Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fry's Bird in the Hand

New Zealand's Dominion Post has an early report on Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine's trip to New Zealand and pictures Fry with a hihi, or stitchbird, at the Karori Sanctuary.
Their visit coincided with the release into the sanctuary of five hihi, or stitchbirds, raised at Mt Bruce in the Wairarapa, which captured the attention of both Fry and Mr Carwardine.

There are fewer than 1000 hihi in the wild, with the 33 sanctuary residents the only settlement of the bird on mainland New Zealand.

"It's got a beautiful bill, good for poking down flowers," Fry says. "It looks like a hummingbird."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

TV Series: Fry and Carwardine off to see the Kakapos

This Associated Press article and Stephen Fry's Twitter feed say that he, Mark Carwardine, and the rest of the BBC crew, are flying down to New Zealand very shortly to begin their hunt for the 90 remaining Kakapo. Very best of luck!
Kakapo numbers have almost doubled since the original series from writer Adams and naturalist Carwardine, but there are still currently thought to be only around 90 of the parrots left in the world.

In New Zealand, the protected areas of Codfish Island and Anchor Island offer the kakapo a safe haven from predators and allow ecologists to closely monitor the species and mating behaviour.

Fry and his crew are visiting five conservation sites on the mainland and on off-shore islands, those behind the show said.

Monday, December 22, 2008

War babies in the Congo

Earlier this month, gorilla park rangers were delighted to encounter five new Mountain Gorilla babies on the slopes of Mount Mikeno, all the more remarkable given the continuing armed conflict in the country.
The park director, Emmanuel de Merode, later described the discovery of five newborns at the outset of a month-long census as “quite phenomenal”, given that the endangered gorillas’ habitat has long been a war zone in the conflict-ridden Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“They’ve had a growth of about 11 per cent in 10 years, less than two per cent a year. To get five births in a group of 30 is about 15 per cent growth. It’s quite tremendous and very unusual,” he said.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

CNN: Planet in Peril

There's another opportunity to see CNN's Planet in Peril over the holiday period. According to my listings it should appear on Thu 12/25 at 10:00 PM, then again early Fri 12/26 at 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM. The programme features host Anderson Cooper trekking with Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund staff in the Virunga mountains of Rwanda.

How We Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin

OHMYNews.com has a review of a new book entitled "Witness to Extinction: How We Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin" by Samuel Turvey, a research fellow at the Zoological Society of London. Mark Carwardine describes the book as follows... "At last someone is publicly mourning the tragic extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin. This is a highly authoritative, well written, thought-provoking and timely book". The review itself includes this passage...
Turvey's elegiac twilight trawl between the Yangtze's soggy mud banks heavy with wet grass and tree skeletons consumes six sorry weeks of 2006.

After covering the middle section of the great river twice, he and his peers become increasingly despondent, resentful, almost mutinous, irked by funding problems and failure.
The book is also available as a Kindle edition, and also at Amazon.co.uk.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Last Chance To See - The Radio Series *UPDATED*

The BBC Last Chance To See "Radio" page has been updated again to include the full radio episode "The Answer is Blowing in the Wind". This episode features Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine in their search for the Rodrigues Fruit Bat. The site indicates that the Kakapo episode will be the next to be made available, in January 2009.

The radio series episode guide in David Haddock's "The Story of Last Chance To See" has been updated with the link to all the episodes released so far.

NOTE: This material is only available to UK users due to copyright restrictions. Boo-hoo!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Stephen Fry and the Giant Parrot

This week's New Zealand's Sunday Star Times has a feature about the upcoming Last Chance To See filming trip for Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine. Tourism New Zealand is helping organize the trip and reveals that in addition to the Kakapo Parrots, they will be looking for kiwis, black robins, giant weta, tuatara and kea.
"This is an excellent opportunity for us to push New Zealand's profile in the UK," Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton told the Sunday Star-Times.

"Tourism New Zealand is working closely with the BBC to make sure Stephen and his crew have the opportunity to experience more of New Zealand beyond our native wildlife, so the programme gives viewers a real taste of what a New Zealand holiday has to offer."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

TV Series: Production update from Tim Green

Head on over to the BBC's Last Chance To See site to read producer Tim Green's extensive update on the production so far, and where they'll be headed in 2009.
We have returned from six weeks of filming in Uganda, Kenya and Madagascar and that's it for filming until the start of January. The next journey will be to New Zealand in search of the Kakapo, a fat flightless parrot, which should, at the very least, prove something of a contrast to chasing rhino, stalking tree climbing lions and hacking into mountains in search of gorilla. Having said that, twenty years ago Mark and Douglas had to fly by helicopter and leap out onto a mountain ledge while one runner touched down. I have not yet mentioned this to Stephen Fry.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Komodo Dragons Extinct on Padar

The Komodo Dragon has been extinct on the island of Padar since the year 2000. The remaining 2500 animals now only survive in scattered pockets across Komodo, Rinca and Gili Motang islands. The StraitsTimes has a short article about these few "Vanishing Dragons". As National Park Centre supervision head Ramang Isaka told the Jakarta Post recently...
"Their droppings can no longer be found there. There is no clear reason for its extinction, but rampant poaching of deer and wild boar, its main prey, and encroaching habitat due to forest conversion and wild fires are strongly believed to be among the causes."

Padar Island was teeming with Komodo dragons in the 1980s, but bush fires sparked by poachers have gradually restricted their habitat and foraging areas and might have burned dozens of them alive, he said.

View Larger Map

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Baby White Rhino Picture

From SFGate.com, here's a picture of Lisimba, the baby rhino at Budapest Zoo who was born from the frozen sperm of Colchester Zoo's Simba. The picture shows keeper Peter Czifra (or is it Tony Slattery?) stroking the 1-month-old southern white rhino.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

George Schaller receives the Indianapolis Prize

Regular visitors to Another Chance To See may recall my recent book giveaway of George Schaller's "The Year of the Gorilla", as won by Harold. Now, this audio podcast and transcript, available at VOANews has a potted history of Mr Schaller's life and how he helped to create the modern wildlife conservation movement.
He has spent his life studying wild animals in more than twenty-five countries. Those animals have included mountain gorillas, snow leopards, alligators and caribou.

This year, Mister Schaller received the Indianapolis Prize -- the world's top award for animal protection and conservation. The prize is worth one hundred thousand dollars.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Komodo Dragon Parthenogenesis News Video

This BBC London News video covered the remarkable parthenogenesis "virgin birth" event at London Zoo earlier this year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kakapo Sarah recovers from stick injury

New Zealand's Scoop has further good news about the recovery of Sarah.
An important breeding kakapo who had the misfortune of injuring her “private parts” when she unintentionally sat on a sharp stick, has been successfully rehabilitated at Auckland Zoo, and is to return to her home on Codfish Island.
[...]
Sarah, who is being flown home tomorrow morning, is one of the original founder kakapo birds from Stewart Island. Discovered there in 1989 and relocated to Codfish Island, she has produced two offspring in the past six years – six-year-old male Ariki, and three-year-old female, Pounamu.
The article goes onto say that the conservation team are confident of a good 2009 breeding season, due to the bumper crop of Rimu already growing. With six surviving chicks from 2008, keep your fingers crossed and we could make the magic 100 next year!
Breeding seasons in successive years is a very unusual event. The last large breeding season was in 2002, when 24 chicks were produced.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How "thorough" are scientists when suggesting extinction?

