Abandoned Monkey Finds Love with a Pigeon

From the London Daily Mail:

They’re an odd couple in every sense, but a monkey and a pigeon have become inseparable at an animal sanctuary in China. The 12-week-old macaque — who was abandoned by his mother — was close to death when it was rescued on Neilingding Island, in Guangdong Province.

After being taken to an animal hospital his health began to improve but he seemed spiritless — until he developed a friendship with a white pigeon.

The blossoming relationship helped to revive the macaque who has developed a new lease of life, say staff at the sanctuary. Continue reading

Categories: Animals | 6 Comments

Quest for a Miracle Cure

These parents believe horses and shamans can unlock their son’s autistic mind. This is their journey of discovery

by Tim Rayment
The Sunday Times
September 9, 2007

A child is born, and the child seems blessed. He lives in the richest nation on Earth, at a time of greater wealth and understanding than any in history. The infant even has interesting parents: one British, one American, each a little famous in their own right.

But then something disquieting happens. Perhaps this was your child, too.

He starts to go backwards. First he loses his language, then he enters a solitary hell. He turns away when touched and arches his back when held. He lines up his toys in rows, and seems afraid of things that should hold no fear. He appears not to notice you, and his indifference makes you feel snubbed.

Soon the real heartache starts. You see other children play together in a sandpit while yours is to one side, obsessively pouring and repouring sand through his fingers. Sudden firestorms run through his nervous system, making him scream in panic and pain. Later, in the calmer years when he is four or five, other children’s attempts at friendship are rebuffed. This is not because your child wants no companions: the truth might be that he yearns for them. But he is mystified by social interaction, and conversation makes him nervous, as he has no idea how to respond. So he turns away with a distant expression, seeming cold and weird. This is autism. Your lovely offspring looks condemned to what, in 1943, Leo Kanner first described as “extreme autistic loneliness”, and many readers of this magazine will know a family that is affected. In the UK, 1 in 100 children is on the autistic spectrum.

It is a mystifying disorder. But on a farm in Texas, a British father thinks he has found a way into the mind of his autistic son. The boy has learnt to talk thanks to his relationship with a horse. He can quell his tantrums, express his feelings, even do maths and spelling — all because of a horse. He is the Horse Boy, and the loss of his symptoms is a challenge to conventional thought on how to handle his condition. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Brain, Buddhism, Healing, Psychology, Shamanism | Leave a comment

Most Polar Bears Could Die Out by 2050

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be killed off by 2050 — and the entire population gone from Alaska — because of thinning sea ice from global warming in the Arctic, government scientists forecast Friday.

Only in the northern Canadian Arctic islands and the west coast of Greenland are any of the world’s 16,000 polar bears expected to survive through the end of the century, said the U.S. Geological Survey, which is the scientific arm of the Interior Department.

USGS projects that polar bears during the next half-century will disappear along the north coasts of Alaska and Russia and lose 42 percent of the Arctic range they need to live in during summer in the Polar Basin when they hunt and breed. A polar bear’s life usually lasts about 30 years.

“Projected changes in future sea ice conditions, if realized, will result in loss of approximately two-thirds of the world’s current polar bear population by the mid 21st century,” the report says. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Environment | Leave a comment

Nature Watch

A note from a friend in Arizona:

I wish you fabulous people could be here right now. On the upper route from Bisbee to Sierra Vista the tarantulas do a migration from the south side of the road to the north (never the other way) every year in September. Literally thousands of them cross when they do this, and the road is black with them. When you drive the road, you can hear them crunching under your tires. It’s so bizarre. And last night I walked outside to admire the moon, and a bat flew so close to my face that I had eye contact with him. Take that, you city slickers!

Categories: Animals | 3 Comments

Too Many Kittens

A recurring dream, which last night became a nightmare: I’m in a house that looks vaguely like my own, only it’s filthy. There’s a vague sense that I’m trying to pack up and move out.

Now, I’ll be the first to grant that I’m not the best housekeeper in the world, but the only rooms that ever are this bad in real life are my bedroom and occasionally my office, and they’re more cluttered than dirty. But in the dream, the whole house is thick with dustbunnies, grime, strange objects (like my parents’ old bowling trophies), books, papers, Cheetos (which I don’t even eat)—and kittens.

