Turtles prefer the ‘city life’

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This is interesting. Researchers found that turtles that lived in the suburbs of Canberra, Australia travelled longer distances and occupied home ranges nearly three times larger than turtles in adjacent nature reserves.


Both turtle populations made long journeys of up to two and a half kilometres between bodies of water.

“Given their extensive movements, we expected that suburban turtles would have a high rate of encounters with vehicles on roads, and thus fewer would survive,” Dr Roe says.

“Despite this, suburban turtles did not suffer appreciably higher mortality than their counterparts on reserve lands, only one of our 36 radio tracked turtles was hit by a vehicle,” he told BBC News.

Vegetated drainage lines and drainage culverts running under roads in the suburbs of Canberra protected the turtles.

“The vegetated drainage lines and culverts allowed the turtles to move about and use the landscape in normal ways, which reduced their exposure to urban threats and allowed them to avoid suffering from excessive road mortality,” Dr Roe explains.

Turtles in the nature reserves responded to the drying up of the wetlands by estivating, lying dormant buried under leaf litter.

However, suburban turtles did not need to.

“Water bodies are often incorporated into urban design for the purposes of storm water removal and retention,” Dr Roe says.

So “suburban water bodies remain flooded, allowing turtles to maintain aquatic activities throughout the drought.”

That means turtles living in towns and cities are immune to the worst effects of prolonged drought, which can deplete wild turtles’ energy and water stores.

“It appears that the suburban landscapes, despite their many challenges, may be higher quality habitats than nature reserves for turtles during drought,” Dr Roe says.

Dr Roe hopes to continue the research to see if this trend is represented over the turtles’ entire life span.

He also hopes to monitor the turtles’ response to the frequent droughts that are gripping much of Australia whilst exploring how suburban areas, road design and urban planning may effect them.

“It would be interesting to determine whether well-designed urban areas hold any promise as long term drought refuges for some turtle populations.”


These findings seem to run contrary to the commonly upheld belief that urbanization and hence the loss of natural habitats are always detrimental to the wildlife that remain in the steadily shrinking patches of nature areas embedded in the urban matrix. This thus comes as a rather heartening example of Nature’s resilience and intrinsic adaptability. Although, of course, not all animals would be as adaptable nor as fortunate.


we are still playing catch-up in our moral reflections

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Bisgould is not convinced there are any laws that can really improve things for animals used in industrial agriculture (although she would like to see a change in privacy laws, which would allow people to see where their food comes from). One can ask for bigger cages or make anaesthesia mandatory before castration, but these improvements are minimal in the grand scheme of the suffering the animals endure, she says. The demand to produce vast amounts of meat for human consumption means there’s no room for animals to live well, she adds.
“When there’s no market, we’ll stop producing them,” says Bisgould, pointing to the cosmetic industry, which began to make massive changes after people found out their products were being tested on animals. “In that sense, all of us have a lot of power, but we have to be willing to re-examine our own behaviours because a lot of us love to eat animal products – and I totally get that, but we have to be open to a little bit of change if we want these harms to go away.”
Scharper favours a “context of consumption” approach, which takes into account quality-of-life issues for animals and humans, and environmental concerns, when choosing what meat to eat. Of factory farming in particular, he adds, “This is a crisis of imagination and of the way we think. And because we’ve allowed ourselves to be colonized by a pragmatic, endsdriven model, rather than to other ways of looking at the world – of integration, of deep empathy, of deep participatory solidarity – we can’t think of other ways to be human. That’s what we are challenged to do now.”

