Monday, April 1, 2013

Attenborough, Evolution & Conservation.

I said I'd do one post a week, and this morning I realised that last Monday was my last post. My immediate thought about writing this second post was "What the fuck am I going to write about, nothing interesting has happened!". But as is my norm, I didn't dwell on it too much and figured something would come to me in the next few hours. And it did. As it stands now I have a notepad file open on my laptop with a list of about 4/5 things that I could cover. Not sure I'll cover them all in this post though, as someone said to me not long ago "Think of the reader", in reference to having too much material. So, I'll bear that in mind for today and try not to bore anyone to tears. 

This Easter bank holiday weekend has felt incredibly long. But in a good way. Not sure whether it's because I've done a fair bit or whether it's because work has been a bit mad recently so I was glad of the break, but the 4 day weekend has felt much longer than it was. I'm flying back to the UK on Wednesday night and staying until Sunday, I bet those 4 days will fly by. Am looking forward to the trip home though. In my last post I mentioned that my friend Keri and her husband Jonathan were due their second child soon. And I was overjoyed to get a text from Keri on 28th March to say that they'd had a little boy that morning. He was a very healthy weight, which came as no surprise given late pregnancy checks, but both mother and baby are well, and I'm looking forward to cuddles with the new arrival and a little play time with his big sister next week. Have got a good few other catch ups planned whilst I'm back too, all of which I'm looking forward to. 

Those that know me know that I have a bit of an obsession with David Attenborough. It's a healthy obsession, well, I think so. He's my hero. I love everything he's done and have a lot of them on DVD. Not quite sure when this obsession started. I've always liked nature stuff and I put it down to my paternal granddad. I used to spend a certain amount of time each weekend at my nan and granddad's and I have wonderful memories of being with them. I was very close to them, and lived with them for 6 months at one point, although that's another story, one which I may share in time. I remember watching nature type things on the TV with them, and I think that's what piqued my interest as I grew up. My granddad died suddenly 5 days after my 16th birthday, and we were all understandably devastated. The day after the funeral I received a parcel in the post containing a BBC Nature A3 sized posted of some polar bears. My granddad had sent off for it from the Radio Times for me. It was a bittersweet thing to receive, I loved it because it was from him, but I hated that I couldn't thank him personally for it. I still miss my him, 15 years on. I'm welling up just writing this. 

But, I digress slightly. This weekend there was an Attenborough thing on Sky called Galápagos.
I'm sure we're all aware that it was Charles Darwin's visit to the Galápagos that sparked his research and consequent writing of The Origin of Species. And similarly, I'm sure that most of us realise the the Galápagos islands are a truly unique ecosystem given the specific species that reside there and the relative isolation of the islands. 
But, until watching the programme this weekend I'd never thought about the nuances of life within the archipelago. It seems obvious now, but there are very few land based mammals on the islands, and the majority of wildlife are birds and reptiles. Humans have introduced dogs, cats, goats, donkeys and others to the islands and these are a menace, but that's not my point here. 
The archipelago is located on the equator, approx 600 miles west of Equador. All the islands are volcanic, although most are now extinct. And the vast majority of the animals on the islands came from South America. Sounds simple enough, but 600 miles is a far way to travel when you don't fly or swim. It's thought that most of the reptiles that now inhabit the islands were transported across the sea on rafts of reeds etc that came from the rivers of Equador. Except maybe the Giant Tortoise, which literally may have floated there! But as I said before, it's not exactly a short distance. However, reptiles are hardy little buggers and can go for long periods (weeks, even months) without food, which explains their ability to survive the long journey across the sea. 
Mammals aren't this hardy, and any that may have found themselves adrift on a reed raft would not have survived long, perishing of starvation and dehydration  This means that there are no large mammalian predators on the islands. Which in turn means that the reptiles and birds can devote more time to breeding and raising their young without having to worry about being preyed upon. Because of this, most of the animals on the islands produce more young than others of their kind in other countries. The consequence of this abundant breeding is an escalation in the evolution of the species on the islands. In their isolation the islands really are a bit of a 'natural experiment', but allow us a glimpse of the evolution in action across a rather small area and a relatively short space of time. 

We as humans have added our own destruction to the islands, and the early visitors hunted the Giant Tortoises for food. That and the introduction of goats to Pinta island, resulting in the descration of the vegetation, led to the believed extinction of the Pinta Tortoise. But in 1971 a single male Pinta tortoise was disovered and moved to a conservation facility. This tortoise was given the appropriate moniker of Lonesome George, but despite attempts at a breeding programme he remained lonesome, and on his death in June 2012 the Pinta Tortoise became likely extinct (only likely as there are reports of tortoises that were partially descended from the same species so there may be other Pintas alive). David Attenborough filmed the last ever footage of George, 14 days before his death, as part of the Galápagos series. Lonesome George served to highlight the extent of the effect of humans on the wildlife of the world and he became a bit of a beacon for conservation efforts both within the Galápagos and across the world. 

I could waffle on about this stuff all day as I'm sure you can tell. We have such an abundance of life on the Earth, all of it incredible and I think it's a real shame that we don't do more to assist it. Granted, there are lots of conservation projects globally that make a difference, but there are not enough. All you need to do is to look at the statistics of the ivory trade to see just how badly some of the so called restrictions in place are failing spectacularly, (National Geographic: Ivory Worship). 
Some people may call me hypocritical for harping on about conservation but remaining an omnivore. I'm not going to get into the argument here now, Vegetariansim is a choice and it's one I choose not to do.

I could also break my back, and bank account, donating money to the various projects around the world. I adore Elephants (hebbits), and I foster an elephant from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. They do a massive amount of great work in Africa for elephants and rhinos and I like knowing that my money helps towards this. 

I do of course realise that we as humans are struggling in parts of the world too, in war torn and poverty stricken countries. And yes, things need to be done to improve these situations too. I didn't feel it was right to talk about the conservation of animals without at least referring to the issues of our own species. Although they hold one thing in common, they're the result of us; humans. 

Well, that turned out to be more educational and profound than I intended, but I hope you're all still awake, and have possibly gained a little information from reading this. 

Until next time, take it easy. 


No comments: