Indigenous People Help Map Australia’s Mammal Populations

February 25th, 2013

Indigenous people have recently played a part in mapping Australia’s biodiversity. A group of scientists spent four years traveling to remote areas in Northern Australia, equipped with stuffed animals, skins, and photographs of 50 target mammals, and talked to the local people to find information.

Passing it on: transferring traditional knowledge between generations may be crucial for the survival of many of Australia’s most iconic mammal species. Photo By: Ian Morris.

  • The local people spoke about when and where they had seen the animals, any changes they had noticed in population sizes and their own changes in interactions with the land in regards to hunting and management.
  • It was discovered there was a decline in many mammal populations including the northern quoll, the brush-tailed phascogale, the black-footed tree-rat, the northern brown bandicoot and the common brush-tailed possum, all these species are found on the IUCN’s red list.
  • There was also a small increase in some species populations, such as the agile wallaby.
  • These findings back up a more recent study on wildlife in the area and shows local knowledge can be very useful. Ziembicki one of the scientists involved said the future is to “find ways to use science and Indigenous knowledge together” to help protect both biological and cultural diversity.

Want to learn more?  Read the full story here: Indigenous knowledge reveals widespread mammal decline in northern Australia

New National Park means good news for Gorillas

February 25th, 2013

After a huge discovery of western lowland gorillas (a sub species of the western gorilla) was found in central Africa, a new national park has been created.

The newly created Ntokou-Pikounda National Park spans some 4,572 square kilometers (1,765 square miles) and will safeguard western lowland gorillas as well as elephants and chimpanzees. Photo credit: Thomas Breuer/Wildlife Conservation Society-Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

  • Back in 2008 a staggering 125,000 western lowland gorillas were discovered living in the remote swamp forests in northern Republic of Congo, doubling their known population.
  • Since then the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park has been created, protecting 4,572 square kilometres (1,765 square miles) of land.
  • This new park will help to protect 15,000 gorillas, along with 950 chimpanzees and 800 elephants, and ‘is the most representative ecosystem in the country’ said Claude Massimba, the director of Wildlife and Protected Areas for the Republic of Congo.
  • Although poverty is high in the country and it has low levels of development, the country has still managed to protect 11 percent of its land.
  • This iconic species is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s red list which means it is at risk of global extinction. The main reasons for the decline in population are due to loss of habitat from deforestation, illegal poaching for bush meat, and disease.
  • This new park should help protect at least some the of gorilla population. Nevertheless, the reasons for its decline in the first place need to be addressed to secure the future of this animal.

Want to learn more?  Read the full story: Gorilla paradise: new park safeguards 15,000 western lowland gorillas

Is Half the Food Produced Globally Just Rubbish?

February 18th, 2013

With 1 billion people in the world going hungry it is crazy to discover that 30 -50% of all food produced will never be eaten. Nevertheless, a new report “Global food, waste not, want not” by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers finds just this.

  • In more developed countries like the US nearly half of the food bought is thrown away before it is ever used. Consumer and retail habits mean we over stock on food buying far more than we need, for instance bulk buying when there’s a special offer,.
  • It’s also shocking to discover fruit and vegetables are often discarded before they ever reach the shelf due to wrong size or appearance.
  • In developing countries where food poverty is highest, wastage is mainly due to poor techniques in harvesting, storage and transportation of food.
  • In the future as the population increases, food poverty is also likely to rise.
  • More needs to be done in the future to prevent food wastage. Aid and advice is needed to increase crop yield and better storage in developing countries. Policy changes are needed in developed countries to stop retailers unnecessarily throwing away perfectly good food. So next time you leave food on your plate spare a thought for those who are going hungry.

Want to learn more?  Read the full story here: Throwing our food away: Up to 50% of the food produced worldwide is wasted

Listen and You Might Discover Something New, Like an Owl

February 18th, 2013

A new species of owl has been discovered on the island of Lombok, Indonesian. The species that was falsely identified for many years now turns out to be a new one, and only discovered by its unusual call.

A new species of owl: Rinjani scops owl. Photo by: Philippe Verbelen.

  • For over 100 years it was believed that a population of owl on the island was the Moluccan scops owl (Otus magicus). However, on a recent expedition to the island two scientists simultaneously discovered it was a different and new species by its unique whistling call.
  • It was previously mistakenly because of similarities in their plumage (feathers).
  • Owls use sounds to identify their own species and help find a mate because they are active during the night. These sounds are not learned so researches believe that it is “most likely a genetic basis”.
  • The scientist overheard the unusual call and investigated further. Additional comparisons of sound recordings and museum specimens have confirmed the new species and has been named Rinjani scops owl (Otus jolandae) and is Lombok Islands first endemic (meaning that species is found only on this one Island) bird species.
  • In the future scientists hope to “determine the exact distribution, elevational range and population density” and whether this new species is at risk from deforestation on the Island.

Want to learn more?  Read the full story here: Unique song reveals new owl species in Indonesia

China responsible for nearly half of global coal consumption

February 5th, 2013

Do you know what energy is?  Energy is what powers nearly everything in your house through the form of electricity.  Our main source of electricity comes from burning coal, but burning coal releases a huge amount of pollution into the air.  This pollution is bad for not only the environment, but it is unhealthy for people as well.

Chart courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics.

  •  The U.S. Energy Administration has recently put out a chart showing that China is responsible for 46.9 percent (almost half) of all the world’s coal consumption.
  • China consumed about 3.8 billion tons of coal in 2011 alone!
  • Coal use can lead to a number of bad issues such as toxic air, water pollution, and even climate change.
  • Even so, burning coal is still the source of one third of all greenhouse gas emissions on the planet!  Currently there is no plan in place to cut these emissions in China, or in the U.S. for that matter.
  • Scientists say that if we keep on this path we are going, catastrophic climate change is in our future.

Read the full story here: China responsible for 46 percent of global coal consumption

Great News for Tapirs

February 5th, 2013

Scientists have recently discovered some amazing news for the lowland tapirs!  Throughout the Bolivian and Peruvian Amazon rainforest, it is thought that over 14,000 lowland tapirs are thriving.

Bird uses tapir for landing pad in the Madidi-Tambopata Landscape. Photo by: Mileniusz Spanowics/WCS.

  • Researchers traveled to Bolivia and Peru to estimate the amount of lowland tapirs currently in the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Conservation Program.
  • These researchers came up with their number through use of camera traps, thousands of distribution records, and interviews.
  • Lowland, or Brazilian, tapirs are currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.  Since these survey results came back with estimate of 14,500 individuals or more, it shows how important this area is as a major stronghold for the species!
  • The major threats to the animals are habitat loss, poaching, bushmeat hunting, and competition with livestock.  In order to protect these interesting animals, land needs to be set aside and protected for them.
  • Tapirs are not only one of the most interesting creatures of South America, they are also the largest!  They have survived the extinction that took out most of South America’s other large species like the giant ground sloths and smilodons, a type of saber toothed cat.
  • Since it takes tapirs such a long time to produce offspring, they are very susceptible to extinction.  This is why it is our job to make sure they have a safe habitat to live in and keep them protected!

Read the full story here: Photos: Scientists discover tapir bonanza in the Amazon