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Stuart Pimm

How a toad can turn you into a prince

Do not, I repeat not, kiss frogs, toads, or anything similar. It’s after midnight. The forest is warm, damp, smells of rotting foliage, noisy with strange calls, and filled with creatures on the move. I’m with a madman. Bill Magnusson, an Australian ecologist, who has spent much of his life in the Amazon, is wearing…

The search for the grey-winged cotinga

Not all National Geographic expeditions go smoothly. All adventures end at precisely the same point. Thirty seconds into the hot shower, a stream of dirty water runs down the drain. It takes with it the mud and dried blood, changing skin color from blotchy grey to pink, uncovers the until-now forgotten scrapes and cuts, and…

This week’s claim that the species extinction crisis is overblown is a sham

Headlines in newspapers and websites blared out the headlines this week: “IPCC wrong again: species loss far less severe than feared.” (IPCC is the Nobel Prize winning international group that assesses climate change and its consequences.) “IPCC’s species extinction hype fundamental flawed” it continued. “Species extinction rates wildly overstated” went other headlines. “The International Union…

Biodiversity needs you! And your iPhone.

  Our knowledge of biodiversity is not good. We don’t know the names of most species. For the ones that we do, we don’t know where they once lived, let alone where they live now. It’s even worse for species that are rare, for they may soon not live anywhere. Now, armed with your iPhone…

India’s Latest Tiger Count Is Seriously Inadequate

The latest census of wild tigers in India, home to half the world’s wild tigers, shows that the number of big cats has increased by more than two hundred in four years. But the good news may be obscuring serious threats to the country’s iconic feline.

Finding a Home for Dracula

National Geographic scientist Stuart Pimm reports on the quest for Dracula, a particularly lovely orchid that flourishes in the cloud forests of the northern Andes of Colombia.

Now Is the Winter of our Discontent …

By Stuart Pimm “Now is the winter of our discontent,” the soon-to-be Richard III declares in opening Shakespeare’s play. He then quips to his brother, the current House of York king, that the future is surely sunny: the king has two sons and two brothers, so the York succession is certain. Life is full of…

Into Africa, Outside the “Bubble”

Managing Africa’s wildlife means taking care of animals outside national parks and, vitally, taking care of the people there, too. By Stuart Pimm Mara National Park, Kenya–I’m sitting in the bar of a game lodge perched high on a koppie. The view is outstanding, for I can see better than 180 degrees of land stretching…

Building better bomas

National Geographic Big Cats Initiative (BCI) scientist Stuart Pimm ventures into East Africa to study bomas, the traditional shelters constructed to corral livestock. He visits two BCI grantees working with local herders to fortify bomas with wire and spiny plants in so-called ”living fences.” The hope is that if farm animals can be protected their owners will have…

Experiencing diversity before it’s gone

Photo of a Baining fire dancer by Stuart L. Pimm By Stuart Pimm Rabaul, Papua New Guinea–A surreal monster pauses in the very heart of the fire, stomps its feet–sending showers of red hot embers into the air–then shakes its huge bird-beaked head, and dances towards us. For hours, Baining fire dancers dash through the fire as…

Can Colombia’s rich biodiversity escape to cooler altitudes?

By Stuart Pimm Chingaza National Park, Colombia–Colombia didn’t qualify for the World Cup this year. You’d never know from the throngs of people around TVs everywhere I went in Bogota last week. (If you are not a football follower: Fans have to cheer for more than one team given the odds and the vagaries of…

The Serengeti road to disaster

By Stuart Pimm What comes to mind when you think of Africa? During the World Cup, perhaps thousands of vuvuzelas sounding like a swarm of very angry bees as fans cheer their team. But other than that? Surely huge herds of animals walking across vast, open plains.  I arrived in South Africa, in 1996, to…

Bar-coding biodiversity

By Stuart Pimm Braga, Portugal–We don’t have names for perhaps 90 percent of all the species on Earth–and even when we do have names for them, we can’t readily identify many of them. In some cases we may encounter only fragments of specimens, making it even more challenging to identify them. A small piece of DNA, however, is enough to provide a ”bar…

Why the ultimate frequent flyer–the American knot–is endangered

This is the second part of a series on the shorebirds that make one of the longest annual migrations in the world, the 9,000-mile flight that spans the entire Americas, from feeding grounds on Tierra del Fuego to breeding grounds in the Arctic. The heroic journey has evolved over countless generations. But can the migration, and the…

Ringing the knot on the New Jersey shore

Conservation biologist Stuart Pimm joins citizen scientists–highly skilled amateur naturalists and their extraordinary organizer–on a New Jersey beach. The mission : Catch, band, and release hundreds of red knots, tiny birds that stop to rest and feed on one of the world’s epic animal migrations–the annual trek between the southern and northern extremes of the…