Monthly Archives: July 2010

Yummy Tarantulas!

Yum!

So eating tarantulas and other spiders is the new ‘thing’ to do if you’re a tourist in Cambodia. Tourists are joining the locals, grabbing every tarantula they can find and eating them with soy sauce.

To quote http://news.oneindia.in/2010/06/21/huntingand-eating-tarantulas-latest-tourist-rage-incambodi.html

They go to the forests or cashew nut plantations on the outskirts of Sukon and poke sticks down the hundreds of spider holes, catching them as they rush out of the earth.

No doubt this is super fun but I wonder if the Cambodians have thought of the consequences of inviting foreigners in to help wipe out the spider population. Probably not. 

I do understand that the Cambodians are very poor and that spiders have long formed part of their diet. But they might regret this new craze.

Now why might there be spiders in the fields? Oh, could it be to eat the insects that would otherwise consume their crops?

However they just might find what the Indians found out when they supplied the French with frogs’ legs. The Indians, in an attempt to blitz the French market with frogs’ legs, chopped the legs off every frog they could lay their hands on. 

They forgot to think what the frogs were doing in their fields in the first place. Later they found out. When they had annihilated all the frogs, their crops were destroyed by insects. The end result was that to save their crops India wound up spending more on pesticides than the gross income received from the sale of the frogs’ legs.

Now this is a living lesson in biodiversity.

Biodiversity is the variety of all things living on earth from micro organisms to plants to animals.  Biodiversity is used as a measure of the health of biological systems. 

Every creature on earth is a result of millions of years of evolution. When chinks appear in the biological chain as species perish the results are devastating – sometimes even catastrophic. The best way to keep the biological chain intact and to save species is to save habitats and ecosystems. When forests and jungles are chopped down and marshes drained, habitats are destroyed and hence all the micro organisms, plants and animals that lived there will die because their food source is gone.

Unfortunately for the French, frogs’ legs are now in short supply due to the fact that the chytrid fungus has been killing amphibians world wide. Frogs could well be wiped out.

Once frogs have been wiped out we’d better be very kind to our spiders as they are the number one predator of insects.  If all the spiders disappeared tomorrow we would quickly be overwhelmed by insects, some of which cause disease and famine.

To quote http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/390603

We would wake up to find a heck of a lot of flies and other insects buzzing about. However, in the long term, it would have a negative effect on the food chain, with shrews, frogs and other spider eaters getting less food. If there were less shrews and frogs, owls and foxes and other large predators would have less to eat, and more would starve to death. To sum up, the sudden disapearence of spiders sets off a chain reaction of hunger.

And that is what biodiversity is all about!

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I’m not inviting you to my Planet!

If mankind disappeared today

What would all the animals say?

Birds, koalas and even bees,

Would sing with joy – they’d now have trees!

Tigers, elephants, all kinds of bear,

Could now roam free- without a care.

Their rivers would run unpolluted

Man and Earth are so unsuited! 

If you inherited a perfectly good planet with lovely oceans and jungles and fascinating animals, birds and fish, would you invite man onto it?

If you did you’d be crazy.

Picture the movie ‘Avatar’ and you’d see what I mean. Of course that’s only a movie, but why does it ring so true?

That’s because deep in our hearts we know that man can’t be trusted. Of course we’re all complicit, but somehow individually we all feel powerless.

As governments do extraordinary things that are not in their own country’s interests and as multi national corporations trash the planet with their slovenly work practices, we can only sit back and ‘cop it sweet’ as they say in Australia.

Only a couple of weeks ago we heard that Australia, which has ample home grown apples and pears, is opening the floodgates to Chinese grown apples and pears and all their attendant diseases. Yippee.

On a global scale we watch as oil spews into the oceans right across the globe.

The BP disaster in Mississippi is just one of many, many disasters. Oil spills are an every day part of life in the Niger Delta in Nigeria where oil pipelines have destroyed the livelihoods of  Nigerian farmers by poisoning the air, soil and water. Here oil pours out of oil wells continually, rendering swamps lifeless. Just recently a burst pipe belonging to Shell spewed out oil for two months, killing all the life in the local mangroves. It was only stopped a couple of weeks ago. The Gio Creek is still black from an oil spill in April.

