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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 11, 2016

As a brown bear lunges for fish, a gray wolf waits for scraps in Alaska's Katmai National Park. (Photo: Christopher Dodds/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

As a brown bear lunges for fish, a gray wolf waits for scraps in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. (Photo: Christopher Dodds/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

by Richard Conniff/Takepart.com

For people who worry about the nation’s (and the world’s) rapidly dwindling wildlife, the only vaguely good news about Donald Trump’s election might just be that he doesn’t care. This is a guy whose ideas about nature stop at “water hazard” and “sand trap.” Look up his public statements about animals and wildlife on votesmart.com, and the answer that bounces back is “no matching public statements found.” It’s not one of those things he has promised to ban, deport, dismantle, or just plain “schlong.”

More good news (and you may sense that I am stretching here): Trump is not likely to appoint renegade rancher and grazing-fee deadbeat Cliven Bundy to head the Bureau of Land Management. When Field and Stream magazine asked Trump early this year if he endorsed the Western movement to transfer federal lands to state control (a plank in the Republican platform), he replied: “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”

This was no doubt the real estate developer in him talking, but his gut instinct against letting go of land will surely outweigh the party platform. “We have to be great stewards of this land,” Trump added. “This is magnificent land.” Asked if he would continue the long downward trend in budgets for managing public lands, Trump said he’d heard from friends and family that public lands “are not maintained the way they were by any stretch of the imagination. And we’re going to get that changed; we’re going to reverse that.”

This was apparently enough, in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s upset election, for Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, to suggest that

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Posted in Biodiversity, Business Behaviors, Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Christmas in August: Give to These Wildlife Groups Now

Posted by Richard Conniff on August 13, 2016

One cause worth your donation (Photo: Craig Taylor/Panthera)

One cause worth your donation (Photo: Craig Taylor/Panthera)

 

by Richard Conniff/Takepart.com

Most writers wait until the Christmas season to put together their recommendations for charitable giving. But the trouble with that timing ought to be obvious: In December, most people are broke or about to be broke. They’re also a little crazy. In August, on the other hand, life is fat and slow, and there’s time to think about our own lives and what we can do to make the world a better place. With that in mind, I’m going to offer a few recommendations for giving, with my usual focus on wildlife.

First, though, let’s talk about two candidates for this year’s charitable giving purgatory: The World Wildlife Fund is in many ways a great organization, but it has a long history of paying too much attention to marketing. That tendency showed up this year when a WWF vice president put out an announcement, widely reported in the press, that tiger populations were on the increase for the first time in a century. Too bad it was totally bogus. Sorry, but the folks at the top need to put wildlife conservation first and fund-raising somewhere down the list. Hoping to see you next year.

My other newcomer in purgatory is Ducks Unlimited. I’ve recommended it in the past for its single-minded focus on increasing populations of wildfowl. But, hey, save your money. Late last year, DU fired a staffer who had the nerve to take on a prominent donor. Media muckety-muck Jim Kennedy, chairman of Cox Enterprises, was trying to block public access to the Ruby River, which runs through his Montana ranch. But defending public access is one of the core beliefs at DU, and Don Thomas, a longtime contributor to Ducks Unlimited magazine, called out Kennedy for his hypocrisy. DU promptly fired Thomas while praising Kennedy as “a dedicated DU volunteer.”

Where should you send your money instead? Let’s start with

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Posted in Biodiversity, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hope for Wildlife in the New Year

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 31, 2015

This is from Dr. Cristián Samper of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). He takes a closer focus on government action than I normally do, because I am a cynic about such things.  But I’m hoping he’s right, and it’s worth a read for that reason:

Yes, wildlife across the globe faces threats from all angles, including climate change; over-hunting and over-fishing; illegal wildlife trade; and habitat destruction and degradation. But during this past year, I found a spirit of hope for wildlife.

2015-12-31-1451581033-9696592-LowlandTapirMileniuszSpanowicz_WCS.jpg
In 2015, countries across the globe took important steps on behalf of wildlife that provided hope for their future protection. (Photo: Mileniusz Spanowicz ©WCS)

As I reflect on 2015, here are a few of the events that will have a positive impact on wildlife and wild places: Some were taken by the global community and others on a national or local level. I’ve included some of the actions where WCS is leading the way. Thankfully, this list of wildlife wins in 2015 could be even longer. So, I welcome hearing about more actions you think were great for wildlife this past year. I will be sure to Tweet those additions to show them support. [Note: You can follow Samper on Twitter @CristianSamper.]

  1. Paris Climate Summit: The agreements in Paris at the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was a major step forward in 2015 for wildlife and for all life on our planet. The climate accord, agreed to by 195 countries, shows a commitment by the global community to reduce the greenhouse gases warming our planet. One aspect of the accord not given a lot of attention was recognition of the urgent need to take significant actions to reduce emissions of CO2 caused by deforestation, representing around 15% of global emissions (more than all the cars, trucks, and airplanes in the world combined). This push to save intact forests is good for all life and protects wildlife habitat and Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation and Extinction, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

How Deadly Power Lines Could Become Great Wildlife Habitat

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 4, 2015

(Photo: Ken Schulze/Getty Images)

(Photo: Ken Schulze/Getty Images)

In a lot of peoples’ minds, power transmission lines are the devil, and the idea that a transmission line right-of-way could function as useful wildlife habitat is the devil speaking in tongues. These corridors, an infuriated reader once told me, “have a devastating impact on the environment, kill thousands of birds, cause habitat segmentation, ruin property values, chase people from their homes, have dreadful visual impacts, and significantly reduce wildlife use per acre.”

These are no doubt all important issues to discuss, especially when wind, solar, and hydroelectric projects are increasing the demand for new power line corridors everywhere. And it’s not “thousands of birds.” A 2014 analysis estimated that 25.5 million birds now die every year in the United States from power line collisions and another 5.6 million from electrocutions. These are appalling numbers.

But the other reality is that the United States now has an estimated 9 million acres of land in existing power transmission corridors. That’s largely open space underneath the electric wires, and much of it is in regions where open space is hard to come by. In some cases, it is already becoming the best available habitat for

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Posted in Cool Tools, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Seven Ways to Make Your City Wildlife Friendly

Posted by Richard Conniff on March 14, 2015

(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

A few years ago I was visiting the west Baltimore neighborhood that inspired the American television series Homicide and The Wire. It was an urban wasteland, the brick row houses largely abandoned and boarded over. Whoever used to live here had long since gone away. Then we turned a corner onto North Carrollton Avenue, and for one city block it was a miracle:  Handsome old trees formed a green canopy over the street. The houses were occupied and well tended. Someone was selling flavored ices at a stand in the shade in the middle of the block. The trees, a local woman told me, made all the difference, shading the houses, filtering the air, and making it easier to breathe. There were birds and squirrels in the branches overhead.

That visit comes to mind because I have been thinking lately about ways to make cities more livable, for people and wildlife alike. The rapid urbanization of the Earth is the dominant movement of this century, and the sprawling, unplanned growth of cities and suburbs tends to leave behind patches of greenery only by accident—a few neglected parks, some street trees here and there, and the occasional sliver of protected land. Wildlife gets crowded out and pushed toward extinction.

Plenty of studies have already demonstrated that street trees and other green spaces tend to reduce crime, improve health, build stronger neighborhoods, encourage investment in housing stock, slow stormwater runoff and lower pollution. So let’s focus on the wildlife for now. Cities are not ideal wildlife habitat, but they are increasingly the only habitat. So what do we need to do to make room for wildlife in our increasingly urbanized world?

Plan for Green Space

Add some trees along a street, and you’ve got someplace where birds can rest or roost. Add a park at the end of that street, even a small one, and now you’ve got a spot where migrating birds can stop and eat on their way to or from their breeding grounds. Even adding just 150 square meters of green space—that’s 10 parking spaces—will bring one additional bird species into a neighborhood, according to a 2013 study by urban greening specialist Paige Warren at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. The green space can include a community garden that benefits human residents. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators will also show up, said Warren, “even in very dense metropolitan areas like in Manhattan.”

Make those Green Spaces Connect

Multiple parks or gardens that are connected make for exponentially

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Rare Amur Tiger Family–Dad, too–Caught on Film

Posted by Richard Conniff on March 6, 2015

This remarkable footage comes from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Here’s a composite photo of the animals passing in succession by the camera trap:

tigerfamilyphoto

And here’s the WCS press release:


NEW YORK (
March 6, 2015) –The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia Program, in partnership with the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve and Udegeiskaya Legenda National Park, released a camera trap slideshow of a family of Amur tigers in the wild showing an adult male with family. Shown following the “tiger dad” along the Russian forest is an adult female and three cubs. Scientists note this is

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Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Sex & Reproduction | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

A Cardinal Tests the Limits of Sexual Diversity

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 30, 2015

This are brownish-gray feathers of a female cardinal on the right side a male cardinal's red feathers on the left. (Photo: Western Illinois University)

This are brownish-gray feathers of a female cardinal on the right side a male cardinal’s red feathers on the left.
(Photo: Western Illinois University)

So, yeah, I’m talking about a bird, and definitely not about a member of the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals.  A gynandromorph is an animal that has traits of both sexes, but this cardinal is truly Janus-faced, all female on one side, all male on the other.  Or rather, not like Janus. More like Tiresias, the male prophet in Greek mythology who spent seven years as a woman. Oh, hell, let’s just call it the Transgender Cardinal.

How did other cardinals react? “We never knowingly heard the gynandromorph cardinal vocalize nor was it obviously paired with another individual, whereas other cardinals in the area vocalized and were paired, especially as the breeding season approached.” But here’s the key line: “There were no unusual agonistic interactions between the gynandromorph and the other cardinals, although at times it appeared less likely to approach the seed when other cardinals were in the vicinity feeding.” So a little shy and confused. But other birds were basically o.k. with that.

Here’s the press release

Western Illinois University biological sciences Professor Brian Peer is receiving attention for his research and publication on a bilateral gynandromorph bird found in the wild.

More specifically, the bird has the brownish-gray feathered appearance of a female cardinal on its right side and that of a male cardinal’s red feathers on its left side.

The Northern Cardinal was spotted several years ago in Rock Island, IL by Peer and his colleague Robert Motz and was observed between December 2008 and March 2010. The two men documented how the cardinal interacted with other birds

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Why 2015 Should be a Good Year for Wildlife

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 9, 2015

(Photo: David Fettes/Getty Images)

(Photo: David Fettes/Getty Images)

 

There’s always plenty of reason to get depressed about the prospects for wildlife at the start of the New Year.  Environmentalists were, for instance, unable to stop last weekend’s predator hunting derby by Idaho’s abundant population of anti-wolf idiots.  But there’s good news, too: They didn’t kill any.  (In fact, it took the sound and fury of 125 hunters to shoot just 30 coyotes).

Better still, a study published last month in the journal Science reported that even if the Idaho effete tremble at the idea of living with their native predators, Europe is handling them just fine.  In fact, the continent that gave us “Little Red Riding Hood” and “the Big Bad Wolf,” is now home to twice as many wolves as the contiguous United States, despite being half the size and more than twice as densely populated.  Look for wolves to expand their range this year, building on recent forays into Denmark and Belgium. Thanks to its equivalent of the Endangered Species Act, Europe also manages to live happily with an estimated 17,000 brown bears compared with just 1,800 grizzly bears in the U.S. Lower 48.

My point is that we should start the New Year not in frustration and despair at the plight of wildlife, but intent on success, because the worldwide fight for wildlife has in fact compiled an extraordinary record of achievement.  (I’m thinking of

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Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Big Coal Dumps on Wildlife in a Biological Motherlode

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 31, 2014

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

When most people think about a biological hotspot, a motherlode of species, the Amazon may come to mind, along with certain regions in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Hardly anybody thinks about the Appalachians. But more species of salamanders and freshwater mussels live in the streams and forests of this region, stretching from upstate New York to northern Alabama, than anywhere else in the world. Those temperate, deciduous forests are more diverse than anywhere else in the world, too, apart from those in central China.

Unfortunately, seams of coal also run through the Appalachian Mountains, often buried deep within the range. To extract it, coal companies have been literally blowing the tops off of these mountains in a practice called mountaintop removal coal mining. Not only does this method change the landscape and leave swaths of barren rock in place of forested mountainsides, but the mining companies also take the millions of tons of dynamited rock and dump them in the valleys next to the decapitated mountains. These valleys usually have streams in them, and those streams are where the salamanders, mussels, and other freshwater species of the region live. As you might imagine, these animals don’t love having chunks of mountain dumped on their habitat.

A new study confirms that salamanders, in particular, fare poorly in these streams. Researchers from the University of Kentucky visited sites where mining companies had dumped the so-called “overburden” (or “spoil”) and looked for salamanders just downstream of the dumped mountain debris, comparing the abundance of five salamander species in those streams with nearby streams that hadn’t been disrupted.

Overburdened streams averaged about half as many species of salamander, and far fewer individual salamanders, as the undisturbed streams. Across 11 streams with mountain rubble, researchers found just 97 salamanders, compared with 807 salamanders in a dozen control streams.

How do mining companies get away with it?

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Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Africa’s Hidden Population Boom Is Bad News For Humans & Wildlife

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 18, 2014

(Photo: Simon Maina/Getty Images)

(Photo: Simon Maina/Getty Images)

A few years ago in Kenya, a taxi driver and I were remarking on the endless shambas—tin-roofed farmhouses on impossibly small plots of land–sprawling out from Nairobi all the way across the Great Rift Valley to Lake Nakura. Kenya’s population had quintupled in the driver’s lifetime, from 8.1 million people in 1960 to 44.4 million today, and the consequences were all around us. He pointed out places where he could remember seeing rhinos, hippos, elephants and other wildlife.

All gone now.

It’s the sort of thing that makes conservation biologists foresee an Africa without wildlife. And a new analysis just out in the journal Science suggests that the problem may be worse than anyone has imagined, with the population in Africa increasing from a billion people today to as much as 5.7 billion by 2100.

Past analyses have generally concluded that the total world population would increase from 7.2 billion today to about 9.6 billion in mid-century and then stabilize or even slowly decline. But the new analysis, from a global consortium of demographers and the Population Division of the United Nations, finds “little prospect of an end to world population growth in this century.” Instead, the Earth will somehow need to feed and accommodate 11 or 12 billion people by 2100, with much of the increase happening in sub-Saharan Africa.

That conclusion is surprising because the birth rate continues to decline worldwide and in Africa. But the decline in Africa is happening at only a quarter of the rate seen “in Asia and Latin America in the 1970s, when they were at a comparable stage” in the transition to smaller families, according to the new analysis. In some African countries, the rate of decline has actually stalled over the last 15 years, according to John Wilmoth, the report’s co-author and director of the UN Population Division.

Among possible factors behind the slowdown: The desired family size reported in Africa was

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