Carol: Hi Hurst! I wanted to start off this week asking you if you think camels are attractive?
Hurst: That’s such a strange question, I’m not sure how to respond.
Carol: Well, I read this week about a camel beauty contest that is held in Saudi Arabia each year during the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. This festival is a month long, held during January, and honors camels’ place in Saudi heritage and culture.
Hurst: That sounds interesting, and could probably be a draw for tourists.
Carol: Yes, I think that’s part of the plan, but there is a bit of controversy with the festival. You see, there are millions of dollars in prize money at stake – for the beauty contest, camel racing, and other activities – and that can breed unethical activities. In the case of the beauty contest, some of the camels’ appearances were altered.
Hurst: You mean, like with mascara and blush?
Carol: No I’m afraid more insidious than that. Sometimes it’s just oil applied to a camel’s ears, but sometimes injections like Botox are used for cosmetic changes, or even tying a camel’s lips down because that’s considered a sign of beauty. But there are strict rules for each element of the festival, and this year a dozen camels and their owners found cheating were disqualified.
Hurst: Well, I’m glad to hear about the rules. Speaking of rules, the year end figures are in from South Africa, and it appears that rhino poaching decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017. And I know that sounds like good news, but there is a bit more to the story.
Carol: What’s going on?
Hurst: South Africa banned the domestic trade of rhino horn in 2009, but the country’s constitutional court failed to uphold that moratorium this past April, so auctions and trade of rhino horn and trinkets made from rhino horn commenced soon after. This is all happening parallel to the international trade ban on rhino horn imposed by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora in 1977.
Carol: So, it’s illegal for rhino horn products to cross any national border but completely legal to have it circulating within the country.
Hurst: Yep, you got it. And really while the number of poaching incidents are decreasing, they are still way too high – over 1,000 each year which of course is an average of three rhinos a day.
Carol: That’s three a day too many in my book. The next story is also somewhat of a good news-bad news scenario. It’s a story about treating wildlife burns with fish skins.
Hurst: Oh yeah, I read about this. All the wildfires in California, in addition to wrecking the lives of people, are hurting many species of wildlife. Two bears and a mountain lion were trapped and brought in for treatment on their paws, which consisted of medicated salve and sterilized tilapia skin for a bandage.
Carol: Evidently, the collagen found in tilapia skins aids in the healing process for burns. But as I said, this is good news for the bears and mountain lion, but bad news for the tilapia.
Hurst: Ah, I see what you mean. Well, this next fish story is more upbeat. It’s about a fish with a red mowhawk.
Carol: With a what?
Hurst: You heard me. And it has hands, too, to help it walk on the ocean floor.
Carol: You’re just making stuff up now. Come on, it wasn’t that slow of a news week.
Hurst: I’m not kidding. It’s called a handfish for obvious reasons, and was first discovered in the 1800s but has been in declining numbers, and has a very small habitat in…well…in a secret location.
Carol: You know you can tell me. I won’t tell anyone.
Hurst: No, it’s being kept a secret from the public so that they can be left relatively alone, from divers and tourists, and other pesky types who keep up with animal news.
Carol: Hmmm…I think you might have just insulted our audience, Hurst. Changing the subject, Puerto Rico is still suffering after Hurricane Maria’s hit in September of 2017. Companion animals were also some of the storm’s victims. This past week Southwest Airlines and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue teamed up to rescue 62 dogs and cats from Puerto Rico to forever homes in Washington D.C. In addition to rescuing these animals, the flight also brought 14,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies to animal rescuers that are working in Puerto Rico.
Hurst: That is great news! I’m so glad to hear that they are receiving aid. On a completely different note, did you see the story about primate cloning in China? It’s been causing a fair amount of controversy.
Carol: I did see that. Two female macaques were cloned, and you’re right, it raises many ethical questions. To give some background information, these are essentially the first primates to be cloned. This has not happened before because the cloning process is obviously very complex and must be fine tuned for each species. In addition, many people are ethically against cloning primates.
Hurst: There are two main sides in this primate cloning debate. Those in favor of this practice say that by testing on these animals they could provide groundbreaking information on diseases that affect humans, since primates are more similar to humans than other cloned animals, like sheep.
Carol: The opposing side says that it is unethical to create these animals and manipulate them simply for human gain. They argue that the treatment of clones may be less ethical because they are viewed as disposable copies. It should also be pointed out that China does not have any comprehensive laws set in place that ban animal cruelty. And finally, this is just a step closer to human cloning, which is another can of worms.
Hurst: Are the worms in this can cloned, or are they genetically diverse? Either way, this is an extremely complex issue, and one that I’m sure will be wrestled with for some time.
Carol: Absolutely. Okay so you’ve heard of cat ladies, but what about a bat lady?
Hurst: I can’t say I have. I’m guessing it is either a woman that is passionate about bats, or maybe scientists took their genetic research too far and made a bat-woman hybrid?
Carol: Um it is actually a woman that is passionate about bats, not the latter. Denise Wade, a resident of Queensland, Australia, rehabilitates approximately 400 flying fox bats per year. She has acquired a social media following as she posts about how she raises these bats in her home and backyard.
Hurst: Why do so many bats need help?
Carol: Usually, the bats are injured by dogs or trapped in netting around fruit trees. However, recently these bats have been dying from heat exhaustion due to the 116F degree weather in Australia. Scientists have said that this is similar to the bats boiling alive. It is estimated 45,000 bats died from heat in 2014.
Hurst: This is not particularly good news since climate change will likely only make Australian summers much worse.
Carol: Exactly. Thankfully there are people like Denise Wade who volunteer with Bat Conservation Rescue Queensland. This one volunteer saves 400 bats a year so it just goes to show that everyone can make a difference in animal conservation!
Hurst: Hey, did you know that February is adopt a rescued rabbit month?
Carol: Of course I did. It’s my job to keep up with the animal holidays around here. Without me, you would have never known that May 30th is International Hug Your Cat Day. Anyway, I wanted to share these Top Ten Reasons that Rescued Rabbits Rule by Mary Lempert, founder and manager of The Rabbit Advocate. For example, pet rescued rabbits mesh perfectly with people who are allergic to cats or dogs, or who don’t have time for dog walking. You should check out the other reasons, too!
Hurst: I sure will, and while we are talking about rescue rabbits, we should probably mention the reasons they need rescuing. People often think rabbits are low-care beginner pets, and frequently buy them for children around Easter. Rabbits are actually pets that require a lot of care and can often be expensive to care for. Shelters cannot keep up with influx of owners that no longer want their rabbit after they find they cannot care for them. This could be due to the fact that rabbits are prey animals, and therefore timid, and do not react to our affection in the same way a dog would.
Carol: Good information for everyone. Thanks, Hurst! Well, I don’t want to sign off before hinting at a big announcement I have coming up…
Hurst: Don’t tell me you finally finished your thrilling autobiography/vegan cookbook?!
Carol: Um, that’s close. I’m launching an animal-related venture soon…I’m putting the final touches on the planning efforts in the coming weeks.
Hurst: Well, I can’t wait to hear more about that! I hope it involves lots of bad puns.
Carol: How can it not? Have a great week – talk to you next Sunday!