Category: Multimedia Reporting

Aboard the Jean Ribault

Mayport, Fla. — On the day after Thanksgiving, the river was calm and the sky a clear blue as Capt. Wayne Fenner piloted the St. Johns River Ferry between Mayport village and Ft. George Island. After seventeen years this would be his last Thanksgiving weekend carrying cars and pedestrians between the two landings.

Traffic had been heavy Thanksgiving day and still was the next with travelers headed to or from Amelia Island and Georgia. Fenner said most pedestrians had been to dinner at the landmark Sand Dollar Restaurant on the north shore.

A fire badly damaged the restaurant in March 2012. Fenner remembered the thick, black smoke billowing into the sky across the river as he arrived at the ferry dock in Mayport to start his shift. It took 40 firefighters, including a marine unit, about five hours to contain the blaze.

The Jean Ribault docks in Mayport. Photo credit: Karen Gardner

The Jean Ribault docks in Mayport. Photo credit: Karen Gardner

The St. Johns River Ferry is better known as the Mayport Ferry and Jean Ribault is the name of the boat. Fenner was hired on as a part-time relief ferry captain with the Florida Dept. of Transportation back in 1995. Fenner will retire in June and from the pilot house he had a story or two to tell.

In September 1999, the monster storm Hurricane Floyd was forecast to strike Florida triggering the evacuation of more than one million coastal Floridians. Fenner was part of the evacuation team for residents leaving the Jacksonville Beaches area through Mayport.

In this video, Fenner tells his hurricane story while crossing the river from Mayport to Ft. George Island. Watch for wake turbulence – the Sand Dollar Restaurant begins to pass by from the west and is recognizable by its oversized outdoor porch roof.

The Mayport Ferry had been under the purview of FDOT since 1948, but ran into turbulence of its own when the state stopped its funding in the 2007 – 2008 lean fiscal budget year. The Dames Point Bridge was to be the alternate route to S.R. A1A, which the ferry connects, a distance of some 28 miles west. Influential businesses and residents using the ferry daily convinced the city to maintain the ferry.

“Well, the city found out that a ferry is just like any other bridge – it doesn’t make any money,” said Fenner. “… after a while JAXPORT (Jacksonville Port Authority) decided it was gonna jump into the picture and save it.”

By 2011 JAXPORT could no longer afford to maintain the ferry at the expense of it core cargo business. A grassroots organization called “Save the Ferry” rallied to keep the ferry in operation. In February 2012 JAXPORT announced it would run the ferry through Sept. 30, much to Mayor Alvin Brown’s relief.

The city set up a public-private partnership for the ferry and is currently in negotiations to transfer ownership of the St. Johns River Ferry to Jacksonville Transportation Authority. Hornblower Marine Services has managed the ferry for whoever happened to own it for the past 18 years. HMS Mayport General Manager Mark Fernandez said negotiations with JTA should be completed by the end of next year’s first quarter.

Capt. Wayne Fenner amidst a tale on a Ft. George Island to Mayport trip. Photo credit: Karen Gardner

Capt. Wayne Fenner amidst a tale on a Ft. George Island to Mayport trip. Photo credit: Karen Gardner

Back on the Jean Ribault a few days after Thanksgiving, there was a slight delay in departure as a blanket of fog rolled in from the Atlantic. A Wallenius carrier appeared from the west almost as a ghost ship sailing out to sea. It crossed paths with another auto carrier bound for Blount Island.

“The bigger the ship, the deeper the horn,” said Fenner.

He recalled fondly the bonds the Mayport community has with the ferry. Fenner used to give birthday cards to the family of kids who grew up riding the ferry back and forth to school.

He laughed because one time a regular commuter won the drawing for a year’s free ridership at Ferry Fest, a fund-raising event held annually by the “Save the Ferry” group.  He thought they never did hold that drawing again.

As the ferry pulled into Ft. George, Fenner pointed to the dock hold and said sometimes they get alligators, and snakes, and otters in there. Richard Plourde, an old-time engineer who had been in the pilot house the whole time and hadn’t said much, motioned back toward Mayport.

“One time we got a whale,” he whispered hoarsely.

