Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rhino Poop auction a great success

The International Rhino Foundation has been thanking everyone who bid on their wacky Rhino Poop auction on ebay.
We have just ended IRF’s Endangered Feces auction, ending with a total of 76 eBay bids, with a high bid of $1,075 for the white rhino specimen. We can’t wait to learn about the folks getting these special gifts.
[...]
The Endangered Feces auction was easily one of the wackier projects IRF has ever undertaken. But it captured people’s imaginations and generated interest in rhinos all over the world. Media coverage reached at least 3.5 million people. There are more than 200,000 references to “rhino poop” on Google, and our YouTube video had more than 500 viewings – and a several 5-star ratings!

Monday, December 10, 2007

CBS 60 Minutes: Gorillas: Kings Of Congo

Not sure how I missed this, but CBS aired a 60 Minutes segment about the Mountain Gorillas recently. Here is the Video Link and the main webpage can be found at CBSNews.com.
It's hard to imagine a more magnificent animal than the mountain gorilla. There are only about 700 of them left on the planet and so far this year at least ten have been shot to death.

As CNN's Anderson Cooper reports, it's gotten so bad for many of the remaining gorillas that conservationists genuinely fear the entire species might become extinct. They live in east Africa, in a forest that straddles Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a family of gorillas was massacred last summer.

So last month 60 Minutes went to Congo, a desperately poor country, to see why those gorillas were slaughtered, why the surviving gorillas are in jeopardy, and what can be done to save them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rhino poop charity auction: $2000 so far, two days to go

Super-pooper. The International Rhino Foundation's ebay auction of rhino poop has received bids totalling nearly $2000. And there's still two days to go.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stephen Fry talks 2008

Stephen Fry is currently filming a new BBC documentary in the United States in which he will visit all 50 states. He's travelling around in a London Black Cab.

He recently took time (via videolink from Miami), to talk to journalists in London about his weight loss, his smoking (no more), and his plans for 2008 which include the long-anticipated Last Chance To See TV series.

See this Manchester Evening News page for more on the busy busy life of Stephen Fry.
[Fry] plans to spend Christmas with House star Hugh Laurie and his family.

Stephen and Hugh are, of course, very old friends.

“It’s brilliant that he’s had this success and I’m, obviously, very proud,” remarked the ever-generous Mr Fry.
[...]
Projects lined up for 2008 include filming of his screenplay Dambusters, an intriguing re-make of classic 1955 British war film The Dam Busters.

He’s also travelling to South America, Africa and China for a documentary on endangered species, inspired by Douglas Adams’ book Last Chance To See.
[...]
And he’s written the script for Cinderella, which opened at London’s Old Vic Theatre this week, two new series of QI…
I'm looking forward to his new version of the The Dam Busters, however much I love the original. And it's high time that QI made an appearance on BBC America. With the writers strike bringing most US shows to a standstill soon (or already), it's heartening to know that I'll be able to turn to BBC America and get some decent entertainment. QI should be a part of that.

I can't wait for season 2 of the brilliant Life on Mars (starts December 11th), and Torchwood season 2 arrives at the end of January, shortly after the BBC's UK broadcast.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rhino poop for sale on ebay

If you're looking for an unusual gift for that special someone, head over to ebay where the International Rhino Foundation are currently selling four piles of Rhino dung to raise money for the charity. Each specimen of rhino dung has been properly dried and sealed in an attractive container featuring the name of the rhino species that produced it. At time of writing, over $1000 has been bid, and the auctions still have four days to run.

Can you imagine the look on the face of the recipients when they unwrap their special gifts?

Any takers?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cadbury's Dairy Milk Gorilla

I'm in the UK for a visit with my friends and family, and one of the things I love here is real Cadbury's Dairy Milk, not that near but not quite stuff made by Hersheys. I just saw this advert for Dairy Milk featuring a gorilla and the music of Phil Collins, and loved it. Enjoy...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kakapo to be artificially inseminated

With Summer rapidly approaching in the southern hemisphere, the news from Stuff.co.nz is that the first artificial insemination of Kakapos is planned with hope of boosting the Kakapo numbers up from 86.
Kakapo recovery programme senior technical officer Daryl Eason said he turned to artificial insemination after the last breeding season two years ago was hampered by high levels of egg infertility. Only four kakapo chicks were born from 26 eggs laid on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island), near Stewart Island, and 60% of eggs laid were infertile.
[...]
Just as for humans, kakapo breeding with closely related mates risk genetic deformities, such as infertility. Eason said all but one kakapo, Fiordland kakapo Richard Henry, were from Stewart Island or were their offspring. Genes from Richard Henry were particularly precious in improving genetic diversity.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sony Reader PRS-505: Stephen Fry's blog

I'm thoroughly enjoying my latest toy, the new Sony Reader PRS-505. It's been a very enjoyable experience, and I've already read three books on it. Surprisingly, the short "flash" between page-flips has not been any distraction at all, and I'm finding that I actually engage MORE with the Reader's text than I do with a regular paper book. Once I get comfortable, I never need to move, save for a thumb-blip on the page turn button every few seconds.

The beautiful electronic-ink screen is truly marvellous, and because there is no back-light there's no eye strain at all. When I'm tired at the end of the day, I sometimes boost the font-size up to "Large", so every book can be a big print book. It's a shame that the older generation who would most benefit from such a feature, are the least likely to be interested in such a device, but every "more mature" person I've shown it to really likes it. You'll still need a book-light if you want to read in the dark, but that's not something I do anyway.

It's a great device, solid of construction, but nice and light. It will be perfect for my trip back to the UK in November, and my carry-on luggage will be considerably lighter than it would be normally. I won't need to carry three or four bulging books with me, instead I'll have the three new e-books I bought from the Sony Connect store (Stephen Fry's "Revenge", Alan Alda's memoirs and Ewan McGregor's "Long Way Round"), plus a dozen of the "100 free classics", Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin etc. In addition, there's also 2000+ public domain books available on MobileRead.com, where I picked up some of the less well known Jules Verne stories.

I also converted Stephen Fry's blog posts for the Reader by copying and pasting the contents to a Word Doc and then dragging them across to the Reader via USB. Stephen Fry's "blessays" are the longest and most entertaining blog posts on the web, and with a little jiggery-pokery they became almost like book chapters on the Reader. Very worthwhile train reading. The good folks at MobileRead.com have lots of other tools that can be used to convert or make content for the Reader.

Below you'll find a quick slideshow of my Reader in action, as well as the home-brew "softcase" I made from a $0.50 clearance item at Staples.
There's no doubt that this technology is still in its infancy, but over the next few years these screens will get bigger and more usable for student text-books. Right now they are a perfect replacement for reading novels on the go, and considerably lighter! I won't be carrying any more hefty hardbacks around in my backpack if I can avoid it.

The Reader is available for purchase at SonyStyle.com, Borders and Best Buy stores, and online in various places. Purchasing from Amazon.com will help me with the up-keep of this site, and some other projects I'm working on.

Mountain Gorillas: Diddy and Innocent

Gorilla Rangers Diddy and Innocent continue their regular updates on the crisis in the DRC. Their reports can be found on the BBC News site and the Gorilla Protection blog.
Innocent Mburanumwe

Head of gorilla monitoring in the Mikeno sector. He has worked in Virunga National Park for nine years. His father is a patrol post chief. His brother was also a high-level ranger, but was killed in the line of service in November 1996.

Diddy Mwanaki

Head of tourism in the southern sector of Virunga National Park. He has been a ranger for 16 years and started working with the gorillas in the Mikeno sector in 1991. He was forced to flee from his work from 1997-2001 during the nation's civil war.

On a related note, do check out one of the Animal Planet encore presentations of Natalie Portman's Saving a Species: Gorillas on the Brink throughout November.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ganges River Dolphins: Bodies of dolphins found in sacks

There was some horrible news out of India last month, when the bodies of about six endangered Ganges River Dolpins were found next to a railway track. The dolphins had been cut up into small pieces and put into eight sacks and then unceremoniously dumped next to the line. The BiharTimes has the story...
The sacks were noticed by the villagers near a railway track and the police were informed.

"The evidence suggests that the consignment was being taken to Kolkata or northeastern states by train. And something must have forced the smugglers to throw them out of the train," a police official said.

Dolphins are locally called sons of the Ganges river, but pollution and rampant fishing have threatened their existence.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dwarf Manatee discovered in the Brazilian Amazon

Here's some interesting news at Wildlife Extra.com about a new dwarf species of Amazonian Manatee discovered by Marc van Roosmalen.
The Amazonian manatee was thought to be the only manatee fully adapted to living in fresh water, until the discovery of the Dwarf manatee, Trichechus Bernardi, or Prince Bernhard’s dwarf manatee.

The story started in September 2002 when Marc van Roosmalen collected a skull of a recently killed adult male. He had to wait for 2 years until he found living proof of the Dwarf manatee, when he was able to study and film a live specimen that was kept in a corral in its natural environment for 4 months.
[...]
Dwarf manatees are considered to be critically endangered as they are highly restricted ecologically and geographically. It is thought that there may be less than 100 individuals in this population, and they are not known from any other locality. They are hunted as game, and their habitat is highly susceptible to illegal mining of gravel and gold, timber extraction and commercial fishing.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

TV: Natalie Portman - Saving a Species: Gorillas on the Brink

Check out the Animal Planet channel from Friday, October 26th, and see Natalie Portman journeying deep into the Rwandan rainforest in search of mountain gorillas. Jack Hanna guides Natalie through her visit as she learns about these stunning endangered animals. There's plenty of airings of this TV special through the middle of November.

Also, check out this video coverage from CNN on the recent situation in the DR Congo.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Funny Google Searches #1

Any website owner is probably familiar with this one. Checking your Search Engine Referral logs for the wild and wacky searches people are performing that enables them to land on your site. Here's a couple of doozies from the last week...

Query: where can I buy condoms in shanghai?
Result: Post about the condoms for underwater sound recording in the Yangtze River

Query: Hugh is the only person I know who doesn't talk bollocks.
Result: Post about the Stephen Fry webchat at the Douglas Adams Continuum

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lulu pregnant, fertilized with frozen sperm

There's lots of coverage around the web that Lulu (being anesthetized) is pregnant again. Back in January of 2007, Lulu gave birth to Layla, the first rhino conceived by artificial insemination. This time, the sperm used was deep frozen.

From EUX.TV...
Budapest zoo said that the foetus was now 10 centimetres long. Layla's sibling is not expected to be born before the end of 2008 as rhinos carry their unborn calves for up to 17 months.

Layla herself, who was 58 kilogrammes at birth, is now almost 500 kilogrammes and is in excellent health, the zoo said.

Budapest Zoo's other rhino, Easyboy, became the sperm donor after romantic sparks failed to ignite between the couple.
This time though, the zoo used sperm from Simba, 38, a rhino from Britain's Colchester Zoo.

From iht.com...
The implant was performed June 14 with experts from Hungary, Germany and Austria taking part, and the pregnancy was confirmed last week by an ultrasound scan.
[...]
All the pachyderms in the current project are Southern White Rhinos but experts hope to use the insemination program with the much rarer Northern White Rhinos, of which only three survive in the wild and eight in zoos.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Guerrillas in Their Midst

Thanks to Gwen, who pointed me in the direction of this extensive article at the Smithsonian Magazine on the current rebel crisis in the DR Congo. The article also features some video reports.
It's the gorillas that have reason to fear. Only about 750 mountain gorillas are left in the world: 350 in Uganda, 270 in Rwanda and a mere 150 here in Congo (formerly Zaire). They have been ravaged by poaching, habitat loss, disease and the violence of war. Many live in lawless regions, sharing territory with armed rebels from Uganda or the remnants of Hutu militias responsible for Rwanda's 1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsis. Today the biggest threat comes from the Congolese area of their range. Rebel groups opposed to Congo president Joseph Kabila control territory in the turbulent east. The most powerful group is led by an ethnic Tutsi named Laurent Nkunda, who commands thousands of well-armed rebels in the Virungas. Not far from here in January, troops from Nkunda's group killed and presumably ate two silverbacks. A female was shot in May, another male and four females were slain in July; their killers had not been identified as we went to press.

Friday, October 12, 2007

BBC's Protecting Mountain Gorillas Diary

BBC News's Protecting mountain gorillas diary continues. The main concern continues to be the rebels who have seized large areas of eastern Congo, and threaten to overrun the Mountain Gorilla habitat.
Fighting has intensified this week, resulting in the rebels re-seizing the entire Gorilla Sector after beating back the army.

