Wild in the City

New Backyard Attractions:
El Jefe & the Lion King of L.A.

Behind the string of wild animal sightings roaming major urban centers is our destructive appetite for the land and resources of their natural habitats. Thus when a mountain lion takes residency in a public park, or a jaguar is caught on tape close to a highway, it’s urgent to study them before they disappear.
Seeing bears, coyotes, alligators, tigers, and many others is becoming common in American and world cities. But there’s something new about P-22, a puma who lives in L.A., and El Jefe, of Tucson and possibly the only jaguar living in the U.S.: the much we’ve already learned about their incredibly rich individual sagas.

No offense to the remarkable little tiger that roams your living room, but these magnificent cats’ ability to adapt and survive offers invaluable insights into our efforts to slow down the extinction their species and of so many others face. Even if, as it goes, their close proximity also shames us to no end.
The ongoing massive man-made extermination of wildlife, which took evolution millions of years to perfect, is not just a tragedy on a planetary scale; it may also turn out to be the gateway to our own quick demise. Good riddance, some of them would say if they could or were born for that sort of thing.
For too long, developed nations have blamed poor (our apologies, Africa) continents for being lax about natural resources and their native animals. But what the fate of P-22 and El Jefe brings home is the hypocrisy of such an attitude, as it exposes our own lack of commitment for protecting the planet.

The footage of El Jefe, whose name was chosen by students at a Tucson school, was is a highlight in a decades-long program to restore a clear path for jaguars between North and South America. So there was due credit given when a remote camera captured glances of the elusive cat for the first time.
But it also happens during a particular hard time for U.S. immigrants. As a misguided administration engages in mass deportations, it also plans to build a wall at the border with Mexico, which would be disastrous to that recover strategy. That is sad but fitting, though, as El Jefe is believed to be a Mexican by birth too.
How it’ll play out may determine whether current efforts to prevent the extinction of species is headed to success or failure. That’s because any effective preservation strategy has to allocate, and protect, large swaths of land, where they can thrive without human direct interference. And that’s tough.
By the way, tough is also the jaguar bite: 2000 pounds per square inch, which relative to its weight is the stronger than all other cats, and also bears, gorilas and hippos. It can crush a turtle shell and it’s no wonder the Amerindian word Yaguar means ‘he who kills with one leap.’

The case of P-22 is similar in what the cat’s endurance is also the result of a carefully laid out plan to drive up the numbers of a genetically diverse population in the U.S. That’s another component of a successful recovery strategy, as it increases their odds to survival.
Centuries of hunting, inbreeding, and the perils of navigating diminishing wilderness patches squeezed by miles and miles (more)
Read Also:
* Farewell to a King
* Pachyderm Skills
* Sleep With the Fishes

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Safe Arbor Clauses

Three About Trees &
a 5,000 Year Old Truck

Buddha sat under one. Sumerians have crossed oceans on ships built with them. Many species disappeared, or exist only in old depictions, paintings predating the modern era. Yet defying all odds, trees still grace our world, and stun us with their girth, height, and vigor.
That’s why a man in India has planted whole forests of them, and the Brazilians plan to count those in the Amazon. Now, as the world’s biggest trees continue to grow, according to botanists, an editor at NOVA begs new architects: please, stop placing them in skyscrapers.
In New York City, where the latter thrive, though, trees are subjected to more mundane afflictions of street life, such as dog pee, rusted chains, and cigarette butts. That’s why the Treedom Project is halfway through a quest, which ends May 26, to ‘liberate them’ from such indignities.
But without being the cradle of ancient trees, or having a forest to call its own – never mind the woody wilderness of upstate New York – the city is still home of one of the gems of modern urban green architecture: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Central Park.
Carved and carefully planted at the heart of the city, it’s a wonder that neither its 800 acres plus nor its incredible variety of species haven’t felt to the axes of powerful real estate moguls. If the park’s been the setting of a few bloody crimes, it’s also been the very reason many a resident haven’t yet lost his or her mind.
Still, for all their majestic and soothing presence in Manhattan, no Central Park tree comes close in age to Methuselah, a fittingly-named truck which, by some accounts, is the world’s oldest. The bristlecone is said to be 4,844 years old, a thousand years older than any other on Earth, and it’s been living all this time at a pine forest in California.
The good news, at least if you’re a tree, is that many of the big species are still growing, just like what you’d wish your mind were doing right now. A Humboldt State University research team found that 3,200-year old giant sequoias, for instance, actually grow faster later in life than in their ‘teenage’ years, when all they’ve got is a few hundred summers imprinted on their rings.
One of nature’s best recordkeepers, trees can report back to us our entire walk on this planet, better that we ever could. They may not Continue reading

Made Up

Never Mind Gadgets; These
Inventions Can Save Lives

Truth to be told, the kind of invention that gets all the press is the one people carry in their pockets, the smart gadgets that some awkward college grad developed as his pet project. They’ve got us all by the tip of our fingers, and we can’t even lift our heads to avoid traffic.
To be honest, we’re not impressed. What gets us going is something invented to get people to share. Like a billboard that turns air into water. Or an ocean salt-remover machine. A circulating shower, or a food production unit. For these, we gladly bow our heads in awe.
We love our precious little things, make no mistake about. They supply and compensate for our companionship and reassurance needs, even though in reality they give us neither. But, to paraphrase the old saying, what we create out of necessity has a much better shot at bring us together around the fire.
Even the concept of inventing something depends on a number of qualifiers. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office is one of the busiest of the world, but the majority of contraptions and devices that surround us are arguably products of a long development process, not of a single, ‘Eureka’ moment.
With due respect to the amazing inventors who simply can’t help it but to constantly create all sorts of ingenious setups to make our lives easier, they rarely match the romantic idea of the solitary genius who changed the world out of his garage. Mostly, they create a better toothbrush.
That also can be said about the computer, the electric car, and the smartphone. As great as they may be, they’re far from cutting edge Continue reading

That Can’t Be Right

A World Out of Whack in
Four Easy & Weird Stories

Ah, it’s a wonderful world out there. But it may be a matter of perception whose wonders are out there, and how much reality has to be bent to fully appreciate them. After all, as this year’s Ig Noble Award winning Psychology study has so thoroughly proven, ‘Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.’
If that sounds like nonsense, boy do we have a post for you. From what dads are saying about their kids these days, and that includes those who shouldn’t even be called fathers, to how much arsenic your bowl of rice may be holding, to a completely off the left field study about ugly fonts and car crashes, the list is long.
And it’s all true. Or rather, if this is true, than how much of it you currently have in your life? Better get some, friend; if the world’s going to hell in a handbasket, you may still need to find your own seat. Or you may just want to forget it all and enjoy your football game, but wait, there’s something weird about that too.
It’s likely that from this season on, your favorite sport may no longer be as enjoyable as it used to be. First, research proved that the game itself has been causing brain damage to a lot of still able bodies. Then a dispute within the league, has unleashed onto the fields a platoon of unprepared referees that have so far wreak havoc on the season.
On top of that, you may still not be aware of the NFL’s best-kept secret: Continue reading