Monday 29 June 2009

Reason to Keep Your Cat Indoors

Here is another reason to keep your cat indoors, permanently. It is all over the cat news. It is the always fatal (although this could be 95% fatality), no cure, bobcat tick disease. The disease is caused by the blood parasite Cytauxzoon felis, which is carried by the American dog tick, which in turn is carried by the American bobcat in America but in Africa, this disease is carried by ungulates (animals with hooves). The parasite does not affect the bobcat, which is widely distributed throughout the USA. The disease is called cytauxzoonosis after the name of the parasite.
"The pathogen is spread to domestic cats through the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis), which can be found in heavily wooded areas and fields. Because of the route of infection, it is most likely that outdoor cats develop the disease. The biggest risk of infection occurs in May through September, but even during that time, it is a very rare disease." (Wikipedia)


American Bobcat distribution range
Above: Range of the American Bobcat. Published under Wikimedia® creative commons license = Attribution-ShareAlike License. Author: Tim Marskell

Although it is rare, it is fatal which creates a dilemma for cat owners. Do we let them out? When a cat lives in an area that is suitable to go out (i.e. quite and traffic free - are there such places?) there is this added danger. It is a fast moving and nasty disease that causes a painful death.

Initially, the disease shows no apparent symptoms. When the symptoms show the cat is near death. Quite shocking and frightening. The disease is in the news because of the loss of 4 cats in one family nor far from Topeka, Kansas:


View Larger Map

The first cat to die used to spend a lot of time outdoors in a hedgerow

The disease is caused by a protozoa microorganism, which gets into the red blood cells of the cat which causes severe anemia. There are also blood flow problems through some of the cat's organs e.g. the liver and spleen. The organs fail. The symptoms start 1 to 2 weeks after infection and are:

  • A high temperature - 105 degrees + the normal body temperature is 99.5 to 100.5 degrees)
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice in the eyes, gums, and skin (skin looks yellow). This is due to liver damage.
Historically this nasty disease is found in the south and south east of the USA . The temperature and humidity are high in these areas. However, it is migrating north and west due to climate change and bobcat migration.

As the disease is fatal the only action that can be taken is preventative measures and it is regrettably one more reason to keep your cat indoors. This is a shame. Keeping cats indoors will prevent transmission of the disease from bobcat to ground to domestic cat. Another measure is the well known Frontline:
"Although it can be prevented in most cases by use of such medicines as Frontline, there have been cases of cats treated with this medication that have died of Cytauxzoonosis because of the delay between application and absorption into the hair follicle of the feline"



From Reason to Keep Your Cat Indoors to Home Page

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Iran Protests

I am doing as asked by the Iranian protestors: spreading the word, doing my tiny bit. I have to do my bit and help the brave Iranians who are fighting against a dictatorship. It takes massive guts and some desperation to risk one’s life. I was amazed at some of the statements by the protestors. There was a women who said that she would put on her makeup and go out to the street to possibly die. I love that woman!

These are pretty tough videos to watch though, I warn you.

Here are some videos that I have selected. They are all recent either on or close to the date of this post.

These are seriously scary movies. You are just waiting for something horrible to happen.

It has virtually been proved that the elections were fraudulently manipulated (there were some doubts, amazing as that seems). Even the Iranian government has admitted that in a large number of regions the votes cast outnumbered the number of people in the region (the total electorate). They say it didn’t change anything but fail to mention that an example of major electoral fraud must lend huge doubts to the whole election. There were other examples of proven fraud. In one region a popular candidate who historically received a majority of votes received about 5% of the votes on this occasion. All the signs are that the election was rigged.

in fact, it is obvious the election was rigged. Why else would they kill and beat protestors? If it was a good election they would simply be transparent and demonstrate how well it was run. If it was a true democracy the government would let the protestors protest. That said in the UK the police act undemocratically. I hate the police everywhere!

Iran is not a democracy it is like Zimbabwe, a pretend democracy, a dictatorship dressed up as a democracy, the worst kind of government really. And the Iranians are smart people. They are highly educated and demand and deserve so much better.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Bengal Cat at a Cat Show

 

What is it like for a Bengal cat at a cat show. Do they like it? We (that is people) do it to win prizes. Who gets the prizes? The cat. The breeder or both. Well the cat gets the prize but doesn’t care so its for the breeder. This is for breeders to promote their business and have some fun too. Is it fun for the Bengal cat? Well I don’t think it is great because:

  • There is lots of travel to the shows. This can be hundreds of miles in a car or in a plane. Not many cats like that.
  • Then there is the waiting in the cages before they are called to the show ring to be judged. Not that great for a cat. But the cages are very fancy, mind you!
  • Bengal cats are pretty active and to be in a cage for relatively long time seems tough to me.

Well here are two short videos. Each features a Bengal cat at a cat show:

Young Bengal cat makes fascinating meow/trill and is pleased to see me.

And this guy just wanted to something other than be simply looked at and prodded:

Bengal cat gets bored and goes climbing

Cat shows are usually held in large industrial unit type places. They echo and are noisy, the acoustics are generally poor and the lighting is also poor being very flat. I think it is the noise that is probably the difficult for a show cat to adjust to. Some cat breeds are better than others.

One major problem for the people is when a cat escapes from its cage and goes walkabout. Well not literally escape but when out they scamper off. I have seen that happen and usually all the breeders nearby assist in corralling the wayward cat and return him or her to the “owner”.

Bengal cat at a cat show to Home Page

Monday 22 June 2009

Best Image Search Site

The best image search site in my opinion is Flickr. The point is this. When we do an image search we are not only looking for images to simply look at, a lot of the time we are looking for images to use for our own website. Faced with that objective the images that we are searching for must be useable in terms of copyright. We have no right to use any image on the internet unless we have the author’s permission or the image is in the public domain. We don’t know if an image is in the public domain very often and it can be difficult to contact people. It is not obvious a lot of the time whether a picture is copyright free or licensed. I talk about how copyright elapses with the passage of time on this page by the way:  Expired Copyright and made an attempt at a Definition of Copyright and more as well.

