Friday, October 31, 2008

Three Little Pigs Facing the Chop!

Three little pigs appear to be facing a future of bacon and sausages, after New Zealand's authorities demanded their removal from Stewart Island, fearing that the pigs may pose a threat to local wildlife, including the Kakapo Parrots. has the story.
Gavin Ferguson who brought the pigs to the island says he knew that feral pigs were banned on Stewart Island, but thought that domestic pigs were permitted - unaware that a bylaw had been passed last September that banned all types of pigs from the island.

Stewart Island is home to some of New Zealand's rarest native birds, including kiwi and kakapo. Authorities say that while they do not want to play the role of the big bad wolf, pigs pose too big a threat to wildlife.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stephen Fry Reveals TV Series Show Breakdown

Stephen Fry has revealed on his Twitter feed what the probable running order may be for the Last Chance To See TV series.

With some of the animals probably already extinct (Northern White Rhino, Yangtze Dolphin), and others doing rather well (10,000 Juan Fernandez Fur Seals), the choice of locations for the TV series was something that the team thought long and hard about, including what new animals to introduce to the series. The Where In The World? section of this page has more on this decision process.

Here is the possible running order according to Stephen's Tweet, with the probable animals added by me...

1) Amazon (Amazonian Manatee etc)
2) Africa (Mountain Gorillas, Rhinos, Chimpanzees etc)
3) Madagascar (Aye-Aye Lemurs, Rodrigues Fruitbats etc)
4) New Zealand (Kakapo Parrots, possibly whales etc)
5) Indonesia (Komodo Dragons etc)
6) Bay of Cortes, Mexico (More whales? Not quite sure yet)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lee the Kakapo Has Died

Sad news from this morning. Lee the Kakapo, who could have been as much as 100 years old, has died a day before he was due to be returned to his island sanctury. He was successfully treated for lead poisoning recently, and everything seemed to be going well for him.
[Lee] died suddenly at Auckland Zoo last night from a small tear in the side of his crop, the sac-like part of the digestive system where food is stored before it enters the stomach.
"While working to repair this injury, Lee's heart stopped twice, but we managed to resuscitate him," said senior vet Dr Richard Jakob-Hoff. "However, he went into cardiac arrest again at the end of the procedure, and this time we were unable to bring him back - the shock on his system just too great."
With Lee's death, there are now a total of 90 Kakapos alive in the world, including the six chicks that survive from 2008's breeding season.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Virunga in Crisis: Rebels Seize Mountain Gorilla Park

CNN are among many news agencies reporting that Congolese rebels have seized Virunga National Park, home of the Mountain Gorillas, and this has sent upwards of 50 park rangers fleeing into the forest, fearing for their lives. A truly dreadful development.
Congolese rebels seized a major military camp and a spacious gorilla park in a renewed bout of heavy fighting that sent thousands fleeing, according to the United Nations and park officials.
A park ranger described the takeover.

"When the rebels started approaching the park station we thought we were all going to be killed," said Park Ranger Bareke Sekibibi, 29, who spoke by cell phone from the forest earlier as he fled, according to the park statement.
A Virunga Park ranger in the Congo describes the fighting in this video, as mortars burst repeatedly in the background.

The new Gorilla.CD website will have ongoing updates from the area.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Fundraiser - The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

I'm very pleased to begin our fourth annual fundraiser, and this time we'll be raising funds for The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which helps to save endangered species around the world.

Gerald Durrell visited Madagascar in 1990 to start captive breeding programs with a number of animals such as the Aye-Aye Lemur. From this expedition came his final book The Aye-aye and I: A Rescue Mission in Madagascar. Since Aye-Aye's were the very first animal visited by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine for what would become the original Last Chance to See, I thought it would be nice to raise a few pennies for them, and I hope you can help, even just a little.

After sponsoring a Mountain Gorilla infant called Urwibutso for $50, raising £281 for Save The Rhino and then another $96 for Mountain Gorillas, I hope we're able to repeat this success for the The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Donating through Justgiving is quick, easy and totally secure, and any amount will be welcome. If you’re a UK taxpayer, Justgiving will also add a 25% bonus donation in Gift Aid, but you're still able to donate to this fundraiser from anywhere in the world.

Many thanks for your anticipated support.

Lulu's Baby Doing Well. Hope for the Northern White Rhino?

Back in October 2007, we reported that Lulu, a Southern White Rhino at Budapest Zoo, was successfully inseminated from frozen sperm donated by Colchester Zoo's Simba.

Over the weekend, the Telegraph reported that, after a year long gestation period, the baby was born on Wednesday 22nd October, has been accepted by its mother Lulu, and is doing very well.

While the rhinos here are all Southern White Rhinos, the research team led by Dr Robert Hermes of the Leibniz Institute in Berlin, are optimistic that similar results could be obtained with the remaining Northern White Rhino in captivity.

Dr Hermes said...
"It enables us to bring new gene material from the wild to the rhino conservation breeding programme without having to transport the animals", said Dr Hermes. "In the future, reproduction experts can anaesthetise wild bulls, collect semen from them, and use the frozen sperm for breeding offspring in international zoos.

"This is a very important result for conservation efforts. The northern white rhino population, in particular, could benefit dramatically from this procedure as there are only three, possibly four individuals left in the wild and only eight individuals in zoos worldwide. Using this method, we hope to be able to sustain the dwindling populations of these highly endangered species."
The Budapest Zoo site has a picture of the birth taking place.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mountain Gorillas: New Official Website of the Virunga National Park

The official website of the Virunga National Park, which documents the work being done to protect the Mountain Gorillas, has moved to a new a brand new site at

The top story on the site right now is the recent re-sighting of a Silverback Gorilla called Buhanga who was spotted by Rangers near a patrol post in the Gorilla Sector. This was the first sighting in over 1 year, and was captured in this fabulous video...

For more videos, head over to the YouTube Channel.

Also, check out these charming pictures of baby mountain gorillas Ndeze and Ndakasi, who were orphaned when their mothers were shot and killed in June and July 2007.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lee the Kakapo Survives Lead Poisoning

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery reports that Lee, one of the 91 remaining Kakapos in the world, has been lucky to survive lead poisoning after possibly swallowing a fishing weight or a piece of buckshot. The bird came was brought into Auckland Zoo in a very underweight state, but has recovered well.
"It's hugely pleasing to see Lee so healthy now," said Dr. John Potter. "He's put up with twice-daily tube feedings to enable us to get his weight up to more than 1.7 kilograms (between 3 and 4 pounds), and for a bird that's been held in captivity for the first time, he's really pretty chilled out."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stephen Fry: Africa, a Place of Shuddering Beauty

Stephen Fry's latest video dispatch on the BBC Last Chance To See website is a brief summary of their first week's travel in Africa. In it he describes the countryside as a place of "shuddering beauty", somewhere where even a pencil would flower if you stuck it in the ground.

When he was back in the Amazon, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed his Attenborough-style introduction to the napkin moth. Very informative, and confirmed what I'd always thought about the origin of Branston Pickle.

The second "Afrycam African Video" is also up on Here Stephen is in a park in Nairobi where he encounters an extraordinarily moving symbol to the ivory trade.

Finally, Stephen has posted the first picture of this "Last Chance To See" animal on his Twitter photo-stream.
They do look rather like men in gorilla suits, don't they? On TwitPic

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last Chance To See - Official BBC Site For TV Series Now Live

Many thanks to the BBC for including a link to this little old blog on their fabulous new website "Last Chance To See - A Search for Animals on the Edge of Extinction". I'm deeply honoured, and absolutely delighted to see this new series coming to fruition in such style.

The BBC site is chock full of great content, blogs from Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine, videos from the field, interviews with people involved in the original radio series and even a couple of episodes of the radio series itself. Hopefully more of those episodes will be made available in the coming months.

My very best wishes to Stephen Fry, Mark Carwardine and series producer Tim Green as they continue their expeditions. I can't wait to see the result.


Gareth Suddes

7th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture - Benedict Allen

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.

Tickets cost £15 and are on sale in January.

Please e-mail to be notified when tickets go on sale.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bird of the Year: Kakapo now in second place....

New Zealand's Forest and Bird organization is currently having their 2008 "Bird of the Year" poll. Please make your vote count, and give the Kakapo Parrot the boost it needs to climb the current rankings. Polls close on the 7th of November.

The Kakapo is now in second place, about 20 votes shy of the Tui. If you haven't voted yet, now is the time. Thanks.

Final Chances To See Sirocco the Kakapo

New Zealand's Southland Times reports that this years Kakapo Encounter is now winding down, but has once again proved a great success.
Trust secretary-treasurer Ann Pullen said 11year-old Sirocco had been his usual star self and had really impressed visitors.

