American Elephants

The Abundance of Life on Earth by The Elephant's Child


The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a report last week about the Endangered Species Act (1973).  It has been one of those “feel good”laws that makes residents of big cities feel noble about protecting the wildlife of the world. Zoos have found that trying to preserve threatened species with breeding in zoos has meant more interest from the public and more financial support. And the world’s zoos have had some success. The costs of the Endangered Species Act are huge — easily in the tens of billions and probably in the hundreds of billions. The accomplishments are very questionable.

Many species which were thought to be endangered aren’t. We just weren’t looking in the right place (Polar bears, Emperor penguins, Canadian Caribou herds). Ardent environmentalists are known to search for a species that they can call “endangered” to prevent the building of a project they don’t like. In this case it was a beetle that could prevent the Keystone pipeline. Farmers and ranchers have been known to shoot species found on their land lest government regulations make their property unusable and unsalable. The court has ruled that Congress intended for federally endangered species to be saved “whatever the cost” in the case of California’s snail darter. A green light for the bureaucracy is part of what created “the swamp.”

Wild animals usually try to avoid people as much as possible, and they’re good at it. If there seems to be none here, it does not mean that there are not some on the other side of the mountain. I live in Bellevue, Washington, a Seattle suburb with a 2016 population of over 141,400 that is building “affordable housing” everywhere, in the form of high-rise apartments. I think they are transforming a leafy city into Shanghai. This morning a neighbor complained online about a bobcat in her yard early. Anyone that drives home late at night will see coyotes and bunnies. (the rabbits explain the coyotes).

I grew up on 400 acres in the foothills of the Rockies, and our property abutted National Forest and BLM land, with a river running through it. I occasionally heard a cougar scream, and a lynx killed and ate my cat’s kittens, and tried for my dog. Rural people are apt to have a better understanding of the environment than city folk, whose idea of “wilderness” can be a little lacking.

Oct. 2010: “345 New Species Discovered, and 1/3 of Extinct Species Aren’t ExtinctPictured was an Okapi or Forest Giraffe, hadn’t been seen since 1969. March, 2012: “This is Elphaba“— pictured. She was a baby Aye-aye born at the Duke Lemur Center. Aye-ayes are nocturnal, lives in tropical rainforest, and has a very specialized diet of the interior of Ramy nuts, nectar from the Travellers Palm tree and some fungi and insect grubs. August, 2013:A New Carnivorous Mammal Species Discovered in the Americas , pictured the Olinguito — looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. December 2014: More Abundance of Life: 221 New Species Discovered. And here’s a picture of an animal you didn’t know existed,  a Markhor, a species of wild goat found in NE Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you are especially interested, enter “endangered species” or “new species” in the blank over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar. (We probably have generations who have no idea who Bob Hope was)

It is a large and complicated Earth, and what seems to be missing in one place may well be abundant elsewhere. Biodiversity scientists estimate that we have discovered less than ten percent of species on the planet. In 2014, the new species, previously unknown, included 110 ants, 16 beetles, 3 spiders, 28 fished, 24 sea slugs, 2 marine worms, 9 barnacles, 2 octocorals, 25 plants, one waterbear and one tiny mammal—an elephant shrew. (not pictured)

P.S. The Polar Bears are Just fine and prospering.

Monday morning Stress Relief by The Elephant's Child
June 1, 2015, 6:52 am
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

It’s Spring and the world’s zoos are bursting with baby animals. We all enjoy looking at baby animals, and if you get a little stressed, visit Okapis and lions and tigers of course, and tapirs and who knew that a baby rhinoceros could be really cute? I am particularly attracted to baby elephants, as you might guess.


Here is Will, a baby Okapi


And here is a baby tapir:


There. Can you stay stressed while viewing such cuties? Thought not.

Friday Morning Cuteness, and Species Preservation. by The Elephant's Child


This handsome little fellow is not a nod to our political opponents, but a Przewalski’s foal, born at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in England, helping to preserve a species that was once extinct in the wild. Due to hunting and competition with livestock for water and pasture, Przewalski’s horses became extinct in Mongolia, their last refuge in the wild, in the 1970’s. This male foal was born last October and was the first born at Port Lympne in a almost a decade. Through a cooperative captive breeding program, the species has been bred in captivity and protected. After successful reintroductions to the wild , Przewalski’s Horses were listed as Critically Endangered, and revised in 2011 to just Endangered. The birth of a new foal is another vital step in continuing to protect this rare species. Here he is with mom.


Zoos have come a long way just in my lifetime. Visit zoo borns often to see the good work they do, and the cute offspring of species you never heard of.


