Grass hill hides a magical hobbit teahouse in Slovenia

January 26, 2017 by  
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A magical little teahouse is tucked away in the verdant hills of Slovenia. Created by Danica and Jože Kolari?, this beautiful tiny building was made from natural materials and perfectly complements the organic garden that grows around it. The hobbit house -inspired tearoom is almost entirely hidden from view from above thanks to its turfed roof, while its charming cottage-like interior was crafted using reclaimed materials. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIcphf3dq5g This hobbit house-inspired tearoom was recently spotlighted on a popular TV show called Ambienti , where viewers got a sneak peek at the construction process . First, the hillside was excavated to create space for the foundations of the timber-framed building. A concrete retaining wall was built in the rear. Once the building was complete, growing medium for the vegetation was installed on the roof so that the grass from the hillside would grow overtop the structure and make it appear as if the structure were carved out of the hill. Related: This luxury hobbit home in the UK could be yours for just $1 million The quaint interior is lined in large timber planks and features a wood-burning fireplace built from stone and brick set into the rear concrete wall. Many of the materials were reclaimed from the crumbling ruins of nearby farmhouses, which gives the tearoom its charming antique character. In addition to the teahouse and the organic flower and herb gardens, Danica and Jože Kolari? also have a self-built beehive and garden pavilion. + Ambienti Images by Jasna Marin, screenshots from Ambienti

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Grass hill hides a magical hobbit teahouse in Slovenia

How Does Recycling Cell Phones Affect Chimpanzees?

January 24, 2017 by  
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In the Congo Basin live many of Africa’s most iconic animals — elephants, hippos, mountain gorillas and buffaloes. Additionally, 1,000 types of birds and 700 kinds of fish call this their home, coexisting with the people who’ve…

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How Does Recycling Cell Phones Affect Chimpanzees?

Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West

January 23, 2017 by  
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A couple hundred years ago, there were around two million wolves in the United States, but human expansion dramatically slashed those numbers. Conservationists recently celebrated victory as gray wolves slowly returned to the American West, but Donald Trump’s presidency threatens to undo that progress as Republican lawmakers look to roll back the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While some 60,000 wolves reside in Canada and Alaska, in the American West there are only around 1,700 of them left. The ESA helped these animals gain ground again, but with wolves still only living in only 10 percent of their old range in the American West, there’s still a long way to go to ensure the species recovers. But some industries – like industrial agriculture and oil and gas – wish to operate in wolf habitats that are currently protected. The Center for Biological Diversity tracked donations to Congress from those large industries and found as campaign donations increased, so did bills threatening the ESA, which limits the land those industries can utilize to protect animals. Related: Gray wolves spotted in California for the first time in over 90 years Now, according to the Associated Press, Republicans want to alter the ESA “from a tool to protect huge areas of habitat for imperiled species into little more than limits on hunting for protected animals” even though a 2015 survey revealed 90 percent of registered voters support the ESA. Trump hasn’t said anything about wolves or the ESA, but he’s already shown he supports industries over national parks . If Republicans want to severely limit the ESA’s power, it doesn’t seem likely Trump would stop them. Wolves are in trouble, but don’t lose hope yet. There are a few actions you can take to help these majestic animals. Outside recommends donating money to the Center for Biological Diversity or Defenders of Wildlife , both of whom would fight anti-wolf legislation. Or you could write to your representative and remind them they’re supposed to represent the people, many of whom support the ESA, not the interests of big industries. Via Outside Images via Angell Williams on Flickr and Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr

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Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West

Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

January 17, 2017 by  
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A female zebra shark ( Stegostoma fasciatum ) in Australia has learned to live, and reproduce, without a male counterpart. The shark, which lives in an aquarium , is one of only three animals documented that once reproduced sexually – she had a male partner for around 13 years – and then switched to reproducing asexually. Now scientists are now wondering if this phenomenon is more common than we thought. Leonie the zebra shark had a male partner from 1999 to 2012 at a Townsville, Australia aquarium, and they had over two dozen babies. When her partner was moved to a different tank, Leonie spent around four years by herself, until she gave birth to three surprise baby sharks in 2016. She’d lacked contact with any males for those four years. Scientists initially thought perhaps she’d saved sperm from the former male partner, but genetic testing revealed the three babies only had DNA from their mother. Related: Researchers record fish “singing” choruses at the break of dawn in Australia Sharks can reproduce asexually when an adjacent cell called a polar body fertilizes an egg, and it could be that is what happened with Leonie. The mechanism isn’t optimal, as it can lead to inbreeding, but could be employed by sharks when there aren’t any males around. Lead author on a study published by Scientific Reports , Christine Dudgeon of The University of Queensland , told New Scientist, “It’s not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability. It might be a holding-on mechanism. Mum’s genes get passed down from female to female until there are males available to mate with.” Some species such as other sharks, snakes, rays, turkeys, and Komodo dragons are capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually, but asexual reproduction usually happens in females that have never reproduced sexually. The only other female animals recorded switching from sexual to asexual reproduction are a boa constrictor and an eagle ray; both lived in captivity. But it could be this anomaly actually occurs more frequently than we realized. Dudgeon said perhaps we just haven’t been looking. Via New Scientist Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

30 billion tons of stored carbon discovered in Congo peatland

January 12, 2017 by  
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At 3.7 million square kilometers, the Congo Basin contains some of the planet’s largest tropical rainforests and vast wetlands. Buried within this awesome wilderness are the Cuvette Centrale peatlands, recently discovered and mapped swamps that may contain 30 billion tons of carbon. This makes the Cuvette Centrale one of Earth’s most carbon rich ecosystems, one that desperately needs protection to avoid the release of the equivalent to 20 years of carbon emissions from the United States. The Cuvette Centrale peatlands were first discovered five years ago by a UK-Congolese research team, whose research, based on three year’s worth of peat analysis and satellite data, was published in Nature on Wednesday . “These peatlands hold nearly 30% of the world’s tropical peatland carbon,” said research co-leader Professor Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds. “Our research shows that the peat in the central Congo basin covers a colossal amount of land. It is 16 times larger than the previous estimate and is the single largest peatland complex found anywhere in the tropics.” More commonly found in cooler climates, such as Scotland where it is used to flavor scotch, peat is formed from soaked , partially decomposed plant materials. In order for carbon to be stored, peat must not dry out. If it does, due to climate change or land disturbance, decomposition of the material will continue and carbon will be released into the atmosphere. Related: Cambodian floating toilets filter human waste naturally via wetland plants Only recently discovered, the Cuvette Centrale peatlands have not yet been disturbed. However, their protection is of the utmost importance in reducing the impact of climate change. “The maintenance and protection of this peatland complex, alongside protecting our forests, could be central Africa ’s great contribution to the global climate change problem,” said Dr. Ifo Suspense, study co-author and researcher at Université Marien Ngouabi in Brazzaville. In addition to its value as a carbon sink, the Congo Basin is also of enormous ecological value as it is home to gorillas , elephants, okapi and other large mammals threatened by deforestation. The Republic of Congo is considering an expansion of its Lac Télé community reserve to protect an additional 50,000 square kilometers of swamp forest, much of which is peatlands. As governments and scientists move to protect the peatlands and the planet, one cannot help but be awestruck. “It is astonishing that in 2016 discoveries like this can still be made,” said study co-leader Dr. Greta Dargie of University College London. Via the Guardian Images via David Holt  and Flickr

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30 billion tons of stored carbon discovered in Congo peatland

Chinese circus ties up endangered tiger so that visitors can take selfies

January 12, 2017 by  
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A horrifying video posted on Chinese video platform iQiyi shows circus trainers brutally binding a tiger to a metal table – all for the sake of selfie photographs. The animal is believed to be an endangered Siberian tiger, and it was cruelly lashed down so that children and adults could sit on its back for photos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4SDV_Xi3To The video’s description says the circus was performing in the Hunan province, and that the tiger was strapped down “to be safe for everyone to take pictures – but the expression of the tiger is very desperate.” When the tiger was finally freed, it bounded up and dashed away from the table. Related: Tigers punched for fun at horrifying “sanctuaries” in China Mashable reports that in China the God of Wealth is often portrayed sitting on tigers, and the act is associated with the deity. In the video a small child can be heard saying (as translated by Mashable), “I’m scared, I’m scared,” and one trainer responded, “Isn’t it cool to sit on a tiger? It can keep you away from the devil and earn you promotions and wealth.” Many commenters condemned the actions of the trainers and the parents who gleefully allowed their children to sit on the poor tiger. One iQiyi user said, “What kind of values are these parents teaching their children?” Another user wrote, “You can’t earn much from this, and instead you’ve brought so much pain to the animal, do you think it’s worth it?” Siberian tigers, also called Amur tigers, are found in the Russian Far East, China’s border areas, and possibly in North Korea, according to the World Wildlife Fund . There are only up to 540 of the endangered tigers left in the world. Via Mashable Images via screenshot

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Meet Cig, the sea turtle made of over 1,000 cigarette butts strewn on a Florida beach

January 10, 2017 by  
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Cig is a sea turtle that looks rather cute until you take a closer look to see what he’s actually made of—1,200 repulsive cigarette butts . The striking trash-inspired sculpture is the work of Shelly Marshall, a self-taught artist and founder of SHELLart , who uses art to spread the message about the threats facing marine life and ecosystems. Together with Ocean Hour volunteers, she spent less than an hour collecting over a thousand cigarette butts strewn across Florida’s Pensacola Beach and rearranged the tiny bits of trash to create Cig the sea turtle and bring awareness to the impact of littering. Although litter control laws and public service announcements on recycling have made big impacts on the way society deals with trash, the same can’t really be said about cigarette butts. Ocean Hour, the Pensacola-based marine debris committee that stages local cleanups at the beach every Saturday, found that cigarette butts were always one of the top three local pollutants year after year. Thus, Shelly was inspired to make an art piece that would communicate the anti-litter message in a more eye-catching way. “I wanted to create something eye-catching that was both interesting and repulsive at the same time,” said Shelly to Inhabitat. “Cig the sea turtle shows the harmful effect cigarette butts have on marine life that most of us don’t get the chance to see. Those little tiny pieces of trash add up and many butts contain microplastics that interrupt the ecosystem. Most people don’t know that it can contain up to ten years for one tiny butt to decompose. We hope that Cig will spread this message and will encourage people to pick up cigarette butts and even more people to not throw them down!” Related: Artist turns urban trash into amazing animal murals Cig the sea turtle was made from a lightweight cardboard base and covered with roughly 1,200 cigarette butts attached using clear glue. The glue, Shelly adds, helped to cover up some of the smell from the trash. The artist is working with Ocean Hour to collect different kinds of trash in hopes of creating a series of marine sculptures made from commonly found debris. Her next artwork will be a bottlenose dolphin constructed of reclaimed plastic bottles . Cig will be on display at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Center for the month of February. + SHELLart Images via SHELLart

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Meet Cig, the sea turtle made of over 1,000 cigarette butts strewn on a Florida beach

Haunting Human Gyre made of over 200 underwater figures warns of climate change

January 10, 2017 by  
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A haunting sight awaits scuba divers on an Atlantic seabed. Over two hundred life-size human figures have been arranged in a circle to create the ‘Human Gyre,’ the last exhibit in Museo Atlantico , Europe’s first underwater museum officially completed this month. Located off the coast of Lanzarote, Spain, the artistic installation forms a complex reef for marine species to inhabit and speaks to the fragility of our ecosystem and our relationship with the natural marine environment. The monumental Museo Atlantico complex is the project of British artist Jason de Caires Taylor , who installed over 300 works across a dozen large-scale installations. Constructed around 14 meters underwater, the sprawling museum was created to promote conservation and education. The sculptures, made from environmentally friendly, pH-neutral inert materials, were specially created to double as artificial reefs and attract local fish species. The installations are made to last for hundreds of years and help raise awareness about the threats facing our world’s oceans and climate. Early works installed less than a year ago—construction began in February 2016—have already seen an increase of over 200 percent in marine biomass. Related: Haunting drowned figures send a chilling message in Europe’s first undersea sculpture museum Some of the hauntingly beautiful artworks double as political commentary, such as ‘Deregulated,’ which depicts suited businessmen in a playground-like environment to suggest that corporations are irresponsibly abusing nature as their play area. The life-size human figures used in the Human Gyre and in other installations are based on models of all ages and from all walks of life. “The artistic installation reminds us that we have evolved from marine life, and are all subject to the movements and will of the ocean,” says a statement in the museum press release. “The piece embodies our naked vulnerability to its inherent power, and our fragility in the face of its cycles and immense force. It provides the oxygen we breathe, it regulates our climate and it provides a vital source of nutrition to millions of people. A visit to Museo Atlantico may lead us to a closer understanding of our relationship with the natural marine environment and appreciate the need to value and protect this fragile ecosystem in order to save ourselves.” + Museo Atlantico Images via Jason de Caires Taylor

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Haunting Human Gyre made of over 200 underwater figures warns of climate change

Obama shuts down all pending permits for seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean

January 9, 2017 by  
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Outgoing President Barack Obama made another last-minute effort to secure his environmental legacy last week, when he formally denied all pending permits to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Altantic Ocean . The practice is used to search for oil and gas deposits below the ocean’s surface, but conservationists say it poses unique threats to the ocean’s wildlife, and that it can disrupt entire marine ecosystems. This new move not only protects vulnerable ecosystems from the direct effect of the tests – it also sends a message to oil and gas companies that new development in the Atlantic is not welcomed by the federal government or coastal communities. Seismic airgun testing is conducted by blasting intense bursts of compressed air into the ocean continuously for weeks or even months on end. The noise from these blasts is loud enough to be heard up to 2,500 miles away from the source and is intensely disruptive to many forms of marine life which depend on their ability to detect sound in order to communicate and survive – including fish, sea turtles, and whales. Some of these species , like the right whale , are critically endangered. This is more than simply an environmental issue: it’s also an economic problem. As Oceana has pointed out in their campaigns, research shows that seismic blasting ends up reducing catch rates of commercially valuable fish. So this decision by the Obama administration protects communities that depend on income from fishing to survive. Related: Obama creates two new western national monuments in last minute effort The decision to ban airgun blasting is one of several groundbreaking environmental decisions Barack Obama has made in the closing days of his term: he’s also shut the door on new Arctic and Atlantic drilling over the next five years, and created two new national monuments in the Western US. Via Oceana Images via Gabriel Barathieu , Green Fire Productions , and Lauren Packard

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Obama shuts down all pending permits for seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean

It’s finally illegal to own wild animals in the UAE

January 6, 2017 by  
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In a move sure to please animal rights advocates around the world, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has now completely banned the private ownership of wild animals. This is big news, as owning exotic animals as pets is a sign of status in the Middle East country. Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday that the new law outlaws both dealing in and ownership of all kinds of wild, domesticated and dangerous animals. This includes wild cats such as cheetahs, which have reportedly been domesticated in the UAE and other nearby countries. While not necessarily related, the new law comes on the heels of a video featuring an excursion with five tigers on a beach near Dubai’s Al-Arab hotel that went viral on social media, and other videos of people driving around with lions. According to Gulf News , these kinds of animals can now only be housed at zoos, wildlife parks, and circuses, along with breeding and research centers. Related: China makes it illegal to eat endangered species Gulf news also reports that anyone who breaks the law by taking any kind of exotic animal “out in public” will be slapped with as much as six months in jail and a fine or $136,000 USD. Al-Ittihad , an Arabic daily paper adds that people who use such animals to “terrorize” other people will be faced with a jail term along with the stiffer financial penalty of about $180,000 USD. Needless to say, a law like this is a breath of fresh air for animal rights activists, including El Sayed Mohamed. The regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Dubai said this new law sets an example for not only other Arab countries, but also the world. “We welcome and congratulate the UAE Government in taking this important initiative, which we wish to be a milestone for the rest of the countries, not just in the region, but also in the world,” he told the The National , an Abu Dhabi newspaper. This adds to more good news in the animal rights world, where China made it illegal to eat endangered species last year. Via Al Jazeera Images via Mukul2u and Cecil , Wikimedia Commons

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It’s finally illegal to own wild animals in the UAE

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