Nepal’s rhino population is on the rise

April 13, 2021 by  
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This year’s National Rhino Count in Nepal showed a promising gain in the odd-toed ungulates. The 2021 numbers are up 16% for a total of 752 rhinos , according to results released by Nepal’s government this week. The rhino count started on March 22 and ran through April 10. It covered popular rhino ranging areas such as Parsa, Chitwan, Bardia and Shuklaphanta National Parks as well as their outside protected areas and buffer zones. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation led the count and used 350 technicians and other personnel and 57 elephants to methodically search for rhinos. They based their population estimates on data collected on age group, sex and identifying features, and the team also gathered data on invasive species, human activities and habitat conditions. Related: Endangered rhino population up 1000% in Tanzania following poaching crackdown Nepal’s one-horned rhinos have long been killed and tormented by poachers, who sell their horns on the black market. An increasing human population threatens the rhinos’ habitat . “The overall growth in population size is indicative of ongoing protection and habitat management efforts by protected area authorities despite challenging contexts these past years,” said Ghana Gurung, country representative of WWF Nepal . “This achievement is yet another milestone in Nepal’s conservation journey showcasing the impact of concerted efforts of all stakeholders and providing much needed impetus to the global conservation fraternity.” In the 1960s, Nepal’s rhino population hit a frightening low of fewer than 100. But it seems the government’s conservation efforts have paid off. Nepal has conducted a census every five years since 1994, when it counted 466 rhinos in the country. The 2015 census found 645 one-horned rhinos. The one-horned rhino is currently listed as vulnerable. Some conservation officials suspect the rhino population boom is linked to travel restrictions during the pandemic. The rangers in charge of the count said they saw more baby rhinos this year than ever before. “COVID lockdown gave the best environment for the birth and growth of baby rhinos,” said wildlife technician Bishnu Lama. Via WWF Nepal and People Image via Pramod Neupane / WWF Nepal

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Charlotte McCurdy, Phillip Lim design carbon-neutral algae sequin dress

April 13, 2021 by  
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Sequins have long been a source of concern for environmentally conscious fashion designers. Made of tiny bits of shiny or translucent plastic, they are a significant contributor to ocean microplastics and fashion-derived plastic waste. Designers Charlotte McCurdy and Phillip Lim have created a couture dress made of algae sequins to address this very issue, proving that fashionable materials like sequins don’t have to come at a cost to the environment. Inspired by the different shades of green that occur in nature and the process of photosynthesis, the dress is made from layers of algae bioplastic sewn onto a base fabric made from biodegradable plant fibers. This base fabric is supplied by textile company PYRATES and is both an antiperspirant and thermoregulating material. The dress is entirely carbon-neutral and free from synthetic plastics or dyes. Related: Native Shoes’ Bloom collection is made of repurposed algae Charlotte McCurdy is an interdisciplinary designer based in New York who is passionate about using design to address global threats like climate change . McCurdy is known for her “After Ancient Sunlight” project, where she created a water-resistant raincoat from a material developed from algae that naturally sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. Phillip Lim is the recipient of several industry honors including the Fashion Group International’s Women’s Designer ‘Rising Star’ Award, the CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear, the CFDA Swarovski Award for Menswear and the CFDA Award for Accessories Designer of the Year. He is the creative director and co-founder of 3.1 Phillip Lim. The dress is part of the One X One Project, a conscious design initiative organized by Slow Factory Foundation. The program pairs scientists with designers to create news ways to incorporate circularity, equitable design and regenerative technologies into the fashion industry. One X One is also partnered by Swarovski and the United Nations Office for Partnerships. + One X One Via Dezeen Images via Charlotte McCurdy

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Charlotte McCurdy, Phillip Lim design carbon-neutral algae sequin dress

Virtual Pollinator Park shows a future with or without pollinators

April 13, 2021 by  
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What will the world be like once pollinating insects, like the honeybee , are gone? Alternatively, what would happen if we allowed these important creatures to thrive? The European Commission’s Pollinator Park, designed by Vincent Callebaut Architectures, strives to answer these questions with a stark look at what the future could look like, for better or worse. Pollinator Park is a 30-minute, virtual experience that is interactive and engaging. Pollinator Park is an educational experience that showcases good practices in land use and how pollinators can be preserved. It promotes less monocultures and toxins in agriculture . The flourishing part of this digital universe could one day become reality, if we start building toward improving the planet, rather than taking away from it. Related: Urban Beehive Project creates a buzz around honeybee education Most people are aware of the plight of honeybees, but there are many pollinators worldwide that are facing a dangerous future. Butterflies, hummingbirds, ants, bats, beetles and ladybugs are all pollinators. And without them, the world becomes a very, very different place. Diversity among pollinators greatly influences the biodiversity of plants. Loss of this biodiversity threatens life everywhere on Earth. According to the UN, the rate of extinction among pollinators in 2020 was 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal. More than 90% of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators, and about 35% of all food we consume depends on insect pollination. When you do the math, you’ll realize there are some terrifying possibilities in the very near future. This is really the message at the heart of Pollinator Park. The project is designed with biophilic architecture that represents different parts of flowering plants and encourages the natural flow of visitors. Pollinator hotels are integrated into the structures because above all, this is their home. On-site greenhouses are made with light frames of cross-laminated timber and recycled and/or recyclable materials. Timber biodomes are covered with thermal and photovoltaic solar shields; the sun shields filter the sun’s rays to provide both light and shade for the plants and pollinators. Wind chimneys and wind turbines are also woven throughout the landscape. The wind chimneys use geothermal energy to keep the greenhouses cool or hot as needed. The park was created in collaboration with Vincent Callebaut Architectures as part of the EU Pollinators Initiative. It is hoped that this project will aid the ongoing European Green Deal, a series of efforts and innovations aimed at repairing nature. + Pollinator Park + Vincent Callebaut Architectures Images via Vincent Callebaut Architectures

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Virtual Pollinator Park shows a future with or without pollinators

Neurological disorder leaves bears in California vulnerable

April 7, 2021 by  
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The  California Department of Fish and Wildlife  (CDFW) is concerned over increasing incidences of bears with rare neurological disorders showing up in residential areas. This follows an incident where a small black bear showed up at a utility building site last month in Pollock Pines in El Dorado County. The young bear was far too small, covered in ticks and looked weak; it did not exhibit normal bear behaviors, instead taking food and pets from humans. The incident in Pollock Pines was not the first of its kind. In the past 12 months, there have been similar encounters, with three other bears showing signs of neurological abnormalities. The bear found in Pollock Pines was diagnosed and euthanized. Related: While humans are away, Yosemite bears come out to play “Any time a wild animal comes into our care, the best-possible outcome is a release back to the wild,” Munk said. “That’s just not possible for these neurologically impaired bears. The second-best outcome would be a long, healthy life at a reputable zoo or wildlife sanctuary, but any inflammation of the brain is going to be significant for the individual bear and may have long-term consequences.” Diagnoses of the affected bears has revealed that they suffer from a condition known as encephalitis. This condition refers to the inflammation of the brain tissue, usually caused by viral or bacterial infection . Scientists have already discovered five novel viruses that could be related to the encephalitis. However, Munk said that the team has not found the exact cause of the condition in the affected bears. “At this point, we don’t know what causes the encephalitis so we don’t know what, if any, health risks these bears might pose to other animals,” Munk noted. Unfortunately, diagnosed bears that have already undergone treatment are not showing signs of recovery. Munk said that even if the animals are sent to animal sanctuaries, they will become a big burden to the facilities. “The few bears like this we have placed do not seem to fully recover, some requiring significant medical management for the life of the bear, which is a huge burden for these facilities that often operate on tight budgets,” Munk said. + California Department of Fish and Wildlife Images via Kirsten Macintyre and Shelly Blair

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Neurological disorder leaves bears in California vulnerable

UK launches world’s largest ocean monitoring system

April 6, 2021 by  
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The U.K. government, under the  Blue Belt program , has announced its plan to install underwater camera rigs for monitoring ocean wildlife in its overseas territories. The entire project will be funded by the U.K., making it the largest ocean monitoring system in the world. The Blue Belt program covers over 4 million square kilometers of ocean space, which the U.K. government has pledged to protect. Today, only 7.65% of oceans are categorized as  protected areas . Unfortunately, most projects that target ocean wildlife protection only focus on major landmarks. According to Jessica Meeuwig, a professor at the University of Western Australia and co-creator of Blue Abacus, the project shifts attention from major landmarks to other areas of the ocean . Blue Abacus is a project partner and helped develop the technology known as Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS), which will be used to monitor marine life. Related: 30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas Meeuwig explained most people assume that ocean wildlife is okay just because they can’t see what’s happening. By installing a network of underwater cameras, she noted that it will help document changes that happen to ocean wildlife. A study carried out in January revealed that the  population of sharks and rays  has fallen by 71% since the 1970s. The main causes of population reduction have been identified as overfishing and climate change. Other studies have also raised alarm over declining species including yellowfin and bluefin tuna. More and more research shows the need for protecting our oceans. “The marine wildlife living along the coastlines of our Overseas Territories is some of the most spectacular in the world and we must do more to protect it,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “Cutting-edge technology, such as these cameras, will be vital in our crusade against climate change . Our marine experts are world-leaders in protecting our ocean and the myriad of species that live within it.” U.K. Minister for the Environment Lord Goldsmith said that the U.K. is committed to tackling global challenges such as ocean biodiversity loss and climate change, among others. He continued, “These UK-funded underwater video cameras will provide a wealth of information on the biodiversity in the seas around the Overseas Territories, including on globally threatened species of shark and migratory fish, like the bluefin tuna.” + Gov.uk Via Huffington Post Images by Marine Futures Lab, University of Western Australia via Gov.uk

