"You had to live it to believe it" – hundreds of polar bears rush to feast on one whale carcass

October 2, 2017 by  
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When a bowhead whale washed ashore at Wrangel Island in Russia , the polar bears were ready. Between 150 and 230 bears gathered to eat the carcass, and tourists captured the experience on camera. As there are around 26,000 of the animals on Earth, almost one percent of the world’s polar bears, according to Gizmodo, assembled for the feast. The polar bears dined on the whale carcass on Wrangel Island. While polar bears feeding on whales may not be that strange, Gizmodo points out what was unique was that so many people were present to witness the event. A tourist ship passed by as the bears were feasting. Related: Snow-free images of Arctic polar bears show the harsh reality of climate change Heritage Expeditions founder Rodney Russ said his group counted more than 150 polar bears, while Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve said conservative estimates put the number of polar bears at more than 230. Bears of all ages and sexes were present. According to a Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve news release, scientists were aboard the tourist ship, and an international scientific group monitoring bear populations in Chukotka – where Wrangel Island is located – and Alaska were told of the event. Russ wrote in a blog post, “You had to live it to believe it, even now there are people pinching themselves to make sure it really happened…there are no words to describe it.” Polar bears aren’t endangered , but are listed as vulnerable , a step below endangered, on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Endangered Species . The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said some populations are stable, some appear to be on the rise, and others are decreasing. The loss of sea ice could seriously impact the animals. WWF said global polar bear numbers could fall 30 percent by 2050. Via Gizmodo , Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve , and Heritage Expeditions Images via A. Gruzdev

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"You had to live it to believe it" – hundreds of polar bears rush to feast on one whale carcass

Sea turtles appearto be bouncing back from the brink of extinction

September 22, 2017 by  
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Good news! Despite man-made catastrophes and the unwelcome effects of climate change , populations of sea turtles appear to be making a comeback. Comprehensive analys published in the journal Science Advances  reveals that even small populations (which normally have a tough time reviving their numbers) are “bouncing back.” However, most sea turtle species are still listed as “vulnerable” or “endangered,” which is why conservation efforts must continue. The analysis was led by Antonios Mazaris , an ecologist at Aristotle University in Greece , and a team of international researchers. He and his colleagues analyzed data on sea turtle nesting sites around the world over periods ranging from six to 47 years. They evaluated each site separately and then combined those findings with standardized individual sets to look for changes. It was discovered that most populations of sea turtles are reviving after historic declines. One species that is not thriving is the leatherback sea turtle which can be found in the Eastern and Western Pacific. This finding supports previous assessments made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature , which lists six out of seven sea turtle species as vulnerable , endangered or critically endangered. Related: Sea turtle is rescued after being dragged onto a beach and beaten for selfies The researchers think the sea turtle populations are rebounding because the threats to the species are more tangible. For instance, sea turtles are most likely to be poached on accident by fisherman or intentionally by those who seek to sell their parts as “aphrodisiacs” and/or “delicacies.” By addressing these concerns and enforcing conservation measures which have been in place for decades, the public is more likely to advocate for their protection. While this recent analysis is positive news , research is still lacking. More information needs to be gathered on male to female ratios, for instance. In the paper, Mazaris advises “cautionary optimism.” He also says commends conservation efforts which have persisted for the past 70 years, and says the “long term efforts need to be supported.” + Science Advances Via New York Times Images via Pixabay

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Floridians rescue Manatees stranded on shores drained by Irma

