Thursday, December 29, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - CAS to look into white-flag dolphins in Yangtze River

The China View website Xinhua has news on a new investigation that will begin in 2006 looking for any remaining Baiji or white-flag dolphins that may remain in the river Yangtze.
China will launch a thorough investigation into white-flag dolphins in the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River in 2006, according to a researcher with Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

'We will carry out the investigation using the fund offered by White-flag Dolphin Foundation based in Switzerland,' said Wang Li,a researcher from the CAS's Institute of Hydrobiology.

With close observations on the dolphins, experts will find and catch the animals to divert them into the old course of the Yangtze River section at central China's Hubei, according to Wang.

KAKAPO PARROTS - Back on the kakapo trail

New Zealand's Stuff.co.nz with a story on kakapo researcher Chris Smuts-Kennedy, who's hunting Kakapo parrots once again...
More than 30 years after ecologist Chris Smuts-Kennedy tramped through Fiordland searching for kakapo, he is returning to see if any remain.

The Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust employee says he'll know when he hears one because their unusual cry makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

Mr Smuts-Kennedy was part of an early expedition in the mid-1970s to find kakapo.

BLOG OF THE WEEK - Blogs Are For Wimps

Please spend a moment to check out our Of The Week, Blogs Are For Wimps (see sidebar for thumbnail), which has a rounded mixture of news, sport, humour and politics from its contributors. I'll be keeping an eye on their World Cup preview. Come on England!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Rwanda honours mountain gorilla researcher Fossey

Reuters AlertNet has an article on the Rwandan commemoration of the life and work of Dian Fossey which was held this week. Fossey was murdered on December 26, 1985 after living in the jungles of Rwanda for some 18 years with the primates.
Rwandan officials commemorated the life and the 20th anniversary of the death of famed primate researcher Dian Fossey with dances and speeches in the rural highlands where she studied the mountain gorillas she loved.

Government officials and locals held traditional dances, gave speeches and laid wreaths at the site where Fossey, who was killed in mysterious circumstances in 1985, was buried.

Fossey's work inspired the 1988 Hollywood film Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver and has provided Rwanda's economy with an enduring lure for tourist dollars.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

AMAZONIAN MANATEES - Manatee-biting catfish invade Florida

The Daytona Beach News has an article on the threat to Floridean Manatees from a species of catfish which originally threatened the Brazilian Manatees...
As the manatees return to Blue Spring State Park this winter, they're being greeted by the invasive catfish that love them -- or the algae on their skin, anyway.

In recent years a species of catfish native to Brazil has expanded into the park's waters, and thrived.

The first few were spotted in 1999, and now they are estimated in the thousands. With their shark-like movements and manatee-biting habits, they're among the park's least popular denizens.

Rumor has it that the fish -- known as suckermouth sailfin catfish, or more commonly, armored catfish -- are descendants of aquarium escapees. They are often seen grazing on the manatees, which toss and twirl to try and throw them off.

Friday, December 23, 2005

DODOS - Scientists find 'mass dodo grave'

Exciting news from the BBC.
Scientists have discovered the "beautifully preserved" bones of about 20 dodos at a dig site in Mauritius.

Little is known about the dodo, a famous flightless bird thought to have become extinct in the 17th century.

No complete skeleton has ever been found in Mauritius, and the last full set of bones was destroyed in a fire at a museum in Oxford, England, in 1755.

Researchers believe the bones are at least 2,000-years-old, and hope to learn more about how dodos lived.
Click here for the full article.

Some other BBC articles on the dodo are:
Scientists pinpoint dodo's demise
Bringing the dodo back to life
DNA yields dodo family secrets

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project Employees Travel from Africa to U.S. for Special Program

The Baltimore Times with an article on a six week visit to Baltimore Zoo by African vets.
Thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Kim Hammond of the Falls Road Animal Hospital, MGVP veterinarians from Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are getting the chance to come to Baltimore to observe how North American veterinarians work. The MGVP participants will be learning from veterinarians at The Maryland Zoo and Falls Road Animal Hospital, as well as pathologists at the Johns Hopkins Comparative Medicine Department. It's an opportunity for the MGVP employees to see veterinary medicine at a level that, unfortunately, doesn't exist in their home countries.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Finless porpoise endangered

Shanghai Daily with a status report on one of the other marine mammals found in the Yangtze.
Finless porpoises are decreasing by 7.3 percent annually in the Yangtze River, China's longest, according to the Institute of Hydrobiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences. About 1,000 are left.

'We do research on porpoises' situation every year at key reaches of the Yangtze since the early 1980s, and have found that the number of Yangtze finless porpoises has decreased rapidly in the past two decades,' said Wei Zhuo, an institute scientist.
[...]
'We need quick actions; or it probably will become like the endangered white-flag dolphin,' said Wei.

Friday, December 16, 2005

MAURITIUS KESTRELS - Mauritius highway plans shelved

Superb news from Birdlife International. The planned Mauritius South-Eastern Highway has been cancelled. The building of this road would have devastated the habitat of the Mauritius Kestrel.
In an important victory for conservation, plans for a road that would have devastated part of the forest heartland of the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus, one of the world’s flagship conservation success stories, have been shelved.

The historic decision was announced in October following national elections when the Prime Minister of Mauritius was elected with promises to change the country within 100 days.
[...]
Numbering just four wild birds in 1974, the Mauritius Kestrel was once the world’s rarest bird. Today its population has grown to between 800 and 1,000 individuals, thanks to a captive breeding and reintroduction programme run by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Government of Mauritius

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Gentle king of the jungle needs help

Scotsman.com has a feature on David Cowdrey, "WWF-UK's head of press, when he got first-hand experience of the terror that gorillas can inspire when he met a rather cheesed-off male in Rwanda in 2003".
David says: "I was filming a family group, a mother and her baby, when a big male exploded out of the bushes and charged towards me. I was petrified, but thankfully had the presence of mind to get down on the ground in the most submissive position I could.

"He stomped up to me and walked around a few times grunting, but once he had realised I didn't pose any threat to his authority he wandered off and left me unharmed, and with a very surprising video."
[...]
There are two species of gorilla in Africa. The most well known is also the most threatened. Only about 700 mountain gorillas - which live in the highlands of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo - survive in the wild, while about up to 100,000 lowland gorillas are still thought to survive across central Africa. But one sub species of the lowland gorilla, the cross river gorilla, is in dire straits, with just 250 left.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Court hears how tourists were hacked to death at reserve

The Guardian has the story on a trial taking place in Kampala for the 1999 atoricty in which a mountain gorilla tourism group were brutally murdered.
Nine people, including three British tourists, sustained horrific injuries when they were killed at a Ugandan gorilla reserve in 1999, according to testimony yesterday at the trial, in Kampala, of one of the accused.

Jean-Paul Bizimana is one of the Rwandan rebels accused of hacking and bludgeoning to death the nine people, who included a Ugandan guide, at the reserve in western Uganda, near the borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr Bizimana, 30, denies nine counts of murder. He could face execution if convicted. The killings caused a dramatic reduction in tourists to Uganda's famed Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

ECHO PARAKEETS - Jason Malham

l'express.mu here with a profile of Jason Malham, coordinator of the Echo parakeet - the Grosse cateau verte- recovery programme on the island of Mauritius.
Jason was brought up on a diet of sports and nature. New Zealand is a land of mountains and valleys, an outdoor paradise, where one can practise hiking, climbing… So the young boy would accompany his father on hunting and fishing parties (not endangered species) and developed a strong link with nature.
[...]
Then his destiny met that of the Kakapo, a flightless nocturnal parrot, which could have known the dodo’s fate without a preservation programme. It was a huge job to get the Kakapo out of the red. Like the Echo Parakeet here, each member of a family is carefully (and sometimes comically!) identified.
[...]
[Now], coordinator of the Echo parakeet - the Grosse cateau verte- recovery programme in the island, Jason Malham came here four years ago. “I actually work on a seasonal basis for eight months, obviously during this bird’s breeding season.” The recovery programme, which started in1988, when the birds’ population had fallen to 12 and threatened to disappear completely, has proved one of the world’s most successful : there are about 270 now.
Full Profile here

Monday, December 12, 2005

DOCTOR WHO - Shada

"Shada", a serial from 1979 starring Tom Baker, was written by the late great Douglas Adams. A strike at the BBC meant that the recording was never completed, so for the best part of 25 years it remained unfinished. In the intervening time, Douglas Adams borrowed several elements from the serial and wove them into his novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", which sees the eponymous hero and Professor Chronotis go back in time and meet the Dodo. Adams also refers to the history of the Dodo in his book "Last Chance To See" of course.

A few years ago, the Big Finish company remade "Shada" as a BBC webcast (audio plus animation) starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, with K9 and Lalla Ward as Romana. Incidentally, Douglas Adams introduced Lalla to her future husband (the scientist Richard Dawkins) at his 40th birthday party in 1992.

The story was then released on CD by Big Finish, and for this week only, the BBC's digital radio station BBC7 is broadcasting a compilation of the 6 part adventure.

You can LISTEN FOR FREE until Friday 16th December. The full BBC7 Saturday schedule can be seen here.

The broadcast features a rather nice prologue, in the style of a famous paragraph from "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy".

KAKAPO PARROTS - Injured kakapo chick ready to go home

Good news from New Zealand's Stuff. Pounamu, the female kakapo chick that was savagely attacked in her pen by an older male was given the all-clear to return home today.
The Department of Conservation said the chick, named Pounamu, was attacked in her pen just days before she was due for release in September.

Pounamu, one of only 86(sic*) kakapo in the world, sustained serious injuries to her neck and beak, and had to be flown to Massey University's wildlife ward to be treated for her injuries.
* There's actually 87. We had 86 in 2004 before 3 died of an infection. 4 were successfully reared in 2005, bringing us up to 87.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - New Zealand birdlife under threat

New Zealand's Scoop with the news that even more needs to be done to save New Zealand's native birdlife such as Kakapo, Kiwi and Taiko.
An overview of the state of New Zealand native birds says that while seriously endangered bird species are being successfully managed, there are many less-endangered species that are not being managed and are in severe decline.

Compiler of the State of New Zealand's Birds 2005 and a senior lecturer at Lincoln University, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, said today that the Conservation Department had been very successful at saving critically endangered species from extinction with, arguably, a better record of success than any other agency any where in the world.

"Almost all bird species that are being actively managed are increasing, albeit slowly in the case of very difficult species such as the Taiko and Kakapo."

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Nets killing 800 whales and dolphins every day

DIVE Magazine with an article on the threat of fishing nets to dolphins, whales and porpoises.
Fishing nets are killing up to 800 whales, dolphins and porpoises every day, according to latest research. A team of marine experts from universities and conservation in the UK and US said bycatch was the biggest danger cetaceans faced.
[...]
WWF said the most endangered species included the European harbour porpoise, baiji dolphins in China, Maui’s dolphin in New Zealand and Irrawaddy dolphins in the Philippines.

Monday, December 05, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Powerful quake rocks East Africa

BBC News with initial reports of a significant earthqukae that has struck DR Congo and Rwanda.
A powerful earthquake has hit eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near Lake Tanganyika.

There are no reports of any casualties. Hundreds of people fled in panic from offices in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The quake was also felt on the Indian Ocean coast, Burundi and Rwanda. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.8, reports the US Geological Survey.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - How to keep a gorilla, and other stories

New Zealand's Stuff with an interesting article on the current deluge of gorilla related material, mainly because of the release of Peter Jackson's King Kong remake.
As ape-obsessed publishers disgorge an avalanche of Kong-related dross, Iain Sharp tells the true history of gorilla lit.
[...]
King Kong? Not quite. In the original 1933 movie, King Kong was five to eight times taller (the models varied in scale from scene to scene). But Merian C Cooper, the driving force behind the film as chief scriptwriter, co-producer and co-director, had loved Du Chaillu's book since boyhood.

Cooper was probably also familiar with The Gorilla Hunters, a novel by Scottish writer RM Ballantyne, who specialised in ripping yarns for boys. Ballantyne's 1858 book The Coral Island - a tale of three young castaways in the South Seas - was a huge bestseller. Written in rapid, enthusiastic response to Du Chaillu's pioneering work and completed by the end of 1861, The Gorilla Hunters is a sequel in which the youthful trio (Ralph Rover, Jack Martin and Peterkin Gay) reunite, sail to Africa and lay waste to great apes.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Hunt for kakapo to resume

The New Zealand Herald has news on a hunt for two Kakapo Parrots, Tawbert and Biscuit.
The last hunt for Fiordland's lost kakapo will be launched next month, 20 years after the birds were last known to be alive.

Don Merton, 65, now retired but who played a key role in the rescue of kakapo more than 30 years ago, and Department of Conservation kakapo team leader Paul Jansen, will lead the search from January 17 over some of the most rugged and remote country to find two males, Tawbert and Biscuit.
Full Story

MADAGASCAR - Preserving the Magic, MP3

This week's Living On Earth has a 30 minute segment on entitled Preserving The Magic. The segment is available as streaming audio or as an MP3 file for download to your MP3 player of choice.
PART 1: This week we present a special two- part report on Madagascar. This island nation off the southeast coast of Africa possesses the most numerous and rarest of animal and plant species on the planet. Producer Daniel Grossman visited the island to assess the conservation efforts underway to preserve Madagascar's unique ecosystem which is under intense pressure from deforestation.

PART 2: Our story on efforts to protect Madagascar's rich flora and fauna continues with a look at how scientists and farmers are working to develop new agricultural methods that allow farmers to make a living without cutting down any more of the island's forests. Daniel Grossman reports.
Thanks to George for this information.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

SO LONG, AND THANKS - Billy Joel inspired tribute to Douglas Adams

A 2001 tribute to Douglas Adams by Mark A. Mandel. So Long, And Thanks is a rewording of the classic "For the Longest Time", and contains the following lines...
Deep Thought, dolphins, laboratory mice,
Slartibartfast's picture in the ice,
And random Scrabble
While battered sofas travel
Upstairs or take our heroes home through time.

You took us along for a drive,
Our Last Chance To See
These species alive.
And you taught us The Meaning Of Liff;
It's more than terrif-
Ic, it's simply Titanic.
It's track 12 on Billy Joel's Greatest Hits album, CD2. Amazon has a snippet you can listen to, which should help to get the tune into your head...

MADAGASCAR - Sand Clod in the Sea

Simon, the blogger over at Seedcast has written a very powerful post on the fate befalling the island of Madagascar, entitled "Sand Clod in the Sea".
Madagascar, now, is a sand clod in the sea, which is slowly washing away, with very little of its once famous fauna and flora remaining. The decimation of the indigenous wildlife, including the virtually complete destruction of the country’s forests has led to mass erosion and the island is, quite literally, washing away.

On the Air Seychelles flight that returned us to South Africa earlier this month I looked out of the window to see a swollen, brown river-mouth washing into the Indian Ocean. The land around it was literally smouldering with fires burning the last of the organic matter on the surface while the waters sucked all the sand (because this is all that remains of the once lush forests) into the sea.

It looks horrible.
Please do read the full article where Simon also talks fondly of the book Last Chance To See.

KOMODO DRAGONS - Star Wars creature inspired by Komodo Dragons

The website has a neat little article aimed at the kids, all about Boga the Varactyl from Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith. The article compares the Varactyls and the terrestial lizards that inspired it, including our trusty friend the Komodo Dragon.
In real life, Boga resembles a wide variety of reptiles including iguanas, geckos, Komodo Dragons, regal horned lizards, frilled lizards, and even prehistoric dinosaurs. Boga was brought to life as a computer-animated creature. To get Boga's movements as lifelike as possible, Industrial Light & Magic Animation Director Rob Coleman and his team refined Boga's run cycle by studying actual nature footage of various running lizards.
[...]
The Komodo Dragon is the largest lizard, measuring up to three meters (10 feet) long and weighing up to 80 kilograms (176 pounds)! Regal horned lizards have a set of four equally-spaced horns on the back of the head, as well as spines down its body much like those of Boga.
The full article can be found here - Star Wars: Kids | Exploring Real Life Varactyls.

Friday, November 25, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Jack Hanna Films Mountain Gorillas in Africa

ABC News has Jack Hanna's story on his visit to Rwanda to film mountain gorillas.
My trip to visit the mountain gorillas was the experience of a lifetime for me. You are used to seeing lowland gorillas in zoos all over the world, but the only place you can see the mountain gorilla is in its natural habitat in either Rwanda or parts of Uganda. Can you imagine sitting within 10 feet of a family of mountain gorillas? It humbles you. This is the third time I've seen the mountain gorillas in their habitat, and each time is better than the last.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

ANIMAL OF THE DAY

I recently stumbled across this nice blog about called Animal Of The Day.

There's a lot of care gone into the creation of this site, and I thought they deserved a plug! Give them a visit, leave a comment, and tell them Another Chance To See sent you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BLOG OF THE WEEK - Writesville

If you have ambitions to be the next Douglas Adams, please visit our "Blog of the Week" www.writesville.com, the "online writing resource to sharpen your creative skills". Click on the thumbnail in the side-bar to get there.

Friday, November 18, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - A Brother For Urwibutso!

Marvellous update in the latest DFGFI Field News. Another Chance To See's adopted gorilla infant Urwibutso has a new brother!
Tuck, a 33-year-old female in Group Beetsme, gave birth on Oct. 8 to an, as yet, unnamed male infant.

This is especially important due to Tuck's family history. Born into a different group of gorillas known as Group 5, Tuck is part of a family that is called “Effies' clan,” so named by Dian Fossey, for Tuck's mother, Effie. This family group is the most productive of all gorilla groups in the the Virungas!

Although Tuck's life has been beset with tragedy (she has lost three infants during their first month of life and one son died at 15 years old), Tuck now has four living offspring, all of whom remain in the gorilla groups monitored by Karisoke (Umuco in Pablo's group and Vuba and Urwibutso in Beetsme's group).
Read the full story at the DFGFI Field News page.

For those who don't know, earlier this year I gathered some cash from Another Chance To See readers, and we adopted Urwibutso from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund website. Here's his picture...

Once again, many thanks to all our sponsors!

KING KONG - Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Preview!

News of an early screening in Atlanta of Peter Jackson's latest blockbuster "", with proceeds going to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Full details can be found here:
KING KONG Premiere: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International presents a special advance screening of the much-anticipated motion picture KING KONG.

Join Atlanta’s larger-than-life personalities on December 7, 2005 as we gather for a Celebrity/VIP party, a special screening of KING KONG, and the Gorilla Gala. Sigourney Weaver and Ambassador Andrew Young are co-chairing the event which begins at 5:30 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the Fossey Fund
[...]
Sigourney Weaver and Andrew Young will address the audience before the Screening! There will also be a special message from Andy Serkis, who's portraying King Kong in the movie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - Study shows more to a lizard bite than a nasty nip

Reuters.com has an enlightening article on a new study which effectively doubles the number of potentially venomous reptile species in the world from 2,300 to 4,600! This could prove very important news to medicine developers, because many of today's drugs are derived from snake toxins.
Until now, pain and swelling from lizard bites assumed to be non-venomous were attributed to the bacteria that thrive on bits of meat left between their teeth from their scavenging diet.

However, the symptoms are actually from the venom, a finding which could have implications for medical research, said Dr. Bryan Fry of the University of Melbourne, lead author of the research published online by the science journal Nature.
[...]
"Milking the big monitors was quite simple, just gently squeezing the glands would result in 40-50 milligrams (dry weight) of liquid venom pooling at the base of the teeth," Fry said.

"This means a big Komodo dragon could have more than 200 milligrams ready to delivery at any time", he said.

Monday, November 14, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Taking Noah's Ark surfing

New Zealand Insight has this interesting article on the "New Zealand researcher who has just been elected to chair an international organisation working to create a free mega-database of all known living creatures."
Note to reader: this anecdote is best whispered in the tones of David Attenborough.

Here, in the urban wilds of Christchurch, it is sometimes possible to observe the nocturnal rituals of the native kiwi. The journalist and the scientist approach with caution. What are the kiwi doing? Are the kiwi fighting?

The journalist studies the scientist. 'Do you think they are having sex?'

'Yes,' he replies calmly. 'I believe they are.'
[...]
"The Department of Conservation will pour a lot of money into a single species like the kakapo, but to have effect, you've got to have the ecosystem function so the rimu trees flower. It's a whole system."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

MADAGASCAR THE MOVIE - DVD Released 15th November

the movie is released on DVD on November 15th. Amazon.com have it on sale at 47% off.

This Dreamworks computer animated movie went down a storm at the box office, and stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Sacha Baron Cohen. Central Park Zoo animals escape from the zoo and head to Madagascar, the island off the African east coast.

I believe there is a special Penguin short on the DVD, probably the same one I saw at the movies in front of Wallace and Gromit : Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Friday, November 11, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - How Cell Phones Are Killing Off Gorillas

It's something we've reported on several times before, but here's another article (from News 8 KFMB, San Diego, California) on the threat to Mountain Gorillas from our insatiable lust for cell-phones and related technology, and the coltan they use. The report also includes a video version.
You would never assume that your cell phone could be connected to gorillas in the Congo, but a shocking new report says cell phones could be partly to blame for the deaths of hundreds of gorillas. If you love animals, and can't get enough of the gorillas at the zoo, this is information you need to know. Our cell phone boom is turning into a gorilla bust.
That's something Cingular, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and Nextel (to name but a few) probably don't mention in their latest super-duper monthly plan literature.

What can you do about it? Well, most definately don't throw away your old cell-phone. Find somewhere to recycle it. The good people at Eco-Cell should be able to help.

Zoo Atlanta have partnered with Eco-Cell in order to raise funds for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

JOHN CLEESE LEMURS

The Mirror is among a number of outlets reporting on the news that John Cleese (of and Fawlty Towers fame) has been honoured with a newly discovered species of lemur being named after him.
The small woolly Avahi Cleesei lives on leaves in a remote part of Madagascar.

The name is a tribute to 66-year-old Cleese's conservation work, including a documentary about the plight of endangered woolly lemurs.

Its long legs are the only physical similarity to the actor, famous for his Silly Walks sketch.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - The delight of a Stewart Island working holiday

New Zealand's Stuff on the delights of a Stewart Island working holiday...
It was difficult to understand why a legal executive would give up her precious holiday time to be part of the annual volunteer programme that the Department of Conservation organises.

Totally intrigued, I decided the only way to found out more about the project was to join one of the projects.
[...]
We went for a walk and discovered plenty of kiwi prints on the sand dunes and down on Big Hell Fire Beach, where the view is straight out to Codfish Island, the kakapo sanctuary.

On our last night at the hut we managed to spot a Kiwi as it went about its nocturnal business.

That was the highlight of my week.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

LEMURS - Did Humans Eat Giant Lemur to Extinction?

Discovery Channel has this report on research into the life and death of giant lemurs.
The first humans that settled Madagascar around 2,000 years ago likely hunted to extinction giant lemurs and other unusual animals from the Indian Ocean island, such as eleven-foot-tall birds, suggests an upcoming study.

While the report does not rule out disease, fire and other factors that could have contributed to the giant lemurs' demise, it adds to the growing body of evidence that modern humans adversely affected the populations of prehistoric animals.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Bwindi gorillas in baby galore

New Vision Online has the story on the number of Mountain Gorilla babies born in the last year.
GORILLAS near Buhoma village around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park have given birth to 13 babies in about a year.

Park officials said the latest birth occurred about two weeks ago in one of the three habituated groups at Buhoma known as Mubare.

Habituation is a delicate process through which gorillas get used to human presence but retain their wild character.

Apart from Mubare, which has three babies, Habinyanja and rushegura, which are open to tourists, each have five babies.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Ecosanctuary planned near Dunedin

New Zealand's Stuff.co.nz on the plans for a new ecosanctury near Dunedin.
Kakapo and kiwi will be on Dunedin's doorstep with plans to construct a $4.6 million ecosanctuary at Orokonui.

Tuatara, kaka, saddlebacks, the South Island Robin, takahe and bats are also targeted for a venture which hopes to make Dunedin the wildlife capital of the country.

At a fundraising launch at the Otago Museum last night, plans were outlined for the Orokonui ecosanctuary, to be situated in regenerating native forest, near Waitati, facing north over Blueskin Bay.

The Otago Natural History Trust plans to build a specialised pest-proof fence around the 250ha ecosanctuary.
For those who've installed Google's marvellous Google Earth product, here's Waitati on Blueskin Bay KMZ file which should "fly you" directly to this location in Google Earth (as shown here via Google Maps).

Larger Google Maps version - Google Earth version

Sunday, October 30, 2005

BIRD FLU - Emergency escape plan for Kakapos?

The latest threat to Kakapos? Bird flu! Radio New Zealand has a brief snippet on the Department of Conservation's emergency plan to save the Kakapos from the deadly Bird Flu that is sweeping the globe!
DoC has revealed a birdflu emergency plan to airlift kakapo to subAntarctic Campbell Island.
**UPDATE**
Newstalk ZB has a short blurb on this bird flu story.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

AYE AYE LEMURS - Will the lemurs survive the destruction of Madagascar's forests?

