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WebClawer: Trouble over truck-stop tiger, fishermen take steps to protect seabirds, monkeys have morals?

February 16, 2009 |  1:59 pm

 Damage on a window frame caused by woodpeckers in the Rossmoor community We claw the Web so you don't have to.  Today, moral monkeys, the fight over a truck-stop tiger, and environmentalists and residents at odds over the woodpeckers that are making a mess of things in the Bay Area:

  • Residents of the gated retirement community of Rossmoor (within the city of Walnut Creek and about 20 miles from San Francisco) are at odds with the community's other residents: woodpeckers.  The birds peck holes in window frames and decorative trim made from Styrofoam and covered by a thin layer of stucco.  Several homeowners' associations, after attempts to discourage the birds (including flapping Mylar balloons, chemical deterrents and a wooden owl) failed, have decided to shoot them instead.  Enter Audubon California, which argues that the best solution is not killing the birds but rather building wooden "granaries" where the birds can store acorns. The group offered to help the homeowners' associations build them.  (One homeowners' group took them up on the offer; another voted to continue killing the birds instead.) L.A. Times
  • New research suggests that monkeys and apes have the ability to tell right from wrong and a basic sense of morality.  The findings, presented in papers at last weekend's annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), suggest that "there is enough evidence for the following of social rules to agree that some of the stepping stones towards human morality can be found in other animals," according to Emory University professor of psychology Frans de Waal.  De Waal and his colleagues rewarded monkeys with food or affection in return for completing simple tasks -- but some monkeys got a higher payoff than others.  Unlike the results of a recent, similar study involving dogs, the monkeys objected to being rewarded unfairly and often refused to participate further when they perceived their reward was less than that received by another monkey.  Another element of the research showed that chimpanzees exhibited altruism; they were willing to help other chimps and humans without any apparent reward for doing so.  De Waal believes such research shows that morality evolved through natural selection.  Times U.K.
  • The fight over a Louisiana truck stop's caged tiger display will go to the Iberville Parish Council on Tuesday.  The council is set to decide whether Michael Sandlin
    -- who owns both the "Tiger Truck Stop" and its Siberian-Bengal tiger resident, Tony -- is violating a local ordinance by displaying the big cat.  Animal activists will be in attendance at the council meeting as well and will argue that Tony is being kept in an inhumane environment.  "Tony's in a cage, continuously inhaling diesel fumes, sloshing around in his own waste. ... It's sickening," said Sky Williamson, who's been vocal in her opposition of Sandlin's truck stop since 2005.  Williamson has joined forces with Big Cat Rescue, which maintains the Tampa, Fla., wildlife preserve where she hopes Tony will be "retired."  But Sandlin wants none of it.  "Hell will freeze over before Tony goes there," he said.  Fox News
  • The Fishing Vessel Owners' Assn., which represents West Coast-based long-line fishermen, has instructed its members to use "streamer lines" in an effort to minimize the accidental killing of seabirds.  Birds, such as the endangered black-footed albatross, are known to dive after the fishermen's bait and can drown in the process.  Streamer lines -- polyester rope with dangling colored streamers -- create a "fence" that prevents the birds from diving after the bait.  Greenspace

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Damage surrounding a window was caused by woodpeckers in the Rossmoor community. 

Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

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