It is a tradition for regular commuters to bring Thanksgiving dinner to the crew of the Jean Ribault. Next year, Capt. Wayne Fenner will be at his other home for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Aboard the Jean Ribault Photo Page



The System Can Work

Jacksonville, Fla. — Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein told an audience of about 700 on Thursday at the University of North Florida that is possible to have a government whose most basic function can work.

Bernstein drew from over 40 years of journalistic experiences, from Watergate to the 21st century, for his hour-long lecture, “The System Can Work: A positive message in a cynical time.”  

He said the Washington, D.C. of today practices the politics of ideology and demagoguery and is unable to solve problems for the good of the country. He blames most of the media for creating manufactured controversies, and many voters for how they process and receive politically-biased news and  information.

In his Oct. 28 eulogy to his former Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Bernstein said what characterized Bradlee was that he wasn’t afraid of the news, of presidents, or of political correctness. 

 Carl Bernstein  before his UNF lecture on Nov. 6. Photograph by Karen Gardner

Carl Bernstein before his UNF lecture on Nov. 6. Photograph by Karen Gardner

“Ben Bradlee … was willing to make mistakes because he believed in this idea of obtaining the best available version of the truth,” said Bernstein.

Bradlee oversaw publication of Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s investigation into illegal activities by the Nixon administration which eventually toppled his presidency.

To reinforce his earlier point that a majority of media no longer sees Bradlee’s truth, Bernstein turned to Les Gelb, who left the New York Times in 1993 to join the Clinton Administration. Bernstein recited excerpts of Gelb’s last column.

“Washington is largely a podium indifferent to the truth. Truth has been reduced to a conflict in press releases and a contest between handlers … truth judged not by evidence, but by theatrical performance.”

Bernstein pivoted to the the government shutdown of 2013. He said it was unheard of that leaders of one political party should endanger the full faith and credit of the U.S. for partisan ideological reasons. Bernstein said nothing like the opposition to the president’s healthcare plan from the Republican “Tea Party” wing had happened since the McCarthy era.  

President Obama, on the other hand, has not taken steps to break gridlock in Washington as he pledged to do while running for office, and has missed opportunities to move the agenda forward. Today, Bernstein said, Washington can’t frame the debate nor agree on a starting place.

He brought the audience through Watergate, from his Washington Post story beginning “John Mitchell, while attorney general, controlled a secret fund” to the Senate Watergate hearings where slowly much of the Nixon criminality became known. Nixon wouldn’t give up the tapes. The case went to the Supreme Court. The congress began impeachment proceedings. 

“The judicial committee passed articles of impeachment because members of the president’s own party said truth is more important than partisanship,” Bernstein said.

That is how the system should work. The last election cycle showed the country senses the basic function of government does not work, but Bernstein is not optimistic that partisanship will disappear by the next election. He looks to this country’s great entrepreneurial spirit and the next generation to rebuild a system that can work.


A bemused Carl Bernstein before his UNF lecture on Nov. 6. Screenshot by Karen Gardner

A bemused Carl Bernstein before his UNF lecture on Nov. 6.
Screenshot by Karen Gardner

Page One: Inside the New York Times

The documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times” by Andrew Rossi chronicles a year at the newspaper from behind the Media desk. The year is 2010, just after the collapse of the newspaper print advertising market. Newspapers across the country are beginning to fold. The NYT is in the process of laying-off 100 people.

Jeff Jarvis (Author, What Would Google Do?) and Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation set the stage. Jarvis declares firmly the old newspaper model is dead but news is not dying, there are just many cheaper ways of disseminating it. Vanden Heuvel worries that it is a dangerous moment for journalism, but newsrooms have the benefit of journalists with accumulated experience. Jarvis asks if it’s too late for these institutions to adapt to new media.

Brian Stetler is a techno-savvy NYT Media reporter. He started a blog covering television news in 2004 as a freshman in college. He went to work for the NYT two months after he graduated. David Carr is an old-school Media reporter with a weekly column. Carr jokingly calls Stetler a “machine” put on this earth to destroy him. Stetler represents the NYT’s adaptation to the digital age.

It is a remarkable coincidence that Rossi happened to be filming Stetler and Media editor Bruce Headlam as the story of the initial WikiLeak’s YouTube release of classified Dept. of Defense (Afghan theater) video develops. It is almost unbelievable that Rossi had access to Stetler as he was interviewing his source, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

The NYT made a bold decision in allowing Rossi such unprecedented access to its inner workings at a time when new and successful media business models were emerging at a rapid pace. Perhaps the collaboration between Rossi and the Media dept. allowed the NYT to view the media industry as a whole in a more objective light.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

It is through Carr that we see the NYT embracing new technology. To him, Steve Jobs invented the iPad solely to keep “mainstream media” afloat. We see Carr as a passionate advocate for the strength of NYT news-gathering assets and its full engagement in the multi-media revolution. Without main-stream media, news-repackagers like Gawker, or news-aggregators like Newser, couldn’t exist.

One of Carr’s writing styles is long-form, investigative journalism. The significant media story he is working on in the documentary is “At Sam Zell’s Tribune: Tales of a Bankrupt Culture.”

Tribune Company was sold to billionaire Sam Zell. Within a year, 4,200 employees lost their jobs and the company went into bankruptcy. Zell’s management team had little newspaper experience. The new Tribune corporate chief, Randy Michaels, hired 20 former radio associates. They rewrote the company handbook, basically condoning sexual harassment.

The innovative approach that Zell had promised would breathe life into the staid Tribune Company was not investment in innovative news technologies, but advertising gimmicks. The Tribune Company’s already dwindling audiences were offended. 

The bankruptcy restructuring was unresolved while Carr was investigating the story.

“Despite the company’s problems, the managers have been rewarded handsomely. From May 2009 to February 2010, a total of $57.3 million in bonuses were paid to the current management with the approval of the judge overseeing the bankruptcy. In 2009, the top 10 managers received $5.9 million at a time when cash flow was plummeting.”


As to what the Tribune’s media story tells us about the threat to the newspaper industry, I would posit that in 2014  the first and foremost duty of print and on-line media is …another closing graf in progress!   


FEEDBACK: Carr’s story forced resignations would be a good closing graph.


Raising the Minimum Wage

Jacksonville, Fla. — Robert E. Walkord’s first job was unloading trucks full-time at night while he attended Arkansas Tech full-time during the the day. That was in the 1960s. He was paid $ .85 per hour. Walkord graduated with a mathematics degree and started his business “from scratch” about 40 years ago.

Walkord owns Regency Cap & Gown Co., a domestic manufacturer of pastor and choir apparel for church and school. His factory and showroom anchors what used to be a shopping plaza on the corner of Atlantic Blvd. and Arlington Rd.

A skateboarder passes the loading dock at Regency Cap and Gown on his way to Atlantic Blvd. on Tues., Oct. 21 Photo: Karen Gardner

A skateboarder passes the loading dock at Regency Cap and Gown on his way to Atlantic Blvd. on Tues., Oct. 21 Photo: Karen Gardner

Walkord used to employ 155 people. He said he downsized his business in 2011 because Aetna Insurance cancelled his employee benefits policy after he failed to comply with one of the regulations imposed by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

But refighting the Obamacare battle is not a political issue in the 2014 Florida gubernatorial race between challenger and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) and incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R). Crist favors raising Florida’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, mirroring President Obama’s numeric goal for the nation.

Florida’s current minimum wage is $7.93 per hour, above the  federal level of $7.25 per hour.

Scott said during the campaign that he supports the idea of a minimum wage but the private sector sets the rate. Moderator Jake Tapper asked Scott if he supports the concept of the government setting a minimum wage during the Oct. 21 gubernatorial debate hosted in Jacksonville.

Tiffany Kaminsky works part-time at Winn-Dixie and leaving for the day. Photo: Karen Gardner

Tiffany Kaminsky works part-time at Winn-Dixie and leaving for the day.
Photo: Karen Gardner

“Sure. But the truth — but the bottom line is just because they set a minimum wage doesn’t mean you get a job,” said Scott, according to a Miami Herald transcript of the debate.

When Regency Cap & Gown Co. employed 155 people, Walkord said he had  minimum-wage workers. Now that he has 45 employees, all earn over the minimum wage.
Walkord is 73 years old. He supports the livelihood of employees who have worked for him most of their lives. They are salaried  and a select few work by piece-meal: paid per garment completed.
Walkord’s downsizing of his company could be considered an extreme example of the private market setting a minimum wage, but he does have an opinion of Gov. Crist raising Florida’s minimum wage. 
“If you start someone at $10.10 an hour there’s no incentive to do better,” he said.

Across the parking lot from Regency Cap & Gown Co. is one of Winn-Dixie’s 485 grocery chain supermarkets. Winn-Dixie has been in operation under its present name since 1955. The corporation declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005 and was acquired in 2011 by Bi-Lo, another Southeastern grocery store chain. Bi-Lo Holdings is based in Jacksonville.

Tiffany Kaminsky just ended her part-time shift on early Tuesday evening, She is in her late 20s and attends Florida State College at Jacksonville. Kaminsky has worked on and off at Winn-Dixie in different capacities for 10 years; seven of those full-time with benefits.

She is now a senior cashier and earns $10.60 per hour. Baggers at Winn-Dixie earn minimum wage. When asked the hypothetical question of one bagger losing his or her job because the minimum wage was raised to $10.10 per hour, a spark lighted in Kaminsky’s eyes. In her opinion, the loss of one job to the benefit of others is a good idea.

“I love it,” she said, “it’s better in the long run for everyone as long as the price of living doesn’t go up.”

Dana Carswell lives in Arlington. After work on Wednesday evening she voted early at Regency Square Library. She does not feel $10.10 per hour is an unreasonable amount to pay employees and businesses should prepare for that. She said  there is too much poverty in this country and too many people rely on the government to make ends meet.




Robert E. Walkord, Regency Cap & Gown Co., 7534 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32211 (904) 724-3500

Tiffany Kaminksy,

Dana Carswell, (904) 307 -6201 

MOCA: Get Real New American Painting

This year’s feature Fall exhibit at MOCA, “Get Real: New American Painting,” focuses on eight contemporary realist painters with “extraordinarily recent” work, from the year 2000 to now.

Ben Thompson, Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, conceptualized and executed this exhibition, as he does for MOCA Jacksonville throughout the year. 

MOCA Curator Ben Thompson. Photo: Karen Gardner

MOCA Curator Ben Thompson. Photo: Karen Gardner

Thompson selected a group of emerging young painters, mostly under 40 years old, from across the country. He then arranged for the loan of selected pieces from museums and galleries to MOCA Jacksonville for the duration of the show: Sept.13 – Jan. 4, 2015.

The eight painters are: Haley Hasler, Jason John, Andrea Kowch, Bryan LeBoeuf, Jenny Morgan, Kevin Muente, Frank Oriti and Kevin Peterson. The common theme uniting the artwork is realist portraiture in urban, pastoral and heartland landscapes.

MOCA Jacksonville Curator Ben Thompson with "Birdboy" by Jason John. Photo: Karen Gardner

MOCA Jacksonville Curator Ben Thompson with “Birdboy” by Jason John. Photo: Karen Gardner

Thompson said MOCA is fortunate, in this instance, that one of the artists is Jason John, a UNF professor in Art and Design. A MOCA studio was created for him adjacent to the exhibit. John’s work adds a surrealist dimension; his figures have a dreamlike association with their environment. 

MOCA Jacksonville is a cultural resource of University of North Florida.

“Another great thing about our relationship with the university,” Thompson said, “is that we can utilize the resources and scholars at the Art and Design department as colleagues.”

Jason John: Bird Boy. Photo Courtesy MOCA Jacksonville

Jason John: Bird Boy. Photo Courtesy MOCA Jacksonville

Thompson asked Art History Professor Scott Brown to write an essay contextualizing the artwork for the publication which would accompany the show. They had served together on several committees and Thompson knew that although Brown was a medievalist, he had an interest in the cutting edge art of today.

Brown found that many of the artists alluded to the past in their subject matter, composition, or technique. Jason John’s “Birdboy” pays homage to Flemish Baroque artist Anthony Van Dyck’s “Self-portrait with a Sunflower” (1632).

Because these are young artists, there has not been the availability or opportunity for art historians to look at their work in depth. Brown proposed and developed a Junior Methods Seminar where his students will spend the semester examining the nature of the exhibit as a whole. They will research one artist and then write a scholarly essay on one piece of that artist’s work.

Artist (and UNF professor)  Jason John painting in MOCA studio on Fri., Oct.17. Photo: Karen Gardner

Artist (and UNF professor) Jason John painting in MOCA studio on Fri., Oct.17. Photo: Karen Gardner

Over the course of the exhibit, John will be creating a body of artwork from the MOCA studio two days a week. The public can observe and experience the process; sometimes he might be sketching, or painting, or talking on the phone with an art dealer in Chicago, or talking with a MOCA visitor.

In this audio  slideshow, Thompson gives an overview of the “Get Real: New American Painting” exhibit and then introduces Jason John’s MOCA Jacksonville art studio. John then discusses his experiences with visitors and what they learn from each other.

MOCA Get Real: New American Painting photo page


NOTE: Technical difficulties with slideshow photographs. Rework in progress with captions. Please see photo page for larger photos. Some show painting detail only.


A ‘Spooktacular’ Special Event

The 27th annual SPOOKTACULAR at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is now the city of Jacksonville’s largest family-friendly Halloween celebration. For three weekends this year beginning on Oct. 17 and ending on Halloween weekend, the zoo transforms itself into choreographed carnival of costumed characters and themed attractions.

Amy Hernden is Special Events and Public Relations Supervisor at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Special events are fund-raisers for the zoo. She oversees the preparation for events such as Spooktacular by facilitating communications so all jobs are logistically coordinated.

SPOOKTACULAR tiger promotional banner at zoo entrance two-weeks prior to special event. Photo by Karen Gardner

SPOOKTACULAR tiger promotional banner at zoo entrance two-weeks prior to special event. Photo by Karen Gardner

“It takes a whole team of people to put on an event – from our facilities who build and create the sets and their creative team, to our marketing dept. who put together the advertising and purchase candy and costumes. It involves our education dept. who recruit all of our volunteers and of course our development dept. who coordinate all the sponsorships,” said Hernden.

The creative team begin enhancements to set-stages, or Lands of Enchantments, sometime in February. By October the crates holding the sets arrive at their designated areas in a one-way path around the property.

Volunteer Pirate and costumed guest, photo courtesy Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Volunteer Pirate and costumed guest, photo courtesy Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

There’s lots to see and do for kids of all ages at Lands of Enchantments. The Fairgrounds have a giant inflatable slide, bounce houses, huge alligator balloons and face-painting.

There’s pumpkin-carving at Charlie Brown’s Pumpkin Patch. Everyone can walk the ship’s plank at Pirate’s Cove. The Kingdom of Far Far Away is a “Wizard of Oz” attraction while another is based on Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Over 100 volunteers per night are recruited through the education dept. to make the event possible. Volunteers pass out candy from seven candy stations or assist guests with rides. Face-painting and pumpkin-carving need more training than a simple orientation.

Main characters require auditions and specialized training. For example, “dancing thriller zombie” is unique to the Land of the Zombies. Spooktacular has evolved into an elaborate production after 27 years, but in the end it is a still a fund-raiser.


It takes a lot of money for the zoo to take care of its animals – feeding and medical care to keep them healthy, Hernden said. Part of fund-raising efforts are obtaining sponsorships. The headlining sponsors for Spooktacular are Chase, who are also Jacksonville Zoo and Garden’s 100-year anniversary sponsor, and Pepsi, who hasve been a sponsor for Spooktacular for several years.

The last special event for Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in 2014 is ZOOLIGHTS, celebrating the December holidays from Dec. 12 through Jan. 1, 2015, with seasonal performances showcasing regional talent. The special event is in its third year of development for Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and the city of Jacksonville.    






How we lost the Russian ‘Reset’

Former  U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Michael McFaul, said the U.S.-Russian relationship is more contentious now under President Putin than it has been since the Cold War.

How the relationship between the two countries got that way was subject of the ambassador’s speech to an audience of over 720 people at the University of North Florida on Tuesday. Some high-ranking military brass were in attendance.

“I haven’t seen this many Generals in one place since I worked at the White House,” he said.

Former U.S. Ambassador  Michael McFaul at UNF on Tuesday. photo credit: Karen Gardner

Former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul at UNF on Tuesday. photo credit: Karen Gardner

The ambassador served as Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council.

