Monday, October 31, 2011

Aftermath -- Dancing Amongst the Ruins

Central Park reopened last night following the surprise October snow storm.
I felt confidence heading to the park last night that Brad and other ducks had survived.  After all, Brad had survived much worse than a little storm dropping only 2.9 inches of snow.
But, when arriving to the 90th street entrance to the park, the sight of downed trees and branches seemingly everywhere began to dampen my optimism.
Wow, no wonder they had to close the park earlier!
In all the years of going to the park during and after snow storms, I had never seen such destruction and devastation.
Twisted tree branches and piles of leaves lay dead on the ground as if ravaged by some fierce tornado or other cataclysmic event.
It has been reported that the combination of rain and wet snow had weighted down the branches still covered in leaves.   Apparently, Central Park lost an estimated 1,000 trees. (one quarter of total trees.)  A figure that does not seem heavily inflated from what I saw last night.
The trees were obviously not prepared for a snow storm in October.
The question then ringing in my mind was, were Brad and the other birds prepared?
I of course had no way of knowing.
But, walking along the devastation on the Bridal Path and the North Park Drive, I began to have doubts.
The few runners out last night had to sidestep broken branches all along the drive.
Nevertheless, as I approached the entrance to Harlem Meer, the destruction didn't seem quite so intense.  I only noted one tree down.  Perhaps that was a good sign.
Descending the hill that leads to the Meer, I could immediately see some ducks lazily swimming on the water at the north, slightly west portion of the lake -- an area I hadn't seen them too much lately.
OK, this is good!
Continuing down, I was able to see the eastern part of the lake. And, there in silhouette against the lighted backdrop of the city and sitting on the dark water ......
Oh my God, it looks like GEESE in the middle of the lake!
Indeed, the long necks and more definitive, striking forms appeared too large to be ducks.
But, I could not be sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me as the birds were a good distance away and it was night.
I continued along the lake embankment and was pleased to see a new group of Northern Shovelers comically swimming in circles and diving under the water.  "Wow, this is good, too!" 
Meanwhile, my group of "regular" mallards cheerfully climbed the embankment seeking treats.
"Well, OK guys, but you know I am going to have to look for Brad in a bit."
Tossing some treats to the hungry and eager mallards, I continued to peer out on the lake, both at what appeared to be geese and also keeping a lookout for Brad.
Figuring the geese to be migratory, I did not expect them to move towards me, but ironically, they did!   It was clear then that they actually were geese and apparently geese who knew me.
Within a minute or so, the geese hopped up on the embankment, one by one and cautiously approached me.
At first, I thought they might be the Turtle Pond family of five that had been seen twice at the Meer in the past couple of months.
But, their caution and hesitancy, plus the fact, none were lame and limping, quickly ruled that speculation out.
By the time all the geese arrived, I counted eight.   All of them looking healthy, fit and plush, though varying in size somewhat.  At least two appeared to be large ganders in charge of their gaggles and several others appeared to be youngsters, perhaps hatched this spring.
I guessed I was looking at two families of geese that have joined forces prior to winter migrations.
But, where were the geese from?
As I pondered that question, suddenly swimming quickly towards me from out of nowhere, was Brad!
Glory be, he made it!
Brad hopped up on the embankment and immediately waddled towards me to eat confidently from my hand -- something he had not done in more than a week.
"OK, I am here now, you guys step back!" Brad's body posture seemed to announce to all.
Everything about Brad last night was confidence and the old bravado that has not been witnessed much in recent days.
But, Brad wasn't the only one suddenly feeling his oats.
The mallards too, were back to their old antics and "bar room brawls" that I am only accustomed to seeing when geese are there.
"Come on you guys!  Don't you have more important things to worry about now that winter will soon be here?"
But, the ducks were carrying on as if it was the perfect spring evening and there were only sunny, blissful days ahead.
Meanwhile, the proud ganders of the two goose families looked at the mallards like they were loons.
"Crazy mallards.....well, what can you expect from them?  They have no dignity or class!."
After filling Brad's belly with what probably was his best meal in a couple of days, my attention again turned to the geese.
"Welcome guys.....where are your from and where have you been?  You are a sight for sore eyes!  So beautiful!  Do any of you want to eat from my hand?"
I approached what appeared to be the two mama geese of the group and a couple of youngsters.
But, they curled their heads and necks to the side demurely as if to say, "We know you, but not that intimately."   They made one think of shy, virginal girls.
The ganders of the group however weren't so shy and demure.  They ate from my hands, but somewhat roughly.
"Hey, I am not offering my finger as a delicacy!  Easy now!"
They were definitely not the Turtle Pond family!
Nevertheless, after a minute or two, one of the ganders finally "got" it and became much more of a gentleman.
At least I still had ten fingers.
Finally, when all the ducks and geese were peacefully grazing the seeds off the grass, I sat with my dogs for a while on a bench to just take in the beautiful scene before me.
Tina, my older Corgi mix, seemed particularly happy to see geese once again. She had a big, wide smile on her face.  My Pomeranian, Chance, however couldn't care less.  He has always been completely oblivious of animals in the park. (Its Tina who got me into waterfowl, as she has always been endlessly fascinated with ducks and geese.)
But, there in fact was another mystery.
The fact these 8 geese were not afraid at all of my dogs!
It then dawned on me who they really were.
They had to be part of what used to be the "resident" geese of Harlem Meer.  The geese I used to see last spring and fall.  Perhaps geese I had even seen off and on over the past couple of years.
They had finally returned to Harlem Meer!
But, why so late now and why only 8 of what used to be close to 100 geese?
Those were questions, I of course had no answers to -- or simply didn't want to think about at a time of otherwise joy and celebration.
It was just so good to see the 8 geese finally back!
All the birds finally settled down and peaceful, I got up to leave with my dogs.
The geese did not flinch.   It was easy to see then, they were not only familiar with me, but also my two unthreatening dogs.   They were definitely returnees to Harlem Meer.
"I hope you guys stay a while," I murmured while leaving. "Brad and the nervous, high strung mallards need you here!"
And with that, a few of my regular ducks, along with Brad, began to follow my dogs and me..
"No, I am NOT taking you wacko ducks home with me!"
But, the geese stayed, looking as always, proud and dignified.
Walking home through the maze of twisted and broken wreckage along the paths, it occurred to me that the one place in the park that appeared almost totally untouched and unscathed by the storm was Harlem Meer.
Not only were all the existing birds fine and healthy, but new shovelers and geese had flown in!
Was this the one place in the city and the park that God and nature sought to protect?
Did the geese and shovelers flee the places they were before or during the storm to find this one safe spot?
Or, did they actually bring the safety and protection with them?
I didn't know actual answers to anything.
But, I was strangely fulfilled with a new found joy and sense of celebration.
So much so, that I found myself wildly dancing along the North Park Drive to the music and words of Bruce Springsteen's, "You're My Lucky Day" coming through the headphones, along with afterwards,"Open Road."
Fortunately, there were no runners or cyclists on the drive to wonder about a crazy woman dancing along with two smallish dogs amongst the ruins.
But, in the sober reflection of a new day, I can almost imagine officials of Central Park Conservancy waking up, seeing the 8 geese on the Meer and saying, "Oh cripes....look what the storm blew in!  Geese!  Time to call Goosebusters again!"
But, perhaps with hundreds of thousands of dollars of damaged and downed trees to clean up after, hopefully CP Conservancy priorities will be elsewhere.
It strikes just a wee bit ironic that only two weeks ago, I joked about the "destruction of trees" (as opposed to geese), only to see what was said in jest actually come to fruition. 
Apparently a dozen people lost their lives as result of the weekend storm and falling trees.
But, I am just hoping that these 8 returned geese to Harlem Meer will be left in the same peace that they apparently brought with them.
Let there again be reason to dance amongst the ruins.  -- PCA

