99% female

You may have seen Australia’s high temperatures in the news, reaching 117 degrees F this past week.  Obviously, this is harmful for agriculture long term, and will worsen drought and the fire season.  It also spells trouble for wildlife.  Bats have basically boiled to death, falling from trees.  Bats help control insect populations.

The Great Barrier Reef is also suffering, with coral bleaching.  Sea turtles are showing evidence of the climate change strain…scientists were surprised to discover 99% of this year’s hatchlings were female.   This gender bias is due to the high temperatures.


(Photo of a turtle in my hometown)

Clearly, if this is a long term trend, and it looks like it will be, populations of sea turtles will become endangered.  Other animals like crocodiles and certain lizards also have gender determined based on temperature.

According to NBC News:

There are also some “practical” intervention methods scientists can take to help relieve the gender bias, such as putting up shade tents around breeding sites or spraying artificial rain to cool sand temperatures, O’Gorman said.

Holleley said that while short-term intervention could help populations, it could also have unintended outcomes and potentially make the population more vulnerable if those intervention methods were suddenly taken away because of funding or changes in administrations.

“You’re kind of in a Catch-22, do you intervene and potentially have an adverse outcome as an unintended consequence,” she said, “or do you let the population be and see what happens — it’s very difficult.”


A sobering read

The New York Magazine article by David Wallace-Wells begins with this statement:

“It is, I promise, worse than you think.”

He goes on describing climate change and how it will affect us this century.  Some points:

-Heat temperatures and humidity, especially in the tropics, will rise above levels that our body systems can handle, expect death rates of animals and humans to rise, especially among children and the elderly.

-Oceans will not only rise, they will become more acidic, further damaging coral reefs which we depend on for biodiversity.   Expect a fishing crisis this century.

-Fish will not be the only food shortage.  Drought will make once arable land useless for crops and unfrozen lands won’t have rich soil to help us out.

– Disease will spread quicker with mutations we cannot expect.  One example: There is bacterium in the Siberian ice, which can unfreeze and be ingested by animals and spread to humans.  It’s not science fiction.

-Conflict will occur as people compete for dwindling resources. Look for more war and strife this century.

-If you think the recession was tough, get ready for more economic hardship.  Remember reading about the Dust Bowl?  Now imagine that situation becoming standard in many populated areas.

Needless to say, it is a massively discouraging article, especially as we read this week that the US wants to open more coastal water for oil exploration.

The takeaway: It is not too late to care.  Support scientific R&D, live a ‘greener’ life, support organizations and businesses that care for our planet, educate yourself on the issues, and vote for candidates who are concerned about the environment.




Charlie and Stacy

Youtube: America’s VetDogs

A few months ago, I profiled the work America’s VetDogs does to help veterans.  Charlie, a dog showcased on the Today Show from puppyhood, has graduated and found his match.

Stacy Pearsell, a Air Force war photographer, was serving in Iraq when a roadside bomb severely injured her.  She ended up returning to work, serving in Africa, but her headaches, neck pain, and PTSD were getting worse.

She found a new purpose when she met a WWII vet and realized it would be wonderful to profile veterans.  She began the Veteran Portrait Project.

Charlie and Stacy will make a great team.


Chinese ban ivory

Some good news to start 2018: Preliminary studies are showing the ban on ivory in China is working well.

From the BBC:

“Wildlife campaigners believe 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year.
State media said there had already been a 65% decline in the price of raw ivory over the past year.
There had also been an 80% decline in seizures of ivory entering China, said Xinhua.
The ban was announced last year and came into effect on Sunday, the last day of 2017.”


Happy New Year!

Riding an elephant

With the new year coming, I’m dreaming of travel.  Maybe you are too?  But, if riding an elephant was on your bucket list, you might want to think twice:

Daniel Turner, Associate Director for Tourism at Born Free told the BBC:

While some may consider riding on top of the largest land mammal to be a cultural experience that holds an air of romance, few recognise that this practice actually significantly compromises the welfare of these magnificent animals and potentially places people at risk.
Riding or interacting with captive elephants, swimming with dolphins, walking with lions, or cuddling a tiger cub for a photo – these are just some of the many worrying tourism excursions and activities involving animals. All can impact on the welfare of the animals involved, and risk people’s safety.

What can you do instead?  Visit a sanctuary, where often you can interact with the elephants (feeding them, helping with bath time) yet know that they have plenty of time with their peers and in natural surroundings.

Here are some reputable ones I’ve heard about:

The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand and Cambodia

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya

The Elephant Sanctuary, South Africa (3 locations)

Elephant Rehabilitation Center in Agastyarvanam Biological Park, India

Millennium Elephant Foundation, Sri Lanka

YouTube: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya





Jumbo the Elephant

A recent blurb in The Telegraph features a review of a documentary:

One could easily have imagined Attenborough and the Giant Elephant (BBC One), the bittersweet tale of the world’s first animal superstar – Jumbo the elephant, London Zoo’s foremost attraction in Victorian times – filling a prime-time slot in the Christmas or Boxing Day schedules. But perhaps it was deemed too sad. Too liable to dial down Yuletide high spirits with its archaeological examination of unintentional animal cruelty and the appalling ignorance of generations past.

I had never heard of Jumbo, but his story is rather tragic.  He was a superstar attraction, the first time many had ever seen an elephant.  He was beloved by children on both sides of the Atlantic.  

However, he was severely mistreated.  He was forced to perform and did not receive proper medical care.  His keeper then gave him alcohol to depress his violent outbursts.  He ended up dying in a horrid fashion – being hit in a train crash.

The only comfort is that perhaps Jumbo planted the early seeds of animal rights in people’s minds.  Seeing a live elephant made some care more about their welfare, and zoos have made positive changes since that time.  Many circuses have gone out of business or have stopped using animals in their shows.




Giving Tuesday

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s nice to have a day dedicated to charitable giving.  Each year in November, I use the tip money I receive through my job to donate to a cause that is meaningful to me and receives good reviews.

This year I chose the Guide Dog Foundation and Vet Dogs.  It is located in my home state, and I have bought holiday cards from them in the past.  They have sent me a quarterly newsletter and I have been so impressed by their dedication to the animals and their human companions.

Video: VetDogs, youtube

Last year I gave to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and I continue to foster an elephant there.  It is an amazing organization in Kenya, dedicated to rescuing elephants (and rhinos and giraffes).

Video: DSWT, youtube