Friday, September 30, 2011

SOS = Save Our (vanishing animal) Species

African elephants, Asian elephants, great apes, rhinoceroses and tigers, marine turtles. Conservation funds for all these vanishing animal species will benefit from sale of the new USPS stamp, “Save Vanishing Species.”

The graphically vivid first class stamp features the head of a tiger cub. He looks at us with great presence and dignity – and maybe sadness too. Tigers are fast disappearing from the earth. They depend on humans – responsible for much of their vanishing – to save them.

Text on the reverse of a 20-stamp sheet says the postal service will transfer the net proceeds from sale of these stamps to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds. There’s also a blurb about each of the vanishing animal species. The words “poaching,” “habitat loss,” “and “exploitation” appear throughout.

It’s hard to feel too optimistic.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's “fish or cut bait!”

“Purchase our exclusive bracelet and support PAW for a cause.” The jeweler’s ad in a recent Sunday NYTimes edition showed a paw charm on a silk cord.

The text read: “In the United States millions of animals die in shelters every year. With the net proceeds from the sales of these charming bracelets you can help build and support model humane no-kill shelters that provide spay and neuter services.”

A sterling silver paw charm with diamond on pink, black or red silk cord sells for $100. The same bracelet without the diamond goes for $65.

So a person with spare cash can decide whether to buy the bracelet or donate that amount to a shelter or a TNR organization. These groups often get reduced rates because of the number of cats to be sterilized and “vetted.”

The choice: a PC bracelet that doesn’t neuter a single cat or dog . . . or “fixing” a number of animals to prevent their creating still more animals needing homes.

Those who choose to help animals directly might consider “Sponsor our Strays” (SOS), a program of Project TNR, in the Animal Protection League of NJ. So feral cat trappers can get more cats neutered, the organization invites donors to subsidize the cost of “vetting” ferals.

During October, a benefactor has promised to double all donations to SOS up to $500. Any size donation will help; for instance, $15 will become $30, and for that amount one cat can be sterilized, immunized and ear-tipped (to signal a feral cat who has been vetted).

Instead of the $65 charm bracelet without a diamond, donate that amount. Once doubled, it will take care of four cats, with change!



Monday, September 26, 2011

Not too small to escape the human gaze

Fireflies: already at risk and probably dropping off in number because of loss of habitat, pesticides and other man-made obstacles to their continuing to do what they always did.

Now comes another way humans have regarded fireflies as theirs to use for whatever serves people. A website for Boston’s Museum of Science includes news of a “Firefly Watch” program, and its monthly page sometimes includes Q&As about fireflies.

One person reported learning about a firefly harvesting program, involving the capture of great numbers of fireflies, and asked if this really happens.

The response, from a Museum of Science rep, regretfully confirmed it. “Tens of thousands of fireflies have been collected and sold for their luciferase, one of the chemicals responsible for their light production,” he wrote. “This chemical is used to detect contamination in food.

“At one time, the only way to collect luciferase was to harvest it from the abdomen of fireflies. For the past 20 years however, a less expensive, synthetic form of luciferase has been available, making the need for sacrificing real fireflies obsolete.

“Even so, at least one company continues to sell firefly abdomens for their luciferase in addition to selling the synthetic form.”


This situation seems parallel to that of lab animals and vivisection. Although many more effective ways of testing without using lab animals have been devised, some "scientists" insist on continuing to test on animals. So many humans regard so many animals as existing only to serve them and utterly disposable.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Animal adoptions & pet expo on Saturday

Thirty or 35 cats and kittens needing a real, forever home and not the Trenton Animal Shelter (where, besides other problems, their days are limited). The adoption price is right, pre-approval is possible and cardboard carriers are even provided if you don't bring your own crate.

This coming Saturday at Trenton's Waterfront Park -- usually the scene of baseball games, not animal adoptions -- the 2nd Annual Pet Expo will take place inside, while animal rescue groups and shelter reps will be outside, with animals ready to be adopted.

One such group is Trenton TNR, headed up by Sandra Obi, also director of the TNR Program of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. She will bring the cats mentioned above in a huge blue and white van that should be easy to spot in the parking area.

