Sunday, January 30, 2005

VIDEO - Parrots, the Universe and Everything

WONDERFUL! Check this out! An 87 minute streaming video posted by UCTV--University of California Television entitled "Parrots, The Universe and Everything". It's a complete Douglas Adams lecture by the great man himself, all about "Last Chance To See". Enjoy!!!

And here's a report from the Daily Nexus Online all about the lecture which was seen by some 800 people.

I've not tried RM Recorder yet, but if anyone has had any success with it do let me know. Sounds like a good product - my experience with their sister products Replay Radio and Replay Music has been extremely positive for recording things off the web for personal use.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Female gorilla Umusatsi gave birth to the 59th member of Pablo's group on Dec 26th 2004. Pablo's group is one monitored and protected by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda's Virunga mountains. The newborn (of unknown sex) is her third infant.

Full story and pictures at the Gorilla Fund field news page.

Friday, January 28, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHIN - Archival Ecofile radio show

The EcoFile radio series is a landmark radio series that aired on the CKUA Radio Network in Alberta, Canada from 1996 - 2002.
Episode 246 is entitled "Baiji Dolphins Disappearing in China", and originally aired in May 2001. The whole show is available as an MP3 download on the page above, and the Baiji Dolphin section begins about 4 minutes and 45 seconds into the show.

For a full list of their shows, visit their homepage and click the Past Episodes menu option.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

BLOG - Haloscan Commenting and Trackback

Just added Haloscan Commenting and Trackback - seems to be very much faster than Blogger's commenting, so hope that will encourage a few more "Hellos". Any problems, let me know.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

BLOG - Puppetdude3

Thanks to blogger Puppetdude3 for visiting and being compelled to spread the word about the plight of the Northern White Rhinos.

And regarding his other post about Snow in Scotland, I haven't the heart to tell him I'm near Philadelphia where we just got 10 inches yesterday...

Saturday, January 22, 2005

NEWS - Mike Hearn

Mike Hearn, Director of Research at Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia, died on Wednesday 19 January 2005. Tragically, he suffered an epileptic fit while surfing, and drowned.

Here is Save The Rhino's memorial page where you can read about his work and leave a message of condolence.

And here is a news article about the tragedy, from

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

BLOG - New site feed available

Finally got around to adding a SmartFeed from Should be better than the basic Atom feed from Blogger. Firefox users can subscribe to the new feed using the LiveBookmark icon in the bottom right corner of your browser window.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

NEWS - Mauritius says cyclone alert system could help warn of Tsunamis

BBC NEWS has this report
Mauritius' top meteorologist remembers all too vividly one of the big storms of his childhood, when he spent 18 hours crammed into the solidest room in the house with 20 or 30 other people; they could hear cries outside, but could do nothing to help.
Mauritius did get some warning of December's tsunami.

Mr Sok Appadu had a phone call from a woman whose brothers were in the Seychelles, telling him about giant waves.

At about the same time, international radio and television channels were starting to broadcast the news of damage in Sri Lanka.

At that point, he started alerting police and coastguards and put out a broadcast warning - fast, but not quite fast enough to help Mauritius' sister island Rodrigues, which was struck first.

But by the time the tsunami reached Mauritius itself an hour later, most of the eastern coastline had been evacuated and there was no loss of life.


The full synopsis for the annual Douglas Adams lecture is now available at Save the Rhino International - 3rd DAML 05.

This year's lecture is by "Last Chance To See" co-author Mark Carwardine, and is entitled "Last Chance To See... Just a Bit More". *what's wrong with "Another Chance To See" then? ;-)

The lecture will be held on the 10th March 2005 at The Royal Institution, Albemarle Street , London W1. Doors open from 7pm, lecture begins at 7.30pm. Click here for ticketing information.

It's a shame I'm living in the USA these days, because I'd give my right arm to attend this! Regular "Another Chance To See" visitor David will be attending, and will send me a report after the event. Enjoy the evening David!

Monday, January 17, 2005

NEWS - Rescue mission starts for DRCs Northern White Rhinos

More on this developing story from this Mail and Guardian Online article.
'We shall be flying the [five] rhinos [to Kenya] as soon they can be safely captured,' said Kes Hillman Smith, the Nairobi-based coordinator of the Rhino Project at the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), also an adviser at the Garamba park.

'This is the safest means of securing the sub-species from extinction,' she said, adding that the DRC government approved the step last week after being informed of the rhinos' precarious continued existence.

MULTIMEDIA - Hotspot: New Zealand (Kakapos)

Check out this page from National Geographic Magazine, including this very nice multimedia presentation all about New Zealand's unique wildlife. Features a segment on the Kakapo parrot.

