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  • Richard Conniff

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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 ‘ocelots’

When Trump Babbles About His Damned Wall, Just Think Ocelots

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 8, 2019

(Photo: Ana Cotta)

This is a piece I wrote a few years ago about an awkward family secret. But it seems appropriate to reprint tonight, as a man with too much power and too little sense holds the nation hostage over his dream of building a useless $6 billion wall. That wall will do a lot of bad things. But one of them is that it will ultimately kill off the last remaining ocelots on American soil.

by Richard Conniff

Everybody has some dreadful bit of family history stashed away in the attic and preferably forgotten. For the Rockefeller heirs last week, it was their investment in the fossil fuel industry, largely founded by their oil baron ancestor John D. Rockefeller. For me, it was an ocelot jacket inherited from my wife’s grandmother.

And let me tell you, it is hard to write about endangered species when you have a dead one literally hanging over your head. Or more like 15 dead ocelots, to make up the single carcoat-length jacket that has been hidden away in my attic for several decades now. So I decided to get rid of it, more or less the way the Rockefellers decided last week to divest their millions from fossil fuel companies. Only on a somewhat more modest scale.

Ocelots are beautiful little cats, roughly twice the size of a house cat and covered in elongated spots that seem to want to become stripes. They’re hide-and-pounce predators, and tend to be solitary and elusive, but still range through much of South and Central America, and up both coasts of Mexico. The fur trade used to kill as many as 200,000 ocelots annually for jackets like the one in my attic, which probably dates from the 1950s. But Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

It’s Time for the Fur Trade to Protect Big Cats in the Wild

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 22, 2016

The 20th century fur trade killed at least 182,564 Amazonian jaguars for their pelts. (Photo: Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images)

The 20th century fur trade killed 182,564 Amazonian jaguars for their pelts. (Photo: Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images)

by Richard Conniff/Takepart.com

Reporting last month for National Geographic magazine, I came away with a contrarian approach to the fur trade:  Animal rights activists have always wanted to ban fur farming, “but banning doesn’t stop people from wearing fur,” I wrote. “It just moves production to areas where no rules apply,” notably China. A more logical approach would be to keep fur farming legal, particularly in North America and Europe, under regulatory and marketplace pressures intended to make it a model for the entire livestock industry.

Interviewing people who work in the trade, I added one other idea: They know customers increasingly seek assurance that animals are being farmed as humanely possible, and on environmentally sustainable lines.  New industry initiatives like Europe’s WelFur farm inspection system explicitly aim to meet those expectations.  So why not go a step further? Why not set aside a percentage of each fur coat to support conservation of fur-bearing animals in the wild? It would of course be a marketing tool. But it would also begin to compensate for the unregulated commercial exploitation of spotted cats and other species in the past.  I’ll get to the industry response in a moment. First the news:

A study out this week in the journal Science Advances aims to calculate just how devastating that trade used to be. A team of researchers Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Texas Tunnels Under for Ocelots

Posted by Richard Conniff on May 27, 2016

ocelots-main2

(Photo: Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)

by Richard Conniff, for Takepart.com:

Back in the fall of 2014, I took a whack at the Texas Department of Transportation for treating the nation’s only viable population of endangered ocelots—beautiful spotted cats about twice the size of a house cat—as fodder for roadkill. The department had flagrantly disregarded recommendations from wildlife experts on the critical need for safe road crossings, instead installing an impassable concrete barrier down the center of a busy highway bordering a national wildlife refuge.

TxDot, as it’s known, responded with a note suggesting that they were hurt, deeply hurt, by my suggestion that they were anything less than acutely sensitive to the needs of wildlife. But it would cost $1 million apiece for crossings in the area of that concrete barrier. Not that anyone was counting. They had only asked whether it was worth spending that kind of money on a species nearing extinction in this country so they could “learn and understand the historical dynamics of wildlife survival.” This was at a time when the relevant dynamic was that highway accidents were causing 40 percent of all ocelot deaths.

But occasionally good things happen, even in the unlikeliest places. So I am delighted Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

How A Fur Coat Is Helping Save an Endangered Cat

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 26, 2014

ocelotMy latest for Takepart.

Everybody has some dreadful bit of family history stashed away in the attic and preferably forgotten. For the Rockefeller heirs last week, it was their investment in the fossil fuel industry, largely founded by their oil baron ancestor John D. Rockefeller. For me, it was an ocelot jacket inherited from my wife’s grandmother.

And let me tell you, it is hard to write about endangered species when you have a dead one literally hanging over your head. Or more like 15 dead ocelots, to make up the single carcoat-length jacket that has been hidden away in my attic for several decades now. So I decided to get rid of it, more or less the way the Rockefellers decided last week to divest their millions from fossil fuel companies. Only on a somewhat more modest scale.

Ocelots are beautiful little cats, roughly twice the size of a house cat and covered in elongated spots that seem to want to become stripes. They’re hide-and-pounce predators, and tend to be solitary and elusive, but still range through much of South and Central America, and up both coasts of Mexico. The fur trade used to kill as many as 200,000 ocelots annually for jackets like the one in my attic, which probably dates from the 1950s. But Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »