A Decade Later, Results of UN CITES Decision About Ivory Sale; An Elephant Holocaust in Africa

The results of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES back in 2002 is worse than expected. An elephant holocaust is taking place in parts of Africa. The gentle giants will be extinct in some areas if unethical, amoral, and ruthless poaching doesn’t cease.  Back in 2002 members of the U.N.’s CITES meeting in Chile decided in favor of 3 African nations Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa to release stockpiles of ivory for one time only sales. The U.N. had previously put an overall ban on international sales of ivory in 1989-90 and that was extended for 9 years in 2007. Prior to that poaching was out of control, i.e., Kenya alone poached on average 3,000 elephants annually. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2457965.stm and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2320901.stm

The 2002 decision was largely contested by animal welfare groups claiming it would ignite illegal poaching again. The head of that convention, Willem Wijnstekers, professed to see no correlation between making that ivory available on the market for a quick sale and an increase in elephant poaching.  Organizations like IFAW, Born Free, WWF, and Kenya’s Wildlife Service speaking on behalf of the elephants predicted what would happen with comments like:

  • [a]death knell for African elephants
  • a looming catastrophe for Africa’s elephant
  • Elephant herds would be decimated as illegal ivory smuggling booms.
  • a death warrant for thousands of elephants… which will now be targeted by well-organized poaching gangs to feed the increased demand that will be created for illegal ivory—IFAW.
  • decision could “spell doom” for elephants.
  • This move could re-open the floodgates to poaching on a scale not seen in the past decade

Despite warnings and an actual run-up of poaching in Kenya before the CITES decision, the all wise and knowing members of the committee on TRADE and not animal welfare decided to allow the sale of 60 tons and another 50 tons of ivory between the 3 countries on 2 occasions in 2004. Willem said, “The move did not imply a re-launch of the ivory trade, nor authorization to hunt.” He said, ”Instead, it would benefit local communities economically.”  Ahh, there it is—economics. Damn the elephants.  It’s political. WWF: “The level of political wheeling and dealing and trading on the decisions is worse than I’ve ever seen at any Cites conference previously.” Almost sounds like the U.S. grey wolf—literally thrown under the bus. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2435663.stm

The CITES decision was also based on strong management programs for elephants in the 3 countries petitioning for sales and that “the proceeds [would] be used to conserve elephants.”  Mind you other African nations with elephants did not have strong management programs and were unable to ensure the elephant’s safety. After all, Africa is a big, big continent of geographically, politically, and economically diverse countries. The U.N. knows this. And money from ivory sales being used for conservation sounds a whole lot like the U.S. hunting industry constantly donating to conservation.  The lines purposely get blurred and the gesture ultimately amounts to more ways to kill critters that aren’t plentiful.  In other words, when the foxes decide to renovate and upgrade the henhouse, most assuredly the prize hens will come up missing.

The U.N. CITES committee also needed to develop a system of monitoring legal sales of ivory to see if the decision did indeed lead to increased poaching.  The actual sales couldn’t occur until 2004 because CITES was tasked with collecting all the data for hunting, artisans, and vendors that legally sold ivory in all 3 countries and whatever country purchased the ivory, plus a tally of elephant populations in order to ascertain whether or not it would be detrimental or not relative to poaching. Does anyone honestly think this monumental task would be done well in just 2 years?

Oh there were articles back then that just couldn’t seem to confirm the correlation between increased elephant poaching and the 2002 decision even though Kenya has continuously opposed the sale of ivory stockpiles from the beginning. Kenya suffers a severely diminished elephant population due to poaching even though Kenya has very good policing and enforcement policies. http://www.aseanbiodiversity.info/Abstract/51006445.pdf

None of the articles correlating the sale of ivory and poaching came anywhere as close to predicting the long term effects of the U.N. decision as those organizations dedicated to the preservation of wildlife. Conservationists clearly based their opposition not only on the science of managing elephant populations but also GREEDY HUMAN NATURE and the blatant politicizing of the 2002 CITES meeting relative to ivory.

So what did the U.N. CITES do in 2007 despite the upward trend in poaching and ivory demand? They allowed the same type of sale to the same 3 countries once again. And t appeared to be with an even bigger approval by the likes of Great Britain:

To the horror of conservationists, many countries – including Britain – argued that the sale would satisfy demand and reduce poaching. In fact, it has had the opposite effect and led to a surge in elephant slaughter by poachers who launder their ivory through the legal trade. The decision to allow the sale led to China and Japan being approved as trade partners and demand for ivory, in China in particular, has soared. Last year, China approved 37 new retail ivory stores.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7429847/Agony-and-Ivory.html

By 2008-09, African elephant poaching was at an unprecedented high and auctions for ivory were taking place. http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/leakey-poaching834.html#cr

Elephant Massacre Revealed in Chad

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/photogalleries/elephants-massacre/index.html for more pics.

Here we are in 2011. See what man has done? Not just the low life poachers but respected members of the United Nations CITES team that made a stupid, stupid decision against protests for the welfare of elephants worldwide. It was a wrong decision not once but twice. According to an article in the U.K. Telegraph:

Elephant populations in Senegal, Mali and Niger are on the brink of extinction. Chad has just over 600 elephants left, more than 80 per cent down from the 3,800 it had in 2006, while Zimbabwe lost more than 3,000 elephants last year, according to conservationists.

In the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, militias sell ivory from elephants to buy weapons. ‘Elephants are being killed all over Africa,’ says Ian Redmond, a British wildlife biologist and elephant expert. ‘The ivory trade is rampant.

Now despite the U.N. CITES attempts at more enforcement against poaching, too little, too late, the technical world has made tracking elephants even easier. That taste of ivory sold on the market in 2004 and 2007 sparked demand in Asia. Remember the “illegal” trade was loosed by that demand. Criminals don’t follow rules. And the proof is in the numbers of elephants decimated last year. It’s sparking the bush meat trade among elephants now. Not satisfied with carcass meat from ivory poachers, hunters put out snares catching young orphaned elephants too:

Ninety miles north-east of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, a baby elephant hobbles slowly towards a water hole on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Its rear leg is caught in a snare which it drags around with it.

The snare has torn open the elephant’s flesh which has become infected. Unable to keep up with the herd, the elephant has been abandoned and without help will soon die of its wounds.

The elephant was not a target of ivory poachers (it has no tusks) but was caught in a snare placed in the forest by another breed of poacher who is back in serious business. This is the ‘bushmeat’ poacher, who kills animals for their meat.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7429847/Agony-and-Ivory.html

Elephants are highly intelligent, social animals that show emotion. From the same article:

Jolson Kitheka, the volunteer ranger, is still haunted by one detail of his encounter with the poachers’ handiwork.

The body he found was strewn with mud, leaves and twigs, tossed there by other elephants who had tried to cover up their friend; this is how elephants mourn their dead.

For now much of mankind does not get a connection between all living things as being our general salvation. More and more I truly understand Chief Seattle’s statement: “What happens to the beast, happens to the man.”

Read more about the plight of elephants:

The African elephant population has fallen from 1.3 million in 1980 to between 300,000 and 450,000 today. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2454249.stm

Born Free annual reports on ivory http://www.bornfree.org.uk/animals/african-elephants/projects/ivory-trade/

http://www.mathaba.net/news/?x=555686?flattr amount of ivory allowed for sale over the decade.

http://banivory.wildlifedirect.org/2010/07/22/massive-haul-of-ivory-seized-in-thailand/ Just one of many stories of seized illegal ivory.

SAVE THE ELEPHANTS ORGANIZATION: http://www.savetheelephants.org/

 

 

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PBS Nature: Christmas in Yellowstone

If you can, watch this wonderful presentation by PBS Nature series called “Christmas in Yellowstone” about wildlife and one of the U.S. most famous parks. It has breathtaking scenery and wonderful accounts of animals in the wild. Hopefully, it will remind viewers of all that’s at stake relative to the plight of our LIVING natural resources in the U.S. and how some have lost protection and are facing ill managed plans by state agencies.

Watching the film, it’s easy to see and understand better that nature balances itself. These ecosystems should be preserved and protected for generations to come. I can’t imagine a world without wonderful places like this.

Link to the schedule for this PBS presentation in your area: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/schedule/.

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Happy Earth Day 2011

It’s Earth Day today and also Passover weekend. Once again I remind those that follow the bible that the word “EARTH” appears over 700 times there. I think it’s a good sign that our Maker, no matter what faith we uphold, wants all of us to CARE for the earth. On this Earth Day 2011 take the time to ask yourself if you are doing your part even in the smallest way to advance the idea that we are indeed the caretakers of our entire environment and whether or not we have done a good job of it. From all that I’ve seen through my research for blogs, we can do much, much better as a country.

Earth Day 2011 is proposing a Billion Acts of Green. Visit Earth Day’s website and get involved, donate, and/or pass the word about taking care of the earth in earnest, especially the USA. We are shamefully low on the list of the greenest countries and need to improve. The brightest and best movement I’ve seen in the U.S. that will go a long way toward enlightening us about our role as caretakers and improve our empathy for all living things is the “Green Faith” movement.

Through the “Green Faith” movement maybe the stigma of “politics” can finally be removed from environmental awareness and bolster our progress as a nation toward engaging in a better world for us and our children. All living things should be embraced as the gifts they were initially intended. Once they’re gone, they are gone forever, a sore lesson to learn too late.
http://greenfaith.org/.

As a reminder how precious some of the life that we as humans have put into peril by our consumption and waste watch the following videos:

Goto:http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2011.

Or if you’re more inclined, goto Green Faith’s page from the link above. Whatever you choose “DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING” this Earth Day 2011. We’re counting on a “Billion Acts of Green!”

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Like Primates Elephants Possess Self Awareness Too

I remember hearing the news that elephants like primates possess the human trait of self-awareness. They can recognize themselves in a mirror and will do antics in front of it. According to an article on Live Science website:

This would seem to be a trait common to and independently evolved by animals with large, complex brains, complex social lives and known capacities for empathy and altruism, even though the animals all have very different kinds of brains,” researcher Diana Reiss, a senior cognitive research scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Brooklyn, N.Y., told LiveScience.

Hopefully, she added, this will encourage people to protect elephants.

That news broke in 2006. That same year an estimated 23,000 elephants were illegally slaughtered. Their ivory tusks ripped from their heads and the rest of the carcass left for naught. And unfortunately, elephant deaths due to habitat loss from encroaching coffee plantations and poaching has increased.

