Friday, April 29, 2005

HITCHHIKERS MOVIE - The Hitchhiker's Guide to Douglas Adams

With this weekend's release of "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" movie, FilmForce has this nice 6 page article, remembering the late great Douglas Adams.
Friends and colleagues -- including Terry Jones, Neil Gaiman, & Stephen Fry -- remember the man behind the Guide.
Mark Carwardine's and Stephen Fry's entries appear on page 4.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

NEWS - Extinct bird found alive

Remember my April 1st Dodo post? Well, truth is often stranger than fiction, because here's an equally astonishing story, and this one isn't made up for a lark! BBC News is reporting on the re-discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in North America. The bird was declared extinct in 1920.
The news has stunned ornithologists worldwide, with some comparing the discovery to finding the dodo.

Researchers began an intense year-long search after a tip-off before finally capturing the bird on video.

The find has ignited hope that other "extinct" birds may be clinging on to survival in isolated places.

"This find is so significant that it is really difficult to describe," Alistair Gammell, of the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), told BBC News. "We sadly won't rediscover the dodo, but it is almost on that level."
The Endangered Species Coalition is also very excited by this news.

KAKAPO PARROTS - Rare parrot receives special care

BBC News has this report on the dedicated men and women who give up their summer holidays to take care of the endangered Kakapos.
For most people, the thought of hiking through cold, boggy tracks to sleep in a small tent on a steep hillside, and then to be woken four to fives times a night, doesn't sound like a holiday.
[...]
Each night, nest-minders camp in a tent near a nest. Their job is to monitor the egg or chick whenever the mother leaves the nest, moving in with special heat pads to help the egg or chick stay warm.

"Nest-minders get woken up at all hours... from seven o'clock in the evening, right through to four o'clock, six o'clock in the morning," explains Tony Preston, a member of DOC's kakapo team.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY - The Vogons have arrived!


Don't Panic! Looks like the Vogons have arrived early for this weekend's release of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy movie. I've already had word from Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz that this site has been scheduled for demolition...

ENERGIZE THE DEMOLITION BEAMS!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

AYE-AYE LEMURS - Baby getting weighed

Butterfly Dani pointed me at this page about the Aye-Aye and the great picture of a baby aye-aye getting weighed. Looks like he's skydiving!

Aye-aye (2002). [Online], Available: www.kidcyber.com.au
This is not Kintana, the new baby aye-aye at Bristol, but since Kintana is only the second aye-aye to be born in captivity, I guess we can assume that this is the first one...

Monday, April 25, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - New flag for New Zealand?

An amusing article in The New Zealand Herald today. Willy Trolove makes the case for replacing New Zealand's national flag, and he has some very unusual ideas...
We need a new flag. Our old flag is, well, old. It's boring. We've seen it before, several times. Worst of all, it has historical significance, and these days historical significance just isn't on.
[...]
Our flag could depict our outdoor activities. It could show jet boats and white water rafts. It could feature a bungy jumper, trussed and bound, leaping off a bridge. Or a cricket umpire, trussed and bound, being thrown over Huka Falls.
[...]
Or it could emphasise our wildlife. It could show a horny kakapo fruitlessly searching for a mate. Or a possum inspecting the road surface at close proximity.
I shudder to think, but it would certainly improve the visibility of the Kakapo's plight around the world wouldn't it?

Feel free to draft up an example of Willy's horny kakapo flag, email it to me, and I'll post it on the site.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

AYE-AYE LEMURS - Butterfly Dani

Stumbled across Butterfly Dani's entry about the Aye-Aye while surfing BlogExplosion. She says "This has got to be the most frightening animal I’ve ever seen.", and includes a painting of an Aye-Aye that I've not seen before. She also includes a picture of Kintana, the baby Aye-Aye from Bristol Zoo that's been in the press a lot lately.

AMAZONIAN MANATEES - The Wildlife Trust

The Wildlife Trust has many active projects, including some in South America affecting the survival and habitat of the Amazonian Manatee.

