Category Archives: endangered species

BV-worthy new exhibit

 

The California Academy of Sciences has long been beloved by the author of BV, figuring in her elementary school field trips, and, more recently, looming large in her consciousness as an example of stunning sustainable architecture. And a friend is employed there, I am proud to say, as a plant taxonomist– though, traitorous wench that she is, she will soon be abandoning us all to pursue a PhD in Chemistry on the east coast.

Pah. stupid PhD in chemistry. Stupid east coast.

In any case, If you would like to see an exact cast of Ida, the  Darwinius masillae that is a distant cousin of all of us today, you can do it at this exhibit. You can also learn about extreme adaptations (neat!) , reproduction (wink wink, nudge nudge) , and extinction (boo!).

Personally, the author of BV is excited to learn that the state fossil of California, Smilodon Fatalis, will be on display. She is also not a little bemused to discover that california *has* a state fossil.

which led the author on a rather amusing little digression into internet research-land, where she discovered the following:

California has the expected emblems, that is, a  state…

BIRD: California Valley Quail
ANIMAL: California Grizzly Bear
TREE: California Redwood

as well as a

 song
 seal
 motto
colors
nickname
flower
and flag (social studies history reports come flooding back to some of us) 

But is also has a state…

FOSSIL: Smilodon Fatalis (sabertooth tiger, see above)
INSECT: California dog-face Butterfly (well, it’s mother thinks it’s beautiful)
FISH: California Golden Trout
MARINE FISH: Garibaldi
MARINE MAMMAL: California Grey whale
REPTILE: the Desert Tortoise

not to mention:

 gemstone
Gold Rush ghost town
 Silver rush ghost town
grass
military museum
mineral
Fife and drum band (very cool)
Prehistoric artifact
rock
soil (SOIL!?!?! we have an official  SOIL. inconceivable)
tall ship
tartan
and theater.

And a poet laureate to write about all of ’em. (Which she doesn’t, at present. She seems to write a lot about love and death and architecture. But that’s a snap judgement)   

Seriously. Don’t believe me about the soil? look here. And expect a California series on BV in the near future.

sick of my rambling and want to read more about the exhibit? Read the articles from SFGATE and/or SFAppeal.

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Tickle-me Elmo’s friend, the Slow-Loris

 

The author of BV would like to be clear: wild and exotic animals are not pets. They belong in the fields and forests and streams, making nice with other wild and exotic animals. And the Slow Loris, a south/southeast asian primate currently considered threatened/endangered, is no exception. These little charmers, which have long been hunted for their eyes (used in local traditional medicine), deserve a break,  and should NOT be sought and poached, ripped heartlessly from their native lands,  for no reason but our own gratification.

That said… I kinda want one.   

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Petaluma Bird Sanctuary Threatened

There is a new asphalt plant planned for a site along the Petaluma River.

GOOD NEWS, right!? Industry, new jobs in a  ravaged marketplace… But, in this case, the costs may be too high.  Because in this case, the proposed development is slated for a site right across from Schollenberger Park, which just happens, dear readers, to be one of the premier bird sanctuaries in North America.  And, you know, sits within spitting distance of a dozen or so parks and schools.   

So when a group of mothers heard that the council was all set to vote on the building permits and zoning changes, and learned about the toxic brew of noxious chemicals for which Asphalt companies are famous, they got a good whiff of something rotten in Denmark and promptly formed themselves into an advocacy group that they dubbed “Moms for Clean Air.”

In a typical gynocolocially inaccurate rhetorical ploy deigned to minimize the credibility of  unruly females, certain critics have called  the Moms “hysterical.” … You tell me, dear readers: Someone has threatened your kids– and your BIRDS, for goodness sake– and you don’t have good cause to be just a wee bit hysterical? Just a wee bit? Or might the emotion these critics are searching for be something closer to “righteous indignation?”

Hysterical, indeed.

In any case, the city and county apparently turned deaf ears on ths Moms’ complaints, so the mothers did what every parent who has been through PTA basic training knows to do. They went over the county’s head. 
At long last, these mobilized mothers  found an advocate in California Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a Democrat from Southern Sonoma who, according to a Chanel 5 report,  “organized the first comprehensive hearing on the issue, bringing together regulators from the EPA, Fish and Game, The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and other agencies, most of which are just beginning to look at the project.”

The company that wants to the build the plant, The Dutra Group, says that “This is the right plan, and this is the right location.” Shockingly, the spokeswoman who delivered this little pearl of persuasive wisdom is named Dutra. What a coincidence.  

Isn’t it also the funniest coincidence that Dutra’s other asphalt plant has already been cited–multiple times– for environmental violations?

Need more?

In 2001, Marin County Grand Jury accused the company of illegally expanding operations.

In 2006, Dutra was fined $735,000 for dumping sludge near the Farallon Islands.

The Dutra family denies these incidents ever happened. Apparently, they have never heard of a little thing called “public record.”

So far,  only one council member (Zane) has been willing  to publicly announce  opposition  to the asphalt plant. The other four, stalwart souls all, are refusing comment.    But, s hould you have a comment, dear reader, and should you be of the same mind as the author of BV, you may follow the links to the Moms’ site, and tell them that they have your support. You may also follow this link to a PDF of their mission statement.

Go, Moms!

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Adoption in the animal world: Mother-love transcends species.

To all the mothers out there: happy Mothers’ Day. Every time this day rolls around, we hear a lot about the experience of giving birth, and folkes make a fuss about the bond that grows between mother and child in vitro. I’m sure that that is magical, that it is wonderful…

But there is more than one way for the mother-child bond to grow, and some of us out here in the wide world of possibilities are lucky enough to have experienced this.  So this entry is dedicated to all the mothers in the world whose babies grew not under your hearts but in them: you (like my own mama) are my heroes; your love depends not on the accident of  birth but on the breadth and depth of your giant hearts.

…sniffle. Okay, that was as much sentimentality as the author of BV, in her official capacity, can  justify. YOUtube video, anyone?

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Humanatee: A dying breed

seen here without a school, this humanatee may never find a home

The humanatee is an ancient, intelligent beast, most often found in large “schools,” though members of far-flung schools frequently gather together in large, gregarious groups called “conferences.” During these  sporadic expeditions, humanatees may demonstrate dominance by flashing the “TT” position. These strange creatures then show off to potential mates by uttering strange, unintelligible  sounds in rapid succession.

Infighting and promiscuous behavior is not uncommon in conferences.

But dear readers, the humanatee, contrary to appearances, is not its own worst enemy. The humanatee is among our worlds most endangered species, and though abundant, is seriously threatened by the rough economic waters currently plaguing our shores and those the world over. Worse, funding for conservation programs has recently been cut dramatically, leading some experts to wonders whether there is adequate habitat  in today’s academe for the humanatees.*

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Sharks: Sisters are doing it for themselves

       scalloped_hammerhead_shark_465x310             

Ladies, listen up: While many of us of slightly-less-than a certain age have started reaching our “scary age”s  and have taken to searching the web for ways to delay (or defeat) the tick-tick-icking of our biological clocks, a few select  members of  superorder Selachimorpha have taken matters into their own hands: a quick search of National Geographic’sarchives generates no fewer than 742 hits on “virgin births” in the animal world. two of note occured in sharks.

In October of 2008, a female blacktip shark in Virginia was confirmed to have successfully committed parthenogenesis– a process by which females of some species can produce young without the sticky contribution and equally sticky commitment issues of males.  

Lest you women out there feel too much jealous animosity towards “Tidbit” (the female blacktip in question), you should also know that she died on the physician’s table during a routine physical exam. It was during the subsequent necropsy that scientists discovered that she was carryng a near-term shark pup, as there had been no previous indication of gestation.  Yes, you read right: she managed to get pregnant on her own and didn’t even have to worry about stretch marks. But then she died.

The first time scientists had witnessed parthenogenesis amongst sharks was at a Nebraska zoo in 2001, when a baby hammerhead was born to one of three possible mothers in the shark tank, none of which had access to males. Sadly, despite the successful full-term birth, the baby hammerhead (see photo, below) was killed within hours by a stingray cohabiting the tank.

The author of BV submits that there is something fishy going on:  these “virgin births” seem to end only in tragedy… perhaps it should be a lesson to us all… 


R.I.P., little shark: this baby hammer head was the result of a virgin birth and died tragically young, giving new meaning to the term "jesus fish."

R.I.P., little shark: this baby hammer head was the result of a virgin birth and died tragically young, giving new meaning to the term "jesus fish."

* Legal disclaimer: the author of B.V. in no way means to insinuate that this fish is actually Jesus, that its fate is related to or sheds light on the Christain belief system, or even that the joke is particularly funny.  Any complaints should be directed to  Rush Limbaugh .**

**Legal disclaimer: The author of B.V. does not claim any affiliation, topical, personal, creative, contractual, or otherwise, with  Mr. Limbaugh or his  production company, but is sure he’d love to hear from you.

