 2008


Kelly, a silverback gorilla, goes for the carrots today as he and the rest of the gorillas at the Los Angeles Zoo are served a vegetarian (or perhaps herbivore) feast made by top chefs from 10 popular L.A. restaurants. The meal was to promote the zoo's annual Beastly Ball fund-raiser on June 14. Guests who pay the $1,000 ticket price can stroll the grounds after hours to view the animals.

Check out a photo gallery of the gorillas by Times photographer Bob Chamberlin.

Photo: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

12:17 PM, June 1, 2008

Sometimes it's best to refrain from commenting on a story and let the facts do the talking. We found this story on ABC NewsRadio:

Monkey business is clearly afoot in a Swiss zoo after a paternity test revealed one of its gorillas has effectively been cuckolded by a young pretender half his age.

Zookeepers in the northern city of Basel were shocked to discover that Kisoro, a 17-year-old gorilla, is not the father of little Chelewa; instead it is Viatu, another male who is just 9 years old.

The situation was "almost unbelievable," and the precocious Viatu has "broken all the rules that apply in gorilla communities," the zoo said in a statement. Normally only male gorillas aged 12 or older have the right to have sex with females in the tribe.

The facts came to light when the zoo carried out the test as part of the data it keeps on animals born in captivity.

The story reminds us of a little who-done-it that took place at the Los Angeles Zoo a few years ago. This tale involved some pregnant chimps. Go to the jump for the complete story.

Read more Some gorillas have some explaining to do »

9:42 AM, April 9, 2008


Zoos around the country, including the National Zoo and San Francisco Zoo, have seen an unexplained rise in gorillas dying of heart disease in recent years. Now they are struggling to understand why, the Associated Press reports.

Gorillas in zoos around the nation, particularly males and those in their 20s and 30s, have been falling ill — and sometimes dying suddenly — from progressive heart ailments ranging from aneurisms to valvular disease to cardiomyopathy.

Now zookeepers are scrambling to understand what factors may be causing the illnesses and what might be done to save the 368 lowland gorillas that reside in 52 zoos across North America. AP

The rise in fatal heart disease has prompted several studies, including one that found the gorillas who died had abnormally large hearts. But questions abound. Were genetics a factor? Were the gorillas getting enough exercise in their enclosures? Or too much? Was heart disease being caused by bacterial or viral infections?

Read the full AP story after the jump.

Photo: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Read more Gorilla heart disease deaths puzzling zoos »