Monday, March 31, 2008

Five Kakapos Hatched! We're up to 91, and 2 more due...

Check out the press release around the web which reports that five of the recently laid eggs have hatched out successfully, with hopefully two more to come. It'd probably be a good time for Stephen Fry to be heading down that way for a bit of filming on the Last Chance To See TV series.
A species of flightless parrot edged back from extinction with the hatching of five new chicks in New Zealand in recent weeks and two more on the way, officials said Monday.

The latest births of owl-like kakapos in southern New Zealand brought the population of the rare bird to just 91, said Emma Neill, a senior official of a Department of Conservation program to save the parrot.

Neill said even a small lift in numbers was "awesome," especially because the birds only breed every few years.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ranger held over gorilla killings

The BBC News site is reporting that Honore Mashagiro, a member of the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) has been arrested on claims that he organised the mountain gorilla killings in 2007. It was the ICCN themselves that brought the charges. How utterly baffling!
Ten gorillas were killed in 2007 in the Virunga National Park, a Unesco world heritage site.

The park is in a volatile region where rebels have set up a base.

The area is also home to more than half of the world's last 700 mountain gorillas living in the wild.

Six other foresters could be questioned over the killings, and their role in trapping and slaughtering the animals on the alleged orders of Mr Mashagiro, reports say.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I've recently discovered that this website is not rendering correctly in Internet Explorer due to a serious problem deriving from my Comcast webspace. While I explore my options for moving images and other page elements away from Comcast, may I HEARTILY recommend using Firefox where the problem does not seem to occur. That's the reason I didn't know about this problem earlier, because I ditched IE years ago. I have no idea how long this problem has been going on. Apologies for any inconvenience.

More Komodo Dragon Babies! has news that Surabaya Zoo has fourteen newly hatched baby Komodo Dragons on the prowl...
A zoo in Indonesia's second-largest city Surabaya has succeeded in hatching Komodo dragons, the largest living species of lizard, for a second time outside their natural habitat.

Komodo dragons are found only in eastern Indonesia, in Komodo island and several other islets in the Nusa Tenggara archipelago.

Fourteen Komodo dragon eggs were hatched in incubators at the zoo in Surabaya on the main Java island over the weekend, bringing to 41 the number of the reptiles in their collection. The zoo succeeded in hatching 13 eggs in the first attempt during the 1990s.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sixth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - With Live Hitchhikers Performance

REMINDER: The Sixth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture will take place next week at the Royal Geographic Society in London, on Wednesday 12th March 2008.

The lecture will be presented by psychologist Steven Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His subject will be "The Stuff of Thought, Language as a Window into Human Nature".

The lecture will be followed by a very special LIVE 30th anniversary performance of material from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio scripts which will hopefully reunite many original cast members such as...
Simon Jones as Arthur Dent
Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect
Mark Wing Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox
Susan Sheridan as Trillian
Roger Gregg as Eddie
Stephen Moore as Marvin The Paranoid Android
With a Very Special Guest as the Voice Of The Book
Proceeds from the event will go towards Save The Rhino, including the auction of a rare handcrafted model of Vogon Commander Kwaltz from the Hitchhikers Guide movie.

Also raising money for Save The Rhino are the team of runners in training for the RAW Africa ultra-marathon this April. Apparently one of their members has been spotted roaming around Hyde Park, dressed in his Save The Rhino suit. Check out the video evidence...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Following in Darwin's footsteps

David Bird wrote this interesting article, published on, about his trip to the Galapagos Islands, in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, which he describes as an almost religious experience.
I was champing at the bit to do likewise, to follow in his footsteps, but Julio informed us that no one was allowed ashore on that part of San Cristobal Island. It was to these islands that Darwin sailed on the H.M.S. Beagle in 1835 to observe and collect specimens as part of the development of his theory of natural selection, which lead to his book, On the Origin of Species.

I had taught the speciation of Darwin's finches for years in a Wildlife Ecology course on McGill's Macdonald campus and it was almost a religious experience to physically go there.
The other bird, whose name elicited giggles from everyone, was the blue-footed booby. Like most of the birds in the islands, these goofy-looking gull-like birds shamelessly danced and called to convince females to come and copulate with them.
Darwin's books, now in the "public domain", are available in free ebook format in several places, and have been nicely formatted for devices such as the Kindle and Sony Reader over at the premier ebook community I have both "Origin of Species" and "Voyage of the Beagle" on my wonderful Sony Reader, I just haven't got around to reading them yet. Sometimes difficult when you have such a large library at your fingertips.

Link: Darwin books available at

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mauritius Island Life

Here's an excellent essay about the wildlife of Mauritius, written by by Mark Daffey and published on "The Smart Set - Grand Tour" page back in January. The essay covers Dodos, Pink Pigeons, Mauritius Kestrels, Echo Parakeets and more.
From a total of just nine of the endemic Pink Pigeons remaining in the wild in 1990, a successful captive breeding program has increased their numbers on Île aux Aigrettes to 94, out of an estimated 380 throughout Mauritius. Most of them can be found in the protected Black River Gorges — Mauritius’ only national park.
While such feral animals are slowly being eradicated, the more than 30 staff who work on the island on any one day concentrate most of their efforts towards preserving native species, such as the Mauritius Fody, Echo Parakeet, Telfair’s Skink, and the Mauritius Kestrel, whose numbers had dropped to just four worldwide in 1974 (there are now more than 1,000).

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund - January and February

I've missed a couple of months of the Dian Fossey Field News. Here's a quick catch-up...

January 2008
During 2007 the three large multi-male groups we had studied at Karisoke for the past several years broke up to form smaller groups, each with fewer males, and many females transferred among groups. Some silverbacks began to roam on their own. This was the most dramatic period of change in the Karisoke gorillas’ social organization since our long-term studies began decades ago!
February 2008
On Jan. 7, the Karisoke Research Center field staff was amazed to find that Kwiruka, a 31- year-old female, had moved into Bwenge’s group, which was formed in 2007. Kwiruka had lived in Shinda’s group since 1993, when an older group (called Group 5) split into Shinda’s group (including Kwiruka) and Pablo’s groups. Kwiruka held a very high position in the group, and that makes her decision to leave the group really unclear. In moving to Bwenge’s group, she left behind numerous offspring in Shinda’s group, including three silverbacks, an adult female and a 4-year-old daughter, Ubufatanye.

Komodo is a diver's heaven, and ecotourism destination

TIME recently ran an article called "Here Be Dragons" about the development of Komodo's visitor facilities and lure as an ecotourism destination.
More than 2,500 Komodo dragons still roam freely across the island, with some measuring up to 10 ft. (3 m) in length. There are 37 different types of reptile species besides, as well as 32 species of mammals. The waters off Komodo are diver heaven — home to more than 1,000 species of fish, 385 species of reef-building corals and six species of whales.
Detailed information, including a guide to alternative transport arrangements, can be found at Do note that July and August is mating season, which makes it more difficult to catch a glimpse of the dragons — and even if you do spot one, a mating Komodo dragon is disturbed only at your dire peril.