I'll be making another trip to Phuket.
You can get the latest information on Diving Matters at nichediver.blogspot.com
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
You are probably familiar with the North American stereotype of the vulture -- harbinger of death, dirty and traitorous. Why do we feel this way? Why has our view of these marvelous creatures so like this?
When I was covering the crime beat as a reporter checking out the morgue at the local hospitals, the guys from the funeral parlours used to hang out there waiting for customers. We call them vultures then.
The same vulture names we call the tow truck operators plying the highways. The same names we call people who prey on those who are weak and defenseless and dying.
But poor poor mighty vultures. They have been falsely accused.
First: Vultures are basically classified into two groups: Old World vultures and New World vultures. The similarities between the two different groups are due to convergent evolution. Old World vultures found in Africa, Asia, and Europe belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, kites, buzzards, and hawks. YES, eagles.
Old World vultures find carcasses exclusively by sight.
New World vultures and condors (the largest bird in the world) found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas are not closely related to the superficially similar Accipitridae, but belong in the family Cathartidae, which is quite close to the storks. Several species have a good sense of smell, unusual for raptors, and are able to smell the dead they focus upon from great heights.
So now you know Eagles and Vultures are in the same category. The same kind.
Second: While eagles are know to hunt down the weak, slow rabbit (it doesn't really care so long as it's easy meat) the vulture is known to feed on carrion. And what is carrion? The meat or flesh of dead animals. Vultures don't prey on the healthy.
In fact, vultures seldom attack healthy animals, but may kill the wounded or sick. Vast numbers have been seen upon battlefields. They gorge themselves when prey is abundant, till their crop bulges, and sit, sleepy or half torpid, to digest their food. These birds are of great value as scavengers, especially in hot regions. Botulinum toxin, the toxin that causes botulism, does not affect them, and they can eat rotten flesh containing anthrax and cholera bacteria.
They clean up after the sickly is dead. They oftentimes clean up after the dead is long dead and a putrefying stench of rotting carcass covered in maggots. With 100 times the botulism of a human, the stomach of a vulture can digest meat in advanced stages of decay, a favor to every other creature in the world.
Basically, vultures takes out the garbage. And in a world full of rubbish left behind by the killers, we sure need the vultures.
Third: The vulture is one creature that can spread its wings and soar for hours. Much like the eagle. Like the eagle that hunts, the vulture patiently smells out its food or spots it from high up in the sky,and waits for it to die or if it's already dead, swoop down to clean it out. It hunts. Only differently. And patience! Boy, is it patient.
Fourth: The vulture's bald head is one feature that appears revolting to many people, but it is a brilliant physiological property that allows the creature to plunge into all sorts of carcasses, and come out clean. Its other cousin, the American Bald-head eagle probably had no feathers for different reasons. But for the vulture, that's how it keeps clean. After sticking its head into rotting carrion and gorging itself, the vulture would fly high and perch in the scorching heat of the sun. That takes care of the germs and rotting leftovers without the trouble of cleaning out under the feathers and stuff.
Without feathers to serve as a habitat for all the bacteria that infests their meals, vultures soar through their lives disease-free. After eating, vultures can often be seen perched in the heat of the sun. Here, whatever has managed to cling to the few bits of fuzz on their head will be baked off once and for all. So it knows how to keep clean.
Fifth: We are what we eat. But the vulture is not carcass. In fact, it can stomach so much rot that while other animals would have dropped dead from the same crap the vulture feeds on, the vulture has a digestion system that takes care of things. In other words, the vulture can take
s#@t as it comes.
Sixth: In Southern Africa, the name for a Nubian vulture is synonymous with the term applied to lovers, because these vultures are always seen in pairs, mother and child remaining closely bonded together.
Pairing, bonding, protecting, and loving are essential attributes associated along with the vulture's size and its ability to soar high in the sky. The Egyptians considered the vulture to be an excellent mother, and the wide wingspan was seen as all-encompassing and providing a protective cover to her infants. The white Egyptian vulture was the animal picked to represent Nekhbet, the mother goddess and protective patron of southern, Upper Egypt. The vulture hieroglyph was the uniliteral sign used for the glottal sound (3) including words such as mother, prosperous, grandmother, and ruler.
Wow! So now you know the vulture is esteemed for some lofty attributes.
Now what's so BAD about vultures?
Did you realize by now that what people have been telling you about vultures is not necessarily the whole truth? Isn't it interesting that many people who accuse the vultures of all the bad things can themselves be attacking the defenseless and weak and strayed? That they could be as bad as the vultures they are accusing? In fact worse, because vultures are not so bad after all?
After all, God created the vultures. At least the vultures know what they are living for. DO YOU?
The vultures are lofty. They can put up with a LOT of stench. They can survive the contamination and not die from what they consume. They know how to keep clean by basking in the sun and soaring against the wind to shed the dirt clinging to them. It is amazingly patient. It takes out the garbage. (Many of us don't)
AND.... one last point! This will surely thrill you.
"And I bore you upon wings of vultures and brought you unto me." (Ex. 19:4)
The Hebrews chose to compare God with a vulture, in this verse, because of the bird's amazing talent of flight. They admired the vultures ability to "float" on the air for long spans of time, without so much as flapping a wing. Vultures are incredible birds. In fact, they have been revered by many cultures throughout history.
One place we see this clearly is in the Hebrew texts of the Bible. Exodus 19:4 is translated in the King James version of the Bible as "I bore you on wings of eagles and brought you unto me." But the Hebrew word "nesher," which is interpreted as "eagle" in many common translations, actually translates as "vulture" in English!
Posted by John Beh at 11:17 PM
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Malaysia Today Editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin is behind bars today in the Sungai Buloh prison.
He is remanded pending trial on October 6 on sedition charges for implicating Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor in the murder of Altantunya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian woman who was shot dead and blown up with explosives sometime last year.
Some say he is a fool for getting into trouble writing about sensitive issues. But Raja Petra said he would gladly go to jail for upholding the truth and opposing evil. Perhaps a fool to many.
What are Christians like you and me willing to be jailed for? What are we willing to be a fool for?
Posted by John Beh at 11:52 PM