Dalio Says Bonds Face Biggest Bear Market in Almost 40 Years

Billionaire hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio said that the bond market has slipped into a bear phase and warned that a rise in yields could spark the biggest crisis for fixed-income investors in almost 40 years.

“A 1 percent rise in bond yields will produce the largest bear market in bonds that we have seen since 1980 to 1981,” Bridgewater Associates founder Dalio said in a Bloomberg TV interview in Davos on Wednesday. We’re in a bear market, he said.

A Treasury selloff extended following Dalio’s comments, pushing 10-year yields through 2.65 percent, near the highest since mid-2014.

Dalio predicted that the Federal Reserve will tighten monetary policy faster than they have signaled, and said that economic growth is in the late stage of the cycle but could continue to improve for another two years. The current economic environment is good for stocks but bad for bond investors, said Dalio, who’s chairman of Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund.

“It feels stupid to own cash in this kind of environment. It’s going to be great for earnings and great for stimulation of growth,” he said.

That spurt will last for about 18 months and the central bank will then feel like it has to tighten monetary policy faster than the discounted yield curve, he said. That will be a negative for asset prices, he said.

Demand for bonds will fall as central bankers reduce monetary stimulus, but larger deficits mean that governments will need to sell more of the securities to raise money, Dalio said. That supply-demand imbalance will concern the central bankers, he said.

Bridgewater manages about $160 billion, according to its website.

    Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/

    Mozambique: 6,000 animals to rewild park is part-funded by trophy hunting

    Donation of animals by Zimbabwe wildlife conservancy to rewild war-torn park could not have happened without big-spending hunters

    Call it Noahs Ark on lorries. Dozens of trucks rolled over the Zimbabwe savanna carrying elephants, giraffe, African buffalo, zebras, and numerous other large iconic mammals. Driving more than 600km of dusty roadway, the trucks will deliver their wild loads to a new home: Zinave national park in Mozambique. The animals are a donation from Mozambiques Sango Wildlife Conservancy a gift that the owner, Wilfried Pabst, says would not be possible without funds from controversial trophy hunting.

    In remote places and countries with a weak tourism industry and a high unemployment rate, it is very difficult or almost impossible to run a conservancy like Sango without income from sustainable utilisation, Pabst said.

    Sustainable utilisation means the use of wildlife for hunting or trophy hunting. Pabst, who purchased Sango in 1993 and opened its doors 10 years later, says that trophy hunting provides approximately 60% of the revenue required to keep Sango running every year. Another 30% comes out of the German businessmans own pockets.

    While Sango does welcome non-hunting tourists, Pabst says it is not possible to attract enough in this remote area to equal the revenue made by trophy hunters willing to travel to pay tens of thousands of dollars to shoot iconic megafauna, includingNile crocodiles, elephants and lions.

    Sango to Zinave

    Over the next six years, Pabst will donate 6,000 large mammals from Sango to Zinave as part of the Peace Park Foundations programme to rewild a vast tract of land in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier conservation area (TFCA).

    Mozambiques 15-year-long civil war left its once world-renowned parks almost empty of any animal large enough to shoot and eat, but numerous efforts today are working to bring back animals to Mozambique, often transporting them from either neighboring South Africa or Zimbabwe.

    But, Masha Kalinina, a trade policy specialist with the Humane Society International, said the plan to transport thousands of animals across Zimbabwe to Mozambique was misguided and potentially deadly for individual animals. Indeed, such transports are not without risk: an elephant died last year en route to Zinave from South Africa.

    Mozambique continues to have one of the highest rates of poaching in southern Africa, she said. Mozambique lost nearly half of its elephants to poachers in five years.

    Now both South Africa and Zimbabwe are transporting their own animals to this park just so that they may die at the hands of either trophy hunters or poachers. Is that what we are calling conservation? Kalinina asked.

    Giraffe
    Giraffe at Sango. Photograph: Eric De Witt/Sango Wildlife Conservancy

    Still, there is little chance of rewilding Zinave without bringing animals overland. A similar transportation project was done for Mozambiques Gorongosa national park though nowhere near this scale and it succeeded in bringing new species that had been lost during the war. While poaching is particularly high in parts of Mozambique, it is also a pressing concern in Zimbabwe and most other countries few African mammals live beyond the cloud of the global poaching crisis.

    Pabst say he is not making any revenue from the donation of 6,000 mammals but views it as a part of Sangos commitment to wildlife conservation in Africa. The funding for transporting the animals, which includes a small army of veterinarians, rangers, ecologist, truck drivers and helicopter pilots, is coming from the Peace Park Foundation.

    Sango is at the center of Zimbabwes Sav Valley conservancy, in remote eastern Zimbabwe. A few decades ago, Sav Valley nearly the size of Cornwall was overrun by cattle. Now, it is bustling with herds of iconic African species, including 160 rhinos that require constant guarding against poachers.

    Pabsts Sango covers about 17% of Sav Valley and is run under whats known as a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements (BIPPA), which allows Pabst to manage the conservancy privately via permission from the Zimbabwe government, including setting quotas for trophy hunters.

    Kalinina contends that Sav Valley Conservancy is nothing more than a profit-driven wildlife ranch stocked with wild animals. She says they are not doing this for conservation but to sell animals to globetrotting trophy hunters.

    Blood sport or conservation?

    Trophy hunting has been controversial for decades, but the issue took on a new global awareness last year after the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe went viral. Despite the fact that around 600 lions are killed yearly in Africa by trophy hunters, something about this particular story and this lion captured the publics attention.

    Kalinina said despite the attempt by hunting groups to greenwash it, trophy hunting is unethical, cruel, a threat to non-consumptive tourism like wildlife watching, offers no long-term conservation benefits, and provides minimal economic and employment value.

    For his part, Pabst insists that Sango couldnt survive without trophy hunting. He said if trophy hunting were suddenly outlawed in Zimbabwe as some organisations may wish his operation would run out of money within months and most of the 200,000 animals will be poached probably within one year.

    While trophy hunters, by definition, shoot to bring a trophy home, the meat of the animal killed is often eaten as well. In Africa, the meat is usually shared with local communities. Although there are some animals you typically dont eat: lions, leopards and rhino. Elephants are only eaten in some places.

    The only two large animals that are not hunted in Sango are African wild dogs and rhinos, because these endangered species are protected in the country.

    We exclude additional species from hunting as the situation dictates, Pabst added.

    Sango keeps a close track of its animals. Depending on the species, Sango allows hunting of approximately between 0.2-1% of an animals total population annually.

    Sustainable [hunting] means that the off take will neither hinder the growth, nor allow any given species to fall below ecologically sustainable numbers, Pabst explained. This is a highly complex issue and very difficult to understand for a non-conservationist operating in Africa.

    In total, Pabst says around 200 animals are hunted in Sango annually or one 10th of 1% of the parks estimated 200,000 mammals.

    These regulations and their strict control at Sango is the key factor of successful management through sustainable use which now [allows] us to donate 6,000 of our animals to Zinave, he said.

    The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), a global not-for-profit organisation that advocates for conservation and hunting, says that hunting tourism is an important tool to combat one of the biggest threats to African wildlife: poaching.

    Zebras
    Zebras at Sango. Photograph: Sango Wildlife Conservancy

    They argue that so long as local communities benefit in some way from hunting funds through jobs, payouts, or developing projects they are far less likely to poach wildlife such as elephants and lions that they view as dangerous or destructive to their livelihood.

    What would these local people [have] turned to in absence of alternative employment? Poaching! a spokesperson for CIC wrote in an email. As strange as it sounds, yes, the hunting of a few individual animals leads to the conservation of the species, killing of an animal saves the species.

    Pabst say Sango is living proof that trophy hunting can support broad conservation goals.

    But Kalinina contends that trophy hunters only support conservation to buy themselves public acceptance.

    One wonders, take away the thrill of the kill … would trophy hunters still invest in protecting our planets last remaining wildlife?

    Conflicting evidence

    Hunting proponents, however, contend that its animal rights activists who dont realise their actions are actually hurting conservation not helping it.

    Kenyas wildlife areas have decreased by almost 80% since the 1977 hunting ban was imposed, while at the same time being home to some 200 NGOs trying unsuccessfully to repair the damage done, Probst said.

    Hunting advocates commonly point to Kenya as an example of what happens when hunting is banned: they say habitat shrinks, populations decline, animals vanish because the economic incentive for local communities and the government to keep alive evaporates eco-tourism just doesnt pay enough to keep animals alive and secure habitat, according to them.

    The reality, though, is complicated.

    Black
    A black rhinoceros with young one, shortly before sunset, at Sweetwaters in Kenya. The countrys wildlife population has plummeted over the last four decades, but so have many nations in Africa. Photograph: Angelika/Getty Images

    Kenya is hardly the only African nation to see a catastrophic decline in wildlife: a grim study in 2010 found that Africas big mammals had declined on average by 59% over the last 40 years and this was inside protected areas.

    The reasons were complex according to scientists: habitat loss due to expanding agriculture and poaching for bushmeat or to feed the illegal wildlife trade, but underlying all of this: explosive human population growth.

    Kenya, like most African countries, has seen human population rise at a shocking rate in the past 40 years. In 1977, Kenya had 14.5 million people; today it has more than 48 million people. This trend is similar across Sub-Saharan Africa, whose population has basically tripled since 1977, hitting a billion people in 2015. This rise in human populations has placed crushing pressure on the continents wildlife.

    Parks in southern Africa fared best in 2010 study, but the researchers noted that this region also had lower population densities and spent more money on its parks than its neighbours. The worst hit areas were West and Central African countries a staggering 85% decline in wildlife including a number of nations which allow trophy hunting.

    So, while hunting policy undoubtedly plays a role in animal populations, whether for the positive or negative its likely a more minor one than either critics or advocates claim.

    Like so many things: the devil is in the details. Hunting proponents argue that trophy hunting is essential to conservation efforts but this argument only holds water if money actually makes its way to local communities or helps secure and manage habitat. Levies on trophy hunting may be important revenue for governments, but will only aid species if that money is then funneled back into conservation efforts and protected area management something that is difficult to measure in many countries given high levels of corruption and other pressing priorities.

    A US congressional report by democrats on the committee on natural resources concluded, unsurprisingly, that trophy hunting is managed well in some areas and poorly in others.

    In many cases, the laws, institutions, and capacity necessary to make trophy hunting benefit conservation are lacking, the report continues.

    A 2009 report by the IUCN an organisation that supports trophy hunting found similar mixed results. Though its take away message was more damning: hunting does not … play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance. The report criticised the sector for supporting few jobs, bringing little money to locals, and benefiting a few at the expense of the many.

    Still, one country that seems to have found a positive way to link conservation with trophy hunting is Namibia. Here, local communities have been given local control over communal land giving them an economic incentive to manage animal populations both for tourism and trophy hunting. Money goes directly to the local families who live with the animals. Now, Namibia is one of the few places in Africa where animal populations are on the rise.

    Both sides of the argument like to claim they have science and facts on their side, but things are never so simple.

    Research on the subject tends to assert that trophy hunting might support conservation but the key here is might. It depends on how well the programme is run and who is really benefiting. Scientists are concerned not only by some programmes that allow too many animals to be killed, but also the evolutionary consequences of trophy hunters often targeting the biggest and most impressive animals.

    At the same time, many of the worlds major conservation groups including WWF, the Nature Conservancy, and the IUCN continue to support trophy hunting, in part because they view the hunting community as a key ally in advancing conservation.

    As the debate simmers, one country to keep an eye on is Botswana. Botswana announced a ban on hunting in 2014, but it has come with costs. The plan included no exemption for Botswanas indigenous populations, such as the San People, that have depended on game meat for millennia. Many have been arrested and beaten simply for hunting on their ancestral land (the government has announced it is rethinking this policy). Some villages have reportedly seen job declines due to lost revenue in trophy hunting. At the same time, Botswana maintains some of the strongest populations of African wildlife on the continent and is hugely popular with tourists.

    Kalinina pointed to Great Plain Conservation, an initiative run by National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, as an example of how to move beyond trophy hunting. Great Plains often purchases private hunting concessions to turn them into luxury photo-only tourism areas. Renowned lion experts, the Jouberts have long been critical of trophy hunting.

    While killing one lion may generate $15,000-$30,000, the value of that animal to photographic tourism may be as much as $2m during the lions lifetime, said Kalinina.

    But you first have to get tourists and for Pabst, thats a problem in remote, lesser visited Zimbabwe.

    Goals

    Peoples views of animals are undergoing a transformation. As a society, we are finally recognising that the worlds non-human species are not the automatons that Rene Descartes insisted they were a view that tainted animal science for centuries. Instead, we now know that other animals experience complex emotions, experience suffering and many show surprising levels of intelligence (the number of animals known to use tools rises every year).

    In this debate, animal rights groups have moral outrage and increasingly, it seems, the public on their side. There havent been a lot of polls taken on the issue of trophy hunting, but a poll in 2015 found that 84% of Albertans and 91% of British Canadians, including those living in rural areas, opposed trophy hunting. Try to think of another issue in which 80-90% of people polled would agree?

    Another poll found that 62% of Americans believe big-game sport hunting should be outlawed, including 32% of American hunters.

    It may be that both trophy hunters and animal rights activists have something in common, though. Conservation is an important, but largely secondary, concern to both.

    Workers
    Workers prepare animal skins in front of animal trophys at the taxidermy studio in Pretoria. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

    Many animal rights activists see establishing the rights of animals as the ultimate goal. If conservation suffers from doing this (due to a plunge in funding), it may be a risk that many activists see as worth taking.

    On the other hand, many trophy hunters view the experience of the hunt as paramount. If the hunt promotes conservation all the better, but it may not be the primary goal when looking at an outfitter or pulling the trigger.

    Still, if the goal really is conservation, it comes down to money. If animal rights groups want to eliminate trophy hunting in Africa without potentially undercutting some vital conservation efforts they have to find alternative revenue streams that can make up for the gap, especially in places like remote Zimbabwe.

    On the other hand, if trophy hunters want to keep shooting they need to convince the world their hobby isnt a self-indulgent blood sport. They need to make sure hunting concessions are actually benefiting local people and the long-term survival of local species. They need to prove they are conservation-focused by demanding much better from the industry.

    Conservation is a great challenge that can only be achieved if we perceive Africa differently, Pabst said.

    Indeed, Africa is the only continent that didnt see a widespread extinction of its megafauna in the last 10,000 years as such it is a time capsule of a truly lost world, a place of giants. But its vanishing. Throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa, habitat loss represents one, if not, the biggest threats to species. But here is Zinave national park: a habitat the size of Rhode Island thats just waiting for animals to return.

    Kenyan
    Kenyan wildlife rangers stand near the carcass of an elephant, in Tsavo East, Kenya. Poaching is one of the biggest threats to animals worldwide. Photograph: Khalil Senosi/AP

    And over the next eight weeks, Pabst in one of the biggest overland transports of African animals yet will be sending 900 impalas, 300 wildebeests, 200 zebras, African buffalo, and eland antelopes, 100 giraffes, and 50 kudus. Even 50 African elephants will be making their way to Zinave. If all goes according to plan: Zinave will be wild and full again.

    And such stories just prove: nothing in conservation is black and white. Well, except the zebras.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Snake on a plane: reptile panics passengers on Mexico City flight

    Plane gets priority landing after large serpent appears on ceiling of the cabin before dropping to the floor

    Passengers on a commercial flight in Mexico were given a start when a serpent appeared in the cabin in a scene straight out of the Hollywood thriller Snakes on a Plane.

    The green reptile emerged suddenly on an Aeromexico flight from Torreon in the countrys north to Mexico City on Sunday, slithering out from behind an overhead luggage compartment.

    Mobile phone video shot by passenger Indalecio Medina showed it wriggling briefly as if trapped before partially dropping down into the cabin.

    I was reading a magazine and the passenger next to me saw it and, Oh my word! Medina said on Monday. He estimated it was more than 3ft (about 1m) in length.

    Passengers hastily unbuckled themselves to get clear of the snake before it dropped to the floor, where people trapped it between rows 5 and 6 with blankets provided by a flight attendant, Medina said.

    It was a frightening situation … but people remained calm because it didnt get out of that space and nobody became hysterical, Medina said. Some people got up to see what kind of reptile it was, but nobody got carried away.

    After the pilot radioed ahead, the plane was given priority landing in Mexico City and touched down 10 minutes later. Passengers exited out the rear, and animal control workers came on board to take the stowaway into custody.

    Aeromexico said in a statement that it was investigating how the snake got into the cabin and would take measures to keep such an incident from happening again.

    Snakes on a Plane was a 2006 action movie that was about exactly what the title suggests. It is treasured by fans for its campy premise and star Samuel L Jacksons profanity-laced declaration of war on the CGI-generated serpents.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    ‘Catastrophe’ as France’s bird population collapses due to pesticides

    Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, because insects they feed on have disappeared

    Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said.

    Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France.

    The situation is catastrophic, said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at Frances National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies.

    Our countryside is in the process of becoming a veritable desert, he said in a communique released by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which also contributed to the findings.

    The common white throat, the ortolan bunting, the Eurasian skylark and other once-ubiquitous species have all fallen off by at least a third, according a detailed, annual census initiated at the start of the century.

