Borneo Bridge Not Needed, Thank You

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Pygmy elephant males play-fighting near the Kinabatangan river in Borneo. Photograph: Alamy

What he said:

David Attenborough attacks plan for Borneo bridge that threatens orangutans

Endangered pygmy elephants and orangutans threatened by scheme for Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

David Attenborough and Steve Backshall have joined conservationists and charities asking officials in Borneo to reconsider a bridge that threatens one of the last sanctuaries of the rare pygmy elephant.

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Saving Snow Leopards

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A snow leopard in the Himalayas eating its prey. Credit Madhu Chetri

The New York Times’ always-appreciated Science section, once a Tuesday feature, has been joined by many features made possible by the wonders of modern technology, and the news organization has also responded creatively to the competition made possible by all that wondrous technology. This article by Nicholas St. Fleur is a good example of why we check in on the Trilobites feature of the website daily:

How Do You Save Snow Leopards? First, Gather Their Droppings

Pigs Provisioned Properly

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This wild hog from Hawaii was raised at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo. Feral pigs in the wild tend to eat anything containing a calorie — from rows of corn to sea turtle eggs, to baby deer and goats. Rae Ellen Bichell/NPR

We appreciate the excellent science produced by employees of the federal government of the USA, both the theoretical and applied problems they tackle depending on their specialty. Thanks to those who deal with creatures like this, who have in common with their feline counterparts in some locations the misfortune of bumping up against human interests. Figuring them out and accommodating them humanely seems a worthy scientific cause:

Scientists Get Down And Dirty With DNA To Track Wild Pigs

by Rae Ellen Bichell

In the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, a gravel road leads to a 10-foot-tall fence. Type in a key code, and a gate scrapes open. Undo a chain to get behind another. Everything here is made of metal, because the residents of this facility are experts at invasion and destruction. Continue reading

Puma, Puma, Puma

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A lion known as P-45 has killed scores of domestic animals—and attracted passionate fans. Courtesy National Park Service

We favor a walk in the woods where pumas feel naturally at home. That said, the world has been changing faster than we like, and faster than pumas can adapt. We have had so many wildcat stories in these pages since we started in 2011, it is impossible to count at this point; also not possible to link back to one that matches the content of Dana Goodyear’s wow piece in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker:

LIONS OF LOS ANGELES

Are the city’s pumas dangerous predators or celebrity guests?

It was drizzling and gray, late fall, on the old Rickards Movie Ranch, high in the Santa Monica Mountains, in rural, red-state western Malibu. Continue reading

Take Note Of NRDC

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In times that try our souls in so many ways, it helps to know that organizations like this one are prepared, and worthy of your consideration for your support:

We rely on wilderness not only to inspire and enjoy but also to protect our watersheds, clean the air we breathe, and provide a home for the diverse species that enrich our world. Continue reading

Redeeming Schemes Punctuated With Question Marks

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An impression of the town square at the Babcock Ranch development in Florida. Photograph: Babcock Ranch

For every redemption story there seems to be at least one more redemption puzzle. Conundrums. This is one of those. We want to love the scheme for some of its nobler aspects, but then realize it is impossible to do so unconditionally. And finally, simply, impossible:

The solar-powered town: a dream for the environment – or a wildlife nightmare?

Babcock Ranch, the brainchild of ex-NFL player Syd Kitson, aims to be a model of sustainability but campaigners fear it will be tragic for endangered panther

Edward Helmore in New York

Florida real estate has a bad habit of reflecting the boom-and-bust cycles of the US economy but Babcock Ranch, a new development opening early next year and designed to be the world’s first solar-powered town, is hoping it can provide the Sunshine state with a model for sustainable living. Continue reading

Albatross, Age & Egg — Keeping The Species Going

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Wisdom tends to her egg. Laysan albatrosses spend the vast majority of their lives in the air. Photograph: US Fish and Wildlife Service/AP

Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment section (and Reuters) for this news:

World’s oldest-known seabird lays an egg at age of 66 in Pacific refuge

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is also world’s oldest-known breeding bird in the wild and has had a few dozen chicks Continue reading

Wild Things, Health & Care

Thanks to Anthropocene’s Brandon Keim for this story about a health care revolution for wildlife:

…Researchers led by University of Florida biologist David Duffy raise that possibility in a new Global Change Biology article about “precision wildlife medicine,” an approach that would draw upon innovations in human disease treatment. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Manú National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Peru

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Source: andeanamazonexpeditions.com

Containing much of the Peruvian Amazon’s  greatest flora and fauna, Manú National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the world and allows for once-in-a-lifetime sightings of rare and exotic animals.  The park is Peru’s biggest and consists of three parts: the “Cultural or Buffer zone,” where native communities live and tourists can enter unaccompanied, the “Reserved zone,” an area set aside for controlled scientific research and ecotourism, and the “Intangible zone,” the largest section that is strictly for flora and fauna preservation. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Manú offers adventurous travelers lush, untouched Amazon to explore and discover the unmatched beauty of virgin environments and unrestricted wildlife.

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Beware & Resist The Frack

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Countryside near the village of Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire where a planning application by Third Energy to frack was recently approved. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Many claim to tire of hearing about climate change, species extinction, threats from fracking and other environmental issues of great importance. Thanks to the Guardian for continuing to pay attention:

Majority of potential UK fracking sites are rich in important wildlife

Almost two-thirds of proposed areas have higher biodiversity, valuable for functions such as pollination and pest control, analysis shows

Many of the areas that have been recently marked as potential sites for fracking are rich in wildlife that perform crucial functions from pollination to decomposition, researchers have found.

Scientists say that almost two-thirds of the areas that have been labelled as suitable for shale gas extraction have levels of biodiversity equal to or above the national average, according to a new analysis of records collected from across the country. Continue reading

Bravo, Trip Advisor!

PHOTOGRAPH BY NORBERT WU, MINDEN PICTURES

In a world where economics often focus on the concept that “the customer is always right” it’s heartening to see even large companies re-evaluate policy, and make make changes in the face of facts.

Our work in India has often placed us face to face with the common practices of human-animal interaction written about below, and we don’t promote the  “elephant rides” that are often on travelers’ agenda. Change occurs along  with a shift in understanding, and our goal has always been to craft travel experiences that are both authentic and educational.

So “Bravo!” and a hearty welcome to any company willing to join us in achieving that goal!

TripAdvisor Halts Ticket Sales to Cruel Wildlife Attractions

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TripAdvisor, the popular travel review website, and its ticket sales company, Viator, said Tuesday they no longer will sell tickets to hundreds of tourist attractions that are widely accepted as cruel to wild animals, reversing a policy under which the companies had resisted considering the welfare of animals when promoting trips.

The move to stop selling tickets to elephant rides, swim-with-dolphin experiences, and attractions that allow visitors to pet tigers and other exotic animals comes after a one-and-a-half-year protest campaign by the London-based animal welfare group World Animal Protection and reporting by National Geographic’s Wildlife Watch, which drew attention to TripAdvisor’s continued promotion of such attractions at a time when dozens of other tour and travel companies were moving away from them.

Such attractions have been shown to cause animals psychological and physical trauma that can shorten their lives. They also result in more animals being taken from the wild for tourism.

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Bravo, Romania

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Romania’s government has taken action to protect its large carnivores from trophy hunters.iStock

There was a time when we found portions of the hunting-to-support-conservation argument compelling. Our view is getting more and more firm against it. We applaud a small country teeming with wildlife for taking a firm stand:

Wildlife Advocates Celebrate: Romania Bans Trophy Hunting

By Alicia Graef

In a surprise move that has wildlife advocates cheering, Romania’s government has taken action to protect its large carnivores from trophy hunters.

Last week, the Environment Ministry announced a total ban on trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and and other wild cats, which is expected to save thousands of animals from being killed. Continue reading

Pangolins, Remarkable In More Ways Than One

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More than 1 million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade. Photograph: Paul Hilton/WCS

We honestly knew little, perhaps nothing, about these creatures until very recently when they were in the news; and they were almost gone before we learned about them. Suddenly, thankfully, pangolins have been given the attention they deserve from the folks (including all of us) who may be able to help them survive as a species:

Pangolins thrown a lifeline at global wildlife summit with total trade ban

World’s most illegally trafficked mammal wins total ban on international trade in all species under the strictest Cites protection possible

Pangolins, the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, were thrown a lifeline at a global wildlife summit on Wednesday with a total trade ban in all species. Continue reading

Beauty Is A Beast

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Culling could undermine the viability of the entire Norwegian wolf population, say conservationists. Photograph: Roger Strandli Berghagen

We love sheep, and sheep farmers, and shepherds, and wool, and so on. But we cannot read this without feeling more sympathy for the wolves, at this moment:

Norway’s wolf cull pits sheep farmers against conservationists

Norway’s recent decision to destroy 70% of its tiny endangered population of wolves shocked conservationists worldwide and saw 35,000 sign a local petition. But in a region dominated by sheep farming support for the cull runs deep

Elisabeth Ulven and Tone Sutterud in Oslo

Conservation groups worldwide were astonished to hear of the recent, unprecedented decision to destroy 70% of the Norway’s tiny and endangered population of 68 wolves, the biggest cull for almost a century. Continue reading

Thoughts on Bison Farming

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Source: Modern Farmer

Bison meat is not the typical protein one finds on the dinner plate every night (especially not in my vegetarian household), but it is a meat product that is known for being healthier than beef and – possibly – more environmentally friendly. “How so?” you might wonder. According to Modern Farmer there are several components to bison farming that give it a “greener edge.”

It’s believed that bison cause less trampling and erosion damage to the plains than cattle, that their diet is higher in grasses and thus less damaging to the long-term chances of the plains environment, and that bison poop functions as a natural fertilizer to their habitats.

This all mostly stems from a general idea that bison, being not domesticated and technically, even when ranched, a wild animal, are more in tune with nature, more balanced in their impact than cattle. They are also native to North America, unlike cattle, which were domesticated from Old World animals. “Because bison are a natural part of the North American ecosystem, bison ranching can be a beneficial to the natural environment,” writes the National Bison Association, a promotional group, on its site.

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Monkeying Around

Photo by Seth Inman

Photo by Seth Inman

Spider monkey encounters are commonplace at Chan Chich Lodge. Whether it be during an early morning bird walk or a late afternoon read on the porch futon, spider monkeys will likely make their swinging appearance from the tree top branches at some point during the day. They are curious, but daring creatures that will have no shame in shaking up a couple of branches above your head and letting fruits fall on you if they feel threatened (an inexplicable reaction in my mind when I humbly walk through the trails hoping to catch sight of a Tody Motmot).

Having been in Belize for over a month, I have several memorable anecdotes to share about spider monkeys, but I will share two that I believe encapsulate the magnificence of these intelligent creatures.

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Spotting and Tracking Mammals at Chan Chich

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen anything as exciting as a jaguar recently, but morning walks at the Lodge have been fruitful nonetheless. Mostly I look for birds, but any mammal spotted is one worth seeing – even a squirrel, given that the most common species here is one only found in Central America. I’m most used to the Eastern Gray Squirrel of the United States, as well as the smaller Variegated Squirrel of Costa Rica’s Central Valley and the cute Red-tailed Squirrel in the volcano regions. Here at Chan Chich, the Deppe’s Squirrel is a dark brown with frosted gray on the tail, and it is much more timid than the acclimatized suburban rodents of the East Coast in the US.

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British Wildlife Photography Awards

British autumn season winner: Robert E Fuller, ‘Common weasel’, North Yorkshire, England. Photograph: Robert E Fuller/British Wildlife Photography Awards 2016

British autumn season winner: Robert E Fuller, ‘Common weasel’, North Yorkshire, England. Photograph: Robert E Fuller/British Wildlife Photography Awards 2016

We like to feature different nature photography competition winners here, because the audience always wins, as we put it two years ago. This week, The Guardian is featuring a competition that we hadn’t heard of yet: the British Wildlife Photography Awards. This contest has interesting categories, including photos of Britain in its four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter – all of which were won by a photograph of a family of common weasels:

British summer season winner: Robert E Fuller, ‘Common weasel’, North Yorkshire, England. Photograph: Robert E Fuller/British Wildlife Photography Awards 2016

British summer season winner: Robert E Fuller, ‘Common weasel’, North Yorkshire, England. Photograph: Robert E Fuller/British Wildlife Photography Awards 2016

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Doing More for Protected Lands and Oceans

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Photograph: Owen Humphrey’s/PA

Almost fifteen percent of the Earth’s land is enclosed in national parks or other protected areas, which accounts for approximately 20 million sq km. This figure is close to an internationally agreed goal to protect 17 percent of the land surface by 2020. Comparatively, ocean conservation only accounts for 4 percent of total surface of the ocean, covering 15 million sq km. In spite of these statistics – which reflect a positive outcome of the increased attention and importance given to land and ocean conservation – there are concerns over how well these areas are managed and whether they effectively protect endangered species, as Seth wrote a few days ago.

progress report by the UN Environment and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns that some of the most biodiverse ecosystems are not being protected and that the management of many protected areas is deficient.

Less than 20% of areas considered crucial hubs for species are fully protected, the report states, with countries routinely failing to assess the effectiveness of their national parks nor provide wildlife corridors that allow animals to roam between protected areas.

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Wildlife Crime Challenge Winners Announced

From wildlifecrimetech.org

From wildlifecrimetech.org

Back in July we shared a story on turtle egg poaching that was part of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, created by USAID with the support of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, and TRAFFIC. The company with the fake turtle egg idea from that article was one of the sixteen winners of the competition, but a grand prize was announced for the four “most creative and impactful” ideas offered out of those winners. The four grand prize winners were announced this weekend at the  World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Honolulu, Hawaii. Christine Dell’Amore reports:

Every year about 10 million aquarium fish pass through United States ports, many on their way to new homes as family pets. But first, federal inspectors must leaf through mountains of paperwork on the animals, which are shipped from more than 40 countries around the world. “Until recently, the [inspectors] didn’t even have wireless access in the warehouses,” says Michael Tlusty, director of ocean sustainability and science at the New England Aquarium. Continue reading