Monthly Archives: September 2010

Look in the Mirror!

 

Recently, my Jordanian friend Basel, wrote to me thus –

When I was a child I was one time somewhere in a zoo, and there was a huge sign written Here you see the most dangerous animal on earth.  All visitors watched in a mirror and saw themselves. And you see it worked, I still remember this! Animals are not calculating like humans, so they have a better character.  (Basel’s words).

Today I took my dog to the vet’s and I was chatting to everyone who was waiting with their pet.  A young man came into the clinic with his one year old Laborador/Staffie cross. The dog was a friendly dog despite the fact one of its back legs was in a plaster cast. The man told me that his home was burgled recently and when the dog barked at the intruders, they set upon it with a hammer, smashing its back leg and its teeth.  The police weren’t particularly interested in the case and didn’t take any DNA samples.  I suspect that this event is all too common or why would burglers be carrying hammers?

It certainly takes a ‘special’ sort of person who could set upon a living creature with a hammer.

Max with plaster cast (not the dog at the vet's)

Well, the newspapers are full of such stories, and if you follow my blogs you’ll read quite a few similar stories.  Just read my last blog on private and public zoos to see how disinterested some people are in animal rights.

Elle MacPherson’s recent admission that she relies on rhino horn makes you wonder what she sees in her mirror.  Rhinos are critically endangered because of people like Elle, who basically put a contract on a rhino’s life by demanding its horn. Apparently Elle thinks that her beauty, as skin deep as it so obviously is, is so important to the world that it is worth the  lives of any number of endangered animals. Elle is the genius who is quoted as saying that she wouldn’t have any books in her home unless she’d written them.  Well, hello Elle, did you know that the trade in rhino horn is illegal?

However, as with yin and yang ie good/bad; light/dark; night/day – there are also many people who are concerned about the lives and welfare of animals.

IN a real-life fairytale, an American millionaire has bequeathed $8 million to the Mannum-based Wombat Awareness Organisation.

The millionaire, whose family has requested anonymity, unexpectedly visited the team of volunteers about two years ago to see the southern hairy-nosed wombats in the wild.

“I took him out into the wild population and showed him wombats with mange, wombats that were starving to death and wombats with burrows from motorbike tyres,” the director said.

The millionaire, who worked in the horse-racing industry, was captivated by the volunteers’ tireless efforts to save what may be becoming an endangered icon.

The Director, Brigitte Stevens,  who currently works to help pay bills, including last year’s $70,000 vet fees – wants to buy two properties in the Murraylands and run a 24-hour free vet advice phone clinic.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/business/us-millionaire-leaves-estate-to-wombat-awareness-organisation/story-e6frfm1i-1225927067804#ixzz10xO6totL

Pity the poor wombat.  They are the farmer’s enemy because they dig burrows on their farms.  In NSW farmers can apply for permits to shoot wombats that burrow under fences. In parts of Victoria, wombats are treated as vermin and no permit is required to shoot them. Is there any native animal that pleases a farmer – I ask you? I doubt it. Kangaroos, wombats, sulphur crested cockatoos, flying foxes, dingoes and the rest are all animal non grata for farmers. They poison them, shoot them and trap them. 

A biologist, Erin Roger, is also working to draw attention to the plight of wombats – this time in protected reserves.

According to the Sun-Herald, 18th July, 2010 , at least 3,000 wombats are killed each year on 800 kilometres of NSW highway that fall within the wombat’s reserved optimal habitat.

Each year, over 13.6% of the common wombat population living in the optimal habitat of NSW’s protected reserves, are run over by cars and trucks.

You’d think that the wombats would be safe in specially designated wombat reserves, wouldn’t you?  Well, just as they do with koala colonies,  the government cheerfully builds highways right through wombat habitats. 

I have already discussed this matter in my post roslynmotter.com/2010/03/11/pity-about-the-australiankoala

It is heartbreaking to see so many native animals – wombats, possums, parrots, kangaroos and koalas – squashed on the roads every morning. There is no device in place to stop kangaroos jumping over the highway on the outskirts of Canberra for starters. It also breaks my heart to see the dozens of dead sulphur crested cockatoos on the M7 Motorway every morning. This is because the motorway was built right through their habitat.

Working to save the microbat, is Dr Brad Law from the science and research division of industry and investment of NSW. NSW is home to an unknown number of microbat species. Microbats play an important part in the ecosystem due to the large numbers of insects they consume – up to 1.5 times their own body weight in one night. Their numbers are falling as urban development encroaches on their habitat.  (Sun-Herald 27th June, 2010)

Female Phasmid (photo by SJ Fellenberg)

An entomologist who is doing marvellous work saving the Lord Howe Island phasmid (stick insect), is Dr. Stephen Fellenberg.  However, due to the escape of rats from a sinking ship, many species native to the island have been wiped out.