The good thing about Flickr (new window) is:

  • there are millions of images
  • Flickr members decide whether to share their photos under one of the 5 different creative commons licenses or reserve their rights (i.e. retain copyright). This information is tagged to each photo and..
  • you can search under any one of the creative commons licenses.
  • even if a license to use is not given by the photographer you can contact them and ask to  use the photograph and most times they will say, yes.
  • when you have found the image you can select the size that you like and download it by right clicking on the image. When you do that always rename the download with a proper and useful name for the image file.
  • Flickr is the best ranked image database. It has an Alexa ranking of 32. Other major players such as Photobucket (a close 39) and Webshots (in the 400s) are behind Flickr indicating that it is indeed the best image search site and image depository site.

Note: an important note. Always read and comply with the creative commons license and if the image is used on your site provide a link to the photographer. His or her name and a link to their Flickr home page is near the image so it is easy to copy. To recap. The beauty of Flickr is that you know:

  • you will probably find a suitable image and;
  • you know that it will be useable

You cannot beat that!

The other image search sites such as Webshots (new window) and Photobucket (new window) also have millions of images. I find the image quality less good on these sites and for Webshots you don’t get a straight download but code for an image that links back to Webshots. You can circumvent this by copying the entire page with the Prt Sc button on your computer and then editing in photo manipulation software but that is against the rules and it will almost certainly lead to problems and in any case it is wrong. As for Photobucket that is not the same as Webshots as images are shared with code provided by the site that links back to the site (see below) and there are many other ways to use the images, including straight downloads as for Flickr.

Sun sea and people playing
Photobucket image
A Perfect Father's Day ...near a lake
Webshots image

Sun sea and people playing

The image directly above was coded in by me using the image URL provided by Photobucket.

I could also mention Google image search (new window) as the best image search site for plain raw power of search and effectiveness but it will search from all the images on the internet and we must start from the premise that all are copyright protected unless otherwise stated or discovered. When we are looking for useable images this uncertainty and obstacle is not attractive. That brings back to Flickr.

One other site that could be regarded as a best image search site could be Wikimedia Commons (new window). Wikimedia is the image/media arm of Wikipedia and all the images in their database are available for use under their own brand of creative commons license. Always comply with licenses. It pays to spend time reading the rules. See Wikimedia license.

I use Flickr first, Wikimedia Commons as a reserve and then requested usage of copyrighted images that I have seen on any site but usually from a Flickr photographer as contacting the photographer is easy.

A word then about getting the most out of the images that you use. How do we maximise the prospects of getting an image found by Google image search or any of the other search engines?

For Bloggers sites I see far to many images without “alt” tags (you can find the alt tag by right clicking on the image and selecting “Properties”). All images should have a decent alt tag. This is needs to be entered manually at the moment as the Blogger upload facility does not automatically include an alt tag. That means going into the Edit Html window/page and finding the blank alt tag (it looks like this: alt=””) and then a short description of the image in between the inverted commas. I think both the file name and the alt tag should be the same. The alt tag is meant to be a written substitute for the image if it fails to load so it should be descriptive but not stuffed with keywords in an attempt to supercharge search engine optimization as Google will spot this. Play it straight.

The image file name should be descriptive too without being overly long. For example: “British Shorthair Cat Nox” sitting. As opposed to: “Brit SH1”.

One piece of software that is designed for Blogger writers is Windows Live Writer (I am writing this with the programme). I recommend this software. It will automatically add an alt tag, which you can amend and add to if you wish. See Write Blog with Windows Live Writer.

From Best Image Search Site to Home Page

Saturday 20 June 2009

No Government Compensation for Cats Protection

There will be no compensation for Cats Protection. I am very sad for the hundreds of thousands of cats who would have been helped indeed saved by Cats Protection but for the reckless investment of 11.2 million pounds (GBP) by the charity in rubbish Icelandic banks that have gone bust. It seems that this vast sum of money in terms of cat welfare is now lost as today we hear that the “Treasury rules out any help for charities that lost £120m in failed Icelandic banks” (Times Saturday June 20 2009). Cats Protection had hoped that the government would bail them out. Charities in the UK invested about £120 million in Icelandic banks and have almost certainly lost it (or most of it) when they went bust.

The Treasury said that it would set an unrealistic precedent to compensate the charities. Their stance rejects the recommendations of the Treasury Select Committee. That seems to be it. Although charities with a turnover of £6.5 million can seek help under the Government’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme larger charities are barred. I will presume that this bars Cats Protection. If I am correct that leaves them in the unenviable position of waiting years to receive perhaps pennies in the pound of monies invested when the bank’s assets are sold off.

Peter Hepburn, Cats Protection chief executive, is angry. I would have thought he would be scared to. He says, “ I feel incredibly angry…”. He wants to be bailed out. He shouldn’t be in a position where he needs to be bailed out. Responsibility rests with him ultimately for the loss of £11.2 million and he should go. It is a disgrace. He should have spread the investment far more widely. This was other people’s money. The charity held it on trust for the donors. Perhaps he was advised? Ill advised, if he was. The trouble is that the money men always give advice that benefits them. They are driven by self interest and forget about serving the client. Cats Protection found that out the hard way.

I must say I am shocked at the size of the sum of money that was held (and not spent) by Cats Protection. I feel very angry about that. There was and always is a massive obligation to spend money given by people to cat charities for the purposes for which they gave it, the welfare of cats. Of course, there has to be some money invested as it must be impossible to spend all monies received as it is received.