September 11, 2017 by  
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Of all the destructive impacts of a hurricane , with its life-threatening storm surges and massive flooding, the sudden lack of aquatic habitat is not a typical concern. However, bays and canals drained by Hurricane Irma’s intense storm system were exactly the threats facing Florida’s aquatic wildlife over the weekend, including manatees. Michael Sechler of Sarasota, Florida , saw these stranded creatures beached where formerly there was water and took action to save them. Law enforcement and other locals also arrived to offer a helping hand and, together, the Floridians carried the manatees, which can easily weigh over 600 pounds, back into the sea. The manatees beached in Sarasota and other parts of Florida along Irma’s path suffered from an unusual phenomenon in which water was pulled away from typically submerged shores while areas above sea level suffered flooding. As the storm approached places like Tampa, strong winds pushed water out of shallow bays and canals and into a storm surge elsewhere. “As soon as the wind shifts direction, the water will come back quickly and continue to move inland,” said CNN meteorologist Judson Jones. Although the wind temporarily removed water from the area, it returned with strength. “After the storm center passes Tampa, the wind will change from offshore to onshore and push water and large ocean surface waves onshore,” said Shuyi Chen, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. Related: Snooty, the world’s oldest living manatee in captivity, dies at age 69 While the water was low, Sechler and his friends traveled out to where the manatees were trapped. “My friends and I couldn’t move these massive animals ourselves, and we called every service we could think of, but no one answered,” said Sechler. “We gave them as much water as we could, hoping the rain and storm surge [would] come soon enough to save them.” Eventually, fellow citizens and law enforcement officers arrived to assist in the rescue operation. The animals were rolled up in a tarp, then carried the 100 yards to the open ocean. Now that Irma has passed through Sarasota, the manatees and their rescuers can expect more peaceful seas. Via The Telegraph and CNN Images via cyberartist/Flickr ,  Marcelo Clavijo/Facebook  and  Tony Foradini-Campos/Facebook

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Floridians rescue Manatees stranded on shores drained by Irma

China announces plan to ban sales of fossil fuel cars and shift focus to EVs

September 11, 2017 by  
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China has announced a plan to ban the sales of fossil fuel -burning vehicles. They don’t have a date set yet – vice minister of industry and information technology Xin Guobin said regulators and the government are working on a timetable. A ban would be a boon for China’s electric car industry, and could have a huge impact on the country’s notoriously awful air quality . Xin spoke about China’s plan to stop sales and production of the polluting vehicles at an automobile forum over the weekend in Tianjin. He said such a step would impact both the environment , and the growth of the country’s electric car industry. Bloomberg noted China would be the largest market to end sales of fossil fuel-powered cars should they go through with the plan. Related: Scotland to phase out new gas and diesel cars by 2032 Liu Zhijia, assistant general manager at China’s largest passenger car exporter Chery Automobile Company, said, “The implementation of the ban for such a big market like China can be later than 2040. That will leave plenty of time for everyone to prepare.” Chery recently unveiled battery-powered and hybrid vehicle models at a Frankfurt motor show. China has the second largest economy in the world, and have said they’ll cap carbon emissions by 2030. Their impending fossil fuel vehicle sales ban could encourage automakers to focus on emissions-free electric cars instead. Large car maker GAC Motor broke ground on a $6.5 billion electric vehicle park earlier this year. BYD , China’s biggest electric vehicle manufacturer, counts actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio as brand ambassador , and have already delivered 46,855 plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles this year. They’re also backed by Warren Buffett. Bloomberg noted government subsidies have helped local car manufacturers find success in the electric vehicle market, even as United States companies like Tesla , Nissan, and General Motors are hustling to claim a piece of the market. Via The Verge and Bloomberg Lead image via Depositphotos , others via Redd Angelo on Unsplash and Vivian Chen on Unsplash

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Facial deformities in Uganda apes linked to pesticide use