Information on The Brazilian Manatee Initiative, can be found about half way down their Brazil page.

The Trust's Dr James Powell explores the threatened manatee here, and also in his book Manatees, which is available at Amazon.com.

Friday, April 22, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - Here there be dragons

Always nice to come across Travelers' Tales you've not read before. Here's one (about 5 years old), on Fodors.com by Leanne Wells that's a nice read. I'd love to try the Scuba diving here too. I only ever did it once (on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland), and it was a wonderful experience.

Here's a snippet from Leanne's story...
I went to Indonesia for the spectacular Scuba diving and unexpectedly found as much wild beauty on the forested shoulders of the islands as I did among the colorful folds of their coral skirts. There are, after all, dragons on Komodo Island!

Our plans were to sail systematically down the chain of islands from Bali to Alor, diving at each likely spot along the way. Since Komodo lay right in our path, and is a favored dive location in its own right, it seemed logical to pay our respects to the island's famous inhabitants. Komodo Island, along with its immediate neighbors, is an Indonesian national park and known as one of the world's greatest wildlife regions. Like the Galapagos of Ecuador, Komodo is visited expressly for the purpose of seeing the wildlife that exists only there.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

AYE AYE LEMURS - Animal Planet

Animal Planet's page on the birth and rearing of Kintana the Aye-Aye at Bristol Zoo, has a number of interesting links to further resources on the endangered Aye Aye.

First up is the Madagascar Fauna Group at www.savethelemur.org.

Second is the Madagascar Wildlife Conservation, which features a rather splendid historical map of Madagascar.

This led me through to the Lemurs Of Madagascar site, which is full of lemur information. You can find out more about the Aye-Aye from their species drop-down navigation by switching to the Daubentonia Madagascariensis option.

Their old plates gallery has some beautiful pictures of lemurs, including this pair of extraordinary Aye-Aye interpretations - Aye-Aye #1 and Aye-Aye #2.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

DOUGLAS ADAMS - Master Of His Universe

A touching personal profile of Douglas Adams by Michael Bywater in The Independent, talking about the Hitchhikers movie, aye-ayes, guitars, fast cars, and everything else that Douglas was so passionate about.
Douglas Adams never completed a screenplay of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. And for good reason, says his friend Michael Bywater. So what would the cult author have made of the film that premieres tonight?
[...]
"So, next week - on 28 April, to be precise - the film of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy finally comes out, and I'll tell you what Douglas would have liked; what he would really, really have liked. He would have liked the fact that earlier this month an aye-aye - a peculiar and achingly endangered little lemur from Madagascar - was born in captivity and is doing well in Bristol Zoo. He wouldn't have liked the captivity bit, but he would have loved the born bit, and the doing well."

KAKAPO PARROTS - Four Chicks Take Flight

Kakapo news from New Zealand's STUFF once again, this time about the four Kakapo chicks' flight to Nelson, where they will be hand reared.
It's not just humans moving to Nelson to take advantage of the sunny climate and central location.

Four kakapo chicks from Codfish Island arrived in Nelson on Monday to be hand-raised at a rented house in the city.

Kakapo technical officer Daryl Eason, of Nelson, said the birds were whisked from the southern island by helicopter and caught a domestic flight to Nelson via Christchurch.
[...]
The birds are one to four weeks old and are named Dit, Dot, Jem and Zoe. They are fed bird formula every four hours, and like human babies spend a lot of time dozing. They are kept in darkened boxes in a room kept at a constant temperature.
Do check out the 2005 Kakapo Nesting Calendar, last updated only yesterday, now with a summary at the bottom of the page.

Monday, April 18, 2005

PLANET MAGRATHEA - MJ Simpson's site closed

Sad to report that MJ Simpson's Planet Magrathea, THE Hitchhikers news site, has now closed.

