Shrews Reefs Dolphins Elephants Tortoises Apes and Sandhill Cranes

Hurst: Hey Carol! I hope you had a great Be Kind to Animals week. I’m ready to talk about some animal news again. How are shrew doing?

Carol: I’m doing fine, but did you call me a shrew?

Hurst: Of course not. A new species of shrew has been discovered in the Philippines. But what is interesting is that it appears to only live on one specific mountain top on one certain island. It is called the Palawan moss shrew and it joins the other two species endemic to Mount Mantalingajan, the Palawan mountain squirrel and Palawan soft-furred mountain rat.  Scientists don’t really know how it even got to the island, so further research is needed.

Carol: Wow that’s a pretty mysterious story for such a small brown rodent. I recently read an intriguing story about surveillance, artificial intelligence, and fishing that I want to talk to you about.

Hurst: If it is not something along the lines of cyborg dolphins, I’m not interested.

Carol: It’s not, but it is certainly an interesting look into what the future of conservation may look like. As groundfish season begins in New England, fishermen catch numerous cod and haddock. However, they must be monitored to be sure that they are staying within the lawful limit, and not depleting wild fish stocks. This was previously accomplished by hiring an observer to be on the already crowded boat at the cost of $700 a day, out of government and taxpayer pockets. But now there may be a new high-tech alternative. Video cameras watch fishermen so actual people don’t have to.

Hurst: But won’t someone still have to sit down and watch hours of film and count the fish to make sure they are following the law? That does not sound like an ideal workday, but I would consider applying if they get good dental insurance, you know?

Carol: Well that is where the artificial intelligence comes in. AI was created that could count fish with 100% accuracy and identify species with 75% percent accuracy. There are now tests being run on a new program that would allow you to scan a code on fish in the grocery store and get its exact origins and even see the video of it being caught and counted.

Hurst: Not to mention that this will allow scientist to actually see fish from different populations and gather data to better preserve them.

Carol: Moving on to a story I saw during Be Kind to Animals week… A Texas police officer was called to a home where a strange and “vicious” dog was occupying a resident’s porch. The officer came fully prepared to defend himself against an aggressive canine, however the opposite occurred. The American Bully, which is very similar to a Pitbull, greeted the officer with a wagging tail and even climbed into the front seat of the squad car unprompted. The dog was microchipped and returned home promptly.

Hurst: Sounds like the officer was prepared for a ruff time, but was pleasantly surprised. Pitbull-like breeds often get a bad reputation but they are often just as loving and affectionate as other breeds.

Carol: In political news this week, two United States congress members have introduced legislation called the Wildlife Conservation and and anti-trafficking act of 2018. This act would build upon the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016 in order to strengthen federal regulations against traffickers and poachers. It will also station law enforcement in high trafficking areas as well as use money obtained from wildlife offenders to further conservation efforts.

Hurst: I hope it becomes law! It is important that the United States plays a part in stopping the global market for illegal animal trafficking.

Carol: Australia has also recently been standing up for the environment. The country just announced that they will be spending $379 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef, making it the biggest effort ever to conserve the reef.

Hurst: I also read about this! The reef has been being damaged by both agricultural run-off and an overpopulation of the crown-of-thorns starfish. The aim of this project is to change farming practices to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the environment and cull the crown-of-thorns starfish.

Carol: This plan has been met by a fair amount of criticism however. The main thing hurting the reef is warming waters from climate change. The coral is intolerant of the higher temperature and coral bleaching occurs, eventually causing death. Although pollution and starfish are definitely an issue, it seems the long term solution should be investing in fighting climate change.

Hurst: I agree, but at least something is being done to preserve this natural wonder while we work on climate change solutions.

Carol: Way to look on the bright side.  In other happy animal news, Mexico had banned all dolphinariums!

Hurst: Are those the attractions where dolphins are trained to do tricks and “dance’ to music?

Carol: Yes, a ruling passed the Chamber of Deputies in a vote 242 to 290 to prohibit the use of marine mammals of any species such as whales, dolphins and manatees, in fixed or traveling shows. New animals cannot be brought into captivity except for conservation purposes, however the ones already in captivity are to stay that way provided their health is maintained.

Hurst: I guess we will be hopeful that the ruling passes the Senate as well.  So one thing we missed during Be Kind to Animals Week is the migration of the Sandhill Cranes!  CBS did a story about Dr. Jane Goodall and her friend and wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen who meet up in Nebraska every year to watch thousands of cranes as they migrate through to the north.  

Carol:  That’s fun.  I’ve always wanted to do that myself.

Hurst: Maybe you can try to go with them next year.  They’ve been meeting for 17 years now to watch the migration.  And speaking of rituals, the migration itself is an amazingly long one.  Fossils indicate that cranes have been going through the area for nearly 10 million years.  At this point, there are leftover seeds and grains in the farmlands, as well as small rodents there that the birds eat as they come through.  Dr. Goodall made the comment that the fact that the migration is so ancient gives her hope that nature will carry on in spite of us.

Carol: Well, to continue the happy story trend, Delaware passed a law that ends the automatic euthanization of healthy research cats and dogs who are “retired” from their services.

Hurst: Wow, I didn’t realize that was a thing.  I’m so glad that these animals can now be adopted out to homes where they can live a cushier life.

Carol: We move from Delaware to Zimbabwe now for another hopeful story.  I’ve long admired the women who dedicate their life to combating wildlife poachers.  The BBC did a nice video story on the Akashinga, an all female group working to catch poachers, primarily of elephants.  The person in charge of the group is male and states that the women he has worked with are far less prone to corruption than then men, just as brave and tough, and are able to win over the hearts and minds of the neighboring villages, prompting people to be mindful of the conservation goals at stake.

Hurst: That’s cool for sure…and to continue the positive trend and stay on the same continent, I read a story in the New York Times about a gorilla and chimpanzee census in western and central Africa that resulted in far more of each than previously thought.  While the populations is a pleasant surprise for the researchers, these animals are still in danger because of their low populations. About 12% of their habitat is protected from development and it is illegal to kill one, however, poaching, habitat loss, and disease (remember Ebola?) are all contributing to the decreasing populations.

Carol:  Let’s jump over to Madagascar now for a weird story with a somewhat happy ending. Over ten thousand endangered Radiated Tortoises were found by police at a house in Madagascar; three people were arrested.

Hurst: Are you sure you didn’t add an extra zero to that number?

Carol: Nope, it was over ten thousand.  On the property of one house. All of the turtles were in bad shape from dehydration, malnourishment, and disease.  Some of the turtles did not make it but many many more are recuperating after being soaked in water for days, injected with rehydration fluids, and in some cases given antibiotics and painkillers. These tortoises have a trifecta of demand: because they have decorative shells, their meat is considered a delicacy, and they are also pets. Thankfully these were rescued, but the market still exists.

Hurst: I’m glad they were rescued at least, that is worth shell-ebrating. And speaking of celebrating turtles, World Turtle day is coming up on the twenty third of May. But I am personally looking forward to International Hug Your Cat Day! It is the only day you are legally allowed to hug your cat!

Carol: I don’t think that is quite what that day means but I am also looking forward to it nonetheless. See you next week!

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