August 29, 2017 by  
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Our pesticides may be harming animals that live nearby, according to new research. A group of 10 scientists led by Paris’ Musée de l’Homme and the Great Ape Conservation Project at Kibale National Park in Uganda found baboons and chimpanzees with facial deformities near an agricultural area where they were told around eight pesticides had been used. 25 percent of chimpanzees the researchers monitored displayed abnormalities like reduced nostrils, reproductive issues, hypopigmentation, cleft lip, or limb deformities. Kibale National Park is close to industrial tea plantations and gardens growing maize, which are often raided by the chimps and baboons, according to the researchers. But it appears pesticides in the crops they’re taking are harming them. Related: Bee-killing pesticides have been found in US drinking water The researchers asked people in tea factories and villages what pesticides were being used, and were told of eight: glyphosate , cypermethrin, profenofos, mancozeb, metalaxyl, dimethoate, chlorpyrifos , and 2,4-D amine. They took samples from soils, fresh maize stems and seeds, and river sediments near where chimpanzees reside between 2014 and 2016 and discovered mean pesticide levels were above recommended limits. They also found the pesticides imidacloprid and DDT, as well as its metabolite pp’ -DDE. And it appears these pesticides may be affecting the animals. Out of 66 chimpanzees monitored, 16 had deformities. The scientists also photographed 35 baboons, and at least six had severe nasal deformities. The researchers said in the abstract of their paper they think “excessive pesticide use…may contribute to facial dysplasia in chimpanzees and baboons.” The suggestion that our agricultural practices are physically altering animals is horrifying; the researchers noted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists chimpanzees as endangered . The animals are also of economic importance in Uganda as they draw in ecotourists. The researchers said it may be a conservation priority to minimize threats to their survival, as the use of pesticides may be. The journal Science of The Total Environment published the research online earlier this year. Scientists from institutions in France, Uganda, Canada, and the United States collaborated on the work. Via ScienceDirect Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Chile halts $2.5 billion mining project to protect endangered Humboldt Penguins

August 23, 2017 by  
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Good news for environmentalists and the animals they seek to protect – the Chilean government recently halted a $2.5 billion mining project which would have destroyed the habitat of the very rare Humboldt penguins . The Dominga Project was set to begin mining copper and iron in the Coquimbo region of central Chile, and it would have produced 12 million tons of iron ore and 150,000 tons of copper each year. However the project was effectively shut down because the environmental risk was too great. IFLScience reports that high-ranking officials from Chile’s Committee of Ministers rejected plans for the Dominga Project after a prolonged evaluation period. The committee decided that there was insufficient evidence of environmental guarantees. Though the project was rejected, the Chilean mining company Andes Iron is able to appeal the decision. Environmentalists are celebrating the news, as the project would require a new sea port along with other large infrastructure changes to the area. Had it been approved, the Humboldt Penguin Reserve, located just a short distance from mainland Coquimbo, would have suffered. The nature reserve is an important breeding site for the Humboldt penguin, a species that is vulnerable to extinction and is only found in Chile and Peru. Additionally, the reserve is home to bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, sperm whales , humpback whales, sea lions, albatross and many varieties of fish. Said Oceana Chile, a marine conservation NGO who campaigned against the project, “Today we have lived a historic day! The Committee of Ministers decided to reject the mining-Port project Dominga due to a lack of information and shortcomings in mitigating and repairing damage to the environment .” They added, “Let us continue to alert and support the communities in the area. This is a victory for all people!” Related: Off-grid clinic uses renewable energy to support health services in Chile Because Chile is the “the world’s leading producer of copper, accounting for 31.8 percent of world mine production; iodine, 63.2 percent; rhenium, 50.9 percent; and lithium, about 38.6 percent,” (according to a 2013 United States Geological Survey), mining companies will undoubtedly persist to tear into the Earth. For now, activists can celebrate this victory, as the Humboldt penguins are better off as a result of the Chilean government’s decision. Via IFLScience , BBC , Reuters Images via Pixabay

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700 Indian villagers waded through their filthy, dying river and brought it back to life

August 8, 2017 by  
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“Don’t waste your time,” doubters reportedly told a self-organized group of villagers in South Kerala who wanted to resurrect their once-teeming river. According to local Indian press, years of industrial seepage transformed the Kuttemperoor River into a giant cesspool that produced nothing but disease and devastation. Located in Alappuzha district, the river’s width reportedly shrunk from 120 feet to 20 feet, and all traces of aquatic biodiversity vanished. But earlier this year, 700 people felt they simply had to try. They had to try to bring their river back to life. “When water scarcity turned unbearable, we decided to revive the river. Initially many discouraged us saying it was a mere waste of money and energy. But we proved them all wrong,” Budhanoor panchayat president P Viswambhara Panicker told Hindustan Timees. The panchayat, a self-organized group of locals, planned the mammoth cleanup effort, which involved wading through the filthy water and dislodging weeds, plastic and other debris from the river bed. It took more than two months to ply the river’s 7-mile length, often at great risk to volunteers’ personal health. One woman, P Geetha, told the paper she fell ill during cleanup operations. “I was down with dengue for two weeks but I returned to digging the day I was out of my bed,” she said. Related: The Ocean Cleanup finds 1.15 to 2.41 million metric tons of plastic enter oceans from rivers And their hard work paid off. “Once we removed all waste river started recharging on its own and on 45th day flow started. For women folk, it was not just a work for money but it was gargantuan task to revive a lifeline,” Sanal Kumar, a volunteer with the National Rural Jobs Guarantee Scheme, told Hindustan Times . After 70 days of cleaning the river, full flow was reportedly restored. Via Hindustan Times Images via YouTube screengrab

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700 Indian villagers waded through their filthy, dying river and brought it back to life

Tesla Model S reaches record 670 miles on a single charge

August 8, 2017 by  
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The Tesla Model S has set a new record in Italy! The Tesla Owners Italia club recently traveled 669.83 miles in a Model S 100D on a single charge with a team of five drivers. The team was careful to use as little energy as possible to beat a previous record set in Belgium last June. The team drove across southern Italy at an average speed of 25 mph without the air conditioning on. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently estimated that the Model S would be able to drive at least 621 miles with low rolling-resistance tires. The team not only used the more efficient tires, but also used “hypermilling” techniques to squeeze out as much driving range as they could. Related: Tesla to TRIPLE number of Superchargers by end of 2018 “To complete the 1,078km record distance, we used 98.4 kW/h of electricity, which is equivalent to eight liters of gas,” said Luca Del Bo, president of the club. Upon announcing the news, Elon Musk congratulated the club for their new record. Rosario Pingaro, one of the five drivers, added: “The driving was made simply by the semi-autonomous driving system, which helped us to keep a constant speed in the middle of the lane.” + Tesla Owners Italia Via The Guardian Images @Tesla Owners Italia

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Tesla Model S reaches record 670 miles on a single charge

Beached whale appears in Paris, stunning tourists and residents

July 26, 2017 by  
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Imagine strolling along the Seine river in Paris, hand-in-hand with a partner when all of a sudden, you glimpse a beached whale stranded on the shore. Without a doubt, the scene would inspire distress. However, this is exactly the reaction the Captain Boomer Collective was on a mission to evoke. You see, the 17-meter (55-foot) “whale” isn’t actually a marine mammal; rather, it is an art installation which was installed overnight to raise awareness about humanity’s detrimental impact on the environment. The Belgian artist collective installed the whale along the Seine river overnight. It’s unnervingly realistic – and they event went so far as to simulate the smell of a dead sperm whale . In the morning they cordoned the whale off from the public while “forensic scientists” set about studying it. The team wrote on their website , “We place the statue on the beach during the night and prepare bleeding and smell. In the morning the carcass is fenced, to keep people at a distance. We create of circle of about seven meters around the statue. Within this perimeter, the beaching is a true fact. The actors within the fence never drop their cover. They are scientific and official figures of a fictitious organization, the North Sea Whale Association.” Understandably, members of the public believed it to be real upon first viewing it. One Paris resident told the press, “It makes me very sad because for an animal like this to leave the Atlantic to end up here means that there is a problem […] I think it might be our fault.” Related: 337 whales beached in largest stranding event ever – and no one knows why The Mirror reports that the project ultimately aims to raise awareness about humanity’s impact on the environment , including the fact that humans are adversely affecting wildlife with plastic pollution and are overfishing the oceans. Additionally, the team sought to raise awareness about the sperm whale, which is now classified as a vulnerable species due to the impact of commercial whaling. While it is unlikely a sperm whale would ever make it way up the Seine river, the installation isn’t too far off in its depiction – whales are regularly found beached in the North Sea, as IFLScience points out. In fact, Rob Deaville, the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme project manager, says that during a regular year, it is not uncommon for at least two to five sperm whales to strand themselves in the UK alone. Hopefully, this project gives humanity the abrupt wake-up call it needs. + Captain Boomer Collective Via IFLScience , The Mirror Images via Stéphanie Basquin, Julien Kerduff

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7 eco-friendly and conservation-minded safari lodges across Africa

June 14, 2017 by  
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Gallivanting across Africa in search of majestic and fascinating wild animals is at the top of many people’s bucket lists, and thankfully, there are more ways than ever to safari with an eco-friendly and socially conscious mindset. We found seven safari lodges that were created with heavy consideration for conservation and community: the only heavy footprint left is that of a gentle, gigantic elephant as he passes by. Chem Chem Safari Lodge This Tanzanian lodge , located within the Burunge Wildlife Management Area, prides itself on a “slow safari” ethos, with options including wilderness picnics, walking safaris with a private guide, and lessons in identifying wildlife tracks, as well as meetings with the lodge’s anti-poaching team . The tent-style suites and main house toe the line between rustic and glamorous and were crafted to bring to mind vintage safari lodges. A pool, spa , gourmet restaurant, and viewing tower make returning after a day of flamingo watching and safari-going a little easier. Greystoke Mahale Operated by Nomad Tanzania , one of East Africa’s original safari companies, Greystoke Mahale will make visitors feel as if they have ventured to a magical place where beaches, forests, and mountains exist in harmony. The native chimps are the main attraction here, but with the beach of Lake Tanganyika at your feet and Mahale Mountains behind you, it’s an ideal location for exploring waterfalls, swimming, and having kayaking adventures. Image © Exploring Tourism Zimbabwe Pamushana Lodge Pamushana Lodge , part of the conservation-focused Singita resorts family, has won multiple Leading Safari Lodge awards, and this Zimbabwe retreat gives back in a major way. As the ecotourism arm for a 130,000-acre reserve, Singita manages the lodge on behalf of an environmental trust: all proceeds from the lodge benefit conservation and community partnership efforts. The local culture is honored in small ways, such as the beaded and adorned throw pillows , as well are more dramatic ways, including the preservation of a diversity of habitats from grasslands to broad-leaf forests. Related|Solar-powered safari lodge is a gorgeous green retreat in Botswana Grootbos Private Nature Reserve Not that you could ever get tired of seeing the usual suspects (giraffes, elephants, rhinos, lions, etc.) in real life, but the Grootbos Nature Reserve in South Africa offers alternate experiences including a marine safari to see the marine Big 5, a botanical 4 x 4 tour, or shark cage diving. The land is home to 791 plant species , including 100 endangered plant species, and milkwood forests that are over 1000 years old. Duba Plains Part of the Great Plains Conservation Camps, Duba Plains opened in March 2017, but it is already gaining a following for both its conservation and environmental stewardship as well as its proximity to plentiful wildlife (lions and buffalo are common sights). The rooms at the camp, located in Botswana ’s Okavango Delta, were built on recycled railway sleeper decking to provide prime and varied animal viewing access. Campi Ya Kanzi The only safari lodge on a 283,000 Maasai -owned reserve, Camp Ya Kanzi (aka Camp of the Hidden Treasure) shouldn’t remain hidden to you or your fellow safari adventurers: the expansive view of Kilimanjaro is reason enough to plan your visit. Stay in a tented cottage or tented suites or rent an entire private villa with a swimming pool supplied by rainwater . Image © SteppesTravel UK Camp Nomade Camp Nomade , located in Zakouma National Park in Chad , is exclusive in more ways than one: it’s only available from mid-December to mid-April each year when the park dries up, and can only host a maximum of eight visitors per week. With 360-degree views and the feeling of being plopped down in the middle of all the safari action, lucky visitors can look for buffalo, elephants , lions, leopards, baboons, and more. Lead image via Camp Nomade

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