Cuban painted snails critically endangered by illegal wildlife trade

July 29, 2020 by  
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Increased trafficking of colorful snail shells is now posing a serious threat to these species. The ‘painted snails’ are native to Cuba and are known to be the world’s most beautiful snails. These snails belong to the genus Polymita . Due to their beauty, Cuban painted snails have been sought after by collectors, who sell their shells to American and European markets. This practice has pushed the six species of Cuban painted snails to the brink of extinction. Currently, all of the six species have been classified as being critically endangered . Although there are laws that prohibit the trade of painted snails in Cuba, the illegal wildlife trade continues to threaten their existence. According to National Geographic, there is evidence that painted snails are being sold in Cuba under the watch of government authorities. Between 2012 and 2016, about 23,000 painted snails were seized on their way to the U.S. by the Cuba’s customs department. You do not need to look far to see the evidence of the snails being sold. There are many American websites that currently sell the painted snail shells and even live snails. Related: How hungry snails help to protect ecosystems from climate change The efforts to protect the colored snails are also being hampered by the locals, who collect and sell the snails to tourists. While the government has put in place a fine of up to $20 per violation, it is evident that locals have made underground ways of accessing foreign markets. Currently, some biologists and environmental conservation groups are working toward educating the locals about the importance of the painted snails. Bernardo Reyes-Tur, a conservation biologist at the University of Oriente, Norvis Hernandez, a biologist with Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, and their colleagues are leading the way in educating Cubans about the benefits of having the snails around in place of selling them cheaply. If the animals are protected, they will have more value to the locals than they have on the market. Via National Geographic Images via Thomas Brown ( 1 , 2 )

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Cuban painted snails critically endangered by illegal wildlife trade

Sustainable agriculture cleans up rivers in Cuba

February 7, 2020 by  
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New scientific findings reveal that Cuba’s rivers are in better health than the Mississippi River. The research was a joint effort between Cuba and the United States, marking the two countries’ first collaboration in more than 60 years. The work was part of a study on Cuba’s hydrology, focusing on the water quality of the island’s rivers. Despite centuries of cattle and sugarcane farming, research results reveal there hasn’t been much damage to Cuba’s rivers thanks to the country’s other sustainable agriculture methods. Compared to the Mississippi River, Cuba’s 25 rivers surveyed showed lower nutrient concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. This is likely attributed to Cuba’s shift toward sustainable agriculture , particularly the country’s shunning of imported synthetic chemicals. Related: Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products “A lot of stories about the value of Cuba’s shift to conservation agriculture have been based on fuzzy, feel-good evidence,” explained geologist and researcher Paul Bierman. “This study provides hard data that a crucial part of this story is true.” By contrast, the U.S. has more widespread dependence on chemical fertilizers . Hence, dead zones occur where the Mississippi River mouth opens into the Gulf of Mexico, adversely affecting the region’s marine ecosystems with dangerous bacterial and algal blooms caused by elevated nitrogen levels. Another interesting finding is that even though more than 80% of the Cuban river samples had E. coli bacteria, the source was found to be from fecal material by cattle and horses grazing along the riverbanks. The research team believes that this is partly attributed to “Cuba’s intensive use of horses and other draft animals for transportation and farm work.” The researchers concluded that the island country has been committed to promoting more sustainable agriculture to improve both its soil and water. The efforts have led to promising results. The American team was comprised of University of Vermont geologist Paul Bierman and Oberlin College geoscientist Amanda Schmidt. The Cuban team was led by Rita Hernández, representing the Cienfuegos Center for Environmental Studies, an ecological research group. Their joint research, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, was recently published in the GSA Today journal of the Geological Society of America. “This research can help the people of Cuba,” Hernández said, “and may give a good example to other people in the Caribbean and all over the world.” + The Geological Society of America Via Phys.org Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Sustainable agriculture cleans up rivers in Cuba

Desperation and fear mount in Irma-ravaged Caribbean

September 11, 2017 by  
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Over the past few days, Hurricane Irma has devastated islands in the Caribbean, Cuba , and parts of Florida. The Category 5 hurricane has since downgraded to a tropical storm, but the damage it caused will take years to recover from. On the island of Barbuda, for example,  “95 percent” of buildings were destroyed. Others, like Saint Martin and Barthelemy, have no water or electricity and food resources are running low. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’08x2NaWvTOxUX90CIZOdGA’,sig:’uqVCatca-d4wvEpEybaIWAYAXm9rhRToDSdClNU1oyA=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’845717730′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); Media coverage of the islands of Saint Martin and Barthelemy show extensive amounts of damage. Reuters reports that many streets remain submerged, boats and cars are piled on top of each other in multiple locations, and numerous houses have had their rooftops ripped off. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’e3nfT1wLSZ1a3dcHo2hX8w’,sig:’V00rpNIu06KQzy4dsUOcV07rpWebm3vc9QJ3US6w_2k=’,w:’594px’,h:’386px’,items:’845705546′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); To make matters worse, looting is rampant. One Saint Martin resident told BFM TV that she heard gunshots and had seen several people breaking into homes and shops to steal food .  According to the French interior ministry, police forces have been boosted on the two islands following close to 500 reports of violence and looting following Irma’s passing. 11 people have also been arrested for “malicious actions.” Related: Trump’s USDA staff told to use ‘weather extremes’ instead of ‘climate change’ Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’puQKjadATepuXcWxqYS-8Q’,sig:’okRdWoZCR1eoCZpiCMcjCy7_oRi5RmM_fyT8xB7HBi8=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’845690278′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); Between the two islands, at least 10 people have been killed . The Caisse Centrale de Reassurance, a state-owned reinsurance group in France , said Irma will go down as one of “the most damaging disasters in decades on French territory.” Losses total a staggering 1.2 billion euros, or $1.44 billion USD. + National Hurricane Center Via Reuters Images via  National Hurricane Center,  Pixabay

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Desperation and fear mount in Irma-ravaged Caribbean

Hurricane Matthew causes largest mandatory US evacuation since Sandy

October 6, 2016 by  
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As Hurricane Matthew continues building strength and heading north toward Florida’s east coast, residents of Haiti are struggling with downed communications, massive flooding, and widespread structural damage. The National Weather Service has recommended more than 2 million people in coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina leave their homes, making this the largest mandatory evacuation since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Hurricane Matthew is expected to make a “direct hit” in southern Florida early Friday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgWgMvrtES8 So far, Hurricane Matthew’s death toll has risen to 15, all residents of Caribbean countries which have suffered massive flooding from storm surges and heavy rain. As the storm heads to the US, President Barack Obama issued a statement on Wednesday warning those living in the path of the storm that the hurricane could have “a devastating effect,” urging residents to heed evacuation warnings in order to protect their lives. Related: Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti as Category 4 hurricane en route to Cuba Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued evacuation orders for many counties in Florida starting at 6 a.m. ET, stretching from the Miami area north to the Georgia border. Commercial flights have been cancelled, state offices will be closed Thursday and Friday, and many hospitals have begun evacuating patients in anticipation of a potentially devastating storm strike. As is par for the course in the hours before a hurricane hits Florida, grocery store shelves are empty as people stock up on water, food, and batteries. Although the storm was downgraded to a Category 3 yesterday, Hurricane Matthew currently has sustained winds of 125mph, putting it at the upper end of that category, and it is expected to gain strength before reaching Florida as a Category 4 storm. Meanwhile, much of Haiti is underwater in the wake of the storm, which is the biggest natural disaster to affect the impoverished island nation since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Massive flooding has caused widespread structural damage, and a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at least 350,000 people are in need of immediate assistance. Communication lines are down throughout the nation (as well as in the Bahamas), so it has been difficult for authorities to get updates on the extent of the damage. With so many people impacted by the storm, the net result is expected to be a tremendous loss of residential structures, businesses, infrastructure like hospitals and state offices, as well as devastating losses in agriculture and other industries. Many first responders have already been deployed, including representatives of UNICEF, the Red Cross, and the US Coast Guard. In the months and years following Hurricane Matthew, Haiti will need support from the international community in order to survive. + How to help Haiti Via CNN Images via NOAA , UNICEF and  UNDP

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Hurricane Matthew causes largest mandatory US evacuation since Sandy

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