Tag Archive | endangered species

Humble Bee

On Bee’s Knees  

Yellow-Banded Bumble Bee

Yellow-Banded Bumble Bee

 

Oh, I’m a humble bumble bee

A yellow-banded stumble bee

Our numbers tumble down so low

That crops will crumble as we go

 

My cousins fill up comb and hive  fig03

These busy buzzers work and strive

And honey is not all bees do

We pollinate the fruit trees too

 

But when you spray your pesticides

You kill the skill a bee provides

I’m begging you on bended knee

Don’t let this be the end of me

 

Save the bees! Please.  

– by Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

 

 

The yellow banded bumble bee is in trouble. It used to be common in the United States and southern Canada, but now it is hard to find these busy little insects. These bees pollinate important plants like potatoes, tomatoes, alfalfa, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and other edible crops. Because bumble bees can fly in lower temperatures than other types of bees, they are important pollinators in northern, cooler climates.

The wild lands that support the bees have been disappearing. Herbicides and pesticides (sprays that kill weeds and insects)  have been killing the bees by making them weak and susceptible to disease. People can help to reverse the disappearance of bee populations by helping to create gardens and open plots of land that provide flowers and habitat to please the bees. We can stop using harmful pesticides and petition governments and stores to ban pesticides.

Bees need us and we need bees. Let’s help each other…. Please!

Here Be Dragons

If you have read “Princess Ramona, Beloved of Beasts,” then you know that this author has a soft spot for dragons… especially for dragons who realize that with great power comes great responsibility. In celebration of APPRECIATE A DRAGON DAY, January 16, here is a poem for our beloved endangered dragons:

Here Be Dragons

Do step lightly, brave explorers  HereBeDragons

On Komodo, and on Flores

Here be dragons

 

Basking boldly on the pink sands

Of these Indonesian islands

Here be dragons

 

Do step quickly if he sees you  komodopinksand

He will hunt you down and seize you

He’s a dragon

 

Forked tongue guides its destination

Gathering tasty information

Hunter dragon

 

Strange that such a massive creature  komodotongue

From its enemies needs shelter

Threatened dragon

 

There’s a chance that this Komodo

Still might vanish like the Dodo

No more dragons

 

Brave knights armed with information komodoprofile

Fight with heart and inspiration

Save the dragons!

 

Brave Knights of Science

Scientists are the brave knights of today’s world. They venture forth armed with research-backed information to try to save the last dragons of this earth. And the Komodo Dragons of Indonesia are, indeed, worth saving.

These giant reptiles can grow up to 10 feet or more (over 3 meters) and weigh over 360 pounds (163 kilos). True, they do not breathe fire or fly through the skies attacking cattle and villagers, but they are impressive hunters. They can run fast in short bursts up to 20 mph or 13 kilometers per hour. Komodo dragons knock the legs out from under their prey or rip straight into the belly. Their saliva carries a poison or toxin that has a blood-thinning effect on its victim causing the bite wound to continue to bleed. Although the intended prey may escape after being bitten, it usually dies sometime soon after the attack.

The long, deeply-forked tongue of the Komodo Dragon is very useful in tracking down the location of an escaped lunch. The Komodo flicks out its tongue and then draws it back into its mouth and brushes it along the roof of the mouth. If more scent molecules from the prey are detected with one side of the tongue, then the lizard will turn towards that side. It swings its head back and forth while it walks, all the while flicking its tongue in and out collecting scent information.

The Komodo Dragon, also known as the Monitor Lizard, is losing its space to live. It has to compete with humans for food in the wild; deer or other large animals. They will also eat things that have been dead for a while. They are not too picky.

Komodo Dragons mate and lay eggs, but interestingly enough, female Komodo Dragons are capable of fertilizing eggs inside their own bodies and laying those eggs without any help from a male. They may be capable of selecting the sex of the baby lizards as well. One female, Flora, who lived in Chester Zoo in England and had never been in contact with a male lizard, hatched out seven eggs, all of them male lizards.

Long live the resourceful Komodo Dragons!

How to Catch a Dragon…

For a fascinating story on Komodo dragon research check out this National Geographic article: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/01/komodo-dragon/holland-text

Un-jinxing the Lynx

Although domesticated cats are responsible, in part, for the decimation of many songbird populations, the wild cats, the “felids” are in desperate need of help. Almost half of the 36 wild cat populations around the world are in grave danger of disappearing off of the planet earth forever.

From Wikimedia Commons

From Wikimedia Commons

The most endangered of the felids is the Iberian Lynx. The last remaining pockets of this Lynx population exist in Portugal and central and southwestern Spain. The Iberian Lynx is generally crepuscular (active at twilight) and nocturnal, and rabbits are its favorite food.