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Intimate Relationships"

Usually after waking up in the mornings, I put on the TV just to be sure the world hasn't suddenly blown up or perhaps to just have human voices around me.
The default station on the TV is NY One and I am not always quick to change it unless there is something specifically I want to sit down and numb out to.
This morning there was a show about Broadway and a man was being interviewed with regard to his "one man show" about Apple founder and mastermind, Steve Jobs.
I was walking around and not paying close attention to names and details, but a few things caught my ear and now have me wondering.....
The interviewee talked about the masterful "designer" Steve Jobs was, but how the array of Apple products are actually produced in China where human rights are routinely trampled upon.
While not offering an actual solution to the dilemma of popular products used in America being produced through abuse of human rights elsewhere, the man said it was extremely important for people to simply be "aware."
My question is, what good is "awareness" if we are unable or unwilling to actually do something with that knowledge?
If we don't want to change anything, then doesn't the old adage, "Ignorance is bliss" actually apply?
I mean, why just get depressed about such "awareness" or feel guilty?  Such doesn't seem all that conducive to mental health.
Perhaps the man didn't want to ponder solutions too much (such as boycotting products that are produced through the abuse of others) because he admitted to being very closely connected to and reliant upon his I-Phone.
In fact, so reliant, that he actually claimed an "intimate relationship" with his I-phone and keeping it near his bed at night.
I wondered if the gentleman had a wife and kids at home and if so, what they thought of such intimate descriptive of what essentially is a gadget?
But, certainly the man is not alone and perhaps that is why his name is not important in this particular writing.
Its not about the man, per se, but rather the question of what exactly constitutes an "intimate relationship" these days?
Personally, I don't own a I-phone (or any Apple product for that matter) and don't want for any.
I do, however, own a computer and spend several hours on it each day.
But, I would never describe the use of or interaction with my computer as an "intimate relationship."
Its just a machine after all and if it suddenly broke down beyond repair, I would simply get another.
A few weeks ago, when grieving the missing geese in Central Park and thinking about the war waged against them by the USDA and the city of New York, I thought to myself, "I would rather the USDA have come into my home and stripped it of all material possessions than to kill the beautiful and meek geese in our parks."   That thought included my computer.
It is hard to imagine, as much as we may enjoy or even depend upon electronic or digital devices, feeling an "intimate" association with them.
And yet, everywhere one goes these days, people texting or talking on cell phones is a sight more common than cars at Times Square.
Sometimes, I have to yank my dogs back because someone is walking down the street texting on a cell phone and obviously not watching where they are going.
That is when I become annoyed and swear to myself, I will never be that person walking down a street and being so wrapped up in a gadget I fail to notice what is actually going on around me.
But, I think now I am actually some sort of anti-social or backwards freak in having this negative attitude towards cell phones and other popular electronic devices of the day.
Perhaps I simply have a "fear of intimacy and commitment?"
Well, apparently yes, if this is the kind of "intimacy" and connection.
I don't want to be enslaved or owned body and soul, by some electronic device or for that matter, even another human.
And yet, I think true intimacy is something to seek and aspire to.
The question is, what exactly is true intimacy?
Is it the blush and rush of first love?
Is it the passion of sex?
Is it the gentle and assuring brush of hand of one who is beloved?
Is it two senior citizens walking through a park hand in hand?
Is it the tail wagging of the family dog when you come home?
Is it the comical waddling of ducks or geese coming to greet you?
It could in fact be any of the above or all of the above.
The one thing I truly don't believe intimacy is, is a text message on a cell phone as physical and actual closeness is removed and distant.
And yet, who am I to criticize the musings or words of someone interviewed on a TV program?
Isn't it me, who by her own words, admits to turning on the TV first thing in the mornings to "hear human voices?"
The TV was surely manufactured in Japan or China and I have no idea of the conditions to the workers.
But, unlike the man interviewed, I don't particularly want to be "aware" of how the TV (or my computer) was produced unless I am willing to live without.
And with all the human loves of my life living on the other side of the country these days, existing without a TV or computer is something I am not prepared to do at this time.
Even fake intimacy is, I suppose, better than none.
I just wouldn't refer to my dependence upon computers or TV as intimate relationships.
I save that special phrase for my animals and the ducks and geese in our parks. -- PCA

"A Winter's Day in a Deep and Dark..." October

If I entertained any notions of making it to Central Park yesterday to check on Brad and the other ducks, such hope was quickly torpedoed when stepping outside to run some short errands.
Snapped tree branches were strewn upon cars and laying across streets and sidewalks as if a fierce hurricane had just blown through.
A blowing mixture of icy, wet snow whipped across faces and created a mess of nearly unwalkable, slippery slush and pools of water on the ground.
Apparently, the city wasn't prepared for snow in October.
Most of the sidewalks remained unshoveled even into the early evening causing most pedestrians to slip and slide -- or at least tread very carefully.
Temperatures dipped to the 20's last night in NYC -- something truly bizarre for this time of year.
For those thousands of people who lost power in the outlying areas due to downed trees and power lines, it cannot be pleasant to be in homes without heat.
I am thinking that we will be in for a rough winter in NYC.
All the robins and most of the sparrows have once again disappeared from the city as they did last year.
Only last year, I didn't realize that many species of sparrows apparently migrate and was quite alarmed when suddenly not seeing them.
In previous years, it seemed most sparrows stayed in NYC through the winter.  I had even taken photos of Central Park clusters of sparrows during snow storms.
But, for the past several weeks, one hardly sees any birds (except for the mallards) still in Central Park.
Moreover, the ducks appear to be bigger and plumper, perhaps due to greater down in preparation for a tough winter.
Even Brad looks bigger and fluffier than normal.
This morning, the sun was shining brightly and most of the snow in the city has been washed away by rain or increasing temperatures forecasted for today.
But, it was announced this morning that Central Park is closed due to fallen trees and dangers posed by potentially weak tree branches.
I am hoping that changes later, as I greatly want to head up to Harlem Meer and make sure Brad is OK.
Remembering how the mallards typically left Harlem Meer last year during snow storms and other inclement weather,  I am not sure any actually stayed with Brad yesterday.
Mallards seems to be extremely opportunistic birds.  When the going gets tough, they leave.
An "opportunity" that is unfortunately denied to Brad, who, being a domestic, "farm" duck is unable to fly with them.
As said yesterday, I am at almost total loss and seemingly without options on what to do about Brad.
I fear I will go to the park one day and simply not find Brad anywhere, as has been the case with three other domestic, farm ducks abandoned to Central Park in recent years.
That Central Park has refused all this time to recognize Brad for what he really is -- a domestic, Rouen duck, as opposed to a "wild hybrid" -- is frustrating and disconcerting.
Everyone was so seemingly shocked last January to discover how social and tame, Joey was, when finally he was rescued after being bitten by a dog.  But, shouldn't that have been known all along, considering Joey was a Pekin duck?
Sometimes I greatly question and wonder how much is actually known about those animals who live in our parks -- especially the more "common" ducks, sparrows and (when we actually had them) geese.
All the fascination and "study" seems to be on the more exotic species like red tailed hawks or the occasional owl.
Certainly, on the subject of Canada geese, most of the "information" published in newspaper articles is actually MISinformation and propaganda designed to demonize the birds. 
(Most such articles are posted on our Call of the Canada Geese FB page: 
I have now grown very skeptical of things I am told by so-called "experts" and those in authority, as well as that which is read when it comes to those animals we so easily take for granted and seek to vilify.
But, the misinformation doesn't stop or even begin with Canada geese.
It begins, I believe, with not knowing the difference between a "wild hybrid" and a domestic, farm duck or not even noticing the migration of sparrows in the fall.
Or, perhaps it is as simple as closing the park on a sunny day AFTER the storm, (when all the snow has melted off the tree branches) as opposed to the actual day OF the storm.
Perhaps the problem is that we are simply slow and late to wake up to the grim realities that have already occurred and should have been noticed and responded to while they were actually happening.
I fear it will one day be "too little, too late" for Brad as is already the case for Canada geese in my part of New York City.
"A winter's day in a deep and dark....." October.   -- PCA

