Trump administration moves to weaken Endangered Species Act amid global extinction risks

August 13, 2019 by  
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It’s no secret that endangered species around the globe continue to face extinction, and the dilemma could get worse with the recent revamp of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) . On August 12, the Trump administration unveiled new changes to the ESA, which was first passed in 1973. The new ESA rules will change how federal agencies implement portions of the conservation law, making it easier to remove recovered species from the protected list and allow for more drilling and development. First proposed in July 2018, the changes will allow federal agencies to weigh economic factors into decisions on assigning species protections. The law previously prohibited this. The administration believes the new changes will  “modernize” and “improve” the law, lifting regulatory burdens while continuing to protect species . Karen Budd-Falen, the Interior Department’s deputy solicitor for fish, wildlife and parks, said the changes will “ensure transparency” in the ESA process and “provide regulatory assurances and protection for both endangered species and the businesses that rely on the use of federal and private land.” However, environmentalists have a different view and believe the new rules only help industry and will continue hurting ecosystems , ultimately resulting in their downfall. Alarmingly, a three-year United Nations study found up to 1 million species wildlife are at risk of extinction by human actions if current trends continue. The changes to the ESA could speed up the process. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report Today, the ESA protects more than 1,600 plants and animals, as well as the habitats important to their survival, according to one report. The ESA has prevented 99 percent of listed species from becoming extinct . “The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal ? recovery of our rarest species,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, an ex-oil and gas lobbyist, said. “The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra promised to battle the new ESA changes in court. “I know that gutting the Endangered Species Act sounds like plan from a cartoon villain, not the work of the president of the United States, ” Healey said during a call with journalists. “But unfortunately, that’s what we’re dealing with today.” Via Huffington Post Image via Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

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Trump administration moves to weaken Endangered Species Act amid global extinction risks

Police seize over 10,000 animals in global crackdown on wildlife trade

July 12, 2019 by  
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What do 4,300 birds, 1,500 reptiles, 10,000 turtles and tortoises, 23 primates, 70 truckloads of timber and 30 big cats all have in common? No, they’re not the residents of a new zoo — all of these critical plants and animals were seized in a major international operation that cracked down on wildlife smuggling. Throughout the month of June, international police and customs authorities united for ‘Operation Thunderball’ and rescued an astonishing number of dolphins, sharks, lions, tigers, birds, tortoises, parakeets, finches, ivory and rhino horns. The operation was carried out in more than 100 countries and hopefully dealt a serious blow to the $19 billion dollar illegal wildlife trafficking industry. Over 600 suspects have been identified, with 21 arrests in Spain and three arrests in Uruguay. Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, said Operation Thunderball “underscores why international cooperation is so important to addressing this deadly criminal activity.” Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife Wildlife trafficking is a major industry that not only hurts the environment and targets endangered species , but it also supports a far-reaching, violent criminal network. Much of the illegal wildlife trade has shifted online to an internet-based black market. For example, in April of this year, Indonesian police officers detained smugglers who admitted to using Facebook for selling Komodo dragons. International animal rights advocates, police and conservationists agree that Operation Thunderball was a massive success for the fight against the illegal animal trade. But some argue that national authorities now need to pick up where the international authorities left off and fully prosecute the detained criminals. This will help set an example and further debilitate the illegal network. Susan Lieberman, vice president for international policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “This massive disruption of criminal networks is key to saving endangered wildlife across the globe, but seizures and arrests are only the first step — governments now must follow up with strong, meaningful prosecutions.” + Interpol Via New York Times Images via © INTERPOL

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Police seize over 10,000 animals in global crackdown on wildlife trade

This eco-friendly bamboo restaurant was built in just 5 weeks

July 12, 2019 by  
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Crystal-blue waters, luxury accommodations and tropical appeal aren’t the only draws of Sundy Praia , São Tomé and Príncipe’s first five?star resort. The sustainably minded destination is also home to an award-winning restaurant designed by French architect-designer agency D.L.2.A (Didier Lefort Architectes Associés). Crafted in the shape of a large fish, the restaurant features a bamboo structure that was mainly assembled by hand and built in just five weeks. Located in the Gulf of Guinea off the western coast of Africa, Sundy Praia on the island of Príncipe was created with low-impact luxury in mind. Hidden among tropical almond and banana trees are the resort’s 15 tented villas, each anchored into the ground with retractable screws to reduce impact on the forest. In keeping with this eco-friendly ethos, designer Didier Lefort created a bamboo restaurant that uses local craftsmanship and materials. Related: Bamboo community center empowers the local Brazilian community Crafted to resemble a large fish with an undulating spine and a wide-open mouth, the building structure comprises a series of bamboo arches of varying dimensions that are fastened by hand with natural ties and only bolted at key areas. Measuring 24 meters from head to tail, the restaurant can accommodate up to 100 people inside and on the terrace. The undulating size of the restaurant — from its width to its height — creates spaces for different guests. The narrowest end of the restaurant, for instance, is for VIPs who wish to dine quietly, while the large “belly” area accommodates families. The “mouth of the fish” at the entrance is a popular place for couples wanting to dine by candlelight.  The interior of the restaurant is also dressed in locally crafted products, such as the chandeliers braided from bamboo and inspired by fishermen creels and the large curtains that are held together by strings of large seeds. The long buffet tables are designed by the D.L.2.A agency. + D.L.2.A Photography by Géraldine Bruneel via D.L.2.A

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This eco-friendly bamboo restaurant was built in just 5 weeks

Hen Harriers on the verge of extinction due to gamekeepers killing illegally

March 21, 2019 by  
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A new study reveals that hen harriers are being killed at an alarming rate on U.K. grouse moors. Scientists found that gamekeepers are eliminating these birds , which are on the verge of extinction in England because they hunt red grouse. Conservationists have been tagging hen harriers in the U.K. for several years and discovered that 72 percent of the birds involved in studies have come up missing. The researchers believe the majority of these birds were killed illegally. Related: Don’t forget to fight for these “less glamorous” endangered species Sadly, 83 percent of juvenile hen harriers in this region do not make it through their first year. In comparison, 65 percent of juveniles do not survive in other areas of the country. In areas completely devoid of grouse moors, those numbers drop to less than 50 percent. According to The Guardian , hen harrier numbers have dropped dangerously low in the U.K., despite the fact that there are acceptable habitats for large numbers to survive with ease. Not only is there plenty of food for the birds of prey, but there are also few predators with which to compete. Even still, only seven of the 58 birds in the study were alive by the end of 2017. Five of the deceased birds uncovered in the study, which spanned a decade, died naturally. Four others sustained injuries consistent with hunting and were considered to be illegally killed. The great majority of the missing birds, however, vanished without a trace. Only a small percentage of these disappearances can be attributed to malfunctioning tags; the rest are believed to be victims of hunting . “Carcasses were rarely recovered, presumably due to suspected illegal killing and carcass disposal,” the study revealed. In order to boost population numbers, a new program was just passed to rear juvenile hen harriers in captivity. Researchers with Natural England plan to find juvenile birds in the wild, raise them in captivity and later release them far from grouse moors. The new hen harrier plan has been met with some resistance by conservationists , though a court just ruled in favor of its legality. Via The Guardian Image via Rob Zweers

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Hen Harriers on the verge of extinction due to gamekeepers killing illegally

Wildlife conservation aided by a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train

March 13, 2019 by  
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A Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train is playing an important part in wildlife conservation . Train, who was too energetic to make it as a drug dog, is lending his nose to sniff out endangered species by smelling their poop. Train is helping conservationists like Karen DeMatteo track down some of the world’s most elusive animals, such as oncillas and jaguars, by finding their scat in the wild. DeMatteo and her colleagues are focusing their research in Argentina, and Train is helping them discover where these endangered species are calling home. “Everybody leaves poop behind in the forest,” DeMatteo shared. “You can figure out which habitats they like and which habitats they avoid.” Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife DeMatteo is using the data she gathers to help conservationists determine where they need to focus their efforts. As human populations continue to encroach on wilderness areas, researchers hope to figure out which areas of the country need better conservation practices — and Train is helping them reach their goals. Before he was sniffing out wildlife , Train was placed in a drug-detection program. Train’s life as a drug-sniffing dog did not pan out, because he was far too energetic for the program. Luckily, DeMatteo snagged him up and trained him to sniff out poop instead of drugs, and the rest is history. Train’s energy also makes him ideal for tracking down wildlife in Argentina. In fact, DeMatteo and her team hiked over 600 miles in 2018 looking for scat, and Train’s energy helped him handle the workload with ease. Before Train came along, researchers like DeMatteo relied on game cameras to find and track endangered species. The only problem with this system is that scientists have to wait until the animals cross the camera’s view. They also have to deal with theft. Although Train is 12 years old, he has not slowed down. After Argentina , DeMatteo and her team will be traveling to Nebraska to find mountain lions, continuing Train’s assistance in wildlife conservation. + Got Scat? Via CNN Images via Karen DeMatteo

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Wildlife conservation aided by a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train

Trump administration wants to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list

March 11, 2019 by  
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Government officials in the U.S. are looking to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. The move, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would allow states in the Lower 48 to lawfully hunt populations of the gray wolf. “Recovery of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of our nation’s great conservation successes,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shared. According to NPR , the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing the proposal in the Federal Register this month. After the rule is published, officials will entertain public comments for a short period before passing anything into law. The public comments period usually lasts a few weeks. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration Gray wolves were labeled endangered back in 1978, when populations dwindled to only 1,000 in the United States. Since then, the numbers have risen to more than 5,000 across the country. As populations have grown, ranchers and farmers have spoken out against the federal protections, as they often consider wolves a threat to livestock. While the numbers are a good sign, conservationists warn that the gray wolf has not fully recovered in all of the areas it used to roam. In some locations, the numbers are so small that removing the hunting ban could have disastrous effects on populations. For example, wolves may never reach recoverable levels in the southern Rockies unless the federal protections are extended. The former head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jamie Rappaport Clark, believes that states will not treat gray wolves the same as other species once the endangered status is lifted. Clark is fighting for additional protections that will ensure the wolves will not be hunted in mass once they are off the list. It is unclear when the law would be put in place if officials decide to move forward with their plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to respond to the criticism of removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list. Via NPR Image via Christels

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Trump administration wants to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list

Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

February 20, 2019 by  
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Zimbabwe is raising awareness about animal trafficking with the annual World Pangolin Day. The pangolin is the most often trafficked mammal in the entire world, with an estimated one million of the scaly mammals being sold in the black market over the past 10 years alone. The pangolin project hopes to curb those numbers and raise awareness about the growing problem of animal trafficking around the globe. Behind drugs, weapons and humans, animal trafficking is the fourth highest illegal trade in the world. “It breaks my heart to know how the greed of mankind is pushing this animal to the brink of extinction,” the head of the Tikki Hywood Foundation, Lisa Hywood, explained. “Time is running out for the pangolin, so we all need to take action.” The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) outlawed the trade of pangolin in Asia and Africa, two regions of the world that contain all eight of the endangered species. The ban has given the pangolin protective status, but officials are still dealing with large scale poaching. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction In honor of Pangolin Day, several groups are using the occasion to raise awareness about other trafficked animals throughout the world. This includes the Tikki Hywood Foundation, which produced a documentary in 2016 about saving pangolins from poachers and the black market. While efforts like Pangolin Day are doing a great job at raising awareness, environmentalists and conservationists face an uphill battle ahead of them. In fact, animal trafficking numbers have steadily grown over the past few years, despite bans against trading endangered species like pangolins. Last week, for example, authorities in Hong Kong uncovered nine tons of pangolin scales in a shipyard, along with over 1,000 elephant tusks. The shipment was headed to Vietnam by way of Nigeria, and officials believe the cargo would have sold on the market for as much as $8 million. Sadly, experts believe around 13,000 pangolins were killed to account for the nine tons of scales seized in Hong Kong The incident in Hong Kong is one of many examples of the growing problem of animal trafficking around the world. Fortunately, initiatives like World Pangolin Day is helping raise awareness about animal trafficking and making it harder for illegal traders to operate. Via UN Environment Images via David Brossard 

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Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

Don’t forget to fight for these "less glamorous" endangered species

February 20, 2019 by  
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Not all endangered animals have their own PR firms to save them. Many are living humble lives outside the limelight. A new poster campaign, commissioned by NetCredit, aims to draw attention to these underdogs in the conservation movement. According to Luke Doyle, who worked on the campaign, “The research team gathered data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to build a long list of species that are flagged as ‘endangered’ or ‘threatened’ in every state of the U.S. The team then shortlisted the top populations at risk of extinction in each state, making sure that there were no duplicated species , as in some cases, certain states are home to the same populations. When finding a species that had been shortlisted already but was repeated in two or more states, we moved forward with the next domestic species on the list for the state we were working on.” Related: These are the most endangered species in the world Here’s an assortment of these endangered and threatened animals from different regions of the US. See the full list of endangered animals in every state here . Arkansas: ivory-billed woodpecker Logging decimated the home of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which was first reported extinct in 1944. However, occasional reported sightings give hope that a small population still lives on. California: Point Arena mountain beaver This primitive rodent is called a “living fossil.” They live underground, surfacing to eat stinging nestles and thistles. Agriculture , roads and recreational use of land threaten what’s left of their habitat. Illinois: cave amphipod An Illinois original, this gray amphipod lives in cold water, shunning light. Extremely sensitive, this little crustacean is very susceptible to pesticides and other human-made chemicals. Scientists are working to restore the population by 2023. Indiana: Indiana bat Pollution and commercial caving threaten the Indiana bat, endangered since 1967. More recently, white-nose syndrome has killed many more while they hibernate in limestone caves. Louisiana: Louisiana pine snake As pine forests are logged, this point-nosed snake loses its habitat. The Louisiana pine snake is non-venomous and grows up to a meter and a half long. Conservationists estimate their population at a few thousand. Missouri: Ozark hellbender This curved salamander can live up to 50 years — if they can survive poaching, contaminated water and habitat loss. They hang out under rocks during the day, breathing through their skin. At night, they hunt insects and crayfish. New Jersey: Sei whale This mysterious 60-foot baleen whale likes the deep water far from coastlines. Until commercial whaling ended in 1987, the Sei whale was fair game. They’re seldom seen, but still occasionally get caught in fishing gear. Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans North Carolina: Carolina northern flying squirrel Only found in North Carolina, southwest Virginia and Tennessee, this ice-age flying squirrel is struggling to survive pollution and climate change . Pennsylvania: short-eared owl These owls nest in grassy areas, such as around the Philadelphia Airport. Developers and agricultural practices threaten their remaining nesting places. South Dakota: black-footed ferret The only ferret native to North America, fewer than 500 are left in South Dakota. These members of the weasel family rely on prairie dogs for food — and prairie dog populations are also decreasing. Via NetCredit Images via NetCredit and Ryan Moehring of USFWS

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A green veil of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat

February 20, 2019 by  
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In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s concrete jungle, a compact family home has been infused with greenery thanks to the work of Vietnamese architecture firm Vo Trong Nghia Architects . Dubbed the Breathing House, the property is located in an extremely dense neighborhood on a plot measuring just 12.8 feet in width and 58.4 feet in length. To provide a connection to nature despite the constrained urban conditions, the architects wrapped three sides of the home in a “green veil” made of creeper plants that grow on steel mesh. Edged in by buildings and accessible only via a tiny alleyway, the Breathing House makes the most of its small footprint with a staggered floor plan arranged around light wells that let natural light and ventilation deep inside the home. To open three sides of the house to the outdoors without compromising privacy, the architects wrapped the facade in a vertical green screen that not only protects against prying views, but also helps mitigate solar heat gain and improve air quality. This “green veil” was constructed using a modularized galvanized steel mesh and planter boxes installed at every floor. “Inside the ‘green veil’, the building consists of five tower-like volumes that are staggered and connected to each other, arranged in between the two boundary walls,” the architects said of the interior layout. “The external spaces created by the staggered arrangement of the volumes, which we call ‘micro voids’, play a role in providing myriad indirect lighting and ventilation routes throughout the building. In the narrow and deep plot shuttered by neighbors on both sides, it is more environmentally effective to promote ventilation for each corner of the house, by multiple ‘micro voids’, rather than having a singular large courtyard.” Related: Fruit trees grow on the roofs of this rammed earth home in Hanoi The “porous” arrangement of spaces helps create a sense of spaciousness in the home while reducing dependence on air conditioning . The “green veil”, which is visible to passersby, continues up to the roof terrace, creating what the architects said is a much-needed green space in a city that’s been losing green spaces at an alarming rate. + Vo Trong Nghia Architects Images by Hiroyuki Oki via Vo Trong Nghia Architects

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A green veil of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat

VEJA unveils vegan sneakers made from corn waste

February 20, 2019 by  
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Ethical sneaker brand VEJA has unveiled its newest and arguably most impressive eco-friendly kicks yet — the Campo, a chic sneaker made with a new vegan and biodegradable fabric. The revolutionary material, called C.W.L., is made from a waxed canvas with 50 percent corn waste from the food industry. The Campo marks the first time C.W.L. has been used in the fashion industry. Developed by an Italian company, C.W.L. is organic cotton coated with PU and resin from the corn waste industry. With a look and touch comparable to leather, the bio-sourced material is VEJA’s ecological substitute for leather. “Since we started VEJA in 2005, we are always looking for new sustainable and more ecological raw materials,” VEJA said in a press release. “After five years of R&D and many failures to find an ecological substitute for leather, we finally found a revolutionary fabric.” The Campo, which is available in a variety of colors, uses C.W.L. for the upper and panels, recycled polyester — a B-Mesh (bottle-mesh) fabric created from recycled plastic bottles  — for the jersey lining and wild rubber sustainably sourced from the Amazonian forest for the insole and sole. As with all of VEJA’s shoes, the Campo sneakers are ethically made in Brazil in the region of Porto Alegre. Related: nat-2 creates a completely vegan sneaker made from coffee Launched this year, the new Campo model is an alternative to VEJA’s leather models. Forty percent of VEJA models are vegan for its spring/summer 2019 collection, which also includes the alternative-leather models Rio Branco and Nova. The Campo sneakers are now available for purchase online in six different varieties and start at 125 euros. + VEJA Images by Mario Simon Lafleur via VEJA

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VEJA unveils vegan sneakers made from corn waste

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