The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society announced this weekend that they’ve gotten a bunch of cross-disciplinary experts together and decided  that cetaceans have human rights.

The Declaration of Cetacean Rights, which anyone can sign, basically includes the right not to be killed, captured, abused or owned. The society, which met at the University of Helsinki (nice touch), says their rights to “life, liberty and well-being” are due after we figured out that they have more intelligence, self-awareness and culture than we previously thought. The petition gets at the idea that it’s okay to care about the fate of not just the health of a species population or ecosystem, but an individual animal.

Most westerners would go along with most of that–although the part that would ban Sea World or swim with dolphin programs might shock some. We already don’t hunt whales and changed the tuna industry to avoid dolphins (which are really just small whales). Japan still kills about 23,000 dolphins a year on purpose.  Hundreds of whales are killed each year–no one is sure how many exactly how many–mainly by Japan, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Russia.

The controversial part, at least in my mind, is that they also “affirm that all cetaceans as persons.” I don’t think they’re persons. Individuals, sure. Anyone who’s spent time with higher functioning animals can tell you they’re individuals. They don’t need to be people to have individuality and rights. Then again, if they didn’t put a little bit of crazy talk in there, who would write about them?

Where to Go See Dolphins
Where to Go See Whales


The last time cheeky wild Mommy Squirrel came inside my apartment and somehow got Mickey, the squirrel recovering from a malocclusion, to bust out of her cage, there was some question as to why I didn’t get pictures. At the time, it seemed like an emergency. 

Today I left the office for two minutes and came back to find Mommy Squirrel in my chair. So I grabbed the camera to see what Mickey would do. She came out and deliberately ate in front of Mommy Squirrel, but then seemingly ignored her. My dog Jolly would do give dogs who barked at him a kind of I can’t see you kind of nonchalance.

I hope it’s not any kind of Mickey’s disability that she actually can’t see the invading squirrel. I suspect Mickey is like my mom: she only pretends to be oblivious, but is on top of everything going on.

Where to go to See Interesting Squirrels
Where to See Wildlife in New York

Cat gives blue jay the bird

The eggs have hatched in the fire escape nest built by blue jays on Fifth Street in Manhattan, but that hasn’t stopped the blue jay father from obsessing over a cat that lives down the block.

This video compared to the last one shows why you should use a tripod.

The tabby is no threat to him or his brood. But the blue jay is out there every afternoon that I’ve checked and some mornings, too.
I’ve also seen the cat hanging out by the window, waiting for his entertainer to show up.

I don’t really understand the feeding procedure. The mother blue jay sometimes gapes for her mate. And she also picks up something from the nest and eats it herself.


Vermonts moose

NJ osprey

world cup animal mania

Sea lions take over dock at Moss Landing, California

tagged manatees

NC horses in VA
Instead, they are thought to have been descended from Spanish mustangs that lived free on the North Carolina Outer Banks for centuries.
While many of these mustang descendants now live in the Currituck Wild Horse Sanctuary in North Carolina, the Pungo horses were bound and determined to cross over the state line and establish residence in Virginia.
Over time, this group, under the leadership of a shiny red stallion with a long black mane, left their larger gang behind in North Carolina. Perhaps to isolate his mares from the other stallions, the big male began bringing his family up into Virginia, where they enjoyed fine dining in grassy Sandbridge yards and entranced many residents.
Donna Snow, president of Virginia Wild Horse Rescue,

Sea lions being admired, courtesy of Pier 39

San Francisco is having a party today to celebrate the return of the best urban marine mammal attractions in the country. The city appreciates its sea lions and is just saying, thank goodness they’ve come home. When they disappeared from Pier 39 last fall the whole world was worried. (Well, except for those who said that they tend to come and go. Which, it turns out, was right.)

Salty The Sea Lion mascot will be “available for hugs and photos,” a press release says. The Pier is also celebrating 20 years of having hundreds of 600-pound predators in a major city. They started showing up after a 1989 earthquake. Instead of getting ousted from valuable real estate, they city enjoyed them as a natural wonder–and created a major tourist attraction.

This could have gone down differently.  The sea lions took over expensive boat docks. Sure, the Marine Mammal Protection Act covers them. But the government is always willing to make exceptions. Oregon fishermen got permission to kill sea lions that hang out at a dam where salmon congregate.

Last year when 1,700 sea lions showed up, they tested San Francisco’s tolerance. The harbor drew up plans to keep them away from the nearby Hyde Street Pier.

The population numbers go up and down with weather, currents and food availability, so maybe they won’t need to be pushed out. The sea lions’ movements are still inscrutable, but the best going theory is that it was good food that brought them in such numbers last year and then herring that took them to the Oregon’s Sea Lion Cave over the winter (they usually go south to the Channel Islands).

The California sea lion is making a huge comeback–too big for some. It’s one of the few marine mammals whose numbers are healthy and increasing. Of seven sea lion species in the world, only two are not extinct, endangered or threatened, according to the IUCN Red List. The California sea lion is the only one whose population is increasing. Of about 355,000 animals, 238,000 live in California. Even if the disappearance of this crowd was media hysteria over a non-event, that’s still something to celebrate.

Where to go to See Seals and Sea Lions 
See the Pier 39 Sea Lion Webcam
Here’s where you can see wildlife out West

A rescued fox cub and a dog bred to kill foxes are becoming friends at a hotel/wildlife sanctuary in Cornwall. The Gwel an Mor had already turned wildlife rescue into an eco-attraction at its lodge. Then animal wrangler Gary Zammit heard a fox cub crying in the field. He worried his own dog would attack the cub, but instead they’ve become wrestling buddies (and UK media celebrities).
The fox, now called Copper, and dog  Jack now play constantly, when they’re not being featured on the BBC or the Telegraph or other outlets. Actually, it’s their pictures of rassling that have become so popular. “They just play fight there’s never any malice in it,” says Zammit. Jack is a lurcher–a kind of greyhoundish mixed breed popular in the British Isles, but obscure in the U.S.–a dog traditionally used to hunt rabbit and fox.

The story is like a real life Fox and the Hound, in which a fox cub is raised by a hunter and befriends his hound. I forget the rest of the story, but I remember crying over the book as a kid. Copper isn’t going to end up hunted; he’ll get to live at Gwel an mor, where guests are lead on wildlife walks to try to spot wild foxes and badgers.

Zammit makes a point of telling the press that the fox cub was crying there for two days. That means he didn’t just rush in and scoop it up while its mother was off hunting. He knew to wait to be sure she wasn’t coming back.

Gwel an Mor itself is interesting: they’re a luxury spa/lodge that also rescues wildlife. They have a fancy restaurant and rooms start around  $1,100 a week in the summer. It seems like it would be like going to the Cornish equivalent of a jungle lodge, with nightly safaris to see the local wildlife. “We will look for badgers, owls, deer and foxes close by to the holiday lodges. If the wild foxes don’t show up, don’t worry as you will be sure to meet our own rescued foxes, Todd and Sonny,” their website says. “We have all sorts of other rescued wildlife coming in all the time so who knows what other wonderful creatures you might meet on the wildlife experience.” 

Where to Go to See Wolves (and some other wild canids)
Where to Go See Wild Animals in Europe

Kemp's ridley sea turtle
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle trudges through beach, photo by krembo1

The sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico may turn out to be the ones in the most trouble from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Even though they haven’t shown signs of oil, they may be ingesting it.

Dr. Mike Ziccardi, a veterinarian who runs the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and is handling all the non-bird oiled wildlife in the gulf, now says they’re getting a high number of dead turtles, 156 so far. Mostly juveniles and mostly the rarest kind, Kemp’s Ridley, TampaBay.com reports. The dead sea turtles “are in higher numbers than you would expect,” he told Reuters.

No one is sure what killed the turtles. There was Dr. Ziccardi was initially very cautious, noting that turtles just wash up dead this time of year and that they showed no oil. Some blamed shrimpers. OnEarth, the NRDC blog, says that Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) estimates fishermen kill 25,000 sea turtles each year.  And that’s way down from a decade ago, before the mandated Turtle Exclusion Device, when 86,000 were wiped out.

Now Dr. Ziccardi he’s contemplating something more insidious: that they are injesting the oil but it doesn’t show up on the outside. “Marine mammals and sea turtles are much more likely to have less apparent external exposure and greater internal exposure than avian species,” he wrote on his blog. Animals that don’t show oil can have internal oil damage. Sometimes you can see it in their feces but others have “sub-apparent internal exposure.” You can find that by looking for microscopic toxin damage or chemical analysis, he says.

Kemp’s Ridley’s are critically endangered and only found in the gulf and on the east coast. They’re carnivorous bottom-feeders, exactly what you don’t want to be in this oil spill. It’s the smallest sea turtle, nests during the day and en masse at sites called arribadas. In 1947 42,000 nested in one day near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. That fell to 5,00, but has climbed up to 7,866 in 2006. They nest at Padre Island, TX, too, but only 127 nests were counted in 2007.

A big set back was a 1979 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Ixtoc I,  that’s a lot like Deepwater Horizon. the Blow Out Preventer failed. The spill was slow moving. Relatively few dead animals were found. Though the direct link was never found, the Times says, the population went way down.

All seven species of sea turtle are either endangered or threatened and five live in the Gulf of Mexico, the Parks Service says. The other big threat to sea turtles is people stealing the eggs and eating the females when they go ashore to lay them. It’s mostly outlawed, but just this week Mexican cops caught two guys with 5,800 eggs near Acapulco.  In Denespar, Indonesia, cops confiscated 71 huge, endangered green sea turtles about to be served as food in a stall, the AP reports. The Jakarta Post says they also just caught men smuggling 12,000 turtle eggs in cigarette cartons aboard a ferry.

Looks like we might not have oiled birds being soaped up for camera, but something much slower and grimmer.