Thursday, October 20, 2011

He called himself an animal lover

Thompson with his Percheron horses in 2008. (Tony Dejak/AP) Investigators walk around a barn as carcasses lay on the ground at the Thompson Animal Farm. (Chris Crook/AP)

Marital problems, a tax lien on his property, time spent in prison ―we may never know exactly why Terry Thompson went into meltdown mode and set 56 wild animals free just before killing himself at his exotic animal farm in Zanesville, Ohio on Tuesday, October 18th. But we do know this ― he didn't just take himself out ― he sentenced most of them to a violent death as well. Local and state authorities hunted down and shot and killed 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions as well as wolves, grizzly bears, and other animals that Thompson had acquired for his "collection" of exotic animals. Read the entire story here.

Animal experts said that the hours leading up to the deaths of these wild animals were filled with terror and panic as they wandered loose with no understanding of what had happened to them. They had likely also suffered as part of Thompson's collection, which he began assembling in 1977. Over the years, numerous complaints from neighbors and animal lovers were made against Thompson, and in 2005 he was convicted of animal cruelty.

The only good that can come from this tragedy is the enaction of strong legislation to ban private ownership of wild animals for most ordinary citizens. Only those actively engaged in conservation efforts and in collaboration with animal advocacy groups should be allowed to become stewards of these magnificent and powerful animals. I totally agree with what Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, has to say about this issue. To read his blog click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Project Seahorse

Lined Seahorse photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium Zebra Snout Seahorse photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Chinese cannot get enough of these magical creatures for their herbal medicine trade, aquarium hobbyists try and often fail to keep them alive and well in tanks, and now Kim Kardashian says she wants one for Christmas. How sad that these magical fish, in such grave peril, have become just another trinket to collect and possess by a rich and famous young woman who could actually do so much to help save them.

Decades ago, like many children, I was enchanted and transfixed by the sight of seahorses in Florida where my family spent many winters. Back then we did not know that seahorses, like so many other animals, could disappear forever. It's up to all of us to do what we can to preserve what still remains, so that's why I hope you will watch a TV special called "Seahorses: Wanted Dead Or Alive," airing on NAT GEO TV this month.

"With a horse's head, a monkey's tail and sex-swap parenting, seahorses are one of the ocean's strangest and most charismatic inhabitants. In this one hour special, wildlife filmmaker Natali Tesche-Ricciardi sets out to investigate something that most people don't realize - seahorse populations are in crisis. Natali finds that seahorses live in shallow, coastal seas and so are among the first to suffer from coastal development and pollution. They are often caught as fishing bycatch and are sold as tourist souvenirs. They are wanted alive for the aquarium trade and dead for a much larger industry - traditional Chinese medicine.

Millions of seahorses are traded each year and can reach a value higher than silver. Fortunately all is not lost. With the help of an international organization, Project Seahorse, traders and fishermen are changing their ways to help wild seahorse populations. It's a global adventure that takes Natali from marine reserves in Spain, to the traditional medicine shops of Hong Kong, to experience both seahorse heaven and seahorse hell.

You may be interested to know that seahorses all belong to the the genus, Hippocampus , which is derived from the Greek words ‘hippos' (meaning horse) and ‘campus' (meaning sea monster).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What whales are telling us

Photo: Bdmlr/PA

, writing for The Guardian, reports on a slew of whale deaths that have mystified scientists around British shores. Here is an excerpt:

"Cetaceans spend all their lives in an environment which is alien to us. Ironically, however, whale strandings can be remarkably helpful. These deaths provide us with invaluable clues to the living animals about which we know so little. A fin whale stranded in Denmark last year, for instance, was thought to be about 15-20 years old, a juvenile. The results of its necropsy, released this summer show that it was blind, arthritic, and 140 years old – thereby doubling, at a stroke, the known longevity of these animals."

To read the entire story, click here.