I also remember watching a documentary on a family of elephants mourning the death of one of their own. They stood in a circle around the dead elephant for quite a long time with heads lowered. Elephants are very social creatures. To imagine they like their life and are treated as they should be while incarcerated by circuses and entertainment sideshows is just plain putting the blinders on. This powerful, magnificent, and highly intelligent creature does not belong in the entertainment world for our amusement. We have other human beings that are only too happy to be paid to do that. To force an innocent animal to entertain us is another story.

Check out the Elephant Ivory Poaching Crisis Map on the website bloodyivory.org.

Sign the petition to stop ivory trade on bloodyivory.org.

http://www.bloodyivory.org/.

Read the news about how much ivory is being seized on a regular basis worldwide. Former bans on ivory trade helped the African elephant recover only to be poached to the point of endangerment again. This is no way to treat an animal with a large complex brain that itself feels empathy or “the ability to put one self in another’s shoes” so to speak. As humans and supposedly most intelligent, where is our empathy for the animals or are we slowly losing the characteristic for empathy?

http://www.bloodyivory.org/news

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It’s World Animal Week, A Time to Rethink Animals

It’s World Animal Week this week and I thought a good way to begin was to read Carl Sagan’s “The Abstraction of Beasts” to provoke change for the way we view animals. It’s not the full text but close with most of the poignant entries about very human like qualities apes possess minus a few paragraphs dealing with brain mass vs body mass. It’s well worth reading.

THE ABSTRACTION OF BEASTS by Carl Sagan

BEASTS ABSTRACT NOT,” announced John Locke, expressing mankind’s prevailing opinion throughout recorded history. Bishop Berkeley had, however, a sardonic rejoinder: “If the fact that brutes abstract not be made the distinguishing property of that sort of animal, I fear a great many of those that pass for men must be reckoned into their number.” Abstract thought, at least in its more subtle varieties, is not an invariable accompaniment of everyday life for the average man. Could abstract thought be a matter not of kind but of degree? Could other animals be capable of abstract thought but more rarely or less deeply than humans?

We have the impression that other animals are not very intelligent. But have we examined the possibility of animal intelligence carefully enough, or, as in Francois Truffaut’s poignant film The Wild Child, do we simply equate the absence of our style of expression of intelligence with the absence of intelligence? In discussing communication with the animals, the French philosopher Montaigne remarked, “The defect that hinders communication between them and us, why may it not be on our part as well as theirs?”

There is, of course, a considerable body of anecdotal information suggesting chimpanzee intelligence. The first serious study of the behavior of simians-including their behavior in the wild-was made in Indonesia by Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection. Wallace concluded that a baby orangutan he studied behaved “exactly like a human child in similar circumstances.” In fact, “orangutan” is a Malay phrase meaning not ape but “man of the woods.” Teuber recounted many stories told by his parents, pioneer German ethnologists who founded and operated the first research station devoted to chimpanzee behavior on Tenerife in the Canary Islands early in the second decade of this century. It was here that Wolfgang Kohler performed his famous studies of Sultan, a chimpanzee “genius” who was able to connect two rods in order to reach an otherwise inaccessible banana. On Tenerife, also, two chimpanzees were observed maltreating a chicken: One would extend some food to the fowl, encouraging it to approach; whereupon the other would thrust at it with a piece of wire it had concealed behind its back. The chicken would retreat but soon allow itself to approach once again-and be beaten once again. Here is a fine combination of behavior sometimes thought to be uniquely human: cooperation, planning a future course of action, deception and cruelty. It also reveals that chickens have a very low capacity for avoidance learning.

Until a few years ago, the most extensive attempt to communicate with chimpanzees went something like this: A newborn chimp was taken into a household with a newborn baby, and both would be raised together-twin cribs, twin bassinets, twin high chairs, twin potties, twin diaper pails, twin baby powder cans. At the end of three years, the young chimp had, of course, far outstripped the young human in manual dexterity, running, leaping, climbing and other motor skills. But while the child was happily babbling away, the chimp could say only, and with enormous difficulty, “Mama,” “Papa,” and “cup.” From this it was widely concluded that in language, reasoning and other higher mental functions, chimpanzees were only minimally competent: “Beasts abstract not.”

But in thinking over these experiments, two psychologists, Beatrice and Robert Gardner, at the University of Nevada realized that the pharynx and larynx of the chimp are not suited for human speech. Human beings exhibit a curious multiple use of the mouth for eating, breathing and communicating. In insects such as crickets, which call to one another by rubbing their legs, these three functions are performed by completely separate organ systems. Human spoken language seems to be adventitious.

But in thinking over these experiments, two psychologists, Beatrice and Robert Gardner, at the University of Nevada realized that the pharynx and larynx of the chimp are not suited for human speech. Human beings exhibit a curious multiple use of the mouth for eating, breathing and communicating. In insects such as crickets, which call to one another by rubbing their legs, these three functions are performed by completely separate organ systems. Human spoken language seems to be adventitious. The exploitation of organ systems with other functions for communication in humans is also indicative of the comparatively recent evolution of our linguistic abilities. It might be, the Gardner’s reasoned, that chimpanzees have substantial language abilities which could not be expressed because of the limitations of their anatomy. Was there any symbolic language, they asked, that could employ the strengths rather than the weaknesses of chimpanzee anatomy?

