This week the Belfast Zoo announced the birth of a new Blesbok calf. The Blesbok is an antelope spcies native to Africa and once thought to number in the millions. They were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th Century. With conservation efforts they have bounced back and their populations are on the rise.
The Shire horse is the largest horse breed ever. Once numbering in the millions, these animals were critical to helping humans farm and also in transportation pulling carts and carriages. In 1900, there were an estimated over 1 million Shire horses in the UK. Today they number around 1500. The Rare Breeds Survive Trust warns the Shire, Clydesdale and Suffolk horse breeds are at risk of extinction in the UK. This is interesting, since these unique breeds are no longer needed by humans to do the work we once needed from them, they are barely hanging on. It also raised interesting questions on conservation efforts of domestic animals compared to wild animals. Stay tuned for future news/discussion on this topic.
A major concern for oceanic wildlife is happening off the Southwestern Florida coast. A massive red tide, or algae bloom, has been killing off wildlife at an unprecedented rate. The red tide stretches from south of Tampa down to Naples, Florida. Many species have died as a result to include many manatees, dolphins, fish, endangered sea turtles, and even a whale shark. The exact causes cannot be specifically outlined but climate change, agriculture, massive hurricanes, and other factors are believed to the cause. The toxic algae bloom releases toxic gases that has even sickened many people, and is no doubt negatively impacting the economies of local communities.
Scientists continue to monitor a female Orca off the coast of Washington state in the US that continues to hold on and carry her dead calf. It has been 16 days, and the whale identified as J35, or given the nickname ‘Tahlequah’ has carried her calf after it died within the hour after giving birth. The Southern Resident Orca population is considered endangered as over the past 20 years 40 calves have been born, but the pod has lost 72 of its members. They are clearly in decline. Additionally, this story brings up a really interesting question on just how deep animal emotions can go. We will put this on a future podcast and discuss the science behind animal feelings, emotions, and other interesting behavior.
Researchers have observed the leopard gecko can regenerate brain cells faster than many other animals. The potential this discovery has on human medicine cannot be understated. Studying the mechanisms by how these geckos can do this will lead scientists to potential new therapies for human medicine. Nature continues to astound us at every turn.
In what reads almost as a science fiction story, scientists in Asia have been able to resuscitate roundworms that have been frozen in the Siberian permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The researchers were able to bring the frozen worms back to the lab and bring them back to life. They report the worms moved around and even ate. This discovery can have profound implications to human medicine, specifically with cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology.
We want to recognize Mr. Elfyn Pugh who after retiring for 30 years as a police officer has gone back to his passion, conserving wildlife. Elfyn now works as a Marine mammal Surveyor Team Leader and is working to catalogue the life in our oceans.
Zambia is reinstating a plan to cull 2,000 hippos over the next five years. The plan was initially halted in 2016 but the Zambian authorities have reinstated the plan culling. A trophy hunting organization calling for this so-called “hippo management” is called Umililo Safaris. They claim that the hippo population is too large in the Luangwa Valley. However, conservation organizations argue there is absolutely no evidence that the hippo population is overcrowded. Further, hippos are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN and are a species needing protection.
The call to boycott Iceland continues as authorities this week determined the recent whale killed was in fact an extremely rare Blue Whale/Fin Whale hybrid. These are so rare that there have only been 5 reported sightings of these hybrids since 1983. Furthermore, hybridization is rare and just continues to offer proof of the extreme stress these populations are under. Non-related species very rarely mate.
Additionally, the Fin Whale is an ENDANGERED SPECIES. Again, these animals are heading to extinction and the killing of any endangered species should anger anybody that cares about wildlife. In the 20th Century it is estimated close to 800,000 Fin Whales were killed. Today, throughout the world there are less than 100,000 Fin Whales in all of our oceans.
We suggest everyone boycotts any travel to Iceland until they reinstate the ban on the killing of endangered Fin Whales.
President Trump’s administration continues its war over regulations established by both Republican and Democratic politicians. First passed by President Richard Nixon (R) 45 years ago, the Endangered Species Act has helped preserve and save countless endangered species in North America. Republican lawmakers are urging to roll back many protections for endangered species, claiming many of these special protections are harming business (energy, mining, forestry).
We URGE all United States Citizens to contact their politicians and tell them you are absolutely opposed to any legislation that harms our endangered animals and our environment. Also please visit:
Scientists Claim Rising Meat Consumption Will Devastate Environment
Global demand for meat consumption has doubled in the past 50 years from an average of 23kg per person to 43kg in 2014. While meat consumption has remained steady in wealthier countries, emerging economies like in China is pushing the higher demand. These scientists argue raising livestock, such as beef cattle, has a significant effect on increasing carbon emissions and habitat destruction (ie. Amazon rain forest). In another study, scientists state that more than 80% of all farmland is used for livestock (also feeds for livestock) but produce just 18% of the average diets calories and just 37% of total protein intake. By reducing meat consumption individual consumers will help combat these negative effects.
Conversely, in another study scientists argue that if every citizen of the United States went vegan greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 28%. However, meatless diets can lead to deficiencies in key nutrients humans need on a daily basis. While those practicing veganism can actually eat healthy diets with all available nutrients, the United States does not currently produce enough to meet every citizen’s needs. The debate rages on!
Stories from Little Known Critically-Endangered Species
To highlight some of the less “charismatic” endangered species this week we focused on a story discussing 10 of New Zealand’s little less known endangered (or possibly extinct) species. Species such as the Open Bay Island Leech receives almost no attention but animals like this are just as important as other charismatic species.
In New Zealand, 1/3 of the land mass is dedicated land managed by it’s Department of Conservation. Recently, an algorithm was created to evaluated the most important species for New Zealand and which to devote most of the resources to. However, DOC is employing a joint strategy of protecting whole ecosystems in their efforts to conserve as many species as possible.
Indigenous peoples make up only 5% of the total world population but live on ¼ of all the land (excluding Antarctica). Conservation experts now are pushing to engage these cultures in hoping to establish strategies on preserving the natural habitats in these areas.
A program in Zambia has worked to establish all-female teams of rangers to protect wildlife. The program is considered a resounding success as the women are less likely to be corrupted and are highly trained.
Update on the whaling situation in Iceland. The whaling company has already slaughtered 22 whales to include the young male blue whale (identified by experts). However, the company claims this is a fin/blue whale hybrid and is “legal” according to them. Regardless this is horrific and pressure needs to be placed on Iceland and its government to stop the hunt of endangered fin and critically-endangered blue whales. #boycottIceland continues.
Humans Are Causing Animals & Plants to go Extinct 1000x Natura Rate
The death of Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino highlights the plight of many of Earth’s disappearing biodiversity. Extinction is a normal process and has been discussed on the podcast previously, see Episode 1. However, current extinction rates are 1000x a normal healthy ecosystem rate. Scientists are gravely considered at the current extinction crisis and rather than losing a few leaves here and there off the Tree of Life, we may end up losing entire branches. Again, we believe education and awareness are one of the main ways we can help our planet.
More Inclusive Ecological Planning Needed Argues Scientist
A team of researchers out of Australia published a paper arguing that instead of just setting aside natural areas a more inclusive approach is needed. They describe a shift is needed to a more ambitious ‘nature retention targets’ rather than the current model. In short, these targets would establish the baseline levels needed of for natural systems functions and then work towards supporting these.
Bad news coming out of North America with orca populations off the Pacific Northwest in decline. The diets of these Southern Resident Killer Whale populations are primarily Chinook Salmon, but as these salmon populations continue to decline, so are the orca populations. With a proposed gas pipeline leading to Vancouver, Canada, experts warn boat traffic will have detrimental effects on these whales.
Palm Oil Disastrous for Wildlife But Is the Best Oil We Can Produce
In an effort to feed over 7 billion people, palm oil is a major source of cheap oil consumed worldwide. In fact, it provided a third of the world’s vegetable oil from only 10% of the land used for oil-producing crops. The IUCN reports that palm oil plantations, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia are damaging over 190 threatened species. They also report ‘sustainable’ palm oil is not much better in preventing deforestation. Yet, they also report that other crops that can be used could be much more devastating for other wildlife. For example, soy or corn being grown in the Amazon basin. Therefore, strategies to ensure sustainable palm oil is in fact properly certified and maintained is strongly urged.
A Swedish Science Journalist, Ms. Torill Kornfeldt has released a book about traveling the world and talking to scientist about their work in bringing back extinct animals. We have an incredible interview next week with a scientist who recently published a paper discussing opinions on de-extinction from conservation biologists. In the provided link is an interview about this book and the idea of ‘de-extinction.’
This week a Kentucky (USA) woman shared her image of an 18-year old male giraffe she had shot and killed on a trophy hunt in South Africa. Many shared the image, some defending her, but many condemning her. This brings up again the argument that trophy hunting of endangered species is actually good and leads to money being contributed to conservation of many species. However, in the case of trophy hunting in Africa this is far from true. In fact, very few gaming ranches actually do work and donate money to conservation. In a well referenced write up which will be posted below, the authors argue that ecotourism is far more valuable to helping conserve endangered species compared to trophy hunts. They go on to state many more compelling arguments on why trophy hunting does very little to conserve animals and is nothing more than a selling tag line. We actually visited this issue last November, which can be read HERE.
It is no secret that poaching of many endangered species within the African continent and around the world has only increased in the past two decades. In a bid to save their animals, and understandably to protect their valuable tourism industry, Kenya has proposed to sentence poachers to death for their crimes. The debate is now currently raging in many circles.
Critically Endangered Red Wolf May Lose Critical Protection
In a surprise move, the United States Department of Interior proposed to allow private land owners to shoot any red wolf that may wander on to their property in the state of North Carolina. We recently did a Red Wolf episode and we highly recommend you listen to it if you have not yet it is
There are less than 50 Red Wolves estimated to be left in the wild. This is clearly misguided judgement and we highly recommend you contact your political leaders (if in the USA) to record your displeasure in this measure.
In a new era of technology and science, NOAA is launching 11 unmanned sailing drones to conduct oceanic research. The drones have multiple measuring capabilities such as temperature, salinity, fish populations using sonar and more. Such an incredible advancement.
Increase of Marijuana Farms Leading to Humbolt Marten Decline
In a story similar to that of the Black Footed Ferret, the Humbolt Marten is facing extinction. Not due to direct causes but by by-products of farmers using poisons to kill off rodents that may harm their crops and equipment. Many farmers in the region, particularly marijuana farmers protecting plastic irrigation tubes from rats and mice, are using anti-coagulant poisons to kill them off. However, the Humbolt Marten eats these rodents as part of their diet and thus are dying off as well. Fortunately, the state of California is beginning to implement plans to help this species.
Jim Weinpress this week talked about one of the animals he used to care for, ‘Princess’ the white rhino. Apparently during the spring and summer Princess suffered from allergies and insects which resulted in irritating her eyes. The Hogle Zoo has worked with multiple agencies to develop a fly mask to help protect her eyes and she now wears it after months of training.
This past week Iceland began hunting endangered fin whales after a two-year hiatus. This comes despite an international ban on hunting fin whales. The company responsible is Hvalur hf. owned by Mr. Kristjan Loftsson. Rather than export the whale meat due to such little demand for whale meat in Iceland and in Japan, the company plans on producing nutritional supplements, gelatin from the bones and whale blubber for “unspecified” medical purposes. This is truly horrifying and defies all logic. We suggest a boycott of any product this company may produce in the future and that people do not travel to Iceland or support them until they curb this practice. Hunting any endangered species is absolutely abhorrent.
‘Gumpy’ the seagull was rescued in Charleston, South Carolina and sent to the South Carolina Aquarium. Veterinarian Dr. Shane Boylan had to amputate both legs due to damage caused by fishing lines. However, Dr. Boylan worked with the College of Charleston and they have 3-D printed Gumpy a net set of legs. The bird is recovering under the care of the South Carolina Aquarium and is adapting to his new life.
Scientists over the past 8 years have been using camera traps to count jaguars. During this time, a total of 400 remotely activated cameras throughout 11 Mexican states recorded over 4,500 photographs. Within these, 348 had images of 46 different jaguars. The scientists now estimate there are now 4,800 jaguars in Mexico, which have a worldwide population of around 64,000 animals.
The Canadian government has pledged over $167 million dollars to protect whales and other sea life off their coasts. The money is mainly to be spent on whale conservation and investigation of disturbances to their habitat. This is incredible news!
In 2013, starfish off the west coast of North America began to die in unprecedented numbers. Scientists believe these marine invertebrates were infected with the densovirus, which ultimately turned these living creatures into a pile of goo. Over 80% of these starfish populations have died. Also, researchers believe warming of the earth’s oceans had a devastating impact allowing the virus to spread. However, starfish populations have begun to rebound. DNA evidence points to the newer generation of these creatures having a natural resistance to this disease.
While Canada is working to improve the health of their marine life, in the United States the current government is looking to remove protections of fish and other marine creatures. This week the US government will vote on a bill removing many important protections that are in place to protect endangered fish and other species. However, in a surprise move, many chefs from around the country have banded together to vote the bill. They are voicing support for sustainable fishing practices, which help provide them with the fish they need to serve their customers. Incredible initiative for these men and women, bravo!
Just this week the Czech military transported 4 more female Przewalski’s horses to Mongolia for release back to the wild. This bring the total to 31 aniimals transported from the Prague Zoo to this area for reintroduction. Again, if you have not listened to Episode 6 Truly Wild, The Przewalski’s Horse, please do. It tells the incredible story of these animals and how the Prague Zoo and many others worked to save this species.
This week Chris was joined with Jim Weinpress from the Seneca Park Zoo. If you have not yet listened to his interview please do. It can be found HERE
Amazon’s Critical Role in Combating Climate Change
A recent article in Nature highlights a very concerning trend in the Amazon rainforest’s ability in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Scientists reported a decline in tree productivity and survival rate over the last ~ 20 years. This is data outside of the already 750,000 sqkm (289,000 sq mile) of the Amazon that has been lost to agriculture since 1978. In this study, researchers looked at individual plots of preserved rain forest and concluded due to climate change and the incredible increase of carbon in the atmosphere that trees are growing bigger, faster, often resulting in their deaths earlier. Furthermore, productivity of new growth has leveled off. In summary, they report the Amazon has lost ~ 30% of its ability to sequester carbon from our atmosphere over the study period and is declining.
A team of international primate experts warn that nearly two thirds of all primate species may go extinct by the year 2100. The team highlights four countries that house over two thirds of the world’s primates: Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo. Both in Indonesia and Madagascar, over 90% of all primates living here are in population decline. More worrying, Brazil is predicted to lose almost 80% of its natural habitat over the same time period, with predictions for Indonesia at 70%, Madagascar 60% and the DRC 30%. All due mainly to agriculture production, highlighting palm oil and sugarcane. The team argues that unless a global effort is launched to combat the decline, to include individual consumers, many of these species will be lost forever.
Researchers out of Florida are using an underwater treadmill to evaluate manatee metabolism. Two manatees held under human care are participating in experiments to evaluate their normal body functions. The manatees are harnessed with heart rate monitors and are trained to breath in a special hood that captures their exhaled gases. Understanding the basic physiology of manatees will go a long way in evaluating conservation strategies in protecting these special mammals.
Scientists and staff from the South Carolina Aquarium are evaluating the health wild bottlenose dolphins. Studying these animals are giving researchers a good idea on our current ocean health. Sadly, their results are shedding a lite on the many pollutants that exist in our oceans. Specifically, they report that 90% of the dolphins evaluated had high levels of contaminants, specifically PFCs and PCBs in their blubber. Not only are these and other contaminants passed on to their offspring through their milk, it is believed these can have drastic affects on dolphin health and reproduction. We all need to do our part to protect our oceans.
Scientists discover world’s first known manta ray nursery
Researchers out of UC San Diego and Scripts Institute have announced the discovery of a manata ray nursery. These ocean dwelling animal’s wingspans can stretch almost 21 feet (6.5 meters) yet many young or juveniles are rarely observed. The recent discovery, roughly 50 miles south of Galveston, Texas will give scientists a greater understanding to these creature’s life cycles and work with conservation experts to protect these areas.
Five new species of snail eating snakes discovered
In Ecuador, scientists have discovered five new species of snakes that specialize in eating snails. In even more incredible news, the same group rather than submitting their own names to honor their discovery, have instead auctioned off the naming rights to use that money to preserve these animals.
The Amur Leopard is the most endangered large cat on our planet. With an estimated less than 100 in the wild, and 200 housed under human care, this species is struggling to survive. This week the San Diego Zoo announced the birth of two FEMALE cubs. This has also been followed up with the announcement (a few hours after we recorded) of two MALE Amur Leopard cubs at the Brookfield Zoo. Fantastic news for this animal.
The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has developed an application that helps fisherman go to areas where their targeted fish are currently at. The software called EcoCast using advanced algorithms can predict based on weather and other oceanographic variables in predicting where the fisherman will find their fish. This helps them avoid general fishing where they might catch endangered species in their nets.
Viewing Wildlife Documentaries Are Good For Mental Health
Research now indicates that viewing nature documentaries help improve a person’s mood and makes them happier. Scientists have compared the benefits as the same as those for people who mediate daily. Even listening to this podcast (we hope) should improve your mood and motivate you to make positive changes for Mother Earth.
This week multiple news agencies are reporting on the current extinction crisis in the UK. Reports now indicate that 1 in 5 mammals in the UK are endangered and threatened with extinction. The Wildcat, Greater Mouse-eared Bat and the Black Rat are all listed as critically endangered. Even the beloved Hedgehog is listed as endangered suffering a 70% decline in populations in the last 20 years. However, populations of otter, pine marten, polecat, badger and red deer are increasing.
Researchers are using any new tools they can to study animal behavior. This week we discuss the use of a “fembot” to observe Saige Grouse mating rituals. We highly recommend you view the video attached to the article.