154 elephants have mysteriously died in Botswana

June 18, 2020 by  
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Botswana wildlife conservation officials are investigating the mysterious death of 154 elephants in just 3 months. Wildlife officers in the country have said that there has been a sudden surge in deaths of elephants in the northwestern part of the country. The deaths are not associated with poaching or poisoning, according to the Regional Wildlife Coordinator, Dimakatso Ntshebe. The carcasses of these animals were found intact, suggesting that they were not killed by poachers. Normally, poachers will kill elephants for their meat or tusks. According to the regional coordinator, preliminary investigations have also ruled out poisoning via humans and anthrax as the possible causes of death. Anthrax was the first suspect on the list of possible causes, as it naturally occurs in the soil and harms wildlife in Botswana. But initial investigations by scientists have ruled out the possibility of anthrax and poisoning. Related: Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants These recent deaths are raising alarm considering that elephant populations all over Africa have been under threat from poaching , poisoning and anthrax. Today, Botswana is home to almost one-third of all the elephants on the continent. Due to efforts to protect wildlife in the country, the population of elephants in Botswana has risen to 130,000 in 2020 from just 80,000 in the 1990s. The same can’t be said about other countries with less stringent wildlife laws. The deaths of these elephants in Botswana comes at a time when wildlife conservation efforts have been dealt a big blow in the country. Last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a 5-year ban on big game hunting, prompting uproar from conservation groups. Although the growing number of elephants in Botswana might seem like a positive move to the rest of the world, it is not much welcomed by the locals. Farmers have raised complaints about the elephants destroying crops; it is such complaints that prompted the president to allow big game poaching again. Besides the mysterious elephant deaths, Botswana still grapples with the problem of poachers. According to the Wildlife Conservation Officers in Botswana, the Okavango Delta alone has lost over 25 elephants to poachers between December 2019 and May 2020. The situation has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, as poachers take advantage due to the lack of safari tourists. The Regional Wildlife Coordinator now says that they are intensifying surveillance in high-risk areas to curb poaching. Samples from the dead elephants are also under scrutiny to determine the exact cause of death so that intervention measures can be taken. Via Reuters and Yale Environment 360 Image via Anja

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154 elephants have mysteriously died in Botswana

U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

May 22, 2020 by  
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Wildlife  officials recently announced outbreaks of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) ravaging Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California. The  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  deems RHDV2 as seriously contagious and nearly always fatal amongst domestic and wild rabbit species and their close relatives, hares and pikas. RHDV2 is not zoonotic, so it won’t infect livestock, pets or humans, asserts the  California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) . Still,  Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW)  advise against pets consuming rabbit carcasses. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) is the viral agent causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).  Science Direct  says RHDV belongs in the calicivirus family, which infects many  animals  including pigs, cattle, cats and even humans. Norovirus, for example, is a human calicivirus. But humans seem unaffected by RHDV.  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? There are two worrisome strains of RHDV — RHDV1 and RHDV2.  House Rabbit Society ,  Veterinary Practice , as well as both the Vaccine and Veterinary Research  journals document RHDV1 as first emerging in China back in 1984, when, in just one year, 140 million rabbits were decimated. China claims that the outbreak started in Angora rabbits imported from Europe. Eventually, RHDV1 spread to over 40 countries and hit the U.S. in 2000. Given its estimated 95% mortality rate, Australia and New Zealand notoriously introduced RHDV1 into their wild rabbit populations as pest biocontrol. RHDV1 mutated, begetting RHDV2, which was first identified in 2010 when domesticated rabbits in France showed clinical signs of RHD despite being already vaccinated against RHDV1. By September 2018, RHDV2 reached the U.S., manifesting among domestic rabbits in a rural Ohio farm, documents the  Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service . The USDA considers both RHDV1 and RHDV2 invasive pathogens, as they are not native to North America. A  joint paper  put forth by the Center for Food Security & Public Health , Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, Iowa State University, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the USDA revealed RHD can be difficult to eradicate. Not only can the virus strains survive over seven months on rabbit carcasses, but they also withstand temperatures below freezing and above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  House Rabbit Society  cites several differences between RHDV1 and RHDV2. Incubation is two to 10 days for RHDV1, but three to nine days for RHDV2. Rabbits with RHDV2 can be asymptomatic yet spread the virus for up to two months. There is no known cure for either strain. While a vaccine exists for RHDV1, there are currently no USDA -licensed vaccines for RHDV2. That RHDV2 can “potentially surviv[e] more than 3 months without a host” has prompted some U.S. veterinarians to import RHDV2 vaccines despite a convoluted process. The  USDA  and  VIN News Service  warn RHD is highly contagious, spreading easily by direct contact with rabbit excretions and secretions — saliva, sweat and biowaste. Sharing food, water, bedding, fomites and vehicles spreads RHD. Other vectors are infected rabbit meat, pelts, even insects. Besides farmers and pet owners, biologists and  conservationists  are worried about this virus. As declining rabbit populations have repercussions in  habitat  food chains, RHDV2 could cause severe consequences down the line. + Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service Via USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and House Rabbit Society Images via Pexels

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U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

Restricting trade in endangered species can backfire, triggering market booms

January 27, 2020 by  
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Consumer purchases no longer trigger market booms. Speculative investments do.

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Restricting trade in endangered species can backfire, triggering market booms

Sea turtle rescue center mimics the natural ecosystems in Turkey

December 26, 2019 by  
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Located on Iztuzu Beach in Southern Turkey, the Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center for Sea Turtles will raise awareness for the wildlife that calls the unique ecosystem home. In true environmentally conscious architectural form, the design was inspired by the natural curves and traces of the beach tides and the surrounding native pine trees and reeds, all of which help to form the ecosystem. KÂAT Architects won the honor of designing the wildlife center in a national competition organized by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation of Turkey. According to KÂAT, the center will “ensure the cyclic continuity of the natural and cultural resources of Iztuzu Beach and its ecosystem, which is considered to be one of the rarest natural ecosystems of the world.” Related: Behind the scenes at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center The architects also took inspiration from the “crown shyness” in the area, the natural phenomenon where certain species of trees do not touch each other in an effort to allow the others to live and grow on their own without intrusion or obstruction. Intended to create an organically influenced structure that can exist peacefully with the rest of the environment, the Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center for Sea Turtles will certainly add to the already-beautiful landscape. The center will house multiple canopy structures, shaped to mimic the encircling trees while reflecting the slope of the topography. The structures will be elevated off the ground , allowing the natural life, soil and terrain to remain as undisturbed as possible. Each canopy conforms to its neighbor with closed, semi-open and open spaces constructed among narrow columns that mimic the nearby tree trucks. The Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center for Sea Turtles, nicknamed DEKAMER Station, will go even further by producing a negative carbon footprint . The design team hopes that the environmentally sensitive facility will motivate and encourage researchers, volunteers and visitors to do their part in protecting the diverse wildlife found where Anatolia meets the Mediterranean Sea in Southern Turkey. + KÂAT Architects Images via KÂAT Architects

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Sea turtle rescue center mimics the natural ecosystems in Turkey

Costa Rica hopes to end selfies with wild animals

November 4, 2019 by  
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Costa Rica, renowned for its wildlife , has recently launched a campaign to dissuade people from taking selfies with wild animals. Despite being banned in the country more than 10 years ago, large numbers of selfies are still being taken with wildlife anyway. To spotlight animal rights , promote wildlife safety and minimize animal selfies, Costa Rican authorities instead recommend taking photos with a stuffed toy. As an animal lover’s utopia, Costa Rica sees many instances of selfies being taken with animals, whether for personal memories or for social media influencing. Unfortunately, animal selfies can be stressful for wildlife and can even place tourists at risk. To discourage this practice, the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy announced the #StopAnimalSelfies campaign, with the goal to “prevent visitors from feeding (animals), from capturing them for photos and from handling them.” Related: Human activity has decimated 60% of animal populations since 1970 Why the ban on animal selfies? Wild animals do not naturally appreciate being “held, hugged or restrained,” as described in the Wildlife Selfie Code established by the World Animal Protection organization. But wild animals are often lured into a selfie with food, and these creatures could potentially injure or be injured by tourists. The Humane Society International said, “We applaud Costa Rica’s efforts to ensure the protection , ethical management and welfare of wild animals by avoiding promoting practices that are cruel to animals, since they do not respect their natural behaviors and promote a mercantilist and utilitarian vision.” A better practice, under the Wildlife Selfie Code, is to keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Permit the animals to remain untouched in their natural habitat . Avoid making loud noises. Especially avoid throwing objects at them to get their attention, and never touch, grab or hold an animal for a selfie. Maria Revelo, Costa Rica’s Minister of Tourism, further explained, “The campaign has the objective of generating conscience about the adequate treatment that a sustainable tourism destination must guarantee to its wild animals and to those that get close to them as tourists. #StopAnimalSelfies has the support of the Costa Rican Tourism Board due to its contribution it makes to the country’s model of sustainable tourism development.” Costa Rica’s move to halt cruel or inappropriate selfies with animals is a step in the right direction to educate people on wildlife encounters that place animals through stress or suffering and to promote animal rights and wildlife safety. Via TreeHugger Image via Shutterstock

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Survey shows most adults prefer volunteering at local parks and recreation areas

November 4, 2019 by  
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A recent National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) poll revealed that four in five adults (80 percent) look to their local parks and recreation areas for family-friendly, community-focused volunteer opportunities. This is welcomed news, because parks and recreational areas are vital to the health, resilience and vibrancy of communities. Communities deserve wonderful parks, and individuals can make that a reality through volunteer work. The poll was part of the NRPA’s Park Pulse series that gauges the public’s opinion on parks and recreation. Findings showed that the top three volunteer activities include collecting litter along park trails, planting trees within parks and raking leaves for composting. The survey found millennials were the most likely to volunteer, followed by Gen Xers then baby boomers. Related: Trailhead Ambassador Program enhances hiking in Oregon “Park and recreation agencies are a great place to volunteer and give back to the community,” said Kevin Roth, NRPA vice president of professional development, research and technology. “Volunteering at your local park is a win-win occasion. Not only are you giving your parks a much-needed hand, you are able to reap the many benefits of parks, including a connection to nature and physical activity.” To enhance communities, there are two main volunteer-driven NRPA initiatives on volunteering and donating to parks: the Parks Build Community (PBC) and the Heart Your Park Day Service programs. The Parks Build Community (PBC) initiative emphasizes the transformative value of parks. A couple of ways PBC does this is by restoring existing parks or building new ones from scratch with the help of volunteers. Meanwhile, the Heart Your Park Day Service provides a hands-on, corporate volunteering program that brings volunteers outdoors, away from the walls of the office, to boost company morale and employee engagement. The NRPA is a leading nonprofit devoted to advancing public parks and recreation with the help of local volunteers. The NRPA focuses on conservation , health and wellness. + NRPA Image via Virginia State Parks

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Survey shows most adults prefer volunteering at local parks and recreation areas

Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

November 1, 2019 by  
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The village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin hasn’t changed much since Harold Friestad was a kid, he told me as we walked through Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (KNC). Now almost 80 and the conservancy’s chairman, Friestad is proud of being a factor in stunting the small town’s growth. He was president when the village board bought 231 acres of lakefront property in 1989 to create KNC. “What I want on my tombstone,” he said as our sneakers sank into the wetlands , “is, ‘Because of Harold, there will never be a stoplight in Williams Bay.’” Nature conservancy history The nature conservancy sits against Geneva Lake , long a summer playground for rich Chicagoans . Before that, it was home of the Potawatomi people. The name Kishwauketoe comes from a Potawatomi word meaning “lake of the sparkling water.” The current conservancy land was once a rail yard. But when the train was decommissioned, developers swooped in, wanting to build hotels, golf courses and shopping centers. Area residents wished to stop the developers and keep Williams Bay small and quiet. The Williams Bay Village Board, led by Friestad, negotiated a price of $1.575 million for the 231-acre parcel. “People knew I was a businessman,” said Friestad, who worked for Lake Geneva Cruise Line for 50 years, retiring as general manager in 2015. “They didn’t know I love nature so much.” Even though he got an excellent price — a 10-acre estate could now cost $15 million — Friestad said, “A lot of people didn’t like the idea of me spending all that money to buy it.” But now people value the conservancy, and some of Williams Bay’s 2,500 residents even bought their homes in the village so they could walk the wetland trails every day. “It’s almost sacred now,” Friestad said. “I don’t know how you put a value on it. But it’s priceless to me, and it’s priceless to many, many people.” Donations, volunteer hours, summer interns and a few part-time workers power the conservancy, which has never received tax dollars. During my weekday visit, one woman was chainsawing dead branches, a couple of folks were repairing a boardwalk and a controlled burn was going on in the distance. In the conservancy’s nearly 30-year run, the crew has restored more than 65 acres of prairie, planted a 15-acre arboretum, created a spawning area for lake trout, installed boardwalks over the wettest wetlands, cleared invasive species and constructed a four-story viewing tower. They’ve also built and continue to maintain more than 4 miles of trails. Visiting the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy On the October day I visited, the conservancy was quiet. I saw only a half-dozen other walkers during the hour or two I was there. Things are busier in summer, Friestad said, when up to 500 people may visit in a day. Non-human residents include deer, coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Some years, beavers move in. The conservancy has a public education campaign about the benefits of beavers, not the most-loved local animal. Reptile-wise, the conservancy is home to garter snakes and the rare Blanding’s turtle, which has a striking yellow throat. People can walk through the area on their own 365 days a year. The conservancy also offers many guided walks, some focusing on particular aspects, such as history, geology, botany or trees . Those who want to get dirt under their nails can join volunteer workdays and autumn seed harvesting. Every summer, the conservancy hosts a 5K run/walk. I’d recommend the Friday morning walk, which Friestad usually leads. Trail cams Kishwauketoe participates in the statewide Snapshot Wisconsin program, a network of trail cameras. The project provides information for wildlife managers and lets citizen scientists get involved in monitoring Wisconsin’s natural resources. Jim Killian, KNC board member, Wisconsin master naturalist program instructor and coauthor of an upcoming book on the conservancy , learned about Snapshot Wisconsin while attending a master naturalist conference in March 2018. “I immediately sought permission from the Wisconsin DNR [Department of Natural Resources] to host a wildlife trail camera for the Wisconsin Snapshot Wisconsin in KNC,” Killian said. “Because of the location and size of KNC, I learned that I qualified to host two trail cameras in our conservancy. While the program participation requirements are quite stringent, I thoroughly enjoy this volunteer work.” The cameras work with a motion sensor. “At night and in low light, the cameras utilize an infrared flash to capture images,” Killian said. “That is why they appear as black and white. One camera is located on the edge of a small open field/prairie area, while the other is located on the edge of a very dense, wooded area and on the bank of a small stream, which is a popular watering spot for wildlife of many varieties. This stream remains as a source of open water all year, including in the midst of a very cold winter.” Killian services each trail camera at least once every three months to replace the memory card and batteries and to upload the captured images to the Wisconsin DNR. The DNR places the images on a website and invites the public to help classify them. Of the thousands of images captured at KNC so far, Killian said deer are No. 1, followed by squirrels, turkeys , coyotes, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits, redtail foxes, woodchucks, blue jays, cardinals, sandhill crane, northern flickers and mink. Do the trail cams reveal any surprises? “The humor of wildlife,” he said. “I would have never suspected that animals do the funniest things, including selfies, when they know or sense that their image is being captured by a camera. This is particularly true for deer.” KNC is open year-round. If you’re looking for immense peace and quiet, visit in winter … and bring your cross-country skis . + Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy Images via Harold Friestad / Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin DNR Snapshot Wisconsin (trail cam imagery) and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

November 1, 2019 by  
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We’ve seen quite a few amazing barn conversions over the years, but this new design by La Firme is simply breathtaking. Located in a rural area in Quebec, the old barn was in near ruins until the Montreal-based firm was hired to convert it into a secondary family home. Thankfully, instead of bulldozing the beautiful old building to the ground, the studio managed to salvage nearly every single material to reuse in the new design. Referred to simply as The Barn, the building has sat at the foot of the Owl’s Head Mountain for decades. Sitting majestically over the idyllic setting, the barn is elevated up on a small hill with expansive rolling hills on one side and forest on the other. Related: 6 barns converted into beautiful new homes Despite its pristine landscape, the old barn had fallen into dire disrepair. However, the owner had a strong attachment to the building and wished to see it’s life extended. Accordingly, when he approached the La Firme team about converting the barn into a cozy modern home for his children, his primary request was that they do what they could to retain its original character. The architects took his request seriously, approaching the conversion with a strategy of adaptive reuse . According to the team, the project began by numbering and recording each and every single piece of the hemlock structure. As they were rebuilding the new family home, they managed to reuse every every part of the old barn. With the original materials given a second chance, some new elements were added to create a contemporary home. For example, a new standing seam metal roof creates a nice contrast with the barn’s weathered facade. And although the exterior retained its rustic, agrarian roots, the interior of the home is a beautifully contemporary design . With massive 30-foot ceilings with exposed beams and all-white walls, the living space is fresh and modern. Large steel-framed windows and an entire glazed front wall provide breathtaking views of the landscape. + La Firme Via Uncrate Photography via Ulysse Lemerise

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Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

How to see these six fascinating animals in the wild while aiding in their conservation

October 15, 2019 by  
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If you’re going to travel , travel responsibly. The best way to show animals that you love them is by respecting their habitats and aiding in the conservation of their species. Here’s how to ethically view six animals in their natural habitats in ways that benefit them rather than disturb them. Sharks on Viti Levu, Fiji There are hundreds of different species of sharks who call earth’s waters home, and a trip to Fiji will give you the chance to see at least eight of them in their natural habitat. Due to the misshapen view of sharks as dangerous creatures paired with many parts of the world’s affinity for shark fin as a delicacy has caused these misunderstood creatures to dwindle in population. The future of sharks is heavily reliant on the changing of that mindset and the conservation of the animals and their habitats. While the ethics of shark diving remains a personal choice for different travelers, those who choose to swim with sharks should ensure that it is done under the appropriate conditions and provide a benefit to sharks through conservation or habitat protection. Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji uses the funds raised from their shark diving tours to fuel their conservation efforts, from working with the local government to create designated protected marine parks to multiple scientific research projects. The organization is sponsored by is sponsored by the Shark Foundation, the Save our Seas Foundation and PADI Project AWARE. Polar Bears in Svalbard, Norway  It’s no news to wildlife lovers that the world’s polar bear population has been among the worst affected by climate change. Natural Habitat Adventures with Lindblad Expeditions offers expedition ship tours of Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago located between the Barents and Greenland seas north of Norway and 600 miles from the North Pole. Onboard naturalists help spot polar bears in their natural habitat while giving expert insight about these majestic creatures in real time. A National Geographic-certified photography instructor accompanies guests to create timeless memories and the company’s fleet of kayaks and zodiac boats allow for closer, responsible examination of the bears. Natural Habitat Adventures was the first 100% carbon-neutral travel company in the world and a portion of their sales goes towards the World Wildlife Fund, one of the leading voices for polar bear conservation . Dolphins in Akaroa, New Zealand Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa, New Zealand is committed to the conservation of the country’s rare Hector Dolphins. Take a boat tour of the historic village of Akaroa just an hour and a half drive from Christchurch. The Akaroa Harbour is a marine mammal sanctuary , so the protection of these animals is paramount. The company donates a portion of all ticket sales to the research of the area’s dolphins, as well as educational programs. Additionally, Black Cat Cruises was the first boat tour company on earth to receive the Green Globe 21, an international program aimed at ensuring sound environmental practices. They are also the only cruise operator in the Akaroa area to obtain an Enviro-gold certification from the New Zealand tourism quality assurance organization, Qualmark. Humpback Whales on Maui, Hawaii The Pacific Whale Foundation offers whale watching eco-tours on the island of Maui, where Humpback Whales migrate each year from December to May to breed and give birth to their young. The channel that runs between the islands of Maui and Molokai offer some of the best whale watching in the state. The Pacific Whale Foundation , a non-profit organization founded in 1980, puts all profits towards their research, education and conservation programs. Additional funding is raised through donations and local fundraising activities as well. Penguins in Chubut, Patagonia While penguins aren’t exactly difficult to see (they are included in most zoos and aquariums around the United States), these flightless birds are actually quite mysterious in the wild. Scientists understand how they interact on land, but research on how penguins find their food in the depths of the ocean is much more sparse. The Earthwatch Institute offers penguin trailing tours where participants join scientists and conservationists at the nesting colonies in Argentina’s Golfo San Jorge. Tag penguins to track their nesting and feeding locations, as well as help choose a selection of 50 penguins to track with more advanced GPS devices and underwater cameras. Finding out where these animals frequent throughout the year helps scientists better understand which parts of the ocean need the most protection in order to keep penguin populations strong in Patagonia. Wolves at Yellowstone National Park, United States The wolf reintroduction efforts at Yellowstone National Park have influenced and inspired conservationists and scientists around the world. After the wolf population at the park had completely died off by 1926, efforts to reintroduce the animals back into Yellowstone territory in the mid 1990s were completely successful in restoring the balance in the ecosystem. Experts at the park suggest heading to the open valleys in the northeast corner of Yellowstone (specifically the Lamar Valley) to have the best chance of seeing wolves. The winter months offers the best possibilities since the snow helps provide an easy backdrop. Keeping the wolves at the park safe and healthy requires constant monitoring and research from the National Parks Service, and part of your entrance fee into the park goes towards those efforts. Images via joakant , NPS Climate Change Response , Gregory Smith , National Marine Sanctuaries, Celine Harrand , 12019 , Shutterstock

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How to see these six fascinating animals in the wild while aiding in their conservation

Can we use nature to mitigate wildfire risk?

October 11, 2019 by  
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As wildfire season heightens, The Nature Conservancy is developing and implementing a new strategy to fight back.

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Can we use nature to mitigate wildfire risk?

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