Friday, January 27, 2017

Things places are famous for....

Yet another Radiolab enlightening me in the evening.

This one was about the island of Guadalupe which is located about 400 miles east of Puerto Rico.
The reporter visited and interviewed several different people.  One couple were farmers their main crop was watermelons. They have a chronic problem.  Their watermelons have been attacked.  The reporter was showed these gigantic water melons weighing between 20 and 25 lbs.  Several of them had a small round hole in the side about two inches across.   The insides were completely empty.
Each year they lose about one third of their crop. The raiders are raccoons.  They put up electric fences and the raccoons learned to lean a branch against the wires to cross the fence.  They set out a large metal trap cage.  The cage disappeared.  They found the cage in the jungle partially destroyed.  The raccoons had stolen the trap.  When asked if they would shoot or poison the raccoons the couple recoiled in horror.  Oh no, they couldn't kill a protected mammal.

In 1911 the curator of mammals of the Smithsonian received a box from Guadalupe containing the body of a raccoon.  The scientists examined the raccoon and discovered that it was significantly different from the North American raccoon so they called it a new species.  France governs Guadalupe so they declared the Guadalupe raccoon a protected species.  The Guadalupe peoples were proud of this and the raccoon appears on their stamps, on all sorts of tourist stuff.  There is a National Park that features the raccoon and they are every where.  The French go about freeing captured raccoons every once in a while. 

In 2004 the present curator of mammals of the Smithsonian took another look at the Guadalupe raccoon and determined that it was a juvenile and probably not a new species.  They did DNA test just in case and sure enough the Guadalupe raccoon is identical to the North American raccoon.  The locals still protect their raccoons regardless of new species identity or not.  And the scientist did give the opinion that if the current population of raccoons stay isolated on Guadalupe they had the potential to evolve into a distinct species but that probably would not show up very soon.

The only other native animal to Guadalupe are the bats.

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