Saturday, May 28, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - London Zoo Dragon gets new girlfriend

Good news from the Gulf Times Newspaper. They've found a new mate for the lonely Komodo Dragon at London Zoo...
She is a 10-year-old Parisienne with a taste for dogs and lizards who is about to make one London bachelor very happy.

Following a year-long search, the London Zoo yesterday unveiled Sunga as the new mate of its Komodo dragon, Raja.

He has been alone in his enclosure since his mate died after an accident last August.

After a worldwide search, the team discovered substitute Sunga in a zoo just north of Paris.
**UPDATE**
Dave has added a comment with information on London Zoo's news page about the new arrival.

NEW ZEALAND - Bailing Hard To Save Moa's Ark

This article on New Zealand's Scoop by DOC journalist Bernie Napp, discusses the huge task faced by the Conservation Department in protecting New Zealand's endangered animals and plants.
English botanist David Bellamy coined the term "Moa's Ark" for New Zealand and its unusual flora and fauna, inspired by the tallest bird that ever lived.

One of a kind: kiwi, kakapo (only flightless parrot and world’s heaviest parrot), takahe (world’s largest rail), kea (only alpine parrot), stitchbird, kokako, saddleback, short-tailed bat (only bat that eats both fruit and insects).

Living fossils: tuatara, native frogs, weta, kauri snails and flax snails.

Gondwanaland relics: podocarp forests (totara, rimu, matai, miro, kahikatea and the like), southern beech forests, tree-ferns, native galaxiid fishes (including whitebait)

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Damming evidence

This lengthy article at SignOnSanDiego.com discusses the impact that large damming projects have on ecosystems around the world.
Three Gorges dam will eliminate a significant portion of the habitat of the Yangtze river dolphin, likely spelling its doom. The animal is already considered extremely endangered. A 1998 survey recorded only seven left in the wild. Some biologists fear it will become – if it isn't already – the first cetacean to go extinct at human hands.
Here at Another Chance To See, we're beginning to suspect that the Baiji is already extinct. Mark Carwardine made the suggestion at the recent Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Dian Fossey field news

Here's the latest field news from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Bukima, a female in Beetsme's group, left her natal group and transferred to the lone silverback Inshuti, who had left Shinda's group at the beginning of last year. After a year of gaining experience as a lone silverback, including many interactions with Beetsme's group, Inshuti finally succeeded in acquiring a female - Bukima. The newly formed couple stayed together for more than two weeks and our new “lone silverback patrol” was able to follow them for a week.

Friday, May 27, 2005

MADAGASCAR THE MOVIE - Cedric The Entertainer

This review of Madagascar The Movie at the National Post mentions that Maurice, the Aye-Aye lemur in the movie, is played by Cedric The Entertainer. Make of that what you will.
The poo gags, Regis and Kelly jokes and even cheap barbs at the expense of Canadian medicare are all casually linked by the plot: Marty the restless zebra (Chris Rock), Alex the metro lion (Ben Stiller), Melvin the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the maternal hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) are all trying to escape to a place they know only as "the wild." The plan is botched by the time they reach Grand Central Station, but eventually they wind up as castaways on the titular island, in a region controlled by a perpetually dancing lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen) and a disgruntled aye-aye (Cedric The Entertainer).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

MADAGASCAR THE MOVIE - Movie and game released this week

MadagascarTheMovie
Dreamworks Picture's Madagascar is now open and is getting some great reviews. Here's the official site for MADAGASCAR - The Movie, starring the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer (Friends).

The video game based on the movie is also released today (May 24th) and versions are available on PC CD-Rom, Microsoft's XBox, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo GameCube.

The game features three mini-game bonus chapters, including a "Lemur Rave" where you can test out your rhythm skills to cool jungle beats, and Melmen's helicopter neck-fling ammo includes coconuts and lemurs!

Here's Activision's Madagascar game homepage.

Environmentalists hope that the release of this movie will help in their protection of the endangered animals of Madagascar, including the Aye-Aye Lemur as visited by Douglas Adams in Last Chance To See. Most of the animals that live there can be found nowhere else on the planet.
Executives at Conservation International, are pulling strings as fast as they can in California and Madagascar, an island a little larger than California, to make sure the movie generates the sort of tourism that helps save the country's spectacular, and increasingly endangered, forests and animals. Within a few months, they think, thousands of moviegoers will decide they'd like to see the real Madagascar, and the country had better get ready.
Full story at Post Gazette.com.

Scientists at Duke University also see this potential.
  • Conservation scientist Luke Dollar, who studies the island's top predator, called the fossa, sees the movie as drawing much-needed attention to the plight of Madagascar's endangered species.
  • Cognitive neuroscientist Elizabeth Brannon sees the movie as highlighting the island's extraordinary lemurs, whose intelligence she is learning is far greater than previously believed.
  • The primatologists at the Duke Primate Center hope the movie will attract interest to the fascinating array of lemur species that populate the island.

Monday, May 23, 2005

SAVE THE RHINO - Events Calendar

Some upcoming events in support of Save The Rhino International.
  • Arch to Arc, 10-20 July 2005
    In July 2005, a team of six Save the Rhino supporters will attempt the legendary Arch to Arc challenge, a non-stop triathlon race between Marble Arch, London and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

    Rhino Arch to Arc has a fair claim on the title, the world’s ultimate endurance challenge. A team of 6 will run in 87 miles in relay, in rhino costumes, from Marble Arch to Dover. From there they will swim 22 miles in relay across the English Channel. On arrival in France, the third and final leg consists of a mere 180-mile cycle ride to the Arc, which all team members must complete together. No team has ever completed such a feat: the Rhino Arch to Arc team will pioneer this incredible team challenge.
  • Rhino Survival Challenge, 23-25 September 2005
    At a secret location in the Herefordshire countryside... The rhinos are surviving – can you?

    You will be exposed to a series of physical and cerebral challenges, which will hone your powers of communication, enhance your team-working skills and test your capacity to survive the elements.
  • Woburn Rhino Run, 9 October 2005
    The Woburn Rhino Run 10k Race, Sunday 9 October 2005, will be held at Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire.
    Medals will be awarded to all finishers and prizes will be awarded to the top 3 men and women, and first in the age groups over 35, 40 and 50 for women and over 40,45 and 50 for men.
And for information on Save The Rhino Project Parties, please click here.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

AMAZONIAN MANATEES - Amazon rainforest destruction accelerating

The BBC has grim news on the accelerating destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
The environment ministry said 26,000 sq km of forest were chopped down in the 12 months prior to August 2004. The figure is the second highest on record, 6% higher than the previous 12 months.

Deforestation was worst in the state of Mato Grosso where vast swathes of land have been cleared to grow crops.

The loss of 26,000 sq km means almost a fifth of the entire Amazon has now been cleared.

ENDANGERED SPECIES - Earth's species feel the squeeze

More from the BBC today with the stark warning from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, "the most comprehensive audit of the health of our planet to date". Earth's species feel the squeeze
If we continue with current rates of species extinction, we will have no chance of rolling back poverty and the lives of all humans will be diminished.
[...]
Organisms are disappearing at something like 100 to 1,000 times the "background levels" seen in the fossil record.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

DON MERTON - Winging it by Kim Griggs

Writer Kim Griggs contacted me to point me in the direction of her recent interview with Kakapo conservationist Don Merton. The interview can be found on the New Zealand Listener site. Winging it by Kim Griggs.
Don Merton is legendary for helping to save the Chatham Island black robin. And he caught the last Fiordland kakapo and genetic hope for that species' survival. He has, in the words of author Douglas Adams, "probably done more than any man living to preserve the threatened birds of New Zealand". This month Don Merton, conservationist, bows out.

At 18, Don Merton ignored well-meaning advice that he wouldn't make a living out of conservation, and he joined the wildlife branch of the Department of Internal Affairs, staying for 48 years.
We've featured Kim's work on this site before with this April 28th post.

And do visit Kim Griggs own site at www.kim.griggs.net to see more of her work.

Friday, May 20, 2005

CLONING ENDANGERED ANIMALS - Louisiana's frozen ark

The BBC reports on the modern day Noah's Ark in Louisiana, where they are cloning endangered animals from frozen DNA.
Our small group of journalists was escorted into a place reminiscent of the film Jurassic Park in more ways than one.

The movie is based on the fantasy of bringing rampaging dinosaurs back to life through samples of ancient DNA preserved in amber.
[...]
In theory, no species alive today should ever become extinct, as long as one of the dozen frozen zoos around the world has a cell sample, [Dr Betsy Dresser] said: "If we'd done this with the dinosaurs... the cells would be alive."

Among the species they have suspended in cell form are gorillas, Sumatran tigers and the mountain bongo antelope.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

AMAZONIAN MANATEES - Paper, website and webcam

It's been a while since I posted anything about the Amazonian Manatee, so here's a few links.

