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Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Fort Myers Beach is gearing up as the community rallies to keep the fireworks on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. The Lani Kai Island Resort is aiming to raise funds for the event with a Silent Auction and Luau Beach Party on May 15th that will mark the start of an annual fundraiser and beach party for the local community.

The Luau Beach Party kicks off at 12PM on Lani Kai’s beachfront with a Luau theme complete with Luau dance lessons, beach games for prizes and raffles throughout the day. A Luau wouldn’t be complete without Luau dancers. The Florida Everbabes, Florida Tarpon Reel Girls and Hooters girls have all volunteered to help teach the beach traditional islander dance styles. The Florida Tarpon Reel Girls and Everbabes are the cheerleaders responsible for half time shows and dance entertainment at sporting events across the country and have all volunteered to be present throughout the Luau and Silent Auction events.

“As a Reel Girl for the Tarpon Football Team, I am very excited to represent my local Home Town as a volunteer for the Lani Kai Resort Firework Fundraiser this Sunday May 15th.” Michelle Vieth responded when asked about the Luau Beach Party and Silent Auction. “I am looking forward to taking Pictures with all participants on the beach, as well as performing our Half Time Dance! I feel honored to a part this Special Event, and cannot wait to see how much money will be raised!”

The Fireworks Fundraiser Silent Auction runs from 2PM-6PM and includes dozens of donations to bid on including boat rentals, resort accommodations, fun items such as a giant wheel barrel of assorted alcohol and rare items like the double set of Red Bull Acoustic Guitars and a Budweiser branded beach cruiser. Silent Auctions are popular due to their ability to attract hundreds of people as bidders who aim to save big on lavish prizes. While many of these gifts and packages will be available to bidders with potentially huge discounts, some of the items at the Silent Auction are so rare they are not available for sale at any store online or offline.

“Out of all the Silent Auctions I have managed and assisted with, I have never witnessed such unique gifts being donated. The Red Bull guitars, Budweiser Beach Cruiser and other gifts like a full grill with grilling utensils are perfect for our Luau themed party and Silent Auction,” said Michael Ensor, Marketing Director for the Lani Kai..

“The business community coming together in Lee/Collier County is one of the most inspiring projects I have been a part of and I look forward to hosting a successful Auction and Luau Party for all," he added.

If going to a Silent Auction on the beach, participating in a great cause while winning some great prizes is your gig, then don’t miss this event! The first 100 bidders to browse the silent auction options will receive Swag Bags loaded with Free Drink Coupons, discount cards, and other gifts from dozens of businesses in Lee County. A complimentary glass of champagne will be provided to all that sign into the auction. Hors d'oeuvre will be passed out while bidders browse the assorted packages and cocktail service will be available as well.

Once bidders make their way through the Auction and collect their swag bags, they will then be invited to our Auction Cocktail Party where some of Fort Myers Beach’s famous drink cocktails will be on special for bidders only. To top off the Silent Auction, a pig roast will be held and available for tasting at the Auction Cocktail Party.

Although the City of Fort Myers Beach will no longer fund the fireworks, Lani Kai has taken a position along with other beach residents and business owners to ensure that the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve Fireworks are here to stay! Aloha, we hope to see you there!

Published in Outdoor

The National Park Service has decided to allow a Texas company to explore for oil and gas in the Big Cypress National Preserve, one of SW Florida’s most treasured outdoor areas...
Late last week, officials from the Park Service said that after a 20-month environmental review they concluded there would be no significant impact to allowing Burnett Oil Company to conduct a 110 square mile survey in the locally popular national preserve.
To complete the survey, Burnett says it will use sound waves from “sonic vibrators” mounted on trucks to create a three-dimensional map of potential oil and gas reserves.
The Park Service received a lot of feedback opposing the plan from those who feel it opens up the sensitive biosphere to ultimate drilling. In response, the Service said permission to conduct a survey is not tantamount to exploiting resources that might be found. They further said that even If Burnett Oil does “find energy resources it desires to pursue”, the company would then be required to submit a new plan of operations, requiring another environmental review.
Critics maintain that it is insincere to allow exploration if there is never any intent to drill in the Preserve and that because the land is home to flora and fauna unique to South Florida, it should never be exploited for resources. There are also those who point out that the Preserve is a natural watershed acting as a groundwater purifier and filter for southwest Florida’s aquifers and considering the current level of water woes facing SW Florida maintaining the land for recreational and public water sourcing would be the best management practice.
The Preserve has come under fire before for allowing recreational usages that damage the lands’ capacity to regenerate. In 1999, the Park Service noted that increased off road vehicle usage (ORV) was having a negative impact on the preserve. That prompted the National Park Service in 2001 to “proactively manage ORV recreation and to reduce 400 miles (640 km) of primary trails within the preserve, despite persistent calls for more from hunters and ORV enthusiasts.

OIL Map of Big Cypress Preserve











“ORV use in Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY) has impacted wildlife populations and habitats through modifications to water flow patterns (direction and velocity) and water quality, soil displacement and compaction, direct vegetation damage, disturbance to foraging individuals, and, ultimately, overall suitability of habitats for wildlife," concluded officials with the Park Service based on a 2001 study conducted by the United States Geological Survey,
Based on these conclusions, environmental groups opposed the announcement by park officials in 2006 that it would conduct a new study to determine whether the recreational benefit of increasing the number of trails would be worth the risk of additional damage to the ecosystem.

OIL An Egret in the Big Cypress National Preserve 1















According to Wikipedia and the Park Service website, “the preserve is considered the most biologically diverse region of the terrestrial Everglade. While dominated by a wet cypress forest, it is host to an array of flora and fauna, including mangroves, orchids, alligators, venomous snakes like the cottonmouth and eastern diamondback rattlesnake, a variety of birds, and the critically endangered Florida panther, along with the more common Florida black bear. The preserve is also home to nine federally listed endangered species including the West Indian manatee, the eastern indigo snake and the Florida Sandhill Crane
The preserve located in South Florida and is a popular destination for both Lee and Collier county tourists and locals. It is ideally situated for a leisurely day trip from either Fort Myers or Naples.

Published in Environment

If you've been to one of our local parades either on Fort Myers Beach, Naples or in downtown Fort Myers for the Edison Festival of Lights, then you have seen the Araba Motor Escort drill team doing their signature figure 8's, criss-crosses, circles, and other exciting maneuvers during the parade. This same motorcycle drill team makes its' home in Fort Myers at Araba Shrine Center on Hanson Street and is a perennial favorite with parade goers throughout Lee County.\

These daring riders from the City of Palms competed this past weekend in the Statewide Shrine contest taking first place in drill competition in addition to taking home the big trophy for Best Overall. The "travelling trophy" will reside with the Hanson Street Shriners for a year when it will again be up for grabs in next year's much anticipated competition when the local team will once again ride to win.

shrine1PHOTO: Tracy Davis

(L to R) Current Araba Potentate Illustrious Sir Ken Herald, Unit Colonel John Foor, Dave More, Fred Peterson, Bobby Mimmo, Past Potentate Mel Stiles, Gary Maning, Dodd Skipper, Jerry Abbott, Al Little, Jim Dennis, Drill Team Captain Ed Lawlar (trying to hide) & Nadine (Mom) Styles...Dan Lumley also on the Drill Team (not in photo)


Shriners have long been known for their charitable work, particularly with their well-respected children's hospitals and burn units. there are over 22 hospitals in North America alone and it is estimated that the cost to operate these medical facilities is in excess of a billion dollars annually.

Congratulations Araba Motor Escort Patrol for your victory & for being part of such a wonderful organization.

Published in General/Features

Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey circus open Conservation Center to preserve and study pachyderms for a possible human cancer cure.

The last 11 touring elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus arrived in central Florida on Friday where they were treated along with a group of journalists to a grand buffet
Stephen Payne, a circus spokesman, told members of the gathered press that the last 11 touring elephants have arrived at the Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida after performing their last shows in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. They join 29 others already retired on the 200-acre center after the circus decided last year it would stop using elephant acts after many areas of the U.S. passed ordinances outlawing the use of bull hooks or forbidding wild animal acts altogether.









The last 11 touring elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus arrived in central Florida on Friday where they were treated along with a group of journalists to a grand buffet.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is owned by Feld Entertainment. High level management, meeting with news media said the expensive of changing acts and procedures to meet the legal requirements of the 115 cities where the circus appears each year is monetarily “prohibitive” and makes organizing the tours of the three traveling circus’s it owns “too difficult.”
Until the retirement of the pachyderms, Feld maintained a herd of 40 Asian elephants, the largest in North America. The company says while it is retiring the animals from the ring, they will still be used in a breeding program and for cancer research.
Last Friday, as media gathered to watch and learn, 23 members of the herd dined on a buffet brunch of carrots, apples, celery, bread and copious quantities of hay.
All of the elephants but one are females. Smokey, the lone male, was neutered long ago making him amenable to living peaceably with the herd.
"Smokey does not have the aggressive tendencies," said Payne. He noted that bull elephants that have not been fixed are solitary, territorial and generally highly aggressive.
The old adage about elephants living long lives appears to be true since the oldest elephant in the herd – Mysore – is 70 and still going strong





Mysore, a 70 year old Asian female elephant recently retired from performing in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus will now live out her days in the Sunshine State near Orlando, Florida.


Elephants have long symbolized the circus and their presence under the big top goes back to 1882 when P.T. Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America. Taking the name and making a slight variation, Walt Disney created Dumbo, the most famous elephant in America. Known for being able to fly with gigantic ears it is still common to hear someone with big ears called “Dumbo.” Indeed, elephants have pervaded our popular culture and for many, their removal from the circus will be sorely missed.
According to circus “menagerie men:” or animal handlers, tigers, dogs,goats, and a Mongolian troupe of camel stunt riders will still be enjoyed by attendees who love to see animals in the acts.
Though animal rights activists will continue to object to the use of these animals by the circus, they see the retirement of the elephants as a big coup in the fight for animal rights. Citing the social nature and high intelligence of elephants, groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) point to the fact that “elephants are social in the wild and enjoy living in family-like environments.”
“Traveling around the country in crowded rail cars isolated from other members of the herd created an inhumane environment and caused depression in the animals,” PETA said.
The Associated Press explored a novel idea that some in the animal rights community mused might have been the impetus for the Feld family's decision to retire elephants from the show.
It was the backlash against the use of intelligent mammals in theater brought on by the documentary, “Blackfish,” a film that explored why the killer whale Tilikum killed Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.
The documentary was built around the premise that keeping killer whales in captivity makes them more aggressive to humans and to each other. It has been widely discussed and since the film was aired, noted entertainers have pulled out of performances at SeaWorld around the world and Southwest Airlines halted its co-marketing partnership with the parks.
The move to retirement has taken Feld less time than it thought when it announced in 2015 that it would retire the full herd to the Florida center by 2018. According to company officials, completion of the Center with its numerous building and offices, including brand new housing for the elephants, was completed two years ahead of schedule. Feld also told reporters that it costs roughly $65,000 a year for each elephant in the herd.

elephant center












The Center for Elephant Conservation is located in rural Polk City, between Orlando and Tampa. It is believed that Feld will eventually make some parts of the Center open to the public but details of those plans are being kept under wraps at the moment.
“Right now we just want to get the Center working well and see to it that the animals adjust to their new surroundings,’ said a company spokesman.
The battle to get the gentle giants out of the circus has been arduous and animal rights activists have long alleged that circuses have mistreated elephants.
One of the chief complaints by animal rights activists was the use of a curved stick called a bull hook which was used to get the massive pachyderms to move in the desired direction. Bull hooks became a familiar name after the movie “Water for Elephants” was released and a search of YouTube shows a number of clips allegedly showing trainers “abusing” the animals with the sticks to get their cooperation.
Trainers at the Conservation Center - one with a tattooed Dumbo on his arm - said that when used correctly the bull hook does not harm to elephants but does trainers safe from the massive and sometimes dangerous creatures.
"Do we use bull hooks? Yes, yes we do. It's the most humane and appropriate tool for working with large elephants. And that's just not our position. It's the position of the Department of Agriculture, our primary regulatory authority in the US. It's also the position of the American Veterinary Medical Association," Feld's Payne said. "The people who are trying to demonize this tool are doing it for political reasons and really don't know what it's like to take care of an elephant firsthand."

But despite a number of high profile legal actions, in the end none of them were successful in forcing Feld to retire the elephants. In fact, in 2014, Feld Entertainment won a $25.2 million settlement against a number of animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States. That case was fought in the courts for 14-years over allegations that Ringling circus employees mistreated the elephants in their care. Nevertheless, there are no public records that show Ringling Brothers ever lost a single suit.
But in the end, it wasn’t the lawsuits, it was the number and variety of local regulations that made Feld decide to create the Center and retire these icons of the Big Top.
"You can't leave the elephants at the border," Payne told us. "If City A had different regulations than City B that posed a problem. So rather than continue to fight all these regulations, we decided to make an even greater investment here at the Ringling Brothers Centre for Elephant Conservation to really put our money, our time, all our efforts to make sure this species is going to be around for future generations."
The endangered elephants, closest living relatives to the extinct mastodon, will now be both bred and studied by researchers and scientists.
Noting that there are just 35,000 elephants worldwide with 28,000 of them in North America and 40 of those now at now 40 at the Conservation Center, the company says it will breed them to preserve the species. Because they are endangered, they can be neither imported nor exported. Some will probably be donated or loaned to zoos, but “they will not be sold,” Payne says.
Ringling scientist Wendy Kiso and others will continue to breed the elephants, preserving a species that has fewer truly wild habitats in Asia. Sometimes breeding is done naturally as in a female is introduced to a male, but most of the breeding's done by artificial insemination.

Even in retirement, controversies remain. In a statement released by Ringling’s Janice Aria, PETA still objects to the chaining of elephants overnight and during meals but Aria says it keeps them from fighting and stealing each other’s food. Reporters were allowed to observe the elephants for most of an entire day and at no point did anyone observe and mistreatment. In fact, one reporter observed that the elephants seemed “content” and mostly just bent on cajoling a treat as they “eagerly” lined up at their enclosures at the end of the day for a scrub-down and meal.
The silver lining for both man and beast may lie in the use of elephants in another capacity – medical research. Scientists plan to begin conducting blood draws from the herd for use in medical testing.
"We're hoping that 55 million years of elephant evolution can teach us something about cancer," Payne said.
Pediatric cancer doctor Dr. Joshua Schiffman, of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute, will lead a team to study their blood for clues into how humans can improve their cancer resistance.
While elephants have approximately a 100 times the number of cells humans have meaning they should be 100 times more likely to develop cancer, they rarely do. Schiffman’s theorizes this is because humans have only two cancer-fighting P-53 genes, while elephants have 40.
"We know that the elephants themselves rarely develop cancer and we believe this is due to the extra copies of this P-53 gene that they have in all of the cells in their body," Schiffman elaborated.
"By studying their blood closely and understanding how this P-53 gene works, what we're trying to understand is: Can we one day synthesise, make our own elephant P-53 in the laboratory, load it up in some type of novel delivery system to use as a drug to treat cancer or maybe - just maybe one day in the future – prevent cancer, the way that these elephants almost never develop cancer themselves."
Though PETA and other groups also object to the medical testing Schiffman says he merely tests the blood Ringling trainers routinely take to monitor the elephants for disease (They are particularly susceptible to a raging form of the Herpes virus).
“If we can find a cure for cancer we have an obligation to do so and I can tell you with certainty the elephants are not harmed in any way,“ the Doctor said with certainty.
Many researchers feel confident that Schiffman’s research is valuable and that by studying elephant metabolism and cell structure they may find a way to protect people from one of mankind’s worst diseases.
Whether a cure for cancer is ever found or the elephants just get a long-deserved retirement, in the end, it was a moving experience for the visiting journalists who shared their brunch with 13 of the biggest mammals on earth. After the shared meal the gentle giants were moved to their new digs, where they could finally unpack their “trunks” and gather their vaunted memories to reflect on how they entertained the people of America for over a 134 years.

Published in General/Features

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