One of those species, a rare stick insect (Phasmid), was originally thought to be extinct. When a few survivors were found on the island, Dr Fellenberg agreed to breed them so that the island population could be restocked.

His wife, Lynn Bowden, is also doing marvellous work helping Australian native animals – this time the koala. She has been working with a group of scientists, volunteers and the local community in the south west Sydney region to study a small population of koalas.

She told me that there is an organisation called Koala Retreat which is  dedicated to establishing a tree planting program to supply good quality of leaves to koalas in zoos and wildlife parks and to extending the natural corridors for koalas in the wild.

So what can you do? I support organisations such as Wires, which protects Australian wildlife.

You could also start your own animal sanctuary http://www.startananimalsanctuary.com/54/working-with-animals-do-what-you-love/

The government has some ideas http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/kids.html However I find any suggestions that they make as laughable considering they give farmers carte blanche to shoot anything that bugs them/ and also are actively building highways through their habitats.  Developers give donations to major political parties which don’t go unrewarded and some politicians have close personal links with developers who steal habitat from native animals.

However, look in the mirror and see what you can do to help Australian wildlife.

To see some great animal shots (some tragic) go to https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#inbox/12b5bca5be92f014

 

 

 

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Nasty Zoos and Some Very Nasty Humans

 

"A robin redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage" (William Blake)

Recently I travelled through Turkey and I was very disturbed by a small zoo in the back of a petrol station/ diner that we stopped at along the way.

I must say that when I hear the magic words, “a small zoo” or “private zoo”, my blood curdles.

For some reason best known to themselves, certain people with money think that it is appropriate and entertaining to others to imprison any animal they can capture, stick it behind bars in a tiny cubicle and show it off.

I really didn’t want to look but then I thought I could hardly complain about it if I didn’t – and who knows – it just might be a delightful place for animals to be imprisoned.

Unfortunately it was not.

I should have taken photos but I couldn’t even bring myself to do that.

First off there was a cage containing a lonely golden retriever dog, who had obviously given up all hope. It lay on its side, oblivious to the world, in a tiny and narrow cage without water. A crudely written sign on the cage said simply, “Golden”.  Two cages down was a husky, also in a narrow lonely cage without water. Why they couldn’t have put the two dogs in a cage together instead of separating them, I don’t know. However I guess it made for a much better exhibit to have them separated and alone so that we could work out which dog was which.

In fact, 90% of the cages had a single animal in them – a camel, a monkey, a deer and the dogs. There were also some threadbare roosters and hens scratching around in a tiny little cage.  At least they were allowed to be together.

I don’t like the chances of the deer either because in the diner in pride of place on the wall was a set of antlers and a skull.

There was also a dog outside a cage, attached to a short chain and also with no water bowl.

I might add that it was peak summer and unbearably hot and not one of the animals had access to any water whatsoever.

Well, I have today received some wonderful news about this horrid ‘zoo’. I contacted PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and they contacted their Turkish branch and closed the zoo down last week! Isn’t that terrific? And the camel, birds and monkey are being sent to animal reserves but the dogs belong to the owner and won’t be released. However, PETA is keeping track of them. Please give a donation to PETA to thank them for doing this great job. I did. http://www.peta.org/donate/default.aspx

Last weekend I read in the Sydney Morning Herald about the distasteful and nasty zoos on the tops of shopping centres in South East Asia. If you can bear to see a sad gorilla in a cage all by himself or orangutans sadly staring out of  cages, have a look at  http://www.theage.com.au/world/department-store-zoo-animals–trapped-in-an-urban-jungle-20100903-14ubn.html

Have you heard of the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand? People come from all over the world specifically to see this temple and interact with the tigers which are docile enough to be patted.

There are now a great number of people who are extremely suspicious about this so called tiger sanctuary, specifically now that it has applied for ‘zoo’ status. Read one person’s opinion http://hubpages.com/hub/Tiger-Temple-Thailand. It is an interesting article so have a read.

Further in the above article the author cites a letter from the International Tiger Coalition and containing serious concerns about the tiger temple. To quote:

Letter from the International Tiger Coalition

On October 7th 2008 the International Tiger Coalition wrote to Mr Chaleermsak Wanichsombat, the Director General of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to express their concerns over their ‘concern about the captive breeding and trans-border movements of tigers by the Tiger Temple at Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery in Kanchanaburi and about the facility’s claims to support tiger conservation.’

The letter from the International Tiger Coalition goes on to say:

Our second concern relates to tiger breeding at the Wat Pa Luangta Bua facility, which has no credible connection with accredited conservation breeding programmes that are deemed to support the survival of wild tigers. You may be aware that in 2007, CITES adopted Decision 14.69 which states that “Parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale shall implement measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers; tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives”. It should first be noted that circumstances in which the release of captive-bred tigers to the wild can make a contribution to the conservation of wild tigers are virtually non-existent.

In any case, one wonders how it is that tigers, which are predators and not known for being cuddly pussy cats, can be handled by members of the public without losing a hand. What methods are being used to sedate or dominate the tigers?

What horrors lie below the surface at this so called temple?

In March, 2010 a private zoo Shenyang Forest Wildlife zoo in Liaoning Province in China starved eleven of its Siberian tigers to death because it couldn’t afford to feed them. The zoo has now been closed down but according to http://www.beijingtoday.com.cn/news/zoo-closed-after-starving-its-tigers-to-death  there are more than 30 wildlife zoos in China, some of which were set up by local governments with private investmen, and 90% of these illtreat their animals.

To quote directly from the website –

The first private zoo opened in Shenzhen in 1993. More quickly followed, but financial problems caused them to quickly deteriorate.

Guo Geng, vice director of Beijing Biodiversity Research Center, said 90 percent of the country’s private zoos are poorly managed.

“It’s hard for private zoos to keep a balance between revenue and animal protection,” Guo said. The more private capital the zoos have, the more they fall apart, he said.

In an unscrupulous bid to increase revenue, some zoos release animals that are natural enemies into cages to entertain visitors with gory death matches. Some train their animals to perform stunts. Those most financially-strapped leave them to starve, he said.

Media exposed a private zoo in Hubei Province that starved eight of its 11 lions to death after being mired in financial difficulties in 2005. The daily cost of feeding all its other animals was 200 yuan combined–the same amount needed to sustain one lion.

“The horrible actions of the Shenyang zoo are not an isolated incident,” said Hua Ning, project manager of the China Office of US-based International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“These tigers died because of a widespread, long-running tradition of cruel treatment at China’s private zoos,” she said.

Mind you, the above is just a discussion about private ‘zoos’. How about the public zoos in China that charmingly feed live animals to the displays? Yep, you can catch a little train around the zoo and at feeding time see a live antelope tossed in the lions’ exhibit. Can you imagine it? The locals find it quite exhilarating and come to the zoo to satisfy their blood lust. They do so love animals over there!

I’d say that China is at the bottom of the tree when it comes to kindness to animals which are usually just seen as something to eat.

However unsavoury incidents occur in public zoos throughout the world and these are quickly hushed up. Animals escape cages which negligent staff have left open and it is the animal that pays the price by being shot. For example, in February 2007  a 140-pound jaguar named Jorge killed a zookeeper at the Denver Zoo before being fatally shot. Zoo officials said later that the zookeeper had violated rules by opening the door to the animal’s cage. This type of incident is fairly common.

In 2007  Kual, a pregnant greater one-horned rhinoceros at Taronga Zoo died in what seemed suspicious circumstances. Media reports at the time speculated that the four year old rhino which was purchased from overseas began to put on so much weight that the zoo put it on a diet. They didn’t realize it was pregnant and it died of  intestinal problems (or was it starvation?). Other media reports at the time suggested that its intestines were full of sand from its bedding. The zoo immediately instigated a media blackout on the incident and the RSPCA, although refusing to release the results of its investigation into the death, stated that they had found no evidence of cruelty in the animals’ veterinary records or in keeping standards.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/zoos-cleared-of-cruelty/2007/08/14/1186857512042.html

Read Taronga Zoo’s discussion of the matter at http://www.taronga.org.au/tcsa/media/media-releases/full-circle-of-life-played-out-at-zoos.aspx

 These days most public zoos have recognised how distasteful it is to shove animals in small cages as was once the trend. Zoos like Dubbo Zoo in Australia allow animals to interact and enjoy a more natural habitat.

Security in zoos is always an issue and I still remember the night many years ago that some drugged up teenagers broke into Adelaide Zoo in Australia and slaughtered dozens of defenceless animals in the exhibits in a depraved orgy. Just recently four teenagers were charged over the bashing of a blind and 80 year old flamingo at Adelaide Zoo.

