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Archive for August 2010

Craig Welch, Seattle Times environmental reporter and author of Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, and The Hunt for Nature's Bounty, talks about wildlife trafficking in Puget Sound and the massive illegal trade in geoducks (pronounced “gooey-duck”) clams. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how geoducks are more than fashionable seafood by providing an entrée into the dark underworld of illegal wildlife trade.  Geoducks are a species of large saltwater clams native to the northern Pacific coasts of Washington State and the province of British Columbia.They’re the largest burrowing clam in the world, weighing on average 1 to 3 pounds, and also one of the world’s longest living organisms, with a life expectancy well over 100 years. Harvesting them is difficult, as these clams bury themselves deep into the muddy ocean bottoms and tidal flats, with only the small tips of their siphons evidence of their presence. To show just how difficult it can be, the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs television show even went to a geoduck farm in 2006. Geoducks are prized for their meat, and are considered a delicacy in China and elsewhere. They’ve been featured on a variety of cooking shows, including Top Chef, Dinner Impossible, and Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin.

A journalist for two decades, Craig Welch’s work has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, as well as the Seattle Times. He has won dozens of local, regional and national journalism awards, and has been named the national Society of Environmental Journalists's Outstanding Beat Reporter of the Year. In 2007, he completed a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Craig has hunted seals with tribal fishermen in Alaska, hitched helicopter rides with scientists in the melting Arctic, prowled the Oregon woods for endangered owls, and tracked the development of Wyoming’s oil fields. In researching his book Shell Games, Welch got an insider’s look at a group of dedicated state and federal wildlife agents who have devoted years to cracking down on the lucrative trade in geoducks in the Pacific Northwest. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on August 30, 2010.

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Tracy O’Toole talks about the illegal international pet trade in Central America and what happens to birds, primates and other animals once they’re confiscated by wildlife law enforcement. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the challenges facing wildlife rescue centers and what’s required for successful rehabilitation and release of seized wildlife. Listen and hear how parrots rescued from the fate of being illegally shipped around the world must relearn to fly and hunt, why release sites are so important for success, and the psychological impact of the process on the animals. Tracy O’Toole currently serves as the Director of Wildlife Development Programs for the International Trade and Development Division of Humane Society International.  She oversees programs to build capacity in Central America for enforcement of laws to stop wildlife trafficking and for establishment and running of wildlife rescue centers. She also works on public education and outreach programs to combat illegal wildlife trade throughout the region. Before joining the Humane Society, Ms. O’Toole worked extensively in the fields of international development and conservation for various donor organizations including the U.S. Agency for International Development and Europe Aid. She holds a master’s in International Business, a B.A. in International Relations, and is fluent in French, Portuguese and Spanish. This episode of “The WildLife” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 11, 2010 and was rebroadcast on August 23, 2010.

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Christine Heinrichs exposes elephant seals’ captivating habits and bizarre lifestyle as she takes us to Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery on California’s central coast. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how elephant seals spend 8 to 10 months a year in the open ocean and that, to find food, they dive incredibly deep, up to a mile underwater.  Twice a year they migrate thousands of miles to their land-based rookeries to give birth, breed, molt and rest. Listen as we meet some of these fascinating creatures — such as bull elephant seals who battle rivals for months only to lose out when the females finally come ashore and a courtly male who escorts his lady friend through hoards of suitors so that she can safely reach the ocean — and find out just how much we still have yet to learn. Christine Heinrichs is a docent with Friends of the Elephant Seal (www.elephantseal.org) who works at Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery where she helps protect these large marine mammals and educate visitors about their unique characteristics.  She enjoys animals of all kinds, wild and domestic, and has written two books on domestic poultry, How to Raise Chickens and How to Raise Poultry, which focus on raising traditional breeds in small flocks. This episode of THE WILDLIFE aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont originally aired on December 7, 2009 and was rebroadcast on August 16, 2010.

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Marcy Heacker, a wildlife forensic scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s Feather Identification Lab in Washington, DC, discusses wildlife forensics, bird strikes and feather identification. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how her analysis helps airports manage wildlife to enhance airline safety and also talks about how she and the other forensic scientists at the lab helped analyze the crash of US Airways flight 1549, the Miracle on the Hudson. While typically the result is not as catastrophic, birds and other wildlife strikes to aircraft annually cause over $600 million in damage to U.S. civil and military aviation each year. The Smithsonian’s Feather Identification Lab identify the species involved and thus help airport biologists manage the habitats in such a way so as to discourage wildlife from congregating in the area. While the methods vary depending on each unique situation, it works. For example, New York’s JFK International Airport reduced gull strikes by roughly 80 percent using tactics such as grass management, eliminating standing water, and frightening birds with pyrotechnics. All that is possible once you know the species you’re dealing with, and Marcy is a part of that. Marcy Heacker is a research assistant with the Smithsonian Institution’s Feather Identification Lab in Washington, DC. She received her Master’s of Science and Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She also holds an Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology from Columbus State College in Columbus, Ohio. The main focus of Marcy's work is in avian species identification from microscopic and whole-feather characters. This specialized work in wildlife forensics is particularly important for aviation industry personnel that deal with civil and military bird strikes. This feather identification service has led to collaborations with scientists in the fields of aviation safety, wildlife biology, anthropology, and law enforcement. Marcy's current research is on the feather microstructure of the ducks, geese, and swans. The lab's work has been featured in numerous scientific papers and the media, including Discovery, National Public Radio, Smithsonian magazine and Audubon magazine, among others.  This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on August 9, 2010.

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Rhishja Larson, founder of Saving Rhinos, discusses the illegal trade in rhino horn and what can be done to stop it. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that, because rhino horn has no real medicinal properties, this multimillion dollar illegal trade is built on a myth. Rhishja is trying to bust this myth – which in turn would eliminate the market for rhino horn. Rhishja also explores alternatives for dealing with the illegal rhino horn trade, including treating it as an organized crime with significant penalties and burning stockpiles of confiscated rhino horn as a statement to show the world that the animals are more valuable alive than dead. Rhishja Larson is a writer, activist, designer, and founder of Saving Rhinos. She launched the Saving Rhinos website in December 2007 to raise public awareness about the illegal rhino horn trade and the rhino poaching crisis. The Saving Rhinos website and its companion blog (www.rhinoconservation.org) provide a wealth of public awareness and education materials to schools, organizations and individuals all over the world and provides news, commentary, and insight on the illegal trade in rhino horn and the current rhino poaching crisis. In addition to writing her own blog Rhino Conservation: Rhino Horn is NOT Medicine, Rhishja has been a guest blogger on National Geographic’s NatGeo News Watch. She is also a writer for Bush Warriors, and has written for Green Options Media, focusing on endangered species protection and illegal wildlife trade. Her articles have been referenced and included in both print and online publications, such as Science News (Asian vultures), National Wind Watch (California condors), WildAid (elephant poaching), Bush Warriors (rhino poaching), The Rhino Print (Javan rhino), and International Zoo News (Javan rhino). This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on August 2, 2010.

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