And don't miss the picture of the remote-controlled decoy Kakapo in the Gallery. Not something you see every day!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

About 10 in the wild and 10 in zoos - And that's it!

Northern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White Rhino
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Hopefully the emergency evacuations to Kenya will go some way to saving the few wild animals, but to grab your chance to see the animals in captivity, you'll need to go to either the Zoo Dvur Králové in the Czech Republic (some great pictures in the Gallery!), or San Diego Zoo, California.

Northern White Rhinos - Devastating news

This is the awful news from the Congo, but a last ditch rescue has begun. Here's the Reuters article.
Five of the few northern white rhinos left in the wild will be flown from Democratic Republic of Congo to prevent poachers wiping them out, conservationists said on Saturday.

Fewer than 10 of the rhinos are believed to remain and with heavily armed poachers carrying out frequent raids in the wilds of northeastern Congo, moving the beasts to sanctuary in Kenya is deemed the only option to guarantee their survival.

'Although we've all been against the idea of the rhinos going elsewhere it is now necessary,' said Kes Hillman Smith, head of monitoring at Congo's Garamba National Park after the government approved the move this week.
Full story continues

TEN! TEN! Damn them!

With the ten in zoos in US and Czech Republic, that makes 20 or less left on the planet. Put that in perspective...
Northern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White Rhino
Northern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White Rhino
Northern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White Rhino
Northern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White RhinoNorthern White Rhino

I have more coins in my wallet right now!


And here's the BBC's take on the story of the White Rhino evacuation to Kenya. Full story at BBC NEWS
Conservation efforts were having some success in rebuilding the population until recently, when nearby civil wars and an increase in poaching sent their numbers plummeting again.

Nine of the rhinos, including a pregnant female and a young calf, were found dead in 2004.

The decline means the rhino is thought to be the most endangered large mammal on earth.

There are 10 in zoos in the Czech Republic and the US, but only one calf has been born in captivity in the last decade.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

KOMODO DRAGONS - A personal visit

Here's another personal account of a visit to Komodo, inspired by "Last Chance To See". It's a few years old, but it's a nice personal account. The complete tale, full of pictures can be found here Komodo and its Dragons.
Several years ago, I read a book called "Last Chance to See", written by Douglas Adams (famous for writing "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"). Among several other animals on the endangered species list, he also wrote about the Komodo Dragons the world's largest Lizards. Ever since that day I've wanted to visit Komodo.

Douglas Adams has unfortunately passed away several months before I visited Komodo. I am thankful to him for writing this book, as Komodo was one of the most interesting places I have ever visited. By inspiring people like me to visit Komodo, the locals are finding out that the dragons are worth more alive than dead. This way he might have done a lot to help save the Komodo Dragons.
Back in October we had a similar personal account. That entry can be found here.

If you'd like to visit Komodo this site might get you started... They have all sorts of adventure and diving tours in and around Komodo. As previously reported, the Tsunami did not affect Komodo directly and Indonesia's economy could certainly benefit from our visits.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Gorillas In The Database

"The Mountain Gorilla Geomatics Project began in 1992"[...]
The goal of the project was to use state-of-the-art Geomatics technologies in support of the on-going research activities to preserve the Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga mountains, one of the least mapped and more inaccessible areas in the world.

This project was initially designed to create maps for the use of field crews, create vegetation maps, map gorilla movements using GPS receivers, and to integrate ongoing research activities using GIS. It has been ongoing since 1992, and has grown to include researchers and scientists from many institutions and organizations around the world.

Our goal is to use advanced remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technologies (often refered to together as 'Geomatics' technologies) to provide a digitized database of the mountain gorilla habitat. The database includes layers of information that contain vegetation patterns, gorilla ranging and human use of gorilla habitat, including changes over time, and the impact of human encroachment on the reserve.
Their website is full of content, and can be found here.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Archival Interview with Douglas Adams - Daily Nexus Online

I dug up this fascinating interview with the late Douglas Adams, as posted on the Daily Nexus Online. Very nice read, so do head on over and read the full interview!
“I actually much prefer doing this particular one [speech], which I only ever usually get to do at colleges because it’s funny, but big corporations don’t particularly like to hear about protecting endangered wildlife,” he said. “You lose a lot of money to endangered wildlife.”

Last Chance to See started as a magazine article for the World Wildlife Fund. The group sent Adams to Madagascar, where he met Carwardine. Adams wrote about aye-ayes, an endangered species of nocturnal lemurs that look like a cross between a bat, a monkey and a very surprised infant.

