Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Bear Facts

The subject of bears has once again reared its ugly head this week.

Firstly, a friend drew my attention to the work of an organisation which is trying to stop the ‘sport’ of bear baiting in Pakistan. They’re selling bricks for $10 each to support their work. If you want to help them by buying a brick, go to  . You’ll be no doubt horrified by the way bears are treated – from having their teeth ripped out, to being set upon by dogs. It’s amazing that from being one of the most noble of animals, bears are used so deplorably by humans.

The picture below of a Moon Bear was taken from the post

If you’ve read my earlier blog on the state of animals in China, and in particular, about the way bears are farmed for their bile, you might be cheered by a small improvement in the situation. Apparently, bile from bears has been used in Chinese medicine for 3000 years! Even though now there are at least 50 natural and synthetic substitutes, bears are still kept in cages where a catheter is inserted into their gall bladder so the bile can be drained off. Animals Asia Foundation has rescued 276 bile bears and sent them to a refuge in Chengdu, Sichuan. Last Monday, ten bears were rescued in Weihai in the Shandong province. This means that 19 Chinese provinces are now bear farm-free. There are however, still twelve provinces, containing 10,000 bears still in cages, to go. I immediately clicked onto the website of Animals Asia Foundation to give them a donation. If I can’t go to China to help with the work, then I fully support anyone who does. A story in the newspaper told of how, during the trip to the Chengdu refuge, they dropped into a hospital on the way, where one of the bears was given emergency gall bladder surgery due to the level of his suffering. In his gall bladder was a metal disc which had been put there to keep the catheter inside. Just imagine 10,000 bears in this situation! And I believe that there are bile bears in Vietnam too.

This rescue mission was sponsored by a Melbourne philanthropist, Sharon Pearson. What a wonderful human being! We hear so much about cruelty, but there are many genuinely kind people around who do wonderful things for animals.

See the Squidoo post on the Moon Bears at

I’ve taken the following picture from the website of Sharon Bowles Sharon Bowles is also fighting to draw public awareness to the plight of the Moon Bear.

A Moon Bear

 And while I’m on about bears, I would like to give a big BOO to the British government for refusing to bow to public pressure and not agreeing to change the hats of the Buckingham Palace Guards from bear skin to a synthetic subtitute in a bid to save the American black bear. The big black fluffy hat is called a BEARSKIN – since it has traditionally been made from the skin of a bear (both black and brown bears). In April, English singer, Joss Stone, posed nude for Peta’s new animal right’s campaign to draw attention to this issue. Surely, since she’s a good friend of Prince William, she can exert a bit of influence? Each hat requires a complete bear skin and each year 50 to 100 skins are ordered for the silly hats.

So it’s no joy being a bear on this planet!  I could go on and on, but it’s too depressing!!!

A bear must be patient - they can spend their lives in a tiny cage - but is there an escape?

After my last blog on the joys of shooting (not!), I was rather disturbed to read that Pamela Reeves, a senior vice-president of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia,  thinks that shooting is a great family sport – “Everyone can come along. With other sports, you’re divided into age groups. Once people try it, they tend to come back.” Yep, I can picture the baby in a pram with a baby gun, a gun toting ten year old, a pregnant mum with a rifle and granny with a shotgun. If shooting is now a fun family sport, this could explain why it’s so dangerous on the streets at night as pre-teens and teenagers trawl the streets looking for someone to kill. Anyone who ventures out on the streets of Sydney at night is asking for trouble.

See –   Shooting is not a wholesome family activity.

Has anyone see the Squidoo website? I’ve seen a few great Squidoo posts in the past few weeks which highlight different environmental concerns. was a lovely post about the birth of baby hummingbirds in a backgarden. is a lens on how palm oil is killing orangutans. is a lens on some clever ways to recycle.  is a lens on the benefits of trees to the world.

