Monday, December 15, 2008

The Extinction of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

When I was young one of my favorite programs to watch on Sunday evenings was
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom,
hosted by Marlin Perkins, one of the leading ecologists of his time.

Although I don't remember preservation being Wild Kingdom's message at the time, I can see now that it was certainly the predecessor of today's Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel.

Now, Some 40 years later,
there are Whole Networks dedicated to education and preservation of our animal kin.
But how disappointed I was then, when that one show itself became extinct.

But today, I learned something very hopeful.
Although many, many species face extinction due to hunting, fishing, poaching and the mysterious hand of nature herself, Mother Nature yet continues to create and surprise us.

Scientists, in the past decade have discovered over 1,000 new species in Southeast Asia's Greater Mekong region alone. Species, of plants, reptiles, spiders, mammals, birds and fish. And they weren't all discovered in remote jungles. A rat species, thought to be extinct about 11 million years ago was discovered in a local market and a brilliant green pit viper in the rafters of a restaurant in a National Park: walking among us.

But what I find as wonderfully awe-inspiring as what I learned 35 years ago on Wild Kingdom, is that Nature does continue to renew and replace her own.
Yes, it is true that many of our most amazing and interesting animals do face the possibility of extinction, but it's also true, that the cycle of life and death will continue, in spite of us.
But just as television nature shows run their course, and are gone for decades, technology steps in 30 years later and offers us DVDs to relive our sentimental past.
Who'da thunk it?
Certainly not me.

But, If a Rat, extinct for 11 MILLION years can resurface,
than just about anything is possible,
and hope does spring eternal.

If Mother nature can regenerate, and replace in ever more complex and creative ways,
like the discovery of a cyanide laced electric-pink millipede, then we too can resurrect our dormant selves, and re-emerge triumphant, across our ever melting, yet ever freezing tundras.

And species do exist
even in the arctic tundras
Although the climate is extremely cold
and there is little diversity
and short seasons of growth and reproduction

despite this

there are nutrients from dead organic material
-to support that limited diversity-

and on the tundra
there are shifts
-population oscillations-
which are inevitable
for it's nature's way

And that's a comforting thought.

Yes, It was disappointing when Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom finally became extinct in the 1980's.
But as history often dictates, and the future always shows, Tomorrow is a Mystery.
What may end up on The Discovery Channel tomorrow
might be the resurrection of something from the past, or something entirely different.
Odds are, one or both may happen.
So We need to Stay Tuned.....

"What future bliss He gives not thee to know,

But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:

Man never is, but always to be, blest.

The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come."

-Alexander Pope

Of the Nature and State of Man, With Respect to the Universe

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sydney's Catastrophe, and other Cat's Tails and Tales

Have you ever heard of a Cat named Cat-astrophe? I have, and I actually did, name a cat Cat-astrophe: hyphen and all. No, he did not have any formal records bearing his hyphenated name,for he was a cat, like all of my other cats, of "Uncertain Origin", and also of "Uncertain Veterinary care," but whenever I wrote his name, which I don't actually ever remember doing, It was hyphenated for comedic value. You see, I was one of those kids who came to the dinner table with my Handy Dandy
"Book of Corny Jokes,"
So I was fond of comedic value.

But, what has more comedic value, and what I
I thought you might really like to know, is that my first cat was named Sydney, and that he met an untimely and unfair demise whilst frolicking with his dear friend Smokey, in the middle of the Road, as Cat friends so often do.

Heart Wrenching!

My brother Michael proceeded to race me up the street to the church basement where my parents were at a church meeting of one form or another.
(One Form:
Marriage Encounter group,
Another Form:
Overwhelmed Parents of 7 group, praying for tuition)
The whole group was now involved, and predictably, to calm a hysterical 6 year old,
"Don't worry, we'll get you a new cat."
"But I don't want another cat, I want Sydney!!!!!!!"
And then, low and Behold, an Angelic voice from the crowd,
"My cat just had kittens, you can have one of them."

The Lord indeed works in mysterious ways,
when your doing His work,
in His Basement.

And my next Cat? in a long line of
"not really appreciated by her father, outdoor-cats":

Cat-Astrophe! Yes, that was his name.

And Why you ask?
Why Name a Cat Catastrophe?
Well, for all of the obvious reasons, like his running behind a stack of drywall and me following him, only to be slammed by said stack of drywall, and rushed to the hospital for numerous stitches on my calf.

If you really want to know, there was Toby, to follow, who indeed did follow me home from the convenience store, after I deftly lured him with freshly cut deli slices of "chip-chop" ham.
Sadly, he only had half a tail. It was just a stump. But I loved him just the same.

And then, there was Cola, yes, she was black as night, and apparently pretty popular at night time with the other out-door male cats in the neighborhood. She bequeathed both Pepsi, and Coca, one of which was sadly lost in a tragic bird pecking.

All true.

And what ever became of Smokey?
Yes, Smokey,
Sydney's dear friend with whom Sydney met his untimely demise.
Smokey was the Cat of Mrs. Francis, our "Indoor-Cat loving" neighbor, and he Lived to tell the tale, with a Jaw that was rebuilt and wired shut,( well I guess he had a hard time telling the tale with a jaw that was wired shut)
and he got a brand new,shiny glass eye!

Oh Mrs Francis was so lucky! Her Cat lived and My Cat died.

But Smokey Promptly ran away,
Leaving Mrs. Francis to tell the tale.
But I, I got a new kitten.
He wasn't Sydney, mind you, No cat could ever replace Sydney, but he was a pretty cool cat, who's name indeed was Cat-astrophe.