Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Dragons of Kangaroo Island

Here's a book I was delighted to find recently, the reasons for which appear farther down the page: The Dragons of Kangaroo Island (Tangara Publishing, Seattle, 2002), written and illustrated by Jacqueline Vickery Stanley.

Last summer, I visited the aquarium at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas and saw something I never knew existed. Sea Dragons.

They are some of the most fascinating creatures I've ever seen and I watched mesmerized as they floated ethereally in front of me. They are small and delicate in appearance, dispelling all monster-of-the-deep images their name might suggest.

The photo above I took is not too good, but check out the following video for some brilliant underwater scenes with these mythical-looking marine animals from the south coast of Australia.

This, of course, got me searching for books on sea dragons. Or any information about them I could find from any source. To my disappointment, there wasn't as much on the Web as I thought there might be and books were virtually nonexistent, except for children's stories.

But it was a children's book I came across one day recently while scouting for books around Houston. At a moment when sea dragons were the farthest thing from my mind, a nice, jacketed copy seemingly jumped out at me. And it was signed by the author-illustrator no less. I had not encountered this title during an online search months ago and, of course, I bought it.

The illustrations are appealing and accompany a story about being comfortable with who you are and the way you look. That alludes to the "plain" Weedy Sea Dragon wishing she could look like her "flashy" cousin, the Leafy Sea Dragon.

Personally, I prefer the look of the Weedy Sea Dragon featured in the video above. I find its features much more striking. And for striking photos of each, see the Leafy Sea Dragon on National Geographic's Photography page and the Weedy Sea Dragon on Club Marine Magazine's site, the preceding link for which also displays a Sea Dragon cover story issue with a good bit of information about these endangered species. The photos of the divers getting up close and personal are stunning.

The author does a good job, in the course of the story, introducing her readers to other marine life in the Sea Dragons' neighborhood, as well as the dangers and threats to their environment and existence. No surprise that humans are number one on the list. She also provides a Q&A at the end of the book to educate children (and adults) about how the Sea Dragons live and reproduce.

I was surprised to learn that the Australian author (Jacqui Stanley) also lives in the Houston area, at least part of the time. That might help explain why a signed copy landed in this Gulf Coast city, a corner of the world completely devoid of Sea Dragons. Most of the world, for that matter, is devoid of Sea Dragons. As the author informs us at the beginning of the book, the south coast of Australia, around Kangaroo Island, is where you'll have to go if you want to see a Sea Dragon in the wild.

And if you can't make it to Kangaroo Island, there are a number of aquariums around the world that have made a second home for these guys and an opportunity for humans to see up close one of the most amazing creatures on the planet.

Some aquariums in the United States, in addition to the Moody Gardens Aquarium in Galveston include, but are not limited to: The Georgia Aquarium, The Monterrey Bay Aquarium, Ripley's Aquarium, Myrtle Beach, The Florida Aquarium, The New England Aquarium, The Tennessee Aquarium, and The Birch Aquarium in San Diego.

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