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Fake flipper sought for sea turtle
By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press WriterThu Feb 28, 7:45 AM ET
When tourists found a 5-inch green sea turtle bloody and missing three of her flippers, the people who run a hospital for the endangered animals here gave her little chance of survival.
But the turtle persevered, thanks to injections of antibiotics and a forced diet of squid. Somehow, she swam with just one flipper, even though she can only move in counterclockwise circles and has to push her now 10-pound body off the bottom with her head to breathe.
“The wounds have healed very nicely. The problem is she doesn’t swim very well,” said Jeff George, curator at the nonprofit Sea Turtle Inc., a 31-year-old turtle conservation facility that treats and returns injured sea turtles to the wild.
Now, her caregivers hope to make her what’s believed to be the first sea turtle fitted with a prosthetic flipper.
Three-flipper turtles can return to the sea and two-flipper turtles can survive in captivity. But those left with only one after predator attacks or run-ins with boat propellers are usually killed.
Allison, named for the daughter of one of the tourists who found her, was spared because an intern begged for a chance to nurse her back to health the summer she was found. Since then, Allison has adapted and grown to normal size for her age.
“With Allison, from the day she arrived, she was a fighter,” said Lucia Guillen, the nonprofit’s resident biologist and educator.
But because an Atlantic green sea turtle like Allison can grow to 450 pounds and live a century or so, her long-term prognosis with only one flipper is not promising.
“She would be destined to shallow water for the rest of her life and that becomes a quality-of-life issue,” George said.
That’s when they got the idea for a kind of bionic turtle.
A group of veterinary and medical professionals — including an assistant professor at the world-renowned University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the UT Dental Branch in Houston — have volunteered to help fit a prosthetic flipper to her left rear side.
She has a small bony stump there that could help hold a fake flipper, while making it difficult for her to use her clamping jaw to rip it off. Allison may have been the victim of a shark attack.
University of Texas’ Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay plans to develop a prosthetic using the same kind of silicon she uses to create facial prosthetics for humans. Her dental expertise helps because the kind of tiny hardware used in dental implants are probably the best size match for Allison’s bones.
Kiat-amnuay plans to use the same technique she would to create a prosthetic nose or ears for a human patient.
She’ll use sculpting wax and molds created from a dead turtle’s flipper and then custom fit one for Allison. The silicon, now only tested in saliva, will be tested in sea water to make sure it holds up, she said.
Kiat-amnuay said she even plans to hand color the fake to match Allison’s natural flipper.
The first trial flipper could be ready within a few weeks, though Kiat-amnuay and Sea Turtle Inc.’s veterinary director are still figuring out how to attach it.
It may seem silly going to so much trouble for a turtle, but Allison would not be the first animal to get a prosthetic replacement. At least two dolphins, one in Japan and one in Florida, have successfully been fitted for prosthetic body parts.
Kiat-amnuay said part of the appeal is being the first to do so.
“It will be interesting and it will be fun,” she said. And “if you’re able to work on her, you may be able to apply it and work on more turtles.”
Guillen, who initially thought Allison should be put down, said the work on her now might help others, especially because sea turtles missing even a single flipper are far less likely to successfully reproduce.
“If we can do something for other turtles, then keeping her alive is worthwhile,” said Guillen. “We’re hoping we can accomplish something with Allison that will benefit other turtles.”
On the Net:
Sea Turtle Inc.: http://www.seaturtleinc.com
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Posted by Frank - February 28, 2008
Note from Frank -
These photos from National Geographic News and the accompanying article are sobering and graphic and sad.
Our work for conservation of ecosystems has to include not only understanding biology and our love for amphibians and reptiles, but also an understanding of the history and sociology of cultures in relation to the all the living things on our earth - we have to combat the superstitions of significant numbers of people on our planet (including in our own countries) about the relationship of all animals to humans…
If only people could learn to accept all forms of life on the earth for what they are: Individual living things whose survival is dependent on all other living things, and then respect them for that individuality - then we might come to realize how much our fellow creatures can offer us, just by existing, to provide insights into finding ways to prevent disease, enhance health and understand a little bit more about our lives and the world we share.
|Trade in rare animal parts is thriving despite recent attempts to crack down on the wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. Warning: graphic images.|
Posted by Frank - February 28, 2008
By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer
Spotted salamanders, poison dart frogs and other color-splashed amphibians will leap aboard a Noah’s Ark of sorts this week.
