12.2.15

Turning Hippos into Valentine Roses


For some time it has become established to show 'love' by giving flowers and other presents to intimate partners. A date dictates when this act of affection should take place. While the x-mas lights are still dangling from houses, another 'festive season' is placed on the agenda.

The tradition of Valentine's Day is a predominately anglophone custom, but has spread to other industrialised nations. The day was no invention by the floral industry, but has its roots in a middle age poem about the "game of love" that Geoffrey Chaucer presented to his king. Saint Valentine's Day as a Christian celebration goes way back.

So where do the tonnes of bouquets come from?
Most OECD countries have rationalised their gardens away with high density. If some green spaces are allowed to exist, they must be a lawn monoculture with tidy topiary box hedges. Herbicide will not allow any flowers to appear between the cracks.

Long stem blood red roses and other cut flowers are being flown in, cooled and plastic-wrapped from far distant lands. Many are grown in the country where hippopotamuses splash about in the lake and flamingos wade on the shores.

"Kenya's Lake Naivasha is one of the most perfect places to grow flowers—at a high altitude, with plenty of water and sunshine. And flower farms employ people and generate income. [But] they are also big water and pesticides users." (source)

"The flower farms provide cut flowers for export, of which 97 percent end up in bouquets in European cities." (source)

Locals are turned into paupers, virtual water flows into a commodity stream and deprives humans and wildlife of their habitat. Left is polluted water and a pesticide legacy.

In the 'developed world' a possibly toxic floral arrangement might grace the dinner table. The plastic wrapper is discarded and the CO2 impact of the air-freight flowers is forgotten.


The by now established public culture for mourners to place large bouquet memorials of flowers as a gesture of condolences could also be reflected. Mother's Day is another such event.

It might be a better idea to donate the resources bestowed on the flower industry to the protection of wildlife and its habitat or any other ethical purpose you see fit.


IMAGES
Flamingos in the Palais Rose in Vesinet, Giovanni Boldini
Hippopotamus, Brehms Thierleben
(Garden) Roses, Lovis Corinth

17.8.14

Of Crocodiles, Dragons and Monsters


Reading about the expulsion of crocodiles from their waterways and beaches in Australia. As the human population expands these reptiles are being killed and relocated into captivity for amusement in theme parks. Other forms of utilisation and commercialisation are to skin them for the fashion industry or just eat them as meat. 'Protected' Australian wildlife is tagged a 'pest' and in the name of public safety removed.

Locals fish in tiny dinghies or other vessels in man-eating crocodile billabongs. There is an outcry for culling if there is a 'crocodile attack'. Teens hang out for croc trap selfies, idiots swim in front of baited croc traps.

As new settlers sprawl into the water rich north of the continent, this ancient living dinosaur has to disappear. Wherever urbanisation unpacks its baggage, all is 'bulldozed clean'. Part of the frontier package are their dogs, which they think of as tamed beasts. But angst lingers about the wild beasts on the margins of their settlements.

Sensationalist media engages us in the narrative of cleansing 'the monsters' from their habitat and winning lands. Images of hero-like dragon slayers conquer the beast so that princesses and fairies can populate the territory. The winning dragon conqueror poses with his foot on the dead creature, trampling it to stake a claim over the entire loot and all the territory.


This meme has been viral since ancient times, the middle ages and continues in contemporary mindsets. The ever-same narrative rationalises the plunder and land grabbing. Unrelenting population growth drives displacements, evictions, and eradications of all fauna and flora. This radical and rapid depletion of nature will leave the 'monster' man with only rodents and pathogens at the end game.

Images:
Böcklin, Arnold,  Angelika, guarded by a dragon (Angelica and Ruggiero), c.1872 Collection of Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Update:
Family of seven piles into tinny to go fishing in croc infested waters at Kakadu, 10.2014 

Here be dragon Climatic conditions are rapidly reaching an optimum for breeding dragons... 01.04.2015 http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/520042a.html


8.10.13

Freshwater contamination with micro- and macroplastics

The oceans are full of our dumped plastic. Now it is found that freshwater lakes in subalpine locations are also contaminated with potentially hazardous plastics.

"The numbers of microplastic particles in sediment samples from Lake Garda were similar to those found in studies of marine beach sediments... From there they find their way into the food web...Next to mechanical impairments of swallowed plastics mistaken as food, many plastic-associated chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, or acutely toxic...Moreover, the polymers can adsorb toxic hydrophobic organic pollutants and transport these compounds to otherwise less polluted habitats. Along this line, plastic debris can act as vector for alien species and diseases."


