Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ranger Dies Protecting Wildlife

Sadly, a ranger was killed yesterday in Congo protecting the mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park. You can see his photo and read about him (he left a wife and 7 kids) here. More news on the rebel attack that took his life here. I am sorry for this loss, and for his family, and grateful for the contributions he made to this world, including giving his life for others and a cause he believed in.

Friday, March 20, 2009

An Actual Pink Elephant

Recently a pink dolphin was in the news, and now a pink baby elephant! Hopefully it can use mud to protect its skin and find a way to survive. This baby is in Botswana in the Okavango Delta, a place I've been to and loved, despite it being the trip where my luggage was lost, and my tent leaked. You can see the baby here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Newborn Gorilla

There's a brand new mountain gorilla in the Congo. You can see photos and read about it here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


With the attack by a chimp on a woman in CT there was plenty of news about how violent chimps can be. This should be no surprise - they are our closest relatives and have pretty much all our vices. As humans would not do well in captivity and a certain number of them would snap and go violent, it should be no surprise that chimps do the same. In Africa, listening to chimps scream in the forest I had a much more visceral reaction than I did to being charged by an elephant or stared down by a lion. There is something deeply familiar, and scary, in their calls - as if we know what they mean on a level we can't put into words, actually.

Keeping chimps in captivity is just an inherently bad idea, though there are some sanctuaries which provide enough natural environment that their lives are not awful. I saw a chimp sanctuary in Kenya though that was dead on depressing as all the chimps knew they were prisoners (all had tried escaping so they kept improving the enclosure) and they were on birth control. Not having babies supposedly contributed to their depression. Although they had a nice environment, they were most definately not happy.

Chimp behavior is fascinating on a number of levels and there have been a few articles in the news, not related to the CT incident, that have caught my attention. Here is a very interesting article on a chimp that stockpiles weapons for pre-planned attacks on human visitors at the zoo. Here's recent video and a study on chimps that use clubs to break open bee hives and obtain honey. In the Congo, four baby chimps were recently taken from people who had killed their families and planned to sell them for the pet trade. One died, but the other three made it to a sanctuary. You can read about that and see great photos here, here, here, here, and here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sarah and Gwen

Sarah and Gwen were roosting in the coop together the other day and I got this photo of them that I like very much. Gwen is the chicken who survived a fox attack last year, with good nursing care. Sarah is the "boss chicken" at the head of the pecking order. Though these two were not originally friends, they are tight now. The flock of the original four are all quite bonded, and the new two, Sylvie and Hope, seem to be getting along better and better. Soon I am looking forward to adding the baby chicks, Hannah and Rosa - for now they are still inside, and still too small to be outside!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicken Integration, and Farm Moments

Nearly three weeks ago now the mother hen and her chick moved outdoors into the chicken run, separated from the other four adults in the existing "flock" by a makeshift barrier of wood and chicken wire and a shower curtain. They can see each other and talk across the wire but not touch. The first time I let them "mix" lasted less than 5 minutes because Sarah, the boss hen, and Sylvie, the new hen, got into a fight. Both had blood on their combs but I separated them quickly. More time went by and round two took longer - they waited awhile, then fought. This weekend round three came and they actually got along for about 6 hours before having a tiff, and there was no blood drawn. I have read that you need to let chickens "talk" across the fence about three weeks before integrating unsupervised, and it's been about that now, so last night I let them mix by moving the barricade so they can go around it. No fighting. Today is the first day of full integration and so far, so good. Looks like they are working out the pecking order without hurting each other at this point.

I have two one month old chicks in the house still, too small to go outside yet, especially in this cold. Hannah (a Cuckoo Maran) and Rose (a Rhode Island Red) arrived this weekend and after a little trauma they are settled in a cat carrier in one of the bedrooms, huddled up together. I expect in a month they will be big enough to move outside and so I'll keep the makeshift barrier around until they settle in - but I bet by the end of April or mid-May everyone will be living together alright. In summer they get lots of free ranging time and so they should be happy.

The cows have been in one pasture all week so I left a gate open for them to explore another today, but so far, they didn't. The mother cow, named Bernadette (Bernie for short) was lazing under her favorite tree, not interested in new territory.

It's an ULTRA stressful time at work but I ran home at noon to check on the chicken fighting. For about 5 minutes I stood at the back pasture gate, holding Pepper (aka Perpperoni) who thinks she is a great ranch cat. (In reality she has hinky back hips, is very klutzy, but loves to accompany me on all farm chores, even though she is only actually helpful a small percentage of the time). Pepper and I watched the chickens sunbathing, the horses grazing, the goats napping, and the cow, out in the far pasture, resting under the tree with her small calf a tiny black dot beside her. It was very peaceful. For a few minutes, I forgot about everything else.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alex, the Foster Kitty

I was leaving work on a Sunday evening when I saw movement under a car. I looked again and saw a leg - it was a black cat. It turned out to be a small "tuxedo" kitty underneath a red suburban. He cried at me a lot, then leaped up into the rear wheel - and it was clear extracting him would be an issue, so I called in reinforcements - my husband, with a can of wet food and a cat carrier. It took us awhile to get him out of that wheel - he did not appear feral but he was scared.

I took him home and put him in a room by himself for the night, then took him to the Humane Society to check for a microchip and get his bloodwork done to check for HIV and leukemia. He came up clean and is about a 9 month old male, so he got shots, a chip and a neuter and then came back home to me for foster care until an appropriate home can be found.

He loves to get petted, he purrs, he talks and he kneads. A poster in the parking garage and Craigslist postings did not find his owner, but he clearly had one once. He gets along great with, and shows no fear of, the dogs or the other cats. He is still shy and adapting to the house but he comes out for pets and attention and he calls to me when he is lonely. He doesn't like wet food, but has a healthy appetite for the dry stuff. If you know anyone in the Boise area looking for a cat - keep him in mind!!

New Arrivals! Dexter Cows

These are Dexter cattle - a cow who is about two years old and her calf, who is two weeks old today. Dexters are "miniature" but not in the sense that they are bred to be so - they are just a naturally smaller breed, like ponies are smaller than horses. They are considered "dual purpose," good for meat or milk, and are very hardy, docile, and perfect for smaller pastures or more urban areas. They can give 1.5 - 2.5 gallons of milk per day instead of the huge volumes of larger dairy cattle.

I have always been interested in having cows and when I saw these needing a home, I decided to give it a try. They were in a very small space, so when they got unloaded in an acre of pasture they were *very* happy. The baby ran all day. I am still working on names for them.

Mom is not "tame" yet in that she fears people a bit. The calf was handled when born and after but stays close to mom, so for now we sit next to each other but I have to work up to getting them handled. I am thrilled with the new arrivals and so far, they seem mighty pleased at their life upgrade.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Giraffe Birth in Samburu

My friend Shivani is a researcher in Samburu, Kenya, and last week she was lucky enough to see a giraffe give birth! She blogged about it here, with photos. I recently ran into her on Facebook, which is great because I was able to get live updates as she told about seeing the birth, then added photos, and then reported that a baby giraffe in the location she had left the baby was seen apparently abandoned and surrounded by lions as night was falling. The next morning, she reported the good news that the baby was still alive, with its mom, and had survived the night with three lions around it.

Shivani always has something interesting on her blog if you like African wildlife, and she has had an amzing month, running across wild dogs (which I am still hoping to see someday!), a cerval cat (also hoping to see!), and lions, her study subject.

