Sunday, October 26, 2008

Great Adventure Reads

A few years ago National Geographic put out a list of the top 100 adventure books of all time. I've read several of their recommendations so far, and they were all good, so if you're looking for some Christmas gifts this year or a book to curl up with in front of the fire, you might consider these for people who like to travel.

One of my favorites so far was "Sufferings in Africa," a true story of a shipwreck of an American trade ship and the Captain and his crew who are taken hostage and marched through the Sahara desert. It was supposedly one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite books, and it's a true page turner. It was so engrossing that as I was reading it on one of my own trips to Africa I was worried I was missing out on real adventure by reading about the Captain' I read it at night, in the heat, under a mosquito net, hearing insects buzz and night animal calls. That may have made it even better.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Horrific, Twisted, Sick, Useless Animal Death

This story about a bear cub murdered and with it's head stuck in an Obama campaign sign is sick in so many ways I haven't the energy to enumerate them.

Cool: A Canine Military Hospital Opens

The military uses dogs for a variety of tasks, and of course, they get hurt. There is a new state of the art vet hospital designed to assist them in Texas. Read the story here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Great Gabon Documentaries

Someday I'll get to Gabon, a gorgeous country in West Africa that offers stunning wildlife and is developing for ecotourism since 2002. As we go into winter and you may want to curl up with a good book, I have several recommendations, starting with one of my personal favorites, "Travels in West Africa," by Mary Kingsley. Mary was a British woman who was the daughter of a maid who had an affair. She was self-taught with books from her father's library and she had an urge to travel. When she found herself alone at 30, both parents having died, she set off to Africa alone, which was unheard of in her day. She went to Gabon, and established some trade routes there, becoming the first white person some tribes met and the first white woman many, many tribes had ever seen. She wanted to learn about their customs, that interested her more than wildlife, but she also noticed creatures and even collected specimens for the British museum, especially of fish. The book is very good reading if you are interested in travel, adventure, female pioneers, Africa or of course Gabon specifically. carries to book and so do most other book stores these days.

If you want to see the tremendous treasures Gabon offers - a chance to see hippos and elephants frolic in the ocean, for example, check out National Geographic's documentary on Gabon: The lAst Eden, which has stunning photography and is very well done. It tells the story of Michael Fey, who is a researcher who walked across Gabon and other parts of Africa and then convinced the leader of Gabon to make 10% of the country National Parks and choose ecotourism over logging and oil exploration . The photography - of lowland gorillas, mandrills and other wild creatures best seen in Gabon, is really awesome. The DVD is available for rent on Netflix.

Friday, October 17, 2008

California Leading the Way on Cages?

California has a ballot measure involving animal cages. According to an online news article:

"Proposition 2 would require that starting in 2015, calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be provided space to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. Proponents say it would prevent animal cruelty; opponents say it would unnecessarily harm farmers and consumers by raising domestic prices and exposing consumers to cheaper, ostensibly more dangerous eggs from other countries."

Hard to believe factory farming got to such a horrible point in the first place, but even harder to believe that people oppose giving the animals room to turn around and move enough to stretch or lie down. I hope the measure passes by an astounding margin, and it just might, because I think a lot of people have no idea the true conditions animals are kept under and would not support those conditions if they did. There's huge, huge money pouring in to oppose the ballot measures, from the corporate farms and farm industries. It will be very interesting to see what happens on election day, and hopefully California will once again lead the way on an animal welfare issue and other states will follow.

You can see the pro Prop Two website here. You can read the anti prop Two website here (and note the scare tactics about bird flu, etc. to avoid the real issue).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Local Horse Abuse Case

Yesterday I noticed a local news story on a horse abuse case that has some powerful footage. While I could not figure out how to post the video clip here, you can check it out at: or click to view. You will see a horse that has feet in such appalling condition it makes you want to vomit. Even if you know little about horses and nothing about how their hooves should be trimmed you can see this is a terrible situation. I am so glad that the horses were finally confiscated from this horrific situation. I'm also glad it got some media attention to document their condition, and I was impressed with the calm cops.

Having been along with police in the field in a variety of situations as a former prosecutor, I never cease to be amazed by how most of them are calm and patient in dealing with the worst of humanity. They risk their lives every day and deal with the absolute crap of society, usually getting yelled at and disrespected all day long. I am always pleased to see police taking animal cruelty seriously because many officers do not - society is still coming around on some levels to the fact that animals deserve protection in some ways.