Berkman, a vegetarian himself, references a modern Mennonite poster that reads: A Modest Proposal for Peace: Let the Christians of the World Agree That They Will Not Kill Each Other. “People asked, ‘Why just Christians? Why shouldn’t everybody not kill each other?’ Well, this is a modest proposal for peace. At least people who are supposed to agree, fundamentally, about what life is about, should be able to not kill each other,” he says. He relates this back to animal suffering, arguing for at least eating free-range meat: “Ultimately, I would like to see a much broader vision where we come to an agreement about respecting the goodness and the inherent dignity of animals, and that unless we absolutely need to we should let them live according to their natures and peaceably. The modest proposal for change is let’s not be engaged in institutionalized cruelty, which almost everybody knows is wrong.”
Before ending the conversation, Bisgould makes one important distinction between humans and other animals. “We’ve tried for a long time to distinguish ourselves from other animals to justify hurting them. And all of the distinctions that we’ve drawn over time have been disproven by our own science. They don’t think, they don’t reason, they don’t feel, they don’t form social bonds. So we don’t have the factual premise for this entitlement that we continue to claim,” she says. “If there is perhaps one difference, it might be this second-order thinking that we do, this thought about thought. And since we have that capacity, aren’t we obliged to use it? Instead of saying, we’re better than you, therefore we get to hurt you, let’s use our morality and say, I have a choice between sustaining myself in a way that causes profound pain and suffering, or a way that doesn’t. How do I justify choosing pain and suffering? How do I justify it?”

Stop the slaughter of dolphins in the Faroe Islands

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Every year, in Denmark, specifically the Faroe Islands, innocent and helpless Calderon Dolphins are slaughtered brutally by the Danes. Why you may ask, simply because. A pointless and stupid right of passage to manhood. What point is there in killing another living being just to prove you have “evolved”, you have transcended. There is simply no need. These poor dolphins are stabbed a number of times, but as if that weren’t enough, they bleed to death, probably in excruciating pain while the whole town watches. Needless to say, that killing a defenseless animal is no prove of anybody’s manhood. So, I urge, as I am sure many more have, to stop this nonsense. And take action. Never, ever, killing an other creature, another living being, with whom we share this world, has done any good, to anyone. So let’s stop it. http://www.protecttheocean.com/denmark-continues-dolphin-slaughter-warning-graphic-images/


When I first read this article and saw the pictures, I felt sickened to the pit of my stomach. How could they stand to do this – stain the sea red and spill the insides of innocent animals onto the shore? My first reaction was revulsion, outrage; I tried to sign the online petition (which is now closed). And then I read another commentary on the issue.

These whale kills have occurred in the Faroe Islands for hundreds of years and are considered by Islanders to be an important part of their social culture. It is generally only Faroese men who take part in the killings while female islanders look on. The whale hunts have caused international outrage and have been roundly condemned as unnecessary and barbaric by conservation and animal rights groups around the world. However, Faroe Islanders vigorously defend their right to engage in the hunts. A Wikipedia entry on the subject notes: Most Faroese maintain that it is their right to catch pilot whales given that they have done so for centuries. The Faroese whalers defend their actions before international organizations like Greenpeace with three arguments: one, that grindadráp is not a hunt as such, but a dráp meaning a kill (ie that they do not regularly take to sea just to hunt for pilot whales, but only kill those which are sighted swimming to close at land); two, that the pilot whale hunt does not exist for commercial reasons, but for internal food distribution among households; and three, they do not believe the pilot whale to be an endangered species. They further argue that most people in the modern world have become so far removed from the harsh realities of animal food production that they have formulated unrealistic notions of how food actually gets to their tables. However, conservation organisations do not consider these factors to be valid arguments for the continuation of the slaughters. They argue that modern day Faroe Islanders have ample food and do not require whale meat to survive as in earlier centuries. Moreover, they point out that Pilot Whales in the region are known to have high levels of mercury, PCBs and environmental poisons and excessive consumption of whale meat could be detrimental to the health of Islanders. In spite of its cultural significance, the continuation of the practise is very difficult to convincingly defend and even some Faroe Islanders have began opposing it.


They further argue that most people in the modern world have become so far removed from the harsh realities of animal food production that they have formulated unrealistic notions of how food actually gets to their tables.”

This line struck me in the face with my own hypocrisy.

I’m not a vegetarian. The meat I eat daily comes through some kind of “slaughter” of its own. We take that for granted, and just because the animals we deem “acceptable” to be killed for food aren’t charismatic megafauna like dolphins… does that make it any more “right”?

