From WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, it's "The Animal House," connecting you with everything that concerns the animal world. I'm Sam Litzinger. Later, we learn how the octopus can help us fight terrorism, natural disasters, and disease. We'll have a chat with naturalist and TV host Jeff Corwin, and Dr. Gary Weitzman will have answers to questions about pets and wildlife.
First, the International Whaling Commission, the organization responsible for banning commercial whaling in 1986, recently concluded its annual meeting on something of a note of discord. Japan and Denmark threatened to withdraw from the commission, Korea angered some delegates with a controversial proposal, and Monaco said it plans to take its case to the United Nations. Leigh Henry, senior policy officer at the World Wildlife Fund, attended the meeting and she joins us now with an overview. Glad to have you with us in "The Animal House."
Thanks for having me.
Will any whales be saved because of this meeting? I guess that's kind of a bottom-line question here.
Absolutely. I think the International Whaling Commission tends to draw most of the attention for the whaling issue, but the important thing to remember is that whaling isn't the main threat to whales today. The threats come more from things like bycatch and fishing gear, ocean noise driven by shipping and other commercial endeavors, oil and gas. So the IWC is also focusing on those issues and making quite a bit of progress and doing a lot of research on how to mitigate those impacts.
It's always important to remember that while whaling may seem like an intractable political issue that we're never gonna get resolution on, there's a lot of other good work going on in the IWC as well.
What came out of the meeting that you like, and conversely, what came out that you weren't very happy about?
We got a lot of good progress on ocean noise. The United States government has been doing a lot of good research and work to map, not only key whale and dolphin hotspots, but also noise hotspots in the ocean, and trying to overlay those to see again, how we can mitigate noise impacts.
By the way, did you hear the story -- I was reading a couple of days ago that whales are maybe kind of adjusting to all that noise out there, or at least they're finding kind of coping mechanisms?
Yeah. There's a little controversy around that. The good way to think about it, is it's kind of like if we tried to go about our daily routines of getting to work and navigating traffic, and getting our breakfast with a bucket on our head. That's the way to look at it, and I think those reports about them adjusting I think have to be taken with a lot of care, and we don't want to minimize the impact that ocean noise has on these animals.
So that was something that you're encouraged by coming out, that we're actually dealing with that problem?
That was incredibly encouraging. What was a little more discouraging was the proposal we saw from Korea that they wanted to resume a scientific whaling program. We've since seen reports that they have scaled back and are retreating on that statement. The issue there is that in the '70s and '80s, before the moratorium on commercial whaling was put into place by the IWC in 1986, Korea was taking about a thousand whales per year.
If they resume scientific whaling, they'd be taking from an endangered stock. They'd be using a loophole under the International Whaling Commission that allows for lethal scientific research.
What was Monaco particularly unhappy about at this meeting?
What Monaco is trying to get at is the issue of whaling on the high seas. So what the delegate from Monaco hoped to do at this meeting was to get concurrence from members of the IWC saying yes, we would like the UN to look at this. That motion didn't pass, but he's gonna continue to move it forward and talk to other governments and see if he can get some kind of agreement going forward.
Why did you get so involved in this?
Since I was a kid, I've been interested in wildlife. Like most little girls I wanted to be a vet and realized I just didn't have the stomach for it. Because I'm a policy person, and not a field biologist like a lot of my colleagues, I don't get to get out into the field very much. I spend my time in IWC meetings, or other international convention meetings. But last March I was able to travel down and visit with our office in Mexico on the Baja Peninsula, and was taken to see the gray whales in San Ignacio, and it was amazing.
I was already completely dedicated to my work, but having close encounters with these giant animals, and seeing the trust that they place in us, was really heartening, and gave me a new commitment, and new vigor to my work.
Leigh Henry is senior policy officer at the World Wildlife Fund. Thank you very much for being with us in "The Animal House."
Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Improbable as it may sound, a three-month-old kitten is making international headlines after surviving a three-week, 6500-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean from China to California, apparently without food or water. Joining us now with more details of this pretty incredible feline adventure is Aaron Reyes, deputy director of South County Operations at the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control. Glad to have you with us, Aaron.
Glad to be here, Sam. Thanks for having me.
Boy, this is kind of a small miracle. You don't hear about something like this happening every day, do you?
No. It's a first for me in 22 years.
Do we know at all what happened, how the -- I can't imagine that anybody knows how the kitten got onto the boat in the first place, but what do we know about this?
We know that the ship departed from Shanghai, China, and that Ni Hao, this three-week old domestic short-haired kitty, was in a container, and the destination was the Port of Los Angeles. So, you know, I mean, there are mouser cats, those are feral cats that are at ports to take care of the rat problem. Being that Ni Hao was so young, he's probably an offspring of one of those cats and, you know, maybe jumped on top of a pallet to take a nap. Before you know it, things are dark and, you know, he's stacked up on a ship heading towards the United States.
You know, this little guy was probably at the end of his rope. Muscle atrophy had already kicked in, so he didn't have much longer. When I saw him -- I went and visited him the same evening that he came into our animal care center, you know, he was still curled up in a ball and still a bit dehydrated, very weak. He was sleeping. However, they said that he's -- he was given subcutaneous fluids, vitamins, he actually ate a little bit of soft food.
That first night was, you know, was touch and go. When the vet staff came in the following morning and checked on him, he had already changed body positions, you know, slightly, and still wouldn't open his eyes. It wasn't until the following day that he finally opened his eyes and, you know, starting to move around on his own. He can't stand just yet, but he can, you know, change body positions and sort of wiggle around, and the good news is too, they heard him speak for the first time, and he just had a -- sort of a pathetic little meow.
What's ahead for the little guy assuming everything is okay and he pulls through?
We're gonna monitor him and give him the best of care for at least a couple more weeks. We'd like him to recover -- to finish recovering in a foster home, not necessarily in a medical clinic. So, you know, we think socially, emotionally he'll be a lot better off if he's, you know, finishes off his quarantine and of course his recovery period in a foster and then ultimately, probably, my guess would be maybe a couple months he'll be ready for his forever home.
Aaron Reyes is deputy director of South County Operations at the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control. Thank you very much for being with us, Aaron.
My pleasure, Sam. Thank you.
For "The Animal House," I'm Mary McCann, and this is BirdNote. Our childhood experiences of nature stay with us for a lifetime, yet someone must first show a child the delights and knowledge of the natural world. Someone must first open this gate for a lifetime of learning. When they do, the child who dampens his or her feet in a local stream becomes connected, however subtly, to all that flows through the watershed, even when it flows from afar.
For example, a child who learns to recognize a common Yellow Throat, a bird that winters in Central and South America, can wonder why it's so brightly colored, or how it found its way over thousands of miles. Today, we celebrate the nature educators who give the gifts of their time and knowledge. What an invaluable service they provide. Let's listen in on some children who are in the company of one such nature educator, and some parent volunteers.
Who thinks they know the name of this tree?
I don't know, but my mom said it's Conifer.
It's a Conifer, right...
Open the door to nature for a young person near and dear to you, or become a sponsor for a child to attend a local nature camp.
...discovered in this tree, guess what, the berries that it makes are poisonous.
Your rewards will be many. For BirdNote, I'm Mary McCann.
In a few moments, Dr. Gary Weitzman will join us with answers to your questions about pets. First, let's learn about our Animal of the Day, the octopus, known as a cephalopod, this marine creature is a marvel of physical redundancy with its two eyes, three hearts, and eight arms. There are 300 species of octopus, and all are venomous. There's only one group that has venom that's deadly to humans. Can you identify that species? We'll have the answer just before the end of today's program.
Next week in "The Animal House," the man known affectionately as America's Vet.
You know me from "Good Morning America," or the "Dr. Oz Show," but I'm here today to talk about a unique way to enrich your pet's life by feeding it differently using food puzzles. You know, there are no bikini seasons in dogs and cats, and there's no stick pin dog models on Animal Planet. Dogs and cats that are overweight or obese far from a cosmetic problem. It causes serious medical problems including diabetes….
Dr. Marty Becker joins us next week in "The Animal House."
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