“When I was in the White House we developed a policy simply called ‘Reset,'” said McFaul.

The two governments would co-operate on matters in which they could agree. An important element achieved through President Dmitry Medvedev’s administration was the development of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). Its mission was to develop transportation infrastructure through Russia for supply routes in support of the war in Afghanistan. At the time 95 percent of military and humanitarian supplies went through Pakistan. The NDN reduced that amount to 50 percent over three years.

“Think about it. What if 95 percent of our supplies went through Pakistan the night before the president ordered the attack on Osama bin Laden?” asked the ambassador. “I was in the oval office that day enhancing a key portion of the distribution network.”

Two other areas of cooperation were enforcing sanctions against Iran and bringing Russia into the World Trade Organization.

“In his last meeting with President Obama (Mar. 26, 2012), President Medvedev said the three years of reset were the best level of relations between the United States and Russia in history,” said McFaul.

The reset between the U.S. and Russia began to sour with the Arab Spring of 2011.

Michael McFaul in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama as he speaks on the phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Feb. 24, 2010. photo credit: Peter Graves

Michael McFaul in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama as he speaks on the phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Feb. 24, 2010. photo credit: Peter Graves

Russia abstained from voting on the United Nation Security Council resolution to authorize airstrikes by coalition forces in Libya in 2011. President Medvedev decided not to use a veto to block the resolution which infuriated Prime Minister Putin.

“I was in the White House at the time, actually worked quite a bit on the Arab Spring,” McFaul said. “For us, it was the people in their own countries trying to take fate into their hands. We had nothing to do with it except react to the people of Tunisia, the people of Egypt…”

Putin saw it differently. He thought the CIA was fomenting unrest in the Middle East. McFaul said he didn’t have any evidence “to back him up” but he thought the Libyan U.N. abstention was the reason Putin decided to run for president again.

The Parliamentary elections of 2011 were fraudulent. Tens of thousands of young, upwardly mobile and social-media savvy Russians protested against the results. Putin couldn’t understand as the country had grown wealthy under his presidency. Putin started to vilify the U.S.; McFaul was portrayed in the media as aiding the protesters.

McFaul planned to step down as ambassador after the Sochi Olympics. His term as ambassador from 2012 – 2014 was tumultuous after Vladimir Putin reclaimed the Russian presidency. The time period coincided the Ukrainian Parliament voting to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office, leading to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. All of this occurred as Putin sought the Ukraine to join his Eurasian Economic Union.

“Who would spend $50 billion on the Olympics only to see the good will it created gone in three days?”,  McFaul asked.


Land of the Tiger

When Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens opened its doors in May 1914, its animal collection consisted of one red-tail deer. For its centennial celebration this year, the zoo planned a much grander display. The $9.5 million Land of the Tiger attraction is the new home to three Malayan tiger brothers, and Lucy and Berani, a pair of rare Sumatran tigers.

The Trails at Land of the Tiger

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is the first zoo in the country to have an animal trail system for big cats. PJA Architects and Landscape Architects of Seattle, a global zoo design company, was selected to design the 2.5 acre exhibit. The tigers are able to roam around the attraction via enclosed fortified trail.

A large air-conditioned guest viewing building within Land of the Tigers offers spectacular views of the landscaped exhibit from behind glass walls. Portions of the trail are approximately 12 feet above a guest area where the tigers might happen to stroll by.

HAPPY 13th BIRTHDAY, BERANI!  Of the six  living subspecies of tiger, Sumatrans are the smallest in size. His name means “bold” in Malay, the dominant language of Indonesia.
HAPPY 13th BIRTHDAY, BERANI! Of the six living subspecies of tiger, Sumatrans are the smallest in size. His name means “bold” in Malay, the dominant language of Indonesia.

“There is friendly competition between zoos to create new and innovative exhibits especially in the categories of improving guest experience and the welfare of their animals,” said Dan Dembiec by email. Dembiec is Supervisor of Mammals at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. 

“The trail idea for large cats is an innovative one that has been tossed around in concept at professional conferences and meetings.  We like to take pride that we are the first that we know of to take the initiative to implement it,” he said.

