Adorable baby gorilla wants you to recycle your phone

February 21, 2020 by  
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The first lowland gorilla born in the Los Angeles Zoo in 20 years is building her fan base while raising awareness about the connection between cell phone manufacturing and critically endangered gorilla populations. Baby Angela was born last month to mom N’dijia and dad Kelly. Along with Rapunzel and Evelyn, the LA Zoo is now home to five western lowland gorillas. This species is native to Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because only about 100,000 western lowland gorillas still survive in the wild, any new baby is cause for celebration. Related: Hope for mountain gorillas — new census results reveal the population is increasing Female lowland gorillas typically give birth every six to seven years in the wild. But the stress of captivity often short-circuits normal breeding habits. So far, mom and baby seem extremely bonded, zookeepers told the Today Show. N’dijia carries Angela around constantly, and Kelly shows affection by sniffing the baby and sometimes putting his lips against her. Gorillas in the wild face many dangers, including poachers, diseases, such as Ebola, and mining operations. While these threats may seem far away from the life of the average city dweller, most humans have a direct tie to gorillas through their cell phones. The Congo Basin is rich in coltan, a black metallic ore used in mobile phone manufacturing. Not only do miners disrupt gorilla life and ruin habitats, the miners — who are often there illegally — hunt wildlife, including gorillas, for food. Recycling your old cell phones is an easy way to help gorillas. A recycling company called ECO-CELL partners with primate conservation groups including Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), the Jane Goodall Institute and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Many zoos in the U.S. and Canada collect phones for ECO-CELL. So far, the company has recycled about 1 million cell phones. Phones that still work are sometimes reused by gorilla care staff and in veterinary labs. “ECO-CELL’s focus is squarely on the informed consumer piece,” Eric Ronay, founder of ECO-CELL, told Mongabay . “If we can reach consumers en masse, especially young consumers, and inspire them to demand ethical, gorilla-safe products, then the entire electronics landscape will change dramatically.” + LA Zoo Via Mongabay and Today Image by Jamie Pham via LA Zoo

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Light pollution, habitat loss and pesticides push fireflies toward extinction

February 7, 2020 by  
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There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies, and scientists are sounding the alarm that some of these species are on the brink of extinction . Research published in BioScience indicates that habitat loss, light pollution and pesticides are threatening these delightful insects. According to Tufts University biology professor Sara Lewis, the study’s lead author, “If people want fireflies around in the future, we need to look at this seriously. Fireflies are incredibly attractive insects, perhaps the most beloved of all insects, because they are so conspicuous, so magical.” Related: New Animal Endangerment Map shows global distribution of threatened animal species Habitat loss is the main culprit disrupting the environmental conditions and cues conducive to firefly development and lifecycle completion. One example cited was the Malaysian firefly species Pteroptyx tener , which needs particular mangroves and plants to breed appropriately, but their mangrove swamp habitats have been displaced by aquaculture farms and palm oil plantations. The second issue leaving fireflies vulnerable is light pollution . As CNN reported, light pollution can arise from “streetlights and commercial signs and skyglow, a more diffuse illumination that spreads beyond urban centers and can be brighter than a full moon.” Artificial lights can interfere with firefly courtship. Male fireflies flash particular bioluminescent patterns to attract females, who must flash responses in return. Unfortunately, artificial lights can mimic and thus confuse the signals. Or, worse yet, light pollution can be too bright for the fireflies to emit and properly recognize their ritual signals for mating to be initiated or completed. Thirdly, pesticides have been a significant driving factor in the decline of firefly populations. The Center for Biological Diversity has documented that “Systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids that get into the soil and water harm firefly larvae and their prey. Also, because fireflies are generally found in wetland habitats, they are threatened by insecticide spraying targeting mosquitoes.” As a result, the larvae either starve or have developmental anomalies that prevent population growth. Public outcries by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Firefly Specialist Group as well as the Fireflyers International Network have raised some awareness about the dwindling firefly populations. Yet, as stated by the Center for Biological Diversity, “There are at least 125 species of fireflies in the United States, but despite the many threats they face, none are protected by the Endangered Species Act.” To protect these luminous insects that have long captivated the imagination with their fairytale-like lights, much work still needs to be done, especially given the U.K. Wildlife Trusts ’ similar report on the ‘quiet apocalypse’ taking place now, wherein 41% of global insect species face extinction. + BioScience Via CNN , the Center for Biological Diversity and The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Light pollution, habitat loss and pesticides push fireflies toward extinction

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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Hurricane Dorian threatens endangered bird species

September 5, 2019 by  
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Those living on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands recently met Dorian as the hurricane’s 185 mph winds wrecked havoc on the islands, destroying and damaging about 13,000 homes. While the hurricane has raised much concern over the rising death tolls and destruction to the island, it also raised concern for endangered species who call the island home, such as the critically endangered Bahama nuthatch. The Bahama nuthatch has been in trouble for some time as a 2004 survey reported its population was around 1,800. Three years later, a 2007 survey noted more hurricanes decreased its numbers to a mere 23. By the time Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016 the bird’s population dropped and in 2018 only two were found. Related: Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change It appears Dorian left very few stones upturned as most of the areas are reportedly still under water and coniferous forests are being killed by saltwater flooding. “It is obviously a humanitarian disaster for people living in these northern islands, and the extent is as yet unknown, but we hope that international medical and infrastructure aid will arrive rapidly and generously,” Diana Bell, professor of Conservation Biology at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told Earther. “It is also highly likely to have also been an ecological disaster affecting the already fragmented areas of Caribbean pine forest which support endemic avifauna.” Aside from trees and the Bahama nutshell, some scientists are worried about the Bahama warbler and the more well-known Kirtland’s warbler, a bird that lives among the pineyards during the winter season. In addition to the nuthatch and the warblers, as recent as July, avifauna in the Bahamas was reported at 374 species, according to Avibase – Bird Checklists of the World. According to a National Climate Assessment, researchers say warmer ocean climes and higher sea levels from climate change will further intensify hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, though some research suggests hurricanes are slowing down but causing longer impacts. Nonetheless, hurricanes of all categories could cause irreparable disaster for all island inhabitants. Via Gizmodo, Audubon, Avibase Image via Dick Daniels

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Germany to ban controversial weed-killer glyphosate by 2023

September 5, 2019 by  
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Reaching for the weed-killer glyphosate in Germany won’t be an option much longer. A primary component of Roundup, manufactured by Bayer-owned Monsanto , glyphosate’s critics believe it wipes out insect populations essential to ecosystems and the pollination of food crops. But the controversial chemical won’t have the chance to do either, as ministers have reported that the German government is banning the use of glyphosate when the EU’s approval period expires in 2023. “What we need is more humming and buzzing,” said environment minister Svenja Schulze to The Guardian . Schulze also added that “a world without insects is not worth living in.” Related: EPA backs the use of toxic herbicide chemical glyphosate Besides killing insects , there are other experts who believe glyphosate may cause cancer in people and needs to be banned as soon as possible “What harms insects also harms people,” Schulze said. First, glyphosate will be banned in city parks and private gardens in 2020, according to a policy plan. Additionally, using herbicides and insecticides will be restricted or banned in habitats such as grasslands, orchard fields and along the shores of Germany’s many rivers and lakes. Champions of the ban have been loud and clear about disapproval of the weed-killer, and in February, 1.75 million people in the German state of Bavaria voted for a referendum to “ save the bees .” They called for less chemical use and more organic farming and green areas. These environmentalists did face opposition from a regional agriculture association, who pushed the activists to “stop bashing farmers.” Others opposed to the ban include farmers and the chemical industry; both sectors want to keep using glyphosate . The manufacturer fought against the government’s ban, voicing its product could be used safely and was “an important tool for ensuring both the sustainability and productivity of agriculture.” It is not just Germany that is saying goodbye to glyphosate; in July, Austria was the first EU member to ban the weed killer. France has also decided to ban glyphosate by 2023. The chemical is scheduled to be re-evaluated in 2022 by EU authorities. Via The Guardian Image via Erich Westendarp

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Giraffes win CITES protection

August 23, 2019 by  
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Giraffes are doing a victory dance today after winning international trade protection on Thursday. Delegates at the World Wildlife Conference in Geneva voted to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES ). Countries will now be required to issue non-detriment findings before exporting or importing giraffe parts. This means that in order to get permits, a scientific authority of the state must decree that the trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. The number of giraffes has declined by 40 percent over the last three decades, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council , which calls the situation a “silent extinction.” Habitat loss, poaching for meat, trophy hunting, disease and trade in their parts has left giraffes more endangered than elephants. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified seven of the nine giraffe subspecies as threatened with extinction. Related: Don’t forget to fight for these “less glamorous” endangered species Giraffes range through 21 sub-Saharan African countries. Six of the range states — Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal — submitted the proposal to curtail indiscriminate trading of giraffe parts. The U.S., E.U., New Zealand, much of South and Central America and 32 African nations supported the proposal; however, some countries in southern African wanted to be exempt. CITES discourages this kind of split listing, as it makes things difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal trade. Fortunately, this idea was overruled. Because giraffes haven’t been listed under CITES in the past, there is not much international data on the trade in giraffe parts. But U.S. data points to a heinous level of trade, with nearly 40,000 giraffe parts arriving in the U.S. between 2006 and 2015. This equals at least 3,751 whole giraffes. Skins, bone carvings and raw bones were the parts most commonly intercepted. Taxidermied trophies and knives made with giraffe bone handles were other frequent imports. The long-necked ruminants and all their supporters are hoping that the U.S. will soon list giraffes under the Endangered Species Act . After conservation groups spent more than two years petitioning for protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finally conducting an in-depth review of the status of giraffes. Hopefully, it will act sooner rather than later. + CITES Via Reuters and NRDC Image via Loretta Smith

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Forests for Future: Protecting Rainforests & Endangered Orangutans

August 19, 2019 by  
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Recent studies have indicated that expansion of our planet’s forests … The post Forests for Future: Protecting Rainforests & Endangered Orangutans appeared first on Earth911.com.

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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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Endangered rhino population up 1000% in Tanzania following poaching crackdown

July 15, 2019 by  
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The president of Tanzania reported that since his election, the population of endangered rhinos has increased by 1000 percent. Following years of out-of-control poaching, President John Magufuli fulfilled his promise to crack down on wildlife trafficking and went so far as to use his own government security task force to arrest poachers. The president’s office stated that in 2015, there were only 15 surviving rhinos left in the country. Within the first year as head of state, Magufuli had arrested major Chinese smugglers and sentenced them to 15 to 20 years in prison each. According to government reports, the arrests set a strong example to poaching gangs that regardless of status within the Chinese elite class, Magufuli meant business. Related: Ivory Queen sentenced to 15 years for illegal ivory smuggling In addition to cracking down on poachers , the government has supported a park ranger program to collar and track elephants, which enables them to monitor and protect the species better. Four years later, the current rhino population is estimated to be about 167. Similarly, the elephant population is estimated to have risen 50 percent due to legal efforts against endangered wildlife crimes. “As a result of the work of a special taskforce launched in 2016 to fight wildlife poaching, elephant populations have increased from 43,330 to 60,000 presently,” an official from the Tanzanian government said. Foreign conservationists are skeptical about the president’s claims, arguing that the majority of rhino newcomers are imported and the increase is not thanks to effective breeding or protection measures. CITES also shows that Tanzania had 133 rhinos four years ago, not 15 as the government has stated. “This sounds like very good news, but we should view these figures with caution until there’s verification — there’s no way that has occurred through breeding and protection alone,” said Mark Jones, the policy lead at Born Free Foundation, a wildlife charity . According to environmentalists, the breeding and gestation period is too long for the population to have grown through natural biological processes in just four years. “They mature late, have long gestation periods and don’t produce many young,” Jones said. “Both species take a long time biologically to reproduce.” Via The Independent Image via René Mayorga

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Bamboo Luum Temple preaches sustainable development in Tulum

July 15, 2019 by  
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Unchecked development in the rapidly growing Mexican beach town of Tulum is threatening to destroy the region’s environment. In hopes of inspiring more sustainable growth, local architectural firm CO-LAB Design Office created Luum Temple, an eco-friendly bamboo structure for a new conservation-minded residential development called Luum Zama. Located in a conserved area of native jungle in Tulum, the bamboo community structure features five catenary arches, the shapes of which were informed by parametric modeling. Inspired by the concrete curves of legendary Spanish and Mexican architect Felix Candela, CO-LAB Design Office crafted a five-sided catenary structure that uses bamboo sustainably grown in the neighboring Chiapas state. Flat sections of bamboo were bent on site, cold molded on the ground, then screwed and strapped together to create the arched beams. For structural stability, the architects wove the beams together with a structural triangular pattern along with two continuous layers of tightly woven bamboo lattice. Local zacate (straw thatch) was used as roofing to protect the structure from rain and heat gain. Related: Beautiful bamboo pavilion in Bali translates the flexibility of yoga into architecture “Luum Temple is a show case for sustainable development, it combines innovative design and engineering with artisanal building and organic sustainable materials,” explain the architects. “The arched vaults support each other, co-existing in structural dependency, serving as a reminder to the community of our interdependence and the accomplishments we can achieve when we work together.” The Luum Temple will be used to host “healing programs” such as yoga , meditation workshops, and community gatherings. CO-LAB Design Office also designed the master plan for the Luum Zama residential development. Unlike developers in Tulum that clear cut existing jungle to maximize sellable land, Luum Zama has set aside half of its 8-hectare are for conservation of existing vegetation while also adding a reforestation program with endemic plants from the region. The architects hope that the project will help raise awareness for the urgency of conservation and regulation of construction in Tulum. + CO-LAB Design Office Images by CO-LAB Design Office, Cesar Bejar, and Pakal Egger Tonatiuh Egger

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