Invasion of Jurassic Park

I like the Jurassic Park movie series, I mean I really like it. I enjoy watching reptiles eat well. Fresh food is important in their diet. It also helps that the dinosaur eyes and head movements are based on the real-life movements of my family members, green iguanas. The tilt of the velociraptor’s head and the eye color and shape of the T-rexes are very familiar and rather comforting. However, because of the use of their characteristics for the dinosaur portrayals, I don’t let my green iguanas watch the movies. I don’t want to give them any ideas. They are a little too intelligent to be given such ideas. But I do encourage you to give them a try, and let me tell you why. 

The Science of Jurassic Park

As a researcher, I like exploring the biological techniques used in allegedly bringing these long-extinct creatures back to life. However, I did worry that the dinosaurs were not contained. At the end of one of the movies, the pterodactyls were flying along with the airplanes and helicopters. I shouted at the screen that someone needed to shoot them down…but no one did, despite the presence of military aircraft. No, they were going to let the dinosaurs fly to the mainland and continue to proliferate. Flying predatory dinosaurs!

I wasn’t surprised that the storylines evolved to include more and more interaction of people with the dinosaurs. After all, that’s what we do with interesting and exotic creatures. And we always think we can control nature and these creatures. We seek to make a profit off of them, either openly or in black markets. This happens today with modern reptile species. Poaching, smuggling, etc. are constant issues to the conservation of reptiles. (See my book Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped.)

The Link to Invasives 

I thoroughly enjoyed the most recent installment in this franchise Jurassic World: Dominion. Lots of raptor and T-rex activity. An unusual and fascinating side story about controlling global food supplies using prehistoric locusts was an interesting twist. Several reviews were complaining about the inclusion of the locusts, but the ramifications of such a creation should be taken very seriously. Such manipulations could, maybe not with prehistoric species, but modern ones are within the realm of possibility. Nice way to slip this in, writers.

But the philosophy expressed at the end of the movie, had me wanting to jump up and shout “no.” This was the idea that we should just accept invasives and learn to live with them. A lot of my conservation work has been in dealing with the eradication of invasive species, such as the green iguanas. I love green iguanas, but they do not need to be everywhere, destroying the ecosystems. And my most recent book, Guam: Return of the Songs, tells the story of the damage to the Guam environment from the introduction of the brown treesnake.

Of course, they showed a cute duck-sized dinosaur eating grain out of a little girl’s hand, but that doesn’t mean they should be there! Invasive species should not be accepted. Our very survival depends on a functioning environment.

Invasives impact our lives every day, from our neighborhoods to our food supply, at a cost of billions of dollars in the US each year, and trillions of dollars worldwide. The movie contends that the invasives are here to stay. After all, Nature will find a way. Consequently, humans can no longer pretend they are in charge, so we must co-exist. I disagree, we must continue the battle against invasives, whether they be actual plants and animals or fictitious dinosaurs.

Turtles and Tortoises Don’t Age?

Recently, one of my iguana companions died. Ezra, a green iguana (Iguana iguana), finally succumbed to old age. A green iguana, a very common pet lizard, Ezra had lived with me for 20 years after coming to my iguana rescue in New Jersey as a full-grown adult. He must have been at least 5 years old, probably closer to 7-8 years old. We had a special relationship, so I was heart-broken when his end finally came. Green iguanas usually live 15-20 years in the wild, but Ezra was most likely 27 when he passed. A very nice long life for an Iguana. After his passing, I came across an article in Life (23 June 2022) by Clare Wilson. It’s been observed that in captivity, some chelonian species have a lower rate of aging as they grow older. Keep in mind, turtles and tortoises are already known for their long lives. So why is this? That’s exactly what I wanted to know.

Negative Aging? Yes.

Knowing the life spans are important when considering these species for pets. The article described that some species living in captivity have a much slower rate of aging, approaching zero and, amazingly in some cases, a negative value. What? Negative value? Does that mean the reptiles got younger? No, we’re talking about the rate of aging.

Rate of aging refers to the likelihood of an individual’s death the older they get within a population. In most animals this rate increases rapidly as they get older; just think about mammals, such as us humans.

In contrast, some turtles and tortoises when kept in captivity have a decreased ageing rate. Captive care may be improving their longevity.

An interesting characteristic about turtles and tortoises is that they grow throughout their lives. Females produce more eggs the larger they grow. So, living longer enhances their reproductive opportunity.

Of course, none of these animals live forever. Is it the result of reliable food, good medical care and lack of predation and environmental dangers? That’s not fully understood. Or is it something in the animal’s physiology? This information could provide clues on how to increase human longevity. We always seem to bring it back to helping our species.

The Difference with Iguanas

Ezra the green iguana sunbathing in the yard.

Ezra Green Iguana’s life in captivity was not typical. Most green iguanas kept as pets have a much reduced life expectancy. Within the first year in captivity, 95% of green iguanas die; it’s 99% within the first two years. These are troubling and unacceptable statistics. Iguanas are beautiful lizards with a prehistoric look reminiscent of dinosaurs. Evolutionarily, however, they are fairly new. They are only native to the Americas. I ran an iguana rescue in NJ. I placed Ezra twice. Once to a truly horrifying situation that fortunately I was able to remove him from. The second time was to a wonderful family that wanted to use him for educational talks. However, he wasn’t happy with them. They built him a fabulous outdoor enclosure, but we discovered that he really wanted to live with me. When he was returned the second time, I promised him he could always stay with me and he did.

As a side note, when people came to adopt from me, I made sure the iguana chose the human and not the other way around. I also discovered that I had to leave the room, so the iguana would reveal its true feelings about the adopter and not be reassured by my presence. And people don’t think reptiles can differentiate between humans. But that’s a tale for another blog.

Some reptiles are easier to keep as pets. Green iguanas are not good choices. They require extensive lighting, heating, and enclosures as well as daily fresh food. As prey animals, they defend themselves first and worry about being pleasant later. As I often say, “everything eats as iguana.” It takes about a year of daily interaction to “socialize” an iguana. They will never be tame, but may become an accommodating wild animal. Their human companions must earn their trust.

If you’d like to have a lizard family member, I recommend bearded dragons (Pogona sp.) or geckos (especially leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius). Look for captive bred individuals – many of them have impressive color morphs.

This is one of my color morphs green iguanas: He’s a red morph green iguana.

A bright orange iguana.

Always check your local rescues for reptiles needing good homes. That way, you’ll get a new family member with background information.

My final thought is that I’m pleased that some turtles and tortoises do well in captivity. We need to ensure that we can say that about all reptiles we take into captivity. Want to learn mre about turtle, tortoise, and iguana conservation? Check out my educational workbooks. Made for children in grades K-8 but fun and interesting enough for the adults too. 

 

Journal references: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abl7811 and DOI: 10.1126/science.abm0151

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2325563-some-turtles-that-live-longer-have-a-lower-chance-of-dying-each-year/#ixzz7XBcc1Zz1

Shell-a-Brate World Turtle Day!

If you are familiar with my writing, you’ll have noticed that turtles are a frequent topic. But wait, you may say, I thought you usually wrote about tortoises? I hate to admit it, but tortoises fall into the category of turtles! Please don’t tell Myrtle, my red-foot tortoise. I wrote my first rhyming picture book, Don’t Call Me Turtle, for her. She kept being called Myrtle the turtle, which she hated. Most people don’t realize just how different turtles and tortoises are. No matter if you prefer terrestrial or sea turtles, or tortoises, join together to shell-a-brate Turtle World Day on May 23. 

World Turtle Day started in 2000 as an event sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. The purpose is to celebrate all turtles and bring awareness to their disappearing habitats and efforts to protect them. The majority, 61%, of the 356 species of turtle are threatened or have become extinct in modern times.

What Makes a Turtle a Turtle?

Since turtles are a diverse group of reptiles, let’s explore what makes a turtle a turtle. As reptiles, they breathe air, lay eggs, and are ectotherms (their body temperatures vary with the environment). Turtles are all in the order Testudines, which is characterized by a shell developed primarily from their ribs. The shells consist of bone and are covered with scales made of keratin (the protein of hair and fingernails).

Turtles are found on most continents, many islands, and most of the ocean. What continent are turtles not found on? Antarctica, where it’s a bit too cold. They are found in both freshwater and saltwater.

Over Land and Sea

Land turtles don’t travel much, while sea turtles migrate long distances to lay eggs on selected beaches. But the sea turtles don’t travel alone, many other animals travel along with them. Barnacles (one of my favorite animals), other crustaceans, remoras (fish), algae, and diatoms tag along and are dispersed to new locations.

Land turtles are also important dispersers of seeds as well as modifying their environment. They dig tunnels and help. maintain the environment in deserts, wetlands, and both freshwater and marine environs. These seemingly lackluster reptiles have a significant impact on the health of their ecosystems and our quality of life. In my book, Don’t Make Me Rattle, you can learn about how many animals brumate* together in tortoise dens during cold weather. Animals that would be considered predator and prey, diner and meal, spend time together in underground dens. If turtle species are lost, many other species will be impacted, both plants and animals.

*In extreme temperatures, mammals hibernate, while reptiles brumate.

