Archive for Stories of Hope
www.guardian.co.uk 18th February 2011
In a surprising move, the Japanese government has recalled its whaling fleet in the Antarctic following confrontation with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The fleet was meant to stay out until the middle of March but the Japanese agriculture minister, Michihiko Kano, stated that the ships would be returning home ”to ensure the safety of lives, assets and our ships.” Sea Shepherd has made the annual voyage to the Antarctic with a selection of boats with which to harass the whaling fleet. Last year, one of the organisation’s boats, the Ady Gil, was rammed by one of the whaling boats but nobody was hurt. This year, increased resources allowed the conservationists to use a helicopter as well. Although the Japanese government has condemned Sea Shepherd as a terrorist organisation, the whaling industry in the country is not fairing well. Accusations of routine corruption and international pressure, combined with a lack of consumer interest (whale meat is sold on the open market despite the authorities claiming the whales are killed for scientific reasons), has battered the industry. Australia, one of the leading critics of Japan’s whaling practices, has welcomed the early return of the fleet. In 2010, it submitted a formal complaint with the International Court of Justice in the Hague to get the hunts banned. A decision is expected in 2013.
www.telegraph.co.uk 17th February 2011
The Prince of Wales has launched a new and innovative campaign to save the Red Squirrel in the UK. Since the introduction of the larger Grey Squirrel from North America in the late 1800s, the Red Squirrel population has been wiped out in many parts of Britain with just a few ‘strongholds’ of around 14,000 surviving in northern England (the total population of red squirrels in the British Isles number around 150,000 but most of these are in Scotland. Other large populations can be found on the Island of Wight, Brownsea Island, and Anglesey). Whereas previous attempts to protect the remaining Red Squirrels have focussed on keeping the Grey Squirrels separate from their smaller cousins, Prince Charles’ new campaign will prove more drastic. Pockets of Red Squirrel populations will be joined up by planting tree ‘corridors’ between them. Grey Squirrels, which currently number around 2.5 million, will be regulated in the surrounding area by an army of about 1,000 volunteers who will trap and kill them. Animal rights activists have spoken against such a move by claiming that killing the greys is not necessary. Their alternatives include vaccinating the greys from the pox, a disease that has proved fatal for the native reds, and better woodland management. The Prince also wants to see reds reintroduced to the English southwest.
The first international meeting of the world’s leaders, environment ministers and conservationists to discuss the importance of the marine environment is due to begin in the principality of Monaco, between France and Italy, on the 31st of March. Headed by HRH Prince Albert, the so-called Monaco Blue Initiative aims to persuade those-that-make-the-decisions of the importance of the world’s oceans and how marine conservation is not an economic hindrance. The setting of the summit could not be better. Squashed against the Mediterranean, Monaco borders the most intensively fished sea in the world and one that is in desperate need of more marine reserves. 35 ‘international key figures’ are due to attend the conference in Oceanographic Museum of Monaco and discuss two issues: the deep sea and the need to protect its biodiversity, and the role of large marine species as a keystone of marine ecosystems.
See the links above to keep updated on the debates.
www.independent.co.uk 4th February 2011
As the United Nations launches the international year of forests, a top official within the organisation has claimed that the global forest cover could actually start expanding in the next few years. The statement followed research carried out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, which revealed that in Asia and Europe forest cover has actually increased over the past decade. In Europe, forest cover has risen above the 1 billion hectare mark. In Asia, China, India, and South Korea have all been singled out for praise in their attempts to increase forested areas. China alone has announced it plans to increase its woodland from 120 million hectares to 200 million. However, due to widespread deforestation in African and South America, global forested area declined from 4.085 billion hectares in 2000 to 4.032 billion in 2010. Furthermore, the FAO study declared that much of the new forested areas had only ‘junk value’ in relation to their ability to absorb greenhouse gases. Overall, global deforestation rates have dropped considerably from 30 years ago when 50 million hectares were cut down each year. The figure now stands at around 5.2 million.
