It’s Thanksgiving, let’s talk about turkeys

President George H.W. Bush was the first to formally pardon a turkey, on November 14, 1989.  He sent the turkey to Frying Pan Park , a heritage farm in Herndon, Virginia. A new tradition had been formalized, growing on from a long history of turkeys being offered as presents to the White House.

Beginning in 1873 during Grant’s presidency, a Rhode Island man named Horace Vose was responsible for “selecting with the utmost care” the “noblest gobbler in all that little state” for the President’s Thanksgiving dinner. In 1947, the National Turkey Federation started delivering a 47-pound bird in time for the Christmas holiday. While Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower ate their birds, tales of spared turkeys date back to the Lincoln days.  Lincoln’s son Tad, the story goes, begged his father to write out a presidential pardon for the bird meant for the family’s Christmas table. In 1963, President Kennedy, on what was to be his last Thanksgiving, sent the turkey back to the farm where it came from.

This year, President Obama pardoned “Popcorn” and his buddy “Caramel,” two turkeys raised in Badger, Minnesota by John and Joni Burkel and their five kids. The Burkels trained the two turkeys to remain calm when picked up or facing noise and people.

President Obama pardons "Popcorn" the turkey, 2013. Chip Somodevilla / Getty

President Obama pardons “Popcorn” the turkey, 2013. Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Pardoning turkeys seems like a feel-good story.  What could go wrong? Sarah Palin, who was Governor of Alaska, pardoned a turkey at Triple D Farm & Hatchery outside Wasilla. She had been a vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 election and the news crews were hot on her trail.

Alaska turkey farmer Anthony Schmidt presents a turkey for pardon, 2008

Alaska turkey farmer Anthony Schmidt holds the pardoned turkey, 2008.

“This was neat,” she said of the outing. “I was happy to get to be invited to participate in this. For one, you need a little bit of levity in this job, especially with so much that has gone in the last couple of months that has been so political obviously that it’s nice to get out and do something to promote a local business and to just participate in something that isn’t so heavy-handed politics that it invites criticism. Certainly we’ll probably invite criticism for even doing this, too, but at least this was fun.”

As she was speaking , the photographers noticed what was happening in the background and asked Palin if that was ok. No worries, she said. (Other reports allege camera men singled out the most controversial background they could find on an otherwise clean and wholesome farm.)   Clearly visible behind the Governor, a farm worker lifts turkeys by their feet and places them head down in a slaughtering cone.  The videos hit the national news. Some reports warned against watching, unless you really want to watch turkeys becoming dinner, others blurred the slaughter cone.

Sarah Palin, then Governor, pardons a turkey in 2008

Sarah Palin, then Governor, pardoned a turkey in Alaska, 2008.

And what about the turkey farmer, Anthony Schmidt?

The widely replayed episode didn’t hurt Schmidt’s business with the locals, he says. In fact, it probably helped him a bit, since “people got interested that didn’t know about us,” he explains. But outside the area, reaction was far less sanguine. “I got a lot of flak from people outside, the bunny huggers and the vegans,” he says.

According to Triple D archived webpages, they were the only local farm to sell fresh turkeys, 352 in 2007.  Their poultry were raised without hormones and antibiotics and the large enclosures would have qualified for a “free range” designation. One might guess that the smallish Alaska farm treated their turkeys as well as they possibly could afford, but today, they are no longer in business.

So why the outrage at the slaughter?  The farm owner had given all workers a long break during Palin’s visit, but a farm worker kept on working, which led to this accidental media peek in the real life on farms. Perhaps the media could have dived into discussing what’s the best way to slaughter poultry and contrast the cones with modern processing used by large growers.

Willie Bird Turkey Farm,  Sonoma, CA, Nov.22, 2010

Willie Bird Turkey Farm, Sonoma, CA, Nov.22, 2010 (source)

Where do turkeys go after the Presidential Pardon?