    A migratory song bird, the meadow pipit, has declined by nearly 70%.

    The museum described the pace and extent of the wipe-out as a level approaching an ecological catastrophe.

    The primary culprit, researchers speculate, is the intensive use of pesticides on vast tracts of monoculture crops, especially wheat and corn.

    The problem is not that birds are being poisoned, but that the insects on which they depend for food have disappeared.

    There are hardly any insects left, thats the number one problem, said Vincent Bretagnolle, a CNRS ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize.

    Recent research, he noted, has uncovered similar trends across Europe, estimating that flying insects have declined by 80%, and bird populations has dropped by more than 400m in 30 years.

    Despite a government plan to cut pesticide use in half by 2020, sales in France have climbed steadily, reaching more than 75,000 tonnes of active ingredient in 2014, according to European Union figures.

    What is really alarming, is that all the birds in an agricultural setting are declining at the same speed, even generalist birds, which also thrive in other settings such as wooded areas, said Bretagnolle.

    That shows that the overall quality of the agricultural eco-system is deteriorating.

    Figures from the national survey which relies on a network of hundreds of volunteer ornithologists indicate the die-off gathered pace in 2016 and 2017.

    Drivers of the drop in bird populations extend beyond the depletion of their main food source, the scientists said.

    Shrinking woodlands, the absence of the once common practice of letting fields lie fallow and especially rapidly expanding expanses of mono-crops have each played a role.

    If the situation is not yet irreversible, all the actors in the agriculture sector must work together to change their practices, Fontaine said.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    America’s horrifying new plan for animals: highspeed slaughterhouses | Scott David

    There is still time to stop an imminent program that would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds, while reducing the number of trained government inspectors

    If you care about animal welfare or food safety, this news will concern you: the nationwide expansion of a risky US Department of Agriculture (USDA) high-speed slaughter program is imminent. But the good news is there is still time to stop it.

    The USDA is now accepting public comments on its proposed rule that it euphemistically dubbed the Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection. As a former undercover investigator who worked inside a pig slaughterhouse operating under the pilot project that was, at the time, called HIMP, Ive seen firsthand the hazardous and cruel nature of this controversial program and can say with certainty that its anything but modern.

    This expanded program, formally called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds, while reducing the number of trained government inspectors on the lines. In other words, the responsibility of food safety oversight is largely shifted into the hands of slaughter plant employees. Combine this with faster speeds on the kill floor and the result is problems that can and do go unnoticed.

    Sign up for the US opinion email

    For nearly six months, I worked undercover inside Quality Pork Processors (QPP), no typical pig slaughterhouse. An exclusive Hormel Foods supplier, QPP kills about 1,300 pigs every hour operating under the high-speed pilot program. Thats more than 21 pigs per minute, making QPP one of the fastest pig-killing facilities in the nation.

    QPP has widely been considered a model for the USDAs nationwide expansion of the pilot program through NSIS, but when no one thought the public or USDA was watching, behind the slaughterhouses closed doors, I documented pig carcasses covered in feces and abscesses being processed for human consumption, and workers under intense pressure to keep up with high line speeds beating, dragging, and electrically prodding pigs to make them move faster.

    NSIS may also allow higher numbers of sick and injured pigs too weak even to stand (known as downers) to be slaughtered for food. As documented on my hidden camera, these animals endured particularly horrific abuses as they were forced to the kill floor in a desperate attempt to keep the slaughter lines moving as fast as possible.

    I even documented a supervisor sleeping on the job when he was in charge of overseeing the stunning process to ensure pigs were effectively rendered unconscious before their throats were slit.

    One QPP employee even said to me on camera, If the USDA is around, they could shut us down.

    That, in a nutshell, is the underlying problem with this initiative: its a program that largely allows the slaughterhouse to police itself.

    Though Ive witnessed these horrors firsthand, Im far from the only one warning of the dangers of NSIS. USDA whistleblowers, labor unions, and even members of Congress have expressed their objections to this program.

    A 2013 report by the USDAs own Office of the Inspector General stated that since FSIS did not provide adequate oversight, HIMP plants may have a higher potential for food safety risks, concluding that this program has shown no measurable improvement to the inspection process.

    In 2016, a letter from 60 members of Congress to the USDA stated the available evidence suggests the hog HIMP will undermine food safety, and that rapid line speeds present some of the greatest risks of inhumane treatment as workers are often pressured to take violent shortcuts to keep up. The letter further states: We are concerned that these new rules are being pushed by the industry to increase profits at the expense of public health.

    More than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition against the pilot programs expansion through NSIS, and earlier this month, a coalition of 35 animal, worker, environmental, and consumer protection organizations also urged the USDA to drop the proposal.

    At a time when consumers are rightfully demanding more transparency in the food industry, the USDAs so-called Modernization program is a big step backward.

    Halting the expansion of the dangerous pilot program and bringing it to an immediate end is the only conscientious and compassionate choice for the USDA, a federal agency that has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to put animals, consumers, and workers above powerful pork industry interests.

    To sum it all up in the words of a USDA whistleblower who worked as an inspector at QPP: Its no longer meaningful for consumers to see that mark indicating that their product has been USDA-inspected.

    • Scott David is a former undercover investigator and current investigations associate at Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection organization based in Washington DC.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    7 things humans can do to save the planet, as told by delightful claymation animals.

    Saving the earth is, well, a big job.

    Thinking about the sheer scale of the problem can be overwhelming.

    And while there are some major steps we need to take collectively on a global scale to solve climate change, there are a few things each of us can do to make a personal impact.

    Because you gotta start somewhere, right?

    So start right here, and let these charming animated animals, the stars of a series of videos from Animal Planet, give you a few pointers on how to do your part.

    Because it’s their home too, you know.

    1. Go easy on the showers.

    All GIFs via Animal Planet/YouTube.

    You don’t have to convince me that long, hot showers are totally awesome. But they also are one of the biggest chunks of our residential water use. In the U.S. alone, we use almost 1.2 trillion gallons of water just for showering. That’s enough to supply New York and New Jersey with all of their water for the whole year! Clipping just two minutes off your shower can personally save 10 gallons of water each day.

    But if cutting down on shower time just isn’t gonna happen (again, I totally get it) consider replacing your showerhead with a more water-efficient model. It costs between $10 and $20 and requires minimal handyman skills.

    2. Unplug those devices.

    Even when you’re not using them, phone chargers, coffee makers, cable boxes, and other electronics draw power. They’re known as energy vampires, for the way they drain electricity and money. A typical household has 25 electronic devices plugged in at any given time, so it’s no surprise that energy vampires can account for around 20% of the average electric bill. Ouch!

    3. Recycle your plastic bags the right way.

    According to the Clean Air Council, an estimated 102.1 billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. each year, and fewer than 1% of those are recycled. Instead, much of the waste winds up in landfills or worse, our rivers and oceans. Birds, turtles, and other marine animals are dying from intestinal blockages, choking, and starvation.

    What can you do? Recycle your bags whenever you can, and call on plastic producers to create more eco-friendly and recyclable solutions.

    Or better yet, BYOB: Bring your own bag.

    You can avoid plastic altogether, and many stores give shoppers a discount for bringing their own bag.

    4. Get your home winter-ready.

    Pumping up the heat is one way to stay warm this winter, but it also a way to burn lots of natural gas and money. If your health allows, consider setting your thermostat to 68 or lower. In the 60-degree-to-70-degree range, you can save 5% on your your energy costs for every degree you lower your heat.

    You can also winterize your house or apartment, checking for leaks around windows and doors and making sure your furnace filters are fresh and clean. These simple steps can save natural gas and potentially lower your bills this winter.

    5. Pick up after yourself.

    As this angry cartoon leopard, or this very real disfigured turtle will tell you, litter is THE WORST. Litter harms animals both directly, by choking, strangling, or poisoning them, and indirectly. These indirect incidents occur when animals eat trash or food thrown to the side of the road and risk running into traffic.

    But tragedies like this are 100% preventable. And properly disposing your trash is one of the easiest things you can do to make a difference right this second.

    And while you’re at it, recycle too.

    6. Consider swapping out a few lightbulbs.

    Traditional incandescent bulbs use more energy and burn out faster than compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. While CFL bulbs are a little more expensive upfront, they last six times as long and provide a quick return on investment. In fact if every home in the U.S. replaced one incandescent bulb with an Energy Star-qualified CFL, it could prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to over 800,000 cars each year.

    Speaking of which…

    7. Give your car a break.

    In an effort to reduce congestion downtown during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, car travel restrictions were put in place. During the games, traffic declined an estimated 23%. In that time, ozone concentrations dropped about 28% and acute care visits for children with asthma fell 41%. More recently, check out what happened to the sky when Beijing put driving restrictions in place for two weeks.

    While limiting traffic citywide is likely a no-go, making the personal commitment to drive less is something each of us can do. Replacing short automobile trips with walking, biking, or public transit is a simple way to cut down on our personal CO2 emissions and perhaps improve our air quality in the process.

    You don’t need to be Captain Planet to do right by the earth.

    Small acts can make a big difference. You can do your part by making even just one or two of these changes. You can also point and click your way to a better world by signing this petition to support America’s Clean Power Plan.

    This is the only Earth we’ve got. And since it’s the only place humans (and claymation animals) can call home, every positive step, even a small one, is a step worth taking.

    Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

    Margaret Atwood: women will bear brunt of dystopian climate future

    Booker prize-winning author predicts climate reality will not be far from scenarios imagined in her post-apocalyptic fiction

    Climate change will bring a dystopian future reminiscent of one of her speculative fictions, with women bearing the brunt of brutal repression, hunger and war, the Booker prize-winning author Margaret Atwood is to warn.

    This isnt climate change its everything change, she will tell an audience at the British Library this week. Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change.

    The author, whose landmark novel The Handmaids Tale has been turned into an acclaimed TV series depicting a dystopian future in which women are deprived of all rights and turned into breeding machines for men, predicts conflict, hardship and an increasing struggle for survival for women as climate change takes hold.

    More extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels that will destroy arable land, and disruption of marine life will all result in less food, she explained before the event. Less food will mean that women and children get less, as the remaining food supplies will be unevenly distributed, even more than they are.

    The results she predicts bear a strong similarity to some of the futures she imagines in her fiction, including the post-apocalyptic novel Oryx and Crake, in which the treatment of women in conflict-ridden societies is a strong theme. She went on: [Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms. Women do badly in wars worse than in peacetime.

    The
    The Handmaids Tale has been turned into an acclaimed TV series. Photograph: MGM/Hulu

    Under Her Eye the title is taken from The Handmaids Tale will bring together prominent figures from the arts, politics and science in a two-day festival devoted to exploring womens futures under climate change and environmental damage, and proposals for avoiding the worst effects of global warming, some of which are already locked in because of our failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as scientists have advised.

    Alice Sharp, director of the arts and science organisation Invisible Dust, which is curating the festival, told the Guardian she hoped the event would be the first of many. We think this is the first time that the arts, sciences and politics of climate change have been brought together under one roof with a focus on women, she said. Womens voices are too rarely heard in discussions of climate change.

    One of the leading women speaking at the conference is Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, who oversaw the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015. She said: Climate change remains one of the greatest threats to achieving sustainable development and its effects fall hardest on women.

    But she sounded a note of hope, acknowledging the activism of women on environmental issues. Countering this reality is the gritty determination, boundless energy and unwavering spirit of women across the world, whose knowledge, skills and leadership are being harnessed in delivering solutions. Climate change is one area in which women have decisively contributed to the progress we are making.

    The two-day event will take place on Friday and Saturday at the British Library, as part of the 2018 centenary of womens suffrage, and will feature screenings, performances, talks and debates. Among the 40 speakers will be Prof Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute, one of the worlds leading centres on climate policy and science; former Nasa science editor Laura Tenenbaum; Kate Raworth, self-styled renegade economist and author of Doughnut Economics; and New Zealand artist Ahilapalapa Rands.

    Womens lives, particularly in developing countries, are likely to be more affected by climate change than those of men, because they are so reliant on agriculture, and bear the burden of work such as fetching scarce water and firewood, and have fewer options than men, who tend to be more mobile. Women and children are also worst affected by indoor air pollution, caused by smoky cooking fires.

    Yet the annual meetings on climate change held by the UN have few forums for discussing the particular problems faced by women, and women make up only a minority of the delegates.

    Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the UKs Green party, who will also take part, said: We know that women in the arts give a unique perspective when it comes to climate change, and that they will have an important role to play in the future. There is a rich history of women guarding our environment, which is why they should be front and central to efforts aiming to counteract climate change.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Polar bears aren’t actually white and more amazing facts about Arctic animals who need your help

    It’s hard out there for an Arctic animal.

    The Arctic Circle is one of the last intact ecosystems on the planet to be mostly unaffected by industrialization (so far). But between the wind and the cold and the encroaching industrialization of the Arctic region, things are pretty rough above 66 degrees north latitude.

    That’s exactly what makes these animals so remarkable. Adorableness aside (so much adorableness), these majestic critters are survival experts, built to tough out the most extreme conditions. But the looming threat of Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic oil drilling might be the one challenge they can’t overcome.

    So while we celebrate their utter cuteness which is of course important let’s not forget that they’re also Mother Nature’s Arctic BAMFs, but it’s up to us to keep ’em around.

    Here they are, from the smallest to the, erm, not-so-small.

    Lemmings

    Most people think lemmings are the opposite of survivalists, thanks to Disney and a certain addictive video game. But lemmings are actually tough little creatures. They’re decent swimmers, and they have some incredible migratory patterns that continue to boggle scientists with their dramatic seasonal fluctuations. Rather than having a reputation for mass suicide, these creatures ought to be known for being able to endure whatever nature throws their way.


    There are all kinds of ice seals in the Arctic. Harp seals probably think they’re pretty fancy because their scientific name means “ice-lover from Greenland.” But that doesn’t intimidate the bearded seals; they only get annoyed when people point out that what they have are actually mustaches not beards. Meanwhile, the ribbon seals pretty much just keep to themselves, floating alone on patches of ice. Maybe because they’re all self-conscious about how they’re the only seals born with a weird air sack and scientists don’t understand what it’s for.

    But all of the ice seals can agree on one thing: They’d really like people to stop killing them and stealing their fur.


    Blubbery buddies. Mustachioed mammals. Kind-of-like-seals-but-totally-different. Whatever you wanna call ’em, walruses are incredibly social. So social, in fact, that their mating rituals are basically giant, violent, sing-song-y orgies. And if that weren’t enough to make a shy walrus feel self-conscious, it turns out that walrus society is also very judgmental about tusk size. Which makes it that much more insulting when humans hunt them for their ivory.

    On the bright side, it’s a good thing walruses are used to close quarters because they’ve been making like lemmings and moving en masse thanks to the rapidly melting landforms they once called home.

    Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

    7 kinds of animals that you can eat with no factory farm involved

    So you want to eat meat, eh? There’s a dilemma.

    Ever since the release of Michael Pollan’s seminal book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” more people all over the world have been trying to decide if their lives could use more locally harvested food including meat.

    The existing meat production pipeline is flawed. Pollan and many others like Eric Schlosser (of “Fast Food Nation” fame) and the documentary “Samsara” have showed us just how bad it really is. Some folks go vegan or vegetarian, but others have tried to figure out ways to get locally raised animals.

    Image of Michael Pollan by Sage Ross/Wikimedia.

    Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do.”
    Michael Pollan, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

    Can you eat meat ethically?

    What is there to do if you would prefer meat to be a source of protein in your diet but want to have it in an ethical and eco-friendly way?

    The answer might be in your backyard. Literally.

    If you live in an area that has access to wild game, you may want to consider hunting. Seriously! Many people have turned to personally hunting their meat, and the vast majority of those who are passionate about it harvest game in ways that are safe, clean, and quick.

    Ask yourself: Is that more or less ethical than, for example, a cow grown while standing on piles of manure, force-fed antibiotics, and unable to turn around or even move? Or a chicken with its beak cut off, unable to move in its cage or do anything except eat and well, you know. How about what happens when animals reach the “killing floor” where they’re executed en masse and “disassembled” before they make it to the local “Mall*Wart” in your city?

    If you do it yourself, it can get you closer to your food supply and in touch with its life cycle.

    Even though I’ve hunted since I was a kid, “Omnivore’s Dilemma” got me even more interested in putting wild game into my freezer and onto our table. Knowing a lot more about your food sources is key to understanding why it matters so much to your health and happiness. And, prepared right, wild game is absolutely delicious.

    Also, I still thank every animal I take for giving food and sustenance to my family.

    Replacing things like factory-farmed cows and chickens with wild game is possible.

    You can also look into organic/grass-fed animals on local farms, but that can get pricey. We’ve done it to the tune of $900 for a half cow, and you must have a deep freeze on hand to store it.

    But small-game hunting can be cost-effective and good exercise, and it’s not a big lift when it comes to cleaning and cooking.

    Some people use a bow and arrow, a small-caliber rifle like a .22, or even a simple single-shot shotgun available for $100. For that matter, there are many people who like to hunt with birds of prey trained
    falcons, hawks, and more.

    Whatever method you use, once you’ve got your license, it’s time to get out there!

    What are some good options to hunt?

    Let’s go through some varieties of game that can usually be found in open areas around the United States.

    1. Rabbits

    Cottontails, hares, and jackrabbits all provide a great meal when you harvest them humanely and ethically. Rabbit season starts in September or October in most parts of the country. The taste? A lot like chicken, but a little stronger flavor. You can really make it tasty with a good ol’ hasenpfeffer recipe (or as Bugs Bunny would call it … rabbit stew).

    Thumper … I mean, the cottontail rabbit. Image by Jon Sullivan/Wikimedia.

    2. Squirrels

    Bushy tail (fox) squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, and prairie dogs are all in the same scientific family. As opposed to hoofing it through the woods and grasslands for rabbits, squirrel hunting is more for people who like to sit for a while. The taste is also kinda like chicken, but a lot greasier. Think dark meat.

    The common fox squirrel. Photo by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

    3. Upland birds

    Pheasant, quail, grouse, Hungarian partridge, and other species are actively eating and preparing for the winter months late in the year, starting around September. Definitely a way to burn some calories because hunting them requires hikes through woods, grasslands, and farm fields, where you can see them flush, often with a great flourish of color.

    As you might have guessed, the taste is very much like chicken!

    The ring-necked pheasant. Image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Flickr.

    Bonus: Here’s a pheasant recipe I created years ago, but it’ll work with pretty much any small game.

    4. Waterfowl

    Waterfowl include geese, ducks, and other birds that stay close to water. At 12 to 15 pounds per bird for an adult goose, they can easily feed a family. It’s very much a dark meat; in fact, goose breasts look as dark as steaks before and after you cook them. The taste is very much like duck, rather than turkey. All are fabulous, on the grill or slow-cooked in the oven or pressure cooker.

    “Honkers,” as they’re sometimes called. If you’ve ever been close to a flock, you know why. Image by Alan Wilson/Wikipedia.

    5. Deer, elk, and other cervids

    This is definitely deep-end-of-the-pool hunting not small game. And it takes a deeper relationship with the local population to really make it ethical.

    “The Three Kings.” Image by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

    A word on “trophy” animals (i.e., those with a lot of antlers) versus those intended for food and culinary delights: Though the picture I took here is of bucks, I take the female variety (“does”) too. There’s a reason why.

    If the herd gets out of balance from too many does, then bucks can die from food scarcity in the winter months. Read: They starve.

    I’ve been regaled with many a tale of winters being so harsh in parts of the country that deer eat tree bark and pine needles to survive. That’s not good, and they suffer, so it’s far better to harvest enough of them each year so that the herd is strong.

    “Hiya, human!” Photo of bull elk in Rocky Mountain National Park by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

    In the mountain states, elk and other cervids (ruminant mammals that are members of the Cervidae family) are also frequently harvested. These will supply hundreds of pounds of venison at a time.

    I’m a bow hunter myself, and it takes tons of patience, practice, skill, and the ability to sit quietly for hours on end. My 7-year-old wants to go deer hunting in a few years, but I’ve already warned him that he cannot talk for hours at a time a feat I do not think it’s humanly possible for him to accomplish.

    The taste is like beef, with much less fat. Cooking venison is a skill unto itself, and you frequently will have to cut the cooking time in half versus beef, or it will be very dry. They’re much like grass-fed beef in that regard. The varying types of cervids produce subtle taste differences. I am fond of whitetail deer and elk, but some folks love caribou and antelope, too.

    Bonus: If you want to go full-on mountain person, you can learn how to make a coat or blanket from the hides, as well as other fancy things from other parts. Double bonus: If you have dogs, venison bones are great for them to chew on. (Just be sure to do it safely!)

    6. Wild turkey

    No, not THAT Wild Turkey

    This is another “sit and wait” creature to hunt, and they have extremely acute eyesight and hearing, so they’re not easy. But taste one even if you’ve had “free-range” turkey before and you might just be hooked.

    “Hi Tom. Have you met … Tom?” Photo by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

    7. Wild boar/pig

    I’ve not yet had the experience of hunting these, but (SPOILER ALERT!) it is the critter that Pollan ends up harvesting at the end of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” along with local mushrooms and vegetables. In some parts of the country especially the South they are frequently harvested year-round. The taste is definitely pork, with older animals having a “musky” flavor.

    “Oink? Not quite, Bub.” Image of wild boars near Kennedy Space Center by NASA/Wikimedia.

    Bonus!

    For the pescatarians out there, catching and cooking your own fish can be magical. You only need access to waterways, ponds, or lakes, and a simple cane pole with a hook and night crawler will do. The kids will love it, and cooking fresh catfish or trout over a campfire is a great experience.

    The species “Cerveza Metallica,” with the author’s buddy Dave. Photo by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

    There are, of course, tons of other critters in pockets of the country that can also be harvested as well, like alligators, goats, crabs, lobsters, bears, and more.

    Hey, it beats store-bought, right? Check with local ethical hunters to see what might be available to you!

    What if the whole idea of hunting game yourself is still not for you? That’s fair.

    Here’s an idea: Why not trade with someone for locally sourced meat?

    If you don’t want to go through with hunting and taking your own animals, you could arrange a trade with someone you know. “Hey, Jane, I’ll prepare the bread from locally raised grain and roast some locally-grown vegetables if you can harvest the venison steaks. Deal?”

    Or even get together with friends and family who hunt and make it a feast!

    Bon apptit!

    Also, for a little taste of what “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is all about, check this video out:

    Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

    Scientists are using satellites to spot whales from outer space

    A southern humpback whale breaches in Australian waters.
    Image: Dave Hunt/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

    A humpback whale may be a huge creature to the human eye, but they’re still tough to spot from space.

    Until recently, the necessary high-resolution satellite technology wasn’t readily available, but researchers in Western Australia are beginning to use satellite imagery to check on the size of local populations.

    The aim of the project is to keep tabs on Western Australia’s humpback whale numbers, explained Curt Jenner, managing director of the Centre for Whale Research.

    “The goal of the project is ultimately to make sure this population of humpback whales, which has always historically been the largest in the world, is still viable and has recovered to its full potential,” he said. The animals were hunted almost to extinction in the early to mid 20th century.

    While projects like this were able to find government and corporate funding in the past, that money has increasingly dried up as whale numbers rebound, Jenner said, forcing he and his research partner on this project, Michele Thums, to find a new solution.

    Satellite imagery of whales migrating.

    Image: Curt Jenner

    “There are no longer any budgets to send aerial survey teams of people up in planes nor people out in boats to do that population monitoring, and so we were looking for an economical solution that was low in man power,” he said.

    Drones are one technology now commonly used in whale research, but they’re not always able to deliver the scale a satellite can. “This is like a population census, if you will, it gives you a snapshot in time of an entire population as opposed to a focus on one whale at a time,” Jenner added.

    To obtain the imagery it was a simple as giving the U.S. satellite company DigitalGlobe a time slot, the coordinates and instructions to only take shots on fair weather days using its WorldView-3 satellite system.

    The team received two days worth of imagery for around A$40,000 ($30,600) funded by the WA Marine Science Institute. “Even though A$20,000 an image sounds like a lot of money, it’s nothing compared to what it costs to put a team of people out and flying aerial surveys,” he said.

    For Jenner, one big question was whether a colour or black and white satellite image worked better for whale spotting.

    Satellite imagery of whales migrating.

    Image: Curt jenner

    “Turns out, the black and white images were better and clearer and higher resolution for seeing the whales than the [colour] ones,” he explained. “In the future, we’ll probably only be using the [black and white] ones, which will make our jobs a lot easier and a lot cheaper.”

    This type of monitoring is especially important as human use of the northwest shelf of Australia increases in the form of oil and gas exploration as well as shipping. “I do have a concern that the way that the whales are using the coast line is changing through human impact,” he said. “It’s necessarily going to displace whales out of their natural habitat.”

    In 2017, Jenner plans to collect more than two days-worth of whale imagery, and in different locations along the coast line. He also hopes that future satellites with even higher resolution cameras will be able to one day spot and identify individual whales. They could even use small tags that fluoresce, for example, and make it easier to identify them from space.

    “As time goes on, only your imagination limits what can be done as the technology gets better,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the next five to 10 years very much.”

    [h/t ABC]

    Source: http://mashable.com/

    Star of anti-dolphin killing film The Cove held by Japanese immigration

    Ric OBarry seen in documentary about slaughter in a Japanese village says government is waging a war on dolphins

    The star of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the killing of dolphins in a village in Japan, has been detained by immigration authorities at Tokyos Narita international airport.

    Ric OBarry an American known for training the dolphins used in the TV series Flipper said immigration officials told him he could not enter Japan on a tourist visa because he was not a tourist, according to his lawyer, Takashi Takano.

    Takano said officials accused OBarry of having close ties with the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which OBarry denies. Immigration officials said it was their policy not to comment on individual cases.

    Takano said he was appealing against the detention, and that the Japanese government would decide on whether to allow OBarry into the country or deport him. It was not clear when a decision would be made.

    The Cove, which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary, shows the slaughter of dolphins herded into a cove in the fishing village of Taiji and bludgeoned to death.

    The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins, OBarry said in a statement sent to the Associated Press through his son, Lincoln OBarry.

    Officials in Taiji, a small fishing village in central Japan, and fishermen have defended the hunt as a tradition, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different to eating beef or chicken.

    Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat. Many say they are horrified by the dolphin killing and there is a campaign against the Taiji hunt. Animal welfare activists say the hunt is driven mostly by the lucrative sale of dolphins to aquariums, with the income from the sale of meat simply an added extra.

    OBarry has been stopped and questioned by Japanese immigration before. He has also been taken into custody by local police on the suspicion of not having proper travel documents before being released. But this is the first time he has been detained in this way. He has the support of high-profile celebrities, including Sting, the US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, and the former Guns N Roses drummer, Matt Sorum.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Exotic animals disappear from Florida wildlife sanctuary after fake ad

    Owners fear for health of lemurs, marmosets, monkeys, birds and tortoises removed from site in incident police are treating as theft

    The advertisement on Craigslist was specific: Free exotic animals. Were a sanctuary going out of business. Go around back and help yourself.

    Early on Sunday morning, somebody did just that, driving a truck up to the rear gate of the We Care Wildlife Sanctuary in Miami and loading up seven ring-tailed lemurs, five marmosets, four monkeys, seven birds and 13 tortoises.

    The internet posting, however, was a fake. Now the sanctuary owners want their animals back, fearing they could die in days without the specialist care they need.

    Weve been violated, a sanctuary volunteer, Cindy Robert, said of the disappearance of the valuable animals, which is being treated by the Miami-Dade police department as a theft.

    I dont think these animals are going to be taken care of. The stress alone could give some of them heart attacks.

    Detectives are looking into the theory that the entire episode was carefully planned, targeting those animals that would bring in the best return from dealers or collectors who trade in exotic species.

    They took the dollar animals. They knew exactly what they wanted, said Robert, adding that the combined value of the lost animals would run to thousands of dollars.

    They left the raccoons, they left the horses, they left the goats, and there were some birds nesting in the tree that they didnt see because it was pitch black. We did get to keep those, at least.

    Theyd have had to chase the animals around and net them, and put them in cages, and that puts them under even more stress. We have a tortoise thats on antibiotics for a cold and needs needs injections every three days.

    Theres an umbrella cockatoo with food regression because the original owners werent taught how to wean her, and if you dont feed her properly and soak her food she wont eat shell starve to death in a few days. Were just heartbroken.

    Robert suspected the thieves used inside knowledge to set up an elaborate internet hoax that began with the hacking of We Cares Facebook site a week ago and culminated in the fake Craigslist posting, which used the claim that the sanctuary was going out of business as a smokescreen.

    Far from closing down, Robert said, the sanctuary is expanding, with the joint owners, Armando Mendez and Josue Santiago, having just moved most of the animals to larger premises.

    The thieves, who removed bolts from a fence to gain access instead of breaking locks on the gate, probably knew that the new site was under construction and that security cameras had not yet been installed, Robert said.

    Theres a bit of history the owners had been receiving threats. The detectives are going over all that and looking at pictures, she said.

    The Miami-Dade police department confirmed it was investigating the case but was unable to provide any more details. A reward of $1,000 has been offered to anyone who can help restore the lost animals to the sanctuary, and the Miami volunteers are reaching out to contacts from states as far away as Texas and Maryland to learn of anybody trying to offload those that were stolen.

    Spotters will also be at Floridas next exotic pet amnesty day in Poinciana, near Kissimmee, later this month to see if any of the stolen animals are turned in. The state has strict regulations on the keeping and care of non-native species kept in captivity and fines for those without licences.

    The owners cant even talk about it, theyre so upset. The two of them are just basket cases, Robert said.

    One cant stop crying, hes so attached to these animals. Its a huge labour of love to these animals to protect them.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Tucker the gassy sea turtle treated for the bends so he can dive

    Rescued olive ridley sea turtle is too buoyant to be able to dive for food but experts hope to change that with decompression treatment

    Vets have put a rescued sea turtle into ahyperbaric chamber, usually used to treat human divers suffering the bends, in a bid to remove gas bubbles in its body that stop it diving.

    Experts from Seattle will test the buoyancy of Tucker the 20-year-old endangered olive ridley sea turtle on Friday in the hope that they can one day release him back into the ocean.

    The 32kg animal was found in December clinging to life along the coast of Oregon, far from his species usual warm-water habitat off southern California and Mexico, said Seattle Aquarium officials.

    He has recovered from pneumonia and other complications from hypothermia but still has a buoyancy issue caused by internal gas bubbles in his body that prevent the reptile from diving or remaining underwater.

    Its almost like the turtle is wearing a life preserver, Seattle Aquarium spokesman Tim Kuniholm said on Thursday.

    Aquarium vets brought Tucker to Virginia Mason hospital on Monday for a session in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber there, making him the first non-human patient to visit the pressurised facility and the first sea turtle in the US to undergo such a treatment for buoyancy problems.

    Tucker will undergo testing on Friday to determine if further sessions in the chamber are needed, Kuniholm said.

    Kuniholm said Tucker must be able to regulate his buoyancy in order to survive in the wild, where he needs to dive for food and avoid predators as well as hazards such as boats.

    He could remain in human care, but thats not our goal, he added.

    The hyperbaric treatment involves the turtle breathing 100% oxygen for more than two hours, hospital officials said. Tucker was sedated and observed closely while hooked up to a heart monitor and breathing tube.

    James Holm, the medical director at the center for hyperbaric medicine, said:We have treated many scuba divers over the years for a gas bubble disease known as decompression sickness, which is also called the bends. This is the first time we have been asked to assist in the care of a sea turtle, which are excellent divers themselves.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Don’t call it a wholphin: first sighting of rare whale-dolphin hybrid

    Scientists have identified a creature that they believe to be a hybrid of a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin

    Scientists are touting the first sighting of a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin in the ocean off Hawaii. But dont call it a wholphin, they say.

    The melon-headed whale is one of the various species thats called a whale but is technically a dolphin.

    Calling it something like a wholphin doesnt make any sense, said one of the studys authors, Robin Baird, a Hawaii research biologist with Washington state-based Cascadia Research Collective. I think calling it a wholphin just confuses the situation more than it already is.

    In a study published last week, scientists say the animal spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017 appears to be the first record of a hybrid involving either species. Its also only the third confirmed instance of a wild-born hybrid between species in the Delphinidae family.

    The label wholphin has stuck for a hybrid born in 1985 at Hawaiis Sea Life Park of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin. The hybrid named Kekaimalu still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics. News of the hybrid spotted in the wild during navy-funded research to study the effects of sonar, proves the genetic diversity of the ocean, said Sea Life park curator Jeff Pawloski. To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an amazing thing to know.

    While some news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species, in order for that to happen other things need to occur, including more widespread hybridisation, Baird said.

    That isnt the case, although there are examples where hybridisation has resulted in a new species, he said. Theres no evidence to suggest its leading toward anything like species formation.

    The male hybrid presents an opportunity to look for others. Hybrids generally occur when there is a decline in the population in one of the parental species, so scientists will be looking out for such a decline.

    A likely scenario for how the hybrid came to be is a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up traveling with rough-toothed dolphins.
    Scientists do not know how old it is, but believe it is close to adult age.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Obama runs wild with Bear Grylls to promote action on climate change

    US president treks across a glacier and eats a bloody salmon discarded by a bear on British adventurers reality TV show

    He declined to drink urine but Barack Obama did make tea from glacier water and munch on a bloody salmon previously chewed by a bear in his wilderness bromance with Bear Grylls.

    The US president trekked through a remote part of Alaska to promote action on climate change and show a more human side in a special episode of the British adventurers reality show, Running Wild With Bear Grylls.

    The hour-long programme, which aired on NBC on Thursday, showed the duo bonding as they hiked on Exit glacier in the Kenai mountains, bantering over fatherhood and the environment as well as flatulence and bellybutton fluff.

    Im skinny but tougher than I look, said Obama, after the former soldier complimented his physical fitness. It was a moment to make Sarah Palin howl.

    The president drank tea made from catkins and melting glacier water and munched on a ravaged salmon, which Grylls said had been discarded by a bear and still bore bear breath.