Mathaba.net has this article on the plight of the lemurs of Madagascar, including the aye-aye.
The devilish-looking aye-aye is condemned to death on sight. It is said to creep up on sleeping people, insert its long, ball-and-socket-joined middle finger into an ear and pull out their brains. (In fact it does nothing more sinister with this remarkable digit than pluck insect larvae out of trees.) It is now highly endangered; only its wide distribution and nocturnal nature have kept it from disappearing altogether.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Last gasp for Yangtze dolphins doomed by industrial revolution

A rare article on the plight of Yangtze baiji dolphin. The Times Online has the coverage.
The Yangtze River dolphin enjoys a rare and unwanted distinction. The grey-white, long-beaked animal looks likely to become the world’s first cetacean — the family of whales, dolphins and porpoises — to be made extinct by man.

In the 1950s as many as 6,000 baiji, as the dolphins are known in Chinese, still swam in the Yangtze. Today fewer than 50 may survive. None has been seen since July last year when a pair were spotted in Honghu Lake, part of a huge water system that winds out across the Yangtze plain.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Weaver Heads Back Into the Mist

FilmStew.com is among a number of sources reporting on a new film from the BBC's Natural History Unit. Sigourney Weaver, star of the movies is returning to the jungles of Africa to make a film for Animal Planet on the life and work of Dian Fossey.
Sigourney Weaver, who picked up an Oscar nomination for playing Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist, is going back into the jungles of Africa.

Weaver is set to travel to Rwanda for a retrospective of the life and work of Fossey, an animal conservationist who helped prevent the mountain gorilla from becoming extinct. Gorillas Revisited With Sigourney Weaver will be narrated by Weaver and produced by BBC's Natural History Unit for Animal Planet.

MARK CARWARDINE - Peregrine swoops to photo prize

BBC News reports on this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year, with Mark Carwardine being one of the judges.
A swirling image of a peregrine falcon sweeping into a flock of starlings has won Manuel Presti this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.

The Italian caught the action scene, titled Sky Chase, high above a city park in Rome.

'Sky chase is a powerful image and, like it or not, it's one that you will never forget,' said Mark Carwardine, one of this year's judges.

KING KONG - Gorilla scientist inspired by King Kong

Reuters AlertNet reports on the Gorilla scientist who says he was inspired by King Kong.
The upcoming movie remake of '' might outrage some serious scientists, but one expert in gorilla conservation sees the fictional ape as an inspiration.

Patrick Mehlman is a field researcher in Rwanda and a vice president of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

He is also a King Kong fan.
The remake of King Kong by Peter Jackson (Lord Of The Rings) opens on December 14th, 2005.

MAURITIUS KESTRELS - Move to save Mauritius forest hailed

IOL reports on good news for Mauritian conservationists.
Conservationists welcome a Mauritius government decision to re-route a controversial highway project that threatened to destroy the last patch of Indian Ocean island's only remaining indigenous forest.

After a lengthy battle with developers seeking to ease tourist access to the north of the country, ecologists claimed victory when Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam announced last week the road would be routed around the Ferney forest.
Full story at IOL.co.za.

RATS - Rat Cunning May Allow For Island Colonization

Slashdot readers are busy discussing the case of Razza, "the Susie Maroney of the rodent world".
A wild rat, captured and then released on a deserted New Zealand island as part of an experiment, has amazed scientists by taking to the sea to escape.

No one knows why, but Razza swam 400 metres through treacherous open water to reach another island.
Kakapo Parrots beware!

More on Razza at SeattlePI and the BBC.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Gap between ape, human vanishes

The Vancouver Sun has another gorilla trekking report...
After a long, arduous hike through the jungle of Uganda's Bwindi National Park, I had come to appreciate why the area was often called 'the impenetrable forest.' Dependent on our guide's machete to clear a path for our group, we had pushed our way through vines and bamboo as stinging nettles ripped at our clothing.

I had come to this part of Uganda on a gorilla-tracking tour and, looking at the surrounding terrain, I could see why Bwindi was one of the last remaining strongholds for these remarkable animals. The mountain gorilla is one of the rarest animals on Earth and of the 600 or so that remain in the wild, almost half are found here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS - Congo calls in foreign group to save rare rhinos

Reuters AlertNet has some interesting news on the race to save the last of the Northern White Rhino from extinction - "less than 10 of the animals are believed to remain in the wild."
Congo has called in a group of private conservationists to try to save its endangered northern white rhinos from poachers, including Sudanese gunmen on horseback, officials said on Tuesday.

The African Parks Foundation (APF), set up by South African conservationists and a Dutch businessman, will take over the management of Democratic Republic of Congo's Garamba National Park to try to preserve the rare rhino.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Fourth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture

News from the Save The Rhino newsletter is that the date for the Fourth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture will be Thursday 23rd March 2006. There is a new location too at the Royal Geographical Society in London. No confirmed speaker yet but details will be posted here when that announcement is made. The annual Memorial Lectures cover subjects in which Douglas was interested: travel and exploration, science, natural history and conservation, comedy and music. Details of the previous lectures are available here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Back from the brink

The Deccan Herald reports on the Kakapo Parrot and the efforts being undertaken to save it from extinction by The Kakapo Recovery Programme.
The Kakapo Recovery Programme aims to establish at least one self-sustaining unmanaged population of Kakapo in a protected habitat and to establish two or more other populations, which may require ongoing management. To help save Kakapos, the team strives to maximise egg and chick survival by reducing mortality from predation, starvation, disease and poor parenting and to maintain and increase the breeding life of Kakapos. It also studies means to increase breeding frequency.

The team has left nothing to chance, being in charge of one of the world’s rarest birds and the Kakapo on Whenua Hou island are radio monitored 24/7 using specially fitted transmitters.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

GORILLAS - Wild gorillas seen to use tools

The BBC is among many sites reporting the discovery of Gorillas being observed using tools.
Gorillas have been seen for the first time using simple tools to perform tasks in the wild, researchers say.

Scientists observed gorillas in a remote Congolese forest using sticks to test the depth of muddy water and to cross swampy areas.

Wild chimps and orangutans also use tools, suggesting that the origins of tool use may predate the evolutionary split between apes and humans.
There is a video of the gorillas in action on the right side of the BBC page.

Friday, October 07, 2005

AYE-AYE LEMURS - National Geographic Kids Magazine

The fall issue of the National Geographic Kids Magazine has a cover and feature on those spectacularly odd looking creatures, the Aye-Aye lemurs of Madagascar.
The aye-aye's odd-looking fingers, pointy teeth, big eyes, and huge ears give some people the creeps. Seeing an aye-aye is considered very bad luck to many superstitious residents of Madagascar, the African island country where these animals live in the wild. In parts of the country, people kill aye-ayes on sight, hoping to prevent anything "evil" from happening. The aye-aye's bad reputation isn't helped by the fact that it's active only at night, when things can seem a lot scarier to people.

KOMODO DRAGONS - Zoofari 2005

The Brownsville Herald with an article on Zoofari 2005, the proceeds of which will benefit construction of new exhibit for Cincinnati Zoo's Komodo Dragons Jasmine and Pandora.
"[Jasmine] wants to make sure she smells everything because the keeper just put in new mulch," said Colette Adams, curator of herpetology at the zoo. "She wants to see if the keeper dropped anything behind like a guinea pig."

The zoo received Jasmine and Pandora from the Cincinnati Zoo when they were only 3 months old. Back in May 1994, when they first arrived, the reptiles were only 24 inches long, but have since grown to be nearly seven feet long.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

GOOGLE EARTH - On Safari with National Geographic

The Official Google Blog reports on Google Earth's new National Geographic Layer, allowing you to reach National Geographic content direct from Google Earth's fabulous geographic interface.
Have you ever dreamed of Africa while reading National Geographic? The exotic photographs and thoughtful articles take you there with a magical sense of place. Today we embraced that magic by releasing Google Earth data layers that index National Geographic stories, images, journals, and even a live webcam in Africa.
[...]
The Megaflyover images are stunning. Mike [Fay] spent more than a year taking 92,000 high resolution photographs of the continent. That project is described in Tracing the Human Footprint, an article in the September 2005 National Geographic. He selected 500 of his favorite scenes of people, animals, geological formations, and signs of human presence and annotated them in Google Earth. Look for the red airplane icons as you fly over Africa. Each of these marks a spot where a high resolution image awaits your own personal voyage.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

DENVER GORILLA RUN 2005

The 2nd annual Denver Gorilla Run takes place on October 22nd, 2005. There's still time to sign up if you fancy making a fun-run in a Gorilla suit, earning money for Mountain Gorilla Conservation fund.

You get to keep the Gorilla suit...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Kakapo Call Heralds NZ Return to World Music Forum

The New Zealand Arts Calendar website has news about a musical work by New Zealand composer John Rimmer.
A work based on the haunting boom of the kakapo by one of New Zealand's leading composers, John Rimmer, has been selected from 400 world-wide to be performed in the World Music Days in Slovenia at the end of September.

