natural history blog

Natural history and parasitical feedings on the world's press

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Conservation with Bush

From Popbitch, Kalebeul and yubanet
Matthew J Hogan has just been appointed by the
Bush Government as director of the Fish and
Wildlife Service. Interestingly, Hogan was the
lobbyist for Safari Club International - an elite
club of exotic animal trophy hunters, as well
as a keen exotic hunter himself.

SCI has 40,000 members, and promotes global
competitive trophy hunting, with Grand Slam
and Inner Circle competitions. These include
Africa Big Five (leopard, elephant, lion, rhino,
buffalo), North American Twenty Nine (one of
each species of bear, bison, sheep, moose,
caribou, and deer), Big Cats of the World and
Antlered Game of the Americas. To complete all
29 awards, a hunter must kill 322 separate
species. Enough to populate a large zoo.
This is an extremely expensive and lengthy task, and many SCI members take the quick and easy route to see their names in the record books. They shoot captive animals in canned hunts, both in the United States and overseas, and some engage in other unethical conduct like shooting animals over bait, from vehicles, with spotlights, or on the periphery of national parks.

SCI members have even tried to circumvent federal laws to import their rare trophies from other countries. Prominent SCI hunter Kenneth E. Behring donated $100 million to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum and, according to published reports, tried to get the museum's help in importing a rare Kara Tau argali sheep which he shot in Kazakhstan and had shipped to a Canadian taxidermist - one of only 100 Kara Tau argali sheep remaining in the world. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, now under Hogan's watch, is the agency charged with granting or denying such trophy import permits.

AND FROM HERE. A View to a Kill: How Safari Club Int'l Works to Weaken ESA Protections

The latest example of SCI's growing influence in Washington is the Bush Administration's initiative to "save" the world's endangered species by killing or selling them, and then using the revenues as an incentive for poor countries to improve their conservation efforts. This scheme to protect rare wildlife is a formula for disaster. It will reverse 30 years of ESA protections for hundreds of exotic creatures who are heading for, or teetering on, the brink of extinction.

The proposal, which conveniently dovetails with SCI's agenda, offers several examples of how wildlife can be exploited for profit. It suggests imports, such as wild-caught Asian elephants for circuses and zoos, Morelet's crocodile skins for luxury leather items like shoes and handbags, and Asian bonytongue tropical fish to supply the aquarium trade. American trophy hunters could shoot and import trophies of straight-horned markhor, a rare goat found in Pakistan, and then head north on a quickie expedition to nail Canadian wood bison.

These are only examples. If approved, the proposal portends open season on many disappearing species, particularly large mammals, the so-called charismatic megafauna. It would also be a huge incentive for poaching and smuggling. Imagine how much rich trophy hunters would offer China to shoot giant pandas-arguably the world's most beloved animal-if they were allowed to import their stuffed remains. Picture furriers importing the hides of endangered snow leopards to swathe the ethically challenged. And now that pet tigers have earned a bad rap, might cheetahs become the newest rage among exotic pet owners?

Dandruff and climate change

From New Scientist

Could dandruff be altering the world’s climate? Along with fur, algae, pollen, fungi, bacteria, viruses and various other “bio-aerosols” wafting around in the atmosphere, it may well be.

A global study has found that tiny fragments of biological detritus are a major component of the atmosphere, controlling the weather and forming a previously hidden microbial metropolis in the skies. Besides their climatic influence, they may even be spreading diseases across the globe.

Scientists have known for some time that aerosols of soot, dust and ash can influence climate by reflecting or absorbing the Sun’s rays and by providing the condensation nuclei necessary for clouds to form. Recent research suggests that aerosols are also responsible for “global dimming”, which may be shading us from the full force of warming from greenhouse gases.

Air samples collected by Jaenicke from over Germany, Siberia, the Amazon rainforest, Greenland and remote oceans found that tiny particles of organic detritus, much of it in the form of biological cells, make up about 25% of the atmospheric aerosol.