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Lone Duck in Winter

Snow falling in New York City and the temperature hovering around freezing.
One certainly would not expect this for the late days in October.  "Winter" doesn't officially begin until December 21st.
I find myself worrying over Brad, the domestic Rouen duck somehow surviving at Harlem Meer for at least several years.
The difference is this year, Brad doesn't have Angelina, his long time mate (or sibling) who mysteriously vanished this past spring.
The Meer typically freezes over in the winter and during particularly cold or stormy weather, the resident mallards leave.
Last year, it was a struggle for the flightless Brad and Angelina to maintain a tiny pool of open water.  They had to swim frantically and constantly and even with that, the open water was eventually reduced to half of what might fill a bathtub -- less than a couple of feet in diameter.
I cannot envision Brad making it entirely on his own this winter.
Were Brad a cat or dog, I would have rescued him years ago from what is the unnatural environment of a city park.
But, he is a duck, and even though a domestic duck as opposed to wild waterfowl, there are rules banning the removal of birds from a public park.
Additionally, I am not experienced in bird rescue, don't have the proper equipment and don't have the facilities to "foster" Brad safely until a proper home could be found.  Even though confident my dogs would not harm Brad, I can't boast the same confidence of my cats.
Last spring, after the disappearance of Angelina, I called Central Park Rangers to request rescue for Brad.
But, I was told that since Brad was neither sick nor injured and since there were other ducks at the Meer, he was to be left alone.
"Nature should take its course."
But, it really isn't "nature" when domestic animals are abandoned in parks and it seems when that occurs, those animals should be quickly rescued and responsibly placed in a proper setting.
It is nothing short of miraculous that Brad has survived this long and that certainly gives credence to this duck's remarkable survival skills and smarts.
But, matters haven't been quite so "miraculous" for other domestic fowl abandoned in Central Park.
In 2009, three Pekin ducks were abandoned at Harlem Meer during the summer. While incredible that the three ducks survived the ensuing winter together, two of the three mysteriously vanished the following spring (like Angelina) and speculation by a park ranger was that the birds had been snatched for Santeria.
While  I tried to plead rescue and placement for "Joey" the remaining Pekin duck, I was told the same thing as for Brad:  "Nature should take its course.  As long as the duck is healthy......"
Joey had it very rough without the companionship and security of his flock mates.  Rejected by mallards, ignored by geese and attacked by the two dominant birds of the Meer (Brad and Angelina), my heart ached for Joey.
Brad particularly went after Joey and at times appeared as if he was trying to drown Joey  by holding the larger, white duck down in the water.    Fortunately, (probably due to his larger size and strength), Joey was able to escape.
Things however, changed dramatically just before the onset of last winter.
Apparently realizing he needed the help of another flightless duck when the lake started to freeze over, Brad eventually accepted Joey and from that point, the three domestic ducks were an inseparable team.
That is, until last January when a dog apparently attacked Joey on the ice and rescue then had to occur.  Joey was captured by a park ranger, transported to an avian veterinary facility for treatment and later placed in a caring home out of the city with other Pekin ducks.
It was then that Brad and Angelina were entirely on their own in struggling to maintain the open water at Harlem Meer.
Miraculously, the two domestic ducks made it through the brutal winter -- only to have Angelina vanish in the spring.
So, of the 4 domestic ducks abandoned at Harlem Meer, only one still remains.
But, the going hasn't been much easier for Brad since the loss of his long time mate almost six months ago, than it was for Joey a year ealier.
Though not attacked by other birds, Brad has not truly been accepted either.
Most of the time, when seeing Brad, he is swimming alone in the water. While he generally hangs out in the general vicinity of the wild mallards, he is not part of their flocks and if anything, seems somewhat intimidated by them.
I have wished for months that it was possible to secure a rescue and proper home for Brad, but despite calls to various sanctuaries and bird lovers, as well as pleas to Central Park, we are still at square one.
I truly doubt that whoever originally abandoned Brad and Angelina to Central Park years ago even foresaw a future like this one.
The snow is falling faster and heavier now.
But, all I can think about is this one lone and flightless duck abandoned on a park lake to face the merciless winter ahead.
A winter, that for all intensive purposes, seems to be already here.  -- PCA

Friday, October 28, 2011

"They Just Go To Sleep and Have Pleasant Dreams"

"They just go to sleep and have pleasant dreams."
The above was a quote from NYC Mayor Bloomberg commenting on the roundup and gassing of 368 Canada geese from Prospect Park last year.
But, the fact is that gas and decompression chambers were banned for use on dogs and cats in NYC almost 30 years ago because they were considered inhumane.
This occurred after media exposure of live puppies who had been discovered still alive after supposedly having been "euthanized" via decompression chambers used then by the ASPCA.
But, gas and decompression chambers are still legal in numerous other states to kill homeless dogs and cats.
Yesterday, the story of "Daniel" a beagle mix who survived an Alabama gas chamber hit media outlets all over the country:
While the story is (once again) presented by most of the press as a "positive, feel good" piece because the particular "miracle" dog has since been rescued and will presumably be adopted to a caring home, the bigger issue -- that of using gas chambers to "euthanize" animals -- is largely missed or glossed over.
The NBC coverage posted above is one of the few pieces to actually address the issue of gassing, at least to a degree.
No one really knows for sure how long it takes animals to die in gas chambers.
Estimates for Canada geese (who can hold breaths far longer than dogs or cats) range from "a few minutes" up to "as long as an hour."
According to the NBC story, animals at the Alabama pound are left in the gas chambers for 20 minutes, but apparently more than Daniel have survived the chambers.
Nicole Rein, spokesperson for the USDA told me last month that workers have to "wait a bit" before opening gas chambers in which geese have been killed because workers "can't be exposed to the fumes."  (CO2 is used to gas geese.)
All of this seems to contradict the Disneyworld statement by Bloomberg last year that the animals "just go to sleep and have pleasant dreams."
Nevertheless, despite the mayor's candy-coated euphemisms, many people (including myself) didn't buy the line last year about the geese going to sleep and having "pleasant dreams" and vigorously protested the goose roundups and gassings.
And so, this year 575 geese were rounded up from NYC parks and properties and sent almost 4 hours away to New Kingstown, Pennsylvania for slaughter.
Was that "better" or more "humane" than the goose gassings at JFK airport in previous years?
Not at all, when one considers the stress and terror to the geese crammed 5 to 6 to turkey crates in 80+ degree heat and trucked almost 400 miles away from the city.  One could in fact argue that the cruelty to animals was the same or even worse.
But, it was an important and symbolic victory for NYC to take an active and consistent stance against the gassings of any animals, as it is important for ALL states to take active stance and vigorously oppose the killing of animals via gas chambers, be they geese or pets.
But, certainly the "goal" in NYC was not to substitute one cruelty for another.
What the city and the USDA doesn't "get" is that we don't want our beautiful park geese killed at all.
And what our nation needs to seriously address in all these dilemmas is the issue of killing healthy and gentle animals for human convenience or due to human inertia and irresponsibility.
The truth is such killings (regardless of the method) are not "euthanasia" at all.  
That is in fact, what the "miracle dog," Daniel needs to symbolize: 
The folly and moral wrongness of killing for convenience and then labeling that, "euthanasia," "donations to food banks" or "pleasant dreams."   -- PCA