“At the time, it was thought that there was only about 15. They’ve found a few more so it’s not quite so endangered, just very, very, very endangered,” Adams said. “The whole thing was completely magical.”

NEWS - Toi Moko Maori heads to be returned to New Zealand

Finishing up the story about the Maori heads and Kakapo Feather Cloak in Perth Scotland, a committee has agreed to the request for the return of the heads to New Zealand.

From both ends of the Earth, we have reports from The New Zealand Herald
Two preserved Maori heads are to be removed from storage in a Scottish museum and returned to New Zealand after a request for their repatriation was met today.

The tattooed heads, toi moko, are currently stored in Perth Museum, along with an 18th Century kakapo feather cloak and about 65 other taonga (treasure), such as tools, carvings and jewellery.

At a meeting today, Perth and Kinross Council's lifelong learning committee agreed unanimously to honour the request from Te Papa.
The two preserved tattooed ‘toi moko’ heads date back to 1822 when they were acquired by Perth-born ship’s surgeon, David Ramsay, who then sent them to the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perth three years’ later.
Michael Taylor, head of arts and heritage with Perth and Kinross Council, gave a presentation to committee members and told them that David Ramsay studied medicine at Edinburgh University and then set up home in Sydney, Australia.

He went on to explain the importance of the artifacts to the Maori people.

“The Maori regard the head as the most sacred part of the body. They remove it and it remains with the particular clan.

“The more tattoos, the higher status you had,” he said.

LEMURS - Nebraska zoo basks in discovery of two lemur species

From this article at
After more than six years of work in remote forests of Madagascar and DNA laboratory tests in Omaha, a researcher at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo can officially claim the discovery of two new species of lemurs.

The Mitsinjo Sportive Lemur, newly identified by Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, lives in the forests of western Madagascar.

Researcher Edward Louis will see his findings published in the December 2005 issue of the International Journal of Primatology.

The discovery of a new primate species is rare, said Jeff French, a primatologist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Only a handful are reported each decade, he said, and that makes the zoo's findings especially significant.
Here's another article posted at Environmental News.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

TSUNAMI - Effects on Mauritius and Rodrigues

This set of forum postings has some more information about the effects of the Tsunami on the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues.
In Mauritius, "the biggest waves struck the north and east of the island at around 1pm (11am South African time)," a meteorological spokesman told AFP, adding that no casualties had been reported there or on the smaller nearby island of Rodrigues to the east.

Mauritian authorities urged holidaymakers and picnickers to clear beaches and avoid putting to sea, noting that vessels had been damaged along most countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

BOOK REVIEW - A Venomous Life

Many thanks to David Haddock of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, who sends us this review...
A Venomous Life by Struan K. Sutherland

This is the autobiography of the expert that Douglas and Mark consult in Australia before they go to Komodo. When asked what to do if someone is bitten by a deadly snake in the book it says "he blinked at me as if I were stupid. 'Well what do you think you do? he said. 'You die of course. That's what deadly means.'"

It seems to have been written in somewhat of a hurry after Professor Sutherland was diagnosed with a degenerative illness, and for an authobiography, actually has very little about his family, apart from his ancestors. His three wives get very little mention, and in fact his third does not even get a name check. The focus of the book, after an entertaining look at his youth, education and naval service, is on his work at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL). Not for the squeamish it details a variety of venomous creature incidents, including a bite on an unfortunate fellow's "organ of generation", as well as various deaths that were the driving force behind his quest for antidotes. It also discusses the experiments that were required to develop the snake bite detector kit and the antivenoms, although Sutherland and his team spent considerable effort in devising techniques that reduced the need for animal experimentation, especially in assaying the toxicity levels of various venoms. It also details the run-ins with the CSL management when he considered them to be obstructing his work and putting lives in danger - including the infamous paper-clip incident - and the circumstances of his eventually departure.

In Last Chance to See, Mark and Douglas record that at the end of their meeting with the then Dr Sutherland he was talking about how he hated all poisonous animals. In the first edition the conversation concludes with him being asked if there was any venomous creature that he did like and he replies "There was, but she left me." This apparently caused the Doctor some embarrassment when it was published so in the paperback edition the question is changed to "Is there anything you do like?" and the response to; "Hydroponics". Hydroponics was not actually a topic his was paid to research, but just a hobby for Sutherland. However, he did write a book, Hydroponics for Everyone, to go with his textbooks Australian Animal Toxins and Venomous creatures of Australia, and his children's book Take Care!: Poisonous Australian Animals.

