News from Zoos

Confiscated Polar Bears Move to Accredited Zoos in U.S.
Six polar bears (Ursus maritimus) were confiscated from the Suarez Brothers Circus on November 5, 2002 in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico and moved to new homes in three U.S. zoos. The bears had been performing in the circus, but a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigation uncovered violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which resulted in their confiscation. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association's (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group (BTAG), a cooperative team of bear experts from AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, was asked by USFWS to determine placement in accredited zoological facilities and to arrange transport from Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, one of the bears died from complications during transit, but the rest arrived safely and are receiving appropriate veterinary care.
Early in the year, the AZA's BTAG also worked with USFWS to find an appropriate home for Alaska, a female polar bear. Alaska was confiscated from this same circus due to permit irregularities. She was moved to her new home at The Baltimore Zoo and has adjusted very well.

Zoos and Aquariums Help Promote Sustainable Seafood
The Bronx Zoo has joined with other AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to encourage the general public to make better-informed decisions about seafood consumption. In October, they introduced Go Fish, the first Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) seafood watch wallet card. In a partnership with Audubon's Living Ocean's Program, the Bronx Zoo-based WCS now offers informational wallet cards that explain sustainable seafood practices and rank many widely-offered seafood choices by the degree to which their farming is ocean-friendly. The cards and information brochure are available at the Zoo and other WCS facilities, including the New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo. They are also available on the Internet at
In a similar enterprise, the South Carolina Aquarium has come together with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Johnson and Wales University, the University of South Carolina and South Carolina's finest chefs and restaurants to create the Sustainable Seafood Education Project. In order to highlight some of the current challenges facing ocean fisheries and promote consumption of locally-caught seafood, all participating restaurants will make every effort to obtain seafood from sustainable and, whenever possible, domestically produced and local sources. Due to concerns over certain species' status in the wild, these restaurants will also take Chilean sea bass (Dissostichus eleginoides), orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) and shark (Class Chondrichthyes, Subclass Elasmobranchi (part)) off their menus. Partnering with Johnson and Wales University, the aquarium's education staff will offer a series of programs for chefs, wait staff and culinary students to provide additional background on sustainable seafood issues. More information can be found on the South Carolina Aquarium's website at

Florida Aquarium Receives Gulf Conservation Award
The Gulf of Mexico Program recently recognized the Florida Aquarium for taking positive steps to maintain the Gulf of Mexico ecosystems through their "Fantasy Island" project. Initiated in 1988, the Gulf of Mexico Program began as an effort to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf Guardian Award was created to honor the businesses, community groups, individuals and agencies taking action to help conserve the Gulf's resources. The Florida Aquarium's "Fantasy Island" project, a three-acre offshoot of two large spoil islands just north of the Alafia River in Tampa Bay, is a cooperative conservation and education project between the Aquarium, the Tampa Port Authority and other organizations. The island, overrun by invasive vegetation and experiencing erosion problems, was selected in 2000 to be rehabilitated by the "Fantasy Island" partnership. The site has been designed for the purpose of educating the public and school groups about habitats that are found in the Bay and will be incorporated into the Aquarium's local eco-tour programs. Focusing on the 30th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the Gulf of Mexico Program is especially proud to award the 2002 Gulf Guardian Award to an organization that has not only made the protection of local coastal waters a priority but is also working to educate the public about the importance of these fragile habitats.

Information for News from Zoos is provided by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association