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Earth Matters

Scores of Deer Invade Suburbs of Wisconsin; Marine Biologist Starts Los Angeles Dolphin Project; Elephant Artwork Won't Sell For Peanuts

Aired February 27, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET


ANN KELLAN, GUEST HOST: This week on EARTH MATTERS, with not enough room on the range, the deer are playing in a brand-new home these days.


TOM DERSE, PORTAGE ALDERMAN: People were having deer enter the homes, breaking through windows, through doors.


KELLAN: Find out what's causing the invasion, and what some communities are doing to stop it.

Some unusual denizens have taken up residence in Los Angeles.


MADDALENA BEARZI, MARINE BIOLOGIST: I think that they have a really great life.


KELLAN: And a marine biologist has made it her mission to make sure their great life continues.

And, discover Dumboism.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Sort of the Picasso of pachyderms?

ALEX MELAMID, ARTIST: Something, you know, -- even better, I don't like Picasso too much.


KELLAN: Some of the world's biggest artists, literally, are displaying at a New York gallery.

These stories, and more, on this edition of EARTH MATTERS. Bambi moves to suburbia.

Hi. Welcome to EARTH MATTERS. I'm Ann Kellan. Natalie Pawelski is on assignment.

As urban sprawl eats up more forests and fields, white-tailed deer are learning to make themselves at home, in our yards, gardens, and playgrounds. And while it can be thrilling to see a deer from your front porch, it can also mean trouble.

Mary Pflum reports that more and more communities are turning to bullets to get rid of Bambi.


MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to Portage, Wisconsin, home to 8,698 people and more than 200 deer.

CHAD LEHMAN, PORTAGE RESIDENT: It's kind of like living in the country, but in town. It's not uncommon to see in the middle of the day or afternoon deer walking through your backyard or right on the front yard, and they're just all over the place.

PFLUM: The population is reflected by the community's deer-car accidents. More than 1,500 in 1998, and by airport activity. Watch this deer dash across Portage's runway, moments before a plane lands.

DERSE: People were having deer enter the homes, breaking through windows, through doors.

TRACY LEHMAN, PORTAGE RESIDENT: At night, they'll come up and eat all my roses. Sometimes, before we put the fence up, we'd have, what? Twenty, 30 deer in the back when we'd come home.

PFLUM: Desperate times call for desperate action, so say Portage officials. That's why this winter, for the second consecutive year, they've sent sharpshooters to downtown neighborhoods to exterminate deer.

RICKY LIEN, URBAN WILDLIFE MANAGER: There aren't many alternatives to killing them. There are no places in Wisconsin that we can really haul the deer to and release them into a wild area.

MAYOR BILL TIERNEY, PORTAGE, WISCONSIN: So we feel that in looking at all of the different alternatives, this was the best one for us.

PFLUM: More than 20 million white-tail deer roam the United States, many in urban areas. Hunting seasons can help, but not always. Mild winters have worsened the problem.

Cities looking for a quick economical solution in states ranging from Wisconsin to Virginia to Pennsylvania to Mississippi are turning to sharp shooters.

Critics are outraged. HEIDI PRESCOTT, FUND FOR ANIMALS: They are a smart species and it doesn't take, you know, too much effort to plant plants that deer don't like to eat, fence your area. There are a variety of solutions.

PFLUM: In Wisconsin, sharp-shooting works like this. State wildlife officials conduct an aerial survey to count the deer in a given city. If they deem the population too high, they grant a permit to shoot a specific number of deer within city limits.

(on camera): The sharpshooters of Portage work to get a clean shot of the deer using a couple of methods. First, bait. They'll use a pile of corn to attract the deer to a given location. And then, from a tree stand, they'll aim their guns downward and strive to shoot the deer's vital organs. With any luck, they'll down the deer with just one shot.

(voice-over): Urban hunting programs in other states use spotlights and nets. In most cases, carcasses are distributed to residents.

TIERNEY: Those deer are not going to waste. We're going to provide venison to people who enjoy venison.

PFLUM: Waste or no waste, Portage resident Dan Nett is concerned. He kills deer during hunting season, but questions off- season gun use in parks and woods where children play.

DAN NETT, PORTAGE RESIDENT: If a bullet goes through the deer, it could hit a stone in the ground, frozen ground, and ricochet. Anything could happen. It's hard to say.

PFLUM: Others say the program doesn't even work.

PRESCOTT: Removing a few deer from a population is only going to leave a niche which other deer will come in and fill. If there's available food and available habitat, you're going to get new deer in the area.

PFLUM: More effective, critics say, would be to outlaw the sale of deer feed. A lot of people use the item to lure deer into backyards for easy viewing. Portage resident Harold LeJeune says he doesn't need any feed to attract the animals to his yard. His landscape is sufficient. For him, sharpshooters in the woods behind his house are a yard-saving device.

HAROLD LEJEUNE, PORTAGE RESIDENT: This is one means that we have with removing deer is to control the population for their welfare as well as our welfare.

PFLUM: For residents like LeJeume, this kind of deer will remain a welcome sight in front yards. This kind, will not.

For CNN EARTH MATTERS, I'm Mary Pflum.

KELLAN: Coming up on EARTH MATTERS, tens of thousands march through the streets of San Juan to keep U.S. troops off a Puerto Rican island.

Also ahead, if you're tired of high gas prices, more hope on the horizon for a super efficient automobile.


KELLAN: Welcome back.

To bomb or not to bomb, that's the question regarding the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. On Monday, 85,000 protesters marched in San Juan to say no. The U.S. Navy recently got permission to resume military training and practice bombing on Vieques, despite the accidental bombing death of a Puerto Rican security guard and charges that the Navy is wrecking the island's ecosystem. Monday's demonstration was one of Puerto Rico's biggest in years. The protesters are angry about an agreement between Puerto Rico's governor and President Clinton, which allows the Navy to resume limited military exercises on Vieques until 2001, when the island's residents will vote on the issue.

Global warming may be happening faster than scientists expected. A new government report says 1999 was the fifth hottest year on record. That's surprising, because the La Nina weather system should have lowered temperatures. The report also says that since 1976, the Earth's surface temperature has warmed at the highest rate since the government started keeping such records in the mid 1800s. The report says if the current rate continues, over the next century the Earth will warm by about 3 degrees Celsius. That's nearly 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Weather scientists say climate change could cause a sea- level rise of up to three feet and trigger more severe storms and droughts.

One of the major causes of global warming is carbon dioxide from smokestacks and car tailpipes. But automakers are working on producing cars that will get upwards of 80 miles to a gallon of gas, making them easier on the environment and the pocketbook. The latest idea from Detroit came out this week.

Ed Garsten has the story.


ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the price of a gallon of gas at its highest level in years, wouldn't it be great if you could squeeze a lot more miles out of every gallon? Here's one approach to that problem: DamilerChrysler's ESX-3, an experimental car that the automaker claims could go 72 miles on a gallon of gas using both an electric motor and a diesel engine, a concept called mild hybrid, or mybrid.

JIM HOLDEN, PRESIDENT, DAIMLERCHRYSLER: We make no attempt to try to run the vehicle on the electric motor. We just, as I say, have enough electric power on board the vehicle to recapture breaking energy and to run the accessories with it, and to augment the engine.

GARSTEN: The ESX-3 is the result of what's called the Partnership For New Generation Vehicle, or PNGV. The partnership, between GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and the U.S. government, was created to develop a car that can travel 80 miles on a gallon of gas. Earlier this year, General Motors unveiled its versions: the Precept, which it says can meet the 80 mile a gallon goal, and Precept Two, a fuel-cell powered vehicle, which may surpass it.

HARRY PEARCE, GENERAL MOTORS: This vehicle is using the federal test schedule, composite fuel economy 108 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.