    Barack Obama discusses climate change in first video on Facebook

    Grylls has persuaded previous celebrity guests to drink their own urine but the commander in chief demurred. I suppose, in extremis, its something that I would do if the alternative was death, he said. Its not something Id make a habit of. And I probably wouldnt do it just for a TV show.

    It was the White Houses idea to pair the professorial president with a rugged survivalist as part of a strategy of unorthodox methods and stunts to project his agenda.

    It was an Obama seldom seen on television: loose, personal, stripped of pomp, just a guy out hiking with another guy.

    Of course, it was also an illusion. According to Grylls dozens of staff, secret service agents and a food taster hovered just off-screen, along with snipers in the hills and a military helicopter overhead.

    Perhaps to offset any comparisons with Russian President Vladimir Putins swaggering wilderness photo-ops, Obama made several references to the invisible chaperones, including when he fumbled using a borrowed smartphone to take a selfie with Grylls.

    Im in whats called the bubble and secret service makes sure that Im always out of danger, which I very much appreciate but it can be a little confining, he said, addressing the camera directly. So to be with Bear in the woods: it doesnt get any better than that.

    Both men cited the retreating glacier as evidence of the urgency in addressing climate change. Ive two daughters, and I dont want grandkids too soon, but eventually I hope to have some, said Obama. And I want to make sure that this is there for them, not just us.

    He said action on climate change was vital to his presidency. I think it will have a more significant impact on the lives of future generations as just about anything. And were still a long way from getting it right but its something that, working together, I think we can make a difference on.

    The show aired at a delicate time for the president, who is riding high on the climate deal agreed in Paris last week but defensive over Republican claims that he is weak on Islamist terrorism. On Friday he is due to visit the relatives of victims of this months San Bernardino massacre.

    Obama played the straight man, noting Gryllss reputation for extreme cuisine. Bears a mediocre cook, but the fact that we ate something recognisable was encouraging. Now, the fact that he told me this was a leftover fish from a bear, I dont know if that was necessary. He could have just left that out.

    The Briton commended the president on nimbly starting a fire, obviating need to use bellybutton fluff as kindling. He also recommended the catkins tea as a remedy for flatulence. Its not a problem I have but maybe you do, Obama replied.

    When Grylls warned that bears were especially dangerous when you surprised them fornicating, Obama joked that the same could be said for humans.

    Clearly smitten, Grylls, an evangelical Christian, ended their outing with a riverside prayer calling on God to bless the presidents work. They hugged and went their separate ways.

    He said it was one of the best days of his presidency, Grylls told reporters earlier this week, according to Reuters. There were times along the route I had to pinch myself and think, actually, this is the president of America.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    US police shoot and kill 6ft boa constrictor that crushed puppy to death

    Snake humanely killed after it escaped from tank and wrapped itself round eight-month-old puppy in Amherst, Massachusetts

    Police in Massachusetts say they shot and killed a pet boa constrictor after it fatally crushed a puppy.

    Amherst animal welfare officer Carol Hepburn says a pet sitter called police at about 4.30pm on Wednesday to report that the snake, which she estimates was at least 6ft long, had escaped from its tank and wrapped it itself around the eight-month-old puppy.

    Police tried unsuccessfully to pull the snake off the dog, and Hepburn says the dog was dead by the time she arrived. The pet sitter contacted the animals owner, who was overseas, and got permission for police to humanely kill the snake.

    Hepburn dragged it from the house first.

    It is not illegal to own boa constrictors in Massachusetts and no charges are expected.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Meet the dogs of Chernobyl the abandoned pets that formed their own canine community

    Hundreds of stray dogs have learned to survive in the woods around the exclusion zone mainly descendants of those left behind after the nuclear disaster, when residents were banned from taking their beloved pets to safety

    We are in the woods behind the Chernobyl plant when the dog runs at us. It is thin, with brindle fur and yellow eyes. Igor, our guide, makes a lunge and clamps his hands over its snout. They wrestle in the snow and icy water shakes from the trees. The dogs eyes flash as Igor grabs a stick and throws it into the trees. Distracted, the animal chases it and our little group is free to move. But the dog reappears and drops the stick at Igors foot. He throws it again. The dog brings it back. I almost laugh with relief.

    Igor, who, it turns out, is very familiar with the dog, throws a few snowballs, which it tries to catch and chew.This isTarzan, says Igor. Hes a stray who lives in the exclusion zone. His mum was killed by a wolf, so the guides look out for him, chuck a few sticks, play a few games. Hes only a baby, really

    The
    The abandoned dogs at Chernobyl endure harsh Ukrainian winters. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    Tarzan isnt alone. There are approximately 300 stray dogs in the 2,600km zone. They live among the moose and lynx, the hares and wolves that have also found a home here. But while the Mongolian horses and Belarusian bears were recently introduced to the area, and other animals have come in as opportunists, the dogs are native.

    After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages. Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: Dont kill our Zhulka. Shes a good dog. There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.

    The
    The dogs often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    Life is not easy for the Chernobyl strays. Not only must they endure harsh Ukrainian winters with no proper shelter, but they often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Few live beyond the age of six.

    But its not all bad news. The dogs that live near the zones checkpoints have little huts made for them by the guards, and some are wise enough to congregate near the local cafe, having learned that a human presence equals food. These canine gangs act as unofficial Chernobyl mascots, there to greet visitors who stop at Cafe Desyatka for some borscht.

    Nadezhda Starodub, a guide with the Chernobyl tour specialist Solo East, says the visitors (there are no tourists in the zone) love the dogs. Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs. There are no rules that forbid a visitor from handling them, but Nadezhda asks her charges to exercise the same common sense they would when approaching any stray. Some guides are afraid of complaints, she says, so they try to avoid the dogs to stay on the safe side. But I love them.

    The
    The strays are helped by the Clean Futures Fund, which has set up veterinary clinics in the area. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    While the dogs get some food and play from the visitors, their health needs are met by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-profit organisation that helps communities affected by industrial accidents, which has set up three veterinary clinics in the area, including one inside the Chernobyl plant. The clinics treat emergencies and issue vaccinations against rabies, parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. They are also neutering the dogs. Lucas Hixson, the funds co-founder, says: I dont think well ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. This makes Chernobyl safer for the dogs, but also for the workers and visitors.

    The Chernobyl plant has recently been sealed under a new sarcophagus designed and built by a multinational group of experts, and similar cooperation can be seen with the dogs. In the woods behind Chernobyl I look again at yellow-eyed Tarzan and see, not a wild animal, but a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.

    We
    We want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    5 cats that are so over patriarchy

    Cats. We love them, but do they love us? We may never know. But there’s one thing we know … cats hate patriarchy.

    If you’ve ever tried to make a cat live up to your expectations of cat behavior, you probably already know this. They despise ALL systems of unequal power and expectations. Cats are over patriarchy.

    How over it are they? Really over it.

    We might expect cats to do all kinds of things … you know, like, show affection maybe? Or not sleep all day? Or get OFF the kitchen table because I’m working a puzzle??!?!! But guess what? Cats don’t care about your rules. They don’t care about your expectations. They’re over it.

    So, I figure: Let’s learn from the cats. No one knows better how to turn their tails to societal norms than cats.

    Cats are so over:

    1. Biased dress codes

    This cat is so over shaming female bodies by referring to them as “distracting” in school dress codes …. it can’t even deal.

    Don’t make me wear this hat because my cuteness is so distracting. We can all control ourselves AND dress appropriately for school!

    This cat is done with the sexualization of girls in school dress codes. He’s also so over the underlying obsession and attachment to what boys should wear versus what girls should wear. It’s keeping Kanye from truly owning his leather kilt, Hulk from being the true princess he deserves to be, and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt from truly rocking denim. Get over it. This cat has.

    2. Rape existing

    Come on, everyone, we can do this.

    Obviously, this cat is not here for that. Nor is this cat here for rape culture and the idea that the burden is on women to somehow stop themselves from being raped as opposed to the burden being on, you know, rapists to stop raping.

    What IS this cat here for? A good pet. Maybe a cuddle. Also: any shrimp you might have in your pocket.

    3. Sexual consent being based on a defensive “no” and not an enthusiastic “yes!”


    This cat LOVES an enthusiastic yes. And in a world where you’re so over patriarchy, that’s what you listen for!

    4. Men, like women, getting forced into restrictive gender roles

    This cat loves the dudes of the world and wants them to be over patriarchy, too!

    As Dr. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and educator, says in a trailer for the masculinity documentary “The Mask You Live In“:

    “We’ve constructed an idea of masculinity in the United States that doesn’t give young boys a way to feel secure in their masculinity, so we make them go prove it all the time.”

    Men get squeezed into masculine ideals of strength, emotional repression, and non-crying … and it’s not healthy for them.

    Did you know that men commit suicide at a rate three times that of women? For both the U.K. and the U.S. it’s about 3:1, and according to the World Health Organization the global ratio is around 2:1. Me-ouch. Seriously!

    5. Hiring bias

    20 years ago, zero women were CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. Now? 5% of Fortune 500 companies are run by females.

    This cat is thinking … 5%? A study from Fortune magazine showed that women-run companies reward their investors, so what’s up?

    According to Fortune, “5% of Fortune 1000 companies have female CEOs, but those giants generate 7% of the Fortune 1000’s total revenue.

    So there you have it.

    We can’t change these silly rules and biases simply by being over them. But noticing them is a good start.

    brb, dreaming of a better future for everyone waving bye-bye to patriarchy dumbness.

    This cat is over it. And so am I.

    So let’s all crouch on the snowy car roof of life and realize, we’re all just cats trying to jump onto the roof of gender equality and relax in the sun. Even if we don’t get there…

    It’s not about whether or not we reach the roof of 100% equality right off the bat. It’s that we keep on trying.

    Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

    Seven right whales found dead in ‘devastating’ blow to endangered animal

    Carcasses found off Canada in recent weeks in what may be biggest single die-off of one of worlds most endangered whale species, expert says

    Seven North Atlantic right whales have been found floating lifelessly in the Gulf of St Lawrence, off Canada, in recent weeks, in what is being described as a catastrophic blow to one of the worlds most endangered whales.

    The first whale carcass was reported in early June. Within a month, another six reports came in, leaving marine biologists in the region reeling.

    Its devastating, said Tonya Wimmer of the Marine Animal Response Society, a charitable organisation dedicated to marine mammal conservation in the region. This is, I think, the largest die-off theyve ever had for this particularly species, at once.

    The global population of North Atlantic right whales which live along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the US and can reach up to 16 metres in length is thought to be around 525, meaning that more than 1% of the population has died in the past month. So it is catastrophic in terms of potential impact to this population.

    This
    This is, I think, the largest die-off theyve ever had for this particularly species, at once, says an expert. Photograph: Marine Animal Response Society

    At least two of the whales were female, with one of them known to be entering its reproductive years. Youre talking anywhere from five to 10 babies in their lifetime. And now they wont happen. Its heartbreaking, said Wimmer.

    With no obvious causes for the deaths, a team including federal scientists, pathologists and veterinarians have been racing against time to figure out what is happening. Last week they carried out necropsies on three of the whales, hoping to find clues before the carcasses decompose.

    While their findings are still preliminary, they found signs of severe blunt trauma and bruising on two of the whales, suggesting collision with a vessel, while the third had been tangled in fishing gear for weeks.

    The findings still dont explain why the deaths have seemingly occurred within such a short time frame, said Wimmer, though regardless, there are some aspects of the last stages of their life that were impacted by human activities in that area. As scientists move into the laboratory to carry out further analyses, some have speculated that the deaths may have been caused by toxic algae or something the whales ate.

    A
    A team including federal scientists, pathologists and veterinarians have been racing against time to figure out the cause of the deaths. Photograph: Marine Animal Response Society

    The North Atlantic right whale has struggled since being nearly hunted to extinction by whalers in the late 18th century. In recent years, researchers have noticed the whales moving into the Gulf of St Lawrence in large numbers, leading to increased interactions with humans.

    Earlier this week, reports came in of a right whale in the area that was tangled in fishing gear. Some six hours after it was first spotted, scientists were able to cut the whale free of a fishing line in its mouth.

    The entanglement, along with the unprecedented number of deaths, may suggest that fishing gear needs to be set out differently or that vessels need to start moving more slowly through the region, said Wimmer. Right now theres still a lot of questions, she added. Theres probably more questions than there are answers.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Hundreds of flying foxes die in searing Australian heat

    More than 400 animals have died in one colony alone as temperatures soar above 47C, causing exhaustion and dehydration

    A colony of flying foxes has been nearly wiped out by extreme heat in Campbelltown in south-west Sydney, according to environmentalists.

    The Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown campaign posted a series of images to Facebook showing the corpses of the animals lying in the ground, apparently after they had died from dehydration in the soaring temperatures. The group say more than 400 of the animals were lost, many of them juveniles.

    Mounds
    A mound of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown, Australia. Photograph: Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown

    Volunteers have been working to save the animals, rehydrating them and taking them to places where they can be kept cool. Temperatures in Sydney reached a 80-year record high of 47.3C on Sunday.

    Cate Ryan, one of the first volunteers on the scene, told media it was unbelievable. I saw a lot of dead bats on the ground and others were close to the ground and dying. I have never seen anything like it before.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Green-haired turtle that breathes through its genitals added to endangered list

    With its punky green mohican the striking Mary river turtle joins a new ZSL list of the worlds most vulnerable reptiles

    It sports a green mohican, fleshy finger-like growths under its chin and can breathe through its genitals.

    The Mary river turtle is one of the most striking creatures on the planet, and it is also one of the most endangered.

    The 40cm long turtle, which is only found on the Mary river in Queensland, features in a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

    Despite the turtles punk appearance derived from vertical strands of algae that also grow on its body its docile nature made it historically popular as a pet.

    Gill-like organs within its cloaca an orifice used by reptiles for excretion and mating enable it to stay underwater for up to three days, but it was unable to hide from the pet collectors who raided its nests during the 1960s and 1970s.

    The turtle is placed at 30th on ZSLs Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) list for reptiles. First established in 2007, Edge lists have previously been published for amphibians, birds, corals and mammals, helping guide conservation priorities for 100 most at-risk species. Each species is given a score which combines extinction risk with its evolutionary isolation or uniqueness, with the latest list supported by a study in the journal Plos One.

    Top of the list is the Madagascar big-headed turtle, which has an Edge score higher than that of any other amphibian, bird or mammal, and is still taken for food and global trade.

    Other unusual and endangered species include the Round Island keel-scaled boa from Mauritius, a snake which is the only terrestrial vertebrate known to have a hinged upper jaw; the minute leaf chameleon from Madagascar which is the size of a human thumbnail; and the gharial, a slender-snouted fish-eating freshwater crocodile. Less than 235 gharial survive in the rivers of northern India and Nepal.

    The Mary Rriver turtle is one of the most striking creatures on the planet, and it is also one of the most endangered.

    Rikki Gumbs, co-ordinator of Edge reptiles, said: Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals. However, the Edge reptiles list highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are.

    He added: Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals. Many Edge reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages, whose branches of the tree of life stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs. If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Here is your reminder that sea turtles are cute

    Swim, my dude.
    Image: Theresa Keil, National Aquarium Event Photographer

    In what may be the world’s most pleasant Mad Lib, 14 sea turtles named after breakfast foods were released into the ocean on Wednesday after a brief period of rehabilitation by the National Aquarium care team.

    The turtles, some of whose names are Waffles, Bagel, Granola, and (my personal favorite) Quiche, said “what’s up” to the Atlantic as part of a larger release event on Florida’s Little Talbot Island. 

    And in case you haven’t thought about how cute sea turtles are recently, let me remind you: they are cute.

    Look, for example, at this friend, who has the face of a Pokémon and a heart of gold.

    Image: Theresa Keil, National Aquarium Event Photographer

    This one is waving goodbye (to its caretaker), but also hello (to its home). If this concept doesn’t make you tear up at your desk, I don’t know what to tell you.

    Image: Theresa Keil, National Aquarium Event Photographer

    This one is about to swim. :’)

    Image: Theresa Keil, National Aquarium Event Photographer

    This is a big moment for these reptiles, who have really been through the wringer. Per the aquarium, all of them were discovered “cold-stunned and stranded” along the coast of Massachusetts before being placed in the aquarium’s care.

    “As ectothermic, or cold-blooded, animals, their body temperature relies on the temperature of their surroundings,” rehabilitation manager Kate Shaffer told a local outlet in Florida. “So when the temps there drop too low and they can’t find their way out of Cape Cod Bay, they hit the beaches.”

    So what should you do if you come across a sea turtle yourself? First, give it a breakfast name — Omelette and Cream of Wheat are available. Then, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recommends keeping your distance — but you should contact the local conservation commission if the turtle appears injured or disoriented.

    And because I know you want to know, here are all the turtle breakfast names of which Mashable is currently aware.

    • Waffles

    • Bagel

    • French Toast

    • Doughnut

    • Sticky Bun

    • Hash Brown

    • Granola

    • Oatmeal

    • Quiche

    • Flapjack

    • Cereal

    Image: Theresa Keil, National Aquarium Event Photographer

    Congrats to all the breakfast turtles!

    Source: http://mashable.com/

    Great Barrier Reef: rising temperatures turning green sea turtles female

    Complete feminisation of northern population is possible in near future, researchers find

    Rising temperatures are turning almost all green sea turtles in a Great Barrier Reef population female, new research has found.

