by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
In celebration of National Bird Day 2014, Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate for Born Free USA and lifelong bird enthusiast, is writing a special six-part blog series in December and January where he will describe some of his favorite avian species. Below is the first installment.
When I first visited tropical American forests four decades ago, I expected that a disproportionate number of birds would have gaudy, bright colors. Many do, but the majority of the smaller birds I saw seemed to be coloured in shades of tawny, rust, rufous, tan, and brown – the earth colours, often like the reddish soil underfoot. That would include the Royal Flycatcher (Onychorynchus coronatus), a small, reddish-brown bird, similar to so many other small birds in the neotropical jungles and forests, although one notices an oddly shaped head. A long beak seems to be almost equally counterbalanced by a similar length of feathers—a crest – sticking out from the back of the head. It is almost a “hammerhead” look. If you are close enough, or the bird is in enough light, you may notice that the folded crest is partly orange or red.
What Drives Fear in Invermere; Why Kill Deer?
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
-The famed Broadway musical, South Pacific
I last blogged about canvasing the community of Invermere, British Columbia, population around 4,000, prior to a referendum that asked the overly-simplistic question: Should there be a cull of mule deer?
Part 1: There's No Paradise on Earth, but...
When I drove into Invermere, population near 4,000, in the Columbia River Valley of the interior of British Columbia, I was both enchanted and worried. Animals totally fascinate me (and that includes human animals, as I’ll discuss in a future blog) and I greatly enjoy seeing them, drawing and painting them (I am a wildlife artist, too), photographing them, interacting with them, and being in their presence. It’s just the way I am; not everyone is like that. We’re all different. Diversity itself is as natural as a beaver’s dam, a robin’s song, or the wide-eyed, innocent expression of a baby screech-owl.
The Three Toronto Zoo Elephants Retire to a Better Life
Here in Toronto on Monday, October 21, elephants were front page news. Well over 300 elephants had just died from poisoning in Zimbabwe—but they were not the elephants who were mentioned. The stories we read were about Toka, Thika and Iringa, the three middle-aged African elephants who were successfully moved by flatbed truck from the Toronto Zoo to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California. The cost (I have heard a wide range of estimates, but we are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars) was covered by American celebrity and animal activist, Bob Barker. Bravo, Bob!
Canada's Capital, Where Wildlife So Needlessly Dies
Earlier this month, an elk was found wandering in a wooded area in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa. Elk were extirpated from Ontario by the end of the 19th century. This animal apparently wandered in from a small herd maintained for hunters, a few hundred kilometers away. Although transected by many natural wildlife corridors and containing lots of good habitat, Ottawa is a deadly place for wildlife: a sort of Texas north. It’s as though the dogmatically anti-environmental, anti-wildlife policies of our current and lamented Ottawa-based federal government somehow leech into municipal policy-making.
Ontario Opens Season on Mourning Doves, Quietly... Very, Very Quietly
Rachel Carson, inspirational writer, biologist, and ecologist, said, “We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing, we set back the progress of humanity.” Agreed—but, such men tend to be disproportionately in charge of deciding such things, and therein lies a very big problem for wildlife.
A Case History of Zoos and Wildlife Conservation
Fourteen years ago, I was among a group of conservationists sitting in the board room of Toronto Zoo, discussing the fate of proboscis monkeys in distant Borneo (the only country where they occur in the wild). Wildfires had destroyed much of the monkeys’ habitat and the zoo wanted to bring some to Toronto “to conserve the species.” But, when I asked if any of the captured monkeys or their offspring would ever be returned to the forests of Borneo, I was told no; being raised in captivity would effectively prevent them from ever being returned to the wild. When I pointed out that domesticating yet another animal species had nothing to do with “conservation,” I received an odd, honest reply from one of the zoo curators. “But,” he said, after some thought, “I’m a zoo man and I just naturally think of zoo-based solutions.”
Zoos and Hypocrisy
Last week, I explained how a group of European zoos took credit from those who deserved it by making exaggerated or false claims about what they called the “top ten mammal species reliant on zoos.”