By piecing together a complex ecological puzzle, biologist Willie Smits has found a way to re-grow clearcut rainforest in Borneo, saving local orangutans - and creating a thrilling blueprint for restoring fragile ecosystems.
About Willie Smits Willie Smits has devoted his life to saving the forest habitat of orangutans, the "thinkers of the jungle." As towns, farms and wars encroach on native forests, Smits works to save what is left.
Watch this remarkable and inspiring 20-minute video.
I learned so much from and was inspired so much by our (recently deceased) cat, that my awareness of how much animals can teach us has greatly expanded. Here's an inspiring little incident, via the BBC:
A dolphin has come to the rescue of two whales which had become stranded on a beach in New Zealand.
Conservation officer Malcolm Smith told the BBC that he and a group of other people had tried in vain for an hour and a half to get the whales to sea.
The pygmy sperm whales had repeatedly beached, and both they and the humans were tired and set to give up, he said.
It is important to remember that, under natural conditions, a tree remains part of the forest ecosystem long after its death. It's rate of decay varies according to the species, cause of death, climate and other factors. If left undisturbed by humans, a dead tree may remain standing in the forest for up to half the time it stood while alive. A tree's ecological importance continues as it breaks apart and falls to the ground or after it topples, and eventually all its nutrients are cycled back into the soil to be taken up by new plants.
Elephants, with their deep sense of community, family life and understanding of their world (see my web page) are going crazy. If you stop to think about it, having your family and the world you and your kin lived in senselessly and remorselessly destroyed, insanity is not that far-fetched . . . certainly not far-fetched to Jason Godesky who writes about this phenomenon in Elephant Men. It could be more than this: elephants as evidence of the living world "fighting back" - mad in the American-English use of that term. Godesky quotes Gay Bradshaw:
What we are seeing today is extraordinary. Where for centuries humans
and elephants lived in relatively peaceful coexistence, there is now
hostility and violence. Now, I use the term 'violence' because of the
intentionality associated with it, both in the aggression of humans
and, at times, the recently observed behavior of elephants.
He goes on to describe how elephants "are also taking their rage out on other species" followed by many examples of the richness and sanity of elephant life. It's like rubbing salt into the wound.
With atrocities like Darfur getting scant attention, one can't hold out much hope for elephants. I can't help though but share Jason's faint hope (longing?):
The end of our civilization will come too late for many elephant herds,
but some will survive, even if only in zoos - and even in zoos, elephants
have proven impossible to truly domesticate. The pressure then will be
on us, to rediscover magic as David Abram puts it - to hear the
voices of other animals, to appreciate the life that surrounds us
constantly, and to open up a dialogue with the elephants. It hasn't
always been the best relationship, but it hasn't always been hostile,
either. We are much too similar to one another, and now we have been
bound to a common trauma, and a common healing. We both need one
another now; without our help, there may be no hope for elephants. But
by the same token, without elephants, there may be no hope for us.
Multiple cracks are beginning to show in the supposed scientific
consensus on the origins of avian flu. A growing number of
non-governmental organisations, bird experts and independent vets are
pointing the finger at the global intensive poultry industry. A new
report from Grain, an international environmental organisation,
challenges the official line. "H5N1 is essentially a problem of
industrial poultry practices," it says. "Its epicentre is the factory
farms of China and south-east Asia. Although wild birds can carry the
disease, at least for short distances, [the main infection] route is
the highly self-regulated transnational poultry industry, which sends
its products and wastes around the world through a multitude of
Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis Backyard
or free-range poultry are not fuelling the current wave of bird flu
outbreaks stalking large parts of the world. The deadly H5N1 strain of
bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. FULL STORY
Migrating birds are dying flying into buildings at night, attracted and confused by the light. In Toronto, home base of FLAP, the Fatal Light Awareness Program, up to 500 dead birds a day, casualties of the previous night, are collected by volunteers. FLAP describes what happens:
Birds migrating at night are strongly attracted to, or at least trapped by, sources of artificial light, particularly during periods of inclement weather. Approaching the lights of lighthouses, floodlit obstacles, ceilometers (light beams generally used at airports to determine the altitude of cloud cover), communication towers, or lighted tall buildings, they become vulnerable to collisions with the structures themselves. If collision is avoided, birds are still at risk of death or injury. Once inside a beam of light, birds are reluctant to fly out of the lighted area into the dark, and often continue to flap around in the beam of light until they drop to the ground with exhaustion. A secondary threat resulting from their aggregation at lighted structures is their increased vulnerability to predation. The difficulty of finding food once trapped in an urban environment may present an additional threat.
The solution: turn out the lights - or as many of them as possible. This might seem appealing in an era of energy conservation but apparently not so. FLAP's attempts to enlist the support of companies with big buildings has had limited success. In support of the programme, Toronto Hydro has issued a Bird Safety Migration Alert and the city of Toronto is considering modifications to its building design code.
I've always been a dog person as, I suspect, the majority of men are. I got on well with cats - liked them - but the idea of having one in my home - well, what would be the point?
Then Decko arrived. He wasn't Decko at that point. He earned that name by surviving unseen under our deck in mid-winter (that's a -20C Canadian winter) for at least a few weeks - until one day I looked out my office door window and there was this cat, looking at me. I waited and he came towards me, put his feet up on the door . . . and the rest is history.
I am now a cat person, big time. But I won't bore you with the details of that. However, if you've read this far, you'll probably enjoy this story of another man who became a cat person.
On Sunday, divers off the California coast made the first successful attempt to free a trapped humpback whale, caught up in lobster traps and lines. One flip of its tail could easily have killed one of them but, in fact, the opposite happened as the whale quietly allowed the divers to cut it free and, in apparent appreciation, acknowledged each diver before swimming off.