Jazz Festival

IMG_4627Every year my city puts on a fantastic Jazz Festival.  This year the event lasts nine days and I went downtown for day 1.  The headliner was Joss Stone, a singer/songwriter I’ve long admired.  I remember “Soul Sessions” blowing me away at her vocal talent.  But, she continued to impress me by doing projects that she was interested in, even if it did not make the big bucks.  She has dabbled in reggae, blues, jazz, soul…

She also has a passion like I do for elephants, visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the GRI Elephant Orphan Project.

Anyhow, Rochester’s Jazz Festival also has some terrific free performances, so if you’re in the Western NY area, check it out.


Photos: my photos of Rochester Jazz Fest – yes, I was far away, but Joss Stone sounded great!




Snow Leopard Trust

My local zoo is finally expanding the area for their snow leopards; their previous enclosure always broke my heart a bit.  Snow leopards, like elephants, are struggling in the wild with climate change, poaching, and human/animal conflicts.  There are only between 4000-6000 wild snow leopards in the world today.

The Snow Leopard Trust has been instrumental in saving the snow leopard.  One of their projects includes providing livestock insurance – herders who wish to receive compensation for lost livestock must protect snow leopards.  Another provides income to women by purchasing their handicrafts and selling them through the Trust all over the world.  They also create eco-camps and nature clubs for children to  learn about conservation, and run adult educational seminars on a regular basis.



Proposed budget would hurt wild horses


(Photo: every week in the spring I do volunteer work with children and domesticated horses)

Wild horses are a symbol of the “Wild West”, often seen as emblematic of the American spirit.  Yet, they have been controversial for decades.  Ranchers have longed bemoaned the wild horses’ presence, and complain that protections for the animals have created problems of overpopulation.  The new budget proposal seems particularly cruel to the horses, however, as it would allow horses to be sold overseas for slaughter.  This would reverse protections both Democrat and Republican Presidents have championed for over forty years.

From CNBC:

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal calls for saving $10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the West without the current requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won’t be resold for slaughter.

Wild horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of protection for wild horses — an icon of the American West — and could send thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as food.

My volunteer work

IMG_5013Since I do not live in Thailand, my elephant volunteer experience was a one day event.  But, I am lucky enough to work with large, friendly, intelligent animals here at home.

There is a horse therapy farm about twenty minutes away by car that does amazing work.  The horses are all rescues, and they take disabled children for rides on trails.  This is my fourth year volunteering.

My volunteer job is varied.  First, I get to work with the horses – grooming, tacking, and taking them for some exercise prior to their work with the children.  Then, I help the children get comfortable around the horses, and help them get in the saddle.  I then serve as a sidewalker or horse leader on the trail.  Finally, I have some messy chores to do like helping clean up the stalls.


Each horse has a sad background story, so it’s heartwarming to see how both horse and rider benefit in this program.

My selfishly favorite part is at the end of the season I get offered a riding lesson of my own.



Photos show three of the horses (there are seven at the farm).  The last photo is of me riding my favorite!



Wands for Wildlife

I was at the zoo today, and they are always happy to accept used and cleaned blankets for the animals.  I went online to see what other animal organizations ask for things we may be “spring cleaning” and found a very cute video of ducks getting brushed by old mascara wands to remove dirt, larvae, and insects from fur and feathers.

Wands for Wildlife  recycles old mascara wands to clean small animals.  Send them their requested written form and old (cleaned) mascara wands.  The address is: Appalachain Wild, P.O. Box 1211, Skyland, NC 28776.

Video: YouTube, Appalachain Wild

From their website:

“Appalachian Wildlife Refuge was incorporated on October 23, 2014. The ALL VOLUNTEER organization was formed by a group of licensed rehabilitators, nonprofit professionals, environmental educators, and other concerned citizens, in response to the increasing numbers of wildlife requiring assistance and the need for more people trained and funded to help them in Western North Carolina.”

They have helped over 1700 animals.

National refuges and predator hunts

During the Obama administration, the US Fish and Wildlife Service put new rules in place to protect Alaska’s wildlife in its 16 national refuges.  According to The Guardian, the new regulations would:

“effectively ban ‘non-subsistence’ slaughter of predators within the refuges without a sound scientific reason. Practices to be outlawed include the killing of bear cubs or their mothers, the controversial practice of bear baiting and the targeting of wolves and coyotes during the spring and summer denning season.”

Now, the House has voted to overturn these regulations.  The vote will shortly go to the Senate.

Why did the House vote to do this?

According to those who voted “yay”, state rights are important and these regulations were federal overreach.  Alaska claims it knows how to healthily manage its wildlife population without federal government interference.  In addition, native populations rely on hunting for food, and the federal rules hurt them.

But, is any of that true?

State rights are important.  Yet, the rules applied to national refuges.  As for Alaska being able to manage its ecosystem properly, that is highly debatable.  “Intensive Management” has been the official state plan – which means killing off predators like wolves and bears to increase moose and caribou populations.  The Guardian interviewed a retired wildlife biologist, Francis Mauer:

“We have a fiscal crisis here in Alaska but we see a large amount of money spent on ineffective hunting policies…The state has aggressively increased the killing of predators to the point where anyone can kill 10 wolves a day for 345 days of the year.  This kind of approach isn’t supported by the science.”

As for natives needing to hunt – the native populations use traditional means of hunting, and have not been shooting animals from helicopters for sport.  A hunter looking for food is not interested in killing a bear cub.  Plus, the regulations applied to non- substinence hunting only.

It is important to mention that a Remington Research Group poll found that by a 2-1 margin, Alaskans oppose baiting or trapping on national refuges.

If the bear and wolf population decline, is that really so terrible?  They are animals  that pose a threat to humans.

A healthy ecosystem has predators.  Wolves hunt by looking for the weaker animals – the fastest and strongest are not worth the extreme effort for a decent meal.  Those strong animals who escape the predator likely have a high percentage of healthy offspring.

I recentły read a book called The Great White Bear, by Kieran Mulvaney.  The sick, skinny polar bears were vicious towards humans because they were desperate for food and were willing to take risks.  The healthy, happy ones were not aggressive unless directly, forcefully threatened.


This professional research study talks a bit about the northern climates’ predator-prey relationship and how important it is to keep it naturally balanced.

What can I do?

Contact your senators!

Give to organizations like the Sierra Club.

If you are a hunter, support and participate in hunting clubs that do not use cruel methods.  Speak out against those that do.

(picture: I took this at my local zoo)