But how much money do you invest? The amount must be at a minimum. And the overall strategy, I say, should always have this in mind. In short the overall business plan of Cats Protection should be built around the premise that all monies received are spent on cat welfare (less the minimum cost of overheads and expenses of running the charity). I don’t believe that they think that way. I think they have gone soft. What I mean is the money was easy. There is no need to make money in a large charity. It just rolls in and this can generate a less than efficient attitude and I am convinced that this is the case with Cats Protection. I have evidence of it.

Their accounts for 2007 say that they aim to have one year’s operational expenditure. This is to protect against unexpected falls in income. This seems excessive. When in the history of Cats Protection did income completely dry up for one year? I would bet, never. I would be almost certain that income has been fairly regular for many years. And in any case any reserve funds must (yes that important) be invested in absolutely safe investments, namely bank accounts tha provide safe levels of interest.

Cats Protection run what I would describe as a rather old fashioned method of placing cats with people. Potential adopters are invited on their website to visit certain centres and select a cat. In the United States they have Petfinder.com where people can search online for individual cats and then go and meet the cat. Many small cat rescue centres are affiliated with Petfinder, using their website to direct searchers to their rescue centre. This is far more efficient. I was surprised that Cats Protection did not use the same system. So I asked them why not?

First I phoned them and the person I spoke to, Zahir White, recommended that I email my query. When that sort of thing happens it looks bad to me. I sense defensiveness and uncertainty. It does not fill me with confidence that this charity is well organised. Anyway, I complied and emailed them. I received no answer. I re-emailed them as follows:

Hello Zahir

I emailed you at your request about 11 days ago. Here is a copy of the email:

Re: Enquiry why Cats Protection don't adopt the Petfinder.com model of matching people with rescue cats

I write further to our telephone conversation today 20th March 2009, in which I asked why Cats Protection, the most established cat rescue operation in the UK, do not adopt the Petfinder.com model, which might be considered a more efficient method of placing rescued cat with prospective adopter.
Petfinder.com works with rescue centers to mutual benefit and to the cat's benefit by allowing people to search for cats (including specific cat breeds) by town and region in the USA. Individual cats are presented and the location provided plus contact details. I would ask you, please, to use the Petfinder site whereupon I would look forward to hearing from you as to why you do not adopt such a method.
Thanks in advance
Michael
Admin Pictures-of-cats.org
As I am yet to hear from Cats Protection, I should be pleased to receive a response.
Regards
Michael

That wasn’t great to be honest. Having complied with their request to email them I didn’t receive a response. I had to chase. Looks sloppy to me. I then received a response as follows:

Hi Michael

Many thanks for your email which was passed on to me by my colleague Zahir White. We are currently working on live rehoming pages for our main site which will be a fully searchable database of cats in our care ready for rehoming. The functionality of the site will allow users to search for cats by age, breed, colour etc and will offer a postcode search facility.

The new pages will draw in cats from our branch and Adoption Centre network.

Thank you again for your enquiry and suggestion, and all best wishes with PetFinder into the future.

Kind regards

James

James Blake

Communications Manager

So great news from James Blake. I wonder if the massive loss of funds will impact this?

I made a earlier post about this some time ago. At that time there was talk about a possible compensation scheme for charities generally as many had invested in these banks that in hindsight were very risky. It never worked out………

I feel for the cats that are being euthanized as a result of this huge loss of funding and the fact that there will be no compensation for Cats Protection. Do the people at Cats Protection feel this loss?

From No compensation for Cats Protection to Home Page

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Quality Content is King on the Internet

Staying at number one in Google search can be fraught with anxiety. We know how hard it can be to get to the number one position on a search engine results page (SERP). It can take a hell of a long time and the best SEO that you can apply or you just might get lucky but, frankly, there is no luck on the internet as it is all controlled by those algorithms. What is particularly interesting is how, do you stay at the top once you are there and if you got to the number one position quite quickly but then disappeared, what happened and why?

In my experience the key is this. Google can track what we do off the page. Here is a possible example. Say your web page is at the top of page one of SERP. You built it a few days before it hit page one number one. Then after two weeks it has gone to page 5. What is happening, in my opinion, is that Google is measuring the amount of time people stay on the new page. Google measures what happens before, during and after the visit to the page in question and in so doing is able to tell how valuable the page is to visitors.

If visitors consistently arrive, stay a short time and then search again, the page is not, on the face of it, providing the information that it says it should. Google of course knows the search keywords or phrase so can measure that against the title and content of the article. If visitors stay on the page for longer than average and then perhaps go to another page from the same website and then off the internet that would indicate that the page has satisfied the market and that the website has as well. Google is measuring the quality of the content through visitor behavior.

This then, once again, tells us the obvious really. Everything that we do on the internet as website creators is very secondary to the quality of the content. Google can measure the quality of your content through its algorithm. Above all else the business that is Google needs us to build meaningful and excellent content to satisfy its customers. It knows where it is. However, and this is a big however, although good old Google is very good it is not perfect and it gets it wrong sometimes. One weakness, I think, is that a good page that is short but nonetheless provides the answer to a question may fail just because visitors can read, digest and get off quickly. Algorithms will have weaknesses.

From Quality Content is King to Home Page

Monday 15 June 2009

Divorce Rates In The UK

These are a few of my thoughts about the divorce rates in the UK. It is probably well known that divorce rates have increased in the UK over many years. The National Statistics website shows us that over period 1971 to about 2003 divorce rates went up from 6 per one thousand married couples to about 13 per one thousand, more than doubling. Over the last 4 years or so the rate has consistently fallen to the 1981 level of about 12 per 1000, still double the old rates.

However, the actual levels of divorce are relatively low. People in the late twenties have the highest divorce rates at 26.6 divorces per 1000 in the age bracket 25-29 (men) and slightly higher for women in the same age bracket at 26.0. This may be due to an increasingly casual approach to marriage from “modern people”.

What this tends to hide is the fact that in 2009, for the first time, there were more single or cohabiting people in the UK than married people. This was an historic moment. There is no doubt that there has been a slow decline in the idea of marriage as a meaningful institution; why bother, just cohabit. The numbers of cohabiting people grew to such significant numbers that the laws in relation to “divorcing” cohabiting couples was tightened up as until recently these couple had to rely on a mish-mash of various laws such as contract and equitable principles to divide possessions including, often, the home. Often under these circumstances the women lost out. Men preferred to not marry.

Divorce laws in the UK tend to be very politically correct and therefore liberally based and some say biased towards the women. For this reason women who are allowed to come to Britain to get divorced did so. In a long marriage of whatever sort, good or bad the women would receive about half of the entire family assets. After such a long period it is deemed that the contributions of each party, in their own way, are about equal subject to some special reasons for dividing assets otherwise. The favourable laws towards women still exist here and that may push up divorce rates in the UK very slightly.

But it also reduces the number of marriages and if the parties are committed to marriage, it increases the number of pre-nuptial agreements. These are agreements entered into before marriage as to division of assets on divorce. Not many people like to do these for obvious reasons and in the UK they are yet to bind the parties legally but there is talk of change.

Although highly politically incorrect one reason for lower marriage levels is the generous benefits system in the UK for single mothers who have children. The concept of marriage and a family has been supplanted by single mother and the maximum number of children as benefits are linked to size of family. Family tax credit has been criticized for breaking up families.

Also politically incorrect is the fact that most divorces are commenced by the wife on the catch all ground of “unreasonable behaviour”. The behaviour of the husband need not be bad, just unpleasant for the wife. Almost any reason is acceptable. It has been argued that women use marriage and divorce in the UK to further themselves financially. The same mentality is involved in lucrative employment tribunal claims for sexual discrimination, it has been argued.

The fact is that as the institution of marriage wanes there is bound to be less divorces as those that do marry will be more committed to it. Whether married or not the most important underlying factor is that families stick together for the benefit of the children where possible and appropriate. There has been a development of a more casual approach to marriage and divorce that has resulted in more divorces.

Divorce rates in the UK will also be coloured by the different cultures in the country that are having an increasingly greater impact on divorce figures due to increased immigration.

Videos

The first one is interesting as it is from a Muslim speaker:

divorce rates

The video above is interesting too as it talks along similar lines to this posting. You will have to click on the picture to go to it on YouTube as this is not embedded. Opens in a new window by the way. The video has a religious context.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Expired Copyright

Here are some rules on expired copyright, which are quite complicated. In the USA the rules would seem to be as set out below in the table, which has been produced with the permission of the author. It comes from this web page (there is no more on this page than is here: http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm). I am constantly concerned about expired copyright or waived copyright. A lot of authors, creators, waive copyright totally or partially under a creative commons license (see video below). This is a good way of using work that would otherwise be copyrighted (see http://creativecommons.org/) - opens in new window.


DATE OF WORK PROTECTED FROM TERM
Created 1-1-78 or after When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression Life + 70 years1(or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2
Published before 1923 In public domain None
Published from 1923 - 63 When published with notice3 28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain
Published from 1964 - 77 When published with notice 28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term
Created before 1-1-78 but not published 1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater
Created before
1-1-78 but published between then and 12-31-2002
1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2047 whichever is greater

As can be seen from the chart the general rule is that if it is published before 1923 the work (say a book) is in the public domain.

The protection provided by the Berne convention is life of author plus 50 years (source: http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk). The clock starts from the 1st January of the year following the specified event.

There are some exceptions under the Berne in respect of film, anonymous and artistic works. Also it is wise to check the laws pertaining to the individual country which may be different. The Berne Convention signatories are (src: http://www.copyrightaid.co.uk):
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • CostaRica
  • Coted Ivoire
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Holy See
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Korea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Malta
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russian Federation
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia and Montenegro
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania, United Republic of
  • Thailand
  • Theformer Yugoslav
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe





From Expired Copyright to Home Page

Saturday 13 June 2009

Zoo Tiger Attack

Sometimes we hear of a zoo tiger attack. It is not that uncommon. I guess it is bound to happen not too infrequently despite the best efforts of the zoo management and keepers. This is because of the circumstances. And the circumstances are fundamentally highly dysfunctional and a sad reflection on how we (people) behave on this planet.

The tiger is a large wild cat that demands a large range in which to hunt prey. This is hard wired into the cat’s brain. Humans are not the usual prey of tigers but sometimes tiger attacks in the wild do take place (increasingly so) when tiger and people are forced into close proximity because of human activity, human population growth, unethical business practice, unsustainable business practices, short term thinking and planning, constant economic growth; in short all things unthinkingly human. Or a person injures a tiger so that it has to hunt people (easy prey). Basically, in whatever guise it comes, we cause the tiger attacks on us.

Of course we blame the tiger, naturally. Notwithstanding that the tiger is acting totally naturally and instinctively in response to our interaction with it.

A recent zoo tiger attack bears out my assessment of the dysfunctionality of it all. Firstly, there are good arguments for closing all zoos as they are fundamentally unnatural for the animals. It is unhealthy and if we had better managed the world’s resources and forests etc. we wouldn’t need zoos. We could have seen the tigers in the wild. Once again zoos, a second rate concept designed to entertain us at the animals’ expense, are due exclusively to our behaviour.

There was a zoo tiger attack by a white tiger in New Zealand recently. It happened at the Zion Wildlife Gardens in Whangarei (new window).

Map picture

There is talk of closing the wildlife gardens down. I say they should never have opened. I know that in isolation it seems a good idea to have a wildlife park. We need to have them now because white tigers, all tigers in fact, are becoming extinct in the wild. But looking at the bigger picture would it not be more sensible to put resources into really preserving these cats in the wild? To put resources into creating a harmonious relationship with other animals with which we share the planet. Wild life parks or zoos are a horrible reflection of failure. They are a poor compromise, a strain on our character and a symptom of long term neglect of the bigger environmental issues that are now facing us.

The person killed was it seems a decent, caring and well liked senior cat handler, Dalu Mncube. Tourists watched the attack including children. The keeper suffered injuries to the abdomen and lower leg. It happened at 11 am when Mr Mncube and other keeper were cleaning out the enclosure. Why did it happen? And should the park close?

lion-zion-wildlife-park

This is a lion at the Zion Wildlife Gardens – photo by ashiri

I have not seen an assessment as to why it happened. One person commented that it could be the smell from another tiger or animal on the keepers from cleaning out another enclosure causing the tiger to treat the keeper as prey or to defend from an attack. This sounds sensible but I don’t know if it is true and if it is I would have thought the park owners would be liable in law. They are probably liable in any case and may have to close because paying compensation may bankrupt them.

The royal white tiger was shot dead because it would not let go (apparently). Now that is the bit that is highly dysfunctional for me, although I realise the situation would have been very stressful requiring immediate decisions. However, the circumstances under which the zoo tiger attack occurred were wholly due to people, humans. The tiger at all times acted naturally, instinctively and predictably in the sense that it was known that there was a danger of an attack. That danger is always present. Under these circumstances there must be a method to save the tiger surely?

Why then was the tiger shot? It seems that there were not proven methods to deal with these circumstances? And if there are no guaranteed ways of stopping a zoo tiger attack other than by shooting the tiger then tigers should not be kept in zoos. I thought that in this world the perpetrator of wrong doing (us in this instance) is punished and the victim assisted and compensated. Doesn’t shooting the tiger turn the death of one into two? What have I got wrong? I seem to have missed the point.

From Zoo Tiger Attack to Home Page

Friday 12 June 2009

Stop Poaching of Wildcats

As the governments of the countries where the wildcats are found do little that is effective in stopping poaching for body parts, the next best thing is for customers to stop buying the products.

I know it is simplistic and a kind of dream but if the demand for wildcat body parts completely dried up there would simply be no more killing of wildcats and their existence in the wild would be ensured. It is the market place, big business, that drives the wildcats to extinction. It could be argued that the two biggest factors in wildcat deaths are:

  • poaching for the body parts of the animal for decorative and medicinal purposes
  • habitat loss, the classic example being deforestation because of logging for paper; yes, photocopying paper! It is shocking to think about it. One major culprit is Asian Paper & Pulp (APP) a company with an allegedly murky history and an alleged lack of business ethics – see Deforestation in Indonesia for example.

What crossed my mind was, “who are the customers for the skins, for example?” I know that body parts are used in Chinese medicine, an archaic process that callously exploits rare animal species for bogus purposes.

But who would buys real leopard skin goods?

leopard-skin-shoes

Leopard skin shoe (I don't think these are real) – by Felix42 contra la censura - photo published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

I don’t blame the guy for buying these shoes, which are fantastic (nice photo too) and which look like they could be real leopard skin, but I feel that we just need to make a connection between the product and the beautiful living animal that was killed to supply the market.

The leopard is listed under CITES Appendix I (new window),

Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants (see Article II, paragraph 1 of the Convention). They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial..(CITES)

On the basis that trade in leopard skin is prohibited how did these shoes find there way onto the open market? They appear to have been bought in Brisbane, Australia (wrong, please leave a comment). The kind of comments accompanying this picture on Flickr is enlightening too.

They are truly magnificent….

Great shot, great shoes…

Really cool shoes

Personally, I’d like to see more comment on the problems and issues underpinning the whole ghastly edifice of the illegal trade in rare wild species. Even if these shoes were or are fake leopard skin, the first thoughts should be about the real and more important issues, the preservation of the earth, the beautiful wildcats and not the product, which will probably find their way into the back of a wardrobe within a couple of weeks.

There has to be a sea change in thought and desire from the world population. Consumerism, economic growth, human population growth all have to be seriously addressed to stop poaching of wildcats. It is a very profitable business indeed. Both CITES and IUCN are valuable organizations but they are simply recording the demise and gradual loss of the wild cats in the wild, it seems to me (see IUCN Red List for Cats).

We fail to connect up action and result. The same can be said about deforestation (which is habitat loss and loss of prey for the forest dwelling wild cats) due to logging. We buy furniture in the west that was logged from fabulous rainforest. Or we buy photocopying paper from the same virgin rainforest that is the home of the Sumatran tiger for example. When we buy a ream of extra bright clean photocopying paper from the local store we may well be contributing to the:

  1. the extinction of the Sumatran tiger (the local logging company in Sumatra sells products to North America).
  2. the production of green house gases that affect us in the west and everywhere.

In other words the world loses on all counts.

The problem originates in business, the large scale process of making money that is all too frequently founded on short term gains. In going for the easy short term fast buck the big businesses that effectively run the world are “mortgaging the future” as I call it. In other words in the future things will be worse because of taking a short term view.

The following video indicates that a lot of wildcat skins are still used by people in less well developed countries where there is a lack of appreciation of the decline towards extinction of wildcats. The issue here is obviously education and a change in culture, no mean task.

We have to stop poaching of wildcats. In the less well developed countries the people who run the country are often involved in making profit personally from any means including illegal trade in wildcat body parts. With that kind of collusion to stop poaching of wildcats is almost impossible.

Conclusion: I would predict that nothing will change and we will not stop the poaching of wildcats. The result will be their eventual extinction in the wild. Mankind as a whole will not find that distressing although many people will.

From Stop Poaching of Wildcats to Home Page

To Wild Cat Species

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Deforestation in Indonesia

We know that deforestation in Indonesia is rapid and vigorous because the destruction of Indonesian rain forest accounts for about 4% of greenhouse gas emissions made by humankind at the date of this posting.

