by Erica Santana
| 13th May 2012
previous post: Global Climate Change = Extreme Weather Worldwidenext post: Manta Rays Connected to Bird Droppings!
At the University of Copenhagen (in Denmark), a geneticist named Tom Gilbert has discovered a new method for detecting the presence of rare animals in remote locations. Blood from wild-caught leeches contains a special genetic signature that tells him what the leeches have been feeding on.
- Leeches are parasites; they eat the blood of large animals (usually mammals). When a leech eats a blood meal, the blood is stored in a special food storage organ called a crop.
- Scientists are able to harvest blood from the crops of leeches and run genetic tests on the blood to tell what animals the leech has been feeding on.
- In a pilot (test) experiment, Dr. Gilbert tested the blood of 25 leeches that he gathered from a remote forest in Vietnam. He found that the leeches fed on at least 4 different rare mammals.
- Some early experiments have shown scientists that using leeches can be a successful method for detecting rare animals in the wild, especially in areas that are difficult to conduct field work.
- There are some limits as to how reliable testing leeches can be and the tests may not be able to answer all the questions scientists want to have the answers to.
- More leech studies in different areas will be able to help scientists figure out creative ways to use leeches as indicators of rare wildlife.
A tiger leech in Borneo
Want to read more? Click here to see the full story: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0430-hance-leeches-DNA.html
by Erica Santana
| 7th May 2012
previous post: Brazil is Trying to Put a Stop to Deforestation…for Goodnext post: Leeches are Tattletales…How Scientists are Using Leech Feeding Habits to Tell us about Rare Wildlife
On May 5th 2012, 350.org (a climate change awareness organization) organized a planet-wide movement to show people (government, media, the public) how climate change is causing patterns of extreme weather conditions around the world.
- 1000 individual events were held around the world in more than half the Earth’s countries to showcase the issue.
- Supporters of 350.org are trying to show the citizens of the Earth how much harm we are doing to the planet.
- Patterns of extreme weather are increasing around the globe. Countries are experiencing the worst floods, droughts, and storms in hundreds of years.
- Severe weather events around the globe are causing death, destruction, and billions of dollars’ worth of damage.
- Since the 20th century, the temperature of the Earth has increased. This is caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which trap heat and warm the Earth.
- Major changes in the Earth’s landscape include: melting of sea ice, increase in sea level, and melting of glaciers.
- Major changes in climate patterns include: extremely heavy rainfall (causing flooding), extreme drought (causing wildland fires), increased violent storms, and increasing temperatures.
- Extreme weather is causing devastation to human populations and needs to be halted to save the Earth!
Youth in Haiti participating in 350.orgs Connect the Dots Global Climate Change Event
Read more at: Thousands worldwide to “connect the dots” between climate change and extreme weather this weekend
by Erica Santana
| 10th April 2012
previous post: Native Peruvian Communities Coming Together to Save their Environment and Culturenext post: Global Climate Change = Extreme Weather Worldwide
Pará is a state in Brazil. It is about the size of California and is covered in rainforest.
- Pará has lost more rainforest in the past 15 years than any other state in the world. But the situation is changing. Simao (“Simon” in Portuguese) Jatene, the governor has committed to stopping deforestation by 2020.
- Now other states in Brazil and other countries in the world are looking to Pará as an example of how they can reduce deforestation.
- Governor Jatene says he is committed to ending deforestation because it’s something the public wants.
- People understand that it is in their best interest to stop deforestation, the issue at hand is to figure out the best way to do it.
- The governor believes that the best way to stop deforestation is to build the ability of small, local communities to manage their land and make responsible choices that are good for the environment. He believes that heavy regulation from the government is not the answer. The work and support has to come from the people themselves.
- Jatene believes that giving the responsibility to local groups gives them an opportunity to make things work for their specific region and set of environmental conditions.
- A program was formed, the CAR, which encourages land owners to register their properties and land activities. This makes it possible for land and property owners to be accounted for, to make a structured system of land management, and to better manage and account for the buying and selling of agricultural products.
- In addition to registering their land, land owners must also make a plan for re-foresting land that has been illegally cleared. Land owners who do not follow these rules are punished.
- People can benefit from being part of the CAR by gaining access to resources, getting help with building infrastructure, and improving the condition of roads so producers can get their goods to market.
- The governor also believes that there needs to be an increase in education and training for local people for jobs and industries that are not related to deforestation.
- Other countries are seeing Pará’s success and using it as a model to change their deforestation practices.
- People have realized the importance of healthy forests. They know that there are many things we can get from forests besides trees like clean air and water, fruit, and medicinal plants.
- They are depending on local governments for resources and education to support an end to deforestation in Brazil.
Governor Jatene at a public rally
Read more at: Brazil can eliminate deforestation by 2020, says governor of giant Amazon state
by Erica Santana
| 26th March 2012
previous post: Scientists Need more Data to Save the Great Apes!next post: Brazil is Trying to Put a Stop to Deforestation…for Good
- Back in the 1970’s a petrol company (Pluspetrol) set up petroleum operations near the Rio Corrientes (in the Peruvian Amazon) that were very close to some tribal villages; the machinery was not built very well and the villages suffered 2 large oil spills that contaminated the water, causing the people to suffer poisoning and serious health problems.
- An organization called FECONACO (Federation of Native Communities of Rio Corrientes) was formed to report to the government about oil spills and other environmental problems in the region. The organization was made up of native people who started working to stop the damage Pluspetrol was causing.
- After the spills, and additional waste dumping by Pluspetrol, the natives of FECONACO banded together and fought to stop the company’s operations.
- Now the organization has grown and is made up of specially-trained environmental monitors who are studying the pollution caused by Pluspetrol.
- Other tribes in jungle communities have also been banding together to conserve and manage their natural resources.
- A group called Curuinsi was formed of students instructed by elders of native communities teaching about Peruvian culture, jungle knowledge, herbal medicines, and other sacred and cultural traditions and customs.
- Curuinsi is working to spread the knowledge of native culture to native young people as well as other people (like foreigners) who are interested in learning. In addition to teaching people about traditional ways, they are working to record the information and spread it through the internet to make it accessible for others.
- FECONACO and Curuinsi are two examples of efforts made by native Peruvian people stop the negative influences of Western development on their land.
- Local people are coming together to try to stop all the problems facing the Peruvian jungle (deforestation, pollution, etc.).
- Each community has formed their own special way of dealing with issues and responding to threats to their habitat.
- These communities need the help and support of the government to stop loggers and developers from damaging their jungle home.
Want to learn more? Visit: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0326-leflufy_indigenousperu_commentary.html
by Erica Santana
| 21st March 2012
previous post: Where have all the Critters Gone: the Sad Reality of ‘Empty Forest Syndrome’next post: Native Peruvian Communities Coming Together to Save their Environment and Culture
- There are 6 species of great apes currently living: bonobos, chimpanzees, 2 species of gorillas, and 2 species of orangutans…all of them are critically endangered
- Poor and incomplete data (scientific information) makes predicting the number of great apes left in the wild almost impossible
- The most serious threats to great ape populations are deforestation and habitat destruction, hunting, and disease
- A large-scale study was conducted by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology (a place that studies apes and evolution) on great ape conservation efforts in Africa over the past 20 years to see if conservation efforts have been effective
- Through the study, scientists were able to identify effective strategies for ape conservation and identify problems and obstacles that prevent work from being successful
- Ape conservation is difficult because of political problems in the countries where they live, lack of funding and support, and lack of law enforcement and habitat protection
- Scientists believe that the best strategy for saving the great apes is to support long-term projects, continuing to work in areas where ape conservation work has already been done, and to increasing the amount of enforcement for laws and regulations protecting apes and their habitat
- More financial support for conservation organizations is needed for conservation efforts to be successful
- People can help by donating to conservation organizations, supporting conservation efforts, and spreading the word about why conservation is so important!
Want to learn more? Visit: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0312-schulze_interview_greatapes.html
by Erica Santana
| 15th March 2012
previous post: Will Big Companies Tell the Truth about Their Impact on the Environment?next post: Scientists Need more Data to Save the Great Apes!
- Unsustainable and illegal hunting is reducing populations of wildlife at alarming rates. This is particularly a problem in Africa and Asia, and is a growing concern in the Amazon region.
- Removing wildlife from the wild reduces biodiversity and causes harmful changes in ecosystems- disrupting food webs, altering community interactions among plants and animals, and potentially changing the vegetative structure of forests.
- 18% of forests in the world are ‘protected’. Conservationists believe this to be a great success. Unfortunately, just because something is labeled as being protected doesn’t mean that it actually is.
- Even though forests are labeled as being protected, illegal hunting takes place and there is not enough support or enforcement to make sure that wildlife is safe from poachers.
- So much wildlife is being hunted at such a rapid rate that some forests are devoid of animals. In other words, the trees are there, but the animals aren’t.
- Rural communities depend on bushmeat as a source of protein because they do not have access to domesticated sources of meat. The hunting problem is compounded because in addition to hunting the meat for consumption, they also sell the meat to earn an income.
- Forest conservation faces many problems, mostly due to a lack of funding and support. These problems include: limited political support, poor infrastructure, overstretched education systems, inefficient legal systems, and corruption.
- It is difficult to discourage local people from hunting because they feel it is their right to do so. In many communities, hunting is traditional, having been practiced for generations.
- Conservationists are going to have to come up with creative solutions to combat these problems.
A cuscus being sold as meat in an Indonesian market
Want to learn more? Visit: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0208-hance_emptyforestsyndrome.html
by Erica Santana
| 15th March 2012
previous post: Toy airplane used to explore rainforestnext post: Where have all the Critters Gone: the Sad Reality of ‘Empty Forest Syndrome’
- A new initiative called the Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) asks big companies to reveal their impacts on the environment in terms of 5 raw materials commonly produced from forest areas: soy, palm oil, timber and pulp, cattle, and biofuels.
- Some companies have agreed to the request, but others have refused. Out of 357 invitations to participate, less than a quarter of companies accepted.
- Consumers want to know that the companies they buy from are doing their best to operate without destroying the environment.
- Supporters of the FFD say that commercial industries need to realize how important it is to protect forests because of all the ecosystem services they provide. Ecosystem services include benefits like maintaining rainfall, protecting against floods and droughts, and storing carbon that would otherwise be in the atmosphere.
- In addition to reporting, the FFD works with companies on ways to reduce their impacts, and showcases companies who are successful in doing so.
- Some companies supporting the initiative are: Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, British Airways, Nike, and Greenenergy International.
- Some companies who declined to participate: Starbucks, McDonalds, Target, Time Warner, Coca Cola, Amazon, and General Mills.
Want to learn more? Visit: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0207-hance_ffdreport.html