Saturday, February 28, 2009

The G2 Gallery

The G2 Gallery has only been open for a year, but it is already generating lots of buzz in both the art and environmental world. Located in Venice, CA, the Gallery showcases the art of wildlife photographers and donates the proceeds from all art sales to environmental causes. Yeah! Another champion to help stave off the effects of our man-made messes.

Mom loves the current exhibit at the Gallery because it showcases an animal that she studied intensely before she got interested in sea turtles - penguins. Cold Feet: Penguins of the Antarctic is on exhibit through April 5. The artist J.J. L'Heureux made her first trip to Antarctica in the winter of 2000-2001 and she has returned nearly every year to photograph the amazing wildlife that call the frozen continent home. Her amazing photographs capture the essence of the penguins in a way few have. Mom wants to go to Antarctica so bad, so maybe she should contact J.J. to see if she needs a porter for her luggage. Mom would have a lot to talk to J.J. about because J.J. is also a certified docent at the San Franciso Zoo.

Even if you can't make it to the Gallery in person, check out it out at http://www.theg2gallery.com/. The exhibits are sure to awe you and may even inspire a few of you to dust off your cameras and head outdoors.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Helping Save Marine Mammals

Mom's turtle buddy Carole spent a day this week babysitting this baby harp seal on a beach in New Jersey. Carole is a marine mammal stranding volunteer and when she received a call that there was a stranding, she headed straight for the beach to do whatever she could to help save it.

Carole is a volunteer with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) which is based in Brigantine, New Jersey. Staff and volunteers work to ensure that animals that are stranded are either helped back into the water or are taken to the Center for rehabilitation. As a non-profit organization, the Center has relied on donations from concerned citizens all over the country since its inception in 1978.

Seals are not the only animals that wash ashore on the beaches of New Jersey. The Center has responded to strandings of a 25-ton humpback whale and as well as many species of sea turtles. The number of strandings has increased through the years as ocean going animals face added threats on a daily basis. According to their website, the Center has seen an increase in species of seals and sea turtles that are far out of their range strand in New Jersey. This is bad news for my little ocean buddies.

The baby harp seal that Carole took care of was a young male who weighed in at almost 60 pounds. The little guy ended up going back into the water around 6pm and it is thought that he was okay and simply wanted to rest. A happy ending indeed thanks to Carole and the staff at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adelita the Loggerhead

In 1999, Adelita the loggerhead was the first sea turtle ever tracked across the ocean using satellite telemetry. While millions of people around the world shared her migration on the Internet, her migration helped to prove that loggerhead born in Japan, feed off the coasts of California and Mexico before making their way back home to Japan to nest. The story that Adelita tells is an amazing one as she reminds us again that our oceans are connected and that we are all in this together.

Everyone everywhere must work together to protect sea turtles and their habitat. Sea turtles need us to fight for them and we must pull together to get the word out about their plight. Sadly, this migration was Adelita's last - she drowned in a shrimp net off the coast of Japan. A PBS documentary Voyage of the Lonely Turtle was created about Adelita and her journey. The documentary showed the many dangers Adelita faced on her 9,000 journey across the Pacific, in addition to showcasing giant schools of fish, dolphins, and jellyfish. Please take a moment to watch this short video about Adelita's journey and witness the spectacle that is animal migration.

video

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Wag Out!

Seed Earrings

Mom is loving these earrings. The big seed is a jupati seed and the small red one is a tento seed. Both seeds are from the Amazon rainforest, are ecologically sustainable, and accessible for local, indigenous artisans to access. By purchasing these earrings, you are helping the local artisans provide for their families, plus you are getting a one of a kind masterpiece.

One Village Gifts is committed to selling green and fair trade goods from all over the world. Approximately 70% of all their artisans are women and most of the time these women are mothers. They are often the sole bread winners for their families and the best way to earn a living is to produce handcrafted items that are based on cultural traditions. This is another win-win for everyone. Pick up these great earrings and other equally impressive gifts at http://www.onevillagegifts.com/.

Chopstick Basket

This is another one of those items that you have to see to believe. Mom's zoo buddy Jen sent this idea to me and I love it. I don't eat with chopsticks but a lot of people around the world do. Any single use object is a waste, but this smart guy from Eugene, Oregon decided to upcycle chopsticks into works of art.

I know what you're thinking - yuk! Old chopsticks that were once in someones mouth are now a bowl that might hold some fruit? The chopsticks are clean and sanitized before being used to create this highly functional piece of art basket. The baskets are so multi purpose that you may find yourself with one in every room of your house. They also make great gifts for the person who has everything. Head on over to http://www.chopstickart.com/ and fall in love with their unique designs.

Recycled Watering Can

Mom has a thing for watering cans. I really don't get it but she has lots of them. She does not have a watering can made from recycled sheet metal - at least not yet.

This great recycled watering can is as practical as it is stylish. It is made from sheet metal that was once commercial product packaging, but was saved from the landfill. Each design is unique and all are made in and fairly traded from India. The lid is removable so even if you have no use for a watering can, you can always use it as a vase. I'm sure there are other uses for it as well, but it would look great just hanging out in the garden or on a window ledge.

The Hunger Site funds food for the hungry people worldwide. It is a GreaterGood Network Store (one of six) which is run by Greatergood.org. They distribute funds to charitable organizations in need. By purchasing the recycled watering you are helping feed the world. Check out the recycled watering can and other great items at www.shop.thehungersite.com/store.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where Do Great Ape Stars Retire?

Mom is always telling me that people keep the strangest animals as pets. Stranger than a pug? Yep, even stranger than a pug. Just last week a chimpanzee was killed when he tore off the face of his owner's friend. The owner did not have a permit to keep exotic animals and something like this was just bound to happen. Chimpanzees are wild animals and should not be kept at pets. They grow up to be big strong animals whose owners can no longer handle them. What happens to these animals when they have outgrown their welcome? Luckily, there is a place in Florida where they can live out the rest of their life in the company of other apes.

The Center for Great Apes is located on over 100 acres in south central Florida. Here chimpanzees and organutans that were either once kept as pets or were Hollywood stars live and play in one of twelve large three story enclosures. According to their website, the mission of the Center "is to provide a permanent sanctuary for organutans and chimpanzees who have been retired from the entertainment industry, from research, or who are not longer wanted as pets. The Center provides care with dignity in a safe, healthy, and enriching environment for great apes in need of lifetime care." Lifetime care for each animal is very expensive, around $15,000 per ape per year. The Center relies on grants and donations, though it is not open to the general public. Private donors events allow donors access to the facility and donors who dig deep in their pockets can even stay at the Center in one of three rustic cabins. Since the Center does not have a research component, the apes are free to spend their days living as apes.

So who lives at the Center? You may remember Bam Bam the organutan from the soap opera Passions. He arrived at the Center when he became too strong to work. Chuckie is a hybrid Bornean and Sumatran organutan who was born at the Memphis Zoo. Because he was a hybrid he was sold and eventually ended up in the circus. Geri the organutan worked on films like The Flinstones and Dunston Checks In. Kodua the chimpanzee was in the first CareerBuilder.com tv ads. Mowgli the chimpanzee was also in the first Careerbuilder.com tv ads, was a regular on the Dennis Miller Show, and was featured in the movie Shaggy Dog.

The Center has taken in over 42 apes since its inception in 1993. Director Patti Ragan, who volunteerd with organutans in Miami and Borneo, saw a need for the Center after realizing that zoos would not care for orphaned and abandoned apes. Since these apes could not be released in the wild, she committed herself to creating the Center where the apes could live out their lives.

I wish I could visit the apes at the Center, but since it is not open to the public (and that means pugs too), I cannot. Mom told me that she would like to become a donor and that even if she can't visit the apes in person, she knows that her donation will be well spent caring for these amazing animals. Please leave wild animals where they belong - in the wild. They do not make good pets because they are wild. If you would like a pet, consider adopting a pug. We make excellent pets because we are low maintenance. In the meantime, check out the Center for Great Apes at www.centerforgreatapes.org.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finally Some Good News!

With so much bad news in the world everyday, I was really glad to come across some good news the other day. Small wins are important for every species and no win is too small to celebrate.

So what is the good news? Drum roll please. At least 32 new right whale calves have been observed this season off the coasts of Georgia and Florida! Whoo-hoo! This is the most that has ever been recorded and a sign that this endangered species may be making a comeback. With only about 400 right whales in existence, 32 babies is a significant addition to the population.

Right whales migrate to give birth between late November and March off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. Volunteers from the Whale Watch Survey Team stand on beaches for hours on end, tirelessly scanning the oceans for signs of these massive mammals. The data they collect helps scientists track patterns and trends of right whale populations. The data also provides clues to the migratory path the mothers and calves take.

Right whales got there name from hunters who said they were the "right whale" to kill. By harpooning the whales for their blubber, they killed them to the point where they were seriously in danger of extinction.

Right whales are huge animals that can grow to 70 tons. How big is that you ask? 70 tons is more than a dozen elephants would weigh. They are do not have dorsal fins and are jet-black, so they are difficult to spot in the ocean. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It is a good thing if you are being hunted, but a bad thing if boats cannot see you, the later of which is the greatest threat facing them today. A new rule that requires ships to slow down to 10 knots as they cruise through the whales' habitat seems to be helping and that is exactly where the volunteers and others come in. Many groups of people scan the waters and alert ship captains, cruise lines, airplanes, submarines and others to the whales' whereabouts. Mom's turtle buddy Mike Frick was part of the Early Warning System Surveys for Right Whales back in the late 1990's. He would participate in water and aerial surveys to track the whales during their migration and alert the previously mentioned of the locations of the whales.

Hopefully people will see these volunteers and researchers, binoculars stuck to their eyes, and stop to ask what they are looking for. "Right whales" they will be told. "Right whales - what are those?" they will asked. "I'm so glad you asked" the smiling volunteer will respond. Mom always says that it all begins with education. You cannot teach someone to want to save a species until you teach them to love it. The world needs right whales and the right whales need us to protect them and their habitat. Please educate yourself and others about the plight of these amazing mammals. Every species deserves a chance in this uncertain climate, so do the right thing by the right whale.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Guess What's Back?

This is what I woke up to today. I know it looks pretty but the old snow was all gone and now we have more - yuk! I heard on the news last night that it was going to start snowing after midnight, but I really didn't believe it. I was sound asleep at midnight so I couldn't check the prediction first hand, but I couldn't believe my eyes when I woke up.

You can see that the pond only has a little open water. Last week, there was triple the open water and we had quite a few visitors. This morning we only had a few sleeping ducks. I don't know how they can sleep on the cold ice, with the wind whipping their feathers and the snow falling on their heads, but Mom tells me it doesn't really bother them. I will take a nice warm cozy bed over a cold pond anytime. I am glad that I'm not a duck.

By mid morning when the snow finally stopped, we had received about 5 inches of snow. Of course I had to go out to do my business, but I needed to go so bad that I didn't even wait for Dad to snovel me a path - I was blazing my own trail. Luckily Mom did not get any photos of this event because I am really too quick for her.

I have decided that I need a day off, so I am going to stay in and relax today. Mom has lots of work to do and Dad is busy in the basement making furniture. I am going to find a nice warm place to curl up and sleep. This will probably be me later today, dreaming of warm weather and of course, Popeye's.

Look What We're Getting!

Mom finally talked Dad into getting a rain barrel this year. I don't know why Dad has been so anti-rain barrel in the past, but this year he is on board and is ready to go green.

Our local forest preserve district, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, is currently selling rain barrels through their website, and via phone, fax, and mail. Simply place your order by April 29 and then pick it up on either May 15 or 16 at the Lake County Fairgrounds. What could be easier?

Rain barrels collect and store rainwater from your roof that would otherwise just go to waste. The water can be later used to water your plants and lawns when there is no rain. This is a great way to save money and water because every time you water the traditional way your water bill goes through the roof. Using a rain barrel also reduces the volume of water flowing into sewer treatment facilities. This can be a real problem when we get heavy rains.

But how much water can you really save? Mom is not good at math, so she found this statistic: one inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot roof yields 633 gallons of water. Dad will have to calculate the entire yield of our roof by multiplying the square footage of our roof by 623 and dividing by 1000. The look on Mom's face when she heard this formula was priceless. She couldn't figure this out is her life depended on it. I could probably figure it out, but the keys on the calculator are too small for my paws.

The rain barrels for sale are 55-gallon drums with a two-hose connection, plastic spigot, a bottom drain plug, and a screen to keep out debris. They are upcycled because they were previously used for food product shipping. Available in two colors, terra cotta or grey, Mom decided grey would be the best color for us since our house is a light grey color.

The rain barrel sale is sponsored by the Lake County Forest Preserve District, the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission. The proceeds of the sale will benefit the forest district's youth stewardship program.

The rain barrel program is only in its third year and already it has become very popular. In its first year, 2007, 467 barrels were sold. Last year, 980 were sold and this year officials hope to sell 1,200. Let's hope the bad economy doesn't affect this great program. A little money spent now will save you money in the long run, right? Plus, the conservation benefits will be reaped for years to come.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Help Save Sea Turtles!

Mom received this e-mail yesterday from Defenders of Wildlife and the subject line read "Will we have to go to court to save sea turtles?" Yikes! My little ocean buddies are in trouble again so I need your help. Please take action today by signing the petition here.


Dear Michele,
It’s a cruel way to die… and it’s happening to some of the planet’s most ancient and endangered creatures. Snagged by razor sharp hooks on fishing lines that span anywhere from four to nine nautical miles, endangered sea turtles are drowning and dying right now off America’s shores.


My name is Bob Dreher, and I run the legal department here at Defenders of Wildlife. To help save these turtles from extinction, I’m overseeing a legal challenge right now to suspend the use of bottom longline fishing gear in vital sea turtle habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.
With your help today, I may be able to avoid a costly and lengthy legal battle that could rage on as more sea turtles die, and to secure immediate protection for imperiled sea turtles off our coasts.
Speak out for endangered sea turtles today. Sign our petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service urging the agency to suspend bottom longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico so the beautiful sea voyagers have a shot at survival.

Between July 2006 and the end of 2007, the government estimates that the Gulf of Mexico bottom longline fishery, which targets reef fish like grouper and tilefish, resulted in the capture of nearly 1,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles -- and that in more than 80% of these incidents, the turtles were injured or killed. Six of seven species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and indiscriminate fishing practices are a grave threat to sea turtles around the world. Loggerheads nesting on Florida beaches -- the same turtles captured in the Gulf of Mexico bottom longline fishery -- have plummeted by more than 40% over the last decade.

Take action now to save our sea turtles. Sign the petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service today.

Earlier this month, my legal team and I met with officials at the National Marine Fisheries Service to encourage them to save loggerheads and other imperiled sea turtles with an emergency suspension of the Gulf of Mexico bottom longline fishery. They were receptive, but now federal officials need to hear from you.

Please sign our petition to save the lives of sea turtles today, and we will hand deliver your comments to the agency before the end of the month. With your help, we hope to collect at least 40,000 comments in favor of protecting sea turtles from bottom longline fishing by March 1st.
Sea turtles have been swimming in our planet’s waters for millions of years. With your help, we can help ensure that they are around for future generations to enjoy.

With Gratitude,
Bob DreherVice President for Conservation LawDefenders of Wildlife

P.S. Federal officials need to act now to protect sea turtles. Please sign our petition to save sea turtles today, so we can deliver your comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service before March 1st.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Meatrix

Mom hates factory farming and is trying to spread the word about why they are bad for the you and the environment. She is this close to becoming a vegan and she would be if it weren't for Dad. She came across this online film "The Meatrix" the other day and wants to share it with you. I liked the film, but I didn't have it in me to watch the sequels. Mom loved all the films and can't wait for another sequel.

"The Meatrix" is an online film that spoofs "The Matrix" films while educating people about the problems with factory farming. The film is really cute and features three superhero farm animals. Hey, why weren't there any pugs in the film? They could have had a super handsome pug named Stubby who, umm, does what? What would Stubby the superhero do? I'll get back to you on that.

Leo the pig gets pulled from the supposedly friendly family farm to go on a journey because he is the one. He is lead on the journey by Moopheus the cow. They visit a factory farm and thus begins their crusade to end factory farming. Chickity the chicken, joins them in the sequels as they meet up with the agri-business bad guys.

In addition to the films, there is also a 360 interactive farm scene. As you move around the farm, your cursor highlights different things on the farm. Click on something that is highlighted and you open a new browser window on sustainabletable.org where all the information you need to know about a part of the factory farm is right there in black and white. All of this information is very eye-opening and needs to be known.

Please check out the film and the 360 interactive farm scene. We must do all we can to stop factory farming because it is ruining the environment and our bodies. I love the environment and I only have one body, so take action and do your part.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines' Day!

Pugs and kisses to all!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Confessions of an Eco-Sinner

Mom got this book from the library the other day. I didn't really understand what it was about until Mom gave me a synopsis. I didn't think Mom was an eco-sinner, but after hearing about this book, I think she is. Even though she is super conscience of living a green life, there are just too many ways to be an eco-sinner in our global economy.

