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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Smoking: Not Just for Humans Anymore

So, in light of a news article I just read today, it is time to put my wannabe-Zoologist hat back on to tell you about some other interesting animal tales (why was it so tempting to just write tails?? hmm... puns are sometimes stronger foes than we realize).

Photo Credit: AP

The first of these tales is about Charlie the South African Chimpanzee who, as it turns out, could have been the poster boy for "Thank you for smoking." Perhaps the stress of the zoo was a little too much, and Charlie took to easing his pain through tobacco... Unfortunately, I just learned of this cigarette-addicted fiend upon his death, as Charlie has just passed away at the age of 52. Smoking was not likely the cause of death, however, and despite the addiction, Charlie lived longer than the average chimp. Though I don't condone smoking, in humans (or as it turns out animals), it is amazing to realize the depth of characters that animals have. We seriously underestimate our other earthly creatures. RIP Charlie.

Although my own outings to the National Zoo have severely diminished in the past few months, I have been actively following its updates, which have included the birth of SEVEN lion cubs and 49 (!!) black footed ferrets.

4 of the 7 lion cubs born at the National Zoo

These African lions, all born of one father, Luke, are not as endangered as tigers, but they are still listed as vulnerable by the IUCNN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources); the birth of these cubs is a triumph in the "Building a Lion Pride" initiative at the Zoo. If you have a couple spare hours, it is entirely too amusing to watch the baby cubs live on Cub Cam! (don't ask why I know this...)

Black-Footed Ferret at the National Zoo
This little guy featured above is one of North America's rarest animals. Only 15 years ago, these adorable little creatures were virtually extinct. Only 18 of them remained! Since that time, zoos have become instrumental in bringing them back from extinction, and the National Zoo's Virginia campus has played a vital role in boosting their population.

As I have previously mentioned, perhaps I have missed my calling, but to appease this side of my personality, I have discovered the IUCNN "Species of the Day" gadget, now featured on the side bar of my blog. This way I get to learn about all the wonderful creatures (and vegetation) of the world and not have to quit my job, start my undergraduate schooling from scratch and reemerge as a technical expert in the field... at least not yet.

But look how cute the ferrets are!