Posts filed under ‘Animal welfare’

Love from tragedy

No doubt you have heard about the tragic bushfires that blazed their way through townships in Victoria, Australia – leaving 181 people dead, although officials think the toll could climb to 300. Nine hundred homes have been razed to the ground in these “Hell on Earth” bushfires, which are the deadliest in Australian history. 7000 or so survivors are camping out in tents. All their treasured possessions up in smoke. Loved ones dead. I cannot begin to tell you how this has affected Australians.

There was a perfect storm on February 7 – sky high temperatures, the highest ever recorded in Melbourne (46.4C or 115.5F) and strong winds fanning the inferno, sending it hurtling towards the towns of Kinglake and Marysville. Families were caught with no time to flee because the fires moved with such speed. I’m sure to the people engulfed in these deadly fires it must have seemed like Armageddon. We live in the bush with a national park right behind us and it was about 44C on the same day where we live in New South Wales – so we were a tad nervous.

There’s a suggestion that some of the fires were lit by arsonists. If so, then I hope they are tracked down and prosecuted. Even our Prime Minister has uttered the phrase “mass murder”. You can donate money to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Last I read, donations had exceeded AU$100 million – Australians are at their best when there’s a tragedy like this and we need to pull together. The outpouring of generosity has been great to see.

Anyway, I don’t wish to dwell on all this because out of tragedy touching stories can emerge and ThinkingShift reader, Oohlala from Thailand, has alerted me to a great story.  You can read the full story here but in a nutshell this is what happened.

Two badly-burned koalas have fallen in love and a volunteer firefighter has been privileged to care for one of these koalas in its time of greatest need.  Sam is a female koala burnt in the Victorian blaze and disoriented. David Tree is a volunteer firefighter who came across Sam cowering in a burnt out forest area. From a plastic bottle, he gave Sam water as she placed her burnt paw in his hand. For those who know what koalas are like, this is a rare action for a koala to have such contact with a human. You can watch the video below but warning, it will bring you to tears. As Tree says:

“You can see how she stops and moves forward and looks at me. It was like a look saying “I can’t run, I’m weak and sore, put me out of my misery”.

Sam was then taken to an animal shelter where she fell in love with Bob, another poor koala who had been burnt in the inferno. One of the people at the shelter has said:

“They keep putting their arms around each other and giving each other hugs. They really have made friends and it is quite beautiful to see after all this. It’s been horrific”.

Both koalas are doing well and are a symbol of the courage and spirit of Australia in one of its darkest hours.  Thanks to Oohlala for telling me about this story.

UPDATE: Sam now has her own Facebook page.

February 14, 2009 at 2:00 am 3 comments

How to save $1 billion

If you are a Russian company thinking of putting an oil pipeline through say Lake Baikal in Southern Siberia in Russia, you might get a tad annoyed if heaps of protests cause you to shift the pipeline’s route costing you $1 billion.

But if you had looked up the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT), you would not have wasted $1 billion. IBAT is a new database that offers integrated up-to-date information on globally important biodiversity areas and legally protected sites, as well as detailed maps and data on endangered species.  Most conservation groups keep data of this sort but IBAT offers the first, integrated source, which is targeted at business. It will allow corporations to include conversation data from the start of project planning.

There is good coverage of information available with users being able to find data about individual parks, reserves, indigenous and communal areas. Sites considered globally important (protected or unprotected) are also identified, as well as areas that might contain vulnerable species.

If the Russian company had used IBAT, it would have discovered that Lake Baikal is home to four species of birds that are threatened, including the greater spotted eagle and the lesser white-fronted goose. It would also have found that the critically-endangered Siberian crane flies through the Lake Baikal area on its way to summer nesting grounds.

IBAT is a no brainer really. It will allow corporations to screen potential investment areas; develop considered action plans to address biodiversity impact; assess risks with investing in targeted areas; report on corporate social responsibility and bioversity performance.

Businesses need to register to use IBAT but from that point onwards, everything is anonymous and no records are kept. BHP recently used IBAT to check whether areas it was considering for exploration were ecologically sensitive, without alerting competitors to their interests in specific areas.

IBAT is the result of a conservation partnership between BirdLife International, Conservation International and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre. How smart is this partnership!!  It will be officially launched at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, which is being held as I blog.

Source: The Economist & IBAT

October 6, 2008 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

The wrong object was shot

Could there be any greater evidence for human stupidity than this sorry tale? I did promise Dave Snowden that I wasn’t going to rant about this horrid story but I must. First of all, read this.

How shocked are you by this outrageous example of complete stupidity by humans? If you’re not staggered, upset or angry – buzz off to another blog!

Now, this polar bear probably did the long distance swim because there are fewer and fewer ice-floes for these animals to rest on as they go about their life. Polar bears last visited Iceland in 1993 when Icelanders once again shot the visiting animal. For those who know the work of Rupert Sheldrake, you would probably suspect that before the 1993 polar bear carked it, he sent a message to the morphic resonance field saying “Don’t visit Iceland, they’ll shoot you, then maybe ask questions”. Hence, no polar bears have visited Iceland since 1993.

This time around the Icelandic authorities were so keen to shoot the poor polar bear (which they said was a threat to humans) they could not wait for 24 hours to get hold of a tranquilizing drug.

Real evidence of stupidity though is shown by the following – authorities, knowing the polar bear was swimming towards them, did not close down the area. No, they allowed a crowd of people to descend and watch the bear arrive. Naturally, I’d say the polar bear was a bit anxious and stressed by its long swim and human idiots crowding around the foreshore. If there was any threat going on, it was from the humans towards the polar bear.

You might be asking: wasn’t there a local vet with a tranquilizing drug? Good question. Apparently, the chief vet in the town of Blönduó, Egill Steingrímsson, had the drugs necessary to immobilise the bear in the boot of his car. All he needed was a special gun, which could have reached him by helicopter within the hour. I’m sure a trained vet could have figured out a way to contain the animal while they waited for the tranquilizer. And the poor bear would have been saved.

Frankly, I think the wrong object was shot. They shouldn’t have shot the polar bear. They should have shot the idiots who did little to avoid a senseless tragedy.

As you probably know, the polar bear was added to the Endangered Species Act (US) in May 2008 due to loss of sea ice and threats to its habitat caused by global warming. So human idiots have contributed to one less polar bear on this planet. Normally, I wouldn’t show you a picture as disturbing as this poor dead polar bear but I think you should see it. Just look at those idiots: gloating like big game hunters with their trophy catch.

There are many possible human extinction scenarios. Wikipedia summarises them for us. Let’s forget extinction by nanotechnology grey goo or extinction due to global warming or extinction due to a meteor slamming into us. Let’s add to the scenarios by saying that our species will top itself off by sheer human stupidity. No technology or environmental disaster has to do this for us – we’re quite capable of doing it to ourselves.

Is there a book on the history of human stupidity? If not, I’m going to write it. But it would be probably the longest book in human history as I’d have to cover so many examples of stupidity.

Source: The Guardian. Image credit: Icelandic TV

June 12, 2008 at 1:25 am Leave a comment

Get rid of the cages!

Following a recent post, which in part highlighted a senseless act of cruelty against a defenseless animal, comes some good news for a change. But first: just imagine for a moment that you are confined to a small cage, with no room to simply turn around or stretch out your limbs. Any natural movement of your body is totally restricted. Day in day out you are in this cage. Artificial lights glare down on you relentlessly. Up to nine other tormented individuals probably occupy the cage with you. You get no exercise and you’re in this cage for up to 12 months, in a gloomy shed that holds maybe 100,000 other individuals living in the same conditions. You become increasingly stressed, anxious and depressed. And you’re in pain.

Are you a prisoner of war? Nope, you’re a battery hen. Probably debeaked cruelly with a hot machine when you were a day or so old and now forced to live out your life in miserable, cramped conditions. Or you might be a pig or calf or sow.

A couple of months back, I told you about a book I’d finished reading: Why Animals Matter by Erin Williams and Margo Demello. One of the co-authors, Erin Williams, contacted me and is keeping ThinkingShift up to date with latest developments in animal welfare. Erin works for the Humane Society in the US and has just alerted me to a Pew Commission Report on Industrial Farm Animal Production. You can read the Humane Society’s story about this report on their website. But in a nutshell, the report says:

  • factory farms pose unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and animal welfare (anyone thinking bird flu?)
  • a phase-out of inhumane practices such as battery cages is recommended
  • the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act has qualified for the November ballot in California after 800,000 Californians signed petitions (go California!)
  • the ballot initiative prescribes that cages and crates on factory farms get the boot so that the most basic right – the right to simply stretch and move about – is granted to animals

The Pew Commission report follows a two-year investigation and site visits to facilities across America and industry leaders, animal experts, scientists and so on were consulted. And it seems that Colorado, Florida, Arizona and Oregon are following California’s lead by gathering signatures to ban gestation crates and legislate against animal abuse.

So a good news story! If you’d like to inform yourself about how calves and pigs live out their sorry lives in inhumane conditions, then read this story from the Humane Society. Hint: don’t read while eating as you’ll probably throw up.

Let’s stop worrying about whether we have the latest designer handbag or whether we are paid enough to do our jobs so we can afford THE BRANDS and the McMansion- let’s spend a moment thinking about the sorry lives of some of our planet’s species. After all, it is us who inflict such pain and suffering on these poor creatures.

Thx to Erin and the Humane Society of the United States for the story.

May 7, 2008 at 2:00 am 1 comment


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