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.