The Wildlife Conservation Society has pledged its continuing participation in the Amphibian Ark, a global initiative to save hundreds of critically endangered amphibians from extinction through captive breeding in zoos.
On Leap Day, as part of the Amphibian Ark mission, the WCS’s Bronx Zoo, the New York Aquarium and other city zoos will raise awareness of the plight of amphibians as they welcome the 2008 Year of the Frog.
At least 120 species of frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians have perished since 1980, and up to half of the remaining 6,000 species may soon succumb to extinction, according to WCS.
Habitat loss, climate change, pollution and diseases have all contributed to the dwindling amphibians.
Many species are already benefiting from the safe-nest of WCS zoos. For instance, zoos have bred hundreds of the Kihansi spray toad, a species that is considered extinct in the wild. The tiny toad, whose body is under an inch long, was once found only in an isolated river gorge in Tanzania where fine mist from cascading falls kept away predator safari ants and kept the habitat at a nearly constant temperature.
Other slimy stars, such as the endangered Puerto Rican crested toads and Wyoming toads, have been released back into the wild after successful zoo breeding.
Copyright 2008, Life Science.com all rights reserved.
Posted by Frank - February 28, 2008
Python eats Australian family dog
Wed Feb 27, 9:34 AM ET
A 16-foot python stalked a family dog for days before swallowing the pet whole in front of horrified children in the Australian tropics, animal experts said Wednesday.
The boy and girl, ages 5 and 7, watched as the scrub python devoured their silky terrier-Chihuahua crossbreed Monday at their home near Kuranda in Queensland state.
Stuart Douglas, owner of the Australian Venom Zoo in Kuranda, said scrub pythons typically eat wild animals such as wallabies, a smaller relative of the kangaroo, but sometimes turn to pets in urban areas.
“It actively stalked the dog for a number of days,” Douglas said.
“The family that owned the dog had actually seen it in the dog’s bed, which was a sign it was out to get it,” he added.
“They should have called me then, but (the snake) got away and three or four days later, I was called and went around and removed it” after the dog had been killed, Douglas said.
By the time Douglas arrived, all that could be seen of the dog was its hind legs and tail.
The zoo manager, Todd Rose, said pythons squeeze their prey to death before swallowing it whole. The 5-year-old dog would have been suffocated within minutes.
“The lady who was there threw some plastic chairs at the snake, but you’ve got to remember that this is about 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of aggressive muscle,” Rose said.
Removing the half-swallowed dog could have harmed or even killed the python, Rose said, because dogs have sharp teeth and claws that could do the snake internal damage if it were wrenched out.
The snake was still digesting the dog at the zoo Wednesday. It will soon be relocated to the bush, Douglas said.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Note from EcoSnake - While it is sad and unfortunate for the fate of the dog, scrub pythons are native to Australia and with respect to wildlife in our neighborhoods, “when we leave our house, we are going into their house.” From my perspective in the US, the Australian Wildlife folks are to be commended for releasing the python back into the wild…here a wild animal in a similar situation probably would be put down.
Posted by Frank - February 27, 2008
February 27, 2008 09:50 AM - , Organic Consumers Association
While we have fixated on our little local worries over the past week, the biggest news story of the year passed unnoticed in the night. The Brazilian government was forced to admit that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest has returned to ecocidal levels. An area the size of Belgium, taking thousands of years to evolve, was destroyed in the past year alone. Some 20 per cent of the forest has now been trashed, with a further 40 per cent set to be slashed in my lifetime. This is steadily happening to all the rainforests on earth.
Anti-ageing substance found in bullfrogs: researchers
Mon Feb 25, 11:58 PM ET
While it only turns into a handsome prince in fairy tales, the homely bullfrog may harbour a valuable anti-ageing substance for humans, South Korean researchers say.
A team led by Professor Kim Se-kwon of Pukyong University in Busan says it isolated a peptide with antioxidant properties from bullfrog skin.
Because of the properties, the material is useful in removing free radicals — molecules that hasten the ageing process of human cells.
Alpha-tocopherol, also known as Vitamin E, is traditionally considered as the most active antioxidant in humans and widely used in medicines and health supplements.
But its price keeps rising because of surging world demand.
