“I WANT ONE!!” and the exotic ‘pet’ paradigm.

Glaucus Atlanticus

Glaucus Atlanticus

So I just searched ‘Glaucus Atlanticus’ (the little blue sea slug of recent social media fame) to find a creditable image for an article I’m writing and the first three google suggested searches are:

glaucus

Glaucus Atlanticus for sale
Glaucus Atlanticus sea slug and
Glaucus Atlanticus pet.

Why is it that whenever people see an awesome creature, they want to own one? One of their very own?
I see it on the Undiscovered Creature Project page all the time. “Awhhhh!! I want one!!!”

The Glaucus Atlanticus only eats particular cells shed from the poisonous man of war jellyfish. Any attempt to keep one in a tank is widely considered on professional fish keeping forums to spell certain death for the creature involved. Captive breeding of this species is entirely unheard of.

To summarise: An exact translation of the suggested search ‘glaucus atlanticus pet?’ is ‘certain death of a wild animal’.

Will this stop industrious individuals in it’s native Mozambique and South Africa supplying tiny blue sea slugs to people exclaiming “I WANT ONE!!” from behind a fist full of dollars?

If people see demand for exotic ‘pets’, they will supply them, regardless of whether keeping that animal is a good idea or not.. regardless of weather that animal is endangered or not. All they’re interested in is your CASH. It happens all over the world. People look into their back yards, see a wild iguana, clown fish, slow loris.. pangolin (the list goes on  and on), take them from the wild, stuff them in a box and take them to someone who will rip their teeth out, smuggle them out of the country in an unventilated lorry full of rugs and sell them on to someone who will sell them on to someone with cash to spend on a ‘super cute new best friend’.

Regardless of whether these animals are loved and cared for or not, captive wild animals are never going to be anyones best friend. At best they will be miserable, separated from their instincts and alone in a strange and confusing environment, and that’s the ones that get ‘looked after’. Too many exotic pets are flavour of the month, affording interest for a while and then left to live out their days in tanks and cages, in stress, isolation, misery and filth.

The trade in exotic ‘pets’ is CRIPPLING animal populations worldwide. Selfish interest is all that drives this. Nothing more. This attitude needs to change.

NEMO-finding-nemo-53764_1280_1024After the Disney Pixar movie Finding Nemo came out in 2003 the demand for Clownfish within the pet trade rose so dramatically that in some areas, previously thriving Clownfish populations became almost entirely extinct. Such tragic irony when the primary goal of the movie (other than making money and movies of course) was to portray somehow that fish are better off left in the wild. The message was simple: wild fish are unhappy trapped in tanks. Did anyone get the message? Maybe, but on the whole apparently not.

Hatcheries HAVE begun breeding clownfish in captivity, but they are unable to keep up with demand. When captive bred fish are not available, shops still resort to buying wild caught fish to keep from losing customers.

I did a similar internet search for the Slow Loris, this time to find an image to use in this article and the same three suggested searches came up first:
slow loris

Slow Loris
Slow loris for sale
Slow loris as pet
Slow loris legal in UK?
Slow loris legal in California?

This list goes on.

A few moments of youtube fame and now demand for these creatures as pets is believed to be an even bigger threat to their survival than habitat loss (which is a HUGE and immanent threat to most of Indonesia’s wildlife). Thousands of slow lorises, often just weeks old, are poached from the wild and illegally sold as pets every year. The trade takes place in various ways, from open selling of slow lorises on roadsides to smuggling them in poorly ventilated, overcrowded cages. Laws in their native Indonesia (and most of the rest of the world) ban the trade of slow lorises but the illegal wildlife trade is flourishing. Why? Because “I WANT ONE!!”.

You want one? Why? So it can be their new best friend? Dogs make good friends. There are thousands of them in shelters right now, looking for a place to call home. They’ve evolved over thousands of years to live around humans. We bred them that way. Cats are good too.. rabbits.. ferrets.. chickens.. guinea pigs. It’s the same story. Thousands of animals in shelters around the country ready and waiting to gratefully receive all that new best friend energy you just expressed.

Some animals are happy to live with humans who will take care of them. That’s fine, but too many people seem to be confusing domestic animals (or ‘pets’) with wild animals that will have miserable lives at best when kept out of their natural environments.

And it’s not just selfish. It’s incredibly damaging.