What would happen if you took a journey around the world to find where the source of all your 'stuff' comes from? This is exactly what Fred Pearce did and it is not only shocking, it is a eye opening wakeup call. He went through his house, from his wedding ring, to the food he eats, to the furniture he sits on, to the clothes he wears, and tracked the raw materials back to their origin. He traveled more than 110,000 miles on his journey which begs the comment "Nice carbon footprint". Pearce is more concerned about personal footprints than carbon footprints because so few of us know anything about the people and places that enable our nice, sweet Western lifestyle.

I admit that I don't need much and that I consume very little, yet I am still guilty of being an eco-sinner. I am what I like to call guilty by association. I live with Mom and Dad who, like the rest of the Western world are eco-sinners, so that makes me one too. I believe that the global economy is good for the world and that the real lesson from this book is awareness. All of us need to be aware of where our 'stuff' comes from so that we can make educated choices when shopping. There are right and wrong choices when purchasing almost everything, and when you make yourself aware of the right choices, you become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

All of us cannot take a global journey of 'stuff' discovery, but thankfully Fred Pearce did. His book will open your eyes and your heart to the way people around the world make a living - by producing our 'stuff'. The conditions most people work under are not pretty - they are exploited, forced into slave labor, exposed to toxic chemicals, etc. - but the people are almost always beautiful. They all want what we have - prosperity - and we must remember that we are the most fortunate people in the world, despite current conditions.

The world - our world, their world - needs us to take action right now. Educate yourself about your 'stuff' and then spread the word. This book is a must read for you and for your neighbor, for your best friend and your enemy. Read it, discuss it, and live it.

Happy 200th Birthday Darwin!

Peace, Love and Evolution!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Wag Out!

Shoe Cause

What a great company! Not only do they sell shoes, but for every pair that is purchased, they give a pair to a child in need. I love it!

Toms has shoes for men, women, and babies. All of the womens styles are flats and there are even some vegan shoes which makes Mom happy. Would you believe that they even have some limited edition styles? They sure do.
Since May 2006 Toms has given away over 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and over 50,000 pairs to children in South Africa. Mom loves their get involved motto: changing a life begins with a single step. Everyone, everywhere needs and deserves a pair of shoes, so do something good for someone in need by purchasing a pair of Toms at http://www.tomsshoes.com/.

EarthLust Bottles

Mom loves her Sigg bottles but she is always looking for new bottles. She recently found Earthlust bottles and has decided to give them a try. These bottles are made from high quality #304 food grade stainless steel, which is naturally safe unlined and each is a custom design, with most of the designs limited editions. By using use non-toxic paints and BPA-free safe polypropelene #5 caps, EarthLust ensures that their bottles are safe for you to use.

Mom likes this design on the 20oz bottle, but there are many to choose from so there is something for everyone. If you need a new
bottle or need a great gift for a friend, get an EarthLust bottle at http://www.nubiusorganics.com/.

Therapeutic Dough

When Mom first showed this stuff to me I didn't really get it. You do what with it? I guess it didn't make sense to me because I don't have hands, but Mom tells me that people need this stuff. Whatever!

Aroma Squeeze is dough scented with essential oils. You squeeze the dough to release the essential oils and this provides instant aromatherapy to de-stress, energize, revitalize, etc. The de-stress version contains pure essential oils of sandalwood, neroli, & lavender that are blended in a base of grapeseed oil, cocoa butter, and beeswax. Mom is not as stressed as she was a few years ago, but at certain times of the month Mom gets really crazy. Maybe this stuff will work for her. If you need aromatherapy in your life, check out http://www.aromasqueeze.com/.

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's Time for THE Dog Show!

I wait all year for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I love watching all the dogs parade around vying for best in class and then competing for the ultimate prize - best in show. This year is sure to be just as exciting as past years. Uno the beagle was best in show last year and he has been a star ever since.

The pugs will be competing on Tuesday at 8:00am in ring one. 24 pugs will be competing for best in breed, 12 boys and 12 girls. They will be judged by Mr. W. Everett Dean Jr. I hope he likes pugs. That same night, the winning pug will compete against all the other toy breed winners for best in class. A pug has not won best in show since 1981. That was a long time ago. Mom was in high school back then. Last years best in breed pug was a little boy named Ch Tupelo Shoboat Tu China Tu. What a name! We even share the same birthday, though I am 9 years older. He was beat in best of group by a toy poodle, but he did place 4th.

This is what the Westminster website says about pugs:

The Pug is one of the oldest breeds of dog, originating in China some 700 years B.C. Their presence was noted in Holland, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Russia as early as the 15th & 16th centuries. Their primary purpose has always been exclusively for the companionship and amusement of their people. Pugs combine a cocky confidence with a friendly, sensitive nature. They are great with children and thoroughly relish playtime. They are small yet sturdy, rough and yet sensitive and sincere. Pugs are extremely friendly, uninhibited, delightful, comical little characters. Pugs come in two colors, fawn and black.

Yep, that's me in a nutshell. Bred for nothing, great with children, loves playtime, friendly, and delightful. I think they forget the part about liking to eat, but maybe that is just a Stubby thing.

As cute as I am, I am not show quality. I know, I know - how can that be? If this were a personality contest, I would win, paws down, but it's not. It's sort of like a beauty contest. The judges are looking for the best markings on dogs. Let's face it - I have some flaws, albeit them small.

First off, my tail is broken. I broke it when I was young because I chased it too much. It bothered me so much that I couldn't help but chase it and bite it. Now it is broken and most of the time it doesn't even curl unless I am really excited.

My nails are not black like most pugs. I am not sure why this is - sometimes Mom kids me that I am not a real pug. I will not tell you my response to her comment because it is not fit to print. Regardless of the color of my nails, they are for the most part neatly trimmed. Okay, somewhat trimmed.

