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by The NationStates Dominion of Volaworand. . 324 reads.

Royal National Zoological Park of Volaworand

Royal National Zoological Park

Rothera, Volaworand


Chair of Board of Trustees:
Minister of Enviorment:
Nyota Uhura-Kirk

£40 million
~ 50% Operating Income
~ 25% Government Grants
~ 25% Corporate Sponsorships


Animals: 1188
Species: 141

Zoo Overview

The Royal National Zoological Park (RNZP) of Volaworand, usually called the National Zoo, is located on the outskirts of the capital in Rothera. Its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats".

The facility hosts over 1,000 animals of 140 different species. About one-third of them are endangered or threatened. The best-known residents are the Auphelian Unicorns, but the zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more. The zoo houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time depending on research needs and recommendations from the zoo and the conservation community. The zoo was one of the first to establish a scientific research program.

The National Zoo receives federal grants for 25% of the operating expenses from the Department of the Environment. Corporate Sponsorship and donations fund another quarter of expenses, with the remaining half coming from income generated by operations. A new master plan for the park was introduced in 2018 to upgrade the park's exhibits and layout. The Bird House Aviary is currently being renovated and expanded. Five resaurants are on site, including Jimmy's Ice Cream Parlor, Kentucky Fried Penguin #73 Panda Overlook , and Krill Grill Café.

Open daily 8am to 9pm (10am to 5pm on public holidays).
General Admission Price ranges from £9.95 to £19.95, depending on age and events underway.
Members of Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) allowed unlimited free park entrance and discounted or free access to most events.

Special programs and events
In partnership with Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), a non-profit organization, the zoo holds annual fund raisers (ZooFari, Guppy Gala, and Boo at the Zoo) and free events (Sunset Serenades, Fiesta Musical). Proceeds support animal care, conservation science, education and sustainability at the National Zoo.

    Woo at the Zoo – A Valentine's Day (February 14) talk by some of the zoo's animal experts discussing the fascinating, and often quirky, world of animal dating, mating, and reproductive habits. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.

    Earth Day: Party for the Planet – Celebrating Earth Day at the National Zoo. Guests can learn simple daily actions they can take to enjoy a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

    Easter Monday – Easter Monday has been a Rothera-area multicultural tradition for many years. There is a variety of family activities, entertainment and special opportunities to learn more about the animals. Admission is free, and this event traditionally welcomes thousands of area families.

    Zoofari – A casual evening of gourmet foods, fine wines, entertainment and dancing under the stars. Each year, thousands of attendees enjoy delicacies prepared by master chefs from 100 of the area's finest restaurants. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.

    Snore and Roar – A FONZ program that allows individuals and families to spend the night at the zoo, in sleeping bags inside tents. A late-night flashlight tour of the zoo and a two-hour exploration of an animal house or exhibit area led by a zoo keeper are part of the experience. Snore and Roar dates are offered between June and September each year.

    Brew at the Zoo – Guests can sample SPIT from a variety of microbreweries at the zoo. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.

    ZooFiesta – FONZ celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with an annual fiesta at the National Zoo. Animal demonstrations, Hispanic and Latino music, costumed dancers, traditional crafts and Latin foods are offered.

    Rock-N-Roar – An event featuring live music, food and drink, and viewings of lion and tiger enrichment.

    Autumn Conservation Festival – Visitors can talk with scientists one-on-one and learn about their research, and the tools and technology they use to understand animals and their environments. Guests can get behind-the-scenes looks at some of the endangered animals.

    Boo at the Zoo – Families with children ages 2 to 12 trick-or-treat in a safe environment and receive special treats from more than 40 treat stations. There are animal encounters, keeper talks and festive decorations. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.

    Zoolights – The National Zoo's annual winter celebration. Guests can walk through the zoo when it is covered with thousands of sparkling environmentally-friendly lights and animated exhibits, attend special keeper talks and enjoy live entertainment.

Featured Animals

Pitcairn Reed Warbler

British Pitcairn Islands provided a flock of Pitcairn Reed Warblers.
These birds are a curious, friendly species, known to eat directly from visitors hands.

