Saturday, December 30, 2006

Google Earth: Space Navigator 3D controller

Santa Claus was very nice to me this year and dropped the "3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator" 3D navigation device down my chimney. It makes flying around Google Earth an ABSOLUTE BREEZE and really helps to get the most out of the wonderful application that Google Earth is.

In the past week I've flown around my old hometown in England, my new hometown in the USA, along with more cities and famous landmarks than I care to mention. Mt. Everest, Mt. St. Helens, and the Grand Canyon were great places to explore. No more messing around with a regular mouse and CTRL, ALT and SHIFT keys. The Space Navigator is so much more instinctive and natural, and it's very attractively priced too. A fabulous device!

I've also been flying around the Last Chance To See locations which you'll find in our Another Chance To See KMZ file, and also the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Google Earth blog which is a very clever use of Google Earth. The Space Navigator brings so much to the whole experience, and it's thoroughly addictive! The device is not just for Google Earth though. It also works with Google Sketchup, Autodesk products, and much more besides. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fundraiser: Thanks to all our sponsors!

Thanks to all our sponsors who've donated to our "Another Chance To See Fundraiser". With the help of two recent substantial donations from Kjartan Albertsson and Michael Werlitz we've now raised a total of £165 for Save The Rhino.

Just a few pounds or dollars will help towards some of the items shown here in Save The Rhino's list of needs. Anyone in the world can donate, because JustGiving's secure website will convert your credit card donation to GB pounds automatically. Thanks again to all our contributors so far. Happy New Year to you and rhinos everywhere!

The fundraiser will run until the middle of 2007 when we'll start again with another charity for one of the endangered animals from "Last Chance To See".

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mountain Gorillas: News round-up

Here's a few Mountain Gorilla stories that wafted my way recently. I've been terribly busy in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and now I've got the dreaded lurgy that's going around, so apologies for not keeping up with all of this.

Meet Rachel Hogan, the wildlife volunteer being hailed as the new Gorillas In The Mist girl - Sunday Mirror

The Mountain Gorilla is not known to have contracted the ebola virus - Age.com.au

Former Chelsea and England football player Graeme Le Saux on ITV's Extinct - The Times
Le Saux is scheduled to make his pitch tomorrow night. On the launch show, there was a tantalising glimpse of him giving it the full Sir David Attenborough, whispering into the camera from a crouched position in some tall grass as, over his shoulder, several tonnes of male ape was debating with itself whether or not to eat him. Quality work from Le Saux, although, if we’re being picky, Sir David never looks quite so terrified.
The Mountain Gorilla Twins featured on the Extinct show - The Sun

Gorilla Tourism Feature - Reuters
About 10,650 tourists came to Rwanda's park last year. Up to November this year, nearly 12,000 had been, park figures show.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Baiji Dolphins: Chinese to continue the search for the White Flag dolphin

China's People's Daily Online reports that some Chinese scientists remain noncommittal over the findings (read: lack of) of the recent Baiji expedition.
Wang Ding, vice director of the hydrobiology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and head of the research team, insisted it was still too early to say whether or not the dolphin, also known as baiji, is extinct, even though none were found along the 3,400-km expedition route.

"A species are only said to be extinct after human beings fail to find any in the wild for 50 years according to the standards of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature," Wang said.
So it's going to be many years before the scientific community can officially declare the Baiji extinct, and thus the search WILL continue.
Chinese scientists said they will continue to search for the rare white-flag (baiji) dolphin although it is possibly extinct after a 38-day search failed to find any in the Yangtze River.
[...]
"We will try every effort to save them as long as they are not announced to be extinct," said Wang, who is vice-director of the hydrobiology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Komodo Dragons: 'Virgin births' for giant lizards

Komodo Dragon parthenogenesis is back in the news again this Christmas. Parthenogenesis is the process of eggs being developed without being fertilised by a sperm. This Christmas virgin birth is due to take place at Chester Zoo in the UK. BBC News has the story...
Flora, a resident of Chester Zoo in the UK, is awaiting her clutch of eight eggs to hatch, with a due-date estimated around Christmas.

Kevin Buley, a curator at Chester Zoo and a co-author on the paper, said: "Flora laid her eggs at the end of May and, given the incubation period of between seven and nine months, it is possible they could hatch around Christmas - which for a 'virgin birth' would finish the story off nicely.

"We will be on the look-out for shepherds, wise men and an unusually bright star in the sky over Chester Zoo."
We reported a previous case of purported Komodo Dragon parthenogenesis back in May 2006, this time in France.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Baiji Dolphins: Saddened by end of Yangtze dolphin

Carlie Wiener wrote into the Toronto Star to complain about the placement of their article on the perceived extinction of the White Flag or Baiji Dolphin.
Its placement on page A14 in a small article at the bottom of the page illustrates utter disregard for the environment. Since when do the salaries of sports stars, a restaurant catching fire and a new food guide take precedence over the loss of an entire species?
Read Carlie's full comment at TheStar.com .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Baiji Dolphins: Functionally Extinct

** UPDATED ** (More news links added below, including BBC Video)

There is ever increasing world coverage this week of the failure of the Baiji Dolphin expedition to find any of the animals in the Yangtze River. In a Reuters interview this week, August Pfluger, chief executive of the baiji.org Foundation, said that the Baiji Dolphin is "functionally extinct". The interview is being picked up by the other news organisations very quickly.
"If there are maybe one or two or three left in the river, we don't believe that they have any chance to survive. We were obviously too late. For me, it's a tragedy in terms of conservation. We lost the race."
[...]
Chinese view the baiji as the reincarnation of a princess who refused to marry a man she did not love and was drowned by her father for shaming the family.

"The baiji was considered a goddess of the Yangtze River. This goddess obviously is not here anymore," said Pfluger. "I think in the last few years the government has put more attention on the issue, but we have all been too late."
Full story at Reuters AlertNet and across the web - Washington Post - CBS News - BBC News - BBC Video - The Guardian - LA Times - Slashdot discussion - Daily Kos discussion

The thoughts of August Pfluger are the latest post on the Baiji.org Last Chance To Save blog.
The baiji is Functionally extinct. Lipotes vexilifier is the first species of cetacean – whales, dolphins and porpoises – to disappear from our globe in modern times…the first large mammal to go extinct as a result of man’s destruction of their natural habitat and ressources.

The disappearance of the Baiji from our planet is a tragedy for animal lovers around the world –and a tragic milestone for international animal conservation.
NOTE: The definition of "functionally extinct" as described on the Wikipedia "Extinction" page...
A species may become functionally extinct when only a handful of individuals survive, which are unable to reproduce due to poor health, age, sparse distribution over a large range, a lack of individuals of both sexes (in sexually reproducing species), or other reasons.

Komodo Island: Lizards, legends and natural beauty

Here's a very nice post in Kerry B. Collison's "Eye on Asia" category on the enduring legend of Komodo Island and the origins of the indigenous dragons....
Once upon a time, a mystical lady called the Dragon Princess lived on a barren and remote island. She was married to a man named Najo. She conceived and gave birth to an egg she kept in a cave. A komodo dragon hatched out of the egg and was given the name Ora. A child, Gerong, was born at the same time.

As a youth, Gerong went out to hunt deer in a forest. He ran into Ora, who wanted to eat the deer being pursued. Gerong became enraged and was on the verge of killing Ora. The princess appeared at the last moment to remind them that they were twins. Gerong calmed down and behaved kindly toward Ora.
Read on for the full story at Kerry's site.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Horny Manatees?

