Sand Piracy Is A Thing. A Bad Thing.

9780399576423_custom-3813965e7ebb84b1f0032ce9298d929eceebe117-s500-c85.jpgBuilding hotels in Kerala, India from 2010 to 2017 we came to know about sand pirates from a very close up perspective. When their boats were speeding past the houseboats we operated, we detected the carefree sense with which they carried out their mission. Perhaps they did not know the damage they were doing? Not likely. The law was chasing them, and they knew that for sure. Thanks to Genevieve Valentine for this review titled A Day At The Beach Won’t Be The Same After ‘The World In A Grain’ about this book to the left:

The first time you see ‘sand piracy,’ it might sound surreal — a misguided Pixar villain whose lackeys race down the beach with empty buckets and sinister intent, doomed to fail in the face of a resource that spans the whole ocean.

Then you find out about someone stealing 1,300 feet of sand from a beach in Jamaica, or the many sand miners whose dredgers suck sand from the ocean floor by the ton and, suddenly, it doesn’t sound as funny — or as impossible — as it did before. Continue reading

Sending Aloha Poke A Message

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Aloha Poke Co.’s corporate strong-arming has struck many observers as the most blatant kind of cultural appropriation—an effort not to celebrate another tradition but to own it. Photograph by Katie Rothstein

A few of our team members were just in the last week or so talking about poke, after a visit to a shop on Venice Beach, in California, that has some of the best-reputed poke on the mainland. Little did we know, something big was happening in the poke world, having to do with bullying tactics and cultural appropriation, a topic we have long been sensitive about considering the work we do. So, after reading this news, we pass this along and encourage all our friends and colleagues to consider where their poke dollars go:

The Chicago Poke Chain That Tried to Stop Hawaiian Businesses from Using the Word “Aloha”

On July 28th, a Hawaiian activist named Kalamaokaaina Niheu appeared in a Facebook Live video to discuss a “disturbing message” that she had received in her in-box that morning. It was about Aloha Poke Co., a restaurant chain based in Chicago that specializes in fast-casual versions of poke, a traditional Hawaiian dish made of chunks of seasoned raw fish. Niheu, who represents Hawaii in the Pacific Caucus at the United Nations and lives in Honolulu, had been hearing from Hawaiian business owners who had received cease-and-desist letters from the Chicago company, claiming that it had trademarked the phrases “Aloha” and “Aloha Poke,” and that any food business using those words in its name was infringing on its federal trademark.

To Niheu and other kanaka maoli—native Hawaiians—Aloha Poke Co.’s claim was ludicrous: How could a business, let alone a non-Hawaiian one, claim a right to something as fundamental to Hawaiian culture as the word “aloha”? The term, which can mean “hello” and “goodbye,” also signifies a spiritual connection between the Hawaiian people and the world around them, Niheu explained. Now it was being used as “a legal, blunt hammer for profit, so that Aloha Poke Co. can compete in a market that was never theirs to begin with,” she said. Several shops had already been forced to rebrand their poke businesses, and front the cost of doing so—redesigning their logos, tossing infringing merchandise and menus, and changing their social-media handles. One restaurant owner in Anchorage, Alaska, changed her business name from Aloha Poke Stop to Lei’s Poke Stop after receiving a cease-and-desist letter. “We just weren’t prepared to do that,” she told Eater. “We were already struggling as a small family business.” Continue reading

Why Care About Mosquitoes?

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Thanks to Kendra Pierre-Louis for this explanatory note, which references the article in taking us a step closer to understanding the mystery of mosquitoes’ value to the planet:

The little things that run the polar world

08cli-newsletter-mosquito-superJumbo.jpgAsk just about any human and they’ll tell you that mosquitoes are pests we’d be better off without, especially since some mosquitoes carry deadly diseases. Even many scientists agree: A 2010 article in the journal Nature concluded that a world without mosquitoes would be less itchy and less deadly for us, with few drawbacks for other species, outside of some ecological niches.

One of those niches is the Arctic, where mosquitoes play a bigger role in sustaining the ecosystem but may be threatened by the changing climate, said Lauren E. Culler, a research assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.

“You can collect pollen off of mosquitoes, indicating they may have a role in pollination,” she said. “And we know that they’re also food for other organisms in the food web.” Continue reading

World Elephant Day

23 July 2018. Elephant Relocation from Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve (South Africa) to Zinave Reserve (Mozambique). Picture: JAMES OATWAY

Our fascination with elephants is evident throughout the history of this site, and are heartened by actions taken toward increased conservation of these magnificent animals. Relocating large African mammals to new protected areas due to either habitat loss or overpopulation has successfully been done before, but the challenges continue.

Giants on the Move

Written by Patricia Sims, Co-Founder, World Elephant Day

Each year for World Elephant Day we put a lot of our elephant conservation attention toward the ivory poaching crisis threatening African elephants, and the tourism and captivity issues that the endangered Asian elephants face. Yet the larger conservation challenge of habitat loss for both African and Asian elephants is looming. Our increasing encroachment on elephant habitat throughout Africa and Asia is putting elephants at greater risk, resulting in human-elephant conflict issues, and the demise of elephant populations and the ecosystems that they, as a keystone species, maintain.

So what are the solutions? Can moving elephants – from one location where there isn’t enough space for them – to another location where there aren’t enough elephants, help solve this issue? At the heart of this critical elephant conservation conundrum is a partnership between the De Beers Group – the world’s leading diamond company – and Peace Parks Foundation, a leading not-for-profit organization focused on the preservation of large cross-border ecosystems. They have just completed the first phase of the largest and longest translocation of elephants ever recorded in South Africa. This translocation project is called “Moving Giants.

Continue reading

Model Mad, Rollback Pushback

Mary Nichols, who heads the California Air Resources Board, has vowed to fight the federal government’s proposed changes. Credit Eric Risberg/Associated Press

It’s been a while since we’ve addressed our “model mad” theme, despite there being numerous opportunity. We’re continually heartened by the strength of both the public and the private sector to pushback against the current administration’s regressive proposals.

California Strikes Back Against the Trump Administration’s Auto Pollution Rollback

California went on the offensive Tuesday against the Trump administration’s plan to weaken fuel-efficiency rules for cars, laying out a scathing rebuttal that the state’s clean-air regulator said would shape the battle with Washington in the coming months and years.

The state’s target is one of President Trump’s most consequential environmental rollbacks to date, a proposal unveiled last week to let cars pollute more while stripping California of its right to set its own air-quality rules.

The administration’s proposal “is contrary to the facts and the law,” the California document says, before refuting point by point the Trump administration’s arguments for weakening the nation’s long-term goals for making vehicles more fuel efficient and less polluting.

The clash between California and Washington threatens to throw the United States auto market into disarray. Because California has the authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own air pollution rules, and because a dozen other states follow its lead, the dispute could effectively split the nation’s market into two, one side adhering to stringent emissions rules set in Sacramento and the other to weaker federal standards.

Continue reading

Spying On Whales, For Our Sake As Well As Theirs

 

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Whales are a powerful oceanographic force in their own right, one that begets even more life; many ecosystems are still straining to equilibrate from the effects of twentieth-century whaling. Photograph by Francois Gohier / VWPics / Redux

x400.jpgIt may be too late, but this is too important to pretend it does not matter. It is not too late to learn from our mistakes. Peter Brannen, a science journalist and the author of “The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions” gets our thanks for this review in the New Yorker, titled We May Never Understand the Ocean-Wide Damage Done by Industrial Whaling:

A few months ago I learned that, as recently as 1972, General Motors was using sperm-whale oil in transmission fluid in its cars. I’m not sure why I was surprised to learn this. It took nearly another decade for much of the world to agree to ban commercial whaling, in 1982. (A handful of countries still ignore the ban.) But the detail about G.M. still struck me as anachronistic. The global pursuit of whales inescapably connotes the romance of nineteenth-century New Bedford and Nantucket: delicately embossed scrimshaw, Melville, oil paintings of stately twilit schooners setting out on the main. Not puke-green Chevy El Caminos. Continue reading

The Tangled Tree, Noodling With Lucidity & Grace

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Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times

Thanks to the New York Times for Parul Sehgal’s review of the new book by one of science writing‘s greats, reminding us that we have not featured Quammen enough:

David Quammen Turns Tough Science Into Page-Turning Pleasure

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David QuammenCreditLynn Donaldson

Love a writer — read him carefully and closely — and you’ll pick up on his pet words, the ones he reaches for repeatedly, like a baseball player with a trusted bat.

Nabokov famously had “mauve.” Elizabeth Hardwick had “motive.” Edward St. Aubyn has “gasp.” The statistician Ben Blatt has called these “cinnamon words” (after Ray Bradbury’s fondness for the names of spices), and they’re often hilariously telling, revealing the essence of a writer, something idiosyncratic in his perception of the world and himself. Is it any wonder that Dickens, that cash-strapped father of 10, was so crazy about “pinch” as noun, verb — even name?

For the science writer David Quammen that word is — sublimely — “noodle.” The verb pops up all over his work — and could any word suit him better? He is our greatest living chronicler of the natural world yet was never formally trained in the sciences. He started out as a novelist, a protégé of Robert Penn Warren, and stumbled into nonfiction, his boyhood passion for rooting around in forests now taking him to the canopies of the Amazon and the cliff lines of Komodo island. (The root of “amateur,” remember, is Latin for “lover.”) Continue reading

Plant-Based Diets Boost UK Chia Farming

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Thanks to Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent for the Guardian, for this:

First UK-grown chia seeds to go on sale this week

The popularity of plant-based diets has created huge demand for the oil-rich seeds, prompting a farm in Essex to plant a crop

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Essex grown Chia seeds by Peter Fairs for Hodmedod’s Photograph: Rebecca Noakes/Courtesy of Hodmedod’s

The first UK-grown chia seeds go on sale this week, as demand for the plant native to the Americas is fuelled by the explosion in the popularity of plant-based diets.

The company Hodmedod, pioneers of British-grown pulses, grains and seeds, has been working with farmers Peter and Andrew Fairs, of Great Tey in Essex, to bring the new British crop to market.  Continue reading

Big Cat News From India

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A tiger in the Sundarbans National Park, a protected tiger reserve, in the Indian state of West Bengal. SOUMYAJIT NANDY / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Richard Conniff, one of the science writers we most depend on for useful conservation news, shares this interview with one of our heroes from India’s big cat conservation network:

Big Cat Comeback: How India Is Restoring Its Tiger Population

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Ullas Karanth

Ullas Karanth has spent a half-century working to protect India’s endangered tigers. In an interview with Yale e360, he argues that with smart planning and the cooperation of its rural residents, the country could support five times the number of tigers it has now.

Ullas Karanth, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, is one of the world’s premier tiger experts and a leader in the effort to restore India’s depleted tiger populations. Raised in the South India state of Karnataka, he has spent much of his professional life studying and working to bring back tigers there, starting in Nagarahole National Park in the foothills of the Western Ghats, and then across a 10,000-square-mile region of that mountain range.

Karanth’s emphasis on scientific methods has frequently brought him into conflict with India’s forest bureaucracy, particularly over its insistence on estimating tiger populations based on footprint counts. Karanth instead pioneered the use of camera traps for population estimates based on identification of individual tigers. That method belatedly became the national standard after a 2004 scandal, when Sariska Tiger Reserve, officially estimated to have 26 tigers, turned out to have none. Continue reading

Virtual Immersion In Wilderness Via Live Feeds

Thanks to Rachel Riederer for this:

Bear Cam’s Captivating, Unedited Zen

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It’s innately satisfying to see a bear grab ahold of a salmon with its mouth and trundle off into the shallows with the fish still flapping in its jaws. Photograph by Jennifer Leigh Warner / Barcroft / Getty