Simpson posted a somewhat negative review of the upcoming Hitchhikers movie last week, and this has created something of a firestorm in the Douglas Adams community. In light of these events, he has decided to call it a day and not write about Douglas Adams any more. Much of the criticism he has received (some of it being of a very personal nature) has been unwarranted, and I think he has made the right decision in stepping away.

I would like to personally thank him for encouraging me to start Another Chance To See, and I wish him well in his future career and projects.

Thanks Mike.

Gareth

AYE-AYE LEMURS - A Visit To Nosy Mangabe

A good article here at Mongabay.com, about a couple of visits by Rhett Butler to Nosy Mangabe to try and find the Aye-Aye lemur. Seeking the world's strangest primate on a tropical island paradise. The article has lots of nice pictures of the island.
In late October 2004, I traveled to Nosy Mangabe, which is one of the best places to see wild aye-aye today. The island, forested with tropical rainforest and having a rich history involving 17th century pirates, lies close enough to the town of Maroantsetra for a day trip, though an night-time stay is crucial if you hope to see the aye-aye. There are no lodging facilities on the island for visitors (a small research station is available for visiting scientists), but there are several covered platforms where you can pitch tents as well as restrooms and showers.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Cell Phone Recycling Event

There's many projects around to help you recycle your old cell phones. Here's the Salt Lake City Blog with news of an event on April 22nd at Utah's Hogle Zoo during their Earth Day celebrations. Donate-a-Phone will then take these cell phones and refurbish or recycle them.

Why is the correct disposal of old cell phones an important issue?
Recent reports indicate that many endangered species are dwindling because of high demand for a radioactive mineral called coltan that is used to make cellular phones, computers and other electronic devices. The main area where coltan is mined is the same area as the Kahuzi Biega National Park, home of the mountain gorilla. Gorilla habitats are becoming scarce and the miners are killing the gorillas for food. Because of this, the gorilla population has decreased more than half.
Philadelphia Zoo also runs a similar cell phone program called "Return The Call Of The Wild".
Cell phones contain many toxic substances, such as arsenic and cobalt. In landfills, toxins often escape into the environment, contaminating natural resources and polluting wildlife habitat. These poisons can travel through animal and human food chains causing birth defects, neurological damage and cancer.

The Philadelphia Zoo receives cash back on all recycled cell phones, some of which are re-used as emergency phones for victims of domestic abuse or redistributed into developing markets such as Latin America for first-time, low-income users.
We first mentioned the cell phone coltan issue back in August 2004.

Friday, April 15, 2005

GOOGLE - The Big Fat Gorilla

Finally got around to adding a proper Google Search to this site, and now that Google has indexed most of my posts, it's returning some pretty good results.

Whether you're interested in Rhinos, Kakapos, Baiji Dolphins, or any other part of Douglas Adams's "Last Chance To See", this feature should help you to find the most relevant posts.

Give it a whirl, (see below) and see what the Big Fat Gorilla shakes down from the tree for you...

AYE-AYE LEMURS - Baby Kintana at Bristol Zoo

BBC NEWS is among many sites reporting the first public appearance of Kintana, the baby aye-aye lemur born at Bristol Zoo in February 2005. The page also includes a link to a video report, with Kintana being fed by his keeper.
Kintana is also only the second aye-aye to be hand-reared in the world.

The zoo is hailing his birth as a key development in the long-term survival of aye-ayes, which are classified an endangered species.
And for more reports, here's The Guardian, The Scotsman
and a "Gollum" look-alike story at Childrens BBC Newsround.

Picture number 6 on the BBC's "In Pictures" feature has a great shot of the baby!

