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Book Review: The World’s Oddest and Most Wonderful Mammals, Insects, Birds and Plants

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The World’s Oddest and Most Wonderful Mammals, Insects, Birds and Plants: Of Kinkajous, Capybaras, Horned Beetles, Seladangs
by Jeanne K. Hanson and Deane Morrison

Book Type: Non-fiction, general knowledge
Date of publication: 1997
Publisher: Konecky & Konecky

Synopsis:

This book covers a wide variety of living things, more than are mentioned in the title since it mysteriously omits reptiles. Most entries have about a page of text and cover the topic at a superficial level. I imagine it’s intention is just to instill a sense of wonder and curiosity in the reader and to encourage them to learm more about the entries the like the best.  Some of topics are:

  • How to choke a tree – about strangler figs
  • Insect impersonators – about orchids that mimic insects
  • The barking pika – about a cute little lagomorph that barks
  • An artichoke on legs – about pangolins
  • Can black widow spiders and trantulas actually kill you?
  • The smartest birds – about ravens

This is just a tiny fraction of the topics.

Owner’s Review: GreenHands3

This book certainly has its interesting points. And the breadth of the topics covered is amazing.  But there is no depth to anything so if you’re pretty familiar with biology and wildlife, there won’t be a lot in here for you. I think it is probably best for a middle-school child with an interest in biology.  Some of the topics are covered more than once, but if you’re just randomly skimming and stopping at what interests you, that’s probably not an issue.

I wouldn’t trust this book as a definitive source of information however. The section on kangaroo rats contains the following quote, “Like all other rodents, it has sweat glands only on its toe pads…” Well, Caplin is a rodent and I can tell you that he sweats a lot, and not just from his toes. When he sleeps under the covers on warm nights, there is sometimes a little puddle of water. And not a few people have commented that his back is wet from sweating when we take him out in public on a hot day.

One thing I found annoying is that the titles of the sections do not mention the name of the animal. For example, what the heck is a seladang? Can I find out about it by reading Fantastic Sharks, The Most Dangerous Flower, Astounding Hibernations or none of the above? And there is no index. Luckily the capybara blurb is titled The World’s Largest Rodent, but if I didn’t know what a capybara was, that wouldn’t help.

Caplin’s Review:FiveGreenPaws_tiny

I liked this book. There was all kinds of stuff I didn’t know. Beetles can have horns? Wow! And a seladang is a fancy name for a type of cow! Who knew that? Not me. Plus plants can disguise themselves to look like insects. I am glad they can’t make themselves look like capybaras! On the other hand, maybe that would be cool.

I especially liked the part about capybaras. It was less than a page, which was a bit disappointing, but there was this cute capybara drawing.

Illustrations by Glenn Wolff

Illustrations by Glenn Wolff

That’s not a bad likeness of us. But the thing I liked best about the capybara entry was that it said that our sound is a “tweedle-tweet.” My owner never says I make that sound but I do. And anyway, it is that way Bill Peet described the sounds that Capyboppy made and Capyboppy is my hero.

Hero RATS are My Heroes

My Certificate from Hero Rats

My Certificate from Hero Rats

Those of you who played #RodentJeopardy with me on twitter probably remember that while the main purpose of the game was to have fun, it was also to benifit my new favorite charity, HeroRATS. HeroRATS is an amazing organization. They train rats to find landmines in Africa and to search through samples faster than a human can blink an eye in order to detect tuberculosis. I’ll be honest with you, they make me proud to be a rodent.

HeroRatsLogo

Here’s a copy of the email they sent to my owner when she made the donation:

Dear Melanie,

I was so suprised to see your creative idea – Rodent Jeopardy – and your wonderful contribution to our team!  I’m writing to thank you for your donation and dedication to our HeroRAT’s work.  Please see the attached certificate we completed in Caplin’s name! We are deeply honored by your interest and support and want to ensure you it will go to good use.

Currently in Mozambique we are one year ahead of schedule on our task to clear the entire Gaza province by 2014.  We have already made major impacts on neighboring villages by opening up farmland, roads, and the land needed for electricity to reach a village of 10,000 Mozambicans.

Here in Tanzania we are working to address the deadliest of diseases. Tuberculosis takes more lives than any other and particularly those of women and people living with HIV.  What’s worse, it kills at a young age, at the height of people’s productivity and family responsibilities.  The work of our HeroRATs has increased detection rates at four hospitals in Tanzania by 31% and our rats can process 40 samples in four minutes – the same number a technician can do in an entire day!

We do hope you will stay in touch!  We always want to hear from you and are happy to answer any questions you might have.  If you’d like monthly updates on our progress and all the exciting advances happening at APOPO, please feel free to sign up for our e-newsletter at www.herorat.org.  If you have any questions, you can always reach me at herorats@herorat.org.

When we first began this project, people laughed at our ‘unique technology’.  Now that we have proven our HeroRATS’ incredible abilities and shown the world what they can do, we enjoy that people laugh along with us!

Thanks again for your support and please say hi to Caplin for us!

Best wishes,

Kara Schnoes on behalf of the HeroRATS team

www.herorat.org

A Hero Rat at work

A Hero Rat at work

They really sound like nice people and they do such great work. And not just for humans! They are also helping to give rats and rodents in general a better public image. So if you have any spare change this holiday season and you’re looking for a good cause, look no further! Be a hero and donate to HeroRATS!

Bolivia, Venezuela, LA Times and Me

Two young capybaras cross the road (Image from LA Times)

Two young capybaras cross the road (Image from LA Times)

Bolivia plans to export capybara meat to Venezuela;
famous capybara Caplin Rous is horrified.

I was quoted in the LA Times this week in an article by Lindsay Barnett. Normally this would make me very excited and happy but the topic of the article brings much stress to my little capy heart.

I am so worried about my wild cousins. It’s not like they don’t have enough to worry about with anacondas, jaguars, crocodiles, caiman, piranha, cars and humans hunting them for local consumption. Now my relatives in Bolivia are going to hunted and exported (dead) to Venezuela. I don’t think this is a good idea, and not just because we are adorable, smart, affectionate animals that would be much better appreciated alive.

Hunting capybaras will naturally make them much more reclusive. It will get harder and harder to spot them in the wild, even if their numbers don’t decline. As I said above, we are smart animals and we will figure out what’s going on in no time. This will hurt Bolivia’s ecotourism industy since ecotourists like it when they can see animals, especially large, cute animals like capybaras.

Also, capybaras are being ranched in Venezuela. It would be better to encourage that rather than importing animals from elsewhere. Ranching is (hopefully) done in a sustainable manner. The ranch owners have much more at stake in maintaining the local populations than hunters do. Sadly, hunting has greatly diminished our numbers, or even completely wiped us out, in large areas of our former range.

In some ways humans are smart but in others they are really slow learners. I hope they don’t learn too slowly for my wild cousins to survive.

Oh, and I wish people would stop saying that I should be in the wild! It’s starting to make me mad. The wild sure isn’t what it used to be.

Capybara Dies at Calgary Zoo

The lonely male capybara at Calgary zoo

The lonely male capybara at Calgary zoo

Well, I hate to have to report this, especially after how excited I was for all you Calgarians when you got your capybara pair. I am always excited when some of my kind have the opportunity to teach more humans about us wonderful capybaras. But after just six months, things went horribly wrong for poor little Adali, right as she was reaching adulthood. She was crushed by a hydraulic gate! I can’t even say that without eeping. What a horrible fate for my poor cousin.

The zoo has said that the “accident” was a result of human error. But the person who killed Adali got only a two day suspension. How is that justice? The only good thing is he or she won’t be allowed to work with animals again.

Here are a couple of links to articles about this:

Snow Day

My frozen water bowl

My frozen water bowl

A weird thing happened this week. I can’t hardly explain it. Let’s just say that the air in the freezer was somehow transported and expanded to fill the whole world. I know this because the water in my outside toilet bowl turned into ice. Ice, as even a capybara knows, belongs in the freezer. I know because that is where my popsicles come from. If not for popsicles, ice has no reason to exist in this world.

Ice from my bowl

Ice from my bowl

The photo above shows how much ice my owner pulled off the bowl before she filled it with fresh, slightly warmer, water for me. Let me tell you, I wasn’t happy about stepping into that water with my sensitive little feet!

Frost Weed

Frost Weed

It was so cold that even the plants froze, as you can see from the photo above. And I’ve been noticing something weird happening to the leaves on the trees. Well, first off, lots of them are just falling off their branches leaving the trees all bare and naked-looking. But also some of them are turning funny colors.

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It does look pretty but I think I like the solid green color better.

That is not the weirdest part of it, though, not even by half! The weird thing is that one day it didn’t rain. I don’t mean “it didn’t rain” as in it was a nice sunny day, I mean it did something else besides rain. My owner said it was snow and that snow is ice and that–you are not going to believe this–that ice can fall from the sky! Sometimes she talks crazy but how do you explain the photo below?

Snow and my pool (which I am NOT using in this weather)

Snow and my pool (which I am NOT using in this weather)

That white stuff in the air is the snow. The poor horses had to stand out in it. Their fur is a lot thicker than mine though and they didn’t even seem cold.

Ribbon & Chesapeake with falling snow

Ribbon & Chesapeake with falling snow

Of course Phoenix just thinks the whole cold thing is fun. What is wrong with that horse?

Phoenix playing in the cold

Phoenix playing in the cold

I, on the other hand, know just how to handle cold weather.

Me waiting out the cold on my fireplace bed

Me waiting out the cold on my fireplace bed