Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Behind Bars

With poaching and threats on precious wildlife in many areas of the globe, I was touched by the sad image and poem by McKenna Grace Fisher.

Behind Bars

I see you through these lines of steal,
This steal that keeps me bound in a place,
To breath fresh air and eat my meal,
Would be for me the blessings of grace...

You humans make the choice to murder me,
My flesh you eat with no thought or reference
You think not of my heart, nor do you see,
You continue on with your lives, you're a menace...

My tears shall fall as I await my death,
My heart shall race with fear, not a trace,
Of the last bit of air, it will be my last breath,
Whilst you eat your flesh, my death I must embrace....

Copyright McKenna Grace Fisher 

If this just touched one heart and stimulates increased awareness of our fellow beings and their suffering, maybe change can eventually be brought about. 

Please share.

In quiet reflection,

Friday, July 27, 2012

Incredible Story: Courage

In my yard, spring season and summer is in full spring and the House Finches are bringing their babies to my feeders.  Often I see the parents and a young one sitting on the branches above the feeder with the parent coming down and picking up a seed only to feed the young one not yet ready to join them at the feeder.  The young ones have a curious behavior in that they 'flatter' their wings as if to say 'please feed me' and they poke the parents.  It warms my heart to see the birds enjoying an easy meal, socializing in my old walnut tree and waking me up at day break.

Reading the below story on the other hand fill me with sadness.  Human is the most cruel predator!  In the natural world, predators kill for food, for feeding their young, for survival.  

How can it be entertainment for the boys below to torture a little creature?


Courage Euthanized

This story is a bit different from my normal tributes. This is about a little baby bird who was tortured and beaten and who’s story will change the world. Today I was walking to my mail box out by the street. I saw these two boys kicking something back and forth to each other. At first I didn’t think much of it. Then I saw them pick it up and start smashing it with their fists. I then heard a noise I will never forget… it sounded just like a scream. I ran over and yelled “what is going on?” to the kids. As soon as they saw me they bolted down the street. When I came up on the bird he was not moving and had one wing broken almost completely off. I wanted to run after those kids but all I cared about was trying to save this poor baby bird. I picked him up in my hands. Put his brocken body back together and held him close to my chest. He looked straight up into my eyes and I knew he knew he was safe. At first his breathing was sporadic and fast. So I started rubbing my thumb on the top of his head and he calmed immediately. I rushed him inside. I named this bird Courage. As I walked Courage back to my house I saw two birds watching us and I knew it was his parents. They had seen the entire thing.
Inside, my rescue pup William was right at the baby bird’s side. I told William what had happend and he clearly understood because the next thing he did was nuzzle the bird up into his neck. The broken baby bird started to softly close his eyes under Williams warmth and slowly he drifted off to sleep. I called my vet who told me what I already knew. A bird this young and so tortured and broken would never make it. I lost it at this point. The idea that this morning this baby bird was happy and alive and now lay tortured in my house broke my heart. All because two kids thought it was fun to hurt this amazing animal. My vet told me to bring Courage in and make the decision to let him rest in peace.

Courage’s Parents
I laid down cradling William who was cradling the broken baby bird and we cried. I cried tears…William wined softly… we both knew it was time. Before I left I took Courage in my hands and walked him back to the tree where he had fallen out of. I sat down and wanted to give his parents a chance to say goodbye. The two birds, one red chested and the other brown chirped and flew down right in front of us in the grass. At that point they knew what I was doing and I know it sounds unbelievable but I know they were crying too. The sat at the edge of my knees just steering not making a single sound. I told the two parents it was time and they said their goodbyes and flew off back up into the tree. They watched us as we got into my car and left.
When I arrived at the vets office we walked straight to the back. I was able to cup the small brocken bird in my hands as he passed away. I lay my head down next to this small amazing bird and told him he had more courage then anything in the world. I told him I loved him and I apologized for what had happened to him. As he started to drift away, as his breathing slowed, I rubbed his head and through his broken small beak he let out a sigh of relief. No more pain, no more hurt… leaving only with love, peace and warmth. The room was quiet. No one said a word. There where 6 of us in there. The vet, 4 vet tecks and myself… all of us crying.