Everywhere fish are dead and prawns and crab, once abundant, are now non existent.

I dread the day when there is either an explosion or oil leak in the British oil wells in the waters off the Falkland Islands or a ship crashes in Antarctic waters and drops its oil into the ocean. One day I fear we’ll be seeing photos on the front page of our papers of Emperor penguins, seals and whales coated in oil.

On land the mass extinction of plant and animal species proceeds at up to 1000 times the natural rate. As every country chops down their jungles, forests and spare trees as fast as they can, thus effectively destroying the habitats of every wild animal on earth, I don’t think many of us have much hope that anything except cats, dogs, caged budgerigars and farm animals will be alive by the end of the century.

Indonesia is now preparing to clear 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 rainforests, which include swamp forests that are ecologically fragile, contain stores of peat that absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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.

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.

In the Zamfara state of Nigeria, in a village close to a gold mine, numerous children have recently died from lead poisoning. The ore that the gold is found in has a very high percentage of lead which has contaminated the soil in the village, and inside the households.

Across the globe mines have destroyed the landscape in all countries.

Our own Blue Mountains in New South Wales have collapsed in different spots due to coal mining beneath them.

New Guineans have long rued the day that gold miners entered their territory, poisoning their waterways and destroying their land.

One of my acupuncture patients, a Philippino, sadly recalled the beautiful natural scenery and waterfalls of his childhood which have now been destoyed by mining. For that matter, I believe that nearly 95% of original jungle has been chopped down in the Philippines since the end of World War Two.

I would like to think that earth’s glass is half full rather than half empty (make that three quarters empty). Unfortunately it does seem that while we’re all cruising along in a state of materialistic bliss, our planet is being trashed.

Let’s put it this way – I won’t be inviting mankind to MY planet!

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Whale Pooh is Good For You!

 

Yes indeed, whale pooh is good for you!

Apparently, sperm whale pooh is rich in iron, which stimulates phytoplankton to grow and trap carbon. When the phytoplankton die, the trapped carbon sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

Thus, each year, sperm whales in the Southern Ocean remove approximately 400,000 tonnes of carbon from our atmosphere each year – more than double the amount of carbon they add by breathing out carbon dioxide.

To read more, see:  http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/sperm-whale-poo-helps-planet/story-e6frfku0-1225880255911

Now all we have to do is stop hunting them so we can maximize our whale pooh!

More on whales – this time from Libby Eyre of Macquarie University. Libby has been studying the humpbacks’ songs. The whales sing when they are migrating or breeding.  Although to us the songs sound like high-pitched groans, the songs are actually little verses containing individual notes.

In fact, some whale songs which are sung by the males, are so catchy that by the time the pod have finished their long migration journeys, the whole pod are singing the same song.

Libby is travelling to Tonga this year to study the singing behaviour of some Australian east coast humpback whales.

These were the quirky whale stories that I read this week. Another cute story was about the Barbary Macaque. You can read it too at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/science/15fath.html?ref=science 

In an article in the Journal ‘Animal Behaviour’, Julia Fischer of the German Primate Center in Göttingen, discusses the social behaviour of the Barbary Macaques.

The male macaques use babies as a social networking tool. 

You’ve probably seen numerous photos of politicians clutching horrified children (their own and other people’s).  Well, the male Barbary Macaque also realizes the social value of children by dragging along the kids to meetings with other males. If they want to impress the boys they take along the kids; if they want to repair a damaged relationship they drag along the kids; and if they want to create new bonds with other macaques they bring the children. 

“They will hold up the infant like a holy thing, nuzzling it, chattering their teeth,” Dr. Fischer said. “It can be a bit bewildering to see.” 

Considering that children of the human species often complain that their fathers are emotionally detached and would rather work than play with them, it is heart warming to know that this is not the case with all primates. 

Certainly not with the male cotton-top tamarin and the common marmoset.  

When their mate becomes pregnant, the males’ hormones change and they immediately start to put on weight. This is because the females have twins and the males will have the strength to carry the babies around until they are able to look after themselves. The female has other duties. She has to produce milk for two and also become pregnant about two weeks after giving birth.

Now is that interesting? Unfortunately cotton-top tamarins are endangered as their territory has been severely diminished, but they sound like very nice chaps, as do the Barbary Macaques.

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