Read all

Greatest natural disaster in British history

From BBC news

A tsunami in the Bristol Channel could have caused the deaths of up to 2,000 people in one of Britain's greatest natural disasters, experts have said.
For centuries, it has been thought that the great flood of January 1607 was caused by high tides and severe storms. It is estimated that 200 square miles of land in south Wales and south west England were covered by water. Eyewitness accounts of the disaster, published in six different pamphlets of the time, told of "huge and mighty hills of water" advancing at a speed "faster than a greyhound can run" and only receding 10 days later. Professor Simon Haslett, from Bath Spa University College, said: "There is an overall theme running through the pamphlets of a destructive event, very violent, disastrous, on a scale that is unprecedented." Australian geologist Ted Bryant, from the University of Wollongong, agreed: "The waves are described as mountainous - that's a description of a tsunami." Read all

Other UK tsunamis include a 70ft high wave that hit Scotland 7,000 years ago, following a massive landslip in Norway.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Zoological and natural hazards and the NHS

Volcanic eruptions, lightning strikes, lizard bites and hornet stings caused some of the more unusual injuries listed by the Department of Health (DoH).

From the Guardian here:
Accidents cost the NHS about £1bn a year. The most common cause of injury was falling, which led to 119,203 admissions to casualty.

Thousands suffered attacks from a wide variety of animals. These included 451 people stung by hornets, 46 bitten by venomous snakes and lizards, 24 bitten by rats, 15 injured in contact with a marine mammal, two people bitten by centipedes and one attacked by an alligator. But dogs accounted for most injuries with 3,508 people suffering bites.

Hundreds more fell victims to natural hazards, with 54 people struck by lightning, 37 victims of "volcanic eruption", 25 injured in "catacylsmic storms", 12 suffered from avalanches and seven were victims of earthquakes. A further 107 were exposed to "unspecified forces of nature".

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bar-tailed godwits record fliers

From New Scientist
Bar-tailed godwit is king of the skies

The animal kingdom's record for the longest non-stop flight has been broken by a migratory wading bird, clocking up an epic 11,000 kilometres
THE animal kingdom's record for the longest non-stop flight has been broken by a migratory wading bird. The bar-tailed godwit clocks up an epic 11,000 kilometres in the air during its annual migration from Alaska to Australia or New Zealand.

Bar-tailed godwits break their northward migration at staging posts in Japan and around the Yellow Sea off China. En route they make unbroken flights of up to 8000 kilometres - the current record, which is shared by two other waders, the red knot and the great knot. But much less is known about the bar-tailed godwit's return journey.

Robert Gill from the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, reckons that one subspecies (Limosa lapponica baueri) makes the trip without stopping. During the northern summer they build up fat reserves that make up as much as half their body mass.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Dinosaur blood vessels found

Blood vessels recovered from T. rex bone
The amazing discovery means that biological information might be obtainable from many more fossils than thought, helping to trace evolution
New Scientist here

Pliny's Naturalis Historia

Some extracts from Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia

Ranis sui generis vox.
Frogs have a special kind of voice.
Ranae quoque rubetae, quarum et in terra et in umore vita, plurimis refertae medicaminibus.
Also the bramble frog, which is amphibious in its habit, is replete with a number of drugs.

