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Wildlife

What New Species Have We Discovered in 2018?

May 21, 2018
new species 2018

Scientists discover new species of plants and animals every year.

The diversity and amount of life on Earth are astounding. Ecologists now estimate there are 8.7 million different species on the planet — and those are the ones we know about — but we discover more each year. Despite the large number of species we are aware of, we are just beginning to discover the extent of life on Earth, and there is so much more to uncover. However, as we enter new species into the record books, we lose others forever because of the destruction of habitats, climate change and illegal hunting.

Finding New Species

The advancement of technology has helped science classify and discover new species. Being able to study and look at DNA has shown how species differ on a molecular level. Communication and cooperation with others around the globe have also contributed to discovering new species. In time, perhaps the advancement of technology will allow us to save or bring back extinct species through cloning — science is certainly working on advancing the technique to make it a possibility!

Commercialization has also contributed to the discovery of new species. With commercial fishing heading into deeper waters for food, they are pulling up aquatic animals that have remained unseen for eons — or perhaps ever.

With the need for crops and livestock to feed hungry populations, farmers and ranchers are cutting down habitats for pastureland and cropland, which displaces animals and brings them out of hiding. While not exactly the most sustainable or environmentally friendly way to discover new species, it still lets us know they exist and gives us the opportunity to find ways to preserve their habitats.

New Species 2018

Every year, scientists identify thousands of new species, with insects being the most common. Even though we are only partway through the year, science has added to the species list. New species 2018 include the following listed below.

Tardigrade

These micro-animals live in mossy habitats all over the world. The newest addition to the family was found in moss growing in a parking lot in Japan. Tardigrades are resilient to extreme heat and cold, and researchers are studying them to understand how extreme conditions impact organisms on a molecular level.

Ocean Dwellers — Fish, Sea Slugs and Sharks

A brown-and-white butterfly fish was discovered 360 feet under the ocean off the coast of the Verde Island Passage in the Philippines. Other fish that have also been identified in 2018 include a catfish discovered in China and 20 reef fish.

Thirteen new species of sea slugs were also discovered, with eight of them being found in the Philippines. What makes these eight slugs special is the ability to swim due to tiny, wing-like structures.

A new six-gilled shard was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, but it also inhabits the Indian and Pacific oceans. It took analyzing DNA samples from this shark to realize it was a new species of six-gill, bringing our total known variety of this species to three. Most of these sharks live in the extreme depths of the ocean thousands of feet below the surface, so they are difficult to study and discover.

Multitudes of other species live in the depths of the ocean that scientists have only recently discovered, including cookie-cutter sharks with bioluminescence, a cousin to the blobfish and a faceless fish.

Insects

Seven new species of ants have been discovered. A parasitic wasp has also been discovered that comes equipped with saws that allow it to slice its way out of the host body.

Arachnids

Three new species of scorpions that belong to the club-tailed group were identified in the tropical regions of the South, Central and North Americas. This group is unique because it can rub its tail against its body and produce an audible hissing sound, which may be a warning for predators to back off.

Lizards

New lizard species have been discovered in China and Thiruvananthapuram, the largest city in the Indian state of Kerala. The Indian lizard is part of a family that has colorful fans on their throat, and the newest addition was named after Sir David Attenborough, a famous British broadcaster and naturalist.

Plants

Sixteen new flowering plants have been discovered in Brazil and in West Bengal. The plant Lavoisiera canastrensis is critically endangered and can only be found on one mountaintop in the Serra da Canastra National Park.

Year after year, the discovery of new species is exciting and encouraging. Researching and learning more about plants and animals gives us deeper insight into our own lives and a better understanding of the planet we call home.

Despite the number of new species we discover each year, we are losing more at an unprecedented rate — mostly to environmental impacts caused by humans. It’s our responsibility to protect the earth and the creatures living on it so all plants and animals can thrive and survive.

Wildlife

What’s Being Done to Save Government Red List Species?

May 7, 2018
government red list

Protecting the planet’s wildlife is up to us.

The variety and amount of animals that occurs on this planet haven’t been fully documented. Science discovers thousands of new species each year, including plants, animals and insects. However, with the discovery of new species, other species are lost to habitat destruction, hunting, poaching and climate change.

Humans are fully aware of their destructive nature and have tried to implement procedures and policies to slow the destruction of the natural environment. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 to decrease, prevent and recoup the loss of plant and animal species from extinction.

Since the ESA has been in place, several species have been brought back from the brink of extinction, including the bald eagle, whooping crane, American alligator, grizzly bears, the California condor and the American gray wolf, among others. However, there is still work that needs to be done and several species on the government red list that need to be saved.

Technology, science and environmentally conscious groups and individuals are all playing a role in protecting endangered species. Below are some ways in which government red list species are being cared for.

Monitoring and Tracking

One way to keep tabs on endangered species is to know where they are in the world and how their environment is being impacted. Technology makes it easier and more efficient to track populations of animals across the globe. If there are changes to the environment, whether through human-made or natural disasters, the impacts on the animal population can be documented and remedied so that further harm doesn’t come to the protected species.

Keeping tabs on a population also allows scientists and researchers to document the health of the population and whether or not they are producing offspring. If the goal is to increase the numbers of endangered species, they need to have optimum conditions and be able to breed. If the environment isn’t conducive to supporting the population, it’s possible new policies and plans will need to be put in place so population growth can be successful.

Monitoring and tracking species of concern also helps reduce the amount of poaching for particular species, including elephants and rhinos. While the process won’t stop poaching completely, it will make it more difficult and risky for those who attempt to kill animals without a license.

Government Policies and Strategies

In the U.S., any company that wants to expand, build, mine, develop roads, put up wind turbines, etc. has to conduct studies for federal threatened, endangered, protected and candidate species, and they may also have to conduct surveys for state-threatened species.

If the goal of the ESA is to ensure that we don’t lose animals to extinction, protecting them with policies and strategies is a good idea. If any federal- or state-protected species are found where the new construction is to occur, measures must be taken to ensure the species are protected so that no harm comes to them. These measures vary on a case-by-case basis and depend on what species will be affected and when they will be affected (during breeding season, migration, etc.).

Mitigating or preventing impacts to protected species isn’t always popular with companies and individuals who view it as a hindrance to progress. However, without these policies and strategies in place, the world would lose even more species at an alarming rate.

Captive Breeding Programs

With the loss of natural habitats, it’s not always possible to bring animals back from the edge of extinction in a natural, wild way. However, to prevent the species from being completely lost, captive breeding programs have been created. These programs have saved a variety of species from extinction, including the corroboree frog, bongo, regent honeyeater, golden lion tamarin and the Amur leopard, among others.

The problem with captive breeding programs is whether or not the populations will be able to return to the wild and thrive in their natural habitats. Studies have been conducted to determine if breeding programs promote genetic diversity and will allow the populations to be self-sustaining outside a captive environment. Science doesn’t have all the answers yet, but it hopes to make progress in the future.

Partnerships with Conservation Groups and Individuals

Helping endangered and protected species is a task that takes the involvement of multiple groups, government entities, organizations and individuals. It’s not a task that one entity can accomplish on their own. By working together and developing plans, mitigation and restoration of endangered species are possible.

Informing and educating the public is another way to help reverse the negative impacts that can occur to government red list species. Knowledge is powerful, and it can motivate and encourage people to take action and work toward a common goal.

Planet Earth is full of amazingly diverse creatures — some of which we haven’t discovered yet. Understanding animals and the environment gives us better insight into ourselves, but if we destroy animal populations and habitats, we’ll never have the ability to learn the lessons they have to teach. It is in ours and the world’s best interest to protect government red list species, and it will take cooperation to accomplish that task.

Wildlife

Private Reserves vs. National Parks: Do Both Aid Conservation?

April 26, 2018
private reserves vs national parks

The United States pioneered the national park approach to conservation, a method that has become common around the world.

It involves closing off certain areas to all private development. The government owns and manages these lands to protect them for future generations. All land outside of these protected areas is open to private development.

There’s a space in between these two extremes though: privately owned reserves. Private individuals or organizations own these areas and choose to protect the natural landscapes within them.

Do national parks and private reserves both contribute to conservation efforts? Is one better than the other? Let’s explore these questions.

The Strengths of Private Reserves

Although private reserves are a relatively new idea in many areas, and it’s difficult to know how many there are in the world, it’s estimated that they cover more than 20 million hectares. Private reserves often provide many of the same ecological benefits that areas protected by the government do, primarily protecting biodiversity and natural landscapes.

Sometimes, private parks work in coordination with public ones. They often border government-protected areas, expanding the square footage of a given habitat that receives protection.

It’s challenging for either government or private entities alone to protect a sufficient amount of land to fully protect a unique ecosystem. In these cases, both private and public protection plays a crucial role. Sometimes, private protection eventually leads to government action. A private individual might step up to protect an area until the government realizes the importance of protecting it or obtains the funding to do so.

The lack of reliance on public funding and political priorities is one of the advantages of private reserves. Government-funded projects can have limited funding, and political entities might not have sufficient incentives to protect an ecosystem.

If an individual or private company owns a piece of land and uses it to benefit financially from ecotourism, they have substantial incentive to preserve it. In strong economic times, private reserves may have more funding than public ones, which enables them to improve their conservation efforts.

This private ownership, proponents argue, gives the power to the people and helps support the local economy. Private reserves can have social and economic benefits as well as environmental ones.

The Weaknesses of Private Reserves

Private ownership, however, can also present challenges under some conditions. In tough economic times, the incomes of these preserves may suffer, putting their conservation efforts in jeopardy.

The owners of these lands might also be tempted, especially during an economic downturn, to prioritize profit over preservation of nature. This decision may lead them to develop parts of the land or interfere with the area’s natural systems. For example, they might bring in non-native species to add to the park’s appeal.

There’s no guarantee that a private area will stay protected. The owners could decide to sell the land or develop it at any point. As it gets passed down through generations, and new leadership takes over organizations, priorities can change as well.

Another challenge is that private reserves are typically small compared to public ones. Often, they’re too small to adequately protect larger animals and prevent habitat fragmentation.

Some of the rules and regulations that apply to government-managed lands don’t cover private reserves. Although animal attacks are extremely rare, lack of knowledge about a specific reserve’s policies might cause increased fear of such an incident occurring. Private landowners might also be more likely to be lenient with guests whose actions disturb the environment or even directly harm wildlife.

The Strengths of National Parks

National parks, on the other hand, are designated as such by law, so they’re less vulnerable to economic fluctuations. If ecotourism loses popularity or people’s disposable incomes decrease, national parks will still exist.

It’s also much harder to develop a national park or sell it off to a private company. Although laws can change, it typically involves a lengthy legislative process that would likely be met with legal challenges.

Publicly protected lands are also governed by stricter regulations, which may make people feel safer when visiting them. Because those managing the land are responsible for reporting to a government agency, they may be more likely to enforce rules designed to ensure that guests stay safe and don’t harm the natural environment during their visit. Private landowners often have no responsibility to enforce such rules.

The Weaknesses of National Parks

It’s no secret, though, that publicly owned aspects are still subject to mismanagement. Although in an ideal world, those who break the rules would be removed from power, this process isn’t always the case.

Although the law mandates the existence of national parks, changes in political leadership and priorities can impact the amount of funding parks get. Substantial budget reductions can cripple parks’ operations. Between 2001 and 2005, for example, budget constraints reduced the amounts of guards in Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica, which led to a dramatic surge in illegal hunting.

Even in times of relatively high levels of funding, national parks may still fall behind private reserves regarding financial resources and struggle to finance all the work that needs to be done to them.

Political leaders can also take steps to allow more development of publicly protected lands by private entities such as oil and gas companies. Exactly 534 active oil and gas wells currently operate on national park lands in the U.S., and rules giving the National Park Service more control over how oil and gas companies use parklands are now under scrutiny.

A Balanced Approach

Private reserves and national parks both have their pros and cons. In some situations, private protection may be the best option while in others, the public approach may be most effective. Because of the limitations of each method, the two often need to work together.

Models that work in some places also might not work as well in others due to differences in environmental, societal, political and economic factors. Where demand for land is especially high, researchers have suggested, learning how to live alongside wildlife may work better than dividing the land into distinct areas for preservation and development.

Preserving natural ecosystems is a complex task, and neither system can address all of its challenges perfectly. To ensure that our natural lands and the biodiversity they contain remain protected, we’ll likely need to employ aspects of both the private and public approach.

Wildlife

How Likely Is Northern White Rhino Extinction?

April 12, 2018
northern white rhino extinction

Science may be able to reverse extinction as time goes by, but questions arise about whether or not it should.

We live on an amazing planet with diverse and unique animal life. It’s estimated 8.7 million different species live in this world, and we discover, on average, thousands of new species each year. Learning about the different plants and animals that inhabit this planet helps us understand our world and ourselves.

Despite the fact millions of different species live on this planet, we lose dozens of creatures to extinction every day. Even though extinction is a natural phenomenon, almost 99 percent of extinctions that occur are caused by humans. As our population continues to grow, we encroach upon new habitats to develop places to live and to grow food, which pushes animals into new territories or kills them. We’ve also introduced new species that compete for food and space, and we’ve contributed to pollution and global warming.

For some species, including rhinos, their numbers have dwindled because of illegal hunting and poaching for their ivory. That has been the case for the Northern White Rhino, which faces the distinct possibility of extinction — especially now since there are only two of this subspecies of rhino left. Northern White Rhino extinction seems inevitable.

Saving the Northern White Rhino

The world’s last three surviving Northern White Rhinos lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The conservation began as a cattle farm and was then transformed to help the struggling black rhino population and other creatures affected by the black market, including chimpanzees. Its goal is to not only protect and save animals but to educate and inform the communities around its borders to ensure future generations have the knowledge to protect themselves and the environment so all species can live a long, healthy life.

With the death of the last male Northern White Rhino and only two surviving females, who are related, the fate of this species is called into question. There are questions about whether or not to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) or cloning to bring this species back to the world, but the answers aren’t without complications.

For one, the use of IVF in rhinos hasn’t been perfected. Because of the uniqueness of each subspecies’ womb, it’s difficult to recreate the environment to achieve a successful birth. While there have been some successful live births that resulted from IVF, the number is low enough and the cost high enough that it’s difficult to determine if the risk is worth it.

There have been discussions about using the Southern White Rhino as a surrogate to bring back the Northern White Rhino, but — again — the science hasn’t progressed far enough to know if this is a viable option or if it will be successful. More tests and studies have to be conducted, and it’s possible there’s not enough time before the extinction of the Northern White Rhino.

The problem with cloning this species is twofold. Again, the advancement in science might not be there to make this option a reality. While several different types of species have already been cloned, the process is not perfect and needs development. In addition, there is the ethical question about whether or not science should use cloning to bring species back.

Cloning Extinct Species: A Lot of Unknowns

Science fiction has tackled the question of whether or not science should clone animals to bring them back from extinction, and the outcome is generally destructive. Despite the multitude of “what ifs” that exist with cloning, there are some answers to what could happen if science clones a species because they’ve cloned many species. However, most of these species have been used for incredibly limited purposes, including for consumption and for lab use.

The unknown is what happens when science uses cloning to save a species. How will that animal act in its natural habitat? Will there even be a natural habit for it to live in? What impact will it have on the ecosystem and the environment? Will the species breed naturally after the founding population or will it continue to depend on cloning for survival?

The amount of unanswered questions this process has for saving extinct species makes a lot of people nervous and uncertain about whether cloning is the answer. There are also financial barriers to cloning, and without funding, it might not be possible to accomplish the task of bringing Northern White Rhinos back from extinction.

Better to Focus on Future Conservation?

There are no easy answers when it comes to determining the best way to deal with the Northern White Rhino extinction or any animal extinction, for that matter. The one thing that most people can agree upon is that humans and science should do something about the issue, but it is divided on exactly what that should be. Some believe since only two Northern White Rhinos currently exist and they can’t breed and that science needs to advance for IVF to be successful, it might be better to cut our losses and focus on conservation.

While letting a species die out is tough to deal with, it’s also a good lesson to learn from. It allows us to reflect on the things that could have been done differently in the future so the mistakes aren’t repeated with other animals in need. With funding and budgets tight, some argue it might be a better investment to move on and protect another species from suffering the same fate.

Only time will let the world know what the best course of action is for saving animals from extinction or bringing them back. There’s a lot to learn in any process that might be implemented to solve the extinction problem and, unfortunately, for some species, it may be too late.

Wildlife

What Will the World Do If Honeybees Become Extinct?

March 19, 2018
Honeybees become extinct

The statistics are there — honeybee populations are on the decline. In 2016, more than one-third of the bee colonies in America died out, with many years prior following much of the same news. Is it soon time to say goodbye?

If honeybees become extinct, the entire world — not just America — will suffer. There are some short-term solutions that will allow people to get by for a bit. But because honeybees are such a contributor to food products and the ecosystem, people will not sustain themselves for very long if honeybees become extinct.

Why Are Honeybees so Great?

Honeybees have a number of positive characteristics. Approximately a third of the world’s food is pollinated by honeybees. Alfalfa, a bee-pollinated plant, is responsible for providing the dietary needs for cattle, proving that humans are not the only ones to benefit from honeybees.

While various household items include honey, the medical aspects are even more astounding. A single spoonful of honey contains 27 minerals and 22 amino acids. There are also over 5,000 protective enzymes in honey, working to defend your body from disease and infection.

The direct role of honeybees in the maintenance of the ecosystem is amazing. Every year, over 150 crops are pollinated by bees in addition to wildflowers. An ecosystem functions by keeping a healthy cycle — regulated climate, purified water, balanced soil and sustained natural resources. Honeybees contribute to the ecosystem’s functionality by ensuring the plants reproduce efficiently.

What Is Endangering All of Our Honeybees?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one easy answer to what may cause honeybees to become extinct. There are a handful of contributors, from the occurrence of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) to the environment to pesticides and infestation.

CCD is a strange phenomenon that keeps occurring. For some reason, a large group of honeybees occupying a beehive will decide to abandon it, leaving behind only a few plus the queen bee. The colony collapses without workers to maintain the hive.

CCD directly impacts the global economy. Many of the crops we see in grocery stores require bee pollination, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. The demand for these crops has risen at the same time colonies are drastically collapsing. It is challenging to keep up the pollination demands for these crops.

Environmental changes also affect honeybees. Unless grown and kept in a sanctuary, honeybees thrive in the wild. Warming climates, industrial renovations and human development all hinder the behavior and survival of honeybees. Wild honeybees are the most effective pollinators due to their adaptable natures, but even some environmental factors can be impossible to adapt to.

Pesticides contribute to the declining survival rate of honeybees. While many sprays are meant to target weeds and fungi, they can become damaging to bees. Neonicotinoid is a popular pesticide which harms both wild and bred honeybees. The chemicals used in neonicotinoid are toxic to any insect, even those not directly targeted. This means that even if a beehive isn’t sprayed with the pesticide, the colony can still die because of their interaction with plants around it.

Infestations also endanger honeybees and their colonies. A small mite named the varroa mite has the ability to destroy an entire area of honeybees. There is a link between mite outbreaks and an occurrence of CCD. These mites can also carry other viruses between them, so even if one beehive is not affected by the outbreak, they could be cross-contaminated through another disease.

So What Happens If Honeybees Become Extinct?

If honeybees become extinct, there may be another chance for honey production and crop pollination that is not artificial. The blue orchard bee — lovingly referred to as BOB — is a native species just as capable of pollinating crops and flowers. Honeybees came to America from the Old World in 1622. However, blue orchard bees have been in North America far longer.

Blue orchard bees operate quite differently than honeybees. Rather than thriving in colonies, these bees prefer to be solitary. A female BOB will find a nesting place and lay up to five eggs, keeping her home quite small and easy to maintain.

There is an upside and a downside to the pollinating effectiveness of these bees. BOBs are actually more efficient at pollinating than honeybees, and it all has to do with technique — instead of using their legs to grab pollen, a blue orchard will use their abdomen and “swim” around the nectar of a flower to collect pollen. This makes it much easier for pollen to be transferred from one flower or plant to the next, as the abdomen is a very accessible spot.

The downside is that, while efficient, blue orchard bees are somewhat difficult to organize. Because they choose to live alone, it is hard to get a group of blue orchard bees to find homes within the same area.

There is hope for the future with these blue orchard bees. Entomologists have performed a study in which, instead of trying to attract BOBs into one large hive — which has seen so much success with honeybees — they were instead exposed to several tiny hives within a test area. The results came back overwhelmingly positive in that nest occupancy and larvae percentages all increased.

What Can We Do to Help?

While blue orchard bees seem to be a “replacement” for honeybees, you should be cautious about believing it’s a final answer. Studies have shown that BOBs are able to be worked with, but whether or not they can effectively pollinate the crops yielded by today’s honeybees is still being tested. Therefore, all of us have a responsibility in helping extend the lives of honeybees, so they don’t become extinct.

Allow yourself to be bee-friendly to help prevent honeybees from becoming extinct. Planting a garden of flowers and herbs which contain native pollinators will invite honeybees to pull pollen from the nectar. Alongside the garden, include a plate or bowl of water — bees use this water to drink as well as to regulate temperature and digest.

And most importantly, do not contribute to the damaging effects of pesticides. Pull weeds by hand in easy-to-reach areas. When using chemicals, follow the directions carefully. Do not spray onto flowers and plants that are still blooming as the pesticide will just be allowed to thrive here and be mindful where the chemicals are landing.

If honeybees become extinct, the world could see economic and environmental repercussions that may be hard to escape. You can increase the longevity of these miracle workers and ensure your future continues to thrive.

Wildlife

How to Stop Hedgehog Decline

March 5, 2018
stop hedgehog decline

The world is a place in which danger lurks around every corner. Whether you are a human or an animal, there’s no denying that it can be a seriously dangerous and perilous place. Referring to animals, they are unfortunately on the decline all the time. As some groups of humans fight to save some animals, others start to decline in numbers. Whales and polar bears are the most popular you probably hear about. But, an animal that you may not know about that is currently in decline is the hedgehog.

Although the study in question refers to the U.K., it’s something that is happening all around the world. Hedgehogs are in decline, and it’s happening at a rapid rate. Starting out with three million of the cute critters that number dipped drastically once the results of the study got revealed. No longer are hedgehogs in the multiple millions. Today, that number dropped to a mere one million. Since the 1950s, the population had gone down from that healthy three million to the one million mark.

It’s a disturbing trend that needs to be examined more closely. Moreover, you may be wondering how you can help these little guys get back up to a healthy number. Luckily, there are ways in which you can contribute to stopping hedgehog decline in the world.

Easy Access to Your Garden

One of the reasons that hedgehogs are declining deals with the differences in urban and rural areas. You would think that rural areas would be an excellent place for creatures such as hedgehogs. And, while you aren’t entirely wrong with that line of thinking, the problem lies more in the intensive farming in these areas than the actual areas themselves.

So, one of the ways in which you can help the hedgehogs is to give them easy access to your garden. No, they won’t mess with your food in the garden. Instead, the hedgehog will end up linking this place to another habitat. In other words, it acts as a place the hedgehog can go if problems arise in the wilderness. It also gives the animal new foraging ground. By just keeping a small opening in your garden, you can stop hedgehog decline.

Leave Some of Your Garden “Wild”

This may go against the typical thinking of planting a garden. After all, aren’t gardens supposed to be tidy? Yes, the garden can still be neat even if you leave small areas unkempt. Utilize a corner of the garden and pile it with some leaves and logs. It acts as an invitation for the hedgehog and provides a cozy place to sleep.

Not only will the hedgehog have a sweet little spot to rest in, but the place will also attract invertebrates that hedgehogs eat. Again, don’t be afraid. Your garden will be exquisite, and the hedgehog shouldn’t get into trouble in it.

Make Your Garden Welcoming

If you go over to a friend’s house and they open their refrigerator to you, you are probably eager to return there soon. Likewise, hedgehogs will love if you leave out food and water for them. Depending on the landscape, the hedgehog may have a hard time finding food and water. Doing this will not only make your garden inviting, but you will also be helping them live by giving them sustenance through the food and water.

A couple points to note is that you need to give them water and not milk. Milk gives the little guys diarrhea, so be wary. It’s also nice to provide them with tinned dog or cat food or specialty hedgehog food. Either way, you will make their day.

Be Safe When Landscaping

This may be something you may not have even thought of, but it’s something that you need to be aware of when you are inviting hedgehogs to your garden. If you do extend that invitation, you need to realize that they could be there at any time of the day. Whether it’s midnight or three in the afternoon, the hedgehogs may wander out of the garden and into your yard.

If this happens, you need to be aware of them when mowing. You will suffer from a broken heart if you accidentally end up running over one of them. You mean well, so be sure to look before you mow.

Build a Small Shelter

Kudos to you if you leave small pieces of wood and leaves for the hedgehogs to cuddle in. If you want to go that extra mile, then you can also build a small hedgehog house. You don’t need many supplies, and it doesn’t need to be extra spacey. It only needs to be a small and compact shelter.

You can even put the food and leaves in there if you want!

Help the Hedgehogs

Their decline is important. It’s another species that may become extinct if help and support don’t materialize soon. Instead of shooing them out of your yard, show them some love and follow one or all the steps above that you see fit. You will help them survive and assist the environment as well by keeping a species alive!

Wildlife

Should Cloning Bring Back Extinct Species?

February 12, 2018
cloning bring back extinct species

Cloning has been a contentious topic since a team of Scottish scientists presented Dolly the cloned sheep to the scientific community on July 5, 1996. While we’ve been exploring the wonders of DNA and the various animal genomes, the question on many people’s minds is: Can we use cloning to resurrect extinct species, or to help preserve species that are on the brink of extinction? And more importantly, should we use these skills to meddle with Mother Nature?

Smilodons, Tasmanian Tigers and Mammoths, Oh My!

Jurassic Park, the 1990 science fiction novel by writer Michael Crichton, popularized the idea of cloning dinosaurs from DNA found in fossilized mosquitoes. While the science behind the book was sound, there’s one big problem — even if we managed to find a sample of dinosaur DNA in a fossilized mosquito, it wouldn’t be complete enough to clone a living, breathing dinosaur.

Mammals, on the other hand, are another story entirely. Not only did they live closer to our current time — relatively speaking — but many of them died out during the last ice age, meaning their bodies were likely frozen and much better preserved.

Other animals, such as the Tasmanian tiger, have been extinct for fewer than 100 years. Though there have apparently been credible sightings as recently as 1983, none of these sightings have ever been confirmed.

It could be entirely possible to clone extinct mammals by splicing the DNA harvested from these well-preserved corpses into the ovum of a similar animal that exists today — such as using an elephant ovum to clone a mammoth, or a rhino ovum to clone a wooly rhinoceros.

The biggest issue is whether or not we should. How would an animal that’s been extinct for thousands or millions of years react to suddenly being introduced to a world that is totally unfamiliar to them? If released into the wild, how would they affect the existing ecosystem?

Cloning for Conservation

Sheep aren’t the only animals that have been cloned in the last 20 years. Mice, fish, goats, cows, pigs and other domesticated animals have been the subject of cloning experiments. Most recently, a Shanghai-based team successfully cloned a pair of long-tailed macaques.

These successes are fantastic advances in the field of cloning science, but researchers have done much of this work in and for a lab. Could these clones, or clones of animals that are currently facing extinction, help improve conservation efforts around the globe?

Despite many breakthroughs, cloning is still a developing technology. Dolly the sheep died of a lung infection that is usually more common in sheep twice her age. While the researchers claim the cloning had nothing to do with her early demise, the source of her base genetic material was a 6-year-old sheep, so her telomeres — the part of DNA that indicates the age of a cell — were much shorter than they should have been for an animal of her age.

There is also the argument that cloning either extinct animals or animals that are currently facing extinction could hurt conservation efforts — primarily because of the Herculean efforts it would take to help these cloned animals adapt to life in the wild. Even if we don’t consider the cost of the cloning by itself, the effort of caring for these animals could easily absorb what little money is in the budget for conservation efforts.

If it doesn’t jeopardize current conservation efforts — if, say, one of the world’s many billionaires decides they want to fund an attempt to clone an extinct animal and keep it alive — it might be worth the effort, but currently, there are much better ways to spend that money.

What Could This Lead To?

Animal cloning and genetic manipulation have moved out of the realm of science fiction and now sit firmly in the realm of science fact — but what can these new advances lead to?

If accomplishments with non-human animals are any indication, the next step is to move into human cloning and genetic manipulation. China is already ahead of the game in this respect — they have used the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR on 86 different human patients, reportedly causing up to 15 deaths, though only half of those were a direct result of the gene therapy.

If science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that human cloning and gene editing can be extremely beneficial, but it also has the potential to become incredibly detrimental. Just look at the Eugenics Wars from Star Trek, where genetically manipulated super-humans went to war with “normal” humans because they perceived them to be inferior. Similarly, the Bioshock video game series created insane creatures called Splicers by offering them genetic manipulation from vending machines.

These are just a few samples of the arguably fictional consequences of cloning and genetic manipulation, but there are hundreds more. If cloning and animal genetic manipulation become mainstream, how long will it be before a trip to the doctor gets you more than a prescription for painkillers?

Should we be making an effort to clone extinct or nearly extinct species? Not until we’ve perfected the science and we have a better idea of how these species will affect our current ecosystem. We know we can — now, we need to start thinking about whether we should.

Wildlife

Why I Think There Should Be a Pangolin Protection Law

January 8, 2018
Pangolin Protection Law

Which animal has it worst in the world of animal trafficking? Elephants and rhinos get most of the attention, but the highest-trafficked mammal is the pangolin, which resides in Asia and Africa.

Looking at the pangolin, you’d think of a cross between a pinecone and a badger. This “walking artichoke” is a fiercely adorable and determined creature just as important as an elephant or rhino.

Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in both China and Vietnam, and their scales are also in high demand in many countries. As a result, greedy poachers can earn a high profit from taking pangolins from their wild habitat and butchering them.

Many people don’t know the pangolin exists, which creates a knowledge gap interfering with the protection of the pangolin population across the world. Experts and conservationists rush to educate the public and governments on the existence of pangolins. Meanwhile, the threat of extinction escalates to near certainty.

When dire conservation needs arise, only then does the international community take action. Experts now warn the pangolin will be extinct within our lifetimes if the illegal trade continues at the current pace. Will the international community step up to save pangolins, or ignore their conservation needs?

I believe there should be a law that protects the species from any form of poaching, hunting, trade or pet ownership across international borders. Cruelty toward wildlife pervades in society, to the endangerment of biodiversity.

The Trouble With Capturing Pangolin Poachers and Traders

Humans illegally poached and traded more than a million pangolins in the last decade — more than elephants and rhinos combined. Many countries enact laws that protect pangolins, but punish lawbreakers with light fines. Lack of enforcement of these laws continues to harm the pangolin population.

Traders shifted to the African pangolin population to source parts for purchases as Asian species dramatically decreased. The African species faced increasing pressure from regional and local demand for traditional uses and bush meat.

Scale number and size commonly help identify living and dead pangolin specimens when authorities conduct checks. Enforcement of anti-poaching and anti-trading laws grew difficult to conduct, due to the trading of the small non-living meat and scale parts. Anything governments can do to cultivate a culture of unsustainable illegal trade will benefit endangered pangolins. Poachers and traders will continue to find a way around capture, but the lawbreakers eventually get caught. However, these criminals appear willing to face jail time.

In traditional Chinese medicine, lore states a pangolin’s scales cure cancer. This year, the Chinese government seized 12 tons of pangolin scales in Shenzhen. This discovery set a new record for the largest seizure of endangered pangolin parts. The hoard represents the butchering of 20,000 to 30,000 individual pangolins.

Positive Moves for Pangolin Preservation

The international community has stepped up to help pangolins in recent years. The International Fund for Animal Welfare put forward a petition to classify the eight pangolin species as endangered per the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in July 2015.

Thankfully, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) determined to take action to prevent the abuse of this vulnerable species — under international law, commercially trading the pangolin is now banned. More than 180 nations in attendance at the CITES 17th Conference of the Parties in South Africa in September 2016 voted to move pangolins from Appendix II to Appendix I. The decision shifted the status of all eight pangolin species from “threatened” to “endangered” under the ESA.

The Indonesian government opposed raising protection for two pangolin species, expressing interest in farming the species along with Uganda and China. Is it more ethical to farm pangolins? Does this successfully detract business from the illegal poaching and trading of pangolins in the wild? Unfortunately, pangolins rarely survive life in captivity, much less being bred.

Indonesia’s disapproval triggered a vote on trade ban proposals for two of the four Asian species. One hundred and fourteen governments voted in favor of the proposals, with Indonesia against and five countries abstaining.

The responsibility to enforce the laws approved by CITES falls on individual countries. Some avoid enacting the mandated measures, or impose light punishments. International encouragement must push these governments to step up and do their parts.

Pangolins’ official classification as an endangered species provides a higher call to action for governments to protect them. The ESA listing raises the need and action for protection in international eyes. Lawbreakers continue to poach and trade pangolins. The call to action must shift to swift and final decisiveness as an international movement to save pangolins from extinction. International governments must enact a full-spectrum protection law that protects all pangolin species from any form of poaching, hunting, trade or pet ownership.

Cloning Provides a Possible Pangolin Conservation Solution

Failure to enact an international protection law on pangolins opens the quandary to alternative conservation ideas. Though cloning technology is still developing, is cloning to save biodiversity an ethical decision? Could cloning the pangolin species save the population from extinction?

Cloning provides one possible solution to pangolin conservation. Assuming all goes well with successfully cloning pangolins, the opportunity to conserve the species offers long-term hope for preserving and cultivating biodiversity.

However, the species may not survive in the wild, even if successfully cloned pangolins lived several years into adulthood. Created in captivity, what chances do cloned species have to survive, and where would they go? Consider tigers as an example: Each tiger needs 25,000 acres of their natural environment, yet farmers consume more than 93 percent of their habitat. The same quandary exists for pangolins if cloned.

Even if successful, cloning will not solve the problem of illegal pangolin poaching or trading. Our global society must directly address this issue by creating a pangolin protection law. I urge the international community to reject all form of poaching, hunting, trade or pet ownership by enacting a full-spectrum protection law.

Let no illegal act go unpunished or ignored. The time to protect the pangolin population is now.

Wildlife

5 Empowering Conservation Jobs

December 8, 2017
empowering conservation jobs

Getting a job in conservation can be hard. There’s a lot of competition, and you might struggle to find a place for yourself if you don’t have the right degree or background. But that doesn’t make it impossible. What most conservationists look for, more than experience or a degree, are passion and a willingness to learn.

Conservation jobs are challenging. They can involve a lot of unusual work and can include travel, manual labor and working in all kinds of elements. You might expect to go in for an eight-hour day and instead work 12, or get called in for an emergency in the middle of the night. You can’t do that kind of job if you don’t care about it. If you do have the passion for the work, however, empowering conservation jobs could be the most rewarding career you’ll ever have.

1. Zookeeper or Zoo Director

Some people consider zoos to be inhumane or not in an animal’s best interest. In some cases, they’re right. Small, roadside zoos and traveling circuses often do not provide decent living conditions for the animals. However, large, nationally known zoos do some of the best conservation work around — both for their residents and for their wild counterparts.

There’s an option for zoos and even some wildlife sanctuaries to earn accreditation from the American Zoological Association. This official recognition means, in addition to meeting state and federal animal welfare laws, the organization goes above and beyond to make sure their animals get the best care possible. Part of that accreditation requires the zoos to work on conservation, donating money and research to protecting wild animals and their habitats.

Zookeepers themselves don’t make a lucrative paycheck, but their work is anything but boring. They act as both animal keeper and educator, teaching the public all about the species they work with. This job does come with some risks since you have to move potentially dangerous animals around and make sure everyone is healthy, safe and clean. A zoo director earns significantly more, but they miss out on the direct animal interactions.

2. Marine Biologist

If you love the ocean and fieldwork and have a background in science, marine biology might be the job for you! The field is incredibly competitive, so you should plan to major in it as an undergrad because getting into graduate programs is so difficult. For this job, you’ll need both a degree and a scuba certification. Getting there might be a challenge, but you can spend part of your job on a boat, diving with sharks and dolphins! Plus, you can help set up marine conservation efforts known as Hope Spots, to help the ocean recover from over-fishing and pollution.

3. Park Ranger

A park ranger is an excellent job for someone who likes to be out and about. You shouldn’t be afraid of the weather, and you should be able to keep yourself in good shape! While this job does involve some paperwork, it’s a lot more outdoorsy than others. Most of their job is to patrol national parks, including such beautiful areas as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.

While these jobs are exciting, they can be dangerous. Park rangers are expected to participate in search and rescue missions, give tours and answer questions, while also enforcing rules and keeping people safe. This job might be in danger, though. As we move through both a politically and environmentally changing environment, some of our national parks are facing budget cuts. Some of those may eliminate jobs in the almost $6.5 billion industry, which would make proper patrols more difficult. Soon, all our national park rangers could be volunteers.

4. Environmental Educator

One of the best ways to protect the environment is to teach other people how to do it. That can take a lot of different forms, but having it be your full-time job is an option, too! In a position like this, you may work with adults on occasion, but you’d probably spend most of your time with kids, either at a camp or within a larger kids’ program, like the YMCA. This job is the pe

rfect blend of conservationist and teacher. It gives you a chance to take kids who have never seen the forest before through one in an immersion trip. You can change people’s lives with one experience.

5. Wildlife Forensic Scientist

Being a forensic scientist will net you a decent living and allow you to work hard on improving conservation efforts in your area. However, it doesn’t always involve as much field work as some of the others on this list. Forensics is an excellent option for someone who loves conservation but isn’t as much of an outdoorsy type. It does require an advanced scientific degree, though.

Empowering conservation jobs aren’t for everyone. But if it is a good fit for your skill set and passions, you’ll never find another job that’s half as exciting or fulfilling.

Wildlife

Why Do Animals Attack Humans in the Wild?

November 3, 2017
why do animals attack humans

Animals do attack people, but those instances are rare. The question that then arises is why do animals attack humans? Well, there are a number of reasons these attacks occur. The first reason is media sensationalism. Reports are made on every animal attack, no matter how minor, and made to seem as if they happen all the time.

The other reason is that we’re trying to protect and reintroduce species that were threatened or eliminated from areas. That often means we’re trying to reintroduce large carnivore populations to areas where people aren’t used to dealing with them. Animals will attack and for a variety of reasons. Knowing why can help you understand what not to do.

Human Ignorance

Much of the time when people get attacked, it’s our fault. Let’s face it, moose are cool and seeing one is something many people want to take a picture of. But there’s a big difference between taking a picture of a moose from far off and trying to get close enough to any wild animal for a selfie. Unfortunately, many of the people going out exploring don’t know that. They invade a wild animals space and get attacked as a result.

Mistaken Identity

This is the most common cause of shark attacks. The animal often thinks we’re food because we kind of look like it, and they can’t see us very well. Surfers are more likely to be attacked because the shape of a surfboard makes them look like a seal, which is the perfect meal for a variety of shark species.

The other issue is that some sharks come into shallower water than others. Bull sharks, especially, are known for preferring shallow, murky water and even venturing upstream into rivers. Occasionally, other sharks like the Great White will also take a trip inland, but none are known to do so as the bull shark does. When they attack, it’s usually because they either think we’re food, or they’re trying to see if we are.

Self-Preservation

Sometimes animals attack because they have to, or think they have to. There was a recent video that showed an opossum, North America’s only native marsupial, being beaten with a baseball bat by some students at a college. Humans have, traditionally, attacked wild animals first and taken no prisoners. This has left animals with a deep-seated fear of us, and an increased inclination to attack if they feel threatened or cornered.

Combating this particular effect is difficult. We can start by trying to change the way we think about wildlife and show more compassion toward them. Teaching people why animals are essential to our environment and how they experience pain and emotions similar to people can be a starting point to change some minds.

Confidence

Humans have effectively removed ourselves from the food chain. This is great in some ways. We don’t have to worry about being chased by wild animals on our commute to work, and we don’t usually have to go hunt down our prey for dinner after a long day crunching numbers. But in other ways, it makes us easy prey. We’re so unused to being hunted that when something does decide to have a go at us, we don’t usually put up a good fight. Various tiger attacks have shown that some animals learn to hunt humans.

We’re also large, as far as prey animals go. A 500-pound tiger can take us down with no problem, and we’ll provide a substantial meal for them. As we continue to meet up with wild animals, our sheltered lives can lead to trouble. We aren’t alert, we panic instead of fleeing or fighting, and we make for easy prey. In remote areas, being vigilant and moving in groups are our best defenses.

Expanding into New Territories

The human population is still growing. Developing nations have leveled off, and as China and India continue to develop a higher standard of living, their reproduction rates are also expected to stagnate. But there’s quite a bit of time before that happens, and those billions of new people need places to live.

As new homes are built, we can try to keep them in cities and already developed areas, but it’s not likely to happen everywhere. It’s inevitable that we will continue expanding and moving into new areas. As we do, we encounter new animals and increase chances of an attack. We have more laws in place now that protect some species, so we can’t simply kill populations because they’re in our way. We have to find new ways to deal with them, and that can mean we run a higher risk of getting attacked.

Wildlife will protect themselves, but they aren’t scary. It’s very rare that an animal learns to hunt people, and if they do, they are often killed as a result. Take care and be vigilant in the wilderness. You might save more lives than just your own.