Turtle Volunteers’ Vast Map of Gulf Nests Aids in Emergency Transplant Out of BP Oil


A network of turtle volunteer groups have the data to make decent map of every turtle nest in the gulf, including species and probable hatching time.

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Kenny the Facebook Goat Rescues Goat Orphan Across the Country

 A sweet sorta-rescue played out on Facebook this week: Kenny, a Florida goat spared from the butcher himself, reached out to save a Colorado goat in need. It all started as a joke, says Karen Matyjasik, who raises goats in Central Florida. But next Thursday a baby goat with nowhere to go will fly cross-country to start a new life, all thanks to Kenny’s Facebook fans.

Karen says Kenny, a boer goat, was her son’s FFA project last fall, but was so charismatic her friend Mary Ann got all attached. Mary Ann started a facebook page called Kenny the Social Climbing Goat, reasoning that celebrities don’t get slaughtered. When FFA ended, they tutored him in wagon-pulling so he’d have another job. He collected admirers, like Dillie the Deer. He would shamelessly ask for fans: “There is a STUFFED BEAR out there with 1012 friends . What am I Chopped Liver?”

Then another friend and goat herder wrote about trying to find homes for her aging father’s goats, in particular a baby with no mother. “This one showed up with no momma started sucking a little off this one, a little off this one,” but no mother goat claimed her, Karen says.

Mary Ann and Karen, in the voice of Kenny, started pining for the goat they called Orphan Annie. She got Kenny to pose for a picture in front of the computer by sprinkling it with his favorite treat, Lucky Charms. “As a joke we said she could come and live

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Where Are All Those Oil-Soaked Birds We Were Expecting?


One peculiar thing about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill so far: hardly any wildlife covered in oil. The lack of  oiled birds has mystified rescuers and exasperated the media. TV networks are clamoring for images, showing clip files and giving the impression that tons of animals are showing up hurt. That’s not so–at least not yet.

Mike Ziccardi, a vet and director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network,  says on the OWCN blog that he got into a spat with “a fairly irate reporter from a major national news outlet” who demanded video access to the necropsy (animal autopsy) of some sea turtles. The network were desperate for dead turtle images even though the turtles didn’t show initial signs of oiling and, as Ziccardi pointed out, were in found in a time and place typical of stranded turtles. (The other big threat to turtles is shrimp boats, Wallace Nichols from Grupo Tortuguero points out.)

Keith Olbmermann started a broadcast this week in ominous tone about “as dead jellyfish begin to wash up on the Mississippi coast.” Dead jellyfish might be the one bright spot of the oil spill, given that the Gulf Dead Zone has caused a plague of jellyfish in the gulf.

A brown pelican is only second bird to be treated. Photo by IBRRC

Apparently California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger so expected oiled wildlife images that he dreamed some up. He just announced that he was withdrawing support for drilling off California’s shores: “I see

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Instead of Going to a Roadside Zoo, Go to the FL Rehabber Who Rescues Their Rejects

Tiger brothers rescued by Wildlife Rehab or Hernando

If you’re looking for an animal attraction in central Florida that doesn’t make you feel icky about how they treat the animals, check out Wildlife Rehab of Hernando. Jimmy Jablon started out taking in local native wildlife–raccoons, alligators, fox–but demand for exotic animals turned out of homes and those creepy roadside attractions.

When you go to the shelter, less than an hour north of Tampa, you’ll get much closer to animals than you would in a zoo and your donation for a tour ($17.50 for adults, $8.50 for kids) will go to help maintain these animals and save others. “We let all the people that come here get close to the animals,” he says. “You stand a foot from the tigers and the monkeys are on a fence next to you.”

Right now Jablon could use the donations, after spending $8,000 for tests and surgery for a 160 pound lion cub that’s now recuperating in his house to ward off infection. Jablon has seen so many of what he calls “photo cubs”–big cats misused to pose for cute pictures when they’re young–that he recognized the syndrome. The cat had been underfed and improperly fed and her skull wasn’t growing to keep up with her brain. Jablon drained more of his savings from working in the insurance business to pay the vet bills, which he had been hoping to get a break on for rescuing the animal.

Recently he did get a big

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Killer Whale Tilly Father to One-Quarter Captive Orcas

Shamu Rocks

Shamu Rocks, at Orlando SeaWorldcourtesy of Miss Quarel.

The horrific killing trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World by the orca Tilikum, or Tilly, prompted Sea World to indefinitely close its killer whale shows. But the Tilly problem is a long-term one. He fathered 10 of the current 42 other captive orcas around the world–nearly one-quarter of the stock.

Many blame the attack on the whole practice of holding these huge, sociable whales captive to entertain us. Jennifer Viegas at Discovery reports that Tilly, a stud whale, may have had high testosterone levels or swings. That’s what made him the most successful male killer whale captive breeder, siring a record 17 calves, 10 of which are still alive, Viegas says. His offspring include Unna, Sumar, Tuar, Tekoa, Nakai,, Kohana, Ikaika , Skyla,  Malia and Ky, who attacked a trainer in San Antonio in 2004. Plus, he has at least one grandchild.

That means nearly one-quarter of the killer whales held in captivity around the world and nearly half the 22 held by SeaWorld are related to a killer whale with high testosterone and high aggression. Even if he weren’t a flawed individual, that’s a terribly inbred population. But now that he’s been very publicly involved in three attacks on people, it highlights how misguided these breeding programs might be. Would you keep breeding the dog that attacks and kills people? 

But breeders probably had little choice but to rely on Tilly. No other male was anywhere near that

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Cold Snap–Or At Least Colds–May Push Back Florida Invasives

Right Before He Froze...

Right Before He Froze…,courtesy of Kafe Soleil.

Florida’s cold snap could provide the big check on invasive species biologists have been wanting for decades. We could see less iguanas and pythons–and also fewer more beloved animals such as parrots. Even animals that didn’t die in the cold could die of a cold in coming weeks.

“I expect we’re going to have huge, huge mortality, maybe even in Miami itself,” says Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission invasive species expert Scott Hardin. “Those that didn’t die [from the cold] could easily die of a respiratory infection.”

The Everglades’ infamous python invaders were at least cold-stunned and perhaps hurt worse. Researchers found that 10 of 11 of the giant snakes they tracked weren’t moving, Hardin said. He added that he didn’t have word yet on the giant parrot colonies that live around the state, especially Miami.

Given the hurt the freezing temperatures caused Floridians, Hardin didn’t want to sound too gleeful. But he so clearly was. The non-natives can push out species that naturally belong, and they’ve been running amok for 30-40 years, the last time Florida saw weather this harsh.

A few of the more vulnerable native animals were also hurt by the wintry blast. Hundreds of sea turtles were rescued, but hundreds more found dead, according to Hardin. The state did get to tag and collect information on lots of endangered green turtles.

Florida got a record count of manatees (5,067) because they’re easier to see when they’re crowded around

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Iguanas Dropping, Manatees Gathering, Pythons Surviving in Florida’s Cold

Florida’s harsh cold spell is a bonanza for animal watchers, if not for the Florida animals themselves. Manatees are gathering around power plants and hot springs. Iguanas are dropping from trees in a kind of cold coma. Cold-stunned turtles are warming up in hotel rooms. Pythons are sunning themselves. And waterfowl are migrating down from other states, says Gary Morse, a spokesman for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission. Manatees: The manatees are the ones wildlife officials are worried about. They’re native, endangered and hate the cold. Sea cows need water at least 68 degrees to survive. Last year at least 56 died of cold stress, the FWC says. This year they’d like people to give them a break and back off for a bit. “They are stressed from the cold and from not eating. We advise people not to approach them in these times,” Morse says. “Our mere presence as human beings can cause them to flee the very thing they need.” The FWC already pulled two frigid manatees from cold water and sent to a zoo and an aquarium to warm up.

Sea Turtles: Sea Turtles often turn up at the same hot spots that draw manatees. But if they don’t they become sluggish and eventually get cold-stunned and beach themselves. Rescuers are swooping in and taking them to the The Turtle Hospital on the Keys and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center have resorted to putting them up in hotel rooms and kiddie pools, respectively.

View AnimalTourism.com

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Manatee Tours that Won’t Bother the Manatees

Crystal River 2009, Kevin provides a belly rub (dogs of the sea)

Crystal River 2009, Kevin provides a belly rub (dogs of the sea) ,originally uploaded by Kevin King.

Other marine mammals have etiquette standards. The Whale Sense or Dolphin Smart programs give tourists list of operators that play nice. But who’s smart about the 3,000 manatees left in the U.S.?

As an endangered species and marine mammal, manatees area already supposed to be protected, but go on YouTube and search “manatee harassment.” You’ll find videos of tourists coralling and chasing manatees, separating the mom and calf and even trying to ride or kick them. It’s like Crystal River, FL, tour operators live in a 1950s world where they feel entitled to sell the experience of touching, petting and scratching manatees. Do they then drive home without seatbelts into a house lined with asbestos and eat canned soup casserole for dinner? Haven’t they heard that’s not how you treat wild animals?

“It’s this culture of everybody that come to Crystal River,” says manatee advocate Tracy Colson. “It’s well-advertised that this is the only place where you can touch a manatee. It’s the only place in the world where you can interact with an endangered species.”

Tracy, a local, started volunteering with the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge by going out to guide manatee tourists to be respectful and was so upset with what she saw she started her own company, Nature Coast Kayak Tours.  In 2007 Save the Manatee named Tracy and Steve Kingery manatee heroes for documenting manatee harassment, which kicked off a controversy and push the Fish and Wildlife Service

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Ilya the Manatee Recovering, Impressing Ladies with His Sweetness

Ilya, the Florida manatee rescued from New York harbor two weeks ago, should be well enough to be released in the Florida Keys in about a month, says Dr. Maya Rodriguez, the veterinarian at the Miami Seaquarium, which supplied the picture of Ilya (left) swimming with his poolmate. “We expect him to get a clean medical mill in next couple weeks,” says Dr. Rodriguez. Identified by his mangled tail and white scar on his forehead, Ilya at least didn’t pick up any new distinguishing scars on his journey up to Cape Cod that perplexed marine biologists.  Stuck in the cold water of New York harbor, Ilya initially suffered cold stress, which can shut down manatees’ long digestive track and immune system. He lost about 100 of his 1,200 pounds, had low blood sugar and was having trouble digesting, Dr. Rodriguez says. A video (below) of the event shows him getting wrapped in mylar survival blankets and getting spritzed with water to keep moist. Ilya is recuperating in a 82 degree saltwater pool at the Seaquarium with an orphaned, female,  18-month-old manatee picked up in the Everglades and named Glade. Normally Dr. Rodriguez would be reluctant to put such a big male in with her but Ilya has been very gentle. “He’s just a really docile manatee,” Dr. Rodriguez says.  Ilya is unusual among manatees, which normally handle food just with their prehensible lips, because he grabs with his flippers. “He’s all flippers,” says Dr. Rodriguez. Ilya, who touches

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PEER to Sue for More Manatee Sanctuaries after Disturbing Videos of Manatee Harassment

About two years ago some local Florida manatee lovers took some disturbing video of tourists and tour guides pestering manatees. Tracy Colson and Steve Kingry posted shots on YouTube of tour guides holding manatees so that tourists could touch them. Some tourists also kicked them and tried to sit on the sea cows. Finally, about two years later, something might actually be done to protect this endangered species whose population has dwindled to about 3,000 from Florida hooligans.

Spurred on by the videos, this summer the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) officially asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to ban “Swim with Manatee” programs. Tourists aren’t supposed to get within 50 yards of dolphins or 100 yards of whales in NOAA’s (voluntary) guidelines for those tour operators. But at least there is some enforcement for whale boats. NOAA also won’t let tour operators show ads that have people interacting with, chasing, petting or riding whale or dolphins in the Dolphin Sense and Whale Smart programs. So how can tours advertise swimming with the far more endangered manatee?

Before I had heard about any of this going on in Florida, I saw ads online for sleazy outfits around Cancun that advertised Swim With Manatees programs. Yuck, I thought. Don’t people know that manatees (or any animals) don’t want to be forced to swim with them. But I had no idea there were plenty of places in Florida getting away with it, too. Then I read an incredible story travel

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