Somewhere along the way I have received a litter or litters of kittens, but (a) I keep forgetting about them, so I leave them for days on end to fend for themselves, which is making them feral, and (b) they are so tiny that a couple of them are easily mistaken for dustbunnies. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Dreams | 4 Comments

The Morning Howl

I‘ve been missing my dogs a lot lately. We had Tasha for ten years, then Goldie (pictured here)goldie-asleep.jpg for probably four. I inherited her from my nephew after Tasha died. I think she was around six years old, though I’m notoriously bad about remembering lengths of time with any precision.

Tasha—whose full name was Tashuunka Wakan Heyoka Yellowdog—was deeply loving, and generally obedient until she was outside and off-leash, when she became a wild wolf, running with all her might around the neighborhood, dodging helpful folks who tried to lure or lasso her. She’d usually return about four hours later, exhausted, filthy from playing in the canal, afraid of punishment, but unable (or certainly unwilling) to control the urge toward unrestricted freedom and exploration. Continue reading

Categories: Animals | 2 Comments

Squirrelly Love

Just after noon today, there was a strange noise outside my mother’s bedroom. It sounded like someone was trying to get into the house, though the noise stopped suddenly.

I looked out the sliding door to the screened porch, and saw a classic love triangle being played out, animal-style. Clinging to the screen, upside down, was a large female Sciurus carolinensis, an Eastern Gray Squirrel, and a significantly smaller male, who was obviously attempting to seduce his lady-love.

At the same time, he was fending off the advances of another male, who was perched on the curve of the aluminum downspout and was trying to stare down male #1. Both males were switching their tails threateningly and chattering at one another, though #1 was far more aggressive with it. Periodically he’d leave the female’s side to rush toward male #2, shouting threats and whatnot, then he’d dash back to his woman, who seemed frozen to the screen, tense and unyielding.

Continue reading

Categories: Animals | 4 Comments

Apocalypse of the Honeybees

How poetically appropriate that the End of Humanity should come from such a tiny, sweet source

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

From outta nowhere the tiny ones came, while humanity was busy trembling and sweating in the face of major global cataclysm, of global warming and nuclear war and rainforest devastation and melting ice caps and E. coli outbreaks and Ashlee Simpson and lethal hurricanes and the Apocalypse-hungry Christian right and a simply stupendously vile Bush juggernaut that has threatened all intelligent life everywhere. Onward they came, buzzy and calm and happy to be our very own adorable, unexpected harbinger of doom.

Yes, now we can see it clearly. Now we can be appropriately alarmed and now maybe we can even say, Oh holy hell, maybe we should have seen it coming all along: Of course the end of mankind should come from something as sweet and commonplace and unforeseen as the honeybees.

Have you not heard? Have you not read of the dire honeybee apocalypse and what it might mean for the majority of the delectable food crops in America, how we might soon face a very serious food crisis and might be eating little more than bread and pine cones in the near future, thus inducing widespread panic as we engage in violent bloody wars not for oil or land or God but over asparagus and avocados and those incredible Buddha’s Hand fruits they use to infuse Hangar One Citron?

It’s true. It’s all because of the honeybees, those minuscule, absolutely essential, beautifully pollinating creatures that play such a vital role in our food supply, help nearly all flowering crops grow and therefore provide a simply enormous portion of the global diet including all citrus and many vegetables Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Environment, Nature, Worthwhile Reading | 6 Comments

An Easter for the Birds

Many homes in this part of Florida (that is to say, homes newer and more expensive than ours) have a large screened-in area that encloses an in-ground pool, a summer kitchen, and a lanai or roofed porch; on temperate days, the sliding glass doors open up to the kitchen and family room and even master bedroom, so that the indoors pours comfortably into the outdoors. Darryl and Janet, my brother and sister-in-law, have such a home, which backs onto on a small but very pretty artificial lake.

Yesterday they invited everyone over for an Easter cookout. To be fair, no one cooked, at least not yesterday afternoon. We all brought our contributions: Easter egg potato salad (some of the eggs were a little blue or green from the Easter egg dye); a Jello salad with lots of marshmallows; extremely garlicky green beans; a precooked ham, and a precooked turkey breast, and packaged rolls; that sort of thing. Mom was dreading the day, since she was feeling poorly and not having a good breathing day, but as she had made such a fabulous showing the previous weekend—spending the night at the Kissimmee home of my other brother and sister-in-law, Dale and Nilda, while I gave a workshop at a writers’ conference in New Port Richey—Mom felt obligated to show up at yesterday’s gathering as well. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Christianity, Earth-based Religions, Holidays | 3 Comments

The Big Trip: Custer and the Devils Tower


Last night I swore I’d never again set foot in the Black Hills. Today I feel pulled back there, if for no reason than to see what they look like in the cold, rational light of day. mtrushmore.jpgThough I’ll happily skip Mount Rushmore this time. (If you’ve watched Kids in the Hall, you can just hear “I’m crushing your head!” when you look at the picture to the right.)

