Probably never? Well, here’s a reason to celebrate: The bison was recently named the national mammal of the United States by President Obama! The law he signed—the National Bison Legacy Act—doesn’t offer any new protections to bison (also known as buffalo), but it does raise their status to that of an official symbol of America, similar to the bald eagle.
This is a long-overdue and important recognition for the bison, an icon of America and revered symbol of Native Americans that once roamed in the millions but then was nearly decimated by the end of the 1800s. But thanks to early conservationists, including President Teddy Roosevelt, bison bounced back—and today they’re even off the endangered species list! In case you missed it, National Bison Day this year fell on November 5 (the first Saturday of November).
Have you noticed the recent animal selfie trend? People worldwide are going out of their way to pose with animals—sometimes endangered, sometimes even dangerous predators—and post the resulting photos to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #animalselfie.
Just check out these amazing shots taken by adventurer Allan Dixon, who seems able to convince any wild animal to pose for a selfie with him. But, as he cautions in an interview with Bored Panda, people must be “very careful not to upset or provoke the animal when they’re trying to take the picture.”
What a sad world we live in, where parental negligence and human error and misjudgment can result in the killing of an innocent.
I’m talking about Harambe, the majestic 17-year-old western lowland gorilla shot to death at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend after a child slipped into his enclosure. Many in the public are outraged, questioning whether his death was even warranted. But there’s actually a larger issue here, one that most people aren’t talking about, as so eloquently stated by Steven M. Wise of the New York Daily News:
“The major problem is that the Cincinnati Zoo is legally permitted to treat such extraordinarily cognitively complex and gentle animals as slaves in order to sell tickets to gawkers, and that Harambe, like every other nonhuman animal, was a legal ‘thing’ that lacked the capacity for any legal rights, even the fundamental rights to his life and liberty.”
Have you seen Kickstarter? This amazing crowdfunding site lets you support a variety of creative projects for very little cash. Kickstarters set a financial goal (say, $1,000) and a target deadline. People then start sending donations—and the person behind the campaign gets to keep all that cash (and more) if they hit or exceed their financial goal by their target date. And, of course, if you have an idea for a project of your own, you can launch a campaign on Kickstarter, too!
Though some of the projects can be, ahem, a little bit strange (such as “Pug-let: The First All-Pug Production of Hamlet” and “A Dr. Who Concept Rap Album”—OK, I admit I’d probably watch/listen to both!), the following are actually some really solid ideas and goals I’d like to see come to fruition—some even help animals, too! Just this past Tuesday on Kickstarter, Walkzee, a free online platform that matches shelter dogs needing walks with “dog lovers looking for a walking buddy,” surpassed its $20,000 goal! I look forward to seeing the Walkzee site someday soon. Here are a few more projects that look interesting:
I find TED Talks so inspirational and powerful; don’t you? I think what I like best (besides the amazing speakers) is that I learn something new each and every time I watch one. (Sometimes they even blow my mind!) So in case you haven’t seen these particular lectures yet, here are four of my favorite TED Talks for animal lovers:
1. Ian Dunbar: Dog-friendly dog training Veterinarian, dog trainer and animal behaviorist Ian Dunbar says, “When we train, we always try to take in the dog’s point of view.” Dunbar’s passionate about stopping the disrespect and abuse of dogs at the hands of owners with “horrendous interaction skills” who make terrible mistakes when attempting to train them. The talk, which starts out with helpful dog-training tips, eventually segues into the idea that humans and dogs aren’t so different after all—that the respect, love and patience you should give an animal to “train” them can also be used when raising children and managing the important relationships in your life.
2. Jane Goodall: How humans and animals can live together I’ve shared before that iconic chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall is my hero. It is so interesting here to hear her talk about how her community projects—such as TACARE (Take Care), which helps people in African villages develop empowerment and improve their standard of living—actually end up helping habitats and conservation efforts, too. She also discusses the planet’s environmental problems, but makes it clear she has so much hope for nature, humanity and endangered species. Goodall says, “We are part of, and not separated from, the amazing animals with whom we share the planet.”
3. Denise Herzing: Could we speak the language of dolphins? I absolutely love dolphins and am fascinated by their intelligence and social nature. Denise Herzing studies dolphin communication in the wild, and in her TED Talk, she reveals her promising research as she works to see if there’s a way for humans and dolphins to interact with each other using language. She shares great footage of these beautiful creatures and gives viewers a closer look at her experiments. She says, “Imagine what it would be like to really understand the mind of another intelligent species on the planet.”
4. Robert Full: Learning from the gecko’s tail Lizards are cool—and UC Berkeley biologist Robert Full shares how studying geckos and collaborating with other fields, like engineering, is leading to innovative technologies. (The high-speech footage of geckos alone is worth a watch.) He also points to the importance of conservation: “We must preserve nature’s designs, otherwise these secrets will be lost forever.”