Analysis of Wikipedia searches reveals high wildlife conservation trends

March 26, 2019 by  
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A recent study analyzed billions of Wikipedia searches and found that the public’s interest in plants and animal species is often linked to the seasonality and migration patterns of wildlife. The findings contribute to a body of research that uses internet search data to understand and gauge the public’s interest in environmental topics. Researchers believe this information can ultimately help guide more effective wildlife conservation campaigns. The study: Wikipedia searches and species The study, led by John Mittermeier, an ornithology student at the University of Oxford, was published on March 5 in the  PLOS Biology journal. It analyzed 2.3 billion Wikipedia page views of 32,000 different species. The authors examined pages across 245 different languages over a span of three years. The study’s most pertinent finding shows that over a fourth of all page views were linked to the seasonality of the searched-for species . The authors concluded that this means that people are paying attention to the plants and animals around them, despite the widening disconnect between people and nature. According to Mittermeier, each page could count as a human-wildlife interaction, “if you count a click as an interaction”. Although “clicks” are debatable as an interaction, it is true that people are increasingly disconnected with nature in many parts of the urbanized world. The study’s authors are hopeful that this knowledge of seasonal interest can turn into support for wildlife conservation . Related: IKEA teams up with London artists to upcycle old furniture into funky abodes for birds, bees, ?and bats Searches and Seasonality The study found that searches for particular species peaked during certain seasons or times of migration . For example, searches for Baltimore Orioles were higher in the Spring when the birds migrate to breeding grounds. Searches for flowering plants were also higher during times when flowers were in bloom, whereas searches for evergreen plants like pine trees had no correlation to season. “The results of this study…encouragingly suggest that humans remain attuned to the seasonal dynamics of the natural world,” Mittermeier explained. The authors also noted cultural trends in the searches. For example, searches for Great White Sharks rose during the Discovery Chanel’s Shark Week. Mittermeier and the co-authors believe the study will help explain important questions, such as “how is the world changing, for which species is it changing the most and where are the people who care the most and can do the most to help?” Similar internet-search studies There are a number of other studies that have examined the ties between internet searches and environmental topics. In fact, this body of research is part of an emerging field called “conservation culturomics,” which uses digital trend data to understand public support for and interest in the environment. One similar study examined Google searches on environmental topics since 2004, particularly testing linkages between ‘conservation’ and ‘ climate change ‘ and the competition between those two searches within the public’s “limited bandwidth” for environmental topics. Although the authors originally believed climate change would overpower conservation and biodiversity searches,  findings reveal that both topics are closely linked and that searches for the two were about equal. Remarkably, the data also revealed a drastic increase in interest in conservation and climate change among populations in India, Nepal, and Eastern and Southern African countries. Another study suggests that spikes in wildlife conservation searches occur around the publication of news articles on similar topics, however, such peaks are not associated with the publication of research studies. This discovery shows the critical importance of the media for conservation and climate change awareness and suggests that conservation organizations should look to strengthen partnerships with journalists and media channels as complementary to their investments in scientific research. Still, different  study on internet searches for endangered wildlife species revealed that the general public is far too focused on endangered mammals, while equally important and threatened fish and reptiles receive little attention and therefore very few searches. Again, this study concluded that more media attention must be given to lesser-known and often less-charismatic species in order to peak public support for their protection. All of the studies’ authors are quick to point out that though the use of internet searches is a great and inexpensive way to read the pulse of the general public and understand their curiosities; interest does not equate to support, and conservation organizations must use the new information to turn curiosities into financial and political action. Via Monga Bay Image via Dave_E

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Analysis of Wikipedia searches reveals high wildlife conservation trends

