crocodiles and animal rights


Today in class we’ve done a lot of things (listening, reading, speaking) The first thing we’ve done is to watch a National Geographic documentary video clip about crocodiles in South America. In the three minutes excerpt video we could watch a US scientist who travel to Costa Rica with a team of other scientists to study the crocodiles living in Tarcoles River. This river is heavily polluted with industrial an human wastes. The crocodiles population have been challenged by this hostile environment and a decline in their population has been observed. But that decline has not been the high one might expect and the crocodiles seem to be doing pretty well with the pollution.

The English language we heard in the documentary is American English. We heard the clip three times to grasp all the concepts we need to answer the following questions:

1. How long can adult crocodiles be? How much can they weigh?

You can get this information in the very few seconds after starting the documentary. In the introduction the narrator says that adult crocodiles can be over 6 metres long (18 feet) and can weigh close to one ton.

2. Why is River Tarcoles polluted?

There are two sources of pollution that have flood into its waters. The river flows through an industrial zone and so there are industrial wastes (metals and other chemicals) The second source comes from human wastes as the river drains from the heavy populated environments .

3. Are there more crocodiles in its waters than there used to be?

They have suffered a light decline in their populations but it seems that they’re doing well with the river pollution. That’s a intriguing question.

4. Why does Brady assemble a team of scientists?

Brady, the main character in the documentary, has put together a multidisciplinary team of specialists to make an study of the Tarcoles River and the crocodiles that live there to answer the question why they do so well with the pollution.

5. How the pollution affect the crocodiles?

One of the Brady team’s scientists says that chemicals and other contaminants in the river could cause crocodile’s food shortage and affect the eggs embryos coming into reproduction problems.

6. What do the crocodiles feed on?

They’ve got a variable diet. Their main food sources are their natural preys like shrimps, fish, large mammals which risk to take water along their sides or crossing it, etc. Traditionally the people living around the place have also fed them with chicken and this has become a tourist attraction.

7. Why is it necessary to empty their stomachs?

This bizarre practice is done by filling with water the animal’s stomach and then pressing to flush it out. It’s necessary because scientist have to determine accurately the captured animal’s diet –which is so variable, and the toxicologists have to analyse the found items in search of chemicals and those wastes they think are so dangerous.

8. Can crocodiles communicate? How?

Yes, they can. The produce sounds like grunting, hissing and the like thanks to a voice box within their throat. Scientists say that they can produce till 20 different sounds.

9. What did they find in the crocodile’s stomach?

They found out fish and a lot of garbage.

10. Why do they take tissue samples?

They take tissue and blood samples to take them back to their labs. They’ll be analysed by toxicologist looking for chemicals stored in the blood and fat.

After this interesting activity we did a couple of exercises about 2B Animal Rights p.18 Student’s Book (lesson 2) They were about English foxes, a controversial animals in the UK which have been hunted for may years and has been the icon of the animal rights fighters.

The first exercise asked the question: Do you know any stories or legends about foxes?. I knew the story of the raven and the fox (which is depicted in a figure under the first exercise in p. 18) which I thought was a tale (fable, they call it, because it teaches a moral lesson) written by the Grimm brothers but I was wrong. The author is Jean de La Fontaine, a famous 17th century French fabulist who has got other works well remembered and worth reading. Here it is a version:

Upon an oak branch high up on a peak
A raven perched and prepared to eat
A piece of cheese balanced on his beak
But, as he was ready to tuck into it
A cursed fox came under the tree
Because she smelled that aged brie.
She wants to eat it for herself
”Good day to thee, my oldest friend
Your comeliness over all birds is king
With feathers white, but if you can sing
The same, undisputed will be your reign”
So the raven opened his beak to croak
Down fell the cheese into the fox’s throat:
And then she said
”You stupid git
The ones who flatter
Always want to steal your feed
And for that matter, Sir, helped thee I did
Today, the advice I dispensed all in all
It’s worth more than the cheese I stole
Lady fox said and away she trotted
The raven smouldered
The raven in shame
Swore up and down
It would not get caught
By flattery again

In the second exercise we had to read the following newspaper article and answer the question: What were the two groups of people protesting about?

Urban fox lovers arrested in town hall clash

Four animal rights protesters were arrested yesterday following a violent exchange on the steps of the town hall. Angry residents clashed with hte protesters as they presented a petition to the mayor calling for urgent measures to be tajen to reduce the number of foxes living in our town. They claim they are a pest and a health hazard, as well as being a potential danger to pets and children. The four protesters, dressed in fox suits, attacked the residents, throwing rubbish at them. A fight broke out and one of the residents was taken to hospital with a broken nose. The four protesters were later released with no charges.

So it seems that there are a lot of wild foxes living within the town. The residents are angry with that because they consider the foxes are a potential health hazard and a danger to their pets and children. They protested on the steps of the town hall and wanted to give the mayor a written petition to take urgent measures.

Then there were another group of protesters. These are animal rights group ones. They protest to defend the foxes rights, among them, I presume, their right to live free within the town. The article does not mention what were they protesting about.

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