The Gardner’s hit upon a brilliant idea: Teach a chimpanzee American sign language, known by its acronym Ameslan, and sometimes as “American deaf and dumb language” (the “dumb” refers, of course, to the inability to speak and not to any failure of intelligence). It is ideally suited to the immense manual dexterity of the chimpanzee. It also may have all the crucial design features of verbal languages.

There is by now a vast library of described and filmed conversations, employing Ameslan and other gestural languages, with Washoe, Lucy, Lana and other chimpanzees studied by the Gardners and others. Not only are there chimpanzees with working vocabularies of 100 to 200 words; they are also able to distinguish among nontrivially different grammatical patterns and syntaxes. What is more, they have been remarkably inventive in the construction of new words and phrases.

On seeing for the first time a duck land quacking in a pond, Washoe gestured “waterbird,” which is the same phrase used in English and other languages, but which Washoe invented for the occasion. Having never seen a spherical fruit other than an apple, but knowing the signs for the principal colors, Lana, upon spying a technician eating an orange, signed “orange apple.” After tasting a watermelon, Lucy described it as “candy drink” or “drink fruit,” which is essentially the same word form as the English “water melon.” But after she had burned her mouth on her first radish, Lucy forever after described them as “cry hurt food.” A small doll placed unexpectedly in Washoe’s cup elicited the response “Baby in my drink.” When Washoe soiled, particularly clothing or furniture, she was taught the sign “dirty,” which she then extrapolated as a general term of abuse. A rhesus monkey that evoked her displeasure was repeatedly signed at: “Dirty monkey, dirty monkey, dirty monkey.”Occasionally Washoe would say things like “Dirty Jack, gimme drink.” Lana, in a moment of creative annoyance, called her trainer “You green shit.” Chimpanzees have invented swear words. Was-hoe also seems to have a sort of sense of humor; once, when riding on her trainer’s shoulders and, perhaps inadvertently, wetting him, she signed: “Funny, funny.”

Lucy was eventually able to distinguish clearly the meanings of the phrases “Roger tickle Lucy” and “Lucy tickle Roger,” both of which activities she enjoyed with gusto. Likewise, Lana extrapolated from “Tim groom Lana” to “Lana groom Tim.” Washoe was observed “reading” a magazine-i.e., slowly turning the pages, peering intently at the pictures and making, to no one in particular, an appropriate sign, such as “cat” when viewing a photograph of a tiger, and “drink” when examining a Vermouth advertisement. Having learned the sign “open” with a door, Washoe extended the concept to a briefcase. She also attempted to converse in Ameslan with the laboratory cat, who turned out to be the only illiterate in the facility. Having acquired this marvelous method of communication, Washoe may have been surprised that the cat was not also competent in Ameslan. And when one day Jane, Lucy’s foster mother, left the laboratory, Lucy gazed after her and signed: “Cry me. Me cry.”

Boyce Rensberger is a sensitive and gifted reporter for the New York Times whose parents could neither speak nor hear, although he is in both respects normal. His first language, however, was Ameslan. He had been abroad on a European assignment for the Times for some years. On his return to the United States, one of his first domestic duties was to look into the Gardners’ experiments with Washoe. After some little time with the chimpanzee, Rensberger reported, “Suddenly I realized I was conversing with a member of another species in my native tongue.” The use of the word tongue is, of course, figurative: it is built deeply into the structure of the language (a word that also means “tongue”). In fact, Rensberger was conversing with a member of another species in his native “hand.” And it is just this transition from tongue to hand that has permitted humans to regain the ability-lost, according to Josephus, since Eden-to communicate with the animals.

In addition to Ameslan, chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates are being taught a variety of other gestural languages. At the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, they are learning a specific computer language called (by the humans, not the chimps) “Yerkish.” The computer records all of its subjects’ conversations, even during the night when no humans are in attendance; and from its ministrations we have learned that chimpanzees prefer jazz to rock and movies about chimpanzees to movies about human beings. Lana had, by January 1976, viewed The Developmental Anatomy of the Chimpanzee 245 times. She would undoubtedly appreciate a larger film library.

The machine provides for many of Lana’s needs, but not all. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, she forlornly types out: “Please, machine, tickle Lana.”) More elaborate requests and commentaries, each requiring a creative use of a set grammatical form, have been developed subsequently.

Lana monitors her sentences on a computer display, and erases those with grammatical errors. Once, in the midst of Lana’s construction of an elaborate sentence, her trainer mischievously and repeatedly interposed, from his separate computer console, a word that made nonsense of Lana’s sentence. She gazed at her computer display, spied her trainer at his console, and composed a new sentence: “Please, Tim, leave room.” Just as Washoe and Lucy can be said to speak, Lana can be said to write.

At an early stage in the development of Washoe’s verbal abilities, Jacob Bronowski and a colleague wrote a scientific paper denying the significance of Washoe’s use of gestural language because, in the limited data available to Bronowski, Washoe neither inquired nor negated. But later observations showed that Washoe and other chimpanzees were perfectly able both to ask questions and to deny assertions put to them. And it is difficult to see any significant difference in quality between chimpanzee use of gestural language and the use of ordinary speech by children in a manner that we unhesitatingly attribute to intelligence. In reading Bronowski’s paper I cannot help but feel that a little pinch of human chauvinism has crept in, an echo of Locke’s “Beasts abstract not.” In 1949, the American anthropologist Leslie White stated unequivocally: “Human behavior is symbolic behavior; symbolic behavior is human behavior.” What would White have made of Washoe, Lucy and Lana?

[]Because adult chimpanzees are generally thought (at least by zookeepers) to be too dangerous to retain in a home or home environment, Washoe and other verbally accomplished chimpanzees have been involuntarily “retired” soon after reaching puberty. Thus we do not yet have experience with the adult language abilities of monkeys and apes. One of the most intriguing questions is whether a verbally accomplished chimpanzee mother will be able to communicate language to her offspring. It seems very likely that this should be possible and that a community of chimps initially competent in gestural language could pass down the language to subsequent generations.

[]Differences in group behavior-something that it is very tempting to call cultural differences-have been reported among chimpanzees, baboons, macaques and many other primates. For example, one group of monkeys may know how to eat bird’s eggs, while an adjacent band of precisely the same species may not. Such primates have a few dozen sounds or cries, which are used for intra-group communication, with such meanings as “Flee; here is a predator.” But the sound of the cries differs somewhat from group to group: there are regional accents.

An even more striking experiment was performed accidentally by Japanese primatologists attempting to relieve an overpopulation and hunger problem in a community of macaques on an island in south Japan. The anthropologists threw grains of wheat on a sandy beach. Now it is very difficult to separate wheat grains one by one from sand grains; such an effort might even expend more energy than eating the collected wheat would provide. But one brilliant macaque, Imo, perhaps by accident or out of pique, threw handfuls of the mixture into the water. Wheat floats; sand sinks, a fact that Imo clearly noted. Through the sifting process she was able to eat well (on a diet of soggy wheat, to be sure). While older macaques, set in their ways, ignored her, the younger monkeys appeared to grasp the importance of her discovery, and imitated it. In the next generation, the practice was more widespread; today all macaques on the island are competent at water sifting, an example of a cultural tradition among the monkeys.

Earlier studies on Takasakiyama, a mountain in northeast Kyushu inhabited by macaques, show a similar pattern in cultural evolution. Visitors to Takasakiyama threw caramels wrapped in paper to the monkeys – a common practice in Japanese zoos, but one the Takasakiyama macaques had never before encountered. In the course of play, some young monkeys discovered how to unwrap the caramels and eat them. The habit was passed on successively to their playmates, their mothers, the dominant males (who among the macaques act as babysitters for the very young) and finally to the subadult males, who were at the furthest social remove from the monkey children. The process of acculturation took more than three years. In natural primate communities, the existing nonverbal communications are so rich that there is little pressure for the development of a more elaborate gestural language. But if gestural language were necessary for chimpanzee survival, there can be little doubt that it would be transmitted culturally down through the generations.

I would expect a significant development and elaboration of language in only a few generations if all the chimps unable to communicate were to die or fail to reproduce. Basic English corresponds to about 1,000 words. Chimpanzees are already accomplished in vocabularies exceeding 10 percent of that number. Although a few years ago it would have seemed the most implausible science fiction, it does not appear to me out of the question that, after a few generations in such a verbal chimpanzee community, there might emerge the memoirs of the natural history and mental life of a chimpanzee, published in English or Japanese (with perhaps an “as told to” after the by-line).

If chimpanzees have consciousness, if they are capable of abstractions, do they not have what until now has been described as “human rights”? How smart does a chimpanzee have to be before killing him constitutes murder? What further properties must he show before religious missionaries must consider him worthy of attempts at conversion?

I recently was escorted through a large primate research laboratory by its director. We approached a long corridor lined, to the vanishing point as in a perspective drawing, with caged chimpanzees. They were one, two or three to a cage, and I am sure the accommodations were exemplary as far as such institutions (or for that matter traditional zoos) go. As we approached the nearest cage, its two inmates bared their teeth and with incredible accuracy let fly great sweeping arcs of spittle, fairly drenching the lightweight suit of the facility’s director. They then uttered a staccato of short shrieks, which echoed down the corridor to be repeated and amplified by other caged chimps, who had certainly not seen us, until the corridor fairly shook with the screeching and banging and rattling of bars. The director informed me that not only spit is apt to fly in such a situation; and at his urging we retreated.

I was powerfully reminded of those American motion pictures of the 1930s and 40s, set in some vast and dehumanized state or federal penitentiary, in which the prisoners banged their eating utensils against the bars at the appearance of the tyrannical warden. These chimps are healthy and well-fed. If they are “only” animals, if they are beasts which abstract not, then my comparison is a piece of sentimental foolishness. But chimpanzees can abstract. Like other mammals, they are capable of strong emotions. They have certainly committed no crimes. I do not claim to have the answer, but I think it is certainly worthwhile to raise the question: Why, exactly, all over the civilized world, in virtually every major city, are apes in prison?

For all we know, occasional viable crosses between humans and chimpanzees are possible. The natural experiment must have been tried very infrequently, at least recently. If such off-spring are ever produced, what will their legal status be? The cognitive abilities of chimpanzees force us, I think, to raise searching questions about the boundaries of the community of beings to which special ethical considerations are due, and can, I hope, help to extend our ethical perspectives downward through the taxa on Earth and upwards to extraterrestrial organisms, if they exist.

