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 ZoĆ« 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.