I don't consider my age to be a flaw, but it defintely prohibits me from competing in shows. I have a lot of gray in my mask because I am old. There I said it. Only young dogs can compete in shows because they haven't aged to perfection yet.

I don't think I would make a good show dog anyway. I like to eat and it shows, doesn't it? A strict diet is not my idea of a good time. I also like my down time. If I were competing, Mom would be driving me from show to show and I would never get my naps in. If I were out with Mom all day long, who would guard the house? I belong at home, in my bed, guarding my people, and eating Popeye's.

If you think the puppy bowl had me glued to the tube, wait until the dog show starts. Tune in tonight at 7:00 pm (CT) on USA Network to see all the action and make sure you watch tomorrow night too. You can root for your dog of choice, like Mom does, but I don't pick favorites. I like all the dogs and I will be happy for the winning dog even if it isn't the pug.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

For the Love of Loggerheads

This article is from the Winter 2009 Defenders of Wildlife magazine. To learn more about sea turtles and the conservation work Defenders of Wildlife is doing, please visit http://www.defenders.org/. My little ocean buddies need all the help they can get so spread the word.

Sea turtles drown by the hundreds every fishing season in Baja, California—but it doesn't have to be that way by Heidi Ridgley

Discovering your life's calling seldom happens with a "Eureka!" moment. But when a 300-pound adult male sea turtle tried to mount Hoyt Peckham while he was underwater filming humpbacks in the South Pacific, the biologist took it as a sign from above—or, in this case, from behind.

"He hit me so hard, I thought, 'This is it—a big shark's got me and it's all over,'" recalls Peckham.

Turns out he—not the turtle, which quickly realized his faux pas—was the one with the date with destiny that afternoon. "Local islanders had been asking me, 'why don't you help us save our turtles instead?' I hadn't given the idea much thought until this turtle demanded my attention," he says.

Almost a decade later and thousands of miles away in Mexico, he is standing on the stern of a small open skiff—called a panga—moving swiftly off the shores of Baja California Sur. Peckham, now director of field research at the binational nonprofit ProPeninsula, is heading toward the zona caguamera—the turtle zone—a hotspot for juvenile loggerheads in the Pacific. In these nutrient-rich waters, loggerheads feed for 35 years—it takes that long for them to reach reproductive age—before they ride ocean currents back to the Japanese shores where they hatched to mate and lay eggs of their own. The problem is that fishing boats also ply these waters and as a result, a catastrophic number of loggerheads, thought to be the world's largest hard-shell turtle, accidentally get caught and drown in fishing nets or die hooked on longline fishing gear.

The blame for sea turtle deaths often falls on fleets of industrial-sized fishing trawlers, like those near Hawaii, where another population of loggerheads spends its juvenile years. But in Mexico, Peckham and his colleagues have found that the cause is exactly the opposite. Local village fishermen in tiny boats with outboard engines kill an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 loggerheads while hand-fishing with longlines and gillnets each season. By contrast, the industrial longline fleets of the Pacific—including those of the United States, Australia, China, Japan and Portugal—kill a total of 1,400 sea turtles a year.

Seeing washed up carcasses was not something Peckham anticipated when he arrived on the Baja peninsula in 2001 to study the turtles—as a biology graduate student at the University of California-Santa Cruz. He also didn't expect he would end up leading a crusade to save them. But that's exactly what has happened.

"I came here to figure out why loggerheads spend so much time here," he says. "I set out to focus on turtle ecology, but I soon realized I couldn't just ignore the by-catch problem. There was no way I could study the nuances of the animals while watching them die. I had to figure out how I could make a difference."

Two bottlenose dolphins swim beside the panga as we make our way into the open ocean on this summer morning. Today's goal is to draw blood from as many turtles as can be caught, with the ultimate goal of getting samples from 25 loggerheads in the coming weeks. If the lab results show the turtles are healthy, as Peckham expects, this will help him refute arguments from local officials that an epidemic may be behind the large numbers of dead turtles washing ashore. "We don't think disease plays a big role because the strandings happen every year at the same time—just when fishing season starts," he says.

The sand dunes we pass along the shore soon give way to mangroves overflowing with nesting frigate birds and cormorants. Then, there is only water as far as the eye can see. We have entered the zone—50 square miles where we will zigzag back and forth all day in the blazing Baja sun, looking for irregular bumps on the surface. As cold-blooded reptiles, sea turtles surface periodically not only to breathe but also to bask in the sun's warmth.

The first creature we encounter here, however, is a sea robin—a small boney fish with no commercial value for fishermen—that floats dead on the surface. When the boat slows, Peckham leans over the side and scoops it up with his hand. "Eighty-eight percent of the loggerheads we do necropsies on have these fish in their stomach," he says, pointing to a gill net—made from very fine mesh—strung a half mile from one buoy to another ahead of us. Although sea turtles normally dine on crustaceans and jellyfish, loggerheads are more likely to eat discarded dead fish for reasons yet unknown and this exacerbates their propensity to get caught in the gillnets. "I think it may just be a case of curiosity killing the cat," Peckham says. "And it's the opposite of what we are used to seeing in the wild—usually scavenger species fare better than others in the face of human activities."

The water is rough, and the choppy surface will make it hard to spot floating turtles. "Our record sighting was from 1.4 kilometers [almost a mile] away but today finding them will take more luck and patience than good eyes," says Peckham, using a taut rope to steady himself as he stands on the bow of the boat. A moment later he goes quiet, motions for the captain to accelerate and dives off the side and after a turtle. It seems at least a minute goes by before his head re-emerges. He is all smiles. The fins-flapping turtle he is holding half out of the water is not nearly as amused.