And for those in the Seattle area, on Saturday, April 16 2005 (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) there's a celebration of the lemurs of Madagascar with activities, information and special goodies in their "Leaping Lemur Day", Cougar Mountain Zoo, 19525 S.E. 54th St. Issaquah, WA 98207.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Next@CNN

On CNN this Saturday 16th April at 3 p.m. ET and on Sunday 17th April at 5 p.m. ET, the show Next@CNN focuses on the mountain gorillas and also includes some interviews with tourists, Katie Fawcett, Director of Karisoke Research Center, and Clare Richardson, President and CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - Toledo Zoo "DRAGONS" exhibit

News from toledoblade.com about a new exhibit at Toledo Zoo, with a six-foot Komodo Dragon called Dante as its star attraction.
The zoo's "Dragons" exhibit, complete with a variety of live species and fantastical displays, cost $200,000 and has been a year in the making - though some of the zoo's curators have been anticipating it for almost a decade.
[...]
"It's the only animal I know that just stares you down, like you're a potential meal. It has no fear at all," said Andy Odum, curator of reptiles, looking as though he'd like to reach out and pet the beast, which is being rented from the Fort Worth Zoo for the summer.

Monday, April 11, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Department of Conservation gets $24.6 million funding boost

More positive news from New Zealand's STUFF with this funding boost for their DOC.
The funding is part of the Government's Budget 2005 package. Mr Carter made the announcement on Codfish Island (Whenua Hou), off the coast of Stewart Island, yesterday where six kakapo chicks have hatched in the past month, lifting the kakapo population to its highest level in 30 years.

"I am confident (the Budget 2005 funding) will help ensure the kakapo population continues to grow," he said.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Kakapo sale cause concern

New Zealand's Stuff with this news.
The curiosity of a huge stuffed kakapo being sold by the New Zealand High Commission in London began with a cultural question mark and ended with queries over misleading advertising.

The kakapo - a 60cm 19th century bird which sold last month for about 9000 GBP ($23,700) - mentioned the New Zealand High Commission in London in the promotional catalogue.
[...]
Maori Party cultural affairs spokeswoman Atareta Poananga who said such "taonga", or treasures, should not be used for profiteering.

If they were to be moved at all, they should be repatriated to New Zealand.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

RODRIGUES FRUIT BATS - A day as a zoo-keeper is animal magic

Chester Zoo is offering opportunities for people to become a Zoo Keeper for the day. And people are snapping up the chance to get up close and personal with some of the most exotic creatures on the planet. Selena O'Donnell found out more.
icCheshireOnline has this article about Selena's day working as a zoo-keeper.
As I'm led into the bat house by an enthusiastic Chris I'm struck by the lack of smell.

Chris explained: 'We've had all the wood chipping changed recently so the smell from the bat's urine isn't as strong as it was.'

As the hundreds of Seba and Rodrigues Fruit bats wait for their meal, Chris and I deal out their pungent breakfast by sliding feeding trays into wire holders dotted about the exhibit.

'You need to keep the trays as spread out as possible, otherwise dominant males will leave everyone else hungry,' said Chris.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

MADAGASCAR THE MOVIE - Film raises tourism hopes

Madagascar hopes the upcoming DreamWorks Animation SKG film "Madagascar" will do for its tourism industry what "Out of Africa" did for Kenya's, tourism officials said Tuesday. DreamWorks is hoping for another hit with "Madagascar," a computer-animated film about four urban-dwelling animals who escape from a New York zoo.
Full report over at ABC News.

LEMURS - Half of Madagascar's lemurs are on the verge of extinction.

The Earth's most successful primates - humans - are on the brink of killing off nearly a quarter of their 625 cousin species, a report has said.
BBC News has more on this tragedy.
Of the four global regions inhabited by primates, the worst hit is Madagascar, where loss of habitat to traditional slash-and-burn agriculture has left some lemur species, such as Perrier's sifaka, stranded in tiny areas of the forest.

More than half of Madagascar's lemurs are on the verge of extinction.
[...]
"Amazingly, we've managed to get through the 20th Century without any primate species going extinct," Dr Mittermeier said. "I'd like to think this is partly because of better conservation efforts."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

DON MERTON - A Passion for Birds

A nice profile of Don Merton, the soon-to-retire kakapo conservationist, at New Zealand's STUFF.
Don Merton's grandmother's canary has a lot to answer for. His fascination with the bird from the age of five led him into a 48-year career helping some of the country's most endangered birds, including the Chatham Islands robin, North Island saddleback and kakapo, to avoid extinction.