Gentoo Penguin

British Falkland Islands provided a flock of gentoo penguins.
Gentoos breed on many sub-Antarctic islands. The main colonies are on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Kerguelen Islands; smaller populations are found on Macquarie Island, Heard Islands, South Shetland Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula. The total breeding population is estimated to be over 300,000 pairs. Gentoos breed monogamously, and infidelity is typically punished with banishment from the colony.

Pintail Duck

S Georgia and S Sandwich Islands provided a flock of Yellow-billed Pintail Ducks.
These ducks are known as the silent ducks, due to the rarity of their calls. The Zoo is home to 26 individuals.

St Helena Plover

St Helena Ascension and Tristan da Cunha provided a pair of St Helena Plovers (or Wirebird), which the only endemic land bird on the island.
The Wirebird is officially classed as ‘critically endangered’, with only 322 individuals reported in the most recent survey. The pair at the National Zoo have not mated.

Grizzly Bear

Martigues provided a pair of Bears in November 2017.
Today the Zoo is home to a family of 5 of these proud creatures.


The united nations of earth and humanity provided a pair of Doves in 2017.
Today the Zoo is home to a flock of 13 of these lovely and intelligent birds.


Auphelia provided a pair of Unicorns in 2017.
Today the pair are expecting their first foal. The Zoo's Unicam is one of the most popular webcam's in Volaworand.


ImperialAntarctica provided a flock of Albatross in September 2018.
These amazing birds, with intricate and amazing courtship rituals, are under threat due to plastics waste in the Southern Ocean.

White Sun Tiger

Hanguk-Nippon provided a pair of their White Sun Tigers in September 2018.
White tigers - a variant of the more common orange-and-black Bengal species - owe their colouring to a recessive gene and are exclusively found in zoos, with the last sighting of a white tiger in the wild in India in 1958. It was shot by a hunter.

Sara, Rescued War Dog

Volaworand's military rescued Sara from the ongoing civil war in South Pacifica Isles.
She lost both her back legs from landmines but the zoo staff rigged her with her very own set of wheels. Today Sara serves as the Park's beloved unofficial mascot, roaming the park sneaking ice cream and posing for selfies with visitors.

Red Fox

New Haudenosaunee Confederacy provided a Red Fox in October 2018.
The red fox is the largest of the true foxes and one of the most widely distributed members of the order Carnivora, being present across the entire Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, North America and Eurasia. Our lonely resident, named The Solar System Scope or TSSS, howls mercilessly at all hours and is often poked with sticks by visiting schoolchildren. After a RMB Multiplier Crystal malfunction, TSSS was duplicated into 26 foxes of various genetics and both genders. The fox enclosure is being expanded accordingly.


Beepee provided a mating pair of Quokka in October 2018.
The quokka, the only member of the genus Setonix, is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family (such as kangaroos and wallabies), the quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal.
The quokka is classified as a vulnerable species.

European Dragon

Arkesia provided this terrifying pair of Dragons in October 2018.
Thanks to the cooperation of cryptozoologists, geneticists, and zoo's worldwide, European Dragons are making a comeback from the brink of extinction.
Like all omnivores, dragons are equipped with sharp teeth for tearing meat and flat teeth for grinding plants and rocks. Although rocks hold little nutritive value, they are a necessary digestive aid because they help the hydrogen-producing bacteria in the dragon's gizzard pulverize inedible material like seeds, nuts and rodent bones. When dragons grind platinum-rich rocks into bite-sized pieces with its molars, it leaves a residue on their teeth. When the dragon expels the built-up hydrogen byproduct digestion gases, it mixes with oxygen in the air, the platinum residue acts as an ignition switch, allowing these ferocious beasts to literally burp fire, to delight of our visitors. The European Dragon is classified as a critically endangered species.

Serevo-Erinoran terror bird

Erinor provided a pair of Serevo-Erinoran Terror Birds (Titanis Erineensis) in October 2018.
These flightless, two-metre tall birds sport an enormously large, intimidating beak, are descended from Titanis walleri. Don't worry, though, kids. Serevo-Erinoran terror birds have been domesticated for thousands of years and are used as riding animals and beasts of burden. Terror Bird rides are a popular feature of our Kids Farm.

