Monday, July 30, 2007

3rd Birthday: Stephen Fry TV Series update and NEW Fundraiser !

It's that time again, and as this site celebrates its 3rd birthday, I'm very happy to announce that long-time supporter Dave Haddock has sent us FANTASTIC news about the TV series of Last Chance To See featuring Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine.

Dave went to a talk by Mark Carwardine last week in Rochester, where Mark announced that he would begin filming the TV series later this year (and into next) alongside Stephen Fry. They are going to re-visit all the places he went to with Douglas Adams, including where the animals are extinct. As the Yangtze River Dolphin is already "functionally extinct" they also plan to go and see the Ganges River Dolphin in India to highlight its plight. Most of the people that he met in 1989/90 are still working on the same projects, so it will be marvellous to catch up and see how things have progressed, for better or for worse.

As a result of this announcement, expect to see Ganges River Dolphin news postings on this site soon...

And now to our new fundraiser for 2007/2008. Since there approximately 720 Mountain Gorillas left in the world, I thought it would make a good target to try and raise $720, $1 for every single gorilla up there in the Virunga Mountains.

I have established a brand new Firstgiving donation page called "720 Dollars for 720 Mountain Gorillas", where we'll be raising funds for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Douglas Adams was a great supporter and patron of the charity, so many thanks in advance for your anticipated generosity! Anyone can donate, from anywhere in the world, the site is secure, and you can contribute as much or as little as you can afford. $1 will do, as that's one Mountain Gorilla towards our target!


Also, if there's a website address you'd like to promote, please send me the URL and a short description, and I'll be happy to build a links list to promote your favoured site. We're a Google PR5 you know... Note: Nothing offensive please!!

Thanks again to Dave Haddock at ZZ9.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Richard Leakey on DR Congo's Gorilla slaughters

Newsweek on MSNBC.com has excerpts from an extensive interview with Dr. Richard Leakey in which he discusses the threat facing Congo gorillas and what the world can do to help. The feature also includes a slideshow of graphic images from the recent Mountain Gorilla killings which readers may find disturbing.
Richard Leakey is the founder of Wildlife Direct, a European Union-funded conservation organization based in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), works to protect the apes in Virunga park. A renowned paleontologist, Leakey’s tough antipoaching measures are credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s. He spoke by phone from Kenya to NEWSWEEK’s Scott Johnson about the recent slaughter of some of the endangered animals, the threat posed by the charcoal industry and what the international community needs to do next.
Read on at MSNBC.com and in Newsweek magazine.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Great Egg Race

James Woodford for The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a high-tech egg hunt that is a race against time to save the rhino, whether that be the southern black rhinoceros, or the Northern White featured in Last Chance To See.

Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt is at it again with his $100,000 ultrasound-guided "needle". Who said romance was dead?
Trying to get a one-tonne beast up the duff is a tricky business.

The scene was a blend of a formula one pit stop, an army field hospital, Old Macdonald's farm and a construction site. And that was before one took a good look at the one-tonne beast on the operating table.

Nearly 2¼ hours into surgery at Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo, Dr Thomas Hildebrandt knew he had only a few minutes before his giant, dangerous patient, a 20-year-old, critically endangered southern black rhinoceros, would have to be roused.
[...]
"For the northern white rhinoceros, this technology is the only way to save the species. It's a race against time."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Baby gorilla Ndeze rescued after slaughter

Some better news this morning after yesterday's horrible post about the senseless murder of four adult Mountain Gorillas. allAfrica.com reports that a 5-month old baby gorilla was discovered roaming alone in the undergrowth after losing its mother to the killings.
The baby gorilla, named Ndeze, was badly dehydrated but otherwise fine, the rangers reported. She was taken to the nearby city of Goma, where the young ape will be looked after at the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

Ndeze was born on February 17 from now dead mother Safari bringing the Rugenge family to 12 gorillas. Another female in the group is expected to give birth.
We've mentioned Ndeze before on the site, because Paulin Ngobobo's Gorilla Protection blog has covered the baby's life since his birth and has published some great photos of the infant.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gorilla executions "senseless and tragic"

The BBC reports on the tragic execution of four more Mountain Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This brings the total number of Mountain Gorilla killings to SEVEN since January 2007. What a senseless WASTE.
The bodies of three females and one male were discovered by rangers earlier this week in the Virunga National Park.

Officials said the "executions" were not the work of poachers because they would have taken the bodies.
[...]
Because poachers would have sold the bodies as food or trophies, conservationists think the apes were killed by a group that was trying to scare wardens out of the park.

Killer Dragons Relocated

Some older news here, but Radio Australia reported back in June that a number of Komodo Dragons were being relocated after one of them mauled a nine year old boy to death.
An estimated 1,200 Komodos live on the island, part of a national park of the same name, and seven are known to be living near where the boy was killed.
[...]
They say the dragons, which grow up to three metres long, go wherever they smell meat and there are no guarantees they won't approach villages again,.

Police say they assume the boy's killer is among the group that is being moved.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Field News - July 2007

The July edition of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund field news has been online for a week or two.
News from Karisoke
Changes continue to happen among the composition of the mountain gorilla groups we monitor from the Karisoke Research Center. Here is the continuing story of two females and a hopeful silverback leader named Rano.

Bwenge’s Subgroup Transitions
Another interaction among the gorilla groups we observe has resulted in yet more additions to the ongoing “soap opera” among females, one established group, and one new would-be group leader.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Save The Rhino Fundraiser - Final Week for donations

We've entered the final week of our Save The Rhino fundraiser. Thanks again to everyone who has donated over the past year - over $500 is something we can all be very proud of. I look forward to starting a new fundraiser very soon, perhaps with a bit of a twist.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Three Gorges Dam Videos

Here's a few Three Gorges Dam videos from Youtube.

Baiji Tribute


NASA's animation of China's Three Gorges Dam construction over the years


Chinese Promotional film


A trip to Three Gorges Dam Project
How utterly depressing that we had to lose such a beautiful creature as the Baiji Dolphin for the sake of a decimated landscape and a "tourist attraction". Bleh!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Brazil green lights Amazon dams

The BBC has news that the Brazilian government has given the initial go-ahead for the construction of two hydro-electric dams on the Madeira River, the biggest tributary of the Amazon. The impact to the Amazonian environment is bound to be enormous if the project runs through to completion. Full story.
The Madeira River projects have divided opinion even within government and in recent years have been one of the most environmentally sensitive issues.

The river is said to have one of the most diverse fish stocks in the world.

Environmentalists fear they could be threatened by the development of the dams costing billions of dollars.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dodos and Mammoths: The DNA Hunt

It's been quite a month for the potential discovery of ancient DNA.

First up is the recent discovery of a well preserved Dodo skeleton on the island of Mauritius. National Geographic News has the story...
Researchers say the find would likely yield the first useful samples of the extinct, flightless bird's DNA. Very little has been known about the dodo—from what exactly it looked like to what it ate—since it became extinct in the 1600s.

The new skeleton is thought to be complete and was likely preserved by its cave setting. The cavers found the remains off the coast of Africa on Mauritius, the only island were dodos were known to have lived.
Far to the North, a baby mammoth has been unearthed in Siberia and is due to be shipped to Japan for analysis. It is said to be the best preserved specimen of its type, and some scientists are desperate to try and recover some intact DNA to attempt a cloning process. BBC News has the story (including a video report)...
The six-month-old female calf was discovered on the Yamal peninsula of Russia and is thought to have died 10,000 years ago.

The animal's trunk and eyes are still intact and some of its fur remains on the body.
[...]
Larry Agenbroad, director of the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs research centre in South Dakota, US, said: "To find a juvenile mammoth in any condition is extremely rare." Dr Agenbroad added that he knew of only three other examples.

Some scientists hold out hope that well preserved sperm or other cells containing viable DNA could be used to resurrect the mammoth lineage.

Despite the inherent difficulties, Dr Agenbroad remains optimistic about the potential for cloning.

"When we got the Jarkov mammoth [found frozen in Taimyr, Siberia, in 1997], the geneticists told me: 'if you can get us good DNA, we'll have a baby mammoth for you in 22 months'," he told BBC News.

Quest: Mountain Gorillas

Discovery Channel's blog Quest: Mountain Gorillas is an excellent resource for learning more about the work being done Dr. Lucy Spelman who has been working with Rwanda's Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project since 2006.

Lucy's most recent entry is a welcome bit of news on gorilla orphan Ndakasi, who has been fighting a severe illness.
Thirty-six hours later I returned to the DRC. This time I was all smiles at the border crossing. In broken French, I explained to the customs officials that the baby gorilla was better. She'd taken her first bottle at 3 a.m. the night before and had continued to drink small amounts of milk throughout the day. When I'd made the crossing earlier in the week, the officials had laughed incredulously at the idea of treating a baby gorilla. But now they were curious about her. They nodded and smiled back at the good news.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iain Gardner Animations

I thought I'd share these interesting animations by Iain Gardner from the UK.

Firstly, check out his film "Flight of the Dodo" which features Carl Jones talking about his work in Mauritius with the Pink Pigeon and Echo Parakeet.

And now, check out these "Sketchbook" animations of endangered animals such as Aye-Aye, Gorilla, Polar Bears and Rhinos. Iain says "These studies are as much about memory as they are observation. Memories are all we will have left of these species unless more is done to protect these wonderful creatures in the wild."

Aye-Aye Lemur

Gorilla

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stephen Fry: Doctor Who Magazine #384

Issue #384 of Doctor Who Magazine features a brief note in the Quickies section of "Beyond the TARDIS" regarding the current activities of Stephen Fry. This gives us renewed optimism that the Last Chance To See TV series is still forging ahead, despite the implosion of TV company Iostar.
Stephen Fry is working on six-part series Last Chance To See based on the Douglas Adams/Mark Carwardine book.
I know he's also working on series 2 of "Kingdom", has written a version of Cinderella for the stage, rumoured to be writing the screenplay of Peter Jackson's remake of "The Dambusters", making a documentary about HIV, employing an assistant to help with his online social networking, and would like to make some new Jeeves and Woosters with Hugh Laurie. A busy boy indeed!

Friday, July 06, 2007

COOL!! Jenson Button's F1 car now displaying our website URL

You may recall that back in February I made the pledge to replace at least three regular lightbulbs in my house to the more energy efficient kind (which I have now done). To make my donation I visited Honda F1's 'Earth Car' site at www.myearthdream.com.

It's taken Honda a while, but since last week's French Grand Prix at Magny Cours, all the names are on the cars, and perhaps we can take partial credit for Jenson scoring his first point of the season(?).

Most amazing of all, (and MANY thanks to eagle-eyed viewer Garry Mills for this) we can now actually SEE the evidence in close-up! This screenshot was snagged by Garry while it displayed last week's French GP Qualifying session results. Click on the image to get a much closer look, where I've actually hyperlinked some of the other visible URLs. Gotta love the HenCam!


This is where the Another Chance To See entry is actually located...


Good luck to Jenson Button and the HondaF1 team in this weekend's British Grand Prix, and also to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton up at the sharp-end! He's doing an amazing job right now, and I'm sure Silverstone will be sold-out this weekend as a result.

Komodo Dragon dies at Akron Zoo

Ohio.com reports the sad news that a 16 year old Komodo Dragon has died at Akron Zoo.
Contessa, the Akron Zoo's Komodo dragon, died on Tuesday from a ruptured abdominal blood vessel.

Zoo spokesman David Barnhardt said staff members noticed the Komodo dragon displaying abnormal behavior Tuesday and immediately transferred her to the animal hospital for tests. She died a short time later.