In the Black Hills National Forest, on the road leading to Custer State Park, was a sign that said, simply, “Grizzly.” I couldn’t tell if it was a warning or an advertisement.

All sorts of roads are closed up here. I don’t know what highway I’m on anymore (my, doesn’t that sound familiar?), but I’m snaking through the woods at about 15 miles per hour, going straight uphill. I’m not entirely sure my car will make it. I can’t help but wonder if I’m on the back side of Mount Rushmore; I’m at the top of Iron Mountain, apparently.

The man on the radio says he’s picking porcupine quills out of his coat from this morning’s encounter. How intriguing! Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Earth-based Religions, Nature, Spirituality, The Big Trip, Travel | 6 Comments

Cock Crow

This morning I came to a startling conclusion: it’s all Tim and Kathleen’s fault. Every bit of it. Well, them and my now-long-dead Nana. I honestly had no interest in birds until they came along.

Nana—my maternal grandmother, Dorothy—arose at dawn and would spend an hour each morning at her kitchen table in front of that huge bay window, sipping impossibly weak coffee, reading her well-worn Bible, and communing with God by listening to and watching the birds that she saw in her vast yard.

Kathleen and Tim were the first true birders I ever met, and though I’ve since met some who are more obsessive, few have as much love for birds as they do. For years I treated their interest in winged fauna as just an interesting quirk, something that added to the richness of their personalities. (One of Tim’s pet names for Kathleen is “Bird.”)

I’m not sure when that interest started rubbing off on me. Pileated WoodpeckerPerhaps it was the picnic beside Sligo Creek when we saw a Pileated Woodpecker hammering away above us. Perhaps it was Vermont’s Black-capped Chickadee-dee-dees with their late winter song, an out-of-tune, whistled fee-bee. Or maybe the Red-winged Blackbirds with their distinctive conk-a-ree!

But I know the deal was sealed for me when I heard my first Barred Owls, one of them in a tree just above me being answered by another across a little valley. I remember thinking the bird must have started out in the Deep South, because it very clearly says, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” (The Barred Owl may also suddenly break into demonic screams punctuated by maniacal laughter. Or it may mutter in churlish tones, “Old fool, old fool, don’t do it, don’t do it.”)

Of late, the birds seem to have made me their own pet project. Mr. Cardinal is a daily visitor to the hibiscus bushes outside my bedroom and office windows. If I don’t stop and pay attention to him as he sings and chirps, he actually taps on the glass to get my attention.

They seem to be commanding my attention in other ways, too. I hear a hawk, and understand instinctively that he’s issuing a threat call, warning others to stay away from his family’s nest, high in a radio tower. Or I’m in conversation with friends at a café, but get distracted by faint bird-chatter; I strain to hear it, and imagine that if I listen carefully enough, I’ll be able to understand their words.

I’ve even begun dreaming about them. Two nights ago it was dozens of small puddle ducks swimming happily in floodwaters, and Snowy Egrets and Scarlet Ibises wading around, oblivious to the natural disaster that had befallen the dreamscape. The next morning, as I was getting in my car, the sky was suddenly filled with a massive flock of tiny black migratory birds.

But as much as I appreciate the birdlife here in Florida, I think the neighborhood rooster that started crowing at 2 a.m. last night, and did not stop crowing until 5, crossed a line with me somewhere. He had a lovely, distinctive voice, to be sure; his crow was unusual, and I appreciated his vocal prowess. Just not all night long, thankyouverymuch.

Around 6:30, other roosters started crowing. Mind you, the area I live in is terminally suburban. There are no farms nearby. Now, one town north, in West Melbourne, there used to be something called the Melbourne Poultry Colony, but the colony has long since disappeared, and is now just the name of a local neighborhood association. So where in the world did all these roosters come from? I counted five distinct voices, coming from five different areas. And they were all calling to one another, announcing the dawn and sounding mighty pleased with themselves. But I have never seen any chickens in the neighborhood, so where they live, exactly, is beyond me.