Mrs Pullen said people were usually blown away and say they had no idea it would be such an unique experience.
In other Kakapo news, the New Zealand Herald reports that Massey University biologists are researching the role of the Kakapo's sense of smell in breeding, and whether a synthetic version might improve the chances of some of the less attractive Kakapos.
An alluring aftershave for male kakapo could be developed from new research into why some of the critically endangered parrots attract females more than others.

American expertise is being called on to investigate the unique smell of male kakapo feathers, and how the sweet and vegetative odour may influence mating behaviour.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Last Chance To See TV Series: Official Blog

The BBC site has a place holder page for what appears to be the official Last Chance To See blog of Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine's new trip. It's very broken right now, and full of lorem ipsum, but the RSS feed is available for subscribing at least...
Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine travel to some of the most remote places on earth in search of animals on the edge of extinction. Follow the journey online through exclusive video and blogs.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Remembers Pablo

October's Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund newsletter is remembering the fabulous life of Pablo, who's 1974 birth was recorded in her book "Gorillas In The Mist". Pablo went on to become one of four silverbacks in "Pablo's Group" and became a well loved individual for decades. He disappeared on July 13th 2008, and is presumed dead at the age of 34.
Evidence suggests that he did not survive wounds received during a confrontation with another silverback when their two groups encountered each other the previous day. Although second-in-command after a brief period of dominance, for many years Pablo had fearlessly helped Cantsbee lead and protect “Pablo’s group,” which became the largest gorilla group known to researchers. He is remembered fondly by many who worked at Karisoke over the past four decades.

And in related news, according to the Stephen Fry Twitter feed, he will be in the Bwindi area on Tuesday 20th October to see the Mountain Gorillas.
My clever driver Robert has taken me to a place where there is network reception. All well. Gorillas tomorrow x

Looks like Stephen's already been to see some rhinos...
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kakapo Parrots: Forest & Bird's "Bird of the Year"

New Zealand's Forest and Bird organization is currently having their 2008 "Bird of the Year" poll. Please make your vote count, and give the Kakapo Parrot the boost it needs to climb the current rankings. Polls close on the 7th of November.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stephen Fry now filming in Africa!

Stephen Fry is now in Nairobi as he begins the balance of the expeditions with Mark Carwardine that will make up the TV series of Last Chance To See. His "blessay" is available on the spanky new 2.0 and also as an M4A or MP3 "podgram". The Afrycam African Video - Episode 1 Packing sees him packing his V-Necks and other necessaries to keep him feeling human during the trips.
I have flown to Nairobi to start work on the five films I am making with Mark Carwardine for the BBC. Mark Carwardine, you may remember, wrote Last Chance To See with my late great friend, Douglas Adams. This was a pioneering, prophetic book which saw the pair travelling the world in search of eight critically endangered species. Twenty-five years later Mark and I are revisiting the same places and looking for the same animals to see how world wildlife has fared in a quarter of a century. We already made one film in Brazil earlier this year, searching for the shy and endearing Amazon river manatee. It was during this expedition that I broke my arm. Who knows what will happen in Africa?
Very best of luck Stephen. Enjoy the trips, and stay safe!
Here's Stephen with all his gear from his Twitter feed...
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Monday, October 06, 2008

Stephen Fry: Where next?

Stephen Fry answers some short questions for The Independent's "My Life In Travel". The final question is "Where next?", and Stephen provides a fairly detailed itinerary of where he's off to for the filming of Last Chance To See: The Return.
I'm off to Africa to try to film gorillas and white rhinos. Then to Madagascar for ai ai (lemurs) [sic], over to Mauritius, then the Isle of Komodo to film the dragon, up to China perhaps, then down to New Zealand. I'm making a series of films for the BBC in the footsteps of Douglas Adams, who, with Mark Carwardine, wrote the prophetic Last Chance to See about a quarter of a century ago. Mark and I will be seeing which animals are now extinct (a quarter of those he and Douglas chose for the book are now said to be gone for good), and looking at some more deeply imperilled creatures.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Last Chance To See re-issue

According to, Last Chance To See is to be re-issued in June 2009 with a new introduction by Richard Dawkins.
The imprint acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in the book from agent Ed Victor. A paperback edition will be published in June 2009, featuring a new introduction from Richard Dawkins.
Stephen Fry and Carwadine are to present the BBC2 series, which follows up on the species 20 years on and will feature audio recordings of Adams’ voice. HarperCollins are publishing the tie-in.
The article does say "this autumn's BBC2 series", but I'm fairly sure it's going to be autumn 2009. Autumn 2008's highly anticipated Stephen Fry documentary series is going to be "Stephen Fry - In America" which begins on BBC1, 9pm on October 12th in the "New World".