Here's a recently published scientific research paper entitled Phylogeography and population genetics of the endangered Amazonian manatee available as PDF or Google's HTML cache. It has a very positive conclusion.
Although classified on the Endangered Species List, the Amazonian manatee has maintained relatively high genetic variability, and the genetic signature of an expanding population might be an indication of recovery in the last 30–40 years after a 200-year period of heavy exploitation.
This BBC Science and Nature article is titled Manatees that capture the imagination.

And finally, here's a link to a Florida Manatee WebCam. OK, so this isn't an Amazonian Manatee, but it's still nice to see a closely related animal on the move. I've not seen them myself yet, just fish so far...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

BUSHMEAT - Ape hunters pick up new viruses

News from the BBC about bushmeat hunters who are picking up new strains of viruses, including two from the same family as HIV.
Researchers say their work proves it is not unusual for potentially dangerous viruses to jump from primates to man.

They say it is important to monitor disease in bushmeat hunters closely, as any virus they contract from animals may spread to the community at large.

The study, led by the US Johns Hopkins University, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

GOOGLE MAPS - Satellite views

In a similar fashion to Google Sightseeing, here are the geographical areas inhabited by the endangered animals of Last Chance To See. Unfortunately, the Google Maps Satellite View has only really been implemented fully in the United States, but once you're in that view, you CAN drag the map across the world, even if you can't zoom in fully yet.

This first map shows the home of the Aye-Aye Lemur, namely Madagascar (left), along with Mauritius and Reunion (center), and Rodrigues (right).

You can zoom in towards Nosy Mangabe which is the primary home of the Aye-Aye. It is a tiny island at the top of the large inlet.

Here is a closer look at Mauritius (with Reunion), home of the Mauritius Kestrel and Pink Pigeon, and this is Rodrigues, home of the Rodrigues Fruitbat.

Now we have two of the world's largest rivers, the Amazon, home of the Amazonian Manatee, and the Yangtze, home of the Baiji Dolphin (we hope). I've focused on the deltas of the rivers here, allowing you to zoom in and navigate upstream.

Home of the Komodo Dragons, Komodo Island is down in that cluster of islands in the centre of this Indonesian view, with Flores off to the right. Flores is where they recently found the tiny remains of the ancient human that scientists nicknamed "The Hobbit".

Here's the Juan Fernandez Islands, home of the Juan Fernandez Fur Seal of course. Quite interesting to see the undersea mountain range with the two islands just breaking the surface.

Here is Stewart Island, New Zealand. Codfish Island, home of the Kakapo Parrot is a small island to the north west of Stewart, but we can't really see it at this distance.

Finally, over to Africa and Virunga National Park , home of the Mountain Gorilla, which sits just below the topmost lake. And here is Garamba National Park, home of the last few wild Northern White Rhino. Garamba is somewhere down there in that slew of green. This page at the International Rhino Foundation has a better view of the neighbourhood.

Hope that gives everyone a better understanding of just how far Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine had to travel to visit the endangered animals of Last Chance To See.

Monday, May 16, 2005

OUTDOOR FUN - Go Ape!

My sister recently took a trip to the Lake District in England and visited the Go Ape! forest adventure in Grizedale Forest. There's a few such attractions across the country, and the company website www.goape.co.uk has all the details, with age and height restrictions and the important "book ahead" advice.

My sister and her boyfriend said they had a brilliantly fun time, so if you fancy playing at being a Mountain Gorilla for the day, then this sounds like a wonderful summer's day out for families or as a company team building exercise.
"A network of rope bridges, trapezes and death slides that stretches for roughly a mile through the tree canopy … this impressively extensive cat’s cradle of ropes, netting and platforms, set high in the trees is an aerial assault course called Go Ape!" - Daily Telegraph.
The company has the health of all the forests in mind...
Our business is built on the long-term health of the forest. Go Ape! works closely with conservationists, arboralists and other specialists to ensure that we protect our natural playground. Our structures are designed to allow trees to grow unrestricted. The trees we use are ultrasounded to monitor their internal health. We even give them a cuddle from time to time. Build materials are selected to blend into the natural scenery. Some people have gone as far to say that our structures are beautiful - we hope you agree.
Not exactly Last Chance To See related, but I thought I'd pass it along. Sounds like a great day out to me! Have fun!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

HITCHHIKERS MOVIE - Bidding war for Hitchhiker towel

BBC News has this report on the recent eBay auction of Hitchhikers movie props - Bidding war for Hitchhiker towel
Props from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy have been sold for charity - including a "life-saving" towel.

The stripy towel used by Arthur Dent, played by Martin Freeman, in the film eventually sold for £225 in the website charity auction, attracting 29 bidders.

Proceeds will go to Save The Rhino International and The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund - both supported by the late Hitchhiker's author Douglas Adams.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

GUARDIAN Article

Dan emailed me to tell me that Another Chance To See got a mention in this Guardian article on their website a couple of weeks ago.

Many thanks to the ever resourceful Dave Haddock, who tracked down a photocopy of the original printed version for my files.

Friday, May 13, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Birdman's work a tuneful legacy

The New Zealand Herald tells the story of John Kendrick, a natural sound recordist, whose recordings have been used on radio and television for decades.
Known to many as Johnny, Kendrick was with the NZ Wildlife Service for 20 years, signing on in 1964 as a visual aids officer - a broad brief that meant he filmed and recorded the sounds of wildlife from bush depths to mountain heights.

It enabled him to pioneer natural sound recording in New Zealand and, with colleagues like black robin saviour Don Merton - a mere trainee when Kendrick first met him - to use recorded bird songs to capture and transfer endangered birds to predator-free islands.
[...]
The kakapo gave him the biggest physical challenge. With 40kg of gear he tramped for five hours into the Tutuko Valley near Milford Sound to get the first recording of the bird.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Girls and Science

The Washington Post reports on Girls and Science.
Harvard University President Lawrence Summers incited an ideological riot earlier this year when he suggested that women may be innately unsuited for success in math and science. But Summers's remarks, for which he subsequently apologized, are a moot point to women like [...] Felicia Nutter.
[...]
Felicia Nutter finds her work as a mountain-gorilla veterinarian in Rwanda utterly absorbing. But there are plenty of challenges as well, as author Pamela S. Turner makes clear in Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes (Houghton Mifflin, $17; ages 8-12).

Because the mountain gorillas are treated in their natural habitat, Nutter and others involved with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project often must hike for hours to reach their patients. Even a broken foot is no excuse, as Nutter found when she spent five hours limping up a mountainside on crutches to check on a gorilla thought to be desperately ill. Instead, the gorilla grumbled when he saw the exhausted Nutter -- a sign that he was in better-than-expected health.
Full article at Washington Post

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

DOUGLAS ADAMS - Thank you

Four years ago today, the world lost the brilliantly creative imagination of Douglas Adams, at the dreadfully young age of 49. The BBC Obituary was one of many sites to report upon his death and celebrate his life and work.

I can still remember the sense of disbelief and loss, but it wasn't till about May 13th that I finally heard the news. I was on vacation in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina at the time, and often far from the internet and current events. When I did find out what had happened, I found it almost spooky that I'd been relaxing on the beach for the past few days, busily re-reading all five volumes of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy for the first time in several years.

It is such a shame that the world was robbed of such a great mind. Douglas was such a wonderful thinker, and his analysis of even the smallest little event, thing or idea was a delight to listen to or read about. Whenever I see or hear interviews with Douglas I'm always impressed with his infectious enthusiasm about whatever subject has currently taken over his thoughts.

I have to thank him for his book Last Chance To See, without which I wouldn't have this website to write this post on. Douglas Adams has been an inspiration to me and has fired my imagination and learning in many different ways. I know so much more about endangered animals now, and it's been a real eye-opener and education.

Thank you.

Gareth

KAKAPO PARROTS - Kakapo chick naming competition

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammePlease visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeNew Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter has announced a competition to name the four surviving kakapo chicks that were hatched this breeding season on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island.
"The National Kakapo Recovery team have four new chicks that desperately need names and we are asking school pupils for their help," Mr Carter said. "There are only 87 kakapo in the world so it’s important they have great names!"

The Kakapo Hatch a Name Competition is open to all New Zealand primary, intermediate and secondary school children. Entry forms and information is available online at www.kakapo.org.nz. Entries close 7 June 2005.
Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammePlease visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeThe most recent update on the condition of the growing chicks was May 10th.
Flossie's two chicks are also growing bigger everyday, F1 is 1063g, and F2 is 1141g. They have been moved to a larger pen together where they have been slowly introduced to native vegetation and fresh organic fruit, (very amusing to watch them chewing on the new veg!)

Friday, May 06, 2005

MAURITIUS KESTREL - Road construction threatens habitat

News from BirdLife International about the endangered Mauritius Kestrel, now threatened by new road construction. The building work also threatens the Mauritius Bulbul.
Work has begun on a road which could devastate part of the forest heartland of the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus, one of the world’s flagship conservation success stories. The South-Eastern Highway will pass through the Mauritius east coast mountains Important Bird Area (IBA), cutting a swathe through some of the last remaining good quality forest in this part of Mauritius.

