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.
Cover Photo by Jurgen Ott
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:
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!
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.
The Tulsa Zoo announced the hatching of 25 endangered Aldabra tortoises. Since they first started this particular conservation program, the zoo has successfully hatched 161 Aldabra tortoises.
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.
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.
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.
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.’