Don’t forget to tune into Channel 4 on Tuesday 11th January at 9PM for British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight. Hugh is leading a new campaign to make British fish supplies sustainable. His new program focusses on the incredibly wasteful manner in which target species are caught, usually with a high amount of ‘by-catch’ (other species), which are then thrown back into the sea dead. For fish in UK supermarkets, by-catch often includes turtles, dolphins, and sharks. The 3 part program continues over Wednesday and Thursday at the same time and includes other famous chefs such as Jamie Oliver. Greenpeace also feature in the program. If you are not able to watch it on TV, click here to be taken to Channel 4′s On Demand website where you can watch the programs retrospectively completely free!
www.guardian.co.uk 12th December 2010
A united effort by police forces in Cameroon, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic (CAR) has broken up a highly organised smuggling ring that transported endangered species abroad. Key dealers were arrested and hundreds of kilos of ivory, turtle shells, and animal skins seized. The effort was orchestrated by the Last Great Ape Organisation, a wild-life enforcement NGO, and signals a new step in cross-border cooperation on the subject of endangered species protection. In Cameroon, three dealers were arrested with 17 turtle shells and a 1,000 African grey parrots destined for Nigeria. A policeman was also arrested in suspicion of receiving bribes of £2,000. In Gabon, 16 dealers were arrested with 150 kg of ivory, worth about £90,000. It is thought to have been headed for China, the largest market for such products. It is the first time ivory dealers have been locked away in the country. In the CAR, 7 leopard skins, 2 lion skins, and over 30 kg of ivory were discovered and one dealer taken into custody. Wildlife preservation in central Africa has been difficult in the past due to poor legislation and weak enforcement. Corruption has also been a big problem with all four of the countries fairing poorly in Transparency International’s monitoring of corruption issues.
www.guardian.co.uk 8th December 2010
The fight to save the endangered mountain gorillas of central Africa seems to have paid off according to the latest consensus on the rare species compiled in March and April this year. The gorillas, which are spread across three national parks in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have surged in numbers rising from 380 in 2003 to 480 today (a rise of 26.3%). In total, the gorilla population of the 450-square-kilometre Virunga Massif within the three parks has risen at a rate of 3.7% annually. The recovery has been credited to the enormous effort to preserve the species. One key factor is the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) that has engaged local communities in more economically sustainable projects than poaching. These include bee-keeping for honey and hand-crafts for tourists. Another factor is the on-site presence of veterinarians who monitor gorilla groups for many hours a day thereby reducing the death by disease and infection from snares, which locals leave out for antelope. The vets also deter poachers. The director of the IGCP, Eugène Rutagarama, has claimed that the rise has mostly taken place in Rwanda where anti-poaching patrols have improved significantly since a restructuring of the country’s national parks. Thereafter, park rangers were better equipped and earned more money which increased productivity. Rangers in Rwanda currently remove about 1,500 traps a year.
www.independent.co.uk 7th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Scientists have perfected the art of animal deception by donning panda costumes when they take panda cubs born in captivity for medical examination, so that they do not get used to the human form before they are released into the wild. The first captive-bred pandas could be reintroduced within the next three years as part of a 15-year programme. This four-month-old cub was taken to be examined at the Wolong panda reserve in Sichuan province, south-west China, by a researcher in costume. The cub is among the first captive-bred pandas to be prepared for an independent life in the bamboo forests of Sichuan’s mountains – frequent contact with people could make it too tame. The authorities say that they have passed the threshold of 300 captive pandas thought to be necessary for an effective reintroduction programme. Many have been bred at the Chengdu research base of giant panda breeding, four hours’ drive from Wolong, where techniques such as artificial insemination, sperm freezing and twin swapping have increased the captive-breeding success rate. Critics have argued that captive breeding will be meaningless if the panda’s habitat is not better protected against human encroachment. Henry Nicholls, author of a new book on pandas, said yesterday in The Independent that reintroduction is an expensive “distraction” with marginal benefit. “Pandas’ success in captivity creates the illusion that everything could be all right: you could come away from seeing them there thinking ‘super, it will be OK’, whereas they struggle terribly in the wild because of habitat destruction,” he said.
www.independent.co.uk 6th December 2010
Numbers of captive pandas in China have risen above the critical 300 mark, allowing conservationists to begin releasing the bears into the wild. The success is due, in part, to an innovative breeding technique developed by Chinese scientists at the panda-breeding centre in Chengdu, Sichuan. Around 50% of panda births are twins but the mother invariably abandons one of the cubs. Experts at the centre have overcome this problem by incubating the abandoned cubs and swapping them with their sibling up to ten times a day. Apparently the mother panda cannot distinguish between the two and happily continues rearing the twins as if they were one. The centre, which is funded mostly by loaning pandas out to foreign zoos for a cost of $1 million a year, has been so successful in ensuring the survival of panda twins that almost all make it to adulthood. Other innovative action such as artificial insemination and careful study of the female panda’s ovulation cycle means that the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding alone will produce 140 cubs in 2010. Reintroduction of captive pandas is a contentious issue. The only previous attempt ended in disaster four years ago when a lone male was found dead, probably mauled by a rival. Panda habitats are also in peril due to ongoing human development. Much development goes ahead despite the designating of areas as conservation zones. Just 2,000 pandas survive in the wild due to poaching and habitat destruction.
The twin swapping technique has been captured on film by BBC2 in a documentary narrated by David Attenborough to be aired next week.
www.independent.co.uk 25th November 2010
Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio has travelled to Russia to attend the international tiger summit in St Petersburg. In the summit, he has joined up with the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to spearhead a last ditched effort to save the tiger. The summit is the first time world leaders have met purely to discuss the issue and talks will focus on a World Bank proposal to rescue the species. There are currently thought to be around 3,200 tigers left in the wild, down from 100,000 at the beginning of the last century. Mr DiCaprio pledged $1 million of his own money for tiger-saving initiatives and has recently finished a tour of Bhutan and Nepal’s tiger habitats. He is also a board member of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The summit has attracted most of the leaders of countries where tigers can be found, including Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. So far, $350 million has been promised for efforts to save tigers. However, conservationists fear that without any agreements over poaching and smuggling prevention the money would be pointless. The decline of tigers has been cause in a large part by the demand for tiger parts in traditional medicines in countries such as China.
www.latimes.com 20th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Forget healthcare reform, cap and trade, deficit reduction. For congressional stalemates, there’s no more evergreen a fight than whether to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Don’t expect it to get resolved next year. With the Republicans taking over the House, a new drilling bill is likely to get slightly more traction than an equally inevitable move to try to lock up the refuge as wilderness. But with the 50th anniversary of the refuge coming up next month, some of the nation’s biggest environmental groups hope to persuade President Obama to play a trump card, and designate the refuge as a national monument. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) headed a list of 25 senators in a letter backing full permanent protection for the refuge. “By being designated a national monument under the antiquities act, we believe that it would send an additional message to the Congress and to the public about the resource values of this area, and we hope that would help discourage future efforts to legislatively promote drilling in the refuge,” said Robert Dewey, vice president for government relations at the Defenders of Wildlife. But as usual, Alaska’s congressional delegation is forming a mighty wall aimed at holding off any new attempts to impose additional federal controls. The state’s Democratic senator, Mark Begich, downplayed talk of a monument and said new directional drilling technology can allow oil companies to access the petroleum reserves under the refuge from outside, without despoiling the wildlife-rich coastal plain.’
www.independent.co.uk 2nd November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘The world’s rarest snake has slithered back from the brink of extinction, with its numbers increasing 10-fold in the past 15 years, conservationists said today. Researchers found there were just 50 Antiguan racers (Alsophis antiguae) in 1995, all confined to the eight-hectare Great Bird Island, off the coast of Antigua in the Caribbean. The snake had been wiped out on mainland Antigua by the mongoose, a species from Asia which had been introduced by humans, while the species had been attacked by black rats which had colonised Great Bird Island. The harmless Antiguan racers were also killed by people. But work by conservationists in the past 15 years, including eradication of the rats from a dozen offshore islands, an education programme and reintroduction schemes, has boosted the population to more than 500 snakes. The range of the snake has increased to 63 hectares and other wildlife has also benefited, the conservation groups involved in the project said. Caribbean brown pelicans have increased from just two breeding pairs to more than 60 pairs on the first islands to be restored, rare white-crowned pigeons have increased from five pairs to more than 450 pairs and sea turtles and lizards have also been boosted by less predation of their eggs by the rats, the wildlife experts said. Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and Jersey-based Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust are among the groups involved in the project to help the Antiguan racer. Dr Jenny Daltry, senior conservation biologist at FFI, said: “I am proud we proved the pessimists wrong and turned the fortunes of this unique and endearing animal.” She said the dedication of local volunteers had been key in helping the snake. Natalya Lawrence, programme co-ordinator with the Environmental Awareness Group, another organisation involved in the Antiguan Racer Conservation Project, said: “Although the population of the racer has grown by leaps, we cannot stop now. “There is still a need for public awareness, continued monitoring and stronger laws to protect the snake and other endangered species on our islands.”‘
www.independent.co.uk 30th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘A historic deal to halt the mass extinction of species was finally agreed last night in what conservationists see as the most important international treaty aimed at preventing the collapse of the world’s wildlife. Delegates from more than 190 countries meeting in Nagoya, Japan, agreed at the 11th hour on an ambitious conservation programme to protect global biodiversity and the natural habitats that support the most threatened animals and plants. After 18 years of debate, two weeks of talks, and tense, last-minute bargaining, the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity agreed on 20 key “strategic goals” to be implemented by 2020 that should help to end the current mass extinction of species.’
Click here for more details.
e360.yale.edu 25th October 2010
Quoted from source:
‘The Pacific Island nation of Palau has announced the establishment of a 230,000-square-mile marine mammal sanctuary that will protect whales, dolphins, and the endangered dugong — a relative of the manatee — from hunting and fishing. Harry Fritz, Palau’s Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, announced the creation of the Mongolia-sized sanctuary at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. He said that the sanctuary will protect as many as 30 species of whales and dolphins that either breed inside Palau’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or travel through it. In addition to protecting the rare dugong, the sanctuary also will promote whale-watching tourism in Palau’s waters, Fritz said. Last year, Palau declared a sanctuary for sharks inside its EEZ in an effort to slow the booming global trade in shark fins, used in soups in China and Asia. The Convention on Biological Diversity has set a goal of preserving 10 percent of the world’s oceans as marine sanctuaries by 2012. Currently, only 1.17 percent of marine waters are protected, according to the Nature Conservancy.
www.latimes.com 24th October 2010
The first sea turtles to be rescued from Louisiana during BP’s disastrous oil spill have been returned this week is what is being seen as a milestone in the recovery effort of the region. 32 of the endangered turtles set sail from the Louisiana state marine lab to be set free 50 miles off the US coast. The rescuing of the turtles brought scientists and conservationists together in a remarkable alliance that has seen 14,000 hatchlings released off the Florida coast alone. Turtle eggs were collected by volunteers and shipped in climate controlled FedEx vans to the Kennedy Space Center where they were hatched. In Louisiana, hundreds of turtles found in oily waters were rescued and housed in the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans. The cost of this project alone is estimated to be around $750,000. One NOAA veterinarian stated that federal labour cost alone amounted to around $50,000 per turtle. The four species of turtle released off the Louisiana coast – Kemp’s ridley, hawksbill, loggerhead and green – have been micro-chipped for future monitoring. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster is the worst off-shore spill in history with 205 million gallons of oil pumping into the Gulf.
www.nationalgeographic.com 13th October 2010
A recent survey by the University of Columbia has discovered surprising insect diversity on Manhattan Island in New York City. 13 different species of ant alone meander the streets and seem to live in perfect harmony, not only between themselves, but with the concrete jungle around them. They range from the tiny Thief Ant, which steals food to feed ts colonies, to the ‘fiercely territorial’ Pavement Ant, which nests under cement. There are even foreign ants who live alongside the natives quite happily, probably being brought to the city through potted soil for gardens and parks. The Asian Nylanderia flavipes and the poisnous Asian Needle ant are examples of these. There seems to be a species of ant for every medium in the Big Apple, from the parks to the pavements and the trees to underground (where some species herd aphids much like humans care for cattle). The study’s leader Marko Pećarević predicted that further investigation could reveal further species of ants bringing the total to around 30. The idea of urban environments being suitable for wildlife is a new one and research is limited. Eric Lonsdorf, director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, has been interested in how species adapt to city life. For example, house ants living in cities set up larger colonies and have multiple queens.
