1. Call to Order and Roll Call
September 13, 2012
Present Commissioners: Sally Stephens, Geneva Page, Philip Gerrie, Ryan Young, Jack Aldridge – DVM, Pam Hemphill, John Denny – SFPD
Absent Commissioners: Lisa Wayne – Rec & Park, Susanna Russo, Vicki Guldbech – ACC
2. General Public Comment
Richard Fong – Had been at Rec & Park Meeting about the planned elevated park at the new Transbay Terminal Center. Concerned about current sewage overflow plans which currently calls for direct drain to the nearby tidal estuary.
Public Comment closed
3. Approval of Draft Minutes from the July 12, 2012 Meeting
No Commission nor public comment
Minutes approved unanimously as written.
4. Chairperson’s Report and Opening Remarks
A) Update on Rules Committee hearing to fill expiring Commission appointments
Comr. Stephens – Spoke with Clerk of Rules Committee. Plan is to hold appointment hearings on October 4th.
No Public Comment
5. New Business
A) Discussion on a renewed emphasis on animal “wellness” at the SF Zoo. Dr. Terry Maple will give a presentation of his efforts working with the zoo staff to expand and develop wellness programs
Comr. Stephens – Several years ago, this Commission took a critical look at the zoo and had some serious concerns. Since then, there have been changes at the zoo. We had suggested an emphasis on rescue animals in new acquisitions. We also supported an emphasis on wellness and welfare of existing animals. Since then, several rescued animals have come in. Also, two non-voting representatives, for animal welfare, are now on the Joint Zoo Oversight Committee, Dr. Joe Spinelli DVM and myself. Would like to introduce David Bocian, VP for animal care who will introduce Dr. Maple.
David Bocian – Dr. Maple is the founding editor of the journal Zoo Biology. He is former director of the Atlanta and Palm Beach Zoos. He was brought to the SF Zoo by an initiative of the Zoological Board focused on animal wellness. We value his presence and find his influence very helpful.
Dr. Terry Maple – Grew up in San Diego. Went to UC Davis for my PhD. Believes there is not another zoo in the US where wellness is better understood. Wellness means being fit and active. Tendency in zoos is for the animals to not be as active as would be liked. Concept, for this zoo, is to make wellness a real organizing principle. From daily care to long term design implications. The term “animal welfare” has been hard for zoos to reconcile. Animal “wellness’ is a segue to an overall welfare orientation. Wellness has become a focus for all the zoo staff. One concept has been to encourage animals to forage for their food as they do in the wild. This creates opportunities to dig and hunt for animals to find their food. This helps them to be healthier. Animal wellness comes from the science of animal welfare. Another successful example is the Grizzly Gulch exhibit. It was built to look and function like their natural habitat. Two rescued bears, that were scheduled to be euthanized, came to the SF Zoo instead. They behave more like wild bears than I’ve seen in any other zoo. Another example is the “wellness exam”. We used to have a public feeding of meat to the big cats but that was motivated for the visitors not for the benefit of the cats. Instead, we hope to soon have the public see the big cats going through behaviors as part of the “wellness exam” where the big cats are trained to cooperate with the vet. Keepers have a signal to have the cats open their mouth for dental examination. The keepers master these techniques and want to share it with the public so they can get close to the animals. The public will know how much the animal weighs since it will walk onto the scales. The big cat house will become more of an educational area. The staff will share with the public how well these animals are cared for. Another dimension to this project is one of design. There is a concept of hard and soft architecture. Zoos were originally hard, made of cement and steel. Not conducive to natural behavior. We now focus on keeping the animals active such as at the Grizzly Gulch exhibit. The SF Zoo, I believe will become a leader in the concept of wellness and in soft design. My role is as an advisor to the SF Zoo, come in once a month, shares ideas via Skype other times. I am a Professor-in-residence at the SF Zoo. I hope to have my book about my efforts published in the spring. It will include my work at the SF Zoo.
Comr. Aldridge – Do you see animals currently at the zoo that it will not be possible to provide the wellness lifestyle? Possibly not housing them at the zoo or finding alternative methods of caring for them?
Dr. Terry Maple – There should be. I hope we can sit down for a strategic collection plan to ask that very question. In my book, I’ve written that certain people believe that some species should not be housed in zoos. There are not many that should absolutely not be housed. There are some species if you don’t do it right you shouldn’t do it. I hope to initiate something this fall that can be brought to the creative design process. Elephants are one animal that is extremely difficult to do it right. SF and the Bronx Zoos have stopped keeping elephants. The San Diego Zoo has spent a lot of money to keep their elephants. I’d like to see that each zoo specialize in what they can do really, really well. You don’t need to have every kind of animal but that animals you do have need to live well. Fewer animals living larger.
