The Tragedy of Travis the Chimp

Travis the chimpanzee, late of Stamford, Connecticut, is all over the news this week due to the shocking attack on his owner Sandra Herold’s friend Charla Nash, who is currently fighting for her life.  MSNBC has an excellent in-depth report on the incident.

Pete Wedderburn of the Telegraph UK asks “What part of wild do the owners not understand?”

TravisthechimpI honestly don’t know why people who keep wild animals as pets think that it’s safe, or what rationalizations they give themselves to justify that such arrangements are  appropriate.

Travis, by all accounts, was raised as a human child by Sandra Herold, whose own story is very sad.  Sandra lost her husband in 2004 and her daughter also died in an auto crash, so she was alone — except for Travis.

Sandra ate meals with Travis, watched television with him, and even shared aperitifs with him in stemmed glasses.  Before Travis attacked her friend, he had been out of sorts — apparently he even had a human disease:  Lyme Disease. Continue reading


Animal Hoarders: In Over Their Heads

For an animal rights activist, I guess I pretty much stink.  I don’t believe that animals should vote, like Peter Singer.  Interestingly, this newer (1989 – Peter Singer’s origination of the animal rights movement dates back to the 1970’s and a landmark book called Animal Liberation) essay discusses the rights of mentally-incapacitated humans vs. dogs, which Singer refers to as “irrational”.

I do not see Badger, who is currently lying on his side in the sun, as “irrational”.  I think he is a pretty smart dog.  Many people would not be smart or rational enough to do any number of things Badger has done to get his heart’s desire – in particular, the “chicken trick” and the amazing grilled-cheese sandwich leap of faith. Continue reading


A Real-Life Furby

The world’s smallest primate, the highly-endangered Tarsier, has been called a “real-life Furby.”  Actually, that comment was about the rarest Tarsier of all, the pygmy Tarsier, which was first sighted in Indonesia in 1921.

Tarsier This unusual, charming creature is obviously nocturnal — the clue is its enormous eyes, as large as possible to let in as much light as can be, so the Tarsier can see well during the night-time hours.  Tarsiers are most common in the Philippines, where there is a Tarsier Rescue organization. Unfortunately, like so many other charming, unusual wild animals, there is a thriving black market trade in Tarsiers, even though the animals are so delicate that they seldom live long in captivity.

Here is a great link to more in-depth information about Tarsiers. The Tarsier’s unusual morphology in teeth, bones and brain structure has caused it to be difficult for taxonomists to classify (well, they fight over just about anything, anyway). It is definitely a prosimian, and considered, for the time being, to be in its own unique infra-order. Many fossils of tarsiers have been found, and it is considered to be a very early order of primate — and it is not correct to say that it is the world’s smallest “monkey,” because it is not a monkey. Continue reading


Animal of the Day: Aye-Aye

In my quest for ever-more charming and unusual creatures, I came across the shy, nocturnal Aye-Aye, a rare primate found only on the island of Madagascar.

Aye-aye_2 My first thought upon seeing this small, slightly deranged-looking creature was “Julien”!  Yes, Julien the “king” from Madagascar I and II, the animated films, portrayed memorably by Sacha Baron Cohen (otherwise known as Borat).

However, Julien is not supposed to be an Aye-Aye.  Technically, Julien is supposed to be a ringtailed lemur, and his small partner Maurice is the Aye-Aye.

Aye-Ayes, in addition to their somewhat Gollum-like looks, have very long, flexible middle fingers on their already long-fingered hands.  These fingers are used to retrieve insects from trees, which are their primary food.  The Aye-Aye is adapted to seeking insects at night underneath the bark of the forest trees that they live in.  Perhaps because of their odd, large, vaguely insane-looking eyes, the Aye-Aye was considered bad luck by the natives of Madagascar, and was hunted to endangerment until more recent years and efforts to protect and renew the species. Continue reading


Agogwe, Bigfoot and Hobbits

One of my current favorite books is Bigfoot, I Not Dead by Graham Roumieu. Of course Bigfoot not dead. Bigfoot stomp paparazzi face every day. Then Bigfoot visit with crack-smoking pigeons.

I have to say that before today, I hadn’t heard of Agogwe or “the Agogwe,” a modest-sized East African hominid who’s been sighted every-so-often by hunters, and who is obviously well-known among native African peoples. Continue reading


Copan, Tikal, Uxmal, Palenque

“Heart of Jade,” which originally appeared in Black Gate Magazine, was one of the first thoughtful fantasy stories I ever wrote.  At some point around about those days (2000) or so, I had realized that there was a very different “feel” between SF and horror – certainly.  I had realized that even among all the common elements of the various forms of the fantastic, when writing them, it was a different form of music.  Like the difference between swing and bebop.

Writing “Heart of Jade” was like taking a trip to Campeche or Yucatan (a link to a tour of the Mayan nation – called “Expedition of Jade”) in more ways than one.  I recently re-prepared the story for Book View Cafe, and it has been enough time that it read completely “fresh” to me.  I remembered that the main character’s name was Two Frog and the general setup and some of the language.  But of the details of the story – well.  That was a very different matter. Continue reading


The Future of Animals

I think that people’s attitudes toward animals are changing, and this is a good thing. While I do not ascribe to the extreme (some might say “bizarre”) views of Peter Singer – which include, basically, indicating that chickens should vote and advocating via advanced logical structures that those of us in developed nations should crack off 25% of our respective GDPs to support those in developing nations – Singer introducted a concept in the 1960’s called “speciesism” to indicate that humans ought not approach their interactions with other living species from a biased, species-oriented viewpoint.

CavemanHere we have some PETA advocates, dressing as “cavemen” to protest the brutal treatment of rabbits raised for fur in Australia. This picture immediately reminded me of the cruel bias against the GEICO cavemen. According to a recent LA Times blog, “everybody hates PETA.”

Probably because their point of view is divergent from most others, and because they do gross and disgusting things (this caveman picture indicates the better sort of PETA attention-getting behavior). Continue reading


Exotic Animals as Pets

As the New Year starts, a lot of families are probably getting used to caring for the new pets that came to their homes over the holidays. Holiday times are the top time for families bringing pets home. Puppies, kittens, baby bunnies and baby chicks are all common holiday adoptions. Unfortunately, as breeders and real animal lovers know, in January and February, too many of these pets end up dumped at shelters, and very few of them are re-adopted. These animals are often euthanized, with short, unhappy lives – all things that could be avoided with time, care and planning. Even more serious than the problem of unwanted common domestic pets at the holidays is the growing trend toward adoption of exotic animals, from exotic hybrid cats to chimpanzees to sugar gliders, a small Australian marsupial that is rapidly growing in popularity.


I had a fairly large number of animals to take care of when I was growing up. I had a Shetland pony named Dapple, an English Setter named Freckles, a Siamese cat named D.C. and at one time, up to 25 ring-necked doves. When I was a baby and toddler, I learned to walk by hanging onto the head and ears of a very patient – one might say “saintly” – basset hound named Rebel. FYI, my pornstar name is Rebel Roberts. Not bad, huh? (To get your pornstar name, take the name of your first pet and use your mother’s maiden name). Continue reading


The Marvelous Great Tartal

Great Sea TartalThe great Tartal was once the most precious of creatures in the Wide World.  How sad it is these days that they are no longer among us.  For the Wide World is a colder, lonelier place without these great creatures that willingly carried men and women to and fro across the great waters.  A lonelier place, indeed.

Imagine that you are standing on the long, glittering marble Promenade on the shore of the shining White City.  And then, a vast body of silver and yellow-green passes into the mouth of the bay, slashing through the blue-green waters.  Imagine that this is a body of glittering living shell, strung with shining strands of bottle green and coal-red light like colored pearls.  It is a great Tartal.

Imagine that the enormous creature changes its course, slows, and its great head rises as it sights the White City.  Now the vast creature gingerly sounds the channel, seeking the way it will approach the shore.
Too large by far to take any berth in the city’s harbor, the Tartal pauses.  Then, with its mighty lungs, it exhales twin plumes of water like two whales put together, and searches again.  It senses its channel and guides itself through the waters. It does not want to beach itself upon a spit, or entangle itself in any hidden danger – great nets, perhaps, or underwater magick.  Such things would pose little obstacle to this great creature, yet there is something about the creature that is cautious, and perhaps, tired.

It inches across the bay, closer and closer still, so slowly now that it seems that it has come to a stop – but not quite – and at last, brings itself to rest alongside the beautiful Promenade that wends its way along the sandy shore. 

This is indeed what they saw in the White City on the day that Lumiere came.


Montauk Monster and Other Marvelous Creatures

I missed the first go-round of the “Montauk Monster,” a creature that washed up on the beach in Montauk, NY this summer, and based upon the news picture, originally thought it resembled a turtle out of its shell. I find it very difficult to avoid being fascinated with any good “sea monster” story.

From this picture showing the “monster’s” back, limbs and tail and beaklike head process, it looks like it could be a turtle – except turtles don’t have that type of teeth, and the hindquarters are very mammal-like. Continue reading