Human society clearly wants raw materials to fuel economies of sufficient size to meet the needs of what will soon be nine billion people. Yet promoting the disturbance and degradation of the few places on the planet that remain intact and most resilient to climate change is, at the very least, short sighted.
By K. Ullas Karanth, Director for Science-Asia at the Wildlife Conservation Society Tigers are the largest of all living wildcats. Over the course of two million years, nature fine-tuned them as master predators through a trial-and-error process we call Darwinian evolution. Hunting alone, a tiger can take down prey four to five times its own…
By John Calvelli [Note: This is the fifth in a series of blogs by Calvelli celebrating the history and conservation of the American Bison.] This Thanksgiving, we celebrate a great milestone for both bison and the modern conservation movement. November 28 marks the 100th anniversary of the transfer and restocking of 14 bison from the…
On October 30, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed, by unanimous consent, a resolution officially designating November 2, 2013, as National Bison Day. The resolution earned the bipartisan support of 25 Senators – representing a quarter of the U.S. Senate. In passing the resolution, Democratic and Republican leaders have teamed up with close to 50 diverse groups in an initiative called the Vote Bison Coalition. The group represents bison producers, Native Americans, conservationists, educational institutions, recreationists, zoological institutions, health organizations, and businesses.
With the support of policy makers, opinion leaders, scientists, business leaders and the public, we can make “the farming we want” a reality in order to grow sufficient, nutritious food for future generations, to bring new prosperity to the countryside, and to make this planet a more diverse – and safer – home for all the species that dwell here.
In a high profile side event to the UN General Assembly next week, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector will gather at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo to celebrate recent successes in forest protection to combat climate change and call for much greater future investment.
Pollsters say tigers are the most popular animal species on this planet. Unfortunately, they are also among the most threatened. Wildlife biologists like me struggle to monitor the fate of surviving tiger populations.
With the exception of sushi aficionados devouring unagi in rolls of avocado, rice, and a dab of wasabi, American eels do not get a lot of love today. Once a dietary mainstay of native peoples and early colonists, these nutritious animals have been devastated over the centuries by growing fishing pressure and the construction of dams along rivers where they once swam in abundance.
Overfishing of sharks and their close relatives skates and rays across the globe has in recent decades led to sharp declines in shark numbers. Some species have been reduced by more than 80 percent. Much of that reduction is tied to the international trade in shark fins. The fins of as many as 70 million sharks end up in the coveted Asian delicacy shark fin soup each year. At the same time, some of the most heavily fished sharks and closely related skates and rays are prized primarily for their meat.
Hunting regulations can then be formulated and adjusted to reach mutually recognized goals. Communities will need to grapple with how to live with big predators rather than simply whether or not to hunt them. Clear definitions will likely be needed of where large carnivores should never occur in a given landscape, something that has been poorly done if at all previously.
Threats to the Amazon come not only from deforestation, but also from dams, roads, human-induced climate change, gold mining, petroleum extraction, shipping and the unplanned growth of cities, whose expanding populations consume more and more of the Amazon River’s resources.
During the summer, the coastal plain transforms itself from a sub-zero inhospitable place to a vast productive wetland. Millions of migratory birds from all over the world – including waterfowl and shorebirds – return there to breed on the tundra: timing their nesting activities with melting snow and a bountiful flush of insects.
With corals across the globe bleaching due to advancing ocean temperatures, many of the world’s coral reef experts believe these centers of marine biodiversity may become the first casualty of climate change. But while the news on corals has been largely grim, it is not beyond hope.
Along Ecuador’s eastern border with Peru sits Yasuní National Park (YNP). At close to one million hectares, Yasuní is the largest expanse of protected lowland tropical forest in the country. Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, the park is one of the world’s biodiversity jewels, containing at least 170 species of mammals, well over 596 bird species, more than 382 fish species, and a fantastic variety of flora.
Bison numbered over 30 million at the time of the United States’ founding, but that number dwindled to a mere 1,000 with the westward expansion of the United States. The American Bison Society, founded at the Bronx Zoo with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, helped to restore bison numbers with animals transported west by rail from the Bronx. In the next century, bison numbers rebounded to nearly half a million.
If a place on earth motivates a Bar-tailed Godwit to fly more than 9,000 miles from southern Australia, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper to fly 8,500 miles from the pampas of Argentina, and Arctic Terns to fly some 11,000 miles from Antarctic, well, that place must be something special. That special place is the coastal plain of Arctic Alaska, where these birds and millions of others come to breed in a still-remote nursery on top of the world.
National Bison Day is one of the signature components of legislation now working its way through the United States Congress. At a time of deep partisan gridlock, the National Bison Legacy Act, which would make the bison our National Mammal, boasts broad support among both Democrats and Republicans. The bill has 18 sponsors in the Senate and 7 in the House, split about evenly by party.
For turtle species numbering in the hundreds or less, we may only have a few years before we lose these marvels of evolution forever. We have the ability to make a difference, and we have the ethical responsibility to respond. We must act now to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to spot a turtle in the wild and that no species finds itself reduced by human greed or mismanagement to one last, lonesome representative.
The passenger pigeon was once among the most abundant birds on the planet, sometimes flying in flocks so vast they reportedly darkened the skies. Likewise, tens of millions of North American bison once thundered across the American Great Plains. As the United States emerged as a major global economy in the late 1800’s, both species experienced catastrophic losses due to overhunting. Yet when they arrived at a conservation crossroads, facing extinction or survival, they traveled two very different paths.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Many of us saw this as a turning point, a time when the world adopted a new paradigm for development. We have come to realize that economic growth and social justice cannot be achieved at the expense of the environment.
When Kai Ryssdal announced on National Public Radio’s daily financial round-up Marketplace recently that “political gridlock is over,” he wasn’t talking about health care, the national debt, or immigration policy. He was referring to legislation to make the North American bison our National Mammal. To celebrate the bison’s central place in the history and culture of the United States, conservationists, bison producers, sportsmen, and Native American tribes came together this spring to craft and advance the National Bison Legacy Act.
It was a pleasure to hear of a birthday on July 2nd, happening in Belize, site of the greatest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. It was a birthday marking the authorization of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, 25 years ago. Joining in the commemoration were Belizeans and ex-patriot friends of Belize from around the world. Among those friends, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July each year with cookouts, concerts, and fireworks, it is almost easy to forget the holiday’s connection with the nation’s independence and the struggles to achieve it. Surely that was not the case on July 4, 1777. On its first anniversary the United States was still a young republic, with a war yet to be won to solidify the unalienable rights deemed “self-evident” in Thomas Jefferson’s enduring declaration. Much uncertainty likewise surrounded the new nation of the Republic of South Sudan this July as it celebrated its own first year of independence….