Monthly Archives: November 2009

Now that’s one tough hombre of a coyote!

Now I know why they call him the trickster!! And no wonder the coyote is such a survivor in the modern American wilderness and suburbia:

When a brother and sister struck a coyote at 75mph they assumed they had killed the animal and drove on.

They didn’t realise this was the toughest creature ever to survive a hit-and-run.

Eight hours, two fuel stops, and 600 miles later they found the wild animal embedded in their front fender – and very much alive.

[From Pictured: The coyote who was hit by a car at 75mph, embedded in the fender, and dragged for 600 miles – and SURVIVED | Mail Online]

Read the whole story at the Daily Mail link above, or check out the pictures below the fold. And the next time you hit some small critter on the highway, it might behoove you to stop and look into and under your fender, just in case said critter is hanging on:

You just might find such a surprise inside:

This survivor appears to have had a fairly happy ending, having survived the 75 mph encounter with the Honda Fit without even a broken bone:

The coyote even escaped from the rescue center three days later and is presumably out regaling its mates with quite the tale of adventure on the high roads!

Empty gestures and selective remembrances

Its the night before thanksgiving here in California, and – not unlike many American men – I am watching a game on the telly. Well, on the telly in India but funneled to my laptop via the intertubes in rather irregular fashion (but don’t tell the BCCI). And the game is one that is likely to bemuse my American friends who will indulge in what they call football after turkey tomorrow: the third day of a cricket test match (that’s the 5-day-long version of the sport) between India and Sri Lanka being played in Kanpur. And it looks like India may actually win this test match, just in time for me to enjoy after that turkey meal too! Not quite the thanksgiving tradition of the pilgrims and Indians, but this’ll do fine for a globalized diasporic Indian like me.

Yet the game started today on a curious note: the Indian team lining up to stand in 2-min of silence before entering the ground to resume play this morning! My wife happened to glance at my laptop as the game started, and wondered aloud who had died – and chuckled upon learning the real reason. Turned out this homage was for victims of what transpired a year ago today in the siege of Mumbai by a handful of young gunmen from Pakistan, or what’s been labelled 26/11 in India. Why must my countrymen mimic the Americans even in naming our terrorist attacks?. Turns out this anniversary of a particular act of terrorism is indeed being commemorated throughout India in various often curious ways, online and off, in the world of advertising and television (with the Zee channel apparently offering to go silent for a couple of minutes!). Why then did my better half chuckle ironically at the display of solidarity by the Indian cricket team? Well, in the scheme of terrorist attacks in India (or even in Mumbai alone), 26/11 didn’t claim a particularly high toll of deaths, nor did it come near many other traumatic acts of violence inflicted from forces within Indian society (communal riots and massacres), let alone the routine deaths from the mundane maladies of the developing tropical world (diseases chronic or epidemics, famines, droughts that everybody loves)! Why then do we single out this particular event – is it simply a sign of the increasing Americanization of Indian society, especially media? Even NPR here had a story about this anniversary today! Or did that attack really mean so much more? Perhaps it was the nature of the attack itself, revealing hitherto unexpected vulnerabilities in the Indian security apparatus, upending life on an ordinary day when seemingly ordinary young men turned the country’s financial capital upside down. Was this terrorism at its psychologically terrifying worst, arousing deep anxieties and leaving psychological scars? Or is much of this public breast-beating merely part of the routine cynical exploitation of such traumas by politicians? Surely it is far easier and simpler to have an external enemy to blame and rally the patriotic citizenry around rather than examine one’s own actions. Perhaps this anniversary contains a bit of all of these things. And many of the ordinary people, especially those commuters caught up in the events a year ago, seem to have moved on in that “resilient” city – or so suggests NPR’s voice from Mumbai – even as Pakistan drags its feet despite big brother US’ pressures to bring the “masterminds” behind the attacks to trial let alone justice.

So I turn to Prem Panicker to make sense of all this, and he has obliged by sharing his own blues in a thought provoking essay about the lost promise of lasting social change in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack. It was (besides my sister and brother in law) @prempanicker on twitter who helped keep me in the moment during the prolonged siege and the public response afterwards in Mumbai, who articulated beautifully the anguish of my home city, and who now reflects on what might have been. It was also Prem’s blow-by-tweet reporting a year ago that finally got me hooked on twitter, and I continue to turn to him for news from my native shores.

Via @prempanicker also comes a link to one of the best pieces written about the attack, by Jason Motlagh in the Virginia Quarterly Review. For lighter relief, afterwards, check out Girish Shahane’s evisceration of a couple of media pundit blowhards trying to cash in on this anniversary. And lest I be accused of falling in that camp, I will stop right here and get back to the cricket, which, for a change, has been quite enthralling and surprisingly good today.

Happy turkey day, everyone.

Crepuscular companion from my youth…

Long tongue on the gecko

…how I miss having you around the house now!

Back – waaay back – in the days when I was a suburban kid without much access to “nature” and no television (yes – imagine that kids, no TV!), I spent countless hours staring up at the ceiling and walls watching the drama of our household population of geckos! Emerging from their daytime roosts under the fluorescent light fixtures, the geckos, small and large, would wait for a smorgasbord of insects to arrive as night fell, especially during the monsoon months. Big ones would chase little ones who might escape by dropping their tails to distract their pursuers and scuttle across the wall or ceiling. Occasionally one would drop, with a soft plop, sometimes down one’s shirt collar or trouser leg (happened to an uncle once! hilarious!!), sometimes onto the dinner table, but for the most part, amazingly, they managed to cling to the surface even at top speeds. And sometimes one would get overambitious and try to bite off more than it could chew – a large beetle, or mantis perhaps (although I never got lucky enough to see a battle royale like Gerald Durrell did) – and provide a different kind of amusement. Endless unscripted entertainment for a curious kid on those warm humid evenings. I miss having these critters around the house here in north America… I wonder what they’d make of the black widow spiders ruling the roost on our back porch now.

