August 12, 2012
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN! Thanks to Derek Cattani, Christian’s photographer, for this gorgeous Birthday Card. Remember on his birthday last year Derek wrote beautifully about photographing Christian when I asked him which was his favourite photograph. Many of you do ask about photographs of Christian, so do check out his archive (and another Birthday Card) as well as the ALCC site.
This month also marks 40 years since we last saw Christian. By 1972 Christian had grown into what George Adamson thought may have been the biggest lion in Kenya – close to 500 pounds, and with more growing to do. To quote from our book A Lion Called Christian, and my letter to my parents.
“We saw Christian every morning & evening for a walk and a chat. He is much calmer & much more self assured than last year, and stunning to be with. Just as silly. Huge. Jumped up on me only once as before on his hind legs and he did it extremely gently. He licked my face as he towered over me”.
Despite his size, the local wild lions were still unrelenting in their opposition, and Christian was spending extended periods away from Kora and George assumed he was looking for somewhere more suitable to live. We realised this may mean we may never see him again…..
See our second and last reunion with Christian in 1972.
MAIL: Thanks to George from Florida for this fantastic photograph of a lion having a paw manicure and story. George asked “did you ever do this to Christian?” While he loved us, I’m not sure he would have allowed us, although his friend Unity Bevis- Jones probably could have!
Thanks to Gay for forwarding this beautiful slideshow titled Beaute Sauvage.
From Devi “I do believe our beloved Christian’s Birthday is approaching…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR MOST CHARMING AND ENIGMATIC LION, CHRISTIAN. May your story continue to be told around the world for future generations. Celebrate in Paradise with your friends my beloved Christian. Will always love you”.
I couldn’t say it better myself.
ALDF: The Animal Legal Defence Fund have had a fund raiser for the various court cases they are fighting, and I know many of you support their efforts for Tony the Tiger especially. I just cannot bear to think of the months and years of his captivity…
ACE BOURKE: A COLLECTORS JOURNEY: For personal reasons I am overdue responding to various emails, and I will. I have also been very busy preparing for my exhibition which opened yesterday at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre in southern Sydney. The exhibition is dedicated to my mother Patricia Macarthur Bourke (11th May 1922 – 23rd July 2012).
In the exhibition I examine the idea of “collecting” and all the material we accumulate in our lives which provides a map or diary of our lives. As an art curator – and traveller, I have collected alot of art, but most of us live surrounded by items of great sentimental significance and interest – which includes for me, memorabilia about Christian. An interview or “conversation” with me about the exhibition has been posted on http://www.youtube.com/hazelhurstgallery
This is one of my favourite photographs as it sums up the relief in 1970 of finally getting Christian to Kenya after months of delays, and the necessary vigilance over his well being and everyone’s safety in England. The photograph represents for me the freedom from restrictions, the beginning of Christian’s natural life, and to just…be. Happy Birthday Christian.
AVAAZ Lion Petition, Christian The Lion, Mugi, Kora, Lonesome George, Gorillas, The Aspinall Foundation
July 1, 2012
KORA: It is particularly exciting – indeed historic, that lions are being re-introduced to Kora in Kenya, the first since George Adamson’s death in 1989. Tony Fitzjohn, Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust who of course lived at Kora with George (and Christian), is overseeing the rehabilitation of Kora and George’s camp, among many other projects. After Tony sent me this photograph of Mugi recently, I asked him many questions on our behalf. What is Mugi’s personality like? How old is he? What care does he require at this stage? Can we help???? The spots on Mugi’s legs remind me of Christian’s spots that gradually faded. I think I also recognise that expression. Apart from Mugi’s curiosity about the camera, he is about to playfully pounce!
I was very touched when these drawings of Christian were emailed from Italy, where these school children had just discovered Christian’s story. Thank you so much!
” We saw a story about Christian at school. He becomes our LOVE at first sight. We were so moved so touched .. SO SO MUCH! we are so happy for
Christian and all of you.
In memory of your beloved Christian we decide to draw something for you and John. We have drawn Christian and after we have made a stickers.
Some of these we are sending you with an attachment. And if you want, we will be very happy to send you also some another via ordinary mail. Only we need your addresses.
Thank you both, including late George Adamson. CHRISTIAN FOREVER!!! MUCH LOVE
Kids from Italy, Croatia and some other places living in Trieste,
Giulia, Lorenzo, Martina, Gessica, Anna, Francesca, Greta,
Francesca, Martin, Leo, Vera, Valentina, Alen, Giovanni,
Francesco, Beatrice, Dario, Andjela, Anna, Marko, Anna, Ana,
Anja, Dario, Denis, Vladan, Christopher, Noemi and Olga, teacher “
I also received an email from Nancy which I thought summed up very well the feelings many people have about Christian and the subsequent journey some embark on – reading relevant and fascinating books, and getting more actively involved in supporting wildlife and conservation issues and causes.
“I was pleasantly surprised to receive your answer; I continue to “obsess” over Christian. I read Adrian House’s book “The Great Safari” The Lives of George and Joy Adamson, as you recommended and spent weeks on it. With my iPad in hand I must have researched every animal, person, national park, tribe, et cetera while reading it. You had mentioned in one of the many You Tube videos that this sensational interest in Christian is a cry for Africa. Indeed it is! I had never considered myself even a conservationist until Christian and since have begun to contribute to organizations. I believe it is no coincidence that he was named Christian as I see God’s hand all over this.
I also read Beryl Markham and am now going onto Elspeth Huxley. I repeatedly continue to view the reunion and am thankful Google has photos as well. I hope you and John realize the import of what you did and that you really have been used by God to change the hearts of men as certainly as I am proof. I will never be the same. “
AVAAZ: It is hard to believe that hundreds of South African lions are being slaughtered to be used for “bogus” sex potions, and are also farmed for trophy hunters. Perhaps only 20,000 wild lions remain in Africa and may soon be as endangered as elephants and rhinoceros. This petition is designed to put pressure on President Zuma with as many people as possible signalling that this brutal trade will hurt South Africa’s image as a tourist destination. Please sign the petition here.
GOOD NEWS: The Sumatran rhinoceros is critically endangered and there are fewer than 200 of the breed alive. So the birth of this baby in Indonesia – the last refuge for them – is very good news. It is only the fourth birth in captivity in 100 years.
VALE: No such luck with Lonesome George, the last known member of the Pinta Island tortoise subspecies (from the Galapagos Islands),who has died, aged at least 100. Despite years of efforts and various temptations, he was unfortunately unable to reproduce.
GORILLAS: I was of course very moved seeing Damian Aspinall return to Africa for his reunion with a gorilla called Kwibi who he had returned to Gabon in Africa five years before – one of 53 The Aspinall Foundation has returned. The emotion both of them felt was very beautiful and extremely touching. Just as we were not frightened of Christian as he ran towards us in our reunion because we could recognise his excited grunts and facial expression, Damian says he was not afraid as he recognised the gorilla “love gurgle”. It is heart breaking when Kwibi followed him along the opposite side of the river and called out to him during the night. We have footage of Christian with a very worried expression padding behind our vehicle as we left Kora one time which can still make me cry (like now). When we had Christian in London Damian’s father John Aspinall was well-known for keeping tigers on his country estate. I suppose this was a ” least worst” option we may have had to consider for Christian, and so fortunately avoided. Damian took over 2 Wildlife Parks in Kent that were founded by his father, but he has a “deep loathing” for zoos and intends to return as many animals to the wild as he can.
MAIL: My condolences to Ray who lost his beloved dog Snoot, and I’m hoping Hélène’s ill diabetic cat Hermione is recovering. Our animals play such an important role in our lives and are a re-connection with the natural world we are increasingly estranged from. They are family, and it is devastating when they are ill or if we lose them.
Jon Lewis, The Intervention, Tony the Tiger, Ross Gittins, Jenny Kee, Australia, Koalas, Bees, Prince William, Obama, Christian the Lion
May 21, 2012
JON LEWIS: It is the annual Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, and there have been photography exhibitions everywhere. I love this echidna image by Jon Lewis from his exhibition From the Ranges at Damien Minton Gallery. He has lovingly and poetically photographed the land around where he lives in country NSW. His Classic Bondi portraits from the mid 1980s are also on show at the Bondi Pavilion until June 3rd. Jonny is a well known photographer and conservation activist of long standing. See his website here.
THE INTERVENTION: I wrote about the Intervention in Aboriginal communities last time – you can protest against it here, especially as the Stronger Futures legislation to extend the Intervention is currently being debated in the Senate.
Noel Pearson is an influential Aboriginal leader and the Intervention seemed to emerge from his unexpected relationship with John Howard in his last year as PM. He has been an articulate critic of indigenous welfare dependency, but the cancellation of Community Development Employment Projects ( a form of subsidised employment) has left many in remote communities without employment and the ability to make a much needed contribution to the community. Noel Pearson writes regularly for The Australian – on a wide variety of topics, and I did wonder why academic Marcia Langton, another influential Aboriginal leader, thought it was necessary to recently write her defensive “Why I continue to be inspired by Pearson” article for the same paper.
The Intervention is very unpopular with few positive results so far. In some respects it contravenes human rights, and was an opportunistic and clumsily implemented unsuitable one-size-fits-all paradigm. Aboriginal community leaders who were not initially even consulted, need to be listened to about their particular priorities, ideas and solutions. The challenge is to create an economic basis for these remote communities – and not relocate them off their traditional lands to “growth centres”.
I think some of the most exciting Aboriginal art being made today is by the painters on bark from North East Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. Among quite a few very talented “young guns” is the innovative Gunybi Ganambarr. He is true to his traditional values and beliefs but imaginatively uses new conceptual approaches and mediums to express them. For example, Buyky (above) is natural earth pigments but on incised laminate board. See more dazzling paintings from his exhibition from my mind online at Annandale Galleries, Sydney and Ganambarr is one of 20 artists in the overdue and just opened UnDisclosed, the second National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra until 22nd July.
TONY THE TIGER UPDATE: The case was back in court recently but I can’t quite decipher the result or the next step. It seems it’s at the discretion of the state government whether or not they enforce Tony’s relocation. It just drags on and on. Does the local press follow Tony’s case sympathetically – if at all?
ROSS GITTINS: I often read (and quote) Ross Gittins, an economics journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, as he appreciates we live primarily in a society, rather than an economy. He has just been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney.
Gittins recently wrote about some fundamental differences between European and American approaches to life. It helped me understand some of the very occasional emails I get about “infringements of my freedoms”, and complaints about “big government” etc.
A sample of Europeans and Americans were asked: “Which was more important – being free to pursue your life’s goals without interference from the state, or for the state to play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody was in need”.
In the US, 58% favoured individual freedom, and 35% favoured ensuring nobody was in need. It was the reverse in Europe where in Britain, for example, only 38% favoured individual freedom.
Interestingly, despite the American belief in the opportunities open to all citizens, and President Obama’s example, Americans actually have the lowest degree of social mobility.
Gittins accepts, as I do, “the need for the community to pull together towards common objectives, for us to be led by our elected leaders and for the better-off to be required to assist the less-well-off. I don’t resent having the taxman redistribute a fair bit of my income to those less fortunate”. He concludes that overall the ideal attitude to life lies somewhere in the middle. Read the full article here.
SURVEYS & REPORTS: In other recent surveys: apparently we worry most about our careers; the majority of people think at the end of their lives that they worked too hard and should have spent more time with their families; and at present there is only a “middling” concern in the community for the environment.
There have been recent reports on how the education system is failing to engage with many indigenous and non indigenous teenagers alike, and the judicial system is failing them with high rates of incarceration and recividism. There is an epidemic of marginalised and quite fearless young people – a danger to themselves, and the community. Sydney has also had nearly nightly drive-by shootings in the suburbs.
JENNY KEE: Unusually for me, I attended Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia to see my friend Jenny Kee’s showing of her famous silk scarves – draped extravagantly around motionless models that we walked around. It was both reminiscent of the excitement of her fashion parades for Flamingo Park (with Linda Jackson) decades ago, and something new – and a new younger audience who have discovered her. See her scarves here. I’m not sure if Fashion Week drew many international heavyweights – but bloggers got a lot of attention – especially Bryanboy – who interpreted a tweet from one of our local glamazons as a real death threat. Checking out their sites, I loved Tommy Ton’ photographs in The Word on the Street and his pick of the best off-runway fashion statements of 2011.
In New York an exhibition of the work of two Italian fashion iconoclasts Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli (who could not be more dissimilar) has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Typically Miuccia Prada has said she does not like fashion and wishes she had found a job doing something important! She is a very interesting woman and hopefully her $6.8 billion fortune may one day go towards something she regards as “important”.
AUSTRALIA: We have just had a rather clever sleight of hand (projected) return to surplus budget. It seemed to compensate people for the upcoming carbon tax and supposedly spread some of the mineral wealth. A return to surplus was a foolish, inhibiting promise at a time when economies around the world need stimulation for growth – particularly in Europe. Two tacky sex scandals involving parliamentarians continued to get most of the media attention however, as their votes are crucial in the knife-edge hung parliament.
Despite the endlessly negative (and policy free) commentary from our Opposition, our economy is the envy of the world, especially in comparison to the extremely alarming eurozone crisis, which is already having global repercussions for us all.
I like the cultural diversity (and number of women) in the new cabinet in France, and M. Hollande’s call for more economic stimulation and growth rather than more austerity.
CSG: A recent rally outside Parliament House NSW called for tougher restrictions on the epidemic of coal and coal seam gas mining. It seems no area, even prime agricultural land, is off limits. Interesting to see usually conservative country people protesting and seeing, as the new leader of the Greens Christine Milne pointed out, that they have a lot in common with environmentalists.
KOALAS: Koalas are now officially “vulnerable” and “endangered” in various parts of the eastern states of Australia. I’m not sure just how much environmental protection this will provide, but in twenty years numbers in NSW have fallen from 31,400 to 21,000 in 2010, a decline of 33%.
In NSW, the government is considering allowing minors to hunt feral animals with knives, dogs and high-powered hunting bows in the National Parks – so the government can secure necessary votes from the Shooters Party on other legislation.
BEES: It is of great concern that bee numbers seem to be declining dramatically globally and this would of course be disastrous for the food chain. 65% of our agricultural production in Australia depends on pollination by European honey bees. AVAAZ recently began a campaign against the use of pesticides by Bayer, and a link has been found between another common agricultural pesticide (containing imidacloprid), and colony collapse disorder in which adult bees abandon hives.
PRINCE WILLIAM: Nice to see a new patron for conservation and in a recent speech Prince William wanted to “sound a rallying call” that in Africa there are only 600,000 elephants, 25,000 lions (halved from 20 years ago) and 12,000 cheetahs left.
MISC STATS: 7000 languages are now spoken in the world but only 600 are expected to survive until the end of the century; in the UK despite double dip recession and record unemployment the richest 1000 people are $643.5 billion richer; in Australia under 1% of the population are problem gamblers, but they contribute 40% of poker machine revenue; 37% of Australian people with taxable incomes of $1 million or more make no donations at all; 31.96% of us sign up for organ donation however; there are fewer than 200 violins made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, and 650 by Stradivarius – all worth many millions of dollars.
OBAMA: Congratulations for “evolving” into your support for same-sex marriage, the first American President to do so.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIAN:
How many times did you both visit Christian in Africa and when was he last seen?
When we were revising and updating A Lion Called Christian in 2009, even we were sometimes confused about some details of particular visits especially 40 years later! Luckily my mother kept all my letters from that period and that helped us as did subsequently published books. We returned Christian to Kenya in August 1970. After a few weeks we left him with George Adamson to get him used to us not being there, and went on a two week safari in Kenya and Tanzania. We returned to Kora where Christian was very happy to see us. Although the big lion Boy was still not fully accepting Christian, there had been an improvement and we were confident enough to leave him and return to London.
We returned one year later in July 1971 to a marvellous and enthusiastic reception from Christian that has become known as the ”YouTube” reunion and became an internet sensation. We returned again in August 1972 for another visit with Christian. He was now three years old, and was growing more independent and into one of the biggest lions George had ever seen. He had cleverly and courageously survived those early dangerous years. The relentless opposition from the local wild lions at Kora meant George’s male lions increasingly spent extended periods away from the camp. John returned to Kora again later in 1973, but Christian had not been seen since earlier in the year. George last saw him heading off in the direction of the more hospitable Meru National Park which was a much more conducive area for Christian to establish his own territory and pride.
Presuming this happened, Christian would not have been able to leave his pride unattended and return to Kora to see his friends George Adamson and Tony Fitzjohn who he loved. There were never any news or sightings of Christian again. He had grown into such a big and strong lion we hope he may have lived at least another 8 years, and that his progeny may be in Kenya today.
CHRISTIAN: See this recent interview on the BBC – John is interviewed in London in Christian’s garden, and the relocated Sophistocat furniture shop. I loved Virginia McKenna, star of Born Free saying that Christian was “one of the most beautiful young lions I had ever seen. There was just something about him….” I agree!
For a more detailed description of our return visits to Christian – and answers to other frequently asked questions, see our 2009 edition of A Lion Called Christian which can be purchased here.
Christian is mentioned in the excellent books I know some of you have been reading: My Pride and Joy by George Adamson (Collins Harvill 1986); The Great Safari – The Lives of George and Joy Adamson by Adrian House ( Morrow 1993); The Life in My Years by Virginia McKenna (Oberon 2009); and the Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust Tony Fitzjohn’s Born Wild (Viking 2010).
Christian the Lion, Middle East, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Greece, Australia, Get Up!, Factory Farming, Australian Wildlife, Orangutangs, Energy, Factory Farming, Whitney Houston, Mail, Norfolk Island etc
March 4, 2012
I’ve just been in Melbourne where I gave a talk about Christian to a most receptive audience at the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. I am constantly surprised at the “magic” of Christian’s story. It has had such an effect on so many people – and seems to bring out the best in everyone. I hope we can harness all this goodwill into making a difference for wildlife and our environment. It does mystify me on an existential level – what is Christian’s message for us, if there is one? I was once asked in an interview about this and as I hadn’t really solved it myself I blurted out “I think it is a cry for Africa”. Many people would probably say it is about loving one another.
In a recent report on TV it was stated that there may be less than 30,000 lions left in the wild, and that lions, like elephants (and much else), may be in an extinction vortex. We have been saying now for several years that there are 70% fewer lions in Africa since Christian’s time forty years ago. Lions are being shot, poisoned and speared at an alarming rate primarily because they are in competition with local villagers for diminishing resources and habitats. Apart from us loving them, apart from them being an essential link – like everything in our ecosystem, they are Africa’s number 1 tourist attraction.
MIDDLE EAST: Libya is not unexpectedly floundering – with competing regions, personalities and militias, and an understandably inexperienced leadership of the National Transitional Council that is paralysed by the rivalries. There are reports of militia violence, looting and torture. It has been described as “it is everyone against everyone else”. Syria seems to be descending into civil war, while the world stands by. It is a humanitarian catastrophe.There have been reports of widespread systematic torture, and the threat of being tried for crimes against humanity does not seem to have inhibited the government. The opposition to the regime is unfortunately divided, and as commented on before, there are so many agendas driving the conflict, both within and outside the country.
Despite the uncertain outcomes of the Arab Spring, and so many lives sacrificed, it is inspiring to see a critical mass of courageous people speaking up.
It makes me wonder – how would I respond in their situation?
JULIAN ASSANGE: It is ironic that the latest release of confidential emails by WikiLeaks from the private intelligence firm Stratfor indicates that the US Department of Justice has issued a secret sealed indictment against Julian Assange. The case against him in Sweden has recently been described as very slight, and mostly grandstanding by Swedish prosecutors. Some of the threats made to him have been appalling – and very frightening. With the example of Bradley Manning who has been held without trial in the US for over 600 days (and his trial finally scheduled for August), Julian has many reasons to fear extradition to the US. I’d also be worried about those drones that the US seem to be increasingly using to murder people, with the push of a button from the safety of an office, presumably in Washington. The publication of classified material of foreign powers is apparently not a crime under Australian law, but the Australian Government has not, and probably will not, assist our Australian citizen.
It has been pointed out that “award-winning journalist” Assange’s new TV show The World Tomorrow will air on a state-owned network in Russia, a country where 40 journalists have been murdered in the past decade. Raffi Khatchadourian commented on Julian’s contradictory nature in The New Yorker (repeated in the SMH): “He is a charismatic figure precisely because of the way his contradictions – manifest in WikiLeaks from the start – magically seem to hold together: his self absorption tempered by his more abstract but genuinely felt, pursuit of justice…his utopianism hemmed in by a do-what-it-takes view of combat; his search for hidden truths shrouded by his own secrecy and willingness to equivocate, if not lie.”
GREECE: Greece was faced with one of two unattractive options – a European fiscal strait jacket that will please bankers and Germany especially, or leaving the EU, whatever the scary ramifications of that would be. Sadly, neither option seems to address the challenge of growing the Greek economy, and the majority of people face years of real hardship.
AUSTRALIA: We have had the most extraordinarily bitter leadership battle that would have been fascinating if it didn’t threaten to damage the government so badly. The deposed but still ambitious ex PM Kevin Rudd is more popular in the polls than the PM Julia Gillard which would not be hard. It seems Rudd has constantly been undermining her, and subsequently the government, in the process. He seems totally addicted to media cycles, polling, his own importance and people in shopping centres. David Marr in the SMH wrote that another former Labor leader Mark Latham “once told Rudd to his face that his rise… was due solely to his popularity with people who have never actually met him”. I think the psychological analysis by Michael Duffy in the SMH Feb 27 best sums up how I also feel about Kevin Rudd. He reduced government to a reality TV program, and one wonders what he actually believes in. Moir captured in his cartoon (above) the nightmare Rudd has become for his own political party. After being convincingly beaten in a leadership ballot, Rudd promised his “unconditional support”. Sure. In fairness I must say that he is extremely intelligent, was a very energetic Foreign Minister, and cleverly outmanoeuvred John Howard in the 2007 election. I also believe he reacted quickly and effectively to the GFC.
GETUP!: GetUp! asked their members in a survey what are the 10 major issues we would like them to campaign for on our behalf in 2012. The top four concerns were: investment in renewable energy, followed by protecting Australia’s native forests, stopping harmful coal seam gas mining practices, and the fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
FACTORY FARMING: There is an obvious momentum of public opposition to factory farmed animals and chickens. The organisation Voiceless has done much to bring this issue to public attention in Australia. The live cattle export debate has also brought more support for animal welfare and rights issues – and recently more examples of inhumane treatment of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs have emerged which has reignited the debate. There are calls to ban live cattle exports, or for mandatory pre-slaughter stunning on all animals exported. Interestingly, or depressingly, in the first edition of A Lion Called Christian in 1970 we talked about the inhumane treatment of Australian sheep being sent to the Middle East! There is a petition for banning live cattle exports on change.org, and in the US the ALDF has a petition to US legislators who are being pressured by the corporate agriculture lobby to make documenting and distributing damaging footage of factory farm practices illegal.
DONKEYS: I have two friends Jonathan and David who are very concerned about donkeys and other working animals and think I don’t pay them enough attention! The Brooke is a highly respected international welfare organisation dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules. A recent campaign has been teaching basic animal welfare and care for Ethiopia’s grain market donkeys. William from Florida informs me the organisation was started in 1930 in Cairo by the wife of a British Army officer in response to the condition of many horses left behind in Egypt after the First World War. (I imagine many of you would have seen Stephen Spielberg’s film War Horse). The organisations Pegasus and WSPA have been working for better conditions and more effective laws to protect working horses and donkeys in Israel that are also often cruelly overworked, overladen and neglected.
AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE: Recently our attention has been drawn to the increasingly precarious situation of some of our unique wildlife. Our koalas are under threat, and it is estimated that as few as 100,000 may remain in the wild, their coastal habitats destroyed by the vast number of Australians that now live along the beautiful eastern coast. Our Tasmanian Devils have very contagious facial tumours and there is a battle to save the few healthy ones remaining in the wild, and ironically they are safer in zoos at this stage. The Australian Marine Conservation Society works hard to protect our ocean wildlife, and a recent campaign has highlighted how up to 100,000 sharks around the Great Barrier Reef can be legally killed annually for shark fin soup, or fish and chips.
ORANGUTANGS: I have friends who have recently visited or drawn my attention to various centres in our region that do great work protecting orangutangs. These include the Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan Borneo and the Camp Leakey Orphan Orangutang Care Centre in Kalimantan. Apparently the President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yuddhoyono was recently seen in a Jakarta IMAX watching a documentary on the orangutangs of Kalimantan. Let’s hope he was sufficiently moved to do more to protect the habitats of many animals that are being destroyed, especially by palm oil plantations.
ENERGY: Despite all the cries of “we’ll be ruined by the impending carbon tax” by our conservative opposition party, and some millionaires and billionaires, there has been surging investment in coal exploration. Apparently there has been a break-through (after many years) in carbon capture and storage. Let’s hope so, but I remain sceptical. The newish (conservative) leader of my state of NSW, has lifted a ban on uranium mining. Waste disposal is of course a still very unresolved and contentious issue, with a remote Aboriginal community, Muckaty in northern Australia, being targeted as a nuclear waste dump. Despite the catastrophe of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, in the US the government has approved the building of two nuclear reactors. There are also more worrying reports about mining for gas: double the anticipated green house gases leaking in the US, and in Australia, the release of contaminated water into the environment. On the subject of water, each day each person in an industrialised nation personally consumes about 1,000 gallons (3,785 litres) embedded in the food we eat. Pumping, conveying and treating water is extremely energy intensive, and the energy industry is the largest single water user.
WHITNEY HOUSTON: It was when her song I Will Always Love You was added to the YouTube footage of our reunion with Christian that it went viral, so we are very grateful to her – and to Dolly Parton who wrote it. Many of you have said how much you love the song too, and are saddened by her death. The footage is unique, but the song beautifully heightens the emotional impact. Mind you, I was reprimanded in a conference for liking it by someone who thought the music interfered with the pure response to an extraordinary animal/human experience. With Whitney, while every life is sacred, one wonders how someone so precious and talented can be allowed to slip through our fingers. I immediately went to listen to her on Christian’s ALCC website but the clip had been blocked, presumably for copyright reasons. After much searching however I was very pleased to find one “reunion” video with her song on The View, even if I was called Ace Berg!
MAIL: I’m very much appreciating the images and information I am being sent and can share. Thanks to Dee for the sweet photograph (above), and click here to see more Some Photos Just Don’t Need a Caption. Thanks also to Heulwen for the beautiful photograph of the three cheetahs in South Africa.
Thankyou to Deva Delanoe who sent me some important links. Click here to see a report on the number of tigers in private hands in the US – possibly more than twice the number left in the wild. Issues of great concern include inappropriate breeding and declawing. People like the Hollywood star Tippi Hedren are campaigning against private ownership, and I very much hope to visit her at The Shambala Preserve, her big cat sanctuary north of Los Angeles. Some experts have complained that the tigers are losing their “tigerness”. Christian was a 7th generation “European” lion, and in his case George Adamson was fascinated to see that ultimately Christian’s natural instincts were not impaired. Another link highlights the work for animal welfare in Afghanistan by NOWZAD. It is tough for most people there, so these endeavours on behalf of animals are to be applauded and supported. Deva also sent a link to the Soi Dog Foundation who are trying to prevent the very cruel illegal dog export meat trade in Thailand. Warning: the photographs on this site are particularly upsetting.
