The #BlackfishEffect Gets Some Tiger (King) Stripes…

Tiger King ain’t Blackfish in terms of inspiring audience activism. But thanks to Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and the ALDF, celebrities are petitioning Congress for protections for big cats:

The reaction has not been the same for “Tiger King,” the Netflix docuseries about exotic cats displayed at roadside zoos. While the show has been wildly popular — the streaming company said that 34 million U.S. viewers watched it during its first 10 days of release — the majority of fans seem more interested in its eccentric human characters than its animal stars.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of “Blackfish,” would like to change that. So, along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, she has authored a petition to Congress in support of a federal bill called the Big Cat Public Safety Act. The petition — which has been signed by celebrities like Joaquin Phoenix, Glenn Close, Olivia Wilde and Sarah Silverman — calls for an end to the private ownership of big cats and cub petting.

“Once a documentary scores a passionate audience that has stumbled into this world they didn’t know about, you can pivot and give them a meaningful place to land,” said Cowperthwaite, who began thinking of how to get involved after an April 9 New York Times article declared “‘Tiger King’ Is Not ‘Blackfish’ for Big Cats.” “It’s not too late. The film snagged people’s attention. Now it’s about capitalizing on the passion and giving it an outlet, which I’m not sure is clear right now.”

Warms my heart. Go Gabriela…

COVID Silver Linings: Ocean Noise

Reduced ship traffic is yet one more way wildlife–marine mammals, especially whales in this case–is benefitting from the global pandemic lockdown:

“We have a generation of humpbacks that have never known a quiet ocean,” said Fournet, whose work has shown that the whales alter their calling behaviour in response to a noisy ocean.

Late April usually marks the beginning of the cruise ship season in south-east Alaska, with the boats docking at Vancouver before heading north. This year the health crisis has halted them.

“What we know about whales in south-east Alaska is that when it gets noisy they call less, and when boats go by they call less,” said Fournet.

“I expect what we might see is an opportunity for whales to have more conversation and to have more complex conversation.”

Long may it last.

COVID Silver Linings: Is Iceland Getting Out Of The Whaling Business?

The pandemic is making whaling a difficult business, and that is squeezing Icelandic whalers hard:

Icelandic whaling company IP-Utgerd announced April 24 that it is stopping whaling completely, while the country’s largest whaling firm, Hvalur hf., says it won’t be hunting any whales for the second year in a row.

IP-Utgerd, which mainly targeted minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), cited financial difficulties after no-fishing zones were extended off the Icelandic coast, forcing its boats to go further and further offshore. Hvalur, which hunts threatened fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) as well as minke whales, is ceasing operations because of stiff competition with Japan, among other reasons, according to Kristján Loftsson, the company’s CEO.

One company down. Another teetering.

Bird BS

This is the sort of thing I find totally enraging (and dispiriting, if I am honest):

Known as ashy tailorbirds, they were destined for the Indonesian island of Java, where they were likely to spend their lives in a collector’s cage.

Millions of similar birds are stolen from the wild every year, and prized specimens can ultimately sell for thousands of dollars. These birds are not treasured for their plumage or meat, but for their songs.

An illicit trade that begins in the primeval forests takes many of the birds to Indonesia’s teeming capital, Jakarta, where they are entered into high-stakes singing competitions at which government officials frequently preside.

It is a perfect allegory for how dysfunctional humanity’s relationship with nature truly is, and could only happen in a culture where we value profit and entertainment above all else.

Honeybees and Humanity

A moving and thoughtful meditation on how caring for other creatures can change who you are and how you see the world:

A friend of mine once told me that soon after he started beekeeping, he began noticing color differently — began picking out particular hues, as a bee might do. And as the summer wore on that year in Oxford, I realized that I, too, was seeing differently. Cycling to and from work, I spotted wild places I hadn’t before; I became aware of what creature life existed between and through the city’s walls. I was newly alert to changing weather patterns, shifting seasons — I noticed how these affected the colony in my hive; how vulnerable pollinators were to environmental change. I’d imagined the bees might offer an escape from the wider world; in fact they seemed to be leading me into a new relationship with it.

When we connect with nature we plug ourselves into the universe.

Nice to know that not everyone shoots grizzly bears…

…who develop a taste for human garbage:

In early April, a young grizzly bear swam through the chilly waters off the western coast of Canada in search of food.

He came ashore on Hanson Island, one of more than 200 rocky outcrops in British Columbia’s Broughton archipelago, and quickly started eating garbage from a cabin.

It was a dangerous move: bears that get too comfortable eating food waste and start to lose their fear of humans are quickly shot.

But this bear’s death was averted through an unlikely partnership between local Indigenous groups and conservation officers, raising hopes of a more holistic approach to wildlife management with greater Indigenous input.

I guess we should call that progress. Though perhaps we should think a bit more about the garbage.

Saving The “Super-Tuskers”

Elephants with tusks are being decimated by ivory poachers. Elephants with “super-tusks” which reach the ground are the poacher Holy Grail. Film-maker Goh Iromoto tells the story of how the Tsavo Trust tries to protect them.

The Good, Bad, And Ugly Of Wildlife Photography

“Ugh, Another fu*cking Instagrammer. Can I get on with my life now?”

This is a very thoughtful analysis of both the good that responsible wildlife photographers can do, and the negative impacts on wildlife that irresponsible photographers can have:

When the details of Ramsey’s daring encounter came to light, scientists were quick to raise these issues.

Take, for example, Instagram influencer and shark conservation advocate Ocean Ramsey. In January 2019, Ramsey made international headlines after publishing photos of herself getting up close and personal with a six-meter great white shark that experts suspect was pregnant.

Ramsey and her husband, Juan Oliphant, owners of the Hawai‘i-based dive charter company One Ocean Diving, were freediving off the coast of O‘ahu when a massive great white shark approached their boat. The shark had come to feed on a whale carcass floating nearby. As the barrel-bodied creature approached the carcass, Ramsey dove down and ran her hand along its back. When the shark moved out of reach, Ramsey swam after it and stroked it a second time. As the encounter unfolded, Oliphant and three other freedivers moved in to capture photos and videos…[snip]

…According to Domeier, the shark Ramsey touched appeared pregnant and by forcing it to interact with her, she risked scaring it away from the whale carcass.

“A pregnant female white shark spends almost 18 months in the open ocean where prey is few and far between, so you don’t want to risk scaring one away from a meal that it needs to take care of the 500 or 600 pounds [225 or 275 kilograms] of babies it’s carrying,” says Domeier.

It is hard not to feel that humans–photographers, tourists, developers, hunters, researchers, it’s a long list–are relentlessly and increasingly intruding on the lives of wild animals. We definitely need many more, and much stricter, protected zones in both the ocean and on land. But what we really need, more than anything, is a different guiding ethic, in which our own needs and desires are no longer the only needs and desires considered, or dominant.

Right Whales Vs The Lobstering Industry

Right whales and fishing gear do not go well together. (NOAA Photo Library)

And right whales may finally get some protection:

A federal district court judge ruled last week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to protect right whales adequately from the risks posed by lobster fishing.

It is too early to know exactly how the ruling in a lawsuit brought by a group of environmental organizations will affect the lobster industry. U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg asked those groups and NOAA to file briefs suggesting an appropriate “injunctive remedy” against further violations of the Endangered Species Act.

Good. It’s long past time for the interests of other species to be valued and considered outside a human commercial frame, and the Endangered Species Act is a powerful legal imperative to do just that. The lobstering industry is already challenged by change (and now COVID-19). Now it will also have to figure out a way to stop putting down gear that entangles and kills right whales. All this probably means a smaller industry and fewer lobstermen, which will be a rough transition. But if state and federal aid can help ease that transition, the world will become a better place for right whales (and lobster).

Med Whales Enjoy The Shutdown Of Humanity, Too

The latest evidence: two fin whales enjoying the waters off the port of Marseilles.

The graceful pair of fin whales was filmed Tuesday in waters off the Calanques national park, a protected reserve of outstanding natural beauty next to the usually bustling but now locked-down Mediterranean port city of Marseille.

Didier Reault, who heads the park board, says it is “very, very rare” for fin whales to be spotted and filmed at such close quarters in the reserve’s waters. The whales usually stay further out in deeper Mediterranean waters but seem to have been drawn in by the lockdown-driven freeze on maritime traffic, water sports, pleasure fishing and pleasure craft, Reault said.

“The absence of human activity means the whales are far more serene, calm and confident about rediscovering their playground that they abandon when there is maritime traffic,” Reault told The Associated Press.

It must be such a strange time to be a marine mammal, and to suddenly enjoy oceans mostly free of human ship traffic and noise. It will  be equally confusing when all the noise and intrusion suddenly starts up again.

If only we could be inspired by what we seeing with flourishing wildlife, and reductions in carbon and pollution all over the planet, to do everything just a bit (well, alot) differently.