Tag Archive: conservation


Fantastic Frog Art!

save the frogs

Amazing frog art from Kara Timmons.

This amazing piece of frog art from Kara Timmons won the Save the Frogs art contest. Depicted on the frogs’ backs are some of the problems that are leading our amphibian friends to crazy levels of extinction including invasive species, climate change, deforestation, harvesting and shipping for school dissections, frogs legs and the pet trade (spreads the chytrid fungus), and pollution and deformities. Find out what you can do to help frogs at savethefrogs.com. Check out more cool frog art here. You can also purchase awesome amphibian art like this in the form of postcards, posters, totes, t-shirts and other goodies at the Save the Frogs gift center.

Another one of my favorite pieces:

Gastric brooding frog

yay! Frog art by Ana-Maria Maximencu.

Of course, I am biased; this is clearly my favorite frog species, the gastric brooding frog, that went extinct in my life time.

Another favorite:

Froggy Lisa

Brayden Brown, age 14, showing a lot of imagination in this piece.

There are many more like this, so check it out! Also, if you are feeling so inclined, Save the Frogs is working hard to get Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco to rescind a veto on legislation that is allowing one of the few remaining wetland areas in California to be a golf course. These wetlands are also home to the endangered red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake. You can help Save the Frogs on this important mission by letting Mayor Ed Lee know what you think about his decision to veto this important legislation by calling him at (415) 554-6141 or e-mailing him at mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org. Cheers!

Okay, one more:

frog piper

Fantastic! by Bhavya Dhami


Senate Bill SB766

Well, nature lovers, at the moment there is a bill being sneaked through that will have some pretty negative environmental consequences and will significantly limit public options for resisting industrial projects. Here is what the Audubon Society of Portland has to say about it and obviously if this is something you disapprove of, I hope you will help the fight against it:

“Two weeks ago we wrote to you about Senate Bill 766—a bill we consider to be one of the most significant threats to emerge to urban conservation efforts and our communities in a decade. SB 766 would prevent new environmental regulations on “regionally significant industrial lands” and would dramatically reduce opportunities for public involvement in  the permitting process for industrial projects. It would severely reduce our community’s ability to protect places like the Willamette and Columbia Rivers and West Hayden Island

Since that time there has been a huge outpouring of opposition and your letters and phone calls have been having a real impact. Previously strong supporters now admit that the bill has significant flaws. This once “unstoppable” bill is now one of the most controversial bills of the legislative session. However they are still trying to ram this thing through!!!

Check out Steve Duin’s Oregonian Article: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2011/03/losing_our_way_in_the_reckless/5489/comments-4.html

We need your support to kill this bill. This is going to take a sustained effort. Please keep writing and keep calling!

We just learned this morning that the Senate Sub-committee on Business, Transportation and Economic Development has scheduled a hearing and work session for SB 766 for this coming Monday at 3:00 PM.

  • They gave the public less than two working days notice about what may well be the last senate sub-committee hearing on one of the most controversial bills on this session!
  • They have continued to exclude conservation groups from the behind the industry dominated working group!
  • They have not released the amendments that will be brought forward on Monday so the public doesn’t even know what it will be commenting on!

We will share specific comments on the amended version of SB 766 as soon as the public is allowed to review it.  However given that the hearing is only two business days away it is important that our legislators again hear that we want transparent, fair and inclusive public process. Everything about SB 766 from the way it was drafted to what it will do if it passes flies directly in the face of those principles.

Key Points to Make:

  • The recession should not be used as an excuse to reduce public process and prevent new environmental protections on industrial lands;
  • Holding a hearing on one of the most controversial bills in the legislative session with only two days notice and without giving the public an opportunity to review amendments in advance is unacceptable;
  • Working behind closed doors with industry and excluding environmental groups is unacceptable.

It should come as no surprise that the only way to pass a bill which guts public process is to sneak it through the legislative process. Please tell the Governor and the Senate Democrats that SB 766 is an attack on our communities and our environment.

Governor John Kitzhaber (Text can be pasted into and sent via this webpage)

http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/contact.shtml

Phone: 503-378-4582 (This is a message line)

Senator Contact Information (Senators can be directly emailed–just paste the whole list into an email)

sen.alanbates@state.or.us

sen.leebeyer@state.or.us

sen.suzannebonamici@state.or.us

sen.petercourtney@state.or.us

sen.richarddevlin@state.or.us

sen.jackiedingfelder@state.or.us

sen.chrisedwards@state.or.us

sen.lauriemonnesanderson@state.or.us

sen.rodmonroe@state.or.us

sen.floydprozanski@state.or.us

sen.dianerosenbaum@state.or.us

sen.chipshields@state.or.us

sen.joanneverger@state.or.us

sen.ginnyburdick@state.or.us

Phone numbers and additional contact information can be found at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/senate/

Thanks for your continued opposition to SB 766.”

 

Green mantella

The green mantella. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

Once again, this is a post that is highlighting animals that are listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN red list. You can find part one of this group here. In the first part, I wrote about the purpose of these posts and I’d like to reiterate that:

“This post was not meant to be so sad, but to be a chance to learn more about animal species that aren’t doing so well and to see and appreciate them while we still can. There have been many species that were endangered, but thanks to strong conservation efforts, are surviving or even thriving again (buffalo, bald eagles, brown pelicans, American alligators, peregrine falcons, Canada geese, gray wolves, gray whales-to name a few). In fact, these species are the face of conservation and can really bring about the best in people. We just have to continue to fight.”

Now to begin with the first endangered animal, pictured above. The green mantella is a small frog found mostly in northern Madagascar. Although they are very similar to poison dart frogs, in that they have toxic skin and are brightly colored, they are not closely related. Like much of the wildlife on this island, this frog is IUCN red listed as endangered mostly due to habitat loss, but also because of international trade from before the 90s, when they became protected. Although there are many problems facing wildlife in Madagascar, amphibians in general are facing major declines across the globe, not just on this one isolated island. To find out more about how and why we can and should stop amphibian decline, please check out save the frogs. If you’ve been following this blog for a while now, you have seen this name many times already. Save the Frogs has been working to tackle the amphibian decline problem from many fronts-by education, research, legislation and market pressure. They have accomplished a lot with relatively little. Their site has tons of helpful information on what you can do to save the frogs.

Visayan warty pigs

Visayan warty pigs, a critically endangered species. Image taken at the Oregon Zoo.

These sweet pigs are found only on a few islands in the Philippines. They are listed as critically endangered because their numbers are dropping rapidly due to habitat loss, hunting and interbreeding with domestic pigs. The few zoos that are housing these pigs are participating in an emergency breeding program to save these pigs from extinction. The Oregon Zoo’s website has some wonderful pictures of these pigs, including a male that has its breeding mane, which is a giant spiky poof of hair and quite an amusing sight, and it has a video of 3 unbearably adorable piglets born at the zoo as well as more information on the tragically named warty pigs.

Coelacanth

A coelacanth specimen. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

The coelacanth is an interesting fish. It’s thought to have existed over 400 million years ago and was believed to have gone extinct 70 million years ago, since all we’d ever found was fossils. But, in 1938, a fisherman hooked one. Now more have been discovered. We still have a lot to learn about this critically endangered fish and scientists are eager to find out the secrets to its survival.

Sea otter

This sea otter is one of many from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sea otter research and conservation program.

Sea otters have been facing all sorts of problems, both natural and human caused. Natural problems include predation and disease (although human pollution may also be partly responsible if it hinders their immune systems.) Of the current human caused problems, the worst is oil spills, which is particularly bad for them because unlike most marine mammals, otters don’t have a thick layer of blubber for insulation, but incredibly dense fur, which doesn’t work when it’s covered in oil. Being captured in nets and being hit by boats also pose problems. Still, there have been many protection efforts in place, including international agreements. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sea otter and conservation program is just one example of these efforts. They raise and release stranded pups, treat and release injured otters, take care of otters that can’t return to the wild and conduct scientific research. (You can support this program here.) Otters are major predators of marine invertebrates and one of the problems we’ve seen because of their decline is an increase in sea urchins. Since sea urchins eat the holdfasts of kelp (the part that keeps them anchored down), they are tearing through kelp forests, which is also a hiding place and food source for a lot of other wildlife.

radiated tortoise

A young boy watches a critically endangered radiated tortoise. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

Radiated tortoises are critically endangered tortoises from Madagascar. This picture, with the little boy watching the tortoise moving about its exhibit, stood out to me when I read about the projections for this species. Without additional protection, these tortoises will become extinct in the little boy’s lifetime. In fact, at the current rate of decline, they’ll probably be extinct by the time he has grandchildren. Destruction of habitat is one of the problems facing this tortoise. So is collection, both for the pet trade and for their livers (why livers? I don’t know). But one of the biggest problems is from local people using the tortoises, mostly for food. This hasn’t been a problem in the past, because the Mahafaly and the Antandroy have a taboo against touching or eating the tortoises and their land covers the range of the radiated tortoises. But more people have moved to this region that will eat the tortoises, as well as Malagasy people who are just passing through. As far as future protection goes, Madagascar has been expanding its protected areas. Providing education and alternatives for local people is considered essential and so is careful monitoring of markets, traders, restaurants and the international pet trade. Perhaps with a lot of work, we can stop this species from going extinct.

rhino kisses

Elly's calf licking his mom's horn. Image given to me by the San Francisco Zoo.