    The scientific paper warned the skewed ratio could threaten the populations future.

    Sea turtles are among species with temperature dependent sex-determination and the proportion of female hatchlings increases when nests are in warmer sands.

    Tuesdays paper, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California State University and Worldwide Fund for Nature Australia, is published in Current Biology. It examined two genetically distinct populations of turtles on the reef, finding the northern group of about 200,000 animals was overwhelmingly female.

    While the southern population was 65%-69% female, females in the northern group accounted for 99.1% of juveniles, 99.8% of subadults and 86.8% of adults.

    Combining our results with temperature data show that the northern GBR green turtle rookeries have been producing primarily females for more than two decades and that the complete feminisation of this population is possible in the near future, the paper said.

    The temperature at which the turtles will produce male or female hatchlings is heritable, the paper said, but tipped to produce 100% male or 100% female hatchlings within a range of just a few degrees.

    Furthermore, extreme incubation temperatures not only produce female-only hatchlings but also cause high mortality of developing clutches, it said. With warming global temperatures and most sea turtle populations naturally producing offspring above the pivotal temperature, it is clear that climate change poses a serious threat to the persistence of these populations.

    The lead author, Dr Michael Jensen from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the research provided a new understanding of what the turtle populations were dealing with.

    Green
    Green sea turtles are among species with temperature dependent sex-determination. Photograph: Alamy

    He said the findings were surprising and a bit alarming, with significant conservation implications.

    While we can hope there might be some cooler years to produce a few more males, overall we can expect the temperatures to increase, he said.

    Jensen said the researchers worked around ethical implications of past studies that required sacrificing some hatchlings to accurately determine sex ratios and pivotal temperature ranges.

    This team instead studied more than 400 turtles at foraging grounds, gathering information on the sex of turtles from multiple generations.

    Knowing what the sex ratios in the adult breeding population are today, and what they might look like five, 10 and 20 years from now when these young turtles grow up and become adults, is going to be incredibly valuable, Jensen said.

    The research was facilitated through the Great Barrier Reef Rivers to Reef to Turtles project by the World Wildlife Fund Australia.

    The chief executive of WWF Australia, Dermot OGorman, said it was yet another sign of the impact of climate change, following recent research that coral bleaching events were occurring far more frequently.

    Weve had two years where weve had mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef, he told Guardian Australia. Thats a very visible sign of the impact of climate change. But this is an invisible change. We cant see the impact its having on a turtle population until a study like this shows some long-term trends.

    OGorman said more urgent action on climate change was clearly needed but conservationists were taking some practical measures, including trialling the use of shadecloth on known nesting beaches to lower the sand temperature, and reducing bycatch in the fishing industry.

    [Shadecloths] can be done in certain places but theres a limit to the scale you can do that, he said.

    The green turtle is one of the most populous species of turtle in the world but the Great Barrier Reef settlement was significant and turtles were under enormous pressure outside Australian waters, OGorman said.

    An additional threat to them really does sound alarm bells, he said. Now every large reproductive male is going to be even more important.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Magpie edges out white ibis and kookaburra as Australian bird of the year

    Top three birds all backed by more than 10,000 votes in Guardian Australia and BirdLife Australia poll that attracted 150,000 votes

    The Australian magpie has been crowned Australian bird of the year for 2017, upsetting the early favourite, the white ibis, and winning 13.3% of the vote.

    The magpie received 19,926 votes, followed by the Australian white ibis with 19,083 votes and the laughing kookaburra with 10,953 votes.

    They were the only three species to win more than 10,000 votes, to the chagrin of fairywren supporters who feel the chubby little blue bird was robbed. The fairywren vote was split between the east and west coasts, with the east coast superb fairywren getting 6,366 votes and fifth place and Western Australias splendid fairywren coming 10th with 4,129 votes.

    The superb fairywren won BirdLife Australias bird of the year poll in 2013.

    It is the first year the BirdLife poll has been run in conjunction with Guardian Australia. Almost 150,000 votes were received before the polls closed on Saturday.

    Table of winners

    The result was the subject of some criticism, called either a boring choice or an unworthy one given the magpies propensity to swoop anyone who crosses their territory in spring.

    BirdLifes Sean Dooley, speaking on ABC News Breakfast, said despite their violent reputation magpies had cleverly befriended a number of humans, which may have swayed the vote.

    Sydney Weather Tweeter (@glengyron)

    You only voted Magpie out of fear. I understand.

    December 10, 2017

    Magpies are easily tameable and people have a great connection with them, Dooley said. They love to feed them. Clearly there are a lot of people out there who have a special relationship with a magpie Youre never lonely if you have a magpie.

    Hadda Gutfull (@mavsmum)

    My magpie family do not swoop, and share the fun and games of their three kids with me. Beautiful singing and clever, I adore them. #BirdOfTheYear

    December 10, 2017

    The ibis, Dooley said, was Australias answer to Brexit or Ibis McIbisface, a bird that had an early surge of popularity thanks to the ironic support of those disillusioned with the voting process.

    But he said it genuinely deserves our support.

    People dont like them because they come into the cities, like Sydney or Brisbane, and steal your lunch out of your hands or go into the bins, he said.

    But they only do that because their natural wetlands in the Murray-Darling have been drained and altered so it is not suitable for them. The prime minister talks about being agile and adaptable. The ibis embodies that Australian spirit.

    Another popular bird type to suffer from a split vote was the parrot family, which first appeared in the results with the rainbow lorikeet in sixth position, with 6,041 votes.

    The sulphur-crested cockatoo was 11th with 4,051 votes and the gang-gang cockatoo, which received the vote of a number of politicians by virtue of being native to Canberra, was 15th with 2,871 votes.

    Table of winners

    Adding up the votes for various parrot species, we have more than 30,000 votes, including 76 write-in votes for the newly rediscovered night parrot. As one submitter wrote: For the night parrot, for surviving.

    Bird lovers wrote in to nominate a number of species that were left off the original 51-bird summary list, the most popular of which were: the yellow-tailed black cockatoo with 304 votes; the black-throated finch with 291 votes; and Abbotts booby, a seabird native to Christmas Island, which received 243 votes.

    Also submitted for the scrutineers consideration was Emu bitter (a beer), Pluka duck (a bad 90s puppet), ducks (a valid bird family but a pretty broad vote), and duck <3.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    ‘Not ashamed’: dolphin hunters of Taiji break silence over film The Cove

    Members of the tiny Japanese community, which was vilified in the 2009 documentary, speak to the Guardian about fishing and their unique way of life

    Taiji is still in darkness when a dozen men gather at the quayside and warm themselves over a brazier. While the rest of the town sleeps, they sip from cans of hot coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk in hushed tones.

    As soon as the sun edges above the peninsula, they take to their boats, steering out to sea in formation in search of their prey: the dolphin.

    It has been eight years since the Oscar-winning film The Cove propelled this community in an isolated corner of Japans Pacific coast to the centre of a bitter debate over the pursuit of dolphins for human consumption and entertainment.

    The films graphic footage of dolphins being slaughtered with knives, turning the surrounding sea a crimson red, shocked audiences around the world.

    Unaccustomed to international attention and wrong-footed by their social media-savvy opponents, the towns 3,200 residents simply went to ground. Requests for interviews with town officials went unanswered; the fishermen took a vow of silence.

    But after years of keeping their counsel, Taijis fishermen have finally spoken out, agreeing to talk to the Guardian about their work, their whaling heritage, and their determination to continue hunting dolphins.

    Weve mostly stayed silent since The Cove, and thats why our point of view was never put across in the media, says Yoshifumi Kai, a senior official with Taijis fisheries cooperative.

    Taijis
    Taijis dolphin hunters head out to sea Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

    Kai attributes that reticence down to what he claims are attempts by activists from Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups to manufacture confrontations, which they film and post online, and challenges claims that the practice of slaughtering dolphins beneath tarpaulin sheets is proof that he and his fellow fishermen have something to hide.

    Activists say we are concealing something because we know that what we are doing is immoral, but thats nonsense, he says. You never see cattle or other animals being slaughtered in public. Its not something you do out in the open.

    The earliest recorded coastal whale hunts in Taiji can be traced back to the early 1600s. Scrolls on display in the towns whale museum depict dozens of boats decorated with symbols taken from Buddhism and Japans indigenous religion, Shinto, in pursuit of a whale big enough to sustain the entire community for months.

    Foreign activists ask us why we kill these cute animals, but we see them as a vital source of food, even now, says Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen. When I was a boy, a third of the town would turn out to greet a whale being brought back to shore, because they were desperate to eat its meat. We are grateful to the whales we want Westerners to understand that.

    Taiji Japan map

    By killing dolphins and other small whales, fishermen are continuing a tradition that enabled their ancestors to survive before the days of mass transport and the availability of other sources of nutrition, adds Sangen.

    We couldnt grow rice or vegetables here, and we had no natural water supply. We needed to kill whales to eat, and hundreds of people died doing so. This was a very difficult place to survive, and we will always be grateful to our ancestors for their sacrifice. Its because of them that we are all here today.

    For Sangen, everything in Taiji from services for elderly residents to education and tourist infrastructure depends on the income it makes from the sale of dolphins to zoos and aquariums. Several times during the interview he refers to kujira no megumi literally, the blessing of the whale. Whaling enables this town to function, he says.

    Using remote-controlled helicopters and hidden underwater cameras, The Cove provided graphic footage of Taijis infamous drive hunts, whose critics include the former US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

    Typically, fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging metal poles against their boats to confuse their hypersensitive sonar, before herding them into a narrow inlet. There, they are either slaughtered for their meat or selected and sold for large sums to aquariums and marine parks.

    While dolphin meat for human consumption generates only modest profits, Taijis fishermen can reportedly sell a live specimen to brokers for about 8,000 US dollars. A fully trained dolphin can then fetch more than 40,000 US dollars if sold overseas, and about half that in Japan.

    Minke
    Minke whale sashimi served at a restaurant in Taiji Photograph: Justin McCurry

    The 20 or so Taiji fishermen who take to the sea between September and April to hunt bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales and other small cetaceans have been emboldened by the release of Okujirasama (A Whale of a Tale) a documentary by the New York-based filmmaker Megumi Sasaki that counters what she describes as The Coves one-sided treatment of a complex issue.

    While making her film, Sasaki concluded that the debate over Taiji is an irreconcilable clash of cultures between the global, and Western-led, animal rights movement and local traditions steeped in religion and ancestor worship.

    Whaling is the glue that holds this town together

    If dolphins are so important to the local community, then why kill them thats what many Westerners cant understand, Sasaki says. But we think of animals as a resource, not that they are special creatures that can do things humans cant do. Its a totally different way of thinking. Whaling is the glue that holds this town together its inseparable from local identity and pride.

    Kai dismisses claims that that he and other fishermen employ a singularly cruel method to kill the dolphins. The way we work has changed with the times, he says. In response to criticism, fishermen now dispatch the animals by inserting a knife into their neck, severing their brain stem a method he claims is the most humane possible, but which some experts have said does not result in a painless or immediate death.

    On a recent morning, the seafront in Taiji is free from confrontation, although activists have tweeted their regular early-morning photos of the banger boats heading out to sea.

    The fishermen appear to have reached an uneasy truce with overseas campaigners, first from Sea Shepherd, and now from the Dolphin Project, a group formed by the dolphin trainer-turned activist Ric OBarry.

    Warning
    Warning signs near the cove in Taiji. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

    But there is still little interaction between the two sides. They dont want to listen, only to provoke us, Mitsunori Kobata, president of Taijis dolphin-hunting association, says over a dinner of minke whale sashimi and steamed rice flavoured with thin strips of whale blubber.

    Theyre here to do whatever they can to obstruct our business, so we dont see any point in engaging with them. Theyre never going to change their minds, whatever we say.

    Pointing to slices of sauted meat, from the belly of a short-finned pilot whale, that he has brought from home, Kobata adds: In the days when there was no refrigeration, people preserved meat like this in salt. Of course, there are lots of other sources of protein around these days, but people of my generation and older still have the right to eat whale if we want to.

    Both men hope Sasakis documentary will restore some equilibrium to a debate that has cast a shadow over Taiji for almost a decade.

    They point out that they kill just under 2,000 small cetaceans a year, a tenth of Japans annual quota, adding that none of the species is endangered or covered by the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling.

    Were not ashamed of hunting dolphins and would never consider stopping, Kai says. Its the most important part of our local tradition.

    Just look around you if we didnt make a living from the sea, there would be nothing left. People keep telling us to stop whaling and find another way of earning a living. But what on earth would we do instead?

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Japan kills more than 300 whales in annual Antarctic hunt

    Whaling fleet returns to port after slaughtering hundreds of minke whales, in defiance of moratorium on hunting and global criticism

    A Japanese whaling fleet returned to port on Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals, as Tokyo pursues the programme in defiance of global criticism.

    The fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales, flouting a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.

    The fleet consisted of five ships, three of which arrived on Friday morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the countrys Fisheries Agency said.

    More than 200 people, including crew members and their families, gathered in the rain for a 30-minute ceremony in front of the Nisshin Maru, the fleets main ship, according to an official of the Shimonoseki city government.

    In a press release, the agency described the mission as research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea.

    But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.

    Anticipating the fleets return, animal protection charity Humane Society International called for an end to Japanese whaling. Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed, said Kitty Block, the groups executive vice-president.

    It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end.

    Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.

    Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986.

    Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for scientific research and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

    But it also makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served in school lunches.

    Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-second world war years, when the country was desperately poor. But consumption has dramatically declined in recent decades, with significant proportions of the population saying they never or rarely eat whale meat.

    In response to the ICJ ruling, Japans 2014-15 mission carried out only non-lethal research such as taking skin samples and doing headcounts.

    Past missions have been hampered by a confrontational campaign on the high seas by environmentalists Sea Shepherd. A fisheries agency official said that the whalers this time faced no obstructive behaviour threatening safety of the fleet and crew members by the group.

    He attributed that partially to Japan dispatching patrol ships to protect the fleet.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Lions next in line of fire as US rolls back curbs on African hunting trophies

    The Trump administrations lifting of restrictions on importing elephant body parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia is not the last gift to hunting interests

    Hunting interests have scored a major victory with the Trump administrations decision to allow Americans to bring home body parts of elephants shot for sport in Africa. Another totemic species now looks set to follow suit lions.

    As the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was announcing it was lifting a ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, it also quietly published new guidelines that showed lions shot in the two African countries will also be eligible to adorn American homes.

    This all suggests that rather than being the protectors of wildlife, the federal government is now a promoter of trophy hunting, said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

    They are rolling out the red carpet to the next Walter Palmer, and that same sort of situation will happen all over again, Pacelle added, referencing the Minnesota dentist who sparked an international furore after he shot and killed Cecil, a famous black-maned lion that was lured from a protected reserve in Zimbabwe.

    In 2014, American hunters were barred from bringing home parts of elephants shot in Zimbabwe because of concerns over the conservation of the animals in the country. Last year, the FWS, under the Obama administration, also listed the lion as a threatened species and placed tighter restrictions on bringing back heads, paws and other body parts.

    The Trump administration has begun to peel away this legacy in unusual fashion by announcing the lifting to the elephant ban at the African Wildlife Consultative Forum, a pro-hunting event held in Tanzania, rather than on its website or in the federal register.

    embed

    The event is co-hosted by Safari Club International, an Arizona-based group that lobbies against hunting restrictions and auctions off trips to members to head to Africa to hunt the big five lions, rhinos, elephants, Cape buffalo and leopards. SCI joined with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to legally challenge the ban on elephant trophies.

    Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRAs Institute for Legislative Action, said the Trump administration had backed sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting through its decision. Conservation groups fear the administration is now held in the sway of SCI and the NRA to the detriment of species such as lions and elephants both of which have suffered sharp declines in recent years.

    This is political fealty to the NRA and SCI, said Pacelle. Here we are telling black Africans they cant kill elephants for tusks but its OK for rich white people to show up and shoot them. Its the height of hypocrisy.

    Pacelle said it was a farce that Zimbabwe was now considered a responsible steward for elephants in the midst of an apparent coup by the military against Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old president who celebrated a birthday in 2015 by feasting upon a baby elephant.

    Zimbabwes elephant population has dropped in recent years with a spate of poaching, including cyanide poisonings, killing thousands of the animals. However, the FWS said the lifting of the trophy import ban was rooted in science and that the situation has changed and improved since 2014.

    The agency said Zimbabwe had a new management plan that includes a hunting quota of 500 elephants, with money from wealthy western hunters distributed to rural communities.

    There has been a fierce battle between some conservationists and hunting groups over whether funds from shooting trips actually improve the fortunes of endangered species or local communities, but it is clear that the trajectory of almost all megafauna in Africa is one of rapid decline.

    A
    A family group of elephants in Hwange national park in Zimbabwe. All African megafauna are facing rapid decline. Photograph: Alamy

    The pro-hunting outlook of the Trump administration has a champion in Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior. Zinke, whose agency also oversees the FWS, has pushed for greater hunting access to public land, reversed a ban on lead ammunition that is linked to the poisonings of bald eagles and is attempting to open a vast wildlife refuge in Alaska to oil drilling.

    This agenda dovetails with Republicans in Congress who have taken aim at endangered species protections, putting forward bills that would allow the trapping of wolves in the US and remove non-native species such as lions and elephants from protected status.

    The presidents sons are also both keen hunters, with pictures emerging in 2012 of Eric and Donald Trump Jr with a dead elephant, buffalo and other animals while on safari. Donald Jr posed holding a severed elephants tail while the two brothers beamed at the camera while clutching a dead leopard.

    Donald Trump Jr, the presidents eldest son, has said he is known as the Fifth Avenue redneck by friends due to his love of hunting and estimates he has killed 15 or 16 species in Africa.

    Last year, Donald Jr said the FWS should be encouraging American hunters legally and ethically hunting abroad, not hindering them.

    We have to make sure were heard, he said. Lately, weve been a forgotten group. I want to change that now and forever.

    And we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that any kind of Trump presidency is going to be the best since Theodore Roosevelt for outdoorsmen, for hunters, for our public lands, and for this country as it relates to anything in the great outdoors.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    No plan to protect Queensland’s green-haired turtle from extinction

    The Mary river turtle is just one of many endangered Australian reptile species which have fallen between the conservation cracks

    The Australian government does not have a plan to save an endangered Australian turtle species that received global attention on Thursday for its green mohawk and its ability to breathe through its genitals.

    The Mary river turtle, found only in that one river in Queensland, attracted worldwide headlines as one of the standout species on a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

    But despite this listing it does not have a national recovery plan to protect it from extinction and it is unclear whether any federal government funds have been specifically allocated for its protection.

    The turtle is 29th on ZSLs Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) list for reptiles, which highlights the conservation needs of some of the worlds unique reptiles.

    The turtle is not the only reptile species found in Australia to appear on the list, with eight species making the top 100, and seven of those appearing in the top 40.

    Among them are the critically endangered western swamp tortoise, which is number seven on the Edge list, the pig-nosed turtle, number 19 on the list, and the Gulbaru Gecko, a critically endangered Queensland species that was only discovered in 2001 and appears at 40 on the list.

    Conservationists say the list highlights the lack of conservation attention many Australian reptiles receive compared to more charismatic and iconic mammal and bird species.

    The federal governments threatened species strategy specifically targets 20 mammals, 20 birds and 30 plants, but no reptiles.

    Australia is one of the richest places in the world when it comes to reptile biodiversity, yet our federal governments threatened species strategy doesnt even include reptiles. It is an entire class of species missing from the current national recovery efforts, said Australian Conservation Foundation policy analyst James Trezise.

    The research shows species like the Mary river turtle and western swamp tortoise are globally significant. If we are to see these species survive into the future we need more effective laws to protect their habitat and our governments must significantly increase funding available for their recovery.

    According to the Edge list, the population numbers for the Mary river turtle are unknown. The species is listed as endangered under Australias national environment laws the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act but it has not been recommended for a national recovery plan. Instead, the Environment and Energy Departments EPBC database lists a two-page conservation advice that includes a list of priority actions that would help protect the species.

    The pig-nosed turtle, which appears at number 19 on the Edge list, is not protected under Australias national environment laws at all because it was ruled as ineligible for a threatened species listing under the EPBC Act in 2005.

    Scientists and conservationists say the Edge list also highlights the dire state of affairs for non-turtle species such as lizards and snakes.

    Seven of the Australian species that appear in the top 100 on the list are turtles. Associate Professor Dave Chapple from the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University said the dominance by turtles on the list was partly because more was known about them.

    On a worldwide level, the number of reptiles is 10,711 as of February this year. The number of turtle species is only 350. There are 6,451 lizards and 3,691 snakes, Associate Professor Chapple said.

    Obviously the number of lizards and snakes is substantially higher than all of the other groups. But what generally happens is turtles are quite large which has been linked to increased extinction risk charismatic and well known, so we know a lot more about their conservation status.

    He is hoping that will soon change in Australia with the forthcoming publication of new conservation information about Australias lizards and snakes.

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature conducted two workshops in Australia in 2017 to assess the conservation status of about 970 of Australias snake and lizard species, which at the time represented 100% of Australian species. Of those, 10 to 15% are believed to be threatened. Before that, only about 15% of Australian snakes and lizards had had their conservation status assessed by the IUCN.

    Associate Professor Chapple said now that scientists knew which Australian lizard and snake species met the criteria for a threatened species listing through the IUCN, they were using the information to focus on the species most in need of being added to the list of threatened species in Australia.

    In terms of actions based on our updated knowledge of the threat status, we need to put work into that area and thats where our focus should be now, he said.

    Tim Doherty, a research fellow Deakin Universitys Centre for Integrative Ecology, said more support for Australian reptiles was essential because the country was a global hotspot for reptile biodiversity.

    Weve got more than 1,000 different species which equates to roughly 10% of the global total of the worlds reptiles, and more than 90% of our species are endemic, meaning theyre found nowhere else in the world, Dr Doherty said.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Polar bears could become extinct faster than was feared, study says

    The animals facing an increasing struggle to find enough food to survive as climate change steadily transforms their environment

    Polar bears could become extinct faster than was feared, study says

    The animals facing an increasing struggle to find enough food to survive as climate change steadily transforms their environment

    Polar bears could be sliding towards extinction faster than previously feared, with the animals facing an increasing struggle to find enough food to survive as climate change steadily transforms their environment.

    New research has unearthed fresh insights into polar bear habits, revealing that the Arctic predators have far higher metabolisms than previously thought. This means they need more prey, primarily seals, to meet their energy demands at a time when receding sea ice is making hunting increasingly difficult for the animals.

    A study of nine polar bears over a three-year period by the US Geological Survey and UC Santa Cruz found that the animals require at least one adult, or three juvenile, ringed seals every 10 days to sustain them. Five of the nine bears were unable to achieve this during the research, resulting in plummeting body weight as much as 20kg during a 10-day study period.

    We found a feast and famine lifestyle if they missed out on seals it had a pretty dramatic effect on them, said Anthony Pagano, a USGS biologist who led the research, published in Science.

    polar bear map

    We were surprised to see such big changes in body masses, at a time when they should be putting on bulk to sustain them during the year. This and other studies suggest that polar bears arent able to meet their bodily demands like they once were.

    Paganos team studied the bears in a period during April over the course of three years, from 2014 to 2016, in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska. They fitted the bears with GPS collars with video cameras to measure activity levels. Blood chemistry was also taken from the bears.

    Previously, polar bears were thought to expend relatively little energy during days where they often wait for hours beside holes in the ice, which seals emerge from in order to breathe. But the researchers found that they actually have an average metabolism 50% higher than prior estimates.

    With previous studies showing recent drops in polar bear numbers, survival rates and body condition, scientists said the new research suggests the species is facing an even worse predicament than was feared.

    The Arctic is warming twice as rapidly as the global average, diminishing the sea ice that polar bears rely upon for food and forcing many to embark from water on to land where they desperately forage for goose eggs or rubbish from bins in far-flung towns.

    Play Video
    0:59

    Footage of starving polar bear exposes climate change impact video

    A recent widely-shared video of an emaciated polar bear is a horrible scene that we will see more of in the future and more quickly than we thought, according to Dr Steven Amstrup, who led polar bear research for 30 years in Alaska.

    This is an excellent paper that fills in a lot of missing information about polar bears, said Amstrup, who was not involved in the USGS research. Every piece of evidence shows that polar bears are dependent on sea ice and if we dont change the trajectory of sea ice decline, polar bears will ultimately disappear.

    They face the choice of coming on to land or floating off with the ice as it recedes, out to the deep ocean where there is little food. We will see more bears starving and more of them on land, where they will get into trouble by interacting with humans.

    Polar bears are listed by the US government as a threatened species but the Trump administration has reversed measures that tackle climate change, with the president himself seemingly unaware of the situation in the Arctic.

    During an interview on Sunday, Donald Trump said that the ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now theyre setting records. Theyre at a record levels.

    In fact, when measured at its September minimum, Arctic sea ice has declined by around 13% per decade since 1979. Last year was the eighth lowest minimum extent in the 38-year satellite record.

    The huge glacial ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are reacting more slowly to the warming atmosphere and oceans but scientists are watching them closely as they will heavily influence sea level rise if theres significant melting. In just the past decade, Greenland has lost two trillion tons of its ice mass.

    I hope we will have an awakening, but we havent really done much to save polar bears over the past decade, said Amstrup. With this administration, Im not exactly confident well see a major switch in that.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Mumbai beach goes from dump to turtle hatchery in two years

    Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings spotted after cleanup of Versova beach by Afroz Shah and volunteers

    Hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species have been spotted for the first time in decades on a Mumbai beach that was rejuvenated in the past two years by a massive volunteer cleanup operation.

    At least 80 Olive Ridley turtles have made their way into the Arabian Sea from nests on the southern end of Versova beach in the past week, protected from wild dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who slept overnight in the sand to watch over them.

    Versova has undergone what the United Nations has called the worlds largest beach cleanup project over the past two years, transformed from a shin-deep dump yard for plastics and rubbish to a virtually pristine piece of coastline.

    The man who leads the ongoing cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz Shah, said he started anticipating the turtle hatchings two months ago when farmers on the southern end of the two-mile (3km) beach reported seeing turtles in the sand.

    Olive
    Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings in a container as they are helped by wildlife conservationists to reach the Arabian Sea on Versova beach in Mumbai. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

    The moment we got that news I knew something big was going to happen, he told the Guardian. Last Thursday, some of his volunteers called to say they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nests.

    He called the forest department and then went down to the beach with about 25 others, guarding the area while the tiny creatures hobbled across the sand, making sure not one hatchling suffered a death, he said.

    The Olive Ridley species, thought to be named for the olive-green hue of its upper shell, is the smallest and most abundant sea turtle in the ocean, but is still classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    Mothers of the species lay eggs in an enormous mass-nesting process known as arribada. Last month on the coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, a record 428,083 Olive Ridley turtles nested simultaneously at the Rushikulya rookery.

    Though they nest elsewhere in Mumbai, none had been sighted on Versova beach in decades, due to the acute pollution problem there, Shah said. I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean.

    Sumedha Korgaonkar, who is completing a PhD on Olive Ridley turtles with the Wildlife Institute of India, said it was possible small numbers of the turtles had been nesting on the beach in past years. We cant say for sure since regular patrolling for turtles nests is not done in Mumbai, she said.

    Clean-up
    Clean-up at Versova beach. Photograph: Shashi S Kashyap/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

    Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles. Many beaches which are major nesting sites are cleaned prior and during the nesting season by villagers, which increases the chances of getting nests [there].

    For more than two years, Shah has been leading volunteers in manually picking up rubbish from Versova beach and teaching sustainable waste practices to villagers and people living in slums along the coastline and the creeks leading into it.

    About 55,000 people live along the beach and the waterways that feed it in the crowded megacity. Shah said he taught them by example, offering to clean communal toilets and pick up rubbish himself before he ever sought their help.

    For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined, he said. Then two men approached me and said, very politely, Please sir, can we wear your gloves? Both of them just came and joined me. Thats when I knew it was going to be a success.

    Quick guide

    What is the Upside?

    News doesn’t always have to be bad indeed, the relentless focus on confrontation, disaster, antagonism and blame risks convincing the public that the world is hopeless and there is nothing we can do.

    This series is an antidote, an attempt to show that there is plenty of hope, as our journalists scour the planet looking for pioneers, trailblazers, best practice, unsung heroes, ideas that work, ideas that might and innovations whose time might have come.

    Readers can follow up with our Further Reading guides and can also recommend other projects, people and progress that we should report on by contacting us at theupside@theguardian.com

    Sign up here for a weekly emailed roundup from this series

    He said the team had cleaned 13m kg of debris from the beach in the past two years and are still going, though their campaign was briefly abandoned in November because of administrative lethargy and harassment of volunteers.

    India has some of the most polluted waterways and beaches in the world due to rapid, unplanned urbanisation, overpopulation and neglectful attitudes, including to public littering.

    There has been a loss of a sense of belonging, Shah said. You can have laws, policies, regulations in place, but if the community doesnt have a sense of belonging, you can see what happens.

    This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the worlds most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at theupside@theguardian.com

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    New Zealand bird of the year: playful alpine parrot kea soars to victory

    The worlds only mountain parrot whose cheeky antics divide Kiwis, beats kerer and kkp to coveted crown

    The kea, the worlds only alpine parrot, has been crowned New Zealand bird of the year, with thousands more votes cast for the species than there are surviving individuals.

    New Zealands annual bird of the year competition hit new heights this year with more than 50,000 votes cast from around the country and the world. The competition is in its 13th year, and pits the countrys rare and endangered birds against one another. No bird has won twice.

    The kea a highly intelligent and inquisitive olive green mountain parrot that lives only in the Southern Alps received 7,311 votes, streets ahead of the native wood pigeon, the kerer, which came second with 4,572 votes, followed by the kkp with 2,554 votes.

    Forest & Bird (@Forest_and_Bird)

    Laura Young takes a call from Donald Trump* congratulating her on kea’s win. He passes on warm regards to the birds of NZ. #BirdOfTheYear pic.twitter.com/rvq6QwEz8P

    October 23, 2017

    There are 168 bird species in New Zealand and about a third are threatened with extinction, with dozens more on the endangered list. Some species have dwindled to a few hundred individuals tucked away in isolated pockets of the country.

    Play Video
    0:50

    Kea voted bird of the year in New Zealand video

    Kea are found only in the mountains of the South Island in a vast habitat of some 3.5m hectares. They once numbered in the hundreds of thousands but are now classified as nationally endangered with between 3,000 and 7,000 birds remaining.

    One of the most intelligent bird species in the world, kea are renowned for their playfulness and novelty-seeking nature, which conservationist David Attenborough discovered when filming them for a BBC documentary, titled The Smartest Parrot, on the west coast of the South Island.

    Clip from the BBCs The Smartest Parrot.

    Tamsin Orr-Walker, the co-founder of the Kea Conservation Trust, said it was fabulous the kea had finally won and in many ways it was more representative of New Zealanders than the official national bird, the reclusive kiwi.

    A lot of people are saying the kea should be our national bird because they so much epitomise what it is to be a New Zealander: adventurous and up for a challenge and maybe a bit misunderstood, she said.

    I think New Zealanders are starting to realise how special kea are; they are interactive birds and seek out humans which is very unusual. The fact they are declining from our mountains is alarming.

    Recent studies from the Kea Conservation Trust have found two-thirds of kea chicks never reach fledgling stage, as their nests are ground-dwelling and they are eaten by stoats, rats and possums (which the NZ government has pledged to exterminate by 2050).

    Orr-Walker said the threat to kea was three-pronged: from introduced species, lead poisoning from old-fashioned alpine dwellings such as huts and shearing sheds, and from their interactions with humans, which include being hit by cars or fed inappropriate food.

    Lead poisoning was particularly difficult to tackle, Orr-Walker said, as there were thousands of old buildings dotted around remote parts the South Island that could poison inquisitive kea. The effects of lead poisoning on the birds were disastrous, including brain damage and death.

    An estimated 150,000 kea were killed from the 1860s onwards due to a government bounty introduced after conflict with sheep farmers.

    The department of conservation and the Kea Conservation Trust continue to record intentional kea deaths each year (either shot, bludgeoned or poisoned by humans) though such incidents are thought to be under-reported.

    Education efforts have gone a long way towards New Zealanders learning to love and respect the kea, but if the kea cause financial loss or begin to hit peoples bottom line, that is when we are still hearing stories of kea being killed, said Josh Kemp, a kea expert at New Zealands department of conservation.

    Despite their protected status, keas have divided Kiwis between those who enjoy the cheeky parrots animated nature and those who curse its destructive habits such as damaging cars, tents and buildings in alpine environments, attacking stock and habitually stealing food.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Snake on a plane: reptile panics passengers on Mexico City flight

    Plane gets priority landing after large serpent appears on ceiling of the cabin before dropping to the floor

    Passengers on a commercial flight in Mexico were given a start when a serpent appeared in the cabin in a scene straight out of the Hollywood thriller Snakes on a Plane.

    The green reptile emerged suddenly on an Aeromexico flight from Torreon in the countrys north to Mexico City on Sunday, slithering out from behind an overhead luggage compartment.

    Mobile phone video shot by passenger Indalecio Medina showed it wriggling briefly as if trapped before partially dropping down into the cabin.

    I was reading a magazine and the passenger next to me saw it and, Oh my word! Medina said on Monday. He estimated it was more than 3ft (about 1m) in length.

    Passengers hastily unbuckled themselves to get clear of the snake before it dropped to the floor, where people trapped it between rows 5 and 6 with blankets provided by a flight attendant, Medina said.

    It was a frightening situation … but people remained calm because it didnt get out of that space and nobody became hysterical, Medina said. Some people got up to see what kind of reptile it was, but nobody got carried away.

    After the pilot radioed ahead, the plane was given priority landing in Mexico City and touched down 10 minutes later. Passengers exited out the rear, and animal control workers came on board to take the stowaway into custody.

    Aeromexico said in a statement that it was investigating how the snake got into the cabin and would take measures to keep such an incident from happening again.

    Snakes on a Plane was a 2006 action movie that was about exactly what the title suggests. It is treasured by fans for its campy premise and star Samuel L Jacksons profanity-laced declaration of war on the CGI-generated serpents.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    The blue dogs of Mumbai: industrial waste blamed for colourful canines

    The group of strangely coloured canines was first spotted on 11 August prompting locals to complain to the local pollution control board

    Authorities in Mumbai have shut down a manufacturing company after it was accused of dumping untreated industrial waste and dyes into a local river that resulted in 11 dogs turning blue.

    The group of strangely coloured canines was first spotted on 11 August, according to the Hindustan Times, prompting locals to complain to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board about dyes being dumped in the Kasadi river, where the animals often swim.

    Footage shows the animals roaming the streets with bright blue fur.

    It was shocking to see how the dogs white fur had turned completely blue, said Arati Chauhan, head of the Navi Mumbai Animal Protection Cell, told the Times. We have spotted almost five such dogs here and have asked the pollution control board to act against such industries.

    Chauhan had posted images of the blue dogs on the groups Facebook page, saying the pollutants from Taloja Industrial area not only ruining the water bodies affecting humans there but also affecting animals, birds, reptiles.

    The board investigated, shutting down the company on Wednesday after confirming that canines were turning blue due to air and water pollution linked to the plant.

    An animal welfare agency managed to capture one of the dogs and wash some of the blue dye off. The group concluded that animal seemed unharmed in all other ways.

    The Kasadi River flows through an area with hundreds of factories.

    According to data obtained by NGO Watchdog Foundation through right to information, there are 977 chemical, pharmaceutical, engineering and food processing factories in the Taloja industrial area, located outside Mumbai.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    See this turtle’s miraculous recovery after getting caught in a piece of litter.

    When it comes to prioritizing environmental concerns, curbing litter isn’t exactly at the top of the list.

    After all, when there are much bigger dangers like harmful emissions, overfishing, and climate change to worry about, how much harm are a few pieces of plastic on the ground really going to do?

    Just splitting a sixer of Strawberry Crush with my bros. What’s the worst that could happen? Photo by iStock.

    But there’s one turtle that would staunchly disagree with that mindset (or, at least he would if he could talk).

    Meet Peanut. He’s a turtle. And he’s lucky to be alive.

    The red-eared slider was found wandering the St. Louis area in 1993 with a six-pack ring trapped around his mid-section.

    Peanut re-creating the fateful incident. All Peanut photos by Missouri Department of Conservation, used with permission.

    Even after his rescuers snipped the plastic rings off, Peanut’s shell was forever deformed into a figure-8, peanut-y shape (hence his name). Due to the constriction of his shell, some of Peanut’s internal organs (his lungs, in particular) failed to grow properly.

    These impairments made Peanut an easy target for predators, which meant he was unable to be released back into the wild.

    Today, Peanut has a home and a job with the State of Missouri.

    The 31-year old turtle resides at
    Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, where he is treated by the state herpetologist. He’s also the official mascot for Missouri’s Department of Transportation and Department of Conservation’s anti-littering effort, a program called No MOre Trash.

    Peanut is ready for his close-up.

    In his heyday, Peanut made as many as two or three appearances a month at schools and events across Missouri.

    He and his handlers would encourage people young and old to dispose of their trash the
    right way to prevent other animals from ending up like Peanut.

    Peanut rockin’ out.

    Now that Peanut’s a little older, he’s taking it easy.

    “We put Peanut in semi-retirement,” Catherine McGrane, assistant nature center manager for Powder Valley, told Upworthy. Traveling back and forth to lots of events can be stressful for a turtle because of all the handling and being transferred to water of varying pH levels.

    These days, Peanut still travels to large events like the Missouri State Fair, where he’s a popular attraction and educator. Every year, 90,000 to 110,000 visitors travel to Powder Valley to see Peanut and the site’s two other resident turtles in the visitor’s center lobby.

    Peanut hanging out in his tank at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center.

    Peanut is a living, breathing example of the impact our garbage can have on the environment.

    Whether it’s turtles in six-pack rings or
    squirrels in yogurt containers, what happens to our trash and how we dispose of it matters.

    McGrane shared a few other common household items to watch out for: “Any fishing line, or plastic lines, because animals can get tangled, not just in the water, but by a bird or squirrel, ” she said. “And be mindful of balloons when they pop outside. Birds and other animals may ingest them.”

    “Please think more about your trash,” is what Peanut would say if his lungs weren’t deformed and if he could talk.

    The best way to dispose of six-pack rings, fishing line, and yogurt containers is to cut them into smaller pieces before dropping them in the recycling. This simple step can protect fish and wildlife from getting stuck or swallowing large pieces.
    Balloons and plastic shopping bags also pose a serious threat to animals who eat them or get entangled. Consider balloon-free celebrations and use cloth bags at the store to keep these items out of landfills.

    When you’re out and about, make sure your trash and recyclables wind up in the right place, in the proper condition.

    Because we can all do our part to protect our natural resources and wildlife.


    Peanut loves when you recycle. Keep it up. Photo by iStock.

    Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

    Star of dolphin-hunting film The Cove to be deported from Japan

    Ric OBarry is accused of trying to enter the country using tourist visa to join campaign against slaughter of dolphins in Taiji

    A leading US animal rights activist is to be deported from Japan after being accused of trying to enter on a tourist visa to support a campaign against the slaughter of dolphins.

    Ric OBarry, who starred in The Cove, the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary about the annual dolphin cull in the town of Taiji, has been detained at Narita airport near Tokyo since Monday.

    His son, Lincoln OBarry, said immigration authorities had turned down his fathers request to visit Japan using a tourist visa. They reportedly accused him of lying during questioning and of having links to the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, whose members have a constant presence in Taiji.

    The 76-year-old, who trained dolphins for the 1960s TV series Flipper before devoting himself to conservation, reportedly denied the charges, saying he was going to observe dolphins as a tourist.

    Taiji, on Japans Pacific coast, gained international notoriety as a result of The Cove, which followed OBarry and other activists as they attempted to document the killing of dolphins by local fishermen. The film, directed by Louie Psihoyos, won the Academy Award for best documentary.

    The method used to kill the animals has been widely condemned by environmentalists. The US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, has also voiced deep concern about the drive-hunt method.

    Fishermen pursue pods of dolphins and bang metal poles together beneath the water to confuse their hypersensitive sonar. The dolphins are then driven into a large cove sealed off by nets, and taken to a secluded inlet to be killed with knives and spears.

    Last year, aquariums in Japan voted to stop buying live dolphins from Taiji after they were threatened with expulsion from the worlds leading zoo organisation. Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen, later said the town would set up a new body that would continue to sell dolphins to aquariums.

    OBarry, who heads the Dolphin Project campaign group, is a regular visitor to Taiji, where fishermen catch hundreds of dolphins during the six-month season, which starts in September. The most attractive specimens, usually bottlenoses, are sold to aquariums and sea parks, while others are killed and their meat sold in local restaurants and supermarkets.

    In an email to his son seen by the Associated Press, OBarry said: Im incarcerated, on trumped-up charges. In a world where so much that is wild and free has already been lost to us, we must leave these beautiful dolphins free to swim as they will and must.

    Fishermen

    Fishermen drive bottlenose dolphins into a net during the annual hunt off Taiji, Japan. Photograph: AP

    Media reports said OBarry was resisting deportation and had been transferred to another detention facility near Narita airport. His lawyer Takashi Takano visited him on Friday and said OBarry was being held alone but was in good spirits.

    The Japanese government was expected to issue a formal warrant and physically deport him, Takano added.

    The deportation order marks a hardening of attitudes among Japanese authorities towards environmental activists in Taiji. Police have increased their presence in the town in case of clashes between Sea Shepherd members and locals, who claim they are being unfairly vilified for maintaining a coastal whaling and dolphin-hunting tradition stretching back centuries.

    OBarry was arrested near the town last September for allegedly failing to carry his passport, but was released the following day.

    Takano said immigration officials refused to believe OBarrys claim that he was not planning to participate in any campaigns. They cited his presence last August at Japan Dolphins Day in Tokyo, despite having told them he would not attend the event.

    Immigration officials said they were unable to comment on individual cases.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Mountain lion kitten spotted near Los Angeles fuels conservation hopes

    National Wildlife Federation spokesperson cites cause for celebration as young animal is observed among population hemmed in by freeways

    Conservationists are celebrating after sighting a young mountain lion they did not know existed amid a tiny, threatened population of the animals in the hills around Los Angeles.

    Wildlife experts were amazed both that they had not previously spotted the animal and that it was alive at all. The kitten survived a spate of recent deaths that killed its four siblings.

    On Friday, the National Park Service (NPS) released video footage of the mountain lion kitten in the wild, mewing and approaching the carcass of a deer killed by the its mother.

    The kittens siblings, from a litter born earlier this year, came to a grisly end, two being cannibalized by an adult male and the other two apparently killed by unspecified predators, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    But conservationists followed the mother and discovered her surviving offspring just days ago, having set up motion-activated cameras.

    The small community of mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, in the Santa Monica mountains is essentially trapped on a fragment of preserved wild land bounded by freeways, including the 10-lane Interstate 101.

    The population was believed to be only around 15 strong. But as of Saturday, it is understood to be at least 16.

    Its a cause for celebration because there is one more to count in that struggling population, Beth Pratt-Bergstrom of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) told the Guardian on Saturday.

    Pratt-Bergstrom works on a conservation project to save the lions and is running a campaign to try to fund the biggest wildlife bridge in the world, which will allow the animals to cross the 10-lane freeway that currently stops them seeking the territory they instinctively need to thrive.

    The group is threatened by inbreeding, highway deaths and rat poison, Pratt-Bergstrom said, adding that the lack of sufficient territory leads to incest and males killing offspring, further weakening the gene pool.

    This happens among mountain lions, but much more so in this group, she said. The mountain lion population in California in general is OK, but this group of lions is not OK.

    It has not yet been established whether the newly sighted kitten is male or female. Experts will now attempt to capture the youngster briefly, so it can be injected with a tracking chip and released.

    A video posted to Facebook by the Santa Monica Mountains national recreation area (click for playback). Contains some grisly images of a deer.

    Fatal clashes between the mountain lions and humans are rare. Three people have been killed by mountain lions in California in the last 30 years Pratt-Bergstrom pointed out that 700 people die every year in traffic accidents, just in LA County.

    The NWF, NPS and an agency called the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy are working with the state transportation authority and numerous other partners to try to raise the $50m that will be needed to construct the wildlife bridge.

    Pratt-Bergstrom hopes the Santa Monica mountain lion group will survive to see it come to fruition, ideally within five years. The group has an estimated three adult males.

    Without this corridor, the population could collapse and we are watching closely to see if it can survive long enough, without losing more individuals, especially the males, she said.

    Pratt-Bergstrom said she hoped the kitten might be a male, to add to the gene pool.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Farmers must stop antibiotics use in animals due to human health risk, warns WHO

    Overuse of antibiotics in animals is contributing to growing drug resistance in humans with serious health implications, says global health body

    Farmers must be prevented from using powerful antibiotics on animals reared for food, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned, because of the serious risks to human health that result.

    New guidelines from the global body suggest farmers should stop using any antibiotics routinely to promote growth and prevent disease in animals that are otherwise healthy, a common practice in some parts of the world, including Asia and the US. Such routine use is banned in Europe, though campaigners fear the rules are sometimes flouted.

    Using antimicrobial medicines on farm animals is one of the leading causes of the rise of superbugs, resistant to all but the strongest antibiotics. Medical authorities warn that the antibiotics available to treat even relatively minor human diseases are running out because of the rapid rise of such resistance.

    Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, has warned repeatedly that, a decade from now, even routine, previously low-risk operations, such as hip replacements, may become dangerous because of the risk of infections resistant to medicines.

    The WHO reported on Tuesday that in some countries, as much as 80% of antibiotic use is on farm animals. Even in some countries where routine use for enhancing growth is banned, more antibiotics are used on animals than on humans.

    The use of the strongest antibiotics, a last resort for the most deadly infections affecting humans, should be banned altogether in animals, the guidelines advise. This should apply, according to the WHO, even in cases where an illness has been diagnosed in a food-producing animal. Implementing this could require animals to be quarantined, allowed to die, or for herds to be culled in order to halt the spread of a serious disease rather than attempting to cure it.

    This recommendation is likely to be unpopular with farmers, who could risk financial loss, but is crucial to protect human health, according to the WHO, because the use of such antibiotics in animals is leading to increased resistance even to last-resort medicines, to the despair of doctors.

    However, the WHO has no power to enforce its guidelines, which are up to national governments to accept or reject.

    The forthright warning comes as new research, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, showed that restricting antibiotic use on farms reduced the antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals by up to 39%. The WHO said it had used the research to inform its new guidelines.

    Restricting our remaining effective antibiotics for human use is crucial because of the lack of alternatives available. There are very few promising options in the research pipeline for new antibiotics to replace those that are becoming ineffective because of overuse and resistance, the WHO warned.

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said: A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak. Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide of antimicrobial resistance and keep the world safe.

    Animal herds treated with antibiotics can develop bacteria resistant to the drugs, and pass this on to humans directly, through contact with farm workers, or through food. A Guardian investigation found that the superbug MRSA was found in a significant sample of pork products on the UKs supermarket shelves, risking humans becoming infected with the strain.

    Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of food safety at the WHO, said the links between antibiotic use on farms and risks to human health were clear: Scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance. The volume of antibiotics used in animals is continuing to increase worldwide, driven by a growing demand for foods of animal origin, often produced through intensive animal husbandry.

    Dr Clare Chandler of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: This is a welcome set of recommendations from WHO. It will be a challenge for producers to follow these recommendations to reduce antibiotic use, but possible for larger scale producers with good biosecurity. Many smaller scale farmers around the world are dependent upon antibiotics to supplement animal feed, and actions will be needed to support them to make this change which will affect their lives and livelihoods.

    The Guardian, in a joint investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, also found a rapid increase in the number of megafarms in the UK. Megafarms across the globe are on the rise, and they have been linked with antibiotic resistance, as whole herds of many hundreds of animals are often treated at once.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    This disturbing dolphin selfie trend is an all-time low for humanity

    Image: screengrab/youtube

    Could people please stop dragging dolphins from the water in order to take selfies with them?

    Another baby dolphin has died in Argentina after tourists ripped it from the ocean and mobbed it to touch it and take snaps with it.

    A YouTube video shows beachgoers in San Bernardo, about 200 miles south of Buenos Aires, standing and kneeling to pet the small animal.

    “They let it die,” Claudia, one observer quoted in the newspaper La Capital told C5N news channel. “It was young and came to the shore. They could have returned it to the water, in fact, it was breathing, but everyone started taking photos and touching it. They said it was already dead.”

    It’s the second such incident in Argentina over the past year. A similar episode happened last year when a young dolphin was mobbed and left for dead in the resort of Santa Teresita.

    h/t National Geographic

    Source: http://mashable.com/

    Vietnam mourns death of sacred turtle and fears for ruling party’s future

    Demise of reptile venerated as symbol of independence struggle considered bad omen for forthcoming Communist congress

    A sacred giant turtle venerated as a symbol of Vietnams independence struggle has died, state media have said, prompting an outpouring of grief and fears the death bodes ill for a forthcoming communist leadership handover.

    The reptile, a critically endangered swinhoe softshell turtle, occupies a key mythological role in the country in the past, the turtle surfaced only rarely, with its sightings deemed auspicious.

    Some scientists believe it was one of only four of the species better known as Yangtze giant softshells in existence. Two are in China; the other lives in a different lake in Hanoi.

    The reptile was found dead in Hoan Kiem lake in central Hanoi on Tuesday, the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper said. The turtle, which weighed about 200kg (440lbs), was said to be 80-100 years old.

    Its demise was widely mourned on Vietnamese-language blogs and social media, with many warning it was a bad omen for forthcoming changes in the ruling Communist party, which begins its five-yearly congress on Thursday.

    Giant

    The giant turtle surfaces in February 2011. The rare sightings of the reptile were deemed auspicious. Photograph: Luong Thai Linh/EPA

    This is bad news for many people in Hanoi, said the Thanh Nien newspaper. Vietnams authoritarian rulers will choose a new party leader, president and prime minister at the congress.

    In a story taught to all Vietnamese school children, the sacred turtle of Hoan Kiem is the custodian of the magic sword of Le Loi, a 15th-century rebel leader who vanquished Chinese invaders.

    Although officially an atheist country, many Vietnamese are deeply superstitious. I feel empty. My children, grandchildren will only know the turtle from legend, online commentator Duong Nguyen wrote on the popular VNExpress site.

    Reports about the turtles death first appeared in state media late on Tuesday, but some were removed, apparently under pressure from communist authorities.

    The turtles body is being kept at a temple on a small island in the lake pending an official decision on how to proceed, state media said, adding that embalming was being considered.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    America’s horrifying new plan for animals: highspeed slaughterhouses | Scott David

    There is still time to stop an imminent program that would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds, while reducing the number of trained government inspectors

    If you care about animal welfare or food safety, this news will concern you: the nationwide expansion of a risky US Department of Agriculture (USDA) high-speed slaughter program is imminent. But the good news is there is still time to stop it.