Now he has decided it is time to retire.

Monday, April 04, 2005

AYE-AYE LEMURS - Duke University Primate Center

Duke University's Primate Center has a nice site, and in their Learning section they have a nice sub-section all about the twig technologist Aye-Ayes.

And to hear an Aye-Aye sniffing and tapping away, visit this page at The Wild Ones.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Under-sexed Kakapos have "rubbish" sperm

The goal in 2006 will be to ensure each Kakapo breeds twice within the season. Paul Jansen explains why to The New Zealand Herald.
Scientists have discovered female kakapo that mate twice in a season have a higher chance of producing fertile eggs. That was thought to be because of the "very poor quality" of male kakapo sperm, Mr Jansen said.

"The majority of kakapo sperm is rubbish. Even productive birds have poor sperm because of past inbreeding," he said.

"They’re so inbred that if they were humans, they’d probably have six fingers and be playing a guitar."

KAKAPO PARROTS - Don Merton to retire

The New Zealand Herald is also reporting that Don Merton, the long-time Kakapo conservationist is to retire.
The man who led the dramatic rescue of one of New Zealand’s most famous birds is retiring after almost 50 years.

Almost exactly 30 years ago this month, Don Merton and a team of wildlife service staff and volunteers were camping in a remote Fiordland valley in a last-ditch attempt to find the native parrot kakapo, feared to be extinct.

KAKAPO PARROTS - Going for 91

Article from New Zealand's STUFF on the hopes for the rest of the 2005 kakapo breeding season, and also the optimism for 2006.
The kakapo population was at its highest point in more than 30 years with the hatching of four chicks bringing the total to 87, kakapo recovery team leader Paul Jansen said.

The four chicks on Codfish Island were likely to be joined by more, with four more eggs expected to hatch within the next 10 days, he said.

"The best we could do is get 91 kakapo by the end of the season."

Kakapo had not bred since 2002 when 24 chicks were born.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Smithsonian Article

Here's an article from the 2002 Smithsonian Magazine called "Going To Extremes" (PDF) by DEREK GRZELEWSKI.
Without the extraordinary dedication of a few conservationists, New Zealand's Kakapo would likely have gone the way of the Dodo.
[...]
The kakapo, of course, recalls the dodo (the former resident of what is now the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean), which became extinct 300 years ago. Like the dodo, the kakapo is a large and solitary creature too heavy to fly. Also like the dodo, it nests on the ground. Like the kakapo, the dodo was numerous and longlived and a slow and infrequent breeder, which meant it could not bounce back once its population was diminished.
Google has a cached HTML version if you'd prefer.

Friday, April 01, 2005

DODOS - Living colony discovered breeding on Mauritius

A colony of Dodos has been discovered alive, and breeding, in a remote part of the Mauritian Ivory Forest, off the coast of Madagascar. A full report on this amazing discovery will be published in next month's Natural Eco magazine.

Douglas Adams used the Dodo as a prime example of a human-caused extinction in both his "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and "Last Chance To See" books of course.
Team leader Gwen Arnesen said that rumors of such a colony surfaced last year when a team of local loggers found a number of broken egg shells in the area. Such shells are not unheard of, but it was their excellent condition which prompted further research.

"It really is the find of the century", Ms Arnesen said. "The remote location and hard terrain has facilitated the preservation of this 'Lost World' of Dodos. We believe the colony is some forty to fifty birds strong, with at least fifteen breeding females. We will now be working closely with the Mauritian authorities to ensure their protection."
And for further reading on the Dodo, obviously written before this stunning development, visit David Reilly's The Tragedy of the Dodo (1598-1681).