Saturday, March 31, 2007

Douglas Adams: Lost interview tapes part 2

Darker Matter, the online science magazine, has published Part Two of their "Lost Douglas Adams Interview Tapes".

Part One can be found here.
'Apparently I was a very strange-shaped baby. The nurse carried me down the ward with a towel wrapped round my loins saying "Look, Gandhi" – and the rest of the world has just taken its cue from that ever since.'

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New gorilla enclosure at London Zoo

The BBC has a an article and a short slideshow of the new Gorilla enclosure at London Zoo. Their new home cost about £5.3m to construct.
Gorilla Kingdom consists of a large open island, surrounded by a moat, an indoor "gym" and a back den.

Three western lowland gorillas will live in the enclosure: Bobby, a 23-year-old male; and two females, Zaire, 32, and Effie who is 13.

The £5.3m project means that Bobby can see the sky without bars for the first time since he was captured as a baby.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mountain Gorilla Roundup

Here's a quick roundup of some Mountain Gorilla links that have caught my eye recently.

Richard Leakey (presenter of the recent Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture) was interviewed for a National Geographic Podcast about the birth of an endangered Mountain Gorilla. The Gorilla Protection Blog commented on the interview.

The excellent Gorilla Protection Blog again with a post about "What Happens when Poachers Kill Mountain Gorillas?".

Opodo.co.uk with a report that the Ugandan Wildlife Authority has announced plans to bring two more mountain gorilla family groups into Bwindi National Park for eco-tourism purposes.

ThisIsLondon.co.uk with an extensive article about a Alcatraz style island for delinquent gorillas. Lots of great photos.
Will the crate be strong enough? I give it a rattle. Thick welded bars at the front, padlocks, a steel frame and 15 millimetre ply panels. Even Houdini wouldn't have stood a chance.

But Houdini did not weigh a quarter of a tonne, did not possess rippling muscles capable of throwing a grown man several feet into the air - and nor did he have the animal equivalent of an Asbo hanging over him. Even in his weakened state, the crate's inmate, Sid, is growing restless, and this most truculent and traumatised of beasts is capable of causing a lot of trouble.

Friday, March 23, 2007

River Dolphins: Irrawaddy heading for extinction?

National Geographic with news that Asia's critically endangered Irrawaddy river dolphin may closer to extinction than scientists previously thought.
According to Touch Seang Tana, chair of Cambodia's Commission for Mekong Dolphin Conservation, there are now about 160 dolphins in the upper Mekong River, up from only 90 when the Cambodian government banned the practice of net fishing last year.

But researchers who study the rare dolphin have expressed deep skepticism that such a dramatic turnaround could have occurred.

They said it would be biologically impossible for the dolphins to rebound so quickly, because their gestation period is 11 months and the animals generally only have one offspring every two years.
Read on at National Geographic...

Last Chance To See: Fan made video of audiobook segment

I just accidentally stumbled across this video segment on YouTube. As soon as it started playing I spotted the narrator immediately, and eventually realized that the audio was taken from the Last Chance To See audio book. The short film was made by YouTube user m3ttt.

m3ttt also made this other thought provoking film about endangered animals and extinction. It starts off with a photograph of the Baiji Dolphin.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Kakapo Parrots: Video of chicks

Here's a couple of smashing YouTube videos of Kakapo chicks up close and personal. From YouTube user sparkie567389.

Northern White Rhinos: Pulling an endangered species from the brink

The BBC has a very good article on the work of Thomas Hildebrandt and his team, from the Berlin Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, who are working tirelessly to prevent the Northern White Rhino from going extinct. The article is highlighted on the BBC's Science and Nature pages because the story will feature prominently in tomorrow night's Horizon special on BBC Two. "Horizon: The Elephant's Guide to Sex" airs on Tuesday, 20 March 2007, at 2100 GMT.
Only one northern white rhino baby born has been born in the last six years. Now the Berlin team are working with six captive animals, at the Dvur Kralove Safari Park, 110km (68 miles) north-east of Prague, in the Czech Republic.
[...]
Later this year the team will start to harvest eggs from the northern white rhino in the Czech republic, and if all goes well, create baby northern whites. With so few northern white rhinos remaining they hope to use southern white rhinos as surrogate mothers.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Amazonian Manatees: The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Cincinnati.com has an article on The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium about Manatees.
At its enclosed Manatee Coast and Discovery Reef exhibit, visitors learn about ocean reef ecosystems, the colorful fish that inhabit them, and the endangered manatee - thought to be the mythical creature of mermaid lore, as spun by old-world mariners.

