Tag Archives: Nature Conservation

Kill all snakes and frogs!

Are we  clowns?

32% of amphibians; 24% of birds and 12% of mammals are in threat of extinction. Hundreds of these offer potential in medical science and in food improvements but even with that going for them we are still not unduly exercised by this reality. We are indeed fools.

Bushmaster snakes from South America kill in an interesting manner – their venom drops the blood pressure of their victims to zero. But the same venom hold potential in the manufacture of blood pressure medication.

The poison in Panamanian Poison Frogs offer possibility in alleviating heart conditions. One scorpion may prove useful in the production of molecules to fight brain tumours.

There are about 600 species of cone snails. Only six have been studied in any detail. Those who suffer from epilepsy should know that the poison in the dart that they inject into their prey  offers hope for this ailment. Yet we destroy the mangrove swamps that they need: why do we destroy them? We do it  to create shrimp farms.

Yes we are indeed clowns.

At this stage we need nothing less than a world conservation ethic  that millions of people in dozens of countries would experience  a wake-up call that all of us need to come together to stem this loss of species – even if it is only for our own selfish reasons.

We are indeed fools if we continue to allow this draining away of potential into extinction.


Loss of Wonderment.


In a rainforest in Queensland, Australia, in about 1980 a small frog sat on a stone in a wet place. She had conspicuously protruding eyes. At a casual glance there was little beyond that that would catch the interest of a passer-by. Except for one thing. She had been given the extraordinary name of gastric-brooding frog. How could anyone conjure-up such a name! Come on!

This frog, with no notable colouration, however, had one little trick that said she was important.

Frog’s eggs, tadpoles and babies suffer from high predation. So what is a frog to do to protect her brood? This species evolved an astonishing process to give her youngsters their best chance of survival. She laid her eggs and the male fertilized them in the normal way of frogs. Then she did an unbelievable thing – she ate them all up – like Goldilocks eating the baby bear’s porridge.

So where’s the great plan in all of that? Eating your own eggs to prevent Great Diving Beetles from doing the same seems – well – a bit dumb. It’s as though mum hadn’t quite joined up all the dotted lines to come up with a workable solution. 

When food slips down into the stomach – acids break it up into nutrients – but in this frog’s case the eggs secrete a chemical that protects them from the corrosive digestive juices. The developing tadpoles and the resultant baby frogs, still in the mother’s stomach, also produce the same protective shield. And when mum frog judges the time to be right she regurgitates and spits out her brood of tiny children, one by one, to take their chances in the great world outside.

And there is another consideration here – usefulness – to us. In the USA alone up to 25 million Americans suffer from peptic ulcers; a painful condition. Could the chemical shield produced by the eggs of this frog lead to the discovery of a drug that would be a cure for this painful human condition? Scientists started to work on this possibility. Then all research stopped. Why? Because sometime in the early 1980s the gastric-brooding frog became extinct. It had taken millions of years of evolution to create this chemical – and now it had disappeared with the disappearance of this frog. 

There were two different species of gastric-brooding frog. Both have become extinct. the reason is not clear. Fungal infection and damage to the bits of rainforest they needed may have been part of the cause.

That a small frog managed to evolve such a process is far beyond our understanding. We can only drop down into silence at the mystery of it all. 

In her going we have lost one more wonder from our world.

China and Japan going to war?


I note that the dispute between these two countries over several small islands is escalating.

We have learned repeatedly from history that brinkmanship can, on the back of some small incident, cascade a dispute into unintentional outright warfare. It would be a tragedy if this were to happen yet again and young men and women were sent out once more to kill each other – over what – a few small islands! And on the wider world picture will the USA be drawn into this issue? And what attitude will Korea (North or South) take towards this difficulty close to them?

Both China and Japan need help to draw back from this dispute without either losing face.

The solution does not necessarily have to be left to politicians, which in the end can easily fail to achieve a peaceful outcome. We have learned that too from history.

But what if we, citizens of the world, in our hundreds of thousands, and indeed in numbers greater than that, were to partition both countries to agree that the disputed islands and the surrounding seas should be turned into a national park to be run jointly by both countries or under the management of the United Nations? 

This would lance the boil of ‘ownership’ and allow these two fine countries to remain at peace.

We could achieve this up-welling of world opinion towards such a solution and succeed in persuading both countries towards this compromise – provided we join our voices in sufficient numbers to make this peaceful outcome for these islands inevitable.

If reading this and are in agreement with the sentiment expressed, you might wish to re-tweet and re-blog to others this idea and that they in turn would be encouraged to contact others still to generate a chain reaction around the world towards this cause – would that not be a noble thing that all of us would have engaged in? China and Japan – and wildlife too would benefit from this effort from all of us.  

Together such an opinion expressed by great numbers of people could make the difference by allowing these two countries to see a practical alternative to war.



The alligator in a Florida swamp.


The alligator turned like a compass needle. It pointed its barely-above-water eyes at the bow of the canoe. The canoe glided between the flooded trunks of cypress trees and into the lemon water of the main channel.The alligator was not a ‘big-un’ as alligators go, but it was big enough for a boy to tell his dad – ‘Saw a huge ‘gator today pop.’

Size did not bother the alligator. He did not know what size meant. He knew strength. He respected strength. Twice he had been defeated by the strength of the green alligator with the one eye. Yes, he respected strength but he never made a linkage between size and strength. You simply went at it as best you could, and if it came back at you worse than you could give – then you backed off.

The alligator eyed the canoe again. . . . 

(Extract from the book – Planet Dancing.)


Three cheers for the little guys!


At first I found it difficult to see them. Then … there they were. Like tiny garden snails rafting together in little groups of a dozen or more. I was down on my knees leaning out over a sulphur-rich spring in Banff National Park in Canada. 

According to the experts in the park there are only five known populations of these snails in existence.

A really big guy in the world of these snails would be no larger than a pea. But conservation is not just about protecting the big and the conspicuous. Little fellows too should have a place in our hearts!

(Extract from the book  – Planet Dancing.)



Ancient Eyes in the Surf


Some years ago I spent a wonderful ten days on an island nature reserve in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the first time that I saw horseshoe crabs. Everything about them spoke of ‘ancient’. Indeed they have been around for over three hundred and fifty million years.

But in the world of these horseshoe crabs there is now a problem; they are harvested for a property in their blood. Their blood is strange in that it is copper based. Scientists utilize this property to test for the presence of bacteria.

In the past these crabs were harvested in their millions for processing into animal feed and fertilizer.

Horseshoe crabs still come into the shallows of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico – but in far fewer numbers now. 

(Extract from the book – Planet Dancing.)

Extract from Planet Dancing



Should we not shed our concerns about extinctions? From the time of the green algae all species have fought for dominance. All are locked together – the winner taking all in the Olympic Games of the Genes. If what we do is no more than a process of nature – why hide it? Should we not shout out our success? Why don’t we stand up and roar our triumph into the faces of clouded leopards?

(An extract from the book – Planet Dancing.)