Kakapo Reborn will be heard in one of 30 concerts which make up this major international music festival presented for the past 80 years by the International Society for Contemporary Music.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - Zoo feeding frenzy leaves patrons hungry for more

Toledoblade.com reports on "The Big Feed", a special 27 demonstration lunch time feeding at Toledo Zoo with Komodo Dragons being one of the featured diners.
In the afternoon, more than 200 saw the zoo's Komodo dragon dine on horse shank.

Charlotte Ellis, 13, of McComb, Ohio, said the Komodo, which is nearly 7 feet long and 140 pounds, couldn't get the meat without some help from a trainer.

"He couldn't get hold of it in his mouth," she said. "So someone used a stick to help him."
[...]
"Oh man, did you see the size of its mouth?" asked Terry Vasquez, 11, of East Toledo. "I want to see him eat again."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Aggressive kakapo banished to Fiordland

Stuff.co.nz has more on the recent beating of Kakapo Parrot chick Pounamu, by "nitwit" male Dot.
Kakapo recovery team leader Paul Jansen said Pounamu, a female chick, was injured three weeks ago when Dot, a two-year-old male, jumped into the pen she was sharing with another chick.

Mr Jansen said Pounamu was badly bruised and lost a few feathers around her head in the attack.

She was taken to the Massey University clinic to ensure she did not have any internal bleeding, and would be back in her southern home soon.

"It was nothing major, just a kicking in the pub carpark, rather than a drive-by shooting."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

ENDANGERED ANIMALS - Model Kits by Revell

Thanks to Another Monkey's post on the DVD release of "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" movie. From there, I landed on this page about a set of Revell model kits released in 1974 to make more people aware of the plight of endangered animals such as White Rhino, Mountain Gorilla and Komodo Dragons. Neat.

THREE GORGES DAM - China's Three Gorges Dam Starts Generator a Year Early

Thanks to Neo Commons, who I check out from time to time. They pointed me in the direction of this story on Planet Ark about the Three Gorges Dam in China.
Energy-starved China has put the final power generator on the left bank of the Three Gorges Dam into action a year ahead of schedule, the China Three Gorges Project Corp said on Monday. The last of the 14 generators, each with a capacity of 700 megawatts, begun commercial operation on Friday, the company said on its Web site, www.ctgpc.com.cn

Sunday, September 18, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Battered kakapo on the mend

News over at New Zealand's Stuff about a hair raising incident for young Pounamu, one of the four Kakapo chicks from this year's breeding season.
Pounamu and another juvenile female were only two weeks away from being released into the wild when a territorial adult male kakapo jumped into their open-topped pen at a DOC hatchery and beat them up.

The other female suffered minor injuries, but Pounamu has for the last two weeks been recovering in the wildlife ward at Massey University's veterinary clinic and hospital.

She received a deep bite on the back of her neck and had feathers and skin stripped away. There is also nerve damage to her left wing which has been treated and bandaged, but might yet require another operation to prevent it from dragging.

"Kakapo do not fly," said avian and reptile wildlife specialist, Dr Brett Gartrell. "It is said that they use their wings to parachute down from branches, but anyone who has seen it knows their parachuting skills are equal to those of a brick."

GREAT APES SURVIVAL BULLETIN

Here is a link to the Great Apes Survival Bulletin
The first Intergovernmental Meeting (IGM-1) on Great Apes and the first meeting of the Council of the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP Council Meeting) convened in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from 5-9 September 2005. Over 200 delegates attended, from great ape range state governments, donor and other states, international and intergovernmental organizations, non-government organizations, the private sector and academia and scientific communities. Given that this was the first opportunity for such a diverse group of actors to meet face-to-face in DRC to reach accord on a strategy for the survival of the great apes and their habitats, the first days of the meetings were characterized by a sense of the enormous task ahead. However, as the days and negotiations progressed a clear sense of optimism and collaborative spirit emerged throughout IGM-1 and GRASP Council Meeting, and participants used both the formal meetings and informal periods to significantly push forward on their common work.

RADIO - BBC Radio 4 Nature

In the first of a new series of Radio 4's Nature programme (Monday 20th September at 9pm, repeated on Tuesday at 11.00-11.30am), Paul Evans finds out about policies aimed at protecting the dwindling populations of great apes around the world.

The programme will be available online through the BBC's free radio player, and after broadcast at the Nature homepage.

KOMODO DRAGONS - Up close and personal with Indonesia's beasts of fire

A colourful article on a visit to Komodo to visit the Komodo Dragons... Full story at the FT.com
There are some places where the free market just doesn’t work. So it is in the little town of Labuanbajo. Here, low barriers to entry and minimal regulation have resulted not in innovation, better consumer choice and low prices but in an economy where everyone sells exactly the same OK product at exactly the same OK price. You can visit one operator or a hundred: it doesn’t matter where you buy your Komodo dragon tour from, it will be exactly the same.

Perhaps this is to be expected. In Labuhanbajo, there are two career options: you’re a fisherman or you work in the dragon industry. At our hotel all the other guests were here to see the dragons. Well, all except one. He was a scientist who was studying the dragons and having a spot of bother with his GPS collars, which, with their butch leather straps, looked a bit like reptilian S&M gear.

MAURITIUS KESTRELS - Falconry archives to be established in US

The Khaleej Times Online has an article on a new falconry archive, and the projects that are supported by The Peregrine Fund.
As a tribute to the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE, the US-based The Peregrine Fund will build an archives for falconry artifacts, books and other relics, a renowned US breeder has said.

'The Peregrine Fund, in conjunction with the Emirates Falconers' Club, will build an archives for falconry artifacts, books and other relics as a tribute to the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for his unique conservation practices,' said Dr. Tom J. Cade, Founding Chairman of the Peregrine Fund.
[...]
Another project is the Mauritius Kestrel. The Mauritius Kestrel only exists in the wild on the island of Mauritius, the former home of the extinct Dodo Bird. As a result of habitat loss and pesticide contamination this small falcon was reduced to only four known wild birds in 1974.

Through captive breeding and release, and management of wild pairs, the population increased to about 100 pairs in 1996 with an estimate of 400 kestrels in the overall population. Today there are believed to be more than 1,000! With the help of the Mauritian Wildlife Appeal Fund, The Peregrine Fund, and others, a fantastic recovery was witnessed.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

BACK FROM VACATION...

Apologies for the lack of updates, but I'm back from vacation and catching up on the news, feeds and emails. More posts soon...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Kakapo Hatch a Name 2005 Competition Winners

Scoop announces the winners of the Kakapo Hatch a Name 2005 Competition. The four names chosen for the 2005 Kakapo chicks are Pounamu, Yasmin, Pura and Kumi.
Conservation Minister Chris Carter is pleased to announce the winners of a national competition among school children to name New Zealand's four new kakapo chicks. They are:

- Jade Cassidy (8yrs) of Sunnynook Primary School in Auckland, who chose the name Pounamu because it means 'precious jewel'

- Yasmeen Musa (9yrs) of Waihopai School in Invercargill, who chose her own name Yasmin, which means flower in Arabic

- William Hewitt (15yrs) of Verdon College in Invercargill, who provided a compelling whakapapa for his winning entry Pura

- Kate Stretton (12yrs) of Rangiora High School in North Canterbury, who chose the name Kumi because it means fabulous creature.
Full story and more information at the Scoop website.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Ebola Virus Threatens Gorillas, Chimps

News from ENN: Environmental News Network on the threat that the deadly poses to endangered animals such as the gorillas and chimpanzees of Central Africa.
Conservationists say the dreaded Ebola virus along with decades of hunting and logging are putting some ape species on the brink of extinction in Central Africa.

Ebola, which kills through massive internal bleeding, has long been known to infect primates in Africa. It was first identified in 1976 and has since killed about 1,000 people, some of whom are believed to have contracted the disease by consuming or handling infected meat from wild animals.

Most at risk are western lowland gorillas and the Central African chimpanzee, both of which live in the dense rain forests of Central Africa, Conservation International said in a statement.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

GREAT APES - Apes 'extinct in a generation'

The BBC is among a number of sites reporting on "The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation", a new book from the UN which highlights the plight of the Great Apes and suggests that the Apes could be 'extinct in a generation'.
Some of the great apes - chimps, gorillas, and orangutans - could be extinct in the wild within a human generation, a new assessment concludes.
[...]
The World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation is published by the UN's environment and biodiversity agencies.

It brings together data from many sources in an attempt to assess comprehensively the prospects for the remaining great apes; the gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos of Africa, and the orangutans of south-east Asia.