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Long Eared Jerboa: exceedingly cute rodent of the big-eared variety

part mouse, part moth- the "wingspan" of these ears is longer than the rodent's body

part mouse, part moth- the "wingspan" of these ears is longer than the rodent's body

The author of BV is invoking her writerly prerogative, and stretching the parameters of the pink animal series to includeEuchoreutes naso,  a nocturnal rodent which is not properly speaking pink, but is replete with  long tail, long hind legs, and exceptionally large, exceptionally adorable, shell-pink  ears.  One Dr. Baille, a member of the Zoological society of London,  told BBC that “the long-eared jerboa is a bit like the Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure.”  The Author of BV is forced to agree.
  

Native to China and to desert habitats of Trans Altai Govi  & Gobi Deserts in Mongolia, the long-eared jerboa is considered endangered, and due to its rarity, is  little understood. Dr. Baille explains in the BBc interview that he took part in an expedition to study the long-eared jerboa funded by ZSL’s “Edge” program, which focuses on conserving  endangered and “evolutionarily distinctive” animals, and that it was on this expedition that he and his colleagues caught these adorable little buggers on tape, for what may well be the first time (see film clip, below).

 

and may we just say, in our official capacity,  “awwwwwww.”

 

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pink elephant: not just a figment of your imagination

this rare pink elephant, probably an albino, was recently spotted in botswana
The next pink animal to grace our fair page is this charming little pink elephant. Scientists say that he is probably an albino, but the discerning readers of BV (all several of you. ahem.) will likely join the author in her suspicion that his coloring is a direct result of the night of debauchery that concieved him.

Of course,  this rosy-toned pachyderm is *so* cute that  the author hopes you will not hold his inillustrious conception against him, and will cross your fingers, pray, and/or do an interpretive dance for  his survival under the hot african sun, which, experts caution, may lead to blindness and skin problems for the calf.  

We’re behind you, little pink elephant. And we will likely see you tonight after a tipple or two.

cf. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nwNPaYoTY8
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7951331.stm

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The Author Apologizes…

The Author apologizes for her tardiness in posting this weekend. Full installments of BV will return with the workweek. For the interim, the author submits for your perusal the picture  below.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2000003.stm

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2307-featherless-chicken-creates-a-flap.html

http://www.manningworldnews.com/archives/000268.php

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/chickens-without-feathers-naked-hot-weather-sunburn

33052_3_468

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Purse Dogs

A prime specimen of purse dog.

A prime specimen of purse dog.

The purse dog is not a species unto itself; rather, it represents a human intervention in animal behavior. Purse dogs have rapidly adapted to their owners’ whims: many have developed hermit crab-like behaviors, and emerge from their shells only when they outgrow them, or to find a new portable home, or one with more “bling.”  Purse dogs are disproportionately popular amongst girls with names that end in “Y.”

Those unfamiliar with purse dogs can often be heard wondering whether the tiny dogs’  tiny legs atrophy from lack of use, and where the tiny dogs evacuate their tiny bladders. Indeed, the purse’s interior must be exceptionally piquant after long trips to the mall, where purse dogs can often be found.

Pursedogs are not entirely a laughing matter, however; these dogs are often raised in puppy mills, by breeders that prize tiny-ness over health. These dogs often have difficulties in gestation and delivery, and “oversize” dogs are cast aside, left to live in substandard conditions. Those interested in protesting the abhorrent practices of puppymill breeders can find links to specialized advocacy groups  and information on how others have staged protests, below.

http://www.puppymillprotest.org/
http://www.prisonersofgreed.org/actions.html
http://www.ehow.com/how_2150779_organiz
e-puppy-mill-pet-store-protest.html

http://www.youtube.com/ProtestPuppyMills

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Sloth

Is sloth a) the creature pictured above or b) the author of BV's fatal flaw?

Is Sloth a) the creature pictured above or b) the author of BV's fatal flaw?

 Sloths once lived both on the ground and in trees, but ground sloths, too slow to outmaeuver enemies, are now extinct, leaving only the familiar upside-down tree dwelling variety.* The surviving species belong to families Megalonychidae (two toed sloths) and Bradypodidae (three toed sloths); only one species (Bradypus torquatus) is currently listed as endangered, though the deforestation of South America’s rainforests may spell trouble for the rest as well. 

Tree dwelling sloths have highly specialized adaptations: for instance, sloths’  outer coats grow “upside down.” Typically, a mammal’s outer hairs  grow “downwards,” but sloth hair has adapted to sloth behavior; because they spend a significant percentage of their time ass-over-elbows, their hair grows away from their extremities, providing added protection from the elements in the inverted position, and creating a flattering “fauxhawk” when upright.
 In addition, their long, curved claws allow them to easily hang upside-down from branches, even to eat, sleep, give birth upside down. The sloth’s  “hands” and “feet” are so efficient that sloths sometimes remain hanging from branches after death, even when shot by poachers. This is  adegree of lethargy truly unmatched outside of my own livingroom.