Once the turtle is heaved aboard the boat, the medical team goes to work. Blood is drawn and the turtle is tagged, weighed (this one is 77 pounds) and scraped free of mussels, barnacles and algae. "It makes them slow," Peckham explains, flicking a tiny crab into the sea. "They really carry an ecosystem on their backs, providing habitat in the open ocean." In fact, this turtle's shell is what gave him away. "I spotted it because I saw fish flashing underneath the water," he says. "A school of yellowtail was feeding around the turtle—probably even off its shell."

After the turtle is gently slipped back into the sea, a full three hours pass before biologist Vladimir de la Toba, from one of the local towns, spots the next one, launches himself overboard, nabs it underwater, steers it upward and holds it up to the others who lug it aboard by the flippers. This one is so covered in algae, it looks like a moss-covered stone in an old-growth forest. While the medical team goes to work, de la Toba lays beside the turtle picking crabs off the shell, while another researcher scrapes off the algae.

The last turtle brought aboard later in the day won't return alive. Voluntarily handed over by local fishermen, it had just drowned in a net. Turtles can hold their breath for about five hours underwater, but not if they're stressed. Then death can come in as little as a half-hour.

On shore, a necropsy shows this turtle was well-fed and healthy. Peckham, who has pulled me to the side, already assumed as much: "The science is already in," he says. "You can cut up a different dead turtle and come up with 50 questions about its biology every time and they'd all be really interesting, valid questions, but we already know what we need to do to protect these turtles. To save them, it's now a matter of political will."

To encourage such action, Peckham partnered with local fishermen to catalog the dead turtles that wash ashore here. Stretching 30 isolated miles, this ocean beach just downwind and down current from the turtle hotspot sees an average of 475 turtle carcasses washed ashore a year—90 percent during the four summer months that coincide with gillnetting, and 95 percent of the turtles are loggerheads. At about one loggerhead every two miles, every day and all summer long, it's the highest worldwide stranding rate ever recorded. On our patrol of the beach the next day, we count four new carcasses that get spray painted and dragged beyond the tide line. "My first summer here in 2002, I was totally unprepared to see so many dead turtles—it was devastating, really," he says. "We reported the data to fishermen and authorities in La Paz but they asked us, 'How do we know you're not making this up?' So we thought, 'We'll just have to prove there's more than one turtle.'"

They selected a spot on the beach to collect all the carcasses and just a few years later some 500 shells and skulls protrude from the sand—at most a quarter of the carcasses that have washed ashore here after drowning in nets and then being thrown overboard. "If you were a fisherman driving this beach in the past, you might have seen one or two a day and not thought much of it—and assumed they were the same carcasses every time," says Peckham. This graveyard paints a more accurate picture. The worst part, says Peckham, is that not one of these turtles—which by their sizes range in ages from 20 to 40—will have reproduced. "Their lives were totally wasted—a total of 15,000 turtle years here, all fruitless."

And those are still just a small portion of the dead. Only a handful of every dozen that are caught and discarded locally ever wash ashore. The rest are carried away by currents or scavenged in the sea. Peckham and his team have tagged many dozens of dead and bloated turtles that come floating past his boat over the years. Of those tagged, very few have ever washed up to rank among the counted.

But as a result of his actions and those of a coalition of groups—including Defenders of Wildlife's Mexico office—in partnership with local fishermen, much progress has been made, including work toward establishing a refuge of Baja's turtle hotspot. Relying on legal protection in this part of Mexico is hard—the peninsula has thousands of miles of lonely coasts and only a few people to police it. "In the United States, it's worked okay to close fisheries," says Peckham. "But to do that you have to have the resources. There are also social and cultural costs when you shut down a way of life."

Peckham, along with colleagues from the Mexican nonprofit Grupo Tortuguero, developed a different approach: connecting with community leaders and local opinion leaders by inviting them to go offshore to catch a turtle, which they show to their kids, who name it—usually after their mom—and see a transmitter get attached before it's released. Their kids can then track it over the Internet. Too often, however, the turtle only makes it a few days—which is what happened to the governor's turtle recently. In town a few days earlier to dedicate a new pier, the governor drove the point home in dramatic style by calling on Peckham to break the news to the crowd about his turtle, which drowned only 11 days after tagging.

Because Peckham and his team couldn't put a transmitter on every turtle—or take out every fisherman in Baja—he connected to fishermen by convening workshops beginning in 2003 to help them understand the global impact of their local by-catch. "All agreed they killed a few a week, no question," says Peckham. "We started a process for them to come up with their own solutions, including testing different hooks, net types and sizes, and avoiding turtle high-use areas."
Peckham also received a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take a few local fishermen to the loggerheads' nesting grounds in Japan. As part of a tri-national exchange that included fishermen from Hawaii, they met local Japanese fishermen who told them how teeming the nesting beaches had been when they were young—Japan's turtle-nesting rate has declined 50 percent to 80 percent across the archipelago. In fact, one beach where 800 nesters were recorded in 1960 saw only one nester in 2000.

As a result of this trip, Efrain de la Paz, one of the most proficient fishermen on the peninsula with a small fleet in the Baja village of Santa Rosa retired his lethal longline fishing gear in 2007—after setting them in Baja waters since 1985—agreeing to use alternate gear. "It became a matter of pride for him: He was embarrassed they were killing more loggerheads than anyone else we know of and that it was so drastically affecting loggerheads back on their nesting grounds in Japan," says Peckham. "His commitment saved 1,000 turtles alone."

With only one in 1,000 loggerheads reaching reproductive age, each juvenile saved is of incredible value to the future population. "Facilitating de la Paz's transformation may have been the greatest contribution of my career," says Peckham. "But it's not my goal to make everyone a turtle lover. It's to help people become better stewards of our oceans."

Friday, February 6, 2009

First Time Dad at 111!

This good looking, young at heart, tuatara is a first time dad at 111. His name is Henry and he has quite a story.

