All posts by wildlifejournalist

Red and Yellow Means Friendly Fellow?

“Hey man, red and yellow means friendly fellow.”

Those words would have been laughable if they were not coming from a young teenage boy who was dangling a 2.5 foot long Texas coral snake over his hand.

Wrapped around a stick it was within striking distance and this kid thought he had caught a scarlet king snake.

When I told him it was a coral snake and he needed to allow me to take it from him, he give me the deadly mistaken version of the children’s poem to distinguish venomous coral snakes from their mimickers.

That’s when I replied, “No kid it means KILL a fellow.”

At that point I walked over, pulled the stick out of his hand and told him he was flirting with disaster.

He really did think this was a scarlet king snake which lives nowhere near Orange, TX where this occurred. We do have the Louisiana milk snake but this was the genuine article-a real and large coral snake.

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A Louisiana milk snake I photographed in 2013. 

His plan was to sneak the snake past his mom and keep it in his sock drawer. Some 20 years later, I use this story every time I bring out one of our milk snakes to let kids know that if you have to rely on poetry to identify snakes you could get in trouble.

I have no doubt if I had not seen the kid walking down the street he would have gotten bitten and possibly died. Coral snake bites are very serious.

A recent story about an Alabama man named Jeffrey Phillips shows the sad result of mishandling wild snakes.

Phillips’ children were the first to spot the snake. Initially thinking the serpent was a harmless king snake, Phillips decided to catch it and give the snake as a gift to his older brother, who has owned snakes in the past

At the time of this writing he was in the hospital paralyzed and fighting for his life, a truly tragic situation.

The owner of Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, Fl., Van Horn is passionate about snakes and besides exhibiting more than 50 species, keeps hundreds for the sole purpose of extracting venom-including coral snakes.
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Here’s me filming with a very large coral snake in Texas in 2014 for an educational piece I was doing about encountering snakes in urban areas.  I took extreme precautions and NEVER free-handled this snake. Bad idea.

“You see this. These are fangs,”  VanHorn said as he carefully rolled open the mouth of an eastern coral snake while I filmed there a few years ago.

The tiny fangs were in the front of the snake’s mouth and destroy the commonly held myth that coral snakes are rear-fanged and must chew on a person to inject venom.

“They are elapids just like cobras and they have the same skull structure. I don’t know where these rumors came from but they are persistent,” VanHorn said.

He went on to say that most coral snake bites result from people picking them up and it is often young men.

“Women typically don’t go around picking up venomous snakes. And a coral snake has a very dangerous venom that is difficult to treat so people shouldn’t fool with them,” he said.

Coral snakes like all other snake species are not out to get anyone but they are fully capable of hurting someone if they are toyed with. The best thing to do with them is leave them alone and feel blessed you saw one of the strikingly beautiful reptiles in the world.

The moral of the story?

Don’t tread on the coral snake.

Chester Moore, Jr.

America’s Great Cat Finds A Home

Cougar.

Mountain lion.

Panther.

Those along with puma, catamount and ghost cat are all regional names for what science calls Puma concolor.

This is America’s great cat of the Sierra Nevadas, Florida swamps and Texas brush country and last week a very important one found a new home.

Craig DeRosa brought his cougar “Takoda'” on a 19-hour trek to Bear Creek Feline Center in Panama City, Fla.

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Takoda checks out his new home at Bear Creek Feline Center.

Takoda has served as an ambassador for the species, having appeared on national television and also as a loved companion to his owner.

It was however time for this cat to make a home among others of its kind and serve out the rest of its days inspiring thousands of annual visitors to the facility.

“We’re excited to have this beautiful cat here at Bear Creek Feline Center,” said founder Jim Broaddus.

“Cougars are such an exceptional beauty and representative of wildness and Takoda is quite a striking cat. He fits right in.”

This facility has taken in many cats, some well cared for like Takoda and others not so much. While they have been a refuge for cats in need of a transition from different private captive settings, the key here is education.

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Bear Creek Feline Center is home to the super rare Florida Panther.

“When people see a cat like this in a safe and intimate setting it moves their heart. People can see their grace and beauty and then we can help teach them how important they are to the ecosystem,” Broaddus said.

Along with servals, Siberian lynx, bobcats and jaguarundis, there are cougars from several subspecies including the highly endangered Florida Panther.

“There is a lot of diversity among cougars and they inhabit everywhere from Canada to Argentina and a lot of people don’t know that. We are glad to educate people and when we have a chance to take in these animals it helps to make it real to the public. There is something special about seeing these cats in person,” Broaddus said.

My life at age 14  was changed when I saw a cougar making its way over a rice levee in Orange County, TX.

At a distance of only 10 yards, we locked eyes for a moment and many years later that is a feeling I cannot shake.

And I do not want to.

In its eyes I saw wildness and have spent my entire professional career trying to communicate to the general public how important wildness and wild animals are-in large part due to that encounter.

As Takoda walked out of his transport enclosure into this spacious new home, I saw a familiar gleam in its eye.

It reminded me of the cat I saw so many years ago and made me excited for its prospects representing its kind-the great cat of America.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Wild Wish Awakens Conservation Calling

Sea turtles have always been her favorite animal.

Their life in the ocean, beauty and even their awkwardness put them at the top of the animal kingdom for high school senior Reannah.

So when Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® founder Chester Moore overheard a conversation at Texas Children’s Hospital about this young lady wanting to meet a sea turtle, he went into action.

One of the organization’s outreaches is called Wild Wishes and it grants exotic animal encounters to children with critical illness or loss of parent or sibling. In the past, Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX had granted penguin encounters to children in the program.

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Reannah is all smiles after meeting a giant river otter.

He knew they had a Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle named “Chloe” so he contacted the facility to see what was possible.

On April 29, Reannah got to meet this special turtle in a behind the scenes setting, almost getting to hand it food via a special device. Chloe was a tad too shy for that but swam up and gave Reannah a close look that put a Texas-sized smile on her face.

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Chloe the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle.

She also got to do an encounter with giant river otters which included feeding the endangered mustelids rainbow trout and posing for a kiss photo. On top of that she got to go to go behind the scenes at the Caribbean aquarium and feed the fish.

The smiles got even bigger as Reannah realized she was not only feeding tarpon, Atlantic spadefish and jack crevalle but also sharks.

“This is awesome!,” she said.

“I can’t thank Moody Gardens enough for rolling out the red carpet for a very sweet and caring young girl. Everyone from the PR department to the animal care crew were gracious and gave not only their time but love. I’ll never forget that,” Moore said.

And he will never forget Reannah’s desire to meet sea turtles.

“The Lord had really been working on me about getting deeper into wildlife conservation with our program. I have been involved with endangered wildlife my entire professional life at many levels but not until we met this young lady did I put the dots together how Wild Wishes would connect to conservation.”

Each young person coming through the program will have an opportunity to choose from a list of endangered species they would like to help. Moore and his team have vetted numerous organizations who work with them and they will make a small donation in the child’s name to that cause.

“A few months ago I was speaking with legendary marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey and he said that if everyone would just do a little, then a lot would be accomplished. With that said, I find it amazing that Reannah wanted to help the ocean and we will be making a small donation in her name to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation,” Moore said.

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Moore will be making a personal donation in Reannah’s name to giant river otter conservation in support of a group called Save the Giants he and his crew learned about at Moody Gardens.

Who better to help wildlife facing immense challenges than children facing challenges themselves?

“I can’t tell you how impactful learning of Reannah’s desire to meet a sea turtle was and then meeting her and seeing how much she really does care about animals and the ocean. Moving forward many endangered animals will be helped because this young lady wanted to get close to sea turtles. She inspired us,” Moore said.

Not only will children in the program on top of their wish encounter get a donation to an endangered species cause in their name but they will also have an opportunity to be part of a special mentoring program.

“The young people who come through Wild Wishes will have a chance to become our conservation ambassadors,” Moore said.

That means they will have the chance to get hands-on training with animal ambassadors from Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center®, learn wildlife photography, go through an endangered species information course and appear at events with animals to help raise awareness to endangered species conservation.

“As far as we know this has never been done. We’re very excited and inspired. We love the Lord, children and wildlife and this is a way to bring it altogether,” said Lisa Moore who will be working heavily on the photography part of the mentoring program.

Reannah’s encounter was the 60th wish the program has granted and while doing a Bible  study recently, Moore noticed something unique about the number 60.

Moore said Hebrew numbers have meanings beyond their numerical value and the meaning for 60 in that ancient language is “to support”.

“We will not only continue supporting children facing challenges through Wild Wishes but also help those children support endangered wildlife. I think it’s a match made in Heaven.”

To donate to make Wild Wishes come true or learn how to enroll a child in the program click here.

Asian Elephant Poaching Rising-Now They’re Killing Moms and Babies

A research project  operated by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Clemson University scientists is showing shocking and increasing poaching of Asian elephants in one of their last strongholds.

Myanmar is one of the most forested countries in Asia and has the second largest population with around 5,000 animals.

In the video below you will see that poachers in that country are not killing them chiefly for ivory but for their skin. And that means they are killing males, females and babies. One of the quickest ways to deplete a population of anything is to kill breeding-aged females which makes this skin trade particularly deadly.

Hopefully this will get major mainstream news attention. Kudos to Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Clemson University for their discovery and exposure of this terrifying new trend.

With that said I doubt the big players in the wildlife conservation world will take notice and do much if anything. This is why I most often support small, focused conservation groups.

African elephants have been at the forefront of international wildlife conservation efforts for the last 30 years. When ivory poaching was brought to the public’s consciousness in the mid 1980s, the world was rightly appalled and millions of dollars have went toward their cause.

Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African elephants throughout the continent. That’s a huge drop from at least two million in the 1940s but it is large in comparison to the Asian elephant with a best estimate standing at around 35,000 animals scattered throughout Asia. Think about that.

There are less 1/10 Asian elephants in comparison to African.

Why is little said about Asian elephants?

For starters, big conservation is big bureaucracy and the public’s fascination with the African elephant helps generate funding. Lots of it. The largest threat to Asia’s elephant has been habitat loss with poaching also a factor but showing elephant carcasses stripped of tusks raises funds.

Showing palm oil plantations and villages taking up space for Asian elephants not so much.

People have a fascination with African game and there is always a greater interest there from the public than issues in other parts of the world.

I am all for helping African elephants but shouldn’t a bigger focus be on Asian elephant populations which stand at 1/10 of that in Africa?

According to the Great Elephant Census  Tanzania alone has nearly four times the elephants than all of Asia does with 131,626.

If those who deal in international conservation want a new project to really sink their teeth into this one could be a game changer. It’s not too late to make a difference but if the elephant skin trade catches on throughout Asia it will not take long to decimate their numbers either.

If ivory-stripped bull elephants images raise funds, then cows and their babies stripped of their skin should do the same thing. Send down a film crew and get to work. The Asian elephants in Myanmar need help. Quickly.

For the first 10 people to email chester@kingdomzoo.com and say you shared this blog I will donate $10 to Elafantasia. I know $100 is not much but if we all could contribute a little this group could do a lot. This is one of those smaller groups I mentioned that is focused and doing great work.

Share away and message me.

Together we can raise awareness and generate funds to help Asian elephants.

Chester Moore, Jr. 

 

Running Wild with Austin Stevens

When I had an opportunity to review Austin Steven’s new book Running Wild I was legitimately excited.

Stevens is my favorite ever outdoors television host and I have followed his career closely since seeing his Austin Stevens Snakemaster on Animal Planet in 2004.

Having previously read his other action-packed books I was not sure how many stories were left untold but I found myself thoroughly entertained, informed and inspired while reading Running Wild.

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The very beginning with Stevens facing off with an angry chimpanzee escaped from a zoological facility set the tone for many tales of harrowing danger, ridiculously funny situations and poignant tales of life’s many struggles.

The thing that initially  made me a fan of Steven’s television programs is his sincerity. When he crawled into a cave to find wintering rattlesnakes, his claustrophobia showed. On many episodes, he shared fears and trepidations where many others are all about shock value.

The same sincerity shines through in his frustrations over changes in African culture as his wife experienced a terrifying night at the behest of burglars  and seeing the effects of spousal abuse on a friend.

He also shares great emotion in describing meeting his new wife Amy and their many adventures together.

And adventures abound in Running Wild.

Stevens is known chiefly for his work with snakes but his interaction with hyenas, rhinos, elephants and hippos are just as educational and intriguing.

His penchant for shooting wide angle photos of dangerous animals in super close quarters allows him to experience things about these creatures that most would never see. His description of pursuing the extremely dangerous and highly endangered black rhinoceros in particular held my attention and made me want to learn more about the species.

Now don’t think for a second that snakes are not part of the book. There are plenty of truly engaging serpent encounters and reflections on the kinds of interactions perhaps only Austin Stevens dares to seek.

This book is not about snakes or wildlife but how Austin Stevens made them part of his life and through his work in media made them part of ours.

Whether you want to know more about the man or the creatures he pursues, Running Wild is a fast-paced, fun read that only slows down enough to give reflective incite from a man who has a unique perspective on wildlife and has become one of its truly great ambassadors.