What right do I have to feel morally superior to these people?

in the end

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For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.
— Baba Dioum

philosophizing and rhetorical questions

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Why do we conserve? Why conservation?

Why does it matter that we keep certain animals around?

– moral obligation? (why should we feel such an obligation?) to absolve our consciences?

– intrinsic value? (can this be quantified/qualified? should it be?)

– our own aesthetic pleasure

– some utility value?


This is what the WWF has to say about the charismatic megafauna in their emblem:

WWF considers the giant panda to be a ‘flagship’ species: that is, a charismaticrepresentative of the biologically rich temperate forest it inhabits. By conserving the giant panda and its habitat, many other species will also be conserved — as will water resources that are essential for the future of hundreds of millions of people.


Is it so wrong to feel that humans are evolutionarily superior? Is it wrong to want to ensure our survival as a species, at any cost?

Why do we need nature?

snow prints

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My first snow…

Snow-covered landscapes are one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in all my life (not that it excuses the cold though.)

It made me think about many things. (Assuming there’s a God,) Did God create beauty, or did God just give us the capability to see and appreciate beauty…in things that would otherwise be completely ordinary?

I’m just beginning to appreciate the unique kind of frigid beauty that only a frozen world has.

Canada is calculating the value of polar bears

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The federal government wants to put a price tag on polar bears.

Environment Canada plans to spend up to $44,000 on a study to appraise the animal’s value as a national icon.

The department has put out a tender for companies to study the “socio-economic importance of polar bears for Canada.”

“There is a need to better understand the current state of knowledge of economic values associated with polar bears,” the department says.

“An in-depth analysis is required to estimate the monetary and non-monetary values of polar bears — values that can serve to conduct a rigorous and comprehensive economic impact analysis of events affecting the polar bear population, their habitat, or use.”

The bears are big business — a rare cash cow in small northern communities. Sport hunters pay up to $30,000 for the chance to bag a bear. Inuit hunters can get up to $400 a metre for bear hide.

Debate over bear numbers

But concerns abound for the bears south of the border. Hunters are banned from bringing bear hides into the United States, which has been trying for years to end Canada’s commercial hunt.

Those U.S. efforts suffered a setback this year when an international conservation watchdog ruled polar bears aren’t endangered enough to need a worldwide trade ban. Such a ban would have grouped polar bear hides in the same category as elephant ivory.

Canada has about two-thirds of the world’s 25,000 bears. The latest figures suggest eight of the world’s 19 subpopulations of bears are decreasing, three are stable and one is increasing. Not enough is known about the other seven to assign a trend.

Inuit have long insisted polar bear numbers are healthy. They report more and more bears roaming about.

The debate over climate change has propelled the bears into the symbolic stratosphere. Activists use the image of stranded bears on shrinking Arctic sea ice to illustrate the effects of global warming.

The animals are also the face of northern Manitoba tourism.

“Tourism is built around polar bears here,” said Mayor Mike Spence of Churchill, Man.

“When I’m giving a speech talking about Churchill, I don’t wander too far from saying the polar bear capital of the world.”

National icon

The value of the polar bear as a national icon and not just a mantle piece is precisely what Environment Canada wants to pinpoint.

A statement of work says the study must go beyond the “trophy hunting values” of the bears.

“In other words, in addition to values derived from trophy hunting the consultant shall attempt to estimate other consumptive values (meat, hide, and other parts), non-consumptive values (tourism, art, crafts), scientific/educational value, and existence value or value as an iconic species,” it says.

The eight-week study will also try to price the “value per additional unit of polar bear or value per additional hectare of habitat.”

Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the study’s intent isn’t to price polar bears.

“Nobody is putting a price tag on an iconic species,” he said. “But we need good economic analysis and we need good scientific analysis.”


A necessary move in these times? So much for the intrinsic value of nature. Assigning monetary values to nature may be the only move that makes cents to people anymore.