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C U Soon
Update: Glades Tidings
Last of the Red-Hot Lovers
Roly-Poly Roaches
Chill Bill
Making it Count
May I Take Your Bicycle?

News Articles
King Coal’s dirty reign; inbreeding on Isle Royale; good day’s catch; more.

Edwin Fotheringham

C U Soon
When an elephant sends a text message, it means trouble is coming. In Kenya elephants are sporting collars equipped with GPS units and cell phone SIM cards as part of a project launched in 2006 to track the animals’ movements and curb crop raiding. Because they inflict so much damage—one bull can destroy six months’ worth of harvest in a night—Kenya Wildlife Service officials have previously killed thieving animals. So U.K.-based Save the Elephants partnered with local reserves to collar 15 elephants—including five notorious bandits—and set up virtual “geofences.” When a bull breaks a barrier, park employees receive a text message, rush to the scene, and use vehicles, bright lights, and rifles fired into the air to scare the animal away before it destroys the crop. Software developer Jake Wall hopes the team will collar five more elephants by year’s end. Says Wall, “The goal is to promote peaceful coexistence between humans and elephants.’’—Sarah Parsons
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Update: Glades Tidings
Everglades restoration is getting a much-needed flood of federal funding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District can now use an estimated $180 million for the 68 rehab projects outlined in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (see “Off Again, On Again,” Field Notes, July-August). A court also approved $650 million for Governor Charlie Crist’s deal to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land and convert it to pollution-reducing reservoirs and marshes. Pretty sweet.—Susan Cosier
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Last of the Red-Hot Lovers
Siring offspring is probably the last thing on most nonagenarians’ minds, but 90-year-old Lonesome George may yet be a father. The Galápagos giant tortoise, long thought to be the last of his species, has resided at the Galápagos’ Charles Darwin Research Station since 1972, and for the past 16 years he’s been shacking up with two females from closely related species. Though George is still in his sexual prime, there hadn’t been any sign of wooing until last year, when the ladies laid nine eggs. Those proved infertile, but this year there are five more. Scientists hope that a carefully monitored incubation will produce hatchlings in November or December. Gisella Caccone, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University who’s part of the effort to bring George’s species back from the brink, says, “He is a symbol of all the animals and plants of the Galápagos.”—Ted O’Callahan
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Edwin Fotheringham

Roly-Poly Roaches
Cockroaches can get fat, too. Patricia Moore, a University of Exeter biologist, was curious about how what young roaches eat affects their long-term health. So her team fed female juveniles either an unhealthy (for roaches, that is) high-protein fish-food diet or a nutritious mix of fish food and carbohydrate-rich oatmeal. Those that chowed down on the “bad” victuals were fatter and matured later than their counterparts. And switching to nourishing nosh in adulthood doesn’t help. “It’s like they turn a switch in juvenile development, and they can’t turn it back,” says Moore. She suggests a connection between the bugs’ slow growth and their ability to store fat as energy to buffer against future poor conditions. “They’re absorbing every calorie possible, and that causes health problems if they’re suddenly able to eat as much as they want,” says Moore. “Our cockroaches don’t get diabetes, but they don’t live as long [as adults] and they don’t have as many babies as those that experience good conditions throughout life.”—Alisa Opar
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Chill Bill
Toucan Sam’s bill does more than lead the way to a Froot Loops breakfast; it may also help him regulate his body temperature. Using infrared photography, shown above in degrees Celsius—the warmest areas are in yellow—researchers found that toco toucans use their schnozzes to cool them down when they’re hot and warm them up when they’re cold. The toco has the largest bill-to-body ratio of any bird, accounting for as much as half of its bulk. “We really suspect that it’s a common phenomenon for most of the birds, but it’s just more relevant for the toucans because of their large bill,” says Denis Andrade, an ecophysiologist at Brazil’s São Paulo State University, Rio Claro. The beak might attract mates and help reach food, too. So Sam’s bill is both multicolored and multipurpose.—Susan Cosier
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Making It Count
Each winter, during the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), Ed Burroughs braves the Arctic night in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where temperatures can plunge to more than minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit, expecting the expected: the common raven. While 135 bird species summer on the Arctic coastal plain, ravens alone are likely to be seen during the harsh winters. Burroughs, a computer programmer, initiated his survey in 1988. Audubon uses CBC data to map winter bird distribution and identify population trends. Celebrating its 110th year, the project attracts roughly 50,000 participants throughout the Western Hemisphere. Since his first Arctic CBC, the number of ravens Burroughs has tallied has soared from three to 129. But in 1995 he saw only 17 birds. That year he and another participant found the local landfill—prime raven habitat—closed, and a recent polar bear sighting made them wary of sneaking in. “I decided I wasn’t getting out of our truck,” Burroughs recalls. “I asked Mike if he would walk in and do a quick count, but he declined. So we sat there counting maximum numbers in sight at one time as groups would rise up over the rim in their air-current, show-off games.” (The CBC runs December 14 to January 5. For more information, click here.)—Alisa Opar
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Edwin Fotheringham

May I Take Your Bicycle?
Step aside, Porsche and Mercedes drivers. Valet parking is no longer just for sports car enthusiasts and high rollers. Cities across the country are now offering the service to cyclists to encourage green transportation and healthy lifestyles. From farmers’ markets in Santa Monica to BBQ joints in Boston and outdoor movies in Brooklyn, communities are incorporating bicycle valets into their event planning. “Any big outdoor event is a prime location for bike valets,” says Ryan Nuckel, development director for Transportation Alternatives, a New York City–based advocacy group that runs several free valet services throughout the metropolis. “They are a very simple idea, easy to set up, and something really anyone can do.” Proving his point, more than 2,040 attendees of President Obama’s inauguration this past January handed off their two-wheelers at Washington Area Bicyclist Association stations.—Katherine Bagley
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