And in 2008 at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre, a vile seven year old fed animals in the exhibit to a crocodile –

Read http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=641204

A turtle, four western blue tongue lizards, two bearded dragons, two thorny devil lizards and a 1.8 metre adult female Spencer’s goanna were fed or led into the jaws of a three-metre, 200kg saltwater crocodile named “Terry”.

Security camera footage at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre showed the smiling youngster also bludgeoning to death a small blue tongue lizard and two more thorny devils during a half-hour of breakfast-time havoc.

It is very sad that the whole zoo trade ever began.  Baby animals were stolen from their mothers and their parents killed. However nowadays zoos have breeding programs and many animals which are almost extinct in the wild (pandas, orangutans, gorillas, tigers and rhinos for example) are at least still alive in zoos throughout the world. With sharing programs between zoos they have been able to breed most endangered animals. However, these animals know nothing of living in the wild and would not survive should they be released in their native environment (if there’s any of it still remaining).

Nevertheless, according to http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-all.html

There is only one way to meaningfully stand up for the rights of all beings, and that is to relinquish one’s own stake in the slavery of animals, and to embrace a lifestyle in which all sentient beings are afforded the most basic of rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

INTERESTING ANIMAL BLOG

I have found an interesting blog on environmental matters and animals in Singapore wildsingaporenews.blogspot.com/2010_04_27_archive.html 

HORROR ANIMAL STORY FROM AUSTRALIA

Talking about nasty humans, allegations have been made that three Torquay College students used a steel pole to kill a kangaroo while on a school camp on September 8 at the Great Otway National Park in Anglesea.

What a charming story. Why are a greater number of children becoming so cold hearted and blood thirsty that they are able to perpetrate such cruelties on defenceless animals?  What does that tell us about society today? These are the same sorts of people who are scaling the walls of zoos at night and slaughtering the exhibits.

HERE ONE MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT

And of course, pity any critically endangered animals if a human gets their hands on them.

According to http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/7963752/rare-sighting-in-laos-of-mysterious-beast villagers in Laos captured a critically endangered saola in August and took it to their remote community, but it died after a few days in captivity, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said in a statement. 

One of the world’s rarest animals, The secretive and mysterious twin-horned saola is one of the world’s rarest animals and this was the first sighting in a decade, conservationists say. And well, then it was captured and imprisoned and hey presto, it died within days.

Good work guys.

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Sailing in a Plastic Sea

David de Rothschild's catamaran, Plastiki

A couple of years ago I drove around Oahu, the main island in Hawaii and I noticed something very disturbing.  All around the island there were plastic bag trees growing. The trees, which grew on the edge of cliffs overlooking the ocean on all sides of the island,  were covered with billowing plastic bags.

From time to time I’d stop the car and try to grab at the bags but it was not easy as the trees were often in precipitous positions.

I couldn’t help but wonder where the bags would wind up.  Surely there must be thousands flying off these trees annually.

Another sight I won’t forget is seeing plastic bags floating in the harbour of Ushuaia – the southern most port of South America. Those bags have a one way trip to Antarctica.

I’ve also discovered the destination of the Hawaiian plastic bags.

I have copied the following from the website http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/the-worlds-rubbish-dump-a-garbage-tip-that-stretches-from-hawaii-to-japan-778016.html . The article is titled, The World’s Rubbish Dump: A tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan by Kathy Marks and Daniel Howden.

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

  The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. 

Map of the Plastic Soup Area from http://yachtpals.com/plastiki-9041

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: “The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.”

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 13,000 pieces of plastic in every square kilometre of ocean surface. They also estimate that the above floating garbage dump is about six times the size of England and that it kills a million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish every year.

I noticed that powerful beverage companies are bemoaning huge losses of profits because of bans against plastic bottles – notably the banning of bottled water in Bundanoon, Australia. Bundanoon was the first town in the world to replace plastic bottles with free public bubblers and drew world wide attention for their stance. As profits declined substantially, the beverage industry retaliated by producing Facebook, You Tube and Twitter items that mocked the residents of Bundanoon.

But Bundanoon is not alone its stand. The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change has stopped having bottled water delivered to its offices and discourages staff from buying new bottles. Other councils in New South Wales have also taken a stand against plastic water bottles and have installed water bubblers.

I wrote a book, the Doofuzz Dudes and the Babbling Bottles, to highlight the problems caused by disposable drinking bottles.

Doing the same thing is a very interesting man, David de Rothschild, who is the Rothschild banking heir and a committed environmentalist and adventurer.  

David de Rothschild

Sailing in his catamaran, Plastiki, David set out from San Francisco in March this year on a voyage to prove that plastic bottles can withstand the harsh conditions of the ocean. Plastiki is kept afloat by 12,500 plastic bottles. His mission is to draw attention to the fact that plastic never degrades and that every bit of plastic ever produced is still somewhere in the planet, with much of it choking the oceans and inside fish and birds after being broken into small particles by sunlight. (Read about the journey on http://www.theplastiki.com/). So sorry, but that means that your tasty dish of fish also comes with an extra serve of plastic.

Whilst on his voyage, David noted many plastic bags, bottles, lids and styrofoam containers floating past.

To take an excerpt from http://yachtpals.com/plastiki-9041

If the plastic is inert and stable, who cares? Well, recently, scientists have noticed that some very nasty chemicals, like PCB’s for example (banned in the US for over 30 years), are somehow finding their way into fish caught far out at sea. PCB’s don’t dissolve well in sea water, and they are notably heavier, so it was long thought that any PCB’s that made it to the ocean would sink out of the way (or at least become some future generation’s problem to deal with). Thus, scientists had been perplexed as to where the PCB’s are coming from. But then a new theory was put forth, and suddenly it all made sense.  

Many persistent organic pollutants like PCB’s have a high lipid solubility – meaning they’re oily, or at least can be dissolved in oily materials. If you’ve ever tried to clean spaghetti sauce or any kind of grease off of a plastic container, then you know exactly what’s going on. It seems things like the PCB’s literally stick to the porous surface of the plastics, much like stubborn cooking grease. So, instead of falling to the depths, some of the most persistent toxins man has introduced to the world are staying glued to some of the most persistent garbage we’ve ever produced, and being introduced right back into our own food chain. Put simply: Our chickens of the sea are coming home to roost! 

The way the toxins like PCB’s get into the food chain is via those plastic bits. Small fish tend to eat everything that fits into their mouths (which worked out well for hundreds of millions of years), so they eat the poisoned plastic pieces. Digestive juices and processes then break the physical bond between the PCB’s and the plastic, and introduce the PCB’s into the fish’s fatty tissues. Then the small fish are eaten by bigger fish, until the toxins from all the plastics that all those little fish ate, end up concentrated on the Mahi Mahi platter at your local restaurant. 

Don’t eat fish? Well, fish byproducts are used in livestock feed. Organic vegan? Fish emulsion is a common “natural” fertilizer. By now, you’re getting the picture: That problem way out there in the middle of the ocean is now in your refrigerator. And remember, we only looked at one kind of plastic, and one kind of toxin. It’s a big, big mess out there, and getting bigger. But the message isn’t that the sky is falling. Though we can’t yet solve the problem, we can slow its progress while we figure it out. The first step is to get the word out, and as noted: Plastiki is an attempt to do that.

David noted something else that also is of great concern –  there were hardly any fish in the sea and no marine animals. One wonders if this is because of the seas being overfished or because plastic is killing marine life. Either way, if there’s not enough fish to go around then penguins, whales, bears and birds will all be starving. Even served with a side dish of plastic, it’s still better than eating nothing!

A sea of fishing boats in Kerala, India

I also noticed when I was in Antarctica that there were not the huge numbers of marine animals passing that I had expected. I saw just one whale and no seals. All I saw were penguins and when we visited penguin breeding grounds we were told that each year their numbers had diminished.

After this year. cruise ships carrying more than 500 people will be banned from Antarctic waters. This is to avoid the possibility of oil spills but I would also feel that it would be beneficial to the penguins as surely they can’t enjoy the endless parade of gawking passersby.

But back to plastic. Fortunately, more and more supermarkets have stopped supplying plastic bags for groceries. However, how will we clean up the dreadful mess in the ocean?

Oh I know! We should find another planet with water and start again. What a shame that it seems that we were given the very best piece of real estate within cooee of our solar system and guess what? We blew it!

FACING SHARKS

The Sydney Aquarium has launched a program known as Shark IQ in an effort to diminish people’s fears about sharks.

New tracking technology, a hatchery and shark nursery have been unveiled at Darling Harbour. The NSW government and the CSIRO will track the movement of bull sharks and great white sharks along the east coast of Australia.

They are anxious to protect the grey nurse shark and the speartooth shark which are both critically endangered in Australian waters.

Maybe if there are hardly any fish left in the sea as observed by David de Rothschild, then they are all dying of starvation. That is, if they can escape the Chinese fishermen who hack off their fins for shark fin soup.

CADBURYS RETHINKS PALM OIL DECISION

I wonder if Swiss Chocolatiers would approve of palm oil as an ingredient in chocolate? I think not.  I love the way Cadbury is trying to persuade people that they made the substitute, not as a financial consideration, but with the taste buds of the consumer in mind. Ha!