You have to laugh at the weirdness of the web. The latest internet craze I'm seeing everywhere is the Horny Manatee that was first mentioned on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien".

On December 4th Conan O'Brien included the Horny Manatee in a segment on fake college mascots and gave out its web address as www.hornymanatee.com. Before the show went out on the air, NBC snapped up the HornyManatee.com domain name and set up a quick site. Unlike manatees, this one could have legs...

* Not totally kid-safe, but pretty funny, especially the Fan Art

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ebola 'kills over 5,000 gorillas'

BBC News has another article on the effect of the Ebola virus on the Western Lowland Gorillas of DR Congo.
More than 5,000 gorillas may have died in recent outbreaks of the Ebola virus in central Africa, a study says.

Scientists warn that, coupled with the commercial hunting of gorillas, it may be enough to push them to extinction.
The article concludes with an interesting fact about one transmission source of the Ebola virus.
The researchers concluded that the apes were not only infected by other species, such as fruit bats, but were also transmitting the virus among themselves.

Ebola was passing from group to group of the endangered animals, they found, and appeared to be spreading faster than in humans.

Outbreaks of the disease in humans have sometimes been traced to the bushmeat trade.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Baiji Dolphins: Baiji.org website and blog

Ian T. Graphics mentioned in the comments that Baiji.org has been running a blog called "Last Chance To Save" about the recent Baiji expedition which failed to locate ANY Baiji Dophins in the polluted and noisy Yangtze River.

We've linked to Baiji.org in the sidebar for a long time, but I didn't know about the expedition blog until today. I've got a busy schedule and I simply can't check out all these sites as regularly as I'd like. Wherever I can, I use RSS feeds to make sure their information gets to me, but occasionally I miss something important like this. I thank Ian and all the other little helpers who've helped me out with links to articles and webpages over the years.

Here's a snippet from the "Last Chance To Save" blog...
Today the Yangtze is strikingly clear. We are now two days below Yichang, and the impact of the dams is clearly visible: huge deposits of soil particles present in the swiftly flowing river have been captured by the reservoirs. It is half past six, another clear and sunny day lies ahead of us.
The current post on the main Baiji.org site is called "Hope Dies Last" and is makes saddening reading.
After 26 days of travel and 1750 kilometers, the expedition vessels have arrived in Shanghai December 2. Up to this point, the researchers have seen no baiji and less than 300 Yangtze finless porpoises. The expedition crew is discouraged, but there is still a chance too see some baiji on the way back to Wuhan.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Galapagos Islands: Dance of the boobies

In a follow-up to a previous post, Georgina Guedes, a South African woman travelling the world, has succeeded in seeing her Blue-Footed Boobies in mating season. Her entertaining Dance of the Boobies post is now online at News24.com.
Around the next corner the rocks were white with guano, and in every depression sat two or three blue-footed birds, all completely unflustered by our arrival. I had hoped, but not really dared to believe, that we would see their much-celebrated mating dance, and here it was, being performed in front of us in all its comic glory.

The intention of the dance is to draw as much attention as possible to the boobies' blue feet. When the male spots a female he likes, he waddles over to her and starts a little rolling march, lifting alternating feet quickly, and then lowering them slowly.

The whole time he's doing this, he looks immensely proud of himself, and once the female is finally won over, she joins in his dance, and it culminates in both of them pointing their beaks to the sky in a proud finale.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Baiji Dolphin: Expedition fails to find Yangtze River dolphin

The International Herald Tribune reports that the international team on the Yangtze River has failed to find a single Baiji Dolphin.
A nearly month long joint Chinese-foreign expedition has failed to spot a rare dolphin in a sign that its Yangtze River habitat is becoming increasingly despoiled by pollution and human activity, the Xinhua News Agency said Saturday.

The 30 Chinese and foreign scientists spent 26 days scouring 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles) of the Yangtze for the baiji or white-flag dolphin to no avail, Xinhua said. A previous expedition in 1997 found 13 baiji, it said.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Kakapo Parrots: A Visit to Codfish Island

An historical blog post has been republished at thinkoholic.com about the writer's visit to Whenua Hou or Codfish Island in December 2005. The post contains several photo gallerys including close-up shots of three different Kakapo Parrots. There's also a couple of sound-bites of a booming Kakapo, one played at a higher pitch to help you hear it.

The three Kakapos in the Kakapo Gallery are the male Ox, and females Pounamu and Poura, two chicks hatched in spring 2005.
i was already ..."in the general area" (new zealand, that is), so i seized the chance and participated in the kakapo recovery programme.

the other passengers on the little airplane were phil (kakapo officer) and matthias&emilie, an incredible couple from france.
as soon as we landed, we got to meet the other biologists on the island: malcolm (kakapo officer), ursula&thomas (a penguin-researcher couple living in NZ, originally from germany), xin (NZ) and eleanor (NZ).

yup, 9 biologists on an uninhabited island for 14 days. an incredible time to be had. :-)
Note: Here's our full list of all 86 Kakapo Parrots.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Extinct: ITV show reveals final two celebrities

A further press release from Endemol Productions has revealed the identities of the final two personalities taking part in their ITV endangered species show "Extinct".

Actress Sadie Frost will visit Indonesia's Orang-Utans and TV & Radio presenter Dermot O'Leary will visit the Leatherback Turtles.

The full list of endangered animals and visiting personalities is...
Viewers will play an important part in the live interactive television event, being produced by Endemol's recently launched factual arm Cheetah Television, by ringing in to pledge their support for the animals. The money raised will help fund projects on the ground dedicated to protecting the rare wildlife.

In an effort to ensure that Extinct is 'carbon neutral', ITV has committed funds towards carbon reduction schemes to offset the effects of carbon dioxide emitted during production.

ITV has also commissioned a daytime family quiz show to tie in with the series - Extinct: The Quiz.

Madagascar: Presidential election increases Slash and Burn

WildMadagascar.org reports on a disturbing increase in deforestation or Slash & Burn as the people of Madagascar prepare to go to the polls on December 3rd for a Presidential election. The destruction is devastating news for the endangered lemurs on the island.
"Hell just started here," said Eric Mathieu (www.marojejy.com), a French conservationist who has lived in Andapa in northeast Madagascar for 13 years while working to preserve Marojejy National Park and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve. "The slash-and-burn is far worse than usual this year. With presidential elections coming, there is no control. You just have to sit and watch as a useless witness as the forests burn. Large portion of primary forests outside protected areas have been destroyed on the road from Sambava-Andapa. While the politicians campaign, the forests burn. Lemurs are losing habitat"

Struan Sutherland: Snakebite victims getting wrong first aid

The Courier Mail ran a story recently on research into the effective use of first aid on snake bite victims in Australia. The research's conclusion is that 66% of victims are not getting the best treatment, despite the well publicized recommendations of the late Dr Struan Sutherland (purveyor of fairy cakes to Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine in Last Chance To See).
"This is a tragedy," said Dr Noel Eatough, a registrar who reviewed the medical records of children admitted to Perth's Princess Margaret Hospital between 1994 and 2004.

He found only 33 per cent of the 151 children had had the best treatment, a pressure immobilisation bandage wrapped around the limb with the right pressure to limit the spread of venom.
[...]
Dr Eatough said he was disappointed parents did not seem to be aware of the bandaging, developed by renowned scientist Dr Struan Sutherland in the 1970s.