These shy little animals are part of dwindling populations in supremely delicate ecosystems already hugely threatened by human destruction of habitat. They are routinely and aggressively ripped from their natural environment and suffer terrible stress in the animal markets where they are dumped in small cramped cages, exposed to broad daylight and baking heat because “I want one!”. Their teeth are CUT OUT with nail clippers to protect the handler from the loris’s toxic bite and maintain their cute image. This painful mutilation causes terrible infections, often leading to a slow and painful death. Many slow lorises die before they have been sold.

That’s no way to treat your new best friend.

Image from International Animal Rescue of a Slow loris having its teeth painfully cut down with nail clippers by an illegal trader.

Image from International Animal Rescue of a Slow loris having its teeth painfully cut out with nail clippers by an illegal trader

Slow Lorises, Pangolins, Olinguito, Pigmy Sloths and Sea Slugs.. you name it, If it’s ‘cute’ and on the internet you can pretty much guarantee that there’s someone at the top of the first page of any search results literally begging people to tell them how to get hold of one. Which brings me back to our little blue sea slug.

Glaucus yahoo questions

The Glaucus Atlanticus only eats particular cells shed from the poisonous man of war jellyfish. Any attempt to keep one in a tank is widely considered on professional fish keeping forums to spell certain death for the creature involved. Captive breeding of this species is entirely unheard of.

To summarise: An exact translation of the suggested search ‘glaucus atlanticus pet?’ is ‘certain death of a wild animal’.

Will this stop industrious individuals in it’s native Mozambique and South Africa supplying tiny blue sea slugs to people exclaiming “I WANT ONE!!” from behind a fist full of dollars?

Every time someone squeals “I WANT ONE!!” someone somewhere hears it and a conservation nightmare continues to unfold.

Every time someone types “I WANT ONE!!” an animal dies for someones selfish want and ignorance. I’m being serious.
This is no exaggeration. I wish it was.

I’ll tell you what I want. I want the phrase “I want one!!” to be a thing of the past. It perpetuates the idea that wanting something is enough reason to turn its world upside-down, remove it from the wild and keep it in a tank so you can look at it whenever you like, an attitude that must cease if there is any hope of stemming this total devastation of fragile, dwindling populations of natures most awesome and appealing creatures.

If you really like awesome creatures, share this message with ‘animal lovers’ in danger of becoming part of the problem and maybe even donate some funds to the people at International Animal Rescue who are working to save the slow loris.

*Update:

“..but I REALLY, REALLY WANT ONE!! What if I can get a captive bred one legally?”

Please ask yourself WHY you want to keep an animal as a pet.

Obtaining captive bred exotic animals to keep as pets, even within the confines of the law, only serves to exacerbate already shocking conservation crises. If the kid next door has a pet sloth, I’ll bet you everything I own that at least three of their friends will make it their singular ambition to have one too. Everywhere there is a legal trade, there is also an illegal trade, driven by demand, nothing more. As demand increases, so do the cruel and damaging lengths that people will go to to make a quick buck.

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Climate Change, a new IPCC report and why action is urgent.

The IPCC (Intergovenmental panel on climate change) released a new report yesterday.

Entire island nations will be “rendered uninhabitable”.
Millions of people to be displaced by floods and rising seas.
Uncertainties over global food supplies and severe impacts on human health across the world.
More floods, more droughts and more intense heatwaves and as human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, natural ecosystems come under extreme stress with “significant” knock-on effects for societies.
“Changes in the availability of food, fuel, medicine, construction materials and income are possible as these ecosystems are changed,” says the report.

If you read these as headlines and spend a moment to actually imagine the impact of these events, of the breakdown of global distribution and fuel supplies, on your own existence, in your own community they’re pretty alarming.

Now consider that all of the warnings highlighted above come not from yesterday‘s blockbuster IPCC report on the impacts of climate change, but from the very first one started in 1988 and published in 1990.

The IPCC has been warning us for 25 years now about the SEVERE impact Climate change is having, and will continue to have on the planet we live on.

Despite this, since the commission began in 1990, annual global greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels have gone up 60 per cent.

Clapham juction london riots looting Ben Tilley

Looting on the streets of Clapham – Ben Tilley

We humans have created a very complicated system of providing our basic needs of shelter, heat, nourishment, communication and security. All of these things are greatly threatened by climate change. Countries with a recent knowledge and sense of responsibility in providing these things for themselves will be resilient. Western society has for generations reliant on ever more remote means to provide its basic needs and would suffer greatly with the disruption climate change will continue to cause. Imagine the conflict, the hardship.. the uncertainty..

..and that’s before we even begin to talk about “Major negative effects on biodiversity”, “One third to a half of the mass of mountain glaciers disappearing within 100 years”, and how, if global average temperatures rise between 1.5C and 2.5C as they are set to then “approximately 20 to 30 per cent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction”. (IPCC 2007)

Establishing sustainable systems and resilient communities is good for everything on the planet and much easier NOW than it will be in a future where we are further limited by the effects of climate change.

Let’s make the changes NOW while we have CHOICES rather than being forced to change in a future where we no longer have choices.

Great change is inevitable. It can be a change that we choose now or it will be a change that just happens.

We still have the ability to change and effect climate change. In the future we will not. We are already suffering the consequences. We need to make changes NOW to stop things from getting very, very much worse.

 

This is happening. Read the reports. Make halting climate change a personal priority. Take time to imagine the implications on your own life and communities. Talk about it. Vote accordingly. Talk to your local Councillors. Take steps to make your communities more self sufficient and resilient to climate change and its related disruptions.. because we can’t rely on governments. It is US who need to enact this change. INDIVIDUALS and communities.

The leaders of all big businesses are INDIVIDUALS. World leaders are INDIVIDUALS.
Talk to people. Encourage them to become a part of the solution. Be a part of the solution yourself.

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“..and we didn’t even know it..”

A recent study has revealed the shocking plight of wild lions in West Africa. The study conducted by Panthera over the past six years shows that as little as 250 individuals are left in the wild..

“…and we didn’t even know it”.
. ..opens Huffpost.

There are LOTS of things we don’t know humanity. This is just one of our myriad ‘oversights’. Humans, please stop acting like we know it all. We don’t. Not even close.

The good news is that THERE IS a powerful solution to our selfish, ignorant disregard when it comes to nature and our own well-being as a planet:
Make it a priority NOT to be selfish, ignorant and disregard our effect on the natural world.

ignorANCE

Please take ten minutes to do a google search for petitions and organisations that need support.
If you don’t have ten minutes, take two to sign these e-petitions concerned with outlawing trophy hunting and, as ever, spread the word.. not just on facebook and twitter either. Talking to your friends and family about conservation issues are where many real changes in attitude are made.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/To_list_the_WHITE_LION_Panthera_leo_tsau_as_a_PROTECTED_ANIMAL_due_to_its_CULTURAL_and_CONSERVATIONAL_importance/?copy

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/ban-lion-trophy-hunting/

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‘NEW’ Creatures and what they say about our idea of our place within the ecosystem.

Looking for information about exotic pets, sea slugs or slow loris? CLICK HERE

If you’re a regular follower of science and nature journals and related pages on social media you may have noticed the torrent of ‘new creatures’ discovered within the animal kingdom lately. Sea slugs that look like little electric dragons, glow in the dark millipedes from Alcatraz and deep sea acorn worms that (apparently) look like little pink yodas.
Glaucus Atlanticus - yoda acorn worm - flouescent millipedes I love how these discoveries and associated trending articles seem to ignite wonder and a sense of awe for nature. We are devastatingly prone to complacency when it comes to the natural world and the down-right outrageous circumstance of chance that is our existence here in this unlikely universe so it’s refreshing to see people getting excited about, well, just how exciting it all is. It pleases me greatly and gives me much hope for humanity in general. People are out there interacting with nature, dedicating their time and expertise to connecting with the wonders of creation, sharing their findings with the population at large and, in turn, getting people fired up about it.
But I can’t escape a serious and burgeoning unease at the fleeting nature of this engagement.

These creatures aren’t new. They are ancient parts of something that has come together completely of its own accord over millions of years. 
The fact that we only just noticed them actually serves to point out just how ‘new’ WE are in terms of our understanding of the planet that we live on and its relationship to us.

Awareness and opinion of our place as a species within the eco system as a whole varies wildly.
I can only speak for myself here but as far as I can see we are an ultimately infinitesimal part if something beyond our current understanding with an astronomical, unparalleled (and tragically ironic) impact upon that which we do not yet understand.

Our effect on the environment is so wildly disproportionate to our relative share in creation that any graph constructed to express it would be on a scale of nothing to everything and link the two points in the most direct way possible with one little line marked ‘humanity’.

..for example

..for example

Of course, there are people out there doing things to address our impact. There are International movements to change the way that we monopolise the Earth’s resources; There are fierce debates happening at the time of writing about fracking and GMO’s, their potential to change the very make up of creation and the effect this may have on us and the other inhabitants of this planet; There is wide support for initiatives to protect endangered species.
People dedicate their lives to these causes and researching our effect on the planet.

But conservation shouldn’t be about saving species from extinction and how to best use the Earths remaining resources. It is, but only because species ARE threatened to a point of extinction and only because we ARE using up the Earth’s resources in an insatiable, selfish and irrevocable manner. It’s an end of the road response: the absolute last resort: a step that it should never be necessary to get to.
True conservation is about learning to, and finding ways to leave things alone in the first place. About re-connecting with our place within the eco system and understanding that we are not the only creatures that rely on the environment of planet earth to exist.

We’re running a very selfish land grab. Only consistent, dedicated interest in the total resolution of terrible predicaments we are creating will suffice to correct this.

The solution lies in individual attitudes and commitment to the greater good of the planet.
Unfortunately we’re at a point where our impact on the environment calls to be dealt with on an international, governmental level. This in itself is damaging as it serves to create a certain amount of detachment from the issue. It’s as if the environment and the challenges faced by it are somewhere else, in the hands of other people and, most importantly, already being dealt with:
This is not the case.

We care about the environment SO MUCH that we look to government to make policies that tell us what to do about the environment. There’s a very big middle man involved in this equation, don’t you think?

We care about the environment SO MUCH that we look to government to make policies that tell us what to do about the environment. There’s a very big middle man involved in this equation, don’t you think?

There are unlimited things that we as individuals can, and must do to change the current paradigm:
Changes to the way that we live, our expectations and our priorities. We must educate ourselves, plainly refuse to be a part of damaging practices, use our votes as a consumers to change the way that resources are utilised and spread the word in hope to change the attitudes of more individuals.

Yes, companies, organisations and governing bodies are a big part of the equation but companies, organisations and governing bodies are also made up of individuals.

Yes, costs can be a factor.
Yes, we’re experiencing a recession but even in light of all economic arguments I hear, the benefits of protecting the environment are plain, long term and immeasurably valuable.

The Undiscovered Creature Project is part of my own commitment to influence our attitudes towards nature.

Hijacking the same fleeting interest the ‘new’ seems to inspire, we aim to ignite and foster an affecting sense of awe in creation. Our aim is to connect with people and celebrate the unknown wonders of genetic diversity BEFORE we have a last-post obligation to protect it. Before it comes to the point of destruction: Embracing the unknown as something that needs our respect and support; engaging with the possibility that there are things that we don’t yet understand and giving every aspect of nature, known and unknown, a chance to thrive.

For Five Simple things you can do TODAY to change the paradigm, click here..

5 SIMPLE THINGS THAT WE AS INDIVIDUALS CAN DO TO CHANGE THE PARADIGM.

 

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5 Things You Can Do TODAY To Help Save The Planet

Ever feel helpless in the face of global environmental issues? Don’t.
If people are the problem, we are also the solution

There are unlimited things that we as individuals can (and must) do to change the damaging trends of human self-interest and destruction.. changes to the way that we live, our expectations and our priorities.

We must educate ourselves, plainly refuse to be a part of damaging practices, use our votes as a consumers to change the way that resources are utilised and spread the word in hope to change the attitudes of more individuals.

Yes, companies, organisations and governing bodies are a big part of the equation but companies, organisations and governing bodies are also made up of individuals.

We should not feel powerless in the face of global conservation issues because we are not! The benefits of protecting the environment are plain, long term and immeasurably valuable. Here are a few steps that you can make TODAY to make a difference.

1. MAKE INFORMED CHOICES ABOUT HOW YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY.
money-pounds
Where do your clothes come from? How were they made?
Where does your food come from? How was it produced?
Supply is ENTIRELY based on consumer demand. WE make the demands: companies who want our cash supply them. Making good choices about what we create demand for changes things. No consumers = no business and that’s not what any company wants.
Suppliers WILL change if we clearly state with our ‘vote’ that our needs have changed.

I don’t want to make this into something about how millions of acres of pristine, ancient rainforests (along with their inhabitant orang-utans, rhinos, tigers, elephants..) are being bulldozed at the rate of one football field every two seconds, but, er, it is. (www.saynotopalmoil.com)

It’s depressing. I don’t want to hear it as much as you don’t want to hear it but if that’s really how we feel we need to understand that it’s only going to change if we, AS INDIVIDUALS change our habits. This distressing, depressing, ‘I don’t want to hear that’ repurposing of rainforests is ENTIRELY to make way for industrial farmland on behalf of western snack food and toiletry companies. Bad, evil companies, rah rah rah.. ..but they didn’t create the market.
Yes, their margins are greedy: Yes, their quest for ever cheaper ingredients is destructive and criminal but at the end of the day they’re just supplying a demand. This whole thing was our idea.