It seems that chocolate lovers weren’t impressed.  It’s probably too late for the poor orangutans and other jungle dwelling animals that have already lost their homes but at least that’s one less customer for palm oil.

The following item was copied from an article on www.news.com.au

CADBURY has caved in to pressure from outraged chocolate fanatics and pledged to remove palm oil from its Tasmanian-made blocks.

The company had tried to persuade Cadbury lovers its new recipe, replacing some cocoa butter with palm oil, would make its chocolate smoother, The Mercury reports.

But consumers were not convinced and Cadbury has been forced to apologise and revert to the original recipe, after being flooded with complaints.

“We are removing palm oil and returning to a cocoa butter only recipe for Cadbury’s entire moulded block chocolate range, including our flagship Cadbury Dairy Milk brand and product lines such as Old Gold and Dream,” Cadbury Australia managing director Mark Callaghan said yesterday.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/business/cadbury-removes-palm-oil/story-e6frfm1i-1225764168405#ixzz0yh2wFwar

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I think that I shall never see a Billboard lovely as a Tree

If mankind disappeared today

What would all the animals say?

Birds, koalas and even bees,

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

I find it interesting that so many people hate trees.

They cause more neighbourhood disputes than any other issue. Trees are poisoned because they block views or for any number of innane reasons. It also seems (at least in Australia)  that everyone craves a McMansion which necessitates the removal of every single bit of plant life so that an extraordinarily large house can encompass every square metre of the available land. And then everyone whinges when they notice that birds have left the suburbs. https://roslynmotter.com/2010/05/30/not-in-my-backyard/

Though on the other hand, a recent article in the local paper told how twelve Ibis chicks were left orphaned after the Calvary Retirement Village in Ryde, New South Wales, got a permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to remove Ibis nests from palm trees on its site. Many trees were cut down deliberately because they were home to ibis, which some people consider to be pests. The point was made that the Ibis is not a pest but a native bird which has been forced to find trees in residential areas because their natural environment has been wiped out.

Meanwhile, in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens the staff were devastated after someone vandalised the historic Separation Tree. The 24-metre, 400 year old river red gum was the site of celebrations on November 15th, 1850, when Victoria broke away from New South Wales. On 19th August it was ringbarked when someone broke into the gardens and attacked it with an axe. With a huge gash surrounding the tree’s trunk there is a good chance that the 400 year old tree will die.

So, do trees have a raison d’etre? Do we really need them?

Well there are lots of reasons why we might. Most notably that the leaves of the trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, thus keeping the temperature on earth down to the levels that make our life on earth comfortable.  They then convert the CO2 to oxygen for us to breathe. The Amazon Rainforest for example, produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen supply.

If you’ve read my last blog you’ll see that research shows that the leaves of trees have, over the last ten years, become smaller so that their surface space does not absorb the same amount of CO2 from the atmosphere that they used to. This is a matter of great concern because if CO2 builds up in the atmosphere, the temperature on earth will increase, and this will lead to drier conditions, fires and generally intolerable conditions for humans, animals and plantlife as we know it.

The other reasons that trees are of benefit are as homes for animals and birds.  Animals and various bird varieties live in hollows in the trees and birds also make their homes in nests which they construct on the branches. Many animals including monkeys, fruit bats, possums, koalas and more, depend on trees for their homes.

Bees and wasps construct their hives on the trunks of trees.  

The Green Tree Ant which lives in tropical regions of India, Africa and Australia, construct their homes from leaves, building huge leaf homes in the branches of trees. They build nests by weaving leaves together with a sticky substance produced from their larvae. Many ants work together to constuct these oval shaped nests which can finish up being 300-500mm long.

Trees are also a safe haven for animals escaping from other predators. Out in the wild, a leopard will drag its catch up a tree so that it can eat in peace, free from lions and hyennas which would steal it off them.  Any animal that can climb a tree is in a great position to escape predatory animals that can’t. I’ve seen documentaries which showed baby bears running up into trees to escape angry male bears that would kill them if they could catch them.

And of course there are animals that can’t walk comfortably on land and which  prefer to live in trees. These are sloths, monkeys, possums, orangutans, squirrels, koalas and sugar gliders for example.

Also, trees provide foods  for animals and man.

Koalas eat only certain kinds of eucalyptus leaves. Sloths tend to stay with the same trees, eating their leaves, for their entire lives. Silkworms only eat mulberry leaves.  Trees provide fruits and flowers which are the sole food source of certain birds and animals and in a symbiotic arrangement, the birds, animals and even ants help the trees spread their seeds throughout the landscape.  They also help the flowers in the trees to pollinate by taking pollen from flower to flower.

