Conservation: February 2011 Archives

Tasmanian Devils

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Taz.jpgThe Tasmanian devil is a bearlike marsupial native to Australia. It is the size of a small dog. Young are called joeys, imps or pups. They were killed until the 1990s because they were seen as a threat to sheep and other livestock. Occasionally a pack of tasmanian devils would eat a weak sheep. So, in 1923 alone, 900,000 devils were killed.

At Lake Nitchie, a 7000-year-old human skeleton was found wearing a devil's-tooth necklace. This was mistakenly interpreted to mean that Aboriginal Australians killed off the Tasmanian devil in mainland Australia. But there is no evidence that the Aboriginal Australians ate any carnivorous animal, so it is unlikely that hunting caused the extinction. 
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Their closest relative is the thylacine, which looks like a dog. It is now extinct. The thylacine, like the Tasmanian devil, was accused of hunting livestock and a bounty was given out by the government for each thylacine killed. No attempts were made to save even the last wild thylacine. They were only protected 59 days before the last captive thylacine died. 

Even though populations of Tasmanian devils in the wild are slowly growing again, unfortunately a disease has been among them and they are having to quarantine most healthy specimens. Despite their name, Tasmanian devils can be very cute (like the one above), and we want to save them. (They are not normally considered "nice," but they are only following their instincts.) So now it's time to watch some Taz cartoons!

Why Chimps Are Intelligent

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Chimpanzees are great apes with dark fur. They are the closest relatives to humans, and have almost as much mental capacity. 

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They use a wide variety of tools: from primitive ones, such as grasses or sticks for catching termites, to advanced tools like branches, sharpened with their teeth and used to spear a bushbaby or a squirrel out of a tree. Chimps are also quite refined and use napkins (in other words, leaves). 

Here are some stories that prove chimps are more intelligent than we give them credit for:

A chimpanzee named Peter was sitting quietly in a zoo one day when some paint, brushes, and canvas showed up in his enclosure. So he painted a few paintings. Then a man named "Dacke" Axelsson picked the four best, and exhibited them in the museum under the name "Pierre Brassau." There were mixed responses: "Brassau paints with powerful strokes but also with clear determination" or the more critical "Only an ape could have done this." For the full story, check Wikipedia's article on Pierre Brassau

Once a chimp, named Nim Chimpsky, was taught to use sign language. At ten days, he was taken from his ape family for research. He was quoted carefully: "Apple me eat. " "Eat grape eat Nim." "Play me Nim play." "Finish hug Nim." His longest quotation was written as "Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you." Unfortunately, smart little Nim was transferred from his human family and ended up at a medicine company, and later in Black Beauty Ranch in Texas. 

Bonnie the orangutan (who lives at the National Zoo) suddenly began whistling, after seeing her zookeeper do it. It is reported that she only does it because she likes to hear it, not because it might earn her a reward. Click here to listen to Bonnie whistle.

Unfortunately, chimps for circus acts and television commercials, like in the CareerBuilder Super Bowl ad, often are mistreated. Several people, I was pleased to see, were arguing over whether it was fair or not to use chimps in ads. Watch the commercial: the use of chimpanzees is rather unnecessary. 

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Conservation category from February 2011.

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