www.bbc.co.uk 14th October 2010
Colombia’s mountain plains and Andean forests are under threat from agricultural expansion and chemical pollution. 400,000 hectares of woodland habitat are cut down per year by farming settlers as the region, previously too dangerous to cultivate due to the presence of FARC rebels, is pacified by the Colombian government. There is now very little of the Andes forest separating the mountain steppe, home to a fair few rare species, and the cultivated plains below. Conservationists fear that due to the lack of trees, the soil will lose its stability and dessication will set in over the coming decades. However, protection for the fragile environment may come from an unlikely source. A large conservation project is under way funded mostly by Bavaria, Colombia’s largest drinks company and a subsidiary of the mulitnational company SABMiller. The reason is simple. Bavaria needs clean water for its beer and the agriculture of the region is polluting the local water courses with fertilisers and pesticides. In exchange for education in more effective farming methods, the farmers give up a portion of their land bordering waterways so that native species can thrive again. Although some opponents to the scheme state that the farmers economic welfare is more important than species biodiversity and prosperity, Director of Nature Conservancy in Colombia Jose Yunis retorted that the farmers benefit also. Better farming methods increase the richness of the soil and produce more from less land. Also, planting trees prevents the soil from drying out and makes agriculture in the region more sustainable.
The first attempt to produce a comprehensive survey of marine life has been undertaken by the Census of Marine Life (COML). The project is a huge undertaking but already the Census, contributed to by 2,700 scientists and 540 scientific expeditions over 10 years, has catalogued 250,000 marine species, including 6,000 that are newly discovered. It has also been estimated that as many as three quarters of a million species are awaiting discovery in the world’s oceans although the census admitted that it ”could not reliably estimate the total number of species, the kinds of life, known and unknown, in the ocean”. Those species do not include microbes which could number in the hundreds of millions of types. As well as cataloguing species, the COML also recorded migratory routes, meeting places, birth places, and even areas where species go to die. All the data is compiled in an online database open to the public (click here to taken to iobis.org).
Despite the optimistic tone in most of the report, the COML also made some stark warnings. Phytoplankton, the base species for much of the ocean’s food ladder and an important source of oxygen for the planet, has experienced a marked drop in numbers in recent times. Furthermore, due to overfishing and pollution, the world’s marine life has been ‘devastated’ by human action leaving many species close to collapse.
e360.yale.edu 29th September 2010
Quoted from source:
‘Canada’s boreal forest stretches from British Columbia to Newfoundland, covering 2.2 million square miles, an area nearly 60 percent the size of the United States. Much of that forest is intact, making it — along with Russia’s northern forest and portions of the Amazon — one of three great tracts of forest on the globe. In recent years, however, industrial activity, including Alberta’s massive tar sands mines, has been nibbling away at the Canadian boreal forest. In an effort to preserve it, nine environmental groups and 21 forest products companies have signed the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which calls for a suspension of logging on 70 million acres of boreal forest and the introduction of improved logging practices on an additional 106 million acres. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Steven Kallick, director of the Pew Environmental Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign, which brokered the accord, explains that it is part of a much larger effort to fully protect 50 percent of Canada’s boreal forest from industrial development.’
Read the full interview here.
www.telegraph.co.uk 28th September 2010
Research over the past 30 years by a collection of international and governmental projects has refute some previous misconceptions about one of the world’s most recognisable animals. The panda is a reclusive creature and has a reputation for having a diet of bamboo and being pretty poor in reproduction. However, a group of biologists back in the 1980s discovered that panda droppings containing the remains of both Golden Monkeys and Musk Deer. The discovery highlighted how the famous black and white bear supplemented its otherwise highly restrictive diet of bamboo. Furthermore, when the panda genome was fully mapped out in 2009, it was discovered that the species held an irregularity in its genetic code that meant that they could not taste meat. This goes part of the way in explaining why the panda moved away from the more carnivorous diet they shared with most other bears towards a fibre rich bamboo one. Bamboo was also a prevalent plant in the pandas’ habitat making a diet based on it a worthwhile survival trait.
The poor reproductive reputation the pandas’ have gained over the years may have something to do with the fact that the females of the species are only fertile one or two days of the year. Despite this it has been proved that pandas are remarkably good at finding a mate in this short time frame. The males spray a remarkably informative scent around their territory that not only tells a female the age and sex of the doer, but also how strong he is and what position he maintains in the social hierarchy. It may even be able to tell where the male panda is at that moment. Such research is good news for conservationists. Combined with China’s dedication to preventing logging and enlarging national parks, as well as panda population numbers in captivity experiencing a boon in recent years (numbers are now up to around 300), ‘the prospects for its long-term survival are probably better than they have been at any point during the past 50 years.’
e360.yale.edu 27th September 2010
Quoted from source:
‘A coalition of European nations has established a series of protected areas in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean where fishing would be banned, the first network of protected zones outside of the territorial waters of individual states. At a meeting in Norway, the OSPAR Commission, a coalition of 15 governments in western Europe, targeted six ecologically sensitive areas — including seamounts and sections of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge — covering about 110,000 square miles (285,000 square kilometers). The areas are home to such critical species as whales, sharks, rays, and cold-water corals. Protective measures could include permanent fishing bans, restrictions on offshore drilling and mining, and even curbs on shipping. “This is a historic step,” said Erik Solheim, Norway’s Environment minister. “We will try to inspire other nations to do the same, like in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and other oceans.” The only other marine protected area in the high seas is a 31,000 square-mile reserve off Antarctica, but the zones created by the European states represent the first network of marine protected areas outside of territorial waters’.
www.nationalgeographic.com 24th September 2010
The endangered Florida Panthers have received a boost to their population numbers through last ditched attempts to save the sub-species by the US government. It had been estimated that due to declining populations and reduced habitat, the panthers would become extinct by the end of the 21st century. However, the introduction of eight female cougars from wild populations in Texas has seen the Florida Panther population triple to around a 100. The Florida Panther belongs to the cougar species which has a variety of different names across the Americas including mountain lion and puma. Because the offspring of the cougars and panthers are more genetically diverse (inbreeding in the Florida population had caused genetic defects such as heart problems), they are stronger and live longer. This has caused statistics on cub life expectancy to jump from 23 out of 29 Florida Panthers over the age of one dying to 22 out of 47 with the hybrid populations. The findings were recorded in the journal ‘Science’. Although the bold decision of mixing the genetically distinct populations paid off, its success has not solved the originally cause of the panthers decline. Elizabeth Flemming, a Florida representative to the non-profit organisation Defenders of Wildlife, said “now is the biggest challenge of all: We need to conserve existing habitat for these animals, as well as allow them to expand into some areas of their former range.” The group is working with local landowners to try and buy tracts of land to increase the panthers’ habitat.
www.telegraph.co.uk 22nd September 2010
The organisation Conservation International (CI) has launched a campaign to find ‘lost’ amphibians, i.e.: those species so rare that there have been no recent reported sightings. The project has only been running for a month and already the research teams have found three species of frog. The Omaniundu Reed Frog was only discovered 20 years ago but little has been done in the way of research on the species. Found in a remote tributary of the Congo River, the rediscovery of the frog highlights the rich biodiversity of the region, which is under threat from human development and logging. Across the Atlantic, the Cave Splayfoot Salamander was found in Mexico after disappearing for 60 years. Finally, a local scientist in the Ivory Coast stumbled across a Mount Nimba Reed Frog, which has not been seen in 40 years. Although the rediscovery of these three species is being hailed as a success by the CI, the lead scientist on the project, Dr. Robin Moore, has warned “these rediscovered animals are the lucky ones – many other species we have been looking for have probably gone for good.”
www.guardian.co.uk 17th September 2010
The latest report from the Convention of Biological Diversity has warned that without prompt action, many of the world’s ecosystems are at the point of no return and will collapse putting the livelihoods of many people at risk, as well as the general running of our planet. The report, the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, cited the principal causers of ecosystem destruction as ‘habitat change, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species, and climate change.’ In an article written for the Guardian newspaper, the actor Edward Norton has outlined how the USA must take the lead in any action to protect the world’s biodiversity. Without the backing of the world’s most powerful country, the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit happening this October in Japan to tackle this problem may well be doomed to failure.