We are undecided whether we should evacuate our families from Rumangabo Park headquarters.

There is an army base just four kilometres east of our station, and that is one of the rebels' targets.

If they take that, they can cut off the road to Goma, which is our main communication artery.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mosher completes his 1000 mile hike. Well done Iain!

Very many congratulations to Iain "Mosher" Purdie, who's now completed his 1000 Mile Charity Walk across Europe. Terrific effort Iain. And you're right, the thank you video from the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is touching indeed. Best of luck with your future endeavors.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Story of Last Chance To See (by David Haddock)

The story of Last Chance to See begins with Douglas being telephoned by the World Wildlife Fund and asked to go to Madagascar and look for the rarest form of lemur then known - the Aye-Aye. He was to do this in the company of zoologist Mark Carwardine who would act as the expert foil to Douglas who would be writing about the trip. The trip took place in the Spring of 1985, and the photographer Alain le Garsmeur went along to provide the pictures, and Jane Belson who was later to be Douglas’s wife also joined the group.

The article duly appeared in the Observer Sunday Magazine (9th June 1985) with plenty of pictures of other lemurs, nice photogenic ones that were active during the day, like the Ring-tailed lemur shown on the cover, and the Sifaka lemur in the body of the article. However, much to everyone's surprise they did manage to capture the nocturnal Aye-Aye on film as well, and so a grainy picture of it was also published in the article. The aim of the project was to promote conservation in Madagascar, and to that end it was sponsored by Fiat, which donated a pound to the WWF for every person that called an advertised phone number.



Incidentally, Douglas used the expedition as the basis of a chatty ten-minute radio programme of him speaking over a background of wildlife sounds that was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 1st November 1985 under the title Natural Selection: In Search of the Aye-Aye. Douglas returned to the subject of the Aye-Aye, specifically the evolution of its distinctive middle finger, in a one-minute programme for a 1998 BBC2 series called Natural Selections, with his contribution broadcast on March 28th.

An account of the Madagascar trip, and how it led to the others, is given in the introductory chapter of Last Chance to See entitled Twig Technology. After successfully finding the Aye-Aye, Mark was telling Douglas about some of the many other endangered species and Douglas goes and gets his Filofax and says, “I've just got a couple of novels to write, but, er, what are you doing in 1988?” The preparation for these later trips is discussed in Neil Gaiman's book, Don't Panic: The Official Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion, published in 1988, and mentions three particular species that they planned to look for: the Kouprey, the Quetzal and the Kakapo. The last of these did make it into the final selection, but the Kouprey, an ox-like creature found in Vietnam and the Quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala, did not. Choosing where to go and what to see was somewhat haphazard with Mark and Douglas horse-trading over a map of the world about where they wanted to go and what they wanted to see. “The Congo? The Seychelles? Split the difference – Mauritius”, reported Gaiman's book, which also said that initial thoughts were to produce a television series, but the first place they asked about filming was in China and as the permit was going to cost £200,000 they quickly shelved that idea, and turned it into a radio series. The radio series was eventually funded by the advance on the book, with the authors paying the expenses of the BBC sound engineers that individually accompanied them: Gaynor Shutte and Chris Muir.

The various trips to search for the animals eventually took place in 1988 and 1989 after Douglas wrote the two Dirk Gently novels and Mark had to change all the arrangements because the books took a little longer than expected. The book of Last Chance to See is still in print, but the full radio series seems only been to have been broadcast in the UK in October / November 1989, with a repeat of four of the six episodes the next year. A clip from the show made the prestigious Pick of the Year BBC radio selection. The full set of episodes did receive an airing in Australia in 2001, and the Fruit Bat episode was included in the three-hour tribute to Adams broadcast on BBC7 in 2003. There are clips from each episode on the triple CD package, Douglas Adams at the BBC.

Last Chance to See – Radio Episode Guide
Prelude: Natural Selection: In Search of the Aye-Aye [Aye-Aye Lemurs - 01/11/1985]
  1. Ralph, The Fragrant Parrot Of Codfish Island [Kakapo Parrot - 04/10/1989]
  2. Gone Fishing! [Yangtze River Dolphin - 11/10/1989]
  3. Animal, Vegetable Or Mineral? [Amazonian Manatee - 18/10/1989]
  4. The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind [Rodrigues Fruit Bat - 25/10/1989]
  5. A Man-Eating, Evil-Smelling Dragon [Komodo Dragon - 01/11/1989]
  6. The Sultan Of Juan Fernandez [Fur Seal - 08/11/1989]
The episodes went out at 12.25pm on Wednesdays with a repeat at 8.00pm on the following Sunday. In the absence of a commercial release, all the episodes should be available to listen to at the National Sound Archive. In May 1997 Radio 4 broadcast another set of five fifteen-minute programmes under the title Last Chance to See. These were Douglas reading from the Komodo Dragon chapter of the book, and a companion website was created at the time is still available at http://tdv.com/lastchance/

The radio series was made with each episode having three or four Hitchhikers Guide style vignettes read by Peter Jones, but with the majority of the content coming from the on the spot recordings made on their travels. These provide their instant reaction to what they are seeing allowing Mark to describe the creatures and Douglas to give his commentary. There are also some more considered comments that were recorded by Douglas after their return that has a background of typewriter noises. The radio programmes featured in a two-page article in the Radio Times (30/09/1989) that quoted Douglas as saying, “The intention of the series is to be serious, but because I'm a comedy writer the tone will be light. The aim is to bring these issues to a broader audience: greens tend to preach to the converted on green issues.”

Writing the book to accompany the series was somewhat of a struggle. Mark and Douglas planned to do this over the course of four months at a villa in Juan-les-Pins in the South of France. With Mark commuting weekly and Douglas there full time, they managed to produce a solitary page, although they did do a great deal of planning and lunching. Returning to London the pair were apparently locked into Douglas's house in Islington in order to produce the book, which, so the story goes, the publishers took as soon as they thought it was long enough. The page written in France didn't make the final edit. This is one of the reasons that two of the species they searched for did not make the book at all: the Juan Fernandez Fur Seal and the Amazonian Manatee. The audio version of the book, the English version of which is read by Douglas Adams, further excludes a couple of the book chapters in order to fit the double cassette format.