Why does this bother me particularly? Because it is probably the single biggest cause of the gradual extirpation of wildcats in the wild. Many of the small wildcats live in forest:

This is just an example. In this post, though, I would like to mention the very rare Sumatran tiger whose presence in the wild will be severely jeopardized by plans that are being finalised to log 124,000 acres or 50,000 hectares of forest in Indonesia. What is particularly galling is that trees that can take hundreds of years to grow will be converted to photocopying paper that will be used in seconds and thrown away in minutes.

sumatran tiger

I am talking about an area of forest that is the last remaining untouched forest, near the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park:

sumatran-tiger-logging-2009

Map picture

Map picture

The parcel of land to be logged is near the town of Rengat in the middle of the second map. This is where the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park is. In the top map it is top left of the map. There is a slight discrepancy between the embedded maps and the image map above. Here is a Google map of the area.


View Larger Map

The Bukit Tigapuluh National Park itself has been logged. This is meant to be some sort of reserve, a protected area! Having almost destroyed the park, the logging company in league with the government, looked to more virgin forest, neighboring ancient forest:

The Park itself has been under consistent threat from illegal logging and Palm oil plantations, with two thirds of the park logged (Wikipedia)

The government clearly has no concern for the tiger and are it seems are solely concerned with making a fast buck. Palm oil is popular at present as an alternative to petrol. It is use as a bio-fuel. So the demise of the Sumatran tiger is down to paper and fuel.

The company concerned is Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). Their website declares that they are concerned with the environment bla bla bla. Pure ***. “Care for Tomorrow” …..” We support actions for……environmental sustainability” bla bla bla.

APP has a very poor history. Do an internet search and you see words like “corruption”, “bullying villagers” “environmental exploitation” etc. This is clearly a bad company with a bad history of slash and burn disregarding the people and their lives and wildlife. They are supported no doubt by the Indonesian government. Say no more. And you know what? Nothing can be done about it except stop buying their products.

Back to the Sumatran tiger. Between 1982 and 2007 APP deforestation may have killed 70% of the Sumatran tiger population in killing 450 of them (src: WWF). APP claim that their logging protects forest by preventing illegal logging. They say “well managed pulp wood plantations act as buffer zones”. The trouble is they are just cutting down old forest. Where are APP’s plantations? Deforestation in Indonesia is killing off the Sumatran tiger, elephants and orang-utans.

Currently, there are only 100-400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild (Wikipedia)

Photo of Sumatran tiger: published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

From Deforestation in Indonesia to Home Page

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Muddled Tiger Conservation in India

I feel despair for the safety of the tiger. Every time we read local news stories about tiger conservation we notice clear signs that despite genuine attempts by many parties to the objective of saving the tiger in the wild, there is a lack of coordination at the least, which is weakening and diluting the efforts. And I intend no criticism but I feel it must be said as the number one party in all this is the tiger and he or she is going down the plug hole unless things change. Here are some examples of what I mean.


Please, I do not want to hear from people who say it is none of my business what happens in another country. The tiger belongs to the world. All people should be concerned and all should, I think, do their bit to help

In the Hindu News update Service we have a report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) deciding to work more closely with the state governments to ensure proper use of central government funds in conserving the tiger in the states concerned. The Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said that some states had failed to spend their budget! I find this astonishing. At least Rs 610 crore (apparently about $126 million) is allocated to tiger conservation and relocation of villages from central funds.

Are people at the sharp end saying that they don't have sufficient funds? Yes, it seems there are. A recent news story from Associated Press about the death of 30 big cats in Indian reserves (some of which seem to have been poisoned - see tiger poisoning) contains a quote from
R N Mehrotra, chief wildlife warden of Ranthambore National Park. He told the Press Association: "Any support will be helpful. States have their constraints. The investigation is a complex issue since you cannot single out any one cause for tiger deaths...Definitely there is a lack of personnel, and the lack of funds is another constraint. We cannot exclude the increasing demand for tiger products, poaching and other wildlife crimes."

So at the top there is funding that is not getting to the sharp end it seems. It would appear that the state governments are holding back some of the funds for purposes that they consider more important. This is either a demonstration of a lack of commitment at best or plain corruption at worst. I don't know which and I am not saying that there has been corruption.

Other examples of a lack of probity leak out daily almost, it seems. Regarding the 30 killed big cats in reserves mentioned above, a senior person said that he had received reports that some tigers had died as a result of "mutual combat". This sounded odd and an investigation as to deaths is planned to take place. It has now been decided by the NTCA to investigate each tiger death by an independent team to try and get a handle on the problem. Well, from thousands of miles away and without the benefit of a post mortem (if one takes place) I can smell underhand behavior.

How often do tigers fight each other to the death? On a commonsense basis this sounds wrong as it is against basic instincts of survival. In a study in 1993 regarding the dispersal of tigers in Nepal (http://www.jstor.org/pss/4535090) it was found that out of ten males that dispersed 2 died of intrasexual aggression (male to male). In that small sample 20% died of fights between each other. It cannot, therefore be used as a good reason for tiger deaths generally and I am surprised that the reserves have not run post mortems already. Why wait for the central authority to dictate the obvious? There can only be one reason: lack of commitment and/or probity.

Another example of general muddle or worse is the story of the tiger caught in a wire trap in Goa. The trap incidentally was in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary. The poacher having caught the tiger shot it. The Goa forest officials handled the incident and failed to report to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) who felt that they were kept in the dark. A wildlife specialist (called an "activist" which has a slightly derogatory tone to it), Rajendra Kerkar, is reported to have said that the forest department is in league with the local politicians and the politicians are getting a piece of the action by sheltering the poachers. If that is true and it sounds like it is there is no chance for the tiger in the wild because corruption at this level will not change and it will totally undermine any serious attempts to save the tiger from extinction in the wild.

