November 14th, 2013 by mongabay
By Peter Essick
Our Beautiful, Fragile World: The Nature and Environmental Photographs of Peter Essick
Our Beautiful, Fragile World features a career-spanning look at the images of photojournalist Peter Essick taken while on assignment for National Geographic magazine. In this book, Essick showcases a diverse series of photographs from some of the most beautiful natural areas in the world and documents major contemporary environmental issues, such as climate change and nuclear waste.
Each photograph is accompanied by commentary on the design process of the image, Essick’s personal photographic experiences, and informative highlights from the research he completed for each story. Our Beautiful, Fragile World takes the reader on a journey around the globe, from the Oulanka National Park near the Arctic Circle in Finland to the Adelie penguin breeding grounds in Antarctica.
Our Beautiful, Fragile World will interest photographers of all skill levels. It carries an important message about conservation, and the photographs provide a compelling look at our environment that will resonate with people of all ages who care about the state of the natural world.
An excerpt from the text – The Boreal: A Great Forest Under Threat
The boreal forest is often referred to as Earth’s Green Crown. Tucked between the tundra to the north and the temperate zones to the south, the boreal region stretches across central Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, and a huge swath of Siberian Russia. I jumped at the chance to do a story about these beautiful forest landscapes and contemporary environmental issues.
Photo by Peter Essick.
For the coverage, I wanted to photograph the boreal forest in every season. Winter in Russia sounded like great material, so I flew to St. Petersburg in April of 1999 for a six-week trip. My guide, Max, and I hired a driver and headed north towards the forests of Karelia. The first day’s drive ended when we had a flat tire somewhere that I couldn’t find on my map. On the third day, we arrived at a Russian Strict Nature Preserve near the Finnish border.
The preserves are usually reserved for scientists and are not open to the public. Max was able to negotiate access and persuade a ranger to stay with us at a guesthouse in the preserve. I took many pictures during our stay, the best being one of a solitary man walking by in a snowstorm after being caught fishing illegally. Each night after photographing, the three of us would go into a sauna behind the house. After about a half an hour of sweating, Max and the ranger would jump out and roll around in the snow as I watched in disbelief.
In the Ural Mountains, we had to hire a Russian helicopter to fly into a remote valley in the Komi National Park. We planned to stay in a lodge for three days and then have the helicopter return for us. On the third day, there was a blinding snowstorm, the helicopter arrived anyway. During the flight out, Max panicked when he realized the pilot was flying almost blind. Fortunately, we landed safely and continued on our trip.
Next, I set out for Canada and Alaska in mid-summer. The distances are great, but I didn’t have to deal with the big language and cultural divides that I faced in Russia. Near Winnipeg in Manitoba, I took an aerial photo of a log yard of old-growth trees from the boreal forest. I later learned that the timber was being turned into pulp to make newsprint, a sad irony for me as a photojournalist.
I timed my trip to Sweden in the fall to photograph the autumn colors. The tree species of pine, spruce, and birch are all remarkably similar in the boreal forests around the globe. The deciduous birch trees’ leaves turn golden-yellow in the fall, and I found some nice colors at Färnebofjärden National Park on the southern edge of the boreal. In Swedish Lapland, I was driving down a remote dirt road when all of the sudden a large group of reindeer appeared and crossed the road. A Sami man was herding several hundred through the forest. Then, right in front of me, two of the reindeer started locking their horns. The males were so engrossed in their fight for mating rights that I was able to photograph them closely for several minutes.
Scientists now know that the boreal forest plays a key role in the future of climate change. Huge amounts of carbon and methane are locked up in the bogs and permafrost. If these greenhouse gases are released by global warming, the consequences are frightening.
November 7th, 2013 by mongabay
A 285 lbs baby Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), that is.
Max and his mom. Photo courtesy of Stefan Groeneveld / ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
Max was on his feet in just a few minutes and entertaining his keepers and elephant family with his independent and playful nature.
Max is now three weeks old and zookeeper Stefan Groeneveld said: “[He] has come on so much in just three weeks and is already showing an independent streak. He’ll happily leave his mum’s side to go and play in the paddock with the rest of the herd.”
Asian elephants are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and scientists estimate there are just 30,000 to 35,000 of these giants left in the wild, with major threats including habitat loss, forest degradation and fragmentation, and human-elephant conflict. ZSL and the Elephant Conservation Network (ECN) have been working in collaboration with the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand for years to address conflict, protecting swaths of forest and helping locals develop sustainable practices that allow the forest to remain intact.
Max enjoying his new home. Photo courtesy of Stefan Groeneveld / ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
October 31st, 2013 by mongabay
By Simon Bradley and Tammy Mildenstein
It’s Halloween time again, and around much of the world people are decorating with images of ghosts, vampires, witches, black cats, and, of course, bats.
For the superstitious, there may be nothing scarier than the flying foxes of the Philippines, whose 2-meter wingspans make them the largest bats in the world!
In keeping with a popular fear and mistrust of nocturnal animals, Philippine flying foxes (which are actually fruit bats) are associated with a rogue’s gallery of eerie spirits that haunt Philippine nights and minds. While entertaining and spine-tingling, the lingering power of these associations can present challenges for bat conservation, but can also open up opportunities for engaging with the public. Tammy Mildenstein of SOS – Save Our Species project Filipinos for Flying Foxes, describes some of the legends she has encountered in her time working to protect these creatures.
The evening departure of thousands of flying foxes overhead could send the superstitious running for cover. Credit Tammy Mildenstein, Filipinos For Flying Foxes
Perhaps, most closely resembling this magnificent bat is Manananggal whose legend mirrors the same distribution pattern throughout Southeast Asia as flying foxes. This “aswang” – a Filipino term for a variety of vampire-like creatures – is a woman by day, but transforms into a fearsome predator after dark. As families prepare to slumber, Manananggal’s torso detaches in the middle, while the upper half grows bat wings allowing her to fly through the night in search of her prey: unborn babies. According to the myth, Manananggal lands on the roof of a home and drops her long, needle-thin tongue into the belly of a pregnant woman in her sleep to feast. Grisly and chilling? Yes. True? Unlikely, but a great ice-breaker for talking about flying foxes and setting the record straight on the true cultural and economic value of flying foxes, according to Tammy Mildenstein. Flying foxes are fruit bats, she explains, they don’t feed on human blood much less unborn babies.
Indeed there are others in the menagerie of mythological and winged menaces – all seemingly drawing inspiration from the Philippines’ rich diversity of bat species. For example there is Tik-tik and Wak-wak – both similar to Manananggal, named respectively, for their “tik-tik” nocturnal calls and the “wak-wak” sound of their airy flapping wings, both of which are reminiscent of the sounds made by flying foxes in flight at night. Yet another is Tiyanak – a creature in the form of a human baby, but with fangs and sharp claws that flies away as a black bird. Capre and Tikbalang take on other animal forms, and are said to be found in fig trees at night with red reflective eyes just like fruit bats.
Meanwhile, aside from inspiration for scares at bedtime, scientific research has shown these amazing creatures are vital to human survival. As pollinators and seed dispersers, flying foxes for example, are essential for maintaining natural forests, often the only source of fresh water, air, and timber and non-timber forest products. Flying foxes are also known to pollinate hundreds of agriculturally important crops for the region, explains Mildenstein.
Ironically, being nocturnal it is flying foxes which can become easily stressed by diurnal human presence near their nest sites. That is why a central component of the Filipinos for Flying Foxes project is to establish six roost sanctuaries to boost species populations allowing the bats and local communities to live in harmony.
So the legends may live on, and keep a couple of kids awake at night, but maybe if Filipinos for Flying Foxes is successful, staying up past bedtime will be to marvel at the sight of the world’s largest bat taking to the sky as darkness falls….all around you! Mwuhahaha! Happy Halloween!
October 30th, 2013 by mongabay
By Eleanor Warren-Thomas
Ladybird, Amazon-style. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
The day begins at around 5 a.m., when the sounds of motorbikes revving, dogs barking, wood being chopped and shouting men start to permeate the room. I haven’t needed to set my alarm for weeks.
I am here to help run a project on Brazil nut harvesting from lowland rainforests in Madre de Dios, in the Peruvian Amazon. Brazil nut collection from these forests forms a huge part of many people’s livelihood in this area, and the project aims to improve knowledge about the variation in Brazil nut production, which changes among trees and between years for as-yet unknown reasons.
Brazil nut trees, known locally as castaña, take decades to mature and start producing nuts in the wild, so the majority of the productive trees in these concessions are enormous – at least a meter across at the base – and are some of the tallest trees in the forest. Brazil nut trees are protected by law, and in some areas they stand alone in areas cleared for pasture. In many other areas, they form part of standing intact forest within concessions owned by local people, who walk well-managed trails through the forest each year to collect the nuts by hand.
Today we are starting out from the only hospedaje in the little town of Alegria, and will travel about 20 km along a dirt road to visit a castañero who lives in his Brazil nut concession. My colleague and I load the rear pannier of the motorbike with two rucksacks full of tents, food and multiple pairs of socks. Calling in at our favorite breakfast spot, we find that there is ‘no quinoa in town’ so make do with sweet bread and strawberry yogurt from one of the grocery shops. Sitting outside the shop, we attract the attention of two kittens who attempt to scale our trousers, and a puppy who finds he doesn’t have the ability to climb, but is happy to make do with finishing off the yogurt pot.
Motorbike loaded and ready to go. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Squeezed onto the motorbike, we head along the tarmac road out of town, and turn off onto a red dirt road. After rain, these roads take on the texture of butter and are perilous for motorbikes, but today it is dry and fine. The morning is cool and the clouds are low, rubbing out the tops of trees and swirling across the road. We fly along the road and the plastic bag full of eggs and bread that I am clutching flaps madly in the wind. The road is full ofhazards – soft rivulets of mud, hidden bumps, the occasional wooden bridge – requiring expert driving.
The red road. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Forty minutes later we arrive, windblown, under an enormous mango tree dripping with fruit that guards the front of our host’s house. Set in a field of tough tropical grass are several wooden buildings that house grandparents, a daughter, a son and their spouses. Ducks and chickens roam about amongst the fallen fruit, and two dogs bark in cautious greeting. It is mango season here, and the soft thumps of fruits hitting the ground are frequent. We are invited into the kitchen, an airy building with a handmade thatched roof, where a neat three-ringed charcoal burner made of compacted mud is roaring. Two cups of hot “chapo” are handed to us as a welcome second breakfast – sweet plantain mashed with sugar and spices using a specially selected stem of a young “quillabordon” tree that naturally forms a whisk-like shape.
Under the mango tree. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
As the day starts to heat up, our 77-year-old host dons his canvas shoes, picks up his machete and leads us into the forest. We quickly leave the strong sun behind on the open road and enter a perfect green corridor as we follow a narrow logging road into the forest. The huge tire tracks have formed long-lasting puddles in the soft clay soil, that are filled with tadpoles. This part of the forest feels special – we walk for about half an hour without encountering any logged trees, and the forest seems particularly dark green. Hidden birds shout from all around us, and the soft mud reveals the presence of deer, peccary and agouti. The soft ground after rain tells all sort of secrets – in other forests we have seen fresh tapir tracks only hours old, and even ocelot prints.
Ocelot prints. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
We veer off the road onto a carefully cleared path, the ground cloaked in big brown leaves from the towering castaña trees. As we crunch along, I have the odd impression of being on a walk through an English woodland on a summer’s day, until my eye is caught by a 6-inch electric blue butterfly floating along the path. Blue morpho butterflies seem to be found everywhere here, often in what seem to be leks of male butterflies flashing their wings at each other in clearings and on paths.
Blue morpho butterfly wing. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
Brazil nut trees tower over us at regular intervals, some more than an arm-span in diameter and 40 meters high. The carefully maintained paths lead from tree to tree, each trunk cleaned of lianas and giving the appearance of columns holding up the green canopy. Piles of emptied “cocos” – the hard outer shells that contain sets of individual brazil nuts – lie at intervals along the paths, partially hidden under leaves and ready to twist the ankles of unwary walkers.
A castañero makes a temporary shelter from the rain. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
High-pitched squeaking from the trees betrays the presence of saddle-backed tamarins which peer inquisitively at us as we respond with our own squeaky noises. They seem reasonably confident around people despite the fact that they are often taken from the wild as pets here. In the past week howler monkeys, titi monkeys and spider monkeys have all also come within earshot, or even partially into view.
The presence of so many animals despite so much human activity in the forest is wonderful, and seems to demonstrate how fundamental the economic value of brazil nut trees is for the health of these forests. Although selective logging and hunting of local wildlife continues, the presence of producing castaña trees preserves patches of forest where its structure is undisturbed and the shade is deep and cool. Wildlife is persisting well into disturbed areas, but for me the dark green patches feel like safe havens.
After five hours of walking along forest trails our host leads us back to his house in time for lunch, where we are served rice, beans and fried plantain washed down with sweet tea. His wife and daughter spend the day in the house, preparing food for us strangers along with the family without a thought. At 77-years-old, our host understandably prefers to spend the afternoons napping on a bench in the shade of his mango tree, leaving us free to visit the stream that runs past the house and bathe in the sandy bottomed pool they have created through clever use of a log dam. Tiny fish swim about, palm trees provide shade overhead and the musical song of oropendulas drips from the trees. More tamarins swing past to peer at us, as we nibble on mangos and cool our feet in the water. I can’t help but smile as I think back on the day and hope to myself, long may the dark green persist.
Brazil nut flowers. Photo by Eleanor Warren-Thomas.
October 29th, 2013 by mongabay
Reader contribution by Matthew S. Luskin
Indonesians are committed to ensuring the persistence of Sumatran tigers. The gamut of island-wide conservation efforts was discussed this week in Padang, West Sumatra, during the annual meeting of HarimauKita (harimau means “tiger” in Indonesian), which brought together a consortium of stakeholders for Sumatran tiger conservation. Members worked late into each night to coordinate and evaluate existing research and conservation efforts across all 8 Sumatran provinces.
The all-Indonesian collaborative forum included scientists from Indonesian universities and big NGOs (Flora and Fauna International, World Wildlife Fund, and Wildlife Conservation Society), as well as representatives from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, the Asia Pulp and Paper (the largest logging company in Sumatra), the oil palm producer PT Tidar Kerinci Agung (TKA), PT Chevron Asia Pacific, and the for-profit conservation organization PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI). The diversity of stakeholders with different approaches to conservation enabled lively discussions and out-of-the-box thinking.
HarimauKita in progress.
Discussions focused on accurately tracking tiger populations (no easy task), mitigating human-tiger conflict, such as attacks on humans or livestock, and connecting tiger forest habitats, such as with habitat corridors. To track tiger populations, HarimauKita reviewed the activity of 19 ongoing research programs spread across Sumatra, most of which primarily employ camera traps. HarimauKita members working in these landscapes reported high tiger occupancy in some previously logged forests and in forests fragmented by agricultural expansion. While this offers a glimmer of hope for tigers in the face of Sumatra’s rapid forest conversion, poaching and human-tiger conflict also continue to be an issue, particularly in areas with high human activity, such as near villages or plantations. Notably, Mrs. Katrini of the TKA oil palm grower described TKAs construction of a tiger rehabilitation center to facilitate the capture, relocation, and release of problem tigers.
HarimauKita’s strategic conservation programs, such as training anti-poaching teams, and spirit of collaboration that facilitates effective communication among stakeholders, are integral to insuring that the Sumatran tiger does not follow in the footsteps of Indonesia’s two other extinct tiger subspecies. HarimauKita’s approach and role in tiger conservation may well become a model for other species conservation.
Photo by Rhett A. Butler / mongabay.com
October 18th, 2013 by mongabay
By Jemma Smith
This stunning photograph is of the sun setting over the River Nile, which is said to be the longest river in the world with a staggering 6,670 km (4,160 miles) in length and discharges an average of 3.1 million litres of water per second into the Mediterranean Sea. It is long been disputed where the exact source of the river is, however, many believed it to be Lake Victoria in Tanzania. The River Nile travels through eleven African countries on its journey to the Mediterranean. There has long been conflict between countries on ownership and management of the Nile and its vital water that is used by millions of African farmers and is also home to a large diversity of wildlife.
October 10th, 2013 by mongabay
By Larry Kraft
This August, my family and I spent a week and a half in Monteverde, Costa Rica. This is the tropics, but at an elevation of 4,500 feet or so. This well-preserved swathe of forest straddles the Continental Divide, which results in clouds and weather coming up from both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The elevation means it’s never very hot, and the tropical latitude means it’s never very cold. The mean temperature for any month of the year falls between 70°F and 61°F (21°C and 17°C).
There is much to do here: hiking; zip-lining; learning about how coffee or chocolate is made; and visiting bat, butterfly, frog, snake, or orchid exhibits. But to me there are two key things that stand out. Life and Conservation.
The Kraft family on a hanging bridge. Photo by Larry Kraft.
Life explodes from the earth with a huge variety of plants, trees, vines, insects, bats, birds and mammals. The misty clouds drifting up from the coasts not only give the cloud forest its name, but also nourish life above the ground. All kinds of things grow on top of other things. Epiphytes grow on trees and then eventually decompose, creating a microenvironment from which more life can emerge. Some of what grows and lives in the canopy is only found there and not on the ground.
The thick cloud forest canopy. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Epiphytes growing on a tree. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Kraft kids beneath “Poor Man’s Umbrella”. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Concern for the environment can be seen everywhere. This seems to be a place where tourism has had a positive impact. Every tour operator here touts its environmentally-friendly practices. Many explicitly mention that a portion of money spent goes towards preserving the forest or improving the situation for some type of animal. Sorting bins for different kinds of trash and recycling materials can be found at nearly every hotel. Composting seems to be practiced by many, if not most, homes. And as the primary business in the area is eco-tourism, the community’s livelihood depends on conservation.
On the surface, it seems an unlikely place to see impacts from climate change. But dig a little deeper and ask questions of the locals, and interesting anecdotes emerge.
One local told us that you used to be able to set your clock by the heavy, daily rains in the rainy season. We were there during the rainy season, and for the most part, had lovely weather with sun and minimal rain on most days. The area has had more than one recent year with not enough rain. This causes multiple problems, including water shortages within the community itself, insufficient water for farms downstream at lower elevations, and energy issues. Seventy-six percent of Costa Rica’s energy comes from hydroelectric power, much coming from this watershed. Our Spanish teacher told us of energy shortages and power outages occurring in these drier years.
Though there have been some years with not enough rain, the total amount of rain, on average, is actually trending higher. But the rain is falling differently. There are more frequent and longer-lasting dry spells, followed by larger downpours. Plus the ever-present mist, which gives the cloud forest much of its unique flora and fauna, is actually starting to drift in at higher elevations.
In a conversation with J. Alan Pounds, world-renowned amphibian and climate researcher, and a resident scientist at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, he noted that the dry spells and reduction in mist are already having significant impacts on many species. As of late, he has been studying orchids, of which there are more than 500 species here–more than any other location in the world. And he is noticing significant stresses on these beautiful plants. Quite simply, they do better when there are clouds in the cloud forest.
Dancing lady orchid. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Equally worrisome is what’s happening with animals. One of the founders of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, Bob Law, and one of the park rangers there, Wendy Brenes, told us they were beginning to see lower elevation species at higher elevations. In the Monteverde area, they are now regularly seeing the chestnut-mandibled toucan and keel-billed toucan, which in prior years were only seen at lower elevations. And they are now seeing the fer-de-lance, a deadly poisonous snake, at one of their stations in a lower part of their reserve, where previously it had never been seen. Now perhaps this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what happens to the higher elevation species that have no higher to go? Eventually, they are likely die off. And if they do, what is the impact on the ecosystem?
Chestnut Mandibled Toucan. Photo by Larry Kroft.
Fer-de-lance. Photo courtesy of caspar under creative commons license.
We heard rumor of a massive amphibian die-off, which I confirmed in my conversation with Alan Pounds. In papers published from 1999 through 2006, he showed that warmer temperatures allowed a certain type of fungus to flourish (chytridiomycosis) that completely wiped out certain species of frogs, including the golden toad, from the Monteverde area.
Golden toad, now extinct. US Fish and Wildlife Service (public domain).
One of the things you realize pretty quickly is how incredibly connected and balanced everything is in the cloud forest. If one part of this ecosystem is disrupted, what does it do to the other parts? And since the cloud forest is so connected to the well being of the people here, and in the rest of Costa Rica, how will people be impacted? What new fungi or other diseases will suddenly be able to flourish in different environments, and will they attack frogs, the food we grow, or perhaps even people directly?
The people of Monteverde and Costa Rica can be seen as a microcosm of the overall impact of climate change on humanity. We’re in the midst of a grand, rapid, and dangerous experiment. The climate and earth will adapt to the changes we are causing, but the question is: will humanity be like the animals at the top of the mountain in Monteverde?
There is a bit of a counter-culture feel in Monteverde. In spite of the remoteness of the area, the focus on conservation, and the feeling of apartness from the politics of the West, climate change is a great equalizer. There really is nowhere in the world where one can escape from the impacts of climate change.
About Larry Kraft
Larry Kraft is a former high-tech exec, now traveling the world with his wife and two kids on an environmentally-focused trip. In addition to teaching their kids, Larry and his wife Lauri are creating educational content for their kids’ school, Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park, and the 85,000 kids that follow the Wilderness Classroom, a non-profit with whom they are partnered. Larry is also a Climate Reality Leader, having been recently trained by Al Gore and his Climate Reality Organization. His first trip around the world was solo with a backpack in 1990/91. He’s since touched all 7 continents, and over 60 countries. He can be reached on the Kraft blog, on twitter at @LarryKraft1, or via email at lkraft [at] hotmail [dot] com.
October 10th, 2013 by mongabay
By Simon Bradley / Save Our Species IUCN
Friday, October 11th is World Egg Day, when agribusiness promotes the consumption of eggs as a healthy source of protein. When it comes to one of Indonesia’s national icons however, the Endangered maleo bird (Macrocephalon maleo), conservationists such as the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo) an SOS – Save Our Species grantee, are trying to discourage the practice of eating its giant eggs for special occasions.
Maleo digging. Photo by ALTO – Kevin Schafer
This distinctive megapode – about the size of a chicken – is endemic to Sulawesi and Buton Islands, where it once blackened the beaches during egg-laying season, when the usually solitary animals would march out of the jungle to mate and bury eggs deep in the sands. Nowadays, the unusual life-cycle of the maleo is an increasingly rare sight. Using its big claws to hatch and tunnel to the surface, the lone chick can walk, feed itself and fly within a matter of hours, being independent of its parents and leaving evolutionary biologists to ponder how individuals recognize each other later in life. A remarkable bird indeed, the maleo is also strikingly beautiful and has been legally protected in Indonesia since 1972. Yet old habits die hard and maleo eggs – like most megapode eggs – are very high in protein, making a tasty dish for those who can find them.
Consequently, as with so many species, it seems effective maleo conservation hinges on local support and participation in the process. Going beyond awareness-raising to protecting eggs on site has proven an effective strategy implemented by conservation organization AlTo which has been actively engaged with local Taima community members for the past decade.
Protecting nest sites and allowing eggs to hatch naturally has seen a 62% increase in bird populations in one site where AlTo works, for example. Meanwhile the impact of using other methods including incubation has yet to be measured and gauged. According to Marcy Summers, director of AlTo, “doing conservation as close to possible as keeping things in their natural wild state is generally the first way to go for effective conservation efforts.”
The giant maleo egg in a man’s hand. Photo by ALTO – Marcy Summers
AlTo’s strategy to date has been to educate local community members to identify, survey, monitor and protect egg sites and to report incidences of harvesting these precious eggs. As AlTo integrated into the community it has also begun to conduct surveys to identify other possible nesting beaches, often tapping into local knowledge and experience. But the organization also works with local authorities to support the enforcement of laws. Meanwhile, the recent official recognition of the area as one of seven Essential Ecosystems by the Indonesian Federal government is a boon for all local conservation efforts.
Naturally funding from external sources helps AlTo maintain and develop the program. For SOS a global coalition initiated by three founding partners—IUCN, World Bank, and GEF–it was the combination of an excellent grassroots project with proven results and the prospect of real conservation success that made AlTo’s maleo bird project the seventh active SOS project in Indonesia and its third in Sulawesi alone.
For Marcy Summers and the community of Tompotika, such support helps continue the slow but steady progress toward restoring the maleo bird to being more than just a national symbol, but a living breathing success story that everyone helped make happen. So perhaps today on World Egg Day, spare a thought for the maleo and its giant egg and get involved. Hopefully through the efforts of groups like AlTo we may yet be celebrating new calendar days like Maleo Egg Day instead!
A maleo pair. Photo by ALTO – Kevin Schafer
ALTO staff train villagers on maleo data. Photo by ALTO – Marcy Summers
September 23rd, 2013 by mongabay
By Phyllis Sena
Eastern hellbender. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.
The WCS’s Bronx Zoo is joining the fight to save the world’s largest salamander, the Eastern Hellbender, by teaming up with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Buffalo Zoo in reintroducing 38 of these animals into wild streams in the state of New York. Juvenile eggs were collected from the Allegheny River drainage at the start of the program, and they were raised off-location and returned to that same drainage. Each amphibian was tagged with a chip for future surveys and species health assessments after exposure to their natural environment.
This program will enable conservationists to release young hellbenders back to the wild at an age that will enable them to survive and live a full life in the state of New York. Currently this state lists the Eastern Hellbender as a species of Special Concern, due to several factors including disease, pollution, and habitat destruction.
Hellbenders are found in rocky streams and are entirely aquatic. Some of their nicknames include devil dogs, Allegheny alligators, and snot otters. Hellbenders can measure nearly two feet in length as adults, and join a category of two other giant salamanders, the Japanese giant salamander and the Chinese hellbender, which can grow to up to six feet long.
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.
September 18th, 2013 by mongabay
With rapidly rising demand for rhino horn fueling large-scale rhino slaughter, some conservation organizations have painlessly removed the horn as a preventive measure against poaching. Photo by Rhett Butler.
Sunday, September 22nd is World Rhino Day 2013. This yearly celebration, started in 2010, hopes to remind the world of the plight of the world’s five remaining species of rhinoceros: the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum), black rhino (Diceros bicornis), Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), and the Sumatran (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
Today three of the five species are listed Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List and the other two are also threatened with extinction. The biggest threats to these massive herbivores are habitat loss and poaching brought on by an increasing demand for rhino horn for use in traditional Chinese medicine (though there has been no proven medical benefits) and newer, non-traditional uses (beauty regimes, hangover cures, and wine).
In South Africa, the country where World Rhino Day originated, the rhino crisis is at its worst, having lost over 550 rhinos so far this year. Experts estimate that less than 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in the world today.
International World Rhino Day celebrations include education projects for students, fundraising dinners, auctions, art contests, poster displays, and wine tastings.
If you want to join in the World Rhino Day celebration, you can find an event near you by connecting on Facebook and visiting worldrhinoday.org.
White rhino in Kenya. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.