I haven’t personally researched or checked the credentials and records of many of the animal welfare organisations I have blogged about, so we should all take normal precautions before we donate or assist their work. I am sure however that the overwhelming majority are legitimate, and many are run by quite extraordinary selfless people, deserving of our support and gratitude.
NORFOLK ISLAND: I’m about to leave for Norfolk Island off the east coast of Australia for the celebration of Foundation Day on March 6th. My ancestor Philip Gidley King sailed from the new colony of Sydney in early February 1788 to establish a settlement on Norfolk Island, and I am researching some family history. I’m also hoping to avoid the incessant rains that have caused flooding throughout much of NSW, but have filled most of our dams after many years.
Tony the Tiger, Birds of America, Arab Winter, Australian Stuff, USA, Sport, Gina Rinehart, Assange etc
February 11, 2012
TONY THE TIGER: Thanks for the immediate responses to the petition for Tony the Tiger. See the recent update on Tony from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (
). Unfortunately Tony remains in his cage while complicated legal battles over him delay attempts to relocate him to an appropriate sanctuary. Is this case receiving media attention in the US?
I would like the blog to be primarily a notice board for animal welfare and rights issues and I rely on your contributions. I think we have put the spotlight on some of the more quiet achievers doing great work for animals or the environment, and the blog is now a Directory of many organisations and people.
Like many of you I support many of the campaigns of the ALDF (
), GetUp! (
), AVAAZ (
. Internet activism is huge and will grow in influence and become more targeted. I remind myself clicking “sign” on a petition and pressing “send” is pretty easy. I think trying to be informed is a good start, and donations are always a practical contribution. I’m sure we all wonder how our efforts could be more effective, and I admire people who volunteer and give their time to organisations like BushCare, and visiting imprisoned asylum seekers.
AUDUBON: Two copies (out of only 200) of the first edition of Birds of America by John James Audubon (1785-1851) sold last month at Sotheby’s for $11.5 million, and $7.5 million at Christie’s. With beautiful life size colour plates, this classic work contains over 700 North American species.
SUMMER HOLIDAYS: It has been a relaxing time spent mostly with family and friends. There has been time to read, and to reflect on 2011, and what 2012 may bring. While many of you are in freezing temperatures, our weather has been erratic and courtesy of La Niña, quite a lot of rainfall and flooding again in the north east, for some the third flood in three years. I remember how dry, hot and endless summer holidays used to be, and people now seem to go back to work much earlier. My vegetable garden is a disgrace and was even overgrown before I saw a black snake.
The Year of the Dragon apparently promises to be unpredictable and exciting. With the EU and the Middle East, anything could happen. On a positive note, I think the momentum is swinging back to a majority of people (again) accepting that climate change is real and something has to be done about it. China, the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter (8.88 billion tonnes) is to set a price on carbon but a low $1.55 a tonne, to increase gradually. It must now be hard to argue that the weather is not changing. In the Maldives, 14 out of the 200 habitable islands are now uninhabitable. 2012 does carry some pretty dire predictions for the Euro Zone by the World Bank, IMF, and George Soros amongst many others, especially with such seemingly inept leadership. Many are questioning the calls for austerity measures (made by Germany especially), when it seems people should be encouraged to spend and generate growth and jobs.
ARAB WINTER: In Egypt, what accommodation will the military come to with the winners of their election, the Muslim Brotherhood? What is known about this very influential and well-funded organisation? Now in parliament the party will not be able to remain as secretive as it has had to be in the past. See Stepping out of the shadows by Ruth Pollard (SMH News Review Jan 28-29), an article that illustrates just how little is known about them or what the future may hold. After the recent soccer riots and deaths, questions are being asked about the failure, deliberate or otherwise, of national security.
SYRIA: A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald helped me understand the situation in Syria much more clearly, and all the regional repercussions. I realised it is in some ways a proxy war. In Every Middle East player has a stake in Syria’s sectarian showdown (SMH Feb 6), Jackson Diehl writes that this is “the most complex, volatile and momentous power struggles in the history of the Middle East”. The invasion of Iraq upset the delicate regional balance between the Sunnis and Shiites, and Syria “has precipitated a crucial test of strength between Sunnis and Shiites and between Turkey and Iran. It has also triggered existential crises for Palestinians, Kurds and the Shiite government of Iraq”. Syrians are being killed daily while the UN and the Arab League appear impotent, and the Russians and Chinese are recalcitrant and entirely self-interested. While Syrians are crying out for our help and being murdered, we watch helplessly.
Thanks to David for sending this beautiful selection of photographs of Iran from The Atlantic
. It is important to see the human face and everyday lives of Iranians many of whom are held hostage by their government.
The sanctions and rhetoric against Iran – with talk of an Israeli attack against Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facilities as early as April must only stiffen Iran’s resolve to defend themselves with nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia was reported to be “shopping in Pakistan for a nuke”.
Sydney Morning Herald correspondent Hamish McDonald wrote very interestingly about returning to Israel after 13 years Life in Israel an ultra-orthodox paradox (SMH 21 Jan News Review)
. He questioned if a two-state solution was still possible “Or is all this negotiation and capacity-building simply a prelude to living together, somehow – two nations in one land – on better terms than the status quo, miserable humiliation for the occupied, corrosive for the occupier?” The best of luck to Fatah and Hamas with their recent reconciliation.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Some times last year I felt I lived in a parallel universe: Israeli government spokesmen saying new settlements were not an impediment to peace; Osama bin Laden located and assassinated after living for years in a suburb in Pakistan; the bizarre and so unlikely propaganda for the new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un – described as a “joke” by his brother; the race in Australia to hand over high food producing land to Coal Seam Gas mining or sales to foreign investors; Australia handled the GFC better than any other country, yet the Opposition here say it is the worst government (or PM?) on record.