Tribune Media Services are reporting that the level of acid in the oceans is increasing at an unpreceded rate. The chemistry of the oceans is changing so rapidly that it is expected that ocean acidity could increase by 200% by the end of the century. According to the National Research Council report, carbon dioxide emissions are increasing so rapidly that natural processes in  the ocean that maintain pH levels, are unable to keep up. Eventually, sea life will be adversely affected as it becomes impossible for them to live in a sea of acid. The one thing that separates Planet Earth from many other inhabitable planets in the universe, is the fact that we have oceans of drinkable water. When we are a planet of acid water, things will be quite diferent.

Post Script

I am soooo happy as I’ve just seen an advertisement on television warning people about eating products containing palm oil as it is resulting in the destruction of jungles in South East Asia and hence the murder of thousands of orangutans as well as all other jungle dwelling animals. I’m so glad that someone has been prepared to pay for this advertisement.  I was extremely disappointed recently when I travelled on Singapore Airlines and they served Nestle Tim Tam Cornettos made from palm oil,  for dessert. I complained on the airline questionnaire.  I’ve recently heard that Nestle is going to stop using palm oil in its products. Cadbury already has, due to loss of sales.

So, it’s wonderful to know that people really care about this issue. Companies are only using palm oil as a cheap substitute for a traditionally used ingredient. In any case, palm oil would be a big artery clogger – so it’s for your health benefit not to eat it.


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The Joy of Shooting – for Some!

Yes, I know that deep at heart man is a hunter as well as food gatherer.  Millions (or is it hundreds of thousands) of years ago cavemen speared mammoths for dinner. Dodos and other slow moving birds were wiped out due to their deliciousness and their slow-movingness.

This I understand and in actual fact I am a meat eater myself. However, what I do detest is the killing of animals for the sheer joy of it – recreational shooting, I believe it’s called.

I just read a charming story about a young ex-cheerleader who shot an eleven foot alligator with a crossbow. There was no mention of her being hungry – this was just a fun night’s shooting

The fact that she was young and attractive certainly glamorized the story. I suspect that the alligator didn’t find any particular joy in having its life snuffed out by a beautiful woman. And why did she shoot it? Well, to mount its head on her wall of course!  And to make ‘gator shoes.

A little something for the loungeroom wall

The need to kill something so that its head or skull can be mounted on the wall is one of the most perverse things I can think of.  Having visited Austria, I can attest to the fact that half the houses in the country have walls covered with the skulls of deer. How anyone could think that a deer’s skull mounted on the wall is more attractive than a deer, full of life, bounding through the woods, is beyond me.  And yet, while I was driving through Leichtenstein some years ago, the driver pointed out a little deer grazing just outside of a forest at the side of the road. As I excitedly reached for my camera, he muttered, “I wish I had my rifle with me!”

Another house I stayed in had a photo gallery on the wall. This photo gallery was of the death of a bear. The shooter – a shooter in more ways than one – had documented the demise of a brown bear. The first shot was of a bear being woken from hibernation. The next shot showed the bear standing outside its lair looking rather confused. The next shot was of the hunter shooting him and the last one was of the hunter standing with his foot on the bear’s head. I felt sickened to the heart.

That same man used to travel regularly to Africa where he’d bagged elephants and anything else that wasn’t fast enough up a tree. The house bore testimony to his travels with an elephant foot umbrella stand at the front door. I find it amazing that he felt that a magestic elephant was better served as an umbrella stand than as a member of a herd of elephants roaming free.

Sadly, in Australia, the Shooters’ Party has gained such a strong political influence that they’ve threatened to block the passing of government legislation unless they’re given rights to hunt in National Parks. These reserves have been set aside to protect native animals and now it’s deemed acceptable to hunt in them!

 Anyway, this whole topic came into public discussion recently when a hunter shot a deer, leaving  an orphaned baby. There was a lot of public discussion about shooting and what to do with the orphaned offspring. If you’ve read my earlier blog about beheading baby joeys, then that’s exactly the government advice for any shot animal’s baby.  Apparently, someone took over the care of the fawn and was bottle feeding it. A sarcastic letter to the newspaper mentioned that the only reason people were up in arms about the fawn was because it reminded them of Bambi. The writer’s argument was that deer are feral and hence was fair game –

Feral! Now that’s the word hunters adore. If something is deemed ‘feral’ then it deserves to be shot. So what exactly is ‘feral’? Well, according to my dictionary, it is something living in a wild or untamed state. However, hunters argue that if something is feral it is dangerous and a threat to land and other domesticated animals. Hence the justification for killing feral pigs. Feral pigs are such annoying animals that hunters go to shoot them, not only heavily armed but with a troop of dangerous dogs as their bodyguards.

Well, nothing is going to stop a shooter from killing I suppose. But then, I have read and heard tell that there is something that does stop shooters. I have heard several people say that they shot an animal and they were so disturbed by watching it in its death throes that they vowed never to kill another creature. I know one that immediately turned vegetarian.

Also see  Shooting can be dangerous for the shooting party too.

Boo to Blacktown Council and Cheers to the Greens

Last week I and many residents of Glenwood, Sydney, were very disturbed when Blacktown Council began the destruction by stealth of one of the last remaining clusters of critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland to make way for sports fields. The Greens brought this to everyone’s attention and sought the intervention of Frank Sartor, Minister for Climate Change and the Environment. A temporary halt was brought about and the council had a special meeting to discuss the issue which resulted in a majority vote to continue the destruction of the trees.  Why, when there are already two football fields in the Glenwood Reserve, do they need a third one, at the expense of these rare trees? And furthermore, why does the Blacktown Council website profess that the council is anxious to protect the remaining Cumberland Plain Woodland when at the drop of a hat it puts commercial interests first?


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Don’t Monkey Around with the Monkeys!

All my life I’ve been under the pathetic delusion that I could be great friends with a monkey. I’ve just discovered that I’m not the only one with that delusion. However, back to the story.

I’ve had a couple of embarrassing run ins with monkeys in different corners of the globe.  My most recent encounter with a monkey was in India and this time I didn’t push the boundaries of friendship. We shared a couple of bananas and for my trouble the monkey climbed on the roof above my hotel balcony and peed on my head. But I’m sure it was in the spirit of camaraderie. Anyway, that’s how I read it.

About fifteen years ago I was visiting Phi Phi Island, Thailand, which is a lovely spot where they’ve filmed a couple of James Bond movies. I couldn’t imagine anything awful happening there.

Actually, it did – a few years after my trip, the island was badly hit by the tsunami and I still wonder if the little chap I met there came to a sticky end. I do hope not.

But back to the story. We got off the ferry at Phi Phi Island and waded through the water to shore (yes, it’s not very high tech!). And the first thing I see is a cute monkey sitting on a chair under a palm tree. Well, I just love monkeys but I have a very short memory. If I had a reasonable memory I would have recalled a Sunday in gay Paris when I visited a market full of cute animals in cages. There was an enormous cage containing a number of big monkeys. One seemed to think I was very interesting and stupidly I thought it was because we had somehow forged a bond, until, faster than the speed of light, a little hand darted through the bars and ripped the necklace from around my neck.  The monkey then raced up to the top of the cage where it sat, chewing enthusiastically on its treasure. I never did get that necklace back either.

But back to Phi Phi Island. Making excited goo goo noises, I raced over to the monkey and sat down next to him/her/it. It looked at me with quite a bit of interest and once again my ego kicked in and I thought for a millisecond that my personality had shone through and I’d won a monkey’s heart. Then deju vu! A hairy paw shot out and with amazing dexterity, whipped my necklace over my head and was up the palm tree like a …monkey!

