27 September 2009

Call of Life

The Species Alliance has created a documentary exploring the mass extinction currently taking place. You can watch a 10 minute preview on their site, and I'll be keeping an eye out for the full version.

From the Species Alliance Website:

CALL OF LIFE is a documentary film that explores the mass extinction, its six main causes, the cultural myths and values that drive it, the psychology that underpins it, and the latest insights into natural systems that could help us turn back the tide. The mass extinction is the cumulative result of many causes, all of which are related to human activity. In interviews with eminent scientists and field biologists, we present the facts and evidence of the shocking decline as we consider the six primary drivers of extinction.

In interviews with leading psychologists, historians and anthropologists we examine the inextricable links between the extinction crisis and our social and economic problems, and explore the ways in which culture and psychology have conspired to determine our collective and individual response to this situation.

The film bridges disciplines to weave science, psychology, and cultural history into a clear and accessible story of our changing world. The audience is taken into the depths of the human psyche, through the toughest problems of our times and into the cutting edge of what nature has to teach us. The mass extinction is possibly the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced, and it is those of us alive today who have been given the responsibility - and great opportunity - of stopping it.

20 September 2009


Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), Critically Endangered

100000 - The number of Black Rhinos alive in 1960
65000 - The number of Black Rhinos alive in 1973
14000 - The number of Black Rhinos alive in 1980
2300 - The number of Black Rhinos alive in 1993
4240 - The number of Black Rhinos alive today
9 - The number of Black Rhinos alive in a secret location

Nine Black Rhinos have recently been airlifted to a secret location in an effort to increase the range and numbers of these critically endangered African mammals. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), selected individuals from different areas and parks to help establish the new population.

The final destination of the nine founders is being kept a secret because of illegal poaching--the main factor in the rhinos' steep decline since the 1960s. Rhino horn is used illegally in traditional Asian medicine, as well as being highly coveted for ornamental use.

In Yemen, rhino horns are used for the handles of curved daggers called jambiyas, which are given to young men as symbols of manhood and religious devotion. Not all jambiyas use rhino horn--only the most prized and expensive.

The use of Rhino horn in traditional Asian medicine, however, is by far the greater threat. Rhino horn is used to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, rheumatism, and gout. The horn is usually shaved or ground into a powder and dissolved in boiling water. As more and more Chinese people accumulate wealth and the ability to pay for expensive treatments, the market for poached Rhino horn will only grow.

Sign a petition to stop illegal Rhino horn trade.

Learn more from Save the Rhinos, The International Rhino Foundation, or Saving Rhinos.

09 September 2009

Alien Feeding Frenzy

Giant Ditch Frog aka Mountain Chicken (Leptodactylus fallax), Critically Endangered

In my last post, I wrote about the Mountain Chicken, it's plight, and the work being done by conservationists to set-up a captive breeding programme. These scientists have captured on film a weird and wonderful scene of the breeding habits of this rare frog. It is definitely worth watching.

Female frogs dig a hole and fill it with foam, lay their eggs, and once they've hatched, deposit unfertilized eggs to feed the developing tadpoles. What wasn't known before was just how eager the tadpoles are to get at the eggs. Instead of waiting for the eggs to drop to the bottom of the nest, the younglings swarm their mothers body in a frenzied competition for food.

To stay up to date on the progress of the conservation team, follow along at the dodo blog.

Why is a frog called a chicken? Find out here.