These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

Drone operators disturbing wildlife incur fines and jail time in Scotland

September 4, 2018 by  
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The number of cases in Scotland involving drone interference with animals on nature reserves has increased, causing police and wildlife experts to become “increasingly concerned” for the welfare of the protected animals. While nature reserve managers and wildlife specialists are encouraging outsiders to watch and enjoy the environment and animals in the sanctuaries, mounting numbers of injuries caused to the creatures by drones are leading Scottish lawmakers to impose fines on or even arrest individuals caught disturbing the peace. Drones are being flown inconsiderately according to Andy Turner, wildlife crime officer with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). “There have been several incidents involving drones disturbing seals at designated haul-out sites,” he said. Seals that have protective considerations during breeding season are having their pups crushed in these haul-out zones, where they tend to flee when scared into the water by drones. Related: Daan Roosegaarde reveals vision for air-purifying Smog Free Drones “Likewise, there have been anecdotal reports of drones being used to film seabird colonies and raptors,” Turner continued. “While the footage from drones in these circumstances can be very spectacular, the operator must be mindful of the effect on wildlife.” The interference with some birds , such as guillemots and razorbills, has “almost catastrophic” implications according to nature reserve coordinators RSPB Scotland . Drones that fly in too quickly cause birds to panic and dive headfirst into the cliffs or plummet into the sea. Ian Thompson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, had a message for wildlife observers. “Watch the animals. You will get a sign if you are causing them any stress, you’ll see from their behavior,” he warned. “You might see birds take flight or suddenly lift their heads and run off or walk off. If the birds start altering their behavior, that shows that you are disturbing them, and then it is time to move a drone away.” Fines for harassing wildlife in the nature reserves can cost disrespectful droners up to £5,000 (about $6,425 USD). Alternately, severe infractions can earn individuals up to a six-month sentence in a Scottish penitentiary. Officers of the U.K. National Wildlife Crime Unit are taking the disturbances very seriously, regardless of the perpetrator. “Irrespective of whether the offender is an egg collector, boat skipper or drone operator, the possible sentences are the same,” said PC Charlie Everitt of the crime unit. “It is therefore essential that drone operators understand the law, research the legal status and behavior of any wildlife they intend to film and obtain the necessary licences to keep on the right side of the law.” Via BBC Image via Joe Hayhurst

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Drone operators disturbing wildlife incur fines and jail time in Scotland

Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

August 3, 2018 by  
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Approximately 94% of the 111 species and subspecies of lemur are under threat of extinction in their native country of Madagascar – the only place they exist outside of captivity. Of the remaining lemur groups, only six do not face high risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species . This retrogression was revealed by the Primate Specialist Group , a conservation organization that has been analyzing current threats to the survival of lemur populations and their habitats. Chair of the Primate Specialist Group and Chief Conservation Officer of  Global Wildlife Conservation  Russ Mittermeier indicated that the “very high extinction risk to Madagascar’s unique lemurs” would compound, generating “grave threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity as a whole.” Loss of habitat poses the single greatest threat the lemurs now face in the wild. Developments in illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as mining activities and charcoal production, are ultimately determining the fate of these endangered animals. Related: Conservationists sound the alarm to address ‘America’s wildlife crisis’ Lemurs also face threats from pet trading hobbyists or hunters who wish to turn them into food. Once a delicacy, lemur’s presence on menus has become more and more mainstream in Madagascar, according to Professor Christoph Schweitzer of the Bristol Zoological Society . In an interview with BBC News , Schwitzer commented, “More and more, we are seeing unsustainable levels of lemur poaching. We see commercial hunting as well – probably for local restaurants. And this is a new phenomenon for Madagascar – we didn’t see it at this scale 15 years ago” Although many would bow their heads at the unfortunate fate of the lemurs, Schwitzer is an optimist. People “need to shout about these problems and get the message out there” he remarked. “When we published the lemur action plan and the media picked up on it, suddenly we had people call offering to help – to donate money or other resources. That can really make a difference,” he remarked. The “lemur action plan” has already had an effect, protecting habitats that contain the densest numbers of lemur species while helping Madagascar boost its ecotourism in the hopes of tackling poverty. By helping the local people economically, the groups involved in the plan are deterring hunting and other activities destructive to the tropical forests that provide the lemurs with their natural habitat. + Global Wildlife Conservation + IUCN Via BBC News

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Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