The general conclusion is that the outlook is poor.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS - First rhino baby conceived by artificial insemination has died

Dreadful news from Budapest Zoo about Lulu, the Northern White Rhino that was successfully impregnated via artificial insemination some 16 months ago. On August 9th Lulu suffered from uterine bleedings, and unfortunately the calf she was carrying died, a mere 12 hours before birth. Very very sad day. The full report can be read at the Innovations Report website.
The first rhino ever conceived by artificial insemination has died in the womb a few hours before its birth. The death occurred on August 9 in the Budapest Zoo. The mother of the unborn rhino, Lulu (aged 25), had suffered from uterine bleedings. The reason for the complication was presumably a partial separation of the placenta 12 hours prior to birth, says scientist Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt of the Berlin-based Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). He and his colleagues from the IZW had developed the method for artificial insemination of rhinos. Unfortunately, this type of birth-complication is quite common, says Dr. Hildebrandt. According to the scientist, the artificial insemination had nothing to do with the misscariage. Hildebrandt: "The 16 months long pregnancy was monitored by ultrasound and appeared to be normal."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - Reptile blood shows antibiotic and anti-HIV properties

Mongabay.com has an interesting story on the research taking place on the potential of crocodile blood's anti-HIV properties. Komodo Dragon's blood is also under investigation as a potent source of antibiotics.
The crocodile's immune system is much more powerful than that of humans, preventing life-threatening infections after savage territorial fights which often leave the animals with gaping wounds and missing limbs.
[...]
Komodo Dragons are also being studied by scientists as a source for antibiotics. The saliva of the Komodo Dragon, the world's largest lizard, is known to contain at least 52 kinds of bateria. Despite bites inflicted during frequent territorial battles, Komodo Dragons appear to never fall vicitm to infection. Researchers believe that the blood of these giant lizards may have potent antibacterial properties.

LAST CHANCE TO SEE - The Wu Way

RayJay in Austin Texas had a productive Sunday/Monday by all accounts. Here's his blog post recounting the hard day's work transfering his audio book of Last Chance To See from cassette to CD. A labour of love methinks....
The Wu Way: Good Coffee, GREAT Company!

Monday, August 29, 2005

AMAZONIAN MANATEES - Amazon manatee expedition enters final phase

Of all the endangered animals from Last Chance To See, the Amazonian Manatee is one we get little information on. So its a nice surprise to get a little snippet here from Portal da Cidadania.
An expedition that has been studying the situation of the Amazon manatee (Expedição Peixe-Boi Amazônico) since 2000, began the final phase of its work on August 16 when it left Santarem (PA). It will arrive in Manaus today, concluding the study. The Amazon manatee (Trichechus inungis) is the world's only river species. The expedition has gathered data on its habitat and habits, and worked with riverside inhabitants on the importance of preserving the species. The Amazon manatee has been hunted ever since colonial times and is threatened with extinction.

The expedition, sponsored by the Aquatic Mammals Center at the Environmental Protection Institute (Ibama), distributed gifts and gave talks and classes to local inhabitants. During the lifetime of the expedition, some 600 riverside communities were visited and around 18,000 people interviewed. It travelled on the Amazon, Negro, Purus, Madeira, Tapajos and Arapiuns rivers.

Translator: Allen Bennett
© Agencia Brasil

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Researchers study gorillas' social habits

Milwaukee's Journal Sentinal has an interesting article from Susanne Quick on the researchers such as Martha Robbins at Bwindi studying the endangered Mountain Gorillas and their social habits.
With vines growing up, down, sideways and diagonally, looking for mountain gorillas along the steep, blanketed slopes of the Virunga volcano foothills is no "walk in the park."

But for Martha Robbins it's all in a day's work. Robbins earned her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now is a researcher at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
[...]
Robbins has been studying endangered mountain gorillas for 15 years. She's been in Bwindi - home to almost half of the world's 750 remaining mountain gorillas - since 1998, where she's followed a particular group that now consists of 14.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

DIAN FOSSEY - A profile of the Mountain Gorilla researcher

On Open Sesame, "Mrittika Sen profiles Dian Fossey, an anthropologist who lived and died for her work on the Mountain Gorilla."
When Dian Fossey arrived in Africa in 1963, she met up with Dr Louis Leaky, a renowned anthropologist who was an authority on the theory of human origins. She was determined to work with him on the psychology and behaviour of Mountain Gorillas but did not have adequate funds to do so. Leaky wanted her on the project and wanted to test her grit and commitment. He joked that if she wished to study the Mountain Gorillas of Africa, she would have to work without her appendix. Dian did not get the joke. She went back to US and without any ailment of the appendix, she had it removed.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Baby News!

Marvellous news from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund who report on the birth of a new Mountain Gorilla baby.
July was a month to celebrate at Karisoke, as Pasika, a 12-year-old female in Shinda's group, gave birth to her second offspring on the fourth of the month. Pasika transferred to Shinda's group in 1999 from Beetsme's group, where she was one of five offspring of Papoose who, at 41, is the oldest observed gorilla in the Virungas. Her first child, Umutuzo, is now an active and sociable 4-year-old juvenile and a testament to her mother's natural maternal instincts. So far the new infant is doing well and Pasika's calm and gentle nature should ensure her a secure and contented future.

Friday, August 26, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Dian Fossey Fund Trips

Field News from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund on a pair of exclusive trips being offered in 2006.
If you've ever wanted to visit the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Uganda, as well as the other incredible flora and fauna of these forests, now is the time to plan. DFGFI is offering two exclusive trips in 2006, each of which includes not only gorilla treks, but lots of other wildlife viewing and meetings with our staff and scientists. This trip will be escorted by senior DFGFI staff members.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

TELEVISION - Final Chance To Save, Sky One

I'll leave you to make you're own mind up, but, while laudable in its premise, it would appear Sky Television has taken the concept of Douglas Adams' Last Chance To See and twisted it for their own use. They're sending four celebrities (Joanna Lumley, Griff Rhys-Jones, Vic Reeves and Charlotte Uhlenbroek) out to film various endangered animals, and calling the series Final Chance To Save. Doesn't appear as though they'll be giving any nods of gratitude in the direction of Douglas Adams or Mark Carwardine, which is sad. If they had chosen a completely unrelated name for the series, I probably wouldn't have minded at all, but Final Chance To Save as a title is just cheap.

Being in the USA, I WOULD have been interested in seeing this series, but with their poor choice of series title, I'm not in so much of a hurry to track it down from my friends and familiy in the UK.

Anyway, Sky's 4 part series Final Chance To Save begins on Sky One in the UK on September 3rd, with another 6 programmes to follow.
Joanna Lumley and comedian Vic Reeves are presenting a new wildlife show focusing on some of the planet's most endangered species.

Griff Rhys Jones and presenter Charlotte Uhlenbroek will also feature in Final Chance to Save, set for broadcast on Sky One this September.

Vic looks at the tapirs of Costa Rica, Griff Kenya's black rhino, Joanna the orang-utans of Borneo and Charlotte the troubles facing sea turtles.

They work with conservationists to fight for the animals, all in danger of extinction, in the four-part series starting Saturday 3 September on Sky One.
Full details, episode guide and photographs over at Sky Showbiz.

Miranda Richardson (of Blackadder fame) is due to visit the Aye-Aye Lemurs of Madagascar in one of the future episodes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Yangtze river now even longer?

Well, if there's any Baiji Dolphins left in the river Yangtze, it appears they have a few more miles of waterway than was previously thought. MSNBC.com has news on the latest studies which have placed the source of the river Yangtze some 4 miles further west than previously thought. And...
The explorers, led by Hong Kong's Wong How Man, spent 30 days in China's remote Tanggula Mountains along the Tibetan plateau in May and June.

Using satellite imagery and state-of-the-art computer technology, the team said it had concluded that the Yangtze is actually 3883.6 miles (6,250 kilometers) long — not the 3,857 miles (6,207.2 kilometers) that a 1985 foray had suggested.
As we previously posted a few months ago, here's the delta of the mighty river courtesy of Yangtze - Google Maps.

Monday, August 22, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Chick update

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammePlease visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeNews over at the Kakapo Recovery Programme on the progress of the four Kakapo chicks from the successful 2005 breeding season, which brought the total number of Kakapos up to 87..
Our four kakapo chicks that are on Codfish Island are growing up fast! They have been living in a large pen full of natural vegetation for a few weeks now and are almost ready to venture out around the island on their own.

During the day they are often found high up in the trees roosting and are very active and lively at night when the staff go up to weigh and feed them. Its sometimes even difficult to get only one chick on the swing scales at a time, they all want to jump on! The male chick (MM2) is around the 2kg mark at this stage and the girls are close behind.

The Kakapo Hatch-a-Name competition winners will be announced on the 7th of September and our kakapo chicks will have names at last!

Update information provided by the Kakapo Team on Codfish Island (Whenua Hou).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

ENDANGERED ANIMALS - Web trade threat to rare species

The BBC has news on the threat that e-commerce poses to endangered animals. Body parts of like Gorillas, Chimps, Turtles, Tigers and Rhinos were found to be common place.
The illegal trade in wild animal products over the internet is driving the world's most endangered species to extinction, wildlife campaigners claim.

An International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) probe found 9,000 live animals or products for sale in one week on trading sites like eBay.

Ifaw claims many traders are taking advantage of the internet's anonymity.

The UK Government says it takes wildlife crime seriously, but Ifaw urged it to act urgently.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

RHINO CLIMB 2006 - Hitchhiking Kilimanjaro with The Adams Family


PRESS RELEASE - www.rhinoclimb2006.com

Some years ago Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy, a story about the world being unexpectedly demolished by
hideous creatures from another planet. It was meant as a joke... Now,
animal by animal, tree by tree, the world is being demolished around
us; not by Vogons, or people from other planets, but by humans.

Douglas decided it was time to think about the absurdities of life on
Earth, and what we are doing to it, and so wrote “Last Chance to See,”
a book chronicling his journey around the world looking for animals on
the brink of extinction.

Then in 1994 Douglas joined Save the Rhino International on their first
Kilimanjaro Challenge to help raise money and awareness of the plight
of the worlds few remaining rhinos. A founder Patron of the charity,
Douglas continued actively supporting their work until his untimely
death in 2001.

Now, in Douglas’ memory his sister and brother, Jane and James Thrift
are preparing to take on the challenge of Africa’s highest peak, and
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro, all 19,340 feet of it. The aim of the
expedition is to carry on Douglas’ work in raising money and awareness
for Save the Rhinos crucial projects in Africa.

Douglas had many interests, and like everything in his life, he never
did things by halves. His passion for music led to him owning 26 left
handed guitars, and a place on stage with Pink Floyd for his 42nd
birthday, for computers saw him become an Applemaster and inveterate
authority on ways in which technology should be integrated into our
lives, and on conservation to be described by Mark Carwardine, world
renowned zoologist and co-author of "Last Chance to See" as " the
person who has done more for wildlife conservation than anyone else I
know."

James Thrift said, "Douglas' passion for things was infectious, and I
suppose that is why I can no longer sit by and watch the wholesale
destruction of such a magnificent species as the Rhino that has been
around for 45 million years. For them to be virtually wiped out in
under a century is unforgivable, and for what, to make Yemeni dagger
handles. This isn't animal cruelty, it's animal genocide."

“In the last year we’ve appeared in the movie of Hitchhikers, walked
the red carpet at the premiere, so climbing Kilimanjaro was the logical
next step,” James said, adding “It’s going to be a tough climb, the
effects of altitude sickness at that height can be very unpleasant, but
if it helps raise awareness of the real effort going on in Africa to
save the rhinos then it will have been worth it.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Rwanda turns to tourism

South Coast Today reports on the burgeoning Rwandan tourism industry, and the difficulty in balancing the natural beauty of the country with the horrifying genocide of 1994, when some 800,000 Tutsis or moderate Hutus were brutally murdered during a bloody three months.
Rwanda would rather lure visitors by touting the country's natural beauty. But it's a task made difficult by the unrest in the Great Lakes region of Africa, where United Nations peacekeepers struggle to rein in many rebel groups that for years have menaced the area.
[...]
Last month, the country established the Rwanda Travel & Tours Association, made up of hoteliers, airlines, tour operators and travel agencies. The officials say the country's main attraction is its mountain gorilla population at the Parc National Des Volcans, part of the Virunga Conservation Area in the northwest part of the country.

Friday, August 12, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - A future Jurassic tragedy

Henning Borchers writes in The Jakarta Post of the problems in balancing the needs of local people within Komodo National Park, and the needs of the endangered animals therein, specifically the Komodo Dragon.
Komodo National Park is a great place to see the famous Komodo dragon but conflict in the area between locals and conservators is risking the status of this World Heritage Site. Henning Borchers, a development anthropologist, writes how a new plan involving the locals is badly needed to avoid future conflict and guarantee sustainable management of the park.
[...]
The terrestrial part of the park has more to offer than just dragons -- it is a naturalist's "Jurassic Park" for sure; another world that seems to offer little to human habitation. But appearances can be deceptive. There are humans here too: traditional residents as well as migrants who have come to the park to try and eke out a living from the area's bountiful natural resources. But for them, living in the park is fast becoming a non-sustainable option.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

MOUNTATIN GORILLAS - Mountain gorilla project moving to Maryland Zoo

News on The Baltimore Sun about the Mountain gorilla project moving to Maryland Zoo.
A veterinary project that works to ensure the health of endangered mountain gorillas has found a new home at the Maryland Zoo.

The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project is moving from the headquarters of the Morris Animal Foundation in Englewood, Colo., where it was founded in 1986 at the request of the late Dian Fossey, the famed gorilla researcher and advocate.
[...]
The project provides health-care in the field to the endangered gorillas of which researchers believe there are more than 700 remaining. Although they are endangered, mountain gorillas are currently the only species of great apes whose population is on the rise, due to efforts by a number of groups.
Links:
 Morris Animal Foundation
 Maryland Zoo

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

LEMURS - New Lemur Species Discovered

National Geographic has this Photo in the News of a newly discovered species of Lemur.
You're a good man, Microcebus lehilahytsara—quite literally. The German and Madagascan scientists who discovered the new lemur species named it for U.S. lemur expert Steve Goodman ("lehilahytsara" is Malagasy for "good man"). They announced the discovery of this and another new lemur species today.
[...]
The two new primate species are rare finds, bringing the total number of known lemur species to 49—all of which occur naturally only on Madagascar or the nearby Comoros islands.
Gotta love Lemurs. For some reason, Google News are using them as an example of their custom Google News Feeds, which of course leads us to the BBC News article associated with the Lemur photo pictured by National Geographic.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

DIAN FOSSEY - Gorilla guardian inspires opera

News from the Courier Journal about a new musical adaptation of Dian Fossey's life and career, created by teenage students.
Twenty years ago, Dian Fossey -- the primate researcher and former Louisville resident best known for writing "Gorillas in the Mist" -- was slain in a small cabin in Rwanda's Virunga Mountains.

Her story was told in a 1988 movie starring Sigourney Weaver. Now she's the stuff of opera.

Fourteen teenage students created a 45-minute musical piece based on Fossey's life and career in Kentucky Opera's third annual VISIONS! Program, which concluded Friday. They had all of two weeks to produce a work worthy of a public performance next spring.

Monday, August 01, 2005

GOOGLE EARTH - Three Gorges Dam

Just added a Google Earth direct link to the recent Three Gorges Dam post.

If you have Google Earth installed already, FLY THERE now by opening this Three Gorges Dam KMZ file with your Google Earth installation.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!

Wow! Believe it or not, this site turns one year old today! In the past 12 months, I've posted nearly 340 news items about the endangered animals of Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. One way or another, Mountain Gorillas, Northern White Rhino, Kakapo Parrots, Baiji Dolphins, Komodo Dragons and all the others have been crossing my thoughts nearly every day. Some of the news was good, some bad, but all have helped to bring our understanding of these endangered animals up-to-date.

We've seen four new Kakapo chicks hatched and returned to Codfish Island, bringing the total number of Kakapos up to 87. There's been plenty of other baby news among which we've heard about a baby Aye-Aye lemur at London Zoo, and baby Mountain Gorillas.

Rather more tragically, we've heard that Mark Carwardine believes the Baiji Dolphin is extinct already, and the Northern White Rhino is also teetering on the very brink of extinction.

I'd like to thank everyone who has supported, linked to, or contributed to this site, especially our regulars like Dave Haddock and Harold. I'd also like to thank our gorilla sponsors, who helped raise the $50 to adopt Urwibutso, the three year old Mountain Gorilla from The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Thank you everyone. And thanks Douglas!

Friday, July 29, 2005

ENDANGERED ANIMALS - Food for thought

Here's a novel approach to preserving certain species of endangered animals. Eat them!

From The Capital Press...
Eating rare and endangered animal species hardly seems like a logical method of preserving their existence, but it may turn out to be the best chance of survival some have.

“The best way to save a panda bear or a komodo dragon may be to put them in a zoo, but the best way to save a red wattle pig or a standard bronze turkey is to put them on the dinner table,” said Todd Wickstrom, cofounder of Heritage Foods USA, a company that markets rare breeds of meat, fish, poultry, and other foodstuffs to restaurants and consumers.
Click here for full story.

