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.

CEO OF THE UNDOCUMENTED
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 BOSS OF HOLLYWOOD
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)
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Read Also:
* Farewell to a King
* Pachyderm Skills
* Sleep With the Fishes

Continue reading

Farewell to a King



Cecil, the Lion, Who Wore
His Mane & GPS With Pride

He couldn’t have cared less how he’d live or die; just did it both the best way he could. The slaughter of Cecil the Lion, an iconic Zimbabwean big cat who’d been studied for most of his 13 short years, continues to generate waves of grief and anger throughout the Web.
His death, however, is more of a despicable routine than a surprising casualty. His killer, a dentist who’s now candidate to world’s worst person according to a dubious online consensus, spent a small fortune for the right to maim first, and then execute, the majestic feline.
Cecil left behind his brother Jericho and the extended pride they both commanded, along with a bloodline which will most likely be exterminated too. He also leaves years of research for the Oxford University team that outfitted him with a GPS collar to track his whereabouts.
It was a brutal death after an equally brutal life, but of the two, the first one could’ve been avoided. Cecil spent his last agonizing 40 hours with an arrow wound, before being found by his heartless hunter and his over-equipped posse, who then proceeded to shoot, skin, and behead him.
But for as much as this was a senseless act, that tears to shreds the arguable view of humans as innately inclined to compassion, as it stands, it’s far from being unique, final, or even solely attributable to the low member of the species who perpetrated it.

MOVABLE BLOODBATH FEASTS
After all, our ambiguity towards animal killing is not about to be dissipated by the martyrdom of one lion in the jungles of Africa. Neither a spike in collective adherence to Veganism is about to trend on Twitter; we’ll keep on eating burgers as if they have nothing to do with anything.
In a way, it was also a devilish twist on the David vs Goliath legend: the only way a hunter can win is by deception and Continue reading

Dear John,

You Are Me &
We’re All Together

The other day, when 400,000 people marched in front of your New York City home, I couldn’t help it but think how much you would’ve enjoyed seeing so many taking the streets for a cause – this time to fight Climate Change – just like you, marching against the war.
It also helped that it was the International Peace Day, but what was particularly poignant about Sept. 21st was to realize that many in the crowd had probably been there before, on a cold December night of 1980, to mourn your assassination on the steps of the Dakota building.
You would’ve been 74 today, and almost certainly, equally as engaged in progressive causes as you were some forty years ago. And that’s what makes us so sad, that we can no longer hear your voice, and how much the crowd misses the guidance of people like you, and Pete Seeger, to name a like-minded artist.
The fact is, even at that time, such head-first dive into political activism and explicit protesting was not what many musicians considered the best way to go about seeking change. Bob Dylan comes to mind as another influential star who, like many of your contemporaries, was just not into singing songs, carrying slogans, and parading for peace.
But while they may have been a tad too concerned about the impact that an explicit anti-establishment attitude would’ve had on their careers, you were simply not in the same level of showbiz calculation. To you, it seemed only natural to be part of what the people in the streets were protesting about, warts and criticism notwithstanding.

And there were a lot of put-downs about your over-exposure to the media, your peace and bed-in campaigns, your stunts which, to a small segment of the intelligentsia, were perceived as opportunistic and self-promoting. Never mind that your efforts, as off-the-kilt as they were, became somewhat effective.
In perspective, all that fiery anti-war poster and newspaper ad placing, your tireless advocating and support of people such as Angela Davis, John Sinclair, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and others, are now an inextricably part of the historical record about mass movements that helped put an end to the Vietnam War.
You should’ve seen how many young, high-school kids were there too, possibly making that beautiful Sunday Continue reading

The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my own goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them all like spam, and as the quests for help intensified towards the end of the year, December being the very apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched it all with equal intensity by sending them all to trash.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes stuffed with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

WHY SHOULD I?
I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

LACK OF ATLAS
Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs, Continue reading

The Latte of Heaven

In Praise of That Moment
That Only a Coffee Breaks

Most of us know a thing or two about why so many absolutely love to drink and even smell coffee so much. Not only love; they’re downright addicted to the stuff. In fact, we’re way past the old excuse, that one needs to wake up and remain awaken longer hours these days.
But it’s certainly not because it contains tiny amounts of three chemicals that wouldn’t be misplaced if they were brewed in the bowels of hell: a component of cockroach pheromones, a compound that gives human feces its odor, and another that makes rotten meat poisonous.
With that out of the way, and with a little wink to how kopi luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, is produced, we shall move on. For despite all those million reasons, lets not skim over the main one that drives us to savor it daily: we do it because it’s quicker than to sleep.
Even though coffee is being enjoyed since BCE, and until it got to be known as kahveh, it had a rather serendipitous relationship with the evolution of the human society, we bet that it became an essential staple once light bulbs extended daylight deep into night territory.
When we’ve stopped calling it a day along with the farm animals, we were destined to find ways to keep us up through the wee hours. Sex and conversation helped, but a cup of brew had its own allure.
From dusk to dawn, it was a short leap for it to become part of the first meal of the day. But for those who come from cultures where breakfast was a mere cup of milk with coffee and sugar, and sliced bread with butter and home made preserves, though, boy, how far have we come.
It doesn’t change a thing that even a simple cup of coffee then could Continue reading

Rainforest at Risk

Activists Critical of Rousseff’s
Vetoes to Brazil’s New Forest Code

When the text of the new Brazilian Forest Code landed on President Dilma Rousseff’s desk last week, it had already traveled a serendipitous path through the country’s Congress, agricultural lobby, landowners and exporters, all in favor of easing regulations protecting the Amazon and other wild forests of Brazil.
But environmentalist groups immediately saw the risks it’d represent to the region and found no reason to praise the bill. It heavily favored the logging and timber industry, and would open the door to even more destruction of its natural resources. The bill also offered a generous amnesty to many of the companies directly linked to the record deforestation of the 1970s and 80s.
The president did veto most of the clauses related to that but sadly, it isn’t nearly enough. The government is yet to present its alternatives to the bill and resend it to Congress to another round of debate and vote. But the new code won’t have a resolution before Rio hosts a U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in late June, and that was the its intention all along, critics say.
In fact, grassroots organizations such as Web-based Avaaz, with the support of Greenpeace, WWF, Brazil’s Academy of Science and even the Catholic Church, had presented the president a petition with over two million signatures demanding a veto to the whole bill which, according Continue reading

On the Brink

Meet an Amur Leopard,
the World’s Rarest Cat

There may be only fewer than 50 individuals of this beautiful feline left in the wild. It shouldn’t be so, since they sit at the top of the food chain. Guess who’s been mercilessly hunting them for centuries?
Now the World Wildlife Fund has set an area covering 650,000 acres in Russia for the Land of the Leopard National Park, a last-ditch effort to prevent these magnificent creatures from extinction.
That’s why we dedicate this Caturday to the Amur, the rarest among the rarest. Click on the picture to watch the video. There are also many other ways you can help, including adopting one of them.