It is a must read.

To order your copy click here.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

 

Watch Coral Snake Eat Copperhead (Video)

A couple of years ago I came across incredible video footage of a coral snake eating a copperhead.

It was the first amateur wildlife video I had seen in a very long time that actually shocked me.

Coral snakes regularly eat earth snakes but this is a fairly large copperhead, at least in comparison to the coral snake in the clip.

I am happy to share this footage here at The Wildlife Journalist® because it shows anything can happen in nature.

Thanks to Donna Grundy for sharing this amazing footage. Enjoy!

Chester Moore, Jr.

Tiger Comeback Possibilites Intriguing

April 1 is rife with prank stories with the ending tagline “April Fool’s Day”.

Dinosaurs have been rediscovered on remote islands, chimpanzees have been found using iPhones and that mermaid special on Discovery Channel was real-all according to various satirical sources on April 1.

That is why I was at first suspicious of a Jakarta Post headline that read “Wonogiri residents claim sightings of extinct Javan tiger.”

A number of residents in Nguntoronadi district, Wonogiri regency, Central Java, claim to have seen tigers that have been declared extinct in the Mount Pegat area. The local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), however, was quick to dismiss the sightings as Javan leopards.

“I have seen Javan tigers on Mt. Pegat and forests around the mountain. I saw a tiger playing with her three cubs,” Mt. Pegat juru kunci (mountain attendant) Suratno, 58, said on Sunday.

The Javan Tiger was declared extinct decades ago although reports have been off and on through the years and increasingly recently.

A photo from Ujung Kulon National Park purporting to be a Javan tiger looks more like a leopard to me but it is inconclusive.

The Javan tiger, pictured here, was declared extinct many years ago. But does a small population survive? (Photo courtesy Wiki Common)

Still, reports of people who live in the forest and would know a leopard or other wildlife saying they have seen tigers-even with cubs is hopeful. Maybe the reports are not an April Fool’s gag after all.

I  have a source who revealed recent reports of tigers in remote areas of Turkey. That would be the Caspian tiger another allegedly extinct subspecies that once roamed across forested areas of the Middle East.

There is even an effort to reintroduced tigers into Kazakhstan which was once home of the Caspian variety. The plan would be to release Amur (Siberian) tigers which are the closest relative.

As a longtime advocate of tiger conservation, I must say all of this is very positive considering the immense decline in tiger populations over the last 100 years.

Technology is allowing us to get a deep glimpse at tiger habitat and is revealing things we never knew about the species. It is also letting us know that they are perhaps more resilient than we thought.

It is time to take bold steps to save tigers. We have laid out a plan for removing livestock killing tigers and placing them on remote islands. You can read that entry here.

Re-wilding captive cats should also be put on the table.

The most beautiful animal on the planet needs a win and if Javan tigers are proven to still exist or if Turkey reveals a hidden number of Caspian tigers or the restoration effort in Kazakhstan happens it will be a huge win.

Be on the look out here for many entries on tigers. The world needs to know the problems they face and that hope for these great cats still exists.

Chester Moore, Jr. 

 

 

Casey Anderson & Chester Moore Talk Bears, Giant Hogs

Casey Anderson has done it all when it comes to wildlife exploration and filmmaking.

The host of Expedition Wild and Expedition Grizzly along with many other programs, he is a passionate naturalist with a heart for introducing the public to wildlife and wild land via media outlets

Last week I had the pleasure of having Anderson in the studio on my program “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI. You can listen to that program below as we talk about the similarities between the habits of bears and feral hogs.

Chester Moore and Casey Anderson checking out hog habitat after the radio broadcast.

I have hypothesized here at The Wildlife Journalist® that feral hogs will take root in such a way in urban green belts and suburban sprawl that we will see truly giant hogs in areas that shock people.

During our exchange in the program Anderson made an interesting observation that grizzlies in Montana and brown bears in Alaska and the bears on Kodiak Island are the same animal.

The difference?

Diet.

Could hogs found in urban areas with no hunting pressure, plenty of food in certain areas and the potential to reach their maximum age grow to epic proportions?

The grizzlies in Montana are around 600 pounds, the bears in mainland Alaska can be up to 1,000. There have been 1,500 pound bears on Kodiak.

Think about that and apply it to hogs. It’s an interesting idea and it was an honor spending time with Anderson in the studio and talking about our mutual passion for wildlife.

