The O’Reilly Animals
From Perl to Hadoop, the O’Reilly Animal books have been there to help you advance your knowledge—and you’ve thrived under their tutelage. In real life, the animals themselves have not done nearly as well. Many are now critically endangered, and if the current trend continues, conservationists estimate that one-eighth of all bird species, one-fifth of mammal species, and one-third of amphibian species are at risk of extinction within the next 40 years.
But it doesn’t have to end this way.
One person with a bright idea and a little technology can make a big difference. Just think what someone with your mad skills could do.
Click on an animal to learn more
As if African elephants didn’t have enough to worry about, habitat loss is yet another key issue affecting their survival. Although elephant populations have increased since the 1970s, the human population has grown even more quickly, cutting the elephants’ habitat up into farms and roads. The elephants’ key migratory routes have been cut off in many places. As result, they regularly break through fences, where they eat and destroy crops. When the farmers confront elephants on their property, things don’t generally end well for either party.
Lucy King, a researcher working with Save the Elephants, has spent many years investigating the problems involved in crop protection. Her goal is to find long-term solutions that reduce the frequency of human-elephant conflicts—and that can be financed and managed by local farmers.
As Ms. King looked into the elephants’ habits for any clues to keeping them out of fields planted with crops, she noticed that they tended to avoid acacia trees with active nests of African bees. Elephants, it so happens, are afraid of the bees, and will move away from an area and warn other elephants if they hear bees buzzing nearby.
And so the beehive fence was invented. Read more…
For Earth Day, a look at the gift that keeps on giving.“Plastics.” That famous line from The Graduate has stuck with us for many years—and so, for better or worse, have plastics themselves. Today, plastics are in just about everything we make and use, from cars and computers to clothing and food storage containers. And with good reason: plastics are generally inexpensive, easy to mass-produce, light, strong, durable, corrosion-resistant, with good thermal and electrical insulation properties.
Because plastics are so cheap, most of the plastic containers we use are designed for a single use. And each year we use more; according to a 2010 report from KPMG International, plastic production during the past decade equals that of the entire twentieth century. Although we don’t give those single-use containers another thought once we dispose of them, we should; they are and will always be with us. Read more…
Given the popularity of certain prescriptive posts on ConservationBytes.com, I thought it prudent to compile a list of software that my lab and I have found particularly useful over the years. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but it will give you a taste for what’s out there. I don’t list the plethora of conservation genetics software that is available (generally given my lack of experience with it), but if this is your chosen area, I’d suggest starting with Dick Frankham‘s excellent book, An Introduction to Conservation Genetics.
Pink is the new black, at least for some lucky rhinos in Africa.Endangered rhinos in South Africa are being hunted for their horns, which are smuggled to Asia and ground into powder for cooking and medicinal use. In an effort to deter poachers, the Sabi Sand game reserve in South Africa has injected a mix of parasiticides and indelible pink dye into more than 100 rhinos’ horns over the past 18 months.
The poisonous dye is injected into the horn of a tranquilized rhino by drilling a hole into the horn and using compressed air to inject the mixture. The technique was pioneered by veterinary surgeon Dr. Charles van Niekerk at the Rhino and Lion reserve at Kromdraai, northwest of Johannesburg. The results have proved to be non-harmful to the rhinos, cost-effective, and are considered an immediate and long-lasting solution for private game reserves, which are seen as easy targets for poachers. Read more…
How Lions, Tigers, and Tarsiers Went Geek
In the mid-1980s, O’Reilly (aka O’Reilly & Associates) was selling short books on Unix topics via mail order. These books, known as “Nutshell Handbooks,” were held together by staples, and had plain brown covers. Over time, Tim O’Reilly decided that he wanted to sell the books through brick-and-mortar bookstores, and hired a graphic designer to create new book covers. Those covers were used for the first two titles that were sold into bookstores, but Tim wasn’t satisfied with the design.
A neighbor of mine worked at O’Reilly as a technical writer and marketer. She showed me the covers they’d had designed, and wondered if I might have a better idea. At that point in my career, I was immersed in the VAX/VMS world of Digital Equipment Corporation as an executive producer of slides and video. I had heard of Unix, but I had a very hazy idea of what it was. I’d never met a Unix programmer or tried to edit a document using vi. Read more…
How a South American tree could help save African elephants
“…the demand for polished ivory has pushed the world’s largest living land animal to the brink of extinction. Across the Atlantic Ocean, in a land that was once connected to the African continent, another kind of massacre is happening to the rain forest. In Central and South America this destruction amounts to about fifty acres per minute, an area roughly the size of West Virginia each year. Slash-and-burn agriculture is directly responsible for the extermination of hundreds of plant and animal species each year, largely for plantations of exportable products such as fast-growing pines, rubber, bananas, coffee, and cattle. However, there is a glimmer of hope in this modern day battlefield of people against nature: A lovely Amazonian palm might help to save its rain forest relatives and the African elephant.”
—Wayne P. Armstrong, Wayne’s Word: An Online Textbook of Natural History
Most people are horrified by the elephant slaughter currently taking place in Africa, and would never purchase items made from black-market elephant tusks. We prefer our elephants live, tusks intact. As it happens, there are a number of inexpensive alternatives to ivory, some essentially indistinguishable from the real thing. A quick search on eBay (which no longer lists items made from real ivory) turns up a number of items, new and old, made of alternative, ivory-like materials. Read more…
Ever since we started the O’Reilly Animals project last summer, people have been asking how they can really help. Although there are a number of ways to bring your tech skills to bear on behalf of non-profit conservation organizations—by designing websites, setting up databases, and developing mobile apps that enable crowdsourcing, among other things—there’s no substitute for walking in the shoes of the people working hands-on in the wild.
Wildlife ACT, a non-profit conservation organization working in Zululand, is currently accepting applications for their volunteer program. Wildlife ACT monitors wildlife on reserves that don’t have the resources to do it themselves—and the volunteers actively participate in the work. The fees paid by the volunteers fund Wildlife ACT’s projects. Read more…