I'm starting with a few shots of the deceptive beauty that is Greenfield Lake. As a Wilmington Watershed, it hides a dirty little secret.
These black waters are an aquatic cesspool, full of a toxic stew of elevated levels of Coliform Bacteria, industrial by-products like the ubiquitous PFAS/PFOAS (the most notorious being GENX) and even mercury washed out of our Carolina blue Skies from rains. Let’s not forget the Pesticides and Herbicides applied to those well-groomed lawns and golf courses that dot our region. Friday I accompanied lead NCSU researcher Dr. Scott Belcher and his team from SAFEwater-NC on an expedition to test alligators for the presence of these immune-altering chemicals in our targeted sentinel species. Alligators are at the top of the food chain in this environment ingesting the fish, birds and turtles that eat the smaller fish and frogs that consume, on down that food chain to the minnows and insect larvae and to even algae and Protozoans (one-celled organisms). I will use the more familiar term GENX to include the entire gamut of the thousands of these waste products that have been discharged into the mighty Cape Fear River (the source of our drinking water) from the DuPont/Chemours Plant upriver in Fayetteville, NC. Don't think that these chemicals are only affecting alligators. They are present in the bloodstreams of people living in our region. They are in crops irrigated by GENX laden waters from wells and our municipal water systems. They are in the fish caught from our river. These poisons are in everything we consume from this region. It is terrifying because our government is now allowing the Chemours Co. in the Netherlands to export their toxic wastes to plants in the US, including the one in Fayetteville, NC to "recycle" these wastes. That means not only is Chemours continuing to dump its own wastes into our precious water from its local operations, now it is importing wastes from overseas manufacturers. Yup. The root of this is money. Chemours is receiving millions of dollars to process (dump) these forever chemicals into OUR water source. Our government, fueled by corporate greed has turned a blind eye on this billion dollar industry which has been polluting our environment for 4 decades now. The time is past to call everyone who shares life in this region to stop this practice of profit over people. We need to band together. To stop fighting amongst ourselves and to realize we are all of the same species and we are the only ones who have the power to change this onslaught of pollution from Chemours/DuPont which is already proven to have changed the very DNA of the (my) alligators. Immune systems are designed to protect us from viruses and bacteria and even cancer. When immune systems are targeted on our own bodies it is called Autoimmunity and it is unfortunately a powerful foe. We are doomed by diseases like Lupus, Diabetes, Ulcerative Colitis, Thyroid disorders and even Cancers. I could go on and on. Do you know anyone who has any of these ailments I just listed? Well, our water is a big trigger for them all. Just like in "my" alligators these changes are occurring in humans who choose to live in the Cape Fear River region. We need to STOP it now before we become extinct as a species.
When alligators, which have survived for over two hundred million years, are succumbing to the ravages of Autoimmunity, we, as a much more delicate species to say the least, are surely doomed to extinction!
...How ironic that our own bodies are killing ourselves. Rant over. For now...
Thank you Gators from the Cape Fear River Basin for allowing NCSU’s own Dr. Scott Belcher and his team of dedicated researchers to draw a correlation between GENX contaminated waters upstream from Chemours and Autoimmunity. This is the first time Autoimmunity has been demonstrated in a Reptile - my favorite Reptile at that. Although an amazing discovery, it is NOT good. Our Wilmington alligators are sick. They have exponentially increased Interferon levels in their systems as compared to the gators from Lake Waccamaw (which are untouched by the Runoff from Chemours). Interferon is one of the generals in the Immunity Brigade. Unfortunately, this leader is crazily directing its forces against itself - catching itself in the crossfire so to speak. Basically, the Wilmington gators' immune systems are attacking themselves and showing signs of Lupus type illnesses, slowed wound healing and skin infections - Autoimmunity. I have seen firsthand Polypoid lesions on alligator skin, slick slimy grey appearing coverings on flesh and infected appearing longstanding wounds and gators generally in poor condition there. We all need to take heed of these findings before it's too late for us all. Alligators historically have had an ironclad immune system which allowed them to live untouched in stagnant, muddy tepid bacteria laden environments. This is no longer so for our study group of gators in Greenfield. Where will this end? We have to Stop Chemours before it kills us all. It's up to each and every one of us!!
Yes I know it's only September 30th but this is my Hello October post as I have quite the busy day tomorrow / That being said - Drum roll please ... My heart hasn't pounded like it did when I first spotted this Gator in a long time Ya'll! This guy is every bit of 10 feet and I'm calling him Goblin because he is One Spooky character!!
Although not as massive as my beloved Popeye Gator this dude commands respect. He is a river Gator, hence his ghastly but beautiful green coloration to his Scuted countenance. Luckily I didn't have my Shotgun Rider with me so I was able to follow him as he lazily cruised the waterway. Unfortunately this was my only encounter with this gem, as he and his smaller counterpart Ghoul both were labeled as Nuisance Gators and were relocated. Both Ghoul and Goblin were too interested in the crabbing operation going on @ the docks here. Such a shame...
When this Whale of a boathead Gator cocked his head to get another gander @ me my heart kicked it up even another notch!!
Whoa!! I hate I'll never see this guy again... Oh What an Experience though!!
If I had known this would have been my one and only visit with Goblin I would certainly have stayed longer. As it is, I am grateful for the miniscule amount of time that I spent with this Magnificent
Creature from another world. I could have watched all day as he sinuously wagged that powerful tail of his keeping himself afloat and in forward motion, surveying his kingdom like the Apex Predator
that he is, just like his Ancestors millions of years ago...
Saturday September 2nd will go down in Gatorpalooza history!! My dear friends Lisa and JC McNeill, Founders of Alligator Alliance, finally returned for a visit to our local favorite habitats to spot our Scaley Scuters and to clean up after TS Idalia! Luckily for us, surprisingly after the storm, most environments were pristine. We did our self- appointed job but mostly we simply communed with each other and nature. I'm starting my photographic journey with my old reliable Olive who sported her dragonfly adornment quite stylishly! Oh Happy Day for me as nothing makes me smile more than Dragons and Dragonflies ... Although we didn't see Popeye / Beau, we did finally see Jolene and a second interloper quite a distance off - shore. All told we saw 11 Gators Ya'll!!
Next up I present my little Froggy Gator who greeted us @ a second habitat. I have to admit this baby is probably my favorite gator presently. I don't know what Frog is wearing here but it was adorable. This boldly curious critter hung out with us for quite some time affording me a nice photo shoot!
We finally spotted the elusive Mojo but in my excitement attempting to get a better shot I was greeted with a resounding splash!!
Yesterday (8/31/23) we finished up phase 1 of our Venus Flytrap Rescue from the ditches of Boiling Spring Lakes threatened by the impending utility construction in the wake of yet another housing development. According to Tyler Gramley (Vice President of the North American Sarracenia Society), a handful of dedicated volunteers including Julie Moore of Venus Flytrap Champions, representatives from The Nature Conservancy, the NC Native Plant Society and Wild Meadow Farm NC, a few locals like me and with support from the city, we saved 1000 plants from destruction!! We actually welcomed the cooling showers raining down upon our backs and shoulders diffusing the high heat and humidity that encompassed us. Plants were relocated to a protected area owned by the city where they can remain undisturbed by the future progress. As we toiled side by side in my beloved ditches, delicately teasing out our quarry from intertangled roots and water, we each shared in that magical camaraderie of knowing we were actually making a difference.
I’m sending out a heartfelt thanks to Julie Moore for reminding me quite a while back how interconnected we all are as human beings, Venus Flytraps and alligators alike in that we all share this wondrous world of ours. Unfortunately we are the only ones who can fight to save this unique habitat and its denizens from extinction. Extinction is forever you all and I vow to protect what I love for the lofty long leaf pines to the terrestrial botanical oddities that line my ditches down to (and especially) the alligators submerged in their aquatic environments, lying in wait and watching, as they have for millions of years. Unlike my gators, we cannot just watch and wait. We have to move, now, in order to preserve and protect this remarkable planet for ourselves and for the future generations to come. Join me in this fight before we all are looking back saying we wish we had done something. This is my call to arms. Our only weapons - our love for what we each consider sacred and our perseverance in the cause. Join us or in whatever endeavor speaks to your heart. Make a difference!
To quote my mid-octogenarian husband Steve “It’ll do you good and help you too”!!
I don't post a lot of pics of myself but my dear friend Stephanie Bodmer got these and I have to say I am quite proud of them! The work is intense and a true labor of love ❤️ Thanks also Stephie for all
your work networking and organizing behind the scenes which helped immensely to make this all possible!!