Indigenous to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Sumatran tigers face habitat destruction, fragmentation and poaching, and are considered a critically endangered species with fewer than 400 existing in the wild today, according to World Wildlife Fund.

Jaya is a three-year-old Malayan Tiger. He is in a pool created under a waterfall "showing off" for guests at the attraction. His two brother's names are Bunga and Penari.
Jaya is a three-year-old Malayan Tiger. He is in a pool created under a waterfall “showing off” for guests at the attraction. His two brother’s names are Bunga and Penari.

The Zoo is pro-active in animal conservation efforts and participates over in 20 Species Survival Plans (SSP). The SSP program was developed in 1981 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help ensure the survival of threatened and endangered species in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. The SSPs are managed by AZA Taxon  Advisory Groups (TAG), which develop recommendations for animal management and conservation based on the needs on the individual zoo and well-being of the species. A taxon is a similar grouping of animals.

The Tiger SSP and Felid TAG recommended Lucy and Berani as a breeding pair of Sumatran tigers. Lucy is three years old and was transferred to the Jacksonville Zoo on Dec. 5, 2013 from the Oklahoma City Zoo. Berani will be 13 years old this month and was transferred on Dec. 28, 2013 from the Akron Zoo in Ohio. 

The Tiger SSP selected Christina Dembiec of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in October 2013 as an SSP Education Advisor. Their role is advising, designing and executing conservation education, community outreach and public awareness decisions and activities within AZA Animal Programs. Some other felid SSP education advisors are lions, jaguars and ocelots.



Photographs by Karen Gardner


  • Christina DembiecCommunity Education Manager, Tiger SSP Education Advisor, Jacksonville Zoo,

  • Dan Dembiec. Supervisor of Mammals, Felid TAG Steering Committee Member, Jacksonville Zoo,

  •  Philip Alia, Deputy Director of Marketing & Community Relations and Amy Hernden, marketing/media (out-of-office)

Embedded Links:




Left-handed people die younger

A new study released on Thurs., Sept. 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine shows left-handed people have shorter life expectancies than do right-handed people. The study was conducted by psychology professor Diane Halpern of California State University at San Bernardino and Stanley Coren, a researcher at the University of British Columbia.

[Facts box: 1). 10 percent the U.S. population is left-handed. 2). Right-handed people average age at death is 75 years; left-handed people average  age at death is 66 years. 3). Right-handed females average age at death is 78 years; left-handed females average at death is 72 years. 4). Right-handed males average age at death is 62; left-handed males average age at death is 73 years longer than left-handed males.]

The study was conducted to determine why fewer left-handed people are among the elderly population. Researchers studied death certificates of 987 people in two southern California counties. Halpern said, “The results are striking in their magnitude.”

Halpern said her study should be interpreted cautiously. “It should not, of course, be used to predict the life span of any one individual. It does not take into account the fitness of any individual.”

The results also showed left-handed people were four times more likely to die from injuries while driving than right-handed people and six times more likely to die from accidents of all kinds. “Almost all engineering is geared to the right hand and right foot,” Halpern said. “There are many more car and other accidents among left-handers because of their environment.”

Halpern is right-handed. “Some of my best friends are left-handed,” she said. “It’s important that mothers of left-handed children not be alarmed and not try to change which hand a child uses”.

“There are many, many old left-handed people. We knew for years that there weren’t as many old left-handers,” Halpern said. “Researchers thought that was because in the early years of the century, most people born left-handed were forced to change to their right hands. So we thought we were looking at old people who used to be left-handed, but we weren’t. The truth was that there weren’t many left-handers left alive, compared to right-handers.”

“I’m surprised by the findings. But you never know what kind of accidents can happen to anyone,” said Jeff Coman, 60, a senior irrigation technician at the University of North Florida. Coman is left-handed. He said he doesn’t have a problem working with machinery, but most of the work he does is on a computer. Coman has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) in his left hand.

“My sister is left-handed but has no trouble with driving her car,” said Matt Sanducci, a junior from University of North Florida. “She was confused when she was little because everyone else in the family was right-handed, but it doesn’t bother her now,” he said.

Sanducci, a Sigma Chi fraternity member, said he was concerned by the statistics for automobile accidents and would share the information with his sister.