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Almost Normal

All at Harlem Meer last night was calm, serene and almost normal.
I easily found Brad, vigorously swimming with a small group of what was presumed some of the "regular" resident mallards who had returned from apparently escaping the Halloween-like atmosphere at the Meer the night before.
But, it was a very small group of ducks (perhaps about 20 in all) compared to the large flocks of mostly migratory mallards and other birds that had been gathering at the Meer in the previous weeks.
The ducks' behavior too, had returned to almost normal.
Though not directly taking treats from my hand, Brad and chums swirled around in the water and nibbled the few tossed treats from the edge of the embankment.
Sitting for a brief while on a nearby bench surveying the pretty and peaceful scene before me, I too, felt "almost normal."
Various events over the past few weeks have admittedly rendered personal thought patterns into the realms of negativity, cynicism and suspicion.
Much of that is due to the total disappearance of geese from Central Park -- an occurrence that is definitely not "normal" for this time of year.
Seeing and knowing what has happened to the geese in NYC has propelled me into a state of concern, worry, distrust and "ominous predictions" for the other waterfowl still remaining in the park.
Will the same propaganda and extermination campaigns waged against the geese in NYC also be launched against mallards?
Its actually a legitimate question under the current and prevailing circumstances.
But, that doesn't necessarily mean that every animal or aquatic-related activity occurring in a park has nefarious objective. 
I don't believe now that formal "harassment" was actually used against the ducks at Harlem Meer on Tuesday evening, though it is certainly possible.
Realizing that mallards are generally far more skittish and easily spooked than geese, its more probable that the DEC boat on the lake with its bright beams of light peering out on the water was enough to send all but three mallards rapidly fleeing the scene.
Thinking back on how the family of geese who molted at the Boat Lake over the summer were not at all perturbed by large numbers of people in rowboats, it did not seem logical at the time that one boat on a lake at night would be enough to send all the ducks flying.
But, then again, geese aren't mallards, the rowboats didn't have strobe lights and the birds at Harlem Meer are not accustomed to any boats on the lake.
All of this doesn't explain why the DEC was "testing water" and the "health of the fish" at night, as opposed to daytime (which would have been far less stressful to the birds, by not requiring bright strobe lights) nor why the testing was done this time of year when many migratory birds are gathering on the lake.
Perhaps consideration simply wasn't given to the large numbers of mallards and other birds on the lake this time of year, since the spoken objective was to "test the water and health of the fish."
I regret now not asking more questions of the DEC employee.  But, at the time I was so agitated noting the disappearance of all the mallards, suspecting harassment and still angry about the "war" on geese, my best recourse at the time, was to walk away.
When the DEC woman told me they were there to check the "health of the fish," I had to bite my tongue from saying, "If you cared so much about the welfare of the fish, why weren't you here in the summer when the fish were constantly tormented and harassed by fisherman?"
(In fact, the only times I have personally seen dead or dying fish at Harlem Meer were those pitiful, small fish thrown back in the water during spring and summer after fisherman posed for photos, showed their friends and practically danced cartwheels.  It was hard to imagine how the tiny fish were still alive after all that precious time wasting.)
So yes, under the circumstances, it was better to walk away the other night rather than hurl out provocative  questions and get into a testy "discussion" like that. There were, as noted a number of police cars out and the "mood" at that point, was combative.
Adding to the personal distrust of authority over these many long months is the difficulty encountered when trying to get answers to important questions posed to either the USDA or Central Park Conservancy.
I was not at all consoled or comforted when told by Caroline Greenleaf of Central Park Conservancy in September, that the reason for harassing a small group of resident geese out of CP was, "to make the resident geese leave before the migratory geese fly in over the next couple of weeks."
The 20 or so resident geese at Central Park were harassed out in August.
The migratory geese have yet to arrive and we are already one week away from November.
Who knows whether any migratory geese will actually make it to NYC considering the "expanded hunting" campaign waged against them all over the state and nearby states?
The few geese harassed out of Central Park in the past few months would actually be easy targets for hunters considering they were flying in such small gaggles.
The USDA too, has not been forthcoming with answers to important questions.
More than a month ago, a colleague sent an email inquiry to Public Affairs Specialist of USDA, Carol Bannerman and to my knowledge has yet to receive a reply.
Last week, I sent an email to the District Supervisor of Wildlife Services for the USDA (Lee Humberg) asking a number of vital questions concerning the 2011 Goose Removal Report.
Yesterday, I received a reply back that the inquiries were forwarded to Public Affairs specialist, Carol Bannerman.
Since Ms. Bannerman apparently hasn't found the time to answer an email sent to her more than a month ago and is presently "on leave" until the first week in November, one has to wonder if USDA will ever answer the questions posed to them?  Questions that the public has right to ask and deserves answers to.
Infuriated yesterday by what seemed an obvious "passing of the buck" I wrote back to Mr. Humberg, saying I was not interested in PR "spin" but real answers to real questions.
I also told him that, though not an official part of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, it was "perfectly understandable" why so much of the public is frustrated and angry with the actions and lack of forthright communication from public and government officials.
Among other things, the public has "the right to enjoy gentle and beautiful birds peacefully gliding on a park lake," I added in closing the letter to the USDA high official.
I haven't received a reply back to that letter and at this point, don't expect one.
But, yes, it is totally frustrating to work within legal means and attempt to start and engage in meaningful dialogues with the powers that be, only to be continually shut down, evaded and ignored.
It is truly difficult to develop or maintain trust, a spirit of cooperation, (as opposed to combativeness and cynicism) and any kind of balance or "optimism" under these circumstances.
Last night, I sat for an unknown number of minutes gazing at Brad and the other 20 or so ducks who had returned to the Meer and cheerfully swirled around in the water. 
And yes, for those few serene minutes, things appeared and felt "almost normal."
But, the key word in that sentence is, "almost."
The geese are still vanished from Central Park, as are approximately 80 or so mallards that had been gathered at Harlem Meer until this past Tuesday. And the many questions concerning the latest USDA Goose Removal Report still go unanswered.
Nothing about any of that is really "normal."
But, it is not really option to personally to run to Zaccotti Park, camp out, bang on drums and shout out to a wall of seeming nothingness and deafness.
Somehow in all the chaos, uncertainty and glumness, one still needs to strive for some kind of balance, communication and "almost normalcy."
The alternatives are really bleak and don't actually exist in the real world.
As the geese continue to strive and at least in some cases, survive against all the odds and "wars", so to do we need to find that small bit of almost normalcy in each day, not give up and somehow move on through the storms and the coming of winter.......PCA

