Tag Archives: primates

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Elwyn L. Simons was one of the leading figures of paleoprimatology, and founder of the Duke University Primate Center. His fossil discoveries included Aegyptopithecus.  He worked on primate conservation, focusing on the lemurs of Madagascar.  He helped to establish Park Ivoloina … Continue reading

World Wildlife Day: It’s about their lives

In this beautiful essay, naturalist Paul Rosolie reminds us that it’s not just about ecosystem accounting.  It’s about individual, intelligent animals.  It’s about tapping into our compassion and empathy.  It’s about the suffering in the world, and how we could choose to reduce it.

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Whenever I come face to face with wildlife, especially in when it is something like a family of elephants, it strikes me how we depend on euphemistic terms to soften the truth. When we learn that since 1970 half the wildlife on earth has been ‘lost’ or that species are ‘vanishing’ so rapidly that A Great Silence is Spreading Over the World, the language used in communicating these abstract ideas neglect what Dr. Jane Goodall wisely notes: “It’s not just a species facing extinction, it’s massive individual suffering”.”

~Paul Rosolie, “World Wildlife Day 2016: Why Wildlife Needs You

These are amazing beings with whom we share the beauty and Propithecus tatersalii, Duke Lemur Center, photo by E.S.Petersonwonder of this world.  They have complex and fascinating lives. They are different from us, but that does not mean that they are incapable of thinking and feeling. We have the choice to use our unique human gifts of elaborate foresight, language, imagination and abstract reason to find ways to help them thrive. Doesn’t that behoove us to use our gifts on their behalf?

Happy World Wildlife Day!

[…dismounts soapbox]

 

The Curse of Coltan

Planning another of those difficult talks about primate conservation, and came across this summary of the link to coltan mining in the DRC.

Passionist JPIC Australia

Columbite-tantalite — Coltan for short — is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of Congo. When refined, Coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. These properties make it a vital element in creating capacitors, the electronic elements that control current flow inside miniature circuit boards. Tantalum capacitors are used in almost all cell phones, laptops, computers, iPads, flat screen TV’s, pagers and many other electronics. The recent technology boom caused the price of Coltan to skyrocket to as much as $400 a kilogram at one point, as companies such as Nokia, Compaq, Dell, HP, Ericson, and Sony struggled to meet demand.

Coltan is mined through a fairly primitive process similar to how gold was mined in California during the 1800s. Dozens of men work together digging large craters in streambeds, scraping away dirt from the surface in…

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Conservation Drones?

When I was slogging through the swamps and slipping down the mud-slicked trails of Sumatra, following orangutans, I often daydreamed about how the right tech would make the job so much easier.  I even started to write a novel about it.

Now one of those gizmos I so wished for is a reality: small aircraft with cameras that can get above the canopy to see what’s going on up there from a much better vantage than on the ground.  And a colleague and friend, Serge Wich, who worked in Zaire and then on Sumatra at roughly the same time as I did (but always much more skillfully and proficiently over much longer timeframes), got some support from National Geographic to set the things up.  Here’s some video of my buddy Serge Wich talking to Nat Geo reporters:

and here’s a TED talk by his co-conspiritor at ConservationDrones.org, Lian Pin Koh:

Great job, team!

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The geometry of the human handprint

Take a moment to observe a scene somewhere not crafted by human hands: a forest, a creek bed, a meadow, a hillside, a leaf.  How often do you see right angles?

A snake seen near the MacRitchie reservoir on Singapore (probably a Wagler's pit viper Tropidolaemus wagleri, see Figures 5 & 6 at http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes/waglers_pit_viper.htm).  Photo by Erik S. Peterson colorjedi.tumblr.com

A snake seen near the MacRitchie reservoir on Singapore (probably a Wagler’s pit viper, Tropidolaemus wagleri; see Figures 5 & 6 at http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes/waglers_pit_viper.htm). Photo by Erik S. Peterson colorjedi.tumblr.com

There is one place you can easily find a right angle.  Hold your hand out flat, and stretch out your thumb.  Coincidence?  Maybe….

Looking a bit rectilinear, hmm...

Looking a bit rectilinear, hmm…

The human handprint has a long history of being associated with our creativity.

The human handprint has a long history of being associated with our creativity.

#inyourpalm The Power is In Your Palm - to protect wild orangutans from deforestation for palm oil production. Photos by me (M. Merrill).

“The Power Is In Your Palm” What are we choosing to do with our amazingly dexterous hands and spectacularly opposable thumbs? Choose wisely. (See http://inyourpalm.org to learn more about how to protect wild orangutans from deforestation for palm oil production.)

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Published today in Science Creative Quarterly

My Great Ape Haikus were published today in the lovely and amazing SCQ.  Check it out!THE SCIENCE CREATIVE QUARTERLY’S MOST EXCEPTIONAL, ILLUSTRIOUS, SPLENDIFEROUS HAIKU PHYLOGENY PROJECT

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Today is the first World Orangutan Day!

World Orangutan Day