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

White Rhino Birth Video

The Telegraph happily reports the birth of a baby southern white rhino which was captured live by the South Lakes Wild Animal Park's webcam. The video footage of the birth is pretty amaing to see, and here's the live webcam link to see how mother and baby are getting on.
Ntombi gave birth to 70kg Nyala at South Lakes Wild Animal Park near Barrow after a 16 month pregnancy.

The labour itself lasted just 15 minutes and the baby rhino's arrival and first tentative steps were all caught on camera.

"[...] when her labour started it was perfect for the camera. People all over the world saw the baby being born.
Here's the charming view from the webcam that I got as I was writing this post...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rare Bolivian river dolphin is new species

This story is a couple of months old already, but I thought it was an interesting development. It seems that the Bolivian river dolphin has now been acknowledged as a separate species to the more commonly-known Amazon River dolphin. The Telegraph has the story.
The formal announcement was made at a conservation workshop in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia.

The Bolivian dolphin (Inia boliviensis) was immediately adopted by the Bolivian government as a symbol of the country's conservation efforts.

The Bolivian species is smaller and a lighter grey in colour than the other species and has more teeth. It lives only in the Bolivian Amazon and is isolated from the other Amazon River dolphins, separated by a series of 18 rapids between Bolivia and Brazil.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Dr Jose Kalpers responds on Northern White Rhino numbers

In a further clarification to a recent Scotsman story about the numbers of Northern White Rhino, Dr Jose Kalpers, Country coordinator for DR Congo's African Parks Network wrote to the paper.
In your report, "Scots scientists to save one of rarest animals on the planet" (17 April), you wrongly state that there would be 13 northern white rhinos left in Garamba National Park. In fact, since August 2005, the working figure has been at only four rhinos, to which one can add five individuals in captivity (San Diego and Dvur Kralove).
[...]
Contrary to your report, habitat loss is not such an important issue in and around Garamba. Poaching is of course still a potential threat to which we continue to mobilise important resources. But the main hurdle to our conservation efforts is the insecurity that prevails in the region, in particular with the presence of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group that has been active in the area for almost three years.