The zoo's goal is to present the animals in exhibits that best mimic the natural environs in which they live, and warm-water enclosures house the manatees, unicorn tangs and other aquatic creatures on display.
[...]
Since the exhibit opened in 1999, zoo visitors have contributed more than $40,000 to manatee conservation. These donations have supported research and conservation programs for manatees in the United States, Belize, Brazil and Colombia.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Dian Fossey Field News

March's edition of the Dian Fossey Field News is now online. Sadly it includes news of the death of Umurava, a silverback from Pablo's Group.
At the end of February, Umurava, one of the subordinate silverbacks of Pablo’s group died, after a series of adventures. Pablo’s group is an enormous group of mountain gorillas that our staff at the Karisoke Research Center track and monitor.
[...]
Recently he had left and re-entered his natal group several times. After his latest separation, however, he was eventually found weakened and near death. Despite emergency efforts to save him, this fascinating silverback died and we now mourn his loss.
And Emmy Award winning CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper has posted a couple of video reports on the threats of gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the despicable trade of baby gorilla trafficking.

And finally...
September 24, 2007 marks the 40th anniversary since the legendary Dr. Dian Fossey set up her groundbreaking work with mountain gorillas in Africa. Escorted by John Fowler who worked with Dian Fossey at the Karisoke Research Center, you will learn more about Dian Fossey first hand, experience the mountain gorillas up close, and celebrate our 40th at Karisoke with field staff.
Sign up for your trip of a lifetime.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Excess Baggage: Mountain Gorilla Eco-Tourism in Uganda

A recent episode of BBC Radio 4's "Excess Baggage" featured an interview with Philip Briggs, a travel writer and tour leader specialising in eastern and southern Africa.
Philip has been travelling in East Africa since 1986 when he went backpacking in Uganda and has been back regularly since. Tourism is an important part of the economy and Uganda’s main tourist attraction is its wildlife.
He talks about the sometimes easy, and sometimes difficult task of tracking Mountain Gorillas through the forest. He is also the author of the soon-to-be-released "Uganda, 5th: The Bradt Travel Guide" travel guidebook.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Douglas Adams: Lost interview tapes recovered

PRLeap.com has news of the launch of a new online Science Fiction magazine "Darker Matter". They are launching with extracts from a 28 year old, never before heard, taped interview with Douglas Adams.
The long lost interview dates back to the days when Douglas Adams was tasting the first fruits of fame – and celebrating by taking out a £20,000 mortgage to buy his first apartment.

The original cassette tapes of the three-hour interview were only rediscovered recently, after gathering dust in the bottom of a cupboard since 1979.

The interview, which is rich in anecdotes and previously unpublished detail about Adams’ early career, is being serialized in three parts, in the first three monthly issues of Darker Matter (www.darkermatter.com).
Full story at PRLeap.com.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Honda F1: Jenson Button's 'Earth Car' will feature Another Chance To See pixel!

Following last month's post about the Honda F1 'Earth Car' initiative, I made the pledge to replace at least three regular lightbulbs in my house to the more energy efficient kind. To make my donation I visited Honda F1's 'Earth Car' site at www.myearthdream.com.

The Formula 1 cars will roll out onto the Melbourne racetrack in just a few days time, and Honda F1 have replaced advertising and sponsor logos on their cars with a giant picture of the Earth to raise awareness for environmental issues. What's clever is that the livery on the Hondas will be comprised of millions of tiny "pixels" that, when viewed under magnification, will contain the names or organizations who pledged and donated to the MyEarthDream Trust - and now that includes a "www.anotherchancetosee.com" pixel.

Later in the F1 season, when all the available "pixels" have been filled, our own pixel will be appearing right in front of Jenson Button's nose... The links to the larger version on the website seem a little flaky, but you can search for "anotherchancetosee" in the FirstName column of their search page.