People are easily confused and can’t tell the difference between terrestrial (land) turtles and sea turtles. This results in land turtles being thrown into the ocean. I wrote a book on this difference on behalf of the Cayman Islands where many freshwater hickatees are thrown to their death in the ocean.

green book cover with turtle illustration

But this is also true of tortoises and land turtles. People too frequently throw tortoises into the water, where they drown. Turtles can swim, but tortoises can’t. More on this later.

So, where do tortoises fit into this family? When I ask people if they know the differences between turtles and tortoises, the most common response is that turtles live in water. But the correct answer is, that all turtles can swim, although they may never be near water. Meet Ela, my Sonoran Desert Box Turtle. 

Ela the sonoran box turtle, her tongue is sticking out and she is posing on grass outside.

This turtle will never see a body of water but spent her life in the dryness of the desert. I did have another Sonoran Desert Box turtle who loved swimming in my pool. Every night I’d come home from work and find him paddling happily in the water, even though the water was very, very cold! The chlorine wasn’t an issue to him. I worried about hypothermia, so blocked his path to the pool – he left! His spot in my yard was taken over by Ela. Ela would brumate with Zoe my Sonoran Desert tortoise each winter and they would emerge together in the spring.

For some of the many differences between turtles and tortoises, I humbly suggest you read Don’t Call Me Turtle.

The Importance of Conservation

Why are turtles losing the battle to extinction? After all, turtles roamed about with dinosaurs and were able to survive what killed them off. Many are hunted for their meat and eggs, used in traditional medicine, their shells are used for jewelry, run over on the road, and drowned as bycatch. On top of this are habitat destruction, climate change, and disease. Sadly, this has reduced turtles around the world, something a meteor couldn’t do 65 million years ago. 

We have witnessed turtle extinctions in our lifetime. I had the honor of meeting Lonesome George in the Galapagos, the last surviving Pinta giant tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii). His death in June 2012 was the end of a species. Although his death was publicized and mourned around the world, many reptilian species die without any notice.

But they’re just turtles, tortoises, and terrapins, right? How much impact could they really have? When the giant tortoises were reintroduced to islands in the Galapagos (Ecuador), the savanna ecosystem was restored. This allows for the survival of other native plants and animals. One keystone species can accomplish a lot.

People look at turtles and tortoises and see moving lumps. Nondescript lumps that make a nice pop when you run over them on the road. However, if you’ve ever gotten to know a tortoise or a turtle, you know they have a lot of personalities. They don’t hesitate to let you know their likes and dislikes. They are not “shrinking violets.” No, these reptiles bite each other, ram each other with their gular horn, and chase each other at surprising speeds.

A bobcat leers at an oncoming tortoise, the image is distorted by a screen door.

If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see a bobcat on the right about to flee for its life from the rampaging sulcate tortoise on the left. Duke, the tortoise, was very proud of himself, strutting around the yard, looking for other predators to chase off. I should put up a “Beware of Attack Tortoise” sign on my gate.

Now, are you ready to shell-a-brate?! These fascinating reptiles deserve our support and admiration on May 23 and every day. My twelve tortoises and two turtles agree. If you have any questions about turtles, please reach out to me. You might also enjoy my turtle and tortoise videos on my YouTube channel.

Celebrating HerStory Month!

March is an important month for women! Not only was March 8th International Women’s Day. But it’s also HerStory Month, otherwise known as Women’s History Month. It is important to celebrate the vital role of women in American history for the entire month of March, not just one day. Learning about HerStory Month, got me thinking about my story as a woman in both science and the arts. I’ve written previously about some of the challenges I faced in my career, but this time I’d like to share some favorite and little-known highlights. Come celebrate HerStory month with me!

The Beginning of my HerStory

One of my favorite (non-science) accomplishments was helping to found the Hunterdon Radio Theatre. They produce New Time radio scripts in the style of Old-Time radio. My storytelling began with creating audio scripts, which are very different from writing stage theater scripts or books. All the information needed for the story is presented orally. Writing for the ear is much more difficult than for the eyes. The ear is unforgiving of “dead air” or incorrect sounds. And it can ruin the whole story for some! I remember listening to a police procedural where an officer enters his boss’ office. I heard the appropriate sound of the door opening and the background sounds becoming louder. As the dialog began, the background noise became quiet, but the door never closed. Instead of listening to the dialog, I was concentrating on the lack of the door closing sound! 

Many of my theater scripts were performed live. One, the Shrine of Seven Iguanas, was actually recorded. I bet you can guess how many iguanas I had in my home at that time (the script title is a clue). Noel, my first iguana, was used as the model for the cover.

The CD cover of my recorded play. An iguana peaks from the corner over a bright green background.

An Inspiring Artist

When I moved to Arizona, I transitioned to writing my science-based picture books. One of my books is set on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. A local artist, Monique Carroll, had created magnificent illustrations for the island adventure. She invited me to join her at a local art festival where we could market the book. The festival organizers had set up a blank canvas that the artists were encouraged to paint on. But after an hour, none of these wonderfully talented artists had applied any paint. So, I, with my very limited painting talent decided to get things going. I painted a couple of green swipes to create a sprouting plant since my adventure tale featured seeds. Those few swipes were all the impetus that was needed. No longer an intimidating blank canvas, the artists’ creativity was released and a masterpeice was created! And even though, many more layers of paint were added, my little starting sprout was still visible.

Two images. The first is Elaine painting on a blank canvas. The second is the finished artwork displaying a shell and various island features.

Riding High

In the past few years, I’ve taken up horseback riding, in kind of a big way. I was never particularly interested in horses as a child or even as an adult until I retired. However, I had liked the idea of riding animals, all along. Before there was this:

Elaine riding bareback on a tan horse.

There was this:

Elaine riding a water buffalo.

I’ve also ridden camels and elephants!

Conserving Our Future

Growing up, I wanted to be a naturalist, sharing my love of nature with others as well as conserving it. However, life took me into laboratories, where I worked as a research biologist. I did wander out to help with conservation outdoors. I volunteered to travel to the Caribbean to work on rock iguana conservation. No lying on the beach for me. No, I was chasing, large lizards over limestone karst, through thorny bushes.

Elaine gripping a wild igauna as another person wraps it in canvas cloth.

Here I am with my friend, Jill Jollay, “processing” a rock iguana. We would take measurements, including weight, which was done by putting the iguana into a bag of known weight. This fieldwork introduced me to the people associated with the National Trust of The Bahamas, and subsequently, the Cayman Islands. Together we realized the potential of the books set in the islands to educate children and adults about important conservation topics. And a personal highlight, interacting with these incredible creatures resulted in me getting a rock iguana of my own to join my family.

Elaine holding a large blue-green iguana.

This is Blue, a hybrid Grand Cayman Blue iguana. He is the star of my in-person talks to groups.

To the Rescue!

My love of iguanas led to my starting an iguana rescue in New Jersey. I was on “speed-dial” for many agencies because I always answered the phone and I always made room for any iguana whose life was in danger. I had up to 26 iguanas in my house at any given time.

Elaine holding a large grayish iguana with orange spines down it's back.

This is Eddie, who spent a year with me while his mom was in Tanzania. When she moved to Uganda, Eddie was allowed to join her. Eddie remembered me when I visited him in Kampala.

Elaine smiles as a large iguana is perched on her shoulder.

This is Calliope, named for the muse of long poetry. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of my HerStory and are encouraged to make your own history. To learn more about me and my current goings-on please sign up for my newsletter

Celebrate Invasive Species Awareness Every Week!

This year, National Invasive Species Awareness Week was from February 28th through March 3rd. It always begins on the last Monday of February. If you’re reading this outside of that particular week, it’s okay. The knowledge and prevention of invasive species are important enough to consider every week. Read on to learn more about why you should care about invasive species despite the day, week, month, or year. 

What Is An Invasive Species? 

An invasive species is any non-native plant, animal, or microorganism that proliferates in areas outside of its native ecosystem. It can be either on land or in the water. Also known as invasives, these organisms can harm the environment, human health, and the economy.

Get to Know Some Invasives

I’ve talked about animals, such as the green iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas as invasive species, but there are soooo many more. In the US, there are more than 6,500 non-native plants and animals. Some are so common that you might think they are native because they seem to always be around. For this blog, I want to talk about a few particular invasive plants. These plants were introduced to non-native environments for a variety of reasons. Sometimes intentionally, and sometimes they are accidentally released.  

The Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia) were both introduced because they’re attractive. I admit, I enjoyed the purple flowers of the loosestrife as I kayaked the rivers of Michigan and New Jersey. However, it did strike me as odd that it was spread out so extensively. That’s what invasives do, they out-compete the native plants.

A field full of beautiful, but invasive Purple Loosestrife.

I spend a great deal of time in Florida. Many Floridians would tell me about the gorgeous bushy tree they had in their yards, the Brazilian pepper or Florida holly as it’s called locally. The leaves and red berries are often used in holiday decorations. However, this non-native plant very successfully forced native plants out of the area. I spent two summers working to remove them from the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The roots had to be destroyed because the plant would regrow if any were left alive. In addition, when the berries ripened and fermented, birds would eat them and become drunk. No matter how humorous the birds look hanging upside down and singing, this is very dangerous for them.

Round, red berries growing in a bunch surrounded by green leaves.

(Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr)

The Dangers of Invasive Species

Even though invasive animal species get the most attention, plants can be dangerous, too. Just how dangerous? If you’ve ever seen kudzu, (Pueraria lobata) grow, you know how destructive plants can be. Kudzu is known as the “plant that ate the South.” Originally planted to help with ground erosion control, it spread over trees, vehicles, and even buildings. Kudzu can grow up to a foot a day. Yes, you can really watch this plant grow.

Kudzu vines covering the ground and trees.

Then there’s the symbol of the desert West, the humble tumbleweed (Kali tragus). Nothing says desolation in a show than a tumbleweed blowing across the dusty ground. But tumbleweed seeds came from Russia. The portion of the plant that is seen rolling along the ground is the seed dispersal unit. Unfortunately, the seemingly harmless balls of rolling branches actually cause significant losses through traffic accidents, invasion of agricultural operations, and property damage!

I was surprised to learn that the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) is invasive. My neighbors in New Jersey had a glorious hedge of multiflora rose on top of their backyard fence. I enjoyed the aroma and multitude of flowers. Little did I know how well the rose out-competed the native understory plants.

Delicate white flowers of the multiflora rose.

Invasive species and conservation of native plants and animals is a worldwide issue. Learn some ways locals are protecting wildlife in the Cayman Islands or some of the native species found in North America with my fun and interactive workbooks! You can find them all here.

The Life & Legacy of Krinkle

When I lived in New Jersey, I ran an iguana rescue and adoption program. If an iguana’s life was in danger, I would always have room for it. All of the iguanas I took in were green iguanas, Iguana iguana, but I really wanted one another type of iguana, the spiny-tail iguana, Ctenosaura similis. C. similis, also called black iguanas. Enter Krinkle. Krinkle had an important life, but an even more important legacy. 

The Story of Krinkle

Because I would always take in iguanas, I was on the call list for many police departments and animal control centers. One day I got a call from an animal control center saying they had a black iguana. I told them I was on my way. I picked up a five-year-old spiny-tail iguana that I named Krinkle. A cute name for a sad condition.

You see, Krinkle had a deformed body. For the first five years of his life, he’d been kept in a five-gallon aquarium, which he quickly outgrew. His body sacrificed his hips and tail in the tight space. His head and shoulders were full-sized, but his hips were small and his tail was accordioned. Worst of all, Krinkle couldn’t walk. He eventually got angry enough that he bit his owners, who took him to Animal Control. Which turned out for the best, I was delighted to welcome this black iguana into my family. 

With some physical therapy, nutritious food, and affection, Krinkle thrived. His tail eventually relaxed a bit. He learned to walk, although he was never able to run. But most importantly he became an important educator. Content in his new life, he never showed aggression and was always calm, even as he was passed around, child to child, at my reptile talks. He never opened his mouth in anger or for any reason. I wanted him to open up so the kids and adults could see his impressive teeth, but he wouldn’t. I believe he truly enjoyed educating people about lizards and the cruelty perpetrated upon reptiles.

He even liked hanging out with other family members. This is Krinkle with Rose Red-foot Tortoise and Calliope Green Iguana.

Krinkle the Igauna sunning himself with a tortoise and another iguana.

The Legacy of Krinkle

Sadly, a few years ago Krinkle passed away. But his educational influence continues to this day. In a previous blog, I described how Chelsea Richardson at Respectfully Dead prepares and cleans animal skeletons. She agreed to take on Krinkle and did a phenomenal job. I knew Krinkle’s skeleton would be fascinating. After cleaning, the bones were reassembled. Below is the result of her team’s efforts. Truly magnificent – Krinkle would be happy.

Krinkle's skeleton. His spine is curved and his tail is fused in a zig zag shape.

His tail end is mostly fused, instead of articulated vertebrae.

Even in death, Krinkle’s story will continue to be told. He will educate about proper care and animal abuse of reptiles. I do appreciate the first owners being responsible enough to turn Krinkle into their local Animal Control so that he could be rehomed. He was truly an ambassador for reptiles and lizards, in particular. RIP, Krinkle and Long live Krinkle the lizard!

Why You Should Feel Hopeful for 2022

Farewell, 2021! You’ve been an interesting year. Welcome, 2022! I’m sure the coming year will be as eventful as the last, but I have hope that it will bring more good than bad. Yes, I choose to have hope for the new year. This new year starts with difficulties, such as new variants thriving, economic difficulties, etc. Some may say that dark clouds hover on the horizon. But, I have hope that the seeds we have planted in 2021 will sprout.

Look to the Mangroves

A red mangrove sprouting in the sand.

Like this red mangrove propagule, I believe our efforts will sprout and build up the world around it. Red mangroves, Rhizophora mangle, are known for their ability to build up the land at the edges of oceans. They are able to hold on to the soil against the assaults of waves.

When I feel beaten down by life, I will think of the red mangrove seed and try to persevere, no matter how daunting the situation may seem. I want to believe that this little tree will grow, despite the isolation of its locale.
I hope to eliminate or endure the negativity I perceive, whether the faults are within me or derived from external sources.

Make Like a Crab

The exoskeleton of a crab lying in the sand.

I want to be like a crab and shed the negativity like I am removing an exoskeleton. When crustaceans molt, they are then able to grow. I want to grow as a person as well.

An empty moon shell lying on the beach.

I was encouraged to see this egg casing on the beach for a moon shell, Neverita duplicate. I want to believe that animals will be allowed to survive and thrive around us. This was my mother’s favorite seashell. I want others to enjoy them as much as she did. Knowing that eggs were released gives me a little bit of hope that future generations of mollusks will survive, despite the impact of man on the world’s environments. We are not alone in this world and together we can help us all survive.

Have Hope

I have hope that my books will bring entertainment and enlightenment to others. I have hope that the environment will endure in the presence of mankind. My wish for you is that everyone is able to flourish in 2022. May you go forth and multiply; if not biologically, then in accomplishments, good works, and enjoyment in living.

May the New Year bring you:

Happy New Year, Everyone!

-Elaine

The Need to Feed

An author friend of mine recently wrote a blog for my publisher, Lyric Power Publishing. She described how she, a girl who grew up on the cement streets of Manhattan, became enamored of a couple of native Desert Spiny lizards. A local informed her that she could feed the lizards mealworms. So, every day she offers the lizards a couple of worms, which they eagerly eat. However, this tale has led to a discussion about whether people should be feeding wild animals.

To Feed or Not to Feed?

This is an interesting, but tricky, topic. Do we condemn my friend for offering an acceptable food item to a lizard, when many of us have bird feeders around our homes? I am pleased that migrating bats utilize my hummingbird feeders to support their flight south. One bat species has changed its behavior to come north to feed before heading south again for migration. How about offering floating turtle food pellets in park ponds, when many people, unfortunately, feed bread to ducks? Some people put out corn for the neighborhood squirrels. These are all examples of feeding wild animals. Why are some acceptable and others not? The answer isn’t always straightforward.

During the pandemic, many people turned to the wild animals to maintain their sanity, using food to attract them, usually birds, to within viewing range. This enjoyment might lead to concern for the well-being of the animals and increase participation in conservation.

Many of our social activities involve the sharing of food. Humans seem to enjoy watching other animals eat and becoming part of their world by offering food items to other species. When companion animals eat heartily, we’re assured that they are healthy and happy. I admit, one of the pleasures I get from the Jurassic Park movies is watching the dinosaurs eat well.

It’s Not a New Discussion 

Many people are against bird feeders. Others think it will help the local birds, even if it won’t significantly enhance the general population. Sometimes, diseases are spread through bird feeders, but with our destruction of the natural habitat, humans have reduced the abundance of natural food. Providing food might help since mankind has reduced what’s available naturally, right? It’s a complex situation. And in reality, people won’t try to protect animals that aren’t important to them.

The advice that has been given is: do not feed wild animals when it might cause them harm.

When NOT to Feed

How do we know if we are harming them? Are we tempting them from natural food with tastier human food that has no nutritional value? Are we changing their behaviors? Are we affecting their health?

Human-wildlife interaction has become an important topic in The Bahamas, concerning their endemic rock iguanas and tour operators. How do you balance the needs of the iguanas with the need of Bahamians to earn a living? The tour operators take day-trippers out to see the magnificent lizards, but just looking at them and taking photos is not enough. The tourists want to interact, i.e., feed the iguanas. Early on, people would feed whatever leftover food they had onboard their boats, potato chips, etc. After discussions with the scientists, they agreed to offer food closer to natural food, often grapes. But throwing the grapes on the sand, led to the ingestion of sand and caused impaction, resulting in the death of the iguanas. After further discussion, it was agreed that the grapes would be put on sticks, like roasting marshmallows. An improvement. It’s true that grapes aren’t a natural food and have high sugar content, but it’s an improvement. Effects on iguana health have been noted, so more work is needed. Discussions are ongoing to develop protocols that allow the tour operators to conduct their tours with wild iguana feeding while minimizing the effects on the iguana populations.

Along with impacting the iguanas’ health, the tourist’s feeding has changed their behavior. When the boats arrive, the iguanas, mostly males, run down to the beach to get the handouts. This is another factor to be discussed. You might have seen the YouTube video about the woman doing yoga on a beach being bitten by an iguana. Her nail polish was grape-colored. It’s dangerous to wear fruit-colored toenail polish as well. Iguanas have color vision! In addition, they have razor-sharp teeth for biting through fibrous plant material.

The One Thing to Remember

In conclusion, it would be hypocritical of me to condemn all feeding of wild animals. My yard is filled with various bird feeders. I do ask that if you do feed your neighborhood wild animals, do it responsibly with knowledge of the possible risks.

Morton Salt, Campbells, and Flamingos in the Bahamas.

Recently, while in Chicago I happened to see the iconic Morton Salt sign. It’s so huge you can’t miss it. While it’s called a sign, in actuality it’s a roof on the old Morton Salt factory on Elston Avenue. As a child, this sign always reminded me of the Morton Salt Girl and the drawing of her carrying around an umbrella in the rain. I confess, I always wondered what she had to do with salt. If you look closely, you’ll realize she also carried a container of Morton salt that spilled behind her. The marketing slogan was When It Rains, It Pours. It must have been effective, as the company kept her as their mascot and updated her through the years. I even remember her as an animated character on TV!

Animated characters are something I’ve delved into, starting with my character Curtis Curly-tail. However, this time my thoughts drifted not to curly-tail lizards, but the island of Great Inagua in the Bahamas. 

A Salty National Park

For those not aware, I collaborate with the Bahamas National Trust in several of my books. I’ve also given multiple presentations on the benefits of using children’s books in science education. Then there’s the National Trust’s biannual Natural History Conference, which brings college students and teachers together with scientists working in the Bahamas. I especially enjoy checking in with the scientists to make certain my stories contain the most current information.

The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands, and I try to visit a few more on each trip. My goal is to visit all the inhabited islands and some of the uninhabited ones. One year, after the National History Conference, I jumped at the opportunity for a field trip to the island of Great Inagua. Why was I so excited to go there? Salt. You see, the major industry on Great Inagua is the collection of salt for Morton Salt!

With a dry climate, Great Inagua is perfect for salt production. Operations began in the late 1930s and continue to this day. Believe it or not, the island’s 300,000 acres produce about a million pounds of salt each year! Nature plays an important part in producing this salt. Energy for the drying is provided by the sun and wind. An algal mat in the reservoirs removes impurities. Brine shrimp eat the algae, which keeps the water clean. More importantly, the brine shrimp serve as food for Caribbean flamingos. The Morton Salt facility shares Great Inagua with the Inagua National Park. Established in 1965, the park is the site of the largest breeding colony of West Indian Flamingos, Phoenicopterus ruber, in the world. Once near extinction, the population of The Bahamas’ national bird is now growing.   

Sandy mounds with power poles and large piles of salt in the background.
Morton Salt facilities on Great Inagua
Flat field of white sale with a barely visible tree line in the distance.
Great Inagua Salt Fields

Along Came the Campbells

On this fascinating trip, I was joined by a gentleman named David George Campbell. When introduced to him by a mutual friend, Sandra Buckner, I was sure I’d remember his name, as I knew a George Campbell when I lived on Sanibel Island, Florida. George was a naturalist and a great inspiration to me. When I worked at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, George was also there. He kept an eye on our activities and the activities of others in his quest to protect the island’s special ecosystem, and I felt honored to know him. He wrote The Nature of Things on Sanibel. I treasure my copy and suspect he would be saddened by the damage later generations did to the island we both loved.

When mentioning George Campbell to David, I was astounded to learn that George was his father! It was intriguing to learn how intertwined our lives were. David grew up on Eleuthera Island, the location of the Leon Levy Preserve. Meanwhile, I wrote Grow Home, Little Seeds specifically for the preserve. To my delight, David shared that he attended Kalamazoo College. I lived in Kalamazoo while working for the Upjohn Company. In addition, in the seventies, David served as the Executive Director of The Bahamas National Trust. He worked on the conservation of the unique ecosystems in The Bahamas, the same ones I write about in my books. David wrote The Ephemeral Islands, the first natural history of the archipelago to be published since the 1800s. It seems that the islands inspired both of us to write.

It’s a Small World after all

They say it’s a small world and that everyone has only six degrees of separation from each other. The connections between David, George, me, a small island in the Bahamas, and that Morton Salt sign seem to add credence to these ideas. Despite these very diverse places and situations, they are all interconnected in my life.

Iguanas and Tortoises are… Invasive Species?

 

Invasive species are a common topic in environmental discussions these days, and rightfully so. Often, these concepts seem to deal with invasive plants or animals that affect people and places far away. But if you’ve ever watched my Reptile-Side chats, or witnessed one of my school or community visits, you know my non-human housemates are reptiles, mostly iguanas and tortoises. What you may not realize is that some of them are invasive species.

It’s Raining Green Iguanas!

Take green iguanas, for instance. I have both green and rock iguanas, species involved in my conservation effort in the Caribbean area. However, green iguanas are well-known invasives. They can be entertaining, like when comatose green iguanas fall from the trees during cold snaps in Florida. “It’s raining reptiles!” people love to say. Knowing how fond I am of iguanas, folks assume I want to help these unfortunate frozen lizards. They’re surprised when I suggest that the local wildlife personnel and the public finish the job that nature began.

I am a fan of iguanas, but prefer them to be safe and protected in their natural environment. Green iguanas, who are unable to handle cold weather in south Florida, are native to much warmer Central America. These wonderful animals have been introduced around the world through the pet trade, as stowaways on ship containers, and from human negligence. As a result, they’ve become a very dangerous invasive species. They’re not aggressive or a danger to humans; rather, they’re dangerous because they destroy non-native environments.

Part of my volunteer work as a citizen scientist involves helping to identify invasive green iguanas throughout the world. Posters have been created and flyers produced to spread the word, but more needs to be done. My author skills came to the rescue, and I created identification booklets for the public. These little booklets enable the public to tell the difference between native and invasive iguanas. In addition, they educate folks on the importance of native lizards.

In Tucson, Arizona, where I live, green iguanas are not a problem. Iguanas need more humidity and better vegetation to survive in this harsh environment. It’s not a problem for their relatives, the chuckwalla, who do well here. An invasive species that also does well here and lives in my yard—the sulcata tortoise. Surely, you must be thinking ‘how dangerous can a tortoise be?’

Invasive Tortoises in the Desert

The reality is that sulcata tortoises can have devastating effects on native Sonoran desert tortoises. Sulcata tortoises are natives of southern Saharan Africa, not southern Arizona. Sulcatas are much larger than the desert tortoise, 100-200lbs versus 15lbs. Both species eat the same plants, which means competition for limited food sources and water supplies. They also compete for a territory that, thanks to humans, steadily decreases.

Why are sulcatas roaming the Sonoran desert in the first place? They’ve been dumped by humans. You see, sulcatas are a favorite pet choice. As hatchlings, they’re a nice size and are both friendly and calm. In contrast, desert tortoises are much smaller at hatching. They’re shy around humans (who are viewed as possible predators) and tend to explore.

People may enjoy having a pet tortoise when they’re small. However, as they grow (and grow and grow) their caretakers learn how just destructive sulcatas can be. Sulcatas can easily dig through doors and drywall. Furniture is moved and broken while gardens and plantings are destroyed. One of my sulcata tortoises digs outside quite a bit, and I wondered how close she’d gotten to my house foundation. Turns out she was undermining it.

Due to the harshness of desert life, both sulcata and desert tortoises dig tunnels to escape the intense heat. Obviously from their size, sulcatas dig much bigger holes than the smaller desert tortoises. Sulcata dens can easily be 30 feet long and 20 feet deep, while desert dens are far smaller. Either type of den can provide a habitat for other animals. When my female sulcata dug a burrow in my yard, the desert tortoise helped herself and moved right in. Consequently, the sulcata had to continue digging to make the burrow big enough for both of them. They are not happy den-mates.

The entrance to a large den is visible beneath the broken edge of a house foundation.
A large sulcata den.
The entrance to a small desert tortoise den is visible beneath a succulent plant.
A small Sonoran tortoise den.

In other households, many unwitting owners eventually decide their tortoise is too destructive and unmanageable. Instead of finding a new home or at least contacting a rescue group, they’re often just dumped in the desert. Once there, not only do they have to compete with desert tortoises, they can also introduce diseases.

At least dumped sulcatas can survive here in the Sonoran desert. When I lived in New Jersey, I read a report stating that a Sulcata tortoise was found in a Pennsylvania forest. Fortunately, the unlucky tortoise was found before winter set in. A long, slow death in cold weather is a fate no reptile deserves.

How Can You Help?

An inconvenient and abandoned pet can easily become invasive and have a devastating effect on native animals. When we bring animals into our homes, it’s our responsibility to ensure they have a good place to live for the rest of their lives—which is up to 150 years for a tortoise. Once they live with humans they can never be released or returned into the wild. And they should never, ever be left in someone else’s habitat. Before you decide to bring home a pet, like a tortoise or an iguana, it’s a good idea to learn everything you can about them and make sure they’re the right pet for you.

That Hurt! Where is a Bottle of Alcohol When You Need It?

A couple of years ago I rescued a Rhinoceros Iguana, Rango, who had bitten her owner and a guest too many times. I brought her into my home and, after quarantine, allowed her to free roam — until she started biting my feet. I finally figured out it was the color socks or pants that was attracting her. I hypothesized that I was wearing clothes that reminded her of food — you know, fruit and vegetable colors. So, I put her into a large open enclosure in the middle of her territory. The food preference attacks continued but she usually couldn’t get hold of me.

I still needed to get into her enclosure for feeding and cleaning. Some days she would ignore me, other days she would leap at me, mouth agape. Most times, I was able to avoid her teeth, but one day, my reflexes were a bit too slow, and I got bitten!

Iguanas have razor sharp teeth designed to rip and bite through fibrous plant material. Powered by strong muscles, iguanas can deliver a significant bite. Consequently, my skin was easily pierced.

photo of iguana bite on finger

I resisted the urge to pull my finger from her teeth, since she kept hold of me. Doing that would have shredded my finger’s tissue even more. Rango bit down a few more times, perhaps trying to show me who was in charge.

I had only opened one end of the enclosure door when Rango grabbed me. I stood there trying to decide the best way to get her to release my finger. I unhooked the latch on the other side of the door, thinking she might let go for the opportunity to roam about the room, but she clamped down harder. I re-latched that side of door.

I thought about trying to lift her up, since repositioning the body position might encourage release, but then I’d have to let go of the other side of the door that I was holding open because both of us were in the opening.

I knew alcohol would get her to let go, but the nearest bottle was across two rooms in the kitchen.

I’ve been told that any alcohol would work: rubbing alcohol or hard liquor. I had a green iguana who used to taste my food and drinks and he never liked any of my alcoholic drinks. The fumes near the iguana’s face or a bit in its mouth should be sufficient to release the captured body part. But don’t pour it down the iguana’s throat — you don’t want to pour the alcohol into its lungs.

Patience paid off and Rango eventually released my finger. I quickly latched the enclosure door. I really couldn’t blame Rango, since she is a wild animal and did what her instincts told her.  I did wonder, but only for a moment, if she’d like meat in her diet. She wouldn’t — she’s an herbivore and, very much, a folivore (leaf eater).

I suspect Rango will attempt to bite me again in the future.  I think I’ll prepare for the eventuality and strategically place a bottle of some kind of alcohol on her enclosure. Within easy reach, of course, for the next time Rango latches on.

Book Note: I generally write fun science books for children, but I do also write about issues important to me, such as my book about the disappearing Rock Iguanas of Cayman Brac, Silent Rocks, that can be used to teach principles of Conservation.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

 

image of workbook cover, all about iguanasAnd to supplement your child’s education during the summer, check out the workbook full of fun and interesting activity sheets called My Unit Study on Iguanasat Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.  The pages included in the workbook are listed on the cover.

#elaineapowers    #lyricpower   #iguanabite

May 8th is the First International Blue Iguana Day!

May 8, 2021 is the first International Blue Iguana Day. Blue iguanas, Cyclura lewisi, are the endemic iguanas on the island of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

I had the honor of volunteering with this program, collecting native plants and preparing the salad for the iguanas.

This is a story of success for a critically endangered species, which was on the brink of extinction. In 2002, only about two dozen blue iguanas remained in the wild. Currently, the population is 750. Because of the increase in numbers, the blue iguana has been down-listed to endangered. Fred Burton and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP), now Blue Iguana Conservation, are responsible for this effort. The effort is located in a conservation facility in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. About 100 baby iguanas a year are head-started before being released there.

photo of head of blue iguana hybridThere are several reasons blue iguanas, who exist in one place in the world, almost became extinct. The reproductive rate of these iguanas is very low, and native snakes consume a lot of babies—but those issues are part of the natural cycle.  Deaths due to domestic pets, however, are not and owners must control their dogs and cats, because iguanas don’t know that our pets are a threat to them. As the human population on Grand Cayman grew, habitat destruction and being killed on the roads increased as well. Iguanas enjoy basking on the warm road surface – and cars aren’t recognized as a danger, either.

For more information, visit www.blueiguana.ky

My connection with the blue iguanas, in addition to donating time and money, is my reptile companion, Blue (pictured above).  Blue is a hybrid blue iguana, Cyclura nubila lewisi, from a cross of the Blue Iguana and a Cuban Rock Iguana.  Since he is a hybrid, he can never be released into the wild.  However, though he is missing the classrooms, he is still enjoying his role as an ambassador for iguana conservation.

Book Note: Perhaps someday I will write a book about Blue Iguanas, but for now, I’d love to show you my book about the endangered Rock Iguana called Silent Rocks. So many species are now endangered, Rock Iguanas being among them. The book can be used to teach how animals in general become endangered and the difference conservation makes.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

#blueiguana  #elaineapowers  #lyricpower  #iguanaconservation
#internationalblueiguanaday

 

Tomorrow is Earth Day!

What are you doing tomorrow to celebrate Earth Day?

April 22, 2021 is National Earth Day, which, as you probably know, is an annual event to support environmental protection. The goals are to educate people about protecting the world and to learn more about local and global environments. It is a day to realize that we are all part of the earth’s ecosystem and that without maintaining this world, we won’t survive. Earth Day activities aren’t only for adults—children need to be involved, too, because it is their future at stake. Along with outdoor activities, I encourage adults and children to read science-based books together.

The pandemic and resulting shutdowns showed us a lot about the environment. We observed the air clear, and wild animals as they reacted to the release from the constant presence of people. People discovered the value of the ecosystems in their neighborhoods, whether urban, suburban or rural. The plants and animals of nature helped us survive the social isolation. If we couldn’t interact with other humans, we could interact with animals. We could watch plants germinate and grow and we had time to enjoy the wonder of life. I’ve published pictures here of plants in my yard that I enjoyed observing more closely this past year.

photo of barrel cactus
Barrel Cactus

If you must stay inside, I’d like to suggest my science-based, educational, and fun, books–and the books by all the authors found at Lyric Power Publishing.  I like to think my books about plants and animals are adding to the knowledge about the preciousness of the environments that support all living things. I have written three books about conservation and I also publish iguana conservation materials that help people protect iguana environments from not only human impact, but from invasive species, both animals and plants.

book covers conservation

My Conservation books and brochures.

photo of iguana conservation brochure

The Don’t Series

photo of Sonoran Desert Book Covers

My Sonoran Desert plant book.

It’s important to participate in Earth Day. We each need to do what we can to learn how to help protect our world tomorrow–and every day.

#elaineapowers   #lyricpowerpublishing  #earthday   #earthdayactivities

I Should Have Known the Collective Noun for Iguanas!

Until today, I didn’t know the collective noun for iguanas. I should have, since I’ve had more than one for around 30 years. I knew that a group of tortoises was a “creep,” and it’s a “bale” of turtles. The general term for lizards is “lounge.” I think some of my iguanas are willing to lounge around.

The collective noun for iguanas is a “mess.” Why, you and I might ask? Iguanas may intertwine in large groups, especially when they are gathered around a heat source. It’s hard to tell where one iguana ends, and another begins. They are ectotherms, or cold-blooded, so iguanas get their body heat from the environment or my body, as in this photo of Calliope and me. She is my writing muse, named after the Muse of Long Poetry.

photo of elaine powers with her iguana muse, Calliope

One of my friends from the Southern US mentioned that “mess” refers to something else, as in a “mess of greens.” The greens she was referring to are collard, turnip and mustard greens, all of which are enjoyed by my reptilian family members, too. Of course, in my case, it may be accurate to say I do have a mess of greens: a mess of green iguanas.

How much or many is a mess? It is undefined, but in food, it is usually enough to feed a family.

I’d agree that my mess of greens is always exactly the right amount for my family.

a red. hybrid green iguana
Youngster Chile being his curious self.

 

an older green iguana on grass
Ezra, who is in his 20s, on the grass in my backyard

Book Note: While I haven’t yet written a lot of books about iguanas, I have written one important one called Silent Rocks. It is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguanas of Cayman Brac, and teachers can use it to show how human activity endangers the lives of other species.

I’ve also written an adventure tale that includes an iguana, called The Dragon of Nani Cave. It features two lime lizards, Gene and Bony, who must do the bravest thing possible–find the dragon of Nani Cave, and survive!

 

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring
their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+
48 pages
Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many
animals they encounter, including the Dragon,
by Anderson Atlas

My Bahamian Boas Book is Having Its Birthday Today!

I’m celebrating the March 6th ‘birth’ day of my book, Bahamian Boas: A Tabby Tale.

CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE ME SPEAK ABOUT THE BIRTHDAY OF MY BOOK. A special guest appeared, whom you will very much enjoy seeing.

A brown book cover with illustrations of bahamian boa snakes
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, is a good friend to everyone she meets. After Cleo, a Bahamian Boa, rescues her in their first book, Tabby & Cleo: Unexpected Friends, Tabby tells us about the natural history of the often misunderstood endemic Bahamian Boas, which have an important place in Bahamian life.

CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE SNAZZY THE SNAKE HIGHLIGHT THE BIRTHDAY BOOK ON YOUTUBE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BAHAMIAN BOAS!

Bahamian Boas: A Tabby Tale is a very special book. It is narrated by Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy of The Bahamas, a magical being involved with conservation, and I wrote it in rhyming text, which makes the learning fun. It is colorfully illustrated, but also includes photographs of Bahamian boas, which are important to the ecosystem of the islands. The boas eat lizards, frogs, birds and rats, and can consume thousands of rats during their lifetimes. This is important, since these native snakes help control the population of the invasive rodents.

Unfortunately, the major threat to these incredible snakes is man. Irrational fears have led to the persecution of these harmless, nonvenomous snakes. The dangers to boas posed by humankind are a part of Tabby’s adventure tale, Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends.

a book cover about Tabby the five finger fairy and Cleo a bahamian boa
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, who comes from the Five-Finger Tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, loves the native plants, animals and people of The Bahamas. She makes friends wherever she goes!

Help me help these important snakes survive on The Bahamian islands and buy a copy for yourself today. Both books are educational, and Tabby & Cleo is also a chapter book of adventure and friendship for ages eight and above.

Thanks for stopping by today. If you’d like me to make a presentation to your classroom or group about reptiles or other subjects covered in my books, please use my Contact Page.

Today is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day– Meet Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy!

Today, February 26, is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. A fairy tale is defined as a children’s story about imaginary or magical beings and lands. Some fairy tales have been around so long they are part of folklore, passed down from storyteller to storyteller. Many of the fairy tales popular today were written in the 1800s; you might be familiar with those written by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.

I am excited to tell you that fairy tales are still being created today. These stories and characters might still be popular two hundred years from now.

Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy is a new magical being, a fairy who lives in the common Five-finger tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, found only in the Lucayan Archipelago. The land in my fairy tale is very real, but it is a wondrous, I might even say, magical, place: The Bahamas. It is hoped by Scott Johnson, Tabby’s creator, and The Bahamas National Trust, and me that Tabby (illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe), who loves Bahamian wildlife, bush teas, and making friends with animals and humans alike, will become a symbol for conservation and environmental education, not only in the islands but around the world.

photo of the cover of the book Tabby and Clean: Unexpected Friends
A Magical Chapter Book about
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy and Her
Adventures with Cleo, a Bahamian Boa
Reading Level: Ages 8+
52 Pages
Tabby Comes Alive in
Illustrations by Nick Thorpe
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, who comes from the Five-Finger Tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, loves the native plants, animals and people of The Bahamas. She makes friends wherever she goes! Glossary of plants and animals included.

I encourage you to meet this new fairy tale character, Tabby, and enjoy her story aloud with another who appreciates warm tales of adventure and friendship, in Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends. These stories are what I do: making science fun by weaving scientific information into adventure tales or rhyming stanzas. Enjoy a new fairy-tale story, on this special fairy-tale day.

February 1st is National Serpent Day!

I came across this beauty, a Western Diamondback Rattler, on a recent ride in the Sonoran Desert.

Ooh, February 1st is National Serpent Day! Some of my favorite animals are serpents. I grew up with snakes as family pets, mostly garter snakes, because my brother was allergic to fur. We cuddled them like you would any other pet.

The term serpent usually refers to a large snake, often in a negative way. In my books, I try to educate people about the value of snakes, to respect them, not to fear them. Religious beliefs have, unfortunately, been used to persecute snakes, which are important to the ecosystem of the human environment. Imagine a world overrun with rodents.

One of the misunderstood serpents in the Sonoran Desert, where I currently reside, is the rattlesnake.  You can learn all about them in Don’t Make Me Rattle! You’ll learn about what great mothers’ rattlers are, how they collect drinking water, what their venom is really used for and many other interesting facts.

book cover graphic of rattlesnake
There’s Much More to Me Than You Know! I Am Shy and My Rattle is Only a Warning: Please, Stay Away! For All Ages Reading Level 8+
Bold and Vibrant Illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe
Written in Rhyme 40 pages

Another misunderstood and persecuted snake is the rainbow boa of The Bahamas. I’ve written a couple of books about the gorgeous rainbow boa.

A brown book cover with illustrations of bahamian boa snakes
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, is a good friend to everyone she meets. After Cleo, a Bahamian Boa, rescues her in their first book, Tabby & Cleo: Unexpected Friends, Tabby goes on to teach us about the natural history of the often misunderstood endemic Bahamian Boas, which have an important place in Bahamian life.

One is more of a natural history book, The Bahamian Boa: A Tabby Tale, while the other is an adventure tale, Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends. It includes Bahamian folk tales and a study of human nature and is a true tale of friendship. Don’t worry, the adventure tale is full of science, as well.

Cleo, a Bahamian boa, one of the misunderstood animals of The Bahamas, rescues Tabby, a Five-Finger Fairy. In trying to find Cleo a safe place to live, this unlikely pair help each other and the people they meet. Tabby loves Bahamian wildlife, Bahamian bush teas, and making friends with both animals and humans alike. This book focuses on important conservation issues that threaten Bahamian wildlife, such as wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, invasive species and human intolerance of animals such as snakes and spiders.

May I suggest you get to know more about serpents and the important roles they play in their ecosystems, whether in person in your neighborhood or with a good book?  Here are a few of the serpents I’ve known personally.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes

Baby Rattlesnake born in garage

This rattler was born in my garage.

photo Sonoran Desert Rattler

Met this magnificent rattler while walking my horse.

Bahamian Boas

photo of New Providence Boa

A baby New Providence boa in The Bahamas.

On the Lyric Power Publishing LLC website, www.lyricpower.net, you’ll discover snake-related workbooks. such as this one, My Book About the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Book cover with photo of western diamondback rattler
Something for everyone from kindergarten through grade 3! Forty-six pages of fascinating information on the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Worksheets and project sheets include snake anatomy, crossword puzzle, word search, predators and prey; assemble a rattlesnake analog clock; math sheets including line graph, tally sheet, pictograph, and bar graph; THREE Venn-diagrams with corresponding fact sheets; life cycle activity pages, and reading comprehension.

Uh, Oh! A Green Iguana Found in Sweetwater Wetlands Needs a New Home

Here is Albert finishing up his recovery in foster care. By the way, he’s very adept at using his magnificent tail for defense!

The Sonoran Desert is not known for its wetlands. That’s why the Sweetwater Wetlands are so special. This isn’t a natural wetlands, but was created by the City of Tucson’s reclaimed water system. Reclaimed water is used exclusively in the wetlands. Visitors have access to the wetlands and the inhabitants through 2.5 miles of pathways.

Surface water attracts wildlife in the desert, so many can be seen in the Sweetwater Wetlands. Being particularly fond of reptiles, I’m curious about what kinds might be there. Several reptiles are known to inhabit the wetlands, such as the Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus), Western Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata), Sonoran Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer affnis) and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox).

However, recently a reptile was seen that definitely did not belong there. It’s bad enough that Red-eared Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been introduced there, and the Sweetwater Wetlands does not need Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana).

Unfortunately, green iguanas have become invasive in many ecosystems around the world because people release them where they don’t belong, like the Sweetwater Wetlands. Part of my work in iguana conservation is to help people identify green iguanas. If you’d like more information on iguanas, please visit my website and contact me through elaineapowers.com.

After several reports were received about a male iguana in the wetlands, the Animal Experts were called. They had to wade through the water to reach the tree where the iguana was hanging out. Definitely, an incredible adventure. The men were able to successfully retrieve the lizard. You can follow their story on Animal Experts on Facebook.

The iguana was taken to a local reptile veterinarian who discovered he had a large bladder stone. It is suspected that this is why he was released. The staff named him Albert. Surgery was performed to remove the stone and Albert was put into foster care to recover.

photo of large bladder stone removed from iguana
Photo of the bladder stone removed by Dr. Jarchow of Orange Grove Animal Hospital.

A GoFundMe account was set up to help pay for Albert’s medical costs. As soon as he has healed, Albert will be put up for adoption. Hopefully, Albert will find a forever home soon.

Book Note: I wrote a book called Silent Rocks about the critically endangered rock iguanas of Cayman Brac, and how they need the help of humans to survive. If you’d like to help, book information is here and it is available at Amazon.com.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species.

Interested in Becoming a Citizen-Scientist?

Recently, I posted on my social media about a citizen-scientist opportunity that you could do from the comfort of your home. This project was through Zooniverse.

For an iguana study, people were needed to look at photos and count the iguanas they could see. The scientists took the photos and cut them into little pieces. The resulting 25,000 images were shown 20 times. Four thousand volunteers participated. Two thousand to 10,000 images were classified each day.

photo of chopped up images of iguanas

In some images, the iguanas were challenging to find, while in others they were more obvious.

photo 2 of chopped up pics of iguanas

If you’d like to participate in scientific work, Zooniverse needs help with other projects. This work can be safely done from home, no traveling required, and you can contribute to important conservation efforts.

Book Note: And if you’d like to learn more about the remarkable large lizards called iguanas, grab a copy of My Unit Study on Iguanas from Lyric Power Publishing today! It’s on sale until 12/31/20.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Humans Have Always Moved Animals–Let’s Do So for the Right Reasons

At a recent conservation meeting in the Caribbean regarding iguanas, there was discussion about establishing additional colonies on islands, so that the lizards would be protected from human-caused threats. The selected islands included their historical homes and new, safe places.
Of course, moving animals is nothing new. Mankind has been moving and introducing animals to new locations throughout history–but rarely has this been beneficial to the native species. Pigs and goats, released to be eventual food sources, have been introduced to islands as natural “livestock pens.” Sadly, livestock often destroy the islands’ ecosystems.
In recent times, iguanas have been moved by people from one island to another, seemingly just because they can. Maybe it happens because the lizards are so attractive and people want some in their previously iguana-free zone, but they are also taken as a food source. Iguanas have been eaten for centuries, although they are now protected from hunting and consumption. Others may think they are helping the iguanas achieve more genetic mixing by adding individuals from one isolated populations to another.
Consequently, scientists prefer to ensure the safety of the iguanas and the island’s environment when translocating them.
Setting up a new community of iguanas is more than just grabbing a few of them and dumping them on their new home. Iguanas are selected by sex, age, reproductive fitness and health status.
Of course, the islands are carefully pre-screened before the iguanas are collected. There must be proper food, no invasive animal species, like mice and rats, den sites and perhaps most importantly, nesting sites. Once the appropriate candidate iguanas have been selected, captured, and examined, they aren’t just plopped onto the island. No, they must wait until the food they ate on their home island has cleared their guts. Iguanas are important seed disperses, but bringing foreign plants onto the receiving island must be prevented. Islands need to be protected from invasive plant species as well.
The possibility of increasing the ranges of critically endangered iguanas is exciting. It’s worth the years of planning that goes into making these projects realities! If you’d like to participate in these efforts, please donate to your favorite conservation organization, or volunteer as a citizen scientist. But don’t pick up an iguana and toss it onto another island!
Some organizations involved in iguana conservation are the International Iguana Foundation, IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, International Reptile Conservation Foundation, The Shedd Aquarium, The Trust of The Bahamas, and The Trust of the Cayman Islands, to name a few.