This is why I fear for the tiger and why I say that there is a muddled tiger conservation in India. Indeed I think it goes further than just muddled tiger conservation in India. Further reading:

From Muddled Tiger Conservation in India to Home Page

Picasa 3

Picasa 3 is fantastic. It is typically Google; highly functional, easy to use and attractive, all at the same time.

And it makes a great companion to Google Blogger. You know, it is easy to use a product like Picasa and then leave it for a while. Life moves on. But in the case of Picasa I was delighted when I revisited it after being away for about a year. It was good in 2008. It is fabulous now. And it’s all free. If this was 1999 or even 2005 someone would be charging a good price for this software. After purchase, it would have come in a package in the form of a CD, maybe after a week’s wait. Now you can find it, download it, use it all in the space of under ten minutes. Picasa 3 does a fabulous job of sorting and filing your photographs and if you have a lot, this is important.

It does such a good job that if you have a lot of photographs you are almost bound to discover photographs that you forgot you had. That happened to me with some fabulous Norwegian Forest Cat photographs that Helmi Flick kindly sent me some time ago. How did I miss them? No excuses.

Well, what better way to explore Picasa 3 than with these photographs. Two simple to use but powerful features are the collage function and the video maker. A notable feature is the ease of use combined with speed. Both of these factors are very important particularly if you are working alone and trying to compete against websites where they have greater resources. Efficient blogging and speed blogging is important. And it is motivating if things go quickly and in a trouble free manner.

The video below of the Norwegian Forest Cat Family was made using Picasa 3. Please note that there are two aspects to Picasa 3. There are the Picasa Web Albums, which is air computing (everything takes place online using Google servers) and Picasa 3, the software for which resides on your hard drive and which links to the online albums as well as deal with a lot of stuff on your computer.

When you make a video you do it on your computer and then upload it to YouTube, for example.

The above video was made in about one hour from scratch during which:

  1. I found and downloaded the software
  2. I learned how to make a video using Picasa 3
  3. I made the video
  4. I uploaded the video to YouTube

This shows how intuitive, easy and pleasing the whole process is. For example, one of the complications with video is getting the formatting correct. In HD you need to select dimensions of at least 1280 x 720 but this is very easy to do as the controls stare you in the face.

Here are the steps I took from a cold start i.e no application/program on my hard drive to embedding the videos on this page:

  1. Search for Picasa 3 using Google and you get a link to the free Picasa 3 download at the top of page one of search listings.
  2. Download Picasa and simply follow the instructions to install the software. For people new to this process that means either saving the installation file to your computer and then running it or running it immediately. Either way produces the same result but one needs immediate action.
  3. I always request that the installation process install a shortcut icon the desktop. If you miss this you can install a desktop icon by clicking on the start button (bottom left of the screen) and then searching for Picasa 3. Once it comes up as a search result simply drag it onto the desktop.
  4. Click on the shortcut icon on the desktop.
  5. Picasa 3 starts up surprisingly quickly and starts to collate and file all the picture folders on your computer by the date the photo was taken (recorded in camera). You can move photos from one folder to another by clicking and dragging. You can also tag photos by type and favourite, for example. Importing from a camera is intuitive. Plus all the usual editing controls to improve the photos are available. Sharing online is equality intuitive as the program will upload to your Picasa Web Album. The basic features are covered in the the video at the top of this page.
  6. One of the great strengths of this software is the search facility, unsurprising, of course as it is Google doing the searches. When the search result are shown a full list of folders accompanies the folder that ranks as the most likely.
  7. OK back to making a video. Select the photos that will be used to make the video. If they are all in the same place, you can click on the first photo and then click on one that is a long way from the first while holding down the shift key. This will highlight all the photos in-between.
  8. Then click on the video icon on the bottom of the page.
  9. The video is created. From this starting point you can create text pages, create captions, select the transition of choice (dissolve is default – a nice long dissolve), import more images or videos to incorporate in the new video and more including adding music. Music should be licensed for use under a creative commons license or royalty free for which you will need to pay a download fee but thereafter use is unlimited but there can be no resale etc. A Google search for “Royalty Free Music” will produce a list of providers.
  10. When finished preparing the video, click create video and after that upload video.
  11. For HD camcorders the dimension should be 1280 x 720 (720p).

That is it for creating videos. For collages, after you have highlighted the selected images as described above you select (from the menu) Create>collage and follow the simple instructions. You can see a collage I created for the Pictures of Cats org website here: Norwegian Forest Cat Family. The video below is another short video created with this software.

As to Picasa Web Albums that is equally impressive. All posts to a Blogger blog results in images being stored on a Picasa Web Album. It is very easy to create code in relation to these images and show them on your Blogger site. This means you can show bigger images and slide shows (big slide shows – see this page for example). The code can be accessed on the right hand side of the page and then copied and pasted into the Edit Html window of the Blogger input page. This is the screen shot where you can find the code to embed:

This image is linked from a Picasa Web Album.

Picasa 3 is well worth exploring and it is of real value to Bloggers. Here is another video I made in about an hour this morning, in bed! Of course it would be nothing without Helmi Flick photographs.

From Picasa 3 to Home Page

Sunday 7 June 2009

Tiger Reserves Ban Tourists

Well, at last the Indian government, in the form of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, are doing something about the inexorable decline in the tiger population in their country. This is happening at the eleventh hour, when the tiger is possibly within as little as 10 years of becoming extinct in the wild. They are going to ban tourists from the 37 reserves. The reasoning is that the presence of large numbers of tourists (as many as 40 vehicles surrounding one tiger in a reserve at one time) are habituating tigers to human presence thereby making it easier for poachers to kill the remaining estimated 1,411 (at 2008) tigers in India.

