Monday, January 12, 2009

The Wild Kingdom (And No, This Isn't About School)

Time once again for Dept. of Nance to alert you to News In The Animal Kingdom. Lest you should worry that I am becoming something of a One-Note on the subject of pandas, I have this time a virtual menagerie of creatures to discuss (although there is, in fact, a panda among them). So grab a handful of kibble or a nice fish or something, and let's dive in!

Many Dept. readers will recall this post I did earlier about the pelican who slammed into a swimmer's face off the coast of Florida. Well, perhaps it was not just a rogue bird after all! According to Jay Holcomb, executive director of the International Bird Resue Research Center in San Pedro, California, hundreds of pelicans have turned up wandering along roadways, crashing into boats and cars. "These birds are on the freeway getting run over," he said. Holy crap! This is happening in Oregon and California! Imagine the trail of death and destruction, I said to myself, that these birds left in their wake from Florida on their way West. But no: some experts think a marine neurotoxin in algae may be the cause; others, that the birds ingested some chemicals, used to fight Southern California's wildfires, now flushed into the ocean. Personally, I liked the image of Badass Pelicans On The Move from Florida to California, slamming into stuff as they move West.

Next, we have the admonition of biophysics researcher Gabor Horvath, who would like us to please, dim our lights before we totally screw everything up for everybody--and by "everybody," he means "animals in general." Artificial light from the world's cities is leading wildlife in wrong directions, and often straight to their deaths. Insects that lay eggs in ponds and lakes are confused by the tall glass-surfaced modern buildings and mistake these structures for bodies of water. Cute little baby sea turtles use the direction of moon and star light reflections off water to navigate to the ocean when they leave their nests on the beach. These babies make wrong turns and migrate toward the big city's downtown lights. So many metaphors spring to mind here, not to mention classic song lyrics: "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm/After they've seen Paree?", for example. Imagine the poor sea turtle, trying to make it on his own in Vegas or New York City, when we all know how tough it is. Everyone there is a waiter/actor or a maid/singer. Come on! Traffic and rent alone are ball-busters.

Did someone ask for a Panda Story? But, of course! This time, it's Gu Gu, a panda at the Beijing Zoo who has tasted human flesh not once, not twice, but now for the third time! Apparently, a man and his son were playing catch with a stuffed panda near Gu Gu's enclosure, and the toy went over the five-foot fence. (Note to Zoo: five feet isn't much for a panda enclosure.) The good dad went into the pen when he thought the coast was clear, but Gu Gu went on the attack. The victim, Zhang Jiao, did not fight back because as he said, "The panda is a national treasure, and I love and respect [him], so I didn't fight back. The panda didn't let go until it chewed up my leg and its mouth was dripping with my blood." Wow. I hope all that was worth it for a stuffed panda toy, which is pretty much what old Zhang Jiao became at that point. What is it with these Chinese and these pandas? Don't they read Because this is the eleventeenth Panda Mauling Story I've read, and they've all been in China. OKAY.

Thank goodness the Animals are taking matters into Their Own Hands and are helping each other out. In Australia, sheepdogs are being used as protectors for a colony of endangered fairy penguins. These Maremma dogs were enlisted two years ago after the number of penguins in Warrnambool dwindled from 1000 down to 10 due to attacks by non-native predators. These dogs bonded with the flock of penguins, going so far as to lay down their lives to protect them. Does anyone else sense a Disney Movie Opportunity? Happy Feet meets Lady and the Tramp? I'm also wondering how a dog bonds with a penguin. Does it start walking funny? Does the dog slide around on its tummy or wear a tuxedo? And what's in it for the dog?

It's a jungle out there, Dept. readers. And remember, there are more of them than there are of us.


  1. Where do you *get* this stuff. And why do I not by now know better than to be drinking coffee while reading your posts.
    Wiping computer screen clean. Now.

  2. I was waiting for you to mention that they secured a beau for Eleanor.

    I hope she finds him worthy.

    PS: My word verification says "secretfox". Is it flirting with me or sending me on spy mission?

  3. Anonymous9:32 PM

    Bloodthirsty pandas. Film at 11!

  4. apathy lounge--honestly, it pains me to think of PANDAS in this way. yet, i cannot help but think it says more of the PEOPLE IN CHARGE OF THE PANDAS and the Chinese in general. Bless their hearts, though; the pandas are truly their National Treasures, and if those bears want to eat them alive, they'll let them, by god.

    J.--holy crap, looks like you scooped me. i am on my way to your link and i will be commenting more on your story.

    Mary G--Perhaps you need a little screen in front of your monitor? I got all but the panda story from my wonderful Cleveland Plain Dealer, which had a special section in Friday's paper devoted to global changes. I just had to share, especially when I saw that pelicans were mentioned.

  5. Anonymous3:45 PM


    Your interesting post reminded me of a limerick I heard long ago.
    Do you remember it,too?

    A wonderful bird is the pelican.
    Its beak can hold more than its belly can.
    It can hold in its beak
    Enough food for a week.
    I'm darned if I know how the hell he can.

  6. Anonymous8:14 PM

    And really... Disney is on it:

    (I thought you would enjoy the choice of animal.)

  7. Nancy, I like your limerick!

  8. Ortizzle--Holy crap. Disney is so...into everything. I swear, if they do the dog-fairy penguin story, though, i am demanding a creative credit or some percentage off the top or at the back end. but SAVE THOSE FLAMINGOS! even if they are in tanzania. and soda is involved. lol.

    nancy--LOL. i used to have that limerick in an animal joke book way back when. AND NOW JELLYJULES IS GIVING YOU CREDIT FOR PENNING IT. i love it.

  9. Anonymous8:50 PM

    Dear Jellyjules,

    Thanks for thinking I am clever enough to write that limerick, but I did say I HEARD it long ago.

    Here is another one I didn't write...

    A flea and fly in a flue,
    Were imprisoned so what could they do?
    Said the flea let us fly.
    Said the fly let us flee.
    So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

  10. J.--regarding the new Russian "mate" for Elinor: it is as I feared. When they gave her a stupid name like "Flocke" (translation "Flake"), they doomed her forever. This guy doesn't even have a NAME. They're just pawning her off to some nameless Communist, happy to have her mated with SOMEONE who will have her since she was raised by humans. Sigh. Poor Elinor. Had she been named properly with her fitting moniker, things would have turned out differently (and far better!), I assure you.

  11. Anonymous10:25 PM

    I like the penguins and the sheepdog story. How about an elephant and a dog? Check out this story that was shared on CBS Sunday Morning recently.

    Love doesn't have to be explained, Nance ... LOL


  12. Shirley--I heard about the elephant/dog story, but don't remember where. Maybe Gu Gu should have it on a continuous loop for inspiration.

  13. I wonder if the Chinamen are putting toxins in the panda's food and that is why they keep attacking people.

  14. Nina--with the famed air pollution over Beijing, it's entirely possible! You may have hit upon a theory!

  15. LOL I'll get PETA right on that, Nance.

  16. pandas are vicious. so are koala bears and birds. dont believe me. i was reading on the deck with my shirt off, and one pooped on me. 45 minutes later, i was on the porch on the phone...standing...on my own porch...and a sparrow FLEW DIRECTLY INTO MY SHOULDER. swear to god.

    also, beware butterflies, fish, frogs, and turtles.

  17. pandas are vicious when they are rendered so by idiotic zoo visitors and toxic carcinogens from air pollution. Koala bears ARE NOT VICIOUS. how many times do we have to have this argument, both in person and via the interwebs? the bird thing is karma. plain and simple.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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