Fresh off vacation, playing catch-up ...
• Getting your name out there: The Cincinnati Zoo wants you to help name its four male tiger cubs.
With a birthday of March 21, the first litter of endangered Malayan tigers born at the zoo in eight years made their first public appearance last week. Officials say they're leaning toward names that reflect the southeast Asian heritage of the Malayan tiger. The cubs' parents are named Jalil and Hutan.
Whatever your suggestion, the contest stays open through Friday, July 17, chosen names will be announced July 24, and winners will get basic family zoo memberships valued at $84 - as well as the simple thrill of naming a tiger.
• Wedding barks: In cahoots with its 10th annual 'Today' Throws a Wedding contest - of which Madison native Nick Cordes and his fiance, Leigh Daniel, are this year's winners! - the Today Show has posted a multimedia showcase devoted to including pets in wedding parties.
Personally I don't know anyone who would consider this a good idea, considering how much time I've spent trying to get the dog to look at the camera as if he/she understands the significance of family portraits. But more power to you if you have a particularly photogenic pooch.
• Speaking of photogenic: Looking for a topic to help spark some unusual conversation? The Washington Post recently published a piece about the odds of not-so-cute endangered critters getting government funding and public attention. Believe it or not, there's still a genuine discrepancy; just one insect and no plants make the list of 50 best-funded species, already safely including salmon, trout, sea turtles, eagles and bears.
For that trend I'm tempted to point my finger at people like this guy, Rep. George Radanovich of California, who called the glassy-eyed smelt (pictured above) "a worthless little worm that needs to go the way of the dinosaur."
So how good-lookin' is not good-lookin' enough to occupy precious federal cash? Need a plant or animal look good on a T-shirt or brochure soliciting donations in order to qualify for funds? I think not, but what do your and yours think?
• A cautionary tale: Many of us read in horror last week the story of the 2-year-old strangled by a 8-foot-long pet Burmese python. The snake belonged to her mother's boyfriend, who did not have a permit for the exotic pet.
Little Shaunia Hare's was at least the 12th American death by python since 1980 - the fifth child, according to The Humane Society of the United States.
One of my favorite sources for quick overviews on timely topics is Poynter Online's Al's Morning Meeting. Subscribers get an e-mail every weekday morning highlighting a couple national news items and ideas on how to localize them. In cases of exotic pet ownership, knowledge really is power, so I'll divert the remainder of my commentary on young Shaunia's case to Al's daily posting.
-- Sandra M. Klepach, SKlepach@News-Herald.com