Comr. Hemphill – Animals naturally want to reproduce. A recent article in the NY Times talked about two approaches, birth control or euthanizing animals that can’t be taken care of. What is your position?
Dr. Terry Maple – I was quoted in that article about a statement from a Copenhagen zoo director who said if the animal couldn’t reproduce it shouldn’t be alive. I don’t agree. Collections have to be very carefully planned. I prefer the word ‘population’.
If your zoo population is well planned you won’t have many mistakes. I’ve never agreed with management-based euthanasia. Euthanasia should be for really sick animals. Difficult situations do arise. I was faced with the surprise birth of 60 reticulated pythons. My curator said they were going into the pet trade since that was the only place to put them. My response was to ask if you would put a tiger into the pet trade. They will do a lot of damage as they get bigger. They can get up to 28 feet. I don’t agree with the European approach. It is an ongoing debate. The Europeans are ahead of us in legislating animal welfare but they are not always right. I am interested in seeing how animal welfare is coming on in developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia. They are emphasizing animal wellness. I am interested that SF be the global leader on the Pacific rim. What you do here could influence what is done in Asia.
Comr. Young – How do you measure success in your wellness program? If measuring human wellness, that might be in increased years of life.
Dr. Terry Maple – The measure of welfare is still developing. The first measure of success is getting everyone behind the idea. Are the animals exhibiting natural behavior? You can measure that. Are the animals active? You can measure that. Do they have an appropriate weight? One problem in zoos is obesity and the diseases that come from that. One problem in the welfare field, to a degree, is affluence. Giving the animals too much food. The science of nutrition is very advanced in zoos. We can measure what they eat and their physical health parameters. I am working on a system to grade all these factors – to measure it on a daily basis. Animals in zoos live longer than wild animals already.
Comr. Young – Yes, that is the question. Would animals live longer with a wellness program than without one?
Dr. Terry Maple – Yes, a measurable extender. But not just an extender but a quality of life. We have to measure not just the end point but whether they will use things we provide to hide their food. So far, all our evidence is that they do it with enthusiasm.
Comr. Hemphill – A lot of people go to the zoo regularly and bond with particular animals. They know when those animals are not doing as well. Have you thought of using that resource?
Dr. Terry Maple – In my career, I haven’t. I helped reform the Atlanta Zoo, when it was in real trouble. I brought in outside experts, from the Humane Society, to keep us focused on the issues in having a humane organization. You do need outside involvement to do that well. We do have experts now, the keepers that work with those animals every single day. They need to be listened to. Does the zoo listen to people that know? David and I do. The relationship of animals to the keepers is extremely important to their health and welfare. The animals know their keepers. If you don’t treat them right, they know it. The human-animal bond is real and part of the wellness paradigm.
Comr. Hemphill – I wouldn’t call the people experts but they are observing.
Dr. Terry Maple – It is good to have community input. If I knew of a group of people that devoted, I would ask them to come out and work with me. We may recruit them as docents. There are a lot of volunteers that do play this role. Expertise, wherever you can find it, is important.
Comr. Stephens – The zoo has, in the past, had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with animal welfare advocates. The Detroit Zoo has a center that have animal welfare groups represented and they have ongoing dialogues. Could that be done here? Would it be useful?
Dr. Terry Maple – Yes, I was a key-note speaker at the first Detroit conference. I was very impressed by what they were doing. They were the first zoo to put animal welfare first. Since I have arrived here, I have been asking to create and build a wellness center. It would be something similar to what was done in Detroit but would focus more on health and wellness. I see it as being a synergistic touch point for the community. For example, imagine going to the zoo and learning about the wellness program and what that might mean for your family. It might affect a chubby boy to learn about an over-weight gorilla that died of heart disease at 21. He might listen to that rather than his parents trying to get him to eat better. A center would also display what we do on a daily basis. Enrichment is a wonderful thing. We would show people how it was done. We will show people how their food is prepared. Another idea is I want to see apes and cats watching videos of their keepers preparing their food. That would be fun for them. There would not only be the health and wellness side but also the educational side, which would be a bonus.
Comr. Stephens – A couple of years ago, the animal welfare advocates where focused on the health and well being of individual animals while the zoo, at that time, was focused on species as a whole. Your wellness approach is focusing on individual animals. Is that requiring a sort of paradigm shift in the zoo?
Dr. Terry Maple – Yes the shift has happened. I see wellness as being equivalent to conservation. It has been a long time since anything has been seen driving us but conservation. There is room for both. The ultimate welfare is survival. In a book I published in 1995 called Ethics on the Ark, one of the key issues, based on a conference in Atlanta, were individual animals versus populations. The critics, that we brought to the table, thought we were off base. What they missed was we, we the zoo world, were struggling with this. Today, a zoo director cannot move an animal for breeding purposes without being concerned for it’s welfare in the short term. These are tough issues that have to be discussed and planned. The zeitgeist today is different than just ten years ago. Welfare and conservation is more balanced today.
Comr. Young – Are animals acquired by the zoo only acquired from other zoos or breeding? Or, are animals still acquired from the wild?
Dr. Terry Maple - Any animals acquired from the wild would be rescues. There is no systematic acquisition of animals the way it used to be done. We try to have self-sustaining populations in the zoos.
David Bocian – Acquiring exotic animals, from Africa or Asia, does not occur any more for ethical reasons as well as governmental regulations. It is very difficult to move endangered species internationally. We do have aging animals that did come from the wild, from another generation and philosophy of zoo keeping. We have chimps in their 40’s and 50’s that were wild born. We have a rhino, from the wild, that is in his 40’s. That is not the way we operate anymore.
Comr. Young – Is that the same for birds as well?
David Bocian – Generally it is. Our bird acquisitions are from private breeders or other zoos as well as rescues.
Comr. Stephens – All the zoo’s raptors are from the wild but rescued due to injuries.
Dr. Terry Maple – The zoo’s raptor show is a good example of activating for wellness. If you get them to fly in a bird show it gives them exercise that is good for them.
Comr. Young – Is it possible to take rescue birds in rather than buy from breeders?
David Bocian – Just this week I was approached by breeders who had birds they could no longer keep. There is still some value to birds and reptiles because there is active private ownership of them. Mammals have no, or almost no, value as we get them from other zoos and there is no market for them.
Dr. Terry Maple - There are about 3000 tigers left in the wild. There are 15,000 in captivity. To return that many to the wild would be a big, big job. Some conservationists think that we should start returning some. Sanctuaries for different species are also maxed out financially. I would like to see zoos reach out to help the many sanctuaries. If a sanctuary goes out of business then those animals are in real trouble.
Comr. Gerrie – What would it look like if the zoos were to support the sanctuaries?
Dr. Terry Maple – Zoos cannot be sanctuaries but should be interested in the sanctuary movement. Zoos should work much more with humane organizations. We could help each other. I work with great ape sanctuaries. They are costly. It would be difficult to operate a zoo just as a sanctuary. We can help one another. We could have joint fund-raising efforts. Zoos in their biodiversity perform a very important function. But you need to be selective. The Detroit Zoo holds an adopt-a-thon for dogs and cats. We could do that here too.
Comr. Gerrie – Sanctuaries seem like they would be more cost effective because you don’t have to display them to the public as in zoos.
Dr. Terry Maple – That is the concept but so many are failing. That doesn’t work that way in practice. Zoos are better in business and should share their expertise with sanctuaries.
Comr. Hemphill – What do zoos know, if anything, about the DNA of the tigers in private hands?
Dr. Terry Maple – Not much. These are irresponsible owners. These animals are hybrids. Not pure stock. The situation is so dire that we cannot be concerned about that now. If we want to introduce tigers into the wild, in the future, we may have to include tigers in private hands and their DNA in the process. Zoos have not embraced that idea yet. There are a lot of challenges ahead. I feel SF will be a leader in this.
Richard Fong – Gives several examples of animals at the zoo that could do better with input from members of the public. Especially the hippo exhibit. Has tried to participate with suggestions but has not been acknowledged.
Dr. Terry Maple – Has been trying to find the world’s best hippos exhibit. They have never been done well. There are underwater viewing areas in Toledo and San Diego
that are done well. Hippos are active at night and should be let out then. At Atlanta, I let the elephants out at night. A lot of animals would benefit by being out at night. I will be looking specifically at hippos to plan new ideas around them.
Public comment closed
6. General Public Comment
No Public Comment
7. & 8. Items to be put on the Calendar for Future Commission Meetings
No Commission nor public comment
Respectfully submitted by Philip Gerrie