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Zoo Story Part 4: WILD




Chapter 4 of Zoo Story starts with this passage:

In the darkness beyond the edge of the sky, the satellite listens for manatee No. 9.

Five hundred miles above the planet's surface, the satellite is halfway through another orbit. From this vantage point, the Earth almost overwhelms the field of vision. A curving expanse of blue and green and brown, it appears vast enough for an endless multitude of life. And yet it's easy to make out the devastation pushing so many species toward extinction.

The melting of the polar ice caps. The fires consuming the Amazon rainforest. The toxic blossom of another Red Tide outbreak spreading off the west coast of Florida.

Year after year, a network of satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records the evidence of these and other catastrophes. The network gathers data on dozens of other missions for other researchers - taking infrared images of global cloud patterns, following the formation of thunderstorms and the path of hurricanes.

And tracking manatees.

On March 16, 2004, as it heads northward over the Caribbean toward the middle of the United States, one of those NOAA satellites - known simply as M - is among several receiving signals sent by transmitters fastened to the tails of dozens of manatees in the waters around Florida.

At 9:58 a.m., one of those signals reaches M from the St. Johns River, from the transmitter attached to manatee No. 9.

Better known, to hundreds of thousands of Floridians who grew up watching him, as Stormy.

Born and raised in captivity.

Recently released into the wild.

Polar bears are more likely than manatees to be thought of as victims of global warming, but one of the cases made by zoo supporters is that if there were not zoo-based breeding programs for endangered species, many of these rare creatures would be extinct.

Here in Florida, manatee protection is a hot topic. Governor Charlie Crist has been in the news lately with his request for the state's wildlife commissioners to keep manatees on the endangered list. Read the article here.

What are your thoughts on zoos and other wildlife support groups’ efforts to keep endangered species alive by breeding programs, rehabilitation and release, tracking via satellite or protective legislation by state and federal governments? Which programs do you agree or disagree with? Why?

Click on the COMMENTS button below to share your views. For more discussion on global warming and how it affects animal populations, click here to go to Hot Topics.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:45am]


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