Red pandas

My local zoo just received two red pandas.  The zoo is undergoing a facelift – better and larger spaces for the animals with a more natural environment.  They also are getting a few new animals and sending some away to other zoos.

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These red pandas are a welcome addition. They certainly are cute, and so many people including children as young as three excitedly asked zookeepers questions.

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Red pandas are endangered with less than ten thousand in the wild.  Their natural home is in the Himalayans, and deforestation is the main culprit for their low population numbers.

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They seem to be closer in relation to a raccoon rather than a giant panda!

IMG_2409Their fur is a beautiful color and fluffy which sadly make them a popular hunting target in the wild.

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They spend their days in the treetops, and are most active at night.

IMG_2410Zoos are involved in conservation of the species.  The Knoxville Zoo in the US is considered the premier place in North America for red panda conservation.

IMG_2408All photos taken by me at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY.

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Donating to zoos

My local zoo gladly takes donations to help elephants and other animals.  Obviously, monetary donations are accepted, but it is nice to donate items where you can see the animals actually use them.

The zoo elephants enjoy “foraging” for pasta, unsweetened cereals, oats, and unsalted pretzels.  They also like spices and perfumes.  And, if you have large cardboard tubes you want to recycle, they make enjoyable elephant playthings to manipulate and destroy.

Other animals also need supplies – for example, my zoo was thrilled to accept blankets for their primates.

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So, if you are cleaning out your cupboards, house, or garage, ask your zoo if they need anything!

 

 

 

 

World Animal Protection study

A recent study by World Animal Protection found that the number of elephants used as entertainment in Thailand has grown dramatically – increasing by a third in only five years.

Fortunately, many large travel companies are banning selling tourist tickets to elephant rides, including Trip Advisor.

Still, there is a massive problem of naive tourists who are excited to meet an elephant and desperately hope for a picture of themselves riding it so they can share their experience with friends and family back home. The report suggests that 40% of tourists in Thailand expect to ride an elephant.

What these tourists do not see is that many of these tourist elephants have to endure hours of being chained up each day.  Most have experienced harsh training methods such as hooks to keep them submissive.  Many were taken by force from their mothers as babies so they could grow accustomed to human control.

It is scary to read that only 200 of the 3000 elephants studied had humane living conditions.

If you plan on viewing wildlife on your vacation, please do a lot of research beforehand.  Elephant rides, dolphin swims, and holding tiger cubs are fun experiences for humans, but it rarely is good for the animal.

In Thailand, I can recommend the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a wonderful way to meet elephants.  You are able to pat them, feed them, and wash them.  Yet, all the elephants are rescued and being well taken care of on acres of land.  The elephants are able to form herds, and are never forced into human contact.

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Elephants likely to be protected in NY

There is a bipartisan effort in New York to ban elephant entertainment. It passed the legislature and is now on the Governor’s desk for review.

Thanks to efforts by Pace University students to educate their representatives about animal cruelty, New York may become the first state to protect elephants by law.

From USA Today:

The bill, called the “Elephant Protection Act,” allows the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to assess a fine of up $1,000 for every violation of the law when an elephant is used for performances.

The bill doesn’t apply to accredited zoos, aquariums or wildlife sanctuaries.

Cuomo’s office said it is reviewing the bill. If signed, the law would take effect within two years.

Welcoming orphaned elephant

Video: youtube, elephantnews

The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand is a special place.  They rescue elephants and rehabilitate them from landmine accidents, abusive circus acts, and body-breaking logging work.  The elephant then can live out his or her life in retirement.

Tourists are allowed to observe the elephants, and even can feed or bathe them (the staff are careful to choose elephants who are willing participants).   This park was where I got to meet a variety of elephants during my trip to Thailand in June 2015.

Therefore, I try to keep up with news online about the Elephant Nature Park.  This video of an orphaned elephant being welcomed by the herd made world news this week, and for good reason.  It’s so heartwarming to watch good news!

With summer here (a short season in my city), I will be posting on the blog less – likely once a week – as I will be trying to spend as much time outside during my free time as possible!

 

 

Proposed budget would hurt wild horses

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(Photo: every week in the spring I do volunteer work with children and domesticated horses)

Wild horses are a symbol of the “Wild West”, often seen as emblematic of the American spirit.  Yet, they have been controversial for decades.  Ranchers have longed bemoaned the wild horses’ presence, and complain that protections for the animals have created problems of overpopulation.  The new budget proposal seems particularly cruel to the horses, however, as it would allow horses to be sold overseas for slaughter.  This would reverse protections both Democrat and Republican Presidents have championed for over forty years.

From CNBC:

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal calls for saving $10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the West without the current requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won’t be resold for slaughter.

Wild horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of protection for wild horses — an icon of the American West — and could send thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as food.

My volunteer work

IMG_5013Since I do not live in Thailand, my elephant volunteer experience was a one day event.  But, I am lucky enough to work with large, friendly, intelligent animals here at home.

There is a horse therapy farm about twenty minutes away by car that does amazing work.  The horses are all rescues, and they take disabled children for rides on trails.  This is my fourth year volunteering.

My volunteer job is varied.  First, I get to work with the horses – grooming, tacking, and taking them for some exercise prior to their work with the children.  Then, I help the children get comfortable around the horses, and help them get in the saddle.  I then serve as a sidewalker or horse leader on the trail.  Finally, I have some messy chores to do like helping clean up the stalls.

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Each horse has a sad background story, so it’s heartwarming to see how both horse and rider benefit in this program.

My selfishly favorite part is at the end of the season I get offered a riding lesson of my own.

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Photos show three of the horses (there are seven at the farm).  The last photo is of me riding my favorite!