As poachers gain increasingly sophisticated tools, including helicopters and night vision technology, anti-poaching units comprised of police, park authorities and private agencies are struggling in their efforts to protect their charges. SANParks (South African National Parks) has requested military assistance and the military has indicated that they are willing to help. They have exceptional air to land equipment that will be essential in this on going battle. Read more here, but be aware that the related links at the end have some VERY graphic pictures on them.

This picture above is of Elly, the black rhino at the San Francisco Zoo and one of her calves. Elly is part of a conservation breeding program and has the world record for having the highest number of calves in captivity.

The Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse

salt marsh mouse

A salt marsh harvest mouse plaque in the cement floor of Fisherman's wharf. Image taken in San Francisco.

I’m not sure why this little tribute to the salt marsh harvest mouse in on site in Fisherman’s wharf, San Francisco. This mouse is endangered, so maybe it is a reminder of wildlife on the brink. This mouse was doing much better and was moved up to vulnerable in 2000, but is now back to being endangered again. They’re only found in central California’s tidal marshes and tend to come up frequently as an example of wildlife that needs our protection. Sadly, there are still many commercial threats trying to pick apart the last little range this mouse has left to hold on to, as 84% of historical tidal marshes of the San Francisco Bay are gone. The remaining 16% is facing other problems, such as infestation with invasive species water quality and pollution problems. Other animals from this habitat are endangered as well. Because of this, there is a lot of work being done to try to restore and preserve this land. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is on the job and has some wonderful information on this rodent here.

Those in Need: Endangered Species Part 1

golden frog

A Panamanian golden frog, a.k.a a golden arrow poison frog, a critically endangered species. Image taken at the Oakland Zoo.

This post is going to highlight some animals that have been red listed by the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) as endangered or critically endangered.

The Panamanian golden frog (shown above) has become the icon for the amphibian decline movement. This frog has been part of legend and myth in Panama and is a symbol for good luck. There’s even pictures of this frog on their lottery tickets! However, due to habitat loss, chemicals and now a horrible outbreak of the chytrid fungus, these animals are so near extinction that zoos, government agencies and universities both in the United States and in Panama have joined together to protect it, while simultaneously increasing awareness about global amphibian declines. Project Golden Frog is focused on education, research, habitat preservation and captive breeding programs, such as the one at the Oakland Zoo, where this picture was taken. Have I mentioned Save the Frogs?

 

African Penguin

Ocio, an African penguin. This species was just recently IUCN red listed as endangered. Image taken at the California Academy of Sciences.

The African penguin has just this year been listed as endangered. The IUCN spent over a year examining the data and finally concluded that this species should be listed due to rapid population declines. There are many reasons why the number of African penguins is dropping, but one of the major ones is lack of food. They are competing with commercial fisheries and there has been an eastward shift of the current that carries their prime fish supply. Have I mentioned Seafood Watch, to prevent similar problems from happening to North American birds?

 

Spider tortoise

A spider tortoise, critically endangered. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

This very tiny tortoise (I’m holding him in one hand while I take this picture) is from Madagascar. It was just listed as critically endangered in 2008. These animals are very habitat specific and they have lost and are losing habitat at an incredible rate. This species qualifies as critically endangered because it has lost (or will lose, if current rates continue) 90% of its habitat in only 3 generations. To make matters worse, what habitat they do have is severely fragmented. Also, radiated tortoises (another critically endangered species we’ll see in a future post) have suffered major population declines and people who previously sought radiated tortoises for food are now switching to the spider tortoise, so increased “hunting” pressure is also causing a population drop. This species is projected to be completely extinct in 60-80 years without protection and if current trends persist.

Black Rhino

Elly, a black rhino who has contributed immensely to conservation programs. Image taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

This rhino is my home girl. I adore Elly. She was one of the first animals to really have me wondering about and researching conservation efforts-my first real connection to an endangered animal. She let me feed her son- her baby rhino number 13, Moja Doga.

Elly is part of a black rhino breeding program at the San Francisco Zoo. She has the world record for having the most calves in captivity-and she is a very good mommy. She’s retired now and is not going to have any more young. But her babies have gone out into the world to  help protect rhinos.

You might be wondering-how does captive breeding help protect the black rhinos as a species? The answer comes in 3 parts. The first is education and making that connection, like the one I mentioned above. While it is incredibly important that we protect ecosystems and not just individual animals, making that first connection will draw people into the world of conservation action. I know. As a city girl, I had never really thought about rhinos until I got to know one. The second is research. Raising animals in captivity means that we can learn more about their reproduction, behavior, genetics, dung (very interesting stuff going on there) and more without disturbing animals in the wild. The third is breed and release programs. In programs like these, animals are raised in captivity and then released, increasing the wild population and genetic diversity.  Release programs have just begun in 2008 in Kenya, with the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Zoological Society of London. Before any release program begins, the problems facing the animals should be addressed (as much as possible) and a protocol for releasing the animals established, to ensure that the animals are able to survive once released.  The animals are also tagged, so they can be monitored and to allow scientists to conduct studies. All of this continues to take place as we speak. I’m happy to report that despite a bad 2009, black rhino numbers are on the rise. But their numbers are still low and much more work needs to be done. These animals are still listed as critically endangered, due to an over 90% population decline in ~60 years.

Scalloped hammerhead shark

A scalloped hammerhead shark, listed as endangered. Image taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The scalloped hammerhead shark is one of many shark species that is not doing too well in the wild. They are often easy targets for shark finners because they tend to live in large schools. Their fins are also highly prized because they have a lot of fin rays. Shark finning is a problem for many species of shark, usually to make shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy to some. It is however really high in mercury (often above FDA suggested daily limits) and I’m told it’s tough and tasteless. Still, it is believed that if you eat shark fin, you won’t get cancer. This is simply not true. In fact, the excess of mercury can adversely effect your health. Anyway, when shark finners catch sharks, they cut off their fins and then dump the rest of the shark-often still alive-back into the water to die. It is brutal and disgusting. The other serious problem facing these sharks is that they are frequently caught as by-catch. These two things combined has lead to some population decreases of 50-90% in the last 32 years. Have I mentioned Seafood Watch, which lets you know which fisheries use methods that minimize by-catch?

This post was not meant to be so sad, but to be a chance to learn more about animal species that aren’t doing so well and to see and appreciate them while we still can. There have been many species that were endangered, but thanks to strong conservation efforts, are surviving or even thriving again (buffalo, bald eagles, brown pelicans, American alligators, peregrine falcons, Canada geese, gray wolves, gray whales-to name a few). In fact, these species are the face of conservation and can really bring about the best in people. We just have to continue to fight.

 

MBA_SeafoodWatch_WestCoastGuide

Seafood Watch Cards distributed by Monterey Bay Aquarium.

 

Earlier on, I began a 5 part discussion on the hows and whys of choosing sustainable seafood. Part 1 defined sustainable seafood as seafood that:

1. Was not overfished

2. Was harvested in a manner that minimized bycatch and

3. Was harvested in a manner that minimized other negative environmental impacts

and examples were given of fisheries that have met these criteria and of those that haven’t. Now I would like to move on and discuss the second question raised. How does a consumer know which seafood in the market is harvested sustainably?

I wish this question had a simple, easy answer. But the fact is, sometimes it’s not easy to tell. And sometimes it is. The Monterey Bay Aquarium pocket guides and apps are a really good place to start. These guides, down-loadable free on their website, are regional guides that place fisheries into one of 3 different categories. The green category indicates “best choice” seafood, or seafood that is harvested sustainably. The yellow category indicates fisheries that are not the worst, but still have room for improvement and they are labeled as a “good alternative.” Lastly, there is the red “avoid” column, indicating fisheries that are not using sustainable practices and are not meeting one or more of the criteria listed above. An asterisk located by a particular seafood indicates an excess of contaminants, such as mercury, and consumption should be limited for your health.

 

MBA_SeafoodWatch_WestCoastGuide copy

Seafood Watch guide distributed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can get this guide at any AZA facility or free from their website.

 

As a side note- it is not a coincidence that the seafood listed in the avoid column tends to have more contaminants than those listed in the other columns. Contaminants, such as mercury and PCB’s accumulate in fish that live a really long time, or that are at the top of the food chain. These same fish are the ones that reproduce slower and take a long time to reach reproductive maturity and are therefore more susceptible to the effects of overfishing.

Anyway, with a straightforward guide like this, how can it be difficult to know if seafood is harvested sustainably or not? Well, there are a few reasons. First off, not all seafood types offered in an area are listed on this guide. Secondly, some types of fish are listed in multiple columns. This is because the same type of fish might be harvested in a number of different ways, and how the fish is caught can make a big difference in terms of the amount of bycatch caught by the fishery, so you have to investigate to find out which method was used. Lastly, some types of seafood is marketed under different names (often names that sound more appealing).

So, what to do about these issues. Well, you can find out about fish not listed on this guide and find what other names a fish is marketed under at the Seafood Watch website.  Also, if you have an iphone, itouch or blackberry, you can download the seafood watch pocket guide apps, for free, which also list other common market names for different types of seafood.

Another thing you can do is to look for this symbol:

 

marine stewardship logo

The marine stewardship logo, indicating that the seafood in question was harvested sustainably. Image taken from the Marine Stewardship Councils website.

 

If you see this symbol, you know that the seafood in question was independently assessed and certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and met minimum standards of sustainability.

In terms of what to do if a type of seafood is listed in multiple columns and you’re not sure where it is from, all you can really do is ask. I have been surprised more than once by simply asking. My first thoughts were that no waitress in a chain restaurant is going to know how their seafood was harvested or where it was from. But often they can find out for you if you simply ask. If they can’t, then maybe (usually) there is another seafood option that is not listed in multiple columns to be sure.

Another thing you can do is patronize stores and restaurants that sell only certified sustainable seafood, or clearly indicate which seafood they have that is sustainable, to make it easier for you. For example, I have seen the Marine Stewardship Council’s logo printed on some menus next to the seafood options they have that are sustainable. There are many good restaurants that are doing this now.

These are some of the ways you can find out if the seafood you’re eating is harvested sustainably. Stay tuned for part 3, which will discuss why choosing sustainable seafood is important.

Amazon Milk Frog

An Amazon Milk Frog. Image taken at the Oakland Zoo.

This little froggy is an Amazon Milk Frog. No wait, it’s a Mission Golden-eyed Tree Frog. No wait, it’s a Blue Milk Frog. Oh no, I was wrong on all accounts. What this frog is, is a perfect example for why scientists use scientific names rather than common names. (Except often with birds, since the common names are relatively standardized.) So, this frog is Trachycephalus resinifictrix. But for now, we’ll call him an Amazon Milk Frog. Why milk frog? Well, it’s a fitting name for an animal that oozes out poisonous white milky stuff through its skin when it’s threatened.

There is dramatic variation in the life cycles of frogs and  often it is how the amphibians bring about the next generation that mesmerizes herpetologists. This particular frog is no exception; he has an interesting story to tell.

It all starts about an hour after sunset. Mr. male Amazon Milk Frog, who lives high up in the trees, begins to call. He is seeking a female and until one appears, he will keep calling and calling. He might end up making 4,000 calling notes in one night. But, once he attracts a female they will mate and she will deposit up to 4,000 eggs (average is less than 3,000 ) into his water-filled tree hole. She leaves in the morning, but dad is not done. The eggs will hatch in less than 24 hours (!) and there are a lot of hungry tadpoles to feed. At first, they’ll eat whatever detritus they can find, but this won’t last.

So, Mr. dad Amazon Milk Frog will begin to call for a female again. Why is he calling again? He already has more mouths than he can feed! But it turns out, there is method to this madness. When the next female comes, he will not fertilize her eggs when she deposits them. Instead, they become food for his already hatched tadpoles to eat and grow on.

Amazon milk frog

An Amazon Milk Frog, front view, eyes partially covered. Image taken at the Oakland Zoo.

And so you might wonder, why would this deception evolve? What problems are being solved by this method of reproduction and parental care? To try to figure this out, we have to look at what makes this frog different from other frogs. And the answer is simple: his home. Other frogs more typically use ponds and streams as their breeding sites. But living in the rain forest means that there are many more temporary bodies of water that can be used for breeding. These sites offer a few advantages- the most important being way less competition and fewer predators. They also don’t have to worry about currents. However, in order to exploit these potential breeding sites, they have to overcome some obstacles. First, the water in these plant structures can dry out quickly. So, for a frog to use this area to reproduce,  the young have to hatch and develop quickly, to ensure they can leave the water before the water leaves them. The 24 hour hatch time is an important adaptation that allows this frog to remain in the trees. The second problem is a lack of food. This frog species solves that problem by having females lay nutritious eggs for the tadpoles to eat.