"It is an Australian invention ... now used around the world," he said. "It saves lives, so it is something all parents should be aware of."
As we all know, Struan's best advice regarding snakes is "DON'T GET BITTEN"!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Baiji Dolphins: On the trail of the Yangtze's lost dolphin

Some more extensive coverage here of the current Yangtze Baiji expedition. This Guardian article by Jonathan Watts suggests that there has been a single unconfirmed sighting of a Baiji Dolphin this year (prior to the current expedition), but nothing has been seen by these scientists so far. Depressing indeed.

The article includes a 16 page slideshow which features a picture of Qi Qi, the Baiji Dolphin that lived at the Wuhan Aquarium for 22 years before dying of old age in 2002.
Murky water, hazy sky and dull brown riverbanks. Strained eyes peering into the mist. Ears tuned electronically into the depths. And with each hour, each day that passes, a nagging question that grows louder: is this how a species ends after 20 million years on earth?

When they write the environmental history of early 21st-century China, the freshwater dolphin expedition now plying the Yangtze river may be seen as man's farewell to an animal it once worshipped. A team of the world's leading marine biologists is making a last-gasp search for the baiji, a dolphin that was revered as the goddess of Asia's mightiest river but is now probably the planet's most endangered mammal.

Pink Pigeons: Green eco-tourist track replaces multi-lane highway plan

Barely a year after a controversial multi-lane highway project was shelved, some great news from the island about a eco-tourist track that is being set up instead. The highway would have devastated the area so this is a fabulous alternative project.
The anniversary was worth a celebration. A year after giving up the idea of cutting down thousands of trees inside Ferney valley to build the South-Eastern highway, Ciel Properties Ltd have inaugurated the first eco-tourist track. The Ferney valley – or at least part of it– has been open to the public since Saturday for everyone to measure its importance for the Mauritian natural heritage and to take advantage of its beauties.
[...]
According to this survey, a Ferney Forest Conservation area will be defined and all exotic plants destroyed within this zone to allow all endemic plants to grow properly. The company will make sure that rare birds are protected and will even re-introduce endemic species such as the pink pigeon or the "cateau verte".
Full story at lexpress.mu.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Komodo Dragons: Walking with Dragons

Regular Another Chance To See reader November Tan contacted me to tell me about a two-part Komodo Dragon Field Journal written by Charith Pelpola. Charith is a TV/Documentary writer-director whose work has appeared on Discovery's Animal Planet. These are a great couple of posts from Charith on their "Lost In The Jungle" blog, and loads of great Komodo Dragon pictures too! Good stuff.

From Part 1 - Walking With Dragons
Now I began to realize how film crews before ours had managed to capture such awesome closeups of the dragons. It could well have been just a case of, "Ok, let's just park the boat over here, set up camera on the beach over there, throw some chunks of meat around the place, have a cup of tea and a few sandwiches while the dragons plod over, shoot a few rolls, pack up and head back home."

Kind of demystifies the whole illusion of dangerous wildlife film-making doesn't it?
From Part 2 - Walking With Dragons
Its not long before the sounds of frantic scurrying and scrabbling among the rocks and boulders reveal the presence of juvenile dragons, rushing for cover. Dragons have famously earned themselves a reputation as a cannibalistic species - and rightly so, although most victims end up being the youngsters who accidently get in the way of an adult during its feeding frenzy.

Juvenile dragons have come up with a novel 'cannibal anti-deterrent'. They smear themselves in the faecal matter of fallen prey. Even catholic eaters like Komodo Dragons, with their wide-ranging menu, still draw the line when it comes to faecal matter...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Komodo Dragon Swallows Pig

Here's a couple more frightening videos of Komodo Dragons in all their voracious glory.

Komodo Dragon Swallows Pig

Komodo Dragon Swallows Goat

Komodo Dragon Swallows Goat (Part II)

For more Komodo Dragon video clips, check out last week's post - Live Deer For Lunch?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Gorillas: Love-hungry apes move to island

The BBC has an interesting story about lowland gorillas that have been straying into local villages looking for a mate.
Five male gorillas in the Republic of Congo that have been straying into villages in search of love are to get their very own "bachelor island". They began roaming for mates after being squeezed out by dominant males.

Work has begun to convert 60 acres of the Lefini Reserve that is surrounded by rivers into a self-contained home. The animals were orphaned as a result of the bushmeat trade and then sold into the illegal pet market before being rescued, conservationists said.
Full story at BBC News.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Kakapo Parrots: "Code of the Kakapo" documentary film

Scott Mouat of ELWIN Productions kindly wrote to tell me about the opportunity he has had recently to follow the Kakapo Recovery Team and film their progress for a new natural history documentary feature film called "Code of the Kakapo". The trailer for the film is available at the bottom of that web page and looks GREAT! Check it out now!
Code of the Kakapo

Over the past 30 years mankind has battled to ensure the survival the world's rarest wild parrot. The kakapo, pushed to the brink of extinction by introduced predators, is down to its last breeding population, a population plagued by infertility. The kakapo recovery team must find a cure.

Cutting edge science has broken the kakapo's genetic code and uncovered the reason for their poor hatching success. Almost all the surviving birds are descended from an inbred Stewart Island population, unable to breed with kakapo from other populations their gene pool is diminishing and if left unchecked it could be disastrous for the species.
[...]
This film will follow the dramatic events that unfold as the recovery team battles to save the species.
I've asked Scott to keep us all informed on Code of the Kakapo's progress and to let us know how we can get to see it once it is complete.

I'm sure I speak for all Last Chance To See and Kakapo Parrot fans when I wish Scott the very best of luck with this very splendid and worthwhile venture.

Plus, the latest news from the Elwin Productions site is that filming is underway on Ulva Island for another film about the island, its flora and fauna. Ulva was home to Sirocco the Kakapo Parrot during this year's Kakapo Encounter.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Douglas Adams: Thanks

On this Thanksgiving Day, let me send my thanks to Douglas Adams for giving us all those crazy, hilarious stories such as "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", his hilarious "Meaning of Liff" and "Last Chance To See" of course.

Here's Douglas Adams' "Last Interview" video as posted recently on YouTube

And another video tribute to Douglas Adams

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Endangered Animals: Going, Going, Gone

I was browsing through this new book about endangered animals in the bookshop the other day. It's quite nice.
To compile this book, 100 conservation groups around the world were each asked to nominate one animal or plant that gave them cause for concern. One species under threat of extinction. One symbol of the fight to save the ever-vanishing natural world around us.

What species did they choose? And how can you help them save these animals and plants?

"Going, Going, Gone" holds the answers.

100 animals and plants. One book. One last chance.
The book features a double page spread for every animal or plant, information on current status and estimated population. Each page also contains a box-out of "What you can do" with charity and conservation organization information.

Species featured include the Bengal Tiger, Giant Panda, Water Vole, Corncockle, Polar Bear, Snow Leopard, Red-breasted Goose, Northern Right Whale and many more.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture

Details have been announced for the Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture. The presentation will be made by Dr Richard Leakey and is entitled "Wildlife management in East Africa – Is there a future?".

The lecture takes place at 7.30pm on Thursday 15 March 2007 at the Royal Geographic Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7. Tickets will be £12, with a pay bar before and after the Lecture, and they are available now from www.savetherhino.org or Zoe at Save the Rhino, Email: zoe_AT_savetherhino.org.
Save the Rhino International and the Environmental Investigation Agency are co-hosting the Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture, a talk by Dr Richard Leakey, on Thursday 15 March at the Royal Geographic Society in London SW7. In this talk, Dr Leakey will draw on his own experiences in Kenya, as founder and Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service and as the Head of Kenya's Civil Service to reflect on the successes, current problems and future challenges.