Not only do trees provide fruit for eating, they also provide herbal remedies for both man and animals. The bark of the trees, the leaves, flowers and roots all have potential healing benefits. There is still much we don’t know about the healing powers of many trees and plants but many pharmaceuticals contain elements from plantlife. Animals also know intuitively to chew on the bark or leaves of trees if they are sick.

Teas, tinctures, poultices and extracts made from countless plants are used to soothe sore throats, boost immunity, ease congestion and relieve pain. Read more: Medicinal Uses for Trees & Plants | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/list_5831216_medicinal-uses-trees-_amp_-plants.html#ixzz0yFasZzMd

Quinine comes from the bark of a South American tree and is used in treatments for malaria.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, eucalyptus is a traditional diabetes treatment.

The leaves of olive trees are traditionally used to lower blood pressure, ward off colds and treat cardiovascular problems. Now research suggests that olive leaf extract products have a dramatic effect on excess weight and have the potential to combat obesity.

Ancient Olive Tree on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Willow tree bark contains salicin, a chemical used in the manufacture of aspirin.

Every part of the coconut palm is used by the Fijians. The leaves are interwoven for roof thatching and the coconut is an important ingredient in their cooking. 

Trees have been worshipped by many native and ancient people.

As a punishment to the ‘pagans’, in 772 King Charlemagne had Irminsul, the sacred tree of the Anglo Saxons, chopped down. From that time on country people have been leaving farms and moving to the city. This was the start of modern man’s disconnection with his farming roots.

Today we no longer worship trees. We worship money. We think nothing of chopping down any tree that stands in the way of development and progress. The theme of the movie Avatar where a sacred tree is blown up for the valuable mineral underneath is without doubt the way of the world these days.

Steve Irwin had a wonderful idea. He used to buy up as much land throughout the world as possible in order to protect the animals and trees on it and he encouraged others to do the same.

Well, unfortunately the late Steve Irwin is no longer with us and he was a rarity. Most people are keen to sell their treed properties to developers because that is where the big bucks lie.

Unfortunately that short sighted or ‘show me the money’ approach is what is going to cause ruination for us all. Many species are under threat because trees which are either their habitats /or the habitats of their prey/ or the source of their food, are being chopped down to either make more farm land available /or for housing developments/ or just for woodchipping as in the case of the Swift Parrot’s habitat.

The following are just some of the species under threat due to destruction of the habitats containing trees specific to their survival –

Orangutans – living in the jungles of South East Asia. Their jungles are being burnt down, particularly in Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations.

The Powerful Owl (Ninox Strenua) – the largest owl in Australia. It is recognised by its large, bright yellow, forward directing eyes. Powerful Owls feed on a range of possums and gliders. The presence of hollowed trees within the landscape is critical for their survival, not only as a home for their prey’s habitat, but also because Powerful Owls only nest in large hollows.

The Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolour) – is a specialised pollen and nectar feeding parrot that migrates across Bass Strait from summer breeding sites in Tasmania to winter feeding sites in mainland Australia. The most significant threat to this species is the loss of breeding habitat in Tasmania, primarily the harvesting of Tasmanian Blue Gum due to forestry practices including woodchipping. In 1989 it was estimated that only one third of the original Eucalyptus globulus forest remained.  The main threat in Victoria is a reduction in the extent of Box Ironbark woodlands which provide a source of winter flowering, nectar and pollen. See http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tZ4_xzXKbNkJ:bird.net.au/bird/index.php%3Ftitle%3DSwift_Parrot+parrot+under+threat+near+Horsham,+Victoria&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au

Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) – A recent preliminary study in South-western Victoria indicated that the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo population should be considered endangered because of the loss of Brown Stringybark forests and suitable nesting hollows in South-east Australia. Past clearing of Brown Stringybark forests has reduced this essential habitat and has caused the remaining areas to be broken up and fragmented. Frequent burning, particularly by fires which damage the canopies, may have also had an adverse effect on the food resources of these Cockatoos.

Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami )  – The Glossy Black-cockatoo is a dusky brown to black cockatoo with a massive, bulbous bill and a broad, red band through the tail. The red in the tail is barred black and edged with yellow.  The species is uncommon although widespread throughout suitable forest and woodland habitats, from the central Queensland coast to East Gippsland in Victoria, and inland to the southern tablelands and central western plains of NSW, with a small population in the Riverina. An isolated population exists on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.  It feeds almost exclusively on the seeds of several species of she-oak (Casuarina and Allocasuarina species), shredding the cones with the massive bill. It is dependent on large hollow-bearing eucalypts for nest sites. It faces serious threat due to the reduction of suitable habitat through clearing for development/ Loss of tree hollows /Excessively frequent fire which reduces the abundance and recovery of she-oaks and also may destroy nest trees.

