Category Archives: Wildlife

Orangutan extinction?

The rainforest in Sumatra and Borneo is being cleared at an alarming rate to make way for palm oil production. This deforestation has caused critical habitat degradation for the orangutan  who could become extinct in 5-10 years if the palm oil industry continues at its current pace.

Palm oil is a cheap, edible oil that can be found in 40 – 50% of all household products, from baked goods to shampoo and other cleaning agents.  Its production in Malaysia is a complicated issue but there’s so much at stake, from mammal extinction to climate change and indigenous rights.

It’s hard to find products that don’t contain palm oil and even harder to know how to make an impact on the palm oil industry, but we need to be aware and do what we can. In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

More info can be found at:  saynotopalmoil.com

 

Life imitating fiction

whiskey-jack-blogIn my book, Dancing in the Rain, the character of Brenna entertains the tourists on Grouse Mountain by hand feeding the whisky jacks, a bird commonly found on the mountain. I liked the idea, but had never actually done it myself. Yesterday I spotted a group of them in in the trees while snowshoeing on Mount Seymour . I put out my hand to see what would happen. Immediately a  bird landed on it, looking for food. Because she was so friendly I shared my Cliff bar with her. Nothing makes me happier than being up close to wildlife.

A Catch 22 – Selling the rhino horn to save the rhino

rhino 2

Okay, who doesn’t want a cure for cancer and/or hangovers? I sympathize, but I won’t be looking to the horn of the rhino for relief anytime soon.

As we’ve heard in the news, rhino horns are a coveted commodity in Asia, thought to do everything from curing life-threatening disease to relieving simple ailments. As a result, the animals are being illegally poached and killed for their horns. Their numbers have dwindled alarmingly. The situation is dire.

Enter, stage left: South African, John Hume owns and operates the world’s largest captive breeding operation of rhinos.  He claims that his life ambition is to save the rhinos from extinction. His farm houses 4% of the global population. He, too, saws off the rhinos’ horns, (without killing the animal) in order to make them less attractive to the poachers (who do kill them). The thing is, the horn grows back and can be harvested every 18 months.

The twist: Hume sells the horns to the Asian market, arguing that the profit he makes goes directly back into sustaining his farm that protects the rhino.

Talk about a paradox. Hume is keeping the demand for rhino horns alive, the exact same reason he has to run a rhino refuge in the first place.

If there was scientific evidence showing that yes, indeed, the rhino horn does have medicinal value, this practise of Hume’s may have some merit, but until then… it seems education is still the way to go, the dispelling of incorrect beliefs about the properties of the rhino horn.

(And yes, easy for me to sit here in Canada and condemn a practise happening in South Africa when our own threatened species, the grizzly bear, is still being trophy hunted. Just as horrific, I know, I know.)

Father/daughter bonding. Really?

mooseThe trophy hunter being interviewed on the radio defended his ‘hobby’ by claiming that taking his 11-year-old daughter moose-hunting was the most incredible bonding moment he could ever imagine having with her. He spoke with a sense of awe and wonder. It didn’t matter that her first moose was a ‘small’ one, he said, (only 5 points on the antlers), the exhilaration of watching her shoot it, and seeing the thrill she derived from that experience was pure pleasure for him, “a life-altering moment”.

 The interviewer pointed out that it was certainly a life-altering moment for the moose, and suggested that the hunter and his daughter might have derived the same pleasure by simply photographing the moose. The hunter disagreed completely, saying that a photo would get stuffed away in a box somewhere and forgotten, but by hanging the moose-head in their home they would always remember the thrill of that special time together.

 I think he was serious.

 We surround ourselves with like-minded people, so when I heard the sincerity in this guy’s voice I was flabbergasted. Killing a beautiful wild animal for the sake of a trophy would not be a celebrated bonding moment that I would ever consider sharing with my daughters. I always try to understand the point of view of people with ideas that are different than my own, but this one is just too mind-boggling for me.

Photo credit:  http://huntfishmanitoba.ca/go-hunting/what-youll-hunt/moose-1662

Bears (Disneynature)

Bears, DisneynatureThe movie, Bears, by Disneynature is breathtakingly beautiful. While the credits roll at the end the audience is given a glimpse into the inside work of the film-makers, how they captured those amazing close-up scenes of bears fighting, playing, fishing. They even showed the mother bear in her hibernation den nursing her newborn cubs! But it was just a tease. I would like to have been a seagull for a day (or a year) so I could really see how it was done. That would be a movie in itself.

What I especially like about  Bears is that it does not preach. The message of doom and gloom and how humans are destroying the planet is not there. It simply shows a year in the life of a female bear with her two cubs, and what they need to do to survive. The setting is the unspoiled (by humans) wilderness of the artic. The narration has many comical moments but also ties all the visual scenes together. The backdrop scenery is stunning. The viewer comes away with renewed respect for this magnificent creature, the bear. Hopefully, this alone will empower the  viewer, young and old, to take action to preserve the bear’s habitat.

Spectacular, educational and the two cubs are unbelievably cute. A must see for all wildlife lovers.

Jane Goodall’s Message of Hope

chimp motherJane GoodallJane Goodall turns 80 next week, yet she continues to give 300+ presentations around the world each year. She is my absolute hero for the work she has done with the chimpanzees in Gombe, but more importantly with her work as a conservationist. I saw her speak at the Vancouver Orpheum last night. After initially relating the story of her lost luggage that has yet to catch up with her she began to share her stories of living among the chimps in Africa.

When Jane began to speak the entire audience leaned forward, captivated.  In her soft British accent she spoke of the destruction of the chimpanzee habitat in Africa, as well as environmental concerns around the world. She wondered how we can send men into space, spacecraft to mars, but still allow the natural state of our planet to be destroyed. She said, “We have lost our wisdom… there has been a disconnect between the head and the heart.”

A disconnect. How profoundly true.

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Real Men Shoot With Cameras

Photo credit: http://walkingwiththealligators.wordpress.com/

“Trophy hunting is not about obtaining wild meat in a sustainable, environmentally sound way. It’s about killing large predators for the purpose of self-gratification and self-aggrandizement.” (The Vancouver Sun)

I don’t get it. Grizzly bears have a ‘special concern’ designation in Canada, they’re threatened in the US and yet trophy hunting is still legal here in BC. What’s with that? And what kind of ‘trophy’ is a grizzly bear head anyway?

It’s not the economic benefits… bear-viewing draws significantly more tourists to our province each year than bear-hunting.  We recoil in horror when we hear of rhinos and elephants being slaughtered for their tusks, but do we boycott establishments that hang bear or moose heads on their walls?

Let’s show the world that we are a province that treasures our wildlife. Ban trophy hunting now, and promote bear-viewing. Shoot wildlife with cameras.

“Chimps freed from medical trials”

chimp motherSo reads a headline in the Vancouver Sun today.

This means pharmaceutical companies will stop using chimpanzees as test dummies to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of medicines and cosmetics, practises that are horribly cruel.

Apparently they are switching to alternative types of testing.

All I can say is…

  Hallelujah!!!!

 And it’s about damn time.

The Elephant Whisperer

Elephant WhispererIf you’re as fascinated by elephants as I am, this book is a must read. In relating his experiences with a wild herd on his reserve in Zululand, Lawrence Anthony shows the remarkable and uncanny communication skills one human can develop when learning to connect with these magnificent creatures. Through his story we also get to witness the sophisticated social skills that elephants possess, and how deep their bonds are with each other. This book moved me deeply.

Gentle Giants: Grizzly Bears and Mountain Gorillas

CharlieBoth of these magnificent animals have been on my mind because I was on a gorilla trek in January and will soon be back to helping care for the two grizzly bears at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. I have also just reread Dian Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist and I went to hear Charlie Russell speak about his many years of living with the grizzlies in a remote area in Russia. The accompanying pictures are of Charlie Russell with the bears and one of Dian Fossey.

Dian Fossey proved, without a doubt, that the Mountain Gorillas are gentle giants when they are treated with respect. Charlie Russell discovered the same thing about the grizzly bears he lived with. Both animals have an intelligent, playful and peaceful nature. They will interact in a friendly way with humans if they haven’t been abused.charlierussell bear 4

But humans have not always treated these animals respectfully. Both animals have been poached for body parts, or the young are kidnapped to be taken to faraway zoos. Ranchers have come into conflict with bears and they have been the target of trophy hunters. When the animals associate humans with violence, they can return the violence.Dian Fossey

I thought that this first picture of Charlie Russell must have been photo-shopped, but in his presentation he showed the series of pictures leading up to it. The bear was there first, and allowed Charlie to join him.charlie-russell

If only human nature was always so intelligent, playful and peaceful.charlie-russell3