Richard Erskine Leakey was born on 19 December 1944, the second of Louis and Mary Leakey's three sons. Quickly following in his parents’ footsteps, his first career was in the field of paleoanthropology, with many important finds including (with Alan Walker in 1984), "Turkana Boy," a Homo erectus roughly 1.6 million years old, one of the most complete skeletons ever found. In 1968, aged just 24, Richard Leakey was appointed Director of the National Museums of Kenya.

In 1989 Richard left his post to become Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. In this capacity, he spearheaded efforts to end rampant elephant poaching, but he made political enemies in the process. Nonetheless, the elephant population has since stabilised and continues to grow. In 1993 Leakey survived a serious plane crash and the following year he resigned as director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, though he continues to be active in political and environmental arenas.

As the former Director of Kenya's National Museums and former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, he has used his leadership skills and considerable influence to raise money for the preservation of Kenyan culture and wildlife. Never one to back down on a challenge, in 1995 Richard Leakey took a stand against corruption in Kenya’s government by forming Safina, an opposition party. Despite being subjected to beatings, death threats, and constant government surveillance, Leakey has continued his crusade for political justice. Although no longer active in fieldwork, Dr Leakey, as one of the foremost authorities on wildlife and nature conservation, continues to educate others about the dangers of environmental degradation through his many lectures and books.

The lecture is in aid of Save the Rhino International and the Environmental Investigation Agency, two charities supported by Douglas Adams. Douglas developed his deep-seated interest in wildlife conservation during a 1985 visit to Madagascar, which eventually resulted in a book (Last Chance to See) about the plight of species facing extinction. Douglas Adams died unexpectedly in 2001 at the age of 49. These Memorial Lectures continue to explore the themes in which Douglas was so interested.


Dr Leakey’s books include: Wildlife Wars: My Battle to Save Kenya's Elephants (paperback, August 2002, PanMacmillan, RRP £7.99); The Sixth Extinction: Biodiversity and Its Survival with Roger Lewin (paperback, November 1996, Phoenix Press, RRP £7.99); and Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human also with Roger Lewin (paperback, October 1993, Abacus, RRP £10.99).

Douglas Adams created all the various and contradictory manifestations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: radio, novels, TV, film, computer games, stage adaptations, comic book and bath towel. For more information about Douglas Adams and his creations, please visit www.douglasadams.com

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an international campaigning organisation committed to investigating and exposing environmental crime. Since 1984, EIA has used pioneering investigative techniques all over the world to expose the impact of environmental crime and to seek lasting solutions. More info at www.eia-international.org

Save the Rhino International works to conserve genetically viable populations of critically endangered rhinoceros species in the wild. We do this by providing financial and in-kind support for rhino- and community-based conservation projects in Africa and Asia. More info at www.savetherhino.org

Tickets are on sale now. Simply download the form and send it in with your cheque, alternatively phone the office on 0207 357 7474 and pay over the phone.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rhinos: British soldiers kill white rhino

The BBC is among several news sites reporting that four British soldiers had no option but to shoot and kill a White Rhino that charged at them. The incident occurred in Laikipia, Kenya, just north of the capital Nairobi.
The four soldiers were confronted by the adult male after they got lost at night on an exercise in the bush.
[...]
Laikipia conservancy senior game warden Dickson Too said the soldiers had been "forced to shoot at it".

"We don't consider it a deliberate act of killing, they were just acting in self-defence," he said.
Full story at BBC News.

Other websites reporting this incident suggest that White Rhino numbers in Kenya have dwindled to about 170 animals.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

BBC Radio: Planet Earth Under Threat

Coming up on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 20th November (9:00-9:30pm) is a new series of Planet Earth Under Threat presented by Gabrielle Walker. In the first show she witnesses the melting of the Greenland icecap, sees the effects of warming on corals in the Pacific and discovers how changing rainfall is causing the lemurs of Madagascar to suffer. But the news is not all bad - the red fox and the moose are on the march.

The show has its own blog at Planet Earth Under Threat, and each episode will be available online for 7 days following the broadcast. Episode One.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mountain Gorillas : Gorilla Baby Dies from Broken Arm

November's Field News from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund reports sad news from Pablo's Group. The staff of the Karisoke Research Center have reported that a baby born to Maggie on October 9th 2006 has died.
One month after his birth, the infant was observed with a swollen right arm. It was later established that the upper arm was broken. The incident that led to the wound is unknown. It is possible that the infant was hurt during an aggressive interaction between Maggie and another group member. The field veterinarians from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project monitored the situation. Frustratingly, there is little that we can do to assist in such situations in the wild. If the infant had survived the injury we do not believe that he would have had a good quality of life with no chance of using that arm for walking or manipulating food items.
Full story at DFGFI Field News page.

Baiji Dolphins : Rare Yangtze River Dolphin in Peril

The Discovery Channel's News site has more information on the Baiji river dolphin research expedition currently taking place on the Yangtze River in China.
The baiji, believed to be among the world's oldest fresh-water mammals, may already be extinct but an international team of scientists and ecologists are hoping against formidable odds that the dolphin has survived.

"We are just hoping the baiji are still here," Brent Stewart, a research biologist from Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute in San Diego, said aboard the Kekao One, one of the expedition's ships.
[...]
The objective of the six-week expedition is to find, count and observe the baiji, then capture them and put them in a safer home such as an aquatic reserve.

In a nine-day trip in March researchers failed to find a single baiji, which relies on its highly developed sonar system instead of its eyes.
Read on for the full story at the Discovery Channel.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mark Carwardine : Save The Tiger lecture report

Many thanks to David Haddock, supporter and regular contributer to Another Chance To See, who sends us this report on his evening at the Save The Tiger Illustrated Lecture. The event took place on November 7th in London to raise money for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, and Last Chance To See co-author Mark Carwardine was on hand to talk about his experiences "In Search of Endangered Mammals".

David writes...
At the Save the Tiger event at the Royal Geographical Society in London last week Lyn Hughes from the magazine Wanderlust introduced the evening. She commented that the Tiger was suffering a crisis and that the most recent poaching has been to service to Tibetan market where a growing middle class has become enamored of Tiger skins. The Dali Lama has spoken out against this fashion, but this just lead to the Chinese government ordering TV presenters to wear them.

Lyn introduced a film on the work of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, narrated by Rula Lenska (who was in the Hitchhiker's radio series, another Douglas Adams link) and included various other celebrities: Gary Lineker, Jackie Chan, Minnie Driver and Ralph Fiennes, all of whom spoke the line, "When the buying stops, the killing can too", in a plea to get people to stop the market for endangered species items.

After the short film David Shepherd the wildlife artist spoke. He initially commented that he knew little about wildlife which was why he had brought his friend and colleague Mark Carwardine. He went on to talk about his first tiger encounters, both in the wild and captivity, before ending with a story of trying to explain to an Indian tourist official who was bemoaning the state of the Taj Mahal that the building could be rebuilt, but if the tiger becomes extinct then the species cannot be brought back to life.

Mark Carwardine then spoke discussing the work of the foundation through the world as he has recently been auditing their projects. He said he was here to do the factual stuff which David was there to be inspiring. Mark began with some stark numbers on the status of mammals in the world. 1095 of the 5416 named species are considered endangered, that is 20%! This includes mice and bats as well as the more charismatic rhino and tigers.

Mark mentioned that he had recently been in Burundi and seen the Gorilla who are just about hanging on, and also been swimming with Manatee in Florida where all the animals have propeller scars, before moving onto the story of a manatee relative, Steller's Sea Cow. These twenty-five foot long animals were discovered in the Bering Straits in the mid eighteenth century by a group of shipwrecked sailor who hunted and ate them whilst building a replacement boat. Within 27 years the whole population had been exterminated, although Mark holds out a hope that somewhere in the area there may be a surviving population. The Tasmanian Tiger is another famous extinct mammal, and Mark showed the picture of one at Hobart Zoo in 1933. There used to be a government bounty for killing these animals, but now there is one for finding one alive.

