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Wildlife Whispers...

Up, Up...but not always away!

by Dee Walmsley, 
Clever's Nature Writer

Lift Off

Kids do it for fun at birthday parties. Merchants  use them as
advertising gimmicks. Our own government does it in celebration. At one time or another we may have all done it, ignorant of the consequences. I am talking about the release of helium balloons into the atmosphere. 

Question: How, one might ask, is that doing any harm?   

Answer: What goes up must eventually come down and the problem, is where those brightly colored balloons with their long dangly strings come down..

Air currents frequently float these helium-filled potential killers out to sea where they burst and enter the water. Hungry sea turtles, mistaking the floating balloon for a jelly fish, snap up the balloon, string and all. The turtles fill up on plastic bags and balloons, and then lacking nutrition, they starve to death. 

Turtles are not the only marine life affected by this simple toy. A young sperm whale was found dying from a balloon stuck in its stomach and three feet of purple ribbon wound throughout its intestines.

Balloons have been spotted as far out to sea as 200 miles, generally singly but clusters have also been sighted. Balloons released in Toronto in a 1981 Balloon race were found in Souris, Prince Edward Island, 1,392 km, Pictou, Nova Scotia, 1,352 km, Fuguay Varina, North Carolina, 933 km, and Saint ‑Eleuthere, Que., 909 km. away from the release site. These seemingly innocent party balloons are much hardier than we could ever imagine.

Question: Are there any alternatives to these helium-filled little killers? 

For the merchants, hand out balloons but let the kids have the fun of blowing them up. As for the other events, would not the release of thousands of lady bugs have a greater positive impact to our environment? Or think of the beauty and fun of releasing butterflies in celebration. Plant a tree, or visit a wood-lot. If the event involves children, have them make some pine cones stuffed with peanut butter and bird seed to take home to their backyards.

Why not give nature a hand? The next time you feel like celebrating, think of some environmentally-friendly ways to share your happiness with our earth, like freeing those little bugs to do what they like best ....eating up aphids.  

Contact Dee at dee74@shaw.ca. She'd love to hear from you.

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