Walking with the Alligators

Walking with the Alligators
A Florida Alligator

May 29, 2014


Elephants At Zakouma National Park in SE Chad,
the tragic sight of many Elephant deaths by poachers.

Picture credit: C. Michael Hogan

Always there when we need them, our US Marines  from North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune,  are now using their talents to help stop the slaughter of elephants in Chad.
This specialized team of US  Marines, has just landed in Chad to begin training local Park Rangers in the long suffering, ugly war against elephant poachers near and around one of Africa’s last sanctuaries for them,  in the  Zakouma National Park in South East Chad.
The elephant ivory pillage and plunder in Africa has decimated and devastated the population,  nearly to the brink of complete extinction.
The prior elephant numbers here were once over 4,000, but now hover at just around a paltry, sickening 500.
Now just as economic factors seem to be improving in the region, perhaps  lessening the frantic desperate state for those who have  perpetrated the elephant crisis, the new presence of  US Marines  training locals to fight back against this rogue group, just may have a chance to succeed.
There has also been a marked increase in elephant calf births recently,  given all concerned with the ugly situation, a tiny glimmer of hope.
Will those guilty of  so many years of  insidious  ” blood ivory ”  rampages from  the recent past,  find some new line of  work that does not involve murdering African Wildlife?
We can and must, all pray that they have or will.
In the meantime, our  US Marines are now  “boots on the ground”  in Chad and here’s  a message to all the poachers,
” you’d  better look out, our boys mean serious business here.”
Places to learn more:
Elephant Poachers Have a New Problem: U.S. Marines
US Marines Headed To Chad Park To Fight Poaching
US Marines to train park rangers in Chad
U.S. Marines to help fight elephant poaching
Marines aid anti-poaching elephant teams in Chad

May 28, 2014

Harriet Is Home~

Harriet our wandering, resident Gopher Tortoise
Picture credit:  Walkingfox

Yesterday was a very long and busy day.
We made the long trek from the Ocala Forest up to Gainesville, for Breanna’s visit with her Doctor at the UF Vet Hospital.
It is one hundred miles, so we left early before 9 AM.
It was the last of three trips up there,  for her regular required immunizations, including Rabies.
We stretched these shot visits out to three this year for her safety, not wishing to have more than one injection per visit, which was an Airedale Club suggestion many years ago,  when we adopted our sweet Sabrina.
So, anyway, when we finally got home about 3 PM after a quick stop for groceries, I sat down,  put my feet up and looked out the front window,  as I have done every day for weeks now,  wondering where our  wayward, wandering female  Gopher Tortoise  was and why she wasn’t coming up or out, for the summer season, as she has always done by now.
In fact, for the past few weeks, we have both worried that she may have been killed on one of her last sojourns, just before the beginning of  the cold season,  when they all go down into their holes or tunnels and hibernate until it gets warm.
Usually, she comes back up and out sometime in early April.
But not this year.
We were both afraid to think too much about this.
Then yesterday,  glory be,  there she was, right at her hole in the front yard,  ( she has one in the back as well )  attempting to reclaim the area that she calls home.
For over an hour, she worked  feverishly, the sand flying in all directions,  as she cleaned up the mess that the long winter had made of her home.
Can I tell you that we both looked at each other  and said,  ” thank God, she is safe, she is home.”
After nearly 8 years, she has become a family member, just like Breanna.
Now today, Harriet  is out in the yard, munching on all of her favorite  “weeds”.
We use no poisons, no pesticides, or toxins, anywhere near her two areas on the property,  absolutely nothing that could harm her,  or her food.
We also do not wish to poison the foods of our resident green treefrogs, green lizards and all the others who live here with us in the Forest.
So,  the sun is shining, Harriet is out in ” her yard”  eating and our world finally once again, is just as it should be.
Harriet is HOME~

May 26, 2014

Cantankerous Cranes~

Crane Family CCrane Family ACrane Faimly B 
These were taken across the street from our house on April 30, when there were still TWO chicks.
Today there is only one chick remaining.
Picture credit: Walkingfox

A story in my email this morning reflects an ongoing situation that makes those of us who love the Sandhill Cranes  more than just a little edgy.
For the past two months, there have been stories on the news of our Sandhill Cranes being in dangerous places during this current breeding season.
Cranes don’t really seem to be aware of, or even slightly concerned with, their own safety or well-being.
They literally bring traffic to a standstill, where ever they happen to be,  when they decide to cross a road, or gasp, even a four lane highway in search of another bite of their chosen food.
Recently a pair had taken up residence along a very busy Brevard County road and played havoc daily with the busy traffic.
Kind and concerned people tried so hard to protect them from harm,  but in the end one was injured and later died.
It’s mate remained near by,  then disappeared for a few days and is now back again, near the site of the tragic accident.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life, will this one seek a new wife, that is yet to be determined.
The Cranes, not understanding any of this Human interaction on their behalf,  can often turn on good Samaritans and then pick at them and/or their cars in retaliation for being interfered with while searching for food.
Cranes are quite well known to become fiercesome,  if their chicks are threatened by Humans or other.
Some FWS officers have learned this while trying to corral them in the past.
Here in Lake County, we have our own Crane story.
A pair of  Sandhill Cranes had been  showing of their family of two chicks for many days just across the street in the open field from our house and then one day, one chick went missing.
We do not know if it was killed by a car or a predator, which ever the case may be, now the little family only has one chick.
It is rare to see a family of four out here in the Countryside,  the norm is one set of parents and one chick.
Today as they made their daily appearance,  I noticed that the remaining chick is now nearly full grown and breathed a deep sigh of relief.
It will most likely make it now and one day return here and start its own family.
It is one of nearly 4,000 local or resident Sandhill Cranes, and also a Threatened Species.
We also have a plethora of snow birds, whose numbers are strong and stable.
It was this latest story that compelled me to write today about this continual and dangerous Crane behavior.
When Cranes set up their homes, they apparently do not take traffic into consideration.
It would seem that like our resident Black Bears who also “follow the food,”   the Cranes, frequently do not fare much better in places that used to belong solely to them.
Food sources for the Black Bears are often found in trash or garages, both very dangerous places for a Bear to be caught.
For the Cranes,  the food is frequently found in the center of busy four lane traffic.
The search for a daily meal,  can prove fatal for any or all of these little families.
So, the residents in Brevard County  are pondering whether to pave or brick in, the center divided areas along their busy roads, where the hapless Cranes have chosen to dine.
Will it be approved?
If it is,  it may save a few lives, but the sad thing is that the Cantankerous Cranes will likely move on to another place,  just as lethal,  where those favorite meals live and are plentiful.
All kinds of good suggestions have been made, like warning signs, speed bumps, even volunteers to help the Cranes across the busy roads.
I wish these concerned fellow Crane lovers  well and hope that something will be done to change the current situation.
But, the Crane drama of traffic and danger, is not just in town,  where cars are whizzing by at a fast pace.
Often when we drive across County Road 42, near us here in Lake County, on our way into civilization, we pass Cranes either on, or too near,  the very busy road.
Annoyingly, they all seem quite oblivious to the danger, the imminent peril  that they are in and it worries all of us who love them and want to see them here forever.
When buying our house here nearly ten years ago, the Cranes flying over head just at the moment we came inside and looked out the front window, cemented the deal.
The Sandhill Cranes chose this house for us and we love them and it for this reason.
This cantankerous time for the Cranes is not long-lived,  only a couple of months, so here is hoping that we smart Humans can come up with a way to keep them safe,  while they are bringing up baby!
Places to learn more:
Crane-crossing crisis hard to solve
Sandhill cranes still on traffic rampage
Cranes continue to disrupt Melbourne traffic
Cranes disrupt traffic, peck at cars in Melbourne
Gallery: Sandhill cranes back to disrupting traffic
Injured sandhill crane in Melbourne dies
Sandhill crane returns after death of mate

May 23, 2014

Beach Babies~

Least tern St_Augustine 
A Least Tern parent feeding its chick near St. Augustine, Florida.
Picture credit: Craig O’Neal

For this upcoming Memorial Day weekend holiday, Florida Audubon is advising and warning the public to be aware of the plethora of birdlife that will be on our many Beaches.
This weekend kicks off the Summer Beach Season here and there will be thousands of people and birds, out on our lovely, luscious and most inviting warm sandy beaches.
But please do be advised, the Beaches are already occupied with many of  Florida’s newest wildlife citizens.
On any given beach right now, you will find a delightful array of nests and/or baby birds, eager to make their first journey.
Any disturbance right now that causes a mother to abandon her nest, could prove fatal to her chicks or eggs.
Audubon has just sent out an email press release, asking each of us to:
“Keep an eye out for Florida’s original “beach babies.”
The young and the newborns that will be found all over Florida’s beaches right now, are exceptionally vulnerable to any and all risks that they may encounter like: children, pets, cars and other!
This weekend would be a perfect opportunity to teach your little ones about our wonderful Florida wildlife and how and why, we must take great precautions around them.
So, on this prequel to a wonderful new summer in the  Sunshine State  this weekend, let us all be aware that we must share the Beaches with these brand new babies to assure that they will grow up and come back next year, to make even more “Beach Babies!”
Places to learn more:
Audubon Asks You to Protect Coastal Birds this Memorial Day Weekend
Bird nesting season, beach season collide
Watch out for beach-nesting birds

May 16, 2014

A Day of Animal Mourning

A Florida Panther, Everglades National Park
2005 National Park Service Photo by Rodney Cammauf

While watching Sam Champion on the Weather Channel this morning, I was painfully reminded,  that today is  “Endangered Species Day.”
Today is shamefully called National,  or is it Global Endangered Species Day?
This day was apparently created nearly a decade ago, by the US Fish and Wildlife, these would be the kinsfolk of those who recently euthanized  seven Black Bears here in Central Florida for being  ” not afraid of humans. “
This declaration of a special day like this, is disturbing on so many levels to me personally.
It is not like Halloween, or  Thanksgiving,  with hype and hyperbole for a brief 24 hours.
No, this is not something that should have a  ” DAY. “
Those unfortunate animals on our planet that now suffer on the brink of being gone forever,  do not need a national or global day, they need a year, a lifetime,  an eon of attention to their desperate plight.
Without drastic change, or a complete reversal in Global thinking, these creatures are surely doomed to become extinct and quite soon.
There will be no links, or list of  “places to learn more”  today for this posting,  as none are required.
Every single one of us knows what is happening to animals everywhere, we have been told and warned about it for decades, we do not need to go read a Blog,  a Newspaper,  or even a Book.
We already know!
We Humans are more than likely, 99% of the cause of their decline, impending deaths and elimination from the Earth.
We remain steadfastly,  selfish, greedy and ignorant.
Animals were not put on Earth for us to torture, abuse or murder.
They were put here, I believe, to be our companions, our  …………….,  you fill in the blank.
And we are responsible for assuring that they are allowed to live, survive, gasp,  even thrive for as long as we are here.
Not sure of the total accuracy of this, but do believe that our Florida Panther is the number one, most Endangered Mammal or Animal  in America.
Sadly, last week on our way up to Gainesville to see Breanna’s Vet at  UF , we drove past what was my second sighting of one, both times they were lying on the side of the road,  the apparent victim of a deadly vehicular accident.
Is it any wonder that their numbers are now at less than 100?
This magnificent animal, that at one time roamed not only all of Florida, but much of the Southeast, now finds itself  relegated to a tiny area, not fit for a house cat, let alone a big cat,  that requires a  25 square mile  range to support them.
We have, in this state, run our Panther, “our state mammal,”  out of every single place that it used to call home.
The words Ancestral Habitat and the  Florida Panther  are a joke, an oxymoron.
They no longer know,   where they came from,  or where they belong any more.
They are left, with what we greedy Humans have begrudgingly given them to survive on, and it is not even close to what they need, no MUST have to survive.
Why have we taken away all of their land, you ask?
To build another Strip or Shopping Mall, another Beachfront Condo, or to drill for more oil, gas, or other.
It is all Pure Greed.
Florida has enough houses, condos, malls and fossil fuels to last until the next millennium.
Our refusal to care for the well-being of our planets most critically Endangered Animals has put them,  to quote the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, at the  ” end of the log. ” 
Every generation comes with one who tries, nearly always in vain,  to show us the error of our callous ways, in our treatment of our fellow animals,  my most recent favorite is of course, Gandhi.
His thinking, his comments,  on the subject of caring for animals are legendary.
Any man of his stature who would leave a gathering of dignitaries sitting, while he left to tend to his  goats is my Hero.
Gandhi had his priorities straight.
Can the rest of us at least try to do the same?
Personally, I will not celebrate in any way on this day of Endangered Species.
No banner or sign waving, no protest marching, no screaming out for the world to celebrate this day.
Instead, I  choose on this day,  to reflect on what I have failed to achieve in the year that this Blog has existed.
Like the millions of Native People in America, who call Thanksgiving,  ” a day of mourning,”   I choose to call this,
a day of mourning for the animals who will likely not survive until it comes again next year.

May 13, 2014

A Serbian Sensation~

Dusan Krtolica, Serbian artist extraordinaire~
Picture credit: Dušan Krtolica

A very kind fellow Hoosier just sent me a link to a story about one of the most gifted young artists that I have ever seen.
Thank you  Mosdao  for this information,  it was absolutely awesome.
And here are all of the details about the incredible work of this very young creative genius.
His name is  Dušan Krtolica and he is an unbelievably  talented  11-year-old from Serbia, who has been creating beauty in the form of a multitude of animals of all kinds and drawing  since the tender age of two.
This brilliant young artist has already had several art shows and his future appears to be so bright, that  he may need some really good sunglasses to protect him from the glare of the huge spotlight on his work right now.
Dusan’s dream is to one day be a  Zoologist and the field would be lucky to have one as knowledgeable about such a vast number of animals, as he already appears to be.
Please do see the links below to learn more about him,  his work is absolutely breathtaking.
The detail found in his stunningly beautiful drawings would be expected of an adult, but to see this in one so young,  is mind-boggling.
Dusan already has a Blog, a Facebook Group that you can join and follow for updates on his work and he also has a Facebook Fan page.
This very intelligent young man is quite well covered in social media and it can only get better for him from here.
His talent and hard work will surely lead him to a lengthy career in the fine arts,  where he will have few peers.

Places to learn more:
11-Year-Old Artist Creates Amazingly Detailed Drawings of Wildlife
Dušan Krtolica, the World of Art

May 8, 2014

Branson’s Bunch~

Sir Richard Branson at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development June,  2012

Picture credit:  UNclimatechange

When going through my mail this morning,  a surprising story presented itself.
The unexpected subject of this great news, is not one who normally comes to mind when thinking of Endangered Wildlife, but there he was,  right there in my mailbox, Billionaire Richard Branson.
The story was concerning a new edition to an already growing group at his Necker Island  home in the Caribbean.
I was not aware that Branson had been rescuing Endangered Wildlife for years and in co-operation with several Wildlife Groups,  was using his vast wealth for such a good purpose.
Branson’s involvements in Humanitarian and  Environmental Issues are the only things that will be addressed here,  as it would take an eternity to describe the total sum of the man’s often outrageous,  or occasionally notorious life.
It is not often that I find that a Billionaire and I have much in common, but in Branson’s case this is not entirely true.
His lifelong admiration for Nelson Mandela’s Humanitarian efforts and causes and his passion for protecting the Environment, including Endangered Animals, are two areas where we are in complete agreement.
Branson’s  Island home in the Caribbean has been a source of much criticism, as many believe that he only lives there to avoid taxes on his vast wealth, but for whatever reason, he has managed to make this place a refuge for wildlife and it is for this reason that I admire him and am writing about him today.
My huge respect for Branson as a Humanitarian,  is only superseded by my admiration of his sincere efforts to care for Endangered Animals on his little island in paradise.
As he continues to add to his animal family, Branson has wisely teamed up with the Turtle Conservancy
The most recent guests to be welcomed at his Island retreat are several Endangered Tortoises.
Prior to them,  have been a wide assortment of mammals, birds, reptiles  and other,  amounting to a total of 140 species.
As one of the wealthiest men in the world, Branson does not need to do any of  this.
He could continue to carry on every single day of his life as the famous,  carefree playboy of the world, as many already believe that he is.
But for me at least, this particular side of such a multifaceted man shows that he is a complicated,  many layered person who has earned my respect, at least for this.
One amusing mention in the story,  is about a web site that Branson has had set up,  with a new family member or addition to be  “shown each week.”
Regardless of the flamboyant outer shell this powerful, passionate man consistently shows to most of the world, in my opinion, there is more importantly,  another softer, kinder side, and it is for this that I will always thank him.
Thank you Richard, for what you are trying to do with the Endangered Animals on your island,  or Branson’s Bunch.
Places to learn more:
Richard Branson adds endangered tortoises to Necker Island
Necker – more species than any other island on earth
New tortoises on Necker Island
The Turtle Conservancy

May 4, 2014

Dolphin Defense

A Dolphin group in Xcaret, Mexico
Picture credit:  Truncatus

Today is feel good Sunday, so in Honor of this day of positive thinking, here is a  feel good story.
Do you need or want,  yet another reason to fight for and defend wild animals?
Is it just me, or do Dolphins always look happy and like they are smiling?
I give you this story,  in the hopes that you too will become a wildlife or any animal defender from this point on~
Recently in the waters off of New Zealand, near Cook Strait,  British swimmer Adam Walker, was saved from the jaws, (truly sorry for that) of a Great White Shark.
Walker  was about to become lunch while swimming for Whale and Dolphin Conservation,  in support of the very animals that saved him.
This was his seventh swim for the group to raise money and awareness for Whales and Dolphins around the world.
The pod of about ten “Guardian Dolphins”  surrounded Adam and protected him from the Great White who was closing in on him.
Apparently, the shark then decided that perhaps there were more rescuers than he could handle and left.
Can you say KARMA?
Point in fact, this is not the first time that this kind of protective attention was given by Dolphins towards a Human.
By now, we  are all keenly aware that Dolphins are one of the most intelligent animals in the Sea, isn’t it time for us to protect those that have repeatedly proven they are willing to protect us?
We must defend the Dolphins now in their time of greatest need,  as they are being hunted and murdered at alarming and sickening rates all over the planet.
So be a good Human and defend Dolphins,  won’t you?
You never know when they might return the favor to you~

Places to learn more:
Amazing Dolphins Stage a Rescue
‘Guardian’ Dolphins Save British Swimmer Adam Walker from Great White Shark in New Zealand
Dolphins, Shark, Swimmer Adam Walker in New Zealand’s Cook Strait