"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

March 23, 2017 by  
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A venerated sea turtle who was fed hundreds of coins by supplicants seeking good fortune is dead . The 25-year-old animal was living in a pond in a town near the Gulf of Thailand in late February when rescuers found her close to drowning from the weight of her cache—about 11 pounds worth. After naming her Omsin, which is Thai for “piggy bank,” a team of veterinary surgeons operated on the turtle for seven hours. By the time they were finished, they had filled a bucket with 915 coins, in currencies both foreign and domestic. Omsin was expected to survive, if not thrive. By all accounts, her rehabilitation at Bangkok’s Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animals Research Center went smoothly. She received laser therapy on her belly incision. A large kiddie pool, coupled with physical therapy for a wonky flipper, helped her ease back into water. Following a liquid diet, Omsin returned to eating solid food. “She is getting stronger,” Nantarika Chansue, a veterinary scientist who tracked Omsin’s progress on Facebook, wrote on March 9. Just as her doctors began planning her release to the wild, Omsin’s condition suddenly deteriorated. They found her intestines in a tangle in the space where the coins once filled. An infection had developed, causing her abdomen to swell up with gas and fluid. Related: Sea turtle is rescued after being dragged onto a beach and beaten for selfies Despite rushing the turtle into intensive care on Sunday night, then emergency surgery on Monday, Omsin lapsed into a comma. On Tuesday, she died, a victim of ignorance and superstition. “At 10:10 a.m., she went with peace,” Nantarika said during a news conference. Visibly weeping, she called Omsin her “friend, teacher and patient.” Nantarika was comforted by just one thought. “She at least had the chance to swim freely and eat happily before she passed,” she said. Via the Washington Post Photos by Unsplash

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"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

First fluorescent frog in the world found in South America

March 16, 2017 by  
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Scientists found the first fluorescent frog in the world – by accident – in South America . Researchers at Buenos Aires’ Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum stumbled across the discovery while studying pigment in polka dot tree frogs, which are common in the continent. Beneath an ultraviolet (UV) light , the otherwise dull-colored frog glows bright blue and green. Fluorescence – or the ability to take in light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths – is found in several ocean creatures but is incredibly rare on land. Only some scorpions and parrots were known to possess it until now, and this is the very first amphibian we’ve found that fluoresces. Scientists don’t really know why creatures are fluorescent; they could be communicating, attracting mates, or concealing themselves. Related: Biofluorescent sharks glow bright green in the depths of the sea The scientists initially thought the frog might glow a faint red because it contains the pigment biliverdin, which gives some some insects a slight red fluorescence. But when the researchers shone a UVA flashlight on polka dot tree frogs that came from the Santa Fe, Argentina area, they were amazed to see the brown-green frogs glow bright green and blue instead. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their research on March 13. Study co-author Maria Gabriella Lagoria told Chemistry World, “This is very different from fluorophores found in other vertebrates, which are usually proteins or polyenic chains.” And there could be even more fluorescent frogs that we haven’t discovered yet. Co-author Julián Faivovich told Nature, “I’m really hoping that other colleagues will be very interested in this phenomenon, and they will start carrying a UV flashlight to the field.” He plans to seek fluorescence in 250 other tree frog species that have translucent skin like the polka dot tree frog. Via Nature and The Guardian Images via Carlos Taboada et al

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First fluorescent frog in the world found in South America

Czech zoo to remove horns from rhino herd after poacher attack in France

March 16, 2017 by  
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A zoo in the Czech Republic announced Tuesday that it plans to preemptively remove the horns from its herd of rare rhinos. The decision comes a week after poachers broke into a French zoo, shot dead an endangered white rhino and hacked off its horn. As extreme as it sounds, the surgery could be potentially lifesaving. “It’s for the sake of rhino safety,” Andrea Jirousova, spokeswoman for the zoo in the central Czech town of Dvur Kralove nad Labem, told AFP . “The attack put us on alert, the danger is really intense.” The March 7 death of 4-year-old Vince from Thoiry Zoological Park outside Paris sent shockwaves through the wildlife community. Experts say that the animal’s death likely marks the first time a rhino has been killed in a zoo. The message the tragedy sent was chillingly clear: No living rhino, not even one held in captivity, is safe from poachers. The Dvur Kralove zoo currently houses 21 black and southern white rhinos, including three calves who will be excluded from the surgery. At up to $60,000 per kilogram, rhino horn sells more on the black market than gold or cocaine. Most of the demand for horn comes from China and Vietnam, where it’s prized for its purported medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Related: Poachers broke into a French zoo to kill a rhino and steal its horn Jirousova said that the rhinos would be kept under anesthesia for the procedure, which involves removing the horns with a chainsaw, then filing down the edges. The move, she added, is entirely unprecedented. “We have never done this because of poachers,” Jirousova added. “We did it for other reasons like transport or health concerns.” Via AFP Photos by Flowcomm and Son of Groucho

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Czech zoo to remove horns from rhino herd after poacher attack in France

50% of Earth’s species face extinction by 2100

February 27, 2017 by  
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Biologists, economists, and ecologists have gathered at the Vatican to discuss what actions humanity can take to preserve Earth’s biosphere . Attending the Biological Extinction conference, these researchers say one in five species are currently threatened with extinction , but that statistic could skyrocket to 50 percent of all species on Earth by 2100 if we do nothing to stem the preventable carnage. The conference organizers said endangered species like the rhinoceros or tiger may make headlines now and again, but we’re largely overlooking the peril other living things face. In case we think otherwise, Earth’s animals and plants are vital for the planet and for us: they provide food and medicine, absorb carbon emissions , purify the air and water, and regenerate soil, to name a few functions. The organizers said, “The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring.” Related: First mammal species succumbs to climate change Paul Ehrlich, a biologist from Stanford University , blamed the destruction of the environment on the lifestyles of rich Western countries. He said, “Rich Western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones. We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs , and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have triggered a major extinction event. The question is: how do we stop it?” Researchers will be at the Vatican today talking about economic and social changes we could take to try and save the planet’s species. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences are sponsoring the workshop, which continues until March 1 to explore several ecological issues. Ehrlich said, “If you look at the figures, it is clear that to support today’s world population sustainably – and I emphasize the word sustainably – you would require another half a planet to provide us with those resources. However, if everyone consumed resources at the U.S. level – which is what the world aspires to – you will need another four or five Earths.” Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Pexels

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50% of Earth’s species face extinction by 2100

China is building the world’s first migratory Bird Airport

February 17, 2017 by  
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Modern architecture has often been accused of encroaching on wildlife habitats – but McGregor Coxall just unveiled a new project that’s literally for the birds. The world’s first migratory “Bird Airport” is designed to convert a landfill in Lingang, China into a wetland bird sanctuary Every year, more than 50 million birds journey from the Antarctic along the East Asian-Australian Flyway (EAAF), but the route is increasingly threatened to due to coastal urbanization. Today, 1 in 5 globally endangered waterbirds fly this route as their population rapidly decreases. Related: 1.5 billion birds disappear from North America’s skies To address the problem, the Port of Tianjin called on international designers to create a wetland sanctuary for migrating birds. McGregor Coxall’s Bird Airport includes 60 hectares of wetland park, where birds will be able to stop, refuel, and breed on their way through the flyway. Renewable energy will be used to irrigate the wetlands with recycled waste water and harvested rain. Adrian McGregor, CEO and lead designer of McGregor Coxall explains the inspiration behind the project, “The earth’s bird flyways are a wonder of the natural world. The proposed Bird Airport will be a globally significant sanctuary for endangered migratory bird species whilst providing new green lungs for the city of Tianjin.” The city of Tianjin will enjoy many benefits from the new green infrastructure . The proposal calls for plenty of park space – including walking and cycling paths along a 7 km network of recreational urban forest trails. Construction on the bird airport is slated to begin late 2017, and the project will be completed in 2018. + McGregor Coxall

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China is building the world’s first migratory Bird Airport

Playful KATRIS scratching post blocks fit together like Tetris for cats

February 13, 2017 by  
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Cat owners who find themselves hiding grubby scratching posts out of sight will love this awesome KATRIS set that combines feline fun with playful design. The modular system consists of scratchable blocks that double as flexible furnishings . All of the pieces are non-toxic, and they can be assembled in a variety of ways so that cats can enjoy an ever-changing feline playground. Featured on an episode of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell”, KATRIS is the result of extensive research into the best materials for feline furniture according to cat behavioral science. Each shred-resistant block is made with 200 sheets of FSC-certified heavy-duty paper , and they can support up to 300 pounds of weight. The blocks can be connected in a variety of ways using built-in straps. https://youtu.be/dHhO_CnZBjU Related: Architects turn a cramped apartment into a gorgeous loft where the owner’s cats can roam freely The blocks are manufactured using non-toxic ingredients, such as SGS-certified, non-toxic glue and eco-friendly branding ink made with non-toxic soybean inks. Not only is the whole system completely recyclable, but the blocks are designed to have an extremely long life cycle, further minimizing waste. + KATRIS Cat Via Curbed Images via KATRIS

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Playful KATRIS scratching post blocks fit together like Tetris for cats

If you eat seafood, you’re probably eating fleece microfibers

February 7, 2017 by  
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If you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors (or simply like to feel warm and cozy throughout the day), you’re probably a fan of synthetic fleece jackets. But what you might not know is that every time one of these items runs through the wash, it releases thousands of microscopic plastic fibers into the water supply. These microfibers end up being eaten by fish and marine life – where they eventually end up back on our plates. A study last year from the University of California Santa Barbara , in collaboration with the clothing company Patagonia, shows that every time polyester fleece jackets are run through the wash without detergent, up to 2 grams of these fibers could be shed. It’s worse for top-load washing machines, which release seven times more fibers than the front-load variety. Unlike clothes dryers, which can capture loose fibers in lint traps, loose material in washing machines ends up simply being washed down the drain. Unfortunately, these microfibers are so small that wastewater treatment plants can’t filter them out. Instead, they end up being released into the environment, where they’re eaten by wildlife. Related:  Patagonia says synthetic fibers (including their own) are polluting the oceans Are these microscopic bits of plastic harmful when ingested? It’s not entirely clear. Some studies have show certain species can’t cope well with the microfibers: water fleas who inadvertently eat fleece fibers are more likely to die, and common crabs that have ingested the tiny bits of plastic eat less food overall. But further research is needed to show if humans who eat fleece-filled seafood suffer any ill effects. Unfortunately, short of avoiding fish altogether, it’s impossible to know whether you’re ingesting microfibers or not. For now, the only real solution is to either avoid washing your fleece when possible, or rig your washing machine with a filter to catch microfibers before they enter waterways. Sadly, that won’t do much unless everyone who wears synthetic fleece takes this advice to heart. Via NPR Images via Kelly and StockSnap  

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If you eat seafood, you’re probably eating fleece microfibers

Is giraffe milk the latest superfood?

January 30, 2017 by  
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Call us crazy, but it seems like you can’t sling an acai quinoa bowl these days without slamming into some healthful new “superfood” we should all be eating. Never mind that actual scientific corroboration tends to be scant, or that a balanced diet, chock full of fruits and vegetables, will outperform even the most faddish of nutritional panaceas on the best of days. The ability to reduce the complexities of calorie counting, ingredient-label translating, and consistent clean living to a trite “eat this, not that” has undeniable appeal. Bonus points if it adds a dash of exoticism or mystery to our otherwise quotidian existence. The latest bandwagon-in-making, according to Metro ? Giraffe milk. By way of evidence, the British rag pointed to a 1962 study that claimed that giraffe milk has almost four times the fat content of full-fat cow’s milk and 12 times that of skim. Giraffe milk contains comparable amounts of riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin B6 as cow’s milk, the study continued, but higher levels of vitamins A and B12. It’s the excess fat that we desire, Metro insists. A Tufts University study that followed some 3,000 people over two decades found that people who had the most dairy fat in their diets had a 46 percent lower risk of diabetes that those who ate the least. Related: Giraffes are on the verge of going extinct While it was “too early to call whole-fat dairy the healthiest choice,” Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and the study’s author, also called for a national policy that was more neutral on dairy fat until additional data presented itself. But even Metro admitted that the idea of giraffe milk on supermarket shelves would be unlikely. “When it comes to a giraffe, it would be almost impossible to get one to stand still long enough to be milked—let alone enough to set up a profitable business,” it wrote. “The giraffes that have been milked have been milked under controlled conditions by scientists.” There’s also the fact that giraffes are on the brink of extinction . The IUCN Red List reported a 38 percent decline in the giraffe population since 1985, plus a “high risk of extinction” in the wild if the trend continues. The culprit, of course, is humans. Illegal hunting, habitat loss through agriculture and mining, and growing human-wildlife conflict could soon spell the irretrievable loss of the world’s tallest land mammal. The last thing giraffes need is someone chasing after them with a bucket and a stool. Photos by Pixabay and Andrew Magill

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Is giraffe milk the latest superfood?

Villagers in India knit sweaters to protect rescued elephants from the cold

January 26, 2017 by  
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The rescued elephants at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center in India get a second chance at life after being abused and exploited by their former owners and handlers. Along with finally having the freedom to take walks, bathe and play in water pools, and scratch themselves up against trees, several of the sanctuary’s elephants recently received a new winter wardrobe: giant sweaters lovingly hand-knit by the villagers of Mathura. As the nighttime temperatures dipped to freezing levels last year, the center’s staff issued a call to local women to help provide a little extra warmth to the giant pachyderms. The villagers responded enthusiastically, coming together to knit and crochet the brightly colored sweaters . The elephants quickly took to their new attire and, judging from the photos, seem pretty intrigued by the knitting process itself. In addition to looking cheerful and festive, the sweaters help protect the vulnerable animals from the cold and stave off their arthritic symptoms. Related: Cindy Chinn carves a tiny family of elephants into pencil tips The only downside to this giant knitting project is the length of time to make one sweater: each one takes about four weeks to complete. As a result, only three of the 20 elephants at the sanctuary have been fully outfitted so far, while the rest have been given blankets. Since the elephants suffered years of neglect and mistreatment, they are especially susceptible to infections and illnesses, so staying covered up in the poncho/sweater/long john combos is essential for keeping them healthy. The center is hoping for more volunteers to continue knitting in order to outfit every elephant with his or her own sweater by next winter. Considering that Wildlife SOS plans to rescue another 50 elephants this year , that’s a pretty tall order. If you want to get involved , including  volunteering on-site with the organization and preparing food or helping to bathe these gentle giants or donating funds, click here . Via Booooooom , Daily Mail , and My Modern Met All images © Roger Allen

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Villagers in India knit sweaters to protect rescued elephants from the cold

Elon Musk says new company will start drilling under LA next month

January 26, 2017 by  
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Never one to dally, Elon Musk has announced he’s about to dig into his ambitious project to build a tunnel under Los Angeles. The new tunnel is expected to tame the city’s massive traffic congestion problem . According to Motherboard , the mogul announced the news via Twitter on Wednesday morning with a tweet that said: “Exciting news on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so.” It’s clear that Musk is not one to let an idea languish, as he only stated his goal to build a tunnel in mid-December 2016 while publicly complaining on Twitter about the traffic problems in Los Angeles. “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” he wrote on Twitter in December. Related: Elon Musk says Trump administration may be “positive on renewables” “It shall be called ‘The Boring Company,’” he wrote, according to Motherboard . “Borings, it’s what we do.” And, a month later, after a meeting with then-President-Elect Trump , voila – it’s happening. Musk confirmed he’s soon going to begin work on a tunnel carved out by Tunnel Boring Machines that will start at some point next month. According to Motherboard, the tunnel will start across the road from the SpaceX office in Los Angeles, located in Crenshaw, near the 105 Freeway. Musk stated his interest in tunnels that would “alleviate congestion completely” as far back as 2015 in an interview with scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson . Via Motherboard Images via Maurizio Pesce and Minesweeper ,

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Elon Musk says new company will start drilling under LA next month

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