What You Can Do for Global Tiger Day

July 27, 2018 by  
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Protecting species that we can see in our own back yards, … The post What You Can Do for Global Tiger Day appeared first on Earth911.com.

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What You Can Do for Global Tiger Day

Are Your Souvenirs Part of the Problem?

July 18, 2018 by  
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The couple carrying 16 pounds of ivory confiscated at SeaTac Airport … The post Are Your Souvenirs Part of the Problem? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Are Your Souvenirs Part of the Problem?

Trading specimens for science? Theres a website for that

July 2, 2018 by  
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Good news for science and for the Earth: scientists looking for rare research specimens, such as the smoothtooth blacktip shark or Antarctic skate, now have a website to request or trade biological odds and ends. Built by students and backed by startup accelerators, Otlet.io allows researchers to list their surplus research samples and request those currently not available through other means. The site has already been acknowledged as a major win for conservation . The website is a product born of frustration: founders Lauren Meyer and Madi Green, two PhD students in Australia and Tasmania, were having trouble finding specimens to complete projects. After completing an undergraduate honors thesis with limited data, Meyer discovered that a colleague held several tiger shark livers – which she needed to present a conclusive report. To improve communications and cooperation between researchers, Meyer and Green started SharkShare.com, which ultimately evolved to Otlet. Related: 500-mile-long shark highway could become a protected wildlife corridor Universities hail the project as a crucial step forward for conservation. Some species listed on Otlet today are either Red List-threatened or considered data deficient by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – and, by sharing existing resources, scientists can continue their current research without further threatening any species. To begin the specimen swapping process, scientists simply create an account on Otlet and share what they have or what they need. When a match occurs, individuals can reach out to one another to coordinate exchanges and determine shipping responsibility. The community is only open to active researchers: before requesting or listing anything, users must provide their academic status, organization affiliation and details on their specific field of study. Even though the website is relatively new, it’s already created major waves across the international science community: there are more than 10,000 listings on Otlet representing 135 distinct species from 47 nations. Recently added to the specimen database are flapnose ray fins from the Red Sea, livers from South Australian thresher sharks and Pacific spookfish muscles from the subantarctic Pacific Ocean . All are available for exchange with other scientists. Otlet receives support from Australia’s St. George Bank and the New South Wales Government, startup incubator BlueChilli and the Save Our Seas foundation. + Otlet Via  Earther Images via Wikimedia Commons

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Trading specimens for science? Theres a website for that

Congo could open its national parks to oil drilling

July 2, 2018 by  
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Two national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo could soon face pollution threats and habitat destruction if oil drilling is given the green light. The national government announced on Friday, June 29, 2018 that it is deciding on whether to permit oil wells in parts of the Salonga and Virunga National Parks, which are both home to rare and endangered wildlife. Under the plan put forward by the Congolese government, over one-fifth of Virunga National Park could open for oil exploration. Virunga is home to approximately half of the world’s mountain gorillas . Salonga National Park occupies more than 13,000 square miles of the Congo Basin , the second largest rainforest in the world. The dense jungles are home to bonobos, along with the African golden cat, forest buffalos and pangolins. The government did not elaborate on how much of Salonga could be available for oil drilling. In statements to the press, the government expressed its rights to allow oil well construction in both parks, while claiming it would be mindful of wildlife protection in both areas. Related: New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo These plans come under heavy criticism from inter-governmental organizations and environmental watchdog groups, whom already denounced previous plans. As World Heritage Sites , UNESCO calls drilling and illegal resource extraction continuing threats to conservation in both the Salonga and Virunga . Oil drilling is not the only issue facing the wildlife in these parks. Poaching and kidnapping remains a major concern in both preserves. After two British tourists were held hostage and a park ranger was killed in the first five months of 2018, government officials have closed Virunga through 2019. Opening the parks to drilling comes as the national government prepares for another wave of sanctions. Before the announcement, the United Nations Security Council upheld an asset freeze and travel ban against the nation. Although British oil and gas exploration firm Soco International previously tested the Virunga area for viability, its license is no longer valid. No other petroleum companies have announced plans to drill in either of the two parks. Via  Reuters  and  BBC Images via Fanny Schertzer ( 1 , 2 )

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Architect turns four shipping containers into an affordable and eco-friendly home

July 2, 2018 by  
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Architectural firm  Matt Elkan Architect has unveiled a beautiful home on Australia’s south coast, with a unique twist: it’s made out of four shipping containers. In addition to constructing the home out of repurposed containers , the firm included a number of sustainable features in order to make the shipping container house as environmentally friendly as possible. From the beginning, architect Matt Elkan worked with the homeowners to create a design that would reflect their vision of an eco-friendly family home . He also wanted to prove that great design doesn’t have to break the bank. According to Elkan’s project description, “This project was always about economy, efficiency and how to do as much as possible on a very limited budget. However, the scale belies the efficiency of program and generosity of the outcome. The client’s conviction from the outset was that good architecture does not need to be expensive, and this project attempts to prove the theory.” Related: Stunning shipping container home can be yours for $125k Although keeping the budget as low as possible was a priority, minimizing the home’s environmental impact was of utmost importance as well. There was no excavation on the landscape and the four shipping containers were laid out strategically to take advantage of natural lighting and passive temperature control. The architects used natural wood insulation on the flat roof, and they did not include any VOC finishes in the building. Additionally, the home has Low E windows and recycled HW doors. For water conservation, 500 liters of water can be stored on-site. The result of this strategic design? A beautiful 1,000-square-foot home that sleeps up to ten people. Unlike some shipping container homes , the design proudly shows the shipping container aesthetic throughout the exterior and interior. The home’s exterior was painted in a dark grey, and the doors were left in their original state with script that marks their weight and shipping details. The interior also proudly shows its industrial origins. The container walls were painted in a glossy white with a few accent walls made of blonde wood, which was also used for the ceiling and flooring. Sliding farmhouse-style doors give the home a modern touch. An abundance of windows throughout the home flood the interior with natural light and also provide a strong connection to the home’s gorgeous surroundings. Many of the floor-to-ceiling windows can be concealed by the large shipping container doors. The living space opens up to a wooden deck, further blending the home’s interior with the exterior. + Matt Elkan Architect Via Dwell Photography by Simon Whitbread

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Architect turns four shipping containers into an affordable and eco-friendly home

Conservationists sound alarm over US House bill that weakens Endangered Species Act

May 25, 2018 by  
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Activists and scientists are concerned over the inclusion of a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that could threaten the survival of the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken. The provision would prevent the Lesser Prairie-Chicken from receiving protection under the Endangered Species Act for at least ten years, despite evidence of population decline suggesting that the Prairie-Chicken needs to be legally protected. It would also weaken safeguards put in place to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse, while clearing away regulatory obstacles for oil and gas development. “We urge U.S. Representatives to oppose the grouse and prairie chicken rider,” Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy said in a statement . “This provision has nothing to do with national defense, will place imperiled species on the path to extinction and should be stricken.” Both species live in isolated populations that are greatly diminished from their pre-contact levels, with the number of grouse falling from 15 million to fewer than 300,000 today. The prairie-chicken population dropped 50 percent between 2012 and 2013, and its range continues to shrink. Congressional changes to the Endangered Species Act could further threaten the birds . “Endangered Species Act protection provides an essential backstop to hedge against species extinction, particularly in light of major increases in oil and gas drilling in priority grouse habitats in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Colorado ,” Holmer explained. Related: ‘Acoustic lighthouses’ could warn birds about wind turbines While a 2015 review of the status of the Greater Sage-Grouse led to more favorable protections, it did not result in its listing on the Endangered Species Act. Now, those limited protections could be rolled back by Congress . Perhaps the more impactful provision requirement is that the Lesser Prairie-Chicken not be placed on the Endangered Species list for ten years, regardless of scientific opinion. Holmer said, “Potentially the most devastating provision is the one that precludes judicial review of these listing moratoria, which prevents the public from seeking protection for these species even if they are on the very brink of extinction .” Via American Bird Conservancy Images via USFWS Mountain-Prairie (1)

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Conservationists sound alarm over US House bill that weakens Endangered Species Act

This great ape species was discovered 6 months ago and it’s already threatened by a dam

April 23, 2018 by  
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The Tapanuli orangutan was only discovered six months ago — and it’s already under threat of extinction from human development. Only 800 Tapanuli orangutans live in the wild today — however state-run Chinese company Sinohydro plans to construct a dam in northern Sumatra that will result in the deforestation of the orangutan’s habitat. If completed, the dam could pose an existential danger to the animals. Researchers fear that the construction of the  510 megawatt dam in the fragile Batang Toru ecosystem will result in the extinction of certain communities within the already vulnerable Tapanuli population. “Building the dam means chopping the orangutan population in half,” Borneo Futures director and orangutan expert Erik Meijaard told The Guardian . “You end up with two smaller populations, and these will have much reduced chances of survival, because a small population is more likely to go extinct than a large one.” Although Sinohydro did not include the orangutan in its environmental management plan, the Indonesian government approved the project. “The impact will not just be the destruction of the habitat where they want to build the dam and roads, tunnel, electricity lines,” scientist Gabriella Fredriksson explained to the Guardian , “but it will cause the extinction of two of the three sub-populations, and in addition create access and destroy the most important habitat of the only viable population left.” Related: UK researchers are developing an orangutan-safe alternative to palm oil “The Indonesian government needs to respect its own laws,” Meijaard said. “Orangutans are protected species. The Indonesian law clearly prohibits any actions that harm a protected species or its nests. It is obvious that the hydrodam is harming a protected species, so why does the government allow this?” Instead of building a dam, researcher Serge Wich suggested that the government pursue a geothermal project farther north from the orangutan habitat. According to Wich, this proposed project could yield one gigawatt of power, significantly more than the dam. The newly discovered orangutans are suffering under a broader extinction crisis, in which the large mammals of Sumatra, such as the Sumatran tiger , the Sumatran rhino and the Sumatran elephant have become critically endangered. Via The Guardian Images via Tim Laman and Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

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This great ape species was discovered 6 months ago and it’s already threatened by a dam

Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife

March 30, 2018 by  
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If it is ever built, Trump’s US-Mexico border wall would pose a threat to vulnerable wildlife and plants, as well as to the growing ecotourism industry in the border regions of Texas . Norma Fowler and Tim Keitt, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin, have published a letter that outlines the potential ecological damage from such a major project. Currently, Texas has walls along approximately 100 miles of its border with Mexico. “Up to now, the wall has either gone through cities or deserts,” said Fowler . “This is the Rio Grande we’re talking about here. It’s totally different.” The proposed wall is set to cut through hundreds of miles of protected federal land, including much of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. “We have high biodiversity because of the river and because Texas extends so far south,” explained Fowler. “I and other Texas biologists are very concerned about the impact this will have on our rich natural heritage.” Fowler and Keitt conducted a scientific literature review of 14 other publications to support the concerns outlined in the letter. The authors express particular interest in the protection of the threatened Tamaulipan thornscrub ecosystem , which once covered much of South Texas. Related: Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science The wall could also divide breeding populations of vulnerable animals, such as the ocelot. With only 120 left in the Lone Star State, ocelots could suffer from decreased reproduction and eventually disappear completely from Texas. “Even small segments of new wall on federal lands will devastate habitats and local recreation and ecotourism,” said Keitt. The authors suggested alternatives if the United States does ultimately go forward in its efforts to strengthen the border. According to Keitt and Fowler, “Negative impacts could be lessened by limiting the extent of physical barriers and associated roads, designing barriers to permit animal passage and substituting less biologically harmful methods, such as electronic sensors, for physical barriers.” Via Phys.org Images via  Alejandro Santillana/University of Texas at Austin Insects Unlocked Project and  Andrew Morffew

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Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife

Trump may gut the Endangered Species Act

January 31, 2017 by  
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The former head of Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, has called for the Endangered Species Act to be drastically overhauled, with many of the key provisions completely scrapped. The 1973 act was created to prevent the extinction of hundreds of species – however Ebell insists the act is a “political weapon” that does little to protect wildlife. While he’s not a current member of Trump’s team, his words should worry anyone who cares about conservation, because they seem to be in line with GOP lawmakers set on repealing the law . In a speech in London , Ebell stated, “The endangered species act doesn’t do much for protecting endangered wildlife, but it does a huge amount to control private property land use, and it is enforced very selectively, so that some landowners are not affected but people with exactly the same habitat, their use is limited or eliminated. It is a political weapon and I am very interested in reforming, and I don’t know if we will see that any time in the next decade, but I hope so.” Related: Trump presidency could spell the end for wolves in America’s West Some researchers suggest an alternate approach: privatizing the protection of wildlife . George Wilson, an adjunct professor at Australian National University, has proposed giving landowners authority over the endangered species on their own land. This may sound strange to many in the US, but it’s an approach that’s been used in countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa in years past. Essentially, landowners would take the lead in regulating hunting, eco-tourism , and conservation programs, instead of the government. The logic behind the proposal is this: when the government takes on the duty of protecting a “public good” like wildlife , humans don’t have an incentive to help and may resent the regulations created. If those landowners are given control and offered ways to profit off tourism or hunting, they may be interested in helping those animal populations grow and thrive. Related: This could be the United States’ first endangered bee species Of course, the downside is that privatization can simply result in the wealthy hoarding wildlife, creating hunting grounds full of captive animals. On the other hand, South Africa has used these policies successfully to maintain and even grow wildlife populations in the past century. It’s certainly no substitute for the protections offered by the Endangered Species Act, but it could provide a lifeline for vulnerable species if the landmark legislation is repealed. Via The Independent and Markets Insider Images via Wikimedia Commons and USFWS Endangered Species

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Trump may gut the Endangered Species Act

Snow-free images of Arctic polar bears show the harsh reality of climate change

December 29, 2016 by  
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When Patty Waymire headed to Barter Island, Alaska a few months ago, she expected to take lots of photographs of polar bears frolicking in freshly fallen snow. However, once the photographer arrived at her destination, a stark reality became evident. Not only was there no snow for frolicking, but there was no ice to be seen either. The typically snow-covered island was warm and dry, and the water’s edge was met with sandy beaches rather than icy ground. Waymire took photos anyway, capturing still frames of the ever-unfolding saga that pits climate change against the survival of one of the Earth’s most majestic creatures. One of Waymire ’s images—aptly entitled “No Snow, No Ice” (above)—shows a lone polar bear perched at the edge of a brown, sandy shoal which should have been white with snow at that time of the year. That startling photograph won an honorable mention in the 2016 National Geographic Photographer of the Year contest in the Environmental Issues category. Monica Corcoran, director of the photography contest, noted that the polar bear appears to be “in a meditative Buddha stance” which contributes to the image’s impact. Related: Photo of frail polar bear illuminates the tragedy unfolding in the Arctic Alaska’s Barter Island is situated off the state’s northern coast in the Arctic. The relatively small island has served as a major trading hub and was also home to a large whaling village prior to 1900. All the while, polar bears have roamed the island’s icy shores doing what polar bears do: hunting prey, raising young, and just living. In early October, at the time of Waymire’s visit, the island would normally have been covered in snow, according to locals. However, unusually warm weather all year has ushered in a less-than-impressive autumn and winter, and the resulting scene of fluffy white polar bears cast against drab brown dirt inspired the California-based photographer to show the world what climate change really looks like. In a series of 33 images , Waymire documented several Barter Island polar bears, including some young cubs, both on land and in the water. Without a date stamp, one might think the photographs were captured in the midst of the warmest summer months, because there is not a single snowflake or ice crystal visible in any of the images. But, since we know the photos are from October, we must accept the sad reality that they represent: an ever-changing climate in which even the coldest climes are not exempt from global warming. For now, the Barter Island polar bears are surviving, but with the growing impact of climate change on their habitat and food sources, it’s only a matter of time before they disappear just like the snow. + Patty Waymire Photography Images via Patty Waymire

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