RedOrbit.com has an interesting article about the steps scientists must make in order to claim that a species has gone extinct. They use the Baiji Dolphin as a prime example.
scientists must undergo endless searching to prove that any individual species has gone the way of the dodo.

"If there's one thing in my career I'd like to be proved wrong about, it's the baiji," said Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London, using another name for the Yangtze River dolphin.

Turvey interviewed Chinese fishermen for almost 3 months earlier this year, hoping to record sightings of the long-snouted dolphin, which has not been seen since 2002. Some colleagues in China are still looking.

In 2006, the baiji was almost declared extinct after an acoustic and visual survey of the river turned up nothing. Yet a blurry video forced experts to rate it "possibly extinct."

Video: Kakapo Parrot a "Daysleeper"

Here's an old film from the Kakapo Recovery Programme, circa 1999.

And how about this display at the Te Papa museum in Wellington, New Zealand...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kakapo Parrots: The 90 Names

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeWith the successful release into the wild of 2008's six surviving chicks, we now stand at 90 living Kakapo Parrots.

This Wikipedia page contains the most up-to-date information on their names, but here they are in a simplified view, with much of their family tree information removed.
FEMALES - Total 44
Alice
Aparima (Born 2002, Mother of a 2008 chick)
Aranga
Bella
Boomer
Cyndy (Three chicks in 2008)
Ellie
Esperance
Flossie
Fuchsia
Hananui
Hauturu
Heather
Hine taumai
Hoki
Jane
Jean
JEM (Hatched: 2008)
Konini
Kuia
Kuihi
Lisa
Maggie
Marama
Margaret-Maree "Marmar"
Mila
Monoa
Nora
Pearl
Pounamu
Pura
Rakiura (Mother of two 2008 chicks)
Ruth
Sandra
Sara
Solstice
Sue (Mother of one 2008 chick)
Suzanne
Toitiiti (Hatched: 2008)
Tumeke
Weheruatanga o te po (Hatched: 2008)
Wendy
Yasmin
Zephyr
---
Recently deceased
John-Girl (Died: September, 1991)
Aroha (died: July 2004)
Aurora (died: July 2004)
Vollie (died: July 2004)
MALES - Total 46
Al
Arab
Ariki
Barnard
Basil (2008 Father of...)
Ben
Blades
Blake
Bonus
Boss
Dobbie
Doc
Elwin (Unofficial name - Hatched: 2008)
Felix
Gulliver
Gumboots
Horton
Jester (Hatched: 2008)
Jimmy (2008 Father of...)
Joe
Kumi
Lionel
Luke
Manu
Merty
Merv
Morehu
Nog
Ox (2008 Father of...)
Palmer-san
Piripi
Ralph
Richard Henry
Robbie
Rooster (Unofficial name - Hatched: 2008)
Sass
Sinbad
Sirocco
Smoko
Stumpy
Takitimu
Te Kingi
Tiwai
Trevor
Waynebo
Whiskas
---
Recently deceased
Gerry (Died: 1991)
Pegasus (Died: 1993)
Rob (Died: February 1994)
Ken (Died: July 1998)
Gunner (died: winter 2005)
Bill (died: March 2008, 2008: father of:...)
Mokopuna (died: April 2008, 2008 Chick #7)
Lee (died: October 28, 2008)

Video: Kakapo Encounter with Sirocco

Check out these videos of Sirocco the Kakapo, filmed during the "Kakapo Encounter" on Ulva Island. Many thanks to SmithsonianMBC for posting these.


Kakapo Parrots: Spring has Sprung!

The Kakapo Recovery Programme ranger diaries has a new entry relating the latest good news and bad news about the Kakapos. The bad news being the recent death of Lee, along with a trip to hospital for Sarah. The good news being the release into the wild of the six remaining 2008 chicks (FEMALES: Weheruatanga o te po, JEM, and Toitiiti. MALES: Jester, Rooster* and Elwin* - *Still unofficial names), and the success of this year's Kakapo Encounter with Sirocco.
Sarah is also in hospital at Auckland Zoo at the moment. When she was caught for her transmitter change she had a large infected wound on her cloaca and was extremely light. She has made a good recovery and all going well looks set to return to the island in a few weeks. We all feel relieved that she is doing well but sad that a reliable breeder won't be in good enough condition to nest this summer.

The chicks have now asserted their independence and are bouncing around all over the island and it’s a constant surprise to see where they pop up next. Their weights are all stable or increasing so we feel confident now that they have made a successful transition to being wild kakapo. On the names front the three girls are now called Weheruatanga o te po, JEM, and Toitiiti. For the boys Jester has retained his name and Rooster and Elwin are awaiting new names from Murihiku iwi.

Friday, November 14, 2008

TV Series: Where do Mark and Stephen go next?

The map page of the BBC's Last Chance To See website reveals where Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry will be headed for the remaining films in the TV series. They filmed in the Amazon in January of 2008, and have been in Africa and Madagascar during October and November 2008.

After a well deserved Christmas break, January 2009 will see them in The Sea of Cortez, Mexico to film endangered whales, an effective replacement to travelling to China to look in vain for the "extinct" Baiji Dolphin.

View Larger Map

February 2009 they head down to New Zealand to see the 90 remaining Kakapo Parrots and other species.

View Larger Map

The final trip will be to Komodo in April 2009. Here be dragons...

View Larger Map

In light of the BBC site's new geographic restrictions on media content, I recommend subscribing to Stephen Fry's site where he continues to post videos from the field, and occasional "blessays" and podcasts. His Twitter feed (see sidebar on the homepage) also features regular photographs of their travels, such as this encounter with a lemur on Madagascar.
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BBC Last Chance To See site - Audio and Video now blocked to non-UK

I'm very disappointed to report that the BBC's Last Chance To See website is now blocking all audio and video content to users outside of the UK. I can't tell you how sad I am about this development. I was really enjoying following along with the development of this series, something that's been close to my heart for nearly 5 years now. The Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine video blogs were always entertaining, and I'd been enjoying the original radio episodes too. All are now unavailable to me. I'm sure there are greater powers at work than the Last Chance To See production team here, but I am DEEPLY saddened by this. If there was a way I could PAY for access, I would. What a shame - it just doesn't make any sense to me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video: Douglas Adams - Parrots, the Universe and Everything

One of the very first posts I made on this blog, back in 2004, was about this wonderful Douglas Adams lecture entitled "Parrots, The Universe and Everything", which is mostly about "Last Chance To See". At the time, it was only available as a fairly low quality stream, direct from the University of California Television website. It is still available at UCTV, but now, through the magic of YouTube (which didn't even EXIST in 2004), I can present it for your enjoyment right here. ENJOY!

This report from the Daily Nexus Online describes the lecture, and how it was enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience of some 800 people.

Very sadly, this is one of the last public appearances by Douglas, as he would tragically die the following month. Still so very sadly missed.

Last Chance To See - The Radio Series *UPDATED*

The BBC Last Chance To See "Radio" page has been updated to include the second full radio episode "Gone Fishing!". This episode features Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine in their hunt for the Yangtze's Baiji Dolphin, which led to one of the most well loved passages in the original Last Chance To See book - the trip to the Shanghai Friendship Store. The BBC have pushed back the release of the Rodrigues Fruitbat radio episode, originally scheduled for today, until December.

The radio series episode guide in David Haddock's "The Story of Last Chance To See" has been updated with the link to all the audio released so far.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Titus - The Gorilla King: BBC2 Tuesday, November 11th, 8pm

The Daily Record calls this documentary, narrated by Bernard Hill, a "Don't Miss".
The Natural World is coming up for its 25th birthday but Titus, above, has been around a good deal longer, and at 33 years of age he is still king of the jungle in his mountain retreat in Rwanda.

It's rare for any wild animal's life to be chronicled over decades but Titus and his forbears were among the gorillas first studied in the wild by pioneering wildlife researcher Dian Fossey, of Gorillas in the Mist fame, and his whole life has been conducted in front of cameras.
BBC page.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stephen Snaps an Aye-Aye

Stephen Fry added this picture of an Aye-Aye lemur to his Twitter feed the other day.
OK, not the best photo in the world, but I only had a compact... on TwitPic

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Kakapo Parrot Wins the Election

Congratulations to the Kakapo Parrot, which has won the New Zealand's Forest and Bird organization's "Bird of the Year" competion, by a landslide majority!
The kakapo won the avian electoral race with 578 votes, well ahead of its closest rival, the takahe, which scored 322 votes - a landslide victory for the world’s heaviest parrot.

In what was a tense electoral race in which the feathers often flew, the kakapo struggled to find support in the early weeks of the month-long polling period, but flew past the opposition in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mark Carwardine: "One of the world's great wildlife experiences"

Check out this smashing video of Mark Carwardine getting excited, almost emotional, at the thought of going to visit the Mountain Gorillas once again. He describes it as one of the highlights of his 25 year wildlife watching career.

Here's video of Mark and Stephen Fry setting out on the trek, which he would ultimately describe as "worth every sobbing, gasping, aching step" (which we mentioned last week).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Interview with Mauritian Wildlife Foundation Conservationist

The GuardianWeekly site recently ran this interview with Vikash Tatayah, a conservationist with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. In it, he tells of his experiences with the endangered animals on the island, including the Mauritius Kestrels and Pink Pigeons.
You have to be slightly crazy to be in this business. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has been very successful in restoring animals, plants and forests, and people from all around the world come to volunteer on the programme every year. I oversee the conservation of Mauritius kestrels, pink pigeons (distant relatives of the Dodo), seabirds, reptiles and Mauritian fruit bats.

The Mauritius kestrel used to be the most endangered bird in the world. In 2004 there were only four kestrels known to be in the wild – now there are over 800. I’m proud to say that Mauritius and the neighbouring island of Rodrigues have saved more bird species than any other country in the world.
For more information, visit the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation website, where they are currently recruiting for a Round Island warden, although the webpage with the details is currently blank.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Last Chance To See - The Radio Series

The BBC Last Chance To See website "Radio" page has added an update to say that the 4th episode of the original radio series (Rodrigues Fruitbat) will be available online from November 11th, 2008. This will add to the Aye-Aye and Amazonian Manatee episodes already available. It would appear that the Beeb will be releasing the episodes out of their original broadcast order, as and when Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine get to the relevant point in their travels to make it relevant.

For the record, below you will find the radio series episode guide as compiled by David Haddock in his excellent article "The Story of Last Chance To See".

The episodes will be "linked" as and when the BBC adds the audio of the programmes to their site. The first entry on the list below is the "chatty ten-minute radio programme of [Douglas Adams] speaking over a background of wildlife sounds" which acted as the precursor to the full Last Chance To See expeditions and radio shows which followed a few years later.

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! [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]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Stephen Fry's First Mountain Gorilla Encounter

Check out the video on the BBC LCTS site of Stephen Fry's first encounter with a Mountain Gorilla...
It was worth every sobbing, gasping, aching step of horror, sweat, wheezing, frankly humiliaton to get here. Unbelievable, its a wonderful wonderful thing...
Stephen and the team are now in Mananara and Nosy Antafana - Aye Aye Island...

Last Chance To See - Return: Book Extract Available Online

The BBC Last Chance To See website now has an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the new book Last Chance To See - Return, which will be published in October 2009 by HarperCollins.

This funny excerpt from the book, written by Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry, concerns the famous exploits of the candiru fish, or "willy fish"...

Read The Excerpt

Friday, October 31, 2008

Three Little Pigs Facing the Chop!

Three little pigs appear to be facing a future of bacon and sausages, after New Zealand's authorities demanded their removal from Stewart Island, fearing that the pigs may pose a threat to local wildlife, including the Kakapo Parrots. 3News.co.nz has the story.
Gavin Ferguson who brought the pigs to the island says he knew that feral pigs were banned on Stewart Island, but thought that domestic pigs were permitted - unaware that a bylaw had been passed last September that banned all types of pigs from the island.

Stewart Island is home to some of New Zealand's rarest native birds, including kiwi and kakapo. Authorities say that while they do not want to play the role of the big bad wolf, pigs pose too big a threat to wildlife.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stephen Fry Reveals TV Series Show Breakdown

Stephen Fry has revealed on his Twitter feed what the probable running order may be for the Last Chance To See TV series.

With some of the animals probably already extinct (Northern White Rhino, Yangtze Dolphin), and others doing rather well (10,000 Juan Fernandez Fur Seals), the choice of locations for the TV series was something that the team thought long and hard about, including what new animals to introduce to the series. The Where In The World? section of this page has more on this decision process.

Here is the possible running order according to Stephen's Tweet, with the probable animals added by me...

1) Amazon (Amazonian Manatee etc)
2) Africa (Mountain Gorillas, Rhinos, Chimpanzees etc)
3) Madagascar (Aye-Aye Lemurs, Rodrigues Fruitbats etc)
4) New Zealand (Kakapo Parrots, possibly whales etc)
5) Indonesia (Komodo Dragons etc)
6) Bay of Cortes, Mexico (More whales? Not quite sure yet)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lee the Kakapo Has Died

Sad news from 3News.co.nz this morning. Lee the Kakapo, who could have been as much as 100 years old, has died a day before he was due to be returned to his island sanctury. He was successfully treated for lead poisoning recently, and everything seemed to be going well for him.
[Lee] died suddenly at Auckland Zoo last night from a small tear in the side of his crop, the sac-like part of the digestive system where food is stored before it enters the stomach.
[...]
"While working to repair this injury, Lee's heart stopped twice, but we managed to resuscitate him," said senior vet Dr Richard Jakob-Hoff. "However, he went into cardiac arrest again at the end of the procedure, and this time we were unable to bring him back - the shock on his system just too great."
With Lee's death, there are now a total of 90 Kakapos alive in the world, including the six chicks that survive from 2008's breeding season.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Virunga in Crisis: Rebels Seize Mountain Gorilla Park

CNN are among many news agencies reporting that Congolese rebels have seized Virunga National Park, home of the Mountain Gorillas, and this has sent upwards of 50 park rangers fleeing into the forest, fearing for their lives. A truly dreadful development.
Congolese rebels seized a major military camp and a spacious gorilla park in a renewed bout of heavy fighting that sent thousands fleeing, according to the United Nations and park officials.
[...]
A park ranger described the takeover.