The book stops at an upbeat note on 15th June 1998 with the Australian Venom Research Unit that he helped create at the University of Melbourne after leaving CSL, up, running, funded and with his successor in place. Professor Sutherland died on 11 January 2002, and was posthumously made an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2002 Australia Day Honours.
Buy from from
A Venomous Life
Struan Keith Sutherland
UK Edition                       US Edition
Hyland House Publishing (1999)
ISBN: 1864470267

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Madagascar The Movie
Looks like Dreamworks Picture's Summer offering for 2005 will be a lot of fun. Here's the official site for MADAGASCAR - The Movie, starring the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer. Hopefully there'll be an Aye-Aye character winkling grubs out of trees with his "Twig Technology"...

Buy from Amazon.comAnd, as you might expect, there'll be a video-game based on the movie. Here's the announcement from GameSpot.
Activision has announced Madagascar for the PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and DS. Based on the forthcoming movie of the same name, Madagascar is an action title featuring animals that decide to escape the shackles of the Central Park Zoo in favor of the freedom of the African island of Madagascar.

In the game, gamers will get in touch with their animal instincts and control four characters from the film, each with its own unique characteristics and strengths. [...] Melman the giraffe's anxious personality is complemented by a helicopter spin and his coconut and lemur-launching neck fling.
Versions of the game will be available on most platforms, including PC CD-Rom, Microsoft's XBox, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo GameCube.

The game will feature three mini-game bonus chapters, including a "Lemur Rave" where you can test out your rhythm skills to cool jungle beats, and Melmen's helicopter neck-fling ammo includes coconuts and lemurs!

Activision's Madagascar homepage is also now available. (Firefox users, just click "continue" - their browser detection code is rubbish)

STATUS REPORT 2004 - Baiji Dolphin remains World's Rarest Mammal's list of World's Rarest Mammals was updated again on December 30th 2004 and, regrettably, the Baiji Dolphin remains at the top of the list!
Most recent population estimates in italics.

The Baiji Dolphin is classified as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (2003).
2003: Maybe no more than a few tens of individuals

The Aye-Aye Lemur is still classified as ENDANGERED (2003).
1994: An order of magnitude estimate would be 1000-10,000

The Amazonian Manatee is classified as VULNERABLE (2004).
1977: A minimum population of 10,000

The Mountain Gorilla sub-species of Gorilla is listed on the single Gorilla page. Gorillas are generally classified as ENDANGERED.
2004: At least 700

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

KAKAPOS - Scottish museum pressed to return Maori artefacts

In a follow up to an earlier posting, here's news from New Zealand's "Stuff".
A Scottish council is to decide today if two preserved Maori heads should be returned to New Zealand.

The tattooed heads, toi moko, are stored in Perth Museum, along with an 18th century kakapo feather cloak and about 70 other taonga (treasure), such as tools, carvings and jewellery.

Councillors on Perth and Kinross Council's lifelong learning committee are meeting today to consider a formal request for the return of the heads to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand.
Full story

Saturday, January 08, 2005

TSUNAMI - Mauritius and Madagascar were warned

There several articles around mentioning that both Mauritius and Madagascar were warned about the approaching Indian Ocean Tsunami.

From afrol News - How Kenya, Seychelles avoided tsunami disaster:
As the fist signs of disaster in Asia were becoming clear, the US seismologists rapidly understood that the tsunami was heading towards the African coast. The American embassies in Mauritius and Madagascar were warned, which again passed the alert to national authorities around the region. Seychelles took an early lead, also confirming to Kenyan authorities that they indeed could expect a devastating wave.

No emergency plans however exist in these countries on how to handle a tsunami - the region almost never experiences such natural disasters. In Seychelles, the National Disaster Committee immediately set up a base at the Police Command Centre in Victoria to monitor what was happening. It instructed the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation to send out alerts to warn members of the public.

VIDEO - To Save the Kakapo

The Nature Store in New Zealand has this hour long video available about our dear friend the Kakapo Parrot. Both PAL (Europe/NZ/Aus) and NTSC (US/Canada/Japan) versions are available. Buy direct from The Nature Store.
This video captures for the first time on film the secret lives of the kakapo and documents the enormous effort involved in saving a species from extinction. Watch as, for the first time in years, males make their booming love calls through the night and the kakapo colony produces twelve precious eggs. But will the chicks survive?

Friday, January 07, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - NASA Satellite Imagery comes to their aid.

Some very positive use of satellite imagery is reported here by EurekAlert - Gorillas in the midst of extinction.
Satellites provide a bird's eye view of planet Earth, and the space-based vantage can be extremely useful to people interested in viewing out-of-the-way places. ... Now, NASA satellite imagery is giving scientists and conservationists some of the tools they need to get valuable information on land cover and land use changes in wild areas.

NASA satellite imagery helps scientists better understand land changes in the Virunga Conservation Area which covers the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.[...]

In a single week in June of 2004, farmers created pasture for their cattle by clearing 15 square kilometers (5.8 square miles), or 6 percent, of the 264-square kilometers (102 square miles) of mountain gorilla habitat in the southern 'Mikeno' sector of Virunga National Park. Because mountain gorilla numbers had increased by close to 56 individuals over the last 10 years, the recent loss of land was a considerable step backward.
Full story continues...

NEWS - 15,589 species face extinction

The Star Online has this article about the IUCN's latest report "A Global Species Assessment".
THE world’s biological diversity continues to decline, with the latest World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species revealing that 15,589 species face extinction in the near future.

Released at the 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress in Bangkok last month, the authoritative list is an update of the last major analysis in 2000, which showed that one in eight birds (12%) and one in four mammals (23%) were threatened with extinction.

The new report titled A Global Species Assessment showed that the pressure on birds and mammals has not eased and the infamous line-up has now been joined by one in three amphibians (32%) and almost half (42%) of turtles and tortoises.
Complete Article continues...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

ANOTHER CHANCE TO SEE... Struan Sutherland

Great article in The Australian about the work of the late Struan Sutherland, the anti-venom pioneer. It's entitled Dos and don'ts about our toxic creepy crawlies, and here's a snippet...
THE author of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy once travelled to Melbourne to meet the world's expert on venomous creatures. In his 1999 book Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams reported on his encounter with anti-venom pioneer Struan Sutherland, then with the federal Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, now a private company specialising in flu vaccines.

"Can't stand all these poisonous creatures, all the snakes and insects and fish and things," Sutherland announced to his surprised guest. "Stupid things, biting everybody. And then people expect me to tell them what to do about it. I'll tell them what to do. Don't get bitten in the first place. That's the answer. I've had enough of it," he added fiercely.

Nearly 15 years on, Adams and Sutherland have gone to their respective versions of the afterlife or lack thereof. Not so Australia's venomous biters of the bush. From brown snakes, taipans and death adders to tiny toxic insects, they're out there and they're dangerous.

Fortunately, Sutherland's work carries on. Under the banner of the Australian Venom Research Unit at Melbourne University - established by Sutherland in 1994 - self-described "toxinologist" Ken Winkel and his colleagues continue the study of "kill-you-deads" and their toxins, not to mention treatments and tactics for the unwary and the bitten.
Complete article continues....

Monday, January 03, 2005

TSUNAMI UPDATE - Madagascar and Mauritius

This BBC Report talks about the "forgotten" victims of this disaster, ostensibly in Somalia, but also on the islands on the western shore of the Indian Ocean.
In Madagascar, more than 1,000 people were made homeless while a village in northern Mauritius was submerged for almost three hours following the surges.
This Tsunami Timeline from the Turkish Press contains this paragraph:
Towards 0900 GMT [Dec 26], strong waves reach Mauritius and the island of Rodrigues causing damage but no casualties.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


With more than 120,000 people losing their lives in South Asia and East Africa in the aftermath of the earthquake and resulting tsunamis on December 26, the world is beginning the largest humanitatian aid programs ever undertaken. It is estimated that a third of all victims were childen, so I would direct you to UNICEF where you can make your contribution. They recently reported that they had more on-line contributions in 24 hours than they had in the whole of last year.

I've also added a donation box to the right where 100% of donations made will go to the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts

Like everyone following this horrific daily news, I'm finding events in the area difficult to comprehend. One point was raised on NBC Nightly News last night, that there were very few reports coming in about dead animals being found. There are many articles out there covering this angle. eg IOL Environmental section
Wild animals seem to have escaped the Indian Ocean tsunami, adding weight to notions they possess a "sixth sense" for disasters, experts said on Thursday.

Sri Lankan wildlife officials have said the giant waves that killed over 24 000 [sic] people along the Indian Ocean island's coast seemingly missed wild beasts, with no dead animals found.

"No elephants are dead, not even a dead hare or rabbit. I think animals can sense disaster. They have a sixth sense. They know when things are happening," HD Ratnayake, deputy director of Sri Lanka's Wildlife Department, said on Wednesday.
I wonder at what point in human's evolution did we lose this sense that most other animals seem to have retained? Incidentally, both Mauritius and Madagascar were hit by the tsunamis, but one would suspect that the Rodrigues Fruitbat, Mauritius Kestrel, Pink Pigeon and Aye-Aye Lemurs will all be OK. From what I understand, Komodo Island was geographically protected and not affected by the waves, so the Komodo Dragons were safe.

Here's the BBC report about this "sixth sense".