If I asked you to name an endangered species off the top of your head, what would you say? I’m sure the first things that come to mind are pandas, polar bears, humpback whales, and other cute, charismatic animals. How many people think of honey bees, burying beetles, or cave spiders? It is often the more relatable, fuzzy animals that get the most attention in conservation. However, animals from all taxa are in need of protection, including insects and arachnids. In some ways, these animals need more effort, as people are less likely to see the need in saving them. Insects and arachnids can be entertaining, cute, and very interesting, yet we swat them on site and try to repel them with chemicals. Insects make up most of the life on the planet; I have heard estimates stating that there are one million insects for every human in the world. They have unique, often unseen worlds. Once you know more about them, you will want to save them too.
With the invention of smartphones, it seems like people feel the need to share almost every aspect of their lives. Where they’re going to dinner, when they’re at the airport waiting to go on vacation, what their kids and pets are doing, and almost anything else. Most of the time, this involves sharing photos. With cameras on every cell phone, everyone has a camera all the time, without needing to lug around any extra equipment. While this has its upside, lately there has been a rise in one particularly dangerous action: taking pictures of, or often with, wild and captive animals. In our quest to enjoy the beauty of the natural world, some humans are putting animals at risk, and even killing them simply for a photo op. Is it really so hard to just enjoy nature from afar, rather than demanding to get up close and personal?
It seems as though the world of lab animal research may finally be catching up with public opinion. In an announcement made in November 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it was ending its chimpanzee research program, and retiring the animals to the Chimp Haven sanctuary. This comes at the end of a path that started in 2013, to reduce the number of chimps used, and eventually led to eliminating the program all together in November. Perhaps a crucial factor in this decision was that the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed captive chimps on the endangered species list in June 2015, to coincide with their status in the wild. The last place an animal as intelligent as the chimpanzee belongs is in a cage, especially for medical research. This is a great ending, and to me signals changing tides in the world of lab animal research.
Imagine you are in your home and you live with your entire family: your siblings, your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and even a few friends. Perhaps you have children, and they are at your side. They are playing with your nieces and nephews, and perhaps second cousins as well. You and the other adults are making dinner, getting ready to enjoy a large feast with the entire family. Out of nowhere, a group of men who you have never met burst into your home, and begin shouting, and hurting you and your entire family with sharp weapons. They make noises so loud you have to cover your ears, and they keep getting closer and closer as you try to flee. You and your family have no choice but to get out of the house, and head for the highway behind your house. You cannot pass the highway, and now you are all trapped between it, and these horrible, loud men.
I’m sure almost everyone has heard of the tragic death of Cecil, a beloved pride leader in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. This was a great loss to not only Cecil’s pride, but the entire lion population, and the entire world. What is shocking to me however, is while this is not the only time an animal has been the victim of trophy hunting, it is by far the most popular. I want to further explore what has made Cecil’s death cause for international outrage, and what we can hope to come from it in the future.
It seems like these days, people are no longer satisfied with “ordinary” pets. Dogs and cats remain popular, but there are several other pets that are gaining popularity. I myself have a variety of animals sharing my home with me, including cats, birds, a lizard, and perhaps the most exotic, sugar gliders. Our suggies have been living with us now for about two and a half years. I love them dearly, however, I am now starting to see the trouble in having such an exotic animal as a pet, and I may even be feeling a sense of regret as I write this blog. Let me start from the beginning.
In my previous blog posts about Ringling Brothers’ announcement to remove elephant acts and Sea World’s orcas, I briefly outlined my beliefs about captivity. I have gone through a change over the last couple years in terms of my opinions on captivity, brought on by recent trips to zoos. There was one trip, however, that made me certain of these new feelings I have been experiencing, and it wasn’t a trip to a zoo.
Recently, Sea World has been receiving a lot of criticism for the treatment of their captive orcas, after the release of the film “Blackfish.” People are calling for either the release or larger enclosures for them, and as I discussed in my last blog, I am all for the large ocean pens. In the midst of what I’m sure Sea World would call chaos, Ringling Brothers just announced that they will be removing elephants from their circuses. This is excellent news, and provides hope not only for Sea World’s orcas, but for other captive animals as well.
If you have read my first blog, you are aware of the inspiration, and reason for my passion for animals. Let’s go into more detail about this stepping stone into my life with animals.
I can still remember the first time I saw “Free Willy.” I was six years old, and just starting elementary school. I was at my grandmother’s house with my mom, brother, and one of my cousins. I was immediately into the movie, as it starts with a music video for “Will You Be There,” by Michael Jackson, my favorite artist at the time. The actual film starts in an even more exciting way, especially for a child...
Hello fellow animal lover! My name is Nicole Abate. I am 27 years old, and have been an animal lover my entire life. As a child, I loved animals. Then again, all kids do right? It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that I knew I wanted to work with them as a career. For me, it all started with a film. And that film, was Free Willy. I was hooked. Whales became my new obsession. Toys, posters, print outs from the computer (not the internet, it was the early nineties, but an encyclopedia in CD-ROM form). I even had a recurring dream of swimming with whales in the lake down the street (I still have this dream now, although I know it’s impossible). I wanted to be a whale trainer. My first trip to SeaWorld was like a glimpse into my future.
However, as the years went on, I slowly realized that this was not the job for me. To be a whale trainer requires one to be a strong swimmer. This is something I am not. Luckily for me, insight into an even better career would soon present itself.
Nicole is currently employed at a university, caring for lab animals. She has always been an animal lover, and more recently an animal activist.
Letters from the Field
Letters From the Field is a blog written by contributors studying or working with animals; some in their natural habitats, some in captive environments. It is a compilation of their stories, studies, and/ or experiences. If you would like to share your experiences in this blog, please contact us by clicking on the button below: