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Known only by museum specimens and a few captive individuals, one of the world’s rarest turtle species – the Arakan forest turtle – has been observed for the first time in the wild.  Read more on


Bush Meat and What Zoos Are Doing

by amanda on August 24, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

Eventually, I’ll get a constant update schedule for this blog.  I’m thinking once a week is plausible, but summer is a tough time because I’m actually outside a lot in the summer! I’m going to Costa Rica next month and I plan to blog about my trip here, complete with photos.  I need to redo the photo section of this site too.  It’s way to bulky.  If I have time to go to the San Jose zoo I will, but I’m not really interested in zoos this trip!

Anyway, I saw a story on the bush meat crisis in Madagascar on National Geographic this morning and I thought about this site.

Since a March coup d’etat in the island country, long-nurtured conservation measures have quickly fallen by the wayside—making lemurs the targets of hunting gangs.

The criminals are fueling demand for a new bush-meat delicacy in the country’s upscale restaurants, according to the nonprofit Conservation International.

No one knows how many lemurs have been killed, but species such as the golden crowned sifaka—considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—are being targeted.

Horrible news.  It’s almost shocking that upscale restaurants are serving endangered lemur meat.  Shocking news like this is one way zoos can really bring home conservation.   I’ve talked to a lot of people about bush meat in my time at a zoo and many never knew it was real.  Generally they get mad when you tell them about it or scoff “That doesn’t happen anymore.”

It’s one of the most disgusting, most “hidden” aspects of conservation. Though groups have been pushing to publicize the issue for years, I’ve seen a recent upsurge in knowledge about the awful practice.  Why is that? It’s probably because I’ve also seen a recent upsurge in educational displays about bush meat in zoo primate areas.  The AZA even has even created a Bush Meat Crisis Task Force (this was created in 1999, but it seems like the trend for zoos to display info is more recent).

So, who cares if people know about this practice? Well, it’s true that most people will just be shocked and disgusted (I’ve even seen one mom rush a child away from a particularly graphic bush meat display at one zoo), some actually will pick up the cause.  It may just by a donation to an organization (which most zoos will supply information for, some even have donation boxes setup outside the exhibits, which is a great idea) or even by telling other people who will pick up the cause and learn more.

Knowledge is power.  If all a zoo does is teach people about the crisis,  that very powerful.  At least people are talking about it now, and it’s not a dirty little secret.  However, if out of every 100 people who cross by an exhibit about bush meat everyday, even one person is inspired to act or even donate, imagine how powerful that would be.  This is what zoos have the power to do. The not only serve to educate, but to inspire people to act.

More about bush meat. How you can help (AZA).


Parrot Saves Choking Girl

by amanda on June 18, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

This is an older story, but I just ran across it.

AP Photo/

A Quaker parrot in Denver was left alone in a room with a child his owner was babysitting. The owner left the room and the little girl, Hannah, started to choke on her breakfast.

Apparently, Willie, the parrot, yelled “Mama, baby” and flapped his wings, alerting the babysitter who returned to the room to find and save the child.

Quackers are generally loud so who knows if he knew what was going on or if he was just screaming.

It does make Alex look even smarter than he looked. Willie was given an Animal Lifesaver Award by the Red Cross.
Read more about Willie.

AP Photo/


Frogs Found Living in Elephant Dung

by amanda on June 13, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

Three different species of frogs have been discovered living in the dung of the Asian elephant in southeastern Sri Lanka. The discovery—the first time anyone has recorded frogs living in elephant droppings—has widespread conservation implications both for frogs and Asian elephants, which are in decline.

The dung is suspected to help keep the frogs moist during the arid parts of the year. Elephant dung is fibrous, provides good shelter and full of invertebrates for the frogs to eat.

He also studied the dung and found all sorts of invertebrates living in it. Apparently, elephants provide for a host of animals to live.

This isn’t good news, considering the declining populations of elephants. We would not only lose one of the largest mammals, but we’d also likely lose some of the tiny creatures they provide homes for.

Everything is connected.


Polly Want a Passport?

by amanda on June 1, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

This is just a funny story from AOL.  A kea in new Zealand spied a fellow’s passport in his bag, took it and headed off into the bush.

The owner of the passport said:

My passport is somewhere out there in Fiordland. The Kea’s probably using it for fraudulent claims or something,” the passport owner, who did not want to be named, told the newspaper.

keaOf course, the passport hasn’t been recovered and I’m sure it’s going to be a pain for the man to get a new one.  It’s probably not as funny to him.

Let that be a lesson not to leave important documents unprotected.


Rare Bird is Awarded Private Beach

by amanda on May 20, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

090515151615-largeI had never heard of a maleo before this story. They are found only on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.  Their beach is now a protected habitat for the maleo, a unique bird which relies on the sun-baked sands of beaches and in some instances, volcanically heated soil, to incubate its eggs, which it buries in the ground.

The beach was purchased for approximately $12,500, funds donated by the Lis Hudson Memorial Fund and the Singapore-based company Quvat Management. The project also was supported throughout by the Dutch-based Van Tienhoven Foundation.

It’s only member of the monotypic genus Macrocephalon.   Fewer than 100 nesting sites still exist throughout the bird’s entire home range.

The really cool thing is that the parents bury the eggs, leave them and when the chicks hatch, they can fly and fend for themselves.  That’s unique among birds.


Genetically Modifed Animals in Photos

by amanda on May 18, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

090514-02-glowing-monkey_bigSitting aside the ethnically debates about cloning and genetically modifying animals,  National Geographic has some awesome photographs of animals “glowing for science.”

Many of the animals, like the rhesus monkey pictured, have been modified for medical research (he is being studies for Huntington’s disease research).  Some of the animals pictures glow naturally, like scorpions.  Others, like the zebra fish, just glow because someone thought it would be cool to do.

The photographs and information about how it was done are pretty interesting.  Though, I prefer animals that don’t glow in the dark.


New Frog Species Found

by amanda on May 5, 2009 · 0 comments

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There was a new frog species found in Western Australia recently.  It looks like a tiny toad.  It’s only 0.8-inch-long (2-centimeter-long) and was discovered near a river in the Kimberley region.  It’s actually a frog.  You can see more photos and a video of him on National Geographic.

With all the bad news about amphibians facing extinction that I’ve been hearing lately, it’s good to hear some good amphibian news.  It’s amazing that we’ve come this far with technology, yet we still find new animal species.

The world has a lot of a cool stuff to show us.

I’ve giving a presentation on amphibians this weekend. I’ll have to talk about this new guy.


ForbesTraveler recently released it’s list of the top zoos in the USA.  Their list included Philadelphia Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Denver Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoo, Saint Louis Zoo, Maryland Zoo and Cincinnati Zoo.

It also says some nice things about modern zoos.

“The goal here is not just to exhibit, but to get people to care about animals and to understand through educational programs that zoos are about natural habitats and conservation.”

It also comments that most of the best zoos are cageless and also educate visitor’s about the environment.

It’s interesting to me that mostly northern zoos are on the list.  I do find zoo exhibits in the north to be more progressive than in the south, overall.

Also, two free zoos (Saint Louis and Smithsonian National Zoo) are featured.  I’ve been to both and they are both excellent. Saint Louis Zoo is one of the most impressive zoos I’ve been too.

Most of the cities with the best zoos in the US are also on the Forbes list for best aquariums in the US.


Scorpion Venom May Slow Cancer

by amanda on April 18, 2009 · 0 comments

in misc

One thing I’ve learned through my involvement with zoos is that people often won’t care about animals unless they see something in it for them.  That’s why most hunters really are great conversationalists.  They want to conserve wildlife and habitats because they have so much money and passion invested in their hobby.  If wildlife habitats disappear, so does their hobby.  That’s something that’s hard for most animal lovers to understand.

One thing I like to point out at the zoo when I talk to people is that many medical advancements for humans have been because of plants and animals.  Drugs for diabetes, cancer, pain and more have been found in the animal kingdom.  Innovations in transplant medicine and orthopedics have come from animals.  The plant and fungi kingdoms have made almost every drug we have p0ssible.

Today’s feature is about a new medical finding.  Chlorotoxin, a chemical derived from the giant Israeli scorpion, affects a protein on the outside of brain tumor cells called MMP-2. This protein is thought to help the cancer cells spread.

In a new study, scientists chemically bonded iron oxide nanoparticles with a lab-made version of chlorotoxin to create tiny nanoprobes, each carrying up to 20 chlorotoxin molecules.

The researchers found that the nanoprobes can halt the spread of brain tumors in mice by 98 percent, compared to 45 percent with the scorpion venom alone.

That’s an amazing discovery.  It will be years before chlorotoxinis available to use, but just one more reason we should care about the world around us.

It’s amazing that as high tech us and “all knowing” that we are that we find new things in nature all the time that we never knew, and may never know if we don’t shape up.

Happy Earth Day weekend!