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...