Turtles Mosquitos Greyhounds Bees Seahorses & Cheetahs

Carol: Hurst, I’ve been waiting all week to ask you if you saw the article on turtle butt-breathing!  

Hurst: No I didn’t and I’m not really sure how to react to your excitement about it.  

Carol: Well, the technical term is cloacal respiration and the way PBS News explains it “When turtles hibernate, they rely on stored energy and uptake oxygen from the pond water by moving it across body surfaces that are flush with blood vessels. In this way, they can get enough oxygen to support their minimal needs without using their lungs. Turtles have one area that is especially well vascularized — their butts.”  Reminds me of a joke.  Why did the octopus blush? He saw the bottom of the ocean.

Hurst: Um…in other news, the Australian Capital Territory is the first jurisdiction to ban greyhound racing in Australia after several convictions of dog owners demonstrating cruelty to dogs.  

Carol: Greyhound racing is big business.  For example, in Australia the economic impact from betting on races has more than doubled in the last five years, reaching over $4 billion in 2016.  However, there are a number of reported, suspected, and documented issues within greyhound racing including medical mishandling of severe and multiple injuries, unnecessary killing of dogs, live baiting, drugging and doping, not to mention the social ills caused by addiction to gambling. These issues certainly are not solely Australia but worldwide – racing also occurs in Ireland, the UK, Spain, South Africa, Mexico, the US, and Macau.

Hurst:  Thank goodness there are a number of organizations working on this including Grey2K USA, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Australia, Animals Australia, and Action for Greyhounds.

Carol:  With all the news about bee population declining, it’s nice to see this little piece from PRI touting some bee fun facts.  For example, did you know that almost 90 percent of all bees do not live in hives like honeybees and bumblebees?  And that even the tiniest of bees play a big role in pollination; in one study a particular type of bee was found to pollinate at a distance of one million times their body size.

Hurst: Well, that’s just BEE-utiful.

Carol: (silence)

Hurst: Ok, moving on…last week was Giving Tuesday, a day when we have the opportunity to repent from all the commercial spending on stuff we did on Black Friday.  Animal Charity Evaluators comes out with a list each year of recommended animal charities.  They evaluate 300 charities based on the organization’s impact, strategic vision, sustainable structure, track record, and other variables. Top charities this year were Animal Equality, The Humane League, and The Good Food Institute.  

Carol: There are a ton of animal organizations out there doing great work, so even to be in the top 300 is a feat.  

Hurst: I agree! Another organization doing great work is Werobotics and the International Atomic Energy Agency that are using the Sterile Insect Technique to decrease the amount of disease-carrying mosquitoes in an area.

Carol: Hmm I’m interested to hear how those two organizations are working together.

Hurst: Well it is a pretty interesting answer! They are using radiation to sterilize large amounts of mosquitos that they are releasing via drone. This way the sterile mosquitoes end up outcompeting the fertile ones.

Carol: Sounds like something straight out of science fiction! But I’m hoping there isn’t any sort of radioactive mega mosquito.

Hurst: Yes I think that would be a bit counter productive. In other news, Project Seahorse recently did a study that showed how humans are decimating the wild seahorse population. For example, in Vietnam, around 16.7 million seahorses are caught every year. This number includes those that are accidentally caught when fishing for other species and those that are intentionally harvested for sale.

Carol: That’s a really big number. What do people want with them? I can’t exactly think of any household uses for seahorse.

Hurst: Well 40% of these seahorses are entering Vietnam’s domestic market to be sold as pets, trinkets and for uses in traditional medicine to cure everything from backaches to sexual impotence. There are some conflicting numbers about how many are traded globally but it could be anywhere from 20 million to 150 million. Experts say that even if all countries followed the allotted amounts of seahorse exports, these delicate animals would still be in trouble since 95% of seahorses caught are bycatch. The good news is that most species of seahorses inhabit a wide range, however there is the threat of extirpations, which are local extinctions.

Carol: This is upsetting; seahorses are such interesting animals! Male seahorses carry and care for the babies and I think humans could learn a thing or two from them!

Hurst: Well, let’s pick up the tone of things.  What celebrations do we have to talk about this week?

Carol: I’m so glad you asked!  I was going to tell you anyway, even if you didn’t, but this makes it easier.  First off, December 2 was National Mutt Day!  Anyone who has ever loved a mutt can get into this celebration.  On the heels of that is Frances Power Cobbe’s birthday on December 4.  

Hurst: Ok, you’re doing to have to tell me a little more about who that is.

Carol:  Happy to!  She was pretty amazing.  Born to a privileged family, she spent much of her life advocating for others including women, children and animals. “In 1870, she began to protest in earnest against the mistreatment of animals in experiments and advocated laws for greater protection of animals in scientific usage. She sparked controversy in 1884 for calling down shame on the clergy for not speaking out against animal abuse, and wrote extensively on the incompatibility of faith in a loving God and tolerance for animal abuse.” said Karly Noelle Abreu in an article posted on The Animal Museum website.  Almost 120 years ago she founded what is now called Cruelty Free International, an organization dedicated to ending experiments on animals.

Hurst:  Wait, there is a museum dedicated to animals?

Carol: Yep, I was excited to learn about it too.  It’s in Los Angeles and their past and current exhibits look really interesting.

Hurst:  December 4 is a big celebration day in that it is also International Cheetah Day and World Wildlife Conservation Day.

Carol:  Hit me with some cheetah facts to help me celebrate tomorrow.  

Hurst: Well, you probably already know that they are the fastest  land animal in the world, having been clocked at 70 miles/hour (112 km/h). They can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles/hour (100 km/h) in just 3 seconds. Their litter size is 2-4 cubs and females typically raise the cubs by themselves.  They hunt during the day and even though they are fast, there are more aggressive carnivores out there, so once they kill their prey, they have to eat it pretty quickly before other hungry carnivores come around.

Carol: Speaking of big cats, did you see the PRI piece about Florida panthers?  What I got out of it is that we really don’t know how many Florida panthers exist, but that there aren’t many – maybe as few as over 100 – and that there are multiple ways of learning about species you are studying including tracking collars and camera “traps.”

Hurst: I would love to see more awareness brought to this animal! It’s great that they have rebounded from about twenty individuals but they definitely need more conservation efforts to keep that number growing.

Carol: Absolutely, it’s something to work towards! Hopefully someday we will talking about their successful comeback story. See you next week!

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