Mark then mentioned his trip with Douglas Adams for the book and radio series, Last Chance To See. He chuckled that the two of them had bumbled round the world for eighteen months looking for nine animals, of which two were mammals. Back in 1990, he said, there were an estimated 100 Yangtze River Dolphin, but that none had been seen recently and that unfortunately the photograph he took might become as famous as the Tasmanian Tiger picture as one of the last of a lost species. The other mammal was the Northern White Rhino. Mark and Douglas saw 8 of the 22 alive when they visited in 1991 in one three hour flight, but now, he said, there are possibly just 6. The African Lion he warned could be next. Although there are 20,000 left, that represents a decline of 96% in 60 years. The warning signs are there, that is a faster decline that the tiger, the problem is that we generally leave things very late to try and save these animals.

Returning to his travels visiting David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation projects he said that recently he had been shot at, bitten, headbutted by a Rhino and more. In Mongolia the foundation is working with the nomads to stop them killing the snow leopards which sometimes attack their Yaks. To do this they have mobilised the female population by buying clothing made from the Yak wool, and paying a bonus when there are no recorded leopard killings in the area. Pressure on the elephant population has seen them move from the ear-torn Congo encroach on villages in Uganda, trampling crops and also men sent to protect the crops. Paying the people to build a 20km elephant trench has reduced the trampling problem. In Siberia, where Mark was shot at, the foundation fund anti-poaching patrols that are attempting to protect the tigers in the fairly lawless area to the north of Vladivostok.

The final project that Mark talked about was Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam in North-East India. It contains 1850 Indian Rhino, approximately three-quarters of the total population, and also a signification population of tigers. Buying basic equipment such as bicycles, radios and torches for the rangers the foundation has helped this become one of the most successful parks in terms of reduced poaching. Mark's bottom line was that it is people that make a difference, and that the foundation has a great track record of finding the right people and getting them involved.

The talks were followed by a raffle and auction of wildlife art to raise more money for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

Rhinos : Scientists Crack Rhino Horn Riddle

ScienceDaily has news of a recent study of rhino horns undertaken at Ohio University. The researchers have been examining the heads of rhinos that died of natural causes at local zoos and safari parks, and their findings are going a long way to explaining why the rhino horn gets its distinctive curve and pointed tip.
Rhinoceros horns have long been objects of mythological beliefs. Some cultures prize them for their supposed magical or medicinal qualities. Others have used them as dagger handles or good luck charms.
[...]
The horns of most animals have a bony core covered by a thin sheath of keratin, the same substance as hair and nails. Rhino horns are unique, however, because they are composed entirely of keratin. Scientists had been puzzled by the difference, but the Ohio University study now has revealed an interesting clue: dark patches running through the center of the horns.
Full story at ScienceDaily.com.

Thanks to Robert for this story.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Komodo Dragons - Live deer for lunch? (VIDEO)

Here's a few YouTube videos of Komodo Dragons eating. If you're having your breakfast, lunch or dinner I recommend you don't watch these. Yuck! Pretty horrific videos.

Eating a deer while still alive! - "Walking around on Rinca, an island next to Komodo, we heard a deer screaming. Going into the direction of the sound, we found this Komodo dragon having 'live' breakfast."

Swallowing lunch whole...

Rats for dinner?

Baiji Dolphins - International six-week study has begun

The Shanghai Daily has a brief note on a new, six-week study being undertaken by scientists from six countries, including China, USA, UK and Switzerland on the Yangtze and any endangered Chinese river dolphins that may be left in those murky, noisy waters.
The research began in Wuhan, Hubei Province and will wrap up in Shanghai. The Chinese river dolphin is an aquatic mammal found only in China's Yangtze River and is listed as an endangered species. The research is being funded by Anheuser-Busch, the brewery responsible for Budweiser, which has put up 500,000 yuan (US$62,500).
Full story at ShanghaiDaily.com.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mountain Gorillas - YouTube videos

Here's a few more Gorilla Trekking videos, as posted on the recently Google-acquired YouTube.com. The first one features some cute young gorillas frolicking on a small tree. It's a cute, funny video, and had the potential for a hilarious conclusion if the tree had sprung back with a bit more speed. Wheeeeeeeee!! Flying Gorillas!!



The poster of these videos (megcronin) also has a couple more videos on his profile of rural Rwanda and a Rwandan village.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mountain Gorillas - Gorilla News Reports Roundup

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda arrived in Tokyo on November 6th for a three day official visit to Japan.
President Kagame received a courtesy call from Mr Osamu Watanabe, CEO and Chairman of the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO). JETRO facilitates trade between Japan and Africa by helping Japanese companies to export and also assist foreign companies to enter the Japanese market. Mr Watanabe congratulated President Kagame for establishing stability in Rwanda and for the current efforts in economic development and reconstruction.
[...]
He also noted that tourism was a promising sector in Rwanda, with the ability to attract Japanese tourists visiting the region, to experience the mountain gorilla tracking and other eco-tourism attractions.
Visit allAfrica.com for the full story.

And on the role of Mountain Gorillas in endangered species tourism, The East African Magazine reports that...
Uganda, Rwanda , and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to harmonise fees charged for gorilla tracking permits in order not to lose revenue to the migratory behaviour of the gorillas across the two countries' borders.

The countries want to review and standardise gorilla tracking permit fees to $500 for foreign non residents and $475 for foreign residents as of July 1, 2007, to back the plan to manage the migratory trans-boundary gorillas.

The three countries charge different fees, which makes it difficult to share revenue when the primates crossed borders.
Visit The East African Magazine for the full story.

National Geographic reports that a form of HIV has been found in wild gorillas in western central Africa.
This is the first time the AIDS-causing virus has been detected in primates other than chimps and humans.

It is also the "first time someone has looked at HIV infection in wild living gorillas," said Martine Peeters, a virologist at the French government's Institut de Recherche Pour le Développement and at the University of Montpellier, France.
[...]
Researchers did not survey the mountain gorilla subspecies, which lives in East Africa.
Visit National Geographic for the full story.

Finally, visit the Bronx Zoo website in New York for their Great Gorilla Forest page which includes pictures of gorillas (specifically their Western Lowland Gorillas). They also have a very short video on their Virtual Tour.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Save The Rhino - A Christmas Flab Saver?

I received a very nice email from an official at Save The Rhino last week, thanking us for our efforts on the "Another Chance To See Fundraiser". We've raised £50 so far, and with Christmas just around the corner I thought it might be a good time to ask for a small donation towards the rhinos. Just one or two pounds will be helpful!

Look, do you really need another box of Christmas chocolates? Save the Rhino and your waistline at the same time! Put the chocolates back and apply the money to our fundraiser! If you look at some of these notices from the Save The Rhino website you'll see that every little bit helps...

Douglas Adams was a great supporter and patron of Save The Rhino so please help us towards our target with any amount you can spare. Just a couple of quid will help if we pool our resources. Anyone in the world can donate, because the JustGiving website will convert your credit card donation to GB pounds automatically. Thanks everyone, and merry Christmas rhinos everywhere!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ENDANGERED ANIMALS NEWS - A brief roundup

Here's a brief round-up of some endangered animals news stories that caught my eye recently with three articles from the BBC.

Hugh O'Shaughnessy went to Peru to visit the territory of the Spectacled Bears, the creatures that Stephen Fry visited for his Last Chance To See-esque book "Rescuing the Spectacled Bear". The bears are being threatened by aggressive economic development in the region.
For me, the exchange with Captain Sutcliffe high in the mountains perfectly encapsulated a situation which in one form or another is becoming ever more common in Peru.

This country is a genuine treasure trove of mineral riches.

It is the world's largest producer of silver and there is lead, copper, zinc, molybdenum - known as "Molly" in the trade - and much more.

I was saddened to hear about the fate of 1,000 or so endangered Orang-Utans in Borneo which have perished as a result of the forest fires that have been burning there for months.
Fires on the island of Borneo may have killed up to 1,000 orangutans, say animal protection workers in Indonesia.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation says the animals are facing severe problems as their natural habitat is burnt away.

Rescue workers have found several dead orangutans in burnt-out areas, but have no way of reaching animals still trapped in the burning forests.

Prince Charles has spoken out on behalf of the beautiful Albatross.
[...]he believes the world has a duty to save the endangered albatross from extinction.

The heir to the British throne said the demise of the iconic sea-bird would be "such an appalling commentary on the way we treat the world".

Campaigners say about 100,000 birds drown each year after becoming caught on longline fishing hooks.

The Prince of Wales made his comments in TVE's Earth Report programme, to be broadcast on BBC World this weekend.

Another recent BBC News article has highlighted yet another big game poaching problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo - The Hippopotamus.

Hippos in the country are now within a few months of extinction. Zoological Society of London researchers have said that the population has dropped by 50% in just two weeks!
They say the Mai Mai militia has set up camp in Virunga National Park and catches the animals for meat and ivory.

The hippo entered the Red List of Threatened Species this year, and is declining in many parts of Africa.

ZSL says the militia killed hundreds of hippos in a two week period, and numbers now are below 400.

Its scientists warn the entire population may disappear before the end of the year without urgent action.

Finally, I came across this marvellous animal slide-show at MSNBC.com. Some of the animals are rare, some not so rare, but most of these pictures are superb. Click each animal picture to move onto the next one.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

RODRIGUES FRUIT BATS - Going batty over bats

Nancy Thompson writes a KidSpace article for the Christian Science Monitor site all about her visit to Oregon Zoo, Portland to see their Bat exhibit.
As I walked up to part of the Africa exhibit at the Oregon Zoo, in Portland, a pair of big brown eyes gazed curiously into mine. They were looking at me upside down; the sleek-furred creature with a foxlike face was hanging by its back feet. It was one of the world's most abundant mammals: bats.

The exhibit contained numerous tree branches, and green mesh spanned its ceiling. Three species of fruit bats hung from the branches and the mesh: a straw-colored bat, an Egyptian bat, and an endangered Rodrigues bat.
Read the full article at the Christian Science Monitor.

And here's the Oregon Zoo Africa Rainforest Exhibit page, including the Rodrigues Flying Fox. The page includes a video of "Adorable Baby Bats", available for download in QuickTime or Windows Media formats.
Completed in 1991, bats and a variety of tropical birds and waterfowl live in this tangle of lush vegetation.

In the Bamba du Jon Swamp building, visitors experience tropical thunder, lightening and a torrential downpour that passes over endangered slender-snouted crocodiles, lung fish and frogs.

In the Kongo Ranger Station, kids and adults get a hands-on educational experience and learn about the people of the rain forest, as well as the threats that animals face.

Monday, November 06, 2006

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Denver Gorilla Run a primal, sweaty event

Brendan Leonard took part in last Saturday's Denver Great Gorilla Run, and makes his amusing report over at YourHub.com.

Well done Brendan! (Picture by Emily Shull)
This past Saturday, I was running down Wynkoop Street in a full gorilla suit, wheezing through the nose holes of the mask, thinking I hadn't sweated that much since two-a-day football practices during the hottest week of the Iowa summer.

I was young and dumb when I played football. Now I have no excuse for my behavior -- except that I'm helping save a bunch of mountain gorillas I'll probably never see since they all live in east Africa.
[...]
The Most Creative Gorilla contest motivated many participants to go above and beyond the standard gorilla costume -- there was a Hugh Hefner gorilla (and a Playboy Bunny gorilla), a gorilla carrying a 7-foot tall beer bottle and wearing a beer can, an elaborate King Kong gorilla complete with a plane circling his head, and many others.
There's even a picture of the Britney Spears and Kevin Federline gorillas! I wonder who'll get custody of the gorilla babies?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS - First step to test tube rhinos

PhysOrg.com has an interesting article on a new breakthrough by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. They have succeeded in harvesting egg cells from a black rhino for the purpose of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

This is the team who were instrumental in getting Lulu pregnant. Lulu is the Northern White Rhino at Budapest Zoo, but very sadly Lulu had a miscarriage in 2005.
The collected ova were matured in a test tube and were successfully fertilised with rhino sperm but they did not continue to grow into embryos. Nevertheless, the result is a major breakthrough.
[...]
Supported by the veterinary surgeons Benn Bryant and Tim Portas from the Western Plains Zoo [Australia], the Berlin team took egg cells from a black rhino called “Muzi”. The animal had become infertile. Thomas Hildebrandt from the IZW says: “Our method can be applied to all rhino species and subspecies.” That is particularly interesting for those rhino cows that can no longer bear calves. If embryos were produced by IVF, surrogate mothers could deliver them. “Using IVF, we could increase the genetic diversity of rhino populations as well as help preserve the acutely threatened northern white rhino”, says [IZW-veterinarian Robert] Hermes.

LAST CHANCE TO BE - Jonathan Barratt heads for Ghana

In July 2006, Jonathan Barratt gave up his UK life of car and big TV to go and work for Voluntary Service Overseas. He leaves for Ghana on 26th Nov 2006, and will be recording a journal of his experiences at "...the change you want to see..." (LastChanceToBe.com). Yes, Jon's favourite book is Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams.

He is running a fundraiser, and has already raised £230.00 for the VSO.

Very best of luck Jon! I'll be adding a permanent link to your site very soon, and I will be following your adventures with interest.

Monday, October 30, 2006

BLOG THEFT - AnotherChanceToSee is being stolen

I regret to inform my loyal readers that this Another Chance To See blog (http://anotherchancetosee.blogspot.com) is being stolen and reformatted by an unknown Blogspot user in India. I have found two blogs that are using my template, republishing my full RSS feed and hotlinking to my webspace images. I have contacted Blogspot etc to report the violation, and get his accounts shutdown.

Please bear with me while I try and get this situation rectified. I will be making some image modifications to my webspace in the next day or so, so please stand by until normal service is resumed.

**UPDATE 1** (Monday)
The two offending sites have been removed, presumably by the perpetrator. I assume he saw that I was on to him. For the time being, I have truncated my RSS feed. Apologies for any inconvenience.

**UPDATE 2** (Monday)
I have received an email apology from the perpetrator. I consider the matter closed.

**UPDATE 3** (Wednesday)
This site is still receiving some strange traffic relating to this incident, but all relevant organizations have been notified of this atypical behaviour.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

EXTINCT - William Hill opens book for endangered species TV show

CasinoTimes reports that the bookmaker William Hill has opened the betting on ITV's new endangered animals show "Extinct" (see yesterday's post). The Giant Panda (to be visited by Poirot's David Suchet) is the current favourite at 15/8.
"We think the public hold the Giant Panda in huge affection and are confident they will receive a huge percentage of the votes." said William Hill's spokesman Rupert Adams.

Animal With Most Votes - Extinct: 15/8 Giant Panda, 7/2 Polar Bear, 5/1 Bengal Tiger, 5/1 Orang-utan, 8/1 Asian Elephant, 9/1 Mountain Gorilla, 10/1 Hyacinth Macaw, 14/1 Leatherback Turtle.

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS - Time to see some boobies

Georgina Guedes is a South African woman travelling the world. She is beside herself with excitement at the prospect of seeing a blue-footed booby, and writes about her experiences for News24.com.
When I was a child, at the time when other little girls were sticking up posters of Tom Cruise in Cocktail, I harboured a deep and abiding passion for Gerald Durrell, the famous naturalist who wrote "My Family and Other Animals".

Aside from finding his long, English face handsome, and enjoying his quirky sense of humour, I thought that we would have lots to talk about. I come from an interesting family, and so did he, and we both have an interest in the wildlife with which we share this planet.

At around the same time as I was fantasising about walking on the sun-soaked beaches of Corfu with Mr Durrell, I also happened to watch a television program on the Galapagos Islands, although at the time I mistakenly called them The Archipelago Islands.
Read on at News24.com.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

EXTINCT - Reality TV show to save endangered animals?

Well I've heard of everything now. The Times Online has news of new TV show called "Extinct", to be broadcast by ITV during their Christmas schedules. It looks like another version of Sky One's "Final Chance To Save", which was highly derivative of "Last Chance To See" to begin with!

"Extinct" will use a phone and internet vote by the public to decide which endangered animal gets helped. This strikes me as a very weird concept indeed, but anything which highlights the plight of endangered animals in a prime-time slot has to be a good thing.

The animals and "animal champions" featured in the programme will be...
  • The Bengal tiger [Pauline Collins]
  • The Mountain Gorilla [Graeme Le Saux]
  • The Giant Panda [David Suchet]
  • The Asian elephant [Sue Johnston]
  • The Polar Bear [Anneka Rice]
  • The Orang-Utan [TBA]
  • The Leatherback Turtle [TBA]
  • The Hyacinth Macaw [Michael Portillo]
Having voted off Big Brother contestants and decided which crumbling ancient buildings should be restored, television viewers are now being asked to choose which animal to save from extinction.

Eight of the world’s most endangered animals are to feature in a Restoration-style programme hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald and Zoë Ball.
[...]
Suggestions that there was an element of sick purience to the show were shrugged off amid promises that all the animals would gain from the broadcasts and not just the winning species.

Charlie Gardner of Endemol, which is making the show for ITV, said: "The programme is putting popular spin on a serious topic. It’s not something to be ashamed of."
Endemol link - "Extinct"
ITV link - "Extinct"

Monday, October 23, 2006

MARK CARWARDINE - Illustrated lecture, Tuesday November 7th

Quick note from Dave Haddock at the Douglas Adams fan club ZZ9.
Mark is teaming up with David Shepherd, the wildlife artist, to give an illustrated lecture at the Royal Geographic Society in London, as part of an evening of tiger conservation on Tuesday 7th November.

Details at http://www.davidshepherd.org
Tickets are £15 from www.ticketzone.co.uk
Mark's segment of the "Save The Tiger" lecture is entitled "In search of endangered mammals".

Sunday, October 22, 2006

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Gorilla Trafficking

This month's Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Newsletter tackles the topic of Gorilla Trafficking.
DFGFI's Karisoke Research Center is currently taking an active role in the care and rehabilitation of seven confiscated young gorillas. These gorillas are the result of illegal incidents in several areas and were confiscated from poachers by local authorities. Since they are too young to survive on their own, the Fossey Fund, along with several other groups (the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, the Rwandan office of tourism and national parks - ORTPN and the park service in the Democratic Republic of Congo - ICCN) is providing care for them.
Full story at the DFGFI website.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

MARK CARWARDINE - The Beast in the Sediment

The BBC News site has the results of the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award, organized by BBC Wildlife Magazine and London's Natural History Museum. One of the competition judges was Douglas Adams' co-writer on Last Chance To See, the zoologist and broadcaster Mark Carwardine.

The winner of the competition this year is Goran Ehlme from Sweden. His winning photograph is a spectacular shot of walrus feeding on clams on the sea floor.
[Goran] caught the magic moment on a digital camera and deleted many unwanted shots.

"My finger was poised to delete this one too, and then I noticed something special," he told the BBC News website.
[...]
It was while the walrus had gone to the surface for air. Underwater, with a mask on, with a housing around the camera, it was really hard to see the little screen; but I suddenly thought 'wow!, there's his head in the cloud'.

"It looked really great."

The judges certainly thought the image was very powerful.

"It's got everything, the feel of the picture is interesting, your attention goes straight to the eye. A very simple graphic image showing interesting behaviour," said chairman of the judges, Mark Carwardine.
Read the full background behind this amazing wildlife photograph and the other four winners at BBC News - Beast in Sediment .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS - Charles Darwin's works go online

I've been in something of a Charles Darwin mood lately, and I note with interest the news about a new effort from Cambridge University that brings some 50,000 digitised, searchable pages of text and 40,000 images to the web. The BBC Science and Nature article goes on to say...
Surfers with MP3 players can even access downloadable audio files.

The resource is aimed at serious scholars, but can be used by anyone with an interest in Darwin and his theory on the evolution of life.

"The idea is to make these important works as accessible as possible; some people can only get at Darwin that way," said Dr John van Wyhe, the project's director.
[...]
Darwin Online features many newly transcribed or never-before-published manuscripts written by the great man.

These include a remarkable field notebook from his famous Beagle voyage to the Galapagos Islands, where detailed observations of the wildlife would later forge his scientific arguments.
The Darwin Online site seems to be struggling under heavy load right now but I will be very interested to see exactly what they have to offer when their web server recovers.

During my recent vacation back to England and the beautiful Lake District area (I highly recommend The Old Vicarage Bed and Breakfast in Ambleside) I was lucky enough to catch an episode of the BBC's new nature series "Galapagos". Superb filming as always, but unfortunately it doesn't look like the series has its own website.

I also caught an episode of Radio 4's Nature which explored the "The Sounds Of Galapagos" behind the TV series. That show is still available for audio streaming.

And finally, I dug up my old Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions that featured Charles Darwin.

Starring Colin Baker as the 6th Doctor and featuring the Silurians reptilian race (who first appeared with Jon Pertwee in the early 70s), the play "Bloodtide" is still available on CD from Amazon.co.uk, direct from Big Finish, or from WhoNA in North America.
The prehistoric Earth is dying. Thunderclouds roll across the skies, cloaking the land in darkness. The seas crash and boil as the rain turns to acid. The remnants of the Silurian race place themselves in suspended animation, deep below the surface. One day they will awaken and reclaim their world...

The TARDIS has landed on the Galapagos Islands, a desolate outcrop of rocks shrouded in mist and fear. In the settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there are rumours that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from the gaolhouse. A fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves. And the Doctor and Evelyn are not the only new arrivals; there is also a young natural philosopher by the name of Charles Darwin...
This style of "old time radio" never died out in the UK like it did in the USA. Marvellous CD releases like this, plus shows from BBC Radio 4 and BBC7 keep me sane on my Philadelphia commute every day of the week.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

STEVE IRWIN - Stingray attack video is NOT here

Is there such a thing as anti-SEO, or anti-Search Engine Optimization? I wish there was. I'm getting rather disheartened with the world and I'll tell you why. The number of visitors landing on this site from Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines expecting to find the Steve Irwin Death Video and autopsy photographs is all rather nauseating.

I blogged briefly about Steve Irwin after his tragic passing, simply to acknowledge all the good work he did protecting the most endangered Australian animals, and many more besides. I'm not sure I fully approved of Steve Irwin's methods, and I never much cared for his presenting style (give me David Attenborough any day), but I have to admit he raised awareness about Australian endangered animals in a big big way with his "Crocodile Hunter" programmes.

The trouble is, my mere mentioning of Steve has meant that a large proportion of my Search Engine referral traffic is now coming from sick Steve Irwin queries. I'm aware that my posting again on this topic is likely to increase the problem, but perhaps if this post becomes the landing page, visitors who are looking for such nasty things will leave this site sooner.

So let me say it again. You will NOT find any Steve Irwin sting-ray video, nor any autopsy photos here. Try elsewhere please...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NORTHERN WHITE RHINOS - Save The Rhino update

This month's "Save The Rhino" newsletter contained the following comment on the recent agreement with the LRA to help protect the last 4 critically endangered Northern White Rhinos in Garamba National Park.
In September, several newspapers and websites reported on a "deal" between conservationists and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, which controls large areas of the DOC, to help save the final four Northern white rhinos in the world. This story is more complex than it first appeared.
Click here for the original story [The Guardian]
Click here for reaction [from Richard Burge of the African Parks Foundation]
Click here for an update on conservation in Garamba [African Parks Foundation]
The reaction from Richard Burge of the African Parks Foundation is enlightening...
The northern white rhinos are imperilled but at the moment are relatively safe - indeed they have never been in the areas of the park invaded by the Lord's Resistance Army. The main threat comes from organised and heavily armed local poachers and those crossing the border with Sudan. So while the negotiations with the LRA were doubtless done in good faith, they have not changed the situation.
This news is about as encouraging as one could expect given the perilous position that the Northern White Rhino is in. All we can do is hope that these special endangered animals can be pulled back from the brink one more time.

It's nearly 20 years since Douglas Adams wrote Last Chance To See. I hope it will be many more years before I have an Official extinction to report, although I expect the Baiji Dolphin news may come sooner rather than later.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

SIERRA CLUB COMPASS - March of the Penguins, Etc

Pat Joseph wrote to tell me about his post on the Sierra Club blog Compass entitled "March of the Penguins, Etc". Pat's post talks about how climate change could be driving plant and animal species to migrate poleward.

What with Blue-Footed Boobies near Seattle, and Floridean Manatees up near New York this is certainly a product of climate change worth monitoring.

As a side-note, I notice Al Gore's climate change movie "An Inconvenient Truth" hits DVD shelves on November 21st. This book (which just won a Quill award) and movie has been in the news quite a lot recently, and Pat actually interviewed Al Gore for the Sierra website. I've definately Pledged To See the movie...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

GREAT GORILLA RUN - Congratulations to all

Congratulations to all the runners in the recent Great Gorilla Run of London, especially to Jess "Darth Tigger" Bennett who successfully raised over £400 for The Gorilla Organization.

Laura Shepherd of the The Gorilla Organization recently dropped a comment onto my first post about Jess which I'm reproducing here in case Jess missed it.
Hi Jess,

Hope you enjoyed the Great Gorilla Run, and you weren't too sweltering in your suit! I just wanted to say a massive thank you for all you have done, for running in the race and all your efforts for fundraising. You are a star!

We hope you had fun on the day. Hope this site managed to get you some more sponsorship and blow the top off your Blue Peter money counter!!
Take care
Laura
Tha Gorilla Organization

KOMODO DRAGONS - Dragon attack!

Craig Tansley writes this article about his visit to the Komodo National Park and a frightening incident when a Komodo Dragon attacks.
Without warning, one charged. Its quarry was a young guide, fishing from the pier on which our yacht was moored. His back was turned: he had no chance.

Sitting nearby, frozen like a cheap toy on Christmas morning, I was useless. Time slowed down. I screamed, finally.

The boy turned. It was nearly on him, covering the 30m pier in a heartbeat. A dragon generally goes for the legs of its larger victims, tearing the hamstring before attacking the throat and belly.
Read on at News.com.au.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

AND WE'RE BACK - Returned from vacation

Apologies for the lack of updates recently. I've been on vacation for a couple of weeks. Normal service will be resumed very soon. There's lots of news in my inbox to sift through.

Monday, September 25, 2006

KAKAPO PARROTS - New Zealand's Bird of the Year?

New Zealand's Stuff has news of this year's New Zealand Bird of The Year competition. Voting at the Forest and Bird website runs till October 14th 2006, with the endangered Kakapo Parrot in contention as always.
Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said he expected a tight race.

'New Zealand has so many wonderful native birds that are all unique and special in their own way. We are lucky that we have so many worthy contenders to choose from.'

Last year's winner was the tui. This year it was looking to be a difficult choice with VIP voters selecting a wide range of birds, he said.

Prime Minister Helen Clark went for Sirocco, the kakapo, after being moved by seeing him in his natural habitat on Ulva Island.
Full story at Stuff.co.nz

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

KAKAPO PARROTS - Slartibartfast and Captain Cook

Yvonne Martin has written a nice little article for New Zealand's Stuff about her trip around the glacier-carved fiords of southern New Zealand with Real Journeys.co.nz. The company offers trips around Fiordland, Queenstown and Stewart Island, and the photos of the fiords on their site are quite quite spectacular. I sense Slartibartfast's talented hand at work...
 * Check out Robin's pictures from the comments!

Yvonne writes...
We are seeing the rough-hewn western coastline almost as Captain Cook did over 200 years ago when he charted these waters and mighty fiords, kissed by mist and hallowed by rainbows, probing into the heart of the national park.

Come nightfall, we watch the sun slide behind layers of mountains, emblazoning the sky and waters with a palette of pinks and lilacs.
[...]
At the entrance to Dusky Sound, Anchor Island also has remarkable wildlife. It is now home to 30 kakapo released here in an effort to boost their desperately small population of 86. Some are raffish young males exiled to this bird borstal, where they will hopefully charm a mate into breeding.

One of the bird fanciers among us is thrilled to chance across a kakapo feather, then a "snoring" rock on the walk track. His luck is in. They turn out to be the calling cards of a kakapo that has ducked into a hole, waiting for our entourage to pass.

Where else in the world can you stumble across flightless kakapo in the wild, sharing a beaten track with trampers? We cannot think of anywhere.
Yvonne's mention of Captain Cook puts me in mind of home back in the UK. I grew up in sight of the Captain Cook monument near Great Ayton in the north east of England. Although I was well aware of Cook's travels to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, it's only been fairly recently that I've actually read more about them in any detail. Cook's journeys are an absolutely fascinating story, and I can thoroughly recommend "Captain James Cook" by Richard Alexander Hough.

I also have a hardback copy of Tony Horwitz's "Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before" that I am actually finished with. If anyone would like to read it, I'd be happy to pass it along in exchange for a donation to our Save The Rhino Fundraiser. Contact me by email if you're interested.

Finally, I wonder whether CBS's "Survivor - Cook Islands" might make mention of the great explorer for whom the islands are named! We'll see - isn't always that interested in educating the audience about the places they visit. Astonishing to think that Mark Burnett's show about solving jigsaw puzzles is still running in its thirteenth season!

**UPDATE** OK, "Surivor Cook Islands" proves me wrong immediately! The second episode (aired last night) featured a competition with a memory test about Captain Cook's travels. Jeff Probst gave the tribes some facts about three of Cook's journeys. Doesn't it figure...?