©Bert Gildart: This past weekend California’s Borrego Springs hosted its popular Borrego Days, held annually– and did so by kicking off festivities with a spectacular airshow and a two-hour-long parade.
Everything was first-class but (and perhaps not surprising) the natural history component completely captured my attention. It was poignant, and featured a huge model of a bighorn ram surrounded by literally thousands of balloons. The combination presented a message about the effects of renegade balloons and their effect on wildlife, particularly on mountain sheep – and sometimes, too, on seals. Borrego, of course, means bighorn, so the inclusion seems particularly relevant.
ALL BALLOONS COLLECTED LOCALLY
Right up front it should be noted that all balloons based on the float were ones collected from surrounding mountains. To further dramatize the problem news reports tell about a biologist who removed enough balloons from one of the chambers of a bighorn’s stomach to fill a plastic bag. The effect of the balloons on wildlife is not pretty and is, in fact, generally lethal.
Like cows, bighorn sheep have four-chambered stomachs which serve to process food progressively. However, ingested balloons lodge in the stomach and stop further digestions, meaning the animal soon starves.
Sadly the balloon problem is a growing one, and to help sheep the California fish and game departments is attempting to educate the public using techniques as seen at Borrego Days. As well, the state of California has outlawed the use of party balloon in sensitive areas, and to emphasize their determination to preserve these magnificent animals the state now impose a $100 fine.
L TO R: Janie models hat (reflecting in mirror), which she says she must have; Lone Ranger strolls streets of Borrego; military aspects help kick off parade for this
small town’s annual festival of Borrego Days.
However, the damage has been done creating yet another problem with which wildlife must now contend.
ALL THIS PUTS A NEGATIVE SPIN on an event that was really joyous – and so as to not to end on an unpleasant note, I’ve included a few images that show other aspects of this grand parade. In total, the entire affair presented a small town in a good light, and not only did we learn about a local problem but we enjoyed the day as well.
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