If you'd like to get in on the action, visit www.myearthdream.com to 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.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Douglas Adams: Birthday tribute

Novelist C. Christopher Hart pays tribute to Douglas Adams, on what would have been his 55th birthday. He has decided to release an ebook version of his book "American Barricades" for $0.99 per download. From now until Towel Day 2007, he will be donating part of the proceeds ($0.42 in fact) to Save The Rhino and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Douglas Adams would have been 55 today. Like many people of my generation, Douglas inspired me to think unconventionally and to laugh a great deal. I loved his writing and, while it's been many years since that introduction, he is the fellow who opened my eyes to the possibilities of putting words together in interesting or amusing ways. While it's true he may have found the actual process of writing difficult, he certainly made it look fun. And for me it has been.
[...]
When he died in 2001, I was devastated. I read the news on the Internet, which was appropriate considering his very early adoption of email and the way the World Wide Web had come to (and continues to) resemble his fantastic Guide.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kakapo Parrots: The Hidden Valleys of Fiordland

Here's a nice article about hiking through Fiordland in New Zealand - Hidden Valleys of Fiordland at Outdoornewswire.com.
To one side lay the Stillwater River and to the other the Rugged Burn and straight ahead the waters of George Sound and the Tasman Sea. The valley sides are vertical and Morgan, the other member of our group, stepped forward onto a rock, looked beneath where there was 600 vertical metres of clear air. "Bungee jumping in Fiordland," he said.

This was paradise, the spot you dream of making when you're stuck in the bottom of a valley in the rain. The miserable conditions of Campbell Creek were now forgotten. We brewed a cup of tea, gazed over the views, noticed some Kakapo tracks around a tarn and then realised that at some stage we will have to head down to Henry Saddle and on to George Sound. That should be easy, we thought.

Rhinos: Conservationists keep rhinos from becoming jambiyas

Here's a very in depth article on the awful trade in Rhino Horn from the Yemen Observer - Conservationists keep rhinos from becoming jambiyas.
No rhinoceros roams the wilds of Yemen, yet this country and that animal are intimately entwined, in a relationship that has put the rhino at great risk of extinction. The connection between Yemen and the dwindling herds of rhinoceros can be found hanging from the belts of Yemeni men.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Quick links

Here's a few Mountain Gorilla features that wafted my way recently...

The Amateur Traveler Podcast, Episode 80, in which The Amateur Traveler talks to Chris Willis about traveling to Uganda and Rwanda to see the very endangered mountain gorillas. Chris also talks about the countries, their people and an unforgettable stay in a chimpanzee sanctuary.

ClickPress with a story entitled "Inking Endangered Animals" about award winning tattoo artist Lisa Fasulo.
Lisa is drawing a mountain gorilla, but not on paper. Her canvas is human skin.

Tattoos By Lisa tattoo studio, in upstate New York, has launched a fundraising campaign aimed at saving the earth's endangered animals from extinction. One tattoo at a time.

A nice 4 page article at the Christian Science Monitor - Web charity helps save Congo's gorillas with more coverage of the WildlifeDirect.org endangered animals blog collection. We first mentioned WildLifeDirect last week.
Donations made on the Wildlife Direct website pay the salaries of the park rangers who protect the endangered apes.

Elephants: A jumbo tusk for scientists

British tabloid newspaper "The Sun sure goes to town on this one, with an over-the-top graphic description of the process of acquiring semen from endangered animals for IVF work. Our good friend Dr. Hildenbrandt gets good coverage for his work with the elephants, and he'll be demonstrating the delicate process on BBC2's "Horizon: The Elephant’s Guide To Sex", to be aired on March 20th 2007.
He said: “One guy I know got a black eye from being hit by an elephant’s penis.

“When you touch an elephant there it starts to flick backwards and forwards and it’s so strong it can knock you off your feet. It’s such a strong movement.”
[...]
The programme will also look at the problem of getting semen from a sedated rare northern white rhino and viewers will meet killer whale Shamu who is only too happy to provide sperm samples in the name of science when his trainer shows him a special collection bag.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Flamingos: Another Google Maps super-zoom

Here's another Google Maps super-zoom, into one of my favourite National Geographic African Mega-Flyover images. A huge flock of flamingos! Scroll up a little to the NNW and you'll see a boat with about seven or eight people aboard, and at the south of the image tile you'll also see the tail end of the plane's shadow.


See our previous post for another endangered animal close up - Hippos taking a bath.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - Last Chance For Tickets!

According to the latest RhiNews Save The Rhino Newsletter...
There are still some tickets available for Dr Leakey's lecture on Thursday 15 March, in memory of Douglas Adams.

The lecture will be held at the Royal Geographic Society, South Kensington, London. Doors open at 6.45pm and the lecture starts at 7.30pm. Please book tickets in advance as we expect the Lecture to be fully sold out.
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.

For more information, see our previous post on the Lecture.

Name Lulu's Baby!

