Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Honda F1: 'Earth Car' replaces sponsor logos

There's lots of coverage across the web of the Honda Formula 1 team's decision to drop their traditional livery for the upcoming 2007 season. Instead, they will replace advertising and sponsor logos on the cars with a giant picture of the Earth to raise awareness for environmental issues.

What's rather neat is that the image will be comprised of millions of tiny "pixels" that, when viewed under magnification, could contain YOUR name.

All you need to do is visit www.myearthdream.com, make a pledge towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, and a monetary donation of your choice. Your money will go into the myearthdream Trust from where it will be distributed between environmental charities and initiatives all over the world.

After reading more about CFL lightbulbs at 18Seconds.org, I decided to commit to changing as many of my lights as possible to the more energy efficient kind. Of course I registered my "pixel" under www.anotherchancetosee.com. I'll see how it comes out when the livery is launched on March 12th, ahead of the first Grand Prix of 2007 in Melbourne, Australia.

For more coverage on HondaF1's "Earth Car", see MSNBC.com, ITV-F1, Speed Channel amongst many.
"Formula One and the environment may not seem exactly bedfellows," team boss Nick Fry told reporters at the unveiling of the new 'Earth Car' at London's Natural History Museum. "There will always be that last few percent of cynics but we found very strong support right across the world to do something in this direction.

"The global reach, the number of people we can talk to, is immense, so we can change minds," he said. "We are going in a more environmentally friendly direction with the systems we put on the car and Formula One is really a laboratory for road car technology."
While there's no disputing that the Formula 1 circus is hardly environmentally friendly, any program that raises environmental awareness across the world with such a huge audience has to be applauded.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

18/08/2007?

There's a very curious entry on the ZZ9 news page at zz9: 18:08:2007.
18:08:2007<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
“Great Things are afoot”
Slartibartfast
What can that mean? I'm guessing that the 18th of August 2007 will be an important date for Douglas Adams fans. Apparently we'll find out more in the next exciting issue of Mostly Harmless, the quarterly newsletter of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Endangered animals: Free Ringtones

MSNBC.com has an article on a new initiative from the Center for Biological Diversity. In a similar way to some other organizations they are offering free ringtones of the calls of endangered animals around the world, in an effort to highlight the plight of these creatures.

Their site features the calls of Blue-throated Macaw, Beluga Whale, Boreal Owl, Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, Yosemite Toad, California Spotted Owl, and many more endangered species besides.
Amid the cacophony of cell phone ringtones these days, add these: the clickety-click-click of a rare Central American poison arrow dart frog, the howl of a Mexican gray wolf and the bellows of an Arctic beluga whale.

An environmental group is hoping that the more people hear these sounds from threatened animals, the more they’ll wonder where they came from — and question the fate of the animals and birds that make them.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

'Mass Extinction' Theory: Life On Earth Threatened

"We are at the precipice of the end of the world!" says Chera Van Burg of Species Alliance.
CBS5.com of San Francisco has a detailed article and video report on the current theory that a new mass extinction is beginning. The report uses the Baiji Dolphin as a prime example. It also says that the Congo gorilla population has declined 90 percent since 2002, because of land clearance for Coltan mining, a mineral used in the manufacture of cell-phones.
There is widespread belief among scientists that current species of life are becoming extinct at a rate more than 1,000 times higher than normal.
[...]
"According to a consensus of the world's biologists, a mass extinction is unfolding or about to unfold on planet Earth," said David Ulansey of Massextinction.net.
[...]
Biologists believe the six major causes of the present mass extinction are habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, human overpopulation, human overconsumption, and climate change.
Full story and video report at CBS5.com.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture

Reminder! The Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture takes place on March 15th 2007.

The presentation will be made by Dr Richard Leakey and is entitled "Wildlife management in East Africa – Is there a future?".

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Northern White Rhinos: Vets operate on ovaries of San Diego rhinos

NBCSanDiego.com has news that vets have been busy working on two Northern White Rhinos at San Diego Zoo. The article says they were harvesting "ovaries", but I imagine what they were really doing was harvesting EGGS. That would make more sense to me. This is a very sensible move, and comes on the back of Lulu's successful IVF pregnancy in Budapest. Lulu has been treated again, and we should find out soon if she's pregnant once more.
A team of veterinarians performed laproscopic surgery on two female white rhinoceros at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park Thursday.
[...]
The aim of the surgeries was to harvest ovaries (sic) from two Northern white rhinos. There are fewer than 20 Northern white rhinoceros remaining in the world, and 15,000 Southern white rhinoceros.

Encyclopedia Britannica: Douglas Adams

There's a couple of pages in the Encyclopedia Britannica for Douglas Adams, one of them being tagged as Year In Review 2001 - the year he died.

Links: Douglas Adams, Adams, Douglas Noel

Friday, February 23, 2007

Northern White Rhinos: Lulu's baby is doing well

The International Herald Tribune reports that Lulu's baby is doing well, and currently weighs in at 176 pounds. After a first attempt failure, Lulu successfully carried an IVF baby to term, and it was born in January.
The unnamed female, who weight 58 kilograms (128 pounds) when she was born Jan. 24, drinks about two liters (.45 gallons) of milk a day, and "seems to love to play tag with the caretakers," the zoo said.
[...]
Lulu underwent insemination again on Tuesday — only a month after giving birth — as fertility levels are highest in female rhinos right after they have delivered calves, the zoo said.

Veterinarians for Lulu's second insemination used the sperm of Simba, a male rhino from the zoo in Colchester, Britain. Results on whether Lulu was pregnant would be known within 80 days.

Audio: Single White Rhino Would Like To Meet

Maxton Walker's "Pick of the Day" in the Guardian is the two-part BBC Radio 4 series exploring the role of captive breeding programmes for endangered animals around the world - "Single White Rhino Would Like To Meet".

The first programme aired today (Friday 23 February 2007) at 11am and I assume part two will appear next week. Both shows should be available as internet streaming audio, live and On-Demand for at least 7 days following the broadcasts.

Part 1 should be available for streaming, but I am getting a "Sorry we can't bring you the programme you requested". Please leave a comment if you manage to listen to the show.
Rosamund Kidman-Cox explores the role of captive breeding programmes for endangered species operated by zoos worldwide and asks how they aid conservation in the wild. For all creatures, the management of the gene pool is a crucial part of any breeding programme and finding suitable mates is a complicated business.

Rosamund visits Whipsnade Wild Animal Park to see how their herd of southern white rhinos has been growing over recent decades and what problems they have encountered. She also joins a female red panda at Bristol Zoo as she is introduced to her new mate.
Thanks to Dave H for the tip

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Gorilla thrill in Rwanda

NOW Toronto Magazine is running a feature article on Mountain Gorilla eco-tourism in Rwanda. The article discusses how the tourism efforts and gorillas have been affected by habitat loss, poaching, disease, the 1994 genocide, and the impact of award winning motion picture "Hotel Rwanda".
The tourism office here is full of wazungu, the East African term for white people. The group of six surrounding the front desk are from Canada, equipped with Lonely Planet guides and seeking gorilla permits.

Charles Tabone, a 21-year-old Queen's University student from Toronto, tells me his mother was nervous when he told her he was going to Rwanda. He admits that his idea of the country was influenced by the media.

"My whole image came from Hotel Rwanda, which was filmed in South Africa!"

That's true for a lot of people, but the Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN) in Kigali screens another movie: 1988's Gorillas In The Mist. The endangered mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans are bringing tourists from around the world back to a new Rwanda. Even Sigourney Weaver, who played gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey in the movie, returned in 2005 to visit.

Beyond ACTS: African Elephants in Ivory Wars

A team-member at National Geographic magazine wrote to tell me about their Ivory Wars article in the March 2007 edition. It is about the elephants of Zakouma National Park in Chad, and the extreme poaching problems that they face. The story is also covered in some depth on the National Geographic magazine website, with Feature 1 - Ivory Wars and Feature 2 - Eye To Eye by J. Michael Fay plus photographs by Michael Nichols.
The dead elephant, a huge bull, lay on his side, right leg curled as if in wrenching pain. Dirt covered the exposed eye—magic done by poachers to hide the carcass from vultures. The smell of musth and urine, of fresh death, hung over the mound of the corpse. It was a sight I had seen hundreds of times in central Africa. As I passed my hand over his body from trunk to tail, tears poured down my cheeks. I lifted the bull's ear. Lines of bright red blood bubbled and streamed from his lips, pooling in the dust. His skin was checkered with wrinkles. The base of his trunk was as thick as a man's torso. Deep fissures ran like rivers through the soles of his feet; in those lines, I could trace every step he had taken during his 30 years of life.
They also have an information page on their Google Earth feature, with the Zakouma—Ivory Wars KLM file ready to download into Google Earth.
Rich new layers let you zoom in on the park's animal inhabitants, read author Mike Fay's journal entries, see camera-trap photos, and more.
Much like Jane Goodall's Chimpanzee Blog, the Ivory Wars Google Earth layer has (amongst other things) blog entries and lots of stunning photography. Combined with their previous Google Earth content such as the African Megaflyover, National Geographic truly are at the forefront of making the best use of this emerging "geo-browser".

Thanks to Keene Haywood for alerting me to the story, Mike Fay and Michael Nichols, and all the rest of the National Geographic team who worked on this story. I'm pleased to help spread the word about your good work.

P.S. As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, you can take Google Earth way beyond the basic mouse and keyboard control with 3D-Connexion's fabulous "Space Navigator". I highly recommended this intuitive, addictive and very attractively priced device. It makes exploring special layers like Ivory Wars even easier.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Noises of Nature - Bernie Krause

Interesting article about Bernie Krause in the New York Times. He has been on a "40-year quest to record the Earth’s rapidly disappearing 'biophony' — a term he coined to describe that portion of the soundscape contributed by nonhuman creatures."
If you saw Bernie Krause, a sotto voce man with heavy, nearsighted eyes, seated amid the baffling array of high-tech sound-engineering gear in his Glen Ellen, Calif., studio, you might never guess that he was once flung down a Rwandan mountainside by a mountain gorilla. Or that he forced himself to sit coolly still in the stultifying blackness of an Amazon jungle night while a prowling jaguar mouthed a microphone he had set up only 30 feet down the trail.
Much of Bernie's work is available on CD. Amazon.com has many samples to enjoy.


**UPDATE**
Thanks to the Jesse Evans at www.wildsanctuary.com for popping up in the comments to tell us about their site and work with Bernie Krause. They have an extensive store of CDs, books and more, and also have streaming radio and a podcast too.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Komodo Dragons: Shedd Aquarium exhibit extended

Great news for residents of the Chicago area. The Shedd Aquarium's Komodo Dragon exhibit has been extended through the summer of 2008. WQAD.com has the news, plus here's the link to the Shedd Aquarium website.
The exhibit features Faust the Komodo dragon and dozens of other reptiles including a snakelike glass lizard to tiny geckos.

The aquarium drew two-point-one (M) million people last year.

The Shedd Aquarium's president Ted Beattie says the exhibit featuring Faust has been one of the most popular with visitors.

In other Komodo Dragon news, viewers of Children's BBC Newsround have named two of the baby Komodo Dragons at Chester Zoo which were born through parthenogenesis.
A second baby Komodo dragon has been named by Newsround Online users - and you chose to call it Indie.

Thousands of people took part in the online vote to pick names for the rare baby, which was born at Chester Zoo.

The first dragon was called Irwin, which was suggested by six kids. The winner picked at random was 11-year-old Matthew from Nottinghamshire.

Baiji Dolphins: Vanishing Point

A good article at China's Standard newspaper website last week. Three wildlife experts tell Steven Ribet of their experiences on the trail of two of China's most endangered animals, the Baiji Dolphin and finless porpoise. It includes a graphic description of the capture of QiQi, the only Baiji in captivity who died in 2002.
"The last confirmed sighting of a baiji in the wild was in May 2002. But we know there was at least one left alive after that because he died with us in captivity at our dolphinarium here in Wuhan," says Professor Wang.

"His name was Qiqi and we found him in 1980 when he was only two years old, 200 kilometers up the Yangtze from here in Chenglingji. He was stranded on the bank of the river. A fisherman had mistaken him for a fish and tried to catch him with a big hook, so there were two gaping holes in his neck. He was very close to death. None of us thought he was going to make it.

Mountain Gorillas: Dian Fossey Field News

February's edition of the Dian Fossey field news is now available at Watching Bishushwe: From One Group to Another. It includes a couple of great photographs. I love the contemplative picture of Shinda.
Bishushwe, a 21-year-old adult female mountain gorilla, recently left Pablo’s group, one of the mountain gorilla groups we monitor from the Karisoke Research Center. After almost two months of traveling with other groups and silverbacks she finally joined her current group, led by silverback Shinda, where it looks like she may stay.

Encyclopedia Britannica - Kakapo Parrots

After Another Chance To See was made a "Blog of Note" by Blogger, I was very kindly offered a membership to the Encyclopedia Britannica website. As part of the membership I can offer links to individual pages for everyone to enjoy. Once a week I'll put up a new link to an appropriate EB page. I'll also Label each EB post so that we can build a library of pages to refer to.

This week it is our old friend, the flightless giant parrots of New Zealand - The Kakapo.

