When Endangered Species Attack

What fieldwork has taught me: Contact with the natural world fills your soul with awe and reverence. Birds touch the transparency of the sky without fear of falling, trees heal tired minds and overburdened spirits, and “The waves, unashamed, In difference sweet, Play glad with the breezes.” You come to understand the sentiment that nature has “unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

Other times it’s more like this:

Get Facebook Group Feed via RSS

(Edit: As Jaedon notes in his comment below, this actually works for the pages of an organization, not proper Facebook groups. It still works for all the organizations listed below, but I should have been clearer. Thanks, Jaedon!)

In a previous post, I alluded to subscribing to a Facebook group’s feed via RSS. When a group updates its feed frequently, this trick ensures I don’t miss any posts (and keeps me off Facebook and actually doing work.) I just tentatively switched from the soon-to-be-obsolete Google Reader to Feedly, and I think I’ll mark the occasion with a short tutorial.

To illustrate, let me use as an example the Facebook group for biological anthropologists: BANDIT – Biological Anthropology Developing Investigators Troop. As a young monkey scientist, this new group’s posts are on my “must-read” list, making this a perfect case for RSS.

1. Super Easy Case Study

First navigate to the main page of BANDIT’s group and check out the URL:


See that number at the end? 270345732991556. That’s the group page’s ID. (If your group of choice doesn’t have a number in its URL, scroll on down to the second case study below.) Once you know your group ID, you can easily infer the URL of the group’s RSS feed. It’ll be something like this:


We just replace the GROUP_ID_HERE bit with the actually number, giving us:


Pop over to Feedly or your preferred RSS reader of choice, click on “add content” or “subscribe” or “add feed,” and paste in our shiny new URL.

There you have it! Now whenever content is added to the Facebook group feed, it’ll show up in my Feedly reader.

2. Slightly Harder but Still Quite Simple Case Study

Not all group URLs will have the group ID embedded in them, like BANDIT’s did. Check out the format of the URL for another Facebook group, I Fucking Love Science:


No group ID (or profanity) to be found. We do get the official name of the group though, which is “IFeakingLoveScience.” To translate group name to group ID number, we can navigate to a URL of this format:


Similar to before, we replace the GROUP_NAME_HERE bit with the group name, giving us:


Pop that URL in your browser and you get a bunch of info about the group, including the coveted group ID:

Now you can follow the same steps above. Insert the group ID, 367116489976035, into the RSS feed URL:


And add it to your RSS reader. Super easy!

3. Pre-Made RSS Feed URLs for the Lazy Biological Anthropologist

To get you started, here are a few Facebook groups’ URLs that might be useful for people whose interests are similar to mine.

  • Conservation International
  • Center for the Study of Human Origins
  • I Fucking Love Science
  • Leakey Foundation
  • NYU Anthropology Department
  • Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Wenner-Gren Foundation
  • WWF

If you’re feeling generous, leave a comment with any others you think might be handy. Happy reading!

(Here, by the way, is another succinct tutorial with similar information.)

Dickens on Gorillas

Henry Nicholls has written a recent book review in Nature on Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm by Monte Reel. In the review, he mentions that Charles Dickens wrote two articles about gorillas in the weekly magazine he edited in 1861.

Some Googling led me to the chapter “Dickens and Darwin” by George Levin in Bloom’s Modern Critical Views. Though Levin states Dickens “comfortably accepts the biological closeness of gorilla to man,” his quote from Dickens’ essay “Our Nearest Relation” in All the Year Round suggests some discomfort with the gorilla’s supposed brutishness:

Again and again it strikes the fancy—strikes deeper than the fancy—that the honey-making architectural bee, low down in the scale of life with its insignificant head, its little boneless body, and gauzy wing, is our type of industry and skill: while this apex in the pyramid of the brute creation, this near approach to the human form, what can it do? The great hands have no skill but to clutch and strangle; the complex brain is kindled by no divine spark; there amid the unwholesome luxuriance of a tropical forest, the creature can do nothing but pass its life in fierce sullen isolation—eat, drink, and die?

In the original article, Dickens again writes of other creatures more alike man in personality if not anatomy:

Men cannot help feeling a little ashamed of their cousin-german the Ape. His close yet grotesque and clumsy semblance of the human form is accompanied by no gleams of higher instinct. Our humble friend the dog, our patient fellow-laborer the horse, are nearer to us in this respect. The magnanimous and sagacious elephant, doomed though he be to all-fours, is godlike compared with this spitefully ferocious creature. Strangely enough, too, the most repulsive and ferocious of all apekind—the recently discovered gorilla—is, the comparative anatomist assures us, nearest to us of all: the most closely allied in structure to the human form.

Dickens was mistaken in naming the gorilla as “Our Closest Relation,” and—relying on embellished if not entirely fabricated accounts—was also a bit off on a few other points:

No wonder the lion skulks before this monster, and even the elephant is baffled by his malicious cunning, activity, and strength. The teeth indicate a vegetable diet, but the repast is sometimes varied with eggs, or a brood of young birds. The chief reason of his enmity to the elephant appears to be: not that it ever intentionally injures him, but merely that it shares his taste for certain favorite fruits. And when, from his watch-tower in the upper branches of a tree, he perceives the elephant helping himself to these delicacies, he steals along the bough, and, striking his sensitive proboscis a violent blow with the club with which he is almost always armed, drives off the startled giant, trumpeting shrilly with rage and pain.

I also enjoyed this just-so story for how the gorilla got his silver back:

By day, he sits on a bough, leaning his back against the trunk, owing to which habit elderly gorillas become rather bald in those regions.