83 Percent of All Statistics Are Made Up on the Spot by The Elephant's Child

Climate Scientist Dr. Tim Ball said recently that 83 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot. Probably true, as it is becoming established that the computer models proclaimed to predict future climate aren’t predicting anything.

A good example is a 2008 report that claimed,

Human activity is wiping out close to one percent of every other species on Earth every year, a global environmental report said Friday.

What absolute rubbish. They can’t possibly substantiate these claims. We don’t know how many species there are. We don’t have even crude estimates of populations. We don’t know how much population numbers vary. What do they mean by “every other”? They should name all the species that comprise their claims.

Numbers in the 2008 Report are part of the ridiculous, completely unscientific claims made originally by E.O. Wilson about species extinction. Self-proclaimed Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki traveled across the country a few years ago claiming the demise of 2 species an hour. He wouldn’t name any of them because it’s a false claim.  …

Animal populations and distributions vary considerably over time. Every report of decline or discovery in a new location is now attributed to human induced climate change or other human activity. Perhaps the most outrageous is the claim of humans hunting Ice Age species to extinction. All ignore natural variability, but that is the pattern of anti-humanity environmental hysteria. As Lord Dunsany said,

It is very seldom that the same man knows much of science, and about the things that were known before science came.

Do read the whole thing, Dr. Ball gives some wonderful examples of how false statistics have led us astray. Now that the computer climate models on which global warming alarmism depends have been shown to be fraudulent, their predictions false, and the vast enterprises spawned by a fear that the climate was warming shown to be a waste of funds, waste of regulation and  waste of concern.  I wish someone would tell President Obama.

This Beetle Could Provide Another Delay for the Keystone Pipeline. by The Elephant's Child

I had seen rumblings of enthusiasm about the construction of the Southern part of the Keystone XL pipeline — the prospect of more good jobs is something practically everybody in today’s economy is looking forward to. Not so much the Greenies. They will pull out all the stops to put a halt to it. Perhaps Fish and Wildlife found this one all on their own, but an unseemly number of projects that the Greenies don’t like, have been halted by an “endangered species.” In this case the ‘endangered’ species is a beetle: the American burying beetle, so called because it buries dead rodents to protect its food. As beetles go,
it’s a fairly large one at 1.5 inches long. The orange   bands are distinctive, but the dead rodents thing is a little off-putting. Carrion beetles. There are known populations in South Dakota, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island, and even Kansas.

The record of official endangered species listings is not a good one. Many species have turned out not to have been endangered after all, some listings are a sop to some environmental activists for the specific purpose of stopping a project.

This beetle could delay the Keystone XL for up to a year, because new rules by US Fish and Wildlife prevent the pipeline developer from moving the hiding bugs until the project receives federal approval. I’m a skeptic about endangered species, perhaps unjustifiably so, but I’m unaware of any great success stories, and have seen a lot of species that have been declared endangered still thriving elsewhere.  Creatures are pretty good at adapting, as they have been doing  for thousands of years.

President Obama’s policies seem to come accompanied with job losses. The auto bailout killed thousands of jobs. Cash for Clunkers killed jobs. The promised infrastructure jobs never appeared. Administration actions in the Gulf with the Deepwater Horizon crisis killed thousands. Refusing the cross-border portion of the Keystone XL cost thousands. All the ill-conceived solar manufacturer bankruptcies killed thousands. Raising taxes on medical device manufacturers has killed thousands. Unnecessarily shutting down coal power plants is killing thousands. There never were thousands in wind farms. Excessive government regulations have killed many. The list goes on and on. Actions have consequences.

Neither jobs nor the economy have been the president’s primary focus, but if you expect unemployment checks and food stamps to be the best way to help the economy recover, you’re not going to get very far anyway.

*(photo by Doug Backlund, Wildphotos Photography)

Everything You Wanted To Know About Endangered Species… by The Elephant's Child

“Emperor penguins, whose long treks across Antarctic ice to mate have been immortalized by Hollywood, are heading towards extinction, scientists say. Based on predictions of sea ice extent from climate change models, the penguins are likely to see their numbers plummet by 95% by 2100. That level of decline could wreak havoc on the delicate Antarctic food chain. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” —BBC News, 26 January 2009

“Nearly twice as many emperor penguins inhabit Antarctica as was thought. UK, US and Australian scientists used satellite technology to trace and count the iconic birds, finding them to number almost 600,000. The extent of sea ice in the Antarctic has been relatively stable in recent years (unlike in the Arctic), although this picture hides some fairly large regional variations.” –Jonathan Amos, BBC News, 13 April 2012

The effort to save species that seem in danger of becoming extinct is a noble one, but it is really hard to tell. Are these the only ones, or are there more over there— on the other side of the hill? Where do you look? Is there a natural predator that has grown too numerous? In this era of environmentalism, many would be environmentalists have erred in their enthusiasm to be the noble ones who saved a species.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of saving species if they are truly endangered;  but the record of the Endangered Species Act is somewhat embarrassing. Having grown up in the back of beyond, I understand how very hard it is to find a particular plant or animal in all of nature.