Source:
 "Current Biolog (abstr.): Contamination of beach sediments of a subalpine lake with microplastic particles (pdf)

Images:
Lesser, Ury, Lake Garda with Monte Baldo

10.12.12

Nests lined with cigarette filters

Urban birds have to survive in hostile tree-less cities. Basic resources for nesting, food and shelter are being eradicated. The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) now adds one of the most abundant substance in a city, namely cigarette butts into their nests. In the absence of plants for self-medication, city birds can pick from a wide array of 4.5 trillion cigarette filters to line the nest for their young with toxic garbage that might repell bugs from their dwelling.


Biology Letters: "Incorporation of cigarette butts into nests reduces nest ectoparasite load in urban birds: new ingredients for an old recipe?"

Images
- Franz Marc - The Dead Sparrow 1905
- Permeable cobblestones with cigarette litter, Berlin

13.11.12

Repurposed Zebras and Ostriches into Dog Poo

Walking through Berlin, one has to navigate the daily 2.4 tons of dog feces on the pavement. Anually 960 tons of excrement are dumped on the streets by pet owners oozing  SalmonellaE. coli, Clostridium and Campylobacter and other zoonotic infectious diseases.

Much of this public waste product is actually repurposed Zebra  and Ostrich imported from its habitat in South Africa. The Born-Again Raw Feeders (BARF) obtain the meat at the local pet butcher and stuff it into their 'best friend'.

Pet lovers finance a monoculture of pets and discourage biodiversity/ biomes. In Africa the Zebra is held to be a grazing competitor by farmers and is culled. Unlike the horse it refused to be domesticated for human purposes.

The largest living species of bird native to Africa, the flightless Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is also converted to meat to feed the urban wolves and lapdogs.


Source article:
Zebra Strips for the Dog, Berliner Zeitung, 13.11.2012, 'English'

Images:
-Stubbs, George: Zebra
-Brehms Thierleben, Ostrich,
-Arabian Ostrich painting from The Book of Animals by al-Jahiz,
Syria, 1335. The Arabian Ostrich was wiped out by bow, arrows, dogs and finally by firearms and motor vehicles.

-Wilhelm Trübner, Mastiff with sausages »Ave Caesar morituri te salutant«, 1878

Updates:
Injured racehorses and thoroughbreds refusing to be cash cows killed for dog meat abc, 14.11.12

Japanese company stops selling dog food made from endangered whales treehugger 06.01.2016

3.3.12

Giraffe as Garbage Bin in a Zoo

Kliwon, the giraffe was held captive in his pen for 13 years. Zoo visitors tossed plastic wrappers into its pen. The garbage accumulated and clogged the ruminating animal's digestive system. The living garbage bin collapsed in his stall and died. The plant eater had "a plastic lump weighing around 20 kilograms and 60 centimetres in diameter in his stomach".

The home ranges of the tallest living terrestrial animal are usually open woodlands and savannas where it eats plant-based food. Humans have long exploited body parts of the animal and encroached on its habitat. Human settlements and their livestock are pushing the creature out of existence.

The Romans first imported and exhibited the animal as a spectacle as part of their 'Bread and Circuses' for the people. White big game hunters enjoyed the 'sport" of competitive killing in colonial Africa. Even today, recreational killing of the few giraffes left in hunting safaris is enjoyed by families.

Showcasing and selling wild animals in overpopulated zoos is profitable. In Kliwon's Surabaya Zoo "500 animals had died between 2010 and 2011." The zoo workers’ cooperative runs the stalls that cater to the customers food plus plastic wrapper needs.

A zoo visit is supposed to be 'taking the kids out and fun for the family'. A getting away from a lackluster everyday life and being animated by a menagerie of exotic animals that are held captive all at once at one's command. It offers "amusement without demanding exertion." Parents welcome outsourcing the service of interaction to other creatures. Distraction gives them a break.

Kids gape in wonder at the captive creatures. Junk food offering, rattling cages or banging on glass walls often enhances the 'performance' of the caged being that has no means of escaping. Safe and in control one can learn to initiate a one sided 'interaction'.
In this asymmetrical relationship the wildlife spectators learn the animal/human dichotomy and experience themselves as free "Peeping Toms". The powerlessness of the powerful mega fauna instills strength in the 'king of beasts', the Homo sapiens. One can stroll through the zoos or aquariums, theme parks, marine mammal parks, oceanarium, etc and eat some plastic wrapped fish/meat, engage in petting or just stare at the homeless curiosities.The hunger for sensations and distractions is good business. The peep industry in all of its forms profits. For many animals it is the last and only habitat on planet Earth allocated by humanity.
Soon there will be no remaining 'wildlife' untagged not on a 24/7 web cam and all shall only exist as part of our panopticon.

Images:
Head of a giraffe, Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon
Weigel, Hans: Giraffe, Wonder animal
Macke, August: Großer Zoologischer Garten, Triptychon 1913
Giraffe, bending for food. Brehm, Alfred/Brehms Thierleben

Updates
Conservationists warn of giraffe extinction, Human encroachment on giraffe habitat is seen as the biggest threat. 10.13

Zoo kills healthy giraffe in front of minors and feeds meat to lions, Guardian 02.2014

Disposable captives, Lori Gruen, 10.04.2014

There are about 80,000 giraffes left in the wild. The land is used for agriculture: habitat loss and fragmentation abc 04122014

21.1.12

Condors and Their Habitat

The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a surviving member of the genus Gymnogyps. These giants birds roamed the Americas in the Pleistocene epoch living off megafauna carcasses.

The 19th and 20th century brought destruction of this vulture and its habitat:
The remaining 22 wild condors were captured in 1987 and bred up in a zoo. In 1992 some birds were introduced into the 'wild'. In 2011, there were 394 of "the world's rarest bird species" known to be living, including 181 outside of captivity. The endangered bird is having trouble surviving in a human junkspace landscape.
" Today 70 percent (53 out of 76) of condor moralities can be attributed to human influences...For nestlings (birds younger than 6 months of age), 73 percent of known mortalities can be attributed to the consumption of microtrash, such as bottle caps and small pieces of broken glass, plastic and metal. Lead toxicosis, from the ingestion of spent ammunition, was the most important factor in juvenile condor mortality (birds between the age of 6 months and 5 years) and was the only significant cause of death in adults (birds 6 years old and older). Eight of 23 birds that died of lead poisoning still had metal or lead fragments in their gastrointestinal tract."
Image
Condor (Sarcorhamphus gryphus) Brehm, Alfred Thierleben via Zeno
video
See
Shooting endangered Eagles

31.8.10

Dogs Unleashed - Mauling and Other Folly

It took ages in history eradicating dangerous animals from human settlements. Bears, wolves, wild cats etc were and still are fought out of existence. The other diverse 'wildlife' gets squeezed out of a habitat and the monoculture of the human and their baggage takes its place. The dog in its so called domesticated form has been included in the 'human family' with all the benefits of that species (Medical care, rights, beauticians, sitters etc). There is serious money and emotional investment in pets. It is still a mystery how societies tolerate the destructive outcomes of dogs un-leashed.

The following arbitrary list emphasises the folly of excluding biodiversity and boosting 'pet' species. The gray wolf seems to have re-entered our domesticated space via 'the dog' (Canis lupus familiaris) off leash or gone feral:

Attacks on children:
Twenty-two-month-old Kara Compton suffered 100 bite wounds from the family's pet dog when it climbed onto her bed mauling her. The toddler passed away. Bunyip, Victoria, news.com.au 01092010

"A 10-year-old girl whose jaw was broken in two places by a pair of Rottweilers.." while riding her bike telegraph.co.uk 31082010

A "11-month-old boy was crawling on the floor when the family's pet terrier set on him. He was left with deep cuts and puncture wounds to his mouth, nose, lip and forehead." abc 23082010

Five children" were at a birthday party ... when a bull terrier broke free from a house on the same street.The children were taken to hospital with two suffering serious injuries." abc 10082010

"A two-year-old girl suffered facial injuries when she was knocked down and mauled by a dog in the hallway of her home in at Delahey" abc 230809

"A girl also suffered facial injuries after(she) was mauled by a rottweiler in McElroy Street at Sunshine West" abc 230809

"A five-month-old baby was mauled to death in Leicester yesterday by two rottweilers who were left guarding the families pub." the sun.con.uk 250906

Attacks on adults:
The NSW Dog Attack Register shows that 666 attacks occurred in the first quarter of 2010, up from 470 in the previous quart smh 16012009

"A 90-year-old man was bitten on the thigh by a neighbour's dog and then suffered head injuries when he fell off his bike." abc 23032010

"A roaming pack of wild dogs mauled a couple in rural Georgia to death...The pack of 16 dogs first attacked Sherry Schweder, 66, a retired librarian, while she was out for a stroll over the weekend near her home in the town of Lexington, Georgia, leaving her body severely mutilated." abc 200809

Attacks on domestic stock:
Warning! offensive images! Feral.org.au

The Western Australian government is making available $5 million to employ eight additional doggers to manage out of control dogs attacking stock. abc 14092010

