Saturday, April 28, 2007

Clouded Leopard of Borneo

Author's Note: I originally wrote this post when the news was first announced, but I got distracted by the baby tigers and orangs and forgot to post it! But here it is now only a day after I promised it.
Borneo is big in the news these days, and thats good! With the help of the special "Expedition Borneo" Discovery recently ran, WWF has been working to preserve the mountainous inner regions of the island of Borneo with a preserve called the "Heart of Borneo." And as with all issues, the more people know about it the better!
Recent studies to prove how biologically unique and diverse this jungle habitat is have turned up one startling bit of information: The Bornean Clouded Leopard, long thought to be the same species as the clouded leopards living on the mainland has been proven through genetic testing and close study to be a completely seperate species. Scientist estimate that the two species diverged around one and a half million years ago. Bornean clouded leopards have longer canines, and distinctly different coat patterns than their mainland cousins. Their spots are much darker, flecked with little dots, and they have a twin dorsal stripe, a feature often thought to be a sign of 'primitive' origins.
Clouded Leopards are the largest predators on the island of Borneo, and so their preservation is key to the health of the entire ecosystem. The main threat to clouded leopards, and all of Borneo's wildlife is habitat destruction. To find out what you can do to help preserve this important habitat, one of the few remaining homes of the Asian Elephant and Rhinos as well, go to the Heart of Borneo website and read!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Super Big Birthday Update!

Is it a coincidence that my birthday is in the same month as Defender's of Wildlife's anniversary? Perhaps, perhaps not. The card I received from my Grandmother today said "To a very special granddaughter who blends in with nature." Thats a great compliment, in my opinion!
In honour of Defender's anniversary I'm posting this list of some of their greatest accomplishment's over their 60 years of service to nature, along with updates on the subject and links you can click if you'd like to help in their continuing efforts in these areas.

Wolves: Defenders led a decades-long battle against wolf opposition to return these iconic predators to the wolf paradise which is Yellowstone National Park. Wolves were finally reintroduced in 1995, and have made an amazing come back! Their numbers are finally high enough that they can reclaim their place in the Yellowstone ecosystem, hunting Bison as they are meant to do. Not only is this great for the wolves, but it helps keep Yellowstone's Bison and Elk populations healthy. North American Grey Wolves still have a long road to travel though: we're still fighting to keep their protections and keep anti-wolf officials in New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming and Idaho from trying to exterminate them! Take Action to help Wolves.

Bald Eagles and California Condors: The Bald Eagle is the internationally recognized icon of of the United States of America and our national symbol, but 50 years ago there were fewer than 500 nesting pairs in our country! Since then the banning of various pesticides (DDT, Carbofuran), efforts to protect habitat and crack down on illegal shooting of the birds has brought their numbers back up to somewhere around 70,000. But Bald Eagles and California Condors still share one common enemy: Lead shotgun pellets. Studies in California suggest that the most common threat to the endangered Condor is lead poisoning from ingesting shotgun pellets found in carrion. Recently legislation passed a key committee in California to reduce the use of lead shotgun pellets. Learn more about endangered avians!

Dolphins and Sea Turtles: You know that 'Dolphin Safe' lable you now see on your tuna can? That's because of a ban on large-scale drift nets that Defenders helped put in place in the 80's and 90's. Countless dolphins, whales, sea turtles and 'junk fish' have been unintentionally maimed and killed by drift nets, so continue to make sure you only buy dolphin safe tuna! Defenders thoughtfully supplies us with a list of which retailers sell dolphin safe, or non-dolphin safe tuna here.

Here are some of Defenders' most recent successes!
Defenders' supporters helped defeat a proposal to expand hunting near Alaska's McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge, potentially saving the lives of Brown Bears and other species.
Cook Inlet's Beluga whales have all but vanished, but pressure from Defenders' supporters convinced the National Marine Fisheries to reverse its earlier decision about the whales and propose listing them as an Endangered Species.
Finally, THANK YOU GOV. O'MALLEY! Just yesterday Mr. O'Malley signed a ban on commercial harvesting of Maryland's beloved Diamond Back Terrapins, which over harvesting had reduced to a quarter of their population two decades ago. GO TERPS!
I'd have more pictures for you, but blogger is having mental problems. Another update tomorrow because it's my birthday and I can do whatever I want to, nyah! Tomorrow a highly belated feature on the newly classified Bornean Clouded Leopard.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


That's right, this sunday is Earth Day! Why? I have no idea! But who needs an excuse to party, right? So this Sunday, weather willing, gather up your closest friends and have a little get together to celebrate our Mother Earth! Just don't forget to recycle your soda cans!