"When the rebels started approaching the park station we thought we were all going to be killed," said Park Ranger Bareke Sekibibi, 29, who spoke by cell phone from the forest earlier as he fled, according to the park statement.
A Virunga Park ranger in the Congo describes the fighting in this video, as mortars burst repeatedly in the background.

The new Gorilla.CD website will have ongoing updates from the area.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Fundraiser - The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

I'm very pleased to begin our fourth annual AnotherChanceToSee.com fundraiser, and this time we'll be raising funds for The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which helps to save endangered species around the world.

Gerald Durrell visited Madagascar in 1990 to start captive breeding programs with a number of animals such as the Aye-Aye Lemur. From this expedition came his final book The Aye-aye and I: A Rescue Mission in Madagascar. Since Aye-Aye's were the very first animal visited by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine for what would become the original Last Chance to See, I thought it would be nice to raise a few pennies for them, and I hope you can help, even just a little.

After sponsoring a Mountain Gorilla infant called Urwibutso for $50, raising £281 for Save The Rhino and then another $96 for Mountain Gorillas, I hope we're able to repeat this success for the The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Donating through Justgiving is quick, easy and totally secure, and any amount will be welcome. If you’re a UK taxpayer, Justgiving will also add a 25% bonus donation in Gift Aid, but you're still able to donate to this fundraiser from anywhere in the world.

Many thanks for your anticipated support.


Lulu's Baby Doing Well. Hope for the Northern White Rhino?

Back in October 2007, we reported that Lulu, a Southern White Rhino at Budapest Zoo, was successfully inseminated from frozen sperm donated by Colchester Zoo's Simba.

Over the weekend, the Telegraph reported that, after a year long gestation period, the baby was born on Wednesday 22nd October, has been accepted by its mother Lulu, and is doing very well.

While the rhinos here are all Southern White Rhinos, the research team led by Dr Robert Hermes of the Leibniz Institute in Berlin, are optimistic that similar results could be obtained with the remaining Northern White Rhino in captivity.

Dr Hermes said...
"It enables us to bring new gene material from the wild to the rhino conservation breeding programme without having to transport the animals", said Dr Hermes. "In the future, reproduction experts can anaesthetise wild bulls, collect semen from them, and use the frozen sperm for breeding offspring in international zoos.

"This is a very important result for conservation efforts. The northern white rhino population, in particular, could benefit dramatically from this procedure as there are only three, possibly four individuals left in the wild and only eight individuals in zoos worldwide. Using this method, we hope to be able to sustain the dwindling populations of these highly endangered species."
The Budapest Zoo site has a picture of the birth taking place.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mountain Gorillas: New Official Website of the Virunga National Park

The official website of the Virunga National Park, which documents the work being done to protect the Mountain Gorillas, has moved to a new a brand new site at www.gorilla.cd.

The top story on the site right now is the recent re-sighting of a Silverback Gorilla called Buhanga who was spotted by Rangers near a patrol post in the Gorilla Sector. This was the first sighting in over 1 year, and was captured in this fabulous video...

For more videos, head over to the Gorilla.cd YouTube Channel.

Also, check out these charming pictures of baby mountain gorillas Ndeze and Ndakasi, who were orphaned when their mothers were shot and killed in June and July 2007.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lee the Kakapo Survives Lead Poisoning

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeUPI.com reports that Lee, one of the 91 remaining Kakapos in the world, has been lucky to survive lead poisoning after possibly swallowing a fishing weight or a piece of buckshot. The bird came was brought into Auckland Zoo in a very underweight state, but has recovered well.
"It's hugely pleasing to see Lee so healthy now," said Dr. John Potter. "He's put up with twice-daily tube feedings to enable us to get his weight up to more than 1.7 kilograms (between 3 and 4 pounds), and for a bird that's been held in captivity for the first time, he's really pretty chilled out."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stephen Fry: Africa, a Place of Shuddering Beauty

Stephen Fry's latest video dispatch on the BBC Last Chance To See website is a brief summary of their first week's travel in Africa. In it he describes the countryside as a place of "shuddering beauty", somewhere where even a pencil would flower if you stuck it in the ground.

When he was back in the Amazon, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed his Attenborough-style introduction to the napkin moth. Very informative, and confirmed what I'd always thought about the origin of Branston Pickle.

The second "Afrycam African Video" is also up on StephenFry.com. Here Stephen is in a park in Nairobi where he encounters an extraordinarily moving symbol to the ivory trade.

Finally, Stephen has posted the first picture of this "Last Chance To See" animal on his Twitter photo-stream.
They do look rather like men in gorilla suits, don't they? On TwitPic

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last Chance To See - Official BBC Site For TV Series Now Live

Many thanks to the BBC for including a link to this little old blog on their fabulous new website "Last Chance To See - A Search for Animals on the Edge of Extinction". I'm deeply honoured, and absolutely delighted to see this new series coming to fruition in such style.

The BBC site is chock full of great content, blogs from Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine, videos from the field, interviews with people involved in the original radio series and even a couple of episodes of the radio series itself. Hopefully more of those episodes will be made available in the coming months.

My very best wishes to Stephen Fry, Mark Carwardine and series producer Tim Green as they continue their expeditions. I can't wait to see the result.

Sincerely,

Gareth Suddes

7th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - Benedict Allen

In aid of Save The Rhino, the Seventh Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture will take place on March 11, 2009. The speaker this year will be explorer and broadcaster Benedict Allen.

I first became aware of Benedict when he presented his inspiring 1997 "video diary" style documentary series "The Skeleton Coast" in which he trekked through the Namib desert with three grouchy camels. He followed that trip with a 3000 mile trek across the Mongolian Gobi desert in "The Edge of Blue Heaven".

Benedict is a sometime guest, and sometime presenter on BBC Radio 4's "Excess Baggage". Here he is in an appearance from 2006: The Adventurer's Spirit in the Face of Adversity.

These days, Benedict is known for his Channel Five TV series Unbreakable...
in which eight athletes are pushed to their mental and physical limits, explorer Benedict Allen takes a look at what helps keep any of us going in the face of disaster.
As to the lecture itself...
It’s an exciting and often humorous talk which draws on his vast experience of survival in jungles and deserts and the Arctic, by himself and others who live at the extremes.

Tickets cost £15 and are on sale in January.

Please e-mail fiona@savetherhino.org to be notified when tickets go on sale.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bird of the Year: Kakapo now in second place....

**REPOST**
New Zealand's Forest and Bird organization is currently having their 2008 "Bird of the Year" poll. Please make your vote count, and give the Kakapo Parrot the boost it needs to climb the current rankings. Polls close on the 7th of November.

**UPDATE**
The Kakapo is now in second place, about 20 votes shy of the Tui. If you haven't voted yet, now is the time. Thanks.

Final Chances To See Sirocco the Kakapo

New Zealand's Southland Times reports that this years Kakapo Encounter is now winding down, but has once again proved a great success.
Trust secretary-treasurer Ann Pullen said 11year-old Sirocco had been his usual star self and had really impressed visitors.

