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.