Popcorn and Caramel, the 2013 turkeys, will go to Morven Park in Leesburg, VA, home to Former Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis, who raised turkeys in the 1920s.  Turkeys previously pardoned by President Obama went to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

But you cannot visit these turkeys. They all died, including the six pardoned by President Obama in previous years. Three out of four pardoned turkeys die less than five months after their pardon.

The two turkeys pardoned in 2012 – Cobbler and Gobbler – died within a year of their White House appearance, despite what a spokeswoman at Mount Vernon said was diligent veterinary care. Peace, who was pardoned in 2011 – lived lived a record 16 months after arriving at Mount Vernon. “The bird is bred for the table, not for longevity,” said Dean Norton, the director at Mount Vernon in charge of livestock.

Birds bred to be stuffed

Each year, Americans eat around 45 million turkeys.  The average weight of a turkey destined for the table in 1960 was just 16.83 pounds.  Today, it’s 30.47 pounds.  Liberty and Peace, pardoned in 2011, were 19 weeks old and weighed 45 pounds each.  Wild turkeys weigh about 5- 20 pounds, live 3-5 years and can sprint 25 miles per hour.

Domestic turkeys might live 2 years if they’re spared slaughter at a little over 3 months.  They cannot run,  their legs can barely support the weight of supersized breast meat. They cannot reproduce naturally but artificial insemination has become standard in the business.

Wild turkey in flight. Photo: Stephen Fischer

Wild turkey in flight. Photo: Stephen Fischer (Source)

The turkey hails from Southern Mexico and they were domesticated around 800 B.C. After the Spanish Conquest, turkeys were brought to Europe where they became domestic turkey breeds. As a result, studies show domestic turkeys are very close genetic relatives, with less genetic variation than pigs or cows. “Ancient turkeys weren’t your Butterball,” said Rob Fleischer, head of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics.


Seahorses: stealth hunters who sneak up on faster prey

Why do seahorses look like seahorses?  It’s no accidental beauty.  Seahorses swim slowly, but feed on copepods who swim fast. The shape of the seahorse’s head makes no waves, allowing them to sneak up on their prey.

Strike zone: the black circle, where lack of disturbance doesn't startle prey

Strike zone: the black circle, where lack of disturbance doesn’t startle prey

Dr. Brad Gemmell, from the University of Texas, used high-speed 3D imaging to study the dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, from the Bahamas and the U.S. Watching how the seahorses approach highly sensitive copepods (Acartia tonsa) undetected, the scientists were able to observe the minimal disturbance of water around the snout.


Brad J. Gemmell, Jian Sheng & Edward J. Buskey, Morphology of seahorse head hydrodynamically aids in capture of evasive prey, Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2840 doi:10.1038/ncomms3840

People behaving badly, animals playing nice

Sharks and killer whales and manatees behave kindly to the clueless creatures seeking close encounters of the wild kind. Yes, swimming with sharks for tourists, when even knuckleheads somehow survive. But how close is too close? The people shown here all got too close, one tried to get his dog too close to wildlife. They were lucky no one got hurt. We are glad that the old myths of predatory animals as monsters is fading away; but animals aren’t plush toys.  Whether it’s wildlife, or the cutest pony ever who can rip a finger off thinking it’s a carrot, respect their personal space — and  your own.

Riding the mola in Mexico

Mola gets his back scratched, rider gets barnacle burn

The friendly mola live in Southern California/Baja California waters, feeding on jellyfish. They get lots of parasites on top and look for opportunities to scratch them off.  This rider might make a good scrubber, which is not meant to encourage such stunts, but in this particular case, this mola came back to the boat for more scratching. The mola are harmed by plastic bags, so pack your trash, writes Matt G on youtube.

Watch the mola rider video on youtube.

Dog and killer whales

Thumbs up to: Scott de Jongh, the crayfish diver who climbs on the rocks when spotting orcas and the dog who gets out of the water, then turns around to watch from safety of the beach.

Scott DeJongh in New Zealand gets out. Orca checks out dog.

Diver seeks the safety of the rocks when curious orcas approach

Behaving badly: The dog owner who throws a stick to see how dog deals with killer whales. Orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser said it was common for New Zealand orca to approach the shore to hunt for sting-ray.

Dog swims to the shore before turning to see what's in the water

Dog swims to the shore before turning to see what’s in the water

Watch the video here,  filmed by Deonette De Jongh, Matheson Bay, Leigh, New Zealand

Source: New Zealand Herald

Woman rides manatee in Florida

Woman catches a ride on a manatee. Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Photo: Steve Leach

Woman catches a ride on a manatee. Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Photo: Steve Leach

Photographer Steve Leach was getting a lemonade at Gulf Pier, near Ford DeSoto Park near Tampa Bay, FL when he noticed three manatees in the water. Then:

To my total shock this lady decided to go over and set on their back, followed quickly by flopping down on its back to ride it!
With people screaming at her to stop, I was taking photos and screaming at her to stop.
These photos were provided to the sheriffs office upon request to help catch her.

Manatees are endangered and get stressed easily. Whit his photos going viral, Steve Leach hopes they’ll help educate people to admire animals from a respectful distance.

Sources: Steve Leach photos, SFGate, Oct.3,2012

Too much love?

Florida: too much love, too little space

Florida: too much love, too little space

Manatees come to Crystal River Springs, FL, to find refuge in winter.  Manatees are endangered by too many boats, climate change, loss of habitat and all the other usual suspects. But what about too much love?  When over-ethusiastic tourists get too close, stressed manatees stampede.  But there’s nowhere else to go. They come back seeking rest, only to be exposed to more harassment. “Conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier points out that the “love” we have for manatees is also a source of trouble for the species,” writes TreeHugger.  Mittermeier and fellow photographer Neil Ever Osborne made a time-lapse video showing how too many people get too close during a day.

Sources: Manatees Timelapse from Sea Legacy, TreeHugger

Man taunts bison, lucky to walk away

Man taunts bison, Antelope Island. UT Photo: Wayne Ebenroth, Final Kick Events

Man taunts bison, gets pinned against fence, Antelope Island. UT Photo: Wayne Ebenroth, Final Kick Events

“That’s 1,500 pounds of meat on the hoof,” said Antelope Island Buffalo Run organizer Jim Skaggs.

Yet the animal’s power was not enough to demand respect from one visitor who got too close, then threw rocks to get the bison’s attention.  He did get his attention.

Photographer Wayne Ebenroth happened to be there, “to cheer on and take pictures of his wife in the Antelope Island Buffalo Run. He started taking photos when he saw a few people in close proximity to the bison. He kept photographing the interaction until the man was pinned against the fence.”

Runners held races on the island for eight years, and usually the buffalo just get out of the way. cites advice on what to do if you encounter bison:

While bison are not usually aggressive, they are unpredictable and can become dangerous. Please use caution and observe the following safety tips should you encounter a bison in the wild:

  • If you encounter bison along the roadway, drive slowly and they will eventually move. Do not honk, become impatient or proceed too quickly.
  • Bison may spook if you get out of your vehicle. Therefore, remain inside or stay very close.
  • Never try to chase or scare bison away. It is best to just cautiously walk away.
  • Always try to stay a minimum of 100 meters (approximately the size of a football field) from the bison.

Sources:, Mar 27, 2013, via gawker

Please do no hug the sharks

Just as I am finishing this post, I notice today’s headline in Slate’s new Wild Things blog, Dawn Williams’ story about “The latest terrible trend: People riding sharks.” Grant Murdock, who is from California, filmed his friend catching a ride in Bora-Bora. The video is no longer on youtube, but you can see it here.

In Bora-Bora, hugging sharks.  Would you hug human strangers just like that out of the blue?

In Bora-Bora, hugging sharks. Would you hug human strangers as a tourist, just like that out of the blue?

Lemon sharks can be a threat to humans, but humans are a bigger threat to lemon sharks, killed for shark fin soup, or for their leather, or as bycatch. They are listed as Near-Threatened on IUCN.

The International Shark Attack File has only reported 10 unprovoked bites by lemon sharks, all of which occurred in Florida and the Caribbean. None of the bites were fatal. Lemon sharks do well in captivity and experiments on lemon sharks have shown they learn as quickly as some mammals and remember things for at least 6 months without reinforcement.

Question is, what would cause a normally-peaceful lemon shark to attack? I don’t need an expert to tell me that the best way to swim with the sharks safely is to be an expert. I first man to swim with sharks I remember seeing on TV was a British diver named Nigel, who could control his own body language underwater so as not to appear as prey to the sharks. In recent years, striving to save the endangered and much-maligned sharks, experts have shown us that the predators are not the indiscriminate attackers portrayed in horror movies. From Slate:

Ocean RamseyKimi Werner, and Lesley Rochat are three of the better-known conservationists who have been depicted riding large tiger and great white sharks. Whether you agree with their tactics or not, the sight of these petite women holding onto the dorsal fins of large apex predators, often two to three times their own size, are absolutely extraordinary and thought-provoking.

These interactions are calculated. These conservationists have many years of experience dealing with sharks, and they have a level of comfort around sharks that most people do not. They did not engage in this activity without preparation, and they acknowledge that there are risks involved.”

We’ve also seen wolf experts in proximity of wolves and lion experts approach wild lions. On the other hand, people who are unfamiliar with animals can get hurt by walking among domestic horses or cows. Inexperienced people need to learn a few basics before wandering among domestic herds, same as approaching any unfamiliar species. For instance, a basic rule is do not hand-feed treats. I’ve seen too many close calls with people unable to predict the dangers of being among boisterous horses.  I’ve also observed dangerous situations happen when horses learn to be pushy (not mindful of a human’s personal space.)  Teaching animals that it’s ok to get very close to humans makes us too vulnerable — even if an animal means no harm and wants to play.  If animals hurt us, usually it ends badly for them.

And now we have inexperienced knuckleheads swimming with sharks?!  I mean, great … but when an accident will happen (and it will) it will be sad for all … but the consequences for the animals, already endangered, are dire. And what happens to people who harass wildlife?  Hopefully, they remain unharmed.  Many places have laws regulating interactions. Two guys who jumped on a manatee from a bridge in May 2013 are facing fines up to $50,000. The woman who rode the manatee argued she did not know it was causing any harm and may just get a warning.

The Western Black Rhino is extinct. You can still help remaining rhinos.

westrn black rhino

IUCN photo by Richard Emsle

Western Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) has officially been declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The last extensive survey of possible rhino range in the last known range state, Cameroon in 2006, failed to find any rhino or signs of rhino (dung, spoor or signs of feeding) but did find evidence of widespread wildlife poaching and local rhino monitors faking rhino spoor in the absence of any surviving rhino. There have not been any reports of any sightings or signs since 2006. Given the wildlife poaching taking place, lack of political will and conservation effort by Cameroon conservation authorities in the past, and increasing illegal demand for rhino horn and associated increased commercial rhino poaching in other range states, it is highly probable that this subspecies is now extinct.

Thankfully, not all Black Rhinos are extinct.  There are three remaining subspecies, the South-Western (D. b. bicornis), the Eastern (D. b. michaeli), and the South-Central (D. b. minor.)  Efforts to preserve the estimated 5,000 remaining wild black rhinos are underway.

A rhino is airlifted to safety, still from a WWF/CNN video

A rhino is airlifted to safety, still from a WWF/CNN video

For uplifting news, watch helicopters airlift rhinos  in South Africa, where they are moved to the safety of parks. One lucky group of 19 endangered black rhinos  got off to a flying start for a lifetime journey, from the Eastern Cape to a new home 932 miles (1,500km) away in Limpopo province.

Saving rhinos, one at a time, in South Africa, a WWF project

Jacques Flamand, WWF

“This is the kindest way we’ve yet discovered to move a rhino from the field to a vehicle,” says Jacques Flamand, who leads this project.

April 3, 2012 photo by REX, theDailyMirror,

Gentle landings for the sedated rhinos.

“This new procedure is gentler on the darted rhino because it shortens the time it has to be kept asleep with drugs, the respiration is not as compromised as it can be in a net, and it avoids the need for travel in a crate over terrible tracks,” Jacques Flamand told the DailyMirror in April 2012.

Saving rhinos in South Africa

Saving rhinos in South Africa

We need to move lots of animals in a really short time, adds South African National Parks tech Cathy Dreyer. South Africa has a large population of rhinos and attracts poachers.  This year, 825 rhino had been poached up to November 2013, compared to 668 for all of last year. Rhino horn may fetch over $30,000 per pound on Asian markets.

Other conservation efforts raise eyebrows:  a Texas safari club plans to raise money for endangered black rhinoceroses by auctioning off a permit to hunt and kill one in Namibia.

Farming rhinos and regulating trade have been considered, but experts  like Dr. Ronald Orenstein argue that farming would not effectively protect the rhinos.

How can you help?

Adopt a rhino from the South African National Parks

“Adopt, so our rhinos don’t die,” the tagline says.

With over 2 Rhino per day having been poached for their horns this year, the last remaining 17 000 Rhinos left in Africa will soon be extinct. SANParks is the custodian of 80% of Africa’s Rhino and home to 91% of the world Rhino population.

Campaign with the World Wildlife Fund

“The truth is none of our conservation achievements – helping to save endangered wildlife, habitats and communities around the world – would be possible without you.” The WWF website lists many ways in which you can contribute and support projects such as the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.  There’s the RhinoRaid game and app available for $1.

WWF mobile gaming app


Spread the word: rhino horn has no medicinal benefits.

Although rhino horn has no medicinal effects on humans, myths and superstitions about rhino horn still persist. In China and Vietnam, rhino horn is unfortunately promoted as a “remedy” for nearly everything, from fever to cancer – and even devil possession. The cultural myths surrounding rhino horn are why rhinos are slaughtered illegally – and why wild rhino populations in Africa and Asia remain under threat.

For reference, check out Rhishja Cota-Larson’s article Rhino horn: All myth, no medicine  in National Geographic:

Scientific analysis has confirmed that the notion of rhino horn as a “medicine” is nothing more than a myth–yet millions of people still persist in believing that rhino horn is a remedy. Is this simply because rhino horn consumers do not have access to accurate information? Or has the rhino horn “business” become so profitable that belief in the curative properties of rhino horn is actually encouraged?

Support accredited zoos

Many zoos have adequate animal keeping facilities (let’s hope that bare small cages are gone forever) and participate in the Species Survival Plan.

The mission of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan®  is to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population within AZA-accredited Zoos and AquariumsCertified Related Facilities, and Approved Non-Member Participants. There are currently more than 500 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups.

The Black Rhinoceros group manages over 115 rhinos in 37 institutions, for instance Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. Also in Chicago, Lincoln Zoo welcomed an Eastern black rhinoceros calf on August 26.

Species Survival Plan, black rhino calf, Lincoln Park Zoo

Baby Eastern Black Rhino born in Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Aug. 26, 2013

The Ballad of MollyB: Cows on the Run

Molly B makes a dash onto 8th Avenue South in Great Falls while running from law enforcement officers on Jan. 5, 2006. Credit: Robin Loznak / Associated Press -

Montana cow, later named MollyB, dashes away from slaughter.

Just hours away from becoming USDA and organic certified beef, Montana cow Molly B dashed away.  Chased by animal control officers, she swam across the Missouri river, earning the name “Unsinkable Molly B.”  Del Morris, manager at Mickey’s Packing Plant in Great Falls, MT, estimated that as a a heifer, Molly B was worth around $1,140 — at 95 cents per-pound. Her daring escape inspired local country DJs Scott Hershey and Brent Browning to write the Ballad of Molly B. Listen to it here.

Molly B

Molly B

After MollyB dashed for freedom in 2006, she found safe haven at the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue.  But it was not to be the forever kumbaya home we all root for.  In 2011, Molly B was in the headlines again: Unsinkable Molly B, cow who escaped Montana slaughterhouse in 2006, moves to a new home , wrote the LA Times:

Molly B was among an estimated 1,200 animals removed from the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue in recent weeks as part of a massive effort to bail out its overwhelmed owners. Animal welfare groups said they were forced to euthanize dozens of starving and ill cattle, horses and llamas found on the 400-acre sanctuary in rural Sanders County. The bovine celebrity herself — an overweight black Angus breed said to be sore in the hoof but otherwise relatively healthy — was removed to a nearby ranch and is headed this week to a smaller farm sanctuary. “Molly B made it OK. She’s a tough old broad,” said Jerry Finch with Habitat for Horses of Hitchcock, Texas, who participated in the rescue effort. “She had bad feet, but she was not anywhere near as bad as some of the others.”

Like in the movies, Molly B had more obstacles to overcome:  the newest rescue efforts almost left her behind. A steer (male!) had been rescued, mistaken for MollyB!

Yet when New Dawn owner Susan Eakins watched one of the reports on the nightly news, video of the cow climbing a hill revealed the sanctuary had gotten the wrong animal — a male steer named “Big Mike.” A mix-up left Molly B behind on another ranch.

Eventually, happy ending for Molly B at New Dawn Montana Farm Animal Sanctuary near Stevensville,MT:

The sanctuary’s Sue Eakins tells the Ravalli Republic it was a relief to have Molly B delivered safely last week. She says she and her husband had been warned about Molly’s demeanor, but Eakins says Molly is a “sweetie pie.”

Molly B at New Dawn, MT

Molly B at New Dawn, MT

Perhaps inspired by Molly B, two plucky New Jersey bovines raced for freedom in 2013:

The two cows were purchased Tuesday by a Montvale resident and were to be taken to Paterson for slaughter on Wednesday, according to Tyco Animal Control officer Carol Tyler. The trailer on the resident’s property couldn’t hold the 250-300 lbs. animals, and by Tuesday night they were causing chaos on Upper Saddle River and Chestnut Ridge roads, according to authorities. Drivers were forced to swerve around them, and roads were closed during the night-time escape.

The New Jersey bovines, a cow and a bull,  were offered retirement at Abma Farms in Wyckoff, NJ, where free-range poultry and pork are sold along with garden veggies, but no beef.


Notes: The Ballad of MollyB, written and performed by Scott Hershey and Brent Browning, DJs on on Max Country 94.5 FM Cow on the lam, Heifer eludes authorities for six hours Clifton Adcock / Tribune Staff Writer, Feb 8, 2008

US government shutdown: death for lab animals

Pondering The Impending Meaningless Deaths of Lab Animals, James Fallows writes:

    Under shutdown rules, the animals still get food and water and are kept alive. But because most researchers are forbidden to work with them, the crucial moments for tests and measurements may pass; experimental conditions may change; and in other ways projects that had been months or years in preparation may be interrupted or completely ruined. Yes, I realize that lab animals’ situation is precarious in the best of circumstances. But their lives and deaths have more purpose as part of biomedical discovery than in their current pointless captivity.
Research facilities may house 200,000 mice. Photo: Maggie Starbard/NPR at John Hopkins

Research facilities may house 200,000 mice. Photo: Maggie Starbard/NPR at John Hopkins

NPR’s John Hamilton checks into what it takes to maintain the lab mice without the research staff, the cost of lost research and how to euthanize animals who cannot be maintained.

    The loss of so-called transgenic mice, many of which have genes that cause them to develop versions of human diseases, is especially troubling, scientists say. A single animal can cost thousands of dollars to replace, they say. And some cannot be replaced at any cost.

The US government shut down on Monday, September 30, 2013. From the first day, Government Shutdown Halts Scientific Research Projects Across The Country. Only minimal staffing was allowed to keep on working. Some scientists were not allowed access to their labs even if they wanted to keep their research going without pay. And some were instructed not to talk to the media. But the consequences of being unable to keep the animals in research labs alive weighed heavily on all. On Oct.3, Wired quoted an anonymous scientist:

    I don’t think the public realizes the devastating impact that this has on scientific research. Scientific research is not like turning on and off an assembly line. Experiments are frequently long-term and complicated. They involve specific treatments and specific times. You can’t just stop and restart it. You’ve probably just destroyed the experiment.

