Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Poem

Its supposed to be another animal encounter post today, but I forgot to take my camera with me when I was at the zoo yesterday. So to fill up this space, I've decided to do some poetry, in honour of Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems including "Auld Lang Syne" which is generally sung as a folk song at Hogmanay and other New Year celebrations around the world.

I recently had the honour to attend a Burns supper on Friday night, which was organised by the people I work with. And oh what a night it was! It was held in a really posh and swanky hotel in London. And I was in the VIP lounge called the "Sky Lounge" of the hotel in Westminster. We were at the top of the hotel and the lounge had a 360 view of the London skyline, which was amazing. Then I ate haggis, which is a traditional scottish delicacy made from offal (which I shall not go into detail), and drank whiskey (everything went downhill from there). Perks of the job I say!

Anyway, the poem which I'm about to write is loosely based on a song from my childhood, but I've butchered it up so it comes across as almost original. So here it goes:

Early morning late one night,
Two dead dogs came out to fight,
One blind man to see fair play,
One deaf man to shout hooray!
Fancy fancy fancy that,
Hey! Fancy fancy fancy that.

A paralysed dog came walking by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye,
Kicked him through a six foot wall,
Into a well to drown them all,
Fancy fancy fancy that,
Hey! Fancy fancy fancy that.

Well? What do you think?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Animal Encounters XIV

Ahem. The absence of any new posts after the previous one was .... deplorable. Almost criminal. But I've got my reasons. Work. Play. Travelling. Too many things to do in such a short time. I know, I know, I admit its all excuses. I shall be more attentive the next time round. Lets get on with the show then.

The Asiatic Lion

The Indian lion is another name for the Asiatic lion, Panthera leo persica, the sub-species that once ranged from Greece to central India. This animal has played a major part in the symbols and folklore of Indian culture for over 2000 years.

The Asiatic lion has long been celebrated as Lord of Beasts, and it became a symbol for human power and sovereignty. In ancient societies in India, to fight with a lion was considered to be the ultimate test of leadership. This gradually shifted to a somewhat safer, more symbolic gesture of a leader clothing himself in or standing on a lion skin. There were magnificent depictions of lions amongst the statues at Mahabalipuram. The most important use of the lion as a symbol of power and strength was associated with the Emperor Asoka in Sarnath, 2000 years ago. This depiction of a lion eventually became the symbol for the modern Republic of India.

"Hmm......I see meat"

As India’s population grew and began cultivating or settling more and more of its forest and scrublands, the Asiatic lion was squeezed nearly out of existence. Before they were completely wiped out, the lions came under the protection of the Nawab of Junagadh, a local monarch, who banned all lion hunting in the area. Soon, the lion population began to rise in number. By the declaration of Indian independence in 1947, the government had come to realise the importance and fragile nature of this last bastion of the Asiatic lion, and the Nawab’s conservation policy was upheld. Naturalists were assigned to study and take a census of the Gir’s lion population. At that time there were around 200 lions.

"Is she playing hard to get? Women....."

Today, the lions can only be found in the Gir Forest Sanctuary in India, which is smaller in area than the UK's new forest. This area is made up of dry scrubland with hills, rivers, and teak forest. In addition to the lion population, the Gir forest contains leopards, antelope, deer, jackals, hyenas, and marsh crocodiles. The lions are critically endangered and the last count put their numbers around 350. The Gir forest is not big enough for 350 lions and a few have moved outside the sanctuary, hunting cattle and clashing with humans.

Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than their African cousins, although the largest Asiatic lion on record was an imposing 2.9 m in length. Though they have a less well developed mane, Asiatic lions have thicker elbow tufts and a longer tail tuft.

"Its cold. Its wet. And she's not interested. Maybe if I just give her a bite....."

We have two Asiatic lions (a lion and a lioness) at Bristol Zoo and they are part of a European conservation breeding programme. You can contribute to helping the plight of the lions by adopting one at the Zoo!

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Merry Year Is Born

Happy 2007!

Gale force winds blowing across the UK. New Year parties being cancelled in Scotland (due to the afore mentioned winds). What a start! Although I have to say having gale force winds blowing at you when you are at the top of a hill trying to gain the most strategic spot for watching the fireworks does add to the dramatic atmosphere. That was where I found myself yesterday night and this morning. Me and a group of friends were suffering from wind chill and watching fireworks being comically blown off course and exploding somewhere else in the sky instead of their intended positions. It was quite a sight and a great laugh! Of course, the night wouldn't be complete if you didn't usher in the New Year with a glass of champagne (we had fizzy wine but it was good enough) and a few muttured resolutions.

To make it even more dramatic, after the fireworks display, as we were making our way home, we were assaulted by a massive storm of hail and rain. Thank god I was only 3 mins away from home, hence I just ran as fast as I could, but still finding myself drenched as I got past the front door. Oh well, at least it was a fun night. Now I've got to chuck out the old, and bring in the new.
Best wishes to you all.