Sunday, November 30, 2008

Komodo Dragons Extinct on Padar

The Komodo Dragon has been extinct on the island of Padar since the year 2000. The remaining 2500 animals now only survive in scattered pockets across Komodo, Rinca and Gili Motang islands. The StraitsTimes has a short article about these few "Vanishing Dragons". As National Park Centre supervision head Ramang Isaka told the Jakarta Post recently...
"Their droppings can no longer be found there. There is no clear reason for its extinction, but rampant poaching of deer and wild boar, its main prey, and encroaching habitat due to forest conversion and wild fires are strongly believed to be among the causes."

Padar Island was teeming with Komodo dragons in the 1980s, but bush fires sparked by poachers have gradually restricted their habitat and foraging areas and might have burned dozens of them alive, he said.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Baby White Rhino Picture

From, here's a picture of Lisimba, the baby rhino at Budapest Zoo who was born from the frozen sperm of Colchester Zoo's Simba. The picture shows keeper Peter Czifra (or is it Tony Slattery?) stroking the 1-month-old southern white rhino.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

George Schaller receives the Indianapolis Prize

Regular visitors to Another Chance To See may recall my recent book giveaway of George Schaller's "The Year of the Gorilla", as won by Harold. Now, this audio podcast and transcript, available at VOANews has a potted history of Mr Schaller's life and how he helped to create the modern wildlife conservation movement.
He has spent his life studying wild animals in more than twenty-five countries. Those animals have included mountain gorillas, snow leopards, alligators and caribou.

This year, Mister Schaller received the Indianapolis Prize -- the world's top award for animal protection and conservation. The prize is worth one hundred thousand dollars.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Komodo Dragon Parthenogenesis News Video

This BBC London News video covered the remarkable parthenogenesis "virgin birth" event at London Zoo earlier this year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kakapo Sarah recovers from stick injury

New Zealand's Scoop has further good news about the recovery of Sarah.
An important breeding kakapo who had the misfortune of injuring her “private parts” when she unintentionally sat on a sharp stick, has been successfully rehabilitated at Auckland Zoo, and is to return to her home on Codfish Island.
Sarah, who is being flown home tomorrow morning, is one of the original founder kakapo birds from Stewart Island. Discovered there in 1989 and relocated to Codfish Island, she has produced two offspring in the past six years – six-year-old male Ariki, and three-year-old female, Pounamu.
The article goes onto say that the conservation team are confident of a good 2009 breeding season, due to the bumper crop of Rimu already growing. With six surviving chicks from 2008, keep your fingers crossed and we could make the magic 100 next year!
Breeding seasons in successive years is a very unusual event. The last large breeding season was in 2002, when 24 chicks were produced.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How "thorough" are scientists when suggesting extinction? has an interesting article about the steps scientists must make in order to claim that a species has gone extinct. They use the Baiji Dolphin as a prime example.
scientists must undergo endless searching to prove that any individual species has gone the way of the dodo.

"If there's one thing in my career I'd like to be proved wrong about, it's the baiji," said Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London, using another name for the Yangtze River dolphin.

Turvey interviewed Chinese fishermen for almost 3 months earlier this year, hoping to record sightings of the long-snouted dolphin, which has not been seen since 2002. Some colleagues in China are still looking.

In 2006, the baiji was almost declared extinct after an acoustic and visual survey of the river turned up nothing. Yet a blurry video forced experts to rate it "possibly extinct."

Video: Kakapo Parrot a "Daysleeper"

Here's an old film from the Kakapo Recovery Programme, circa 1999.

And how about this display at the Te Papa museum in Wellington, New Zealand...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kakapo Parrots: The 90 Names

Please visit The Kakapo Recovery ProgrammeWith the successful release into the wild of 2008's six surviving chicks, we now stand at 90 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
Aparima (Born 2002, Mother of a 2008 chick)
Cyndy (Three chicks in 2008)
Hine taumai
JEM (Hatched: 2008)
Margaret-Maree "Marmar"
Rakiura (Mother of two 2008 chicks)
Sue (Mother of one 2008 chick)
Toitiiti (Hatched: 2008)
Weheruatanga o te po (Hatched: 2008)
Recently deceased
John-Girl (Died: September, 1991)
Aroha (died: July 2004)
Aurora (died: July 2004)
Vollie (died: July 2004)
MALES - Total 46
Basil (2008 Father of...)
Elwin (Unofficial name - Hatched: 2008)
Jester (Hatched: 2008)
Jimmy (2008 Father of...)
Ox (2008 Father of...)
Richard Henry
Rooster (Unofficial name - Hatched: 2008)
Te Kingi
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)

Video: Kakapo Encounter with Sirocco

Check out these videos of Sirocco the Kakapo, filmed during the "Kakapo Encounter" on Ulva Island. Many thanks to SmithsonianMBC for posting these.

