COMMENTS: Mutts, Apes & Skeeters

All three newscasts offered us animal stories. CBS gave us the sentimental in its American Spirit series. Richard Schlesinger introduced us to the volunteers of Pilots-n-Paws, a general aviation service that ships dogs from southern animal shelters to adopting families in the northeast. Schlesinger loves to tell an animal story--this is his tenth since the spring of 2007.

ABC closed with the adventurous as Bob Woodruff trekked through the mud of the Bukit Tigapuluh forest on the island of Sumatra to find a rehabilitation camp for orangutans that have been displaced by commercial logging operations. The orange apes have to be taught to search for food in unfamiliar parts of the forest before being released into the wild. Otherwise they will starve.

NBC's animal was serious--the mosquito. This was the fourth part of A Perfect Storm, the network's travelogue series about the dire consequences of global warming. Ian Williams told us about millions being driven from their land by the rising waters of the Bangladesh Delta. Anne Thompson took us to coastal Peru, which is facing dehydration because Andean glaciers are melting. Martin Fletcher showed us the tribal violence in northern Kenya, as herders fight over drought-parched grazing land.

Now Ian Williams shows us how a wetter and warmer climate is increasing the range of the breed of the mosquito that transmits dengue fever. Researchers in Kuala Lumpur have found that warmer temperatures double the speed at which the virus develops in a mosquito. Furthermore, the hotter it is, the more frequently mosquitoes bite. Dengue used to be confined to southeast Asia. It is now in 100 nations and has recently resurfaced in Florida.


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