Book Note: Want to learn more about these wonderful creatures? Go to My Unit Study on Iguanas at Lyric Power Publishing–it’s 30 pages of fun activities and coloring pages for $1.47 until December 31, 2020.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

It’s National Native American Heritage Day on November 27th

The day after Thanksgiving is National Native American Heritage Day. Legislation was passed to commemorate Native Americans and encourage people to learn more about the cultures of the people native to this continent. However, a recently published study showed that we can learn much more from Native Americans, who well-preserve their lands and the habitats of the animals that live on them.

Above image of a Native American Man, possibly taken in 1899, is courtesy of David Mark of Pixabay.

a photograph from a mountain overlooking the Great Basin
Image of the Great Basin National Park, home to Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe tribes, is courtesy of David Mark from Pixabay

Even though this study was done in Australia, Brazil and Canada, I bet it would be true in other lands, too, including here in the U.S. The article, The Vertebrate Biodiversity on Indigenous-Managed Lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada Equals that in Protected Areas, is linked here.

Habitat loss due to non-native human development has resulted in losses of species at such a level it is being called a “Sixth Mass Extinction.” Many countries haven’t managed to protect land as agreed in existing international treaties. The authors of the above study explored whether land management could be enhanced through partnerships between indigenous communities and government agencies. They found that the indigenous-managed lands had more vertebrate species than protected areas in all three countries. Interestingly, the indigenous-managed land also supported more threatened species. The authors suggest that partnerships with indigenous-managed lands would help the countries in reaching their goals for biodiversity conservation.

This article did not surprise me. I drove a friend around the Salt River area of Arizona. She was looking to buy some land for a house to retire in.  As we drove through the San Carlos Apache Reservation, we noted the forest was healthy and very attractive. My friend was delighted since the plot she was interested in was just outside the reservation. However, as soon as we crossed the border, the quality of the land deteriorated rapidly. It was obvious the Native Americans were much better stewards of the land.

Unfortunately, as with Native American heritage, the wisdom of their environmental conservation practices is either lost or ignored by us. Let’s celebrate Native American Heritage Day and commit to partnering with indigenous people in protecting the land before it is lost forever.

Book Note: Conservation of land and animals is a subject dear to my heart. Please take a look at the books in the Conservation area of my website that weave science education into stories. We have come upon a time when it’s important for all of us to learn what we can do to help preserve the remaining species on this planet–and the planet itself. As they say, we only have this one home planet.

Also, until November 30th, my book publishing company, Lyric Power Publishing LLC is having a 50% off sale on a workbook about the ROCKS that make up the earth. It’s a great time to give our workbooks a chance. They’re comprehensive, educational and FUN. My Book About Rocks is 43 pages of interesting activities and it’s only $2.50 until November 30, 2020.

book cover for workbook "My Book About Rocks"

Forty-one pages of information, worksheets, and activity sheets that will give students in grades 2-5 an all-around understanding of rocks and minerals and how they are formed. Includes three word searches, a crossword puzzle, opinion essay writing, group chart activity, cut-and-paste the rock cycle, check lists for collecting rocks in the field and sorting and classifying them in the classroom. Homework project: How to build a sedimentary sandwich, with full instructions.

November 6th is National Nachos Day. YUM!

November 6 is National Nachos Day, a day set aside to celebrate a delicious culinary delight. Nachos are crunchy with melted cheese, a perfect combination of taste and texture. Nachos were created by “Nacho” Anaya from Piedras Negras, Mexico in 1943.

Over the years, other ingredients have been added to the tortilla chips and cheese. Even though I regularly enjoy beef on my mine, my favorite is seafood nachos topped with shrimp and crab meat. I’ve found just about anything goes well with the basic chips and cheese.

Try being creative with your nachos.  Today, go ahead and nosh on some nachos!

(Above image courtesy of José Vanegas López from Pixabay.)

And when you and the kids are done with the nachos, check out the activity sheets and workbooks at my publisher’s website, Lyric Power Publishing LLC. They’re entertaining, educational and economical and were created to coordinate with my fun science books for children.

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave. An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+ 48 pages Fun and Colorful Illustrations by Anderson Atlas of the many animals they encounter, including the Dragon!
book cover for workbook "My Book About Rocks"
Forty-one pages of information, worksheets, and activity sheets that will give students in grades 2-5 an all-around understanding of rocks and minerals and how they are formed. Includes three word searches, a crossword puzzle, opinion essay writing, group chart activity, cut-and-paste the rock cycle, check lists for collecting rocks in the field and sorting and classifying them in the classroom. Homework project: How to build a sedimentary sandwich, with full instructions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Reptile Awareness Day Should Be Appreciation Day!

October 21 is National Reptile Awareness Day. I would prefer the term ‘Appreciation’ instead of ‘Awareness.’ Many people are aware of reptiles but don’t appreciate them. They often state they hate reptiles—especially snakes!

image of Zoe tortoise
Zoe, who lives in the Sonoran Desert with me, stars in a video on my You Tube Page.

This day is for celebrating all 10,000 species of reptiles, from the cute, colorful gecko to the unnerving rattlesnake, and to educate and raise awareness to the threats suffered by these fascinating beings. Reptiles are equally as important to the Earth’s ecosystems as are mammals, birds, amphibians and fish. Their presence helps to ensure a healthy environment, but they are almost always underappreciated.

Sometimes, people’s actions toward reptiles make me angry.  A few years ago, it was the number of Sister Isle Rock Iguanas killed in one week by cars on Cayman Brac. I knew many of those iguanas by name from my work in iguana conservation as a citizen scientist. This led to me writing the book, Silent Rocks.

Recently, a FL poster on Facebook displayed a photo of a decapitated corn snake, asking if it was a coral snake. A man who hated snakes had killed it out of fear–a harmless, native corn snake who would have eaten the rodents around their home, preventing damage to their electrical wires and infestations of disease. Despite several responders assuring the poster that it was a harmless, nonvenomous snake, popular as a pet, others insisted it had to be a venomous coral snake or cottonmouth. Why do we always assume the worse when it comes to snakes?

Sadly, the RV park in FL has a history of needlessly fearing animals. A mother alligator had shared the rearing of her hatchlings with the residents, only to be killed when she took a walk down a park road one day. Not threatening anyone, merely using the road as a thoroughfare. I believe they should have known better because they knew her.

I want to write books about these episodes, but how do I present these occurrences in an educational way that people would relate to and not be offended by? Inspiration will come to me. But obviously, educational books about reptiles are still very necessary. I get disheartened by people’s attitude that reptiles are “disposable” animals. I hope that through my books, I can bring people who “hate” reptiles to “disliking but respecting” them.

So, please appreciate all reptiles, even those you may not like. Maybe do some online research about the animal you dislike or are afraid of. Learn about their species and life-cycle and predators and offspring and what they bring to the circle of life. We don’t fear what we understand.

And remember that we’re all part of the great ecosystem of Earth.

I wrote Silent Rocks, but Susan Mule Gives a Dramatic Reading!

 

Above Susan Mule of the Cayman Islands reads Silent Rocks.

Of particular importance to me are the two endemic iguana species on the islands of Cayman Brac, the blue iguana found on Grand Cayman and the Sister Isle Rock Iguana found on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I’ve done field work with the latter and enjoy going back every year to how my reptilian friends are doing. In fact, I wrote the book Silent Rocks: Iguanas of Cayman Brac to help inform people about how the iguanas are being needlessly killed.

 

book cover with photo of iguana from Cayman Brac

The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.

*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

September 4 is National Wildlife Day

This guy, Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus, and his species inspired my book, Don’t Make Me Fly!

September 4 is National Wildlife Day.  As a biologist, I love wildlife, whether it is in my backyard or at some distant exotic location. Wildlife Day was established to remind us about endangered animals, locally and around the world.