Last Chance to See – Book Chapter Guide
  1. Twig Technology [Aye-Aye]
  2. Here Be Chickens [Komodo Dragon]
  3. Leopardskin Pillbox Hat [Northern White Rhino / Gorilla]
  4. Heartbeats in the Night [Kakapo]
  5. Blind Panic [River Dolphin]
  6. Rare, or Medium Rare? [Rodrigues Fruit Bat]
  7. Sifting Through the Embers [Sibylline Books]
  8. Mark's Last Word ... [Summary / News]
A CD-ROM followed in 1992, produced by The Voyager Company. This has audio recordings of Douglas reading the whole of the book as well as some contributions from Mark about the individual animals and extracts from their on the spot recordings. There are also over 800 photographs from the trip included in the multimedia package. In 2001 a German company re-released the CD-ROM, the book having been successful in translation into German, and a German audio-book also being available. Other translations of the book include Dutch, Polish, Czech and Hebrew editions.



The trips that he and Mark undertook awoke within Douglas a sense of wonderment at the natural world that can be seen in his subsequent writings. Both Mostly Harmless (1992), with the section about Perfectly Normal Beast, and the Salmon of Doubt (2002) with the Rhino's point of view of a rampage, reflect the development of his ecological awareness. In a March 1998 interview with Matt Newsome, partly reproduced in The Salmon of Doubt, Douglas mentions the impact of his trip to Madagascar on the first Dirk Gently book, although the author admitted that “I recast it for various reasons as Mauritius”. The interview also touched on the possibility of a Last Chance to See TV series, although Douglas presaged that part of the interview with “I probably shouldn't say this” as the discussions were only just beginning, and at the time came to naught. After publishing the first Dirk Gently book, Douglas became friends with Richard Dawkins who had written Douglas a fan letter after reading the novel, and this again reinforced and developed his interest in evolution and natural history. Douglas eventually became a patron of both Save The Rhino and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, charities for which the annual Douglas Adams Memorial Lectures have raised money.

A set of follow-up trips were touted and an article appeared in The Times (19th February 1991) which indicated that the pair were to be even more intrepid than on their previous trips and look specifically at species whose predicaments had been caused by their proximity to war zones. Again the Kouprey was mentioned by name, described as living “on the borders of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, which has been devastated by minefields”. The article also mentioned the pair having researched the plight of animals in Afghanistan, Uganda and Nicaragua, and the potential of looking at the predicament of fish and birds in the oil spills of the (First) Gulf War zone. This is as far as the second series seemed to get, however, the Last Chance to See story does not end there, as nearly twenty years after the original radio series we now have the prospect of a televisual update with the working title Another Chance to See.

At a lecture in London in November 2006, to raise money for tiger conservation, Mark Carwardine was introduced as “the author of 54 books, and shortly to film a series with Stephen Fry”. Asked about it after the lecture Mark confirmed that he was in the process of arranging the filming dates for going to visit the people and animals that he had seen with Douglas and hoped the series would be broadcast in Spring of 2008. Stephen Fry would be filling the role of enthusiastic amateur now Douglas is no longer with us, and was not only a great friend of Adams, but also has his own environmental pedigree with his TV programme, book on the Spectacled Bear, as well as a charity to help protect it. The TV series has had quite a long gestation. Stephen Fry mentioned on a webchat that he was in discussions about this project with Mark back in June 2006. Another Chance to See seemed to take a major step forward when the TV company Iostar announced it on their website as part of their launch at the TV trade show MIP-TV in Cannes during the second week of April 2007. Part of the text ran: “This time it's Stephen Fry at the helm with Carwardine, as they revisit the six featured endangered species and bring their stories right up to date. From Madagascar to Mauritius, and from China to the Congo, the pair will be guided by the ethereal presence of Douglas Adams whose voice lives on, loud and clear in scene-setting audio.” The company then went spectacularly bust soon afterwards. However, the project is far from being dodo-like, with both Mark and Stephen publicly talking about it, the expeditions are still planned, but now for 2008, and with broadcast in mind for Spring 2009.

A version of this article, also by David Haddock, first appeared in issue #105 of Mostly Harmless, the magazine of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society. See http://www.zz9.org.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

DR Congo: Two arrested with another dead mountain gorilla

Bringing the total number of confirmed killings to 10 in 2007, AFP reports that two men were arrested with a dead mountain gorilla infant which they were hoping to sell for $8000.
Rangers in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday arrested two men with a dead mountain gorilla near Virunga National park amid fears over the fate of the endangered species, an official said.

The suspected traffickers were seized with the female infant gorilla around 10 kilometres (six miles) from the edge of the park, where renewed fighting has blocked rangers from tracking 72 gorillas, said Samantha Newport, spokeswoman for Wildlife Direct.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mauritius: Kestrels, Parakeets and Pigeons

Wildlife Extra.com reports on a VERY positive outlook for three Mauritius birds that featured in Last Chance To See, namely the Mauritius Kestrel, the Pink Pigeon and the Echo Parakeet. These numbers are looking very good, and have even resulted in the birds being downlisted by the IUCN from Critically Endangered to merely Endangered.
Mauritius Parakeet–a green parrot, males of which have a bright red bill - was once down to just 10 birds in the 1970s, but there are now some 320 birds living in the wild, and the IUCN has announced it has moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered. This good news for conservation adds to an increasing list of conservation success stories from the island of Mauritius, mostly due to the work of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, who concentrate much of their conservation work there.

This is the third such downlisting to occur on Mauritius in recent years due to their efforts. In 2000, Pink Pigeon, down to just nine birds a decade earlier, was downlisted to Endangered and now numbers 400 birds. Likewise, Mauritius Kestrel, went from just four birds in 1974 and now numbers approximately 1,000 individuals.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Scientist Magazine: "So long and thanks for all the fish" by Mark Carwardine

Check out issue 2621 (12/07/2007) of New Scientist Magazine, on newstands shortly (if not already). It features an update on the Baiji Dolphin from Mark Carwardine. The online version (subscription required) is available at The Baiji: So long and thanks for all the fish.
THE FIRST time I went in search of the Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was in 1988 with Douglas Adams, author of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as part of a year spent travelling the world in search of endangered species for a book and radio series called Last Chance to See. We explored a small part of the Yangtze, which runs for 6380 kilometres through the heart of China.