Every time we buy a packet of biscuits without knowing it’s ethical status we are saying, with our consumer vote, ‘I support this method of production even though it has no consideration for the environment. Thanks for making biscuits. Here’s my money.. carry on’.

Making good choices as a consumer creates more demand for ethical, sustainable produce, which makes its production more viable. The more times we choose good things, the more good things can be made available within viable price brackets for others to choose. Ethical/sustainable should not mean luxury. It should (and can) be the standard.

2. RETHINK YOUR ENERGY NEEDS.
home-energyThis one is simple. We all know about the benefits of saving energy. It’s good for bank balance as well as the planet. Wearing a jumper indoors when it’s cold.. switching appliances off when they’re not being used.. making sure your home is well insulated.. lift-sharing.. it’s all basic stuff that we probably know already but could all do much more to implement. No one needs a patio heater.
Changing your energy supplier is a powerful move towards making sustainability standard.  www.ethicalconsumer.org has a buyers guide.. just to get you started.
If you’re in a position to take advantage of one of the UK’s free solar panel installation schemes, or insulation schemes look in to it! Proper insulation of your home can save you hundreds of pounds a year and my Mum basically pays at least 50% less for electricity than she di before she had her solar panels installed. If you (like me) live in rented accommodation, why not suggest the schemes to your landlord.. after all, better energy efficiency will make their property cheaper to run, therefore, easier to let in the future. Win win!

(UPDATE: On the subject of Solar: I agree that renewables could be to be much more efficient than they currently are but the only way I see this happening is if they become ubiquitous. This article is largely about feeding the right ideas. Interest in renewables makes them more viable in the eyes of energy producers and stimulates development of the technology. I know they’re not perfect yet but renewables ARE the future and I think that proving interest in them now can be very helpful.)

3. BE OPEN ABOUT YOUR CHOICES AND THE REASON FOR THEM.
PICTORIAL REVIEWThe people who influence us most are the ones around us. If we are open about our choices and the reasons why we make them we will encourage others to consider their own choices, whatever they may be. It doesn’t need to be preachy, but it really shouldn’t be glossed over. Openly living a better life everywhere we are is very important. I makes it ‘the norm’ which is surely the aim.

4. REDUCE. RE-USE. RECYCLE
recycle-symbolWe all know this one but it’s a powerful mantra. Waste is our enemy. More than 40% of food and as much as 50% of energy produced is wasted(!). For large companies it is more cost effective to produce more than they need to satisfy a demand than it is for them to run out of produce and risk losing customers. Shopping for what we actually need in terms of quantity is important as it changes the demand. Making good use of everything you do buy is a very powerful step (and also means that Tesco can’t blame its waste-crimes on us). Another great mantra is make do and mend. It’s satisfying, good for the planet and good for your pocket.

5. ACTUALLY MAKE THE CHANGE. YOU. YOURSELF (<This is the most important one!).
do-it-now-600x400Remember, it’s about individual attitudes and actions. The temptation to feel powerless in the face of environmental issues is a misguided excuse to sit back, weep and do nothing. Your tears won’t do anything to save the planet, YOUR CHOICES really can though. You need to do more than believe it: You need to do it. The first step could be actually ticking off every item on this check list in a practical way, not just agreeing with it wholeheartedly, committing to the sentiment and then doing something else instead.

……

 

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Undiscovered Creature Project feature in Undecided Magazine!

We are over the moon to have been featured in the first edition of Undecided Magazine, a new Arts zine from the formidable and thoroughly lovely Undecided Art Collective.

Undecided Magazine

“Designed with high aesthetics in mind, ‘Undecided’ builds a platform for which to showcase a myriad of emerging and working artists, photographers and makers locally and internationally.”

The result is a truly beautiful, high end art book bursting with beautiful images and insights into the work of some top emerging creatives. Lovely stuff and a real honour to be a part of.

The Undiscovered Creature Project in Undecided Magazine

The Undiscovered Creature Project in Undecided Magazine

One of Rachael’s articles on conservation was published alongside information about the Undiscovered Creature Project and several beautiful shots of the creative process from talented Isle of Wight photographer Holly Cade.

The first issue of Undecided is available to buy here.

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