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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘ivory’

Lessons for China from Righteous Connecticut Yankees

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 30, 2013

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Wildlife products are big business in China, and the rabid desire for these products can be shocking to outsiders. Running down the list of species China’s newly rich are eating, or otherwise consuming, to the brink of extinction, it’s easy to get the impression that they are utterly depraved. Shameless.

Inhuman, even.

In fact, though, their appetite for wildlife products—from shark fin soup and pangolin stew to ivory trinkets—in some ways echoes our own nineteenth-century rise to wealth. We are the ones, for instance, who brought off the great slaughter of American bison, from 60 million animals down to about 700 in 1902. We alone are to blame for the mindless killing of billions of passenger pigeons, down to the death of Martha, the sole surviving female, in 1914. But those sad stories are already well known. I’m going to tell a hometown story instead, one that resonates with what China is doing to elephants in Africa today.

For many years, I lived in a Connecticut River Valley community that rose up entirely on the strength of the ivory trade. The rival companies at the heart of Deep River and neighboring Ivoryton, Conn., were makers of piano keyboards covered with ivory, and they dominated the ivory market in the Western Hemisphere. The river landing just below my house was an unloading point for ivory tusks. And at the beginning of the twentieth century, the factory at the other end of my street was cutting the ivory of 1000 elephants a year.

When I lived there in the 1980s and ’90s, people could still remember fertilizing their tomatoes with ivory sawdust. The local pond below the mill used to turn yellow with it, a local elder told me, and when he and a friend came home from swimming there as boys, “we looked like the Gold Dust Twins. How my mother would holler.”

For American buyers then, as for Chinese consumers now, ivory was all about status. In the prosperous decades after the Civil War, Read the rest of this entry »

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Hello, China? This One Needs No Translation

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 20, 2013

It’s a recording of the sound of elephants being shot and killed in Gabon, to turn their tusks into ivory knickknacks that are the blood status symbols of China’s newly rich:

 

Here’s the press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society:

NEW YORK (November 20, 2013) — The Wildlife Conservation Society released a powerful video today that features shocking audio of an elephant being shot and killed by ivory poachers in Central Africa. The video is part of WCS’s 96 Elephants campaign – named for the number of elephants gunned down by poachers every day.

The low-frequency recording, taken in Gabon in Central Africa, was made by scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Elephant Listening Project studying low frequency communication of elephants using remote devices left in the field then retrieved and analyzed months later.  Gabon’s National Parks Agency (ANPN) is a partner on the project.

The 60-second video opens on a black screen with text that fades up: This is the sound of an elephant fleeing an armed poacher as it is shot repeatedly in the forests of Central Africa. As the audio begins, a running counter appears: How long can you listen? The black backdrop slowly fades to the image of a fallen elephant. Text fades up while the counter keeps running: 35,000 elephants were killed in Africa in 2012. That’s 96 elephants killed everyday. You can make it stop. 96elephants.org

WCS’s 96 Elephants campaign amplifies and supports the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment to save Africa’s elephants announced in September.  The WCS campaign focuses on: securing effective U.S. moratorium laws; bolstering elephant protection with additional funding; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

 Throughout Africa, elephant numbers have plummeted by 76 percent since 1980 due largely to the demand of elephant ivory with an estimated 35,000 slaughtered by poachers in 2012 alone.

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Heading Back to Dzanga Bai

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 2, 2013

Back in May, I wrote about the terrible slaughter of elephants at Dzanga Bai, in the Central African Republic. Now Andrea Turkalo, the biologist who has spent much of her career getting to know the elephants there, is heading back.  She has just released this brief video on the terrible global war against elephants:

http://youtu.be/ze2S2nSm584

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