We were overwhelmed by the dolphin's phenomenally high profile in China. We drank Baiji beer and Baiji cola, stayed in the Baiji Hotel and used Lipotes vexillifer toilet paper. We even came across Baiji weighing scales and Baiji fertiliser. It was the aquatic equivalent of the giant panda.

Unfortunately, though, we failed to see a single dolphin in the wild. We weren't surprised - the Yangtze river is vast and the dolphins were notoriously hard to see, surfacing ...
See magazine or subscribe to online version to read more.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Letter to Douglas Adams

I'm very proud to be able to share this heartfelt "Letter to Douglas Adams" which was written by Carolyn Garcia of Fairmont, West Virginia. Not surprisingly, it won Carolyn the Top Honors prize (grades 9-12) in the 'Library of Congress - Letters about Literature 2007' competition. This event sees readers write a personal letter to an author, living or dead, from any genre, fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic, explaining how that author's work changed the student's way of thinking about the world or themselves.

All the winner's letters can be found on the 2007 Letters about Literature PDF and Carolyn's letter is re-printed on Another Chance To See by kind permission of The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the West Virginia Center for the Book, and Carolyn herself. Thanks to everyone.

Very many congratulations to you Carolyn. You write very well, and I wish you every success on your chosen career path in journalism.

This letter is the property of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the West Virginia Center for the Book. All rights reserved.
Level 3 - Top Honors
Carolyn Garcia
Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams


Dear Douglas Adams,

Sometimes our most precious possessions are taken away from us even before we knew we had them.

I’ll never forget the time I first read your work. It was an excerpt from your book Last Chance to See in a magazine I subscribe to. When I read an article, I usually only afford the author’s name a passing glance before I move on, if that. However, while reading about your venture with Mark Carwardine to see the kakapo, I became curious. I not only felt myself warming up to the adorable and pathetically maladaptive parrot that you and Mark had trekked all the way to New Zealand to see before it became extinct, I also felt myself warming up to you. Hmm, I thought. This man is funny. Hilarious, actually. Brilliant, too. I flipped back to the title page of the article and made a mental note to check out the rest of the book you wrote, and maybe see if you had written anything else. I read the rest of the article, still wanting more, and then turned to the miniature author bio at the end. It read, “Renowned for his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams died in 2002...” I was shocked. Reading that excerpt, I had gotten a brief glimpse into the mind of a darkly witty, intelligent, and utterly fascinating person—I had been captivated. Now I had just been introduced to you and already you had been taken away from me.

I devoured your work, beginning with the Guide and continuing through the entire series, not stopping until I had read almost everything you had ever written. You blew my mind as you dragged me through all different aspects of space-time; from Africa to Alpha Centauri, from the 1800’s to the 60’s to centuries into the future. The more I read, the more I laughed, the more I wondered, and the more I missed you, although I never knew you.

Even with your wonderful British humor, drier than Melba toast, so icy it could freeze a blowtorch, your books often leave me with a lingering sad feeling. Perhaps, Mr. Adams, it is because of your bleak outlook. Although much of your work places emphasis on the amazing complexity of our wondrous universe, there is an undertone of melancholy. You seem to see the universe as a cruel, harsh place, whose hapless inhabitants are constantly battered about by malevolent forces. You don’t believe in God. You believe that the cosmos and the fates and most of all, humans and other life forms, are all pitted against the innocent, the good, the unsuspecting.

In Last Chance to See, you wrote that the kakapo, bumbling and incompetent at the game of evolution, the victim of a quickly changing environment, danger rushing at it from all sides, is impossible not to love. “If you look one in its large, round, greenybrown face,” you wrote, “it has a look if serenely innocent incomprehension that makes you want to hug it and tell it everything will be all right, even though you know that it will probably not be.” Reading this sentence now, I am filled with a sudden urge to embrace both you and the bird, to hold on to you and keep you here with us, to reassure you both that although the world seems unutterably cruel sometimes, this isn’t all there is, and it will get better in the end, I am sure of it.

The kakapo, the Bajii River Dolphin, the Rodrigues fruit bat, all disappearing before our very eyes, and you yourself taken from us so prematurely, before my generation even had a chance to know you, remind me of a poem by Carl Sandburg:

Buffalo Dusk
The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they pawed
the prairie
sod into the dust with their hoofs, their great heads down, pawing
on the great
pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.


Mr. Adams, all of your writing has amazed me, but Last Chance to See has truly inspired me. The world is full of fantastic, wonderful things, many of which are departing before most people are aware they ever existed. Life is a breathless race to discover more and more of these divine gifts, intricate and stunning, strange and fascinating, before all-consuming time or our own indifference wipes them off the face of the earth forever. This is why I want to be a reporter. To do what you did, to travel the globe in search of places, cultures, and species so awesome and so beautiful, to gather all possible knowledge about these amazing things, and fling it far and wide to every corner of every country, so that people can know what I know and become amazed along with me, treasuring the marvels our world possesses and protecting those in danger—it seems to me that there could hardly be a more satisfying job.

My overall opinion about life, the universe, and everything differs from yours only in that I believe in a loving and benevolent force, watching over us and making sure that everything turns our right ultimately. Perhaps last chances don’t have to be last chances after all. It is my strong hope that someday many eons in the future, long past our own time and the time of our planet, you and I and all the many wonders of our crazy spinning galaxies will finally be united, somewhere at the end of the universe.

Sincerely,
Carolyn Garcia
Thanks (as always) to Dave Haddock for the tip-off on Carolyn's winning letter. You'll be able to see Dave's mention of it in the next edition of Mostly Harmless, the newsletter of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

What A Wonderful World (Video)

For any Douglas Adams fan, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" is as much a part of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as Zaphod Beeblebrox's two heads, the Babel Fish or the number 42. I always smile when I hear it and think of Arthur Dent tossing the Book into the river at the end of Fit the Sixth. This particular interpretation is quite delightful, and I just had to share. Enjoy!