Big business, which has always been in charge is fighting back. The tourism business will be damaged and tigers are big tourism business in the form of hotels and excursions. However, it is argued that the tourism business has behaved irresponsibly, trying to get too much of the action after the body parts traders have had their first share.

It is claimed that tourism is changing the tiger’s breeding patterns and general behaviour. Sometimes tigers can be injured or worse by vehicles. A tiger cub was apparently run over and killed (total madness really).

The greatest threat will always be habitat loss, human activity increase due to human population growth and commercial activity including poaching for body parts to supply, primarily, the Chinese Medicine business.

Tiger body parts are some of the most expensive items per pound in the world, even more expensive than printer ink and that is saying something.

Tiger bone goes for £800 per pound and a skin for £7,500. Tiger penis sells for £3,755. Here is a comparison chart:

Item Price per lb (£)
Tiger Penis 15,000 (estimated 4 oz per penis)
Gold 9,600 (£600 per ounce)
Tiger Bone 800

Er, as I guessed, tiger penis is one of the most expensive commodities in the world and it will go up and up as the tiger will inevitably become rarer and rarer.

What the Indian government is doing is undeniably good but it is nowhere near enough. There has to be radical change and complete commitment to beat the poachers. The tiger is too valuable to poachers. It is a great commercial product with a ready and huge market, Chinese medicine. Unless the Chinese government and the other Asian countries tackle tiger parts sales at the consumer end the tiger population will decline further without massive protection by the Indian authorities, which translates into much more than the tiger reserves banning tourists.

Update: the following video is interesting in that is tells us how scarse the tiger is in the Sunderbans one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger. The reserves are apparently overcrowded with tourists looking for tiger but the last natural refuge/reserve is almost without the tiger. He has gone (almost); gradually eradicated through human population expansion and activity and global warming which has increased water levels.


Further reading:

From Tiger Reserves Ban Tourists to Wild Cat Species

Cat Catches Bubonic Plague

When a cat catches the bubonic plague in the Truckee area of Nevada as reported by the County Health Department last Friday I hope that this time cats generally are not going to be unjustly persecuted.

When the famous bubonic plague (“black death” as it was called because black patches formed on the skin) hit London (from where I write this) in 1665 cats were slaughtered as it was thought they carried the disease. In August of 1665 in London, 31159 people died of the plague and in all 15% of the population of London died because of it.

There were probably a large number of feral cats in those days. There still are, in fact. We are wiser these days (are we?) and now know that it is flea infested rats and rodents that carry the disease. In the modern era, bubonic plague still occurs where rats are present in large numbers or are not successfully controlled.

In the USA where there are 10-15 cases a year (src: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) and these usually occur at some hot spots:

  • Northern New Mexico
  • Northern Arizona and southern Colorado
  • California
  • Southern Oregon
  • Far western Nevada.

Cats are susceptible to harbouring fleas because of their fur. Fleas will jump onto a cat (from the ground) having jumped off an infected rat or rodent. It is our beholden duty to routinely check for fleas on our cats and comb them out. This for me is the preferred way as it is benign and safe. Flea powders I think are dangerous. In fact any sprays (directly onto the coat can cause problems as cats will lick it off and ingest it) are unsafe. This is just my personal view. If the flea infestation is bad a chemical dropper like Frontline is invariably successful but even that should be administered with caution. These chemicals are rather potent so lets think of the cat.

When a cat catches bubonic plague it will usually be the fault of the local health department for failing to control rat populations not the fault of the innocent messenger, the cat, who should have been treated by us. In short it comes down to us again. Nearly all “problems” to do with cats originate with us.

Further reading about flea control:

From Cat Catches Bubonic Plague to Pictures of Cats org

Saturday 6 June 2009

Picasa Web Slide Show for Your Blog

Picasa Web Slide Show for Your Blog. Picasa Web has improved significantly over the years. I just went back to it after many months without using it and it is mightily impressive now, very powerful and quick. It would be as it is made by Google. That’s enough Google worship. I have used Google Picasa Web for some time. I use it to store the pictures and in fact all the pictures that are uploaded to Blogger blog are saved in Picasa Web under a new folder automatically created. And that even applies to posts for your blog made with Windows Live Writer. I was surprised at that. But it is good news as images stored on Picasa Web Albums are included in a Google image search so this spreads the word a bit and gets you known a bit more on the internet.

Making a Picasa Web slide show for your blog is simplicity itself (as is, by the way, creating code to place images in your blog from Picasa Web). The code for the slide show and images are generated automatically.

First create a Picasa Web album and before that get a Google account, of course (if you haven’t one already). Once you have opened a Google account you can then begin populating your Picasa Web album with pictures. You can get to Picasa Web from your iGoogle home page by selecting from the menus to the top left of the page and picking “more” which drops down to a further menu to “Photos”.

Uploading images to your Picasa Web album is easy. Just follow the instructions. It is so easy it would be waste of time to go over it here.

Once you have at least a few picture in our album you can create the slide show (like the ones on this page, which I created in seconds, literally) by going to the right hand side of the page where you will see “link to this album” and a small arrow after the words. Click on the arrow (yes, you can miss that, I certainly did for a while). A drop down list of options comes up and select “embed slide show”. A series of options then comes up which are self explanatory and which includes image size. A great feature is you can make large format slide shows. The one below is small but the one on this page (new window), for example, is in the largest format and they run very smoothly and not slowly.

There are many other features that the Google people have added to Picasa Web over the time I first signed up to it. A Picasa Web slide show for your blog or any other website is one of the best, in my opinion. To create slide shows in the old fashioned way meant creating code. There are third party suppliers of slide shows but they have a greater commercialism meaning the supplier wants more out of it for themselves. Google provides Picasa Web free and it is less encumbered with commercialism.

From Picasa Web Slide Show for Your Blog to Home Page

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