There it sat, chewing on its prize and no doubt laughing at me. I made all sorts of cranky noises and the monkey’s owner came running over. After assessing the situation he hauled his friend down by the chain to which it was tied.  He grabbed the necklace back and then as a final insult, he clipped the monkey over the top of the head. I certainly didn’t endorse the head clipping and I felt sorry for the monkey who was now sitting, rubbing its sore head and thinking, thinking, thinking. I could see its little eyes darting from its owner to me. Someone had caused it pain and that person would have to pay. But it also realized that its owner could not be punished – after all, he was its owner.  But this annoying woman was another matter! It was all HER fault! I saw vengeance in its eyes as it flew through the air, screaming a monkey scream! Landing on my bare arm it sunk its teeth deeply into the skin as it clung on for dear life. Meanwhile I ran around in circles, waving my arm around and also screaming a monkey scream!  Fortunately, the owner disengaged the monkey from its hold and I collapsed in a moaning heap. Blood poured from the wound as I tried to assess the situation. Could I possibly have rabies? I’d heard somewhere that if there’s a chance you have contracted rabies you have to take the monkey’s brain to a hospital so they could check it for rabies. The poor monkey had however, suffered enough without me taking its brain, and in any case I had a feeling that a monkey that was tied to a tree didn’t have too much communication with other rabid monkeys so I felt that I was pretty safe. But I wasn’t sure if I might catch a horrible disease from its green teeth. At the resort they dabbed on disinfectant and assured me that the monkey regularly bit women and they’d all survived.

I did live, and for the rest of my holiday I watched (from a great distance) the nasty creature sidle up to unsuspecting women and steal their sunglasses and necklaces. My friend said he’d give the monkey a talking to. I watched as he sat down next to the monkey and the little wretch put a hairy arm around him and cuddled him! So it would appear that the monkey was a female with a hatred for all women. Still, I do hope she survived the tsunami. I’ve often thought about her, chained to the tree right on the water’s edge. Maybe she had already gone elsewhere with her owner. Does anyone out there know?

My friend, author Alison McKenna with a monkey

However fast forward down the track to today and firstly I receive an email which contained an amazing video of monkeys opening bottles for incapacitated people. These monkeys have been trained to heat food in ovens, fill glasses with water and no doubt do all the things that these people would like to do for themselves.  Go to this link on youtube to see these videos  and . Incidentally, while looking up the previous videos, I found a video of an Indian monkey which baby sits a newborn baby

Then, within two hours of receiving the email on the helper monkeys  I saw a documentary on the tellie. It was called “My Monkey Baby”. Apparently in the US there are thousands of people who have monkeys as a substitute for a baby. I watched this show with mixed feelings. Three couples were featured. They had all purchased their baby monkey from a registered monkey breeder. This was itself a very sad issue. The monkey parents were locked in a small cage and following birth the baby was taken off the mother after 10 days. Monkeys have very close knit families and a baby normally stays and bonds with its mother for years. So to my way of thinking this was the equivalent to using two humans as breeding pairs and taking their baby off them after ten days. The only difference was that the monkeys couldn’t verbalize their feelings on the matter. One of the couples however, flaunted the baby monkey in front of the cage and we saw the mother desperately running from one side of the cage to the other in obvious distress. It was heartbreaking. I don’t know why humans have the view that an animal can’t feel the same depth of grief that we do.

In fact, I recently saw a documentary filmed on a wildlife reserve. The oldest member of a chimpanzee troop – a lady chimp – had died of old age and the staff wheeled her lifeless body in a wheelbarrow past the rest of the chimps. As the chimps stood silently watching this spectacle they cuddled each other and looked genuinely distressed. This was supposed to be proof positive that animals feel grief.  However, every day I see proof that animals feel grief. Surely we’ve all seen dead birds on the side of the road with a disturbed mate hovering beside their lifeless body. When some of my hens were killed by a dog, the remaining hens were most definately distressed.

Given the obvious similarities with humans I’m saddened that the trade in baby monkeys is legal. However, we all know that if there weren’t breeders then babies would be ripped off mothers in the wild.

The monkey I met in India

Anyway, back to the story. The three couples in this story doted on their monkey babies which they dressed in baby clothing.  The monkeys had toys and well, everything a little monkey could want. One parent had five children of her own but didn’t speak to them anymore. The jist of the story was that when they left home and she couldn’t play with them anymore, their bond broke down. So she embraced the monkey as a substitute for all her children and fed it the most dreadful diet. It continually had a lolly pop in its mouth and only ate pastries, ice cream and sweets. Apparently it didn’t care for bananas.

They all had an extremely responsible attitude towards caring for the monkeys, having provided for them in their wills and juggling jobs so that there would always be someone at home to keep the monkey company. I suppose it would be wonderful if all parents cared for their human babies with such diligence. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen when the monkeys reached maturity and yearned for a monkey boyfriend or girlfriend.  Would they become naughty monkey teenagers that bit and scratched when they couldn’t get their own way? Would they be relegated to the monkey scrap heap when that day came? To find the answer to that and more, go to and see what happened to two monkeys when they got sick of being substitute human babies.

I remember reading that Michael Jackson found his chimp, Bubbles too difficult to handle when the chimp reached maturity. I’ve heard of others that have been given to circuses when that day came. Trust me, being bitten by a monkey is not a fantastic experience.

Last week I saw a documentary on Bobonos. These delightful monkeys which live in the Congo, have great empathy for each other. One monkey hurt its finger and the other Bobonos ran across to him. They studied the injury and kissed the finger better.  Genetisists say that Bobonos have empathy in their genes. This did not however, stop the Congolese killing them for bush meat during the civil war. Many parents were killed and their babies sold into the pet trade. Given that there are monkeys with the same characteristics of man (ie empathy and close bonds with their families) – why do we feel the need to yank them from their mothers and subject them to unnatural life situations?

Sad as it is, monkeys are under threat in the wild as their jungles are burnt down all over the world. They are poached for bush meat in Africa. They are the subject of gruesome experiments in laboratories. The hope that a monkey can be born and live out a long life in its native jungle these days are pretty slim.

Maybe the best we can offer them are homes where they can eat ice cream, dress up as babies and perform cartwheels to entertain us.


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A Step Closer to the End

Do we have enough palm oil plantations?  Has enough jungle been burnt to the ground? Have enough animals been burnt to death?

No, no, no.

Indonesia, having apparently burnt down the majority of its own  jungle, is now looking further afield for jungle to destroy. Luckily, it has found a whole heap of uncultivated land and jungle in the province of Papua.

Last month the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate targeted 1.6 million hectares of land in the Merauke district of south-east Papua for development, but this could expand to 2.5million hectares.

The land has been earmarked for agricultural projects including palm oil plantations, soy bean plantations, sugar cane, corn and rice farms. Already, throughout South-East Asia, palm oil plantations have been responsible for destroying millions of hectares of jungle. Throughout the world, soy bean plantations have been responsible for the destruction of huge tracts of the Amazon jungle and Argentinian forests. Environmentalists claim that up to 2 million hectares of jungle in Merauke are under threat.

Furthermore, the project will increase the Merauke population from 175,000 to 800,000 people and there are fears that the indigenous Melanesian population, who have already been reduced by 30% since Papua was annexed by Jakarta in 1969, will be further displaced as Indonesians from Java, and other parts of Indonesia, pour into the area.

There is no guarantee that the project will be successful even if the jungles are razed. A similar Indonesian project – the Kalimantan mega rice project that caused the devastation of peatland forests in Kalimantan – did not produce a single bushel of rice.

As the earth watches the small amount of its remaining jungles and forests being slashed and burnt to the ground, one wonders what price will be paid in years to come. The rainforests, which include swamp forests that are ecologically fragile, contain stores of peat that absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Bear in mind that although we are located not that much further from the sun than Venus, the temperature on Venus is 477 degrees C. The reason for this super hot temperature  is that Venus has a massive greenhouse effect. The super-abundance of CO2 in Venus’s atmosphere (96% of the atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide) has resulted in this effect, which occurs when carbon dioxide is released (most probably from the rocks) and not re-absorbed.

Venus once had water, just like earth. In fact, astrological  research shows that Venus once had continents and oceans. It is likely that billions of years ago Venus was habitable.

The surface of Venus

Did Venus have a civilization that acted with the same lack of foresight as we have on earth?  Venus is made from the same material as earth and had approximately the same initial temperature 4.5 billion years ago. But something went wrong to cause the current unlivable situation.

Are we on the same crash course for destruction as Venus?  Only time will tell. However, who wants to find out?

To read more about this project, go to


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