Of course, other frog species solve this same problem without the deception. A close relative of this frog, T. hadroceps (no English common name), solves this problem with parental care from the genetic mom to her own offspring. She returns to deposit unfertilized eggs for her tadpoles every 2-3 days.

Either way, these behaviors evolved to solve a basic problem and to exploit a relatively predator and competitor free breeding site, that allows these frogs to spend their entire life up in the trees.

Amazon milk frog

An Amazon Milk Frog resting on a tree branch. Image taken at the Oakland Zoo.

Once again, I can’t talk about frogs without mentioning the world wide amphibian decline and to recommend visiting Save the Frogs for more information on the extinction threat many frog species are facing and to find out what you can do to help.

Victory Will Be Ours!

savethefrogs

Children gather to protest the selling of frog legs at Uncle Julio's restaurant. Image from savethefrogs.com.

Here’s a rather cheerful story that made my day. First a little background information.  Frog legs imported for consumption are coming from just a few places and are known carries of the chytrid fungus, which is the amphibian killing fungus that has been moving around our planet. Since 1979, 200 amphibian species have gone extinct (you might remember my gastric brooding frog post), which is not a normal rate of extinction by any means. 100 of these extinctions are thought to have been caused by the chytrid fungus. The exportation/importation of frogs for food allows for the spread of this amphibian killing fungus, as some 62% of the bullfrogs imported to the US are known to be infected with it. Even the water they are housed in can spread the fungus. Furthermore, importing frogs  has led to an abundance of escapees, which are invasive and compete with and consume other amphibians.

Given these facts, having frog legs on menus is not exactly sustainable. So much so that the California Fish and Game banned the importation of non-native frogs for food in March of this year. (yay!) Still, the rest of the country continues to import frogs. However, save the frogs has been working to eliminate the demand for frog legs by putting pressure on restaurants and grocery stores to stop carrying them. They had a huge win recently, when Wegmans 76 store supermarket chain announced that they will remove frog legs from their store for environmental reasons. They are the first supermarket chain to do so! Yay for them!

Also, they have had a few successful protests at Uncle Julio’s restaurants, including the one pictured above in which elementary and middle school students educated Uncle Julio’s potential customers about the harmful effects of importing frogs and Uncle Julio’s contribution to it. It truly makes me happy to see kids speaking up for the world they will have to clean up.

For the record, I’m not a fan of Uncle Julio’s, as they not only sell frog legs, but in previous protests have even impersonated cops to try to get rid of people simply using their first amendment rights in a public space.

If you are feeling so inclined and wish to aid these kids without flying to the east coast, you can e-mail Uncle Julio’s CEO Todd Conger at todd.conger@unclejulios.com or call him at 972-554-6886 and let him know how you feel!

And once again, I would highly recommend checking out save the frogs, which continues to work for the frogs and all amphibians through research, education and legislation. You can even sign up for their e-mail list, which will send you wonderful happy little victories like this one and cool frog art.

Michaela: The Red-eared Slider Turtle

Michaela

Baby Michaela, peeking out from her shell in the palm of my friend Nickie's hand.

Since I had pictures of my other furry and scaly family members posted under “Animals with their tongues out,” I thought it would be nice to also introduce my only female, Michaela. Michaela is a red-eared slider turtle.

Michaela

Grown up Michaela swimming around, shot from underneath her tank.

Michaela joined the family in mid 2004 and has grown quite a bit! I love this shot because you can see her pretty belly scales.

Like many reptiles, these turtles are frequently bought when they are really young and small and released when they get larger than the owner anticipated, or when the owner discovers how difficult they are to care for or how long they live. Red-eared sliders are not native here in California and are heavily competing with our only native pond turtle, the Western pond turtle. Western pond turtles are in serious decline right now, but that is mostly due to habitat destruction. Right now, zoos in California and Oregon are working with universities to collect Western pond turtle eggs, incubate and hatch them and care for the hatchlings until they reach a larger size, increasing their chances of survival, and then releasing them back into their habitat. They are also studying them to find out at what temperatures embryos develop into males and at what temperatures they develop into females (For many reptiles, incubation temperature plays a role in sex determination. Sometimes it’s the only factor, as far as we know). I am quite excited to see where this research leads and if they have much success in their “head start” program.