Insecta, ut intellegi possit, non videntur habere nervos nec ossa nec spinas nec cartilaginem nec pinguia nec carnes, habent autem oculos praeterque e sensibus et tactum atque gustatum, aliqua et odoratum, pauca et auditum.
Insects, so far as is perceptible, do not appear to possess sinews or bones, or spines or cartilage or fat or flesh. But they possess eyes and also of the other senses taste and touch, and some have smell as well, and a few hearing also.
Sed inter omnia ea principatus apibus.But among all these species the chief place belongs to the bees.
Ratio operis mire divisi: statio ad portas more castrorum, quies in matutinum, donec una excitet gemino aut triplici bombo ut bucino aliquo. tunc universae provolant.
Their work is marvellously mapped out in the following manner. A guard is posted at the gates, after the manner of a camp. They sleep until dawn, until one bee wakes them up with a double or triple buzz as a sort of bugle call. Then they fly forth in a body.Aliae flores adgerunt pedibus, alia aquam ore guttasque lanugine totius corporis.
Some bring home flowers in their feet and others water in their mouth, and drops clinging to the down all over their body.Aculeum apibus dedit natura, ventri consertum ad unum ictum.
Nature has given bees a sting attached to the stomach, designed for a single blow.
Canum plura genera. Scrutatur vestigia atque persequitur.
There are several kinds of dogs. A dog traces and follows footprints.

Serpentes, cum occasio est, vinum praecipue adpetunt, cum alioqui exiguo indigeant potu.

Snakes are specially fond of wine when they have the chance, though otherwise they need little drink.Sibilo omnis fugat serpentes.
It routs all snakes with its hiss.Aliis vis malo est.
Its effect on other animals is disastrous.
Animae leonis virus grave, ursi pestilens.

Lion's breath contains a severe poison and the bear's is pestilential.Maximum est elephans proximumque humanis sensibus:

The largest land animal is the elephant, and it is the nearest to man in intelligence: durissimum dorso tergus, ventri molle,
the hide of the back is extremely hard, but that of the belly is soft,

elephans citra nares ore ipso sternumento similem elidit sonum, per nares autem tubarum raucitati.
the elephant squeezes out a sound like a sneeze from its actual mouth, not through the nostrils, but through the nostrils it emits a harsh trumpet sound.
Mandunt ore, spirant et bibunt odoranturque haut inproprie appellata manu.
They eat with the mouth, but they breathe and drink and smell with the organ not unsuitably called their hand.
Germanici Caesaris munere gladiatorio quosdam etiam inconditos meatus edidere saltantium modo.At the gladiatorial show given by Germanicus Caesar some even performed clumsy movements in figures, like dancers. mirum et adversis quidem funibus subire, sed maxime regredi, utique pronis.
It is surprising that they can even climb ropes, but especially that they can come down them again.
More here at BBC radio 3

top 20 birds in British Gardens 2005

The RSPB managed to organise nearly 400,000 people from across the UK in the bigest bird count in history. The watchers spent an hour counting the birds in their garden and their records provide a valuable snapshot of the UK's garden birds. This year's 2005 results:
Top 20

1. House sparrow
2. Starling
3. Blue tit
4. Blackbird
5. Greenfinch
6. Chaffinch
7. Collared dove
8. Woodpigeon
9. Great tit
10. Robin
11. Dunnock
12. Magpie
13. Long-tailed tit
14. Goldfinch
15. Coal tit
16. Jackdaw
17. Carrion crow
18. Wren
19. Rook
20. Feral pigeon

Necrophilia among ducks

"The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard anas platyrhynchos, he was in his office in the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, when he was alerted by a bang to the fact a bird had crashed into the glass facade of the building. "I went downstairs immediately to see if the window was damaged, and saw a drake mallard (anas platyrhynchos) lying motionless on its belly in the sand, two metres outside the facade. The unfortunate duck apparently had hit the building in full flight at a height of about three metres from the ground. Next to the obviously dead duck, another male mallard (in full adult plumage without any visible traces of moult) was present. He forcibly picked into the back, the base of the bill and mostly into the back of the head of the dead mallard for about two minutes, then mounted the corpse and started to copulate, with great force, almost continuously picking the side of the head. "
Tuesday March 8, 2005
Educaation Guardian Read more here

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Websites on Spain

This first post is just to tell you about my other two sites

Iberianature: A guide to the environment, geography, climate, wildlife, natural history and landscape of Spain

iberianature blog. The weblog to the above