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How To Manufacture a War

(Photo:  Brad, the domestic Rouen duck at Harlem Meer. If only he could talk. What did he imagine and experience last night?)
Although yesterday's blog entry was written tongue in cheek to show how a "war" can be manufactured against even the most beautiful and innocent creations of nature such as trees and mallards ("When Next, the Mallards and Trees?"), it might not have been so fictitious and exaggerated after all......
Last night, when arriving to Harlem Meer, I found myself suddenly looking at a "black mirror."
The water clear, dark, still and reflective with no sign of life or movement on it at all.
Jesus, what happened to all the ducks, including the regulars?
For weeks the lake at Harlem Meer has been a "staging" site for mallards and most recently, wood ducks and shovelers.    The night before, there were more than 100 mallards on the lake.  
Where and why would they ALL suddenly and hastily depart?
Indeed, I could not see Brad or even the resident mallards who live at Harlem Meer throughout most of the entire year.  The entire lake, a still and seemingly, lifeless black mirror.
The immediate suspicion was "goose harassment," but this time, waged against the mallards and other waterfowl.
But, walking down from the hill where I first view the lake and birds when arriving to Harlem Meer, I noted at the far west side of the meer, a raft-type boat on the water with bright, beaming lights.  The boat was barely moving.
Speedily walking towards the west to investigate, I passed a table near the shore with some people sitting behind it, rustling papers. I noted one paper with the letters, "DEC" on it.
I asked a woman at the table what was going on?
The 30-something, brown-haired woman with a cheery smile announced they were there to "test" the water to be sure it was "healthy for the fish."
(At almost 9 PM at night?  And at a time the lake is most plentiful with waterfowl? In another month or so, the lake at Harlem Meer would start to freeze over and there would be few birds on it.)
"What happened to all the ducks?" I asked.
"Oh, they are somewhere at the far side of the lake," the woman continued to smile assuredly.
"I don't see any.  Did you chase the ducks away?"
"Um, no.  Perhaps the lights from the boat scared them," the woman replied, the smile disappearing from her face.
"They use harassment against the geese, you know. Now, there are no geese here and some of us are not happy about that!"
Figuring I wasn't going to get whole or accurate answers to the questions I had, I walked away as by that time, I was alarmed for Brad, the domestic Rouen duck and felt  need to find him.
Numerous police cars patrolled the area.  That too, seemed a bit odd if the intention was solely to test the lake water.
Walking to the north west side of the lake, I was able to get a better look at the boat about 20 yards away. There were a few people casting small nets into the water, presumably to catch some fish or other aquatic life.
But, my concern was for the still missing Brad -- or any ducks at all.
I walked around the entire lake, carefully checking the grassy embankments for any sign of Brad or other waterfowl.   I knew Brad had to be somewhere, as unlike the mallards, he could not fly away.
I felt utterly terrible and fearful for Brad.  It must be so terrifying for this domestic duck to be suddenly abandoned and alone. Where could he be?
Finally getting to the East side of the lake, I peered into the dark, sullen water and was able to make out what appeared to be four ducks sitting like tiny statues on the still lake.  They did not move at all.
One of them appeared to be, due to lighter coloring, Brad.
Suddenly feeling somewhat relieved, but not positive, I needed to stay a bit longer to be sure it was Brad and not some figment of my imagination or wishful thinking.
Eventually, the boat left the water at the far side of the lake.
It was only then that the four ducks appeared to move very cautiously and slowly in the water.
As they gradually drifted towards the south side of the lake, I was finally able to get a better look under the park lamp lights.
And yes, it was Brad with what appeared to be three juvenile, female mallards.
But, all four birds were utterly petrified. 
Despite knowing me like one of his webbed feet, Brad did not approach me, nor did any of his three young female companions.
It was a totally depressing scene -- and yet one which I found myself immensely and strangely grateful for.
I wondered how Brad was able to persuade the three young mallards to stay with him, as opposed to flying off with the more than 100 other ducks, some of whom had to be their own flock members?
It was a question very hard to figure an answer to as one had to presume the three mallards could fly.
But, I was relieved and grateful that the three young ducks stayed, regardless of the reasons.
Still, it brought back the question of whether or not harassment was used last night to scare off all the other waterfowl on the lake?
And I had to speculate the answer to that question to be "yes," though its unlikely the DEC people actually did that.
Its hard to imagine one small boat, moving that slowly would have freaked out 100 birds to suddenly take off, despite the bright light beams on the water.
The other factor prompting me to surmise that harassment was used, was the late hour of the "water testing."
If the soul purpose of the venture was to test water, why would they not do that during normal, day light hours when bright light beams wouldn't be necessary?
None of it was making a whole lot of sense. 
Not the late time of evening -- nor the time of year.
One would think DEC would want to "test" water quality and fish "health" prior to the fishing season, as opposed to afterwards.
And why at a time of year so many ducks and waterfowl are normally gathering?
Was this to try and manufacture some "case" against the ducks and other birds for "contaminating" water as has been done against geese?
A colleague suggested today that I should call the Central Park Conservancy to get answers to the questions.
I may do that at some point, but am not optimistic about getting the right person at the Conservancy who is able and willing to answer the questions directly, wholly and truthfully.
Surely, they are not going to admit to seeking reasons to reduce, harass or "manufacture a war" on ducks anymore than USDA would admit to manufacturing a war on geese.
It just seems a bit ironic that no sooner did I write mockingly and half jokingly about creating "wars" against mallards and trees that it appears I actually walked right into one being created last night.
Certainly, it must have seemed to Brad and the three young mallards who mysteriously stayed with him last night (when all the other birds suddenly left or were chased away) that some kind of "war" was happening.
The only times I have seen birds that petrified are the times harassment is actually used.
Even I could not impart to Brad and his companions any sense of peace or security last night.
I now wonder about those two helicopters hovering over the Reservoir the other evening as mallards were attempting to fly in and out?  (I could not see any mallards on the Reservoir last night.)
Were they really weather or tourist copters -- or something else?
It seems no suspicion, no matter how crazy, exaggerated or "paranoid" these days is actually outside the realm of possible reality.
What normal person, would, after all, ever seriously imagine a day when we would invade city parks and round up thousands of peaceful geese for gassing and slaughter?
"How to manufacture a war," indeed.  -- PCA

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When Next, the Mallards and Trees?

The mallards and other birds are on the move over Manhattan these days -- well, with the notable exception of course, of Canada geese.
Yesterday, I headed over to Central Park around dusk -- one of the times of day birds are most active.
There was a group of migratory mallards resting on the waters of the Reservoir and even more mallards flying overhead.
There were also two helicopters hovering in the skies over the Reservoir, making such loud racket that joggers slowed in their tracks to look up.
I stood for a while gazing up at the unusual and copter-noisy scene.
The two copters didn't move very much. Rather, they seemed to be stationery in the sky, as if intently monitoring something.
Meanwhile, mallards (and perhaps a few other birds) were flying somewhat haphazardly with no definitive patterns.   A few groups and loners flew low over the Reservoir, while others traveled very high in the sky with some seeming destination in mind.
I thought to myself skeptically that its just a matter of time before a similar "war" as has been waged against Canada geese will also be conducted against mallards.
Like geese, mallards are considered a "game" target for hunters and it has recently been rumored that mallards, like geese, are soon to be proclaimed a "pest" and "invasive" species.
A high official with the USDA referred to mallards as "freeloaders."
Of course, mallards are smaller than geese and it is improbable that one mallard alone could take down a plane.  But, certainly a group of them being swept into plane engines *could* pose a "threat."  And mallards, like geese, usually fly in skeins.
From my personal observances, mallards fly around a great deal more than geese, sometimes, it seems, just for the fun of it.
And so yes, one could easily imagine the "plan" being hatched for mallards from the offices of our nation's Capitol (Dept of Interior) to state offices of "Wildlife Services" to management offices of individual parks.
Certainly, the labeling of anything as a "pest" or "invasive species" opens the doors for all kinds of harassment, "expanded hunting" and eradication programs.
While we never want to see a favorite hunting target go extinct (and take great measures to prevent that), it seems nor do we want these animals in areas of heavy human use -- such as public parks or urban landscapes.
What could be the justifications to embark on a war against mallards?
Virtually, the same as already used against geese.  "Too many."  "Threat to airliners." "Messy."  
Or, maybe that mallards get in the way of fisherman or quack too much.
What worked for one species of bird will surely work with another.
Mallards, like geese molt and become flightless for a few weeks in the summer. (In fact, it was speculated that a number of mallards were rounded up with the geese at Prospect Park in the summer of 2010, though it has been difficult to get confirmation of that.) 
We do know that for some time public parks have regularly trapped and rounded up raccoons and delivered them to Animal Control for "euthanasia." 
Two years ago, almost all the raccoons were rounded up from Central Park.  At the time, the justification was "rabies" and rabies warnings were posted all over the park.
However, one has to wonder if rabies was a legitimate scourge among the raccoons in Central Park shouldn't the park have been closed to human traffic until every last raccoon was captured?  Rabies is, after all a fatal disease to humans if attacked and bitten by a rabid animal.
Two years ago, a park ranger told me that rabbits one time used to live in Central Park.  She speculated that peoples' dogs killed off all the rabbits.
But, I truly doubt that.
Rather, I believe that either some people complained about the rabbits getting into picnic baskets or some official in an office somewhere proclaimed the rabbits to be "invasive" and measures were then taken to get rid of them.
We know red tail hawks were placed in Central Park several years ago to help "get rid of" pigeons.  (The hawks have reportedly also taken out a few tiny dogs, but oh well.)
All of these thoughts flittered in my mind yesterday when noting the helicopters and the mallards seemingly competing for air space over the Reservoir (though I presume the Helicopters were either monitoring some human activity or providing sightseeing for tourists).
It also occurred that goose harassment companies in NYC will soon be out of business -- unless another waterfowl species can be provided for the dogs to harass and their contracts to be fulfilled.  Right now, the only plentiful waterfowl species in certain areas of Central Park are mallards.
From the Reservoir, I again walked with my dogs, north to Harlem Meer.
Unlike last Friday when a pair of mated Canada geese were spotted on the lake, there were no geese at all last night.
While it might be tempting to blame the disappearance of Friday's two geese to "goose harassment" I believe the two migratory geese simply departed because there were no other geese at the Meer to gather and hook up with prior to southern migrations.
As the sun set, several groups of mallards took off from the lake either as part of normal migration patterns or because they roost somewhere else at night.
Numerous ducks remained.
After checking on Brad and the "regulars" (ducks) at the Meer, I eventually left.
I looked around for the couple of raccoons I used to see at night around the Meer, but I haven't seen them in almost a month now.
I wondered if "rabies" is again rampant in the park or did some people simply complain about being scared of the "rabid" raccoons?
Walking home through the North Meadow, I once again noted airliners flying low over the park and lots of Autumn leaves starting to drift to the ground.
I wondered (once again) when we will declare a "war on trees?"
Trees, after all, are actually far more destructive to human life and activities than geese.
Falling trees during storms take down power lines, destroy human homes and cars and quite frequently even kill people.
And surely trees create a real "mess" in the fall with all those billions of leaves we have to rake up.
Perhaps after the geese, raccoons, pigeons and mallards, trees will eventually follow on our agenda of destruction for human "safety and convenience?" 
In the words of one USDA official, "I would cut down all the trees were that my decision to make."
Well then, let's start chopping.
If any geese are to survive our continuing onslaughts on them, tree-empty parks will provide favorable habitat for them to rebound.  -- PCA

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Call Off The Dogs

(Photo -- New.  Romeo and Juliet.  But, soon to be shot down over New York or Pennsylvania?)
"Don't worry.  In another week or two, you will see plenty of geese flying into Central Park!"
The above assurance was made to me almost a month ago from Allan Gosser of the USDA.
But, despite the sunshine and roses prediction, the reality has been starkly different.
In fact, up until this past Friday, I had counted a total of five geese in more than three miles of Central Park for the entire month.   And those were not migratory geese "flying in," but the family of still-surviving resident geese from Turtle Pond. 
And they were only observed twice.
It seems that when arriving to the normal fall "gathering" site for geese and ducks at Harlem Meer and not finding any other geese there, the Turtle Pond goose family quickly left after only a day or two.
Since that time, flocks of migratory mallards have been steadily arriving to Harlem Meer and this past Friday afternoon, I also noted newly arrived Northern Shovelers, gulls and even rarely seen Wood Ducks. 
But, imagine the shock when looking over the very avian-busy Harlem Meer this past Friday and noting.....
What.....Can it really BE?    Oh my God!
A whopping, grand total of TWO CANADA GEESE!!
Shock overtook my senses.  I thought for a moment I was in some sort of dream.
But, no, it was real.
Two beautiful Canada geese -- obviously a mated couple, were lazily gliding amongst the duck weed and wide assortment of mallards, wood ducks and shovelers in the water.
It was obvious the newly arrived visitors were migratory geese.  Although curiously looking in my direction and noticing Brad and his "regular" mallard friends swimming my way, the geese showed no recognition and made no attempt to come close.
Fortunately, I had my camera with me and immediately zoomed in on the two geese. It has been more than two months since getting any photos of Canada geese.   (All goose photos recently posted in this journal have been from many months ago. The one posted today is new, taken this past Friday of the beautiful goose couple.)
After snapping photos and tossing some treats to Brad and his greedy mallard buddies, I sat on a nearby park bench with my dogs, happy at last to finally be seeing geese -- even if it was only two.   I had to relish and take in the moment.
The geese appeared to be resting on the water -- probably after a long journey.  They periodically bobbed their heads in the water, presumably snacking on the plentiful duck weed.
But, after about twenty minutes, the gander slowly glided away from his mate, perhaps to better familiarize himself with the new surroundings or even seek out other geese.   He wandered towards the east side of the lake casually looking in all directions.
When about 50 yards away from his mate, however, the gander then appeared to be somewhat alarmed when noticing his partner wasn't with him.
He turned around and started to suddenly call out.
"H--O--N---K..... H---O---N--K.......H---O.....N....K"
It was a series of about three or four low-pitched and loud honks.
The female goose, in kind, replied with three or four high pitched honks that traveled musically across the water.
"Honk....Honk....Honk!"   ("I am still over here!" I imagined the higher toned honks cheerfully announcing.)
The gander then took to wing to quickly get back to his mate and once again the two geese were peacefully gliding and bobbing up and down in the water together.
It was an incredibly beautiful scene to take in.  I in fact, lost track of time just sitting and watching the magically choreographed interactions between the obviously very bonded pair of geese -- like two ballet dancers on water. 
Eventually, the two geese swam together to the north east side of the lake, occasionally, standing up on the water to flap their wings, as if in preparation for further flying.
I was so thrilled and spiritually rejuvenated after watching this beautiful "ballet on water" I wondered perhaps if other migratory geese had recently flown into other parts of Central Park?
There were of course, no other geese at the Meer despite the otherwise large groups of migratory ducks and other birds that had newly arrived.
I decided to walk over to the Pond on the Upper West Side and around the Reservoir.
But, though there were a handful of mallards at the Pond and what appeared to be scores of Sea Gulls flying around the Reservoir, there were no other geese to be seen anywhere.
And then my spirits dropped once again.
I thought back on the words of Caroline Greenleaf of the Central Park Conservancy when I  called last month to complain about using dog harassment against the few resident geese of Central Park.
"We have to chase the resident geese out before the migratory geese arrive."
They had to chase out two families of resident geese to make room for a grand total of TWO "migratory geese!!??"
The thought was almost funny, were it not in fact, so tragic and irrational.
Then again, perhaps Central Park Conservancy is not fully aware of the all out "war" that has been waged on Canada geese, not only in NY State, but all over the country.  Whatever geese are not rounded up by the USDA and killed in New York City are now being blasted out of the skies in the rest of the state.
Geese don't normally migrate as only two.
It seems the two migratory geese seen at Harlem Meer are most likely the only survivors of a gaggle that attempted to migrate over New York.
Yesterday, I returned to Harlem Meer, this time shortly before sunset.   I was hoping to see the mated goose pair but knew there was good chance that would not occur again.
The geese being migratory might have flown off to continue on a long journey further south or they might have moved on because of not finding any other geese at the Meer to hook up with.
Arriving to the Meer, I was surprised to find it already dark by 6:30 as the days quickly grow shorter now.
Several groups of 8 to 10 mallards were taking off from the water and flew directly over me. I looked up, hoping to see some geese among the gaggles of flying birds, but that was not the case. 
"MIA's" I thought a bit cynically.  The geese are missing in actions, these days.
As was true in the skies was also true in the water.
I could make out scores of mallards, wood ducks and shovelers on the water, but this time, no geese at all.
Brad and his pals immediately came to me and once again, after feeding Brad from my hand and tossing out remaining treats to his cantankerous buddies, I sat down for a while to ruminate on the present goings-on. 
This would normally be such an exciting time of the year with the many flocks of migratory birds traveling in and out of the park.
But, primary among those migratory flocks should be the familiar "V's and haunting calls of the Canada geese.
But, looking up in the skies last night, I saw mostly incoming and outgoing airline flights from La Quardia airport, some of the planes flying so low, one could count the window lights.
Becoming depressed after a while, I finally got up from the bench with my dogs and started to leave.
Brad and the "regulars," as usual, followed me for some steps.
"Go on, guys.......I ain't taking a bunch of ducks home!" I attempted to laugh.
Walking home through the North Meadow, more planes continued to fly busily overhead...seemingly at shorter and shorter intervals and lower altitudes.
"The geese have been replaced by planes." ran through my mind.
And then I had to stop in my tracks and put my hand to my face in effort to stop the suddenly  gushing and free-flowing tears.
"Don't worry.  In another week or two, you will see plenty of geese flying into Central Park!"
No, Mr. Gosser.   It is now almost a month later and I am not seeing any geese flying into Central Park, but rather "plenty" of planes flying over it.   Will the two geese seen on Friday soon be shot down over New York or Pennsylvania?
Two geese.  Five geese flying.   Such easy targets without large gaggles of geese around and behind them.
That only someone had warned me last year of the very real poison of "goose chasing and harassment" when the geese are being shot and gassed and slaughtered everywhere else outside of the "safe" zone.
I tried to warn others this year.  But, no one wants to rock the boat or "alienate."
So, ultimately the geese will completely disappear from New York City. Not because we necessarily saw them get killed up close and personal.  
But, because we were afraid to question, protest and "alienate."
It is long past time to call off the guns, slaughterhouses and gas chambers.
But, since none of that is happening (or will happen) it is especially past time to call off the dogs.
The feathers we are so afraid of rustling, will soon be or already are, no more.  -- PCA

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Applied Law

"The cruelty laws don't apply in this case."
The above words were communicated in an email yesterday regarding the situation in Zanesville, Ohio where six exotic animals currently being held at the Columbus Zoo are being considered for return to what was clearly an abusive and neglectful "home."
The organization that the writer of the email represents is clearly working hard on the issue of exotic animal-owning and is seeking bans on such ownership in Ohio and elsewhere.
That is to the organization's credit.
However, getting such bans passed into law may sound much easier than it actually is.
Banning anything carries the responsibilities and costs of enforcement, as well as it raises issues of American free will and "choice."
There are, after all, those people of great wealth and resources who can well afford the responsible caring of animals -- even exotic ones. Though they represent a tiny minority of those who actually and impulsively purchase big cats, wolves, monkeys and other exotics (usually as adorable "babies" that the people later abandon), the very few responsible and knowledgeable people would also be impacted by any bans.
Personally speaking, I am all for the bans because I don't believe any private citizen needs to "own" exotic animals, even those who can afford to (especially when we are killing millions of domesticated cats and dogs in shelters every year --  animals conditioned over centuries to live as "pets" in our homes).  However, in playing "Devil's Advocate", I am merely pointing to reasons why actual bans on almost anything are extremely difficult to get passed into law.  Even if they do get passed, enforcement then becomes the issue, as usually the operations and activities go underground (as witness our virtually unwinnable "war on drugs"). 
But, as alluded to yesterday, we actually do have animal cruelty laws already on the books.
In the case of the Ohio couple who owned 56 exotic animals, including lions, Bengal Tigers, leopards, monkeys, bears, wolves and others, they have actually been convicted of animal cruelty in the past -- starving horses and cattle.
Two days ago, the husband of the couple committed suicide, but not before "releasing" all but six of the animals out of their cages.
The story hit national headlines when 48 lions, tigers, bears and wolves were then shot to death in claim to "protect the human community."  (An escaped monkey has not been found and is presumed to have been eaten by one of the cats, but there is no evidence to that claim.  There was also a report about a missing donkey.)
But, yesterday, as reported in USA Today (and this journal,) the surviving leopards, bear and monkey are being considered for return to the surviving spouse of the couple!
Perhaps I was a bit harsh in condemnation of Marion Thompson saying that she should be arrested for past animal cruelty and doesn't deserve any sympathy.
But, it is truly shocking that under the circumstances any of the surviving (and apparently "thin") animals could be returned to her.
Photos and videos of the dead lions, tigers and wolves showed animals that appeared emaciated. The living ones are thin.   Then there are the convictions for past starvation of horses and cattle.
Additionally, the property is reportedly in foreclosure and the couple owes $60,000 in back taxes.
The couple was also in the process of divorce and Mrs. Thompson had already left her husband (and presumably, the animals).  Perhaps this was a contributory reason for Mr. Thompson's suicide and even the releasing of the animals since he was apparently the only one "caring" for them.  Perhaps he feared they would all starve to death in the cages.
Between both, the past circumstances and prior convictions for animals cruelty and the present situation of extreme financial duress and debt, it seems there is no way that any of the surviving six animals could be considered for return to Marion Thompson.
Apparently, this woman can barely afford to care for a goldfish, let alone, horses, monkeys, leopards and a grizzly bear.
One has to wonder where the brains are of people like "animal expert" Jack Hanna, Sheriff Matt Lutz, politicians and other officials and even the major animal protection organizations.
Jack Hanna's quotes of Ms. Thompson's "stress," his "sympathies" for her and his half promise of returning the animals to her fly in the face of all common sense, practicality and any kind of justice, responsibility or caring for the animals.
The reality is that most animal hoarders are "distraught" when their captive prisoners are finally taken away from them -- though rarely does that actually occur.
The animal cruelty laws already on the books absolutely should and need to be applied here.
With the lone exception of animals deliberately being starved to death in so-called "scientific research" all owners are required to provide adequate food and shelter for their animals."
That did not occur at the Thompson property with the evidence of past starvation of horses and cattle and near starvation of present animals.
Several news sources reported yesterday that since this story hit national news, numerous exotic animal facilities and sanctuaries have offered to take the six surviving animals.  That is what now needs to happen.
We may or may not be able to get bans passed that outlaw the ownership of exotic pets.
But, surely, there needs to be way to prevent these six surviving animals from being returned to a situation of imprisonment and clear lack of resources to properly care for them.
As mere pedestrian without the proper names of people to contact about this situation or the resources to reach out to many, I am not in position of power to actually prevent the surviving leopards, monkey and grizzly bear being returned to Thompson.
But, it is critical that any and all with any power or influence over animal welfare do everything possible to prevent this from occurring -- even if that means filing a law suit.
As said yesterday, the return of these pitiful and already victimized animals to Marion Thompson would represent an absolute travesty of justice and complete mockery and snub of the animal cruelty laws already on the books.
Its not enough to "think of one's animals as kids."
One also has to be able to adequately feed and provide proper shelter for one's "kids" and animals.
That is already law and it needs to be actually applied. -- Especially in Zanesville, Ohio following the horrors of what has already occurred. 
We and the vulnerable animals surely do not need a repeat.  -- PCA