Right now I’m listening to a Fish Crow outside my window. He’s saying “Uh-oh!” over and over. Maybe he knows I’m planning to have chicken for dinner, and is worried for the neighborhood roosters.

Thoughts? Comments?

Categories: Animals, Nature | 2 Comments

Turtle Island Prayer

Yesterday I saw a tortoise crossing the highway. Some cars dodged it, a few slowed, others either didn’t see it or didn’t care. When a car would approach, the tortoise would pull arms and legs in, briefly, as the car straddled it and drove on. Then the creature would start its lumbering passage once again. It had a very long trek ahead of it, with a concrete island separating northbound lanes from southbound.

I spontaneously prayed for its safety, importuning the spirits to protect it, or to guide someone to gently move it before it became roadkill.

Imediately I wondered at my mindset. Why do I have so much compassion for a tortoise when the human world is in such pain? Great disasters happen daily; inhumanity is rife, children are abused constantly, people starve, life sometimes seems unlivable. And yet I summon the powers of heaven to protect a turtle.

I don’t regret my prayer. He seemed so vulnerable, so exposed, despite his shell: one misplaced tire and he’d be sent back to the Undifferentiated Tao. But I find it remarkable, and not a little strange, that I have more compassion for a tortoise than I usually do for my fellow human beings.

Thoughts? Comments?

Categories: Animals, Earth-based Religions | 6 Comments

Not a True Believer, Apparently

Woman Dies After Snakebite In Church

LONDON, Ky., Nov. 7, 2006
Associated Press

A woman died after being bitten by a snake during a serpent-handling service at church, police said. Linda Long, 48, of London, Ky., died Sunday at University of Kentucky Medical Center, Brad Mitchell, a detective with the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Long died about four hours after the bite was reported, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Officials said Long attended East London Holiness Church. Neighbors of the church told the newspaper the church practices serpent handling.

Snake handling is based on a passage in the Bible from the Gospel of Mark that says a sign of a true believer is the power to “take up serpents” without being harmed.

Handling reptiles as part of religious services is illegal in Kentucky. Snake handling is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $50 to $100 fine. Police said they had not received reports about snake handling at the church.

Lt. Ed Sizemore of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said friends went with Long to a local hospital Sunday afternoon, before she was transferred to the university hospital.

Church officials could not be reached for comment.

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Categories: Animals, Christianity | Leave a comment

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

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Categories: Animals, Great Quotes, Nature | 3 Comments

An Elephant Crackup?

by CHARLES SIEBERT, The New York Times
Published: October 8, 2006

“We’re not going anywhere,’’ my driver, Nelson Okello, whispered to me one morning this past June, the two of us sitting in the front seat of a jeep just after dawn in Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda. We’d originally stopped to observe what appeared to be a lone bull elephant grazing in a patch of tall savanna grasses off to our left. More than one ‘‘rogue’’ had crossed our path that morning — a young male elephant that has made an overly strong power play against the dominant male of his herd and been banished, sometimes permanently. This elephant, however, soon proved to be not a rogue but part of a cast of at least 30. The ground vibrations registered just before the emergence of the herd from the surrounding trees and brush. We sat there watching the elephants cross the road before us, seeming, for all their heft, so light on their feet, soundlessly plying the wind-swept savanna grasses like land whales adrift above the floor of an ancient, waterless sea.

Then, from behind a thicket of acacia trees directly off our front left bumper, a huge female emerged — ‘‘the matriarch,’’ Okello said softly. There was a small calf beneath her, freely foraging and knocking about within the secure cribbing of four massive legs. Acacia leaves are an elephant’s favorite food, and as the calf set to work on some low branches, the matriarch stood guard, her vast back flank blocking the road, the rest of the herd milling about in the brush a short distance away.

After 15 minutes or so, Okello started inching the jeep forward, revving the engine, trying to make us sound as beastly as possible. The matriarch, however, was having none of it, holding her ground, the fierce white of her eyes as bright as that of her tusks. Although I pretty much knew the answer, I asked Okello if he was considering trying to drive around. ‘‘No,’’ he said, raising an index finger for emphasis. ‘‘She’ll charge. We should stay right here.’’ Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Environment, Nature, Worthwhile Reading | 1 Comment

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