Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Punked by a "Cornell" Press Release

A taxidermied museum specimen.

It sounded like amazing news.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reported that the long thought extinct, Carolina Parakeet has been REDISCOVERED in Honduras.

Long believed to be extinct,--the Carolina Parakeet, North America's only member of the parrot family -- has been discovered in the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in the Mosquitia region of northeastern Honduras ... A full report is due to be Published in the journal Science in the April issue. The findings include multiple sightings of the long thought to be extinct parakeet as well as preliminary data collected from an male bird tracked through radio telemetry. The evidence was gathered during an intensive year-long search in the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve (RPBR) involving more than 50 experts and field biologists working together as part of the Parakeet Conservation Partnership, led by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy.

"The bird we currently have in captivity, the individuals we have seen in the wild and the male we are tracking through telemetry are absolutely the Carolina Parakeet" said Hubin Tubbs, the Science article's lead author. "We know from historical data that the Carolina Parakeet was migratory to this general region. There must have been individuals that did not migrate and they have formed a small but viable non-migratory population all this time."

A few more minutes of research, and I discovered the sad truth -- the whole thing was (is) an April Fool's Day joke.

Which would be fine, if the damn press release was not still up.

Which it is.

And perhaps this is not such a funny joke.

You see, Cornell was complicit in the Ivory Bill Woodpecker fiasco a few years ago.

The "rediscovery" of the Ivory Bill in Arkansas now appears to be either: 1) a hoax perpetrated by folks trying to preserve land along the White Water River, or; 2) a genuine misidentification due to what the New York Times has referred to as "faith based ornithology."

Either way, it was (and is) a black eye for the Cornell Ornithology Lab.

So where does the April 1st press release come from?

No clue. It is up on a "Google Docs" account, which should have been my first clue that there was a problem with the story.

A genuine Cornell logo and a few email addresses from The Nature Conservacy and Cornell, plus a very straight-forward presentation of the story, had me fooled, however.

It all sounded plausible, and I wanted to believe. And, truth be told, I did not look at the date on the press release.

Too bad it's just another chain-pull that rips a hole in the heart.

Thanks for that, whoever you are....


babysweet said...

I'm not positive... and I know you'll correct me if I'm wrong... ;O)

But I believe the second photo is of a Conure of some sort - Perhaps a Jenday?

The red around the eye is a bit flashy, but breeders have been accentuating this trait - however, the black beak is, well...

PBurns said...

I think you are right that the picture in the press release of a live animal is actually of a Jenday Conure.


PBurns said...

More on the fake news release here >>