Friday, September 30, 2005

At least the gorillas don't whack the sturgeons with sticks

The next thing you know, they’ll demand iPods so they can listen to The Monkeys—A researcher from the Bronx Zoo, working in the Congo, reports he has seen gorillas using tools. We know that smaller apes like chimps and orangutans make use of sticks as tools, but the only time any has seen gorillas do so has been in captivity. The researcher, Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society, calls the discovery “astounding”; other scientists call it pretty interesting. Breuer says he saw a female named Leah (that’s her human name, not her gorilla name) trying to wade through a pool of water created by elephants stomping around. When she found herself waist deep in the water, she climbed out of the pool, retrieved a branch from a dead tree and probed the water ahead of her to see how deep it was. Pretty clever, huh? Another time, another gorilla (Efi) used a detached tree trunk to support herself with one hand while digging with her other hand for herbs. She also used the tree trunk as a bridge to walk across a muddy patch. Video will be broadcast on PBS Saturday.

Look, I’ve got champaign, I’ve got toast, now I need those little red things—Caviar is an acquired taste, usually acquired by people who can afford it. It is most surely not like the roe you get from ordinary fish. Caviar, the best stuff, of course, comes from beluga sturgeon found only in the Caspian Sea. In the last 20 years, the number of fish has declined by an estimated 90 percent because of overfishing, pollution and illegal trade. Sixty percent comes to the U.S., and the Bush administration, in a rare act of environmental concern, has decided to ban the importation of the caviar to help preserve the fish. The ban goes into effect today. Last year the quota of caviar production was cut 20 percent but it didn’t make a difference because of the illegal trade. Last near Kazakhstan, one of the exporting countries, could not find a single producing female in the wild.

See if he has any sushi, Friday—In 1719, Daniel Defoe, one of England’s most imaginative writers, wrote Robinson Crusoe, the story of a man marooned for years on a Pacific Island. The book was based on a real event. A Scottish privateer, Alexander Selkirk, was marooned on an island far off the coast of Chile for more than four years. The island is named for him, or rather for the fictional him, Robinson Crusoe. According to the National Geographic Society, a Japanese explorer, Daisuke Takahashi, had found the remains of Selkirk's hut. He dug where islanders said they remember a hut once existing and found a navigational artifact of the right time, most surely Selkirk’s. It’s all in these month’s Nationals G.

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