Living Coasts has sent 20 penguins to Eastern Europe as part of a major new initiative. The coastal conservation charity has donated the birds to Tblisi Zoo in the former Soviet republic of Georgia to start a brand new colony.
Living Coasts Operations Manager Clare Rugg explained: “They have built a penguin exhibit from scratch with our advice and input – we have been working with them because they have just joined EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the body which represents top zoological collections across Europe. This is the first EAZA move to Georgia.”
Georgia is in the Caucasus region, at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, with the Black Sea to the West, Russia to the north and Turkey to the south. Tbilisi is the capital.
For Clare, the move is as much about bureaucracy as birds. As well as making all the transport arrangements (as the receiving collection, Tblisi Zoo pays this particular bill) and satisfying the complexities of Georgian law, she has to work her way through a range of animal welfare and conservation measures.
There’s TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System), a web-based veterinarian certification tool used by the European Union for controlling the import and export of live animals; she also needs to clear the move through CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the international agreement that ensures that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
“The paperwork is what takes the time! For a new country you have to find out what the government veterinary authorities require for the birds to move into that country. We also need to know what health tests the zoo requires. We need to send the computerized ARKS – Animal Record Keeping System – records of the birds to the person organising the move in Georgia.”
Keepers from Tbilisi Zoo visited Living Coasts in November 2013 to learn penguin husbandry methods.
The African penguins – about half and half male and female – travelled the 3,000 miles from the English Riviera to the mountainous Caucasus region by road, sea and air. They made the journey with specialist animal carrier EKIPA in crates especially designed to meet their welfare needs as set out by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association of airlines. The key is to keep the birds cool and as stress free as possible on the long journey; there were fish and a water spray available en route.
Clare: “It’s sad to see them go, but exciting to think we are a part of this new venture.”
The penguins arrived safely in Tbilisi. Zoo keeper Giorgi Darcho reported: “They all appear well and enjoy swimming in the pool. We believe that the penguin exhibit will be the most popular and attractive area in our zoo. We would like to thank everybody who was involved in the process of transfer, arranged all the necessary papers and gave us valuable recommendations. We will try our best that the birds enjoy living at Tbilisi Zoo and inspire our visitors to care for wildlife.”
For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 0844 474 3366.
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