Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Census shows increase in population since 2002

The 2006 census of mountain gorillas in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has found that that the population has increased by 6% since 2002. Bwindi is now home to some 340 individuals.

The BBC has a picture to illustrate it, and Animal Domain also has a summary.
There are now 340 individual mountain gorillas in the park, up from 320 in 2002. The numbers of this critically endangered group have been declining precipitously because their habitat is being destroyed and also due to poaching and their lack of resistance to human diseases.
Mountain gorillas also inhabit the Virunga Volcanoes on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A 2003 census of these gorillas counted 380 individuals.

Currently there are 720 mountain gorillas worldwide.

Friday, April 27, 2007

SwapTree and The Year of the Gorilla

As this site is all about a book, I imagine there's a few readers drop in from time to time. If anyone's interested, I have a couple of invites available to the fledgling site at I've used it to swap quite a few books, CDs, DVDs and games and its working pretty well. If you're interested, drop me a line by email.

Also, I've recently been reading quite 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. It's too old to list on SwapTree, but if anyone would like to read it, please drop me a line by email and I'll be happy to send it to you. Perhaps you'd consider a nominal donation to my Save The Rhino fundraiser as a thankyou...?

Mountain Gorillas: Dian Fossey Field News

April's edition of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Field News has been online for a while now. It tells of a coming together of two mountain gorilla groups in which three gorillas switched groups, one went back, and two stayed with their new group.
The welcome in Beetsme’s group followed a pattern we have observed in recent transfers among the gorilla groups we monitor. The subordinate males in the group all made efforts to display their dominance to the new females, following their movements and sometimes exhibiting aggressive behaviors. The females tried to avoid these approaches, yet remain submissive at the same time. They were often observed all resting together.

Komodo Dragon on the prowl (Video)

A Komodo Dragon on the prowl at San Diego Zoo.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Rwanda Reborn

There's a good video over on the US News & World Report called "Rwanda Reborn" featuring some remarkably intimate encounters with the Mountain Gorillas.

Thanks to Senior Writer, Kevin Whitelaw for the tip.

Endangered animals on the EDGE

The John Hopkins Newsletter has late coverage of the 100 endangered animals on the "Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered" (EDGE) list. The list, available at was published last month by a team of scientists led by the Zoological Society of London.
Terms such as "threatened," "endangered" and "critically endangered" are used to describe increasingly dire situations for populations in the wild.

The EDGE list takes into account two additional factors that make the compilation unique.

First, the rankings give preference to species that are evolutionarily distinct, or the most biologically different from other living species. Although the loss of any species is a tragedy, the scientists at the EDGE project argue that some species are more unique than others.
The other criterion for EDGE species is the degree to which conservationists are already concerned with the animals. The researchers want conservationists to pay more attention to these underrepresented animals.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Doctor Who: The Last Dodo

The current issue of Doctor Who Magazine (#381) features an interview with novelist Jacqueline Rayner about her Tenth Doctor novel "The Last Dodo". She said that the idea of an "I-Spy book of extinct animals" tickled her, something that would be, on the face of it, impossible... Unless you were a Time Lord.

Doctor Who Magazine asked the question:
DWM: Was your interest perhaps piqued by [former Doctor Who Script Editor] Douglas Adams' Last Chance To See? You've referred to a few of the same very endangered species as he did - the aye-aye, the kakapo and so on...
No, I've been interested as long as I can remember - I was a passionate member of the then-World Wildlife Fund. But both the radio series and book of Last Chance To See are heartrending pieces of work, which I deliberately didn't reread while doing my research - I didn't want to risk subconsciously plagiarising anything. But anyone who's not experienced Last Chance To See, please go out and get it now!

Thomas Hildenbrandt at work

Here's a video clip of Dr. Thomas Hildenbrandt at work. Thomas is part of the team working to save the Northern White Rhino, using similar techniques to those seen here with a male elephant.
There are only thirteen northern white rhinos left in the world. The species is hovering on the brink of extinction. But three men are pushing forward the frontiers of science to try to save them.