    The USDA is now accepting public comments on its proposed rule that it euphemistically dubbed the Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection. As a former undercover investigator who worked inside a pig slaughterhouse operating under the pilot project that was, at the time, called HIMP, Ive seen firsthand the hazardous and cruel nature of this controversial program and can say with certainty that its anything but modern.

    This expanded program, formally called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds, while reducing the number of trained government inspectors on the lines. In other words, the responsibility of food safety oversight is largely shifted into the hands of slaughter plant employees. Combine this with faster speeds on the kill floor and the result is problems that can and do go unnoticed.

    Sign up for the US opinion email

    For nearly six months, I worked undercover inside Quality Pork Processors (QPP), no typical pig slaughterhouse. An exclusive Hormel Foods supplier, QPP kills about 1,300 pigs every hour operating under the high-speed pilot program. Thats more than 21 pigs per minute, making QPP one of the fastest pig-killing facilities in the nation.

    QPP has widely been considered a model for the USDAs nationwide expansion of the pilot program through NSIS, but when no one thought the public or USDA was watching, behind the slaughterhouses closed doors, I documented pig carcasses covered in feces and abscesses being processed for human consumption, and workers under intense pressure to keep up with high line speeds beating, dragging, and electrically prodding pigs to make them move faster.

    NSIS may also allow higher numbers of sick and injured pigs too weak even to stand (known as downers) to be slaughtered for food. As documented on my hidden camera, these animals endured particularly horrific abuses as they were forced to the kill floor in a desperate attempt to keep the slaughter lines moving as fast as possible.

    I even documented a supervisor sleeping on the job when he was in charge of overseeing the stunning process to ensure pigs were effectively rendered unconscious before their throats were slit.

    One QPP employee even said to me on camera, If the USDA is around, they could shut us down.

    That, in a nutshell, is the underlying problem with this initiative: its a program that largely allows the slaughterhouse to police itself.

    Though Ive witnessed these horrors firsthand, Im far from the only one warning of the dangers of NSIS. USDA whistleblowers, labor unions, and even members of Congress have expressed their objections to this program.

    A 2013 report by the USDAs own Office of the Inspector General stated that since FSIS did not provide adequate oversight, HIMP plants may have a higher potential for food safety risks, concluding that this program has shown no measurable improvement to the inspection process.

    In 2016, a letter from 60 members of Congress to the USDA stated the available evidence suggests the hog HIMP will undermine food safety, and that rapid line speeds present some of the greatest risks of inhumane treatment as workers are often pressured to take violent shortcuts to keep up. The letter further states: We are concerned that these new rules are being pushed by the industry to increase profits at the expense of public health.

    More than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition against the pilot programs expansion through NSIS, and earlier this month, a coalition of 35 animal, worker, environmental, and consumer protection organizations also urged the USDA to drop the proposal.

    At a time when consumers are rightfully demanding more transparency in the food industry, the USDAs so-called Modernization program is a big step backward.

    Halting the expansion of the dangerous pilot program and bringing it to an immediate end is the only conscientious and compassionate choice for the USDA, a federal agency that has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to put animals, consumers, and workers above powerful pork industry interests.

    To sum it all up in the words of a USDA whistleblower who worked as an inspector at QPP: Its no longer meaningful for consumers to see that mark indicating that their product has been USDA-inspected.

    • Scott David is a former undercover investigator and current investigations associate at Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection organization based in Washington DC.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Malta gives go ahead to shooting of 5,000 endangered turtle doves

    Conservationists urge EU to take action against Malta for continuing the spring hunt despite the birds recently being added to red list of species at risk of being wiped out

    Hunters in Malta will be permitted to shoot 5,000 turtle doves this spring despite the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently adding the migratory bird to the red list of species at risk of being wiped out.

    The Maltese government, the only EU member to allow recreational spring hunting, said it was taking special measures to minimise the impact of its shoot on the birds plummeting population, cutting the shooters allowance from 11,000 birds.

    But conservationists said continuing the spring hunt went against the best scientific advice and appealed for the EU to take action against Malta.

    The government has taken the wrong political decision, said Mark Sultana, chief executive of Birdlife Malta. Rather than giving weight to the scientific data they opted to open a season with limitations. We do not believe that there is enough will and resources to ensure those limitations will be kept.

    The turtle dove population has fallen by 96% in Britain since 1970 and its numbers have fallen across Europe by more than a third in the last 16 years.

    Malta secured two opt-outs, or derogations, from the EUs Birds Directive, allowing Maltese hunters to shoot turtle doves and quail as they fly over the Mediterranean island in the spring. These opt-outs are based on a European court of justice (ECJ) ruling, which permitted Malta to seek such derogations on the basis that the turtle dove population remained at a favourable level.

    The status of the turtle dove is definitely not favourable now, said Sultana, who called on the European commission to stop Maltas spring hunt. This could be a breach of the [ECJ] ruling, and Malta could be fined by the EU. The EU has the legal right to do it. Whether they have the will to do it thats where we found a stumbling block. We are hoping that the scientific data will give them more courage to take this step.

    Eduardo Gonalves, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: Its absolutely incomprehensible that the Maltese government can justify allowing the spring hunt to go ahead for another year. The science shows that the turtle dove is in serious decline but instead of listening to the science the Maltese government has bowed to a vociferous hunting lobby.

    The hunting of birds in spring is prohibited in EU law. Its time the EU acted. People should contact their MEPs and tell them what they think.

    Liberal Democrat MEP, Catherine Bearder, said: Now the bird has been officially listed as endangered, there is no way this hunting can be declared sustainable. The EU must step in and enforce the law to save the turtle dove before it is too late.

    The Maltese narrowly rejected banning spring hunting in a referendum last year in which 50.4% of voters favoured a continuation of their traditional shoot. Last autumn, the IUCN moved the species on to its global red list. The bird is also classified as near threatened on the EU red list.

    Among measures to regulate its hunt, the Maltese government announced a reduction in the autumn turtle dove shooting season from five months to September only, permitting the slaughter of 7,000 additional birds. But conservationists say this apparent reduction is unlikely to help turtle doves or impact upon the hunters pastime.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Smucker to Buy Rachael Ray Dog Food Brand in $1.9 Billion Deal

    • Food giant expanding in growing premium pet-products market
    • Company also confirms it will explore sale of U.S. baking unit

    J.M. Smucker Co. agreed to buy Ainsworth Pet Nutrition in a deal valued at $1.9 billion, betting that pet food can help reinvigorate sales in a sluggish consumer-product industry.

    The transaction, which gives Smucker a brand of premium dog and cat food backed by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, will amount to about $1.7 billion when excluding a $200 million tax benefit. The company also confirmed that it’s exploring the sale of its U.S. baking unit, which generates roughly $370 million in annual sales.

    Under Chief Executive Officer Mark Smucker, who became the fifth generation of his family to run the business when he took over in 2016, the company has tried to take the pet business more upscale. High-end pet food has surged 33 percent industrywide over the past five years and now accounts for more than 50 percent of the market. Consumers are shelling out more money for specialty diets, part of a trend known as “humanization.” Ainsworth generates about two-thirds of its sales from its Rachel Ray Nutrish brand.

    “The humanization trend is here to stay,” the CEO said in an interview. “This brand fits exactly where we need it to — it’s very important to continue to gain scale where it’s relevant.”

    Bake Sale

    In addition to the Ainsworth acquisition, Orrville, Ohio-based Smucker said it’s looking at a potential sale of the U.S. baking unit as it reshapes its portfolio to focus on coffee, pet products and snacks. The division includes brands like Pillsbury, Martha White, Hungry Jack and Jim Dandy. Bloomberg reported last month that the operation could fetch as much as $700 million in a sale, citing people familiar with the situation.

    Smucker generates about 85 percent of its revenue in the U.S. and the acquisition of Ainsworth will make pet food its largest business unit, accounting for about $3 billion in sales.

    Smucker is the latest food company to tap into the upscale pet market. General Mills Inc., mired in a three-year sales slump, agreed in February to buy Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. for about $8 billion.

    Pet products also give packaged-food companies a way to access the growth of e-commerce, a key initiative in the industry as Walmart Inc. and Kroger Co. ramp up the delivery of groceries in the aftermath of Amazon.com Inc.’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market.

    Online sales currently only account for about 3 percent of Smucker’s business. But the category is growing fast: In the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, pet sales through e-commerce have surged 70 percent, according to the company.

    “As consumers shift online, we have to get our fair share,” Mark Smucker said.

    Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/

    Minnesota Vikings’ new glass-plated stadium becomes ‘death trap’ for birds

    US Bank Stadium study shows birds are flying into its clear glass and conservation groups want authorities to take steps to prevent collisions

    The US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which opened last June and cost more than $1bn of mostly taxpayer money, is beautiful, large, glassy and deadly to birds.

    A new report from a trio of conservation groups reveals that for wildlife, at least vast swathes of the new home of the Minnesota Vikings are indistinguishable from the sky and birds are being killed by flying straight into the stadiums 200,000 sq ft of gleaming, clear glass.

    As CityPages, a local Twin Cities newspaper, put it: Creatures crash into it like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

    Over an 11-week period in the autumn, bird enthusiasts undertook regular circuits of the stadium, and discovered 60 dead birds, and another 14 stunned from flying into the glass. The report said that would project to at least 360 deaths over a three-year period, but that number significantly underestimates true mortality at the stadium complex, because it does not include birds removed by maintenance staff, security guards, and scavengers.

    In 2014, the Audubon Society predicted that the stadiums distinctive clear glass would prove to be a death trap for Minnesotas local and migratory birds. The society pushed authorities to introduce changes so the birds could distinguish between the stadium and the sky. We know the people of Minnesota do not want their money killing birds, the society said.

    But the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which owns the stadium, declined to take any steps, such such as installing glass with a visible pattern, as happened at the Javits Center in Manhattan. The Javits changes quickly led a 90% decrease in bird collisions.

    Jim Sharpsteen, a volunteer who helped to conduct the stadium study, told CityPages: We knew that the glass would be highly confusing to the birds. They see a reflection of a blue sky in the glass, they think its a blue sky. They see reflections of trees, they think they can land in those reflections of trees. This confirmed what we already believed would be bad.

    Sharpsteen said: We want them to either replace the glass with a less reflective glass or put a coating on the glass that would make it more bird friendly. I think the more realistic would be to apply coating to the outside of the glass.

    Another study is being commissioned, but that wont be finished until 2019. Failure to act will establish US Bank Stadium as the top bird-killing building in the Twin Cities, the report said.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    They didn’t flip: Ukraine claims dolphin army captured by Russia went on hunger strike

    Russia captured the dolphins in 2014 and says the trained mammals refused interact with coaches or eat

    Ukraine is home to some of the more adventurous military blue-sky thinking, mostly hangovers from the Soviet era. As well as a 160-metre high, 500-metre long radar that was supposed to be able to warn of nuclear attack, it also has a secret programme that trains sea mammals to carry out military tasks. Ukraine has a dolphin army at the Crimean military dolphin centre, trained and ready for deployment.

    Or at least it did, but after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the dolphins were captured. Ukraine demanded their return, but Russian forces refused. Some believed the Russians were planning to retrain the dolphins as Russian soldiers, with a source telling Russian agency RIA Novosti that engineers were developing new aquarium technologies for new programmes to more efficiently use dolphins underwater.

    Four years later and it seems little has come of these supposed Russian plans and most of the dolphins have died. But this week Boris Babin, the Ukrainian governments representative in Crimea, claimed that they did so defending their country. He said that the dolphins died patriotically, refusing to follow orders or eat food provided by the Russian invaders and that the hunger strike led to their eventual death.

    Play Video
    0:52

    Combat dolphins and navy sea lions: meet the military sea mammals video report

    He told the Ukranian Obozrevatel newspaper that the dolphins were more honourable than some human soldiers: The trained animals refused not only to interact with the new Russian coaches, but refused food and died some time later. Many Ukrainian soldiers took their oath and loyalty much less seriously than these dolphins.

    Others have since denied the claims and blamed Ukraine for their poor treatment of the dolphins. On the Russian-owned radio station Sputnik, Ukrainian politician Vladimir Oleinik claimed that politicians in Kiev are always looking to blame the hand of Moscow when sober-minded people can see this is just propaganda and rumours, and that the dolphins were not especially looked after under any regime.

    Russian Duma deputy Dmitry Belik has since claimed, rather less excitingly, that all the combat dolphins that served in the naval forces of Ukraine were sold to commercial entities or died of natural causes before 2014. He said there is no question of any Ukrainian patriotism because Ukraine had already demilitarised the dolphins, and for some time they had only engaged in commercial activities.

    Dolphins have been observed displaying similar loyal characteristics to dogs, swimming up enthusiastically to people that they have met before. Occasionally captive dolphins have been known to refuse food when a tank companion dies and there have also been claims that dolphins have stopped themselves breathing after being separated from humans they had formed a bond with. So perhaps the Ukrainian claims arent as far-fetched as they sound.

    There is plenty of disinformation floating around, and it is difficult to independently verify what really went on at a secret dolphin training facility in Crimea. We do know that in 2016, Russians put out a public tender to purchase five dolphins and eventually bought them from Moscows Utrish Dolphinarium although they never explained why. Perhaps they thought they could persuade their existing pod of Ukrainian dolphins to switch sides.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    US police shoot and kill 6ft boa constrictor that crushed puppy to death

    Snake humanely killed after it escaped from tank and wrapped itself round eight-month-old puppy in Amherst, Massachusetts

    Police in Massachusetts say they shot and killed a pet boa constrictor after it fatally crushed a puppy.

    Amherst animal welfare officer Carol Hepburn says a pet sitter called police at about 4.30pm on Wednesday to report that the snake, which she estimates was at least 6ft long, had escaped from its tank and wrapped it itself around the eight-month-old puppy.

    Police tried unsuccessfully to pull the snake off the dog, and Hepburn says the dog was dead by the time she arrived. The pet sitter contacted the animals owner, who was overseas, and got permission for police to humanely kill the snake.

    Hepburn dragged it from the house first.

    It is not illegal to own boa constrictors in Massachusetts and no charges are expected.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Meet the dogs of Chernobyl the abandoned pets that formed their own canine community

    Hundreds of stray dogs have learned to survive in the woods around the exclusion zone mainly descendants of those left behind after the nuclear disaster, when residents were banned from taking their beloved pets to safety

    We are in the woods behind the Chernobyl plant when the dog runs at us. It is thin, with brindle fur and yellow eyes. Igor, our guide, makes a lunge and clamps his hands over its snout. They wrestle in the snow and icy water shakes from the trees. The dogs eyes flash as Igor grabs a stick and throws it into the trees. Distracted, the animal chases it and our little group is free to move. But the dog reappears and drops the stick at Igors foot. He throws it again. The dog brings it back. I almost laugh with relief.

    Igor, who, it turns out, is very familiar with the dog, throws a few snowballs, which it tries to catch and chew.This isTarzan, says Igor. Hes a stray who lives in the exclusion zone. His mum was killed by a wolf, so the guides look out for him, chuck a few sticks, play a few games. Hes only a baby, really

    The
    The abandoned dogs at Chernobyl endure harsh Ukrainian winters. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    Tarzan isnt alone. There are approximately 300 stray dogs in the 2,600km zone. They live among the moose and lynx, the hares and wolves that have also found a home here. But while the Mongolian horses and Belarusian bears were recently introduced to the area, and other animals have come in as opportunists, the dogs are native.

    After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages. Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: Dont kill our Zhulka. Shes a good dog. There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.

    The
    The dogs often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    Life is not easy for the Chernobyl strays. Not only must they endure harsh Ukrainian winters with no proper shelter, but they often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Few live beyond the age of six.

    But its not all bad news. The dogs that live near the zones checkpoints have little huts made for them by the guards, and some are wise enough to congregate near the local cafe, having learned that a human presence equals food. These canine gangs act as unofficial Chernobyl mascots, there to greet visitors who stop at Cafe Desyatka for some borscht.

    Nadezhda Starodub, a guide with the Chernobyl tour specialist Solo East, says the visitors (there are no tourists in the zone) love the dogs. Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs. There are no rules that forbid a visitor from handling them, but Nadezhda asks her charges to exercise the same common sense they would when approaching any stray. Some guides are afraid of complaints, she says, so they try to avoid the dogs to stay on the safe side. But I love them.

    The
    The strays are helped by the Clean Futures Fund, which has set up veterinary clinics in the area. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    While the dogs get some food and play from the visitors, their health needs are met by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-profit organisation that helps communities affected by industrial accidents, which has set up three veterinary clinics in the area, including one inside the Chernobyl plant. The clinics treat emergencies and issue vaccinations against rabies, parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. They are also neutering the dogs. Lucas Hixson, the funds co-founder, says: I dont think well ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. This makes Chernobyl safer for the dogs, but also for the workers and visitors.

    The Chernobyl plant has recently been sealed under a new sarcophagus designed and built by a multinational group of experts, and similar cooperation can be seen with the dogs. In the woods behind Chernobyl I look again at yellow-eyed Tarzan and see, not a wild animal, but a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.

    We
    We want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them. Photograph: Courtesy of Solo East

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us