The young gecko in the above picture, which is my submission to this week’s Weekly Wildlife, Nature and Conservation Photography Challenge, I encountered on a wall of my in-laws’ house on the outskirts of Kolkata a few years ago. A few more images of this little fella are in this flickr gallery.

Meanwhile, it seems someone got lucky enough to spot (but not run into) a mountain lion just on the outskirts of Fresno earlier today! I hope they let the poor beast be and not hunt it down as a public menace…

The remarkable story of the Himalayan Snow Partridge in Nevada

Himalayan Snowcock 25april09

A Himalayan Snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis) in the Ruby Mountains in Nevada. Picture from

Via the American Birding Association comes a remarkable, ancient, video about the introduction of the Himalayan Snow Partridge (as the film refers to it, although the actual species is the Himalayan Snowcock) into the mountains of Nevada by the Nevada Fish and Game Commission’s Exotic Game Bird Introduction program, a sustained effort to populate what they thought were “game-deficient” areas of the state. Astonishing to a modern conservation biologist to see how cavalier, nay gung-ho, government agencies were about moving species around in those days (the snowcock was brought over in the 1960s), well before introduced/invasive species became bêtes noire for conservationists. But that program was successful and there is now a small but established population of these snowcocks in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada! Check out the video on the ABA website.

The vast conspiracy behind the global warming hoax…

… is laid bare in 4 minutes by the atmospheric chemist (turned whistle-blower?) Rachel Pike in this TED talk! And, I mean, isn’t it astonishing the lengths to which these thousands of scientists from all over the world go, to perpetrate this “hoax”? Staggering… see for yourself:

[From Rachel Pike: The science behind a climate headline | Video on]

How do you not, in the wild, bite these people’s faces off?

That was Jon Stewart asking Jane Goodall about her remarkable equanimity and balance in the face of extremism – from animal rights activists criticizing her birthday cake in this instance. It is remarkable that the person who has inspired so many to care about animals, dedicating her life to understanding chimpanzees and to wildlife conservation, herself remains so down-to-earth and rational about it all. What a beacon of sensibility in an irrational and increasingly extremist world!

Here’s the entire interview:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Jane Goodall
Daily Show
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[From Video: Jane Goodall | The Daily Show | Comedy Central]

Fresno Audubon talk tonight: Avian Ecology of Oak Woodlands

Yellow-rumped warbler

Fresno Audubon‘s series of public lectures, which unfortunately has become less frequent (going down from monthly to every other month!), returns this evening with a local ornithologist speaking about birds in the oak woodlands, which includes this yellow-rumped warbler above that I captured at the Sierra Foothills Conservancy‘s McKenzie Preserve last spring. Here’s Fresno Audubon’s blurb about tonight’s talk:

November 10: Rodney Olsen, “Avian Ecology of Oak Woodlands”

Biologist Rodney Olsen will present on the avian ecology of oak woodlands. In this exploration, we will discuss the importance of oak woodlands to bird reproduction, feeding, and migration. We will also explore current threats to oak woodland communities and local conservation efforts.

[via Fresno Audubon Society: Programs]

Al Gore lays out Our Choice to Jon Stewart, extendedly

You may have heard that Al Gore has a new book out about the climate crisis and what we need to do about it, titled “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis” (and as I discovered in adding that Amazon link just now – there is even a young reader edition!). His book tour brought him to The Daily Show last week for a fairly interesting interview, with Jon Stewart asking some typically insightful questions, including about whether the constant doom-n-gloom in books like Gore’s may be turning off ordinary people from a message they really ought to hear. Gore argues that “we have all the tools to solve the global warming crisis except for political will.” But is the message getting through to generate that political will? It seemed a couple of years ago that “An Inconvenient Truth” played some part in (or coincided with) turning public opinion around on accepting the reality of global warming in this country. Recent polls, however, suggest that the fickle American public has shifted again and global warming has lost some ground as an issue of concern in the US. Will Gore’s new book help stem that erosion again?

Anyway, here are two parts of the extended interview which obviously didn’t fit into the usual 22-min time-frame of a Daily Show episode, but which is available on their website in its entirety:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Al Gore Extended Interview Pt. 1

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Al Gore Extended Interview Pt. 2

Daily Show

Full Episodes

Political Humor Health Care Crisis

The PEST solution is the best solution for conserving biodiversity!

My friend the tropical rainforest ecologist and eco-restorer T R Shankar Raman of the Nature Conservation Foundation shares this wonderful news of a brand new approach to conserve biodiversity by focusing significant economic resources to incentivize nations to protect evolutionary processes! Here’s an excerpt from TRSR’s blog post on this market based initiative at eco logic, the NCF’s blog:

In what is being heralded as one of the most visionary efforts in recent times to stem the extinction crisis, a collaborative effort by ecologists and economists from India, Brazil, and the USA has developed a novel solution for biodiversity conservation. Announcing this amidst great excitement today at a packed press conference at the Carneghee Lemon Hall at Park Avenue in Washington, D. C., senior scientist of the Natural Conservation Fund, Dr Ramon Gonsalves, said, “This is the solution. With this, the great wave of extinction will soon be behind us.”

[via The PEST solution | eco logic]

You simply have to go read the rest of this! NOW!