Koalas – Koalas are a uniquely Australian tree dwelling animal that is under serious threat in Australia. They succumb easily to stress and they are certainly suffering from some very stressful situations. They can only eat certain varieties of eucalyptus leaves and these days the major koala breeding areas seem to be slap bang in the middle of major areas of development – for example, Port Macquarie and Nelson Bay. As housing developments claim their trees, they are attacked by dogs and cats, and highways bissect their breeding areas so that many die trying to cross roads. Bushfires also claim many koalas’ lives. See https://roslynmotter.com/2010/03/11/pity-about-the-australian-koala/ and http://wn.com/australia’s_shame__logging_deforestation_threatens_koala_habitat_near_nation’s_capital_china_cares

Soon, the only Australian birds left will be behind wire

The above are just a few of many, many birds and animals that depend on trees for survival. All are facing hard times in these days of urban encroachment on their native habitats. The Chinese panda is almost extinct because their bamboo plantations have been cut down for development, and so the list goes on.

You might ask why we should care if a few thousand species are wiped out. After all, what does it matter if a red or orange parrot bites the dust?

Well the reason is BIODIVERSITY.  Biodiversity is the variety of all life forms on earth – the different plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems of which they are a part.

As it happens, 2010 is the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity. 

Each bird, insect and animal is a link in an evolutionary chain. As each species is wiped out,  links are broken all over the place, and we are left with major chinks in the biological chain. We can only ask what the end result will be.

Today, a report was released titled ‘Into Oblivion: The disappearing native mammals of northern Australia’. It estimates that the number of sites classified as empty of mammal activity rose from 13% in 1996 to 55% in 2009 and predicts that in 20 years native mammals will be extinct. Presumably that does not include the human mammal. However, how can we be sure? We are just one link in that biological chain and if we are the only link left, what will that mean for our survival?

And how can we justify the deaths of so many species just so that we can steal their habitats?  What dreadful custodians we are of the earth.

The first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize – Wangari Maathai – was in Sydney in July this year. She formed the Green Belt movement out of concerns that rural women in Kenya’s lives have been devastated by deforestation.  Their drinking water and food has been affected and they have no fire wood for their cooking  and heating because of this deforestation. Since she commenced her organisation in 1977 they have instigated the planting of 40 million trees across Africa.

Israel has a very proactive reforestation project, having planted 230 million trees across their territory which is mostly desert.

Małgorzata Górska’s leadership in the fight to stop a controversial highway project led to a significant legal precedent for the environment that resulted in the protection of Poland’s Rospuda Valley, one of Europe’s last true wilderness areas.

In Russia, an unlikely housewife activist,  Yevgenia Chirikova, has been involved in a  three-year quest to save the Khimki forest from destruction. Chirikova became aware of a plan to fell a huge swath of forest so that a new highway could be built through it. The 150 hectare Khimki Forest forms part of Moscow’s dwindling green belt and was intended to be a preserve for local wildlife and to act as buffer against the pollution radiating from Moscow. She and other activists have been arrested many times during the course of her
campaign. Let’s hope she succeeds but then, it is not easy saving trees from man’s desires.

By the way, Australia is the most megadiverse developed country and supports almost 10 per cent of the biological diversity on earth. So when are we going to take the problem seriously?

Celebrate trees on http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Trees

Title courtesy of Ogden Nash.

(The Doofuzz Dudes series features some very fantasical trees such as the Moon Tree, the Blood Tree, The Tree of Life and Biter Trees)

Amazon at Lowest Level

THE Amazon, the world’s biggest river, is at its lowest level in more than 40 years near its source in northeastern Peru, causing havoc in a region where it is used as the only form of travel, authorities said.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/amazon-at-lowest-level-in-40-years/story-e6frfku0-1225913307084#ixzz0yL77FlSy

Normally, the Amazon River pushes so much water into the Atlantic Ocean that, more than one hundred miles at sea off the mouth of the river, one can dip fresh water out of the ocean.  The volume of water in the Amazon river is greater than the next eight largest rivers in the world combined and three times the flow of all rivers in the United States .

The Amazon drains more territory than any other, from Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela before running across Brazil and into the Atlantic.

The current problem is due to lack of rainfall and high temperatures in the region.

At present it is causing havoc on shipping in the region but no doubt it will have an impact on the Amazon Jungle.

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