Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor

Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor
Picture by Justin Wyatt
To read Hilary's story buy this special book...

This magical story has a touch of the supernatural. When an injured crane is found and nursed, something happens, something magical and inspiring...

Gentle Footprints launched- AS SEEN ON TV

Gentle Footprints was officially launched Fri June 4th at the Hay Festival with guest speaker Virginia McKenna and some of the authors

Buy from Bridge House Publishing by clicking on the link BUY:


Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Animal Anthology To Raise Funds for Born Free

Bridge House Publishing announce new book coming Spring 2010. For more about Bridge House please see their website.
This book is the annual charity book for Born Free...if you want to get involved with promoting and selling this book- email me!

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Foxes: Dispelling A Few Myths

Some Common Misconceptions

Why do foxes kill for pleasure?

They don't!

However, when the opportunity arises, foxes kill surplus prey even if they are not hungry and cache (bury) it for later use. This is a very sensible strategy in the wild, since there are likely to be some days when hunting is a lot less successful, and so the fox can eat the prey killed earlier.

Foxes are spiteful. They don't just take one chicken, they kill the whole lot!

If only I received a pound for every time I have heard that! Foxes are not spiteful. Spite is a human trait. However, in an unnatural situation such as in a hen house, where the prey cannot escape, this behaviour, called 'surplus killing' leads to the fox killing far more prey than it could ever consume. It can't help itself - It does it purely by instinct.

The vast majority of chickens in Britain are kept inside in battery units where they never see the light of day. Foxes are the least of their problems.

Losses of free-range hens are generally low, and protective measures such as electric fencing further reduce these losses. People who keep a few chickens for their personal use suffer no losses from foxes if they are securely housed and not left out at night.

Foxes kill lambs!

Sometimes yes, but research has shown that on the whole the number of lambs killed by foxes is generally low and simple measures can be employed to minimise this risk.

What also needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that rabbits, which cause an estimated £120 million of damage to agriculture, are the main prey of foxes in rural areas. By keeping the number of rabbits down the fox is surely more of a friend than a foe to most farmers.

Foxes, like every other living creature, have to eat. Its unfortunate that sometimes this puts them in direct conflict with humans who usually get the upper hand. They are doing exactly the same as many domestic cats and dogs would do in the same situation. We've all seen cats 'play' with mice and birds and dogs chase after rabbits. The poor fox, however, is given a particularly hard time for behaviour that just comes naturally.

Although it must be distressing to lose a pet rabbit or chickens this way we need to do our best to make sure that it doesn't happen in the first place by making sure our pets are kept in safe and secure shelters which the fox cannot get into. Foxes are doing their bit to survive, thats all!

Paul Cecil Everything Is Permuted

Foxes And The Urban Revolution.

The urban red fox is exactly the same species as the country fox. Due to its omnivorous nature it is incredibly adaptable to differing environments and foxes have now adapted extremely well to life in our towns and cities over the last 50 years or so. They prosper because they find plentiful food and shelter in our gardens, yards and other open spaces. Their diet is varied and will include insects and grubs, slugs, worms, small rodents, and anything that they can raid from our throw away society. At certain times of the year berries can form a major part of their diet: at blackberry time for example their droppings are full of blackberry seeds.

Foxes have become so successful that some estimates put the population in London at as many as 28 foxes per square mile.In towns their most common breeding site is under a garden shed or decking. Foxes are territorial animals, hunting and scavenging throughout their chosen path and defending it against other fox intruders.

Concern is sometimes expressed over "too many" foxes being present in an area but the population, is self regulating and limited by the amount of food and territory available. Cubs born simply replace the number of adults lost since the previous breeding season. Foxes are loners, not pack animals, and the family usually disperses by late autumn.

Fox screams, late at night, often wake and scare people who wonder what on earth is going on, but they are no more than fox conversations and calls to mates when they're feeling amorous! To be honest, I've heard much worse on the X factor! In fact, foxes have a fantastic variety of weird and wonderful sounds that they can make! This is usually only problematic for short periods during autumn, when juveniles are dispersing, and in the breeding season, between Christmas and early February.

Foxes will take livestock such as chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs if they are not properly secured as a matter of instinct not malice! They are, however, unlikely to threaten cats, dogs or humans as some would have us believe and there seems to be lots of evidence to suggest that foxes coexist quite well with all of the above, all of whom are generally more than a match for an adult fox.

As foxes search for food, garden damage may occur which upsets some people, particularly where fish, blood and bone meal fertilisers are confused with buried food. Most garden damage can easily be prevented by using chemical repellents which move foxes on humanely.

Foxes are protected under a series of wildlife protection laws against poisoning, gassing, asphyxiating, maiming, stabbing, impaling, drowning, clubbing and most forms of snaring, with anyone carrying out such acts subject to 6 months imprisonment and/or £5,000 fine per animal. Sadly many of these methods are still regularly used against the fox!

The fox is sometimes referred to as vermin, but it is not, and never has been
categorised as such by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(DEFRA).

Many people now feed foxes on a regular basis. Although this is obviously done as an act of kindness it can have two detrimental results. If too much food is provided, a fox may allow its territory to contract, losing much of it to other foxes simply because it sees no point in defending the larger area. Suddenly, you are in hospital or on holiday and the food source dries up. The only way the fox will find enough food is to go back to the old ways. But its old territory is no longer there. Other foxes who have become established in these areas will not take kindly to sharing their resources, and trouble - even war - may ensue.

A second problem is that foxes may not eat everything provided. They will bury food surplus to their requirements. Perhaps they will return to these caches. Perhaps they will not. If the food is cached in the flowerbed of someone with an 'anti' attitude, they may decide to solve their problem by employing a 'pest controller'. You could kill by kindness.

But if you are determined to feed foxes, what should you provide?
The best available research indicates 95% of an average rural fox's diet consists of meat, both hunted and scavenged, and consisting mainly of rabbits, rats, birds and small mammals. Insects and worms may constitute another 4% and the remaining 1% may consist of fruit. In urban areas these figures will be somewhat different.

Canned dog food is fine. Peanuts and raisins are popular, cannot be carried away, and will satisfy a fox's 'sweet tooth', and, because these small items take more time to gather, you will have the opportunity to watch foxes in your garden for longer periods without causing problems to your neighbours.
But it is worth remembering - foxes don't need us. They have always coped. They always will.

In reality, the majority of people like urban foxes. In a survey about wildlife in their garden completed by nearly 4000 household across Britain, 65.7% liked urban foxes, 25.8% had no strong views and only 8.5% disliked urban foxes. In a recent survey by The Mammal Society foxes were voted one of the most popular British mammals.

As we, humans increasingly encroach on their rural territories, foxes will have no option but to resort to city life in order to survive!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Red Fox . . . A True Legend (continued)

Foxes belong to the dog family, which includes wolves, coyotes, grey foxes, raccoon dogs and their relatives. All members of this family are incredibly adaptable animals, and this makes them successful colonisers in many areas of the world practically in all habitats available and often in close proximity to humans.

The fox has featured heavily in literature throughout the ages. It has often been portrayed as the stereotypical sly and cunning creature able to outwit and deceive. Many children’s books feature foxes including the Fantastic Mr Fox, the Gingerbread Man and Chicken Licken.

More recently the term foxy has been used in a much more positive way to describe someone who is cool and attractive. It is probably because of the competition with humans that myths about these animals have frequently cast the fox in an unappealing light.

A huge boost for the foxes image came at the end of 2009 when the popular High Street chain 'Lush' brought out a special edition soap bar called the 'Fantastic Mrs
Fox' with all proceeds going towards its protection!

Vital Statistics

Foxes usually have a slender appearance with pointed ears and a long muzzle. The coat is generally a reddish colour with the back of the ears and the front of the legs black. They have a very distinctive walk: a sort of bouncy, self assured trot.

Foxes tend to weigh around 4-8 kilogrammes for a male and 4-6 kilogrammes for a female. The length of head and body combined is about 67-72 centimetres in males and about 62-68 centimetres in females.

The tail (brush) represents about a third of the total body length of a fox. Like a cat, the fox's thick tail aids its balance, but it has other uses as well. A fox uses its tail as a warm cover in cold weather and as a signal flag to communicate with other foxes.

Foxes also signal to each other by making scent posts — urinating on trees or rocks to announce their presence. You can always tell when a fox has been around by its distinctive smell. If you have dogs like mine, that love nothing more than to have a good old roll in fox poo, you will certainly be able to recognise that wonderful aroma anywhere!

In winter, foxes meet to mate. You've probably heard their courtship love songs piercing the nightime silence! The vixen (female) typically gives birth to a litter of 2 to 12 pups. At birth, red foxes are actually brown or grey. A new red coat usually grows in by the end of the first month, but some red foxes are golden, reddish-brown, silver, or even black.

Captive foxes can live up to about 14 years, comparable to domestic dogs. In the wild however, foxes rarely live more than a couple of years. In rural areas where lethal fox control is applied, up to 80% of a fox population is less than one year old. This short life span illustrates just how precarious and difficult their lives really are.

Friday, 26 February 2010

The Red Fox . . . A True Legend

Week Of The Fox

If there was a prize awarded to an animal that has survived in the face of adversity it would surely go to the red fox, Vulpes vulpes. It has been hunted by hounds, slaughtered by game keepers and relentlessly destroyed by forestry workers. In addition to this catalogue of persecution its pelt was utilized by the fur trade to supply the demand of human vanity. The fox was present in the countryside long before man kept sheep or the advent of rearing game birds. (Notes from a Lancashire countryman)

I echo these sentiments entirely. I saw my first fox when I was about six and there began a lifelong obsession with these wonderful enigmatic creatures. I was captivated by them: their colour; the way they move; everything. And the fact that the fox has survived and adapted in the face of such adversity makes this beautiful, spirited creature a true legend of our times.

There is something about the fox that brings out the best and worst in people. The fox is blamed for a whole catalogue of things and, ironically, they are usually things that us humans are guilty of on a much larger scale! Unlike humans, however, the fox would merely be acting according to instinct.

Hunting is a volatile subject with emotive feelings running high on both sides. A tradition that has been here for centuries was finally outlawed in February 2005 . . . Or was it? There have been many reports on the ineffectiveness of the ban, highlighting loopholes which the hunters are said to be using in order to flout the law and a pile of documented images which graphically show foxes still being hunted; still being killed by hounds.

I will return to this subject later but for now let’s just enjoy the beauty of Vulpes Vulpes. . . The one and only . . . incredible red fox!

Paul Cecil Everything Is Permuted

Paul Cecil Everything Is Permuted

Paul Cecil Everything Is Permuted

Thanks to Paul for letting me use some of his superb images. Check out his website on the above link.

Now a bit about me!

I have two children. I used to be a primary school teacher but gave it up to look after for my mum who hasn’t been well. To be honest I don’t miss it at all. I increasingly found it to be far too structured and formal for my personality. The kids were always the best part of the job but they tended to get lost amongst all the paperwork and dos and don’ts of nowadays!

I have a degree in political science which I have found extremely useful throughout my life. I also have a qualification in photography and won a national competition a few years ago with some editorial shots. If I had my time again I would have loved to have been a wildlife photographer or documentary maker.

I have always had a passion for writing but never tended to follow anything through. I have lots of stories and poems tucked away upstairs, mostly about animals, the environment or for children, that I have never done anything about but I am determined now to sort them all out.

I joined a writing school towards the end of 2009, just two hours a week but those two hours were brilliant. I absolutely loved it: being with like minded people: being inspired

All my enthusiasm came flowing back. And whats great about writing is that I can do it here at home! And I’m older and wiser now. I stick at it!

I feel so honoured to be part of this book. It’s the first piece of work I have ever sent off and I can’t think of a more fitting introduction. I have always cared passionately about animals and environmental issues and to know that other people are going to be reading things that reflect my innermost feelings just blows me away. If my writing can encourage people to think and care a little bit more for this planet and all those that share it, then I’ve succeeded!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Extract from "Snowena"

She misses. I bite my tongue so she won’t hear my curse except as a faint whisper on the snow-heavy wind. She’s accepted the hide I film from, but she’s not eaten since yesterday morning. And I didn’t realise how much I was willing her on to a successful hunt this time.

She licks her paw, disdainfully, as if to distance herself from her failure, as a domestic cat might. I watch her. Gorgeous snowy-grey thick fur with clear black markings that blend in with the mountainside, the fur-padded, clumsy-looking paws somehow graceful when she runs, the long, long tail, balance-keeper as she hunts over ragged rocks.

I’ll have to return to camp soon, but while she’s still here I can film. It took six months to find her. I don’t want to lose her now.

She has a cave further up. It’s tempting to kill a mountain goat and leave it for her but that would do more harm than good. She needs to hunt. Each failure is practice. Each failure a chance to try again. Each success buys a few more days of precarious life up here in the Hindu Kush. Evolution made her a specialist, otherwise the mountains would have become over-run with goats devastating the little vegetation that grows and turning this rocky outcrop into an inhospitable wilderness.
Amazingly people choose to live here too. Goat herders mostly who stick with the only life they’ve known for generations instead of seeking an easier, but unfamiliar life in the city. I guess we’re all creatures of habit.

I couldn’t do it. Those shacks made from timber, mud and thatch are precariously balanced on the mountainsides and always look as if they are about to collapse. At least I know my tent’s temporary. How those guys actually live here... I watch them too. The women are up first, sweeping out, watering and feeding the domestic animals and getting water for the day. Breakfast is made and eaten, then the herders, wrapped in layers and hats, move their goats out onto the pastures, moving up and down the mountain with the seasons. They’ve seen a lot too. This area’s been fought over by the Taliban and Northern Alliance and has been used as routes to distribute opium. No wonder the villagers always look fearful, as if death might tap them on the shoulder at any moment.

There was a kafuffle this morning. One of the domestic goats had been attacked and coats of others clawed at by some wild animal. The villagers blame the snow leopard they know we’re trying to film. I don’t think it’s her though, but don’t have the language to tell them or explain. But they need to know what is terrorising their animals so will name the snow leopard because they know she’s there.

Further reading in “Gentle Footprints.”

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Snow Leopard Conservation

Conservation efforts for snow leopards are being made. There are several strands to conservation efforts.

• Research to find out more about snow leopards;
• Sanctuaries to give snow leopards who are no longer able to live in the wild a home;
• Education and working with local populations so they understand and support conservation efforts and also wider education about snow leopards;
• Fur and traditional medicine trade – campaigning and highlighting the dangers;
• Breeding, using a reserve that allows rescued snow leopards to breed and for the resulting cubs to be trained and returned to the wild where possible.

Conservation projects are often local so they can adapt to local needs and include:

• In India and Pakistan domestic animal vaccination and livestock insurance projects run to reduce losses of domestic herds to disease and replace animals lost to hunters such as snow leopards. This helps reduce retribution killings of snow leopards blamed for loss of domestic animals. Excess domestic animals are sold to raise funds for the herders and maintain original herd sizes.
• In Mongolia a group of herders set up a self-help organisation in the Yamaat Valley, raising standards of animal husbandry and pasture management to avoid over-grazing wildlife habitats so domestic and wild animals could both thrive. Herders estimate the loss of 144 domestic animals in 2007 to wolves and snow leopards so conflict exists between herders and snow leopards.
• Snow Leopard Enterprises encourages herders to make toys and ornaments from sheep wool which creates income that the herders can use to pay for food, medicine and education.
• Children’s eco-camps which take children on an outdoor adventure holiday but also includes education about snow leopards and prizes for best drawing and best story about snow leopards.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Snowena's Cameraman

Most of my story “Snowena” is narrated by the cameraman. He’s a wildlife photographer and filmmaker who knows that he’s privileged to be able to travel the world watching these stunning animals in their natural habitat just simply being snow leopards.

Filming wildlife is a combination of the most boring, difficult and most exciting jobs. Exciting because getting a perfect shot either of a successful hunt or simply a snow leopard sunbathing, creates a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement.

Difficult, because animals aren’t actors following a script and stage direction and no two days are the same. A hunting animal follows the prey and the prey doesn’t follow the same route that nearly got it killed yesterday so setting up cameras to follow that route won’t work. As well as being able to follow the snow leopard with a camera as it sprints towards a makhor, a filmmaker needs experience to know which route the prey and hunter are likely to take and be able to anticipate the next move so the camera shot is moving in the same direction as the animal.

Boring, because much wildlife photography and filming is about waiting and watching. Tracking animals in the wild takes patience. The snow leopard that was near a village a month ago may have moved on. Although snow leopards are territorial, they don’t necessary stick to the same routes or patterns of movement around their territory. Snow leopards move up and down mountains following prey who follow the grazing, which is good higher up the mountains in summer months and better nearer the lower lying lands in winter. Factor in wind direction and which side of the mountain offers more shelter and it takes observation and instinct to find your snow leopard.

Then you have to wait. Snow leopards aren’t generally bothered by the presence of people but are wary so it might take a couple of months for the snow leopard to become used to a filmmaker simply being there. Days will be spent simply perched behind a camera waiting for the opportunity to take some useable film. Days will turn into months as you watch and get a feel for the snow leopard’s patterns of behaviour. Snow leopards will hunt day or night, although mostly at dawn and dusk, and will store food for a day or two in the ready-made freezer of snow capped mountains. Snow leopards tend to hunt only what they need to eat and not store food for more than a few days. A medium-sized prey animal will keep a snow leopard fed for a couple of days but if the snow leopard makes its next hunt during the night and you have to wait for daylight, you may have to wait up to a week before the opportunity to film a hunt for the one you missed.

It’s not just about observing the animals. Snow leopards, like all cats, sleep a lot (lions can spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping). So there’s an opportunity to observe the snow leopard’s habitat as well. Leopards’ territories often do overlap or include villages. Although generally, if precautions are taken and there are sufficient prey animals, snow leopards don’t hunt domestic animals. Most villagers shut their domestic animals in caves or huts on the mountainside and protect them with thorned bushes woven to make a fence. Snow leopards are not naturally inclined to eat people, preferring the more succulent meat of grazing animals. They are nosy though so will explore villagers and clusters of dwellings, usually at night when there is less movement.

Ironically this cameraman decides he couldn’t do what the villagers do: herd animals all day. Although essentially, the jobs are similar: follow and watch animals. The key difference is that the herdsmen are absolutely reliance on their animals remaining healthy and breeding although they too have to be able to observe the animals’ behaviour and how to react if one or more are showing signs of distress. The cameraman simply observes and records. Although for the cameraman it can be hard not to get involved, particularly if an animal becomes injured or hasn’t made a successful hunt for a couple of days. But the cameraman can’t intervene. A snow leopard must hunt for its food and cannot become reliant on provided food otherwise it will lose hunting skills it needs to survive.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Filming in the Hindu Kush

A poem today:

Filming in the Hindu Kush

She’s not a morning person,
much shaking and stretching
on her precarious haunt,
before she’ll stalk and make
a scent-disguising roll
in Himalayan dust and snow.

Villagers want rid, blaming her
for attacks on domestic animals.

Her wide-padded paws
perfect for balance.
Ironic my large carbon footprint
- the flight here, the four wheel drives
used to cart equipment up -
might save an endangered animal,
who eschews domestic goats.

Villagers watch via a laptop.
Smiles need no translation.

Each sighting of her creamy-silver
fur, long balancing tail, and I struggle
for breath. I’m not worth eating
so my affection’s unrequited.

Villagers comment,
“She’s my friend now.”

Sunday, 21 February 2010

About the Writer Emma Lee

I’m Emma Lee, a published poet, short story writer, novelist, reviewer, blogger and competition judge. My poetry collection, “Yellow Torchlight the Blues” is available from Original Plus. My story “First and Last and Always” was included in “Extended Play” from Elastic Press, “Fifteen” was runner-up in the Leicester and Leicester Libraries short stories competition and published on the BBC Radio Leicester Website, “Restoration” was runner-up in the Writing Magazine’s ghost story competition and “Imprints” was highly commended in a Roadworks magazine story competition. I read my story “Lizzie’s Baby” at Short Fuse at the Y Theatre in Leicester (see photo above) and the story was also published in “Sein and Werden”. I’ve read my poems at diverse venues including Leicester City Football Club, Leicester’s Guildhall and at the Polyverse Festival at Loughborough University.

I’ve pretty much always been writing. Even before I could actually write, I used to create Lego houses, imagine who’d live there and create stories for them and their neighbours, essentially mini soap operas. My very first publication was with a story in the school magazine when I was aged 5.

Around the same time my love for cats developed. Our neighbours bought home a ball of grey fluff which would hide under the kitchen table and mew. She grew into an efficient hunter who didn’t take any nonsense from other neighbourhood cats. She also racked up an impressive 18 years.

I live in Leicestershire, not a county associated with big cats – Leicester Tigers rugby club has no direct link with the big cat – but foxes – Leicester City football club’s mascot is Filbert Fox, so named because the club’s former ground was at Filbert Street. There have been unconfirmed reports of a big black cat, possibly a panther, lurking around Aylestone Meadows, but no one’s uncovered any conclusive evidence yet. However, Leicestershire is birthplace to wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough and a jaguar was briefly in residence at Bosworth Hall, which was home to Lady Florence Dixie, a Victorian animal rights campaigner. The Dixie family founded the Dixie Grammar School in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire. The school calls its newsletter “The Snow Leopard” and has a snow leopard as their school’s badge because a snow leopard is featured in the Dixie family crest.


My story is called “Snowena” which is the name given to the snow leopard by a girl called Rihanna who loves watching wildlife documentaries and getting as many facts about big cats as she can. When she grows up she wants to be a wildlife vet, preferably working in a wildlife sanctuary. Ideally all wild animals would be able to live in their natural habitat but for some that’s not possible.

She struggles over choosing a name because she believes she can’t think up a good enough one. She rejects her own name Rihanna, rejects her friend’s name, Ciara, because it’s Italian and the snow leopard’s not Italian, but doesn’t know any names from the snow leopard’s home. Rihanna’s going to ask her mum to adopt a snow leopard for her on her birthday.

After much thinking she settles on Snowena as a name.

Later Rihanna has to do a show and tell at school and wishes she had a laptop so she could simply show everyone the documentary about Snowena. Instead she does her show and tell about a panther as she has a toy panther called Ebony. Panthers are leopards with a condition, melanism, which turns the underlying fur black so they appear to have completely black fur. Jaguars can also develop melanism.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

It's Snow Leopard Week

It's Snow Leopard Week, but quiet please! Unlike most big cats, snow leopards can't roar and their thick-furred, wide, padded feet don't make a noise either so they can't announce their presence. Combine this with their shy, secretive natures, perfect camouflage and you can see why they're difficult to spot.

Doesn't help that snow leopards tend to live at high altitudes, usually 3000+ metres above sea level and favour mountain ranges in Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, China, Mongolia and Russia. Snow leopards are territorial, but territories can overlap as they are not particularly aggressive at defending territories.

They are pefect hunters for their preferred prey of wild sheep and goats. They have also been know to hunt wild pigs, tahrs, Bactrian camels, gazelles, ibex and even marmots, with birds and hares if other prey is scarce. The rocky mountainsides and outcrops provide cover and the snow leopard's fur with its grey or black rosettes against a base colour of pale grey or a smoky yellow, gives it excellent camouflage. Their wide paws help them stalk and give chase over snow. Their long tails, almost the same lenght as their bodies, help them balance. Snow leopards wrap their tails around their body when they sleep to help keep them warm.

Each snow leopard has a unique pattern of rosettes on their fur. Their stocky bodies and small round ears help minimise heat loss.

The snow leopard mating season is usually between January and mid-March with cubs being born in June or July. Litters are usually two to three cubs and the cubs will eat their first solid food at around two months. Cubs will stay with their mother for nearly two years before leaving to find their own territories. Siblings will sometimes stay together to start with but will separate.

Snow leopards are sadly endangered. It's estimated there are around 3500 - 7000 in the wild. As with most big cats, the biggest threats are the illegal fur trade and loss of habitat/prey. It takes six to twelve snow leopard skins to make a coat and body parts, including bones, are sometimes used in traditional Asian medicine. Loss of prey is down to a combination of people encroaching on traditional snow leopard territories and over-grazing by domestic herds which leaves less food for wild grazing animals so numbers become restricted. This leaves the snow leopard with little choice but to take domestic animals so herdsmen kill snow leopards in retribution.

Although all of the countries that have snow leopards have cat protection laws, the laws are not rigorously upheld and illegal poachers often find the weaknesses in local law enforcement.

Snow leopards generally live for up to 10 years in the wild.

Friday, 19 February 2010

How to make an origami crane

video instructions of how to make an origami crane:

animated instructions for making origami peace crane:

Photo Gallery:

Starting tomorrow: Emma Lee's Week of the Snow Leopard

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The crane in legend

In Japan the crane is known as the ‘bird of happiness’ and the legend that it lives for 1000 years can be attributed to the story of the twelfth century Yorimoto, who attached labels to the legs of cranes, re-released them, and asked people who captured them to re-release them, recording the date and place of their capture. Some of his labelled cranes were reported to be still alive centuries later.
Another legend has it that at an eleventh century Buddhist festival, hundreds of cranes were set free in thanksgiving for a victory in battle. Each had a prayer strip attached to its leg for those killed in the battle. This is thought to be the first association of cranes with a prayer for peace.

Tomorrow- last Crane Post: How to make an origami crane! Don't miss it!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The story behind the story Peace Crane

Photo of Sadako (left)

Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. Ten years later, having collapsed while running, she was diagnosed with lukemia, which her mother called ‘an atom bomb disease.’ Her best friend, visiting her in hospital, folded a paper crane for her, telling her of the legend that anyone who folded 1000 of these would be granted a wish. At first her wish was to be well, but when she realised this wouldn’t happen, she wished for peace. She died in October 1955, having completed 644 origami cranes, which she made out of any paper she could get her hands on, including the packaging from medicines. Her brother hung them in strings from the ceiling, and after her death, her friends completed the 1000 cranes and buried them with her.
Every year, thousands of strings of peace cranes are offered at the statue of Sadako in Hiroshima.
‘I will write ‘peace’ on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.’ – Sadako Sasaki
information about Sadako and the peace crane:

Photo of statue of Sadako, hung with strings of origami peace cranes. Click on photo for link.

Tomorrow:The crane in legend

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The return of Cranes to Norfolk

There is evidence that cranes were consumed at banquets in the middle ages, and in 1533 an Act of Parliament made the taking of cranes’ eggs an offence, punishable by a fine. The Common Crane became extinct in the UK in the seventeenth century becaue of hunting and the destruction of its habitat.
On 15th September 1979 two common cranes appeared near Hickling Broad, in Norfolk. I have not seen the cranes for myself, and my story features the fictional Horling Broad, loosely based on my reading about Hickling Broad. In 1982 a young crane was successfully raised there - the first young crane to be raised in England for about 400 years. Now there about 30 to 40 birds in the winter, with about eight breeding pairs.
Information about Hickling Broad from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust:

Monday, 15 February 2010

Natural History of the Common Crane

The Common Crane (Grus grus) resembles a Grey Heron in many ways, although in flight it can be recognised by its outstretched neck instead of the heron’s characteristic bent neck. It has a wingspan of seven feet, and when it is standing, its feathers form a big, drooping, bushy tail. The bird is grey, with black and white on the head and neck and a patch of red on the top of the head. Part of its courtship and bonding ritual is to ‘dance’, bowing, jumping, throwing sticks and flapping its wings. The birds make a loud trumpeting call, often in the early morning.
The crane lives in a variety of shallow wetland habitats, picking up food from land and water. Its food includes roots, shoots, leaves, grain, and small prey. The nest is a heap of vegetation, usually on the ground in or near water, and two eggs are incubated for about 28 days. The young birds are not fully mature until they are four to six years old.
Over the centuries, the bird has been threatened by habitat loss and hunting, and, more recently, by changes in land use, and collision with power lines. However, particularly in Western areas, where conservation efforts have been the greatest, the species is now recovering.
Information about the common crane:

Coming tomorrow The return of Cranes to Norfolk

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Hilary's story 'Peace Crane'

How I came to write this story
Peace Crane is about an injured crane that is rescued by a boy who then feels a mystical connection with the creature, and is sure that it has granted his dearest wish. When my husband told me about the return of the Crane to East Anglia after hundreds of years of absence, and I began to research this, I came across the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who died as a result of the Hiroshima bomb. I read about the legends and symbolism surrounding this bird and the idea of cranes as a symbol of peace made me think about the many ways that different people can long for peace. The boy in my story longs for peace in his family. Sadako, and those who still offer origami cranes at the Children’s Peace Monument , long for peace between nations. Many people long for, and work for, the right of wild animals to live freely and in peace in their natural environment.

Short excerpt:

...The power lines hum as I pass below them and a few steps further on I notice a creature – I can’t say what kind – lying in the grass at the edge of the path. My pace slows and my hands come out of my pockets. Roadkill, I think at first, but this track is hardly used by vehicles. As I come nearer, there is a small movement, so small I wonder if I imagined it. The creature is still again, and then another tremor flutters across the pale shape. Is it alive? Or maybe it was the rising wind riffling the feathers, for now that I am almost upon it, I see that it is a bird, a large grey bird, with a long neck and black and white markings on its head. One huge wing is stretched awkwardly behind the bulk of the body, and I can see immediately that it is broken. The enormous flight feathers are darker than the rest of the plumage, and only one of them is damaged, torn half way along its shaft. Is it a heron? There is a heronry further round the track, where tall trees line the shore on the edge of Horling Broad. Squatting beside the huge bird, I wait for it to move again. The burnt-orange eyes stare at me. There is no mistaking the life in them. The head is black, with a broad white stripe either side, and a patch of red on the top. I don’t think herons have red on their heads, and I know they have long black feathers at the back of the neck, which this bird hasn’t got.
I may not know what the bird is, but I know what has happened to it. It has flown into the power lines...

Copyright Hilary Taylor, Gentle Footprints, Bridge House Publishing

Tomorrow The Natural History of the Common Crane...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Week of the Crane

Hi Guys- well I will be pasting the posts sent by Hilary who wrote Peace Crane as she has pc issues (don't we all from time to time!) So please reply to Hilary when you comment- I am posting on her behalf.

Okay so let's kick off with something about our author...

I’ve always loved reading and writing stories, although I can remember an A level English class where I went completely blank when we were asked to write a poem about Christmas in the style of any famous poet. My parents were both teachers, and my father is still a writer, though not of fiction. I can remember my mother being very impressed with a poem about a rainy day, written when I was six or seven. Yes, I know she was my mum, but early encouragement should never be underestimated!
I grew up as one of five children in Ipswich and Hampshire and went to Edinburgh to study French and Linguistics at University. I then qualified as a teacher in Cambridge.

I began to write fiction for adults and children when my children (I have five, now grown up) were small, and managed to get a couple of articles published in a magazine. I started to get serious about my writing when my middle daughter was about thirteen and she became my best critic. My hopes of being published were raised when some editors and agents asked for complete manuscripts of my novels for teenagers, but so far, I have been unable to hone these to the point where they have been accepted.

I have been a Primary School teacher for the last twelve years – where no two days are ever the same. Last year I was inspired by attending the Winchester Writers’ Conference, where I won a competition and since then I’ve been writing short stories, as well as working on an idea for a new YA novel. (I also once won a prize in a writing competition at my local library!)

It is hard to combine writing with a demanding full-time job, so – who knows? – perhaps I’ll opt for a part-time post now that I’m going to be a published writer!

My husband is a keen birdwatcher and wildlife enthusiast, and it was his knowledge of the return of cranes to Norfolk that led to the idea for Peace Crane.

I also have a story, Sightseeing, in the Travel Anthology soon to be published by Bridge House.

Tomorrow... about my story Peace Crane...

Friday, 12 February 2010

Picture Gallery

I love the stunning beauty, strength and grace of lions, so to end the Week of the Lion I thought you might like to see a picture gallery of the magnificent creatures…so a sight for sore eyes follows.
I’ll quit roaring and lion around (get it, lying around? I’m too funny for my own good sometimes!) and give you the lion’s share of the spoils!

Keep following, and keep your eyes peeled for a new animal tomorrow.
Bye for now, Mandy:)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Work of Born Free and Lions

The Born Free Foundation (BFF) was set up in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. They first became involved with big cats when they travelled to Kenya in 1964 to star in the film Born Free. The film was based on the book by Joy Adamson, and tells the story of Joy and her husband George’s fight to return a lioness ‘Elsa’ to the wild. The Adamson’s story was a huge hit and helped shape generations opinions about lions and their right to be free.

Virginia and her husband Bill were profoundly affected by the experience, and this consequently led to their life’s work of keeping wildlife in the wild. In the late 1960s they helped Christian the lion back to freedom when he was bought by a couple from Harrods London.
Since this time the BFF have helped marine animals, bears, wolves, elephants and many others.

When I looked closer into the work of BFF I was shocked and saddened to find that the African lions have declined in number by 70% over the last 30 years. There are only around 25,000 lions left in the whole of the continent! In the year 1900 there were approximately 500,000. As a conservationist said recently on TV ‘I can’t imagine Africa without lions. It is unacceptable; it’s like the sun not coming up in the morning.’

The hunting grounds have become depleted due to the growth of agriculture and settlement and lions and prey animals have been poisoned, snared and shot. It is still legal to shoot lions for ‘sport’ and many lions are legally killed every year. Born Free is determined to develop practical strategies to allow lions and farmers to co-exist without conflict and to fight trophy hunting.

The BFF rescue lions from various forms of exploitative captivity and provide sanctuary in safe game reserve areas.

For more information and ideas of how you can become involved click the link below. Also find out more about the moving and uplifting story of Christian the lion.

George Adamson was killed by poachers
in 1989 saving the life of a tourist.

Tomorrow - Lion gallery