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Random, why not?

Paying attention to politics angries up my blood.  Watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on hulu.com helps a little bit.  Now that the conventions are over, maybe I'll stop thinking about it for a little while.

I just read this news story.  The gist of it is that one guy is complaining that the local game and wildlife service (of Pennsylvania) didn't respond to his calls about an emu on the loose.  First, that's stupid.  Emus in North America are livestock.  Call animal control.  Second, as a footnote in the story, the police eventually responded to the situation and did what police seem to do every time they are confused.  They tasered the emu.  Yes, you read that correctly, faced with a large, loose, exotic animal, the cop shot the animal full of painful electricity.  Good going!  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, the emu dropped dead rather than running headlong into traffic or civilians or something.  Does nobody own a fucking net?  Whatever happened to dogcatchers and their big nets?  Can we put a moratorium on police taser use until they stop using them on animals and nonviolent protesters?

Here's a kind of cool story.  In an certain zoo's animal hospital, it was noticed that some of the poison dart frogs were getting thin.  Upon close observation, the frogs were targeting and striking, but not capturing the prey (wingless fruit flies).  One vet, a herpetology specialist, had the idea that a vitamin deficiency could be the cause.  The mucus-secreting cells on a frog's tongue are adversely affected by a lack of vitamin A.  The tongue becomes less sticky, so that the prey does not stick to it.  After a topical application of vitamin A supplement, the dart frogs were able to successfully catch their prey.

In other interesting zoo animal news, the world's heaviest flying bird (a bit heavier than a wild turkey and about tied with the mute swan) is the kori bustard of sub-Saharan Africa.  It needs large territories away from humans in order to survive, so expanding human populations and the encroachment of agriculture is threatening its survival.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that its feathers are highly prized for the bizarre hobby of fly-tying.  This is a craft wherein bits of feather are cut and and shaped and affixed to a hook, to mimic the appearance of a flying insect that lives near fresh water.  Sometimes these are even used in an attempt to catch fish, or lure tourists to Montana.  (I kid; even my writing hero David Quammen puts on rubber pants and wades into freezing water in an attempt to snag trout with an artificial caddisfly.)  These hobbyists will pay obscene amounts of money for their desired feathers.  Hunters and poachers in Africa are all too willing to kill bustards to satisfy the market for their feathers.  Part of the Species Survival Program for the kori bustard is an attempt to flood the market with cheap or free feathers to whomever wants them--a donation is asked for, but that's all.  There are about 150 kori bustards in captivity around the world.  Hopefully they can help protect the species from this peculiar source of predation.

On a personal note, Alexis and I have been doing more fantasy home shopping, but strangely they've all been in the same area.  Hmmmm...

Today was probably the last hot day of the year.  I celebrated by getting sweaty and filthy at work.


EDIT:  One last political note.  Earlier this week I made a flip joke about Hillary supporters voting for the Dark Side because of the VP pick over there happens to share their anatomy.  An old classmate of mine has made buttons (and stickers and shirts?) that cleverly refute the assumption that women would do such a thing.









Blue poison dart frog Dendrobates azureus

Found only in the rainforests of the South American nation of Suriname, this frog was unknown until 1968. Wild poison dart frogs get their skin toxins from their diet of tiny jungle insects--captives fed on fruit flies and crickets remain sadly harmless.

This individual is in holding (off-exhibit) for the time being in the Children's Zoo.

More information about this species: http://www.rosamondgiffordzoo.org/animals_gallery.asp?id=62

On this day in 365 urban species: Jewelweed.

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