Courage’s grave.
I took Courage’s body home. When I got home his two parents where sitting on my balcony. This shows just how powerful, smart and intuitive animals are. They new their baby bird had passed. I bundled the lil guy in a towel and went on a hike. As I hiked to where I was going to burry Courage I held him in my hands and let the breeze ruffle his tiny feathers. I buried him up in the mountains behind my house in a quiet spot over looking the city. I will never forget Courage and what he went through. This small abused, tortured animal taught me so much in the time I was with him. Courage know that you left this world with love, peace and now your story will be shared to thousands! You will change this world Courage.
To the kids who did this to Courage the baby bird… I pray that one day you see the power these amazing animals have. I hope you change your ways and someone teaches you whats right. I hope you never harm an animal again. [The kids who did this where never found]
Courage Euthanized on 7/20/2012
In sad reflection, 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In the News: LA Zoo Elephants

In Defense of Animals (IDA)
Protecting the rights, welfare and habitat of animals

Breaking News - Judge Agrees With IDA, Says Los Angeles Zoo Elephants Are Not Healthy, Happy, Or Thriving 

On July 24, 2012 California Superior Court Judge John L. Segal released a scathing decision in a lawsuit regarding the elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. He concluded that the elephants are not "healthy, happy or thriving." The judge said the zoo's new $42 million exhibit is injuring the three elephants who live Tina and Jewel at the Los Angeles Zoothere, Billy, Tina and Jewel, but stopped short of closing the exhibit. Instead, the judge ordered the zoo to make changes such as increasing exercise and rototilling to soften the soil in the exhibit, and banning bullhooks and electric shock devices.

IDA has been working for the last five years on this lawsuit, providing valuable expertise and experience. Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle testified during the six-day trial as a rebuttal witness.

The judge wrote: "The evidence at trial shows that life at the Los Angeles Zoo for Billy, Tina, and Jewell is empty, purposeless, boring, and occasionally painful. Their lives are supervised, managed, and controlled by zoo employees who appear to be in the dark about normal and abnormal behavior of elephants, in denial about the physical and emotional difficulties of the elephants they manage and whose lives they control, and under the misconception that the elephants prefer to live their lives in an exhibit with human companions rather than with other elephants."

Sadly, the issues raised in the lawsuit and in the judge's decision are not limited to the Los Angeles Zoo, but are shared by zoos around the country, including the same delusional approach to managing elephants, believing that abnormal repetitive behaviors are a sign of contentment, like a dog wagging a tail; that use of the bullhook is no different than a leash on a dog; and that elephants can thrive in tiny exhibits in which they are emotionally and socially deprived.
IDA will build on this landmark decision in our work for elephants. With your support, we will continue to work for Tina, Jewel and Billy until they are released from the zoo. 

If you appreciate the work for elephants that IDA does, please visit their website and support their efforts.              http://www.idausa.org/


"Animals have been regarded as property for way too long. It's high time we took on a more loving and responsible relationship with our kindred beings in the web of life on this beautiful planet. I always think and act as a guardian towards my kindred beings, never as their owner."

Jim Mason, author, An Unnatural Order

Saturday, July 21, 2012

In the News: WWF response to Elephant Hunt

 Spanish King loses WWF title:

Spain’s King Juan Carlos has been ousted as head of the country’s World Wildlife Fund because of his recent elephant hunting safari in Botswana.

The Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund has ousted King Juan Carlos as its honorary president - a title he had held since 1968 - because his recent elephant hunting safari was incompatible with the group’s goal of conserving endangered species.
The animal charity said in a statement that “although such hunting is legal and regulated”, it had “received many expressions of distress from its members and society in general”.
It said members voted in a meeting in Madrid today to “get rid of the honorary president”.
News of the king’s elephant hunting trip in Botswana in April [pl see link below] upset many Spaniards who considered it an opulent extravagance at a time of economic distress in the country.
The Spanish royal palace declined to comment on the WWF announcement.