The Iberian Lynx is a beautiful cat with impressive, tufted ears, bright spotted coat, magnificent whiskers and a neat bobbed tail. For all of its beauty, however, this Lynx’s luck is running out.

Here’s what you can do to help: Sign petitions that encourage the saving and reclamation of the Iberian Lynx’s habitat. Spread the word about this beautiful wild cat. Send the Lynx a care package full of rabbits. Read the poem below to your friends:

Ode to The Iberian Lynx

From Designbolts.com

From Designbolts.com

I told my friend, the Iberian Lynx

To travel to Egypt to go ask a sphinx

Why his whole family is in such a jinx

So he went, and then told me, “Here’s what the sphinx thinks:”

‘Two-leggeds push the wildcat to the brink

And then won’t acknowledge the obvious link

Between habitat loss and the humans who think

The space humans take up is not destined to shrink.”

“The solution is simple,” the savvy sphinx said,

“Work fast before every last Lynx winds up dead.”

“All these humans who think that they need so much room,

Must be packed up and sent off to live on the moon.”

Links to help the Lynx:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/335/438/593/?z00m=22956678&redirectID=1666123897

http://www.arkive.org/iberian-lynx/lynx-pardinus/

From Doñana Natl. Park, Spain

From Doñana Natl. Park, Spain

Extinction Cliff-Hanger

How do you bring an extinct creature back to life? A species of stick-bug, once thought to be completely extinct, was rediscovered on one bush clinging to the side of one cliff on one rock in the middle of the ocean. Scientists succeeded in rescuing this tiny remnant and have brought a species back to life!

From Wired Magazine

From Wired Magazine

These unique insects once were plentiful on Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia. The arrival of the British, along with the rats from the ships, resulted in the decimation of this amazing species. They were thought to have been extinct until in 2001, a group of scientists explored a small volcanic rock called Balls Pyramid located 23 kilometers away from Lord Howe Island. There, during a night exploration of the rock, they found the nocturnal insects thriving. Three years, and reams of paperwork later, they were able to begin a captive breeding program that continues to this day.

Balls Pyramid off of Lord Howe Island

Balls Pyramid off of Lord Howe Island

 

The Melbourne Zoo maintains the largest recovery program for this species and hopes to reintroduce a healthy population of Lord Howe Stick Insects to the mainland. In order for this to succeed, however, the population of invasive rats will have to be eliminated.

Here is the link to the Wired Magazine article: http://www.wired.com/2014/02/sticky-stick-insect-sticky-situation/

And the award-winning animated film, “Sticky,” is a gem that you definitely should not miss. It’s magical!

Click the link to view: http://vimeo.com/76647062

63 Year-Old Frequent Flyer Gives Birth!

Wisdom2014

Photographer: Greg Joder/USFWS

This sprightly 63 year-old has yet to find any wrinkles on her smooth and lovely feathered visage even though she has flown about three million miles (or about five million km) in her lifetime; that’s about six round trips from the earth to the moon! She is not only raising another chick, she has already raised at least 30 baby chicks in her lifetime.

 

Wisdom is a 63-year old Laysan Albatross, the world’s oldest known banded bird in existence. She winters at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific. Wisdom has survived earthquakes and tsunamis, long-line fishing threats and floating plastic litter, millions of kilometers in flight high in the air and close calls with sharks while fishing in the ocean. Wisdom has raised many healthy chicks over the years and at the age of 63, and is now incubating another egg! Her mate was patiently waiting for her just a few feet from their previous nesting site when she winged her way back to him at the end of November. Her chick is due to hatch out in early February of 2015.

WisdomandEgg

Photographer: Greg Joder/USFWS

 

I learned about Wisdom through a wonderful children’s book, “Wisdom, the Midway Albatross,” by Darcy Pattison. This book is being read by the students in our international school in Tokyo as part of the Sakura Medal reading promotion program where students read and then vote on their favorite books from a list of newly-published children’s literature in various categories. “Wisdom” references the 2011 Japan earthquake and is a favorite among the students, many of whom remember that frightening day. Some have relatives who did not survive the tsunami. The readers identify with this intrepid flyer who has survived for so many years despite the considerable challenges and dangers.

Here is footage from December 8th of Wisdom on her nest, preening and relaxing, courtesy of Dan Clark:

Wisdom Incubates Egg  12.08.2014  on Midway Atoll NWR Video by Dan Clark/USFWS

If the video is not visible, here is a link to go to the original source:

www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/15433458753/in/photostream/

Feathered Sanctuary

What do you do with a wounded wild bird? Adopt it as your own pet?HawkinTree

Bird rescue is a noble and worthy endeavor, but it is best to take your feathered friend to a sanctuary where it can be healed and, if possible, re-introduced into the wild. When we lived in California, we found a juvenile red-shouldered hawk that appeared to have been shot in the wing by a neighbor. We wrapped it in a towel and took it to a bird rescue center where it was treated and released.

HawkShot

 

Wounded birds need specialized care which is often impossible for untrained tender-hearted rescuers to provide.

Sanctuaries do a good job of treating their feathered patients. Here are some lovely residents of Florida’s Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary:

Sanctuary-Birds-white-pelican

Seabird Sanctuary Slideshow

This one-winged white pelican goes to school… not to learn but to teach children about wild seabirds and what we can do to protect them and keep their environment safe and healthy. This large bird is a permanent resident at the sanctuary since he would not be able to survive in the wild on his own. If he were a healthy and strong white pelican, he would collaborate with his pelican friends in shallow water to gather fish into the middle of their floating formation so that they could easily scoop up their supper.

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is the largest bird sanctuary in the United States of America and admits more than 10,000 birds each year to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. It is open every day of the year from 9:00 am until sunset.

“A wonderful bird is the pelican, His beak will hold more than his belican.”  “The Pelican” (1910) by Dixon Lanier Merritt

Go, Go Kakapo!

What sounds like a cell phone vibrating in “mute” mode, can call a girlfriend over from several kilometers away with no cell reception whatsoever, and is possibly our longest-lived egg-laying feathered friend? The Kakapo, of course! This flightless New Zealand bird is the heaviest parrot in the world and can live to be 120 years old. It used to have few natural predators, but when the humans moved in, along with their dogs and cats and rats, the Kakapo population went into a tail spin. Kakapo

When the population of this rare bird plummeted to about 60 birds remaining in the 1990’s, scientists flew into action. Rats and cats were not interested in helping the effort to save the Kakapo and instead continued to kill and eat the young chicks. The scientists decided that the Kakapos needed to move to a safer neighborhood and so several birds were moved to three different islands where the rats and cats were not allowed to settle, even if they managed to show valid passports.

Once the Kakapos were protected, coddled and given extra yummy food (like apples, sweet potatoes, nuts, and sunflower seeds), their numbers began to increase. Currently, there are about 140 Kakapos strutting around on their own islands.

kakapo-1

See those little whiskers next to the beaks of the Kakapoes? (Or is the plural “Kakapoo?”) Those whiskers are not just for looking handsome on a Saturday night; they are very helpful to this nocturnal bird that runs around at night. Both the male and female birds use these whiskers to help them navigate their way as they walk with their heads down close to the ground. Speaking of Saturday night, do you know how a male Kakapo manages to get himself a date? With a boom box, of course.

kakapo_in_boom_bowlThe male inflates a sac below his throat and starts to “boom” as the sac fills with air. This attractive sound brings the females who follow carefully groomed paths to the male’s “boom bowl.” Yes, the male makes a smooth bowl in the dirt so he has a stage to perform his awesome mating dance when the girl bird finally arrives. The bowl helps make the booming sounds louder; he doesn’t even need a microphone for his act.

kakapo_on_branch

The Kakapo does other amazing things too. Although it cannot fly, it can climb up to the top of trees to have a look-about. He can fall with style, using his wings to glide or parachute down from the trees to the ground. Since Kakapoes exist because of human help, each bird has a name. They are all banded and many are tracked with radio signals. Every Kakapo is special. Maybe some day, there will be enough of them around for us to let them go about their lovely Kakapo lives without being constantly coddled by scientists. For now the 124 Kakapo that do exist need our help.

kakapo_on_arm

For more information see the Kakapo Recovery Site at:

http://kakaporecovery.org.nz

Picture Book featuring the Kakapo:

http://www.amazon.com/Kakapo-Rescue-Saving-Strangest-Scientists/dp/B0052HL73U

kakapo montgomery book

Pangolin Poetry

Ode to the Pangolin

Photo by Rusian Rugoals; CC License

Photo by Rusian Rugoals; CC License

 

Oh Pangolin, dear Pangolin

Your name sings like a mandolin

Alas, I cannot play your scales

They’re hard as rock and sharp as nails

 

When threatened by a toothy beast

Intent on making you a feast

You simply stop and drop and roll

And turn into a scaly bowl

 

Dear trusty crusty Pangolin

Photo: animal world.tumblr.com

Photo: animal world.tumblr.com

With toothless mouth and tongue so thin

You lap up ants from hill and tree

Hunting for grub nocturnally

 

You hardly ever make a sound

While waddling across the ground

With tail down and front claws curled

You make your way across the world

– Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud