1. Writing and Photography Contest Roundup—2/2/2012

    We just posted the winners of our Winter Parks and Weekly Worldwide writing and photography contests. Thanks so much to everyone who entered, we really enjoyed seeing and reading about your cold-weather explorations (even the hardcore snow kiting and ice climbing—brr). If our furry oracle is correct, we’ll be looking forward to at least six more weeks of the underappreciated, ethereal quiet beauty of parks in the winter.

    This week we’re running another Weekly Worldwide Contest with many new places added. You can see what’s close to you and enter here:
    • Writing 1st Place: $50 Contract
    • Photography 1st Place: $50 Contract
    • Deadline: February 8, 2012

    In the meantime, we’re busily judging the California Wine Contest and last week’s Weekly Worldwide and will make an announcement by 2/8/12.  Thanks so much for the great turnout!

  2. Close Encounters With Primates in the Wild

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    When our ancestors climbed down from the trees and set into motion an incessant wandering in search of greener pastures, most humans lost touch with our fellow primates. Perhaps this is why finding ourselves face to face with furry long-lost cousins can be so compelling. How could we not recognize ourselves in those faces, fingers, and familiar gestures? While homo sapiens sapiens has spread all over the rest of the earth, 90% of the world’s primate species live in tropical forests—fragile ecosystems that are hard to navigate without a prehensile tail or grippy toes, and which chainsaw-wielding bipeds seem hellbent on destroying. To get to the habitats where wild primates live often requires an arduous journey off the beaten path to remote national parks, reserves, or rehabilitation centers. Many of these places are learning how to save the forests by encouraging a new kind of sustainable tourism—one that makes conservation a more attractive option for local communities than poaching and slash-and-burn deforestation.

    Travelers unaccustomed to living with monkeys in their midst can get into some pretty entertaining trouble when the opportunity for contact arises. The animals often come out of neighboring forests and into tourist towns plying their furry wiles and foraging for easy snacks. A magical monkey moment can quickly morph from the mystical meeting of the minds depicted in Gorillas in the Mist to the menace of the Planet of the Apes. Sticking with more conservation-oriented protected areas will get you closer to the family groups and simian social clubs in their natural setting. Here they put the kibosh on full body contact and feeding the animals, but in return you get to observe the comings and goings, grooming, mating rituals, and general goofing off of non-captive primates. It’s far more entertaining and insightful than any reality TV—though strangely similar plot-wise, what with the nit picking, scuffles, primal screams, intense snuggling, and silly posturing.