This is also the day to recognize the work being done on behalf of these animals, both in preservation and education about them. I do my part for conservation through my volunteering as a citizen scientist, talks I give, the books I write about animals, and supplemental, educational workbooks that teach about animals in a fun way.

photo Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare
Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare

I love to talk about and share my reptiles with people and I hope my tales that weave science into animal escapades and picture books educate children and adults alike. Sometimes my message is subtle, such as in stories featuring curly-tail lizards and their environments and plights, and sometimes it’s more direct, such as in Silent Rocks about the disappearing rock iguanas on Cayman Brac.

photo Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii
Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii

While you are contemplating how you can help the endangered animals of the world, get outside and enjoy the wildlife in your neighborhood. With habitat loss and climate change, some may be more endangered than you realize.

photograph of tarantula
Tarantula, Aphonpelma chalcodes
photo Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii

I hope you enjoy these pictures of some of my neighbors.

photo of two Great Horned Owl Bubo virginainus
A mating pair of Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginainus
photo Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus
Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus

If you want to read more about these Sonoran Desert critters, I suggest How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird, which is a fun story about the desert conspiring against a photographer—I just can’t help myself—I am, at heart, a murder-mystery writer. (It was a curly-tail lizard who started my career as a children’s science book writer.) I am still working on those murder-mysteries, however!

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants
and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit.
Maybe a permanent one.”
For All Ages
Reading Level Age 8+
26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas
A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him.
Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona.

There’s a glossary in the back of How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird with the scientific details about the mischievous conspirators. I love making science education fun!

Natural Fire: Helpful or Destructive?

Fire can be a wonderful or terrify thing. In many ecosystems, fires are important for keeping them healthy. These are low intensity fires that clear the ground of brush and scrub. However, invasive plant species like buffelgrass cause fires to burn hotter destroying the ecosystem, instead of nurturing it.

May and June in the Sonoran Desert are high fire periods. This is the dry season between the winter rains and summer monsoons. Plants dry, grass turns brown. It is very easy to accidentally start a fire, so open fires are restricted. Sudden, heat-generated storms are produced, containing a lot of lightning, and nature uses the lightning to ignite fires during this time.

One such storm ignited the dry vegetation on Pusch Ridge, near my home, on June 5. Pusch Ridge is in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson, AZ. The three peaks are between 5,000 to 6,000 feet high. At the lower elevations are the iconic saguaro cactus, while juniper and pines are found higher.

Picture by Elaine A. Powers early on in the Bighorn Fire

Natural low-intensity fires clear out the ground debris allowing for new growth that support animals, such as bighorn sheep. Unfortunately, the introduction of invasive plants, like buffel grass, have changed the nature of the fires. The dried invasive plants fuel much larger, higher intensity fires, resulting in the destruction of the ecosystem instead of enhancing it.

Sadly, the Bighorn Fire on Pusch Ridge is one of the destructive fires. This destruction is the results of man’s altering of the environment. Buffel grass was introduced for erosion control and cattle forage. The buffel grass thrived and forced out the natural plants. Buffel grass-fueled fires also destroy buildings.

Image courtesy of www.wildfiretoday.com; Photographer not credited; photo undated

The fire is still raging today. According to The Arizona Daily Star, “Firefighters spent most of Sunday strengthening fire lines in the Summerhaven area and burning down the ridge line north of the town as they continued to fight the 58,500-acre Bighorn Fire,” officials said. 950 people are fighting the fire that is about 16% contained.

It is hoped that some of the areas will be able to rejuvenate with native species, but the loss may be irreparable or last for many years. Unfortunately, humankind has never been able to quickly stop its destructive behaviors.

NOTE: Staying indoors with children? Check out my science-based, fun and educational books; and the science workbooks and activity sheets at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

image of MY Books Page

How Do You Know if a Lizard is a Green Iguana? by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, out there, friends and fans! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail!

Today, I wanted to ask you if you knew that Green Iguanas, Iguana iguana, come in different colors? And, if they come in different colors, how do you tell if a lizard is a green iguana? 

You look for the subtympanic scale. “What is that?” you ask. Well, I don’t have one, so I had to look it up myself. The subtympanic scale is that large scale on the side of the green iguana’s head.  Sub means below and tympanic means ear.  So, it’s the big scale below the ear. I have a friend who calls that scale the “jewel.” She always admires the beautiful coloring in the iguana jewels.

A blue Green Iguana

Here are some of my green iguana friends, in very different colors. As you can see, they are not just green–but they are all still called “green.” Even the green green iguanas come in different shades of green. It can be confusing, if you ask me.

The native range of the green iguana is southern Mexico to central Brazil and several Caribbean islands. If you don’t live in those areas, why should you know how to identify a green iguana? Because they’re very popular as pets in people’s homes and they have been introduced to many other places in the world, where they don’t belong and can be causing harm. That means they’re “invasive.”

A Green Iguana
If you are interested in passing out these descriptive booklets, which are free, please use the contact form on Elaine’s website to obtain them.

If you want to know the differences between a green iguana and their cousins, the rock iguanas, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC has several identification booklets to help you tell them apart.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas

If you enjoy learning while coloring and doing activities, I encourage you to be creative. To learn more in fun ways about iguanas, please see our 30-page workbook full of activity sheets about iguanas, My Unit Study on Iguanas. Remember that the green iguanas you color, don’t have to be green!

Pet Peeves

I love having animals in my life.  Over the years, they’ve mostly been reptiles and lately, if you’ve been following my story, there’s a horse tale in it. 

If we accept responsibility for an animal, we are responsible for its welfare, even if we have to sacrifice for it. This has come up in the care of my horse.  She developed chronic sinusitis as a result of an abscessed tooth. Every month, the equine dentist comes out to do the next step in her care.  Of course, this specialist’s care costs money. But I took responsibility for her life, so I owe Button the best care I can provide. Apparently, not all horse owners feel the same way, which is very sad to me. There are several famous quotes about judging a person by the way he cares for his fellow animals.

I owe her my best care.

The impetus for this post was a statement in a local neighborhood chat room.  The person posting had observed a bobcat enjoying its dinner.  A wonderful sight to see in the limited wilderness remaining in the Sonoran Desert. However, the poster concluded that the bobcat’s only purpose was as a threat to local dogs and cats. The bobcat was most likely eating a rabbit – it’s been a good year for rabbits. Of course, the danger from coyotes was included in the post.   

I disagree that local wildlife is the threat to domestic companion animals. The problem is people not taking proper care of their pets. When I let my reptiles out in the backyard, I stay with them. We have birds of prey in the area that could carry off an iguana. The bobcats could enjoy a nice turtle or tortoise meal—but it’s not on them. It’s my job as their human companion to ensure their safety in the environment I place them.

Along with watching out for our dogs and pets, I also feel it is our duty to ensure that our pets don’t harm the local wildlife. Billions of birds are killed each year by cats. Please keep your cats inside, where they are safe and healthy, or use a leash. Many people love to feed the birds in their yards but are unable to enjoy them due to a cat(s). I run into cat predation in my iguana conservation work. Too many are the years we don’t see any juvenile iguanas because they’ve all been killed by domestic pets that the iguanas didn’t recognize as predators. Dogs are equally dangerous when not properly supervised.

People, please protect and control your furry family members. We can all thrive together in this world.

Remember, if the local bobcat or coyote gets your family member, it is not the predator’s fault.  It’s yours.  Protect your pet!

Fun Geology and Biology for The Lime Lizards Lads!

Geology is the science that explores the earth’s physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it. Geology is often included under the topic of Earth Sciences.  You might be surprised to learn that I often include geology in my fun science books that feature lizards. You can’t really study biology without knowing the geology of the ecosystem. Everything is interconnected.

One of my favorite inclusions in The Dragon of Nani Cave in the mineral, caymanite.

Hidden in the limestone karst of Grand Cayman’s East End and the Bluff of Cayman Brac is an uncommon variety of dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2.  Caymanite is prized for its layers of earth tone colors, which are the result of different metal contents. Its harness allows for it to be shaped into jewelry and carvings.

In The Dragon of Nani Cave, the Lime Lizard Lads are sent on a quest to find a piece of caymanite for Old Soldier crab. It’s the most dangerous thing a lizard can do on Cayman Brac, because that’s where the dragon lives! One of the fun things about being an author is having a say in the design of the book cover. I had mine when I asked that the book title be colored just like caymanite.

book cover illustration of two curly-tail lizards
With the Lime Lizard Lads, it’s one adventure after another. They know how to make science fun!

For additional ways to supplement science education in fun ways, please see the activity sheets and workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing. The workbook pictured above is a supplement to The Dragon of Nani Cave.

Tabby Sure Has My Attention! How About Yours? by Curtis Curly-tail

I like to think of author Elaine A. Powers’s You Tube channel as MY channel. It does, after all, say at the top of the page, “Curtis Curly-tail Speaks!”

But, I’m like, “Whoo, hoo! Look at that girl go!” I mean, have you seen and heard Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy on You Tube?

I’d read her books, of course–but I think I’m in love! Click the picture and see for yourself!

And remember, I’m here in The Bahamas with Tabby and you’re really far away! While I’m working on the girl, please check out her new video–and her books so important for The Bahamas!

Thanks from all your Bahamian Friends!

a book cover about Tabby the five finger fairy and Cleo a bahamian boa
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, who comes from the Five-Finger Tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, loves the native plants, animals and people of The Bahamas. She makes friends wherever she goes!
A brown book cover with illustrations of bahamian boa snakes
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, is a good friend to everyone she meets. After Cleo, a Bahamian Boa, rescues her in their first book, Tabby & Cleo: Unexpected Friends, Tabby tells us about the natural history of the often misunderstood endemic Bahamian Boas, which have an important place in Bahamian life.