Born and raised in East Helena, Montana, Anderson is a fifth generation Montanan and has been involved in Film and Television production for over a decade. His acting resume includes the television series Wild Wacky World, a role in the feature film, Iron Ridge, and National Geographic’s Expedition Wild. Please check out his IMDB page for a current list: Casey Anderson IMDB Also check Casey’s website: www.caseyanderson.tv

Chester Moore, Jr.

Podcast on Jack Hanna and a chance for your kid to become a World Wildlife Journalist

In the last post I wrote about “Jungle” Jack Hanna’s interaction with kids from our “Wild Wishes” program at Sea World San Antonio.

In this week’s mini-podcast I give you some behind the scenes details on the event and its impact on the kids-and me.

If you’re a fan of his you won’t want to miss. Click the player below to listen.

While on the subject of kids…

Do you have an animal-loving child between the ages of eight and 18?

What would you say if I told you they can be part of a powerful wildlife conservation group that helps endangered wildlife around the world?

And what if  told you it was free?

World Wildlife Journalists™ is an outreach for school-aged children that allows them to take part in helping threatened wildlife and learning media skills to do it. It’s all positive with no drama and no politics. Your child will never be part of ugly, heated debates over wildlife political issues like you see on cable television.

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They will however be part of a forward thinking outreach on behalf of the most incredible animals on the planet.

By simply signing up your child can become part of an important movement of youth involvement in conservation, take part in monthly online events and earn special prizes.

Here are the benefits:

*Special Membership Card

*World Wildlife Journalists™ Decal

*Monthly drawings & competitions featuring wildlife-related prizes

*Special Facebook page for parents and supervised children to participate in seminars, instructive clinics and conservation challenges.

*Monthly conservation challenges inspiring your child to use different media skills (writing, photography, video and art) to help raise awareness to wildlife issues.

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Click here and fill out the form at the bottom of the page so your child can become one of the World Wildlife Journalists™ and make a positive impact on endangered wildlife.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Sea World, Jack Hanna Make “Wild Wishes” Come True

Sea World San Antonio—The kids were a bit starstruck. Actually I think the adult chaperones were as well.

As “Jungle” Jack Hanna, iconic television wildlife host and conservationist walked into the Nautilus Amphitheater, he greeted his fans warmly.

“I’m so glad to see you here. Thank you for coming to Sea World today,” Hanna said.

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The kids were part of the Wild Wishes program operated by our Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center®. Wild Wishes grants exotic animal encounters to children who have a terminal illness or have lost a parent or a sibling.

The kids that came along were either recipients of a wish or young people who have been trained to help grant wishes for other children.

Facilitated by Sea World San Antonio this special, private experience was a dream come true for 10-year-old wish kid Jaxon who told Hanna he wants to host his own wildlife television program one day.

“So you want to do wildlife TV?” Hanna asked.

“That would be cool sir,” Jaxon replied as his hero patted him on the back.

Having watched Hanna many times on syndicated television, Jaxon has visions of traveling the world and encountering the animals of his dreams.

Fourteen-year-old Lauren who has helped by chaperoning and showing animals to more than two dozens kids at wish events over the last four years was excited to hear Hanna tell them how to be better ambassadors for wildlife.

“Allowing kids to safely see wildlife in an amazing park like this or a modern zoo or at a facility like yours is important. You have to touch the heart to move the mind and I know you all will be great at that,” he said.

The kids were allowed to hold a baby red kangaroo in a pouch and get an up close look at a Geoffrey’s cat, a gorgeous and tiny spotted feline from South America.

After watching Hanna’s fun and highly educational program that included a beautiful cheetah, the kids were fired up about wildlife conservation and helping other kids that come into the wish program know they can help wildlife as well.

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One of the wish kids, Madison Belden, is fighting cystic fibrosis but she is partnering with us to use her art to raise awareness to endangered species and raise funds to help various projects.

“Mr. Chester, I bet we can get more of these wish kids to do things like Madison is doing. It would be great to have kids who are facing challenges know they can be a part of helping wildlife that is also facing great challenges,” she said.

Those are wise words from an eighth grader and came after inspiration from one of the world’s top voices for wildlife in a park that has saved untold numbers of endangered sea turtles on the Texas coast.

Most recently they took in a baby endangered Cook’s Inlet beluga whale that was abandoned in the wild.

Wild Wishes came true because people cared for kids who care for wildlife.

It was a beautiful thing to see and it inspired us all to be better stewards of what the Lord put on this planet.

To support or learn more about the Wild Wishes program click here.

Chester Moore, Jr.