This Thing Called Courage

Monday, March 30, 2009

Animal Roundup: Parrot Saves Choking Baby by Calling, Mama, Baby;' Peepers Start Peeping; Did Macho B Have to Die?




DENVER - A parrot whose cries of alarm alerted his owner when a little girl choked on her breakfast has been honored as a hero.
Willie, a Quaker parrot, has been given the local Red Cross chapter's Animal Lifesaver Award.
In November, Willie's owner, Megan Howard, was baby-sitting for a toddler. Howard left the room and the little girl, Hannah, started to choke on her breakfast.
Willie repeatedly yelled "Mama, baby" and flapped his wings, and Howard returned in time to find the girl already turning blue.
Howard saved Hannah by performing the Heimlich maneuver but said Willie "is the real hero."
"The part where she turned blue is always when my heart drops no matter how many times I've heard it," Hannah's mother, Samantha Kuusk, told KCNC-TV. "My heart drops in my stomach and I get all teary eyed."
Willie got his award during a "Breakfast of Champions" event attended by Gov. Bill Ritter and Mayor John Hickenlooper.


In local news, the peepers have started peeping, which means spring is really here. Peepers are one of several small (1") native frog varieties who let us know it's spring by singing their trilling mating calls, beginning at twilight and continuing through the night. The aggregate biomass of noise is something people never forget, once hearing it. They inhabit bogs, marshes, and other wetlands. Just down the street from my house, at the intersection of the Fellsway West, North Border Road, and South Street (where the Friendlys is) must be one of the busiest intersections in town, especially during the rush hour. The traffic seems to never cease and, people being people, where there is lots of traffic there's bound to be lots of trash. Fifty yards beyond this intersection, on North Border Road (a 'feeder road' as they call it, leading to and from Route 93) there's a small wetland cheek-to-jowl with the road. Strange to say, the peepers go off in this little postage stamp of a wetland, and I could stand there all night, listening to their bell-and-rattle-like music. I find that phenomenal. Of course the wetland is replete with old tires, Friendly's wrappers, 'Big Slurp' cups, and what have you, which I try to eradicate when I think of it. And yet the peepers sing on every spring, as they have for hundreds of thousands of years. I guess they really like this spot, and all of us are the richer for it. It's best to listen from just across the street-- when there's a break in the roar of traffic (as happens more frequently as the night gets later) the sound is mesmerizing. But if you cross the street to 'their' side, they sense you're there-- and fall silent!


The following report came in this evening from the Center for Biological Diversity, a wonderful pro-wildlife group. It concerns itself with 'Macho B,' the last remaining jaguar in the United States, who died this past February at the age of 14-17, the oldest known jaguar:


Breaking News: Investigators Say Jaguar Death Was Unnecessary

Dear Joe,
Two weeks ago the last known American jaguar died. Not in the wild. Not by mistake. He was euthanized on a stainless-steel table in Phoenix.When the state-sanctioned vet said it was better for Macho B to die this way than in the wilderness, where he had lived for 15 years, I was taken aback. When the vet said Macho B could have lived another two months, I wondered: Why the rush to euthanize him? When the vet said Macho B's death was "necessary" due to long-term kidney failure, I called for an independent investigation. The story just didn't add up. The first of the independent investigations is complete, but state and federal wildlife agencies won't release it. The Arizona Daily Star, however, talked to the investigators and confirmed my worst fears. Tissue samples show no sign of kidney failure. Indeed, University of Arizona pathologist Sharon Dial stated that, "For a supposed 15-year-old cat, he had damned good-looking kidneys." The euthanization was rushed and unnecessary. Macho B was likely suffering from severe dehydration, probably brought on by his snaring, anesthetizing, and collaring. Rather than being killed, said Dial, Macho B should have been given intravenous fluids for 24 to 48 hours. There was just not enough information to support euthanizing him so quickly. Macho B was injured, possibly fatally, during capture. Though the wildlife agencies publicly denied Macho B's death was caused by "capture myopathy" (i.e. stress and injury), internal memos stated: "Department personnel suspected capture myopathy/renal failure." Only after the Star's investigation was it revealed that Macho B's paw was severely swollen, and deep scratch marks were found seven feet up the tree where he was snared.The necropsy was botched. Investigations into the cause of death have been hampered by a decision to do a "cosmetic" rather than a full necropsy so that Macho B's pelt could be stuffed for "educational" presentations. Why and who deemed this more important than a full investigation?The only good news to report is that the Center for Biological Diversity's lawsuit to establish a federal recovery plan and protected critical habitat for the jaguar is going well. In a hearing last Monday, the federal judge peppered the government's lawyer with skeptical questions, showing his discomfort with how the agency has continually changed its rationale for not protecting America's jaguars.Establishment of a federal recovery plan would likely have prevented the death of Macho B, and it certainly would have prevented what one pathologist called a "lack of total transparency" in how the post-capture handling has been conducted. I'll let you know as soon as new developments arise. Meanwhile, if you haven't already done so, please donate to the Center's Jaguar Legal Defense Fund today. We're over halfway to our goal of raising $40,000. Winning this case - just as we won two crucial cases forcing recovery of the endangered Mexican wolf - is critical to the restoration of jaguars to the United States.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director
Center for Biological Diversity

P.S. The Center is continuing to investigate how Macho B came to be captured in the first place. It is illegal to purposefully trap jaguars, and yet, bizarrely, bear and mountain lion traps were set in the canyon where Macho B was known to be prowling. Donate now to make sure Macho B's death is fully investigated and future jaguars are protected.

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