Dec 14, 2022 Episode 129
Best nature stories of 2022 from Indian cheetahs to Australia’s endangered koalas, Bangladesh oyster reef, carp to copi, Florida manatees and more
EPISODE 129 – BEST OF NATURE
LEELA: (Singing) It’s beginning to look a lot liiiiiiike…
MAMA: And Hanukkah and all the other holidays celebrated at this festive time of year.
LEELA: Oh, yeah!
OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”
LEELA: Hello, I’m Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by my sidekick here –
MAMA: Otherwise known as Leela’s mom! Hi, I’m Lyndee.
LEELA: And this time of year, means… there’s a LOT of
LEELA: And making things.
MAMA: And buying.
LEELA: And wrapping.
LEELA: Eating, playing, chatting.
MAMA: And, we hope, soon, napping.
LEELA: For some.
MAMA: For me! So, as we enter holiday mode we hope you’ll excuse us as we take a little break.
LEELA: But we’re not draining the Newsy Pooloozi.
MAMA: Oh, no. As it’s the end of the year, when we all like to be a little reflective, we’ve looked at all the news we’ve brought you on Newsy Pooloozi in 2022.
LEELA: And it wasn’t easy – but we’ve picked our favorites!
MAMA: Or the most important.
LEELA: Sometimes both…. Yes, it’s time for our Best Of series. First up, this week –
MAMA: It’s a delight for environmentalists and animal lover’s alike – with our best nature stories.
LEELA: For Christmas week, we’ll give you the “gift” of our oddballs – to make sure you’re smiling.
MAMA: And when the year comes to an end, like most broadcasters around the world, we’ll be looking back at the big new stories that shaped –
LEELA: And shook!
LEELA: So, let’s dive on in…
NATURE STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “It’s the call of nature. The call of nature. It’s the call of nature. Get on your safari suite. Or squeeze into your scuba gear. Squeeze into your scuba gear. And get ready to hop into a jeep. Or submarine. Because Mother Nature is calling. Nature. Mother Nature is calling!”
MAMA: Friday, April 22 is “Mother’s Day.”
LEELA: What?! Mother’s Day is on a Sunday and like, I thought, two weeks from now. Uhhhh, isn’t it?
MAMA: Oh, you’re right – I’m just messing with ya. Mother’s Day in most countries is May 8th. April 22 is Earth Day – which IS the day we celebrate the supreme mother… Mother Earth!
LEELA: Mama. You’re confusing everybody!
MAMA: Nope – I’m just trying to make sure everyone knows when Mother’s Day is – at least in many countries – so a little head’s-up to our listeners to get those gorgeous cards made and an epic day planned for May 8th. But I do also want to draw the connection between mothers who create and/or nurture new life and the Mother Earth we live on, which creates and nurtures new life again and again, despite the pain and suffering, pollution, and destruction we unleash upon it.
LEELA: Yeah, like a mama. I get it. So how did Earth Day start, anyway?
MAMA: Well, it began in the US over 50 years ago, back in 1970. But, it’s what happened the year earlier that was the horrible inspiration.
SFX OF OCEAN
MAMA: The scene was sunny southern California about six miles out at sea where oil rigs were drilling for oil.
LEELA: Uh-oh, an oil spill?
MAMA: An oil blowout in fact that spewed three million gallons of the sticky, black stuff across 35 miles of ocean. Or put another way, enough oil to fill four-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools, but all spread out and floating on the top of the ocean and into the beaches of Santa Barbara.
LEELA: And lots of animals died?
MAMA: Oh, yeah. Over 3-and-a-half thousand birds, as well as dolphins, seals and sea lions. But instead of getting weepy and helplessly doing nothing, a senator from way up in Wisconsin called Gaylord Nelson decided to organize a “teach in.”
LEELA: A whatta?
MAMA: Well, it’s like a protest but raises awareness at the same time.
LEELA: Huh. Did people show up?
MAMA: Did they ever! 20 million Americans – 10% of the population back then took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impact of 150 years of industrial development that was taking its toll on Mother Earth.
LEELA: Ohhh, yeah, the Industrial Revolution – we’ve covered that before.
MAMA: Yes, way back in episode 9 about melting glaciers in case anyone wants to go back and have a listen.
LEELA: But now Earth Day is international, right? I mean we’re doing stuff here in India.
MAMA: Yep, Earth Day got global in 1990 and now is huge. And pretty effective. We all know the problems – too much plastic, air and water pollution, too heavily dependent on dirty fossil fuels – but this campaign for change has thrown up a lot of solutions too.
LEELA: And, boy, do we have a lot of them to mention in this episode!
MAMA: We sure do.
LEELA: So, more nature news now – some fast news closer to home for us here in India.
MAMA: And when Leela says fast she’s talking about the world’s fastest animal on land.
LEELA: The cheetah! Which used to roam around India for centuries.
MAMA: Sadly, hunting and loss of habitat means they’ve been extinct for some 70 years.
LEELA: But not any longer.
MAMA: As our New Delhi correspondent, Yuvraj Sahni, is about to tell us.
LEELA: Take it away Yuvraj!
YUVRAJ: Thanks, Leela!
Cheetahs – the fastest animal on land – can run up to70 miles an hour.
The sleek wildcat used to roam from the Saharan desert in Africa across the Middle East to India.
But as human populations grew, the Asiatic cheetah began to lose its natural habitat.
And they were hunted down by poachers, never mind that they were also vulnerable to diseases.
There hasn’t been a cheetah in India since 1952. Well, now they’re being brought back!
Ok, not the actual Asiatic cheetahs. There are only a few of those left and they’re in Iran. But eight African cheetahs from Namibia are heading this way.
Soon the fast, spotted cat will roam freely at a nature park in the state of Madhya Pradesh – in effort to reintroduce the animal to their natural habitat.
They’re considered a vital part of India’s ecosystem as well as its heritage.
In New Delhi, I’m Yuvraj Sahni, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Great news – thanks a lot, Yuvraj! So, Mama, if the cheetah is the fastest animal on land, what’s the fastest fish??
MAMA: Well, the sailfish – called that because of its massive top fin that looks like a sail, cruises through the water at 68 miles per hour. But black marlins have been clocked at 80 miles per hour.
LEELA: Well, there you go! And I thought I swam fast. Well, there you go, Thanks, Mama.
MAMA: So, we all know those adorable Australian animals called koalas, right?
LEELA: With their long, squashed, black nose and the cutest round pokey-outy ears ever?
MAMA: Those are the ones!
LEELA: Who’ve been wrongly called bears for years… in case you didn’t know.
MAMA: Yes, they might look like teddy bears…
LEELA: But they’re not bears, folks. They’re marsupials! Meaning their babies live, and suckle, in their pouch. Cutie-pies!
MAMA: For around six months, in fact,
LEELA: So cute
MAMA: Yes. And they are also arboreal – that’s a fancy way of saying they’re tree-dwellers, with sharp claws and rough skin on their feet to help them climb better.
LEELA: And thicker fur on their booties, so they have a nice cushion when sitting on branches. So sweet!
MAMA: But what happens when the trees they live in are cut down for logs, or cleared away to make space for human homes and businesses?
LEELA: Or just a forest fire comes along.
SFX OF FIRE
LEELA: Ravishing their habitat!
MAMA: Exactly. And sadly, that’s what’s been happening in the past few years.
LEELA: Yeah, Australia has had some bad fires lately.
MAMA: Mmm-hmmm. Especially in 2019 and 2020 when a quarter of the koala habitat in New South Wales, that’s a state in south-eastern Australia, was badly damaged. And disease is another problem that’s affecting the koalas. So, it’s no wonder the Australian government is sounding the alarm bell
SFX OF ALARM BELL
MAMA: Listing the koala as an endangered species across most of its east coast. And this has all come about fairly recently. The species was only put on the “vulnerable” list in the region ten years ago. Australia’s biggest Koala conservation group says that there may now only be as few as 50,000 of the animals left in the wild.
LEELA: But, Mama, what good is putting an animal on a list gonna do?
MAMA: Good question. Seems like nothing right, but it’s actually a “call to action” – meaning funds will probably be given to groups who try to build conservation parks with programs to get help mating, so they can thrive.
LEELA: But surely, they need more than a park or two?
MAMA: True – activists say stronger laws and incentives to landowners
LEELA: As in humans.
MAMA: Yes, us. We need to do more to help protect their forest homes.
LEELA: Well, I hope the “call to act” works! Because I can’t bear to think of a world without cute little koalas!
LEELA: Now it’s time for us to dive into some good news about the environment.
MAMA: Yes, finally some good news for those underwater ecosystems composed of skeletons of marine invertebrates otherwise known as…
LEELA: Coral reefs!
MAMA: That’s right. And as we know the massive underwater structures – some which are big as cities and even states – are among one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems.
LEELA: Which is bad news for the millions of sea creatures that use the reefs as a home – providing them not only lots of food, but protection from predators.
MAMA: But they’re really vulnerable to pollution.
LEELA: Our sunscreen folks. And plastic. And chemicals. Yiiick!
MAMA: And a tiny rise in the temperature of the sea is also hurting the health of a reef.
LEELA: But enough of the grim bit – there’s good news at last!
MAMA: Yes, a big coral reef has been found off the coast of Tahiti – that’s the largest island in the archipelago of French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. And an archipelago is…
LEELA: A group of islands.
MAMA: Right, well, nearly a hundred feet, or 30 meters below the surface, marine explorers found a, and I am quoting here, a “magical” discovery.
A reef system that extends for two miles.
LEELA: The largest ever discovered at that depth. Coral reefs are usually close to the surface, you see.
MAMA: So, this discovery is offering hope that if reefs can survive at this depth that they may be better protected from global warming.
LEELA: Yeah, it’s early evidence that a lot of threatened marine life will go deeper to save itself. Phew!
LEELA: They’re so ugly, they’re cute.
MAMA: Yes, the super big sea mammals, that look a lot like fat seals but with squashed square faces –are sending out the SOS.
LEELA: For more on the story, let’s cut across to Lani Power, who knows a thing or two about manatees.
LANI: Thanks, you guys. I saw a lot of manatees a couple years ago at a spring in Florida! It was amazing!
Manatees, also known as Sea Cows, aren’t doing so great right now, mainly because their main food source, sea grass, is in short supply.
We have rising temperatures and increased pollution and fertilizer levels to blame for that.
Luckily, wildlife workers from off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida have come to the rescue!
They’ve teamed up with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Power and Light to construct a temporary feeding station in the path of the manatee’s migration route! That way they could just throw their food – mostly lettuce – into the water as the manatees swam by!
Armed with romaine and butter leaf lettuce, the workers have fed the manatees over 25 tons of leafy greens! That’s 50,000 pounds or 22,000 kilograms!!
Talk about a huge salad bar!
As a result, around 350 cows of the sea are visiting a day, with up to 800 on a busy day!
And guess who funded this project? If you said ordinary people like you or me, you’re right!
Since you can’t feed manatees directly, many people donated to the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, raising 10,000 dollars in less than a month! How cool is that?!
In Florida, I’m Lani Power reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Super cool.
MAMA: Yeah, maybe they can organize for the left-over lettuce from those all-you-can-eat-salad-bars to go to the manatees. What do you think about that? Huh?
LEELA: Good idea!
LEELA: Technically this story is history more than nature.
MAMA: Well, we can say ancient nature.
LEELA: Yes, folks, we’re talking dinosaurs. Two big Dino stories for you.
MAMA: Yep, first up – in the US state of North Dakota in a place known to be rife with Dino fossils
LEELA: That would be the fossil site of Tanis.
MAMA: Indeed. Well, scientists there have found a stunningly well-preserved leg of a dinosaur – complete with skin…
LEELA: Yihhhh. I mean, cool!?
MAMA: That’s not all. The paleontologists –
LEELA: Scientists who study dinosaurs.
MAMA: Thank you. They believe the remains of these creatures were killed by the giant asteroid that struck the Earth 66 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs.
LEELA: And ushering in the rise of us mammals!
MAMA: Yes! That’s right. Scientists are super excited by this well-preserved Dino leg – because there are very few specimens from the actual cataclysm that killed them off.
LEELA: But that’s not all the Dino news, is it?
MAMA: Nope – for this we can go to our new nature correspondent, Mirabel Power.
LEELA: Take it away, Mirabel.
MIRABEL: What do you think of when somebody says dinosaur? Maybe a tall ferocious beast that ruled the world millions of years ago, or maybe a meek little herbivore who spent its days munching on leaves. But did you ever think of a dinosaur SWIMMING?
A new study shows that the well-known four-legged Spinosaurus might have been semi aquatic! For those of you who don’t know, semi aquatic means that they lived both on land and in the water!
How do they know this? Well, one way is by comparing Spinosaurus bones to modern animals that we know swim, like whales, hippos, and otters. Isn’t that cool?
So, the Spinosaurus had withdrawn nostrils, short hind legs, feet like paddles, and a tail that resembled a fin! These things are common in swimming creatures, so that shows that maybe Spinosaurus had a swimming side to it. But many other scientists still didn’t believe this, so they decided to delve deeper!
They looked at 250 different species of animals, from elephants to hummingbirds and they saw that animals on land had hollow bones, kinda like a doughnut, but animals who swam had very dense bones, like whales.
They looked at 250 different species of animals, from elephants to hummingbirds and they saw that animals on land had hollow bones, kinda like a doughnut.
But animals who swam had very dense bones, like whales.
And guess what kind of bones the Spinosaurus, and its relatives Baryonyx and Suchomimus, had? Yep, dense bones like swimmers!
So, this new study strongly points out that the Spinosaurus was probably a great swimmer!
Who knows, maybe they even had a Spinosaurus swimming Olympics? Now that would have been a site to see!
In Florida, I’m Mirabel Power, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: I’d like to see that too, Mirabel. Thank you so much for that report!
MAMA: So, do you know which country is to the east of India? As in if you’re looking at a map just on the right-hand side of India.
LEELA: Well, did you know that Bangladesh is the 8th most populated country in the world with 165 million people that’s like twice population of Germany!
MAMA: That’s a lot of people. And, sadly, it’s been estimated that in just 30 years, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced from their homes by climate change. It’s one of the most vulnerable countries in the world in terms of extreme weather.
LEELA: Yeah, they get hit by cyclones, or hurricanes, and droughts, never mind loads of riverbank and coastal erosion.
MAMA: Yep – huge patches of land just disappear when the floods come, and the ocean waves batter its many islands all year round. But… never fear oysters are here!
LEELA: Uhhh, come again? How’s eating those slimy things gonna help?
MAMA: Not eating them but FARMING them. Because when loads of oysters are clustered all together, they make reefs that are as strong as coral.
LEELA: Whoa. I didn’t even think of a reef not being coral.
MAMA: I know, but a reef is actually a long line of ANY rocks or plants – or clusters of very sturdy shellfish like oysters – just below or above the surface of the sea.
LEELA: So, crowded up together oysters are an amazing force.
MAMA: Yep. And in the water around Kutub-dia Island, which could disappear in just 50 years, thousands of oysters are being introduced.
LEELA: Which will hopefully breed to make hundreds of thousands… I get it.
MAMA: Yep, but let’s cut across to Dua Mahnoor Chowdhury, who’s standing by in Bangladesh.
LEELA: Oh, cool. Dua, do tell us more!
DUA: You see, we get big waves in the Bay of Bengal that take a little bit of our land with each gush of water.
LEELA But there’s hope that an oyster reef will help, right?
DUA: An oyster reef creates a wall that decreases the power of those waves. Not just that.
That oyster reef also helps filter and clean the water.
LEELA: Oh, yeah, their bumpy, grey shells act like a filter, holding on and trapping the yucky bits. Nature’s filtration system!
DUA: Did you know a single oyster can filter up to 30 gallons of water every day?
LEELA: Wow that’s like 30 big buckets of water being filtered by a single oyster!
DUA: But I’m not done… The reefs also create homes for sea creatures and fish which we can eat! Yummy!
LEELA: Good point. I’d say that’s a win-win!
DUA: And that either! When there’s an oyster reef, it’s also easy to plant mangrove trees.
LEELA: Mangrove trees, huh?
DUA: They also help down the flow of water and move the dirt to the right places. All those things help save the beach from disappearing. Bring on more oysters, I say!
MAMA: I agree bring on more oysters, indeed. Thanks for that info, Dua. Who knew that a bumpy little oyster crowded up with other little oysters creating an amazing force!
LEELA: That could stop land erosion and save loads of islands. Impressive.
LEELA: So, Mama, what do you call one kind of plant or animal that takes over a place? Or I should say, “A plant or animal that is new to an ecosystem and is changing the balance of the ecosystem.”
MAMA: What? What are you carping on about?
MAMA: Yeah, that’s what I said. What are you carping on about?
LEELA: Carp. Carp is what I’m “carping” about, whatever that means.
MAMA: Wait a minute. Carp is the name of a fish. And it also means to complain, dating back to the Middle English word “carpen,” which meant to speak. What are you talking about?
LEELA: Oh, both, maybe. I mean, maybe that’s why people don’t like carp – the fish. Or maybe because they’re invasive.
MAMA: I am so confused.
LEELA: Alright, let’s go to our correspondent Lani Power who’s got this week’s nature story and can tell us more. Over to you, Lani.
LANI: Thanks, Leela.
Have you ever really thought about how important a name is?
Take, for example, the Cherry Tomato.
Would you still want to eat it if it was called the Big Nose Tomato?
I know I wouldn’t!
That’s the reasoning behind why the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is giving a fish called carp the rebrand!
They’ve decided to try and change the name of the invasive species, Asian Carp.
And invasive means it is a plant or animal that is new to an ecosystem and is changing the way the balance works already.
It’s been spreading like crazy all over the lakes and rivers in the US, overwhelming native wildlife.
So, you can imagine it doesn’t really have a great reputation.
Well, how do you get rid of all these fish? By eating them of course!
The state of Illinois has decided to rename these crowded carp, “copi!”
It does sound a lot tastier… Carp? Carp! Anybody want some Carp? No?
Copi sounds much tastier.
There’s a bit of a story behind this name, too!
Copi is short for copious – or a lot of something. It’s fun to say, but also descriptive of the fish itself!
It’s supposed to be really delicious too!
I could go for some fish tacos right now…
In Florida, I’m Lani Power for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Oh, you’re making me hungry, Lani! Thanks a lot for that report.
MAMA: Well, even Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So, I suppose if carp is copi it’s gonna taste as good. In fact, it’s eaten a lot in Eastern Europe in Slovakia, Poland, and parts of Croatia and the Czech Republic. They love to eat it, especially at Christmastime, breaded and fried. So, I say bring on the carp I mean copi.
LEELA: So, we all know chimpanzees, which come from the forests of Central Africa, are highly intelligent, highly social animals, right?
MAMA: Yes. And human’s closest cousins – we share about 98 percent of the same DNA.
LEELA: That’s right. Though they spend most of their time in the treetops, when they do come down, they usually travel on all fours, though they can walk on their legs, like humans, for as far as a mile.
MAMA: Lots of fab facts there, Leela.
LEELA: Yes… and now to the new news… did you know that chimpanzees communicate like this?
SFX OF CHIMPS SCREECHING
MAMA: That’s a lot of shrieking and screeching.
LEELA: But did you hear the drumming?
MAMA: Oh, no. Let me hear some more.
SFX OF CHIMPS SCREECHING AND DRUMMING ON TREES
LEELA: Yes, indeed. Of course, they don’t have a set of bongo drums – but huge exposed tree roots that they use and it’s not just for a bit of jungle drum-and-bass dancing either.
LEELA: Oh, no. This – believe it or not – is also how they communicate.
MAMA: Whoa, no way?!
LEELA: Yes, way. Researchers followed a bunch of chimps around a Ugandan rainforest and found that each male chimp uses a distinct, signature pattern of beats… to send out messages to each other over long distances. Like whom is where and what they’re doing.
MAMA: Well, I guess that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “beating to your own drum,” doesn’t it?
LEELA: You said it!
LEELA: And that’s a wrap on our best nature stories of 2022. Let us know which was your favorite.
MAMA: Next week we’ll give you a treat – a kooky compilation of our favorite oddballs.
LEELA: Until then – have a great week everyone! And…
BOTH: Happy holidays!!!
MAMA: (Sings) Happy holidays! Happy hol –
LEELA: Oh no… OK. Cut! Cut!