Adapting behavior due to poachers

An article in Newsweek caught my eye this week:

Elephants in East Africa are adapting their behavior to survive the greatest threat to their existence: poachers.

A study published in the peer-reviewed Ecological Indicators journal this week suggests that elephants are aware of the danger of poaching gangs and have begun moving at night to avoid them.

The research, carried out by the Kenya-based charity Save the Elephants and the University of Twente in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, used GPS tracking and mortality data collected in northern Kenya between 2002 and 2012.

It is interesting to note that elephants can see well in the dark, but moving at night still has plenty of danger.  Lions, for example, are nocturnal and are happy to pick off baby elephants for a meal.  Obviously, the elephants weighed their options and would rather risk lions than bullets and machetes.

The GPS tracking may save elephant lives.  Anti-poaching ranger teams can now follow the elephants’ movement and protect them better against their worst enemy.

 

 

 

 

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Mexico City and environs

I’m back from Mexico City, somehow managing to bypass hurricanes on my flights and be away from the epicenter of a major earthquake (but we felt it in the city and were evacuated until safety checks were complete).  It certainly made me feel very lucky, and my heart goes out to all who were not so lucky.

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This was my second time in Mexico City, and I adore this place.  I revisited the city center but also went to new places.  There are countless cultural and historical gems in the massive city, yet you can see them easily by use of the metro.

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This time around I took the metro to Alameda Santa Maria park and the Biblioteca Vasconsuelos.  It ended up being a very fun dinner experience, as I went to a family run cafe where I sat with the family for their meal, practicing my Spanish.

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I then took a daytrip to Taxco and Cuernavaca.   The bus to Taxco is very inexpensive (at about $12) and very nice.  The scenery is breathtaking.  The city reminds me very much of Ostuni, Italy – narrow cobblestone hilly streets, whitewashed buildings, and art-filled churches.

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If you’re up to it, I recommend climbing to Guadeloupe church for city views.

IMG_6206In the later afternoon I made a quick stop to the Borda gardens in Cuernavaca, which have gorgeous flowers with butterflies, plenty of fountains, colorful ducks, and graceful columns.

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The next day it was Puebla and Cholula.  The bus leaves from Mexico City TAPO every fifteen minutes.  It is really necessary to take either the city bus or a taxi to the center of Puebla from the CAPU bus station.  The outskirts are blah, but the center is charming – so colorful and endless sweets stores, cafes, and artisan crafts await you.

IMG_6232The highlight for me were the churches – beautiful architecture and incredible interiors.

IMG_6221 I ate in the artist district and had the best mole I’ve ever tasted.

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I had not planned my trip around a festival, but Cholula was in pure celebration mode.  The Aztec drumming and dancing was incredible and it was fascinating to see the blessing ceremonies.

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What a wonderful surprise to end my short trip to Mexico. I certainly hope to return many times in my lifetime to this friendly, incredible country.

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Photos are my own.

Climate change skeptics

IMG_1552It’s hard to believe with all the scientific studies and with all the news stories of once-in-a-hundred year storms every week that there are still many climate change skeptics in the US.  But, polling shows many Americans do not believe in climate change.

The Environmental Defense Fund published five suggestions on how to discuss the issue with skeptics.  My summary:

1. Don’t dismiss or insult them, just refute their ideas (but super gently).  Calling someone ignorant is a sure fire way they will tune you out.  You need to have a civil discussion.

2. Don’t paint a portrait of catastrophe.  Even though you want to shock them into believing in science, it might just make them feel helpless.  Instead, talk about new technology helping the economy and how cleaner air and water is good for everyone, particularly kids and grandkids.

3. Find areas they care about – if they love animals, talk about climate change hurting species like elephants.  If they fear immigration, talk about migrations of populations and conflicts that arise from lack of resources due to climate change.  If they are religious, point out that religious leaders such as Pope Francis have supported international cooperation on climate change issues.

4. Find the personal in the world.  Hearing stats of large numbers or seeing floods in far away lands sadly doesn’t make a lasting impression.  Hearing about a family who lost everything in Harvey after losing it all in Katrina may be more memorable and heart wrenching.