Includes links to: parrot, rhizome, lek, and Stewart Island.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Douglas Adams: Hyperland video

I recently discovered that the Douglas Adams fantasy documentary "Hyperland" is posted on Google Video. Enjoy.
From the Wikipedia Hyperland article....
Hyperland is a 50 minute long documentary film about hypertext and surrounding technologies written by Douglas Adams and produced by BBC Two in 1990. It stars Douglas Adams as a computer user and Tom Baker, with whom Adams already had worked on Doctor Who, as a software agent.

The self proclaimed "fantasy documentary" begins with a shot of Douglas Adams asleep by the fire side with his television still running. In a dream Adams, fed up by game shows, commercial and generally non-interactive linear content, takes his TV to a garbage dump, where he meets Tom, played by Tom Baker, a software agent that shows him the future of TV: Interactive Multimedia.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Blue-Footed Boobies: Borat Boobs

The UK's Mirror newspaper reports that Sacha Baron Cohen (of Borat and Ali-G fame) adopted a Blue-Footed Booby for his fiancee as an unusual Valentine's Day gift.
SACHA Baron Cohen has bought fiancee Isla Fisher an unusual gift for Valentine's - it's a booby.

In fact, it's a blue-footed booby, a type of bird from the Galapagos Islands with bright blue feet.

Our wildlife source says: "Sacha has, of course, got a wacky sense of humour and he wanted to get Isla something a little different.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gorillas: Eco-tourism in Gabon (with Audio)

A recent episode of BBC Radio's "Excess Baggage" featured an interview with Josh Ponte who worked in Gabon for several years with orphan Western Lowland Gorillas and helped establish a new colony there. Full story at the "Excess Baggage" website, along with the full streaming audio of the show.
Josh Ponte lived in Gabon from 2001 until November 2005. He first went to help re-introduce Western lowland gorillas into the wild and then worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society in the development of the national parks network created in 2002. Josh recently returned to Gabon.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sifting Through The Embers

Nandini read the closing chapter of Last Chance To See when she was young. She confesses that she didn't understand it then, but does so now. Read her thoughts (and the chapter itself) at her blog Nandini's Niche.
There's a story I heard when I was young that bothered me because I couldn't understand it. It was many years before I discovered it to be the story of the Sybilline books. By that time all the details of the story had rewritten themselves in my mind, but the essentials were still the same. After a year of exploring some of the endangered environments of the world, I think I finally understand it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Komodo Dragons: Death at Cincinnati Zoo

The Enquirer at Cincinnati.com reports that Cincinnati Zoo's biggest Komodo Dragon, a nine-foot male by the name of Naga, died Sunday of an abdominal infection. Naga was the father of at least 32 baby Komodo Dragons on display all over the USA.
Naga, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s 24-year-old Komodo dragon, died Sunday of an abdominal infection very much like peritonitis in humans. He was the oldest, largest (9 feet, 160 pounds at death; 200 pounds in his prime) and most prolific Komodo in the Western Hemisphere.

A resident of Cincinnati since 1990, Naga was a gift of the Indonesian government to the first President Bush, who donated him to Cincinnati where a custom-designed enclosure, complete with heated rocks for lizard lounging, was waiting. Cincinnati was the second U.S. zoo to exhibit a Komodo, and the second outside Indonesia to successfully breed them. (Washington’s National Zoo was first on both counts).

Komodo dragons, native to only six Indonesian islands, are an endangered species with 2,000 to 5,000 left in the wild. But they’re well-protected: The Indonesian government considers them a national treasure, and harming them in any way carries severe penalties.
Full story at Cincinnati.com.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Mark Carwardine: Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2007

CameraTown.com recently had information on the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for 2007. Mark Carwardine will be judging again and offers some advice for the contestants...
Zoologist Mark Carwardine is an award-winning writer, columnist, widely published photographer, BBC Radio 4 presenter, consultant and lecturer. This year marks his third year as Chairman of the Judging Panel and his main tip for photographers is to focus on originality.

’There are no hard and fast rules to explain why one photograph wins a competition and another doesn’t, but there is one key ingredient - originality. The judges are looking for something that stops them in their tracks.

‘Imagine you are a judge looking at thousands upon thousands of photographs. Many of them are technically flawless - well exposed, perfectly sharp and pleasantly composed – and, after a while, you take these key ingredients for granted. You become desperate for something really creative, fresh and surprising to leap out from the screen. The pictures that do leap out are the ones that win.’
Full story at CameraTown.com, and you can enter the competition through Natural History Museum website at their Competition homepage. The competition runs through till 29 April 2007, so get snapping.

We posted about the 2006 winner back in October of last year.