One recent afternoon, I found myself spellbound by the brown bears of Alaska’s Katmai National Park, and spent longer than I care to admit watching them fishing and feasting on the sockeye salmon of Brooks Falls. Several bears stood in the water, facing the falls. They didn’t interact with each other much—at least not in a way that was legible to me—but quietly went about the business of fattening up for winter. I watched these Internet stars through a live stream popularly known as the bear cam, which provides a counterpoint to the hyper-produced prestige nature documentaries that use music, high-definition videography, and delicately placed cameras to turn wildlife activities into dramatic cinema. If “Planet Earth” is a Michael Bay production, the bear cam is not even a home movie—it’s CCTV. Continue reading

Sustainability & Land-Use Choices

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Along the back of this field of sugar snap peas, sunflowers and bachelor buttons at Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center is a buffer of maturing big-leaf maples and red-osier dogwoods. It’s a combination of forest and thicket that the farm has left standing to help protect water quality in the river and aquifer. Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center

Another day, another sunflower because, why not? But this story is about much more than the overwhelming attractiveness of sunflowers:

Which Vision Of Farming Is Better For The Planet?

OxbowFarmers face a growing dilemma. Specifically, a food-growing dilemma.

How do you feed an increasing number of people without harming the environment?

As it turns out, growing as much food as possible in a small area may be our best bet for sustainably feeding the world’s population, according to new research.

It all comes down to how we manage greenhouse gases and climate change. Continue reading

Stopping To See Sunflowers

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Brad Bogle, left, and his father, Barry Bogle, standing in their sunflower field in Hamilton, Ont. They were forced to close their farm to visitors last weekend after selfie-taking tourists crowded roads.Credit J.P. Moczulski

Thanks to Laura M. Holson for this, specifically for making our Saturday a bit brighter:

A Sunflower Farm Invited Tourists. It Ended Up Like a ‘Zombie Apocalypse.’

Sunflower.jpgThis is a story about a good idea gone awry.

Two weeks ago, a Canadian seed farm in Hamilton, Ontario, opened its gates to visitors, allowing them to wander through 70 bucolic acres of towering, buoyant sunflowers. Provence may have its pastoral lavender fields. But Hamilton, which is an hour outside of Toronto, has its picturesque bloom too.

“For years, we’ve had people stopping alongside the road to take pictures,” said Brad Bogle, who, along with his parents, harvests sunflower seeds for bird food on their farm, Bogle Seeds. In the summer of 2015, the Bogles invited tourists to roam through the fields. They had such a swell time — and it was such a success — the family decided to welcome guests for a visit last month.

What could go wrong? Continue reading

A Science Advisor At Long Last, Yay

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If Ed Yong is happy, then we too are happy about this. Really. Even if it has a bit of fiddling while Rome burns feel to it. Let’s hope he can talk some sense, even if it is too late, into the powers that be:

Trump Finally Picks a Science Adviser—And People Are Delighted

His nominee, Kelvin Droegemeier, is an accomplished meteorologist who studies storms and other extreme weather.

For decades, the meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier has been immersed in the study of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and other extreme weather. Now he looks set to enter the unpredictable and stormy world of the Trump administration as its top scientific consigliere. Continue reading

Avian Adaptation in the Face of Climate Change

 

A Mariposa fox sparrow in its nest in 1925, observed during Dr. Joseph Grinnell’s surveys of California fauna. Credit Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley

Accentuate the positive…

California’s Birds Are Testing New Survival Tactics on a Vast Scale

Retracing the steps of a century-old wildlife survey, ecologists find that birds are making remarkable adaptations to climate change.

More than a century ago, zoologist Joseph Grinnell launched a pioneering survey of animal life in California, a decades-long quest — at first by Model T or, failing that, mule — to all corners and habitats of the state, from Death Valley to the High Sierra.

Ultimately Grinnell, founding director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues produced one of the richest ecological records in the world: 74,000 pages of meticulously detailed field notes, recording the numbers, habits and habitats of all vertebrate species that the team encountered.

In 2003, museum scientists decided to retrace Grinnell’s steps throughout the state to learn what changes a century had wrought. And that’s why Morgan Tingley, then an ecology graduate student at the university, found himself trekking through the Sierra for four summers.

Dr. Tingley wanted to know how birds had fared since Grinnell last took a census. Years later, the answer turned out to be a bit of a shock. Continue reading

Read About This Place, These People, Their Food

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Thanks to Blake and Jen for all their awesome work. Also thanks to Sara Ventiera (a new food and travel writer for us to follow!) and her colleagues at National Public Radio (USA) for keeping us connected to such heroics:

Meet The Restaurateurs Fighting To Save The Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument

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Hell’s Backbone Grill is located in Boulder, Utah, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City. The restaurant’s owners are fighting Trump’s plans to slash the size of nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by more than half. Ace Kvale

Standing between peach and cherry trees on her 6.5-acre Utah farm, Blake Spalding points to the Kaiparowits Plateau. The looming bluff is dotted with thousand-year-old pinyon pine and juniper trees.

“That is one of the areas they’re hoping to mine,” she tells a group of visiting chefs from Salt Lake City. “It’s full of dinosaur fossils and more than 650 documented species of wild bees.”

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The remote and sustainable restaurant has become a destination for travelers seeking a taste of its terroir-driven fare. Ace Kvale

Nearly 20 years ago, Spalding and her business partner, Jen Castle, founded Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, on the edge of the then-newly designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City. The remote and sustainable restaurant has become a destination for culinary travelers seeking a taste of its terroir-driven fare. It’s an amalgam of Mormon pioneer, Western range cowboy and traditional Southwest flavors, like juniper lamb posole or grilled pork chops with Boulder crabapple barbecue sauce. Continue reading

Bear Witness, Do Not Take A Cruise

 

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“We completely regret what happened,” a spokesman for the cruise company said, adding the bear was killed in self-defense.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is not the worst company in the world but it sure is trying hard.  And they are in a very dirty business. The lead photo in this story by Yonette Joseph is just too depressing to share here, so the map is shown instead. That photo requires viewing as an act of witness to the cruise industry’s lack of ethics, so read on and click through:

LONDON — A polar bear was shot and killed on Saturday after it attacked and injured a guard from a cruise ship that had stopped at an Arctic archipelago, the Norwegian authorities said.

The death of the bear at the hands of another cruise ship employee drew condemnation on social media, with some calling it “abhorrent” and others questioning killing the polar bear for “acting like a wild animal.” Continue reading

When & Where & How Should Crops Be Genetically Modified?

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A wheat field in Mouchamps, France. There are very few genetically modified crops grown in Europe compared to the United States. Credit Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Thanks for this GMO primer by Carl Zimmer:

What Is a Genetically Modified Crop? A European Ruling Sows Confusion

In Europe, plants created with gene-editing technologies will be stringently regulated as G.M.O.’s. But older crops whose DNA has been altered will be left alone.

Mushrooms that don’t brown. Wheat that fights off disease. Tomatoes with a longer growing season.

All of these crops are made possible by a gene-editing technology called Crispr-cas9. But now its future has been clouded by the European Union’s top court.

This week, the court ruled that gene-edited crops are genetically modified organisms, and therefore must comply with the tough regulations that apply to plants made with genes from other species.

Many scientists responded to the decision with dismay, predicting that countries in the developing world would follow Europe’s lead, blocking useful gene-edited crops from reaching farms and marketplaces. The ruling may also curtail exports from the United States, which has taken a more lenient view of gene-edited foods.

“You’re not just affecting Europe, you’re affecting the world with this decision,” said Matthew Willmann, the director of the Plant Transformation Facility at Cornell University. Continue reading

Kittens Born At Alladale Wilderness Reserve

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Photographs © Innes MacNeill

Thanks to our friends at Alladale for sharing this with us yesterday. (to not disturb the kittens at this time, these photos by Innes MacNeill are from an earlier litter and further content will follow will about the new ones, so we recommend you subscribe here to their newsletter):

We have some wonderful news to share with you.

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Photographs © Innes MacNeill

Conservation efforts for the critically endangered Scottish wildcat have had another boost as Alladale Wilderness Reserve welcomes the arrival of two kittens. These kittens, who are part of the captive breeding programme and whose parents were given the go-ahead for breeding following genetic testing by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), have the potential to play a key role in the long-term conservation of this near-extinct native species.

Working together with RZSS, Scottish Wildcat Action and other wildlife conservation organisations across Scotland, Alladale Wilderness Reserve and The European Nature Trust (TENT) are supporting the development of effective, long term plans focused on wildcat recovery through reintroductions. This work follows other successful models of endangered cat conservation, like that of the Iberian lynx in Spain and Portugal whose population has been saved in recent years following numerous reintroductions. Continue reading

The Science Of Nature, Exhibited

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Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, 1828–1840. Credit Amherst College Archives & Special Collections

Thanks to Jason Farago for this review of  Charting the Divine Plan: The Art of Orra White Hitchcock at the American Folk Art Museum:

Mushrooms, Magma and Love in a Time of Science

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“Colossal Octopus,” 1828–1840, by Orra White Hitchcock, one of America’s first female scientific illustrators, on view at the American Folk Art Museum. Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times

Women remain grossly underrepresented at the highest echelons of American science, and continue to face absurd claims of “innate” inferiority, whether from former Harvard presidents or senior engineers at Google. But until the mid-19th century — when the sciences became professionalized, and when Charles Darwin and others put Christian doctrine under pressure — a woman’s place was in the laboratory, or among the geology and zoology specimens.

Back then the humanities (classics and philosophy, especially) were understood as masculine academic pursuits. It was the more genteel disciplines of natural science, astronomy, chemistry, botany and anatomy, to which women of a certain class gravitated.

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Orra White Hitchcock’s “Fungi Selecti Picti, Vicinity of Conway, Massachusetts” (1821), watercolor, pencil, pen and ink, and ink wash on paper in sewn album. Credit Smith College Special Collections

Orra White Hitchcock (1796-1863) was one of the most remarkable women from this more egalitarian age of scientific study. She had a deep knowledge of botany, zoology and paleontology, and she was also an artist — though that “also” would have seemed unnecessary to her. She produced two albums of botanical illustrations, and later, as introductory materials for her husband’s classes, she diagramed volcanoes, sketched the skeletons of extinct fish and mammals, and drew undulant squids and octopuses on large cotton sheets.

They’re all united at the American Folk Art Museum in “Charting the Divine Plan: The Art of Orra White Hitchcock,” a handsome and unexpectedly passionate exhibition on art, science and education in the early American republic. More than 100 watercolors and classroom charts are here, from painstakingly accurate paintings of reeds and mushrooms to boldly colored abstractions of the earth’s crust and core, and they share space with a splendid array of diaries and correspondence, redolent with the Hitchcocks’ intertwined loves for science, God and each other. Continue reading

I’d Like To Spend Some Time In Mozambique

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Wild dogs, apex predators missing from Gorongosa National Park for decades, have been reintroduced and are slowly making a comeback, part of an ongoing experiment in reviving the park ecosystem after years of devastating war. Credit Brett Kuxhausen/Gorongosa Media, via Associated Press

Thanks to one of our favorite science writers, the ever-optimistic Natalie Angier, for this note of hope:

In Mozambique, a Living Laboratory for Nature’s Renewal

At Gorongosa National Park, scarred by civil war, scientists are answering fundamental questions about ecology and evolution, and how wildlife recovers from devastation.

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Baboons and sharptooth catfish in the Mussicadzi River in the park during the dry season. The baboons in Gorongosa are brazen and plentiful, as there aren’t many leopards to keep them in check. Credit Piotr Naskrecki & Jen Guyton/NPL/Minden Pictures

GORONGOSA NATIONAL PARK, MOZAMBIQUE — The 14 African wild dogs were ravenous, dashing back and forth along the fence of their open-air enclosure, or boma, bouncing madly on their pogo-stick legs, tweet-yipping their distinctive wild-dog calls, and wagging their bushy, white-tipped tails like contestants on a game show desperate to be seen.

Since arriving at the park three months earlier, as they acclimated to their new setting and forged the sort of immiscible bonds that make Lycaon pictus one of the most social mammals in the world, the dogs had grown accustomed to a daily delivery of a freshly killed antelope to feast on. Continue reading