A Dangerous Life – Graphic Novel Review

October 27th, 2014 by mongabay

By Gabriel Thoumi

A Dangerous Life is a graphic novel for young teens written by Sheila Hamanaka. It describes the story of an American girl – Amelia – and her life changing experiences when she witnesses an elephant slaughter in Kenya. The graphic novel  is a wonderful gift for any young person who is interested in conservation. The language and tone are appropriate for young adults while heartstrings will be pulled as Amelia learns to take action to prevent our ongoing elephant extinction epidemic.

A Dangerous Life is available free for teachers, and is a useful teaching tool to explain to students why individuals are slaughtering elephants – for their ivory, their hides, and the body parts. A Dangerous Life also explains elephant community structure, describing how elephants form lifelong families and deep relationships with each other—much like humans. It talks about how elephants raise their young, how they grow together, and how elephants grieve the deaths of community members.

For adults, A Dangerous Life is vivid, graphic reminder about how elephants are quickly becoming extinct – from 26 million elephants in Africa in 1800 to less than 700,000 African elephants and less than 32,000 Asian elephants today.

A Dangerous Life also tells us what young people can do now today to stop elephant extinction, including

  • Write letters to politicians asking them to ban ivory trade and sales.
  • Send rangers who protect elephants thank you cards and letters (these can be sent to the Animal Welfare Institute who will pass them on).
  • Send a letter to the local newspaper – both online and print – asking your community to ban ivory sales.
  • Tell classmates how great elephants are and how important it is to save them.
  • Ask financial institutions to not fund companies that support directly or indirectly ivory trade and sales.
  • If traveling to an area with elephants, be an “eco-tourist” to appreciate elephants, and thank rangers in person.
  • Never, ever buy, sell, or wear ivory.

A Dangerous Life is a splendid graphic novel that can be enjoyed by young adults everywhere as well as a great teaching tool.

How to order:

A Dangerous Life
Publisher:            Animal Welfare Institute and Kenya Wildlife Service
ISBN:                        9780938414810
Author:                   Sheila Hamanaka with Lisa Barile, Rosalie Knox, and Julie Lien

Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, Certified Ecologist, is a frequent contributor to Mongabay.com.

In Search of Lost Frogs: The Quest to Find the World’s Rarest Amphibians – book review

October 24th, 2014 by mongabay

By Gabriel Thoumi

In Search of Lost Frogs: The Quest to Find the World’s Rarest Amphibians describes the great quest to rediscover long-lost and presumed extinct frogs, toads, and salamanders not seen between 15 and 140 years ago. Since the turn of the millennium, over 250 amphibians have not been seen or recorded by science – many now presumed extinct – and it is estimated that over half of the Earth’s 7,000 amphibians are currently threatened with extinction.

By 2013, roughly 933 of the Earth’s 7,000 known species of amphibians were threatened with extinction. Many causes led to this extinction crisis, including habitat loss, deforestation and degradation, chemical dispersion, invasive plants and animals, degradation of the hydrologic cycle degradation, and global warming.  But few have proven as devastating to date as the chytrid fungus. Chytrid fungus, which leads to the highly-deadly skin disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians, may be partially responsible for over 100 amphibian extinctions since the 1970s.

After witnessing these trends first-hand, world renowned conservationist and nature photographer Dr. Robin Moore, with Conservation International and The Amphibian Survival Alliance, organized 33 teams globally in 19 countries on 5 continents in 2010 to search for evidence of 100 elusive frogs not seen in over a decade. Many of these amphibians were presumed extinct. By organizing communities and local conservationists to look for these “lost frogs,”—which also included salamanders and other amphibians—scientists could get a better sense of the current amphibian extinction tsunami, and maybe even save a few species before they vanished.. The new book, In Search of Lost Frogs: The Quest to Find the World’s Rarest Amphibians, tells this story.

This global effort led to the rediscovery of 40 frogs, toads, and amphibians not seen in over ten years. Notable rediscoveries include the Anamalai Dot-Frog – last seen in 1937 – and the Chalazodes Bubble-nest Frog – last seen in 1874. In the Chocó forest of Colombia, new species were also discovered, making Time Magazine’s top ten new species list in 2010.

In Search of Lost Frogs: The Quest to Find the World’s Rarest Amphibians you will learn about valiant efforts to save Earth’s most threatened amphibians in some the most dangerous places on Earth. Startling success stories will keep you in suspense while dramatic failures will inspire you to protect all of Earth’s species. Peppered with gorgeous photos by Moore, the book is a gritty, determined, realistic, and, at times, even hopeful story that is a must read for all of us who want to protect species on Earth.

How to order:

In Search of Lost Frogs: The Quest to Find the World’s Rarest Amphibians
Publisher:            A Firefly Book
ISBN:                        1770854649
Author:                   Robin Moore

Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, Certified Ecologist, is a frequent contributor to Mongabay.com.

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide – book review

October 22nd, 2014 by mongabay

By Gabriel Thoumi

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide IS the ultimate guide to penguins. With more than 400 pictures detailing all 18 penguin species on Earth, this book will educate and delight you. While it is a bona fide bird book, Penguins: The Ultimate Guide is also a beautiful coffee table book that would make a great gift for any wildlife lover.

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide will provide you with interesting facts about penguins, details about their natural history and evolution, approaches to their conservation as well as information on the impacts of climate change on their populations. While we often think we know a lot about penguins because of how often they are anthropomorphized and employed in the media, we really understand very little about most penguin species. This is because most of their lives are lived in remote locations and often underwater.

For example, did you know that….

  • The Gentoo Penguin can swim up to 22.3 miles per hour?
  • All penguins have barbs inside their mouths that allow them to hold onto slippery pray easily?
  • Penguins actually have long legs that are hidden underneath their feathers?
  • Penguins experience a catastrophic molt every year so they can replace all their feathers at once?
  • Penguins have nictitating membranes that serve as underwater googles allowing them unprecedented sight underwater?
  • Penguins preen gland secretes an oil that acts as a waterproofing agent?
  • Because they cannot fly, even the smallest amounts of petroleum will kill penguins by destroying the waterproofing on their feathers?
  • Avian cholera and avian pox and other pathogens can decimate penguin populations?

In many ways, as polar bears are the canaries of the Arctic demonstrating climate change’s awful impacts, penguins are canaries of the southern latitudes also demonstrating the catastrophic changes caused by climate change on Earth.

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide  is simply inspiring.

How to order:

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide

Publisher:            Princeton University Press
ISBN:                        9780691162997
Author:                   Tui De Roy, Mark Jones & Julie Cornthwaite

Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, Certified Ecologist, is a frequent contributor to Mongabay.com.

Reporter’s Journal: A story sans words

October 10th, 2014 by mongabay

Special Reporting Initiatives photographer Dominic Bracco II tries to capture the aquaculture scene at Liangzi Lake.  A local fishfarmer attempts to capture his own view.  Dominic’s photos will appear with Erik Vance’s reporting on the demand for sustainable fisheries products in China.

Photo credit: Shouqi Xie

Reporter’s Journal: It isn’t a beluga

September 30th, 2014 by mongabay

Special Reporting Initiatives Fellow Erik Vance gets up close and personal with a finless porpoise housed at Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan, China.  Vance and his colleague, photographer Dominic Bracco II, are reporting on the market for sustainable fisheries in China.

Photo credit: Shouqi Xie

An armadillo the size of a golf ball

September 26th, 2014 by mongabay

Rica just after birth. She was born the mere size of a golf ball. Photo courtesy of the Edinburgh Zoo.

Meet Rica, the baby three-banded armadillo.  Rica is a tiny new arrival at the Edinburgh Zoo born on August 24th and weighing in at just 81g or roughly the size of a golf ball.  She was born to proud parents Rio and Rodar who only arrived at the zoo in March of 2014.

“This is the first birth of any armadillo species at Edinburgh Zoo and it is amazing how quickly little Rica is growing up! She is just amazing to watch; always full of energy and scurrying about her surroundings like a perfectly formed miniature of a fully grown three banded armadillo,”  Gareth Bennett, Senior Presentations Keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said in a statement. “For her first few weeks she could not quite roll up into a perfect ball because of her huge claws and softer, smaller shell, but she has now grown into her shell and can quickly pack herself into the tightly sealed ball which adult three banded armadillos are known for.”

Little Rica, along with her parents, is certainly an ambassador for some very noble conservation work supported by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in the Brazilian Pantanal. The Giant Armadillo Project, lead by conservation biologist Dr Arnaud Desbiez, aims to establish the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos in the Brazilian Pantanal wetland.  Mongabay has covered the work of Dr. Desbiez and The Giant Armadillo Project in the past, including a touching piece on the caring maternal nature of the species and the first photos of a baby giant armadillo.

Both the three-banded and giant armadillo are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, with ongoing exploitation and habitat loss and degradation as reasons for their decline.

Showing her true size. Photo courtesy of the Edinburgh Zoo.

Getting closer on her roll. Photo courtesy of the Edinburgh Zoo.

Rica and her mom. Photo courtesy of the Edinburgh Zoo.


Blue whale population rebounds after whaling ban

September 7th, 2014 by Rhett Butler

North Pacific Blue Whale. Photo courtesy of Gilpatrick/Lynn/NOAA

  • The population of blue whales in the Eastern Pacific has recovered to 97 percent of historic levels after whaling was banned more than 40 years ago.
  • Researchers from the University of Washington used whale songs to estimate the current population in the Eastern Pacific — one of two Pacific populations — at 2,200 individuals.
  • The authors warn that an increase in ship traffic could present a risk to California blue whales.

More: California blue whales recover to historical levels

Scientists propose using lasers to map rainforests

September 6th, 2014 by Rhett Butler

Forest map in the Peruvian Amazon developed from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane-based platform that uses advanced LiDAR to measure forest carbon values and other properties. Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science

  • A new Carbon Balance and Management paper argues that mapping the world’s tropical forests with a fleet of airplanes outfitted with advanced lasers, known as LiDAR, could rapidly and accurately assess global forest carbon stocks for $250 million, or less than the cost of a typical Earth observation satellite mission.
  • The paper says the system could be used to provide a baseline for REDD+, a program that aims to compensate tropical countries for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
  • LiDAR would be faster and cheaper than current ground-based approaches and more accurate than satellite-based systems.

More: World’s rainforests could be mapped in 3D at high resolution by 2020 for under $250M

Wildlife of the Caribbean– book review

August 8th, 2014 by mongabay

By Gabriel Thoumi

Cover art. Courtesy of Princeton University Press.

Wildlife of the Caribbean is the only book of its kind. It is a comprehensive guide to the fauna and flora of the Caribbean Islands, containing color images on a broad range of animals and plants including birds, mammals, plants, seashells, fish, turtles, cetaceans, and others.

The primary goal of the Wildlife of the Caribbean is to promote an interest and knowledge by locals and tourists in the natural environment of the Caribbean. The book is written for novices with little experience in fauna and flora identification. Written by two renowned and successful Caribbean conservationists, and building on their previously well-received guidebook, Birds of the West Indies, Herbert A. Raffaele and James W. Wiley’s Wildlife of the Caribbean is resounding success.

Wildlife of the Caribbean has over 600 color images describing 451 species. It is clear with simple descriptions and its pocketbook size makes it ideal for hiking Caribbean mountains and beaches, easily fitting into a handbag or backpack.

As a frequent traveler to the Caribbean for work, I only wish Raffaele’s and Wiley’s book had been published a few years ago as I would have used this book on my trips. It is a great find, and a much-needed quality addition to any naturalist’s library.

How to order:
Wildlife of the Caribbean
Publisher:            Princeton University Press
ISBN:                        9781400851690
Authors:                Herbert A. Raffaele and James W. Wiley

Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, Certified Ecologist, is a frequent contributor to Mongabay.com. 


Reporter’s Journal: Bomb Harvest

August 6th, 2014 by mongabay

Photo copyright (c) 2014 Melati Kaye.

Porters sort and tally a week’s worth of landings from a bomb fishing crew before carrying the catch to the docks in Makassar, Indonesia. Each plastic basket is worth Rp. 100,000 ($8). The full tally for this boat was Rp. 18,800,000 or $1404. The porters get paid a percentage for shuttling the catch to shore and selling the fish to wholesale distributors in the city.

This photo was taken by Mongabay.org’s Special Reporting Initiatives fellow Melati Kaye, who is reporting on the state of the fishing industry in Indonesia.