If you have prowled the internet at all today, you may have run into an indignant story about how dead-broke California spent $205,000 to relocate a plant growing in a concrete-bound median strip on a San Francisco highway. It was thought to be the last living specimen of Arctostaphylos franciscana, a form of manzanita,  but it turns out that a California nursery has plenty for about $15 each.

And as I pointed out last week, the polar bears are just fine. Native peoples are more apt to know if there is a decline in numbers of a species, but there’s a need for common sense here. If the endangered species just happens to prevent something that the greenies have been complaining about, your suspicions are probably correct.

A rare and welcome boost for one of the world’s most endangered great apes. by The Elephant's Child


Good News! A new orangutan population has been found in Indonesia.  A team surveying forests snuggled between jagged, limestone cliffs on the eastern rim of Borneo island counted 219 orangutan nests, indicating a “substantial” number of the animals said Erik Melijard, a senior ecologist for the U.S. based The Nature Conservancy.

“We can’t say for sure how many,” he said, but even a cautious estimate would indicate “several hundred at least, maybe 1,000 or 2.000 even.”

The team also encountered an adult male— which threw branches at the crew as they tried to take photographs— a mother and a child.  There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 90% of them in Indonesia, and the remainder in neighboring Malaysia.

These countries produce palm oil, used not only in food and cosmetics, but it is in great demand for making “clean burning” fuels in Europe and the United States.  Some rain forests where the animals spend most of their lives, have been clear cut.  Palm oil plantations, a lucrative source of employment and palm oil production, have led workers to kill orangutans as marauding pests, in spite of efforts to save the animals.

The inaccessibility of the area where the new population was found, as well as its poor soil and steep topography have shielded the area from development.  A Canadian scientist, Birute Mary Galdikas, who has spent nearly 40 years studying orangutans in the wild, says that most of the remaining populations are small and scattered, which makes them vulnerable.

The orangutan is called the “man of the forest.”  The story inadvertently shows how very difficult it is to get good estimates of the numbers of a species in the wild.

Nature, science and politics…and oh yes, law too… by The Elephant's Child

Greg Pollowitz noted the following story in the Planet Gore blog on National Review Online. “It looks, he said, like ‘scientists’ have totally botched the count of the number of gorillas left in the world.”

(CNN) An estimated 125,000 Western lowland gorillas are living in a swamp in equatorial Africa, researchers reported Tuesday, double the number of endangered primates thought to survive worldwide.

“It’s pretty astonishing,” Hugo Rainey, one of the researchers who conducted the survey for the U.S. based Wildlife Conservation Society, told CNN Tuesday.

The last census on the species, carried out during the 1980s, estimated that there were only 100,000 of the gorillas left worldwide. Since then, the researchers estimated, the numbers had been cut in half.

WCS survey teams conducted the research in 2006 and 2007, traveling to the remote Lac Tele Community Reserve in northern Republic of Congo, a vast area of swamp forest.

This is the same organization that helped count polar bears in order to list them as ‘threatened’.

WCS scientists studied 28 years of satellite images of sea ice and contibuted key data to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey that helped inform the USFWS decision. The USFWS study says that polar bears traveling from retreating sea ice will soon have to go five times farther to reach maternity dens in Alaska, and that sea ice will no longer support polar bears in Alaska by the year 2050….

“The polar bear is the poster child of climate change and we need to do all we can to protect this species from the effect of global warming.” says Sanderson. “These preliminary results clearly show that Alaska’s polar bear population is particularly vulnerable to climate change and deserving of greater federal protection.”

Please note that what they counted is “satellite images of sea ice”, not polar bears. A little common sense should click in here. Wildlife counting is a pretty iffy endeavor and at best, amounts to educated guesses. Counting not actual bears, but past satellite images, gets even more questionable, yet such figures are used to determine lawsuits about other things such as, for example, oil drilling.

Mr. Pollowitz is back again today with an attack from the NRDC who took him to task for criticizing research, which he clarifies, and he adds some other examples. The exchange is illuminating and sheds a lot of light on the politics of nature and endangered species.

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