GARSTEN: Ford calls its PNGV car the Protege. Beyond engineering, the greatest challenge of bringing high mileage cars to market is the cost, up to $60,000 more than today's mid-priced Sedans. DaimlerChrysler says with the ESX-3, it has shaved that margin to just $7,500 for a total sticker price in the mid-30s,

For CNN EARTH MATTERS, I'm Ed Garsten.


KELLAN: Next on EARTH MATTERS, a desperate search for dozens of missing whales.

And later, art from the animal world.


KELLAN: This is calving season for right whales. But this year, as in recent years, there are almost no newborns in their nursery.

Natalie Pawelski reports scientists are scrambling to figure out why, and to find solutions to this troubling trend.


NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Off the Southeast coast of the United States, there should be dozens of northern right whales giving birth. But this year, for the third year in a row, most of the whales are missing.

CHRIS SLAY, RESEARCHER, NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM: Maybe it's something to do with the crazy weather we've had for the last several years. The El Nino, La Nina may be disturbing plankton production in the Northeast. It may be the whales are not able to find enough food to be reproductively fit.

PAWELSKI: This year, researchers have seen only one mother-calf pair. They're worried that that's not enough to keep the species, which now numbers fewer than 350, alive. Once, slow-moving right whales were hunted to near extinction. Now, even under the protection of the Endangered Species Act and other laws, humans are still their biggest threat.

SLAY: The primary human impact is shipping. These whales are run over by ships. Secondly, behind shipping would be fishing gear entanglement. PAWELSKI: In the air and on the seas, scientists are studying the animals, plotting their location, and taking skin samples to record their gender and health. In an effort to cut down on deaths, a monitoring system warns ships when right whales are in their calving grounds.

SLAY: The shipping industry, and the Navy, and the United States Coast Guard are well aware of the ship strike problem. I think we probably still have a ways to go with the fishermen in New England and the maritowns (ph) of Canada.

PAWELSKI: Over the last year, scientists have reported three right whales who most likely died from human causes, either hit by ships or tangled in fishing gear. With so many dying and so few being born, researchers say the most endangered whale species on Earth is barely holding on.

For CNN EARTH MATTERS, I'm Natalie Pawelski.


KELLAN: Killer whales as a species are not endangered, but one particular Orca was, earlier this week in Nagoya, Japan.

Terry Ozanich has that story.


TERRY OZANICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 16 1/2-foot whale took a wrong turn at the city's port and found himself stranded miles upstream after navigating the narrow Horikawa (ph) River. While onlookers cheered them on, rescue workers in boats tried to block the whale's path clinging metal poles. The sound is thought to repel whales -- anything to direct the whale back to sea.

Although they worked hard to save this whale, Japan has been lobbying hard for a resumption of commercial whaling which is banned internationally. Whale meat is considered a delicacy in Japan. Japan is allowed to kill a limited number of whales for scientific research. The meat from these kills can then be sold commercially.

As for the wayward whale, he's made his way back to sea, but the concern now is that he find his pod, or family group, which is considered crucial to survival.

For CNN EARTH MATTERS, I'm Terry Ozanich.


KELLAN: Another marine mammal has taken up residence in Los Angeles in recent years -- a whole group of them, in fact. And this week's "Solution Seeker is" trying to figure out why they're there and how to keep them alive.

Siobhan Darrow has more.


SIOBHAN DARROW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Italian marine biologist Maddalena Bearzi noticed dolphins in Santa Monica Bay a few years ago, she was surprised to find nobody could tell her anything about them. In fact, few Angelinos seemed to even know they're here.

BEARZI: I thought it was really weird in a city like L.A. nobody never really started a long-term study in this bay. People don't even know they can see dolphins from shore.

DARROW: So Bearzi decided to study the mammals and started the Los Angeles Dolphin Project. She, along with her husband and volunteer graduate students, go out at least once a week and track Los Angeles' resident dolphins.

ANDREA BACHMAN, RESEARCHER: They'll turn their heads and they're looking right at you, and so there's something that feels really -- like I feel like they're kind of studying us, too.

BEARZI: If you can get the calf with the mother.

DARROW: They've taken more than 15,000 photos of the dolphins, observing how they spend their days.

BEARZI: I think that they have a really great life, actually. They travel, they socialize, they feed, they rest.

DARROW: Bearzi has been surprised by just how social the dolphins are, often seeing them hanging out with other sea mammals.

As coastal creatures, the dolphins feel the impact of man, making them a barometer of sorts for the health of the bay. The project hopes to educate the public about threats to the animals by taking school children out for a first-hand look at the dolphins.

EHSAAN MESGHALI, STUDENT: It's important to know how we could help the environment in the Santa Monica Bay and how we influence it, especially all the animals in there.

DARROW: Introducing the next generation to their marine neighbors could be the key to the dolphins' survival.

For CNN EARTH MATTERS, I'm Siobhan Darrow.



KELLAN: Next week on EARTH MATTERS, the scenic Canadian rainforest has traditionally been a haven for bears, but now sources of food have become scarce and the forest has become a death zone. Bears desperate for something to eat are entering areas where people live with deadly consequences for the bears. We'll tell you what's causing the food shortage and what the future could hold, next week. Have you ever looked at a painting and thought a wild animal could do a better job? Well, in this week's "Parting Shot," some animals are getting the chance.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an art event even Tarzan would love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to take it seriously, but I'm glad I'm here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one reminds me of Chinese calligraphy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her brush strokes are worm-like.

MOOS: Faint praise you say? Not when the painters are elephants.

(on camera): You can kind of tell that these are by the same artist.

MELAMID: Yes, they have a very distinguished and very clear signature style.

MOOS (voice-over): Elephants have been painting for years at various North American zoos. Take Ruby...

MELAMID: She was the greatest painting elephant ever. She was making $100,000 a year for the Phoenix Zoo.

MOOS: But these are the works of elephants from India, Thailand and Bali.

MELAMID: He's a boy, you know, and he's really kind of aggressive.

MOOS: The human artists, known as Komar and Melamid, have set up three elephant art academies in Thailand. This is a beginner being coached by his handler.

The idea is to auction the art at Christie's next month. The money will go toward saving Asian elephants. Consider them starving artists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The strokes are very liquid and fluid.

MOOS (on camera): Can you believe we're talking about elephants like liquid and fluid?

(voice-over): Melamid says only about one in 10 elephants is willing to paint. They hold the brush itself or use a handle to make it easier to grasp with the trunk. The star of the show was Ganesh.

(on camera): He's sort of Picasso of the pachyderms.

MELAMID: Something, you know, even better. I don't like Picasso much.

MOOS (voice-over): Squint your eyes and you can almost mistake elephant art for a De Kooning -- the De Kooning is on the right -- or this piece by Ramona the elephant for a Franz Klein. Ramona's technique?

AMY DOUTHETT, ELEPHANT PROJECT COORDINATOR: She would do one stroke and then lift her brush off, step back and then go back and start in the same place where she had left off.

MOOS: The handlers tend to choose the colors. Elephants may even be color blind.

Mia Fineman is writing a book called "When Elephants Paint."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is sort of a watershed moment.

MOOS: A non-human species creating art. Some refer to the new movement as Dumboism.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You ought to be proud.


MOOS (on camera): Now what do you like about it?


MOOS: The what?


MOOS: Now you're getting a little carried away.

Do you think you paint better or the elephant?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Actually, I think the elephant.

MOOS: Elephant art wouldn't be complete without peanuts. But will the paintings sell for peanuts?

(on camera): Would you shell out for them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I had -- of course I would. Of course.

MOOS (voice-over): You call this an art gallery? We call it a peanut gallery.

For CNN EARTH MATTERS, I'm Jeanne Moos.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KELLAN: And that's all the time we have. Thanks for watching. Tune in again next week for another edition of EARTH MATTERS.



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