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Friday, 29 May 2015

Extinction Wildlife Sanctuary: Dodos and Moa

With the upcoming release of Jurassic World and the increase in popularity around dinosaurs I have designed this series to run every fortnight. It will be a story (with a few of my friends starring in it) revolving around how you could actually look after an extinct animal as well as their lifestyle and speculated behavior. I hope you enjoy!

All that could be heard was the constant whirring of the helicopter's engine and its rotor blades which merged together to form a never ending circular blur of black. If he (Seth Matthews) hadn't been wearing his headset it would have been impossible to speak to his fellow passengers and soon to be workmates. They were all roughly his age (give or take a year). On his left was Tom Brown, around 5'7'' with short brown hair, and Ross Reid, taller with a large brown beard, who would be the IT Technicians at this wildlife sanctuary that they were going to work out. Sitting in front of him was Joe Fretwell (Fretwell), 5'8'' with naturally spiky hair and blue eyes, who would be the Deputy Engineer at the sanctuary and on Fretwell's right was Dan Bell, spiked black hair with a short black beard and glasses, who would be one of the two chief engineers for something that their employer refused to elaborate on. The other was sitting on Seth's other side, Jordan Wagstaff (Wagstaff), short brown hair and eyes with glasses. Nestled in the corner was the sanctuary's manager and daughter of the owner (he had heard though that nepotism had not come into effect during employment) Tayatami Nobuko. She had long wavy black hair which rested lightly on her pale skin.

"My father is very pleased that you all accepted the position," Nobuko said chirpily although they had to strain to hear over the whir of the engine despite the headseats. "Lewis with father to get you hear..."

She trailed off looking upset. His own stomach gave an awful twist. Lewis Twiby had been his friend in university and the others sitting next to him had also been his friend before then. After graduating he had gone all over the world from Darfur to Donetsk to Bogota for Al Jazeera but it was when he was doing his occasional piece for BBC Modern History magazine when he met Tayatami Sato, the CEO and founder of Shinchoku Corp where they created what seemed to be a lasting friendship. Sato hired Lewis as a journalist to help with publicity for his wildlife sanctuary and even got him to suggest staff members. Hence why himself and the others sitting here had been hired after Sato looked at their credentials as well as the Russian scientist Vadim Krasin who he had interviewed for a piece about politics and science. It ended in tragedy when Lewis was killed by a drunk driver. He would have been here with them now.

"Why does your dad want a museum in his sanctuary?" he asked. Sato had told him that he wanted to build a museum of natural history somewhere in his extensive wildlife sanctuary and needed a paleontologist to oversee it. Hence his employment. He lazily looked out of the Airbus EC175 helicopter and into the dark blue sea of the Pacific. It was oddly calming seeing the deep blue ocean. Everyone thought it was strange that noted environmentalist had chosen the Kokkaku islands to build his wildlife sanctuary. Exactly 700 km south of Osaka in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the seven islands that comprised the Kokkaku island chain were desolate. Although the largest island was 800 km squared in size no life had managed to take root on those rocky islands whether it be bird, fungi or flower had colonized the islands. With a large ring surrounding them in the ocean made of volcanic pumice and rocks churned up from long extinct volcanic activity millennium ago it deterred even coral from seizing the coast. Until Shinchoku Corp started installing coral in the sea and flora on the land only the occasional fish and sea bird no animal life could be found past the ring of rock. Lewis had told him that Germany claimed the islands in 1897 and built a naval base but quickly left them after they found that the islands had no resources and that only occasional earthquakes would deal serious damage to the infrastructure. After 1918 Japan took over and found the same issues. The US annexed them in 1945 but never tried doing anything with the islands until Shinchoku Corp bought the islands for US $110 million.

"He's a dinosaur nut!" Nobuko laughed "Ah here we are!"

Ominously in the distance the helicopter was edging towards a large craggy ring of rock. The way it stuck out from the sea made it look like giant teeth of a titan. A fairly large gap in the teeth could be seen which the helicopter edged towards. Everyone held their breath as they passed through the gap between the skeletal teeth. You could faintly see a few white birds darting through the rocks. 

"You've done amazing things here!" Dan said in amazement. He had to agree. The islands were covered in lush green vegetation instead of the bleak lifelessness that previously dominated the seven islands. Faintly you could see buildings on the two most closest islands. 

"I hope my stuff didn't get lost on the way," Ross laughed. Their possessions had been moved to one of the islands just a few days prior. Nobuko raised her hand to alert them to the helicopter descending onto a tarmac square nestled among the flourishing green trees. There was a thud and the black circular blur of the blades became independent legible shapes. Nobuko slid open the door and cheerily waved for them to step out. Immediately they were hit by a wave of humidity and beads of sweat dripped down their faces. 

"Over here!" a voice yelled. Tayatami Sato waved at them in a grey suit. He had a short goatee which was going grey to match his receding hair. Like an excited child he shook hands with them just as other people arrived which he introduced to them. A nearby giant of a man with bulging muscles, a thick grey beard and hands like baseball gloves turned out to be renowned scientist Vadim Krasin, a woman from Kenya with long braided hair and a roundish smiling face was Kioni Omondi who was the Head Keeper and had worked at the Tsavo Nature Reserve for the last decade overseeing the anti-poaching campaign  there, a short bald man with some stubble was the Chief Engineer Jon Fresnow who had made his debut Ramat Gan Safari in Tel Aviv and had made countless devices to aid in making zoos, safari parks and nature reserves safe for animals all around the world. A tall Australian woman with short red hair, bright blue eyes and quite tanned skin was called Judy Wright and had become the sanctuary's architect after designing animal oriented exhibits for places in every country, a medium sized man with a grey mustache and piercing brown eyes was Kalil Jain and had worked as chief veterinarian in the National Zoological Park in New Dehli and later London Zoo. He grasped them firmly and hugged them to show his affection. The final person was just a few years older than they were and was the animal behaviorist called James Bronson from Ireland.

"Well before we do anything else I need to show you something," Sato said to the new arrivals "James, Kioni could you come with us?"

They all headed off following the owner of the island chain. Seth noticed that something was strange. He looked around and saw the same type of dark blue macaws. He nudged Jordan who thought it was strange as well. They were all the extremely rare Hyacinth Macaw.
As they walked through the slightly humid forest he and Wagstaff counted at least fifty. How did they get so many of these endangered macaws? Sato turned a corner to the edge of what seemed to be an exhibit with the clumsy wooden fencing tied together with rope. Quite possibly whatever was inside wasn't a big escapee. Kioni unraveled some rope revealing a gate and ushered them in.

"Wait to you see this," she whispered excitedly.

"What's going on?" he heard Fretwell ask Dan. Had they fallen into some eccentric ploy of a billionaire with an overactive imagination? They were standing in a small forest with a thin canopy allowing beams upon beams of golden sun rays through the branches. They all cocked their heads then. Approaching them was a noise which sounded like a pigeon coo but different. It sounded like it was going 'do do do'.

"Oh my god!" Tom gasped. Several plump grey birds with a white tuft and a long hooked beak were flapping towards them. They were dodos!
One large Dodo walked up to them and gave one of their strange coos. It looked inquisitively at them and started eyeing their hands.

"They like to be hand fed," Kioni said handing them some fruit which looked like a peach and some small crabs "Take either these tambalacoque fruit, they ate these in the wild, or some of these crabs. They can use their beaks to open shells to eat both shellfish and fruits."

"Be careful!" Kalil laughed as a fairly large dodo with a long beak snapped its hooked beak at Wagstaff "The bigger males have a nasty bite. They're friendly but..."

He held up his hand showing a plaster attached around every other finger.

"They're greedy things," Dan commented as his nearest dodo waffled down the fruit in his hand.

"During the wet season they eat a lot so in the dry season they have enough fat reserve in the dry season," Seth replied. He couldn't believe! He was feeding a dodo! "They ate gizzard stones as well to help digestion. Have you been giving them stones?"

Sato burst into a smile. "Lewis said you knew your stuff. Kioni be sure to give them some stones to eat. Thanks goodness you lot have arrived when you did. We needed a paleontologist for this reason. Just in time for our new arrivals."

Sato waved at them to follow him. They all left the dodos and Sato took them to the entrance to a whitewashed building. Compared to the lush green nearby it juxtaposed the scene rather oddly.

"Mr Tayatami what is this place?" Dan asked inquisitively.

"Please Dan call me Sato," he said excitedly opening the door to the building "Senshijidaino! A wildlife sanctuary for the extinct! Two years ago I had a device similar to a 3-D Printer made to synthesize cells to generate food for the hungry all over the world. Then Lewis introduced me to Vadim..."

He opened another door revealing a series of large computers in front of them. A particularly large computer which had a blue screen glowing brightly was attached to another machine in a walkway a few meters below the walkway with the computers on. However it was mostly obscured by a clump of thick trees. Vadim and the others waved at them. It seems that it was these computers that Tom and Ross would be working with.

"I wanted to stop extinction," Sato reminisced "I had the ultimate supercomputer made which could trace a genome extremely quickly. Using Vadim's expertise on biochemistry (lucky we got a physician and a biochemist in one) we could instantly trace a genome and create that species. Vadim was so good that we could recreate any scanned animal as well as slightly change the DNA sequence to create biodiversity! We've managed to create a sustainable population of Hyacinth Macaws on these islands; they are exactly like wild ones. Then I thought what about the ultimate way to end extinction? Fossils you see are bone turned to rock so Vadim hypothesized that you could use the computer to scan a fossil's genome. We tried with an ammonite and it worked!"

"You've decided to create a wildlife sanctuary for extinct animals," Tom said in amazement.

"Yes. Of course I have another hatchery in Kenya to create sustainable populations of modern day animals easily but that's beside the point. At Senshijidaino I plan to make the make extinction itself extinct! 99.9% of all fauna, flora, fungi and other forms of life have gone extinct. That means 99.9% of all life can be brought back!"

The computer connected to the obscured machine made a beep. Vadim patted Wagstaff on the shoulder which made his glasses fall down his nose to get him to come over to the computer.

"Behind those trees the incubators are removing excess fluid," Seth heard Vadim said proudly in a very broad accent about his machine which could basically play god "We can create adults. Easier see to prepare for them. Of course the time taken to create an animal depends on the complexity of the organism, size, age and intelligence for the brain neurons."

"You mean you've created something else now?" Wagstaff asked in excitement.

"Indeed," Sato replied with a grin on his face "Later I plan to loan fossils from museums but now I'm just buying the fossils themselves. I have managed to purchase the skull of a Dinornis novaezealandiae."

"The North Island Giant moa!" Seth exclaimed in awe. There were nine species of moa from New Zealand and this one that they were going to see was by far the tallest at 3 meters max. Roughly in 1440 the last of all moas went extinct through hunting by humans and the introduction of rats, pigs and dogs which ate their eggs. It would make sense for Senshijidaino to bring back this species.

"Look I can see one!" Fretwell said quietly to avoid scaring the giant bird. There was a low sqwuark and a beak poked out from the green trees. It then came into view.
It was covered head to toe in pointed red-brown feathers like an emu except on the legs which were featherless. The moa gave a low call and one scaly foot rang out on the metallic surface as it walked forward. Another stepped out from the trees and the other waved its neck in the direction of the other in a form of greeting. The two shook their necks left and right, left and right to greet the other. A third came from the trees and another three. Six Dinornis novaezealandiae had been brought back from extinction. They even walked like emus but with their necks horizontal as they walked. Nobuko looked at them oddly.

"I thought they walked with their necks up vertically?" she asked.

"Victorian museums often stretched their necks up to sort of emphasize their size," Seth said looking down fondly on the moa "They could stretch up their necks vertical to browse on higher trees but they had it like this most of the time because it was more comfortable."

As if to show this one raised its neck up vertically to peer at the humans on the walkway. Fretwell gently stroked the feathered neck of the moa and Seth thought that it seemed to be enjoying it.

"Is this one a male or female?" Fretwell asked.

"It looks to be about 3 meters," Seth replied with a nod of confirmation from Kioni "Female. In this species the females are much larger. Males can only grow up to 2 meters tall."

Suddenly there was a thin beam of light as two hidden doors opened wide. Orange sun beams swept into the dark room with a HGV parked there. Two trailer doors opened at the back of the HGV and some people dressed in blue polo necks and black combat trousers at either end of the trailer. Eager for their first look at sunlight the moa ran quickly like an ostrich to the HGV and up the ramp. The doors closed and the HGV set off.

"If you guys want to follow me," Kioni said. They followed her to an exhibit nearby. Unlike the dodo exhibit it did not have fencing except for a small area that the HGV had reversed into. A bright blue moat separated the forest from the rest of the sanctuary. They saw the six birds ran out of the back of the HGV which soon drove off. Before the gate could be closed Kioni ushered them into the exhibit full of dew covered ferns, the white trunks of kauri trees and smaller hardwood trees.

"You'be put the right things in for them," Seth said impressed to Judy as he watched a moa snap of a particularly large fern. Moas primary diet consisted of native New Zealand foliage.

"Why thanks," she said happily "I'll get some gizzard stones for these guys."

"What's that over there?" Dan asked pointing to a large structure nearby. It looked to be a large dome but made of some sort of meshing.

"Ah the boss has remains of what ate these guys!" Judy said "Haast's eagles. We're waiting until their genomes scanned and their aviary is done. Can't wait."

"They must be massive," Tom said impressed looking at the size of the moa. It must have been big to hunt moa.

Meanwhile Nobuko was with her father in front of a shipment that had arrived round back of the hatchery. She wanted to be with the others observing their new moa birds but when her father said it was urgent.

"Dad Mr Fresnow thinks that the eagle aviary will be done by the end of the week," she told him. Surely he can't have called her over to hear the progress on the eagle aviary?

"Excellent my angel," he said to her. He opened the box and inside were some fossils. She had wondered about what the next animal would be after Haast's eagles. Maybe a Tasmanian Tiger or a Passenger Pigeon. She gasped. A skull was inside. With effort her father got the skull out and placed it on the desk. In the box there were fossils of other members clade, herbivores and carnivores from all over the world. She couldn't believe it. It was inevitable but she didn't expect it this soon...

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant Lewis, looking forward to the next instalment! Kymx