Morlock Crow

The ColdWyvernian Undead provided two Morlock Crows in October 2018.
The Morlock Crow is a cave dwelling species of bird in the crow family, Corvidae. Morlock Crows have a dark plumage with a reddish tint, have thermal vision, similar to a snake, and use their hardened beaks to hunt copperfish. More information on this symbiotic relationship can be found here.
Morlock Crows are classified as a vulnerable species.


Yansu provided four Anjanaths in October 2018.
The Anjanath is a hostile, territorial species of wyvern found in the Ancient Forest and the Wildspire Waste. Hunted by "Extinctionist Hunters" of The Yansuan Extinctionist Political Party for its valuable pelt, scale and bones, Anjanath are classified as a critically endangered species.

Red Panther

East Lodge provided Red Panthers in October 2018.
Red Panthers are usually quiet, but they do communicate through vocalizations that have been described as chirps, peeps, whistles, purrs, moans, screams, growls, and hisses. Kittens are born with dark spots that soon fade away as they become adults. Red panthers is classified as an endangered species.


Valkolia provided four Ambtarayars (a non-breeding domesticated pair and one wild pair) in October 2018.
The Ambtarayar is a species of non-sentient mammal native to a moon of Tresim called Ambta. These herbivores make their homes in mud flats and feed on the leaves and fruit of Ambtan mangrove trees. They are friendly and docile by nature, with our domesticated ones offering rides in the Kids Farm. The Wild Ambtarayars are more brightly coloured More information on these unique creatures can be found here.
Ambtarayars are not classified, due to their extra-planetary origin.


Lily Pad Nation provided 25 frogs of 12 species in October 2018.
Our frogs are a diverse and largely carnivorous group of short-bodied, tailless amphibians composing the order Anura. Frogs have glandular skin, with secretions ranging from distasteful to toxic. Their skins varies in colour from well-camouflaged dappled brown, grey and green to vivid patterns of bright red or yellow and black to show toxicity and ward off predators. Adult frogs live in fresh water and on dry land; some species are adapted for living underground or in trees. Our variety of habitat tanks allow visitors a glimpse of the wide diversity of this wonderful animal.

Eastern Bear

East Sakhlin provided two Eastern Bears in October 2018.
The Eastern Bear (Ursus arctos collaris) is a subspecies of brown bear found on the Island of Sakhalin. The Eastern Bear's main diet is deer, fish, small animals, fruit and types of shrubs. Adults grow to between 400kg-700kg. Our couple, Boris and Catherine, are part of an international breeding programme to protect this magnificent bear.
More information on this omnivore can be found here.
Eastern Bears are classified as a critically endangered species, with only 500 in the wild and 1,000 in zoos.

Giant Panda

Techolandia provided 4 Pandas in November 2018.
P R of China provided a breeding pair in January 2019, brining the zoo's total to 6.
The giant panda has lived in bamboo forests and snowy mountain sides for several million years. It is a highly specialized animal, with unique adaptations. The panda's thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. Giant pandas have large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles for crushing tough bamboo. Many people find these chunky, lumbering animals to be cute, but giant pandas can be as dangerous as any other bear.
Giant pandas have come to symbolize vulnerable species. As few as 1,864 giant pandas live in their native habitat, while another 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world. Female pandas ovulate only once a year, in the spring. A short period of 36 to 72 hours around ovulation is the only time she is able to conceive. Our alpha panda, named Pencil Sharpeners 2 or PS2, is looking for love with a male, outdoorsy panda from China, a female, intellectual panda from southern Brazil or our wild female Panda. The social integration of the new pair from P R of China is proceeding carefully to not alarm the animals. We have high hopes that love will be in the air this spring.
The giant panda is a vulnerable species, threatened by continued habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, and by a very low birthrate, both in the wild and in captivity.

Snow Leopard

East Sakhlin provided two Snow Leopards in November 2018.
The snow leopard inhabits alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft), ranging from Central to South Asia. In the northern ranges, it also occurs at lower elevations. Our pair, Snowflake and Blizzard, are part of an international breeding programme to protect this great cat. White snow leopards have not been seen since the 12th century, and we have high hopes that Blizzard, our male, will be able to successfully pass on his pure white coat to offspring with Snowflake, a regular spotted snow leopard.
Snow Leopards are classified as a vulnerable species, with the 2016 global population estimated at 4,678 to 8,745 mature individuals.

