Carol: Hello there Hurst! I’m gonna cut the small talk because I have a very important topic to talk about.
Hurst: Well okay, what is so pressing?
Carol: It’s Fiona, the baby hippo at the Cincinnati zoo.
Hurst: Of course it is, I don’t know what I expected.
Carol: Well, Money reported that Fiona has earned the zoo a cool half million in Fiona branded t-shirts, books, leggings, holiday ornaments, cards, wrapping paper, insulated drinking cups, ice cream, and beer.
Hurst: That’s a lot of hippo merch! I wonder what hippo beer tastes like.
Carol: The good thing is that Fiona is earning dough for her fellow hippos. Most of the money goes back to hippopotamus vet services, nutrition, medical supplies and habitat building at the zoo. Oh, and Fiona turns one this month and is having a birthday party so be on the lookout for Fiona birthday ware.
Hurst: I sure will. Turning to a story with a more serious tone, China has banned ivory trade within its borders.
Carol: Wait, what? That’s fantastic.
Hurst: It is. Last year, China announced a four-step plan to shut down the legal ivory trade within one year, and last week was their targeted deadline. It is estimated that 70% of the world’s demand for ivory currently comes from China – however before that previous demand came from Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Anyway, over 170 ivory-carving factories and retail stores will close as a result. The ban doesn’t include Hong Kong, but they are considering a similar measure.
Carol: Wow, that’s a huge victory for elephants. Demand reduction measures are a wonderful way to slow down the flow of poached goods through the supply chain, and making the goods illegal is a great way to reduce demand!
Hurst: Yeah, or make the goods seem forbidden and more special. We still have a long way to go to stop poaching and trafficking of animals for their “parts.” And, some worry the black market ivory trade will still thrive, but clearly this is a win.
Carol: Speaking of wins, you know I have a love for that scaly mammal, the pangolin.
Hurst: Of course, they look like adorable pinecones.
Carol: Well usually pangolin news is pretty depressing, and this next story is both positive and negative. This week a big shipment of pangolin scales were confiscated on a container ship heading from Nigeria to Hong Kong. The scales were hidden in a big container marked as plastic goods; the estimated value of the shipment was $28 million. The scales, which are made of keratin like our fingernails, are dried and used in traditional medicine, even though the efficacy of the medicinal uses have been debunked.
Hurst: Well, I’m glad they caught the shipment and got it off the market. Pangolins need all the help they can get. Speaking of scaly prickly things, I saw an article about populations of sea stars making a comeback.
Carol: I’m not sure I know what a sea star is much less why they need a comeback.
Hurst: Sea stars are the correct name for what we call starfish. Sea stars aren’t fish; they are echinoderms, like sea urchins and sand dollars.
Carol: So starfish aren’t fish. Next thing you are going to tell me is sand dollars aren’t money.
Hurst: Right. So anyway, for the past four years or so, sea stars off the West Coast of the United States have been mysteriously dying off from, researchers presume, an infection. It has affected ochre stars, mottled stars, leather stars, sunflowers, rainbows and six-armed stars from Mexico all the way to Canada. The infection causes the sea stars to develop lesions, fall apart, and turn into a blob of goo.
Carol: Oh, that’s very descriptive and sad. But you said their populations are making a comeback?
Hurst: Yes, the infection is still occuring in some areas off of the California coast, however in the more Southern California waters and also in Oregon, we are seeing a rise in populations.
Carol: That’s great news for the starfi…er, sea star.
Hurst: So I don’t know if you noticed, but it’s been a bit chilly this week, both here and throughout the rest of the East Coast.
Carol: Why yes, I did snow-tice the cold.
Hurst: Yikes, that was bad, even for you. Anyway, Floridians also saw low temperatures, and along with that, iguanas falling out of the sky.
Carol: Cloudy with a chance of reptiles, it seems.
Hurst: Okay that one redeemed you. Apparently these cold blooded animals are falling out of overhanging branches because their bodies are slowing to a halt from the cold. As the temperature falls, they slow their metabolism to preserve energy.
Carol: Thankfully most of these fallen lizards are totally fine and will warm up in the sun and crawl away.
Hurst: Ugh, warming up in the sun sounds nice right about now. I’m gonna go do the next best thing, sit in front of my space heater.
Carol: My dogs’ body heat is kind of like a space heater, but with lots more shedding. See you next week!
Photo credit: Rainforest-rescue.org