Stephen Fry talks animals and Last Chance To See

There's a nice article over on the QI News page in which Stephen Fry describes animals as "pure televisual gold" and perfect subjects for the QI comedy panel game. The upcoming Last Chance To See TV series also gets a mention. Don't forget to visit our Another Chance To See shop where you'll find QI Series 1 on page 2 of the Amazon.co.uk list of products.
"Their behaviour. The oddity of them. We all think we know so much about them largely because of the heroism of David Attenborough, yet so much remains undiscovered. How they act, why they do what they do, even the very construction of certain animals disarms us. Which is why they are such good news for the show: QI is all about the gap between what we the tangled undergrowth of knowledge."
[...]
Next year he is joining zoologist Mark Carwardine to trace the latter's journey with the late Douglas Adams, chronicled their 1990 book, "Last Chance to See". "It's rather marvellous. Because we have Douglas's recording of the book on audio, with his voice accompanying us and see what the current state of play is with each of the animals he wrote about. Some are now genuinely extinct, while others flourish, in some cases as a direct result of the book."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Congo rebels seize gorilla park

I was just about to post about this BBC News Diary article Protecting mountain gorillas, when Iain Purdie (currently walking 1000 Miles across Europe) emailed me with the shocking news that rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have now taken control of large parts of the Virunga National Park. This is devastating news (BBC: Congo Rebels Seize Gorilla Park) and I fear for the future of the Mountain Gorilla at this time.
The army says it has killed at least 28 troops loyal to rebel General Laurent Nkunda in the latest fighting in eastern DR Congo.

Some 170,000 people have fled the area this year, says the UN refugee agency.

"If anything happens to the mountain gorillas now, there is nothing we can do," said Norbert Mushenzi of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN).

"As of today, the sector is no longer under my control and we have been rendered powerless by these actions."

4th Annual Denver Gorilla Run

The 4th Annual Denver Gorilla Run takes place on Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 11am.
The Denver Gorilla Run is a charity fun run with a difference. Everyone who takes part wears a full gorilla costume - from fluffy head to furry toe - and helps raise funds for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, the international charity working to save the world's last remaining mountain gorillas and keeping Dian Fossey’s dream alive for the past 22 years.
[...]
Every participant in The Denver Gorilla Run will represent a group of real live gorillas in the wild. You will be assigned to either the Amahoro Group, Mubare Group, Sabinyo Group or the Rushegura Group - so with limited entries available you must register soon to secure your place.
Incidentally, the footer on their page (currently) says that there are approximately 723 Mountain Gorillas left alive today. This correlates with our current Mountain Gorilla fundraiser where we're trying to raise $720 for 720 Mountain Gorillas. As you can see from the Google Spreadsheet chart below we're off to a reasonable start, but we still have a long way to go to reach our target.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Researcher skeptical on Baiji dolphin sighting

Mongabay.com reports that Dr. Robert L. Pitman, a participant in last year's six week Baiji expedition, is skeptical that the creature filmed on the Yangtze was actually a Baiji.
The sighting near Tongling city in Anhui Province -- widely reported in Chinese and Western media -- was captured on video.

Dr. Robert L. Pitman of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Ecosystem Studies Program told science writer Andrew Revkin of the New York Times that "Chinese scientists who have reviewed the supposed videotape are far from certain that it shows a baiji at all,"

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Douglas Adams: 28 years ago today?

How time flies. Did you know that 28 years ago today, the series of Doctor Who script-edited by Douglas Adams began on BBC1? It began with Destiny of the Daleks, featuring the second appearance of Davros, creator of the evil pepperpots.

Check out my "Google Gadget - Doctor Who On This Day" for more. You can add it to your iGoogle homepage or embed it on any website you like, and it's all good publicity for Another Chance To See because it links back here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Baiji Dolphin spotted ALIVE?

Well here's a turn up for the books. It looks like the Baiji, a dolphin famed in legend as the "Goddess of the Yangtze", is not as dead as it was supposed to be. Here's the China Daily.com with the news - 'Extinct' dolphin spotted in Yangtze River.
A resident of east China's Anhui Province spotted a "big white animal" in the river on August 19, and filmed it with a digital camera, said Dr. Wang Kexiong, of the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The animal in the footage was confirmed by the institute to be a white-flag dolphin, known in Chinese as "baiji", Wang said.

"We are very glad to see baiji still exist in the world," Wang said.

Zeng Yujiang, the man who spotted the dolphin, told Xinhua, "I never saw such a big thing in the water before, so I filmed it. It was about 1,000 meters away and jumped out of water for several times."
If we can find the video footage, we will of course post it as soon as possible - and if any kind readers see it, do let us know.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kakapo Podcast featuring Stephen Fry and Paul Jansen

ParrotScience.com has a very nice "enhanced" Kakapo Podcast with a pretty comprehensive history of the Kakapo. It features Stephen Fry reading Douglas Adam's description of the Kakapo from Last Chance To See, sort of a sneak-peek of next year's TV series narration. It also features Paul Jansen of the Kakapo Recovery Programme in New Zealand.
This is a great episode for those with displays on their iPod or watching it on the computer. ***Plenty of photos and live web links embedded as you go along! If you want more information, click on the photo when listening***

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy 50th Birthday Stephen Fry!

Many happy returns to Stephen Fry today. I'm very much looking forward to his future adventures with Mark Carwardine on the TV series of Last Chance To See. Enjoy your trips Stephen!

And if you live in the USA, please head over to StephenFry.com and sign the "QI In America Petition". I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of QI on DVD from Amazon.co.uk, and if we can't get the show broadcast UNEDITED in the USA, at least let's get some more DVDs out please!

Brazil reviving endangered Amazon manatees

France24.com has a news update on the status of the Amazonian Manatee. The article covers the work being done by Brazilian conservationists who are looking to reintroduce Manatees into the wild. The National Amazon Research Institute have 36 manatees in captivity, all of them captured as babies after being discarded by hunters. Their ultimate plan will be to release as many as half of them back into the wild in the coming years.
In February 2008 scientists at the National Amazon Research Institute (INPA) plan to take the two manatees (Trichechus inungis) and drop them into the Rio Cuieiras, a tributary of the Rio Negro, where researchers hope they will seek out females and begin repopulating the area.
[...]
Despite being protected, the manatee population of the vast Amazon has steadily fallen with habitat loss, slow reproduction -- females give birth only once every two years and to only one offspring -- and due to hunting by people who eat the huge, sluggish fresh-water mammal.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sixth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture

The Sixth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture will take place at the Royal Geographic Society in London, on Wednesday 12th March 2008.

