John: Hi Hurst! I am back again to torture you with my unique perspective on animals while Carol is away for the week tending to other Fanimal shenanigans.
Hurst: Welcome back, John! Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s torture having you around.
John: Well, Hurst, the reason I say that is that I have a lot to say about cockroaches this week. It seems to have been a big news week for them.
Hurst: What are you talking about?
John: I am talking about drinking cockroach milk, which is apparently a superfood. First, you have to have pregnant cockroaches…
Hurst: Wait, wait, wait. When is Carol coming back?
John: Hurst, I am just broadening your horizons a little bit. The point here is that, the protein in the milk has three times the energy of the equivalent protein in dairy milk.
Hurst: That is supposed to make me want to drink it?
John: Of course not! But I gotta tell you, though, cockroaches are being raised by the billions in China for Chinese medicine, and, uh, sushi.
Hurst: Well, I am not that much of a fan…
John: Back to the question of milk, there are a lot of non-dairy options out there without resorting to cockroach milk. In fact, there are tons of convenient ways to make your own nut milk at home.
Hurst: What kind of nuts are we talking about?
John: Almond, cashew, pecans… You could make green pistachio milk. Or, strawberry macadamia nut milk. Do I have your attention now?
Hurst: You have had my attention.
John: Look, Hurst, I am going to get to the megafauna stories in a little while, such as the man who fought off a bear to save his pet beagle…
John: But you have to bear with me, as I have more to say about the insect world.
Hurst: We have used that pun several times before.
John: So listen, I honestly am not a big fan of cockroaches, I have to admit.
Hurst: Thank you for your honesty.
John: I also don’t like mosquitos. I mean, come on.
Hurst: Yes, you are just being real.
John: So, look, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That means you should be friendly toward spiders in your home. They eat mosquitos, and other predator pests in your house.
John: They are not out to get humans. Although you should be careful about widows and recluses.
Hurst: I will try to be good to spiders.
Hurst: I like bats!
John: Well, yeah. And, if you are keeping down the mosquito population, you are reducing the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, like dengue, West Nile, malaria, and Zika. This is encouraging some people to set up backyard bat houses.
Hurst: John, I hear you equivocating on the cockroaches, but are definitely thumbs down on mosquitos. What other insects don’t you like?
John: I am glad you asked, Hurst. I don’t like ticks either. Ticks are the reason I have to give my dog a month-long cycle of doxycycline because of a tick-borne disease.
Hurst: Yeah, but what can you do?
John: Well, you can try to keep them out of your yard, along with the mosquitos. First thing you have to do is keep your lawn cut short, because tall grass is one of their favorite hangouts, especially at the edge of the lawn. Second, create a boundary between lawns and wooded areas, because they apparently don’t like to walk over them. Third, keep your woodpiles stacked neatly and in the sun. Fourth, you could repel with plants, such as American beautyberry bushes. Lastly, you could use a tick eater.
Hurst: Are are people eating ticks, too?
John: Chickens, Hurst! They eat them up. In fact, backyard chicken coops are cropping up all over the US. Would you believe 1% of all US households have chickens, according to the Department of Agriculture? The locavore movement, where people grow their own food, is driving this trend, not tick infestation. Problem is, there are concerns about animal and human welfare, so more regulations are needed to do it safely and humanely.
Hurst: I think I would be too chicken to ever eat a tick. Moving on, we have plenty of conservation news to talk about this week. Fish are some of my favorite animals so I was very happy to see that there is a major conservation effort being put in place to save the Atlantic salmon.
John: Atlantic salmon are widely raised in captivity for consumption, so many people are surprised to find out that they are endangered in the wild. In fact, Maine is the only U.S. state that still has wild salmon populations.
Hurst: Exactly, so it is extra important to raise awareness for this unique species. Atlantic salmon live a large portion of their life in the ocean, making it hard to protect them since it requires cooperation from the many countries that harvest them. Thankfully, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund have reached a deal with Greenland and Faroe Island fishers. This agreement states that for the next twelve years, Greenland and the Faroe islands will not commercially harvest Atlantic salmon, but will still be allowed a quota of twenty metric tons for personal consumption.
John: This is great news! Hopefully this new policy, in addition to the already existing ban on Atlantic salmon fishing in the United States, will help restore populations.
Hurst: Continuing with the conservation theme, the recovering mountain gorilla population in central Africa has reached the milestone of 1,000 individuals.
John: Wow that is great news about great apes!
Hurst: Indeed. This makes them the only great ape population in the world that is growing in numbers. Conservationists credit this rebound to the governments of the countries that the gorillas inhabit working together to protect them and their habitat.
John: On the other end of the conservation spectrum, snake hunters are attempting to eliminate pythons from Everglades National Park. The park is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision to reach out to third-party hunters to try to get rid of the invasive species. Paying hunters to search for and remove the Burmese pythons will improve upon the previous system of using volunteers.
Hurst: Good to hear that they are doubling down on this effort. Those pythons are very detrimental to Everglades ecosystems because they eat everything from birds and frogs to adult alligators!
John: Did you say adult alligators? Like the ones that can reach over eleven feet in length?
Hurst: I did. There was a story about ten years ago where a Burmese python was eating a six-foot long American alligator when its stomach burst.
John: Talk about biting off more than you can chew. Speaking of hunts, Wyoming has announced that it will allow for hunters to kill twenty-two bears near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Hurst: Aren’t grizzly bears endangered?
John: The populations surrounding Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons were removed from the endangered species list last June when the population reached over 700 individuals.
Hurst: So I would be correct in saying that they are bear-ly not endangered.
John: You would be correct, but it is still a bad joke. Anyway, the bears within the parks will still be protected. The decision to have this hunt has been met with fierce opposition from scientists and local indigenous peoples that are worried this will halter the comeback of the bears.
Hurst: At least they are still protected within the national parks. A recent expedition in Bolivia shows us just how important these areas are. It is now known that the Madidi National Park in Bolivia is the most biologically diverse protected area in the world. Data gathered during this expedition informed us that there are a total of 105 reptile, 109 amphibian, 265 mammal, at least 314 fish, 1018 bird, and 5515 plant species present in the park.
John: What an amazing amount of different kinds of animals. I hope the projected success of this park will set a precedent for similar places in other parts of the world!
Hurst: As you know, we like to close out Creature Feature each week with some fun animal holidays. I have one this week that is so purrr-fect that you need to hear about it right meow.
John: Oh I see what you’re saying. It’s about dogs, isn’t it?
Hurst: Really? Anyway, this week we celebrated Rubble, the oldest cat in the world, as he turned the ripe old age of 30.
John: Hurst, I don’t think 30 is old.
Hurst: Oh right. Well it is for a cat, they say that 30 cat years is the equivalent of 137 people years.
John: 137? You’re lying!
Hurst: No he’s a housecat, not a lion.
John: That’s not what I meant, but nevermind. Thanks for having me this week! I’m sure I’ll be back at some point to talk to you more about cockroach milk since you loved it so much.
Hurst: Looking forward to it.