Dr Nancy Swift: The Passage to Aberdare

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The barking dog, Coyote

A neighbor kayaking the inlet beside our offices at The Animal Broadcast Network stopped to chat the other day. He told me he'd seen a pair of coyotes near the embankment and watched them for several minutes as they made their way across several residential properties eventually disappearing into a nearby wooded area.

There have been a number of these sightings here about over the past few years and each time folks are startled, usually frightened; concerned by reports of missing cats and small dogs. Some suggest that coyotes might pose a threat to children if the county does nothing to intervene. So I was a bit taken aback by the equanimity with which my neighbor reported his news; he seemed, almost pleased.

Coyotes are here in fact because we've eliminated its' chief rival the wolf and all but decimated another arch competitor, the panther. Coyote is among us because, like ourselves, its' instinct to survive, its' ability to adapt are unsurpassed in nature. The coyote like man can exploit almost any ecological niche; we tear up a mangrove or cut old pine forest to build condos, the coyote finds a den among fallen timber and a hunt way along exposed shore line. The most successful of all canine breeds, the coyote is not our enemy so much as our kith and kin, ancestor to our best friend and most stalwart defender, cousin to, but not our pet, the dog.

I have come to feel enriched by the presence of such a creature near to my home and reassured that, despite our best efforts to conform this landscape, nature is able to preserve itself indefinitely if only in the form of the coyote.

For more information on the character and life of coyotes in the wild visit Desert USA
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Mates for life

photo courtesy:
Brookfield Zoo

"After Babs the gorilla died, keepers decided to allow surviving gorillas to mourn the death of the most influential female in their social family" Read the entire story

Noting the passing of Babs earlier this month we began to wonder how many other species of animal form lasting bonds with one another and "mourn" the loss of a family member.

We started a quick survey and it soon became apparent that the list is almost endless. The list includes:

  • Gray wolf, Whale, Hoolock Gibbon, Elephant, Geese, Swan, Parrot, Beaver, Bald Eagle, Sea horse...

In fact the shorter question would be how many animals do not.

The fact that animals form family relationships should not come as a surprise to any person willing to observe their behavior either domestically or in the wild; if they make a conscious decision to live in groups of like individuals if follows that they must in fact recognize each other. It is a simple conclusion therefore that with familiarity there follows fondness and attachment.

One common animal that inhabits nearly every backyard is the Mourning dove. We've had a mated pair or two wherever we live. Mourning doves pair for life and will wait each day almost endlessly at the same roost and at the same time for a missing or delayed mate. They are devoted parents and around our office we consider ourselves fortunate indeed to have them as neighbors.

For more information about the nature of animal emotion and bonding behavior stop by Jeffrey Masson's site. He is the author of, among other great titles, "Dogs Never Lie About Love" and "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon."
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Frank Buck "Bring 'em Back Alive"

Growing up as a little girl in Johannesburg S. Africa, January Freelander spent many hours with her family camping and hiking through the back country. Her father was a game warden for the Provincial Government and her mother taught school so the family had many long summer vacations together exploring the wild and beautiful bush country of Africa.

January, or Jan as she preferred to be called, quickly formed a fascination for the many animals that her family encountered on these trips. There were huge herds of antelope, bush deer, giraffes with their amazing long neck and colorful coats. She loved watching the giraffes run, faster than a horse at full gallop on tall spindly legs, In fact, she decided, they were the most graceful animal on the veldt.

But of all the creatures Jan saw and heard on the savanna, that great, regal yet gentle giant the elephant was her favorite. Elephants could make the ground shake when they moved and the trees bend like grass; they were fast, ferocious and if they needed to be, dangerous - although usually they moved slowly with stately grace, their huge ears and massive heads swaying as if listening to music as they walked across the vast African grass lands. Jan liked to watch them and pretend she could hear the music too, the music of freedom, the freedom only wild animals can truly know.

Once when Jan's father had to go to Cape Town for a meeting at Government House he took his daughter with him. She wanted to visit the City Library and take some books home over vacation, books about wild Africa and its animals. Among those Jan selected was a book by the American adventurer Frank Buck who in the 1930s had been a famous radio personality, writer and explorer who hunted big game animals all over the world, but he didn't hunt and trap the animals to harm them, Frank Buck was sure to Bring 'Em Back alive.

Frank Buck spent his life capturing animals alive and supplying them to zoos - every kind of animal, from birds to snakes to elephants and big cats. There were no tranquilizer darts in those days, so Buck learned to build traps and snares in ways that prevented injury to the animals he caught. He was famous for personally bringing the animals to America by ship - traveling with them to ensure they were well cared for and arrived safely.
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