    You also can’t necessarily recover. You can’t begin an experiment all over again. If you do, you’ll be set back months — if there’s even time and personnel to do it. But often, science moves rapidly, times change, and you can’t re-initiate the experiments. It’s an enormous loss to scientific research, an enormous loss of time and personnel.

    It’s not a matter of feeding the animals and cleaning their cages. These animals used for research are used in intricate experiments, involving treatments and collection of data performed by hundreds of individual scientists with each project. An animal caretaker can’t continue that.

It’s almost two weeks later, Sunday, October 13, 2013. US government is still shut down. I keep checking the headlines for Monday updates.

Dream Horse Ranch animal news on Facebook.

Sharkweek: headlines

For the last 26 years, Shark Week surfaced on Discovery Channel as a yearly event. Last year, 21.4 million viewers dived in.

Whale Shark and Diver, Isla Mujeres, Mexico Photo by Christopher Doherty via @SmithsonianMag

Whale Shark and Diver, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Photo by Christopher Doherty via

Best Shark Photographs from the Last Ten Years of Photo Contests from features Chris Doherty’s photo of whale shark feeding on tiny egg of spawning fish.

You can participate in shark research at the University of Miami. Photo:

The Best and Worst of Shark Week: Good for Sharks, Bad for Science
David Shiffman, a Ph.D. student researching shark ecology and conservation at the University of Miami, gives us a shark guy’s opinion at

    At its best, Shark Week educates people about the most misunderstood animals on our planet while inspiring them to protect the ocean. At its worst, it perpetuates fear and misunderstanding.
The monster of all misleading mockumentaries?

The monster of misleading mockumentaries?

Discovery Channel Provokes Outrage with Fake Shark Week Documentary
“The popular network has found great success in airing shows that mislead and misinform,” writes Jacob Davidson for

      Instead, Discovery hired actors to play marine biologists on a hunt for the megalodon around the coast of South Africa. Their expedition is mounted following the release of (faked) footage showing a fishing vessel taken down by a massive sea-dwelling predator (nicknamed “submarine”).

More fabricated “evidence” supporting the creature’s existence is presented, including a whale whose tail has been bitten off by an unknown animal, and a Coast Guard video showing a giant, shark-like shape moving through the water.

Viewers, perhaps accustomed to trusting a channel that calls itself “the world’s #1 non-fiction media company” (as Christie Wilcox of Discover magazine points out), were apparently convinced by all the smoke and mirrors (and CGI). A post-show poll shows 79 percent of respondents, as of Tuesday evening. believed the megalodon is still alive after watching the documentary. Only 27 percent said they thought the shark was extinct and “the scientists are right.”

Discovery Channel Owes Its Viewers An Apology, concludes Will Wheaton.

While the whale sharks appear photo-friendly, the oceanic whitetip is considered the most aggressive species and was responsible for The Worst Shark Attack in History.

    The USS Indianapolis had delivered the crucial components of first operational atomic bomb to a naval base on the Pacific island of Tinian. On August 6, 1945, the weapon would level Hiroshima. But now, on July 28, the Indianapolis sailed from Guam, without an escort, to meet the battleship USS Idaho in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines and prepare for an invasion of Japan.[…]But shortly after midnight, a Japanese torpedo hit the Indianapolis. Of the 1,196 men aboard, 900 made it into the water alive. Their ordeal—what is considered the worst shark attack in history—was just beginning.

Rescuers did not arrive for a long time. The men struggled with exposure and dehydration and there were many wounded. The sharks arrived, contributing to the worst maritime disaster in U.S. naval history.

    Of the Indianapolis’ original 1,196-man crew, only 317 remained. Estimates of the number who died from shark attacks range from a few dozen to almost 150.