NO SHEEP! - Last Chance to See, Revisited

Blogger NoSheep! posted in early July about Last Chance To See with a book review and updates on the perceived numbers of the endangered animals featured in the book. It's a nice blog with plenty of interesting posts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - Reptile and amphibian conservation papers from conference in Brazil

Mongabay.com has this summary on the Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology recently held in Brazil.
Earlier this week nearly 2,000 of the world's leading environmental scientists of various disciplines met in Brasilia to present papers at the 19th Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology. The conference featured more than 750 oral presentations and 965 scientific abstracts.
One of the endangered animals discussed was the Komodo Dragon, with a paper from Tim Jessop and his team on the "Management and Conservation Requirements for Komodo Dragon Populations in Komodo National Park, Indonesia".
Our results indicate that major differences in demography and ecology exist between dragon populations on the 2 large islands of Komodo and Rinca and the 2 small islands of Motang and Kode. Specifically, island area influences prey diversity and availability which, in turn, influences the density, growth and body size of dragons.
The full summary can be found about half way down the Mongabay page.

And here's a previous Komodo Dragon research paper by Tim Jessop that we've reported on before, specifically "Distribution, use and selection of nest type by Komodo Dragons".

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Gorilla on guard

On the Ugandan news website, The New Vision online has this article on a new mountain gorilla statue which now sits proudly outside the Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters in Kampala.
The sculpture was unveiled by premier Apolo Nsibambi while commissioning the Kamwokya-based four-storeyed complex, named the Mt. Gorilla Nest, on Friday.

The 18"x12" bronze sculpture, is a representation of a silverbuck (a fully-grown adult male of a mountain gorilla species).

Designed by artist Bart Walter, the obelisk is a gift from the Washington-based African Wildlife Foundation to the people of Uganda "for their commitment to Mt. Gorilla Conservation and in recognition of their work of International Gorilla Conservation Programme."
In other Ugandan news, the People Daily Online has an article in the upsurge of Ugandan tourism dollars, many of it coming from eco-tourism. Endangered animals continue to be a big draw for tourists from all over the world.
The Ugandan government earned over 200 million US dollars in 2004 from the tourism sector, surpassing 113 million dollars in 2002, because of a remarkable increase of tourist arrivals in the east African country.

While commissioning the new Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters last Friday, Ugandan Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi said that tourism now is becoming the country's top foreign exchange earner.

According to a recent report issued by the Bank of Uganda, the central bank of the country, tourism arrivals in 2004 were recorded at 512,378, registering an increase of 68 percent over that in 2003. Most tourists were from Britain and the United States. There was also an increasing number of tourists from China, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and other countries.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Three Gorges Dam

Courtesy of Google Maps fabulous new API, here's the Satellite view of the Yangtze Three Gorges Dam. The project should be completed in 2009 and it will be the world's largest dam. The impact on the environment from this structure is almost impossible to comprehend.

**UPDATE** - Google have now added a Scale to their API, which I've duly added to this map. Again, helps to really show just how BIG this construction site is!

**UPDATE 2** - And for those who've installed Google's extraordinary Google Earth product, here's the Three Gorges Dam KMZ file which should "fly you" directly to this location in Google Earth.

Click here for a larger view

KAKAPO PARROTS - Duneland with moa bones purchased for public

New Zealand's Scoop here with archaeological news.
A huge duneland containing moa bones on D'Urville Island in the Marlborough Sounds has been purchased for the public, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

"This is a very exciting purchase for any New Zealander interested in natural history," Mr Carter said.
[...]
"These dunes tower to a height of 25 metres and extend inland for 400m. They are archaelogically significant containing bones of early kakapo, moa, tuatara, kokako and various big petrels," Mr Carter said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

MANATEES - From armchair environmentalist to swimming with the manatees

Nice article on The Royal Gazette about a HSBC bank employee who went to Belize to help scientists study the manatees there, in this case, the West Indian Manatee.
A local bank worker left his computer behind to spend some time plugged into the plight of manatees in South America.

Geoffrey Usher, a project manager in the information technology department at HSBC Bank of Bermuda recently went to Belize to help scientists study endangered manatees, as part of HSBC’s ongoing partnership with Earthwatch. "I am one of those armchair environmentalists, but, recently, I hadn’t been getting off my backside and getting involved in it," said Mr. Usher shortly after returning from Belize. "I thought this would be an ideal opportunity and would give me the kick I needed to actually get out and do something for the environment."
Here is HSBC's page about its Investing With Nature initiative.

Friday, July 15, 2005

NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS - Pride & preservation

Roger Highfield reports for the Telegraph on the efforts being made to preserve endangered animals, with the help of zoos and frozen DNA.

And in reference to the Northern White Rhino, the idea of using Southern White Rhinos as surrogate mothers makes a lot of sense....
Once ranging across north-central Africa, wild populations have fallen to as few as four individuals in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

'The species is dying out as we speak, if it has not already,' said Mr Lawrence. 'But there is the means, thanks to modern science, to bring it back.'

Northern White Rhino semen has been frozen and could be used to reintroduce the species, said Mr Lawrence. 'We have their relative, the southern white rhino, and we are looking at the possibility of using them as surrogate mothers,' he added."
We've reported on the Frozen Ark previously.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS - 5 to 10 left, Garamba to lose World Heritage status

Of all the Last Chance To See endangered animals, the Northern White Rhino is most definately the closest to extinction. (We're making the unofficial assumption that the Baiji Dolphin is already extinct - See Sticky Post).

Several websites are reporting on the news that...
The World Heritage Committee is considering removing Garamba National Park from the World Heritage List in 2006 if the Northern White Rhino becomes extinct by then.

"No rhino, no World Heritage site" was the echoing comment of the World Heritage Committee meeting yesterday, 12 July 2005, during a long and heated debate about the situation of Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
[...]
"The Northern White Rhino is a flagship species for this site and every effort must be made to protect the remaining 5-10 individuals", commented David Sheppard, Head of the IUCN delegation in Durban.
Full story at Harold Doan, with more coverage at The Mercury.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

TELEVISION - Madagascar: Out Of This World

In the USA, on the Animal Planet channel, an episode of Buggin' With Ruud, entitled Madagascar: Out Of This World - "The island of Madagascar is nature's time capsule of species found nowhere else in the world."
July 13: 8:00PM, 11:00PM
July 14: 3:00AM
July 15: 11:00AM
July 16: 4:00PM

All times ET

Friday, July 08, 2005

RIVER DOLPHINS - Australian Scientists Discover New Species, The Snubfin

ENN is reporting on a exciting new find by Australian scientists, a previously undiscovered species of shallow water dolphin, and most likely an endangered species.
Australian researchers have identified a new species of dolphin which was once thought to have been the same as an extremely rare mammal predominantly found in Asian coastal waters and rivers.

The Australian Snubfin Dolphin has been declared a separate species to the Irrawaddy dolphins of Southeast Asia, one of the rarest sea mammals on the planet, researchers at James Cook University and the Museum of Tropical Queensland said on Tuesday.

Researcher Isabel Beasley said the newly identified Australian Snubfin Dolphins, or Orcaella heinsohni, live in shallow waters off northern Australia and possibly in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Respiratory diseases kill mountain gorillas

Reuters AlertNet is reporting on a new study that shows 25% of mountain gorilla deaths (dating back to 1968) can be attibuted to influenze or other viruses.
Mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, an endangered species, are dying from respiratory illnesses, according to study published on Wednesday.

Poaching is the biggest killer of the gorillas but new research shows that a quarter of 100 gorilla deaths dating back to 1968 were due to illnesses such as influenza and other viruses.

"In a bid to cut the risk of people passing these diseases on, eco-tourists who trek to see the gorillas in the wild already have to stay at least 7 metres (yards) away, and keep their visit to no more than an hour," New Scientist magazine noted on Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Bird sanctuary set up in Fiordland

TVNZ has news on Coal Island, another island which is to be setup as a bird sanctuary for Kakapos and other endangered animals. The article includes a link to a video version of the report, which includes footage of kakapo chicks.
A new island sanctuary has been launched to protect endangered species in one of the most remote areas of New Zealand.

It is a community initiative and one thing they are not short of is volunteers.

Extreme isolation in Fiordland means Te Puka-Hereka, or Coal island, is pretty much as it was when settlers first arrived here - apart from one thing.

Kiwi and Kakapo abounded and the evening air was filled with their characteristic cries.

The Te Puka-Hereka Charitable Trust launched their bid to try to bring back what was lost all those years ago.