Unfortunately, there are some political/police clashes near Samburu right now, so I hope they don't affect the park, and that they stop soon. If you are interested, you can read about the recent conflicts here and here. The Samburu are very peaceful people so I can't imagine what's up. As usual, Africa has the very best - and the very worst - to offer, almost simultaneously.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wolves to Be De-Listed - Again

The Obama Administration put on hold for review Bush Administration decisions to delist wolves in Idaho and Montana but not Wyoming. After review, they have decided to go forward with delisting in Idaho and Montana and also to agree not to delist in Wyoming. Though I hate to see wolves killed, I'm relieved that a review was done in which science rather than prejudice was at the forefront. I had no confidence in anything the Bush Administration did towards species or the environment, especially things it did at the last minute. I don't like Idaho's management plan, but it's a far cry better than Wyoming's. Even Defenders of Wildlife and the main scientist in charge of wolf re-introduction in Yellowstone had said delisting was inevitable at some point, and so as long as there is actual science and someone looking at it who doesn't just hate wolves per se, I guess I can accept it begrudgingly. But, I'll sure buy wolf tags or permits and not hunt, to try and save a few chances for the wolves - and encourage everyone pro-wolf to do the same.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Elephants of Samburu

National Geographic had a nice article recently on the elephants of Samburu, Kenya. Samburu remains my favorite place in Africa of all the places I've seen there so far. I saw an elephant born there, and here is a photo of a few elephants in Samburu. Save the Elephants is a research group based in Samburu that does great work with the local people and the elephants. I was lucky enough to meet with their researchers, see their radio collars, and learn about their research on wildlife corridors last time I was in Samburu (May 2007). Tourism is down - it's a great time to go if you can swing it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cute baby koala photo!

This is one of 20 nice images you can view here. I just love the baby koala in this photo!!!

Obama Taking Steps to Reverse Bush on ESA

This is just one among many positive steps Obama is taking to reverse Bush policies on Endangered species or the environment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wanna See a Pink Dolphin?

There is an actual pink dolphin - whether through a genetic mutation or a form of albinism - that is very interesting! One would think that it would be far easier to spot in the water than other dolphins, which could be bad for predators. It would be interesting to see how it interacts with others and lives in dolphin society, and whether its coloration results in different interactions than we would other wise see. To see photos, look here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Madagascar Upheaval Continues

When I went to Madagascar in the fall of 2007, it was politically stable, though the country's President was also the owner of the country's largest dairy and there were a number of things that were - shall we say - at least suspicious, if not indicative, of corruption or abuse of power. I went because I wanted to see lemurs and I knew their time was limited, and that deforestation continues in Madagascar at such a rate that waiting 5 or 10 years could be too long. I am very glad I went when I did, because in the last few months Madagascar has become politically unstable.

I like BBC World News and I have my blog reader set to give me the RSS feed on Africa stories, which is great, because every day I read the latest headlines from Africa. The news is rarely good though. For awhile it seemed trouble int he Congo had passed/simmered down, now it appears that it is back. The Madagascar stories are very interesting as well. There is a power struggle going on between the President of the country and the Mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. There have been deaths, looting, riots, and all sorts of things - and no doubt tourism - a huge source of income - will be impacted.

Here is the latest installment, and if you are at all interested, I suggest tracking the story through BBC World News.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dog Tag Silencer

There are times when I am stressed at work that I just can't handle the sound of jingling dog tags - they wake me up at night and I can't get back to sleep. The dog is just innocently scratching, or perhaps the tags are hitting the water bowl, clinking against it while the dog gets a drink. When out on a walk off leash I like the tags as it helps me keep track of the dogs when I can't see them, and I would never want the dogs to be without tags as I want them to be able to get back to us if we get separated. I found a great product I love called Quiet Spot. It's a small neoprene bag that covers the tags and attaches with velcro strips. It keeps them from jingling as well as eliminating "tag tarnish." They come in a variety of colors and are waterproof and durable, as well as easy to take on and off. Here and here are a couple links if you want to check them out. Not very expensive and well worth it if you have times you need the dogs to be QUIET. I also like that they can accommodate multiple tags - rabies, city license, ID tag, microchip tag, etc.