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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Coconut oil production is a danger to vulnerable species

July 29, 2020 by  
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Coconut oil has been in the spotlight for a while now as a superstar for personal care and healthier eating. It might seem like a miracle product, but a new study is highlighting the negative impacts of coconut oil that lurk in the shadows. Other oils, mainly palm oil , have made headlines for years. Grown in tropical areas, palm oil harvested from trees is widely acknowledged as a threat to the habitats of endangered species. Related: Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves For the discerning consumer, it can be difficult to gather information about how products you purchase are made. But the truth is all consumable products have an impact on the planet, including coconut oil, a trendy health food and personal care product. A team of researchers wanted to provide more information regarding the harvest of coconuts to consumers, but even they were surprised by the results of their study. Lead author Erik Meijaard has worked in tropical conservation for nearly three decades, so he’s familiar with the frequent publication of information about palm oil and the lack of information around other similar plants. “Both of them are tropical plants that are occupying large areas that previously would have been covered in natural forest,” he said. “Why does one end up being evil and the other one being wonderful?” The cultivation of coconut oil has been detrimental to ecosystems and is even expected to be responsible for the extinction of some animals, including the Marianne white eye, a tiny bird, and the feared-to-be-extinct Ontong Java flying fox, found only on the Solomon Islands. Other species currently threatened by coconut production are the endangered Sangihe tarsier, a small primate native to the Sangihe island of Indonesia, and the Balabac mouse-deer, which is only found on three islands in the Philippines. According to the study , now in several publications, the production of coconut oil is a danger to 20 threatened species per million liters of oil produced, the standard measurement used in establishing the level of destruction caused by production. Comparatively, palm oil measures in at 3.8 species per million liters, and soybean oil impacts 1.3 species per million liters. Another interesting tidbit from the study shows that coconut farms actually cover significantly less land space than other oil crops. For example, compared to the estimated 30.4 million acres for coconut palms, oil palms cover 46.7 million acres. The overall impact is higher, however, based on the IUCN’s Red List. The study reports that coconut plantations affect 66 species on the list, including 29 vertebrates, seven arthropods, two mollusks and 28 plants. Although this revelation on coconut oil might be shocking, it’s intended to be informative for consumers. “We want to be very careful not to say that coconut is actually a greater problem than palm oil,” Meijaard said. The study goes on to report that coconut isn’t the only culprit, and we need to maintain a wider lens when it comes to oil production. For example, the machines that harvest olive oil are blamed for the death of over 2.5 million birds each year. The researchers felt it was important to dig into the effects of oil production in products typically seen as healthy and low-impact environmentally, because these types of oils seem to benefit from a pass by the critical eye of the media and environmentalists. “What we’re really trying to say, and trying to get the public to understand, is that all agricultural commodities have their own issues,” Meijaard explained. Co-author Jesse F. Abrams added, “When making decisions about what we buy, we need to be aware of our cultural biases and examine the problem from a lens that is not only based on Western perspectives to avoid dangerous double standards.” Overall, the goal of the study wasn’t to target coconut oil production but to bring awareness to the need for more information about all consumer purchasing decisions. “At the moment, we’re simply not there yet,” Meijaard said. “We can pick any crop , and there are huge holes in our understanding and knowledge about their impact, so it’s a call from us for scientists, politicians, and the public to demand better information about commodities.” Douglas Sheil, co-author of the study, added, “Consumers need to realize that all our agricultural commodities, and not just tropical crops, have negative environmental impacts. We need to provide consumers with sound information to guide their choices.” + Coconut Oil, Conservation and the Conscientious Consumer Via Mongabay Images via Ogutier , Marie Osaki and Monicore

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Coconut oil production is a danger to vulnerable species

‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S.

April 24, 2020 by  
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Netflix’s wildly popular “Tiger King” documentary series has been progressively sweeping the nation since it first aired on March 20. As an outrageous, binge-worthy drama released when self-isolation and uncertainty were spreading around the world, the show certainly came at the right time to provide an escape from the news. Overnight, it seemed, conversations that didn’t revolve around the coronavirus or Joe Exotic were hard to come by. Photos of celebrities who’d visited the zoos were flooding the internet, Joe Exotic’s power-ballads were hitting it big on Spotify and even President Donald Trump was fielding questions about the gun-toting zookeeper during press briefings. While the eccentric documentary reveals some disturbing truths about the enigmatic underworld it portrays, the show’s colorful characters tend to overshadow serious animal welfare issues. The dizzying murder-mystery component camouflages animal cruelty behind a jaw-dropping “you have to see it to believe it” drama. Now that the initial buzz of the show has started to die down, animal conservationists are begging the public to take a closer look at what the series failed to address: why, and how, these types of animal “sanctuaries” are legal in the United States. Related: Bronx Zoo tiger tests positive for coronavirus The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes that the illegal wildlife trade presents the most substantial incentive for exotic animal breeding and estimates that a vast majority of the captive tigers in the U.S. are living inside people’s backyards, roadside attractions and private breeding facilities. “Tigers should not be kept or bred for entertainment or trade in their parts and products,” said Leigh Henry, director of wildlife policy for WWF USA. “As a leader in promoting the conservation of tigers globally, the United States has a responsibility to manage the staggering 5,000 estimated captive tigers within its own borders.” The tigers remaining in the wild currently number around 3,900 and are continuing to be threatened due to poaching , illegal trade and habitat loss. Surprisingly, only an estimated 6% of the captive tiger population in the U.S. live inside zoos and facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Because tigers in the United States are regulated by a combination of federal, state and local laws, there is no single government agency monitoring the location, ownership or sales of the tigers or what happens to their parts when they die. According to Henry, any supply of tiger parts into the black market stimulates trade and customer demand, posing additional risks to the wild tiger population. Tiger abuse in the U.S. was on the radar well before Netflix aired “Tiger King.” In 2006, Joe Exotic’s GW Exotic Animal Park was fined $25,000 by the USDA for not providing adequate veterinary care or sufficient staff. Back in 2011, the Humane Society put an investigator undercover as an animal caretaker inside the park for about four months. They found hundreds of animals caged in barren conditions, cared for by workers with little-to-no experience and tiger cubs that were “punched, dragged, and hit with whips.” During that time, GW Exotic Animal Park was under investigation by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs between 2009 and 2010. Even Emmy Award-winning comedian and political commentator John Oliver recently recalled learning about Joe Exotic in 2016. “Our researcher went back through his notes and did say, ‘It seems like the park he’s running is a little bit dangerous, we may not want to hold hands too closely with this, “ Oliver said . “Plus he started ranting about a woman named Carole.’” For the places that make their money from public encounters with tigers, continuous breeding is key in maintaining a constant supply of cubs for entertaining guests. Because of this, tigers are often inbred, causing birth defects and health issues that make them unsuitable for reintroduction into the wild . Most of the privately owned tigers in the U.S. are of mixed or unknown lineage, making them unable to participate in legitimate captive-breeding efforts in accredited zoos and institutions as well. “Facilities like Joe Exotic’s and Doc Antle’s masquerade as rescue or conservation operations, but in fact they breed tigers and subject the cubs, who are torn from their mothers immediately after birth, to stress and abuse,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and the CEO of Humane Society International. “After a few months, when the cubs are too large for close encounters with the public and the opportunity for profit is over, the cubs are caged, sold into the pet trade or die. This cycle of breeding for temporary use leads to a surplus of unwanted animals who languish in horrible conditions.” When it comes to ethical animal sanctuaries, the leading authority is the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). This accrediting organization requires sanctuaries to meet animal-welfare standards exceeding the federal Animal Welfare Act minimum. National Geographic also outlines several things to look for when participating in wildlife tourism . According to the GFAS, sanctuaries must provide lifetime care for abused, injured or abandoned animals, and rehabilitation or rescue centers are meant to provide temporary care with the goal of either releasing animals back into the wild or placing them in permanent care. To be accredited in the AZA, the leading non-profit organization connected to zoos and aquariums in terms of conservation, companies must go through a rigorous application process . Both the AZA and the GFAS provide lists of accredited facilities on their websites. Since the documentary was filmed, 39 of Joe Exotic’s tigers have been rescued and are now living peacefully inside The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado (you can see a video of the tigers’ new living conditions here ). WWF and the Humane Society are continuing to call for greater supervision and protection of captive tigers with the introduction of the Big Cat Public Safety Act . The act and its accompanying bill prohibiting cub petting are scheduled to be voted on by the end of the year. One could argue that “Tiger King” inspired viewership in ways that a more deliberate, expose-style documentary simply could not accomplish. Though the more severe components of the documentary have been masked by a barrage of memes and Twitter-fueled jokes, the ones who suffered the most in this human drama were actually the animals . Hopefully, what begins to come out of “Tiger King” will be the public’s refusal to let spectacle overpower mindfulness and that we all learn to see beyond the flashy images to realize that animal abuse is wrong — no matter how captivating the abusers are. Via National Geographic and World Wildlife Fund Images via Pixabay

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World’s rarest cetacean could be extinct by 2018 due to illegal gillnetting

December 16, 2014 by  
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The vaquita is the rarest, smallest and most endangered cetacean in the world. It’s estimated that fewer than 100 of the small porpoises remain in their wild habitat in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California. To make matters worse, a surge in illegal gillnetting in the area — including in a marine refuge set up to protect the creatures — is resulting in about 18 percent of the vaquita population dying each year as a result of being caught as bycatch . At this rate, it is estimated the vaquita will be extinct in the wild by 2018. Read the rest of World’s rarest cetacean could be extinct by 2018 due to illegal gillnetting Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: bycatch , cetacean , critically endangered animals , desert porpoise , dolphins , extinction , gillnetting , Gulf of California , illegal fisheries , illegal fishing , illegal wildlife trade , IUCN , IUCN red list , marine mammals , mexico , Phocoena sinus , porpoise , prawn , rarest cetacean will be extinct by 2018 , S.H.R.I.M.P. , sea creatures , smuggling , vaquita , whales

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World’s rarest cetacean could be extinct by 2018 due to illegal gillnetting

Wooden Flight House is a mountain home inspired by the prospect of escape

December 16, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of Wooden Flight House is a mountain home inspired by the prospect of escape Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “natural materials” , cabin log , california architecture , Flight House , green architecture , mountain home , passive solar design , Sage Architecture , sustainably harvested wood , treehouse , wooden architecture , wooden house

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Wooden Flight House is a mountain home inspired by the prospect of escape

Studio Gang’s LEED Gold-seeking human rights center is a futuristic log cabin

December 16, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of Studio Gang’s LEED Gold-seeking human rights center is a futuristic log cabin Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Arcus Center , Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership , communal hearth , cordwood masonry , glazed end wall , human rights , kalamazoo , Kalamazoo College , LEED gold , locally sourced wood , Michigan , natural daylight , Social Justice , studio gang , timber discs , tri-axial plan , wood masonry , y-shaped building

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Studio Gang’s LEED Gold-seeking human rights center is a futuristic log cabin

Only five Northern White Rhinos left in the world after aging male dies

December 15, 2014 by  
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A 44-year-old Northern White Rhino died on Sunday at the San Diego Zoo safari park. His death means there are only five of the species left in the world. Known as Angalifu, the rhino came to the park from Sudan in 1990. “Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us,” safari park curator Randy Rieches said in a statement. “Not only because he was well beloved here at the park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction .” Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Read the rest of Only five Northern White Rhinos left in the world after aging male dies Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Biodiversity , captive breeding program , extinction , hunting , illegal wildlife trade , Northern white rhino , poaching , rhinoceros , rhinos , San Diego Zoo

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Only five Northern White Rhinos left in the world after aging male dies

HOK’s new ARCTIC Center paves the way for California’s high speed rail

December 15, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of HOK’s new ARCTIC Center paves the way for California’s high speed rail Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Anaheim transportation , ARTIC transit hub , california high speed rail , California rail , ETFE , green infrastructure , high speed rail , HOK architects , natural ventilation , reduced solar heat gain , southern california , transit hub , transportation hub , vaulted structure

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HOK’s new ARCTIC Center paves the way for California’s high speed rail

Rhino Poaching has Increased 5000% in Past 6 Years

October 2, 2013 by  
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A recent spike in the illegal wildlife trade is threatening to undo years of work by NGOs and governments around the world to save endangered rhinos. A new video series released by WWF reveals some stark figures: in South Africa alone, rhino poaching has increased by an almost unbelievable 5000% since 2007 . So far in 2013,  700 South African rhinos  have been found slaughtered for their horns. Similar spikes in poaching are hitting rhinos throughout Africa and parts of Asia. Read the rest of Rhino Poaching has Increased 5000% in Past 6 Years Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: illegal wildlife trade , rhino , rhino horn chinese medicine , rhino horn medicinal use , rhino horn trade , rhino poaching , rhinoceros , South African rhino        

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Rhino Poaching has Increased 5000% in Past 6 Years

South African Game Reserve Poisoned 100 Rhino Horns to Curtail Poaching

April 5, 2013 by  
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Photo via Shutterstock Until now, nothing has worked to curtail rhino poaching, and 200 of the endangered animals have already been killed in South Africa this year. Tired of watching an entire species vanish before their eyes, a private game reserve took matters into their own hands. The idea isn’t new, but Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the first to inject chemicals that are toxic to humans into the horns of 100 rhinos. In addition to making whoever consumes the rhino horn very ill, the parasiticides are accompanied by a dye that can be detected by airport scanners – two tactics that the reserve hopes will put a small dent in the lucrative trade backed by the South African government . Read the rest of South African Game Reserve Poisoned 100 Rhino Horns to Curtail Poaching Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: endangered species , game park , illegal wildlife trade , IUCN , poaching , poisoned rhino horn , rhino , rhino horn , Sabi Sand Game Reserve , South Africa , South Africa National Parks , traffic , wildlife trade        

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South African Game Reserve Poisoned 100 Rhino Horns to Curtail Poaching

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