“The new sustance can provide an economic alternative to tocopherol,” Kim told AFP Tuesday, referring to another antioxidant. The team’s discovery was published by Bioresource Technology, an international journal, last year.
“Because it is water-soluble, the substance may be consumed in much more diverse ways than the oil-soluble tocopherol. You may put it in soft drinks, for example,” he said.
The newly found material is also 10 percent more efficient than tocopherol in curbing oxidisation, he added.
Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.
Posted by Frank - February 26, 2008
Burmese rock python - Native of Southeast Asia. Click on the picture to view the caption on Flickr.
Pythons could squeeze lower third of USA
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
As climate change warms the nation, giant Burmese pythons could colonize one-third of the USA, from San Francisco across the Southwest, Texas and the South and up north along theVirginia coast, according to U.S. Geological Survey maps released Wednesday.
The pythons can be 20 feet long and 250 pounds. They are highly adaptable to new environments.
Two federal agencies — the USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — are investigating the range of nine invasive snakes in Florida, concerned about the danger they now pose to endangered species. The agencies are collecting data to aid in the control of these populations.
They examined Burmese pythons first and, based on where they live in Asia, estimated where they might live here. One map shows where the pythons could live today, an area that expands when scientists use global warming models for 2100.
“We were surprised by the map. It was bigger than we thought it was going to be,” says Gordon Rodda, zoologist and lead project researcher. “They are moving northward, there’s no question.”
Burmese pythons were introduced to the USA as part of the pet trade. The first specimens in the wild were discovered in the mid-1990s in the Florida Everglades, released by owners who no longer wanted them, says Skip Snow, a wildlife biologist with the National Parks Service in the Everglades.
By 2003, there was evidence the snakes had established breeding colonies in the wild. Florida began regulating their sale and ownership Jan. 1.
If federal officials had to worry only about Florida, it would be “decades” before the pythons move into other states, Rodda says. But people keep dumping pythons they don’t want into the wild. “We just learned about some that had been released in Arkansas,” he says.
The Burmese python is not poisonous and not considered a danger to humans. Attacks on humans have involved pet owners who mishandle and misfeed the snakes, Snow says. In Florida, they eat bobcats, deer, alligators, raccoons, cats, rats, rabbits, muskrats, possum, mice, ducks, egrets, herons and song birds. They grab with their mouth to anchor the prey, then coil around the animal and crush it to death before eating it whole.
If you see one, don’t attempt to engage it. Leave the area, note the location and notify the authorities.
Posted by Frank - February 21, 2008
Note from Frank: We are facing serious problems caused by global warming and there are serious problems with invasive and non-native species being introduced into the wild - This article side-steps real solutions to those problems with thinly veiled propaganda (See preceding photo and story about “A Proper Gander.”)
February 20, 2008 09:58 AM - WWF
Key members of a smuggling ring trading tiger skins and bear parts into China will face trial in March after a 6 month operation in which WWF and TRAFFIC provided technical assistance to customs, police and navy officials in the Russian far east. About 900 paws of brown and , 4 tiger skins, more than 60 kilos of tiger bones and 531 saiga horns, valued at more than $US 200,000 were seized in three joint seizures by customs, police and navy services.
A message for all of us who care so much about amphibians and reptiles and all living creatures….Whether the issue is global warming or working to save endangered species or helping people understand that they need not fear snakes or working to help everyone comprehend that we are all part of ecosystems and that what happens to one of us happens to all …
James Thurber reminds us, in this story that all we want to do for wildlife and peace begins with tolerance, education and understanding…
“A Proper Gander”
by James Thurber:
“Not so very long ago there was a very fine gander. He was strong and smooth and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children. One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing remarked, “There is a very proper gander.” An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost. “They said something about propaganda,” she said. “I have always suspected that, ” said the rooster, and he went around the barnyard next day telling everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more than likely a hawk in gander’s clothing. A small brown hen remembered a time when at a great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest. “They were up to no good,” she said. A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything. “He said to hell with the flag, too,” said the duck. A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great deal like a bomb. Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander’s house. He was strutting in his front yeard, singing to his children and his wife. “There he is!” everybody cried. “Hawk-lover! Unbeliever! Flag hater! Bomb thrower!” So they set upon him and drove him out of the country. Moral: Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country.”
(Source: James Thurber, Fables for Our Time. New York, 1940.)
Posted by Frank - February 19, 2007