Are you stupid enough to take Shark Cartilage pills?

Roaming around Ayala Mall in Cebu City I stumbled upon these - shark cartilage capsules. Obviously I was hugely disappointed to find shark products being sold in a health store here in the Philippines, but what I discovered next was worse! The product and marketing of the capsules is based on complete nonsense (to put it politely), and so I have to ask the question who is stupid enough to take shark cartilage capsules? 

Let’s look at this statement quoted on the back of “Solgar” Shark Cartilage Capsules and you’ll see what I am talking about:

“The use of shark cartilage pills as a dietary supplement is the result of scientists indicating that sharks have existed for hundreds of millions of years, yet are one of the few animals that have remained relatively unchanged by evolution.”

Really?!!? Is “Solgar” trying to use evolution as a scientific endorsement?  And what exactly is the customer gaining by taking capsules of one of the worlds most overexploited species?  I’m sorry, but if you are silly enough to believe this ridiculous statement then the joke is on you - you are wasting your money and simultaneously killing sharks, probably endangered species.  It’s time you made a change, but first let me tell you why this product is so ridiculous, 

Let’s look at that statement again:  “The use of shark cartilage pills as a dietary supplement is the result of scientists indicating that sharks have existed for hundreds of millions of years” 

a) OK so ye, sharks are pretty old, in fact Sharks have swum in the oceans for almost 450 million years, but why does that mean it is good to eat their cartilage? It doesn’t - there’s no basis to this and ironically the fact that sharks have survived 450 million years should be good enough reason why we SHOULD NOT BE EATING THEIR CARTILAGE - the demand for products like this, as well as shark fins and shark oil is one of the GREATEST THREATS to shark species around the world.  By not buying or supporting these products, you can be part of the movement to save the worlds greatest ocean animals and not be one of the people responsible for their extinction.  

b) “yet are one of the few animals that have remained relatively unchanged by evolution” The fact that sharks have remained relatively unchanged by evolution, is helping us how? By taking shark cartilage am I going to be relatively unchanged by evolution?  I think not.  Evolution takes hundreds, if not millions of years and consists of changes in the traits inherited by a population of organisms as successive generations replace one another. It is populations of organisms that evolve, not individual organisms.  By taking shark cartilage you are not gaining anything, especially in evolutionary terms! According to our main man Charles Darwin, evolution by natural selection is all about survival of the fittest - individuals with traits that enable them to better adapt to their environment compared with other members of the same species will more likely survive and go on to reproduce.  So if sharks have been “relatively unchanged by evolution” then maybe they nailed it way back when - the ancestors of todays sharks must have adapted well to their environment compared with other members of their species, reproduced, had baby sharks, like their parents these babies were well adapted, survived, reproduced, etc etc…  I can see no way how this statement on the product and the capsule itself is going to benefit the user  I don’t even understand what the product is selling?!  Everything is unrelated and complete nonsense. 

c) The suggested dose is 8 capsules a day!! 8 capsules a day!?! The only reason I can think of for this that you have to take so many capsules because they do in fact do nothing. Taking more, simply means you need to buy a new bottle quicker, killing more sharks for no reason.  It’s just crazy.

So there you go.  Now when asked the question are you silly enough to be taking shark cartilage capsules?

The answer is NO.  

Conservationists upset as much of Point Reyes elk herd dies

By Peter Fimrite

Nearly half of the tule elk in a fenced preserve on the Point Reyes National Seashore died over the past two years, and a conservation advocate says he believes it’s because their water sources dried up and they couldn’t get outside their fenced enclosure to find more.

The assertion by Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity is sparking renewed debate between conservationists championing free roaming ungulate herds and organic-dairy farmers who want to keep the elk away from their cattle.

The number of elk has fluctuated since the antlered beasts, which can weigh up to 800 pounds, were placed in a 2,600-acre preserve at Pierce Point in 1978, but researchers said they have never seen a decline this dramatic. Their numbers dropped from 540 in 2012 to 286 last year, the smallest the herd has been since 1994.

Dave Press, the Point Reyes wildlife ecologist, said the deaths of 254 elk appear to be a natural phenomenon.

“If you think about how a drought is going to affect wildlife species, this shouldn’t be a big surprise for folks,” Press said. “It’s reasonable to conclude that the drought conditions, the lack of water, the lack of available forage played a role in the decline there.”

Focus on fences

But Miller said the deaths are a sign of mismanagement.

