Thursday, May 31, 2007

To kill, or not to kill: The Giant Squid

To scientists the answer to this question would likely be: kill! Kill with all speed, chop up into itty bitty pieces and cure in formaldehyde!
Recently, for the first time, Japanese scientist captured a live mature (mostly?) giant squid. This was the first time anyone had even caught one on film in the wild. Previously everything we knew about giant squid had been learned by studying their carcasses which wash up on shore or get caught in fishing nets and lines. Now for the first time we have photographs, graciously provided for all by National Geographic.
Scientists used bags of pulped shrimp and smaller species of squid as bait on large multi-pronged hooks to capture the beastie. You can see one of the hooks in the photograph of the squid's severed tentacle. Not a very nice 'howdy do'. The Squid tore the tentacle off when it struggled and made its escape. Lucky little devil fish. Call me a cynic if you will, but I just can't imagine scientists hauling a 25 foot long (that's roughly half the size we KNOW a giant squid can grow to, though its perfectly possible they get larger) species of squid that science has never studied up close before all the way up from the blackest depths of the ocean and then just letting it go. It would have probably ended up like this little beauty from the Philippines. Only in a rather larger jar. "Over 100 samples of rare species." If they're so gawdawful rare, perhaps it'd be best not to disturb them so much?
Now I'm not implying that the giant squid is a rare species, far from it. But that shouldn't be any reason to treat one like we can just go down to the store and pick one up, right?

This one reminds me of Cthulhu, encased in a block of ice, awaiting the day when he can wreak his vengeance upon the world, muahhahahaha. Ahem. Pardon me.

(Author's note: This is an old entry that somehow missed getting posted...since then I've become aware that sources are inconsistent in describing exactly what happened to the unfortunate squid. Some say he escaped, sans one tentacle, while others claim that he was hauled aboard and dissected. Personally, I'd like to believe NG when they say he escaped!)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Get out, clean up, enjoy the day!

Alas! If only I wasn't one of those people who works 7 days a week, I would love to spend my weekend helping other volunteers and Defenders of Wildlife clean up Big Meadows at Shenandoah National Park. The Big Meadows area of the park is home to hundreds of species of rare plant life. Plant life which is integral to the continued survival of many species of birds and other animals. Invasive species (non-native, highly adaptable plant life) such as Garlic Mustard and Oriental Bittersweet are choking out the native plants this ecosystem depends on, but Defenders and the National Park service have teamed up to help repair the damage, and they need volunteers to help with the dirty work!
Now come on, I know you all love the dirty work. Me, I spent all last week tirelessly weeding my herb garden and I have the ant bites and poison ivy to show for it! That said, if you live in the Shenandoah Natl. Park area and want to volunteer, I'd advise wearing long pants and substantial work gloves!
Clean up is this Saturday and Sunday (May 19th and 20th) at Big Meadows swamp in Shenandoah Natl. Park, Luray, VA. Volunteering includes orientation and a history lesson about the park, snacks and beverages, and all your weeding tools will be supplied. So instead of just cruising along Skyline Drive this weekend, why not jump in and get your hands dirty, helping to keep our favorite ('our' being us people from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee!) National Park happy and healthy!
For more information visit Defenders online and fill out their survey.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A portrait for conservation: Tiger Mosaic

(Note from the Author: Apologies, once again blogger refuses to publish pictures.)
The tiger is the planet's largest feline. Individuals can weigh anywhere from 400 to 700+ pounds, depending on age, gender, and subspecies. Their distinctive striped coat pattern is as unique to an individual cat as a humans fingerprint. One of the most revered and reviled of predatory creatures in the world, it is no wonder that they are coveted by lover and loather alike.
Although tigers are listed as "Endangered" and bans on the sale of tiger skins and parts have been in place for years the biggest threat to the world's dwindling populations of Sumatran, Siberian, Bengal, Malayan, Indochinese, and South China tigers (the most critically endangered subspecies) is still poaching. Several subspecies of tiger have already been hunted to extinction.
Fortunately for tigers, they breed well in captivity. In fact, they breed so well in captivity that there are more CAPTIVE tigers than wild tigers. Unfortunately for tigers this has caused a problem...In china tigers are bred on 'tiger farms' as a sort of tourist attraction, but with the hope that someday the government will lift the ban on tiger trade and allow them to sell parts from captive tigers. At first glance this might not seem a bad idea. After all, the alligator shoe and belt trade helped save the American Alligator through captive breeding on alligator farms. Other fur and leather bearing animals are bred on farms, helping to preserve their wild populations. The problem is that the tiger's habitat has become so constricted in some places and it's population so fragile that it cannot at this point sustain itself without human intervention. And ANY lift of the ban on tiger trade would create an opening for poachers to sneak illegal tiger parts and pelts into the market. Poaching would increase, and the delicate balance of nature would be lost.
The World Wildlife Fund has come up with a wonderful and unique way for us to tell China that we oppose any lift of the ban on tiger trade. By uploading your photo to their website you can be included in the world's largest tiger photo mosaic, to be presented at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. They can even show you exactly where you are in the tiger! The deadline for uploading photos is May 21 so that the mosaic can be presented at the convention in June.
Last year the Dalai Lama preached against using, selling or buying wild animals, their pelts or derivatives. Thousands of Tibetans responded by burning, tearing, or throwing away tiger and leopard hides used as rugs and decorations. Only time will tell if this sentiment will spread. Will you help?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Keep Wolves in Yellowstone!

I just took action to stop one of the worst wolf massacres in decades -- and I hope you will, too.
It's easy to help. Just go to the website below to take action:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to strip wolves of crucial Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies. Such a plan would allow Wyoming and Idaho to move forward with plans to eliminate as many wolves as possible within their borders.
Please help me save these magnificent animals. Tell the federal government to maintain federal protections for gray wolves by sending a message at the website below: Help generate 200,000 comments to federal officials -- take action at the website above, then forward this message on to others who care about wildlife.
These wolves are in trouble. But, together, I know we can save them. I hope you'll help...

There, Defenders said to send it to five friends, hopefully I have reached at least that many people through this blog.
To be perfectly honest, and I love wolves, but I'm begining to feel like I'm beating a dead horse with this issue. For some reason beyond my ken wolves are one of the most revered, and most hated animals in the animal kingdom. There are people who would die to keep them, and people who would kill to be rid of them. Even if you aren't a wolf fanatic, most sane people will admit that wolves have their place in our world, just like every thing else nature has molded. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have already poured their heart and soul into pleading with officials to save wolves, be it in Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, or Alaska. How can anyone else take what they love away from them?
Wolves are killers. They are predators of the most elite variety. Cunning. Bold. Ruthless.
But they are also animals who love and respect one another. Caring. Nuturing. Family.
Truth be told, wolves are a lot like us.
Someone said once (and of course I can't remember who) "Wolves are people too."
There you have it.
Wolves are people too.