The lecture will be presented by psychologist Steven Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His subject will be "The Stuff of Thought, Language as a Window into Human Nature". As always, proceeds will go to Save The Rhino.

New baby gorilla in the DR Congo

Here's some much more positive news from the DR Congo. The BBC is reporting that conservationists in DR Congo are celebrating the birth of a new baby mountain gorilla, discovered by rangers doing a routine checkup on the Munyaga family. After the recent atrocities in which nine Mountain Gorillas were found killed, execution style, this is joyous news indeed.
The rangers who made the discovery said the baby gorilla, a male, was born on Tuesday.

His mother, Balali, is the only female in the Munyaga family. The other members are made up of three silverbacks (dominant males) and a blackback.

"Every birth is important, but given the fact that we lost 1% of the world's population in July alone this latest birth is even more significant," said Robert Muir from the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
If you head over to The Gorilla Protection blog you'll find a report on the discovery and photos of the little boy gorilla with his mother Bilali.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Susu, the Ganges River Dolphin

Following the recent news that Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine would be visiting the Ganges River Dolphin for their Last Chance To See TV series, it's about time we posted some information on this creature, also known as the "Susu". Image by Brian Smith.

The Wikipedia article is very good and tells us that Ganges River Dolphin and its close relative the Indus River Dolphin are essentially identical in appearance, even though they have totally distinct ranges and have not interbred for thousands of years.
The Ganges subspecies can be found in the Ganges River as well as the Brahmaputra, Meghna, Karnaphuli and Sangu river systems of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Relatively high population densities have been observed near the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in India and in the Sangu River in southern Bangladesh. Very few individuals (perhaps 20) are present in Nepal in the Karnali River. The total population is unknown, but certainly numbers in the hundreds and there are perhaps as many as a few thousand.
The ARKive website has a lovely (if short) video of the Susu in action. Their full Ganges River Dolphin page is here.

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists the Ganges and Indus River Dolphins as "Endangered".

And finally (for now), novelist Harold Bergsma recently posted a very nice article on Desicritics.org called River Dolphins and Baoli - The Passing of an Era. Harold writes...
How many of these rare, wonderful creatures are left? I poured over the literature and sadly have to report that only four to six hundred of these blind river dolphins exist in the Indus and that their numbers are diminishing rapidly because of a number of factors. Over fishing, dam construction, navigation projects, pollution, habitat destruction and increasing food needs of a fast growing human population have all but made this animal extinct.
[...]
In the Ganges this creature is called the Susu. If you are interested you can go online and watch a video of a Susu leaping out of the water and hear its whistle-like call. It is wonderful to see. Only about six hundred of them still exist in an area of heavy human population which uses their fat, you guessed it, for catching catfish. In the Brahmaputra River, scientists estimate that three to four hundred of the Hihu remain. In Nepal, in isolated sections of rivers a few may still exist.
Thanks for the article Harold, it was a very nice read. You can read more of Harold's work and find out about his award winning books at HaroldBergsma.com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Could Fred's bones yield dodo DNA?

The Times of India has more news on Fred The Dodo's potential for yielding DNA from his bones.
Late last year, biologists looking for cave cockroaches accidentally discovered a dodo skeleton in the highlands of Mauritius.

Nicknamed 'Fred' after one of its discoverers, the skeleton's bones were badly decomposed and fragile, but there is still a good chance of extracting some dodo DNA because of the stable temperature and dry to slightly humid environment (keys to DNA preservation) of the cave. (Scientists think Fred ended up in the bottom of the cave because he sought shelter from a violent cyclone but fell down in a deep hole and could not climb out.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Missing female and baby are dead

The BBC News site reports today that a female mountain gorilla and its baby from the 12-strong group that were attacked last month are dead. This brings the recent death toll up to nine.
Rangers patrolling the area of the Virunga National Park where four of the great apes were killed discovered the remains of the female, called Macibiri.

Conservation group WildlifeDirect said it would continue searching the area to locate the body of the infant, Ntaribi.
There's a lot more information, photographs, video, and a progress report from the UNESCO inquiry at the Gorilla Protection blog.

Kakapo diet supplements to aid fertility

Here's InTheNews.co.uk with some (not altogether new) news on the dietary supplements being given to the 86 Kakapos in order to help them breed more often.
Hindering the kakapo's return to its previous numbers is its unusual eating habits. The bird breeds every two to six years when fruit is in bloom on pink pine and rimu trees, which they feed their young on.

During the rest of the time the kakapo's diet consists of grasses, leaves and herbs which lack the nutrients it needs to be able to breed.
[...]
A total of 67 eggs were laid in 2002, the first year in which the new diet was trialled.
That's an interesting follow-up to Tuesday's Kakapo post which mentioned the Kakapo's perceived diet in 1862. Here's another snippet from "Handbook to the Birds of Australia".
The cause of the deformity was supposed to be the want of proper food, and too close confinement. They were fed chiefly on soaked bread, oatmeal, and water and boiled potatoes. When let loose in a garden they would eat lettuces, cabbages, and grass, and would taste almost every green leaf that they came across. One, which I brought within six hundred miles of England (when it was accidentally killed), whilst at Sydney, ate eagerly of the leaves of a Banknia and several species of Eucalyptus, as well as grass, appearing to prefer them all to its usual diet of bread and water. It was also very fond of nuts and almonds, and during the latter part of the homeward voyage lived almost entirely on Brazilian ground-nuts.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

International Mission to Investigate Gorilla Killings

The Environmental News Service reported last week that an international group of UNESCO and IUCN experts would be on their way Saturday to investigate the recent mountain gorilla killings. I wish them the very best of luck. We need all the support we can find to save these beautiful endangered animals from extinction.
The execution-style shootings are considered a setback for gorilla preservation and for conservation of the World Heritage site, which was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1994.

Two suspects have been identified as being involved in the killings. One has been arrested and is assisting the authorities, but the other is still at large. Both were seen early on July 23 at the scene where the gorillas were shot, according to the International Gorilla Conservation Program, IGCP.
Thanks to everyone who has already donated to our new Mountain Gorilla fundraiser. We're well on our way to raising $720 for 720 Mountain Gorillas.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kakapo Parrots Back in Time

Out of pure curiosity, I went looking for Kakapos in Google Book Search to see what I could find. Lo and behold, Google did pull up a few interesting "digitized publications", including what must be one of the oldest photographs of a Kakapo (or Owl Parrot) around. This is a picture of a Kakapo from "The World's Birds: A Simple and Popular Classification of the Birds of the World" by Frank Finn, published in 1908. I wonder if he or she is the great-great grandparent of any of the remaining 86 Kakapos?

If we now travel further back in time to 1865, we find a fascinating multi-page appendix devoted to the Kakapo in John Gould's book "Handbook to the Birds of Australia". Here's a couple of brief extracts from the book, which obviously covers New Zealand as well...
Long before 1845, when a skin of this extraordinary Parrot was for the first time sent to Europe, we had conclusive evidence of the existence of the species, from the circumstance of plumes made of its feathers being worn by the Maories. It is somewhat strange, however, that such a lengthened period should have elapsed after the discovery and possession of New Zealand before so singular a bird should have found its way to Europe.
On their ability to fly like bricks...
The only occasion on which the Kakapo was seen to fly was when it got up one of these hollow trees and was driven to an exit higher up. The flight was very short, the wings being scarcely moved ; and the bird alighted on a tree at a lower level than the place from whence it had come, but soon got higher up by climbing, using its tail to assist it.
Finally, this supposed cave gathering behaviour is an interesting idea indeed...
The cry of the Kakapo is a hoarse croak, varied occasionally by a discordant shriek when irritated or hungry. The Maories say that during winter they assemble together in large numbers in caves, and at the times of meeting, and, again before dispersing to their summer haunts, that the noise they make is perfectly deafening.
The full Kakapo entry runs to about 9 pages, and covers their range, the threat to them from cats and rats, diet, behaviour, edibility and more besides. It's quite a fascinating perspective from some 140 years ago, and warrants further Google Book Searches in the future.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Baiji Expert: Yangtze river dolphin may not be extinct

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that Professor Wang Ding, who headed the research team on the six-week Baiji Expedition, says that some of the dolphins may still exist.
"This is only one survey and...you can't have a sample in a survey, so you cannot say the baiji all is gone by the result of only one survey," he said.

"For example, there is some side channels or some tributaries [where] we cannot go because of a restriction of navigation rules, and also we don't survey during the night-time so we may miss some animals in the Yangtze River."

Professor Ding says based on anecdotal evidence, he remains confident the dolphins are still out there.

"I'm pretty much sure there are a few of them left somewhere in the Yangtze River," he said.

"I keep receiving reports from fishermen, they say they saw a couple of baiji somewhere, sometime.

Friday, August 10, 2007

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Mountain Gorilla Murders: Updates

There has been a large amount of media coverage in recent weeks over the horrific execution style killings of Mountain Gorillas in the DR Congo. At least seven dead since the beginning of 2007, possibly as many as nine.

Here's NBC affiliate 11Alive.com on how the murders are tainting the 40th anniversary of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Clare Richardson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Fossey Fund, is horrified.

"Shoot them with a gun?" exclaimed Richardson. "I mean that it's just -- it's just horrifying. Because they have no defense against that -- I mean, they probably stood up and looked at them before they shot them."
[...]
Investigators in Congo are looking for those responsible for the killings, and they have been told by the Fossey Fund, help is on the way.
The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project based out of Maryland Zoo, Baltimore is also ramping up its efforts to assist. ABC2 reports...
Dr. Mike Cranfield heads up the project, working between Baltimore and Africa.

Dr. Cranfield and a team of veterinarians are doing everything possible to keep these endangered animals alive.

“These animals are closely related to us 98 percent and I feel if we can’t save the animals we have that close attachment with, then I think it’s bad for the lesser animals that not enough attention is paid too,” says Dr. Mike Cranfield with the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
Finally, the ENN site reported last week that two men involved in the killings HAD been identified, and one had been arrested.
Wildlife authorities and conservation partners have held a series of emergency meetings to address last week's shooting of four endangered mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two suspects have been identified as persons involved in the killing of the four gorillas, all members of the Rugendo group. The men were seen early on July 23rd at the scene where the gorillas were shot dead. One of the men has been arrested and is cooperating with the investigation, but the second man is still at large.

Baiji Dolphin 'now extinct'

News of the Baiji Dolphin's "extinction" is rolling around the media outlets again this week, as the researchers publish their 6-week study findings in the Royal Society Biology Letters. Here's BBC News with the story.
The researchers failed to spot any Yangtze river dolphins, also known as baijis, during an extensive six-week survey of the mammals' habitat.

The team, writing in Biology Letters journal, blamed unregulated fishing as the main reason behind their demise.

If confirmed, it would be the first extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years.

The World Conservation Union's Red List of Threaten Species currently classifies the creature as "critically endangered".
The BBC site has a video report on this story, including footage of the Baiji in graceful action.

Also, here's an older report from earlier in the year...

Would You Walk 1000 Miles? Mosher is...

Very best of luck to ACTS supporter Mosher as he struggles through the first few days of his new 1000 mile hike for charity. The I Would Walk 1000 Miles blog has all the details on his amazing walk from Monaco back to St. James Park in Newcastle. He's already developed a nasty blister, so hopefully that won't slow him up too much.
Though how I managed it I don't know. I have a nasty burst blister on my right foot and my feet ache but I'm just glad I made it. Later today I hope to clamber over the mountains and into Italy by 8pm.
Mosher is raising money for the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, a children's charity in Vietnam, so please help him out if you can.

Komodo Dragon and Orangutans killed in Canary Islands fire

As wildfires rage out of control, burning more than 33,000 hectares of Canary Island forests, the Times Online reports that the fire has destroyed most of a wildlife park on Grand Canary.
Many of the animals at Palmitos Park, including reptiles, parrots, orangutans and a Komodo dragon, are thought to have died. An official said that many rare birds were released before the flames engulfed the park.
[...]
More than 13,000 residents were evacuated from their homes as firefighters battled at least four large blazes in Tenerife and Grand Canary.
[...]
where tens of thousands of British tourists are spending their summer holidays.

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