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.