Speaking of recycling and Earth Day, one of the easiest things you can do on an every day basis to help our planet is recycle. In some neighborhoods recycling can be picked up just like your trash, in others there are designated drop-off centers, like at a fire station or community building. And in many places you can recycle such things as aluminum, tin, and other scrap metals or glass for cold hard cash! Recoup some of your 10 dollar a week cola habit by recycling all your aluminum cans for as much as 55 cents a pound. Just a trunk full of empty soda cans delivered to a paying scrap metal recycling center can net you an easy 15 bucks. It's a great way to inspire otherwise uninspireable teenagers to get involved. If your kids are anything like me, they probably have that 15 bucks stacked all around their room, or rolling around in the floorboard of their car. But whether for profit or the simple health of the planet, you can find a place to sell or dump just about anything you can think of to recycle using's Traders and Recyclers Directory.

If the weather cooperates you might make Earth Day an outing with the family to a local nature spot. Visit the zoo or a nearby water garden and impress upon your children the importance of preserving our planet's natural wonders, not only for their beauty (though that ought to be reason enough!) but because our planet (and us!) simply cannot survive without them! To locate a National Park near you go to the National Park Service website, or to find a Wildlife Refuge visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service's Refuge Finder.

Here's where I wish I was going to be on Earth Day!

Apache Lake, Arizona. Surrounded by the Superstition Wilderness, Three Bar Wildlife Area and located in Tonto National Forest. We've seen Big Horn Sheep, Coyotes, Coati, Herons and seasonal water fowl, Falcons and Bald Eagles. We even know up which canyon a mama Mountain Lion lives, and have heard the squeaky chirps of her newborn cubs. Needless to say, we left her alone!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Saving America's Symbols: Mustangs

Saving America's Symbols is a new article series I'm starting, featuring some of the most influential and prominent species in North America, such as Bison, Bald Eagles, and the American Mustang. Many of these animals are the backbone on which our nation was created and as such deserve our respect and continuing protection. I'm starting with the Mustangs because we're coming up on foaling season soon. Its been a strange, hard, changeable winter all over the country this year, and I doubt the Mustangs are fairing any better than the rest of us. For wild horse herds all over the southwest and in their northern ranges of Montana and Oregon and some in Alberta and British Columbia late spring and into the summer is the foaling season. For the Buruea of Land Management and other entities set with 'managing' the mustang herds this is also the height of roundup season.
During the summer of 2006 Front Range Equine Rescue (sister charity of the Cloud Foundation to save wild horses) published heartbreaking accounts of roundups that took place in Utah and Nevada. Chased by helicopters with days old foals running along side, panicked horses stumbled, broke legs, trampled foals, and collapsed from exhaustion to perish in the desert, or be rounded up later and hauled by truck to pen sites. A corraled horse panicked and broke its neck when it crashed into the fence, and another kicked a foal that had gotten mixed up with the adult horses, killing it. Even unborn foals were lost, when stress caused the mares to abort their babies. In 1971, the United States Congress recognized Mustangs as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West [...] that [...] contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” Is this the way we treat such living legends?
Anyone familiar with horses, wild or otherwise, has heard of the Burns Amendment. This illegal appendix to the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act virtually gutted protections for these animals, as well as impacting the lives of countless domestic horses. Further plans by Mustang management calls for using birth control on mares over 10 years of age to help hold down the population. While this is a less expensive route than the barbaric roundups (conducted at the taxpayers expense, I might add) it will still help to contribute to the downfall of one of America's most recognizable symbols of freedom. Wild Mustangs have been pushed into isolated rangelands in some areas, far seperated from other herds, and birth control would only weaken their already compromised genetic diversity. These beautiful animals, once desenced from Andalusians, Arabians, and some of the most graceful and intelligent breeds in the world would become the 'weeds' that western ranchers have long held them to be.
For more information, or to donate to FRER's campaign to save our Mustangs, visit: (Warning, this website contains disturbing photos taken by press and onlookers at Wild Horse Roundups)

When I was 13, a 30 year old adopted Mustang taught me how to jump high, and how to dream. If Bandit is still alive today he'd be in his forties. Where ever you are I still love you, Bandito.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Factory Farming

Here's one I didn't know about until recently: factory farms keeping breeding female pigs in 'gestation crates', tiny metal cages basically the same size as the pig. She can't move forward or backward more than a couple of shuffling inches, can't turn around, hardly has enough room to even lay down and get back up.
Now, I always assumed that factory farms kept their animals in fairly confined spaces, but not even enough room to lay down? That's like if you kept your 70 lb golden retriever in a shopping cart basket its entire life and never let it out. That's cruel confinement. And it happens to more than just pigs. Baby cows are taken from their mothers, placed in similar 'crates' and tethered to the wall to keep them from moving about, all while being fed a diet purposely lacking in vital minerals and fiber, all to make the perfect cut of veal. Chicken eggs are hatched out in incubators, and the chickens spend their entire life packed one on top of another in wire cages hardly tall enough for them to stand up in. I get dozens of letters in the mail every year from horse rescue groups looking for homes for Premarin foals, but I've only ever gotten one letter from a group who was actually trying to do something to help the MARES. Premarin producing mares have a nice life, part of the time. They get to live outdoors in large groups, enjoying the grass and sunshine. Until they get pregnant, then it's into the barn for the next so many months, confined to a stall with a bag stuck under your tail, just so middle-aged women don't get hot flashes. And meanwhile the foal gets tossed by the wayside, a 'by product' of Premarin production.
Do you remember when you were a kid, getting fried chicken for summer picnics? Now think about the last time to picked up a bucket of fried chicken on the weekend. Those thighs and drumsticks just don't look as plump as they used to, do they? Heck, there's hardly any wing in that bucket. That's because that chicken probably spent her whole life in a tiny little cage, hardly moving around, being fed unappetizing supplements, and never grew or muscled out properly to make a nice chunk of chicken.
Dairy cows are slightly better off. They don't have to stand around in the milking barn all day at least, though I'm not sure what the situation is these days with those milk-production boosting drugs and supplements. I haven't noted it to be a widespread practice at least in my part of the country but I can cite at least one farm that still practices tail docking. Upon noticing to my outrage a farm full of Holsteins with their tails chopped off, I had to call my mother who grew up on a dairy farm and ask her if they had docked the tails of the cows at her farm. She said no, but she knew that the practice existed. I've since read that 'nicking and docking' are BANNED in the UK and a number of European countries.
Many of what the New Jersey Department of Agriculture calls 'routine animal agricultural practices performed by farms on a daily basis' have been CONDEMNED as cruel by the American Veterinary Medical Association, yet these practices continue. How can a country that is so forward thinking when it comes to human rights be so backwards when it comes to the basic rights of animals?
Here's a Glouceshershire Old Spots sow and her little piggies as they were meant to be, roaming free range in an orchard! You're never going to hear me say 'don't eat meat.' I'm not a vegetarian, I'm never going to be a vegetarian, and I don't think you should have to be either. If you are vegan or a vegetarian, more power to you! I wish I was that strong. But while we might eventually convince 60% of the world to drive hybrid cars, we're never going to convince them all to eat soybeans instead of beef. We're not going to stop the slaughter of domestic livestock. But we CAN do our best to see that these animals don't suffer. What can you do to help? Go to Farm Sanctuary to find out more about cruel farming practices, and how you can help change the legislature that allows it! And you know, if you happen to have 40 odd acres and no mule, maybe you can adopt one.

I may not be a Veg, but I applaud those who are!
Says creator GreenBites of this design: Being a smart investor, and being a Vegetarian or a Vegan, you are really bullish on saving lives. Invest in nature, invest in peace, invest in lives. And we will get the returns that we never dreamt