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UK launches world’s largest ocean monitoring system

Bald eagle population bounces back from brink of extinction

March 29, 2021 by  
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The once shrinking population of bald eagles has quadrupled over the past 12 years, according to a new survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The study has found that there are over 316,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states of the U.S., with over 70,000 breeding pairs . According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there were approximately 500 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the U.S. in the late 1960s. However, the story changed with the discovery that DDT, often found in insecticides , was affecting wildlife, effectively leading to its ban in 1972. In 1973, the federal government signed the Endangered Species Act, which led to the protections of various species, including the bald eagle. Related: Critically endangered regent honeyeaters are losing their song Since then, the population has been growing gradually, and the bird was removed from the endangered species list in 2007. Following a recent survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has discovered that the number of bald eagles has more than quadrupled since 2009 when they were last counted. Speaking to the press, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that this turnaround is historic. “The bald eagle has always been considered a sacred species to American Indian people, and similarly it’s sacred to our nation as America’s national symbol,” Haaland said. This success story proves that conservation measures work. Although the birds were hunted, killed and poisoned for years, the population has grown thanks to focused conservation efforts. While the report might seem like a good indication for the future of wildlife in the U.S., the reality on the ground is quite different. A recent study by Cornell Lab of Ornithology has established that the overall population of birds in the U.S. has dropped by about one-third in the past 50 years. A different report by the National Audubon Society has established that about two-thirds of North American birds are at an increased risk of extinction, primarily because of climate change. “By stabilizing carbon emissions and holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, nearly 150 species would no longer be vulnerable to extinction from climate change ,” the report noted. + U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Via NPR Image via Jan Temmel

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From Reddit investors to wildlife conservationists

March 19, 2021 by  
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Gorillas, pangolins and other  endangered  animals are getting help from a surprising source: small traders who benefited in this year’s famous GameStop event. Many have donated stock market gains to conservation groups. The biggest winners?  Gorillas . In normal times, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund may get 20 new adoption pledges (this is a sponsorship deal — the gorillas do not come to live with you) during a weekend. But more than 3,500 adoption pledges came in since last Saturday, many with fictional names making fun of hedge fund managers. Related: IKEA purchases forested land in Georgia for conservation This $350,000 investment in gorillas has delighted conservation organizations. “The support that has come to our organisation, as well as others, is amazing,” said Dr. Tara Stoinski, president, chief executive and chief scientific officer of the Fossey Fund, as reported in The Guardian. “One of the biggest challenges in conservation is just that there’s not enough funding for the challenges we face on the ground.” The new conservation  philanthropists  came from the WallStreetBets subreddit, the same people responsible for inflating GameStop’s share price earlier this year. When a large group of small investors bought the stock, it raised the value for them while denying profits to hedge funds who’d planned to gain from GameStop’s failure. Some investors chose elephants over gorillas. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust runs a rescue center for orphaned  elephants  in Kenya, among other conservation efforts. Last weekend it received an unexpected $10,000 in donations. “It’s a new supporter base for us, for sure, one that we’re extremely thankful for,” said trust member Amie Alden. “We’ve currently got more than 90 dependent orphaned elephants in our care and it’s an expensive undertaking.” Other beneficiaries of this new breed of conservationist included the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Florida , the Orangutan Project, lynx, wolves, pangolins and polar bears. Even bulls got some love, as some investors found bovines to adopt as a reference to the bull market. Many conservation programs have suffered due to the pandemic, especially if their work relies on tourism, so the Reddit philanthropists were especially appreciated. Via The Guardian

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Mayonnaise is saving sea turtles after an oil spill in Israel

February 25, 2021 by  
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An unlikely hero is emerging in Israel’s fight to save sea turtles from one of the country’s worst ecological disasters. Mayonnaise is making the difference between life and death for some turtles affected by the estimated 1,000 tons of tar washing up on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. North of Tel Aviv, at the Sea Turtle Rescue Center in Michmoret, medical assistant Guy Ivgy is helping to treat 11 turtles. “They came to us full of tar,” Ivgy said . “All their trachea from inside and outside was full of tar.” Turtle rescue workers have found that feeding the fatty, egg-based condiment to the turtles helps flush out their tar-clogged digestive tracks. Within a week or two, workers hope to release the turtles back into the wild. Related: Volunteers brave winter storm to save cold-stunned sea turtles The source of all this tar is still shrouded in mystery. It likely came from an oil tanker passing the Israeli coast a week or so ago. Israeli officials think that a ship spilled tens — or maybe even hundreds — of tons of oil outside Israel’s territorial waters. Then, without warning, chunks of tar starting washing up on the beaches of Israel and Lebanon. Because tar irritates human skin and can cause illness, people have been warned to stay off beaches — except for the 4,000 or so volunteers doing the cleanup to minimize damage to wildlife. The spill’s “consequences will be seen for years to come,” according to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Sea birds and other animals in the Mediterranean have also ingested spilled oil. Scientists are especially worried about Dendropoma petraeum , a type of reef-building snail whose population has already plummeted from global warming . Earlier this week, an Israeli court forbade publishing any details of the investigation, including the name of the suspected ship and its itinerary. Israeli journalists have petitioned the court to lift the ban. People want to know who is responsible for this destruction — and where to send the bill. Via AP and NPR Image via Kandhal Keshvala

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Green terraces intersect a mixed-use tower in Shenzhen

February 25, 2021 by  
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In southeastern Shenzhen , Beijing-based architecture firm Clou Architects has completed Shenzhen Shuiwan 1979 Life Plaza, a mixed-use development interwoven with green terraces and a “secret garden” to provide visitors respite from the hustle and bustle of the tech megacity. The project, which was completed in 2016, takes inspiration for its name from the 1979 announcement by Deng Xiaoping — the country’s paramount leader prior to Xi Jinping — to reform and open up China, starting with the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in the area of Shekou. The 220-meter-tall complex also draws influences from the lush, mountainous surroundings with its inclusion of elevated green spaces and public areas. Set between tree-lined streets with a direct connection to the Shuiwan subway station in Shekou, the Shenzhen Shuiwan 1979 Life Plaza combines a residential and office tower of 107,000 square meters with a three-story retail podium of 36,000 square meters. To give the skyscraper a more human scale and to pay homage to the diverse Shekou area, the architects designed the tower as a series of interlocking small boxes stacked together. Landscaped public spaces are placed throughout the building, including a floating “secret garden” with panoramic views of Shenzhen. Related: Foster + Partners wins bid to design the nature-filled Guangming Hub “The clear and concise façade texture of the office floor portrays the overall image of the project, delivering a landmark identity in the area,” the architects said. “The podium contains ample commercial retail space, and the commercial space of the plaza has a large atrium which runs through three levels of retail space. Due to its close proximity to river and mountain, Shuiwan 1979 becomes a building that interacts with the city.” Clou Architects further engaged the public realm on the street level with a landscaped public park that wraps around the southeast side of the 220-meter tower. + Clou Architects Images via Shining Laboratory

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Green terraces intersect a mixed-use tower in Shenzhen

Adorable goat playground raises awareness of upcycling waste

February 25, 2021 by  
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NOMAD architects and Karina Aramanda have transformed wood waste into GO[A]T WASTE?, an educational pavilion and animal playground that raises awareness about the merits of upcycling . Installed in the town of ?daži in Latvia, the eco-friendly project was inspired by the architects’ research into construction’s impact on climate change and environmental pollution; according to Latvia’s Ministry of Environment, the building industry is one of the biggest waste producers in the country. The architects repurposed timber off-cuts into three modular pavilions that can be joined together or used as standalone structures. The GO[A]T WASTE? project began with the collection of unwanted timber from a variety of sources, including new construction, renovation and demolition sites. Because the pavilions would only be built of upcycled waste, the final designs were limited by the materials the architects could salvage. They mostly collected short timber off-cuts with a few long, structural beams. Related: WOOMETRY upcycles salvaged wood into eco-friendly home goods The upcycled waste was transformed into three modular , mobile structures topped with roofs and equipped with tables and benches. Although the structures can be joined together into a united pavilion, each segment was individually designed with differing facades. Leftovers from the pavilion-building process were repurposed for an urban gardening project and workshop activities. The pavilions were temporarily used for an educational workshop on recycling, after which the structures were relocated near a mini-zoo and repurposed as a playground for goats. “Through the process we could identify certain topics that would improve future material reuse in building projects,” the architects said. “For example, design for disassembly principles should be kept in mind whenever new materials are used, so that later they can be handed over for reuse . During material collection from the demolition sites, much of the material had to be discarded because of too high damage. This was especially due to the excessive use of glue and nails which limit the disassembly process.” + NOMAD architects Images via ?dams Muzikants, Karina Armanda and L?va Mazure

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