I can't watch Animal Cops anymore. I got through several episodes but it's just too repulsive to see the condition people let their pets get in, the abandonments, the abuse, the dogfighting rings, etc. I can't understand how anyone can treat innocent creatures so badly. For every case on TV there are cases we don't hear about and cases that don't get discovered. It's good to know that locally in a bad situation, someone took the time to report it, the Humane Society took the time to follow up on it, the cops took it seriously, the media paid attention, and in the end the horses got rescued from hell.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Recommended Reading

If you haven't read "Last Chance to See," by Douglas Adams, I highly recommend that you do. Although he is famous for A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, this book is a true story about a journey he took to see some highly endangered species before they are gone. He went to see mountain gorillas, the aye-aye lemur, the komodo dragon, and the kakapoo. In the process, he meets a variety of interesting people, and his observations about the animals are wonderful to read. I particularly liked his description of the viewing of the komodo dragon, and his description of the African airport lounge (in Tanzania I think). The book is short, funny, and every sentence packs a punch. Well worth your time, especially if you like animals, but even if you don't.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Last Flight

Yesterday my husband came home and said that there was a potential animal rescue situation outside. I went out to find a small bird in the middle of the street. I think it was an adolescent. It was clearly injured but I couldn't tell quite how much or how. I got close, and to my surprise, the bird flew away - but not far. I couldn't tell the sex. The little thing flew as high as the house across the street, and then crashed into it and fell down into the flower bed.

I could see that the bird was scared, and not well, so I gently cupped it in my hands. I could feel the warm, fast heartbeat against my thumb, and once I held it, I could see a very serious neck wound, as well as what appeared to be a wound on a wing, and a protrusion that seemed abnormal from one side of the face. There was dried blood on the beak, and the eye I could see had some discharge. Clearly, the bird was in pain. We went as quickly as possible to Westvet, which has a nice program to help wild birds and get them to rehabilitation when possible.

The journey, as all emergency journeys to Westvet, seemed to take forever. The bird was still except for one attempt to fly again. I thought that based on the severity of the wounds the bird would likely get put down. What I could see of the neck wound was gaping and horrific. I saw the new feathers coming in - either for the first time, or due to a molt, I don't know, but there were many small light brown new feathers. I watched the delicate legs rest in my hand and the tiny talons with tiny fingernails. I was rooting for the little thing, but at the same time, aware that I was probably sharing the last moments of its life, and still hoping that wasn't the case.

I don't want any animal to be in pain, and alone and scared. Although birds are not my favorite animals, the chickens have given me a new appreciation for them. I didn't know what happened to this little thing, I think a cat would have roughed it up worse, and the hole in it's neck was deep, not like a bite wound I've seen before. No one will ever know.

I called after a few hours and learned that the little bird did get put down. I am glad that the suffering ended, and glad I could help so the bird didn't spend a night in the cold, waiting to die. Still, I never cross paths with an animal that doesn't make it without feeling sad. Yesterday morning that little bird was alive with a life ahead of it and this morning it was gone. I can't help but reflect a bit and be glad that I am still here, and that all my animal kids are still here. I wish I could have been of comfort to the bird, but I'm sure it was frightened - it did relax a bit, and I hope the end was peaceful and fast.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Cool Penguin Rescue

I've been busy and have not kept up the blog as well as I would like. Here's a cute story on a penguin rescue on a large scale:

Friday, October 3, 2008

Super Sick Zoo Killing Spree

There's some decent evidence that kids who kill or torture animals move on to killing and torturing humans. Serial killers usually start with animals and work up. So, the world better watch out for the seven year old boy who broke into an Australian zoo and killed several of the animals by bashing them with rocks, and then fed several zoo animals to the resident crocodile. What a way to go - life in captivity and a gruesome death at the hands of a seven year old. Super sick.

Being seven, the kid will not be charged. The crimes were caught on the security cameras, but due to the size of the kid, for whatever reason alarms were not tripped. Certainly it is hard to conceive of how a kid would come up with such a violent idea, let alone carry it out.

To read the story as reported by CNN, click here.