06 April 2009

Announcement of a False Discovery of the Extinct Carolina Parakeet a Mistake

[Carolina Parakeet]

An April 1st story prepared to show it was issued by Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy, announced the discovery of a local non-migratory species of the Carolina Parakeet in northern Honduras. The story, formatted as a news release from the university news service, gave details, even focused on genetics and made a case that a non-migratory flock had been discovered in central America. News of the discovery was reportedly going to be released in the journal Science.

It was a joke foisted on too many people on April Fool's Day.

The fool's of the day were not the people reading about the announcement on bird blogs, online news services, or had seen comments about the purported discovery on some bird discussion group.

There were thoughts that the Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) lived on, with excitement, wonder and hope implied in the views expressed with a perspective that perhaps this was another bit of surprising news of extinct species.

Cornell University and The Nature Discovery had previously announced, to great fanfare and media attention, the supposed existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the southeast United States, another species though to have been extinct.

The fool's of the day were the people that worked together to issue the parakeet story. They included pictures, one showing a fake example of a live bird (with the obvious wrong-type of beak), discussed DNA analysis and otherwise wove a tale of deceit. Aspects of a recovery plan were even given. Names for contacts were shown, with false email addresses provided!

Lore of the Carolina Parakeet has it's own profound legacy. One clue to the fallacy of the story, was stating that a migratory bunch in middle, tropical America had stayed put.

None of the known 150 or so historic records prior to 1880 show that this species was noted anywhere else but in the United States, so this was an obvious puzzlement.

Perhaps the two authorities given with the article, could provide a basis for this historic distribution, which perhaps was noted in the 1880s, or some time during the period before the species became extinct. But then, neither email worked. The Cornell University News Service, despite having been asked, could not provide an valid contact email-id for further information regarding the fake news.

Actual history is much more essential, instead of some words issued by a conspiracy to dupe people. In the first era of history, it was called a paroquet. LaSalle wrote about this species in those years about 1680. A number of men mentioned it during the 1750-1800, and their words convey reality as they saw it while exploring places of a growing country. Fiction was not the forte given by authors Gist, Carter, Heckewelder, Cresswell, Filson, Davis, and Collot.

The April 1st fiction included a photograph of a supposed live bird - named - though it was an altered view of a Jenday Conure. Some features matched, but birders focused on details noted errant features that would not have matched reality. Characteristics of the beak showed no similarities, though a quick glance might have sufficed to indicate the species lived on.

These are some examples of comments plucked from the world-wide perspective in reaction to the fake proclamation.

  • "See this exceptional news release from Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy:" - Ric Z.
  • "Someone pointed out that the referenced web site was an April Fools Joke. I didn't find it funny." - Al R.
  • "I sure hope it isn't an April Fool's joke." - Patty M.
  • "Well, I fell for it, I honestly did not know it was a joke" - Vicki B.

It was a disservice to bird enthusiast's that this fictional account, written with great attention to detail, was released to the public. It was a good bunch of fiction, but basically trash to people positively focused on birds and their conservation.

There shouldn't be any more fake stories issued regarding extinct species. History should not be trivialized by some creative writing effort by an anonymous writer, despite any weak attempt to put some spin of humor on the status of species and their history. It was basically wrong to announce the rediscovery of an extinct species. It seems the two organizations have a history for this type of grandstanding.

All foolishness aside, both Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy should issue an apologize for the April 1, 2009 article of fiction about the Carolina Parakeet.


The following information has been received from an official at Cornell University.

"The Carolina Parakeet story did not originate with any official Cornell agency, nor AFAIK from anyone at Cornell, nor from the Nature Conservancy. If you look at the URL you will see that the "news release" is not posted on a Cornell server. It is on Google Docs, where anyone could have placed it. There has been no such thing as "Cornell News Service" for the last five years; that's an old logo, and anyone at Cornell would have known that." - April 6, 2009

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who does that? What kind of sick mind does it take to make up crap like this? And what is the reward? These are the kind of people that have Munchausen syndrome. People disgust me.

don langdon said...

ridiculous, there is not one ounce of funny involved in discussing a species, like the Carolina Parakeet as a joke. Those of us who actually care about the fate of wildlife hang on to any hope and certainly do not need mockery to boost our enthusiasm

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