The Hungarian News Agency has a brief snippet announcing that Budapest City Zoo is going to be polling the general public to decide upon a name for Lulu the White Rhino's baby.
Starting from Thursday, people can visit www.zoobudapest.com/vote to vote for one among several appropriately African names.
[...]
The zoo's 26-year-old square-lipped white rhinoceros Lulu gave birth to a healthy female calf weighing 58 kilogrammes in late January.
You have 5 choices and they are...
Layla "born at night" Swahili (Tanzania-Kenya)
Lina "tender" Hausa (Nigeria-Niger)
Liwaza "consolation" Swahili (Tanzania-Kenya)
Liziuzayani "young" Yao (Malawi)
Lyabo "returned" Yoruba (Nigeria)

There's another picture at the BudapestSun website.

Hippos: Zoom in REALLY close with Google Maps

Philipp Lenssen at GoogleBlogoscoped has in interesting post today that discusses a neat little URL hack on Google Maps. It allows you to zoom in REALLY close and see some of the images that we're used to seeing in Google Earth under the special layers like the National Geographic layer, as well as the recent Australia Day flyover.

However, navigating these images in Google Earth is much easier, especially with the "3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator" which we reviewed back in January.

But for now, here's some Hippos taking a bath...


As I said, for more endangered animals up close, you can either view them in Google Earth (previous post details) or by loading a KML into Google Maps. Thanks to Brian S in Philipp's comments for this neat trick.
If you go to the following KML mapped onto google maps and choose one of the locations, then change the zoom in the URL according to Philipp you can see the high quality images.

maps.google.com/maps?q=bbs.key ...
**UPDATE** I've just posted another super-zoom image, this time of Flamingos in flight.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Northern White Rhinos: A Last Ditch Hope?

Robin McKie, science editor for The Observer, reports that the world's most endangered large mammal may yet be saved from extinction by human fertility methods. He reports on the work being carried out via artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation and sex-selection by Robert Hermes, a zoologist at Berlin's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. Robert works closely Thomas Hildebrandt and Frank Goritz, and their work resulted in the birth of a baby to Lulu in Budapest earlier this year.
If this team, working with other groups in several European zoos, succeed, they will have pulled off one of the most extraordinary feats in wildlife conservation. Most experts assume the northern white is doomed and will join the dodo, passenger pigeon, quagga and Tasmanian wolf as victims of the predations of modern humans.

'The northern white is now in a desperate situation,' said Hermes. 'It is in the tightest possible population bottleneck from which it may bounce back or simply die out. I still believe there is hope, however.'
Full story at The Observer online.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Wildlife Direct: Blogs from the Wild

Let me introduce you to Wildlife Direct, a conglomeration of blogs by dedicated people working to protect Africa's endangered animals and habitat.

Top of the list for me is Paulin Ngobobo's Gorilla Protection blog, where he talks about the challenges of protecting the endangered mountain gorillas who are now on the edge of extinction. He currently has some more pictures of Ndeze, the baby gorilla born last month. He says...
Mother and baby are doing well, and are being protected by the Silverback Rugendo. The mother, Safari (which means Travel in Swahili), is closely guarded by Rugendo so we were very lucky to be able to take these photos and cause no disturbance whatsoever.
[...]
More great news on the horizon… the adult female Mburanumwe of the same family is also pregnant and due to give birth soon!
Well done Paulin. I'll be following your blog very closely in the coming months and will be linking to you permanently very shortly.

Paulin has teamed up with Rob Muir of the Frankfurt Zoological Society whose own blog, Congo Rangers also shares stories of a unit of exceptional Congolese rangers operating in the eastern park of Congo.

The site also links to a number of videos on You Tube such as this one of a baby Mountain Gorilla playing in the trees.

Finally, the Ol Pejeta blog is "securing the future for Kenya’s rhinos" and is well worth a look. They've recently been performing a translocation of endangered Black Rhinos to the Ol Pejeta area.
All three animals were free released without any problem bringing Ol Pejeta’s total black rhino number to 76, the single largest black rhino population in Kenya. We will bring in a further 3 females at a later date, and move one female from Sweetwaters Game Reserve to Ol Jogi in the next few days.

Beyond ACTS: More News

I've been using Google Reader for quite a long time now, and I've decided to add a "More News" list to the right side-bar of this site. It will show the latest stories that I've tagged as "ACTS-Extra" in my Google Reader. The stories may (or may not) be tenuously linked to Last Chance To See, but I've found them all to be interesting. You can also see the list by visiting the "Read More..." link that appears below the bulleted list, or subscribing to the RSS Feed.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Aye-Aye Lemurs: Videos of baby Kintana

I just discovered a couple of videos on You Tube of Kintana, the baby Aye-Aye Lemur who was born back in 2005.




And thanks to John who sent me this nice endangered animals slide show over at Slate.com. First endangered animal featured here is the Aye-Aye, with a fabulous big picture of (possibly the same) baby in captivity.
Yes, we're talking about something grotesque here, so grotesque, in fact, that locals consider it to be an evil omen and kill the animal on sight. But losing it would mean the collapse of an entire branch of the mammalian evolutionary tree.
The article links through to the ARKive video page on Aye-Ayes where you'll find lots of great movies of the Aye-Aye Lemur in skeletal fingering action.

Mountain Gorillas: Baby born last month

CBS.com is one of many sites covering the news that a baby Mountain Gorilla was born in Congo on Februry 17th. Hurray!
The tiny gorilla, named Ndeze, was born Feb. 17 in Congo's Virunga National Park, home to some of the world's last 700 mountain gorillas, said Samantha Newport of the conservation support group WildlifeDirect

"It's incredibly positive. These gorillas have managed to survive a 10-year civil war," Newport told The Associated Press by telephone from the park. It is "an absolute miracle and testament to the work of the rangers, who worked throughout the war without receiving a salary, and to conservationists from all over the world."
Richard Leakey, the conservationist credited with helping end the slaughter of elephants in Kenya during the 1980s, is also quoted in the article. He will be hosting the Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture on March 15th.
"The Mountain Gorillas have been under enormous pressure for many years, and a newborn is always a positive step toward protecting these animals," Leakey said. "We should not forget that this is the product of enormous effort and sacrifice on the part of African rangers, many of whom have paid the price of this success with their lives."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rodrigues Fruit Bats: The Rob Miles Interview

Spinal Column Online has a very nice interview with Rob Miles, the director of the Organization for Bat Conservation at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. He has worked with bats for 15 years and has done lots of work on Mauritius and Rodrigues.
Two of the main hot spots that we're working on right now are in India and a group of Islands called the Mauritius Islands in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Madagascar. Right on our web site home page [Link: www.batconservation.org/] it talks about Mauritius fruit bats. I've been there and I've done work with the Mauritius and Rodrigues (part of Mauritius) fruit bats. Both of the bats are large, beautiful fruit bats. Rodrigues bats are an endangered species found on a tiny little island. We have an education project there teaching people about the importance of bats but that we also help fund research on the islands to survey the bats. I've done that there, helping to survey the health and population of the bats. So a lot of my research has to do with surveys and then also helping to give advice on how to best protect bats.
Well done Rob, great work! Good luck with your appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show!

Mountain Gorillas: Doctor's Diary

Dr. Bill Frist, the former U.S. Senate majority leader, is an accomplished heart and lung transplant surgeon who trained at Stanford University and was among those who pioneered heart transplants.
[...]
Dr. Frist is back in Africa, traveling with his wife, Karyn, and Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan's Purse, and is blogging for FOXNews.com.
Part 8 of Dr. Frist's blog for FOXNews.com is an interesting essay entitled A Visit With Gorillas.
Gorillas move and, indeed, they had moved quickly in the direction away from us all morning. They travel in families, and the Susa family is the largest and most interesting of the habituated gorillas in the Virunga mountain ranges that bridge the juncture of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

So we visited them — and what a memorable visit it was.

I’d traveled to these remote regions of Rwanda in the heart of Africa for three specific reasons: to continue my longstanding study of the gorilla heart; to enrich my understanding of the potential of disease transmission between animal and man (HIV, SARS, Avian flu); and to further expand the concept of “medicine as a currency for peace” using a unique “one health” approach being pioneered by a group of veterinarians who were connecting health of a gorilla-centered ecosystem with health of a poor population that had been ravaged by genocide just a decade before.
The article features several of photographs of Dr. Frist and his wife on their expedition, and also a short video featurette about their work in there.

Aye-Aye Lemurs: Picture of Kintana

Here's an Italian blog page with a great picture of a baby Aye-Aye lemur - Placida Soffitta (Google Translation to English)

This may or may not be Kintana, the Aye-Aye born at Bristol Zoo a couple of years ago. Our blog entries from April 2005 #1 and April 2005 #2 have more pictures.