Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mule Torture

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicHere's a picture of Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine on their mule ride yesterday. Stephen reports he's not too saddle sore this morning.

After seeing him being so terrified of the horse during Stephen Fry in America, I'm sure he was more than a bit nervous getting back in the saddle.
After 3 hrs on board a mule, your humble tweeter's fesses and nates are tortured and tormented beyond hope TBC

So. Three hours on "Perda" my mula who bounced and jiggered like Jaba's tits and took delight in brushing me past cactus. TBC

Thanks, btw, to those who warned me to choose long trousers. Had I worn shorts I'd be red fleshy pulp from the waist down.about 14 hours ago from txt

You have to hand it to these beasts. Their sure-footedness is a miracle. Millions of years to perfect 4-hoofed precision. TBC

Up and not too saddlesore. Tho many of you warn it's the morning after the morning after that hurts. Breakfast and then ho for La Paz x

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grey Whales: Fry's Photos

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicHere's a handful of photos from Stephen Fry's TwitPic stream. As well as the graceful moves of live whales, they were sad to discover a dead whale, as Stephen described on Twitter.
OMG to the power of 10! Mother & calf grey whale swam with us, played with us. Astounding, wonderful, joyous experience. Sx

Sad sight of recently dead juvenile gray whale floating in lagoon, gulls pecking at it. 1 creature's ill-luck a blessing to others. I sp
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Stephen is worried about his thighs today. Here's his final Tweets from last night ...
Director just casually dropped a bombshell. I have to ride a mule tomorrow. A thousand boiling arses. Two hours up a mountain. Buttery f**k.

Heigh ho - to bed. The morrow will bring weary thighs and much else besides. Till then x

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kakapos Still Breeding

The Kakapo breeding season goes from strength to strength. Here's the latest update from volunteer nest minder, Deidre Mussen.
The egg tally is looking very healthy and has surged to 37 eggs for the season. Of those, 20 are currently fertile and seven are yet to be checked for fertility. The remaining 10 failed eggs have either been deemed infertile or have died early, much like a miscarriage in humans, plus Lisa's last egg dying days before hatching. Sadly, Ellie's first attempt at breeding has failed. She produced a tiny egg but it was found to be unviable. Also, one of Cyndy's three eggs suffered an early embryo death. But the good news is Bella has laid a second egg and nest minder Fiona Gordon was thrilled to discover this morning that Esperance had laid a third egg at some point since yesterday morning, a lovely 24th birthday present for Fiona yesterday. Both of Margaret-Maree's eggs are fertile, as are both Hananui's and one of Sue's three - the remaining two are yet to be checked.
Read more at the Kakapo Recovery Programme.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

TV Crew Headed for Mexico

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicThe TV crew are headed for Mexico for the penultimate filming assignment for Last Chance To See. From Stephen Fry's Twitter feed...
Mark Carwardine and the crew are all here. Ready to start tomorrow at 7. I shall pop down and dine with them now. Bis sp├Ąter xx

Arrived at military airport: awaiting Cessna Caravan which will take us to San Ignacio lagoon where grey whales are to be found. We hope!
They are headed to the Sea of Cortez to see endangered whales, as the official BBC map shows. This will be an effective replacement to travelling to China to look in vain for the "extinct" Baiji Dolphin.

View Larger Map

Last Chance To See... The Facebook Group

For those who are into the Facebook thing, (who isn't these days?), there's a lonely Last Chance To See group that could do with a fresh injection of blood to add to its current 48 members. This will be a good place to countdown to the TV series in the autumn, and chat about it once it starts airing. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Free Book Giveaway - Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons

**LAST CHANCE REMINDER**
I'm giving away a second-hand hardback 1977 edition (ex-library copy) of Gerald Durrell's book "Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons". It's a very entertaining account of Durrell's trip to Mauritius, Round Island and Rodrigues to capture various creatures for his captive breeding programs. The book has a little water damage stain, but other than that, it's in very good reading condition, and is full of many nice illustrations and a section of black & white photographic plates.

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, or just post this competition to your favorite social network(s). US readers only please. Contest closes 02/19/09 09:47 PM

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Egg Bonanza

There's an egg bonanza down in New Zealand as 2009's extraordinary Kakapo Parrot breeding season continues. Deidre Mussen's Ranger diary of February 13th reports 15 fertile eggs out of 29 laid so far.
Four more nests have been found, which brings the season’s grand nest total to 13. However, as previously noted, Nora and Lisa were unceremoniously shut out of their nests after their breeding efforts failed, to encourage them to mate again. But it’s still early days because 24 female kakapo have mated so far – nearly 65% of the breeding-age females on the island – so plenty more nests are expected over the coming days. Fortunately, more kakapo rangers and nest minders arrived on the island this week, helping with the increasing work load.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pink Pigeon Awaits Mate

The Des Moines Register reports that a Mauritius pink pigeon recently joined the birds at Blank Park Zoo's indoor Discovery Center. As one of 44 Pink Pigeon's in the US, she will shortly be given a mate to try and increase the worldwide population of less than 500 birds.
"We are waiting for the (species survival plan) to identify a male that can come to Blank Park," said Kevin Drees, Blank Park Zoo director of animal care and conservation. "We don't know where that bird is yet. Hopefully it exists."

Mauritius' population of pink pigeons numbered fewer than 25 in the mid-1970s due to loss of habitat and non-native predators, like feral cats. A captive breeding program was initiated on the island.
The Blank Park Zoo article on the bird's arrival says...
In 1976 the wild population was down to less than 25 pink pigeons. That same year a captive breeding program was established which involved zoos and other private organizations. The most resent census concluded there just over 250 in the wild.
**
Plus, a reminder that I'm giving away a second-hand hardback 1977 edition (ex-library copy) of Gerald Durrell's book "Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons". It's a very entertaining account of Durrell's trip to Mauritius, Round Island and Rodrigues to capture various creatures for his captive breeding programs. The book has a little water damage stain, but other than that, it's in very good reading condition, and is full of many nice illustrations and a section of black & white photographic plates.

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, or just post this competition to your favorite social network(s). US readers only please. Contest closes 02/19/09 09:47 PM

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 Sultan Of Juan Fernandez". This episode features Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine in their search for the Juan Fernandez Fur Seal. The site indicates that the final episode to be released will be "A Man-Eating, Evil-Smelling Dragon", in March 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.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

7th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - Benedict Allen

**REMINDER REPOST**

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.

Please e-mail fiona@savetherhino.org for tickets, which cost £15.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Extinct Ibex Cloned

The Pyrenean Ibex, a Spanish mountain goat, was confirmed as extinct in 2000. Scientists had the foresight to store its DNA in skin samples, preserved in liquid nitrogen, and now there's been the news that scientists were able to clone a baby Ibex by replacing the DNA in a domestic goat egg. Unfortunately the baby died because of lung complications.

This raises the possibility (if ever so slightly), of being able to resurrect other extinct animals.
However, attempts to revive species like the woolly mammoths and the Dodo are burdened with problems. DNA decays as time passes and creates gaps in the genetic codes needed to produce clones.

Last year, scientists released an almost-complete genome of the woolly mammoth, creating gossip that it will be possible to synthesize the DNA.

Professor Robert Miller, director the Medical Research Council's Reproductive Sciences Unit at Edinburgh University, is collaborating with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland on cloning extraordinary African mammals like the white rhino.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kakapo Parrots: The 91 Names

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeWith the chance re-discovery of Rangi we now stand at 91 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 47
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
Rangi (First Captured 1987. Rediscovered February 2009, after hiding for 21 years on Codfish Island)
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)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Kakapo Parrots: Numbers boosted to 91 with surprise find

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeWell, here's a turn up for the books. In what is proving to be an astonishingly good breeding season for New Zealand's Kakapo Parrots, with 14 eggs laid SO FAR, a male Kakapo by the name of Rangi has been re-discovered, 21 years since he was last seen on Stewart Island.
Rangi's miraculous find by kakapo ranger Chris Birmingham boosts the critically endangered endemic parrot population to 91 and potentially adds important genetic diversity.
[...]
"I followed the booming sound and eventually spotted him. He bolted so I followed him through the supplejack and ferns. Finally, when it was safe, I managed to grab him."

It was only then that he realised the bird's significance because it wore a numbered metal band on his leg. Incredibly, Rangi survived two aerial poison drops during Codfish Island's rat eradication in 1998.
The Rangers have also succeeded in obtaining some low quality sperm from Richard Henry, who is estimated to be 70 years old. They've used the sperm to inseminate a female, with fingers, legs, and everything else crossed for good luck.
Spanish vet Dr Juan Blanco, a world-renowned expert in assisted reproductive techniques in endangered birds, was also on the island developing artificial insemination of kakapo.

He made international history 12 days ago by becoming the first person to artificially inseminate a wild endemic endangered bird. The female kakapo had since laid two eggs, raising hopes of success. The insemination of the kakapo with Richard Henry's sperm was only the second effort at using the cutting-edge technique.
Stuff.co.nz has all the exciting news with predictions for 40 eggs right on track!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Struan Sutherland: Smartphone aids snakebits cures

Last Chance To See's entertaining venom specialist Struan Sutherland gets a mention in this article about new Smartphone technology which is helping in the work of the Australian Venom Research Unit.
Unit director Ken Winkel, a toxinologist, turned to smartphones to help the unit's field research.
[...]
"I can make notes, take photographs, record voice and store data on one little handheld telephone," Dr Winkel says.

"It is not like the big, chunky, old telephone or camera I used to have. I can do things quickly with mobility that I couldn't before."
[...]
Former director associate professor Struan Sutherland developed the funnelweb spider anti-venom, the pressure immobilisation technique as first-aid for snake bites, and the world's only snake venom protection kit.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Google Earth: Tour of Juan Fernandez Islands

Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine are not visiting the Juan Fernandez islands for the upcoming TV series, so I thought I'd take a quick tour of the area in Google Earth, and share it with you using their new "Record a Tour" feature.

First, make sure you have the latest version 5 of Google Earth, then download this Tour of Juan Fernandez KMZ file which should open automatically. Expand the new folder using the "+" icons, and click the "Tour" option to run the recorded sequence. The picture at the left shows you where you need to be clicking.

Google Earth should now "take control" and fly you around the world, down to the Juan Fernandez Islands, around "Alejandro Selkirk Island", then across the ocean to "Robinson Crusoe Island", around the airstrip, and finally down to a small town on the island. The sequence was all recorded in real-time using the the fabulous "3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator". Using this device it really is remarkably easy to explore the world, smoothly and intuitively, as you'll shortly see. The SpaceNavigator is also available at Amazon.co.uk.

The ARKive video of the Juan Fernandez Fur Seals we featured the other day came from the fabulous new "Google Ocean" layer under ARKive:Endangered Ocean Species and is located on Robinson Crusoe Island.

This is just a first experiment with the "Record a Tour" feature. I hope to do some more soon with a bit more content.

Butaan Lizard Poo Blunder

Leeds University has had to apologise to student Daniel Bennett, after it threw away his collection of rare Butaan Lizard excrement, just a few months before he was due to finish his PhD. BBC News has the story.
Daniel Bennett had been studying the butaan lizard for more than five years in the Philippines and was working towards a doctorate.

He had built up a large collection of faeces samples which were stored at Leeds University and then disposed of.
[...]
The 35kg (77lb) bag of excrement was thrown out during a clear-out in his lab.

The butaan is closely related to the Komodo dragon. One of the world's rarest reptiles, it was thought to be extinct for over 100 years.
As Stephen Fry would say - "Arse, poo and widdle!"

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Free Book Giveaway - Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons

I'm giving away a second-hand hardback 1977 edition (ex-library copy) of Gerald Durrell's book "Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons". It's a very entertaining account of Durrell's trip to Mauritius, Round Island and Rodrigues to capture various creatures for his captive breeding programs. The book has a little water damage stain, but other than that, it's in very good reading condition, and is full of many nice illustrations and a section of black & white photographic plates.

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, or just post this competition to your favorite social network(s). I'll pick a random winner in two weeks time. US readers only please. Contest closes 02/19/09 09:47 PM

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Video: Juan Fernandez Fur Seals

Courtesy of www.arkive.org, here's a video of some Juan Fernandez Fur Seals doing their thing.
The team are not visiting the Juan Fernandez islands for the filming of the new TV series. As Producer Tim Green explains, there's a relatively healthy population of about 10,000 animals now. While talking about the original trip with Douglas Adams he says...
when the little plane finally put the intrepid explorers down on the island, the fur seals were virtually lolling on the runway. We decided that a repetition of this event hardly constituted an adventure for our modern day animal hunters, so we sidelined the fur seal.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ralph is Alive!

I'm assuming that this entry on the official BBC Last Chance To See website - "Ralph is Alive!" - confirms that the Kakapo Mark Carwardine met during the recording of the original radio series episode "Ralph, The Fragrant Parrot Of Codfish Island" is indeed alive and kicking. I'm afraid I can't watch the clip myself due to copyright restrictions outside the UK.

If that's the case, then that's terrific news.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

"Spectacular" Gorilla Growth in the Congo

Despite the war, the Mountain Gorillas of Virunga National Park seem to be prospering, with as many as ten babies born while the ranger's were not able to continue their regular patrols. Stefan Lovgren reports from Bukima in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for National Geographic News.
The population—made famous by a series of murders in 2007—has grown by nearly 13 percent in the last 16 months, despite having no protection from civil war or poaching for 15 months, park rangers said Monday.

"That the mountain gorilla population has increased in this environment is quite spectacular," said Emmanuel de Merode, head of the 680-strong Virunga ranger force.

The new tally brings the Virunga mountain gorillas to an estimated 211, [...] with some 720 wild mountain gorillas worldwide