(For details, click the link below.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Just leave them alone!

A mountain lion on a treadmill, for scientific reasons having to do with our being better able to "manage wildlife" (a contradiction in terms?). It had taken scientists months to "train" the animal to walk steadily on the thing. Eventually, they hope to be able to position specific animals (wearing a collar -- another scientific contribution) and know exactly what they're doing and likely to do.


Whatever the scientists were up to, it wasn't natural for the cat and it wasn't even for the cat, who was merely a vehicle for experiment. To all of which I say phooey! and pfui!

But prescient poet Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) says it so much better:

The Horrid Voice of Science

"There's machinery in the butterfly;
There's a mainspring to the bee;
There's hydraulics to a daisy,
And contraptions to a tree.

"If we could see the birdie
That makes the chirping sound
With x-ray, scientific eyes,
We could see the wheels go round."

And I hope all men
Who think like this
Will soon lie


Thursday, September 15, 2011

For hummingbirds, the tails have it

It began with a blur, a moving blur over flowers in a pot on a neighbor’s deck railing. When the blur moved to a flowering bush closer to my window view, I realized it was a hummingbird. Amazing: in September, with fewer flowers out there and the weather likely to change at any time.

Next time I looked out, the bird was gone – but I was curious. The Birds of New Jersey Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela, lists only the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), indicating it migrates to southern states, Mexico and Central America. But how could it possibly cover such distance while also seeking nectar and insects? Without food, what powers it?

And how could such a tiny thing make it to the next town over, let alone a southern state, or beyond? (“Stan’s Notes” say this bird “weighs only two to three grams” and “it takes about five average-sized hummingbirds to equal the weight of a single chickadee.”)

Coincidentally, a NYTimes story about hummingbird romance disclosed that the humming of their wings is what gives the birds their names. However, it’s the male hummingbirds’ high frequency tail feather vibrations produced during dives in front of females that may be what female birds use to choose mates.

Each of 14 species makes fairly unique and distinctive sounds, scientists reported, also mentioning that a single tail feather may vibrate (“the sound of one feather vibrating”?), or two, or all of them.

( . . . photo by Chris Clark)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Of moose, lobsters, flamingos -- & a pet festival

* Tsk! behaving like a human
A newspaper photo last week showed a moose cow “entangled in an apple tree” in Sweden. She was thought to have gorged herself on fermented apples, then somehow become snagged in the fork of the tree.

Moose – who reportedly love apples and can smell fermenting fruit from a great distance -- have been known to become intoxicated on fermenting fruit and berries. Birds do too.

People in the neighborhood tried sawing off a branch, but that didn’t work. It took a crane to “bend the tree and free the tipsy moose.”

* A pet service announcement
Coalition for Animals and Seer Farms Present 2nd Annual Pet Festival

Saturday, September 17, 2011
Unionville Vineyards
9 Rocktown Road, Ringoes, NJ
11 AM - 4 PM
For more details:

* Lobsters: too much of a good thing?
Although for some people, there can’t be too many lobsters, believe it or not, too many can be bad. It’s happening right now in Maine, where intense fishing for cod, hake, haddock, halibut and swordfish in the area – together with baited lobster traps, a.k.a., a steady food supply -- has caused diversity to disappear. The result: lobsters are “hyperdense,” which could mean big trouble if anything damages the species -- as has happened before.

* Flamingos: no more Mr. Nice Guys
Round green eyes with deep coral-to-white feathers and spindly legs = flamingos (with no “e” in that last syllable). “The real birds are not peaceful, gentle or dainty,” the NYTimes reported last month, in an amusing and surprising story.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Save the date to save a cat!

Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 24 between 10 am – 4 pm -- “Adoption Day” for cats and kittens, an event sponsored by Trenton TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) at Waterfront Park, 1 Thunder Road, Trenton. Look for the big blue North Shore Animal League bus in the parking lot.

Adoption Day will be part of the Chamber of Commerce’s 2nd Annual “Pet Expo” at the same location.

Trenton’s shelter and foster homes are “full to the brim” with cats and kittens who need loving forever homes. Every adoptable cat is fully vetted, and every cat adopted is a cat saved. (Cats returned to the shelter may not be safe from death.)

Fee (cash only): $50 kittens and $40 adult cats. If you adopt 2, the second cat or kitten is half price.

If you can’t adopt, please consider dropping off food and/or litter to help out. (And if you can adopt, please consider dropping off food and/or litter to help out!)

For more information or to be pre-approved to adopt before the event, contact Sandra at

Please tell your friends who need cats in their lives: come to Adoption Day on September 24 (rain or shine) and save a cat.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

News briefs about (natch) animals

*Planet of no apes -- it could happen

Apes, our first cousins in the primate family, are much more similar to us in anatomy, genetics and behavior than they are to other animals. And yet we’re allowing them to move ever closer to extinction. Several million years ago, as many as 40 kinds of apes really did rule the planet. Through habitat destruction and hunting, humans have since imperiled the five surviving types – gibbons and orangutans in Asia; chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas in Africa. Vital in protecting them, the Great Apes Conservation Fund now needs federal re-authorization.


* Keeping rhino horns where they belong

What next? First there was shark fin soup, a favorite in some Asian cultures, but one that condemns sharks to a cruel, helpless death. And now, rhinoceros horns are coveted and killed for. Ground up, they’re made into medicine believed in China and other Asian countries to have aphrodisiac qualities and cure cancer. Because they’re sought after, thieves have stolen up to 30 horns so far this year from European sites. Expanding their reach, they pay poachers in African countries to saw off horns from live rhinos, leaving them to bleed to death.


* Re-design with ‘bycatch’ in mind

In commercial fishing, “bycatch” refers to “fish, whales, turtles, sea birds and even corals killed or injured by fishermen in search of other species.” The best known example: dolphin caught in tuna nets. Now, though, new efforts to prevent bycatch include changes in hook design, making fishing lines more visible to whales and modifying the mesh size of nets.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Afternoon in heaven

Late Saturday morning, a half-dozen dogs from the Ewing Animal Shelter arrived at Princeton Shopping Center. To get there, they were walked out of the shelter building, along a sidewalk lined with grass, to the cars in which Easel volunteers would drive them to the Princeton Shopping Center.

The drive gave the dogs big gulps of fresh air, sunshine and new sights, as well as the excitement of being free -- out of their cages, socializing with other animals and people. Once at the Cutter's Mill pet store, where adoption day was scheduled, each dog wore an orange vest that said "Adopt me!" They all got treats, a bowl of water and time to loll in the grass or on a blanket with a person who petted and talked with him or her.

In the grassy court area inside the ring of stores, Cutter's Mill staff had set up fenced rings with children's swimming pools inside and wooden chairs here and there. Balls and other toys were scattered around. It looked like a pool party, and the best thing about it was that it was for the dogs.

People there to shop slowed their pace to interact with the dogs, who by then were in utter heaven: freedom, positive attention, exercise, fresh air, food and water -- and little did they know: also the chance they'd be seen, liked, adopted.

But whether any adoptions resulted from the dogs' afternoon out hardly mattered. They got away from the animal shelter for a few hours and experienced the good life many dogs have -- and all dogs deserve.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mayor's take on no pets in shelters

As reported in the last post, Lawrence Township's message about emergency shelters said, “Pets are prohibited at all shelter locations and pet owners need to make prior arrangements for care.”

Believing that there must be better emergency management than this, I phoned the township manager asap Monday, August 29, and was referred to Mayor Greg Puliti.

In a phone talk that evening, he made the points below, ending with his intention to “raise the issue of animals” at the next Office of Emergency Management meeting (which sounded like an informal in-house affair a week or two after the event).

• Shelter rules are dictated by the event and what’s available at the time “where we can get people out of harm’s way.” As the or one shelter for Hurricane Irene, Rider University did not allow animals.

• “Our priority purpose,” Puliti said, “is to protect people.”

• He suggested there would be negative reactions by residents if the township spent $20,000 “for animals.”

• Hearing about Atlantic County’s decision 2 years ago to designate the AC race course as a regional pet-evacuation center, Puliti said he may raise this issue with the county executive.