10 Million Acres Added to Chile’s Parks

Today, January 29, 2018, Kristine Tompkins of @tompkins_conservation and Chile's President Michelle Bachelet signed a declaration to add Patagonia National Park and Pumalín National Park to Chile’s national park system.⠀ ⠀ These donations are part of a 10 million-acre addition to Chile’s national park system—with approximately one million acres of land from Tompkins Conservation and nine million acres of federal land from Chile—which will add five new parks and expand three more. These national parks will safeguard Patagonia’s wilderness, provide a boon to economic development in southern Chile, and continue to welcome Chileans and international tourists alike. ⠀ ⠀ This is an unprecedented victory for conservation that’s been in the making for more than 25 years and cements Chile as a global leader in conservation.⠀ ⠀ Photos: L. Waidhofer, C. Henderson, Kate Larramendy, @tompkins_conservation

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I don’t normally expect to get my daily news from Instagram, unless it’s an update from a personal friend. I follow the company Patagonia because they feature beautiful photos like those above, but yesterday they shared this fantastic announcement. Visiting Patagonia about a decade ago was an amazing experience that I hope to repeat before too long, and I am thrilled that there will be some new national parks to visit. Jonathan Franklin reports for The Guardian:

McDivitt Tompkins, the former chief executive of the outdoors company Patagonia, handed over 1m acres to help create the new parks. The Chilean government provided the rest in federally controlled land.

McDivitt Tompkins has spent 25 years working on land conservation in Chile with her late husband Doug, who founded North Face and Esprit. Doug Tompkins died in a kayaking accident in Chile in 2015.

“This is not just an unprecedented act of preservation,” said [Chile’s President Michelle] Bachelet, who flew to this remote Patagonian valley on Monday to receive the donation. “It is an invitation to imagine other forms to use our land. To use natural resources in a way that does not destroy them. To have sustainable development – the only profitable economic development in the long term.”

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The Etymology of Tea/Chai

Image © Quartz, qz.com

Most of us have either ordered a chai latte at a café before, or at least a cup of tea. I, for one, always assumed that chai was just the Hindi word for tea, and that in the US this always meant tea with certain spices, versus “normal” tea being plain old green or black tea leaves. But instead of getting into semantics, I want to share some of the etymology behind the two words, tea and chai, that I learned from an article in Quartz by Nikhil Sonnad:

“With a few minor exceptions, there are really only two ways to say ‘tea’ in the world. One is like the English term— in Spanish and tee in Afrikaans are two examples. The other is some variation of cha, like chay in Hindi.

Both versions come from China. How they spread around the world offers a clear picture of how globalization worked before ‘globalization’ was a term anybody used. The words that sound like ‘cha’ spread across land, along the Silk Road. The ‘tea’-like phrasings spread over water, by Dutch traders bringing the novel leaves back to Europe.”

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Precious Plumage

From left, the feathers of an opal-crowned manakin, a snow-capped manakin and the golden-crowned manakin. Credit University of Toronto Scarborough via NYTimes

Out of the roughly 250 bird families in the world, manakins (Pipridae family) are probably my favorite, because they’re like birds of paradise (Paradisaeidae family), except you don’t have to take a helicopter to remote areas of Papua New Guinea to see them. Almost all manakins are colorful––or at least the males are; females normally being a drab green––and they often have interesting behavior as well. I saw my first manakins in Ecuador, where two flashy species had some fun sounds to go along with their calls, but most of my exposure to the family has been in Costa Rica, where I did my best to record a Long-tailed Manakin lek.

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Paying for the Birds You See?

Can we put a price tag on birds we see?

Image by the author

I recently came across an Oxford professor’s blog that revolves mostly around conservation and birding, and one of his posts was particularly interesting to me. In it, Professor Paul Jepson discusses the increasing presence of photography in the British birding sphere, and what bird photography means for the hobby of birding/birdwatching. I encourage you to read his article (I’ll put a link below), but will first share one idea that Jepson brings up toward the end of the piece, and which was very thought-provoking:

Bird photography is part of the socio-technological assembly that is shaping futures. If birdwatching is to be a cultural force in the twenty-first century, our bird reserves will need to embrace developments and directions in digital technologies. … My thought experiment imagines a system of pay-for nature hides with an observation tower, like the one in Muritz National Park outside Berlin, as its centre piece. Birding has a strong ‘nature as a public good’ mentality. While many bird photographers agree with this principle, they are also willing to pay for entry to the facilities and special places that enable them to get the shot they desire. Nature hides are popping up across Britain and 2017 hide day rates are £75 for the opportunity to photograph Common Kestrels Falco tinnunculus, £99 for Kingfishers and £150 for Black Grouse.

Although I enjoy taking photos of birds and sharing them online, I do not consider myself a bird photographer, partly because I don’t have the specialized gear (my camera is a point-and-shoot model, though its exceptional 65x optical zoom is useful for bird photos). That being said, Continue reading

Last Search for the Jamaican Golden Swallow

Spoiler alert: the search occurred about three years ago. We didn’t find any Golden Swallows.

If you were a regular visitor to this site in the first half of 2015, you probably remember the slew of posts we had on the Smithsonian Institution’s expedition to Jamaica to search for the subspecies of Golden Swallow (a type of bird, in case that needs clarification). The only other known population of this species is on the island of Hispaniola, in the countries of Haiti and Dominican Republic, but the Jamaican population hadn’t been seen in about thirty years, and Justin, John and I were tasked with scouring the final remote areas of the Jamaican mountains that hadn’t been rigorously checked yet.

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Instagram’s Hashtag Alerts to Highlight Animal Abuse

This is the message that now appears on Instagram if you search for a hashtag like #koalaselfie

I post on Instagram a couple times a month, but I often browse pictures on the app at least once a day. I can’t say that I’ve encountered photos like those described in the NatGeo article below, but I’m still thankful that Instagram is taking action to try to keep it that way, by pointing out to people using certain hashtags involving wildlife that the animals may be suffering behind the scenes:

Instagram is rife with photos of cute wild animals—including the exotic and endangered. A picture of someone hugging a sloth or showing off a pet tiger cub is just a click away on the massively popular photo-sharing platform, which serves 800 million users.

But starting [December 4th], searches for a wide range of wildlife hashtags will trigger a notification informing people of the behind-the-scenes animal abuse that makes some seemingly innocent wildlife photos possible.

Instagram will now deliver a pop-up message whenever someone searches or clicks on a hashtag like “#slothselfie.” The message reads, in part, “You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.”

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