Friday, October 21, 2011

Law Book Window Dressing - Returning Animal Cruelty Victims Back to Abuser?

Though not widely reported in most of the media, USA Today reports that the six surviving victims of Thursday's "exotic" animal massacre in Zanesville, Ohio, might be returned to the wife of Terry Thompson, 62,  who committed suicide after releasing 50 lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, bears and monkeys into the community:
One has to seriously question the purpose of any animal cruelty laws in law books.
Apparently, they are mere window dressing designed to pacify the public into falsely believing that animal abuse is taken seriously in our country and occasionally prosecuted.
Its obviously not.
Certainly, there can be no more egregious case of animal cruelty than what this couple perpetrated on an unknown number of animals over the years.
Reuters reported yesterday that horses were allowed to starve to death on the Thompson property and were then fed to lions and tigers.  CBS news reports tonight that the couple apparently starved cattle in the past. Doug Warmolts of the Columbus Zoo (where the surviving animals were temporarily taken) reports that the leopards and grizzly bear are "thin." 
Additionally, it was earlier reported that the couple owes more than $60,000 to the IRS.
And yet despite all the reports of prosecutorial animal cruelty (not to mention releasing 50 wild animals to certain death yesterday) authorities are still considering sending the surviving victims back to one of their tormenters!
How is that even possible, one might ask?
Well, it seems there is quite a bit of bleeding heart sympathy -- not for the animals -- but for the wife of the deceased.
According to Matt Lutz, sheriff of the county, "These animals were like kids to her." (Marion Thompson.)  Animal expert, Jack Hanna adds, "She was confused and sad."
"Confused and sad?"   "The animals were like kids to her?"
Were kids allowed to starve to death or sent into a war zone for certain death, would we send surviving siblings back to the abusive home?
Marion Thompson was every bit as guilty of animal hoarding and neglect as her husband.
It is absolutely mind numbing that instead of arresting Marion Thompson for past animal abuse and neglect, she instead arouses sympathy from those who either engaged in or supported the shootings of 48 lions, tigers, wolves and bears yesterday claiming, "There was no other choice."
One is forced to question that claim
Especially when knowing how government agencies like the USDA and BLM are able to routinely round up wild animals for transport to slaughterhouses or gas chambers.
Bengal Tigers are on the verge of extinction in the wild.  There are an estimated 1,400 of then in the world.
And yet, 18 of the endangered tigers were shot to death yesterday with the claim, "There was no other choice."
Why wasn't the USDA or BLM called?
Maybe because they are busy rounding up geese or wild horses somewhere for slaughter?
There is absolutely no justice for animals anywhere and the animal cruelty laws on the books are an obvious joke.
Should these surviving leopards, monkey and bear be sent back to their "home" of horrors, it would be the biggest slap in the face to the so-called, "Animal Protection" organizations and a total travesty of justice and law.  -- PCA

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not Safe in Urban Parks and Not Safe in the Wilds of Africa

Where does one begin to address the barbaric and senseless carnage that occurred in a small Ohio community yesterday?

18 endangered Bengal Tigers, 17 lions and numerous wolves and bears taken down in a hail of bullets after their "owner" committed suicide and released all his captive prisoners to what was surely a whole scale execution.

Authorities can partially and rightfully say they "had no choice" yesterday other than to shoot to kill almost all of the abused and panicked animals in order to protect the human community.

But, for sure, there were many "choices" along the deadly path of what ultimately turned out to be a shameful and despicable slaughter.

It begins with the trafficking of endangered wildlife from remote parts of the world from the wilds of Africa to the jungles of Asia to be held prisoner as "pets" here. Usually, the mothers are shot to get to the babies and then the captured infant animals are sent on their hell journey to this country. All for money and profit.

The "exotic pets" trade is a multi-billion dollar business in this country.

But, it seems few care what happens to these exotic animals once they are sold over the Internet or in stores to people who, for the most part, have neither the financial means nor the education to properly raise and care for them.

How did this couple have 58 exotic animals on their land? Since when were Ohio farms deemed suitable habitat for lions, tigers, wolves and bears?

What about the charges of animal cruelty?

Horses left to starve and then fed to lions and tigers.  Numerous complaints of abuse, cruelty and irresponsibility.  The owner arrested for guns and weapons possession.  Who was caring for all these captive wild animals while the owner was in jail?

Were all these circumstances not a "red flag" to ANYONE?

Where was the local SPCA, Columbus Zoo or even elected officials while all this was going on? 

What good are animal cruelty laws if no one enforces them?  Are they merely window dressing on law books?

These pitiful and unfortunate animals should have been removed from this abuse and neglect a long time ago.

But, for some inexplicable reason they were not.  Instead, according to one news source, the owner and his wife were ordered to "find homes for the animals" some months back.

But, one doesn't simply put an ad in the local Pennymart for adoption of lions, tigers, wolves and bears, nor conduct "wild pet" adoptions out of the local Petco or Petsmart.

(On a personal level, I have learned how hard it is to find a "home" for a flightless, domestic duck in a public park.  Tens of thousands of pet cats and dogs are destroyed every day because "homes" cannot be found for them.)

But, somehow, these misguided or even mentally disturbed people were expected to magically "find homes" for dozens of big cats, wolves and bears.

The owner, obviously over his head and desperate simply elected instead to put a bullet in his head yesterday and open all the cages as apparently to his way of thinking, there was no other way out.

That seems to show a complete and utter failure of not just those agencies supposedly in charge of "animal welfare" but those also having to do with human welfare and mental health.

For months, I have been writing in this journal how animals like peaceful geese are not safe from human tyranny in the normal sanctuary of public parks.    

But, nor are animals safe from human exploitation, abuse and slaughter in the remote areas of the world such as African deserts or Asian jungles.

That endangered species like Bengal tigers had to go down yesterday in a hail of bullets on Ohio farmlands is to the utter shame of all of us.

Like the roundups and massacres of thousands of Canada geese in NYC urban parks, this carnage too, was totally preventable through insight and responsibility.

Somewhere, sometime, we need to draw the lines on what can be done to animals for the sakes of human whim, greed and selfishness. 

Until then, the terms, "animal protection and welfare," as well as true justice and peace are empty and meaningless phrases.  -- PCA