Friday, January 29, 2010

Sun Sets On Sanibel Crocodile

In an earlier post I spoke about the horror here where we live year round. Essex County, New Jersey can be a beautiful place, but the ugliness of some of the people and the politics, especially as they relate to the humane treatment of animals, is often down right repugnant. In that post I lauded Sanibel for its incredibly sensitive policies regarding the animals of all kind that live there, and wrote about how the debate on whether to kill large and threatening alligators on the Island was--- and still is----an appropriately active one. But I was reminded again in the last couple of days of just how very special the Island is for its unique view of the environment and the absolute reverence that most islanders hold for the beasts that share their geography.

Though Sanibel has lots of alligators, there was only one crocodile living there.The huge crocodile was called Wilma and she had been a fixture on the Island for over 25 years. Earlier this week, Wilma was found dead on the bank of the Sanibel river, apparently overcome by old age and the unusual and atypical cold of this January.

According to Dee Serage-Century, Landscaping for Wildlife Educator at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) who made the discovery, "Wilma helped define our community as one dedicated to living with wildlife, even the big, beautiful, scary ones. She was unique in her 11-foot length - large for a female - and the northernmost of her species in Florida."

As news of Wilma's passing spread across the island, some of the more shaken mourners were the volunteers who would come across the famous crocodile, either at SCCF, the refuge or in their own backyards. The talk and the sadness would certainly mark Sanibel as distinctly different than my community north and many communities like mine where deer hunting and baited deer killing are done regularly, with relatively little opposition. But, the mourning over the loss of Wilma will not stop with the discussions according to the news reports.

There will also be an informal memorial and remembrance ceremony to be held on the front porch at SCCF, located at 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, on Thursday, February 4, beginning at 3 p.m.

"We're going to toast her with Gatorade and share stories about her," said Serage-Century, who noted that a plaque will mark her final resting place along the trail. "She so defined us as a community and a lot of folks will be able to share their personal stories about her. Everyone loved her."

The deer in Essex County should be so loved, so lucky and so remembered.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Diving Dolphins: Sanibel's Most Intelligent "Non-Human" Residents

We all love to see them. They leap, smile, enjoy the applause. And around Sanibel Island, these Flipper friends are every where.

Though we've long known that they were not "dumb fish", we haven't always recognized that they were super- smart, warm blooded mammals.

Now, according to the London Times, there is a newer, more complete way that dolphins are being regarded: "Dolphins have been declared the world's second-most intelligent creatures, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as "nonhuman persons."

The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die this way each year.

'Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size," said Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University in Atlanta who has used magnetic resonance imaging scans to map the brains of dolphin species and compare them with those of primates.

'The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions,' she said."

Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez, nature photographers extraordinaire, have captured some stunning dolphin antics, including the one used here and are collaborating on a most interesting research project about dolphins.

On February 4, Dick and Sara will be the keynote speakers at the Sanibel- Captiva Audubon Society meeting on Sanibel. Their topic is Photographing the Birds of South Florida: How, Where and the Ethical Implications to be considered and is sure to be of great interest with the current discussion about treatment of dolphins getting world wide attention.

The meeting will be held at the Sanibel Community House at 2173 Periwinkle Way. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture will begin at 7:30. There is a suggested donation of $5.00 per person.