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  • Fake-umentary? BBC and Frozen World

    By Mark Carnall, on 15 December 2011

    Another quick post, many of you may have seen the news coverage about a sequence showing polar bear cubs in the BBC’s excellent Frozen Planet documentary that was filmed in a zoo, not in the wild. The footage has been called out as being misleading and the authenticity of some snow has also been called into question. It’s hard to pick out whether this is grabbing media attention because the Beeb has its fair share of enemies in the press or whether viewers are genuinely outraged. The BBC has posted this video showing BBC bosses defending the sequence. The Telegraph has this to say about it, posted here for balance. (more…)

    Ecology or exploitation?

    By Jack Ashby, on 15 December 2011

    Ecology or exploitation?Is ecotourism an answer to local environmental and biodiversity conservation?

    That’s the latest question on our iPads for the QRator project. Have you ever done any ecotourism? How did it feel – was there an element of exploitation or did you feel it was doing good? (more…)

    Conservation in China? It’s hard to be hopeful

    By Jack Ashby, on 14 December 2011

    Last night I went to one of the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) excellent Wildlife Conservation Series. It was a series of short talks from conservation scientists working in China, under the heading “Conservation in China: Unique Challenges or Global Lessons?

    Simply mentioning conservation and China in the same breath regularly causes people with an interest in the environment to raise their hackles. China is a land of staggering numbers; 1.3 billion people; 10 million square kilometres (and yet one of the highest population densities of any country); and only 23 Hainan gibbons. In a place where national parks are managed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Construction, the human population is a huge sink for traded wildlife, however rare (for pets, food and Traditional Chinese Medicines) and with natural resources under so much stress from development, how can wildlife be expected to survive? Last night we were told that in the Great Leap Forward 10% of the country’s trees were felled in a month. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Nine

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 12 December 2011

    Scary MonkeyWell now my dedicated and trusted readers (I choose to believe that you exist in this format), I am currently in sunny Mexico trampling across Mayan and Aztec ruins, filling my brain with more knowledge than its natural capacity, and hopefully chasing a spider monkey troop or two.

     

    I do not want you to feel as though I have abandoned you in a capricious bout of neglect and so I have found a most genius way to make you feel as though you are still with me. Our specimen of the week is a Mexican species and I promise that if I should be lucky enough to see one, I will take a snapshot for you and post it here upon my return for your much sought approval. This week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

    Why I like cryptozoologists – an UnConventional view

    By Jack Ashby, on 17 November 2011

    Big Foot crossing I am very fond of cryptozoologists. I’m not one myself, but I think they are great. I spent Saturday at the Fortean Times’ annual symposium, UnConvention 2011. This is a weekend of talks about all things paranormal, organised by the magazine Fortean Times (The World of Strange Phenomena), but cryptozoology is the reason I went. Well, the reason I went is because two dear friends of the Grant Museum were speaking and I rarely get to see them. One is Richard Freeman, Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology (the world’s largest professional cryptozoological organisation) and the other is Brian Regal, an academic historian of science interested in the relationship between science and pseudo-science and the history of Big Foot.

    Cryptozoology, for those who don’t know, is the study of hidden animals, or cryptids. The bread and butter of it is animals unknown to science like yetis, sasquatch and Nessie; but also includes animals that are considered extinct, like thylacines; and animals beyond their normal ranges, like big cats on Dartmoor. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Four!

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 November 2011

    Scary MonkeyWelcome to the 100th UCL Museums and Collections blog post!!! What an honour! I shall definitely be sharing a wine with scary monkey (see left) later on and he says he gives you all permission to leave work early for the momentous occasion. When you first start writing a weekly blog you suddenly become very aware of time and more to the point, how quickly it whips by! Already it is week four of the new specimen of the week blog. Someone pointed out yesterday it was only seven weeks until the new year. Frightening!

     

    Anywho, this week I have decided to choose one of my most favourite animals to tell you about. It is one of the largest species of the group to which it belongs and famous for its weird appearance. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    A minute’s silence for the Vietnamese Javan rhino

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 25 October 2011

    Skull of a Javan rhinoDear readers,

    It is with a very heavy heart that I bring you the news that the second subspecies of Javan rhino, the Vietnamese Javan rhino, has been driven to extinction thanks to poachers. The third subspecies, the Indonesian Javan rhino, is now the last remaining representative of this entire species. The loss of the population in Vietnam is called a local extinction for the species and means that Vietnam has now lost all of its rhinos. A sad loss of heritage for the people.

    The last individual was found dead, with a bullet hole in its leg and its horn removed.

    Rhino horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, it is made of keratin, the same material as your finger nails and has been repeatedly scientifically proven to have no medicinal value whatsoever. The rhinos are dying for nothing. (more…)

    Firing cannons at birds

    By Jack Ashby, on 30 June 2011

    Natural history has always been a field largely populated by amateurs. This is one of its biggest strengths. Without the passion and interest of millions of people worldwide it would be very hard to get anything done – both politically and financially. And by referring to people as amateurs I’m certainly not suggesting that they can’t also be experts.

    Ringing a bar-tailed godwit

    Ringing a bar-tailed godwit

    Hard-core natural historians regularly fall into one of three groups – birders, mammal-tickers and herpos (those obsessed with reptiles and amphibians). A common trend among them (though not true of all members of each group) is the desire to “tick off” as many species as they can, and create a nice long list of everything they have seen. (more…)

    Cows and cremation – fighting fire with fire

    By Jack Ashby, on 20 June 2011

    In my last post I begun to talk about the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s ecologists that I have joined for a month in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. It’s the dry season here and while most of the land isn’t underwater the annual ecological trapping survey is underway.

    This involves trapping small mammals, lizards, snakes and frogs and doing bird and vegetation surveys to assess what lives in various different habitats here. A couple of major investigations are underway – the purpose isn’t just to create a list of residents. About half of the reserve has had cattle removed from it (because of seemingly bizarre land-leasing laws this conservation NGO is technically required to run their wildlife sanctuary as a cattle station), and one question is to ask what impact that has on the ecology. It’s easy to predict that the many small mammals that rely on grass seed would be affected by these massive grazers, and this is what the data are suggesting. (more…)

    Journey to find and save the world’s rarest primates

    By Lottie E Davis, on 1 June 2011

    The ‘Journey to find and save the world’s rarest primates’ event provided an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to come together and celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity, as well as the International Year of Forests. Organised by gibbonologist Helen Chatterjee, UCL Genetics, Evolution and the Environment, the evening sought to raise the profile of the Hainan gibbon, the world’s rarest primate. The Save the Gibbons website provides details on the problem and ways which we can all help. (more…)