April 2012:  Related earlier article on the King’s elephant safari.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Travel TidBits: Porcupine

We often overlook the small critters who live around us.  This is a tribute to all the small creatures.

Greetings from Montana,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Travel TidBits: Wolf

Wolf Reflection in a Pond

Greetings from Montana,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Travel TidBits: Milkyway

Dark Sky over Glacier National Park

I am traveling in Montana and visited Glacier National Park this week.   The lack of light pollution and the close to new moon produced a beautiful starry night.  Luck had it that I could follow the milky way across the East-South sky on one clear night.  Since the sun only sets after 9pm and the dusk lingers for a long time, it was well after midnight when the stars fully appeared.  Having scouted out a location near a lake, I hoped for reflection of the stars in the water and was well rewarded.

I will write more about my current travel in a later blog.

Til next time,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shelter Dogs

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  
– Ghandi

So often we look away - Photographer Yun-Fei Tou makes us look into the eyes of the unfortunate.

July 9th, 2012

“Memento Mori”: Yun-Fei Tou’s Portraits of Shelter Dogs

Photographer Yun-Fei Tou

Born in 1975, Yun-Fei Tou first encountered the art of photography in 1991, as a student at The American School in Switzerland. In 1998, he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a major in photography. In 2007 and 2008, Yun-Fei Tou received the Golden Tripod Award for Photography, presented by the Government Information Office, Executive Yuan.  In 2012, he received the grand prize of Taoyuan Creation Award.  His work has been included in a number of solo and group exhibitions held in various venues such as: Kaohsiung Fine Art Museum, Taipei Photo Center, Taiwan Photo Museum, Taiwan International Visual Art Center, National Taiwan University of Arts, and three images from this series were included in 2011 New York Photo Festival “Provocation,” a Jury Invitational Exhibition.  “MEMENTO MORI” is one of several long-term projects of Yun-Fei Tou.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  – Ghandi
"04:17AM, 03/07/2011, Taiwanese Public Animal Shelter, Time until Euthanized: 13.2 Hours" by Yun-Fei Tou

Yun-Fei: “These images record the last moments of life for some dogs found in public shelters run by governmental agencies in Taiwan. These portraits are taken on the very day in which the animal depicted is about to be ‘put down’ or mercifully killed. These images are but a small fraction of the total body of work in this ongoing project.

"12:57PM, 09/23/2011, Taiwanese Public Animal Shelter, Time until Euthanized: 1.1 Hours" by Yun-Fei Tou

“Utilizing the classic portrait style that originated in the early 19th century with the birth of photography as an art form, these photographs offer the viewer a chance to look attentively into a bleak future. These dogs are essentially dead and their souls are hours or minutes away from non-existence.  These portraits reflect a formal construct or platform through which the viewer and the dog “communicate,” using exchanged gazes to create a forced contemplation.
“Photographic images allow us to contemplate.  Through contemplation, we gain an understanding of the uniqueness and nobility of life. Through contemplation, we understand how chaotic and disordered the world has become.
“The moment when a photographer chooses to release the shutter during a shooting session, or when carefully selecting an image from a body of work about the same subject matter, these acts, the releasing of the shutter and the editing of a selection, lead to subjective choices and reveal a bias.  In the same token, every viewer has an inborn nature that is unique and possesses personal experiences that also reflect different values. Therefore, when different viewers face the same image, it is inevitable that they produce wide ranges of responses from the minute to radical to drastic differences in sentiment, interpretation, meaning and/or intent.
"10:54AM, 11/28/2011, Taiwanese Public Shelter, time until Euthanized: 1.2 Hours" by Yun-Fei Tou