Edward Norton is a UN goodwill ambassador for biodiversity. Read the rest of his article here.
e360.yale.edu 16th September 2010
Environmentalists and conservationists in Scotland have taken it upon themselves to restore the Scottish landscape back into its former splendour. In recent years the land has been taken over by agriculture and it has become monotonous compared to the days of the great Caledonian forest which used to stretch for 3.7 million hectares across the country. Today, barely one percent of this remains. The last wolf was killed in 1743, beavers went missing around 1600, boars around 1300, the lynx and brown bear 500 AD, and the European Elk (or Mongoose) died out before even the Romans. To restore the land by replanting woodland, the parties involved will have to deal with the still powerful landowners of Scotland. According to the book ‘Who Owns Scotland’, the country’s 19 million acres are owned by just 343 landowners. Even the two national parks are privately owned and subject to sheep grazing and forestation. The signs are good however. Environmental groups are buying up land to ‘rewild’ and beavers have been reintroduced. Also the Scottish parliament has restored the Scots ‘right-to-roam’ so any individual can go where they please. The largest ecological restoration project so far in Scotland is found at the glen of Carrifran.
Whipsnade Zoo, one of Europe’s largest wildlife conservation parks just North of London, has unveiled its latest addition. Ajang, a Greater One Horned Rhino whose name means ‘enormous’ in Nepalese, was born on the 31st August, but already weighs 13 stone (82kg) to a length of around 3ft. His mother, Behin, has already given birth to 3 year old Asha but Ajang is the first offspring for the Whipsnade’s male rhino Hugo who was brought from Poland. The zoo, as part of its dedication to conservation, takes an active part in protecting One Horned Rhinos in their native homeland of Nepal. Environmental degradation, poaching, and changing flora have all contributed to the rhino’s rapid population decline. There is hope on the horizon though. Nepal has announced the first birth of a rhino calf since the uprising not long ago which indicates the increasing stability of the region.
Click here to see video footage of Ajang.
Sources: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment 10th September 2010
Five years ago the most comprehensive book on English birds declared the Red-Backed Shrike (Lanius Collurio) “unlikely to breed here on a regular basis again”. Yet yesterday the bird that was declared extinct 18 years ago was back again after an intensive effort by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and several other conservationist organisations. The site of their reintroduction to the UK is a closely guarded secret and has 24 hour protection. Red-Backed Shrike, also called butcher birds, have held a prevalent place in British folklore due to their macabre method of storing food. After killing their prey (beetles, lizards, caterpillars, small mammals, and small birds) the butcher bird would proceed to store them in ‘larders’ by impaling them on the thorns of a bramble bush or a barbed wire fence. However, the population experienced a marked decline throughout the 20th century with the last known pair mating in 1992. Although nobody knows why the Red-Backed Shrike declined so rapidly it is generally accepted that ‘eggers’ (or egg collectors) played a major part.
Four men (3 with previous criminal convictions for egg stealing) have already been turned away from the protected RSPB site.
Sources: news.nationalgeographic.co.uk 8th September 2010
The Sierra Nevada Red Fox was thought to have disappeared from central California as a sighting has not been recorded since the 1990s. However, a recent study by the University of California has proven that saliva left on a ‘bait bag’ of chicken scraps supported the US Forest Service’s claim that it belonged to the threatened sub-species. The Sierra Nevada Fox is so rare that biologists have no idea how many there are in California nor why the population seems to be in decline. Limited data could be due to the fact that biological surveys concentrate on lower altitudes whereas the Sierra Nevada Red Fox prefers higher terrain.
Genetic research by the Canid Diversity and Conservation Unit of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of California has determined that the rare sub-species is descended from native Alaskan and Eastern US foxes which were introduced to the region in the 20th century. There is only one other pocket of the Sierra Nevada foxes and that is further North in the Lassen Peak region.