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See Disney’s Oceans for Earth Day 2010

There is so much we don’t know about our oceans, which used to be called Earth’s seven seas that Disney spent 4 years making this movie about the creatures that live there. And it’s from the creature’s point of view, so it should be interesting. For those of us that are old enough to remember, think “Diver Dan” episodes where the likes of “Barron Barracuda,” and “Trigger” take on a human persona.

It’s supposed to be a wet weekend. Take the kids to a matinee and reconnect with the creatures of our oceans! We just might learn something. Disney’s movie “Earth” for last year’s Earth Day was superb. Disney never disappoints.

Watch:

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Marathon Oil Refinery Expansion; What This Really Means for Michigan

The Marathon Oil Refinery Expansion is providing jobs for local construction crews. We think expansion of a dirty refinery is bad on the one hand but it’s already blight on the landscape going into Detroit, so what’s the big deal? First off while leaders in Detroit are promoting the idea there is a possibility of becoming the country’s greenest city, the Marathon expansion is the farthest thing from clean and green, especially since it will begin pumping oil from “The Most Destructive Project on Earth,” or rather “TO EARTH,” the Alberta Tar Sands Project. The idea Michigan is going green with wind, solar, and ion battery manufacturing is just a facade compared the dirty reality of what the Marathon expansion and other refinery expansions in the Great Lakes Basin will bring.

The Alberta tar sands oil system threatens the entire Great Lakes region. The Munk Center for International Studies, Toronto, Canada, did a study titled: “How the Oil Sands Got to the Great Lakes Basin; Pipelines, Refineries and Emissions to Air and Water.” It’s extensive and A MUST READ. A statement from it:

The seemingly insatiable demand for tar sands oil requires an expansion of the continent wide network of pipelines and the oil refineries in and around the Great Lakes Basin. In some cases, these refinery expansions are being fast-tracked right now, with limited community consultation and impact studies. There is little being done, for example, to determine the cumulative impact a massive refinery expansion would have on climate change-affecting carbon emissions, water quality, wetlands and other habitats, the additional water or energy use that would be required or how continued reliance on oil might inhibit the development of alternative energy sources such as wind or solar power. Refining (and upgrading crude) oil requires almost unimaginable amounts of water–water to move the crude, dilute it, mix and process it. Much of the water used is either never returned to its source or returned, but severely degraded by pollutants.

The use of Great Lakes water as a cheap supply for refineries and the watershed and the airshed as a pollution dump is alarming the neighbours.

It went on to say:

We are already well into the development of a continent-wide industrial supply chain – a pollution delivery system – that could cause irreversible damage to the Great Lakes. Pipeline and refinery expansion applications are being made and approved right now with little general awareness of the potential long-term damage to the Great Lakes environment. [] U.S. refiners plan to invest more than $31 billion between now and 2015 to upgrade, export, and refine tar sands oil. This expansion promises to bring with it an exponential increase in pollution – discharges into waterways including the Great Lakes, destruction of wetlands, toxic air emissions, acid rain, and huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

This isn’t good for anyone. It’s certainly not a fair playing field. The Monk study had a section titled, “Gaming the System: How refineries can hide air pollution.” Gaming the system, hmmm, where have we heard that lately? Oh yeah, it was relative to Massey Energy and their safety record.

http://www.powi.ca/pdfs/events/2008-10-08-how_the_oil_sands.pdf.

Don’t believe the Canadian Study? Sometimes words just don’t convey the enormity of what’s happening, so watch the video, it’s one of many out there that well documents the “Most Destructive Project on Earth.” Watch where the first pipeline south goes.

Canada’s Dirty Oil: Breaking Our Addiction – General audience (long version) from Dirty Oil Sands on Vimeo.

For more videos relative to tar sand operations: http://vimeo.com/6597349

Marathon’s expansion makes Michigan stick out as a codependent for a filthy industry. We’re clearly the first state to allow the pipeline. According to tarsandswatch.org., Canada is courting Asia for its oil as both American and Canadian firms shun the tar sands operation, but not Michigan.

Of all places but Michigan, surrounded by precious fresh water, to court more pollution from Marathon while our auto industry is required to tow the line on emissions? Curbing emissions/pollution should be across the board in this state, but it’s definitely not and highly unfair. And the whole while, Detroit tries to come out of the dregs as a green city with urban farming as other green industry startups are highlighted. Knowing the purpose behind the Marathon expansion, that’s a real hoot. Does that green industry know they might be inhaling much more CO2 in the future than most places if the pipeline becomes reality? What about all the freshwater that will be polluted in the process? How much lower will our lakes become?

We look like a bunch of lunatics, poised on one hand to remake Detroit into a green city with an auto industry producing hybrid cars, and an oil refinery expansion for the express purpose of importing the filthy Alberta tar sands oil.

It reminds me of the “Three Stooges” when Curly would spin on one foot.

Participate: http://www.tarsandswatch.org/canada-looks-china-exploit-oil-sands-rejected-us

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Just Discovered Huge New Planet Orbiting Another Star

Sixty astronomers worldwide collaborated on the discovery of a planet the size of Jupiter orbiting a star like our sun in the constellation Serpens Cauda. Have any idea how big that means the new planet named CoRoT9b is? One thousand three hundred earths could fit into Jupiter. A French agency CNES or The Centre National d’Études Spatiales operates the satellite telescope CoRoT that found he planet.

The article on Science Daily’s website stated that in the past 25 years earthlings have found 400 exosolar planets, but this is a whopper of a planet that is temperate too. This latest discovery opens up the possibility that we are not the end-all be-all in the universe.

What gives me a qualm is the name of the constellation where this newly discovered planet exists. I took Latin. Serpens of course means serpent. Cauda is tail. There is a Serpens Caput or head too because this particular constellation has two parts. In the center lies Ophiuchusa, which means “the serpent holder.” http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/ophiuchus.

Now I know it’s all conjecture, but the world’s attention may be drawn to this new temperate planet like our own in the future with the hope there are others like it that may sustain human life. After all extinction continues to be a growing threat here with 44,000 species already in danger and climate change spurring big chaotic events like earthquakes and tsunamis. The fact that this hope stems from a constellation basically called, “The Serpent” is a little biblical to say the least. That and the fact that reading over Revelations relative to Earth’s curret environmental state, it’s almost impossible not to see parallels to global climate change.

Anyway, we’ve discovered the first temperate planet, huge compared to the rest, that’s in transit around a star like our sun. It appears to be most like our Jupiter but with elements of Earth. So are there other planets like Earth with living beings we just haven’t found yet? Hopefully none of them from the constellation named “The Serpent Holder.” It’s just too eerie.

Read the article. It has a pretty good pic of CoRoT9b:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100317144644.htm.

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BLM’s Wild Horse Management Program a Travesty for American Icon

Our wild horses out west have been under attack by our own BLM, (Bureau of Land Management)for far too long. There is a massive ongoing slaughter called “management.” It seems the public grazing land that specifically allows for free roam by America’s wild horses/burros is degraded. The horses are to blame. Never mind that of “the 12.5 million animal units the BLM allows to graze on public land, our wild horses comprise less than .3%, three tenths of a percent.” There are only 37,000 wild horses/burros left, “Aside from the general environmental degradation issues, ranchers erect fences that obstruct the movement of wildlife, reducing access to food and water, and isolating subpopulations.” This is validated on one of the videos. Clearly an overabundance of cattle on public land once issued as a place for our free roaming horses/burros by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act has taken over and ultimately caused the degradation. Yet the BLM is determined to blame/reduce wild horse numbers. This is an unfair governmental attack on our wildlife again.

http://animalrights.about.com/od/animalsusedforfood/a/Livestock PublicLands.htm.

And taxpayers are paying for it. Per a HSUS, (Humane Society of the U.S.) article, “We have got to get off the current treadmill of spending millions of tax dollars rounding up wild horses and caring for them in captivity, and instead make wider use of fertility control as a humane population management tool.” Caring for them is a big understatement.

http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2009/07/hsus
_applauds_house_vote_to_save_wild_horses_071709.html
.

http://www.change.org/actions/view/a_unified_call_for_an_immediate
_moratorium_on_wild_horse_burro_roundups
.

http://wildhorsewarriors.blogspot.com/2010/02/public-lands-cows-vs-rats.html.

The Bush/Cheney Administration in the interest of corporate America undid the 1971 Act that calls for humane practices toward our wild horse populations. So the BLM chases them to exhaustion by helicopters, corrals them in overcrowded conditions with little food and water, then loads them in rail cars meant for cattle and sends them to slaughter. The horses are unbalanced in the cattle cars, fall over and are injured.

Read the original 1971 law that protected these horses:

It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands

Further on in the Act, the BLM is allowed to determine whether or not there are excess animals threatening the ecology. By excess it’s meant “wild free-roaming horses or burros (1) which have been removed from an area by the Secretary pursuant to application law or, (2) which must be removed from an area in order to preserve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship in that area.”

It doesn’t take an Einstein to see the travesty here.

When the BLM decides there are excess horses, the BLM is allowed to remove those animals in following order and priority, “The Secretary shall order old, sick, or lame animals to be destroyed in the most humane manner possible.”

This loophole is being overworked. According the Animal Welfare Institute, “92.3 percent of horses arriving at slaughter plants in this country in recent years were deemed to be in “good” condition, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Guidelines for Handling and Transporting Equines to Slaughter. The horse slaughter industry makes a greater profit off of healthy horses and therefore purposely seeks out such animals.

Another argument, much like that used for the slaughter of the Yellowstone wolves is states rights vs. federal. But, “Horse Slaughter is a Federally Regulated Industry.”

http://www.awionline.org
/ht/d/sp/i/12919/pid/12919
.

The HSUS article also stated, “Last summer, in response to self-inflicted financial problems and mismanagement, the BLM announced that it would consider killing 30,000 healthy wild horses and burros in federal holding centers across the United States rather than implementing common sense, cost-saving management methods.”

Fortunately for our horses members of Congress evidently see the skewed logic and injustice by the BLM because HR 1018, ROAM, (Restore Our American Mustangs), has already passed the House. In addition to prioritizing on-the-range management over roundups, H.R. 1018 prevents the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses, as well as the wholesale killing of healthy wild horses. And the ROAM Senate Bill S1579 is currently making its way through the Senate. It reinforces the protection of America’s wild horses/burros as was intended by the first Act in 1971.

But every 5 minutes a U.S. horse is slaughtered for consumption while S1579 moves to become law, and more healthy, beautiful wild horses are rounded up by an exhausting run with helicopters, corralled and neglected.
http://www.awionline.org/ht/d/sp/i/11222/pid/11222.

Call or email your senators to pass S1579 quickly. We’re fighting for another American icon that represents the spirit of America.

Watch the following video of a horse that looks much like the black stallion “Freedom,” who was captured during one of the Calico roundups and managed to jump a 6 ft. fence in a small area, then bust through a barbed wire fence. That’s the “spirit of freedom.” Freedom reminds be of the black Alpha Female wolf #527, that was shot in Yellowstone. Both animals were leery of humans.

I’m leery of humans too anymore, especially those that represent corporate America taking over our public land and causing American icons like the wolf, the mustang, and the bear to disappear. Humans like this remind me of the corporate machine in the movie Avatar that embraces the idea to overcome with little empathy and no remorse. It’s not a pretty picture, and it’s getting worse. Our civilized society is anything but.

Chief Seattle must have been a very wise man because his words from a hundred years ago still pertain to what is happening to America’s wildlife right now, “…What happens to the beasts, happens to the man.” The U.S. has corralled people against their will more than once its history.

.

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Gray Wolves of Yellowstone Getting a Bad Deal; Hunting Looks to be For Sport

The gray wolves of Yellowstone Park are being slaughtered for not other reason than sport hunting anymore. Montana originally claimed it was targeting wolves that preyed on livestock. I wrote a blog about a 3 year Dept. of Agriculture study of collared wolves that lived around the perimeter of cattle fields. Those wolves crossed those fields nightly. In 3 years time 8 cattle were found dead. Around 2.5 cows per year for multiple wolf packs is a pretty cheesy argument to be making to annihilate the wolves. As a matter of fact some radio collared wolves being studied by biologists were gunned down recently too.

Montana’s proclamation about purposefully targeting wolves was bull. Montana permitted wolf hunting in backcountry wilderness areas 6 weeks before opening its front ranges for cattle according to the NRDC. So a bunch of wolves that were minding their business staying far away from any cattle were gunned down anyway. And those wolves happened to be Yellowstone’s beloved Cottonwood Creek pack.

The NRDC got national media coverage for what they termed that “debacle.” Of course the gaming officials in those states were “shocked” that too many of the wrong wolves were killed. Wrong wolves? Like the NRDC said, “Wolf hunts should not be taking place at all right now.” Yet it looks like almost 40% of the entire population will be killed. Montana isn’t the only culprit.

I’ve posted the deer and elk populations per Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming via their respective government websites. There is no threat of a shortage. One state was over quota for either elk or deer. I blogged about the fact that Michigan has 4,000 of the critters with little problem. Livestock and wild game populations relative to too many wolves just doesn’t muster argument when we look at the facts. The wolves are being hunted for sport. The states hunting the wolves should just admit it.

If Wyoming doesn’t admit it, it’s going to look pretty bad using the lame excuse about wolves threatening game and cattle because BP and EnCana Oil and Gas in Wyoming displaced thousands of game out of their home/habitat, and cattle grazing ground with one of their largest oil and gas projects of 30,000 acres once known as “The Upper Green River Basin.” Not green anymore.

It wasn’t until after the companies were approached by local gov’t. and environmental groups about displacing wildlife, and ruining habitat, that the oil/gas companies wanted to set up a conservation area 20 MILES AWAY at Cottonwood Ranch. It’s working out well for some of the animals that were already migrating to that area but the jury is still out if what is being replaced in any way can make up for robbing that basin that was home to:

[A] major pronghorn migration corridor, sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, and burrowing owls, and is used by local ranchers for grazing cattle. According to the Wyoming Outdoor Council, it is also the largest publicly-owned winter range for big game. Hundreds of thousands of moose, elk, and mule deer retreat to the valley during the snowy months.

See what I mean about unfair? Wolves are supposedly being hunted in Yellowstone because their numbers are 2.5 times less than the number of gray wolves in Michigan, and because wolves are supposedly indiscriminate killers of cattle and the game that sportsmen like to hunt. Yet we see here that it’s all right for oil and gas companies to abscond acres of “publicly-owned” habitat stressing populations of the very same game animals especially during brutal winter months. We expect them to just go elsewhere? The cattle that used to graze there are you know what out of luck too.

So there you have it, a double standard. The wolf loses now, and we eventually lose as a nation because Ghandi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” He’s not the only one that got it:

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”
–Abraham Lincoln

“I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”
–Abraham Lincoln

“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
–Immanuel Kant

“Until he extends the circle of compassion to all livings things, Man will not himself find peace.”
–Albert Schweitzer

“If all the beasts were gone, man would die from loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast, happens to the man.”
–Chief Seattle

These are only a few quotes. Look how old they are and how far we’ve gone in the opposite direction? We aerial hunt wolves and bear, have canned hunts, Internet hunting, horrible road side zoos, haze wild mustang horses and buffalo with helicopters, purposely poison wildlife in our parks, and our shelters are bulging with abandoned companions. “What happens to beast, happens to man…”

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/science/jan-june09/wyoming_03-27.html.

https://secure.nrdconline.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1711&s_src=nrdchpa.

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