Astounding responsive map shows shark interactions with commercial fishers

July 24, 2018 by  
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Just in time for the 30th Anniversary of Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week, a new map shows the interaction of 45 sharks  with commercial fishing vessels. The interactive map, featuring over 150,000 miles of chartered shark territory and movement in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, seeks to shed light on the perilous environment in which the sharks maneuver on a daily basis and the approximate 100 million sharks killed each year. Austin Gallagher, CEO and chief scientist of Beneath the Waves and a project leader on the maps, said , “Many species of large sharks remain highly vulnerable throughout our oceans , and the integration provided here highlights the magnitude of the threats they face.” Shark expert at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and project collaborator Neil Hammerschlag explained that sharks are “highly mobile,” as demonstrated in the charted data published on the Global Fishing Watch , a non-profit organization launched by Oceana in collaboration with Google and Skytruth. Related: Endangered shark fins discovered on a Singapore Airlines flight to Hong Kong The sharks must navigate around fishing vessels,  creating a wide variety of potentially dangerous interactions. Hammerschlag said, “Many fishing gear types can put these sharks at risk , as both target and bycatch — especially in the international waters of the high seas where no catch limits exist for many shark species.” Many sharks are caught by accident, but they are also subject to targeted hunting for their fins. While the map currently displays recorded data of sharks tagged between 2012 and 2018, Oceana hopes to create a real-time interactive map that includes various shark species including blue sharks, great hammerheads and tiger sharks. Lacey Malarky, an Oceana analyst focused on illegal fishing and seafood fraud, said, “We’re hoping to expand and collaborate with more researchers to not only get more shark data but then other marine wildlife data as well, so that we can really create this interactive map platform that shows all types of marine wildlife and how they’re interacting with fishing vessels.” + Oceana + Beneath the Waves Via EcoWatch

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Astounding responsive map shows shark interactions with commercial fishers

Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

July 10, 2018 by  
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An unlikely alliance has formed between krill fishing companies and environmental protection groups over a common cause: protecting the Antarctic Ocean and its marine life. Greenpeace is teaming with members of the Association for Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) to ensure wildlife sustainability of the southern ice cap. The agreement was announced during the Greenpeace Antarctic 360° event in Cambridge. The individual fishing companies honoring the agreement are all ARK members, representing 85 percent of the Antarctic krill harvesting industry. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica Under the pact, the fisherman will honor “buffer zones” in known penguin breeding grounds in order to protect the wildlife. In addition, major portions of the Antarctic Peninsula will be out-of-bounds for the ARK membership. The partnership will also see ARK support scientific endeavors to study the area’s natural inhabitants. Working with scientists and environmental organizations, the groups will end fishing operations in environmentally sensitive areas, permanently closing these locations to fishing in 2020. The prohibition is part of a plan to create permanent protection zones throughout the Antarctic and reduce the potential for wildlife damage . The movement to protect Antarctic wildlife has grown in popularity in the last decade. According to Greenpeace, more than 1.7 million people worldwide have signed the organization’s petition to create stricter protections and maintain wildlife conservation in the southernmost waters. Krill is an important part of the Antarctic ecosystem . The shrimp-like crustacean is a food source for many of the South Pole’s animals, including whales, penguins and seals. By creating the wide protection zones, both Greenpeace and ARK hope to ensure long-term sustainability for animals. “Through our commitment we are showing that it is possible for no-fish zones and sustainable fisheries to co-exist,” Kristine Hartmann, executive vice president at krill fishing company Aker BioMarine, said in a statement. “We are positive that ARK’S commitment will help ensure krill as a sustainable and stable source of healthy omega-3s for the future.” The ARK-Greenpeace partnership is one part of a global plan to help preserve marine life. The multi-nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in October to decide on sanctuary status for parts of the ocean. + Greenpeace Via  The Guardian Image of krill via Uwe Kils

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Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

July 10, 2018 by  
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An unlikely alliance has formed between krill fishing companies and environmental protection groups over a common cause: protecting the Antarctic Ocean and its marine life. Greenpeace is teaming with members of the Association for Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) to ensure wildlife sustainability of the southern ice cap. The agreement was announced during the Greenpeace Antarctic 360° event in Cambridge. The individual fishing companies honoring the agreement are all ARK members, representing 85 percent of the Antarctic krill harvesting industry. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica Under the pact, the fisherman will honor “buffer zones” in known penguin breeding grounds in order to protect the wildlife. In addition, major portions of the Antarctic Peninsula will be out-of-bounds for the ARK membership. The partnership will also see ARK support scientific endeavors to study the area’s natural inhabitants. Working with scientists and environmental organizations, the groups will end fishing operations in environmentally sensitive areas, permanently closing these locations to fishing in 2020. The prohibition is part of a plan to create permanent protection zones throughout the Antarctic and reduce the potential for wildlife damage . The movement to protect Antarctic wildlife has grown in popularity in the last decade. According to Greenpeace, more than 1.7 million people worldwide have signed the organization’s petition to create stricter protections and maintain wildlife conservation in the southernmost waters. Krill is an important part of the Antarctic ecosystem . The shrimp-like crustacean is a food source for many of the South Pole’s animals, including whales, penguins and seals. By creating the wide protection zones, both Greenpeace and ARK hope to ensure long-term sustainability for animals. “Through our commitment we are showing that it is possible for no-fish zones and sustainable fisheries to co-exist,” Kristine Hartmann, executive vice president at krill fishing company Aker BioMarine, said in a statement. “We are positive that ARK’S commitment will help ensure krill as a sustainable and stable source of healthy omega-3s for the future.” The ARK-Greenpeace partnership is one part of a global plan to help preserve marine life. The multi-nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in October to decide on sanctuary status for parts of the ocean. + Greenpeace Via  The Guardian Image of krill via Uwe Kils

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Krill fishers partner with Greenpeace to protect Antarctic wildlife

Leonardo DiCaprio launches a new fund to save the lions

August 11, 2017 by  
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Lions are in trouble – there are around 20,000 today, down from 200,000 around 100 years ago. But everyone’s favorite eco-warrior, Leonardo DiCaprio , isn’t going to sit by while the big cats’ populations plummet. His foundation, together with the Wildlife Conservation Network , is starting the Lion Recovery Fund (LRF), a nonprofit with a lofty goal: double the amount of lions by 2050. Lion populations have plunged as they suffer from habitat loss , and the loss of prey to sustain them. The animals are gone from 80 to 90 percent of their range in the past, and the lion populations of 26 countries have vanished. But it’s not too late for lions – if African parks were effectively managed while nearby communities were supported, there could be three to four times the number of lions, according to the LRF. The fund will support groups working for lion conservation in Africa – and 100 percent of every dollar given to the fund will go to partners. Related: West African Lion Alarmingly Close to Extinction, New Study Finds (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.10″; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Lion Recovery Fund In just the last 25 years alone, half of the wild lion population has been lost. Proud to launch the Lion Recovery Fund today on #WorldLionDay- an initiative of Wildlife Conservation Network and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Find out how you can help #savelions at: www.lionrecoveryfund.org Posted by Leonardo DiCaprio on Thursday, August 10, 2017 The LRF has already allocated over $800,000 to partners like Panthera in Senegal, the Wildlife Crime Prevention Project in Zambia, and the African Parks Network in Benin. Money will go towards efforts to combat poaching , secure space for lions to recover, and lower conflict between the big cats and humans. Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation executive director Justin Winters said in a statement, “With the population of Africa expected to double by 2050, this is an opportunity to show the world that development does not have to come at the expense of wild landscapes and species. Humans and the natural world can coexist and thrive.” DiCaprio called for people to get involved. In a statement, he said, “We’re losing our planet’s wildlife – even such iconic species as the African Lion – at a dangerously rapid pace. An astonishingly small amount of philanthropic dollars go towards protecting wildlife, but together we can turn that around.” You can donate to the fund here . + Lion Recovery Fund + Wildlife Conservation Network + Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Via the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Images via Bram Vranckx on Unsplash and Christine Donaldson on Unsplash

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Leonardo DiCaprio launches a new fund to save the lions

Manatees taken off the endangered species list – but that may not be good

April 3, 2017 by  
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Manatees are found in Florida yet beloved around the world for their plodding, languid behavior and slightly dopey appearance. Since the 1970s, clubs and groups have raised awareness and funds to protect these so-ugly-they-are-cute “sea cows”, which reside in shallow, slow-moving bodies of water. Citing a consistently growing population and successful regulations and efforts by the government and local community, the US Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed West Indian manatees from the endangered species list last week. But that may not be a good thing. While “downlisting” these manatees from endangered to “threatened” might seem like a cause for celebration, some animal and environmental groups aren’t quite ready to break out the algae, grass, or mangrove leaves (preferred snacks of the species). The Save the Manatee Club, for example, is concerned about habitat destruction for the manatees and motorboat accidents and deaths as well as as a loosening or reversal of environmental regulations under the current administration. The US Fish and Wildlife Service purports that federal and state protections for manatees won’t change, but certain manatee-minded parties are pushing for a long-term manatee recovery plan that would address the boat- and habitat-related problems. Effects of climate change and chemical runoff ( leading, in the past, to toxic algal blooms ) are also continuing causes for concern. Related| How Climate Change is Killing Hundreds of Endangered Florida Manatees Manatees were put on the endangered species list in 1967. While manatee numbers dipped to a population of only a few hundred in the 1970s, their population has increased dramatically with more than 6,000 manatees counted for the past three years. A survey this year found a preliminary total of 6,620 manatees. Efforts including river habitat restoration and regulations targeting speeders in manatee zones are among the reasons for the manatee population’s recovery. Via CNN Lead image © Carlton Ward Jr. for Visit Florida , Wikimedia , flickr user USFWS Endangered Species

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Manatees taken off the endangered species list – but that may not be good

7 ecological charities to support on Giving Tuesday and beyond

November 29, 2016 by  
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‘Tis the season of giving and all through the town, pocketbooks are jingling with the sound of spending. Hang the stockings with care, wrap up the last of the holiday gifts , and pour yourself a glass of cruelty-free vegan nog. With just a few days left on the calendar, it’s time to squeeze in a little more giving before the year is over. Charitable donations are a great opportunity to give back, helping organizations do good deeds around the globe and offering a little boost come tax time. But with thousands of nonprofit organizations asking for contributions, it can be challenging to figure out where best to send your money. To reduce your load during this already stressful time of year, we put together this charitable giving guide so you can rest assured your hard-earned cashola will help high-impact organizations that make the most of every dollar they raise. In order to make this list, organizations had to meet a number of criteria. First, we looked for groups focusing their efforts on protecting our Earth and its inhabitants. We also wanted to identify charities that have figured out how to make donations go as far as possible. That’s measured in two ways: the amount of money the organization spends in order to raise money and the percentage of funds raised that go to programs (as opposed to overhead and administrative costs). Monetary donations to each of these nonprofit organizations is tax-deductible in the United States. © Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice 1. Earth Justice Earth Justice was founded in 1971 “because the earth needs a good lawyer.” This non-profit public interest law firm is dedicated to protecting the environment and wildlife, as well as helping build healthy communities. EJ works on nearly every continent, leveraging legal action to garner cooperation from government agencies. © EWG 2. Environmental Working Group EWG is perhaps best known for its “Dirty Dozen” list which reveals the highest (and lowest) pesticide concentrations in conventionally-grown produce. Regular readers of Inhabitat may recognize the organization from a number of past reports, especially related to safety of consumer products like sunscreen and crayons . EWG reports donations received now will be doubled through a matching campaign. Related: The 6 most pressing environmental problems – and what you can do to help solve them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuaxzgNX1bI&feature=youtu.be 3. Wildlife Conservation Society WCS field scientists working in over 20 countries work to protect wild animals and wild spaces. In particular, WCS researchers have been working to combat elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade with the 96 Elephants campaign. In an effort to stamp out ivory poaching, the organization has even enlisted the help of the Terminator to raise awareness about ongoing legislation in the U.S. that might undermine global efforts to end ivory trading. © Ecotrust 4. Ecotrust Ecotrust’s mission is to inspire innovative ways to create economic opportunity, social equality, and environmental well-being. One of its successful projects is FoodHub, an online marketplace designed to connect wholesale buyers and sellers of regionally grown food. That program is one of many Ecotrust backs that empowers individuals within a system that benefits all parties involved. Via Shutterstock 5. Animal Welfare Institute AWI works on a very specific type of problem – alleviating the suffering of animals caused by people. That ranges from scientific research to agriculture and from wild to domestic life. Most recently, the organization has been working to further legislation in Congress that would phase out orcas in captivity , putting an end to the suffering exposed in the film Blackfish . Via Shutterstock 6. The Conservation Fund The Conservation Fund works hard to protect America’s most important landscapes and waterways. This nonprofit is known for stretching funds far, putting 94 percent of funds towards program costs. In all, the fund reports saving 7.5 million acres of land and water across the United States. Related: Oil-rich Rockefellers divest charitable fund from fossil fuels Via Shutterstock 7. Rainforest Alliance Rainforest Alliance has gained public recognition with their independent certification of common rainforest products, such as chocolate, coffee, bananas, and tea. Producers must meet strict sustainability standards to gain certification. The Alliance also works with foresters and the tourism industry in ecologically vulnerable areas. Their website offers consumer and traveler information, helping us work together to steward some of the most biodiverse, threatened, and globally critical habitats. For information on these and other charitable organizations, check out Charity Watch , an online directory with ratings calculated by the American Institute of Philanthropy. Lead image via Shutterstock (modified)

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