IS STILL IN THE NEWS
custom of sitting on walls around a fountain in an upscale area of Philadelphia
is now illegal because residents claimed it promoted smoking pot. Why
would I know this rather unusual information, and what does it have
to do with ecology?
serve as gauges of how noteworthy various issues are to the American
public. Tallying up how many articles reference a specific topic is
one way to quantify the publics level of interest. USA Today
simplifies the job with a section called "State-by-State,
which has a catchy news tidbit for each state. Noting where the emphasis
lies in such news reporting reveals the interests and concerns of people
across the nation. I recently read USA Today over a three-day
period to see how many of the news items involved ecology and the environment.
The number was about 16 percent of the total.
animals mentioned were maned wolves in Arkansas and black rhinos in
Iowa, neither of which are native anywhere within several thousand miles
of these states. Nonetheless, the Little Rock Zoo was proud to publicize
that a maned wolf in captivity had given birth to triplets and that
the pups were doing well.
wolves in the wild live in Brazil and are classified as near threatened
by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. They are the largest
members of the dog family native to South America and look a bit like
a huge red fox but are not closely related to either wolves, foxes or
coyotes. Their decline is attributed to the continuing deforestation
of the region. An interesting trait of maned wolves is that their urine
smells like marijuana, but none have been accused of sitting around
a fountain in Philadelphia.
black rhinoceros making the news was born in Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines.
It became newsworthy to USA Today not because it was a newborn,
since it has been following its mother around for more than three months,
but because it had finally been given a name, Tumani. The Urban Dictionary
says Tumani means hope. Interestingly Tumaini
means the same thing in Swahili.
choice of spelling is suspect since the people who speak Swahili live
in Zimbabwe in East Africa where the few remaining black rhinos in the
wild reside. The IUCN lists the species as critically endangered,
noting that the once wide-ranging species of 850,000 is now estimated
to be fewer than 5,000. The steady decline in numbers is due in great
part to poaching because of an absurd belief in some Asian cultures
that rhinoceros horns have medicinal value and because the horns are
considered by some to be status symbols. The species could potentially
become extinct in the wild while little Tumani is still alive in a zoo.
made the list with a more common species, the white-tailed deer. According
to the entry, numerous hunters in the state have been cited for illegally
baiting deer, which means they put out corn to lure deer to a site during
hunting season. Hunting over bait, as the practice is known,
is legal in some states but not in Alabama. Those arrested had fallen
victim to believing false reports that wildlife officials had lifted
the ban on baiting deer. I wonder if they will be allowed to check their
Facebook accounts while in jail?
news items were about a proposal to protect killer whales off Washingtons
coast from increasing threats of being killed or injured by boats, an
increase of more than a half million visitors to Glacier National Park
in Montana from 2015 to 2016, and attempts in Michigan to prevent environmentally
destructive Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Issues involving
ecology and the environment can no longer be discussed around that fountain
in Philadelphia, but it is comforting to know that they are still viewed
as significant topics for many people.
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