Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I don't know how much actual Halloween celebrating will be happening around here because of Hurricane Sandy coming through.  I suspect maybe not much in the neighborhoods that are still without power.  But we have electricity here so maybe the kids will enjoy some BOO time.  Anyway, just wanted to share some Halloween decorations with you.  My neighbor Diane really goes all out on her favorite holiday.  She left them all out despite the high wind warnings and some did get blown away, but this is what they looked like before the storm.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vanishing Species

There are four great apes - the gorilla, orangutan, chimpanzee, and the bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee - and all are endangered.  There are estimates that they could all be gone from the wild in only twenty years.

 Chimpanzee   Source:  Wikipedia

One organization working to prevent that from happening is GRASP - the Great Apes Survival Partnership.  I borrowed this photo from their Facebook page because it is such an engaging shot and epitomizes why we need to keep great apes on the planet.

Gorilla    Source:  GRASP

There's a reason why gorillas are called gentle giants.  They will defend their family with their life if necessary, but they can also show incredible tenderness and curiosity.  Do you remember when a female gorilla protected a little boy from the other gorillas when he fell into a zoo enclosure and even moved him to an area where keepers could get him out?  There is amazing intelligence behind those big brown eyes.  The gorilla Koko has learned American Sign Language.  (You can click on Koko's name to learn more.)

Orangutans are under threat from the demand for palm oil and the slash and burn practice to clear land and plant more palm trees.  You can read more about that here.  Next time you're in the grocery store, please check package ingredients and don't buy brands that use palm oil.

  Christopher   Source:  Center for Great Apes
(The Center for Great Apes cares for chimpanzees and orangutans most of whom were owned privately or spent their early years in the entertainment industry.  Another great organization, you can click on the link above to learn more.)

I worked with bonobos when I lived in Georgia.  You can meet Kanzi and Panbanisha by clicking on their names.  Their understanding of the world around them was truly amazing.

Bonobo fishing for termites   Source:  Wikipedia

Bonobos are found in just one small area in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Conservation efforts there have been complicated by civil unrest and the First and Second Congo wars.  Mountain gorilla conservation has the same problem.

Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives; our DNA differs by only 2.7%.  Because they are so similar, infectious human diseases are an additional threat to this species.

Ofir Drori, Founder of LAGA (The Last Great Ape Organization) was recently honored with the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal for his conservation efforts.  You can read more about it here, along with information about Sean Stone's documentary about illegal wildlife crime.

Habitat loss and using great apes for bush meat are two of the biggest threats to these animals - in other words MAN.  We cannot allow great apes (or any species for that matter) to become extinct.  Humans are the problem and only humans can fix it.  You can click on the links above for both GRASP and the Last Great Ape Organization to learn more about these groups.  Please help if you can.

Dr. Craig Stanford has written a book The World without Primates that will be published next month - a must for anyone's reading list.  A world without primates, and especially the intelligent great apes, would be a very sad world indeed.

For more on bonobos, check out 'Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape' on my Book Recommendations page.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Graceful Gerenuks

Did you know that there are 91 species of antelope?  Here in the U.S. the pronghorn comes to mind.

Source:  Wikipedia

But, in fact, the pronghorn is not a true antelope; its closest relative is in the giraffe family. 

Most species of true antelopes are found in Africa.  The familiar Thomson's gazelle is part of that group...

Source:  Wikipedia

as is the gemsbok, a southern Africa native.

 Source:  Wikipedia
There are more unfamiliar members of the family - like the very unusual and critically endangered saiga.  With its strange flexible nose, it is one of the Eurasian representatives and is now only found in small areas of Russia and Kazakhstan.

Source:  Wikipedia

The addax, an inhabitant of the Saharan desert and also known as the screwhorn antelope, is a member.

 Source:  Wikipedia

But my new favorite antelope species is the gerenuk.  There is just something totally appealing about this slender, graceful, delicate-looking animal that reminds me of a painstakingly-carved Egyptian statue.  Especially knowing that the unappealing, unintelligent-looking (sorry, but it's true!) bulky wildebeest is in the same family.  (You couldn't find a more opposite body type.)

Wildebeest   Source:  Wikipedia

The gerenuk's name actually means 'giraffe-necked' and you can see why.

Source:  Wikipedia

Look at those slender legs.  The gerenuk with its big ears and small face lives in the scrub and desert areas of east Africa.  The most unusual thing about it is that its normal feeding position is standing on its hind legs getting the best, tender leaves off very thorny acacia trees and other succulent plants.

Source:  Wikipedia

The gerenuk can also reach fruit, buds, and flowers this way.  They need very little water to survive, getting most of the moisture they need from the food they eat.

Another difference between the gerenuk and other antelopes is that it is not really a herd animal.  You can see wildebeest in herds of hundreds or thousands, but the gerenuk travels in small groups of 5 to 10 individuals - related females with young and male bachelor groups.  Females give birth every one to two years, depending on the sex of the previous baby.  Males depend on their moms longer than females because they are not weaned until they are 1 1/2 years old, while females are weaned after their first year.  Males stay with mom until they are two or more years old.  Once they leave their mom's group, males are solitary when they've claimed a territory.

Photo by Adam Jones   You can buy a copy of this photo on Allposters

I just love the face of this little beauty with its big expressive eyes.

You can see a video of this gorgeous little animal by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's That Time of the Year

It was a gorgeous day today so I took a little walk through the neighborhood and Slater Park looking for some fall color.  My Historic Slater Park post was in February so now you will see what the park looks like with leaves on the trees!

A lot of the neighbors have fall decorations out.

This house was a little short on other decorations, but had the obligatory New England Patriots flag out!

Because of its color, this house sometimes looks out of place the rest of the year, but in the fall it fits right in with the rest of the scenery.

The fall color is not at peak yet - depending on the kind of tree you can see ones that have almost lost all of their leaves already right next to a tree that's still totally green.

This little sparrow was enjoying the sunshine too!

And the geese were all in attendance as well...

along with a pair of swans.

I really loved these yellow leaves with the red veins and just a touch of red.

My only disconcerting moment came when I was walking along in this seemingly idyllic setting and came across this!

There is no sign or any explanation of why it is there.  I'll let you wonder along with me about whether or not they could have found a better place for it!

The one big tree in the mobile home park is also showing its color.  This is what it looked like just a week ago.

Leaves were falling even as I took the picture and there were still some green leaves.  This is a picture of the same tree that I took today - already some bare branches showing.

I took the long way to the park going, but I took the short cut coming home.  A great day for a walk in the park.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Madagascar's Magnificent Moths

Madagascar is known for their lemurs (click here and here to see previous posts on a couple of species), but they also have some magnificent moths and butterflies.  Like the Comet moth, also known as the Madagascan moon moth...

Source:  Earthly Nation

which as an adult only lives for 4 or 5 days, just long enough for the female to mate and lay around 150 eggs.  (The reason moon moths don't live very long is because they have no functional mouths.)  The comet moth is one of the world's largest silk moths.  It almost looks like a Japanese kite.

Also in the silk moth family is the Suraka silk moth...

Source:  African moths

with its gorgeous eye spots.  It is also known as the Emperor moth.

One of the most sought after specimens of butterfly collectors is the Sunset moth.

Source:  Wikipedia

It is a moth, although you can see why the local Malagasy people call it "noble spirit" or "king butterfly".

The Madagascar Giant Swallowtail is one of several swallowtails only found in Madagascar.

Source:  Wikipedia

It is called the giant swallowtail because it has a wingspan of about 5 1/2 inches.

This is the male of another swallowtail species found only there - the Papilio mangoura.

Source:  Wikipedia

And there are many more.  Madagascar has a diversity of species found nowhere else on earth - a real treasure trove island.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Native American Day

This post is in honor of my Native American relatives.  I have never met them, but I think one was or is a professor at a university.

My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother was Martha Williams, sister of Rev. John Williams of Deerfield, Massachusetts.  As a result of a war between England and France that carried across the ocean, Deerfield was attacked (actually several times throughout its early existence) by the French and Indians in February, 1704.  Members of several Deerfield families were killed and many others were captured, including John Williams, his sons, and his daughter, Eunice, and marched up to Canada to the Kahnawake settlements near Montreal.  John's wife, Eunice, was killed along the way.  By 1706 all the Williams family had been returned to Deerfield for ransom except for Eunice.  She never returned home, was adopted into a Kahnawake family and married a Mohawk Indian, Francois Xavier Arosen.  They had two daughters that survived to adulthood, Catherine and Marie.

The entire story has been the subject of several books, one written by John Williams himself of his horrific experience, 'The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion' and a perhaps more detailed objective account 'The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America' by John Demos.

So on this day that most celebrate as the day Columbus 'discovered' America, an acknowledgement of how all of us got here except for those who lived here for hundreds of years before we arrived.

Source:  Upworthy

And a salute to Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota, states that do not recognize Columbus Day.  South Dakota has renamed it Native American Day!  Appropriate indeed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Raining Cats and Dogs

We've had a lot of rain around here lately - you might say it's been raining cats and dogs.  So here are few pics of - what else - cats and dogs (most from my favorite lol cats and dogs website).

Have a great weekend!  As for me - MORE RAIN!