Whales Apes Bats & a Hornbill named Karl

Carol: Hey Hurst!  I’m so excited about our inaugural post of Creature Feature! Thanks for taking this on.

Hurst: Of course!  I think lots of people will appreciate having a weekly news source about animals.

Carol: Whale, whale, whale; what an interesting story from Public Radio International. It seems that whales have begun to repopulate off the coast of New York City. This is exciting news for a city that’s main wildlife are rats and pigeons, but also a promising success story for conservation.

Multiple species of whale, including Minke, Fin, and Humpback whales, have returned to the coast for multiple reasons, but the main reason being the resurgence of menhaden, a small prey fish. According to conservationists, this can be attributed to multiple conservation efforts like the Endangered Species Act which protects the whale species from further whaling, The Clean Water Act, which helped the menhaden to repopulate, and overall proper management of fisheries.

Hurst: Puns aside, I think that this is a great success story of conservation efforts and shows that when work is put in, there will be results. It will be interesting to see how this renewed population of whales will be managed, especially through a tourism lens.

On a more sinister note, I’m sure you saw the exposé on ape trafficking in the New York Times.

Carol: Ugh, yes. One of the points in that story (and the embedded report about stolen apes) that stood out to me were the sheer number of apes that are trafficked each year – an estimated 3,000 a year.

Hurst: Yeah and way more than that are affected. Smugglers target the baby apes who are much easier to control and to hide, but in the process, they kill the whole family.

Carol: This is truly a tragic process. These baby apes are stolen from their families and smuggled internationally in very small containers just so that they can be pets for the rich and amusement for zoos.

Hurst:  But thankfully, there are organizations like Freeland, based in Bangkok, that are working to stop these poachers and actually making arrests so that this can be stopped for good.

Carol: Unfortunately, I think wildlife trafficking might a recurring theme in our weekly news.  

Hurst: I think you are right. Hey, I meant to ask you!  What did you do to celebrate bat week last week?  

Carol: Awww, how sweet that you remembered my affinity for bats!  They are a misunderstood mammal, which I happen to think are pretty cute.  

Hurst: Yeah, I’m not sure everyone would agree with you there but they are super important for pollination and spreading seeds for nuts, figs and cacao.

Carol: And everyone knows how important cacao (chocolate) is for mood management!

Hurst:  Of course, glad you have your priorities in order. Moving on to our last story, it combines an Abyssinian ground hornbill and a 3-D printer.  

Carol: You must be talking about Karl the 27-year old bird who lives at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in DC. Before vets attached his new prosthetic beak, he couldn’t eat all the small things that hornbills love like crickets and earthworms!

Hurst:  Sounds Yummy.  What I found really cool is that the beak that was printed on a 3-D printer was modeled from the skull of a hornbill who lived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in the 1930s.  Karl’s operation actually happened back in September but vets, zoo officials, tourists, and media are all keeping tabs on his progress.  

Carol: I’m so glad that we can end on such a positive note. See you next week!

9 thoughts on “Whales Apes Bats & a Hornbill named Karl

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