Monday, 20 February 2017

Gators in the Sewer? ‘I Want It to Be True’ (New York City) – via Herp Digest

by Corey Kilfannonfeb, 10, 2007, New York Times
New York City may have been blanketed with a snowstorm on Thursday, but under those snow-strewn streets, legions of mythical alligators slithered impervious through the city’s swampy sewer system. “I want it to be true,” said Michael Miscione, of the entrenched myth that there are alligators in the bowels of the city.

Because of his passion for this longstanding legend, Mr. Miscione, the official borough historian for Manhattan, has long been observing Feb. 9 as Alligators in the Sewers Day, an unofficial holiday to honor discarded pets or escaped beasts that have grown large below our streets.

The handful of hearty souls who braved the snow on Thursday night to make it to the Greater Astoria Historical Society in Queens were given a rubber alligator and the chance to hear Mr. Miscione discuss the legend of the sewer gator and how it has become a motif in movies, television and books.

“It’s all over the place,” he said. “It’s a legend I happen to love.”

It is also a legend rooted in a true story.

On Feb. 9, 1935, a group of teenagers in East Harlem caught an eight-foot alligator underneath a manhole on 123rd Street.

The next day, The New York Times published an account of the event, headlined “Alligator Found in Uptown Sewer,” which helped fuel the urban legend, Mr. Miscione said.

The article reported that the 125-pound reptile was discovered by a teenager named Salvatore Condulucci as he shoveled snow into a manhole.

“Honest, it’s an alligator!” he shouted to his friends, the article said.

The boys looped a rope around the animal’s neck and pulled it onto the street, but when it snapped at them, they beat the reptile to death.
It was believed the alligator may have escaped from a steamer that had traveled north from the Everglades and swam into the Harlem River and into a sewer outflow, Mr. Miscione said.

Or it could have been brought back from Florida as a live souvenir, or even bought through the mail, he said, displaying advertisements from the 1930s from companies that offered baby alligators through the mail.

Mr. Miscione showed a current United States Postal Service regulation stipulating that alligators “not exceeding 20 inches in length” may be shipped through the mail.

Which means, Mr. Miscione exalted, that “you can still mail a baby alligator.”

The East Harlem alligator was briefly displayed at a local store and then collected by trash removers and left in a dumping ground on Barren Island in Jamaica Bay, he said.

Though the Times article fueled speculation about a wider population of alligators in the sewer, this has been widely debunked by experts. Still, there have been many cases of alligators and similar reptiles being found aboveground, including a four-foot alligator taken out of Kissena Lake in Queens in 1995; an American alligator found in 2003 in Alley Pond Park, also in Queens; and a two-foot caiman caught in Central Park in June 2001.

Mr. Miscione used the alligator legend as a point of departure to recount other urban legends.

“New York City’s been riddled with myths, hoaxes and urban legends,” he said.

He mentioned the Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial erected by an artist on Staten Island as a hoax to observe the doomed voyage of a Staten Island Ferry that was pulled under by giant octopus off Lower Manhattan. Of course, this faux tragedy has remained obscure because it was said to have occurred on Nov. 22, 1963, which meant that it got overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Then there were several newspaper articles that have promoted hoaxes, including a series in 1874 in The New York Herald reporting a mass escape from the Central Park Zoo that had wild animals rampaging through the city, killing scores of people. It “caused panic in the streets,” Mr. Miscione said.

The historical society then held a quiz on Queens trivia, created and administered by Kevin Walsh, the webmaster and developer of a popular website Forgotten New York.

His questions were tough and culminated with a challenge to spell the Kosciuszko Bridge correctly. Nobody did, not even Phyllis Nittoli, a real estate appraiser from Manhattan, who got the highest score and was honored with an alligator trophy. The award had been purchased from a Florida company that specializes in trophies for the University of Florida, whose athletic teams are known as the Gators, said Bob Singleton, executive director of the historical society.

Mr. Singleton said he told employees of the trophy dealer about alligators in New York sewers, but they did not seem as impressed with the supposed proliferation of alligators as New Yorkers tend to be.

“They reminded us that they have plenty of alligators,” he said, “in the canals, on the golf courses, and even just walking down the street.”

Sydney Harbour hidden plastic pollution is killing endangered turtles and marine life – via Herp Digest

Updated 12 February 2017, By Nicole Chettle

Teenage turtles like Cliff are lucky to be rescued, because many others like him are dying after eating hidden plastic pollution in Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River.

Teenage turtles like Cliff are lucky to be rescued, because many are dying after eating hidden plastic pollution in Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River when they come in summer to feed on seagrass meadows.

The Taronga Wildlife Hospital is treating a juvenile turtle dubbed Clifton, because it was found at Clifton Gardens on the north shore.

Hospital manager, Libby Hall, said snorkelers discovered the turtle on December 28. It could not swim or feed because it had ingested plastic.

"He was found covered in barnacles. He had barnacles all over his eyes. All over his shell," Ms Hall said.

"He was in a very bad state. He was very, very thin and weak."
Ms Hall said only one in 1,000 green turtles survive to adulthood, and any death is significant.

It is believed Cliff is a teenage turtle, about 17 or 18 years old. Green Turtles need to reach the age of 30 before they can reproduce.
"About 80 per cent of the marine turtles that come to the hospital are affected by marine debris," Ms Hall said.

"They feed on jellyfish. And plastic bags look exactly like jellyfish. So do balloons for that matter."
Ms Hall emptied a jar of plastic that was removed from the intestine of a juvenile green turtle that died in Sydney.
It was a startling haul from a relatively small creature.

"These are the plastics … there's balloons in there as well. Recycled and hard plastics and string," she said.

"Of the 45 turtles that we get each year … the majority are affected by marine debris, either plastic or fishing line and hooks.”

Why don't the supermarkets ban the plastic bag?

Conservationists are calling for NSW to ban single-use plastic bags, which are a small but significant proportion of the 10 tonnes of plastic waste that litters the harbour and its foreshores each year.

David Thomas is the founder of a community group called Eco Divers.
A self-styled "environmental ninja", he has been scouring the waters off Manly, removing rubbish for more than 30 years.

"Seventy-five per cent of what goes in the water stays in the water," he said.
"Only about 25 per cent floats … the bulk is still underwater.”

After a half-hour dive at the western end of Manly Cove, Mr Thomas filled a mesh bag with rubbish, including balloons that had bite marks from where marine life had tried to eat it.

"This nylon balloon string is impossible to break," he said.
"So that ends up as entanglement or they swallow that and it gets tangled up in their digestive system. And basically they're either going to die or if we're lucky, get rescued.”

Mr Thomas said supermarkets should reintroduce paper bags.

"I'm calling Woolworths out — you could be the first," he said.

"Why do we need to be government-driven? Why don't we do it from the bottom up? There's certainly a lot of people who don't want plastic bags. And the environment?

"Well, we can't pay that price any longer."
The ABC contacted Coles and Woolworths for comment. Both companies said they comply with government and territory regulation.

Or should this be a national issue?
So far South Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and the ACT have banned single-use plastic bags. Queensland will join them next year.

Ian Kiernan, the Chairman of Cleanup Australia, said a NSW ban would be a quick and effective way to reduce pollution around Sydney.

"It's up to the Government to institute that. They're avoiding it," he said.

"The environment is under incredible stress.
"It's not the harbour's fault. It's what's dropped on the land that washes into the harbour through the streams and stormwater system. That's where the problem comes from.”

Roads and Maritime Services has crews working on Sydney waters for 12 hours a day, seven days a week to clean up the rubbish — which is particularly bad after heavy rain.

Environmental officer Graham Phillis said: "All the stormwater drains just back up full of rubbish and stuff.

"When it rains it just floods the whole harbour and then we're just absolutely flat out.”

In a statement, the NSW Environment Minister's office confirmed it was looking at a national approach to reduce the impact of plastic bags.

Meanwhile the turtle Cliff is slowly gaining weight and preparing to go home.

"He's quite feisty believe it of not and he swims around the pool and he's really improved a huge amount," Ms Hall said.

The turtle's rehabilitation pool is clear and clean.

Cliff's carers are worried because they cannot guarantee he will be safe from plastic when he returns to the ocean.

Taiwan bans euthanasia of stray animals

February 5, 2017 

Taiwan has banned euthanising animals in shelters, which follows the tragic suicide last year of a vet burdened with the task of putting down animals. 

The law came into effect Saturday, two years after it was passed by parliament—a period meant to prepare shelters for the ban. 

But during the wait, animal lover Chien Chih-cheng took her own life with euthanasia drugs, reportedly upset at having to kill animals at the shelter she worked at.

Reports at the time said Chien was called a "butcher" by activists.

Her death sparked calls for authorities to improve conditions for animals and staff at shelters. 

An animal welfare group, Life Conservationist Association, estimated more than 1.2 million animals not adopted from shelters have been put down since 1999. 

"Animal protection in Taiwan has moved towards a new milestone," the association's executive director Ho Tsung-hsun said in a statement. 

But Taiwan's Council of Agriculture warned the ban would lead to a deterioration in the quality of shelters through a surging intake or it may discourage the capture of strays. 

"It's impossible for there to be no problems," said Wang Chung-shu, deputy chief of the animal husbandry department, according to The China Times. 

He said Taiwan's ban was "quite idealised", adding that manpower was a problem because the vet's suicide had had a "chilling effect" on the sector, according to the report. 

Even before the legislation, the number of animals being put down had been steadily declining. 

Last year, 12.38 percent of the 64,276 animals in public shelters were euthanised, according to official statistics. 

That compares with 94,741 animals in shelters in 2014, of which 26.45 percent were put down.
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