Thomas Hildebrandt and his team, from the Berlin Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, are world leaders in using artificial reproduction to breed rare elephants, rhinos and even komodo dragons.
Video is not for the faint of heart, so be warned...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Video of newborn baby

A nice post over at the Gorilla Protection Blog includes an exclusive, albeit brief, video of 2-day old Mountain Gorilla which has yet to be named.
Check out more of Wildlife Direct's YouTube Videos including a contribution from Dr. Richard Leakey.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stephen Fry: Last Chance To See "not quite there yet"

I've received word that the Iostar Last Chance To See website has been taken down. It was apparently a little premature for that page to make an appearance, and the poster was actually just a mock-up for the MIPTV fair in Cannes, France, which is going on between the 16th and 20th of April.

We'll keep a close eye on the development of this project in the coming months.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Zoo Quest For a Dragon online soon?

Here's some very exciting news from the Daily Telegraph about the BBC's plans to make their substantial archive available online. The article cites David Attenborough's "Zoo Quest For A Dragon" as a prime example of the content that the service could offer. The BBC has millions of hours of broadcasting archives that could be made available for free to British licence fee payers, and with commercials for overseas viewers.
Lost gems of radio and television, some of which have never been repeated, include an interview with Martin Luther King filmed shortly before he was assassinated, and a 1956 episode of the nature series Zoo Quest in which a young David Attenborough captures the komodo dragon on film for the first time.

The episode has never been repeated but could soon be available online as part of the ambitious project, led by the BBC's director of future media and technology, Ashley Highfield.
Attenborough's "Zoo Quest For A Dragon" is a programme and book we've mentioned before on this site, and Whirligig TV have a page all about it here - Zoo Quest For A Dragon.

The page has includes a video clip from the film which you can download here (364k - Real format). has Zoo Quest products available, and I STRONGLY recommend reading the book, or even better (because David Attenborough reads it), get the book on CD. It's a great adventure. Zoo Quest books and tapes are also available in the US: Zoo Quest stuff at

Friday, April 13, 2007

Stephen Fry: Last Chance To See TV series Official Site

This post is now out of date. Visit for real BBC site.

The official Iostar Last Chance To See TV series page is now available and makes exciting reading for fans of Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry, Hitchhikers and Last Chance To See. Marvellous! Can't wait!
This time it’s Stephen Fry at the helm with Carwardine, as they revisit the six featured endangered species and bring their stories right up to date.

From Madagascar to Mauritius, and from China to the Congo, the pair will be guided by the ethereal presence of Douglas Adams whose voice lives on, loud and clear in scene-setting audio. As they track down these extraordinary creatures, Mark and Stephen will explain the ecological pickle they are now in and encounter the often eccentric characters whose determination, 15 years later, is still all that stands between them and extinction.

Stephen Fry: Last Chance To See TV series CONFIRMED!

After what seems an interminably long gestation period, Digital Spy has confirmed that Stephen Fry is teaming up with Mark Carwardine for a TV series of Last Chance To See!
Iostar, the media group set up by former Hallmark executive Mark Grenside, has showcased its first productions at the MiPTV festival in Cannes, including three BBC documentaries fronted by Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry in America is a five-part 'road trip' which sees Fry driving round the US in a London taxi and Last Chance to See sees him team up with zoologist Mark Carwardine to track down species facing extinction.
The programmes are believed to have been produced in association with Fry's own production company Sprout. Fry and his production partner Gina Carter are registered to attend the Cannes event.
I'll post more as further information becomes available.

The Adventures of Stephen Fry
Mark Carwardine

Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - Video Report

On Thursday 15 March 2007, Dr Richard Leakey presented the Fifth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture which was entitled "Wildlife management in East Africa – Is there a future?". Here's a video report as posted on YouTube.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Merton devastated by threat of stoat

Long time endangered Kakapo conservationist Don Merton is said to be devastated by the news that a stoat has been seen on Anchor Island.
Ten female kakapo have been quickly moved off Anchor Island after a stoat was spotted on Good Friday.
Anchor Island (1380ha) has high ecological and conservation values, and is currently home to 86 kakapo.
Don Merton, who first became involved with protecting kakapo in 1959, was devastated to learn a stoat had been spotted.

He said staff always knew stoats could swim across to the island but they did not know how quickly stoats could establish there.
Full story at the Southland Times.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Komodo Dragon Video Nasties?

Here's a few more Komodo Dragon videos I spotted on YouTube recently... These are the NASTY ones!


Komodo Dragons fighting!

Eating a live deer! (We've featured this one before)

Komodo Dragon Video Nice-ies?

Here's a couple of Komodo Dragon videos that are bit nicer than the ones above...

Collecting eggs

Eggs Hatching

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Stoat threatens Kakapo Parrot sanctury!

Dreadful news from New Zealand's Stuff. A carnivorous stoat was reportedly seen on Anchor Island in Dusky Sound, Fiordland, by a member of the public last Friday!
Kakapo team leader Emma Neill said DOC was pleased the member of the public was aware of the significance of the stoat and promptly advised the local area office in Te Anau.

As a precautionary measure DOC staff moved 10 female kakapo to another island refuge. The island's predator traps were checked and re-baited and a dog trained to follow stoat scent would be deployed.

DOC said stoat numbers were high in Fiordland due to the increased numbers of mice in the ecosystem.
Full story at the website.

Douglas Adams Memorial Debate 2007

The 2007 Douglas Adams Memorial Debate will take place on Thursday 3rd May at the Apollo West End, London. It is part of the 6th Annual International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film. It is subtitled "From Star Wars to the Battle of Ideas - Is science fiction good for public debate?".

Comedian and writer Mark Stevenson will get the ball rolling with a stand-up routine.
Science fiction often tells us more about social attitudes and anxieties than science itself, and can be a spur for debate about everything from genetics to consciousness, from war to climate change. Sci-fi can move people to engage in science, inspiring young people to become scientists, and encouraging the general public to debate the consequences of science for society. It can also frighten us, making us wary of new technology and its unintended consequences. Is this all to the good, or do

Writers and filmmakers often take their inspiration from science and ask 'what if…?', but when it comes down to it, they have few qualms about ditching scientific accuracy in favour of gripping narrative. Does it matter how much actual science gets into sci-fi, as long as it gets people talking? Do writers and directors have a responsibility to make their science accurate?

Should 'proper' sci-fi deal with hard science rather than 'issues'? Or should we stop worrying and just enjoy it?

Lulu's baby is named Layla!

's new baby has been named Layla after an internet vote selected the name which means "born at night" in Swahili.
The world's first baby rhino conceived through artificial insemination made her public debut at Budapest Zoo on Thursday and also received her new name, Layla.
Layla, who weighed 58 kilos when she was born at the end of January, has blossomed to 138-kilos on a diet of 20 litres of milk per day, zoo officials said.

The birth was the culmination of years of work by an international team of Hungarians, Germans and Austrians.

Layla has had to be hand-reared after her mother, Lulu, refused to nurse her. and Pakistans' Daily Times for more on this story.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Komodo Dragons: Parthenogenesis Babies Get New Home

The Wirral Globe has coverage of the new "Islands of Danger" exhibit at Chester Zoo which is the new home of Flora and her five remarkable "virgin birth" babies. The little Komodos were conceived in 2006 and hatched in January 2007 without a sperm contribution from any daddy dragons - a process called parthenogenesis. The babies are called Irwin, Herman, Indie, Bert and Ernie.
[They] have been moved from their off-show facilities in the Tropical Realm to a purpose-built enclosure in Islands in Danger.

It is the first time the siblings will have been seen by the public since they hatched and they will finally be under the same roof as mum Flora. Flora and her babies became an overnight star when it was revealed she had laid a clutch of eggs without ever being mixed with, or mated by, a male dragon.
Here's the link to the "Islands of Danger" exhibit page at the Chester Zoo website.
The idea for Islands in Danger was born early in 1998 and our dragons are joined by other rare island species including Red Birds of Paradise, Pheasant Pigeons, the St Lucia Amazon Parrot and the Socorro Dove, which is extinct in the wild.
To ensure that everyone gets a good view of the Komodos, hot rocks are positioned near to the public windows to encourage the animals to bask. The enclosure is heated via thermostatically controlled hot air system.

Previously people seldom have the opportunity to see and learn about such magnificent and awe-inspiring animals but now, thanks to Islands in Danger, they have a great opportunity to learn more about the impressive Komodo Dragon.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mountain Gorillas talking? (Video)

An extraordinary BBC interview in which Professor Timothy Fielding is interviewed alongside a Mountain Gorilla called Gerald.