Archive for the ‘Our Thoughts’ Category

Why do we support Zoo Atlanta?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

We recently received an e-mail with a question from a person who is obviously dedicated to the welfare of wildlife. Here is the question she posed to us:

“You sound like a great organization but I don’t understand why you support a zoo. Wild animals belong in the wild, don;t you agree. Thanks for any reply.”

And, here was my reply:

Thank you for taking the time to write to us with your question regarding our support of Zoo Atlanta. We whole-heartedly agree with you that wild animals belong in the wild. However, we have also come to the conclusion through our research and commitment to saving wildlife, that although our first desire is that all wildlife should be able to exist in its natural habitat, that this optimal situation is becoming more and more difficult primarily due to habitat loss from human activities. That is why we support both wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. (In fact, I wrote an article about how these activities are inextricably intertwined in our Cofounders’ Message in this issue of our Eyes Alive Newsletter: Eyes Alive February 2009)

Also, we recognize that there are organizations more directly involved with wildlife and habitat issues and we use their research and scientific studies to formulate our own course of action as to how we can best help to save wildlife and habitat. The following succinctly states the challenge we are facing today with respect to the loss of species:

The reality of the current situation is that it will not be possible to ensure the survival of an increasing number of threatened taxa without effectively using a diverse range of complementary conservation approaches and techniques including, for some taxa, increasing the role and practical use of ex situ techniques.

This is from the opening paragraph of this IUCN publication.

With respect to our support of Zoo Atlanta, we are specifically supporting their ‘Give So They Stay’ Campaign which in turn supports their invaluable research and ongoing efforts to ensure that the critically endangered Giant Panda has the best chances for long term conservation and therefore that species survival.

And, again, deferring to another organization whom we have great respect for, the WWF maintains the following position on the role of zoos in conservation:

WWF has long supported the legitimate role of zoos in conservation, education, and research. Captive breeding programmes managed by zoos can provide positive benefits for species conservation if designed and used appropriately, and if they are part of a science-based conservation management plan for the species. Such programmes may act as a platform for zoologists, veterinarians and others to conduct research designed to enhance understanding of the biology of the species.

Again, you see the entire context of this paragraph.

We fully believe that Zoo Atlanta’s efforts with respect to their Giant Pandas is in alignment with these goals as well as our stated mission.

In conclusion, although we fervently wish to see all wildlife remain in its natural habitat as much as possible, until the majority of mankind recognizes and acknowledges the direct link that habitat destruction has on species extinction, we will undoubtedly need to rely on all possible and humane methods, even if less than ideal, to prevent the extinction of certain species. I hope this sheds some light on why we have chosen to support Zoo Atlanta’s ‘Give So They Stay’ campaign and why we will most likely continue to include accredited zoos among the organizations we support.

Most sincerely,

Jim Fontaine

Keeping a Positive Mental Attitude

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

DJ and I work very hard at maintaining a ‘Positive Mental Attitude’. It isn’t always easy, but the alternative – having a negative mental attitude – is far worse. How can you tell whether or not someone has a positive or a negative mental attitude? Listen carefully to the people you converse with. If they frequently start sentences with: “I don’t…”, or “I can’t…”, or “I don’t want…” chances are they have a negative mental attitude — and, they probably aren’t even aware of it. It took DJ and I many months (and, we still slip up occassionally) of carefully listening to how we expressed ourselves and unflinchingly pointing out to each other when we began sentences in this fashion. On the surface, this may seem very simplistic — but, I can assure you it is very difficult to 1) notice in oneself, and 2) change the habit!

So, how do you go about changing a negative mental attitude into a positive one? First, you must listen carefully to yourself when you speak and whenever you find yourself starting a sentence with a negative, rephrase it into a positive. e.g. If you are running late for work, you may find yourself saying, “I don’t want to be late.” Instead of that statement (which is negative), try saying, “I want to be on time.” It’s truly amazing how negative thoughts are everywhere around us. Just listen to the news, television personalities, family, and friends closely and you will begin to notice just how frequently negative statements are voiced.

Deep down I have always been a positive, upbeat, can-do kind of person. But, what I have found is that it is easier to remain positive if you are always stating things in the positive.

My recognition of the true power of having a Positive Mental Attitude came to me in a very dramatic fashion earlier this year. On August 31st, I was fortunate enough to be playing in a golf tournament with friends (actually, the founders of the John Calder Memorial Tournament) in Lynn, Massachusetts. I have played in this tournament for 8 years in a row and this was the first year that I had the pleasure and privilege of playing with my friends and tournament founders.

Jim's foursome

The weather was beautiful and we were starting on the 14th hole in a shotgun start for 18 holes. Our foursome determined the order we would tee off in and as it happened, I was selected to be first. As I was selecting my club from my bag, I suddenly felt a very sharp pain in my abdomen, actually it was more like on my abdomen – which after a quick moment I determined was the result of a sting from a yellow jacket that had somehow made its way into my golf shirt! Youch! My stomach began turning a bright red around the sting and it was burning incredibly. Well, we laughed and joked about it — something to the effect that if I was allergic to bee stings, I had better jump on the cart and head in to the clubhouse because no one in the foursome was going to give me mouth-to-mouth! Typical ‘guys on the golf course’ humor aside, I continued with my pre-shot routine and teed up my ball.

If you know me at all, then you know that I am a golf fanatic. I have been playing the sport for around 35 years and there has never been a time when I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the game. And, I can honestly say this: everytime I step up to the ball on a par 3 hole, in my mind I am thinking, “In the hole.” And, this time, that’s exactly what happened. I shot my career first hole-in-one. 145 yards, 8-iron, ball lands 4 inches in front of the hole, checks up and drops in the cup. It was witnessed by another friend – in fact, the guy that I played golf with on my high school team – who was on the next tee box! If you’ve ever shot a hole-in-one, or even if you’ve just witnessed one, then you can appreciate the sheer thrill and excitement that results. And, it wasn’t just me that felt it. My friends were all truly and as genuinely happy as I was at that moment.

Jim Fontaine's 1st hole-in-one!

So, what does this have to do with having positive mental attitude you might ask? Well, let me say this, on the next par three hole, one of the members in our foursome made the comment, “I’ll never get a hole-in-one.” as he was teeing up his ball. And, in my mind, I said, “Maybe, just maybe, if you thought you could then maybe someday you will.”

Jim Fontaine's hole-in-one golf ball!

I will tell you this: when I teed up my ball, I was thinking “In the hole.”

Panda Pictures from our Partner

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Zoo Atlanta sent us some photos of their Giant Pandas to share with you!

Here’s another great photo!

Earth Day 2009

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Today is Earth Day!  For us, it is cause for celebration, if only for the fact that at least one day a year has been set aside for people to consider the wonderful world we live in.  The reality is that DJ and I truly try to live each day aware of our roles in being, as we like to call it – good stewards of the earth.  Normally, we take several hours on Earth Day to pick up the trash alongside the road we live on for a good mile or so.  (We do this throughout the year as well, but it’s especially meaningful for us to take some small action to actually celebrate Earth Day each year.)  However, Earth Day this year was exceptionally wet with a LOT of rain coming in sheets for much of the day!  So, we will do our roadside pickup this weekend.  However you choose to celebrate Earth Day (and, we hope that you do), take a moment to reflect on where you live and what the environment may be like 10, 20, or even 50 years from now.  And, ask yourself – will our portion of the earth be better, worse, still inhabitable, or maybe even a paradise?  We all share the same resources – whether with our neighbors or, on the larger scale, with other countries.  We have hope everyday and act upon that hope with passion that the world we eventually will leave behind, as everyone must, will be better than the one we are currently enjoying and doing our parts to protect.

Wildlife Conservation and Habitat Preservation

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

It’s important to recognize that these two activities are inextricably linked. Humans, as a species, cannot hope to accomplish one without also acknowledging the importance of the other.  If we continue our destruction of wildlife habitat — such as the clearing of land in the tropical rainforest for the raising of cattle or agriculture — then we are effectively consigning wildlife to an existence only within zoos and captive breeding programs.  In our opinion, this is not the same as wildlife in its natural habitat.  Although we may be able to conserve species in this manner, they will certainly lose their designation as wildlife.  In fact, there is little difference between this type of animal conservation and that of domesticated species — other than the fact that we may not eat the so-called wild species saved in this fashion.

Somehow, we need to realize that in order for wildlife to be truly considered wild, it necessarily follows that it must be allowed to coexist with humans in its natural, or wild, habitat.  Although great strides have been made in the humane treatment and the living conditions of wild animals kept in captivity, they are still captive.  We do not discount the wonderful educational and research opportunities for gaining knowledge about our planet’s wildlife that zoos and aquariums offer.  And, in fact, they provide the means for individuals to see firsthand many species that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to see in the wild. However, in order for wildlife to fulfill its natural purpose of enriching our planets biodiversity — simply by its sheer act of existing — we must also make the connection that only when species can live in their original and unaltered habitat can they be considered truly wild.

This is exactly why we support both wildlife conservation and habitat preservation as part of our mission and vision.  For it is only by accomplishing both that mankind can claim to be living in peaceful coexistence with wildlife — where both mankind and wildlife equally represent the full richness of biodiversity that is the natural state of our planet.

Help us fulfill our Mission and Vision — tell others about what we’re doing to save and protect wildlife and habitat!

What are they researching?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

I just recently watched a program on the Discovery Channel called ‘Whale Wars’ ( and that got me to thinking, “How in the world can anyone believe that this is research?”  Exactly what kind of research requires a factory ship designed to process whales at sea as food for human consumption?  It seems to me that true research would require, I don’t know, maybe a research vessel?  In any event, I realize that there are two sides to every story, so I did some research of my own and have this to share:

(excerpt from Wikipedia)
From 1987 to the present, Japan has been sending a fleet consisting of a single factory ship and several catcher/spotting vessels to the Southern Ocean to catch Antarctic Minke Whales under the guise of scientific research. The first research program, JARPA (Japanese Research Program in the Antarctic), began in 1987-88, when 273 Antarctic Minke were caught. The quota and catch soon increased to 330 and 440. In 2005-06 the second research program, JARPA II, began. In its first two years, in what Japan called its “feasibility study,” 850 Antarctic Minke, as well as 10 Fin Whales, were to be taken each season (2005-06 and 2006-07). The quota was reached in the first season, but due to a fire (and possibly harassment from environmental groups such as Sea Shepherd) only 508 Antarctic Minke were caught in the second. In 2007-08, because of constant harassment from environmental groups (principally Sea Shepherd), they failed to reach the quota again, with a catch of only 551 whales.

(For full entry:

Now, as it turns out, my research began as simply a search for a good image of an Antarctic Minke Whale eye for DJ to paint to add to our growing number of Collectible Animal Eye Pins.  So, of course the logical place to start this search was with JARPA (their official website is

After reading about their Mission (, I was drawn to the last item:
Section #7:  Other activities, part c) Analyses of data and materials collected from field surveys

I guess the ‘materials collected from field surveys’ refers to the Minke whales that Japan catches as part of their research.  Now, is it just me or does anyone else think that it would be reasonable to assume that out of the 1909 whales that Japan performed ‘research’ on over the past three years, there should be at least ONE decent picture of an Antarctic Minke whale’s eye to be found on their website?  I went through as much of their ‘Photo Library’ as possible by following links (all in Japanese I’m afraid even though they direct you to ‘Scroll down’ for English on their Photo Library page) but did not find very many photos.  I did, however, happen to come across this document .  I clicked on this since it had a ‘NEW’ icon next to it.  Not exactly what I was hoping for — but, it did tie in to aforementioned Discovery program.  I clicked on a lot of other links — mostly leading to .PDF files in Japanese — and did manage to find a fairly recent document in English:  But, no photos — I guess I’m not looking in the right place.

Another interesting link was to the list of scientific papers arising from their research ( — seems a little out of date.  And, likewise, is this the extent of their ‘current’ research available to the public —

One final thing that really interested me was their link to their ‘Comments’ page: Now, as an internet architect and having been involved in the creation of many websites, I find it totally laughable that they are actually directing all ‘questions about whales and whaling’ to their webmaster!!!

Somehow I do not think I am alone in my lack of conviction that The Institute for Cetacean Research is living up to its name.

Who Are You Calling Stupid

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I’ve always been surprised whenever I’ve heard someone exclaim, oh my dog is so stupid, he eats the cat’s food but not his own food, or did you hear about the stupid elephant who broke out of the circus and was running down the middle of a highway? Maybe your dog is telling you the food you are giving him isn’t good for him, the cat’s food has more nutrition. And if you knew how animals are treated in circuses (beaten and abused in many ways -this is what I’ve heard in the past, not sure if it is true now but I hope not) you would escape, too. But just making that statement always makes me look at the person saying it and in my mind I’m thinking how stupid they are.


I don’t know about you, but I think it is pretty amazing that dogs can be taught to detect cancer in people. And what about the dogs trained to find bodies in an avalanche, or a collapsed building. And then there are dogs that can sniff out drugs in a suitcase among hundreds of other suitcases that are not carrying drugs. What about the dogs that can foretell when their owner is going to have a seizure! I think that is just incredible. I don’t know any humans who can do any of these things. A lot of animals in the wild have a sense when major disasters are going to strike, like a tsunami, and head for higher ground. A lot of lives could potentially be saved if people paid attention to these signs from animals. Oh the stupid fox ran right out in front of my car, someone will say. I have developed a respect for animals that live in our backyards and even though we have taken over most of the land, they have learned how to live with us. I often wonder, why can’t we do the same with them? Why can’t we develop more ways of protecting animals when they are trying to cross the street at night. Why can’t we learn to respect and cherish the resources we have instead of just killing off whole species of animals and polluting and trashing every beautiful place that is our responsibility to protect and care for. Once they are gone, they are gone for good.


I heard a story one time about a baby that was taken off her porch by a grizzly bear. A horrible story I thought, so incredibly tragic. But I thought about the unfortunate mother who left her baby, unattended, in the middle of the only place left in this country where grizzly bears are found (years ago they were found in many parts of the US but have since been killed off so their number in the wild is dwindling), in Montana. I wouldn’t even leave my dog out on the porch if I lived in Montana. I’ve been to Montana, I’ve seen grizzly bears, and I respect their territory. Since this is about the only place they live now in the US, I think they deserve to be left alone. People move to these places and think, oh, this is great, we are living way out in the woods, with nothing around. Isn’t it beautiful here? But they forget to learn about who they are sharing the beautiful woods and land with and think that once they have built their home, the animals are supposed to vacate. Who are you calling stupid?

The Dump called Planet Earth

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Nearly every day Jim and I take our three dogs for a walk around the block, which equals about 2 miles. About ½ mile of the walk is along a “busy” road (busy in a rural location means about 1 car every couple minutes although we usually get 3 or 4 cars together and then none for about 3 to 5 minutes). Now I am a person who decided a long time ago that I could never be a waitress because the first time someone gave me a hard time and complained I would dump their food in their lap. But besides that, you have to clean up after people, and since I don’t even like to clean up after myself much less a stranger (no, I do not clean up after Jim, that is his job) I could never imagine being a waitress.


What, you may be asking, does this have to do with my daily walk? Well, it has everything to do with it. I enjoy the rural area we live in but I abhor the trash I find along the road, so much so that a couple of years ago,I decided that Jim and I needed to pick it up. I was sick of looking at it. And since we are the only ones who walk in our neighborhood, we are the only ones who see it. And I prefer to look at the trees, the rock walls, the streams along our walk and not the beer cans, bottles, and MacDonald’s bags that float in the streams or litter the roadway.


But it got me to wondering, what is it that possesses a person to, when finished with their MacDonald’s meal, open the window, take their empty Giant Gulp cup complete with lid and straw, Big Mac box, apple pie container, and bag that they all came in and drop them out the window to land along our road? I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure, they aren’t doing it in their neighborhood. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to look at it. I’ll bet you they would even find it disgusting if someone else’s trash landed in their driveway. But how is it that these people (or disgusting humans as I call them since saying they are pigs or animals I find offensive to animals) do not see the harm they are doing to our planet. Do they feel, since it is “our” planet that they have the right to do with it as they wish? Do they not understand that it is one planet, one earth, one world and we all suffer the consequences of their selfish gesture?


I’m also pretty certain that back seats come standard in most vehicles. So, why not just throw the trash into the back seat and remove it when they get home? I’ve known people who have a back seat full of trash and when you first see this you think, oh my, how can they have this much trash in their car, and you notice a slight rancid odor and decide you’ll take your car instead of riding with them. But at least they are respecting the earth, if not their own space. Then once a year or so, they clean out their car. Disgusting, you say? I consider them considerate and conscientious.


I guess I can understand people throwing out beer bottles. Who wants to get stopped with empty beer bottles in the car? But isn’t that a comforting thought, people driving along the same road you are driving on, drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages. It’s bad enough that people get behind the wheel when they have left a bar filled to the gills. But to also know that they are driving and drinking is an even scarier thought.  Yes, they should be arrested and/or have their license revoked for drinking and driving, first offense, no second chances (especially if they have failed the sobriety test). Every drunk off the road could save your life.


Now when I was a kid, we returned bottles and we got money. That was great! This was often how I got my spending money – go collect soda bottles if you want some money. A working class family, cash wasn’t just lying around for our spending pleasure. We had to earn it and for a kid under 16 that often meant spending hours looking for empty bottles that people threw out. But I’ll tell you, the roads were much cleaner than they are now. And I can’t tell you how many broken bottles I’ve found with pieces of glass that could cut not only my small dogs’ feet but any other wild animal that lives in my neighborhood and walks the same roads we walk. I say, bring back the bottle bill (and yes, it does exist in a few forward thinking states.) There will still be people who litter, but at least those people who pick up the trash will make a little money doing it!


I recently read a terrific O Henry cartoon that demonstrated perfectly what I’m talking about: O Henry goes to a beautiful spot to paint. While he is painting, a family comes along and sits down to picnic. They proceed to litter the scenic area and then leave. O Henry finishes his painting and brings it to the home of the people who littered the scenic spot. The painting is just how they left it with all the trash. They look at it and say, “Who would want to buy such an ugly scene?” Exactly! Not in their backyard.


Our Thoughts

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

The founders and co-owners of share their personal views on wildlife conservation and habitat preservation issues.