SPORT: Australian cricket has been in crisis, but suddenly there is the emergence of good young fast bowlers, although two have already succumbed to injury. The visiting Indian team were easily beaten in the Test matches. Tendulkar failed to get his elusive 100th Test century. Several older Australian cricketers (like Ricky Ponting) have had to perform, and have. Records have been broken. The Australian public has finally warmed to the newish captain Michael Clarke who was Man of the Series and scored 329 not out.
Both tennis and cricket have fast food sponsors. Their advertisements for their food on TV looked so totally unappetising and unhealthy; hamburgers, and chicken in batter and bacon sizzling in fat. You are encouraged to relax at home watching sport on TV, eating fattening fast food, drinking Coke (or beer) and we are now urged with frequent interruptions to bet online on every aspect of the unfolding games.
In Australia in January we have several tennis tournaments building up to the Australian Open in Melbourne. There were many highlights - like actually being there to see the best players in the world play the semi finals. It was especially thrilling to see Rafa play Federer, and I was surprised at the fanatical support for Federer. I do have to admit his record is extraordinary, and he is the most graceful player who always makes the game look effortless. Overall the standard of tennis in the tournament was very high, although too many points were lost by an error, rather than won. However, as the legend Rod Laver pointed out, returning is so good these days, that shots that would previously have been ”winners” are now being returned, in very long rallys.
Any number of girls could have won, and at least six of them have been number one. Many are attractive and healthy looking and are dressing much better. Serena Williams made a surprising comment that she “never liked sport or exercising” (knocked out 4th round). Men dress in a much cooler way these days although the Federer team uniform was a rather naff quasi-military jacket and cap he ( he lost). Verdasco wore a shocking red and yellow outfit (he lost) and Dolgopolov wore red shorty pyjamas (he lost).
Both lost to Bernard Tomic, Australia’s long awaited new tennis star who has developed into quite an extraordinary player at 19 and has the tennis world fascinated. One of quite a few players with parent coaches! Murray’s new coach Ivan Lendl seems to have banned Murray’s mother – I couldn’t spot her in the crowd.
Players have a punishing schedule, and many seem to be suffering or recovering from injury. It is very hot at this time of the year here and most games are played outdoors, and the final was over 5 gruelling hours. Tennis should not be such an endurance test. There were several matches where players “found a way to win”. The mental attitudes and psychological games were fascinating, and players confronting their particular nemesis – Federer failing again against Nadal, and Nadal against Djokovic.
Back home for the final on TV I was very moved to see a parade of the past Australian winners of the Australian Open –including Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Frank Sedgeman, Rod Laver, and John Newcombe. We seemed to dominate world tennis back then. Azerenka thrashed Sharapova, and Djokovic beat Nada in the longest, and possibly the best final ever. Both winners won $2.3 million.
AUSTRALIA: It was quiet over Christmas with the politicians on holidays – there always seems to be less news! But things hotted up quickly. The PM was dragged to her car by security from a protest by Aboriginals who were nearby marking the anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy erected on the lawns of Government House 40 years ago. I think Aborigines are remarkably sanguine under the circumstances about their dispossession and the poverty that so many of them still live with. There is a rare bipartisan approach to Aboriginal affairs so nothing is done. A report on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution has just been presented to the government.
Media driven leadership speculation is running hot. The deposed PM, Foreign Minister Rudd continues to stalk the PM, pretending he isn’t, and helping to destabilise an already unpopular government. Too many careless and strategic errors cloud what have been major achievements for the government in a hung parliament, and in many ways a good economic record.
CSG: The rampant mining of coal seam gas is a great issue facing Australia. Environmental activists who are protesting over Coal Seam Gas are being spied on by the government! Too many disturbing stories are surfacing from around the world about the effects of the mining techniques on the water aquifers, and other issues including the leaking of contaminated water. Ultimately it is not suitable as a low emission “bridging fuel” between coal-fired electricity generators and large scale renewable energy. According to a recent American report the amount of greenhouse gases released by unconventional gas drilling exceeds that of oil and coal.
Some of our best agricultural and food producing areas are at risk, and many other properties are being sold to foreign investors at an alarming rate, with all food produced likely to go off shore.
Other recent reports seem to conclude that wind farms do not cause illness. What does have to be considered with wind turbines as a clean source of energy however, is all the emissions from coal-fired power plants from producing the steel to build the gigantic turbines, and all the cement for the foundations.
GINA RINEHART: Australia’s richest person ($20 billion), and possibly soon to be the richest in the world, Gina Rinehart seems to be increasingly throwing her weight around. In the past it has been reported that Gina has proposed using cheap Asian labour in her mines, that the state of Western Australia secede, and that nuclear bombs be used for mining purposes and creating harbour facilities. Not surprisingly, she funds climate-change deniers.
In a bizarre spectacle in 2010 she and sundry other mining billionaires protested on the streets against a proposed Super Profits Tax. On the back of a flatbed ute, Gina shouted “axe the tax”. Up against a campaign that cost the miners $23 million, the government watered down the Mineral tax, losing billions of dollars.
Now Gina has begun buying into Australian media – 10% of a television channel, and just recently nearly 14% of Fairfax Media which owns my newspaper of choice, the Sydney Morning Herald.
View this “the video you were never supposed to see” and see how Gina’s move is most likely part of a strategy to control and influence aspects of the media.
I’ve complained at length about some examples of bias in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, which in many other regards is a very good newspaper. Luckily the Fairfax Board in my opinion is known more for its lacklustre performance,and not editorial interference.
BILL GATES: Leading by great example, Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $US750 million to make up for the shortfall in The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
WHALING: The anti-whaling vessel the Sea Shepherd and supporters had the first skirmish of the season when 3 men boarded a Japanese vessel in the Southern Ocean. In a costly exercise they were returned to an Australian vessel, and they did put the whaling issue on the front pages briefly. All has been quiet since… or for the moment.
ELEPHANTS: Recently there was a suggestion that elephants, highly endangered in Africa as we know, be brought to Australia to eat and control the highly flammable introduced gamba grass. Oddly George Adamson advocated this when we spent time with him in Kenya. I would imagine there would be problems of immunity to diseases, damage to vegetation and soil, and be scary for an unprepared public, especially if the elephants went feral like the herds of camels and buffaloes. Other destructive introduced species in Australia include the cane toad, rabbits, foxes, cattle and sheep – and cats.
INDO-ASIA-PACIFIC: It seems Australia may finally be well positioned in the world with the global focus now on the Asian region. Obama’s decision to pull out from the Middle East and concentrate on the South East Asian region, is recasting international strategic thinking, although everything these days seem to be all about China! There will be a small US base in northern Australia. The Indian Ocean is the oil route to the Asian economies, and the navies in the region including the US, China, India, and not forgetting Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, will be keeping an eye on each other and these vital sea routes.
AMERICA: A while ago I received an irate email after I had made some complimentary remarks about President Obama. She “wanted her country back”. What did she want back I wondered, remembering the Bush years – a failure of intelligence over 9/11 and an inability to find Bin Laden, 2 expensive, deadly and unnecessary wars, and the GFC on their watch. That’s a lot of mess to inherit and to clear up.
John Howard, our fellow conservative PM of the time, rushed to join Bush in Iraq, without even advising Parliament, and subsequently and unnecessarily made Australia a terrorist target. An Australian passport can now be a liability although now we are to host a small American military base. A recent letter to the SMH editor said “I returned to Australia at the end of the (John) Howard years. I found Australia a colder, harder and more selfish society”.
My irate emailer also spoke very disparagingly about the participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is a very old-fashioned protest movement, and perhaps some are a little scruffy, but the movement keeps gaining momentum and has certainly entered international consciousness very quickly. In Ireland, protesters are occupying some of the many empty buildings for community purposes. In Sydney some protesters got arrested on a rainy night recently allegedly “contravening council notices” in what seems ongoing police harassment.
Income disparity is predicted by some to be the key issue for 2012.
Former venture trader Mitt Romney (worth $250 million) personifies the 1% and that this is an issue in the US election is more evidence of the effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He pays a 14% tax rate and Obama is taxed at 26%. The concerns of the 99% have been put on the agenda, triggering a sudden feigned concern by politicians for the middle classes. Romney is wooden, insincere and subject to faux pas but the most presentable of a pretty bad lot – and he seems to have been an effective Governor. I don’t know what he believes in and I suppose it is a relief he is a “moderate”, which seems to be a dirty word in some Republican circles. Hopefully he will see off Gingrich with his “ethical violations” and a call to an America of the past, not the future, and the “Jesus” candidate Rick Santorum who has just been resurrected. In Australia most of us seem to accept – reluctantly, that a certain level of taxation is in the national interest, and while the Christian Right is also influential, it is not as powerful as it is in the US.
The tide may be turning for Obama. There are some encouraging if small signs – like employment figures of the 3 year low of 8.3%. A trump card could be Hillary Clinton running as Vice-President to Obama, while Joe Biden becomes Secretary of State, as has been suggested.
ASSANGE: Judges have adjourned to consider their judgement about Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden. He is soon to be a television host on Russia’s RT network, interviewing “10 key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries… who will be shaping the political agendas of tomorrow”.
MISC STATS: There are now more urban Chinese than rural; 5 million dogs are put down a year in the US; $US56.8 billion worldwide sales for McDonald’s from 33,510 restaurants; US national debt is $15 trillion; Mexico’s drug trade is worth $38 billion; a 21% increase in drive-by shootings in Sydney’s suburbs.
MAIL: Susan cheekily asked how my vegetarianism is going. It was Christmas and the holidays and I’ve eaten everything offered to me! I haven’t bought any meat except for my cats. As it has been summer it is lovely eating lots of fruit and salads. Overall I’ve tried to “graze” rather than eat big meals. I eat too much bread, drink too much tea, and I don’t have cakes, biscuits or chocolates in the house.
A Lion Called Christian has just shown on Danish television and thanks for the many emails from Denmark – I’m so glad you have enjoyed it. Friends saw the video in their hotel in India last year and emailed “we didn’t know you spoke such good Hindi”!
TJUKURRTJANU Origins of Western Desert Art is a superb exhibition, which I saw just before it finished at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. These were the first paintings produced in the desert in the early 1970s by Aborigines who brilliantly and effortlessly transferred their traditional designs and creation stories to a new medium of canvas board and acrylic. Look out for the exhibition in Paris later in the year at the Musee du quai Branly (
), running 9 October until 27 January 2013. Continuing at the NGV until 24th May is Living Water: Contemporary Art of the Far Western Desert, a colourful and comprehensive exhibition which illustrates how many of the desert Aboriginal artists like Ronnie Tjampitjinpa (below) have developed over the decades, in what has been described as one of the great art movements of the last century.