Posts Tagged ‘animals’

A non-talking horse

Monday, August 13th, 2018 | Photos

As far as I know, this horse can’t talk. But it’s a nice picture, so I thought I would post it anyway.

We went to Flamingo Land, and we were the only people there

Sunday, March 11th, 2018 | Life

If you have watched Scooby-Doo, you will no doubt have seen one of them any episodes set in an abandoned theme park. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be in such a place in real life, you might want to visit Flamingo Land in winter. Because we had the entire place to ourselves.

How did this happen?

As part of taking Elina away for her birthday, I booked tickets to the zoo. It sounded ideal: the theme park half of Flamingo Land shuts in the winter, so the tickets are cheaper and nobody who enjoys theme parks bothers attending. As people who just want to go to the zoo bit, this was perfect.

Then, the Beast from the East hit. The roads were near impassible and the temperature was below freezing.

We went anyway. But nobody else did.

Literally nobody. Except for the staff. We spoke to a lot of the zookeepers, who were happy to talk to us given there was nobody else there, all of whom informed us that we were the only customers in the park.

Animal encounter

We started by feeding the giraffes. I was worried that the giraffe would eat me but the zookeeper assured me that it hasn’t eaten anyone to date. That’s the way I would lull humans into a false sense of security if I were a giraffe, though.

They have very long and dexterous tongues that they use to take the food out of your hands.

Lots of animals

Despite the cold weather, we got to see lots of animals. The rhino sheds were open, the birds and the Wallabies were out, even the camels and lemurs came out briefly for a look around. Despite the penguins being from South America, and therefore not used to the snow, they came out for a quick swim, too.

We caught a couple of feeding times including the tigers, who seemed to enjoy the snow, and the red pandas, who seemed unphased by it, too.

Darwin Day 2018

Monday, February 12th, 2018 | Life

Happy Darwin Day!

Why don’t pandas have much sex?

Sunday, May 14th, 2017 | Science

Pandas get a bad rap. They don’t mate at the best of times. They spend all of their time eating bamboo, which tends to kill their sex drive. And comments to the effective of it being their own fault that they are endangered are common.

Here is Ricky Gervais making just such a point:

But this is unfair. And best explained by this Douglas Adams lecture that took place at the University of California.

You have probably noticed that pandas are massive. They don’t have many predators. Even humans, who sit here in the food chain, don’t eat them. So they don’t die very often.

And Mother Nature is pretty smart. Well, dumb, but nevertheless, natural selection works it out in the end. So, when you have a species with no real predators, they don’t procreate very often because otherwise there would be too many of them. They are designed to have very few babies.

Then humans come along, destroy most of the natural habitat and wonder why pandas cannot replace themselves fast enough.

The Wind in the Willows

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Books

I read The Wind in the Willows many times as a child. It is a lovely story so while looking for a low cognitive load and pleasant read, it seemed like an excellent choice. It was. It is such a fun story and moves at a pace that it is difficult to get bored. There was none of the usual awkward drag I find plagues most novels at least once. This is despite, or possibly in part because, I knew what was coming next.

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Should we kill whales for food?

Friday, July 15th, 2016 | Thoughts

humpback-whale

Whaling, the practice of hunting and killing whales, is a controversial one. it is banned in many countries but others continue the practice. Notably Japan, Iceland and Norway. During my recent trip to Iceland I came face to face with the issue. Specifically, I want to look at the issue of hunting whales for food.

My initial reaction was to agree with the anti-whaling campaign. Whales are very cool. If you had asked me where they are on the endangered status, I would have probably said somewhere in the middle.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if the answer was obviously no. I am a pretty poor vegetarian, regularly eating meat. The animals I allow to be killed so that I can eat them include cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, fish, crabs, well, to be honest, the list just keeps going. Surely one should decide not to allow animals to be killed for food, or decide that it is okay? Why should whales receive special treatment?

Endangered status

One reason could be that we could seriously damage whale stocks. We do this with most fish already of course. However, since commercial whaling was banned in 1986, whale populations have been doing okay. The most common type of whale you find in Iceland, the minke whale, has never been considered endangered and continues to have a strong population.

Thanks to the low levels of hunting, it is now done at a very sustainable level. This would change if all countries started commercial whaling operations again, but for the moment there is no issue with the current level.

Hunting methods

It’s true that whale hunting has traditionally been unpleasant. They are harpooned. Japan now uses exploding harpoons that attempt to instantly kill the whale. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

However, there is also a flip side. All whales are wild, freely roaming the sea until they are hunted. This could be preferable to the way we often factory-farm cows and chickens, kept in pens and cages for the sole purpose of our slaughter?

Intelligence

Some species of whales are very intelligent. This is less true of some of the more actively hunted species. However, it is also worth us taking another look at our current dietary choices. If we are going to say no minke whale, we also need to say no pig, because they too are an intelligent group of mammals.

Other dangers

Hunting is not the only danger that whales face. In fact, other issues are putting them under more threat than hunting. These include:

  • Pollution. There is so much crap in the ocean that whales are eating debris, finding it indigestible, and starving to death with a full stomach. A number of dead whales in Germany were found to have their stomachs full of plastic.
  • Reduced habitat. Some whales can only live in cold water. As sea level temperatures rise, their habitat becomes smaller and smaller. Changes to the acid levels also have an effect.
  • Change in eco-system. The changes in temperature also affect other critical parts of the ecosystem. Food sources may adopt different migration patterns and other predators may encroach into the whales’ territory.
  • Over-fishing. Whales eat fish, so when we take all the fish out of the sea, there is nothing for them to eat.

Conclusion

Should we kill whales for food? Probably not. But then, we should not be killing any other animals for food either. If we are going to continue to do that, then there does not seem to be a good reason why whales should be granted a special exemption. Currently whaling levels are sustainable, which is far less true of much of the fishing industry.

We should protect whales. However, the real threats to them are pollution, climate change and over-fishing. These are the most pressing issues for us to tackle.

Whale watching

Saturday, July 9th, 2016 | Travel

whale-tail

While in Reykjavik we went whale watching. There are a number of companies doing the tours: Elding and Special Tours do big-boats while another company offers inflatable rib boats. The latter allows you to get closer, but you don’t get the luxury of a nice big boat you can go inside, and it is twice the price.

We went dolphin watching while in the Highlands and that was amazing as the dolphins come and swim alongside the boat, jumping out of the water.

whale-watching

Whales are not like that. They come up to take a few breaths and then go for a dive. You see a fin maybe as they sit below the surface and then the tail as they dive down, but that is about it. Generally, this is from quite a distance. You see a whale of course, which is cool, but you don’t physically see much.

The photos are taken with my 200mm lens and were clearer than you could see with the eye.

whale-watching-boat

When you get on the boat, they offer you a seat of warm overalls to put on. I would recommend taking them up on this. Elina and I came prepared: Finnish woolly socks, fleeces and my new extra-warm coat and it was still a bit chilly.

Overall, I think I was disappointed with the whale watching. I think it was around £50 each, so that’s £100 for the two of us, and you just don’t see much. You could get closer by taking the rib boat, but then that is around £200 for a couple.

Helsinki Zoo

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 | Travel

We dropped by Helsinki Zoo while in Finland. They had elk! We also managed to catch the bear feeding.

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Animal Farm

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 | Books

After reading a book about Holocaust deniers I needed something a little more upbeat. A fairy tale about animals on a farm seemed to be the exact remedy I needed.

It’s very Nineteen Eighty-Four. Of course it is no surprise it is similar given there are both Orwellian novels, but many of the ideas and concepts are taken almost word for word from each other. The constant threat of the enemy, the re-writing of history, the propaganda.

animal farm

Darwin Day 2015

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 | Life

hippo-crocodile

Happy Darwin Day!