Glad to get all the feedback about animals and their reserves/news. I wish more of you would leave your message at the bottom so anyone who reads this can see them, but if you want to just email them to me go ahead and I will see that they get into the blog.

I’ll start with my met-online friend Jane Dewar. She has spent almost a lifetime loving, interacting and working with gorillas — in fact, she’s met 450 of the world’s 840 gorillas in captivity. She and her (now ex-) husband started Gorilla Haven, a huge expanse of land in Georgia for gorillas to run free. After so many years of seeing them and being with them she was thrilled to be able to create a reserve for them. Unfortunately, the marriage went south along with the economy, and Jane has been locked out of her own project. This is an ongoing personal tragedy for Jane, as well as the  gorillas, with whom she has made deep, personal relations — she has even been prevented from seeing Joe, the gorilla who lives literally yards from her home. It  points out one of the saddest truths in the wild animal world: they’re at the mercy of humans and humans are not necessarily merciful.

Another friend, Fred, sent me an email about orphan monkeys in Costa Rica. Seems like the electric companies down there string their power lines without regard to the monkeys’ safety. The result is inevitable: hundreds of electrocuted monkeys. Since a certain percentage of those monkeys killed are mothers, their offspring become orphaned. This website shows the monkey orphanage and its efforts:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/baby-monkeys-costa-rica-refugio-animales-de-nosara_n_1181171.html

Other news: the Santa Ana CA zoo has ended their elephant rides. We’d like to think that the reason is that everyone got together and decided that they weren’t going to use elephants this way anymore, but of course that’s not the case. The real reason is that a lot of folks get injured or killed around elephants. The AZA — Association of Zoos and Aquariums —  has guidelines that state that elephants and people are not to share the same space without some sort of protective barrier.

Kudos to the Lockwood Valley Animal Rescue Center in Los Padres CA. Lori Lindner is cofounder and president of this nonprofit sanctuary and she had heard about an “attraction” there named Wolf Country USA which contained 29 “wolf dogs”, cross-bred wolf/dog animals that were often trained as sled dogs. What happens to these dogs when they are no longer useful to humans is that they are given away, turned loose, killed, escape and then are shot, or are chained up, as were these 29. The sanctuary decided to take on these animals and Lori flew up to Anchorage to see to their transport. 

Lori and her organization saved the dogs’ lives. The Alaska state attorney told her the animals were going to be shot by state troopers as there was evidence that the dogs’ owners were not in compliance with state laws on wolf dogs. The cost was covered by $5000 donated by the Humane Society and a “very, very large donation” by Bob Barker — yepthat Bob Barker. The animals joined another 20 wolf dogs already there, and $43,000 was donated by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to construct nine new enclosures with 10 foot fences. The rescue center is trying to buy a nearby 180 acre piece of property to bring in dozens more wolf dogs and wolves. Right now they are operating on a $3000 a month budget for maintenance and $350 a day for raw, day-old meat. A cool program they launched there is called Warriors and Wolves where interactions between the animals and war veterans take place.

On New Year’s Eve day someone cut a hole in the squirrel monkey exhibit fence at the San Francisco Zoo and a 17 year old monkey named Banana Sam escaped. I don’t know what’s worse —  the monkey living in a cage or roaming free in a city. In the case of the former, it would be with its troop,  get regular care and feeding but be imprisoned; in the latter, it would be free but be a scavenger, reduced to trash can robbing and traffic and dog avoidance. I sometimes side with the fence cutters and sometimes with the fence builders.

A “great news” article that I read came up with a report from the Institute of Medicine where a panel of independent experts judged that the use of chimpanzees to test vaccines, etc would be decreasing and that most current experiments involving our “closest primate relative” would be discontinued. Before I read the article I admit that I’d been pretty ignorant that their  use was still so widespread, but it appears that there is a lot of testing — concerning vaccines, viral pathogens and targeted biologic therapies mostly —  that will soon end. Lots of groups gave their “Wahoos!” to this news: the National Institutes of Health; Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; PETA; the Humane Society, etc. It seems that as stupid as humans have been in the past treating animals, the intelligence of humans has led to use of computers, new lab techniques and genetic engineering to reduce the need of chimps as human stand-ins. Of course the question then will be, now that they no longer live in labs, where will they live?

Tailcoating on my blog about elephants, I read that there are now just 3000 Sumatran elephants living in the wilds of Indonesia, one of whom trampled a 60-year old farmer to death when villagers tried to shoo some elephants away from their fields. The bull decided that he wasn’t going to be driven away, so he turned and charged the farmers. The victim stumbled and fell while fleeing, though the rest of the men escaped. The knotty issue of where these large mammals are going to live continues.

Speaking of large animals, some scientists are saying that using DNA from animals trapped in glaciers for thousands of years they will be able to bring mammoths back to life by 2030 or 2040. How dumb is that? We don’t have enough room for current pachyderms, where will animals that are 50% bigger than elephants live? Jurassic Park?

With the internet having taken off as it has, so has the market for rare animals. The trade used to be conducted person-to-person in public places where catching the criminals was relatively easy, and geography would limit the ability of the persons involved to strike a deal. Now, since the photos are transmitted easily and the buyer can know what he’s getting, the trade might exceed $20 billion a year! Undercover agents are still at work — thank God — and they recently netted buyer and seller in a sting concerning a $2800 Asian arowana fish. (I know, I’ve never heard of it either: again, thank God for the undercover agents). The IFAW is going to bat for the animals on this one, like they did on the wolf dogs. It’s a relief to know there are so many organizations fighting the good fight. 

A last word which I think I mentioned before: as reported and supported by my sis-in-law, www.elephants.com is a website for The  Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Another worthy cause and a great effort to relieve the repressive living conditions of captive elephants.

Next blog will be books, and as a lot of you know, I just ePublished a book for teenage boys. Check it out at www.snowmobilewerewolf.com Can you guess what it’s about?

Adios.

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