Mrs Pullen said people were usually blown away and say they had no idea it would be such an unique experience.
In other Kakapo news, the New Zealand Herald reports that Massey University biologists are researching the role of the Kakapo's sense of smell in breeding, and whether a synthetic version might improve the chances of some of the less attractive Kakapos.
An alluring aftershave for male kakapo could be developed from new research into why some of the critically endangered parrots attract females more than others.

American expertise is being called on to investigate the unique smell of male kakapo feathers, and how the sweet and vegetative odour may influence mating behaviour.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Last Chance To See TV Series: Official Blog

The BBC site has a place holder page for what appears to be the official Last Chance To See blog of Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine's new trip. It's very broken right now, and full of lorem ipsum, but the RSS feed is available for subscribing at least...
Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine travel to some of the most remote places on earth in search of animals on the edge of extinction. Follow the journey online through exclusive video and blogs.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Remembers Pablo

October's Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund newsletter is remembering the fabulous life of Pablo, who's 1974 birth was recorded in her book "Gorillas In The Mist". Pablo went on to become one of four silverbacks in "Pablo's Group" and became a well loved individual for decades. He disappeared on July 13th 2008, and is presumed dead at the age of 34.
Evidence suggests that he did not survive wounds received during a confrontation with another silverback when their two groups encountered each other the previous day. Although second-in-command after a brief period of dominance, for many years Pablo had fearlessly helped Cantsbee lead and protect “Pablo’s group,” which became the largest gorilla group known to researchers. He is remembered fondly by many who worked at Karisoke over the past four decades.


And in related news, according to the Stephen Fry Twitter feed, he will be in the Bwindi area on Tuesday 20th October to see the Mountain Gorillas.
My clever driver Robert has taken me to a place where there is network reception. All well. Gorillas tomorrow x


Looks like Stephen's already been to see some rhinos...
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Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kakapo Parrots: Forest & Bird's "Bird of the Year"

New Zealand's Forest and Bird organization is currently having their 2008 "Bird of the Year" poll. Please make your vote count, and give the Kakapo Parrot the boost it needs to climb the current rankings. Polls close on the 7th of November.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stephen Fry now filming in Africa!

Stephen Fry is now in Nairobi as he begins the balance of the expeditions with Mark Carwardine that will make up the TV series of Last Chance To See. His "blessay" is available on the spanky new StephenFry.com 2.0 and also as an M4A or MP3 "podgram". The Afrycam African Video - Episode 1 Packing sees him packing his V-Necks and other necessaries to keep him feeling human during the trips.
I have flown to Nairobi to start work on the five films I am making with Mark Carwardine for the BBC. Mark Carwardine, you may remember, wrote Last Chance To See with my late great friend, Douglas Adams. This was a pioneering, prophetic book which saw the pair travelling the world in search of eight critically endangered species. Twenty-five years later Mark and I are revisiting the same places and looking for the same animals to see how world wildlife has fared in a quarter of a century. We already made one film in Brazil earlier this year, searching for the shy and endearing Amazon river manatee. It was during this expedition that I broke my arm. Who knows what will happen in Africa?
Very best of luck Stephen. Enjoy the trips, and stay safe!
Here's Stephen with all his gear from his Twitter feed...
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Monday, October 06, 2008

Stephen Fry: Where next?

Stephen Fry answers some short questions for The Independent's "My Life In Travel". The final question is "Where next?", and Stephen provides a fairly detailed itinerary of where he's off to for the filming of Last Chance To See: The Return.
I'm off to Africa to try to film gorillas and white rhinos. Then to Madagascar for ai ai (lemurs) [sic], over to Mauritius, then the Isle of Komodo to film the dragon, up to China perhaps, then down to New Zealand. I'm making a series of films for the BBC in the footsteps of Douglas Adams, who, with Mark Carwardine, wrote the prophetic Last Chance to See about a quarter of a century ago. Mark and I will be seeing which animals are now extinct (a quarter of those he and Douglas chose for the book are now said to be gone for good), and looking at some more deeply imperilled creatures.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Last Chance To See re-issue

According to theBookseller.com, Last Chance To See is to be re-issued in June 2009 with a new introduction by Richard Dawkins.
The imprint acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in the book from agent Ed Victor. A paperback edition will be published in June 2009, featuring a new introduction from Richard Dawkins.
[...]
Stephen Fry and Carwadine are to present the BBC2 series, which follows up on the species 20 years on and will feature audio recordings of Adams’ voice. HarperCollins are publishing the tie-in.
The article does say "this autumn's BBC2 series", but I'm fairly sure it's going to be autumn 2009. Autumn 2008's highly anticipated Stephen Fry documentary series is going to be "Stephen Fry - In America" which begins on BBC1, 9pm on October 12th in the "New World".

Monday, September 22, 2008

David Attenborough Reveals Career Highlights

Two of David Attenborough's career highlights, as mentioned in this Mirror article, are his visit to Komodo back in the 50s and his famous encounter with the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda for his Life on Earth series.
We went to Indonesia in 1957 to find the Komodo dragon, which had never been filmed.

Today you can get to Komodo overnight, but it took us three months.
[...]
I had no intention of getting close to the gorillas. I was crawling along preparing to turn round then suddenly this thing appeared and put his hand on the top of my head and put his finger in my mouth. Then two baby gorillas came up and took off my shoes.

A lot of it wasn't filmed. The director told me afterwards he thought: "God, the gorilla's going to tear his head off... and we're only half way through the series."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Komodo Dragon hatching from a parthenogenetic egg

Here's a short video of a Komodo Dragon baby hatching from a parthenogenetic egg at the Sedgwick County Zoo from earlier this year.

And then...


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Last Chance To See: The Return

Many thanks to Dave Haddock for spotting this article on theBookseller.com. HarperCollins have bought the right to publish the tie-in book of Last Chance To See - The Return as it airs on BBC2 in the autumn of 2009. Between now and then, Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine will be continuing their filming adventures to prepare for this eagerly anticipated TV series. Can't wait...
The book will feature their journeys, from Madagascar to Indonesia, as they search for a flightless parrot, a river dolphin, man-eating dragons, and an animal described as being "so bizarre it seems to have been assembled from bits of other animals". Fry and Carwardine will also talk to the campaigners who have tried to save these animals.

Fry enthused: "Having ­travelled with Mark Carwardine to the Amazon I can quite see why Douglas Adams so raved about his experiences. I might say: ‘I went to the Amazon with Mark where I broke my arm, but mended my heart'—but that would be to risk your vomit."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Year of the Gorilla - Book Giveaway

I've recently been re-reading an old hardback edition of George B.Schaller's book "The Year of the Gorilla". It is a very entertaining account of a Mountain Gorilla study expedition in the late 1950s and early 1960s. If anyone would like a chance to read it now that I'm done with it, please simply enter your name in this ContestMachine widget below. Or, if you know someone else who may be interested, do let them know. I'll pick a random winner in two weeks time. US readers only please. Contest closes Sat Sep 20 20:56:00 EDT 2008

Prize: Second-hand hardback edition of The Year of the Gorilla. The story of George B. Schaller's expedition to study Mountain Gorillas in 1959-60. It is as much an adventure story as a scientific analysis. From the riveting first encounter with a family of gorillas through the identification of several distinct groups, the gorilla's daily routine is revealed. Schaller's findings dispelled many long held myths about Gorilla behavior.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Geoffrey Perkins dies in road accident

It is with great sadness that I have to report that Geoffrey Perkins has died in a road traffic accident in London. He was only 55. Geoffrey was instrumental in bringing Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy to radio back in the 70s, and in his roles as a BBC radio producer, director of Hat Trick Productions, BBC TV Head of Comedy, and latterly with Tiger Aspect Productions, he has been part of an incredible number of shows that I've enjoyed for nearly 30 years.

He was a great talent who will be much missed, and his list of hit shows just goes on and on. How many of these have you enjoyed?

The Catherine Tate Show, The Fast Show, Father Ted, Spitting Image, Saturday Night Live, The Harry Enfield Television Programme, Ben Elton - The Man From Auntie, The Thin Blue Line, Radio Active and KYTV, 2 Pints of Lager, My Family, Coupling, and Big Train. His latest show Harry and Paul, with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, starts next week.

Read the full report on his life at BBC News, and here is his Wikipedia and IMDB page.
Geoffrey Perkins, 55, worked for many years for BBC Radio, where he created the game Mornington Crescent in I'm Sorry Haven't a Clue.

He also produced the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of the most successful radio shows ever made.
[...]
BBC director of vision Jana Bennett said she was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the news.

"Geoffrey Perkins was an outstanding creator of countless comedy hits on the BBC and elsewhere, and a very distinguished former BBC head of comedy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Week of (Not) Living Dangerously

Condé Nast Traveler features this lengthy essay about a trip to see the Mountain Gorillas by Klara Glowczewska.
Guhonda was some 450 pounds, measured over six feet when fully upright, and was shaggily, luxuriantly hirsute. Our eyes met repeatedly but fleetingly as he surveyed his terrain, and I was struck by how very nearly human his gaze was—97.7 percent of his DNA is identical to ours. Guhonda is a silverback (or sexually mature male) mountain gorilla, of the subspecies Gorilla beringei beringei. He is the dominant male in the Sabyinyo group, one of seven mountain gorilla families in Rwanda's northern Parc National des Volcans. I was crouching about ten feet away from him on the vertiginous, rain-forested slopes of a dormant volcano, seven of which, some up to 15,000 feet high, form the mountainous backbone of central Africa—'so high up,' Dian Fossey wrote, 'that you shiver more than you sweat.'
It's late, so I've not read the entire thing yet. I'll probably do a quick conversion in order to read it on my Sony Reader tomorrow. Eleven pages of on-PC reading isn't particularly comfortable, but with the Reader, it'll be fine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Silverback Pablo is Missing

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund August Field News reveals that the famous Silverback Pablo, a 34 year old gorilla first named by Dian Fossey is currently missing from his regular group, and the outlook for finding him is diminishing day by day.
Giraneza, a 14-year-old silverback apparently went with him.

The same morning, silverback Inshuti, who is now the leader of a small new group that contains only him and three females, was found seriously injured. He seemed unable to move from his nest site and had a large wound on his arm and several smaller wounds elsewhere on this body.

Since Inshuti’s group was ranging not far from Pablo’s group on the previous day, trackers believe that there probably had been an encounter between the two groups. A study of the trail of Inshuti’s group suggested this was the case, with flattened vegetation indicating an encounter among several individuals. Trackers believed that probably the silverbacks of Pablo’s group, including Pablo and Giraneza, stayed behind to face Inshuti, while the rest of their group moved away to safety.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Peru's Amazon region to protect pink river dolphin and manatee

LivingInPeru.com has a story concerning both Amazonian Manatees and the Pink River Dolphin.
Government authorities in Loreto, Peru's largest and northernmost region, have announced that measures are being and will be taken to protect, care for and preserve the lives of pink dolphins and other mammals in captivity.

It was reported that anyone who had a pink Amazon River dolphin, Inia geoffrensis, or "bufeo colorado” as they are known in Peru, will have 60 days to report to the Regional Production Directorate and explain why the animal is being kept in captivity.

My Parrot's Got No Nose...

How does it smell?

Rather well actually...

Molecular ecologist Silke Steiger, at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany, has been conducting a new study, searching for smell-related genes in nine species of birds. Based on his team's research, guess who's been identified as the top sniffer bird?
They looked for genes that encode olfactory receptors, which detect odors. Researchers generally assume that animals with a greater variety of receptors have a better sense of smell. Mice, for example, have close to 1000 working olfactory receptor genes, and humans have roughly 400.

By this logic, the most acute sense of smell in Steiger's menagerie belongs to the kakapo, a rare nocturnal parrot indigenous to New Zealand. The team estimates that the kakapo has 667 functional olfactory receptor genes.
Full story at ScienceMag.org.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Stoats cleared from Resolution Island

Wildlife Extra has an interesting update on the NZ Department of Conservation's trapping programme which aims to remove all the stoats from Resolution Island.
In 1908 early conservationist Richard Henry left Resolution Island in New Zealand's Fiordland, his dream of an island sanctuary for endangered birds shattered by the arrival of stoats onto the island. One hundred years later the battle to restore Henry's dream has leapt forwards with the removal of 258 stoats from the island in the first fortnight of the NZ Department of Conservation's (DoC) trapping programme.
[...]
Resolution covers some 210 square kilometres and is the fifth largest of New Zealand's off shore islands. "For a number of years DoC has been successfully eradicating predators on smaller islands. We've proven we can really make a difference to endangered species, but Resolution is the 'big league'. The sheer size and the variety of habitats on Resolution Island means controlling stoats and deer will be of major benefit to a variety of wildlife. Stoats are the reason there are no ground birds such as kakapo or kiwi or other vulnerable birds such as saddleback and kokako on Resolution Island." Said Mr Murray Willans [Department of Conservation Biodiversity Manager in Te Anau]

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Boto River Dolphin woo females with lumps of clay

I've just been clearing out my inbox and came across this story about the Boto, a South American River Dolphin with some "interesting" courtship techniques. BBC News has the tale.
A South American river dolphin uses branches, weeds and lumps of clay to woo the opposite sex and frighten off rivals, scientists have discovered.

Researchers observed adult male botos carrying these objects while surrounded by females, and thrashing them on the water surface aggressively.
However, just like other river dolphins such as the Baiji, the prospects for the Boto are not great, despite its apparent decent population of "tens of thousands".

Projeto Boto scientists are regularly finding dead dolphins, either harpooned or entangled in ropes.

"We lost half of the animals from our study area in just five years," said Tony Martin. [Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University]

"They may be fairly numerous now, but they're going downhill fast and we can't see any end to it."

Mark Carwardine & Stephen Fry - Pictured in the Amazon while filming TV series

Check out this news page on MarkCarwardine.com which pictures Mark and Stephen Fry down in the Amazon, most likely before Stephen broke his arm in such spectacular fashion.
Mark has joined forces with Stephen Fry to present a new television series about endangered species – as inspired by Mark's travels to almost every country on Earth studying, protecting and photographing wildlife at risk.

The series will include some of the old stars from the best-selling book, Last Chance to See (which he wrote with the late Douglas Adams 20 years ago), and it will introduce us to many new ones that have inevitably joined the ever-expanding cast of endangered species.
Last Chance To See, the TV series (or will it get another name before transmission?), is a BBC Wales and West Park Pictures co-venture, due to be transmitted on BBC2 in 2009.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Lowland Gorilla Numbers DOUBLE with astonishing find

In a story getting a lot over coverage around the web, researchers reported today that an estimate 125,000 Western Lowland Gorillas have been found living in a swamp in northern Republic of Congo. Truly, the Lost World of gorillas, and its an astonishing boost for their numbers, as it effectively doubles their known population worldwide. CNN and MSNBC are just two of the news outlets with coverage.
"It's pretty astonishing," Hugo Rainey, one of the researchers who conducted the survey for the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society, told CNN Tuesday.
[...]
Acting on a tip from hunters who indicated the presence of gorillas, Rainey said that the researchers trekked on foot through mud for three days to the outskirts of Lac Tele, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the nearest road.

"When we went there, we found an astonishing amount of gorillas," said Rainey, speaking from the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The CNN post also includes video footage.

Here's a map of the general area...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

4th Birthday today

Another year has slipped by, and this site celebrates its fourth birthday today. Has it really been that long? There's now over 1000 posts on the blog.

I know I don't post as often as I used to, but I still try to keep up with the big news, and there's been plenty of that this year.

Stephen Fry has already done some filming for the TV series of Last Chance To See, and unfortunately came off second best with a boat-dock and broke his arm. His Stephen Fry podgram tells the grim tale. Good luck to Stephen and the rest of the team as they continue their adventures. Be safe!

The Kakapo Parrots enjoyed a decent breeding season with 7 chicks hatched, although one died soon after. The Rimu crop looks very good this year, so we're optimistic for a great 2009.

The Northern White Rhino has not fared quite so well, and there has been no sign of any remaining animals in DR Congo. It looks very much like the magnificent Northern White Rhino is now extinct in the wild.

Last year's fundraiser "720 Dollars for 720 Mountain Gorillas" raised $96, so a huge thanks to everyone who contributed. Thanks to George for pointing out in the comments that FirstGiving has expired my fundraiser so I'll need to come up with something new soon.

Here's to the fifth year of Another Chance To See. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Long Way Down - The Movie - July 31st, 2008

Check out your local USA cinema on the following link to see if it is playing the special edition movie of "Long Way Down" on Thursday July 31st. This is a special one-night event from Fathom Events, screening just a few days before the TV series begins on August 2nd on the Fox Reality Channel.
Fathom and Wasserman Media Group are proud to present the Elixir Films and Big Earth production of Long Way Down – the ultimate motorcycle adventure - on the big screen. This unique event will be shown in select local movie theatres for one night only, on Thursday, July 31st at 7:30pm! This is your only chance to see a Fathom exclusive cut of Long Way Down – Ewan McGregor (Star Wars, Moulin Rouge!, Trainspotting) and Charley Boorman’s (Actor and Motorcycle Fanatic) 15,000 mile motorcycle journey from Scotland to South Africa on the big screen. Join McGregor and Boorman as they face many challenges from the unknown and unforgiving terrain that test their endurance, driving skills and push their friendship to the limit.
I've already seen the TV series on DVD but it will nice to see a version of it on the big screen. I've got my ticket and I'm sure it will something of a unique movie experience.

I don't know if the Mountain Gorilla scene will make it into the movie or not, but it was so nice to see Ewan and Charley being so moved in the presence of these magnificent creatures. You can see a short clip of it in this video trailer.
Finally, I've been thoroughly enjoying the book version of Long Way Down on my Sony Reader, but its also available as a hardback edition of course.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

40 Kakapo Chicks for 2009?

The six kakapo chicks hatched out this year have returned to Codfish Island following their hand rearing in Nelson. The Department of Conservation says that next year's breeding season promises to be very good indeed. Stuff.co.nz has the story.
The Department said next years breeding season was looking positive, with the possibility of up to 40 chicks being produced.

"We could have nearly a 50 per cent increase in the world population of kakapo in one year which would be a huge step in the recovery of the species," [Technical Support Officer, Deidre Vercoe] said.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Bumper crop for Rimu will help the Kakapo

The One has very promising news for the upcoming Kakapo Breeding season, and it's all based on the anticipated big crop of Rimu tree fruit. The Rimu seems to be the best aphrodisiac for Kakapo, because last time the levels were at this level was 2002, when 24 Kakapo hatched.

For more information on Dacrydium cupressinum, check out the Wikipedia page about Rimu.
Dacrydium cupressinum is a large evergreen coniferous tree endemic to the forests of New Zealand. It was formerly known as "red pine", although this name is misleading since it is not a true pine but a member of the southern conifer group the podocarps. Red pine has fallen out of common use and the Māori name rimu is now used.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drew Nichol raises $30,000 for Mountain Gorillas

Many many congratulations to Drew Nichol who's turned his interest and love for the Mountain Gorillas into a huge fundraising success. The Seattle Times reports on his latest walkathon which raised over $30,000 for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

Details of his campaign are on his excellent Gorillas In Our Midst website.
Other than having to sit out one day to nurse a cold and severe shin splints, a Woodinville man who walked from Seattle to Portland to benefit Africa's mountain gorillas said the adventure was a great success.
[...]
Nichol, whom acquaintances sometimes call "the Crazy Gorilla Guy" because his office is filled with gorilla paraphernalia, has felt a growing connection to the animals since he saw the remake of "King Kong" in 2005.

He's finishing up a DVD to benefit the gorilla project and plans to visit Rwanda to see the gorillas for the first time this fall.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kakapo display attract enthusiastic crowd

The Southland Times reports that an enthusiastic crowd very much enjoyed the chance to see the six 2008 Kakapo chicks on display in Invercargill this weekend.
Southlanders were invited to see the newest additions to New Zealand's small but increasing kakapo population.

Only 91 kakapo, including the chicks, remain.

The Department of Conservation offered a public viewing of kakapo and about 3000 took the opportunity to see the six parrots at the Invercargill Workingmen's Club yesterday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Poachers kill last four wild northern white rhinos

Terribly sad news from the TimesOnline which I think we all knew was almost inevitable. Rhino specialists have been unable to locate any of the four rhinos that were still thought to exist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it looks like the only remnants of the species are to be found in zoos.
The northern white rhino, Ceratotherium simum cottoni, has been struggling for suvival since the 1970s, when numbers dropped from about 500 to 15. A slight recovery was recorded in 2003 when 30 were counted but by 2006 only four were left. All of them were recorded in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo but war and civil unrest in the region has led to an increase in poachers.

“Worryingly, recent fieldwork has so far failed to find any presence of these four remaining rhinos,” Dr Martin Brooks, a rhino specialist with the IUCN, said. “Unless animals are found during the intensive surveys that are planned under the direction of the African Parks Foundation the subspecies may be doomed to extinction.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Big crowd flocks to see kakapo chicks

Over the weekend, more than 5000 visitors took the rare opportunity to see the Kakapo chicks up close and personal at the site of Nelson's proposed Brook Waimarama Sanctuary. The Nelson Mail has the story.
Over the weekend six kakapo chicks were on display in the sanctuary's visitor centre to give the public a chance to see the large flightless parrots.

There are only 91 kakapo in the world, including the six chicks.

The chicks were taken from Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, which is just off Stewart Island, in April to be hand-raised by Department of Conservation staff in Nelson after the rimu fruit their mothers would usually feed them on did not ripen this year.

The chicks will be returned to the island in a week. For many people the weekend's event was not only the first time they had seen a kakapo, but also the first time they had visited the sanctuary.
See the previous post for the final opportunity to see the chicks on June 22nd before they are returned to their island home.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kakapo chicks open for public viewing on June 22

Wildlife Extra has some exciting news that this year's Kakapo chicks will be on display to the public on June 22nd before they go back to their island sanctuary.
The Department of Conservation is offering the public a rare and special opportunity to see the newest additions to the small but increasing kakapo population.

The public viewing of the chicks will take place on June 22 at the Invercargill Workingmen's Club from 10am to 4pm. Entry is free.
[...]
while all precautions were being taken to ensure the chicks weren't affected by the event, the chicks' welfare was the number one priority. "If there are any concerns about their wellbeing, the viewing will be called off."

The last time the public were able to see kakapo chicks was in 2002 in Nelson. The event attracted more than 2000 people.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Rescued Divers Fought Off Komodo Dragons With Rocks

The rescued divers have been telling the tale of how they had to fight off curious Komodo Dragons by hurling rocks at them. There's a lot of coverage around the web about this story, including this one at the Mirror.com.
Last night - just hours after being rescued from a remote Indonesian island - they told how they:

Clung to a piece of driftwood for nine hours as they drifted more than 20 miles in shark-infested seas.

Hauled themselves exhausted on to a remote island...only to find themselves confronted by giant lizards known as komodo dragons.

Fought off one of the beasts - which theoretically could kill with its venom - by hurling rocks at it.
The BBC News page has a pretty decent article called How dangerous is a Komodo dragon?
"They will eat anything that washes up on the beach. That's why these people would have been in danger. When you have animals on the brink of starvation they will be very aggressive and humans are not very powerful.

In the wild they are very dangerous and would attack humans unprovoked. They bite their prey and their saliva has 80 strains of bacteria. They then wait two days for it to die and feast as a group on the kill

"If you have a couple of people throwing stones or sticks, that can work as long as you are only dealing with one or two [dragons]. They were in danger but they did the right thing.
And BBC Radio's Today show has an audio piece on the story.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Baby Amazonian Manatee - Q&A with rescuer

Here's an interview with Dr Miriam Marmontel, the conservation scientist who helped save Piti, the baby Amazonian Manatee recently. We covered that story back in early May.
Q: What's the story behind Piti, and how has Dr. Gregory Bossart been able to help?

A: Every year there are a number of cases of orphaned manatees, either because they became entangled in fishing nets or because the mother was killed. They may also be used as bait to attract the mothers for an easier kill. The animals that are rescued by the environmental agency (IBAMA) or donated are usually taken to one of 2 authorized facilities for rehabilitation, in or close to Manaus. However, those facilities are close to their maximum capacity, and they don’t have the policy of releasing animals after a few years (some have been in captivity for 30 years). We feel a need to release those animals as soon as possible, so that they can become part of the genetic pool.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Five bouncing baby gorillas

May's edition of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund newsletter has the exciting news that they're celebrating the birth of five new babies.
The year has started very well in terms of mountain gorilla births, with five newborns in the gorilla groups monitored by the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda. Not only that, but three of the newborns were born to first-time mothers.

In scientific terms, we use the word “nulliparous” to denote females 8 years of age or older who have never given birth. After they have given birth, they are called “multiparous” females.

Kakapo Cottage

Kakapo Cottage left a comment on our post "Kakapo Encounter 2008 is coming which I thought was worth promoting a bit more. They say...
Looking for accommodation for the 2008 Kakapo Encounter, Ulva Island at Stewart Island, New Zealand? Check out our holiday home at Stewart Island - www.kakapocottage.co.nz. We are donating 10% of the value of Kakapo Encounter accommodation bookings to the Ulva Island Trust.
It looks like a beautiful place to stay and if I ever get the chance to visit that part of the world again, I'll be sure to check it out.

Missing divers found alive

The five divers who went missing in Indonesian waters in Komodo National Park have been found alive on a remote beach. Excellent news! BBC News with the story once again.
Britons Kathleen Mitchinson, Charlotte Allin and James Manning and their two European counterparts had been diving in waters off the Komodo National Park.

Charlotte's father Dave Allin said his daughter had called to say she was dehydrated and exhausted, and had only cuts and bruises.

Police say the divers were found on Saturday morning on the southern coast of Rinca island, about 20 miles south of their dive site.

Powerful currents had swept them away as they waited for their dive boat.

Friday, June 06, 2008

British scuba divers missing after Komodo National Park dive

Five scuba-divers are currently missing after a dive in the waters of the Komodo National Park. Three of them are British and have been named as Kathleen Mitchinson, Charlotte Allin and James Manning. Our prayers are with them and their families during this time. BBC News has the full story.
They are believed to have been swept way by the current more than 24 hours ago. There has been no sign of them despite an intensive search.

Ms Mitchinson and her husband Ernest run a dive company in Bali called Reefseekers, and she is described on diving websites as experienced and knowledgeable.
[...]
Ernest Lewandowski told the AFP news agency the pair had been leading two separate groups of tourists on the dive.

He noticed his wife's group was missing when his group surfaced an hour after they entered the water.
[...]
He said the search was being hampered by a lack of fuel for aircraft.

Yangtze finless porpoise population is tumbling

Reports in a new study from China are that the planet's last river-dwelling finless porpoises are dying from exposure to insecticides and mercury. Kazinform has the news.
The mammals had already been declining as their natural habitat in and around the Yangtze River deteriorated.

In the new research, scientists also found high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other pollutants in the organs of porpoises found in central China's Dongting Hu Lake, which is connected to the Yangtze.

"In recent decades the [Yangtze finless porpoise] population decreased sharply each year by approximately 7.3 percent because of human activities on the river, including fishing, pollution, transportation, and dam construction," said lead study author Wang Ding of China's Institute of Hydrobiology.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kakapo Chick Has Died

A couple of recent posts over at the Kakapo Recovery Programme website have the sad news that one of 2008's chicks "Mokopuna" has died, and that all efforts continue on rearing the remaining 6 chicks. By my calculations that puts us down to 91 kakapo.

Mokopuna dies
Firstly her weight started to plateau, and then she became lethargic and resistant to feeding. The attention of vets and experts, and loads of time and energy from the team tending to her and administering medication didn't prevent her death. It would appear that she died from an infection in her lung - something that would have killed her much sooner in the wild.
Watching the changes
After the loss of "Mokopuna" attention has been fully focused on the remaining six chicks, and the ups and downs have continued. Raising chicks in captivity means trying to replicate what would happen in the wild as closely as possible, in order to fledge a healthy chick.
Unfortunately, us humans are never gonna be as good at it as mum kakapo so we always run into problems, and inevitably each season different health issues arise. At present there are three birds in the sick bay recovering from minor unexplained ailments. We've had constant advice from our vets at Auckland Zoo