Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

September 28, 2018 by  
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Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests . Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe. The Global Wetland Outlook , which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change , urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs , mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland. Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming . They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well. “The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.” With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe. + Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA

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Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

Judge stops bear hunt and returns Yellowstone grizzlies to the endangered list

September 27, 2018 by  
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The hunt for grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park is officially over. This week, a judge ordered that all grizzly bears living in or near the park to be put back on the list of endangered species. The ruling stops the attempts of wildlife officials to issue licenses for those want to hunt the bears, which have been protected from hunting for the past four decades. According to The Guardian , the population of grizzly bears has increased in the last 30 years from around 135 to more than 700 today. While the numbers are improving, grizzlies are only present in four locations in the Rocky Mountains. This has raised concerns about the recovery of grizzlies, as the populations are still isolated from each other. This is one reason why Judge Dana Christensen, who put in a lot of research on the case, decided to put the bears back on the endangered list. As Judge Christensen explained, true recovery means expanding grizzly populations to regions outside of the Rocky Mountains. Related: Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years While environmental groups and activists praised the ruling, wildlife officials were disappointed by the turn of events. Officials in Wyoming recently put in motion plans for a bear hunt later this year. Up to 22 individuals were granted licenses to hunt grizzlies when the season opened. Luckily, citizens and conservationists launched a massive campaign — including the Shoot’em with a Camera, Not A Gun initiative  — to stop the sport hunting of these beautiful creatures. The fight to keep grizzly bears on the endangered list is sadly not over. Experts believe that state officials will attempt to repeal the ruling at a higher court. The pro-hunting organization Safari Club International is also expected to make a push toward making grizzly hunts legal once again. We can only hope that Judge Christensen’s ruling stands the test of time, allowing grizzlies to make a true recovery in the wild. Via The Guardian Image via Neal Herbert / Yellowstone National Park

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Judge stops bear hunt and returns Yellowstone grizzlies to the endangered list

LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

September 25, 2018 by  
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The Los Angeles City Council made a historic vote last week by unanimously agreeing to ban the sale of fur. The meeting resulted in a direct order to the L.A. City Attorney, who is responsible for penning the formal policy to outline the new law. The document is expected to surface sometime next month and will effectively ban fur beginning two years from the date of its signage. When completed, this process will result in L.A. being the largest city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur clothing and accessories. “This is L.A. taking a stand and saying we will no longer be complicit in the inhumane and vile fur trade that’s been going on for years,” council member Bob Blumenfield said. Related: British Fashion Council commits to a fur-free London Fashion Week Some skeptics of the policy raised eyebrows, wondering how a city like L.A. that enjoys average temperatures of 75 degrees plans to make a major impact on the fur market. “I don’t think it’s happening in Moscow,” said P.J. Smith, the senior manager of fashion policy at the Humane Society. While colder cities are not expected to jump on the band wagon any time soon, the council’s initiative is definitely sparking encouragement for other cities and states in the U.S. to adopt the same measures. Blumenfield, the council member responsible for initiating the motion, explained, “We’re trying to set an example for the rest of the state and the rest of the country.” Smith agreed that as the second largest city in the U.S. — also recognized as an epicenter of global fashion — the influence that L.A. would have over other cities is extraordinary. Top international fashion houses have also pledged their commitment to the no-fur campaign, along with several other cities and countries. Smith described his experience with this domino effect saying, “I’ve been doing this job for about 10 years, and if you would have told me just two years ago that Gucci, Versace, Burberry, InStyle magazine, London Fashion Week, Norway, the Netherlands, São Paulo would be going fur-free, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it’s happening.” Related: Burberry vows to stop burning unsold clothes and using real fur Smith attributed the back-to-back bans to a little friendly competition between cities. There is already a handful of cities that have adopted anti-fur laws in California , for instance. L.A. will be joining a list that includes San Francisco and West Hollywood, “to see who’s the most compassionate city out there,” Smith explained. “San Francisco’s colder, and when San Francisco banned fur sales, it was considered the compassion capital. Then you have L.A. turning around and claiming that title back.” Via New York Times Image via Pete Bellis

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LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

Scientists working to help manatees poisoned by Florida red tide

September 7, 2018 by  
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The toxic red tide has been raising states of emergency within Florida counties over the past few months. The harmful algal blooms are causing extensive fish deaths as well as sickness and death in sea turtles, birds and marine mammals, including manatees. Scientists at Florida International University (FIU), in coalition with Mote Marine Laboratory , are racing against the clock to neutralize the poisonings with a new treatment. Red tide accounts for 10 percent of manatee deaths in the last decade. Because of the current bloom cycle, that could jump to a tremendous 30 percent in the near future. Thanks to a $428,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB program , a three-year program is being launched by FIU and Mote to improve veterinary care for rescued manatees affected by the Florida red tide. The project allows scientists to study cellular immune responses in the marine mammal to various antioxidant treatments. “The current approach is simply to give palliative care and wait for them to clear the toxin and get better,” explained Kathleen Rein, the FIU chemist that is leading the research team in tandem with colleague Cathy Walsh, a marine immunology expert at Mote’s labs. Related: Manatees taken off the endangered species list – but that may not be good The current treatment, which uses anti-inflammatory substances, just isn’t ebbing the tide. “This new treatment could accelerate the healing process,” Rein said. “If this treatment is successful, it could be used with many other animals including dolphins, turtles and birds.” The manatee recently advanced from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list to threatened status. However, the current Florida red tide bloom, which is continuing without any predictions on its duration, has already claimed more than 103 of the 575 manatee deaths this year — almost 18 percent. “The need for better treatment is underscored by the current, long-lasting bloom of Florida red tide and its intense impacts on Florida manatees,” Walsh said. With the current red tide bloom being the worst the state has endured since 2005, the situation is critical. + Florida International University + Mote Marine Laboratory Image via Ramos Keith / U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

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Scientists working to help manatees poisoned by Florida red tide

Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants

September 5, 2018 by  
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Ninety elephants have been poached in Botswana in what is being considered one of Africa’s grimmest mass poaching sprees. The majority of the creatures poached for their valuable ivory were large bull elephants who carry heavy tusks, according to a statement by Elephants Without Borders on Tuesday. The group had been conducting an aerial survey of the animals over several weeks in tandem with Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks when it made the discovery. “We started flying the survey on 10 July, and we have counted 90 elephant carcasses since the survey commenced,” said Mike Chase, director of Elephants Without Borders. “Each day, we are counting dead elephants.” It is clear that the elephants were hunted for ivory, despite the recent revocations of new ivory imports by large markets. The killing is supplying still-open routes to Asia, where a demand for fresh ivory is bankrolling poachers up to $1,000 per kilo. The carcasses were found mutilated with their skulls “chopped open by presumably very sharp axes, to remove their tusks” according to Chase, who also noted that in some cases the trunks of the animals had also gone missing. Related: The world’s largest ivory market just banned ivory Botswana is widely considered an elephant sanctuary compared to neighboring Zambia and Angola, where the creatures “have been poached to the verge of local extinction,” Chase said. It is no surprise that poachers are now turning to Botswana, as the previous “shoot-to-kill” policy against poachers has gone out the window. Moreover, rangers have been disarmed under the government of Mokgweetsi Masisi after former-President Ian Khama, who was vehement in his protection of wildlife , stepped down. Jason Bell, vice president for the International Fund for Animal Welfare , said, “Until now, Botswana’s elephant herds have largely been left in peace, but clearly Botswana is now in the cross-hairs.” Tourism Minister for Botswana, Tshekedi Khama also weighed in on the coinciding ranger disarmament and mass slaughter. “I am very concerned, it’s a huge worry … because we had been spared poaching for a long time, I think now we are realizing the sophistication of these poachers,” Khama said. “Unfortunately, sometimes we learn these lessons the hard way.” Botswana is home to the largest population of elephants in Africa , with nearly 135,000 of the majestic beasts roaming its lands. These numbers account for almost a third of all the elephants in Africa since numbers have plummeted to about 415,000 in the past decade,  according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature . “The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I have seen or read about in Africa to date,” Chase said. Related: The Trump Administration decides to allow the import of elephant trophies after all With rhinos also being targeted in Botswana — six white rhinos having been found butchered and stripped of their horns in recent months — a change in policy must be made. Government officials have declined to comment on any future plans to rectify the ranger policies or prevent future incidents. Via The Guardian Image via Letizia Barbi

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Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants

Indonesia mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up plastic pollution

September 5, 2018 by  
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Indonesia wastes upward of 10 billion plastic bags every year, making it the second highest polluter of plastic in the entire world. To address the growing plastic pollution problem, thousands of volunteers gathered around the country last month and participated in one of the largest plastic cleanups to date. The goal of the event was to educate citizens about the dangers of pollution and promote better recycling practices among young people. More than 20,000 people from 76 different areas of the country participated in the event, which organizers dubbed “Face the Sea.” The volunteers scoured beaches in Indonesia for plastic trash in order to raise awareness about ocean pollution. The country only trails China in the amount of plastic it wastes every year. In total, Indonesia produces some 3.2 million tons of plastic trash annually, a quarter of which gets dumped in the ocean. Once the plastic gets into the ocean, currents gather it up and create huge areas of floating garbage. The biggest patch, located in the Pacific Ocean, is twice as large as the state of Texas. Marine life , including fish, whales and birds, often mistake the plastic for food and eat it. The plastic stays in the digestion system of the animal for life and frequently leads to death. If the world continues to waste plastic at this rate, the amount of waste in the ocean will outweigh sea animals by the year 2050. Fortunately, countries like Indonesia are starting to turn things around by understanding the importance of preserving the ocean. Apart from the recent event, the Southeast Asian country has also promised to decrease its plastic waste by 70 percent over the next seven years. The government initiated an extra tax on plastic bags two years ago, which cut the country’s plastic bag use in half over the course of just three months. The program is no longer in existence, however, because local businesses claimed it decreased overall sales. Many activists say the low number of successful policies to fight plastic pollution is because of a lack of awareness, which is what the ocean cleanup organizers are hoping to address. Via Mongabay Image via Fabio Achilli

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Indonesia mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up plastic pollution

Freedom for 5 moon bears held captive for 21 years on a bile farm

August 31, 2018 by  
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This Monday, non-profit group Animals Asia saved five moon bears that had been captive for more than two decades on a farm in Vietnam . The animals were held for 21 years, receiving regular bile extractions until their rescue from the southern town of My Tho, according to the group. The NGO transported the “freedom five” 1,050 miles by truck over the course of the week to Vietnam’s Tam Dao National Park. They were eagerly awaited at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre , an expansive and lush sanctuary dedicated to the animals’ conservation since 2006. The #FiveAlive bears have been given names for the very first time in their lives. LeBON, Kim, Mai, Star and Mekong were treated for injuries such as abdominal penetrations as well as dental decay from malnutrition and biting the cages in attempts to free themselves. Related: Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years “We know that in more than 20 years of cruel incarceration, LeBON, Star, Mai, Mekong and Kim have never had proper nutrition or medical care,” Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said. “They have known only rusty cages and a life of suffering. They were viewed as commodities and not treated as individuals. At the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, they will finally experience freedom, play in grassy enclosures, forage for food and have the chance to behave like real bears.” The moon bear, also referred to as the Asiatic Black Bear, as well as sun bears and brown bears are often captured by bile farms who sell the compounds in the practice of traditional medicine. The bears are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List and endangered by the  CITES list . The global nonprofit Animals Asia was founded by Jill Robinson MBE and is celebrating its 20 year anniversary this month. Since then, Robinson, a medical veterinarian who is recognized as the world’s leading authority on the cruel bear bile industry, has been devoted to ending the longstanding eastern tradition of bile farming. “We eagerly await LeBON, Kim, Mekong, Star and Mai’s arrival at their new home at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre,” Robinson announced shortly before their arrival. “They will never suffer behind bars again. This is an important step in our work to remove all of the bears who remain on farms in Vietnam from their cages and bring them to sanctuary . It is a new day for these innocent bears who will now finally enjoy some of the freedoms they were denied so long ago.” Related: Polar bears could go extinct sooner than scientists previously thought The Vietnamese government has been compliant with the NGO’s efforts, even signing a groundbreaking memorandum in 2017 agreeing to the removal and relocation of approximately 800 bears from bile farms to sanctuaries such as the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre. Social media support of the #FiveAlive mission has been pouring in with growing encouragement to donate to the bears’ care for the remainder of their — now free — lives. + Animals Asia Images via Animals Asia

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Freedom for 5 moon bears held captive for 21 years on a bile farm

Bees addicted to pesticides much like smokers to nicotine, scientists say

August 30, 2018 by  
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Bees have developed a likening to pesticide-containing plants , according to a recent study. The affinity exhibited by the bees is similar to an addiction to nicotine from cigarettes. Apparently, the more pesticide-laced pollen that the bees ingest, the more they crave the tainted alternatives. The contaminated nectar is potentially harmful to bees and unfortunately, researchers are finding higher quantities entering bee colonies than before. To reach these conclusions, a British research team conducted a series of studies over 10-day periods, offering 10 different bee colonies access to both pure sugar solutions as well as a compound that contained neonicotinoids, or neonics. Over extensive exposure, the bees increasingly preferred the sugar flavored with pesticides over the natural alternative. Related: Canada moves to ban bee-killing pesticides “Interestingly, neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects that are similar to receptors targeted by nicotine in mammals ,” explained Richard Gill, researcher in the Department of Life Sciences at London’s Imperial College . “Whilst neonicotinoids are controversial, if the effects of replacements on non-target insects are not understood, then I believe it is sensible that we take advantage of current knowledge and further studies to provide guidance for using neonicotinoids more responsibly, rather than necessarily an outright ban.” Related: Total field ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids likely after new EU assessments Researchers will continue to experiment with the bees, according to lead scientist Andres Arce, part of the same Imperial College department as Gill. “Many studies on neonicotinoids feed bees exclusively with pesticide-laden food, but in reality, wild bees have a choice of where to feed,” Arce said. “We wanted to know if the bees could detect the pesticides and eventually learn to avoid them by feeding on the uncontaminated food we were offering. We now need to conduct further studies to try and understand the mechanism behind why they acquire this preference.” The extensive research will have major implications for agriculture practices in the EU as well as North America. The EU already imposed a partial ban on neonics in 2013 after evidence found that they may have an adverse effect to bee colonies. As of today, the ban has been extended to all crops that are not grown in greenhouses. Canada has already moved to ban the pesticide this year, with the U.S. following suit in the near future. + The Royal Society Publishing Via The Guardian Image via Axel Rouvin

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Bees addicted to pesticides much like smokers to nicotine, scientists say

Exotic pets are most likely to be released in the wild and become invasive species

August 24, 2018 by  
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With imports of Fish and Wildlife-regulated reptiles exceeding one million individuals each year, it is no surprise that many of these animals are finding their way into the wild, where they are threatening natural ecosystems. Exotic pets can be extremely endearing and are bought at a low cost when they are babies. But when these animals get too large to handle or are cast off by wavering attention spans, they invade native ecosystems. This is the case for iguanas, Chinese water dragons and ball pythons, which have become the most commonly released pets in the wild, according to new research. The massive exotic pet trade, which isn’t fully regulated, has become the leading cause of invasive amphibians and reptiles in the wild. Whether as predatory hunters or as spreaders of “alien” diseases and pests to native populations, the discarded exotic pets are wreaking havoc that ecologists and animal control workers are endlessly working to offset. Oliver Stringham and Julie Lockwood, leading ecologists at Rutgers University in New Brunswick,  researched the prevalence of specific exotic species. The paper was published on Wednesday and cross-references attributes of species that are commonly released versus those that are typically kept by their owners. The study compared data from  citizen scientists  on numbers of species that were introduced into the wild with figures of imports and sales from online pet stores. Related: It’s finally illegal to own wild animals in the UAE In total, the researchers documented 1,722 species of reptiles and amphibians that were sold on the U.S. market between 1999 and 2016. They found that species that grow to large sizes were most likely to be released. Some of the animals also have long lifespans for pets, as in the case of the boa constrictor, which requires costly care over its 30+ year lifespan. “These species are so abundant in the pet market, they’re potentially more likely to be bought by impulsive consumers that haven’t done the proper research about care requirements with some small fraction of these consumers resorting to releasing these pets when they become difficult to care for,” Stringham said in an interview with Earther . “Even if released exotic pets fail to become established, they still cause harm to wildlife by spreading new diseases.” The effects have been catastrophic for many ecosystems . The animal trade-driven chytrid fungus plague alone has devastated amphibian populations on a global scale. In the Florida Everglades, where released exotic pets are the most prevalent, Burmese pythons and tegu lizards continuously scavenge native populations. Stringham and Lockwood hope that their research will deter importers from selling these wild animals from impulsive buyers in the future; a more likely scenario is the regulation of the amount of animals or the prices for which they are sold. Via Earther Images via Paul Hudson and Thai National Parks

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Exotic pets are most likely to be released in the wild and become invasive species

Movement to save grizzly bears from hunters scores a victory

July 30, 2018 by  
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Thomas Mangelsen, the animal photographer who brought fame to Yellowstone’s “Grizzly 399,” has been selected to receive a hunting license in Wyoming. Mangelsen was one of 7,000 hopeful lottery applicants to appear on the “Issuance List” released on Thursday by the state’s Game and Fish Department. However, unlike the majority of entrants in Yellowstone’s first bear hunt in nearly half a century, Mangelsen hopes to tag his catch in a photo rather than a body bag. Mangelsen’s application was part of the “Shoot ‘Em with a Camera, Not a Gun” campaign, which wildlife activists launched in an effort to lower the number of hunters granted licenses in Wyoming’s bear permit lottery. The randomly selected candidates were drawn in order of when they will be given access to the hunting grounds; only one ticket holder will be allowed in the zone at a time. Each hunter is given a maximum of 10 days to “tag” – that is to say, kill – a grizzly before the next individual is allowed in. The hunt will last either two months or until the quota of 22 kills is met. Related: Jane Goodall and conservationists move to obtain bear hunting licences in Wyoming Mangelsen was happy to report on Shoot ‘Em With A Camera’s Facebook page that he had drawn the eighth slot in the 2018 hunt and would most likely be able to save at least one bear, or possibly more. “The odds of winning a tag were extremely low considering over 7,000 people applied,” the photographer noted. “There are certain circumstances that would keep me from getting in the field, but if given the opportunity, you can be sure that I will be buying the $600 license and spending all of the allotted ten days hunting with a camera. With only one person allowed in the field at one time, hopefully the ten days I take up will save the lives of some of these amazing animals.” Related: Trump administration wants to allow “extreme and cruel” hunting methods in Alaska The activist group was formed in Jackson, Wyoming on account of the bears’ 2017 removal from the Endangered Species Act list of threatened wildlife and the opening of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana’s hunting seasons. The group has raised just over $40,000 to stop the hunting expeditions through their Go Fund Me page and allied themselves with a network of environmental champions such as primatologist Jane Goodall and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Stop the Griz Hunt organization. + Shoot ‘Em With A Camera + Go Fund Me + Stop The Griz Hunt Via NPR and USA Today

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