 These animals are slow moving, low in muscle mass for their size, and the stomach of well-fed adult can make up 2/3 of it’s body weight. They are not, in other words, so very different from many of the grad students at major universities, who have likewise adapted coping mechanisms (including slow progress and binge eating)  to compensate for their diminishing habitat, and for the scarceness and unpalatable nature of available resources,  (particularly once they have remained in their doctoral programs past normative time). ** 

 

*Until the arrival of humans on the North and South American continents, they were poplulated with ground sloths, now extinct. Human hunting of these slow-moving targets likely had a large part in their extinction, though the concommitant Ice age probably helped.

Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloth

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Invasive Species/ Critical Habitat Alert

La Liseuse, by Fragonard, depicts the romance between book and reader.

La Liseuse, by Fragonard, depicts the romance between book and reader.

Will libraries, which have been sanctuary to books (libri) since they evolved on earth, slowly be replaced with  genus “kindle,” bloodless, soulless creatures of invention? Will paper and cloth-bound books themselves be replaced? Some laud the efficiency and convenience of this new species, which is designed to fulfil books’ roles in the intellectual end entertainment ecosystems, while others are skeptical as to whether these markedly uncuddly gizmos can replace the book as a member of the family, and, more ominously,  whether these  “kindles” might in fact reverse  the democratizing effects of the printing press.

Where books used to roam free, the Kindle, a devious invention, threatens to destroy their habitat

While books used to roam free in home libraries, the Kindle threatens to destroy their habitat

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Leafy Sea Dragon

leafy-sea-dragon1

 

The Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques) is related to the more well-known seahorse, and like the seahorse, is an example of gender role reversal that has left the human female population in paroxysms of envy and amusement since the species was first discovered: female leafy sea dragons deposit as many as 250 bright-pink eggs to a “brood patch” on the male’s tale via a long tube. The male then incubates the eggs for 8 weeks until they mature and hatch, at which point the newborns are left to fend for themselves.   

 Because they are fragile and subject to numerous natural and man-made threats, sea dragons have become endangered, and are protectedfrom by the Australian government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act of 1999.* Thus far there have been no viable captive breeding programs, a fact that may be chalked up to male performance anxiety.**

 *http://www.deh.gov.au/epbc/index.html
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viagra

Cf. http://divegallery.com/Leafy_Sea_Dragon.htm
      http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/species/marine-fish/syngnathidae32.html
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leafy_sea_dragon

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Breaking News: latest addition to list of endangered species

Shall we sing a requiem for a dying breed? Genus Newspaperus Printae , which long sat at the top of the media food chain, has been in a state of gradual decline for the last decade. The situation is now critical, as the genus has been dealt a resounding blow by the pending extinction of several of its prominent species. California and Colorado are, thus far, the habitats  in greatest danger of losing their representative species. Conservationsists wonder, is it too late to save the Newspapers? And if it is, with what shall we line our birdcages? 

 

The Chronicle, first published in 1865, is unlikely to recover.

The Chronicle, first published in 1865, is unlikely to recover.

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FATCAT

Fatcats like this one have recently been the topic of much debate, with some wondering whether rescue programs should consider euthanasia.

Fatcats like this one have recently been the topic of much debate; even the staunchest of animal advocates are left wondering: should rescue programs consider compassionate euthanasia?

Fatcats (pinguis felis economicus)  have long been the subject of  jokes*; but it is only recently that both mainstream and specialty media have taken interest in the plight of the fatcat, once an issue reserved only for the ASPCA and related animal rights and protection groups.  Pet advocates argue that these Fatcats lack normal instinctual regulation of consumption, thus qualify as evolutionarily challenged animal companions.  Detractors say that the animals are just plain greedy.

The process of increasing public awareness has been slow;  a  January 2008 MSNBC article demonstrated the shady behavior of one food filching feline,**  a June 2008 article showed our now-president pointing his finger at  a related pussy.*** But it was not until January of 2009 that public awareness of the Fatcat’s sad existence  reached its peak.  Today, republicans and democrats, animal rights advocates and avid hunters alike are calling for accountability for this epidemic. 

Unfortunately, the new movement contains many factions that have, thus far, been largely at cross purposes. Many, moroever,  have placed blame on the Fatcats themselves, begging the question: regardless of how we define the problem, can we really expect personal responsibility from greedy, evolutionarily  challenged animals? 

***http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/06/09/1125857.aspx

 

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