“The Ocean Conservancy has run the numbers, and over the course of a single day in September 2012, more than 500,000 volunteers from across the globe collected 10 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways. The top three most common items collected were cigarettes and cigarette filters (2.1 million), food wrappers (1.1 million), and plastic beverage bottles (1 million).”
You can read the full article here:
The Brain Scoop: Episode 24
De-Extinction, Part II: Yes, no, maybe so?
Watch Part I where we discuss some of the science behind ‘de-extinction’.
This topic isn’t quite as black-and-white as explained in the videos - we have no way of knowing what would happen should we bring back large populations of these animals, but it’s not even certain that would be the case. The technology required to ‘de-extinct’ a species could hold the answer in ongoing conservation efforts. Bringing back a species like the gastric brooding frog could provide valuable insights into how species reproduce, and it’s impossible to say how that information could influence how we think about animal behavior and physiology, or even species conservation in the future.
Without museums like ours, we would not even be able to entertain the notion of bringing back extinct species. Museums act not only as physical repositories but genetic ones as well. When a large sample size is needed to reconstruct the DNA of the extinct passenger pigeon, scientists and researchers turn to museum collections for tissue samples. It’s another example of how impossible it is to predict the use or need for a collection as research advances and new technology emerges.
There are a lot of positive and negative implications to pursuing the science behind de-extinction: if you have any input, reblog with comments and I’ll be sure to read them!
Depressing numbers, but very well done infographic.
Photograph: 2013 Whitley Awards
Drill baby drill! The fate of African biodiversity and the monkey you’ve never heard of
Commentary by: Zach Fitzner
Equatorial Guinea is not a country that stands very large in the American consciousness. In fact most Americans think you mean Papua New Guinea when you mention it or are simply baffled. When I left for Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea, I also knew almost nothing about the island, the nation, or the Bioko drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus poensis). The subspecies of drill is unique to Bioko Island and encountering them was an equally unique experience. I initially went to Bioko as a turtle research assistant but ended up falling in love with the entire ecosystem, especially the Bioko drills as I tagged along with drill researchers.
Bioko itself looks a bit like a bean; if the bean was 779 square miles, made out of dormant volcanoes, covered in lush rainforest and floating in the Atlantic off Africa’s west coast that is. The island is part of the Cameroonian line, a chain of dormant volcanoes extending west from the mainland. Ten thousand years ago rising sea levels cut off a peninsula, creating Bioko, which is the main island of Equatorial Guinea, a small Spanish-speaking nation in equatorial, western Africa. Bioko has a population of about 260,000 spread throughout some 26 cities arranged mostly near the coast.
But Bioko is also a refuge for wildlife, including seven species of monkey and eleven subspecies, hidden away in the rough interior of the island. Wildlife biodiversity and endemism (species found only on the island) are high because Bioko is in the tropics, and an island with a relatively low human population. The Bioko drill is arguably the island’s flagship species…
(read more: MongaBay) (photos: Drill Films)
“Chimpanzees don’t eat fish. They don’t even swim. But at Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, scientists have found that to save chimps, they must look underwater. That’s because here, everything—people, fish, water, forest, and chimps—is interconnected. Attempting to conserve the apes without accounting for the health of the fishery that provides food and income for local people would doom these efforts.
Today, fish supplies are dwindling, villages are growing fast and chimps are getting squeezed into smaller and smaller forests. Understanding these connections means understanding Lake Tanganyika. It is the second largest lake by volume in the world, and the longest. It contains an estimated 16 to 17 percent of the world’s freshwater supply.
The lake is rich in fish, and even if you’ve never been there, they might look oddly familiar: Many of the colorful fish that swim around American aquariums originated in Lake Tanganyika. More than 200 species are found nowhere else on earth.
“The fish communities have been isolated in this lake for millions of years,” says Colin Apse, senior freshwater conservation advisor for The Nature Conservancy. “It’s one of the last large lakes in the world that still has an intact aquatic ecosystem. It’s not dominated by non-native fish. Many biologists recognize it as an evolutionary laboratory with a really amazing set of species.”
And not only fish: the lake is home to mollusks, snails, crabs, shrimp and even jellyfish that you might expect to find in an ocean. “You can go snorkeling here and feel like you’re on a coral reef,” says Apse. But this is more than an underwater attraction. This amazing diversity provides food and jobs for literally hundreds of thousands of people. Fish from Lake Tanganyika provide one-third of the protein for people who live along the lake.
“Many people don’t realize how important freshwater fishes are as a protein source globally,” says Apse. “Often, freshwater fisheries are ignored until it’s too late. When people think of conservation in Africa, they often think of large, well-known mammals like rhinos and cheetahs. But if you look closely, you see that freshwater ecosystems are just as important, for people and for biodiversity. Especially here.” ” (read more).
(Source: The Nature Conservancy)
Surveying for rare animals in foreign forests is challenging. Doing it at night is a whole other level of difficult.
Follow along as researcher Mary Blair of the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation searches for pygmy and Bengal slow lorises in Vietnam.
Pictured: A Bengal slow loris, photographed in 2010 at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam // Nolan Bett
A manmade disaster was made even worse by nature Wednesday night, as asevere thunderstorm hit Mayflower, Arkansas spreading the Exxon Mobil oil spill to the yards of homes along the cove and the main body of Lake Conway. For nearly two weeks, Exxon has maintained that oil has not reached Lake Conway, despite clear evidence both from aerial video and on-the-ground guerrilla reporting that showed oil had spread throughout a cove and wetlands, which are connected through ground water and drainage culverts to the main body of the lake. Images captured Wednesday night should put any doubt to rest that the main body of Lake Conway is now contaminated with oil.
Citizen journalists, Jak and Lauren, reporting for Tar Sands Blockade, braved the severe weather Wednesday, which included hail, lighting and chance of tornados, to report on what was happening to the site of the oil spill.
MORE: at TreeHugger
Every single time oil spills, the companies responsible (often times with government assistance) try their damnedest to prevent media coverage of the disaster. But is saving face for one’s stockholders really that important when the health and lives of entire communities, regions, and ecosystems are at risk? Time and time again, the uneasy answer seems to be a resounding and silent, “yes.”
Is 10 Years in Jail Enough Hard Time for Murdering a Rhino?
In addition to a decade in prison, South Africa adds a $110,000 fine to convicted rhino killers.
by Maria Goodavage
Yesterday, January 29, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs upped the penalties for rhino poaching to something beyond a slap on the wrist. The maximum fine will increase to about $110,000, with prison time of up to ten years—double what it had been.
The ruling was an attempt to stem the horrific tide of poaching in order to get a rhino’s coveted horns. “The price of rhino horn is increasing exponentially, but the penalty is not,” Mike Knight, chairman of the Southern African Development Community Rhino Management Group, said in a Times Live article.
But even the increased penalties aren’t enough for contributing to the demise of a critically endangered species. The monetary payoff for rhino horns is exorbitant, and the new penalties would not likely dissuade would-be poachers…
(read more: TakePart.org) (photo: Nigel Pavitt/Getty)
Images of Ash the chimpanzee as a youngster by photographer Owen Booth
- photographs taken at Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre, Dorset, UK
“Ash is a female chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) who was born at the park on 13/09/05. Her mother, Cathy had a bad reaction to the birth control pill so we let her get pregnant. Mum Cathy cared for her for a week but the baby was slowly dehydrating, probably because she was not getting enough milk. On the 7th day Cathy finally rejected the upset infant. Luckily for Ash she was cared for by the Primate Care Staff, along with Rodders for the first year of her life. Now she lives with the rest of our chimpanzee nursery group” (Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre).
For more information about chimps, primate rescue and nature conservation see:
- Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre
- Wild Futures: Protecting Primates and Habitats Worldwide
- Fongoli Savanna Chimp Project and Neighbor Ape non-profit organization
- Primate Society of Great Britain
- The Nature Conservancy
- Ape Action Africa
- The Jane Goodall Institute
- The Primate Diaries
(Image source: owenbooth on Flickr)
Starving orangutans are being rescued from a forest after bulldozers destroyed their home. Among those saved from the brink of death were a pregnant female and a mother and baby who refused to let go of each other during the horrific ordeal. The orangutans were found clinging to the last few remaining trees when the Indonesian forest they were living in was bulldozed to make way for an palm oil plantation.
Here are some links for organizations that rescue orangutans or preserve lands for orangutans:
Picture: Caters News Agency (via Pictures of the day - Telegraph)
Got this in my email today:
We are elders of the Maasai from Tanzania, one of Africa’s oldest tribes. The government has just announced that it plans to kick thousands of our families off our lands so that wealthy tourists can use them to shoot lions and leopards.The evictions are to begin immediately.
Last year, when word first leaked about this plan, almost one million Avaaz members rallied to our aid. Your attention and the storm it created forced the government to deny the plan, and set them back months. But the President has waited for international attention to die down, and now he’s revived his plan to take our land. We need your help again, urgently.
President Kikwete may not care about us, but he has shown he’ll respond to global media and public pressure — to all of you! We may only have hours. Please stand with us to protect our land, our people and our world’s most majestic animals, and tell everyone before it is too late. This is our last hope:
Our people have lived off the land in Tanzania and Kenya for centuries. Our communities respect our fellow animals and protect and preserve the delicate ecosystem. But the government has for years sought to profit by giving rich princes and kings from the Middle East access to our land to kill. In 2009, when they tried to clear our land to make way for these hunting sprees, we resisted, and hundreds of us were arrested and beaten. Last year, rich princes shot at birds in trees from helicopters. This killing goes against everything in our culture.
