Rhinos, Sharks, and Drones
Welcome to The Sharing, folks! Where instead of attempting to take over your mind with evil space slugs, I’ll be showing you some cool stuff from around the internet having to do with animals, science fiction, and news. There’s a few cool programs going on that are looking to take animal conservation to new heights. I’ll tell you all about the progress being made to create synthetic Rhino horns, indistinguishable from the real thing, and how its going to help in the fight against poachers. Also, how human-operated drones are being used to keep people (and animals) safe around the world. And did you know that dolphins sometimes get together to party and pass drugs around? No way! Where’s my Animorphs book with THAT scene? I want that book!!
We all know that as a species, Rhinos have had it pretty hard over the years. Sure, they may be invincible animal-tanks, but that isn’t enough to keep them all safe from poachers. It’s bad enough their numbers are dwindling, but frequent attempts at making a quick buck by poachers have pushed the wild Rhino population devastatingly closer to extinction. The West African variety Black Rhino is already gone for good, thanks in part to the rampant poaching that Africa has been dealing with for, well, probably forever.
But there may be hope for the rhino’s future. Possibly. Two dudes named Matthew Markus and George Bonaci took to Reddit recently to discuss their startup, Pembient. In a nutshell, they hope to sequence the DNA of the black rhino and then one day use 3D printing technology to create fake rhino horns. Though “fake” may not be the best term to describe the horns, since they’re basically indistinguishable from the real thing. You can learn more about the process, and even help fund it, on their Experiment page.
One question I always wonder: Why kill animals like rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks? The answer turns out to be, simply, because of human greed. Rhino horn is in demand in East Asia where it is used as a traditional medicine and status symbol. Because the supply of rhinos is so small and the demand so great, rhino horn currently sells for tens of thousands of dollars. Pembient hopes that by creating an unlimited supply of horns and selling them at one-eighth of the current market price, there will be less incentive for poachers to risk their lives or government officials to accept bribes from those poachers. Wish’em luck, and if you can pitch in, go make a donation!
Time to talk drones! Drones are quickly becoming an integral part of society with their overall usefullness. Most are equipped with cameras that give operators perfect aerial views of their surroundings, and as you could probably have guessed, this technology could be extremely helpful in the area of animal conservation. Just check out the Air Shepard Initiative, a new program started by the Lindbergh Foundation (yes, that Lindbergh). Because poachers work at night when visibility is at its lowest, finding them before they kill has always been nearly impossible.
But now with the ASI, unmanned drones are helping to keep the African wildlife safe. These unmanned aerial vehicles are equipped with infrared cameras to see at night, as well as GPS tracking to relay potential poachers coordinates back to the operators. This way, park rangers are able to find and stop poachers before that fatal kill. The program is still young, but its already proven effective. In one area where as many as 19 rhinos were killed per month, flying the drones there has stopped all killing for up to 6 months. And that’s just the start. Imagine an Africa where these drones fly over all the major wildlife areas, eliminating any possibility of poachers. Elephant populations will start to climb, and so will rhinos. Drones provide the much-needed around-the-clock protection these animals are depending on to, you know, not go extinct because of us. It’s an awesome program that could save the animals, and here at Thought-Speak, we’re all about saving the animals. Just watch this video about the program, and you’ll see exactly how useful and effective it’s been.
But that’s not all drones are useful for when it comes to how humans and nature interact. Take for example, the beach. You’re hanging out enjoying the sun, surf and bikini-clad sights just minding your own business when you hear those dreaded words: “Everyone out of the water! It’s a shark!”
Sharks, as we sort of learned back in Animorphs book 15 (The Escape), are dicks. Big aquatic dicks. With teeth (the worst kinds of dicks.) As anyone alive knows, shark attacks happen all too frequently when your species enjoys spending time bobbing around in the same salt water these deadly chewing-machines also happen to occupy. Luckily, someone figured out that holy crap we can use the drones to watch for sharks!
Hoo hoo, yeah, no thank you, I’ll just go home. No swimming for me today. I’ll just go enjoy a nice safe bath tub, thank you very much. The oceans are just too scary for me. What with all the biting, stinging, grabbing, drowning that the native creatures enjoy inflicting on our soft fleshy bodies….. yeah I think I’ll stay put right here. UNLESS I could happen upon one of these crazy dolphin ragers I keep hearing about…
Yep, dolphins like to get high and par-taaay. How, you ask? Apparently, some dolphins have figured out that if they spook a pufferfish just enough to make it release a little bit of its deadly toxin, the drug will actually work like, well…. the opposite of a deadly poisonous drug. Small doses appear to make the dolphins “high”, which they quite seem to enjoy. Just look at’em pass that pufferfish “doobie” around like Shaggy and the gang after the closing credits of Scooby Doo. Just look at their pure doped-up dolphiny bliss! #420blazeit
Lastly, remember the Mercora from Megamorphs 2? The crab people who brought us broccoli? Yeah, those guys. Well guess what. They were real!!
Okay, to be fair, no they are not real… that article is about how paleontologists discovered fossils of a 2-m-long lobster-like animal that lived in the seas of what is now Morocco during the early Ordovician period, about 480 million years ago. Not sure how that lines up with the Mercora, but its still kind of funny to think about.
Here’s someone’s fan art of the Mercora, not quite what I’d imagined, and definitely not at all like the animal the article talked about which was actually found, but still neat.
That’s all for The Sharing this week. Remember to keep your ear canals free of obstruction and check back in with us next time!