Allowed to go feral:
Domestic feral dogs in large, disorganised packs are roaming SE Australia. "They attack just for the sport of it. They're not out just to kill for food." abc 03092010
"An increase in the severity of wild dog attacks on farm animals in the Bundaberg region...It could be only a short space of time before we have an attack on either a child or another human being" abc 13092010
Dog dumping Moscow style: 84 dogs per square mile. Financial Times 16012010
''Cave Canem'' (Beware of Dog) more unwanted dogs in Pompeii News Discovery 171109

Quotes:
“Dogs are the only naturally occurring models of psychiatric disorders.” Nature 2010

"Each year more than 100,000 Australians are attacked by dogs... Dog attacks alone result in more than 2,000 hospital admissions every year. The Australian Companion Animal Council: Most of the dogs that attack humans belong to the victim's family or friends." abc 08042010

Image:
Macke, August: In the Garden: Elisabeth and Walterchen with Wolf, 1911 via Zeno

27.8.10

Peppered Seal or Peppered Tasmanian Salmon? - The Habitat Grab

When one thinks of Tasmania, the extinct animals such as the Thylacine/ Tasmanian Tiger (image) or the battling Tasmanian Devil might come to mind. If one endulged in some Tasmanian farmed salmon, one might keep in mind what one is chewing on...

Various seals (Pinnipeds) along with other endemic fauna have inhabited the coastline of Tasmania for aeons. It is in the nature of these marine mammals to annually aggregate on solid ground, like beaches or rocky islands to rest and reproduce.

Human factory farming encroaches on the animals' only habitat - the ocean. A grid of commercial infrastructure clutters the coastal waters. Fish are in sea cages that are "more like the battery hen of the sea".

The aqua-'culture' encroachment of human industry entails the elimination of 'wild' habitat for the other species. The Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI), or better the ocean industrial interface (OII) is the battle ground where our species conquers bio-diversity by replacing it with a simple mono-culture. Monetizing the ocean does mean an extra $350 million!

The Battle
The remaining inhabitants can be framed as pests, in need of culling, a popular Australian strategy for endemic wildlife. Their eradication as a competitor could boost profits, as the seals might mistake a fish for their own. Members of the fishing community set to work shooting at the beasts for hours. Many get away with firearm wounds. Others resort to shallow graves for the seals. But the 'unintentional' by-kill, also known as by-catch is via fishing industry gear. Feral plastic debris causes a slow and painful death for 2% of Tasmania's seals.

In desperation seals fight for their homes and resources. Agents of the fishing industry will now be equipped with a chemical club reserved for riot control of human beings. Pepper spray (Oleoresin capsicum) is designed to disable the terrestial mammal. Aquatic marine mammals might just drown instead of dying from lead or plastic. The grab for their habitat, deeper and deeper into the ocean, will probably spell the end of many species.

When making consumer choices enquire if your fish came from an overcrowded sea cage in a seal habitat.


Links:
Seals, Parks & Wildlife, Tasmania
How green and clean is Tasmanian salmon? The 7.30 Report, abc 09/12/2009
Peppered seal the new fish farm defence abc 27/08/2010
Ocean clutter delicious tag

Image:
Albert Bierstadt, Seal Rock, California 1872 via Zeno

You might also like to read
Strangling and Piercing Fur Seals 'Unintentionally' with Fishing Gear
Tasmanian Salmon marinated in...

5.8.10

The Alpine Ibex

The Alpine Ibex (Capra ibex) mingled with Wooly rhinoceros and Mammoth. Today they still inhabit the steep mountains of the European Alps. The wild goat survived Cro-Magnon stone-age hunters. Intensive hunting, especially in the 19th century eradicated many Alpine ibex, except for a few in the Gran Paradiso massif (Valle d'Aosta region, Italy) The region is a protected National Park today.
At present 75% of the ibex offspring die within their first year of their life. (Via it/de) Speculation about their population collapse ranges from high temperatures and sparse grass to poisoned grass. Aircraft engine exhaust gas is thought to settle and accumulate in the snow/ soil that provides the food for the 2.500 remaining herbivores. The young simply collapse exhausted at the beginning of their life.
Images:
Marc, Franz: Steinbock, (Capra ibex) 1913 via Zeno
Brehm Alfred, Brehms Thierleben, Bergsteinbock (Capra pyrenaica) via Zeno

Update:
The first de-extinction "success" was a cloned Pyrenaean ibex: Born with deformed lungs, it lived only 10 minutes. Nautilus Mag 012015