5. Know facts.  Be smart and do your research and use reputable sources.  The latest thing you saw on Facebook doesn’t count…unless it was a link to Nature or some other reputable scientific journal and you read it.

 

Good news for elephants

I think we all need some good news.  Fortunately, the NRDC has published a list of good news for elephants as part of their year in review for World Elephant Day, which took place earlier this month.

They also published a list of concerns, which I will cover at a later time.

1. The poaching numbers of African elephants is still unacceptably high, but it has stabilized instead of increased, which is an important step in the right direction.

2. Law enforcement has improved, with better communication and less corruption.  Powerful poaching lords are being arrested both in Africa and Asia.

3. Ivory crushes – the process of destroying ivory stocks – has proven to be an effective marketing tool to raise awareness about the elephants’ plight, and has reduced the problem of thieves selling ivory on the black market.

4. China has made enormous strides to reduce its consumption of ivory, with the government banning ivory markets.

5. The U.S. ivory bans now have data proving they have been effective in reducing demand, and thus have saved many elephants’ lives.

6. Activists at every level – from average citizens to celebrities and royalty to experts in the field have created a movement worldwide to save the elephant.  CITES Secretary General Jon Scanlon stated: “The momentum generated over the past few years is continuing to translate into deeper and stronger efforts to fight these crimes on the front line, where it is needed most—from the rangers in the field, to police and customs at ports of entry and exit and across illicit markets.”

I think this is true…fifteen years ago, I would be hard pressed to find articles about saving elephants.  Now, I can open People magazine at the supermarket and find a large story about it.  Let’s keep the discussion going!

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Guide Dog Foundation “Catwalk”

In a previous post, I discussed how I bought Christmas cards from the Guide Dog Foundation.  Ever since I have gotten a newsletter, and unlike many charity mailings, I read this one cover to cover every time it arrives in the mail.

A fundraiser “Dogs on the Catwalk” will be held at Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, NY on Thursday, October 19, 2017.  The event will have a canine fashion show, cocktails and dinner, speakers, and raffles.  Tickets are $125.  You can donate without attending.

So far, the foundation has received 25% of their donations goal.

In the newsletter, they often feature someone who uses a guide dog.  Sonja Gunn, a mom of three, uses a guide dog.  She has had vision disabilities since age 7, and as an adult used a cane.  She has been amazed by the difference a guide dog makes in her life.  She said:

“Just being at the side of a guide dog and having them move you through things without even knowing they’re there is just wonderful for me.  I can move fast, I can hold my head up and have good posture.  All of those things are important because now I feel much better about going places on my own.”

 

 

 

 

 

Donating to zoos

My local zoo gladly takes donations to help elephants and other animals.  Obviously, monetary donations are accepted, but it is nice to donate items where you can see the animals actually use them.

The zoo elephants enjoy “foraging” for pasta, unsweetened cereals, oats, and unsalted pretzels.  They also like spices and perfumes.  And, if you have large cardboard tubes you want to recycle, they make enjoyable elephant playthings to manipulate and destroy.

Other animals also need supplies – for example, my zoo was thrilled to accept blankets for their primates.

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So, if you are cleaning out your cupboards, house, or garage, ask your zoo if they need anything!

 

 

 

 

World Elephant Day

IMG_5237Today is World Elephant Day.  Here is a picture from my recent visit to the zoo.

I got an email from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, updating me on my foster elephant (reminder: you can foster an elephant for $50).  It also talked about World Elephant Day and offered an opportunity to send an elephant vocal message.  Details are below:

“Saturday 12th August is World Elephant Day, an extra opportunity for all of us to celebrate elephants and draw global attention to the threats they face, as well as the work being done to help these most majestic of animals. To make it possible for elephants to be truly heard this World Elephant Day, the Trust has created Say Hello in Elephant, a web based campaign that allows you to translate messages into elephant calls and share them with friends and family. The translations are based on decades of research into elephant communication by ElephantVoices and we hope you will take a moment to visit: http://www.helloinelephant.com and translate a message to share with your friends. I find it exciting to think that we can bring the true sounds of elephants to people all over the world, a sound that could be lost, were it not for the support of caring people like you, who help us to protect them.”