Now the government has announced it will clear a huge swath of our land to make way for what it claims will be a wildlife corridor, but many suspect it’s just a ruse to give a foreign hunting corporation and the rich tourists it caters to easier access to shoot at majestic animals. The government claims this new arrangement is some sort of accommodation, but its effect on our people’s way of life will be disastrous. There are thousands of us who could have our lives uprooted, losing our homes, the land on which our animals graze, or both.
President Kikwete knows this deal would be controversial with Tanzania’s tourists - a critical source of national income - and does not want a big PR disaster. If we can urgently generate even more global outrage than we did before, and get the media writing about it, we know it can make him think twice. Stand with us now to call on Kikwete to stop the sell off:
This land grab could spell the end for the Maasai in this part of Tanzania and many of our community have said they would rather die than be forced from their homes. On behalf of our people and the animals who graze in these lands, please stand with us to change the mind of our President.
With hope and determination,
— The Maasai community of Ngorongoro District
- The Endorois people (also in Kenya) were removed from their sacred land in the 1970s under similar circumstances & for similar motives (the establishment of parks for colonial tourists.
PLEASE REBLOG THIS AND SPREAD THE WORD GUYS. Traditional cultures in East Africa have been getting completely trampled on by the government and barely anyone seems to know or care. And this loss of land isn’t just destroying their livelihood but their entire culture. These really are issues that could actually get some backing if people just freakin’ knew about them, so PLEASE SIGNAL BOOST!
HUGE SIGNAL BOOST.
I will not tolerate this bullshit…especially since I have extended family that are Massai. This isn’t right and they know it. I am so sick of African leaders forgetting their own people in order to appease the rich white tourists that most African countries have become reliant on to bring in revenue.
A close family friend is on the parliament of Kenya and was just posting about this on facebook the other day. He talks a lot about how the Massai are treated by the government and it is absolutely ridiculous. If anyone wants to learn a bit about the Massai people, he wrote a book, Facing the Lion, for the purpose of educating people about life growing up as a Massai
The first ever remote camera picture of a critically endangered Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), taken in the forest of Sabah in Malaysia. The WWF in Indonesia said it had found traces of the rhinos on Borneo, where the species was thought to have been extinct for some 20 years. The Sumatran rhino population has dropped 50% over the past two decades, and it is believed there are fewer than 200 left in the world.
(via: Guardian UK)
(Photo: Raymond Alfred/WWF/AFP/Getty Images)
- Getting rid of food deserts and making veganism more affordable for poor people
- Advocating for better working conditions for migrant workers and making their fruits and vegetables “cruelty free”
- Protesting and reforming the meat industry to keep it from harming workers and being less dangerous for consumpion
- Making organic food more affordable
- Giving grants to start vegan restaurants, soup kitchens, etc.
- Educating people on the nutrition of plants so people understand how to go vegan with their individual nutritional needs
- Funding community gardens
- Funding no-kill shelters (in fact, PETA is against no-kill shelters)
Things PETA is doing:
- degrading women and people of color
- renaming fish “sea kittens”
- throwing a hissy fit over Pokemon
“For the first time, the complete genomes of three separate populations of aye-ayes — a type of lemur — have been sequenced and analyzed in an effort to help guide conservation efforts. The results of the genome-sequence analyses will be published in an early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online during the week of March 25.
The team of scientists is led by George H. Perry, assistant professor of anthropology and biology at Penn State University; Webb Miller, professor of biology and of computer science and engineering at Penn State; and Edward Louis, director of conservation genetics at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and director of the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, NGO.
The aye-aye — a lemur that is found only on the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean — recently was re-classified as “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. “The aye-aye is one of the world’s most unusual and fascinating animals,” said Perry. “Aye-ayes use continuously growing incisors to gnaw through the bark of dead trees and then a long, thin, and flexible middle finger to extract insect larvae, filling the ecological niche of a woodpecker. Aye-ayes are nocturnal, solitary and have very low population densities, making them difficult to study and sample in the wild” (read more).
Read the original and previous research:
- Perry, G.H. et al. 2013. “Aye-aye population genomic analyses highlight an important center of endemism in northern Madagascar,” PNAS early edition, 2013; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211990110)
- Perry G.H. et al. 2011. “A Genome Sequence Resource for the Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), a Nocturnal Lemur from Madagascar,” Genome Biol Evol 4(2):126-35)
(Source: Science Daily)