Kakapo Parrots: Spring has Sprung!

The Kakapo Recovery Programme ranger diaries has a new entry relating the latest good news and bad news about the Kakapos. The bad news being the recent death of Lee, along with a trip to hospital for Sarah. The good news being the release into the wild of the six remaining 2008 chicks (FEMALES: Weheruatanga o te po, JEM, and Toitiiti. MALES: Jester, Rooster* and Elwin* - *Still unofficial names), and the success of this year's Kakapo Encounter with Sirocco.
Sarah is also in hospital at Auckland Zoo at the moment. When she was caught for her transmitter change she had a large infected wound on her cloaca and was extremely light. She has made a good recovery and all going well looks set to return to the island in a few weeks. We all feel relieved that she is doing well but sad that a reliable breeder won't be in good enough condition to nest this summer.

The chicks have now asserted their independence and are bouncing around all over the island and it’s a constant surprise to see where they pop up next. Their weights are all stable or increasing so we feel confident now that they have made a successful transition to being wild kakapo. On the names front the three girls are now called Weheruatanga o te po, JEM, and Toitiiti. For the boys Jester has retained his name and Rooster and Elwin are awaiting new names from Murihiku iwi.

Friday, November 14, 2008

TV Series: Where do Mark and Stephen go next?

The map page of the BBC's Last Chance To See website reveals where Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry will be headed for the remaining films in the TV series. They filmed in the Amazon in January of 2008, and have been in Africa and Madagascar during October and November 2008.

After a well deserved Christmas break, January 2009 will see them in The Sea of Cortez, Mexico to film endangered whales, an effective replacement to travelling to China to look in vain for the "extinct" Baiji Dolphin.

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February 2009 they head down to New Zealand to see the 90 remaining Kakapo Parrots and other species.

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The final trip will be to Komodo in April 2009. Here be dragons...

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In light of the BBC site's new geographic restrictions on media content, I recommend subscribing to Stephen Fry's site where he continues to post videos from the field, and occasional "blessays" and podcasts. His Twitter feed (see sidebar on the homepage) also features regular photographs of their travels, such as this encounter with a lemur on Madagascar.
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BBC Last Chance To See site - Audio and Video now blocked to non-UK

I'm very disappointed to report that the BBC's Last Chance To See website is now blocking all audio and video content to users outside of the UK. I can't tell you how sad I am about this development. I was really enjoying following along with the development of this series, something that's been close to my heart for nearly 5 years now. The Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine video blogs were always entertaining, and I'd been enjoying the original radio episodes too. All are now unavailable to me. I'm sure there are greater powers at work than the Last Chance To See production team here, but I am DEEPLY saddened by this. If there was a way I could PAY for access, I would. What a shame - it just doesn't make any sense to me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video: Douglas Adams - Parrots, the Universe and Everything

One of the very first posts I made on this blog, back in 2004, was about this wonderful Douglas Adams lecture entitled "Parrots, The Universe and Everything", which is mostly about "Last Chance To See". At the time, it was only available as a fairly low quality stream, direct from the University of California Television website. It is still available at UCTV, but now, through the magic of YouTube (which didn't even EXIST in 2004), I can present it for your enjoyment right here. ENJOY!

This report from the Daily Nexus Online describes the lecture, and how it was enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience of some 800 people.

Very sadly, this is one of the last public appearances by Douglas, as he would tragically die the following month. Still so very sadly missed.

Last Chance To See - The Radio Series *UPDATED*

The BBC Last Chance To See "Radio" page has been updated to include the second full radio episode "Gone Fishing!". This episode features Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine in their hunt for the Yangtze's Baiji Dolphin, which led to one of the most well loved passages in the original Last Chance To See book - the trip to the Shanghai Friendship Store. The BBC have pushed back the release of the Rodrigues Fruitbat radio episode, originally scheduled for today, until December.

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 audio released so far.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Titus - The Gorilla King: BBC2 Tuesday, November 11th, 8pm

The Daily Record calls this documentary, narrated by Bernard Hill, a "Don't Miss".
The Natural World is coming up for its 25th birthday but Titus, above, has been around a good deal longer, and at 33 years of age he is still king of the jungle in his mountain retreat in Rwanda.

It's rare for any wild animal's life to be chronicled over decades but Titus and his forbears were among the gorillas first studied in the wild by pioneering wildlife researcher Dian Fossey, of Gorillas in the Mist fame, and his whole life has been conducted in front of cameras.
BBC page.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stephen Snaps an Aye-Aye

Stephen Fry added this picture of an Aye-Aye lemur to his Twitter feed the other day.
OK, not the best photo in the world, but I only had a compact... on TwitPic

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Kakapo Parrot Wins the Election

Congratulations to the Kakapo Parrot, which has won the New Zealand's Forest and Bird organization's "Bird of the Year" competion, by a landslide majority!
The kakapo won the avian electoral race with 578 votes, well ahead of its closest rival, the takahe, which scored 322 votes - a landslide victory for the world’s heaviest parrot.

In what was a tense electoral race in which the feathers often flew, the kakapo struggled to find support in the early weeks of the month-long polling period, but flew past the opposition in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mark Carwardine: "One of the world's great wildlife experiences"

Check out this smashing video of Mark Carwardine getting excited, almost emotional, at the thought of going to visit the Mountain Gorillas once again. He describes it as one of the highlights of his 25 year wildlife watching career.

Here's video of Mark and Stephen Fry setting out on the trek, which he would ultimately describe as "worth every sobbing, gasping, aching step" (which we mentioned last week).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Interview with Mauritian Wildlife Foundation Conservationist

The GuardianWeekly site recently ran this interview with Vikash Tatayah, a conservationist with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. In it, he tells of his experiences with the endangered animals on the island, including the Mauritius Kestrels and Pink Pigeons.
You have to be slightly crazy to be in this business. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has been very successful in restoring animals, plants and forests, and people from all around the world come to volunteer on the programme every year. I oversee the conservation of Mauritius kestrels, pink pigeons (distant relatives of the Dodo), seabirds, reptiles and Mauritian fruit bats.

The Mauritius kestrel used to be the most endangered bird in the world. In 2004 there were only four kestrels known to be in the wild – now there are over 800. I’m proud to say that Mauritius and the neighbouring island of Rodrigues have saved more bird species than any other country in the world.
For more information, visit the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation website, where they are currently recruiting for a Round Island warden, although the webpage with the details is currently blank.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Last Chance To See - The Radio Series

The BBC Last Chance To See website "Radio" page has added an update to say that the 4th episode of the original radio series (Rodrigues Fruitbat) will be available online from November 11th, 2008. This will add to the Aye-Aye and Amazonian Manatee episodes already available. It would appear that the Beeb will be releasing the episodes out of their original broadcast order, as and when Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine get to the relevant point in their travels to make it relevant.

For the record, below you will find the radio series episode guide as compiled by David Haddock in his excellent article "The Story of Last Chance To See".

The episodes will be "linked" as and when the BBC adds the audio of the programmes to their site. The first entry on the list below is the "chatty ten-minute radio programme of [Douglas Adams] speaking over a background of wildlife sounds" which acted as the precursor to the full Last Chance To See expeditions and radio shows which followed a few years later.

Prelude: Natural Selection: In Search of the Aye-Aye [Aye-Aye Lemurs - 01/11/1985]
1: Ralph, The Fragrant Parrot Of Codfish Island [Kakapo Parrot - 04/10/1989]
2: Gone Fishing! [River Dolphin - 11/10/1989]
3: Animal, Vegetable Or Mineral? [Amazonian Manatee - 18/10/1989]
4: The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind [Rodrigues Fruit Bat - 25/10/1989]
5: A Man-Eating, Evil-Smelling Dragon [Komodo Dragon - 01/11/1989]
6: The Sultan Of Juan Fernandez [Fur Seal - 08/11/1989]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Stephen Fry's First Mountain Gorilla Encounter

Check out the video on the BBC LCTS site of Stephen Fry's first encounter with a Mountain Gorilla...
It was worth every sobbing, gasping, aching step of horror, sweat, wheezing, frankly humiliaton to get here. Unbelievable, its a wonderful wonderful thing...
Stephen and the team are now in Mananara and Nosy Antafana - Aye Aye Island...

Last Chance To See - Return: Book Extract Available Online

The BBC Last Chance To See website now has an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the new book Last Chance To See - Return, which will be published in October 2009 by HarperCollins.

This funny excerpt from the book, written by Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry, concerns the famous exploits of the candiru fish, or "willy fish"...

Read The Excerpt