Henry lives at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in New Zealand and has lived there since 1970. He has never shown an interest in sex all these years and has at times been so aggressive that for 15 years he lived in solitary confinement. So why the sudden change?

Henry had a cancerous growth removed from his bottom last year and ever since then he has been, lets say in a very amorous mood. He hooked up with Mildred last March in a very public sex romp that finally proved he was a man. Mildred laid 12 eggs, of which 11 survived and subsequently hatched after 223 days. That's a long incubation period!

Oblivious to the babies, Henry didn't even realize that he finally had his own children. If he had seen the babies they may have ended up as lunch, since tuataras are known to eat their own.
Now that Henry is confident of his mating abilities, he is now living with three females and is expected to hook up with Lucy in April. Good for you mate!

The babies are now on display at the museum, running around and doing well. There are 72 tuatara at the museum, including 44 babies. With ancestors dating back 220 million years, these medium-sized reptiles are endangered and found only in New Zealand.

Tuatara are the only existing member of the Order Sphenodontia, which had many species during the age of the dinosaurs. All the species except the tuartara declined and eventually became extinct some 65 million years ago.

Tuatara are nocturnal and will eat anything they can fit in their mouth. Hmm, sounds a little familiar to me. Adults require very little food and can survive by consuming one quarter of their body weight each year. Um, this does not sound like a good diet for me. They have a pineal eye or 'third eye' on top of their head which acts more like a pineal gland, sensing the length of daylight and darkness.

Male tuatara can weigh up to 3 pounds, with females weighing in at half that. Captive studies indicate that it may take males between 50 - 60 years to reach full size, while it takes females between 20 - 30 years. In captivity, sexual maturity is reached by age 13, though in the wild it is thought to occur between 18 - 20 years.

Mom thought this next fact was especially cool: male tuatara do not have a penis. Why is this cool? Because unlike reptiles, but like birds, fertilization occurs when the male positions his bottom opposite the female. But they are reptiles and not birds, so what gives?

Another really cool fact is that once they lay their eggs, the eggs expand as they develop, sometimes as much as 400% their original size. The eggs are temperature dependent and a typical clutch consists of 5-18 eggs. Females only lay eggs every 4 years and this is a lot like Mom's sea turtles.

I wish that I could visit Henry, his ladies, and the babies. I even wish Mom could but there is no way, none, that Mom could fly that far. Nope. She is still a bad flier even after all these years. I suppose she could fly there, but it would take a long time. First a stop in San Francisco, then a week or two in Hawaii, a stop in Guam, etc. You get the picture. If she leaves today she may be there by St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wednesday Wag Out!

Plastic Bottle T-Shirt

Mom loves anything that can be made from recycled plastic. There is so much plastic in the world that it is a shame that most of it is single use. When Mom found this t-shirt she instantly loved it because it used to be a plastic bottle - well almost half of it did.

Recyled plastic bottles are melted down and then processed to become a fine yarn. This yarn is then blended with organic cotton and viola - this t-shirt is born. The t-shirt is 52% organic cotton and 48% RPET polyester and its maker claims that it is silky soft. These guys even use low impact dyes to print cool messages on the t-shirt. The t-shirt shown says Revenge is..." on the front and "Taking Back Our Country" on the back. Mom liked this message the best, but there are others you can order.This made in the U.S.A. t-shirt is available at www.revengeis.com.


Exfoliating Sugar Scrub

I bet you thought that sugar was just for eating, but you are very wrong. Exfoliation is necessary year round and even more important in winter, so why not use something that smells great and helps the world? Anti-Body Exfoliating Sugar Scrub is available in 3 delicious scents. It provides the perfect exfoliating polish for your skin and it will won't leave you feeling dried out. Not only is this Fair Trade certified, it also uses recyclable packing and it is not tested on animals.

Anti-Body is a truly unique company. They seek out fair trade, ethical ingredients from around the world. By purchasing fair trade ingredients, they work with co-operatives in various countries ensuring an income to local men and women. Co-operatives are all members of the Fair Trade Federation and this ensures that fair trade practices and guidelines are upheld. Purchase some great products from this forward thinking company at http://www.anti-body.com/.


Tarp Hat

This is such a great idea! I know I say that about a lot of things, but lately I have been finding lots of great things. Everyone needs to wear a hat when they are out in the sun, so why not wear a recycled hat? This hat is not only made from recycled material, it also has a story to tell.

The Tarp Hat from The Real Deal tells a story. What kind of story? A story about its prior life lived as a lonely truck tarp. The story reveals its journey throughout Brazil, from the Amazon to Sao Paulo. Their website says it best "So don't take care of this hat, it will take care of you."

Each hat is one of a kind. The hats may have patches, seams, Portuguese writing, and even holes. Sewn by Brazilian villagers, these hats are an example of local craftsmanship. Mom loves the idea of a hat with a history. She is hoping that hers has lots of writing on it, both stamped and hand written, some cool patches in various colors, and some small holes created by overloaded cargo. Um, holes? That won't keep out the sun now will it? Mom is going to tell all the sea turtlers about these hats, so plan on seeing lots of these on the beach this summer. Get yours while you can at www.realdealbrazil.com.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ecofont

Mom loves technology and when she found this last week she knew that everyone would want to know about it. If you want to do your part to help the environment, Ecofont is for you. The best part of all is that you can get it for free.

The people at Spranq Creative Communications came up with Ecofont. They are based in the Netherlands and they hope to increase environmental awareness through Ecofont. Mom is surprised, once again, that no one thought of this before. I had to remind her, again, that someone, somewhere may have thought of it, but maybe they kept to to themselves and didn't want to share it.

The Ecofont is created by omitting parts of the letter. It really kind of looks like swiss cheese, which I love. Even though parts of the letter are omitted, it is still quite visible and usable. I think it looks very modern and Mom thinks it looks groovy baby. Ecofont is eco-friendly because it uses about 15 percent less ink. Less ink usage means that your ink cartridge will last longer.

According to their website, it is based on the Vera Sans, an Open Source letter and it works best for OpenOffice, AppleWorks and MS Office 2007. It works best when using font size 9 or 10. Timeout. Mom never uses anything less than a font size of 12 because she is getting old, so I am not so sure that this is going to work for her. Anyway, if you print on a laser printer (which Mom does not) you will have the best printing results.

Head over to http://www.ecofont.eu/ right now to download the Ecofont. I will let you know how Mom does with the small font size. She may have to squint a lot to use it, but it's worth it. I just hope all the squinting doesn't give her more wrinkles or she will start looking like me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Puppy Bowl V

In between my pre-game nap and the start of the Super Bowl, I watched Puppy Bowl V. I must admit that I was glued to the tv screen watching all the action. I couldn't get enough of it - all those puppies scoring touchdowns, getting penalties, causing fumbles, getting kicked off the field - I loved it all.

It all started with the National Anthem which was sung by Pepper the Parrot. This guy can really sing - I was very impressed. The kitty half-time show had me rolling around on the ground. Those guys were out of control. You guys know I love kitties, but I don't think I could have handled their antics yesterday. The tailgaters looked like they were having the best time of all, hanging out in the parking lot, on their lawn chairs, and in their campers.

All 54 puppies who played in Puppy Bowl V were picked from local shelters and rescue groups. They can all be found at http://www.petfinder.com/. Though most of the puppies are mixed breeds, there were some pure-breeds like Xander, the 14 week old pug pictured below. He's a good looking guy - kind of reminds me of myself when I was that age. I need to have Mom pull out my baby pictures so I can post some of them because I was so cute when I was young. All the girls in the neighbor would stop dead in their tracks when I came walking down the street. I had such a fan club. Oh to be young again!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Greening of the Super Bowl

I love football. I probably watch more football than the average dog and that is because Mom and Dad love football. They differ on their favorite teams, so I am usually stuck in the middle, rooting for both teams. Even though neither of their teams made it to the Super Bowl this year, we are still going to watch the big game with all its hoopla. Tony and Fred are coming over too, so we are having a little party. I wanted Popeyes for the party because it is the perfect party food, Mom wanted pizza (no, really?), Fred didn't care what we ate, and then Dad mentioned that he was thinking about making a ham. A ham? I love ham!

Mom gets very concerned about Super Bowl type events. A lot of waste is usually generated when masses of people come together to for an event. She was very excited to read all about the how the Super Bowl is going green this year. She wasn't going to boycott the game, mind you, but she can sleep better knowing that the right steps are being taken to do some good and to raise awareness about the ever growing climate crisis.

The Philadelphia Eagles launched their Go Green campaign in 2003. It was the first of its kind and it incorporated green initiatives, sustainable business practices and educational programs as its core operating principals. They have a mission to promote the quality of life, green the environment, and improve one's impact on the planet by recycling, using renewable energy resources, neutralizing carbon output, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and planting trees. They have purchased wind power, gave CFL bulbs to their employees, installed solar panels at their training facility, reimburse employees who purchase wind power, and switched from plastic to corn-based food containers. They are proving that green is good not just for the planet but for business. They are they role model for doing the right thing in the NFL and I hope that other teams join in the effort.

The Super Bowl began a recycling program 16 years ago and this year they have expanded into other green initiatives. Their goal is to leave the host community better than they found it and what a lofty goal that is. While the NFL recognizes that all their efforts cannot completely negate the effects of throwing such an event, their initiatives do make a difference. Every little bit helps, right?

So what exactly are they doing? Well, for the first time in Tampa, biomass from plant waste to solar energy will power the stadium on game day and during the NFL Experience. They estimate that they will consume 187,000 kilowatt hours, in comparison with a typical house which uses 15,000 kilowatt hours per year. Pretty impressive. By powering the Super Bowl with renewable energy, they are preventing more than 313,500 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of taking 19 cars off the road for a year. Of course all this 'greening' comes with an increase cost, about $5,000, which the NFL and its sponsors will pay.

Another great thing they are doing is with the help from the U.S. Forest Service and the Florida Division of Forestry, they are planting 2,700 trees at a dozen sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to help offset the game's carbon impact. I love this idea and they are lucky that it is warm enough there to plant trees. I hope they are getting the local community involved in this activity by allowing children and adults to help plant trees. The proud people of Tampa will be able to watch the trees grow and prosper as they grow, knowing that they made a difference.

Food that doesn't make it to buffet tables will be donated to America's Second Harvest of Tampa Bay. they partner with 350 charities and churches to provide food for the needy, and in this tough economy there are more mouths to feed than ever before. The food comes from various Super Bowl parties and includes private events not connected to the NFL or the Host Committee. At the Super Bowl last year, 90,000 pounds of food were donated. Great job!

All the building materials, decorations, office equipment, etc. used in the prepartion of the Super Bowl will be given to nonprofit groups to use or sell for cash. There are rolls of carpeting, signs, and even plants. These goods have a value of more than $300,000 and nonprofits sure can use all the help they can get. I wonder if they have thought about turning signs into reusable shopping bags. Mom would definitely buy one of those.

Local schools have been collecting books and sporting equipment to give to needy children in the Tampa area. This initiative is in its 10 year and each year thousands of books and equipment find there way to children who need them.

I need to get ready for the game. Well, not really, because I don't need a lot of prepping. I just need to get out of Mom's way so that she can clean up all the dog hair. I wonder who it belongs to. Dad is busy cooking already, so he may need my help. I hope you enjoy the big game and no, I am not going to make a predicition. Mom likes Kurt Warner, so she wants Arizona to win. No matter which team wins, the NFL, the Super Bowl, and Tampa are winners today with their great green efforts.