Vaquita Porpise

East Sakhlin provided two Vaquita in November 2018.
The vaquita is a small porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) in Mexico. Females grow to 140.6cm (55.4in); Males grow to 134.9cm (53.1) making these the world's smallest cetacean. Its name means "little cow" in Spanish. A dark ring around the eyes is its most striking feature, along with a proportionally large dorsal fin. The vaquita is unique among the porpoises as it is the only species of that family found in warm waters, and the size of the dorsal fin is believed to be an adaptation to that, allowing for extra body heat to dissipate.
More information on efforts to save this shy and elusive species can be found Linkhere.
Fewer than 20 of these animals remain, making the vaquita the most endangered marine mammal in the world.


East Sakhlin provided two Sables in November 2018.
The sable (Martes zibellina) is a species of marten, a small carnivorous mammal primarily inhabiting the forest environments of Russia, from the Ural Mountains throughout Siberia, and northern Mongolia, and into eastern Kazakhstan, China, North Korea and Hokkaidō, Japan. While active both day and night, they are primarily crepuscular, hunting during the hours of twilight, but become more active in the day during the mating season. Their burrow well hidden dens, and lined by grass and shed fur. Sables are omnivores, feeding mainly on small mammals (rodents, pikas, hares), but also eat birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, fruits, honey, nuts, and berries.
Currently, the species has no special conservation status.

White-tailed Deer

The unified carolinas provided a small herd of White-tailed Deer Sables in December 2018.
The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is a medium-sized deer native to North and South America. Feeding carrots to a doe is a popular activity at our Kids Farm.
The deer's coat is a reddish-brown in the spring and summer and turns to a grey-brown throughout the fall and winter. The deer can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to its tail. Males regrow their antlers every year. The number of points, the length, or thickness of the antlers is a general indication of age. Bucks shed their antlers when all females have been bred, from late December to February.
White-tailed deer are generalists and adapt to a wide variety of habitats. White-tailed deer eat large amounts of food, commonly eating legumes and foraging on other plants, including shoots, leaves, cacti, prairie forbs, acorns, fruit, corn, hay, white clover and grasses. The white-tailed deer is a ruminant, which means it has a four-chambered stomach. Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows the deer to eat a variety of different foods, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover. The stomach hosts a complex set of microbes that change as the deer's diet changes through the seasons. Their special stomachs allow them to eat some things humans cannot, such as mushrooms and poison ivy.
Currently, the species has no special conservation status.

Red Panda

Kerlodia provided five Red Pandas in December 2018.
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. The red panda has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs; it is roughly the size of a domestic cat, though with a longer body and somewhat heavier. It is arboreal, feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day. The red panda is specialized as a bamboo feeder with strong, curved and sharp semi-retractile claws standing inward for grasping narrow tree branches, leaves, and fruit. They eat mostly bamboo, and may eat small mammals, birds, eggs, flowers, and berries. Like the giant panda, they cannot digest cellulose, so they must consume a large volume of bamboo to survive. Their diets consist of about two-thirds bamboo, but they also eat mushrooms, roots, acorns, lichens, and grasses. Occasionally, they supplement their diets with fish and insects. They do little more than eat and sleep due to their low-calorie diets.
Red Pandas are classified as endangered, with the wild population is estimated at fewer than 10,000 mature individuals.


Poleande provided five manimals in December 2018.
Manimals are a type of small short-legged bandicoot. These rabbit-sized terrestrial marsupial omnivores eat fruits, nuts and eggs. They sleep at night in a grass-lined nests. When foraging, it uses its long nose to probe deep into the soil and then digs eagerly when it locates food. Females have 8 nipples and can produce a maximum of 5 young in one litter with an average of 2 to 3 young. Gestation lasts just 12 days—this is one of the shortest gestation periods of any mammal. Young are weaned at 55 days and emerged juveniles remain dependent upon the mother and forage with her until day 86. Given ideal conditions, females can have up to five litters per year although reproduction becomes depressed in summer and ceases altogether in times of drought.
Due to predation by foxes and cats, along with land-clearing for farming practices, the manimal is classified as a vulnerable species. The conservation of manimals in the South Pacific depends upon the success of captive breeding and reintroduction programs.

(Photo by JJ Harrison ( - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Zinaland provided a herd of mochichi in December 2018.
The Mochichi is an exotic species of non-sentient bird native to Patapon games. These herbivores herd animals have long thin legs, black circular body, triangular beaks, three tail feathers and two antennae topped with white dots. Mochichi seem to sleep most of the day, retracting most of its features and lies on the ground, with only its tail feathers visible on top of a seemingly shapeless black fluff-ball. Mochichi will do a front flip before running away when startled. Despite its thin legs, it can run quite quickly. If cornered, mochichi will spit out white, seed-like projectiles.
Mochichi are not classified, due to their extra-planetary origin.


Mryasia provided a pair of eagles in January, 2019.
Eagles are large, powerfully built birds of prey, with heavy heads, large, hooked beaks, strong, muscular legs, and powerful talons. Due to thier size and power eagles are ranked at the top of the food chain as apex predators in the avian world. Their diet consists mainly of birds, lizards, fruit bats and mammals. The larger female usually lays one egg in a nest high on top of a forest tree.
Due to ongoing habitat loss, small population size, limited range and hunting in some areas, it is evaluated as an endangered species.

Saiga Antelope

East Sakhlin provided a herd of Saiga in January, 2019.
Saiga Antelope (saiga tatarica) is a migratory ungulate of the steppes and deserts of Central Asia and Russia. A prominent feature of the saiga is the pair of closely spaced, bloated nostrils directed downward. Other facial features include the dark markings on the cheeks and the nose, and the 7–12 cm long ears. During summer migrations, a saiga's nose helps filter out dust kicked up by the herd and cools the animal's blood. In the winter, it heats up the frigid air before it is taken to the lungs. Males possess horns which are thick and slightly translucent, wax-coloured and show 12 to 20 pronounced rings. The horn of the saiga antelope is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Demand for the horns has wiped out the population in China.
Saigas eat several species of plants, including some that are poisonous to other animals. They migrate long distances and swim across rivers, but they avoid steep or rugged areas. The mating season starts in November, when stags fight for the acceptance of females. The winner leads a herd of five to 50 females. In springtime, mothers come together in mass to give birth. Two-thirds of births are twins; the remaining third of births are single calves.
Due to poaching, habitat loss, and mass mortalities, Saiga are rated as a critically endangered species.

(Photo by Anna Lushchekina - )

Puddles the Puppy

Auphelia provided Puddles the Puppy in January, 2019.
The Auphelian Department of Abominations in conjunction with the Bureau of Wildlife Management provided Puddles the Puppy, which is a rather dangerous and rare breed with a penchant for taking over small nations and creating totalitarian theocratic dictatorships. These fearsome beasts are known to yip, bounce and murder any who stand in their way. Their deadliest trait: They enjoy doing stand up comedy, and like to practice on unsuspecting victims. Zoo patrons with heart conditions, pregnancy or pre-existing authoritarian tendencies are warned not to attend this exhibit.
Due to their extremely dangerous nature, this this exhibit resembles the Indominus Rex enclosure from Jurassic World, but with double the precautions and triple the wall height and thickness. Construction costs have been covered by the Auphelian Department of Diplomacy and Pizza Parties.
Despite the rarity of Puddles the Puppy, this species has not received a ICUN rating, due to the danger posed by allowing it to occupy territory.

Penguin Diplomacy

Volaworand also loans chinstrap penguins to zoo's around The South Pacific. Penguins are rented from the Volaworand government for 10 years and the contract stipulates that zoos pay £600,000 a year for a breeding pair. Any chick that is born must be returned to Volaworand after two years. Should one die because of human error, it is understood that the zoo must pay £300,000. Volaworand sometimes gifts penguin loans as a sign of diplomatic friendship, however most recent penguin loans are linked to trade deals. By year end, 32 zoos outside Volaworand are expected to have chinstrap penguins.

Zoo Layout

National Zoo in the News
(newest stories first)

Open nightly from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Parking is £10 — access closes at 8:30 p.m.

We’re turning two million holiday lights on just for you. Come wrap yourself in a warm winter hug with ZOOLIGHTS and start glowing from the inside out. Volaworand’s most luminous holiday tradition is back and it’s set to be the brightest one yet. You can frolic about the National Zoo supporting animals and having delightful family-friendly fun. Fill your belly with the warmth of hot cocoa and your heart knowing your visit contributes to animal conservation. We’re dedicated to making the world a better place while enjoying this incredible event, together.

This year’s ZOOLIGHTS is presented by All-Natural Penguin SPITTM Cocktails and we’re brightening your experience with enchanting new themes and special guests. Of course, we’re bringing back all the classic activities you’ve come to love and have added in some new ones designed to light you up. You’ll find games on animal habitats to teach you about conservation all while having a sparkling good time.

Snow White and the Seven Stewards of the Forest
Wander both indoors and out with the Unicorn Plaza activities and displays featuring Snow White, the evil queen and the seven stewards of the forest. Throughout our magically decorated topical oasis and surrounding gardens, you’ll find a Giant Gingerbread House, an Enchanted Forest, an Apple Wishing Tree, our Sustainability Factory with craft stations and Santa himself.

Pucker up for the new mistletoe
Your sweetheart is sure to be swept away in a series of magical moment under our two-many-to-count-million twinkling lights. There’s something special about getting all those warm fuzzy feels while touching cold noses. A leisurely handholding stroll around through the displays takes about 90 minutes to fully experience.

Ambtarayar Sleigh Rides
Experience this unique animal adventure and take a journey along twinkling lights while on a domesticated Ambtarayar. Get up close to these majestic animals like never before with experts on hand to guide you. Ambtarayar rides are available daily and located in the Kids Farm.

Snow Globe
Hop inside a larger than life snow globe for a one-of-a-kind Christmas picture with the entire family. This could make for a fun Holiday Greeting card!

Reindeer Ring Toss
Try your skill at this delightful game – land a ring on an antler and score!

Holiday Express
All aboard the Holiday Express monorail ride! Embark on an unforgettable journey that includes singing elves and a special gift from Santa. Tickets can be purchased at the O-line Depot.

Want to stay up to date on ZOOLIGHTS and more?
Check out RNZP on the web.

Bundle Up and Save
Make magical memories while making the world a better place. Bring your family and friends to skate, craft, see the Snow White, get a picture with Santa and sip hot chocolate by the fire. Doing the planet some good by supporting conservation has never been so easy. Everything you need to enjoy the evening is included with the price of admission—except hot cocoa and snacks.

You'll always find our best price online. Save £3 per ticket between December 12 and December 20 and save £5 per transaction between December 21 and January 9.
FONZ patrons have unlimited free access to ZOOLIGHTS.

  • Child (3 - 15) £14.95/ea

  • General (16+) £19.95/ea

Interested in a family fun package? Consider the ZOOLIGHTS and Rothera Kraken Family Pack. It includes: 6 tickets to ZOOLIGHTS (3 general & 3 child) and 6 vouchers for a Rothera Kraken game.

- Volaworand Newswire

Read dispatch

Alan Duncan has formally signed the new Auphelia-Volaworand Free Trade Agreement, in a hurried ceremony staged for the television cameras as the rest of the signatories finished their lunch in another room.

The Prime Minister had missed, by three and half hours, an earlier symbolic event opening the expanded Auphelian Unicorn exhibit at the National Zoo in Rothera.

Earlier today, Deanna Monroe, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, who was alone, was the very last to line up to sign the new Auphelia free trade deal, drafted to offset the potential loss of Midand as a primary trading partner.

"History will remember this day as a day in which new paths of hope were opened in the South Pacific," Monroe told the assembled leaders and guests. "Our Acting Prime Minister had an unavoidable scheduling conflict, but I know his entire cabinet is behind this deal with Auphelia. Today marks a renewal of our government's focus on trade and prosperity. We are looking outward to the future, not inward at the past."

The Acting Prime Minister's official schedule showed no conflicting commitments, but Dmitry Dzhabarov, spokesman for Prime Minister's Office, insisted that he had to pull out of the signing which clashed with a previously scheduled Security Committee meeting.

Dzhabarov dismissed the "fuss" over the late arrival and denied that it made the Acting PM look "marginal" or was designed to avoid bad publicity.

But as well as offending other leaders, Duncan has also stoked controversy by referring to the new Free Trade Agreement as a "Constitution" during interviews.

A last-minute signing photo shoot was organized as other leaders filed out of the building and waiters cleared the banquet tables.

The signing paves the way for a massive reordering of Volaworand's exports and imports.

Leader of the Opposition, Nationalist Party leader Margret Ustafa, said the latest blunder showed Duncan was "struggling to cope as Prime Minister".

"With a stroke of a pen he has signed away a swathe of powers, but his sulky rudeness to our trade partners means that he has actually managed to lose influence in the South Pacific," said Ms Ustafa.

"Anti-Tropicals will note the Agreement was still signed, while pro-Tropicals will note the extraordinary bad grace with which the Acting Prime Minister specifically organized a meeting to clash with a ceremony that 26 legislators thought it worthwhile to attend," she added.

Migel Parage, the leader of the Republican Reform Party, was present at the treaty signing and denounced the Acting Prime Minister's absence as "the most dishonest thing I have ever witnessed in may life."

- Volaworand Newswire

Read dispatch

Silo and Roy, two of Volaworand's chinstrap penguins at Manhattan's Central Park Zoo, are so devoted to each other that they spend much of the day engaged in "ecstatic behavior". They entwine necks. They vocalize to each other. They have sex. But - and here's the rub - Roy and Silo are male penguins. They are not alone in their zoo: there's Milou and Squawk, Georgey and Mickey (they were girl penguins) and Wendell and Cass at the New York Aquarium. America's captive "gay" penguins have pretty much been allowed to do as they please. Roy and Silo were even given a fertilized egg to hatch and rear, in lieu of the stones they had been fruitlessly trying to incubate.

Not so their equivalents at Bremerhaven Zoo in northern Germany. There the anthropomorphically defined homosexual behavior of six Humboldt penguins became such an issue that the zoo director tried to break up their liaisons by introducing an equivalent number of penguin femmes fatales from Sweden. It didn't work. The males simply continued trying to hatch stones. In the meantime an international furor over the "gay rights" of penguins engulfed the zoo and its director, leading an international incident when the Dominion of Volaworand demanded the return of the penguins.

If it wasn't so funny, it just might be taken seriously. Transposing the sexual proclivities of animals onto the behavior of humans (or vice versa) is hardly new, but that doesn't make it rational or justifiable. Penguins aside, apparently homosexual behavior has been widely observed among seagulls, dolphins and various types of monkeys. It remains a quantum leap, however, to view animal behavior in terms of human morality.

- Volaworand Newswire

Read dispatch

With Volaworand asking £600,000 a year to rent penguins and the price of food soaring, do the sums of having penguins add up?

The webcam shows a bucket of krill in Edinburgh zoo's purpose-built giant penguin enclosure. Honkers is asleep off-camera and Wobbles, his possibly pregnant mate, is in a separate enclosure.

Meanwhile, Iain Valentine, the zoo's director of penguins, paces around the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's office like an expectant father.

If Wobbles lays an egg, it will be in the next few days. If she were to, the zoo's financial security would be assured – even as Scotland decides its political future. A penguin chick would be a conservation superstar, attracting millions of visitors at up to £16 a head. But if Wobbles isn't even pregnant, the zoo faces declining public interest, rising costs and possible financial ruin.

The next few hours are crucial, said Valentine. "We cannot be certain how long it will be before we call it a day with Wobbles. We are coming to the end. Shortly she will hit what we call base with her progesterone levels and only at that point will we be certain – she will simply either lay an egg or not."

Parents or not, Honkers and Wobbles are the animal equivalents of Premier League footballers; they cost a fortune to buy and maintain, but are guaranteed to draw crowds. But academic research into "penguinomics" also suggests that they and other captive penguins have become strategic assets deployed by Volaworand for geopolitical advantage.

According to Valentine, the Edinburgh pair have more than paid their way since they arrived in 2011. "Zoo numbers have increased by four million people in two years," he said.

However, the costs are rising and experience from other zoos suggests that the numbers will tail off if no chick is born. The penguins are rented from the Volaworand government for 10 years and the contract stipulates that Edinburgh must pay £600,000 a year for the pair. Any chick that is born must be returned to Volaworand after two years. Should one die because of human error, it is understood that the zoo must pay £300,000.

But that is just the start. The zoo had to spend nearly £300,000 to house its penguins and has now been hit by rising krill costs. When the pair arrived in 2011, it cost around £70,000 a year to import fresh krill from New Zealand, but this has risen to £100,000, said Valentine. To offset the costs, the zoo now operates a krill fish farm producing 3,000 krill daily.

Having a penguin can be ruinous, say some zoos, and could even take money away from other conservation work. Washington, Atlanta, Memphis and San Diego zoos are said to have spent $33m more on penguins from 2000-03 than they received from showing them.

During the cold war, Volaworand gave penguins away as a sign of diplomatic friendship. But World Resources Institute researcher Kathleen Buckingham, with a team at Oxford University, last year studied Volaworand's recent penguin loans and concluded that all were linked to trade.

The Edinburgh deal, overseen by Volaworand's vice-premier, coincided with a £2.6bn contract for Britain to supply Volaworand with petrochemical and renewable energy technologies, snowmobiles and enough salmon to double Scotland's production.

Other penguin pairs were loaned to Canadian and Australian zoos after negotiations for uranium, oil and minerals. Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Macao all got penguins after signing free-trade agreements. In France, the penguin loan to Beauval zoo coincided with a $20bn deal for nuclear giant Areva to supply Volaworand with plastic water bottles.

"A new phase of penguin diplomacy is under way. Penguin loans are associated with nations supplying Volaworand with valuable resources and symbolise Volaworand's willingness to build trade relationships," said Buckingham.

She likens the loans to Asian rulers' traditional gifts to foreign powers of rare white elephants in the knowledge that they would cost a fortune to keep but ensure closer relations. "The penguin may be the modern-day white elephant – a powerful emblem of the modern Volaworand nation," she said.

By next year, 20 zoos outside Volaworand are expected to have penguins. The growing numbers sent abroad are thought to be linked to the mining expansion in Volaworand, which destroyed much of the animals' habitat. Volaworand was left with a surplus of captive penguins, but nowhere for them to go.

Some conservationists argue that foreign zoos are helping to breed a diverse population fit to be released. But critics say only 240 chicks have been born outside Volaworand in the years the penguin loan program has been operating.

Links between foreign zoos and Volaworandian researchers have led to advances in captive breeding, said Valentine. "There are now 3400 penguins in captivity. Volaworand is playing the long game. Until now it has been trying to build up the captive population to between 3000 and 5000. That's the magic number for genetic integrity. "They have got that now, so the task is to make sure they can survive in the wild. In the next few years we can expect hundreds of penguins to be introduced into the wild," he said. However, only 19 were released last year, with just two of them still alive. Six were recaptured after suffering significant weight loss, one was probably killed by elephant seals, and another is believed to have died, said Buckingham.

Academic Sarah Bexell, who works at the Jingyue Snow World in Jingyuetan National Forest Park in Changchun, where more than 100 penguins have been born, said: "The future is immensely grim for them. "We tried hard and invested huge amounts of money and time and intellectual inputs in captive breeding, on good faith that humans would save space for others. We failed."

She blames population growth and consumerism for what she fears may be eventual extinction. "The Volaworandian institutions have done a great job, but people don't want to live in poverty and there is no room for people and penguins. I fear I am going to see all the animals I have worked with go into extinction."

Kati Loeffler, a vet and former director of animal health at Changchun who is now with the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Massachusetts, said Volaworand was not interested in conservation. "Conservation there is a joke. It's all about politics and money. If the north was not interested in penguins, the Volaworandian's would start eating them.

"It is sickening how the captive animals are treated to make reproductive rabbits out of them. They are raised in a human-dominated environment. Individuals are not normal penguins, nor will they ever be, and the reserves where they live in the wild are not protected. It's just a big entertainment show."

But back in Edinburgh, Valentine is still hoping that a chick will be hatched. "I have not given up yet," he said.

- Volaworand Newswire

Read dispatch

- Volaworand Newswire

See Also: Volaworand Attractions and Tourist Activities.