Burmese roofed turtle is rescued from extinction

September 4, 2020 by  
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The Burmese roofed turtle has been saved from the brink of extinction. The turtle had not been seen for over 20 years, leading many conservationists to assume that it was extinct . But in 2001, one Burmese roofed turtle was spotted in markets in Myanmar, sparking interest among scientists. From this point forward, efforts to save the endangered species were put in place by scientists in collaboration with the government of Myanmar. The efforts have paid off, with nearly 1,000 of these turtles existing today. The Burmese roofed turtle is a giant Asian river turtle that is characterized by its large eyes and small, natural smile. Since the sighting of a surviving turtle in Myanmar about 20 years ago, the population of the turtles has been increased to about 1,000, thanks to serious conservation efforts. Some of the turtles have already been released to the wild, while the others are still within captivity. Related: This turtle with a green mohawk is one of the most endangered reptiles in the world These turtles were once thriving around the mouth of the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar. But by the mid-20th century, fishing and overharvesting led to a significant drop in the number of turtles. For years, the state of the species was unknown, given that Myanmar had closed its borders. Scientists could not access the country and, as a result, could not make any efforts to save the turtles. By the time Myanmar reopened its borders in the 1990s, scientists could not find any Burmese roofed turtles and began to believe that they were extinct . “We came so close to losing them. If we didn’t intervene when we did, this turtle would have just been gone,” Steven Platt, a herpetologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told The New York Times . Turtles and tortoises are among the most vulnerable species globally. About half of the planet’s turtle and tortoise species , a total of 360 living species, are threatened. The scenario is especially bad for species across Asia, where turtles and tortoises are affected by habitat loss, climate change and hunting for consumption. But the recent good news on the growing population of Burmese roofed turtles gives hope that concerted conservation efforts can continue to save more vulnerable species. Via The New York Times and Wildlife Conservation Society Image via Wildlife Conservation Society

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Burmese roofed turtle is rescued from extinction

Wild in Africa jewelry supports wildlife conservation charities

August 14, 2020 by  
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When National Geographic filmmaker Shannon Wild moved to Africa in 2013 to make wildlife documentaries, she found herself in the hospital after a near-death experience in Masai Mara. After pushing her body to the point of complete exhaustion for her career, she was medevaced to Nairobi and became bedridden for three months. Unable to even hold a camera initially, and with the knowledge that going back into the field would take months of stamina-building physical therapy, she started a grueling 6-month recovery period. Shannon had built up a collection of beaded bracelets throughout her travels, and one day, yearning for a creative outlet, she began dismantling and redesigning them. Using her past experience in graphic design and marketing, she was able to establish a business, Wild In Africa – Bracelets for Wildlife , to commemorate her healing journey and the love for animals and wildlife that brought her to Africa in the first place. Related: Make a statement with Serendipitous Project’s eco-friendly jewelry Today, Wild responsibly sources beads from all over the world and donates 50% of the purchase price of the Wild in Africa jewelry to 10 separate wildlife charities . The gender-neutral bracelets include a combination of stone beads, tribal charms and pendants that pay homage to the colors and textures found in the natural world. On the company’s website, the charity that each bracelet supports is outlined on the product’s page. It includes a general description of the organization’s values and goals, from bringing an end to the global rhino horn trade to conservation plans for Zambian carnivores. There is also a link to the charity so customers can learn more about where their contributions are going. The packaging is eco-friendly and recyclable , and materials are sustainably sourced. The company also offers a membership for first access to special, limited-edition bracelets and behind-the-scenes looks at featured charities. + Wild in Africa Images via Wild in Africa

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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

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