The kestrel was once the world’s rarest bird. From near extinction in the 1970s, its population has grown to between 800 and 1000 individuals, thanks to a captive breeding and reintroduction programme run by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Government of Mauritius, working with international partners including the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and The Peregrine Fund. The recovery of the Mauritius Kestrel is one of the world’s greatest species conservation success stories. The south-eastern forest is home to half the world population, centred around the Ferney Valley, where the first reintroductions took place. Ferney Valley is in the path of both proposed routes for the new highway.
Read the complete article

Thursday, May 05, 2005

WEBSITE - Animal Land

Animaland!Animal Land is the ASCPA's site aimed squarely at youngsters, and is full of facts and fun for kids. Their "real issues" section has a multi-page article about endangered species, and it's a good introduction to the subject. Definately worth a look.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

ENDANGERED BIRDS - Hats as a sex aid

**BY REQUEST, THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED**
Mating with hats seems to be a common thread amongst rare bird conservation doesn't it? If you recall this funny section from "Last Chance To See" about Pink, the Mauritius Kestrel...
"You see, the young birds that we've hatched here don't come to sexual maturity at the same time, so when the females start getting sexy, the males are not ready to handle it. The females are bigger and more belligerent and often beat the males up. So when that happens, we collect semen from Pink, and..."

"How do you do that?" asked Mark.

"In a hat."

"I thought you said in a hat."

"That's right. Carl puts on this special hat, which is a bit like a rather strange bowler hat with a rubber brim, Pink goes mad with desire for Carl, flies down and fucks the hell out of his hat."

"What?"

"He ejaculates into the brim. We collect the drop of semen and use it to inseminate a female."

"Strange way to treat your mother."

"He's a strange bird. But he does serve a useful purpose in spite of being psychologically twisted."
Harold points out in the comments that Kakapos also got turned on by ranger's hats, so let's promote that section of Last Chance To See into the main post...
When one of the rangers who was working in an area where kakapos were booming happened to leave his hat on the ground, he came back later to find a kakapo attempting to ravish it. On another occasion the discovery of some ruffled possum fur in the mating area suggested that a kakapo had made another alarming mistake, an experience which is unlikely to have been satisfying to either party.

PHOTOGRAPHY - Tom Mangelsen

American Photo Magazine have named Thomas Mangelsen as one of the 100 Most Important People in Photography in America in their May/June issue.

He has a number of nice Gorilla shots on his site, notably Gorilla #1 and Gorilla #2.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Forum ponders Yangtze protection

China Daily reports on a recent forum on the Yangtze and its impact on people and animals. Regrettably, I think it's a little too late for the endangered (if not extinct) Baiji Dolphin.
Globally, many governments and societies are facing the challenges of sustainably managing rivers. Since every person and industry along a river relies on the water and is affected by the river in one way or another.

China is no exception.

Last weekend, the Yangtze Forum was held in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province. For the first time, provincial governors and key ministers from China's water, environment, forest, and agriculture sectors in the Yangtze River basin gathered to develop a common strategy and action plan for protecting the entire basin.

Monday, May 02, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - What is the carbon counter?

What is the carbon counter? Caspar Henderson explains the debate on openDemocracy.
E3G’s Carbon Clock will be an interactive tool showing how incremental rises in temperature are likely to impact the essential ecosystems on which human life and health depend, along with much of the rest of life on Earth.

It is reckoned that, for example, a one-degree Centigrade increase in temperature could see the demise of already critically endangered species such as the Bengal tiger (India) and mountain gorilla (Central Africa). At an increase of one-to-two degrees, rice farmers who feed hundreds of millions in Asia and elsewhere are likely to see their crops fail. Such impacts are likely to be imminent.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Missing gorillas re-appear

Great news from Uganda as reported by this News24 article, on the re-appearance of a group of Mountain Gorillas who disappeared mysteriously last year. Their disappearance prompted theories that Rwandan people had lured them over the border to increase their own Mountain Gorilla tourism at the expense of the Ugandan's.
A group of rare gorillas whose disappearance from a Ugandan reserve last year sparked rumours of primate-napping by neighbouring Rwanda have re-appeared, excited wildlife officials said on Friday.

After a five-month absence, the highly endangered animals returned last week to their forest home in south-west Uganda's Mgahinga National Park and with two new additions, Uganda Wildlife Authority chief Moses Mapesa said.

"They went 8, but they have returned 10 with a new baby and another individual," he said.