“Tule elk need room to roam, and native wildlife in our national park should not be fenced in or prevented from finding water and food,” said Miller, whose organization has been fighting efforts by Point Reyes ranchers to persuade the National Park Service to round up a separate herd of free-roaming elk and fence them off too.

“The loss of nearly half the Pierce Point elk herd highlights how important it is that the Park Service not cave to commercial ranchers who want free-roaming Point Reyes elk fenced in,” he said.

Fencing became an issue among conservationists after seven ranchers near the Point Reyes lighthouse began urging the National Park Service to remove dozens of tule elk that have been running free along the picturesque seaside peninsula. The mostly organic dairy ranchers, who lease the fields from the National Park Service, say the competition between cattle and elk for scarce vegetation threatens their very existence.

They want the elk to be moved out of the area and kept away from the pastures, possibly with fencing like what is used at Pierce Point. It is a scenario the park service is considering, along with 20-year lease extensions. Recommendations on what to do with the elk will be made in a ranch management plan that is being prepared for the 28,000 acres of pastoral land administered by the national seashore.

The fenced tule are among 4,300 elk in 25 separate herds in California, all of them descended from less than a dozen individuals discovered in 1874 after the species was thought to be extinct. The Point Reyes population has fluctuated since 1978, reaching 552 animals in 1998, then dropping to 382 in 2003. The herd then went back up to 585 in 2007 and was down to 422 in 2009, according to the seashore’s annual elk count.

Danger of ‘eviction’

Miller said the recent decline illustrates the problem with fences. By contrast, he said, the free-roaming elk herds have increased by 32 percent since 2012.

“The reintroduction of elk to the Point Reyes peninsula is a success story for conservation of native species, but the elk are in jeopardy of eviction to benefit a few lease holders,” Miller said. “The Park Service already prioritizes commercial cattle grazing in Point Reyes. Now these subsidized ranchers want to dictate park policies that could eliminate native elk and harm predators and other wildlife.”

Press acknowledged the problem and said the park service is developing plans to add water to Pierce Point ponds. “I expect,” he said, “that those numbers will bounce back up.”

Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.



Guild of Book Workers Midwest Chapter Annual Meeting Part #2 - Cleveland Museum of Art Book and Paper Conservation Lab.

After our visit to the museum library, we headed over to the book and paper conservation lab, which is just one of several conservation labs within the museum - paintings and textiles have their labs down the hall.

I geeked out on the lab’s space and equipment, which includes a large fume hood that can be accessed from both sides, a large light table embedded into a work table (drool), an “elephant trunk” (for fume extraction), which is on a track in the ceiling so that it can be used anywhere in the room, and most enviable of all WINDOWS.

Many thanks to book and paper conservators for showing us their space!


Weekend Phenology: Bee Bonanza!

Welcome to our latest feature chronicling the comings and goings of nature as the seasons progress.

This week has seen an explosion of bee species emerging into what we shall provisionally call ‘Spring’. The first to appear was the tawny mining bee – recognised by its bright ginger fur, small size and silent fly – somewhat like a miniature flying Highland cow operating in stealth mode … somewhat. Keep your eyes to undisturbed ground and you may be lucky enough to spot one emerging from a hole in the ground, where it will have overwintered while developing from into an adult.

Tawny mining bees are known as ‘solitary bees’, as they exhibit none of the sociality shown by species such as bumblebees. Another solitary bee spotted was the red mason bee, ironically in the non-solitary activity of mating. Thanks very much to Wendy Meredith for snapping an amazing photo of this dalliance!

In what is clearly a week for loners, our third solitary bee species was the incredibly named hairy-footed flower bee. Looking like a tiny bumblebee, with the frantic flight of an over-caffeinated hoverfly, a male (all black apart from orange ‘shins’) was spotted frequenting lungwort.

To learn more about the relevance of bees to our everyday lives, check out our video which asks ‘Why are bees so important?’

Keeping up the bee vibe, David spotted a large beefly, which is a fly cunningly disguised as a bee (look out for the tell-tale needle-like proboscis and hummingbird flight). This disguise comes in handy when it tries to parasitise the nest of solitary bees.

And because we’re not all about bee-related creatures, as much as Phil might want, we’ve also some snaps of incredibly cute smooth newts, ground ivy and ladybirds. Enjoy…

That concludes this week’s phenology update. If you manage to take any phenology-related photos be sure to post them on our Facebook page, we’d love to see what’s out there!

In the meantime, if you fancy taking part in a citizen science project examining phenological phenomena, I’d like to direct your attention to ‘Track a Tree’, developed by Christine Tansey of Edinburgh University. Follow the link and enjoy!



It’s my day off so of course I’m working. Cleaning three paintings for a local church. If you remember back in Nov. these are the painting I took down due to water/mold damage at the church. No one has touched them and the church has no money. So I volunteered. I’m not a paintings conservator. Using DI water and swabs. So far so good.


when michael nichols first photographed forest elephants in the lowland forests of the central african republic in 1991, he only caught fleeting moments of them, and at great peril. these sensitive giants were so afraid of ivory poachers hunting them down that they thundered off at the slightest hint of human activity.

it took him 16 years to encounter a heard of 600 savannah elephants who were not fearful of humans. he would end up living with them for two years in kenya’s samburu national reserve, where he came to understand their complex relationships and the depth of their intelligence and compassion (click pics for more).

he recounts, for example, a family mourning the death of a female and other matriarchs approaching and surround the corpse, touching it with their trunks and swaying back and forth. “they go to the corpse and they won’t leave it,” he said. “even when it’s just bones. once a year they’ll visit the bones and hold them with their trunk. i would call that mourning” (sixth photo).

“these are the most caring and sentient creatures on earth, yet they suffer so horribly at the hand of man,” he adds.  while in chad, nichols witnessed the massacre of forest elephants, the smaller and more elusive cousins of the better known savanna elephants, whose denser, pinker tusks fetch 90,000 dollars a pair on the black market.

forest elephant numbers have declined by two thirds in the last decade due to poaching, leaving only 20,000 left. ivory poachers are now killing a total of 22,000 african elephants a year, which means they are on course to be extinct within the decade.

says nichols, elephants “cannot be terrorized and massacred by a world that calls itself civilized. we have to forget about the absurd indulgence of ivory and put our focus and resources into the far more complex problem of how elephants and humans can share land in an overtaxed continent.” 


Nindiri gives her little boy a licking.


World champion kitesurfer rescues sea turtle

February 03, 2015 by David Strege

As he was riding, world champion kitesurfer Mitu Monteiro noticed something floating in the water dangerously close to the rocks of Serra Negra Beach on Sal Island in Cape Verde, Africa.

Disregarding the danger, Monteiro rode in to take a closer look only to discover a distressed sea turtle tangled in plastic and struggling to breath and swim.

“I know it would have died if I didn’t rescue it,” Monterio told Caters News Agency. “She was unable to get food as the filament was preventing her from diving and it was wound tightly around her neck.”

While holding on to the control bar of the kiteboard, Monteiro managed to pull the sea turtle to him by hauling in the huge glob of plastic that had trapped the turtle.

He placed the sea turtle onto the kiteboard and rode it to shore where he and others began cutting away the plastic.

Read more at http://www.grindtv.com/wildlife/world-champion-kitesurfer-rescues-sea-turtle/#mhHJBgRKzwAwlVAU.99

Dear everyone in Florida

STOP FUCKING INTERACTING WITH MANATEES! This includes, but is not limited to:
~feeding them
~spraying a hose for them to drink from
~ petting them (yes even if it “comes up to you and asks to be pet”)
~trying to ride them (no joke it happens)
~picking up babies

Not only is this ILLEGAL, it is extremely harmful to manatees and affects their natural behavior. It also teaches them to approach humans and boats.

And it is EXCEPTIONALLY FRUSTRATING to have you guys all approach me all excited that you “have one in your backyard that you pet all the time”

I’m not excited for you

I’m not impressed

I’m concerned you are creating a manatee that will eventually end up in the care of a rehab center because it is so used to human attention it approached a boat and got hit.

So. ….


aldelie penguins spend their (austral) winters in the seas surrounding the antarctic pack ice - about 4,000km from their southern spring breeding grounds - where they fatten on krill (third photo). the krill feed on phytoplankton beneath the icebergs, but warming waters due to climate change has reduced their numbers by up to 80 percent as the plankton, which are now unable to access cold water nutrients, are dying off.

adelies are the most southern living penguin, but head north as the summer ends to escape the protracted darkness of the winter. a warming climate, however, has meant a reduced northern icepack, and has seen the encroachment of other penguins onto their southern summer territory who previously found it too cold. the adelie population northeast of the ross sea, for example, has declined by 90 percent.

as one adelie expert put it, these penguins face possible extinction not merely by a loss of habitat, but by an unshakable fear of darkness; adelies need light, if only twilight, to forage and navigate, and as comfort against predators. but as they are pushed further south they may ultimately find themselves trapped behind a curtain of polar night for which they have no hardwired strategy.

photos by (click pic) justin hofman and david doubilet (2,6)