“However, from the point of view of the subject portrayed in a photograph, these biases, prejudices, and even different sentiments can be perceived as a form of manipulation. It is often times these distortions and/or misinterpretations that offer richness in the various degrees of reality. The photographic image is merely a vehicle of communication that can lead to a better understanding of a situation, an event, of ourselves and of the world around us.
“In viewing these specific images, one looks directly into the eyes of the dog and the dog looks back. These images reflect the last opportunity to look. This is a final and decisive moment. Death is eminent and all that is asked of the viewer is to engage, to recognize the common bonds and to honor the resemblances between our lives.”
Stay connected to Yun-Fei: Photoshelter | AP Article

In quiet reflection,

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Taiwan: Pig Sanctuary

The Transformation of  one Pig Farmer in Taiwan 

This story goes to the heart of the issue of animal rights:  Only if we see All animals as individuals, will we open our hearts to hear their voices:

The start of his transformation from a pig farmer to a rescuer Lo was experiencing the quiet voice of one piglet:  “Except for one piglet, which abruptly quieted down when I took it in my hands and then it looked me right in the eyes, as if saying: ‘How could you do this to me?’ That look in its eyes shattered me and kept me awake all night,” Lo said.

Pig farmer turns to animal rights

HIGH ON THE HOG: The former pork-raiser has dedicated himself to vegetarianism and animal husbandry since a little piglet ‘convinced’ him that killing pigs was wrong

By Tsai Pai-lingand Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Lo Hung-hsien feeds his pigs at his farm in New Taipei City on Tuesday.

Photo: Tsai Pai-ling, Taipei Times

A hog farmer from New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口) has transformed his farm into a real-life “piggy paradise” where pigs are not raised for meat, after he was struck by the woeful eyes of a piglet which was going to be slaughtered.
“Animals are our friends, not our food,” said 34-year-old Lo Hung-hsien (駱鴻賢), the owner of the pig sanctuary, who is also a vegetarianism advocate and a part-time volunteer.
In an effort to cover the huge overhead costs of managing the non-profitable ranch, Lo holds down multiple jobs, including working as a cargo driver, setting up temporary stalls at night markets and running an online business selling dumplings.
Aside from his salaried jobs, Lo also squeezes in time for his advocacy work to promote the benefits of a vegetarian diet, volunteer at schools and give free speeches at the Tzu Chi Foundation.
Exhausting all his hard-earned money on raising his family and “piggy friends,” Lo said that despite all the criticism he has received for his decision to change how the farm was managed, he will still hold on to his beliefs even if it left him penniless.
Before his change of heart, Lo said that he had been a profit-driven pig farmer who inherited his family’s large-scale, lucrative farming business from his grandfather.
Lo said that at the business’ peak, his farm could accommodate 500 pigs and raked in substantial revenue that was far more than he could spend.
Recalling the moment that transformed him from a moneymaking pig farmer to a vegetarian who regarded his farm animals as close companions, Lo said it was a piglet that was about to be butchered that changed his perception of pig farming.
Lo said that at the time, a staff member from a slaughterhouse had gone to his farm to single out a few hogs, prompting the terrified animals to start wailing.
“Except for one piglet, which abruptly quieted down when I took it in my hands and then it looked me right in the eyes, as if saying: ‘How could you do this to me?’ That look in its eyes shattered me and kept me awake all night,” Lo said.
“It was then that I resolved to convert to vegetarianism and cut off cooperation with any butcheries,” he said.
Over the past few years, only forty out of the hundreds of hogs survive, while the rest have succumbed to old age or disease, but Lo still spares no effort in attending to his pig companions.
Lo starts his day at 4am each morning, driving to a number of vegetarian restaurants to collect their leftovers, which are first cooked before being fed to his treasured pets.
Afterward, Lo cleans up the pigpens and washes and plays with the hogs attentively, as if they were his children.
He has also sprayed the slogan “animals are our friends, not our food” on his truck because he wants to spread the seeds of his beliefs wherever he goes.



Til next Time,

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

A Sanctuary for Elephant Orphans 
where they can grow up strong and ready for release into the wild.

This is such a heart-warming story/video that I had to share it. 
When I was in Africa last year, I visited the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi – a wonderful compassionate place for orphaned elephant babies and youngsters that are rehabilitated to be released into the wild into an established herd in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya.  I visited an adjacent park, Amboseli, on my safari and experienced for the first time elephants in the wild, big herds of adults, youngsters and babies – a precious sight to see.
Elephants.sanctuary - Supporters of Elephant Sanctuaries Page
At Sheldrick's, wild born 8 mo old Mwende head butts wheelbarrow & kicks the keeper, feisty as a happy baby should be.

Published on Jul 5, 2012 by dswtkenya

On the 7th of November 2011 the Sheldrick Trust's ex-orphan Mulika gave birth to her 1st wild born calf. The calf was a female and named 'Mwende'. This clip shows baby Mwende's progress as she thrives and continues to lead a unique wild life amongst the ex-orphans and wild elephants alike.

To read more about this story visit our website:

Elephant Orphans at Kenya's Renowned Sheldrick Orphanage
Since over 25 years, David and Daphne Sheldrick pioneered the successful hand-rearing and complicated strategy of successful rehabilitation back into established elephant communities in the wild.  Daphne Sheldrick was the first person in the entire world to successfully hand rear newborn fully milk dependent African Elephant orphans, something that spanned 28 years of trial and error to achieve. By the year 2008 the Sheldrick Trust had successfully saved and hand-reared over 82 infant African Elephant calves, two from the day of birth. Currently, over 40 of the Trust’s hand-reared elephants are fully established and living free amongst their wild peers in Tsavo, some returning with wild born young to show their erstwhile human family. Based at two established Elephant Rehabilitation Centers within Tsavo East National Park others are still in the gradual process of re-integration with yet others in early infancy at the Trust’s Nairobi National Park Elephant Nursery. The Trust has trained a team of competent Elephant Keeper who replace the orphans’ lost elephant family until such time as the transition to the wild herds has been accomplished, something that can take up to l0 years, since elephant calves duplicate their human counterparts in terms of development through age progression. Those that were orphaned too young to recall their elephant family remain dependent longer, but all the Trust’s orphans eventually take their rightful place amongst their wild counterparts, including those orphaned on the day they were born.


Looking for some fun photography opportunity to capture tiny birds, check this out: 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nature's Mysteries: Starlings

Murmuration - The Dance of the Starlings

Here’s another mystery of nature:

No one knows why they do it, yet each fall, thousands of starlings dance in the twilight above England and Scotland . The birds gather in shape-shifting flocks called murmurations, having migrated in the millions from Russia and Scandinavia to escape winter’s frigid bite .

Scientists aren’t sure how they do it either. The starlings' murmurations are manifestations of swarm intelligence, which in different contexts is practiced by schools of fish , swarms of bees, and colonies of ants.  As far as I am aware, even complex algorithmic models haven’t yet explained the starlings’ aerobatics, which rely on the tiny birds' quicksilver reaction time of under 100 milliseconds, to avoid aerial collisions — and predators — in the giant flock.

Despite their tour de force in the dusky sky, starlings have declined significantly in the UK in recent years, perhaps because of a decline in suitable nesting sites. The birds still roost in several of Britain’s rural pastures; however, settling down to sleep, (and chatter), after their evening ballet.

Two young ladies were out for a late afternoon canoe ride and fortunately one of them remembered to bring her video camera.  What they saw was a wonderful murmuration display, caught in the short video - URL is below.  Watch the variation of color and intensity of the patterns that the birds make in proximity to one other, and take a look at the girl in the stern of the canoe watching the aerial display. 


Til next Time, 

A chance encounter and shared moment with one of natures greatest and most fleeting phenomena.


Looking for some fun photography opportunity to capture tiny birds, check this out: