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Spy Balloon Flying Over Montana's Nuclear Missile Silos is for Weather, China Claims
A spy balloon was seen hovering over Montana where nuclear missile silos are located. China claims that it is their weather balloon. See the report here.
Endangered Rhinos Under Threat of Increasing Poaching in Nambia, South Africa: Conservation, Protection Efforts Needed
The rhinos' population has declined due to threats of poaching, illegal trade and habitat loss in Nambia and parts of South Africa. Without protection and conservation efforts, rhinos would be primarily impacted and end with extinction. Read here for more stories.
Polar Vortex Brings Season's Coldest Air in the Northeast This Weekend
The polar vortex intensifies during the winter season, bringing cold air into North America. Click to read more.
Weather Forecast: Wind Chill Advisory in Effect Over Some Areas Maryland for Brief Cold Snap
NWS issues a wind chill advisory for some areas in Maryland for the brief cold snap that will last until tomorrow morning. Read more here.
Thousands of Texas Residents Felt Burden of Winter Storms, Freezing Temperatures Without Power, Heating System
Texas residents dealt with extreme cold and significant power outages during a powerful ice storm that hit the state and the South. The situation became more challenging to manage without a heating system and electricity. Read here.
February's Top Astronomy Events: Stargazers Can Expect From Snow Moon, Comet to Astronomical Meetup
Rare astronomy sightings are expected to unfold this February. from snow moon, comet and astronomical meetups. Stargazers and astronomy lovers should prepare their calendars and camera for the amazing sightings in the sky! Read here.
Rapid Brutal Cold Blast To Bring Wind Chills to Boston; Schools Close, While Communities on Alert to Cold Weather
A rapid blast of cold air is expected in Boston. The weather forecast said Boston residents would experience wind chills and challenging cold from Friday until Saturday. Read here for more weather advisories in Boston and the Northeast.
Light Pollution Makes Night Sky Too Bright for Stargazing but Study Says Reversal Still Possible
The night sky is becoming too bright as light pollution increases, making stargazing and other activities difficult. See how it can be reversed here.
Endangered Marsupials in Australia Endure Sleep Deprivation for Sex
A study shows that sex is the priority of endangered marsupials in Australia. Find out why Northern Quolls choose sleep deprivation here.
Canada Latest Weather Forecast: Arctic Front, Polar Vortex to Unleash Coldest Temperatures in Toronto, Quebec, Ontario
Freezing conditions and challenging cold are expected in parts of Canada this weekend, according to the latest forecasts. Motorists and commuters should monitor the weather conditions before traveling. Read here.
South US Ice Storm Grounds Thousands of Flights, Causes Power Outages
A multi-day winter storm caused enveloped some South US towns with ice, causing dangerous road and air travel conditions. Click to read more.
Latest Weather Updates: Record-Breaking Cold To Unload in Upper Midwest, New England
The weather forecasts said that a dangerous cold would unleash in the Upper Midwest and New England due to the blast of the arctic air. Read here for the latest weather updates in the U.S.!
Quails Blamed for Being Amplifying Agents of Toscana and Sandfly Fever Sicilian Virus
Researchers have discovered neutralizing antibodies to TOSV and SFSV in wild birds for the first time.
Keeping Your Home Safe From Extreme Cold Weather This Weekend: Tips to Remember
The polar vortex and blast of the arctic air would bring colder temperatures to the United States. Here are essential tips during extreme cold. Read here.
Nitrogen Generated by Gas-powered Equipment Leads Dry Soil To Emit Carbon Into the Atmosphere
According to recent research, nitrogen produced by gas-powered machines triggers dry soil to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it may cause climate change.
Latest Weather Forecast: Rounds of Heavy Rain To Continue on West Coast This Weekend
West Coast would again experience rain from Friday until the weekend. However, the forecast said the rainy conditions would be light to moderate. Read here for the latest weather updates in California.
Insect Populations Collapsing All Around the World, Yet Conservation Efforts Are Ignoring Them
insect populations are falling over the world, 76% of insect species are not adequately protected by protected areas
20 Bull Sharks Spotted Along Brisbane River, Australian Man Captures Video [WATCH]
Bull sharks are one of the shark species that can survive in freshwater due to their ability to osmoregulate or maintain water levels in their body. Click to read more.
Light Pollution Brings Widespread Effect on Migratory Animals
While some animal species migrate in accordance with their migratory instinct, others are confused by the glow of cities and wander off course, where a great number meet their demise.
319 Million Year Old Early Ray-Finned Fish Skull Revealed Oldest Example of Preserved Vertebrate Brain
The CT-scanned skull of a 319-million-year-old fossilized fish discovered in an English coal mine more than a century ago has shown the earliest example of a well-preserved vertebrate brain.
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Golden Eagle Fact Sheet

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos): a bird of prey living in the Northern Hemisphere.

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Aves
Order: | Falconiformes
Family: | Accipitridae
Genus: | Aquila
Species: | A. chrysaetos

Size and Weight:

Golden Eagles are one of the largest birds in North America. Their wingspan stretches 72 to 86 inches. They measure 27.6 to 33.1 inches in length and weigh 6.4 to 13.2 pounds. Females are larger than males.

Appearance:

Adults are dark brown with a golden sheen on the back of the head and neck. Young golden eagles have neatly defined white patches at the base of the tail and in the wings. The amount of white in the wings varies among individuals, and a few lack white in the wings entirely.

Diet:

Golden Eagles are carnivores that prey mainly on small mammals. While capable of killing large prey, they typically hunt small mammals, such as hares, rabbits, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and marmots. They’re also known to kill larger mammals like seals, mountain goats, coyotes, badgers, and bobcats. These eagles are also scavengers, feeding on carrion. However, while the same size as the bald eagle, the golden eagle is less of a scavenger and more of a predator.

Habitat:

Golden eagles prefer to live in the grasslands of the Northern Hemisphere. They are found primarily in mountains up to 12,000 feet, canyonlands, rimrock terrain, and riverside cliffs and bluffs. Golden eagles nest on cliffs and steep escarpments in grassland, forest and other vegetated areas.

Geography:

Golden eagles can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Breeding:

Golden eagles mate for life. During courtship, two birds circle high in the air, making shallow dives at each other. About one to three months before laying eggs, the pair will build a nest of sticks and vegetation. Their nest can be found on cliffs, in trees, on the ground, or in human-made structures, typically near their hunting grounds. They may use their nest site for many years and may have an alternate nest site. Their nests are huge, averaging 5-6 feet wide, 2 feet high, and enclosing a bowl about 3 feet by 2 feet deep.

The female will lay one to three eggs at a time. The eggs are 2.7 to 3.4 inches long and 1.9 to 2.5 inches wide. The incubation period is 41 to 45 days, followed by a nesting period of 45 to 81 days. When hatched, the chicks are weak, weighing about 3 ounces. They are partially covered with grayish-white down and their eyes are partially open. The young become largely independent of their parents 75 to 85 days after fledging.

Social Structure:

Golden eagles are typically found alone or in pairs. It is believed that they are monogomous, mating for life. The pair defends their territory against other golden eagles. Pairs are also known to hunt prey cooperatively during the breeding season. For example, one eagle diverts the animal’s attention while the second makes the kill. For their large size, these eagles possess astonishing speed and maneuverability for their size. They have been clocked diving at speeds close to 200 miles per hour.

Lifespan:

The oldest golden eagle was recorded in Utah, reaching an age of at least 31 years and 8 months old.

Threats:

The greatest threat to the golden eagle is human activity. It’s estimated that more than 70% of recorded golden eagle deaths are attributable to human impact. Most recorded deaths are from collisions with vehicles, wind turbines, and other structures or from electrocution at power poles. However, newer designs have reduced these risks. Habitat loss is another major threat, as urbanization and agricultural developments have compromised their nesting and hunting grounds. While some eagles die after eating poisoned prey animals set out to control coyotes, others succumb to lead poisoning from ammunition in hunter-shot prey.

Conservation Status:

As of 2021, the IUCN has classified the golden eagle as of Least Concern on its Red List of Threatened Species.

Conservation Efforts:

In 1962, the U.S. Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act outlawed harming these birds, their eggs, and their nests. Although this legislation remains in effect, humans are still golden eagles’ greatest threat.

Source: The Cornell Lab and the National Audobon Society.

The post Golden Eagle Fact Sheet appeared first on Nature.

- Danielle Broza
Using Drones to Assess World’s Largest Mass Gathering of Giant River Turtles

This piece comes to us from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Roughly two months after the turtles nest, hundreds of thousands of hatchlings emerge from the sand and make their way to the river. Photo credit: ©WCS Brazil.

Conservation technology helps conservationists monitor one of nature’s most impressive spectacles: the nesting of giant Amazonian River turtles (Podocnemis expansa). This is the largest concentration of freshwater turtles in the world. Through the use of drones, flights are being conducted over their nesting sites on a river separating Bolivia from Brazil (Bolivians call it the Iténez, Brazilians the Guaporé). But how can technology help us conserve this species?

Every year, thousands of giant river turtles swim up the waters of the Iténez/Guaporé River, and between September and November lay their eggs on stretches of beach between Bolivia and Brazil. This nesting lasts between 20 and 30 days, as each female lays between 50 and 170 eggs per nest for approximately 30 minutes. Nesting occurs at different times of the day and the weather plays a fundamental role.

Each female lays between 50 and 170 eggs per nest. Photo credit: Marcos Amend/WCS.

Unfortunately, the population of this species has been drastically reduced because traffickers have taken advantage of this wonderful natural event to collect the eggs and trap the turtles for their meat, shells, and fat. With this decline, the turtles have become an endangered species in the Amazon, threatening the river ecosystem for which they play a vital role.

In recent years, several conservation strategies have been adopted. Among these is to manage, protect, and monitor the nesting beaches of the Iténez/Guaporé River. These activities are carried out for two months, from nesting to hatching of the eggs.

Every year, thousands of giant river turtles swim up the waters of the Iténez/Guaporé River to lay their eggs on stretches of beach between Brazil and Bolivia. Photo credit: Marcos Amend/WCS.

In Brazil, the Brazilian Institute of Environment (IBAMA) is fighting illegal trafficking with the support of the local NGO Ecovale. On the Bolivian side, residents of the indigenous community of Versalles in the Department of Beni protect the nesting beaches, which are part a Departmental Park in the Beni, the Iténez Forestry Reserve.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) supports these conservation efforts in different areas in Brazil and Bolivia by strengthening the management of protected areas, monitoring the turtle population, and supporting the control and observation of beaches. All these activities are part of an action plan for the conservation of this species that is currently being developed.

As part of that effort, and in the face of changes in the weather of the Amazon as a result of climate change, turtle monitoring has become a fundamental part of conservation, and estimating the number of females nesting in this area is critical. Thus, starting in 2021, we coordinated activities to use technological platforms to count the number of female turtles nesting on the beaches of this fabulous river.

Through programmed flights of drones equipped with visible sensor cameras and infrared cameras, we collected photos and videos of the beaches of the Itenez/Guaporé river during the nesting periods to have a first estimate of the number of females that spawn at these sites. It was possible to carry out this count with a visible camera during daylight hours. The amazing technology of infrared cameras allowed us to observe the egg-laying activity during the night as well, when there is little or no visibility.

The use of drones is now helping conservationists to monitor the spectacular nesting of giant South American river turtles on the banks of the Iténez/Guaporé River. Photo credit: Marcos Amend/WCS.

The results are astounding. Thanks to processing the drone images with the use of spatial analysis software, we have estimated a population of approximately 80,000 turtles on the nesting beaches of this river (the peak was around 3,500 turtles per beach per night). These results confirm a positive conservation status for this area and highlight the importance of continuing to work for the conservation of giant river turtles and other species through the joint work of local communities, authorities, and NGOs found in the area.

While our work demonstrates that it is possible to use the technology for biodiversity monitoring, we are aware that further steps must be taken to make better use of it in the future. These steps are mainly: accurate design of overflights to obtain robust data on turtle numbers in different nesting areas, estimation of turtle body sizes, estimation of turtle biomass, behavior, and the use of artificial intelligence for a robust population estimate of this threatened species.

Infrared cameras allow the team to observe the egg-laying activity during the night as well. Photo credit: Marcos Amend/WCS.

Thanks to the results obtained through this joint effort, we are confident that there is exciting potential to use technology meaningfully for effective species monitoring that will grow with further exploration. This example of turtle monitoring with drones gives us a broader view of the applications of technologies for the near future, allowing us to do more with fewer resources. In a rapidly changing world, conservation and technology must go hand in hand for a common goal: the protection of nature.

The post Using Drones to Assess World’s Largest Mass Gathering of Giant River Turtles appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Q&A with “Soul of the Ocean” Filmmaker Howard Hall

Director of Photography Howard Hall filming a Humpback Whale mother and a calf. Tonga. Credit: © Michele Hall

Howard Hall, one of the world’s foremost underwater filmmakers, brings to NATURE a lifetime of insights into how life in the ocean really works – in surprisingly cooperative communities built on age-old partnerships. NATURE’s Sr. Audience Engagement Specialist Chelsey Saatkamp reached out to Howard to ask him about his experience working on the film.

Take a deep breath and experience the complex world of ocean waters. Get a never-before-seen look at how life underwater co-exists in a marriage of necessity in Soul of the Ocean, which premiered Wednesday, January 25, 2023, on PBS (check local listings).

Producer Michele Hall filming a Giant Cuttlefish. Australia. Credit: © Peter Kragh

What was the filming process like for Soul of the Ocean? What are the major challenges of filming underwater?

We have been capturing and compiling the underwater behavioral sequences for Soul of the Ocean for over ten years. During that time, my impression of ocean ecosystems has evolved. Most people feel the ocean is a dangerous place characterized by constant violent predation. But I learned that this is not the primary characteristic of life in the ocean. Peaceful cooperation between species is far more ubiquitous than predation and violence. This idea became the seed for a concept that became Soul of the Ocean.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of filming natural history, above water or underwater, is predictability. Environments are constantly changing. Between the time we discover a population of animals and the time we can mount an expedition to film their behavior, the population often moves or disappears.

Pink anemonefish, Amphiprion perideraion, hiding in its own anemone. Indonesia. Credit: © Howard Hall

You’ve been filming underwater for decades now – what have been some of the major changes you’ve witnessed regarding life in the ocean?

The most noticeable change in ocean ecosystems is simply that there is less of almost everything. Most populations of marine creatures are declining. Where thirty years ago it was easy to film some animals, now it is nearly impossible. There are many causes, including climate change. But the largest impact has been overfishing.

Did you witness anything new in this film that surprised you?

Being surprised by what animals do is one of my greatest joys. Animal behaviors are often amazingly complex. We are just beginning to appreciate how complicated and subtle fish behaviors can be. While filming Soul of the Ocean, I saw several things that I had never seen before. I saw anemonefish attack sea turtles, and discovered why. I witnessed a strange relationship between dugongs and remoras (suckerfish). As far as I know, both behaviors had not been previously known to science.

Anything you didn’t have a chance to film or include in the final cut but hope to in the future?

Definitely. I’m already spending hundreds of hours underwater shooting footage for the next film. We have expeditions planned to the Sea of Cortez, Bahamas, and Indonesia. As I gather footage, I hope to learn even more about how the ocean works. And eventually, I hope to have an epiphany that seeds the idea for the next film.

What do you hope viewers take away from this film?

Mostly, I hope to help viewers fall in love with the ocean and marine creatures. Many of these animals are incredibly beautiful and have complex and compelling characters. The vast majority of viewers will likely never see these animals in person. If our films help them appreciate undersea environments and wildlife, I think they are more likely to advocate for their protection.

The post Q&A with “Soul of the Ocean” Filmmaker Howard Hall appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Harpy Eagle Fact Sheet

Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja): a neotropical species of eagle.

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Aves
Order: | Falconiformes
Family: | Accipitridae
Genus: | Harpia
Species: | harpyja

Size and Weight:

The harpy is one of the largest species of eagle. As is often the case with birds of prey, females are larger than males. The birds can grow to 36 to 40 inches. Females weigh between 13 to 20 pounds. Males weigh between 9 and 11 pounds. Its wings are relatively short, enabling the bird to maneuver through its thick-forested surroundings.

Appearance:

The harpy eagle has dark gray feathers with a white underside. A black band of plumage spans its neck and a fan of gray feathers crowns its head. Male and female plumage is identical. A harpy eagle’s talons can be as large as the claws of a grizzly bear. Their large talons can exert several hundred pounds of pressure, which can crush the bones of their prey and instantly kill their victims.

Diet:

A hunting carnivore and an apex predator, the harpy eagle preys primarily on tree-dwelling mammals like sloths, monkeys, and opossums. They will occasionally prey on other birds like macaws, and on reptiles like iguanas. Females generally target larger prey because of their size, leaving smaller prey for the males.

Habitat:

The birds live in the rainforests of Central and South America. They prefer large expanses of uninterrupted forest and spend the majority of their time in the forest canopy. They are rarely seen flying over the canopy or in open spaces.

Geography:

The harpy eagle is found primarily in South America, in countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and northeast Argentina. The species is also found in areas of Mexico and Central America, though the populations are far smaller.

Breeding:

Harpy eagles mate for life. Large nests made of sticks and branches and lined with softer materials are built at least 90 feet from the ground in huge trees like the kapok tree, the Brazil nut tree, or the Cambara tree. The harpy couple often reuses the same nest over many years. The female lays two eggs, but once the first egg hatches, the remaining egg is ignored and will not hatch.

Both parents spend all their time protecting and raising the chick until it fledges, usually within 6 or 7 months, though it returns to the nest over the next 6-10 months for an occasional free meal. A harpy pair will produce a chick every 2-4 years. Young harpy eagles reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 5.

Social Structure:

Harpy eagles are monogamous. After breeding with their mate, they both tend to their young. Once mature, their chicks may return to nest in their “home tree.” While they can breed from 5 to 30 years of age, a pair may not raise many offspring in their lifetime because of their years of dedicated parenting.

Lifespan:

The bird’s lifespan is believed to be 25 to 35 years.

Threats:

The species is at risk due to increased habitat loss from development, logging, and agriculture.

Conservation Status:

As of 2021, the IUCN has classified the harpy eagle as Vulnerable on its Red List of Threatened Species.

Conservation Efforts:

Multiple conservation groups work to protect this species. For example, The Peregrine Fund launched the Harpy Eagle Release Project in 1989, which aims to help harpy eagles in the wilderness.

Source: a previous NATURE blog and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

The post Harpy Eagle Fact Sheet appeared first on Nature.

- Danielle Broza
Coral Reefs Need a Big Win in Montreal. What Will It Take?

This piece comes to us from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Governments are poised to make new commitments to biodiversity-rich ecosystems like coral reefs this month in Montreal. To make good on those promises, countries will need access to clear, timely data to monitor their progress. Platforms like MERMAID stand ready to support governments and institutions to take action #ForCoral

At COP15 in Montreal, live coral cover is one of the coral reef indicators proposed to the 190 Parties for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Photo credit: Tom Vierus/WCS.

At this week’s COP15 nature negotiations in Montreal, there is stubborn hope for an ambitious moment for nature and people: a renewed global agreement to protect the world’s biodiversity, called the Global Biodiversity Framework, that will halt biodiversity loss and chart a course to nature-positive recovery over the next 10 years.

Unlike the previous Aichi targets, which failed to halt biodiversity loss, a new agreement in Montreal feels poised to include clear and measurable targets that will galvanize urgent global action on the interdependent crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Coral reefs urgently need this ambitious action. At risk is an ecosystem home to over a quarter of all marine species that provide food security, livelihoods, and coastal protection to one billion people on the frontlines of climate change, and valued at USD$9.9 trillion dollars globally. Without urgent action over the next two decades, up to 90 percent of the coral reefs around the world could be lost due to climate change and pressures from pollution, overexploitation and coastal development.

Poised to make new commitments to coral reefs at COP15 in Montreal, countries need access to clear, timely data to monitor their progress. Photo credit: Alec Hughes/WCS.

Climate action and local management matter. Scientists from WCS found that reducing emissions that cause climate change, combined with effective management, can maintain or increase the number of live corals found on reefs in the future—a critical metric of coral reef resilience. But these are scientific forecasts. To achieve nature-positive progress in the real world, governments must use data to track their progress toward retaining and restoring the integrity of coral reef ecosystems.

In Montreal, governments should place a strong emphasis on measurable targets and science-based indicators for coral reefs. How? The Global Biodiversity Framework, the international agreement that undergirds the goals and targets emerging from the conference, must include critical indicators for coral reefs, including the abundance of live hard corals and reef fish (see “Three Asks for Corals” from the International Coral Reef Initiative).

But governments should not implement complex survey protocols and data management systems individually and without coordination. While countries have understood for decades that climate change has devastating impacts on coral reefs and coastal communities, there has never been a coordinated and unified effort to improve the resilience of coral reefs globally. This is where scientists around the world can help.

Instead of complex survey protocols and custom data management systems, existing platforms such as MERMAID can help governments measure key indicators in their commitments to the Global Biodiversity Framework. Photo credit: Tom Vierus/WCS

To catalyze a global scientific effort to track the health and resilience of coral reefs, WCS partnered with the World Wildlife Fund and Sparkgeo to develop MERMAID, the first cloud-based platform to help coral reef scientists collect and use information from underwater surveys in a standardized way.

Before MERMAID, coral reef data was often stranded on the computers of individual scientists, with no quick, standardized, or accessible way to aggregate that data across geographies to get a larger-scale snapshot of coral reef health. Advances in satellite technology, like tools created by our partners at the Allen Coral Atlas, provide important information on ocean heat waves, land-based pollution and coral reef extent. But satellites cannot see the more granular details that we need to understand if coral reefs are healthy or not. We need to be underwater to gather some of our most important data, and we needed a platform to use these data on corals and reef fish. Now, we have MERMAID.

With over 1,000 users worldwide and more than 38,000 underwater transects from 28 countries, MERMAID is poised and ready to help governments measure key indicators in their commitments to the Global Biodiversity Framework, and to support scientists all over the world in transforming their underwater insights into data-driven action to save coral reefs. This allows governments can take the pulse of their coral reefs with the latest data and actionable information.

A field conservationist in Fiji digitizing data from printouts and hand-written logs. Photo credit: Emily Darling/WCS.

What’s on the line? The future of one of the world’s most vibrant ecosystems, along with the livelihoods and coastal protection of 1 billion people. Without a strong Global Biodiversity Framework, coral reefs are in jeopardy. Data must drive action alongside new approaches to financing, like the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, and crucial efforts to center the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities at all levels of decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation in line with the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other human rights agreements.

Researchers running transects on a vibrant coral reef. Photo credit: Tom Vierus/WCS

This week in Montreal, governments must guarantee a big win for coral reefs—by agreeing on an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework. At the frontlines of climate change, there is no other option.

The post Coral Reefs Need a Big Win in Montreal. What Will It Take? appeared first on Nature.

- Danielle Broza
Global Biodiversity Protection Must Center Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’ Human Rights

A traditional fish drive in the Solomon Islands. Photo credit: ©Alec Hughes.

The long-awaited biennial Conference of the Parties—or COP—to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity got underway last week in Montreal after a two-year delay caused by the covid pandemic.

The convention is working toward a Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to serve as the underlying goals and targets to achieve the objectives of the convention in the current decade (or “post-2020” as participants like to say), and beyond. Most COP attendees are working towards the development and adoption of an ambitious and robust post-2020 GBF to be agreed upon at the close of the meeting.

The most widely discussed target of the meeting in the lead-up to the COP has been the commitment to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of terrestrial and marine areas by 2030—what has become informally referred to as “30 by 30,” but to achieve that target so many others must also be addressed.

Those include draft Targets 1, on spatial planning; 5, on trade and use of wild species; 15, on businesses and human rights; 20, on traditional knowledge; 21, on full and effective participation and access to justice; and Target 22, on gender equality and women’s rights to name a few. I am focused on the inclusion of strong commitments to address the human rights and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IP and LCs) across the globe.

IP and LCs have suffered the greatest consequences of our global biodiversity and climate crises despite some of these groups being active champions in fighting these crises. Therefore, we need a transformative collective approach in how we protect and restore nature. Parties to the CBD must join with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in a common vision in order for us to collectively address the threats we face.

That’s why I’m pleased to note that human rights are being placed at the center of this biodiversity COP, with IP and LCs at the table to influence the framework, strongly grounded in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and other international human rights core treaties, as well as the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples that covers many people of African descent, traditional forest, and coastal local communities. 

Whether we’re talking about species conservation, carbon storage, or sustainable use of natural resources, Indigenous Peoples have an extraordinary record of conservation and their territories frequently are better managed than other forms of conservation designation. 

Whether we’re talking about species conservation, carbon storage, or sustainable use of natural resources, Indigenous Peoples have an extraordinary record of conservation. Photo credit: © Alissa Everett.

It is essential to center Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’ rights in the final text of COP15. Likewise, the full, equitable, inclusive, effective, and gender-responsive representation and participation in the decision-making of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities is essential to implement and monitor the progress of the GBF goals.

In meetings this week, more needs to be done to promote and secure a human rights-based approach in the GBF, build bridges between different stakeholders, and ensure that such an approach is reflected during implementation in different geographies and contexts around the world.  Funds should be channeled to IP and LCs directly, or through trusted organizations that have accompanied communities over the long term, built on principles of equity and effective participation in decision-making.

Where funding is passed through or managed by governments or other organizations, it is important to ensure that it is spent in ways that implement UNDRIP and international human rights treaties.

Through a human rights-based approach that engenders inclusion, equity, and justice, WCS will continue supporting IP or LC-led conservation, and can also support the meaningful and effective expansion of the role of IP and LCs, should they choose, in the management of existing protected areas, other conserved areas, and surrounding landscapes that are not governed or managed by them in some countries.

WCS has been engaged in efforts globally across various governance models that can lend support to informing and implementing a Global Biodiversity Framework that will be agreed to by the parties to the CBD convention in Montreal this month.

WCS has been working with the Tacana Indigenous People in Bolivia for more than two decades. Photo credit: ©Eleanor Briggs.

For example, in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea, WCS has facilitated the development of community-based management within locally-managed marine areas with over 100 Indigenous communities. In Bolivia alone, we have helped secure land title to 1.5 million hectares of Indigenous lands and in Colombia, we have supported an Afro-Descendant-led initiative by the Naya River Council to establish a 26,400-hectare Marine Protected Area on their lands in Isla Ají.  Cambodia’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, with WCS support, has more Indigenous Peoples collective land titles awarded within it than any other protected area in the country.

The biodiversity crisis is inseparable from the destruction of ecological integrity—in particular by commercial extractive industries that do not respect the free, prior, and informed consent of IPs and LCs, by transportation infrastructure that is not sensitive to people’s views, and by unsustainable agriculture and agricultural practices (particularly large-scale agribusiness).

When we degrade high-integrity places of nature, we not only destroy habitat and the interdependence of species in a healthy ecosystem. We also degrade those areas’ capacity to trap and store carbon. We bring people, wildlife, and livestock populations into greater contact with the potential for spillover of deadly pathogens that threaten another pandemic.

These are the existential challenges of our time. As CBD Parties debate and finalize a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, we must acknowledge and embrace the outsized role Indigenous Peoples and local communities play, and have always played, in sustaining our planet.  We need to respect and co-create spaces for and with them to lead on solutions, but also make sure that we do not burden them with solving a problem created by larger interests. Indeed, our collective survival depends on it.

The post Global Biodiversity Protection Must Center Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’ Human Rights appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Fennec Fox Fact Sheet

Fennec fox (Vulpes zerda): a small fox native to the deserts of North Africa.

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Carnivora
Family: | Canidae
Genus: | Vulpes
Species: | zerda

Size and Weight:

The fennec fox is the smallest of the foxes. Their head and body are 9.5 to 16 inches long and their tail is 7 to 12 inches long. They stand at 8 inches in height at the shoulders. Their weight ranges from 2 to 3.5 pounds.

Appearance:

Fennec foxes are perhaps best known for their enormous ears. Relative to body size, the fennec fox has the largest ears of any member of the canid family. Their ears are typically 4 to 6 inches long and serve multiple purposes. Their ears help to dissipate excess body heat on hot days. They also help the fox to hear prey in the sand.

A fennec fox has a tiny face with a pointed snout. Their fur is cream in color with a long black-tipped tail. Their fur coats are long, thick and soft with a wooly undercoat, insulating them during cold nights and protecting them from the hot sun during the day.

Diet:

Fennec fox are omnivores. They are nocturnal to avoid the desert heat. Typically at night, they forage for plants as well as lizards, rodents, insects and eggs. They are able to go for long periods without water because their kidneys are specifically adapted to conserve water. They can obtain moisture from the food they eat and by licking the dew that forms in their dens.

Habitat:

Fennec foxes live in arid desert habitats.

Geography:

They are found in the desert zones of North Africa and the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas.

Breeding:

The rutting season, or mating season, typically lasts for four to six weeks. During this period, males are extremely aggressive and mark their territory with urine. Females are in estrus for one to two days, and following mating, the gestation period lasts about 50 days. Prior to and during birth, males defend the females. The male provides food to the female until the pups are about 4 weeks old.

A female typically gives birth to one litter of two to five pups per year. The young are born fully furred but blind. Within their second week, they open their eyes, and at about 2 weeks, they are able to walk. Pups usually nurse for their first 10 weeks and become mature at 9 to 11 months.

Social Structure:

Fennec foxes are monogamous, meaning they mate for life. They dwell in family groups of up to ten individuals. Multiple family groups may share a complex den. These foxes are territorial and mark their territory with urine and feces. They communicate with each other through several noises, including whimpers, barks, shrieks, squeaks, growls, howls or chatters.

Lifespan:

Their lifespan ranges from 10 to 12 years on average.

Threats:

The greatest threats to fennec fox populations are habitat loss and hunting. In North Africa, fennec foxes are trapped for exhibition or sale to tourists. As human populations expand, they are at higher risk of being hit by cars.

Conservation Status:

As of 2015, the IUCN has classified the fennec fox as of Least Concern on its Red List of Threatened Species.

Conservation Efforts:

Fennec foxes are legally protected in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

Source: Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

The post Fennec Fox Fact Sheet appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Reindeer Fact Sheet

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus): deer in the genus Rangifer.

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Artiodactyla
Family: | Cervidae
Genus: | Rangifer
Species: | tarandus

Reindeer and caribou are the same species (Rangifer tarandus). In North America, they are called caribou if they are wild and reindeer if they are domesticated. In Europe, they are called reindeer.

Size and Weight:

Reindeer are 28 to 53 inches tall at shoulder height. Females weigh 121 to 308 pounds and males weigh 140 to 550 pounds, depending on the time of the year.

Appearance:

Antlers are arguably the reindeer’s most defining characteristic. Compared to body size, reindeer have the largest and heaviest antlers of all living deer species. A male’s antlers can measure up to 51 inches long, and a female’s antlers can reach 20 inches. Reindeer use their antlers as weapons against predators. Males use their antlers to woo the females, and females use theirs to clear away the snow to find food.

Each year, their antlers fall off and grow back larger the following year. Males begin to grow antlers in February and females in May. While both males and females finish growing their antlers at the same time, they shed their antlers at different times of the year. A male drops his in November, while female reindeer keep their antlers through the winter until their calves are born in May.

Reindeer are well adapted to their freezing habitats. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, ranging from dark brown in woodland subspecies to nearly white in Greenland. Their coat is usually a bit darker in summer and lighter in winter. Reindeer have two coat layers, consisting of an undercoat of fine, soft wool that stays right next to their skin, and a top layer of long, hollow guard hairs. The air trapped inside the guard hairs holds in body heat to keep a reindeer warm against wind and cold.

Diet:

Reindeer are ruminants, which are hoofed herbivorous grazing or browsing mammals. They eat mosses, herbs, ferns and grasses when available. They also eat the shoots and leaves of shrubs and trees. In winter, they mainly consume lichen and fungi, scraping the snow away with their hooves to get it. An average adult reindeer eats 9 to 18 pounds of vegetation a day.

Habitat:

Their habitat includes tundra and boreal forest.

Geography:

Reindeer can be found in Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Canada.

Reindeers in natural environment, Tromso region, Northern Norway

Breeding:

A male’s body changes in preparation for the rut, or the “mating season,” which typically occurs in the fall. They rub the velvet off their antlers, their neck swells, their stomach draws in, and they grow a mane of hair under their neck. The males battle each other, with battles even resulting in death. The winner chooses 5 to 15 females to be in his harem. Females that become pregnant leave the herd in the spring and travel to a traditional calving ground. After a gestation period of 7.5 months, they give birth to typically one calf, usually in May and June.

At birth, the newborn weighs 5 to 20 pounds and is able to stand within just one hour after birth. It is not spotted like in other deer species. A reindeer calf drinks its mother’s rich milk and begins adding solid food to its diet at just one week old. By two weeks, it has doubled its birth weight. It is weaned about six months later. Females reach sexual maturity at four years old and males reach sexual maturity at six years old.

Social Structure:

Reindeer are social animals that live in herds of 10 to a few hundred. They may form super herds of 50,000 to 500,000 in the spring. They migrate south to follow food sources, traveling up to 1,000 miles. They communicate with each other through snorts, grunts, and hoarse calls, especially during the breeding season or rut.

Lifespan:

On average, reindeer live 15 to 18 years.

Threats:

Population density, predation, and disease seem to determine reindeer herd sizes. While anti-poaching laws exist to protect reindeer, historically overhunting has caused some reindeer populations to decline. Climate change is also impacting reindeer habitat. As temperatures rise, white-tailed deer move into areas occupied by reindeer. These deer often possess a worm parasite that is fatal to moose and reindeer populations.

Human activity, such as oil exploration and industrial development, has increased and spread into their habitat. While reindeer have been able to adapt to the presence of people and machines, these increasing human activities may pose a threat to reindeer populations.

Conservation Status:

As of 2015, the IUCN has classified the reindeer as Vulnerable on its Red List of Threatened Species.

Source: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and the IUCN.

The post Reindeer Fact Sheet appeared first on Nature.

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- explore
Comment System Survey Results

by Candice Rusch, Director of New Media at explore.org

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey and gave us feedback about what you want to see in a new comment system. In this blog post, I’ll lay out our goals and analyze the results. Before we begin, I want to offer two caveats. We are still in the planning phase of development. Things can, and likely will, change. The features outlined here may not be feasible. Or, we might need to release these features in phases. The primary goal of the survey was to help us understand what features to prioritize in development. This new system will be for the community and we need you to be a part of this process with us. The second caveat is that we removed feedback from the analysis that was specifically related to moderation policies. This survey was designed to help us understand how to better design a comment system. Moderation policy is a different conversation. Don’t worry, we did read your feedback, but if it was related to moderation then it is not reflected in this report.

Explore.org’s Goals For a New Comment System Stability

It is no secret that Disqus has been buggy. 21% of the free answer portion of the survey was people lamenting how buggy Disqus is as a system. Most of our feedback inbox is filled weekly with people who face issues with the Disqus comment system. Snapshots don’t post. Comments are inaccurately marked as spam. Actual spam floods the site. Comments disappear. Notifications don’t work. The list goes on. The reason we periodically create new comment boards is that Disqus gets even more buggy as a comment board fills up. 

Our primary goal is a new comment system that is stable. To accomplish this, we will have an extensive beta-test. During this test, the new comment board will be placed on a handful of cameras. We will need you to help us test this system: find bugs, tell us where things didn’t function as anticipated. The more feedback the better. I cannot say that our new system will never have bugs, but instead of having to wait days and sometimes weeks for a resolution from Disqus, we will be able to address the issues ourselves. Having our own system also gives us the opportunity to be  transparent with you about fixes and their implementation. 

Features That Fit Our Needs

Disqus is a 3rd party system that we license. We don’t have any control over what features they release and when. This has caused some issues in the past. Most recently their “advanced moderation” feature catches legitimate comments in a spam filter, and we have no ability to opt-out. Even worse, we don’t have the ability to add features that would benefit our community. We feel that the recent tensions around the off-topic rule is a design problem, not a policy problem. This survey revealed that for every person who was sad about the off-topic rule enforcement, there was another person who was happy that the chats are focused on the cams. The community is split in half. We are trying to please two diametrically opposed groups with a system that doesn’t allow us to make any accommodations. Thankfully, you also gave us some great ideas about how to create a chat that can fit more casual conversation, while allowing for people to filter out conversation they don’t find relevant. Explore is unique. It became clear to us that to grow, we need to create something designed for our community. Your responses to the survey were a great help in understanding what you want!

Security & Accessibility

From the moment we started the discussion about what a self-hosted comment system would mean, security and accessibility were at the top of our team’s mind. Part of accomplishing these goals will be consulting with experts to audit the system. Security experts will look at our system and assess it for vulnerability. We will design the system with accessibility in mind from the start. During the beta test we will specifically ask for accessibility testers to reveal any issues there. Once the system is live, we will create guides to help people navigate the new comments.

Survey Results

 

Do you currently use a commenting account on explore.org?

It actually came as somewhat of a surprise to me that 40% of people who took the time to participate in the survey do not comment. The next question explains why people don’t comment. 

If you said no, why don’t you use a commenting account?

To analyze the results of this question, I removed everyone who answered, “I do comment.” We accidentally made this a required question. Sorry about that. I then pulled out all the “other” answers and found a few common themes. 

By far the biggest reason people don’t comment is simply that they don’t want to, or are content reading the comments. The rest of this result confirms our suspicion that the bugs in Disqus are preventing people from being able to comment. This validates our goal of trying to build a stable commenting system first. The rest of the “other” responses have given us a lot to think about. For those of you who cited security concerns, we fully agree that the security of our users’ information is vital. I can confidently say that explore does not, and will never, sell our users’ information. It also looks like we could be better at educating our community about what is possible on the site. I was personally surprised that there were a number of people who didn’t know how to comment or didn’t know they even could comment on explore. 

If you use a commenting account, what is your favorite feature?

To analyze this question, I did something similar to the previous question. I removed all the people who said that they don’t comment. I also broke out everyone who answered “other” and organized the answers around the themes that emerged. 

We learned a couple things from this question. First, we confirmed our hypothesis that explore.org would not be a good fit for a scrolling chat like Youtube, twitch, and other live streaming platforms. The ability to leave and come back is essential to our community. We also learned that while many of you love the ability to post snapshots to comments, it has been deeply frustrating that that feature has been unstable at best. We agree. The reason it hasn’t worked recently is that Disqus’ system flags most attempts to post a snapshot to comments from explore as spam. If we host our own system, we will obviously not flag our own traffic as spam. This would be a very easy win for explore staff, moderators and fans alike. 

If I were to change one thing about the commenting system, it would be

This was one of the more insightful questions in the survey! Like the previous questions, I sorted the “other” responses into themes. There were quite a few pointing out specific bugs in the Disqus. I sorted the bug complaints into the label, “a stable system that works.”

By far most people wanted an easier way to find information they are interested in. The responses in the Other section came with very helpful suggestions. We are currently discussing search and filter options that would let people more easily find what they are looking for! Many of these suggested features are also found in the free-answer portion of the survey, so I will address more of them there. 

There were a small minority of people who urged us not to move away from Disqus. While we are happy that you have not experienced issues, we hope that this blog helps you see the extensive problems most of the community face. We want to reassure people that our goal is to make the transition as simple and painless as possible. Ideally you will be able to comment on the new system with your existing explore.org account and won’t have to sign up for anything new. As much as possible, we aim to maintain any existing features that work, while improving their stability. Any additional features we add will be tested to make sure they add value to the community.

“How Interested Are You” Questions

These questions were meant to gauge the interest of the community on some features that the explore staff brainstormed in one of our planning meetings. While the primary goal is to create a more stable system, we have the opportunity here to add features that could be fun and useful. As a reminder, 1 is Very Uninterested and 5 is Very Interested.

This response was actually somewhat surprising to us! We thought that the ability to private message friends would be a good way to allow for off-topic chatter without making it visible for those that were uninterested, but 56.8% of people were either very uninterested or uninterested in this feature. Only 24.5% of people were interested or very interested in the feature. This was very helpful feedback. Private messaging adds a layer of complexity to the development process. With such a strong response against private messages it is unlikely we will release this feature in the first phase of the new comment system. There were many responses in the free answer portion that specifically asked for private messages. If you were one of those people, know that this doesn’t mean we won’t ever support private messages. It just means that it will not be prioritized over some of the other highly requested features like expanded search and comment filtering. 

This feature was suggested in response to a somewhat common complaint about the phenomena of multiple posts of the same photo in chat. We thought if people could curate multi-photo posts it might incentivize them to curate one large post instead of posting a lot of the same photo. The response here is split. 39.7% of people were some form of uninterested, 36.7% had some form of interest. With a split response, the release of this feature will come down to ease of development and implementation. We might ask for more feedback on multi-photo posts when we have a more concrete example to show people. 

To be honest, this is a feature that the explore staff is very strongly interested in. We use the Fan Favorites section to create the Fan Cam Friday newsletter. As it stands, it is not super obvious how to favorite other community members’ snapshots. I would not be surprised if some people learn right now from this blog post that they can go to a gallery and favorite other people’s snapshots. Moving this feature directly to the comments would add another way to interact with your friends AND it would help us curate the Friday newsletter better. With 36% of the people uninterested and 42% of people interested, we will probably move forward with this feature!

I actually expected this question to even more strongly favor the Very Interested side than it did. 36.5% of the people were uninterested while 44.1% were interested. We know that comment archiving is critical for several fan wikis. We are exploring ways to import Disqus history into the new comment system. We are currently discussing how long we should archive comments in the new system. Text is fairly inexpensive to store. Addition of media such as photos, videos, and gifs, adds to the eventual storage costs of a self-hosted system. We are trying to find a way to balance the need to archive comments with operational costs. Rest assured we are planning on archiving comments, though for how long is an open question. We might request more feedback later in the development process to understand how you are currently using comment archives. 

This feature was suggested as a way to use the snapshot galleries in a new fun way. 37.5% of the respondents were uninterested while 40% of the respondents were interested. Several people mentioned in the free-answer portion of this survey that this would be a great way to discuss bear IDs. It’s a fantastic observation that we didn’t consider! 

We often get feedback that the explore.org app would be better if it had comments. 32% of people were uninterested while 44% of the people were interested. We have tried to get Disqus to work with our app multiple times over the years, and it just has not worked. App integration is very high on our feature requirements for a new comment system. 

We suggested this feature because we know that many schools and parents have their kids watch explore. It is not a huge surprise that 69.4% respondents were not interested in this feature while only 13.4% were interested. Explore’s website audience does trend to people who no longer have school age children. This strong response against parental controls means that it will not be very high on the feature list. Again, this does not mean that we will never release this feature, only that it will not be prioritized in the beginning.

Is there anything else you’d like to see out of a new comment system?

Personally, this was the most interesting and insightful part of the whole survey. Some of the features suggested here we have already addressed. I won’t address every suggested feature, but I would like to highlight a few. 

Stability: 

This has been addressed throughout this blog. It is our primary goal for a new comment system. The ongoing bugs are detrimental to the community. They are also the primary source of complaints for the explore.org website. 

Search & Filtering

These suggestions were the best thing to come out of this survey. So many of you had great ideas for how to use search and filtering to make information easier to find, and to interact easier with other fans. We are currently brainstorming an “off-topic” tag that would allow people to filter out off-topic comments while creating space for people to interact with their friends. 

Off Topic Comments

I did say at the top of the blog that we were not addressing moderation policy issues, but I also acknowledged that the off-topic tension is a symptom of the limitations of Disqus. We obviously want people to feel like they are welcome on explore and we understand that many longtime friendships have been formed here. On the other hand, we also got a lot of feedback from people who say that the off-topic comments make them feel unwelcome, and distract them from the goal of learning more about the live cams. It is a difficult balance. We hope that some of the search and filtering options can create room for both perspectives. 

No Repeated Snapshots 

This was also a common complaint. We don’t have any solid solutions here yet but we are actively considering how to address this issue. In a similar vein, many people requested a way to hide media. We think a filter that would let you see Images Only or Text Only might be a good solution. 

Reactions & Emoji’s

This was also suggested in one of explore’s brainstorming meetings! It is something we are also interested in developing.

Block and Unblock users

This was on our list of basic feature requirements already. Not being able to unblock a user on Disqus is confusing to us as well.  

No Ads

This came up a few times in the survey. Explore does not, and will never, advertise on the site. If you are currently seeing ads in Disqus please let us know, because they should not be doing that. We can guarantee that there will not be ads in the new product. 

Conclusion

Thank you to everyone who made it this far! This will be a long process, but we thank you for helping us start this journey. I didn’t address every feature or concern raised in the survey here, but we have read all of them. Your feedback is critical in making a comment system everyone will enjoy. We will continue to provide updates as we move forward. As always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please email us at feedback@explore.org

- explore

by Mike Fitz

Watching unfiltered footage of wild animals on explore.org means that we’ll inevitably witness nature’s harsh realities. Bears strip the skin off of living salmon. Lions subdue zebras. A python snares an unsuspecting bird from its perch. Falcons fight for nesting territories. Ravens pillage an unoccupied eagle nest. Although these events can be difficult to watch, the reasons for them are typically clear. Hunger and reproduction are powerful motivators. Other behaviors and situations, though, challenge our best available science as well as our sensibilities of right and wrong.

A bird nest is a dichotomous place of nurturing and conflict. Parents care for their vulnerable young, while chicks compete for food and space. The competition in a bird nest can manifest in ways far beyond the times when my brother, sister, and I fought over the last cookie. 

An extreme form of sibling rivalry at a bird nest may lead to siblicide. Also called Cainism after the biblical story of Cain and Abel, siblicide occurs when a nestling’s behavior leads to the death of one or more of its siblings through starvation, physical injury, or eviction from the nest. While siblicide is not common among birds overall, it does happen in a wide variety of birds. It’s documented in the osprey, shoebill, southern ground hornbill, white-bellied swiftlet, blue-throated bee-eater, and blue-footed booby as well as certain species of cranes, eagles, egrets, hawks, herons, guillemots, gulls, owls, pelicans, penguins, and vultures. 

Siblicide in birds often occurs as soon as a larger or more aggressive nestling gains the size, strength, and weaponry (such as a sharp beak) to cause significant harm to its younger and smaller nest mate(s). On explore.org we’ll likely witness it on the webcam that features the African black (Verreaux’s) eagle nest in South Africa, and it is possible that we could see it at the cams of great blue heron, osprey, black guillemont, and bald eagle nests in North America. But, there are differences in how it occurs. African black eagles experience obligate siblicide: two eggs are laid, they hatch at different times, and the older chick always kills its younger sibling. In contrast, siblicide is facultative in herons and osprey: it is circumstantial and doesn’t always occur. 

Distinguishing the nuances of obligate and facultative siblicide doesn’t make it any easier to witness, of course. I wonder if this behavior is so difficult to watch, in part, because it is so difficult to explain. 

Many organisms including humans make overt efforts to help ensure the survival of related individuals. This trait isn’t universal, though. At best, many more organisms behave indifferently to their siblings’ survival. Others take a more aggressive stance. Certain species of sharks attack and eat their siblings in the womb. 

If siblicide was maladaptive, if it failed to provide survival benefits in the near or long term, especially if an alternate life history strategy such as cooperation among nestlings led to higher survival and reproductive rates, then those with the siblicidal trait might eventually have their genes winnowed from the population or species. Yet since siblicide persists, then scientists—or at least my interpretation of their conclusions—have operated under the assumption that siblicide, especially obligate variation, provides some sort of benefit that leads to reproductive success for the individuals that practice it.

During the last few decades, scientists have hypothesized many potential explanations for siblicide in birds. Maybe the only thing we know for sure is that there are certain factors that make it more likely to happen, although none appear to be universal. Among birds, siblicide is correlated with large body size at maturity, complex hunting and foraging behaviors, a protracted period of learning in early life, and a slow life history pace (that is, you live a long time and have a low reproductive rate). In addition, siblicidal bird species are more likely to have a long nestling period and effective weaponry at a young age such as a sharp bill. Regarding the nesting period, consider that American robins (a species with no documented siblicide) leave the nest about 14 days after hatching, while the African black eagle doesn’t fledge for 95 days or longer. The nests of many siblicidal species usually offer limited escape possibilities too. A mallard duckling spends relatively little time in its nest after hatching and its ability to move and feed independently allows it to easily avoid a pushy sibling, unlike a heron chick that remains in a nest high in a tree for weeks after hatching. Additionally, if the species practices asynchronous hatching, then the older, first-hatched chick has a head start on growth and those few days can make a tremendous difference. A mother Canada goose may lay many eggs, but she does not start incubating until the entire clutch is laid and all of her eggs hatch at about the same time. In contrast, a female African black eagle begins to incubate her first egg immediately even though she usually lays a second egg three or four days later. As a result, her first chick hatches several days before the second. When the second chick hatches, the older black eagle chick uses its strongly hooked beak to attack its younger, vulnerable sibling. In More than Kin, Less than Kind: The Evolution of Family Conflict, biologist Douglas Mock notes a case when an older African black eagle chick attacked its nest mate within a few hours of its sibling hatching. The younger chick died three days after hatching and weighed 18 grams less than when it hatched due to the repeated attacks and food monopolization from its older sibling. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, food availability and hunger play an important role, especially in species with facultative siblicide. If the parents deliver food in large parcels, then the older or stronger chicks may be able to monopolize the food to the detriment of their siblings. If the parents feed their chicks infrequently and food transfer between feedings is slow, then an older or stronger chick can also interfere with the feeding of its sibling.

Competition for food can become more intense as chicks grow. But, sufficient food can also allow younger or smaller chicks with the fortitude and energy to withstand and survive the aggression of their nest mates. One study on great egrets found that the amount of food had little direct influence on fighting behavior between siblings, though it consistently influenced chick survival. When scientists provisioned a great egret nest in Texas with extra food they found that nest mates didn’t reduce their aggression toward each other, but more chicks to survive to fledge. 

There may be other factors that influence siblicide as well. One idea, for example, posits that some chicks may be more vulnerable to parasites. These infestations might leave a chick in a weakened state where it cannot withstand the aggression of its nest mates.

As species with facultative siblicide demonstrate, all nestlings can survive when circumstances allow. Parent birds are often great hunters and select their nesting territories well, which makes obligate siblicide perplexing. Food is not always in short supply for young (less than one week-old) African black eagle chicks. So if “Cain” is always going to kill “Abel,” then what’s the point of laying a second egg? Perhaps obligate siblicide evolved in anticipation of food shortages later in the nesting period or maybe there are other, stronger reasons. After all, natural selection operates on a continuum of scales.

For a mother African black eagle the energetic cost of laying a second egg is relatively small, but the payout could be huge—at least in terms of reproductive success—if something happens to the first egg. In this way, a black eagle’s second egg might serve as an insurance premium of sorts. An independent analysis of one chick mortality study in African black eagles found that about one in five of the second-to-hatch chicks survived to fledge. In fact, “Abel” survived to fledge at the Black Eagle Project’s Roodekrans nest, where explore.org now has a webcam, in 2005 and 2006 after the first egg failed to hatch. Although the probability of the second egg surviving remains low, it still may offer just enough of a reproductive reward to ensure the effort of laying a second egg, even if sibling aggression will lead an older chick to kill its nest mate in most instances.

I offer this information knowing that it won’t make siblicide any easier for many of us to witness. It is appropriate and natural to feel for animals and empathize with their struggles. Siblicide is often difficult if not disturbing to watch, so always remember that it is also okay to take a break from the cams or watch a camera that focuses mostly on scenery rather than wildlife when things get unpleasant.

The diversity of survival strategies among wild animals, though, serves as a never-ending point of fascination for me and I hope you as well. I wasn’t always the best brother to my younger siblings when I was a kid, but I was vested in their welfare. So something like siblicide in birds seems so out of the ordinary to feel alien. However, rather than judging whether it is right or wrong, I see it as something different, something outside of human ethics, a behavior that has purpose for the animals that experience it. Although siblicide in certain species of birds seems to have evolved to benefit survival, it remains a behavior that provokes our discomfort and is difficult for science to reconcile.

- explore

The Africam Show (Tuesdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A special live Q&A session to catch up on the best weekly Africam moments. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask Ranger Russel Gerber questions on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube chat roll.

Africam4Good Show (Thursdays at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET) – A weekly conversation about the conservation of African wildlife, and an overview of great moments from the live cams. Watch these special broadcasts on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube channel.

The Africam Show: (2nd November)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good Show: Predator Conservation (4th November)

Russell chats with Thandiwe Mweetwa from the Zambian Carnivore Project about her conservation efforts in Zambia and what it’s like having a career in conservation.

The Africam Show: (9th November)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Ground Hornbill Project (11th November)

Russell chats to Kyle-Mark Middleton about the endangered Southern ground hornbill and their current efforts to protect the bird’s future.

The Africam Show: (16th November)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Tembe Elephant Park – (18th November)

Russell chats with Ernest Robbertse from Tembe Elephant Park about his water project for the Tembe community and to chat about the history of Tembe.

The Africam Show: (23rd November)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Kalahari Wild Dog Project (25th November)

Russell chats to Nadja le Roux from the Kalahari Wild Dog Project about her conservation work with the endangered painted dog.

The Africam Show: (30th November)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

- explore

All live events for the Polar Bear Cam will take place on the Tundra Connections Channel.

Tuesday, October 19th, 1:00pm Central

Polar Bears on the Tundra: Cam Kick-off

It’s that time of year again! Polar bears are gearing up for the sea ice to return soon, gathering along the shores of Hudson Bay in anticipation of eating soon. In the meantime, we’ll be watching and live-streaming their every move while letting you know what we’re seeing! Join us as we kick off the season with familiar faces and answer all your questions about what this season holds!

Thursday, October 28th, 11:00am Central

Arctic Innovations

The Arctic is known to be a harsh environment, but we choose to work there anyway! We are going to talk about some of our favourite new technologies and innovations allowing us to learn more about polar bears and help us keep them in the wild.

Thursday, November 4th, 12:00pm Central 

Polar Bear Tracking: Past, Present, and Future

From bulky radio collars in the 80s to stick on tags smaller than a deck of cards in 2020, polar bear tracking has come a long way! Join us to discuss the difficulty, evolution, and importance of tracking an animal that lives on the Arctic sea ice for most of its life!

Friday, November 12th, 1:00pm Central

Farewell to the Tundra

It’s been another amazing season! We will discuss our favorite (and fan favourite!) highlights from this bear season and look at what’s next for the polar bears of Western Hudson Bay.

- explore

The Africam Show (Tuesdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A special live Q&A session to catch up on the best weekly Africam moments. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask Ranger Russel Gerber questions on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube chat roll.

Africam4Good Show (Thursdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A weekly conversation about the conservation of African wildlife, and an overview of great moments from the live cams. Watch these special broadcasts on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube channel.

The Africam Show: World Animal Day (5th October)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good Show: Charlie Annenberg – Founder of explore.org (7th October)

Russell talks to Charlie Annenberg, the founder of explore.org. He discusses his love for Africa and what inspired him to set up live cameras around the world.

The Africam Show: (12th October)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

● Africam4Good: Giraffe Conservation Foundation (14th October)

Russell chats to Arthur Muneza about giraffe conservation and the work done by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to help protect giraffes across Africa.

The Africam Show: (19th October)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Birdlife South Africa (21st October)

Russell talks to Ernest Retief about the flamingos at Kamfers Dam and the conservation work done by BirdLife South Africa.

The Africam Show: (26th October)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Elephants Alive (28th October)

Russell talks to Michelle Henley from Elephants Alive about her projects involving elephant identification and conservation.

- explore

Celebrate the success of Brooks River’s world-famous bears during Fat Bear Week. Your vote decides which bear will be crowned the fattest of the year. National Park Service rangers and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz are hosting many live events to help inform your vote. Watch the bears every day on explore.org.

Fat Bear Junior

For these young and maturing bears, it is win and you’re in! During this warm-up event for Fat Bear Week, you choose the cub who will compete in the annual Fat Bear Week tournament. Join the bracket reveal with Mike Fitz from explore.org and Katmai National Park ranger Naomi Boak during a live play-by-play on Monday, September 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific. The Fat Bear Junior vote takes place September 23 – 24 on fatbearweek.org

Fat Bear Week in the Classroom

We invite teachers to take bearcam into the classroom and consider the different ways in which bears find success in Katmai’s challenging environment. Ranger Lian Law from Katmai National Park and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz will record a special broadcast to answer your students’ questions. Learn more about how your class can participate. Questions are due by September 28. The recorded broadcast premieres on October 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific on the Explore Live Nature Cams YouTube channel.

Fat Bear Week Live Chats

Find these events on the Brooks Live Chat channel. And, if you miss any of our live chats, you can find the replays on our Bears and Bison YouTube channel.

Fat Bear Week Bracket Reveal

September 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

The road to Fat Bear Week greatness began months ago. After a summer-long effort, brown bears at Brooks River in Katmai National Park have reached peak fat. How did they do it and what challenges did they face along the way? Those are a couple of the questions that explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Katmai National Park rangers Naomi Boak and Lian Law will answer as they reveal the contenders and the bracket for the 2021 Fat Bear Week tournament.

Welcome to Fat Bear Week

September 29 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

Winter comes quickly in Katmai and bears must get fat to survive it. Fat is the fuel that powers their ability to endure winter hibernation as well as the key to their reproductive success. Learn more about the importance of fat in the survival of the Fat Bear Week contestants with explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Katmai National Park rangers Naomi Boak and Lian Law.

A Very Fat Bear Play-by-Play

October 4 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

A favorite of rangers and bearcam fans alike, play-by-plays are live events when rangers and other experts narrate the bear and salmon activity at Brooks River. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the individual bears on the cams and how they survive.

Fat Bear Tuesday

October 5 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

In the tournament of champions that is Fat Bear Week, the merely pudgy bears have been winnowed away. The truly fattest are left standing. On Fat Bear Tuesday we conclude another titanic Fat Bear Week, and the two finalists are quintessential examples of success and the supreme adaptations that bears possess to survive. Explore the lives of the two final contestants with explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Katmai National Park rangers Naomi Boak and Lian Law.

Live Q&As

Chat in the comments with Mike Fitz, explore.org’s resident naturalist, and rangers from Katmai National Park during our weekly Q&As. Bring your questions about bears, salmon, and Katmai.

Explore.org: Every Tuesday (except October 5) from 5 – 7 p.m. Eastern / 2 – 4 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Live Chat channel. YouTube Q&As: Every Thursday from 2 – 4 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Falls YouTube page. Tiktok Q&As: Join on the explore.org Tiktok channel. October 1st at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific.

Brown Bear Superlatives

Choose your favorite bear among many categories including “most respected mom” and “best angler” in this post-Fat Bear Week celebration and fundraiser for the Katmai Conservancy. New superlatives are chosen each day from October 6 – 9 on the Brooks Falls YouTube page.

A Brown Bear Celebration

October 9 at 4 p.m. Eastern / 1 p.m. Pacific on the Brooks Live Chat channel.

After Fat Bear Week concludes, bears continue to fish at Brooks River and the Katmai Conservancy continues its work in support of Katmai National Park. Join the Katmai’s Conservancy’s Sara Wolman, explore.org’s Mike Fitz, and several special guests for this live event celebrating the 2021 brown bear season at Brooks River.

Got Questions?

Did you see something on the bearcams you’re curious about? Or, would you like to submit a question in advance for our live events? Ask it here. Rangers and expert staff may answer your question in a live chat, in the bearcam comments, or in a blog post.

- explore

Late summer is here and Katmai National Park’s brown bears are packing on the pounds in preparation for their winter hibernation. National Park Service rangers and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz have many live events in store this month, including Fat Bear Week which begins September 29. And, don’t forget to watch the bears every day on explore.org.

Live Chats

Join park rangers and other experts for in-depth conversations about brown bears and salmon. Find these events on the Brooks Live Chat channel. And, if you miss any of our live chats, you can find the replays on our Bears and Bison YouTube channel.

A Conversation with Katmai National Park Superintendent Mark Sturm: September 1 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

What challenges does Katmai face now and in the future? Get a superintendent’s perspective on the park’s priorities, issues, and plans for the future when Ranger Naomi Boak interviews Mark Sturm, superintendent of Katmai National Park. Submit your questions in advance using Ask Your Bearcam Question.

Late Summer at Brooks River: September 8 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

During a season when daylight wanes and nights begin to grow long and frosty, Brooks River is still very much alive. Brown bears, who seem to have an unlimited stomach capacity, seek to satisfy their hunger while spawning salmon attempt to complete their life’s work. Join explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Ranger Naomi Boak from Katmai National Park as they discuss the late summer season at Brooks River. It is the second peak season on bear cam and a time of year that offers bears their last opportunity to gain the fat reserves necessary to survive winter hibernation.

The Language of Bears: September 15 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

So you speak English, German, Urdu, etc. Want to learn Bear? In this chat Ranger Naomi interviews Bear Management Ranger Nick to translate bear language into our own. What does it mean when a bear lowers its head? That popping sound—what does that signal? Is that a fierce growl or a friendly greeting? No need for Google Translate today.

Katmai’s Keystone: September 22 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

Pacific salmon are born in freshwater, grow large in the sea, and return to their place of birth to spawn and die. Their uncommon lives have extraordinary consequences for the ecosystems they inhabit. Join Mike Fitz to explore the amazing lives of Pacific salmon—the heartbeat of Bristol Bay’s economy, culture, and ecology.

Fat Bear Junior Bracket Reveal

Which chubby cubby will face off in the first ever Fat Bear Junior tournament? Find out at the beginning of the bearcam play-by-play on September 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific.

Fat Bear Week

Choose the fattest bear of the year! Some of the largest brown bears on Earth make their home at Brooks River in Katmai National Park. Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament celebrating their success in preparation for winter hibernation. From September 29 to October 5, your vote decides who is the fattest of the fat. Visit fatbearweek.org and join the special live events on the Brooks Live Chat channel.

Fat Bear Week Junior: It is win and you’re in for these young and maturing bears! During this warm-up event for Fat Bear Week, you choose the bear cub who will compete with the largest adults in the annual Fat Bear Week tournament. Fat Bear Week Junior takes place Sept. 23-24 on fatbearweek.org. Fat Bear Week Bracket Reveal: September 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific. Welcome to Fat Bear Week: September 29 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific.

Play-by-Plays

September 6, 13, and 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

A favorite of rangers and bear cam fans alike, play-by-plays are live events when rangers and other experts narrate the bear and salmon activity at Brooks River. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the individual bears on the cams and how they survive. Find these events on the Brooks Live Chat channel. You never know what might happen!

Live Q&As

Chat in the comments with Mike Fitz, explore.org’s resident naturalist, and rangers from Katmai National Park during our weekly Q&As. Bring your questions about bears, salmon, and Katmai.

Explore.org: Every Tuesday from 5 – 7 p.m. Eastern / 2 – 4 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Live Chat channel.  YouTube Q & As: Every Thursday from 2 – 4 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Falls YouTube page. Tiktok Q & As: Find these on the explore.org Tiktok channel. September 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30 at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific.

 Fat Bear Week in the Classroom

We invite teachers to take bear cam into the classroom and consider the different ways in which bears find success in Katmai’s challenging environment. Rangers from Katmai National Park and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz will record a special broadcast to answer your students’ questions. Learn more about how your class can participate.

Got Questions?

Did you see something on the bear cams you’re curious about? Or, would you like to submit a question in advance for our live events? Ask it here. Rangers and expert staff may answer your question in a live chat, in the bear cam comments, or in a blog post.

- explore

The Africam Show (Tuesdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A special live Q&A session to catch up on the best weekly Africam moments. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask Rangers Phill Steffny and Russel Gerber questions on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube chat roll.

Africam4Good Show (Thursdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – Join ranger Russell Gerber and Phill Steffny for a weekly conversation about the conservation of African wildlife, and an overview of great moments from the live cams. Watch these special broadcasts on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube channel.

Africam4Good Show: World Vulture Day (2nd September) Russell talks to Kerri Wolter from Vulpro, a vulture conservation organization. Kerri discusses the trials and triumphs of vulture conservation. The Africam Show: (7th September)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Care For Wild: Rhinos (9th September) Russell talks to Petronel, the founder of Care For Wild, a rhino rescue and rehabilitation organization. She chats about the live cams and rhino conservation and the upcoming World Rhino Day! The Africam Show: (14th September)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Elephants (16th September) Russell talks to Adine from the organization HERD about elephant rescues, rehabilitation and conservation. The Africam Show: (21st September)

Russell and Phill take us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Flamingos (23rd September) Russell talks to Ester, the Environmental Specialist at Ekapa Mining. She chats about flamingos and the exciting new flamingo cam. The Africam Show: (28th September)

Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.

Africam4Good: Leopards (30th September) Russell talks to a leopard expert about the conservation efforts being made to protect one of the most elusive cats, the leopard.
- explore
Mother Bears and Human Emotion

By Mike Fitz

Perhaps no other group of bears captures our attention like mothers and their cubs. We empathize with their plight and wish them success. Mother bears often show a high tolerance for each other, almost as though they recognize their mutual problems.

In 2016, I watched 128 Grazer and 409 Beadnose back down from conflict instead of risking a fight in which they or their cubs might be injured. Read my full breakdown.

Bears have large appetites, though. They must eat a year’s worth of food in six months or less. Limited fishing success and empty stomachs  increase the frequency and intensity of conflict between bears at Brooks Falls. Although bears avoid physical conflict most often, we still see them fight. How should we react when bears don’t play nice?

It’s been an unusual year at Brooks River so far. The salmon run was slow at first even as the number of salmon entering the greater watershed climbed above two million. It strengthened and increased in the river toward the end of July and has remained somewhat strong through much of early August. This has kept many bears around at a time of year when they usually disperse away from the river.

As recently as the beginning of the week, dozens of bears have been fishing within sight of Brooks Falls. Congregations like this don’t happen without some level of mutual tolerance, even as the bears warily eye and look to usurp fishing spots from each other.

Mother bears, in particular, must work especially hard to keep their cubs protected and well fed. They display their work ethic and devotion in subtle and overt ways. Some mother bears avoid areas with high numbers of bears, foregoing prime fishing opportunities to give their cubs greater security. As a group, though, no matter if they fish at the falls or elsewhere, mothers are the most defensive of all bears.

128 Grazer, for example, often isn’t willing to back down when another bear approaches her family too closely. If Grazer senses another bear might threaten her offspring, she confronts the threat head on. Under those circumstances her defensiveness extends to most all other bears. She’s defended her yearlings from the largest adult males as well as younger bears who maybe took too great of a risk to satisfy their own hunger.

Here is a cam highlight that shows Grazer defending her cubs against an adult male.

128 Grazer, 854 Divot, and their yearling cubs, engaged in a prolonged conflict over space and a fish on August 10, 2021. In my experience at Brooks River, it’s quite rare to see mother bears compete so vigorously with each other. This situation, interestingly, was precipitated by the yearlings. Grazer’s yearlings wanted a fish that Divot’s yearlings had in their possession. Divot felt the need to defend her yearlings. Each time Divot stepped in, she got too close to Grazer’s yearlings and that caused Grazer to react defensively. It was, for a moment, a feedback loop.

Grazer’s defensiveness, in particular, has provoked a wide range of reactions among webcam viewers, everything from awe to fright to concern to disdain for her aggressiveness. Some viewers have also wondered if Grazer poses an undue threat to other bears. She doesn’t FWIW, but this has got me wondering, once again, how do our human-centered perceptions of the world affect our reaction to the behavior of wild animals?

Although it elicits the ire of many people in the natural sciences, it’s sometimes difficult to not anthropomorphize animals. We are human and applying human characteristics to non-human creatures is common in literature and in real life. We usually have few qualms interpreting the feelings of our pets as sad, happy, or guilty even if our interpretations are sometimes incorrect. When we see Grazer beat up a small, seemingly non-threatening subadult bear, her behavior can seem harsh.

If I’m being honest with myself and you, her behavior is harsh. However, I use that word with caution. The act of being harsh may come loaded with negativity in our minds. I use it, therefore, not as a judgement but as a description. 

For a moment, consider the world through Grazer’s eyes. She’s a sentient individual living in a difficult and competitive environment. Her survival and that of her cubs is not guaranteed. While bears are not as asocial as their reputations suggest, Grazer doesn’t live within a permanent social group. She’s devoted to her cubs, yet cannot rely on the help of other bears to raise them. Her species hasn’t evolved a sense of reciprocation. Like other bears, she establishes her place in the hierarchy through the use of body size, strength, and force. She senses the clock ticking perpetually toward winter, when she and her cubs must outwait famine by hibernating. Grazer faces those challenges daily.

If we can decouple the behavior of bears from the implications of the words we use to conceptualize their behavior—whether that’s moral or ethical—then perhaps we can more easily understand why bears make the decisions they do. Grazer is harsh toward other bears. Yet, her morals and rules for life are not our own. If I am to be fair to her, even as she is unfair to other bears, then I should consider life from her perspective rather than my culture’s and species’ rules for social engagement.

It’s okay to feel when we watch bears. We are emotional creatures, after all. Try as I might, I can’t fully channel my inner Spock well enough to remove myself emotionally from the bears’ lives. I only need to acknowledge that the bears’ minds, morals, and ethics are not human. Bears and other non-human creatures behave in ways that may clash with our values of right and wrong. And, that makes their behavior neither right nor wrong but something unique to them alone.

- explore

Katmai National Park’s brown bears are packing on the pounds in preparation for winter hibernation. National Park Service rangers and explore.org’s resident naturalist, Mike Fitz, have many live events in store this month. And, don’t forget to watch the famed brown bears of Brooks River every day on explore.org.

Live Chats

Join park rangers and other experts for in-depth conversations about brown bears, salmon, and other topics. Find these events on the Brooks Live Chat channel. And, if you miss any of our live chats, you can find the replays on our Bears and Bison YouTube channel.

Journeys at Katmai: August 4 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

“Journeys at Katmai: An Activity Book for Not-So-Junior Rangers” will allow adults of all ages to learn about Katmai’s history, wildlife, and changing landscape. Some Katmai journeys reach as far as the moon! The lunar-like landscape of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was once a training spot for NASA’s Apollo astronauts. Join Katmai rangers Sarah Gage and Lian Law for a live discussion to learn more about the fun history of the Valley and the exciting new activity book.

The Technology of Bear Cam: August 10 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

Many of explore.org‘s cameras broadcast from remote areas where their installation and maintenance can be difficult to say the least. The bearcams at Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska pose a particularly unique set of challenges. Join Ranger Naomi Boak from Katmai National Park she talks the tech of the bearcams with explore.org‘s Candice Rusch, Director of New Media, and Joe Pifer, Field Operations Manager.

Bear Monitoring and Science at Brooks River: August 11 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

The behavior and movements of bears at Brooks River change over time, so what might this mean for National Park Service managers who are tasked with protecting the wildlife and how do biologists track bear use of the river? Join Mike Fitz as he interviews Katmai’s wildlife biologist Leslie Skora on the bear monitoring program at Brooks River, the long-term study to document bear and human use of the area.

Katmai Bear Genetics: August 18 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

Ranger (and now Dr.) Michael Saxton tells us about his DNA study of the bears of Brooks Falls. Over the past several years Michael collected DNA samples of bears in part to try and understand the genetic diversity of brown bears at Brooks River and along Katmai’s Pacific coast. Join Ranger Naomi Boak as she interviews Michael about his research and about how climate change may affect the bears.

Birds of Katmai National Park: August 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific **CANCELED**

Ever wonder what birds you’re seeing on the bearcams? Join Ranger Andrea Willingham for a live chat all about the birds of Brooks River. It’s an opportunity to learn more about Katmai’s frequent flyers, and how they connect our beautiful national park to the rest of the world.

Mid-Summer Life of a Katmai Bear: August 25 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

Fewer bears use Brooks River in August compared to July and September, so where do they go? Join Katmai National Park rangers Lian Law and Naomi Boak as they journey to places beyond Brooks River where bears make a living.

Katmai’s Lynx and Snowshoe Hares: August 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

Snowshoe hare and lynx are just two of the many animals that call Katmai home. Their lives are inextricably linked together. Join Ranger Cara Rohdenburg as she delves into this predator-prey relationship.

 Katmai Superintendent Mark Sturm: September 1 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific

What challenges does Katmai face now and in the future? Get a superintendent’s perspective on the national park’s current priorities, issues, and plans for the future when Ranger Naomi Boak interviews Mark Sturm, superintendent of Katmai National Park.

Play-by-Plays

A favorite of rangers and bearcam fans alike, play-by-plays are live events when rangers and other experts narrate the bear and salmon activity at Brooks River. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the individual bears on the cams and how they survive. Find these events on the Brooks Live Chat channel. You never know what might happen!

August 5 at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific August 9 at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific August 23 at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific More play-by-plays for the month will be announced depending on bear activity.

Live Q&As

Chat in the comments with Mike Fitz, explore.org’s resident naturalist, and rangers from Katmai National Park during our weekly Q & As. Bring your questions about bears, salmon, and Katmai.

Explore.org: Every Tuesday from 5 – 7 p.m. Eastern / 2 – 4 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Live Chat channel. YouTube Q & As: Every Thursday from 2 – 4 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Falls YouTube page. Tiktok Q & As: Find these on the explore.org Tiktok channel on August 19, August 26, and September 2 at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific.

Ask Your Bearcam Question

Did you see something on the bearcams you’re curious about? Or, would you like to submit a question in advance for our live events? Ask it here. Rangers and expert staff may answer your question in a live chat, in the bearcam comments, or in a blog post.

- Nature Canada

The ocean can’t protect itself. That’s why thousands of delegates are gathering in Vancouver to advance ocean protection from February 3rd to 9th for IMPAC5 (the fifth International Marine Protected Areas Conference)—basically the Olympics of ocean conservation.

The ocean is one of the most important and precious resources on our planet; we cannot survive without it. It covers over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and is home to a diverse array of plant and animal life. It produces 50 percent of the planet’s oxygen, puts food on our plates, helps us fight climate change, and supports vibrant coastal communities.

But the vast majority of Canada’s ocean remains legally unprotected, leaving marine species and their habitats vulnerable to destruction and exposed to contaminants, as well as under threat from a variety of human activities, including pollution, overfishing, and climate change.

As the country boasting the longest coastline on Earth, Canada isn’t doing enough to conserve it. In order to protect the ocean and the life it supports, it is essential that we take action to address these threats.

What is IMPAC5

As you read this, we approach an unprecedented opportunity to protect the ocean with Canada hosting a major global meeting to spur ocean conservation known as IMPAC5. IMPAC5 is a key global moment to advance protection of the ocean and recent commitments to nature made at COP15 to protect 30 percent of land and ocean by 2030.

You can take action now to protect the ocean or read on to learn more about what makes IMPAC5 so important.

The ocean needs all of us to ensure that its marine inhabitants can survive.

From February 3rd to 9th, the International Marine Protected Areas Conference (IMPAC5) will be happening in Vancouver, as the world’s best scientists, policymakers, academics, and conservationists from around the world will gather to find ways to safeguard the ocean now and for the future.

What do we need to see come out of IMPAC5?

As host of IMPAC5, Canada can be a leader for ocean protection by:

Laying out a clear pathway to our 30×30 ocean protection promises: how we will protect 25 percent of Canadian ocean waters by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030, including progress on major sites such as the ‘Deep Sea Oasis’ in the Pacific Offshore Area of Interest. Demonstrating support for Indigenous leadership in ocean conservation through co-management of marine protected areas such as the Deep Sea Oasis noted above  Committing to strong protection standards in Marine protected areas including limiting unsustainable fishing and offshore oil and gas exploration Building momentum for international protection of the global ocean by announcing a moratorium on deep sea mining in Canadian waters and committing with other nations to ratify a High Seas treaty to protect international waters We need to protect the ocean—now

The ocean is warming at an alarming rate due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As the ocean warms, it expands, leading to hurricanes, sea level rise, and increased coastal flooding.

Today, we are driving alarming species decline, destroying diverse ecosystems, and damaging our long-term future. Amazing marine animals, like the North Atlantic right whale and Southern Resident Orca, are at risk of extinction. We can choose a better future for ourselves and for the ocean.

Take action today to protect the ocean.

The post Why IMPAC5 matters for the Ocean appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada

Joanne Papineau has been a proud member of Nature Canada since the 1980s, and a monthly donor for more than 20 years. 

As a child, Joanne fell in love with nature, especially the underwater world. She was inspired by the underwater discoveries and adventures of Jacques Cousteau, and at a young age she told herself “I’m going to be a marine biologist!” Her work has allowed her to explore her passion for nature and conservation, especially whales. “Underwater is my favourite place to be. If I had gills, I would just stay there. It’s quiet, beautiful, colourful.”

Joanne has many nature stories to share, but one of her most recent experiences holds a special place in her heart. “I visited Antarctica a few years ago, and as I sat down, a baby penguin came and pecked at my boots. I felt so privileged—we were respecting their space and they were happy to share their environment with us. We were a curiosity, but not a threat. It was a magical moment of connection.”

And it’s this connection with nature and species that drives Joanne to be involved with Nature Canada and stay informed on conservation issues. “You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the cycle of life. My membership is my way to have a voice in the conversation, since animals and the environment can’t speak for themselves. It’s our duty to protect them, and I’m fiercely proud of the work we’ve done, and hopeful about the work we have yet to do. Choosing to give monthly to Nature Canada was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

“We live in such a beautiful country. The first time I saw the totems at Haida Gwaii was an incredible moment. It was so spiritual and profound. My goal is to discover every national park, and visit the jewels in every province.”

Thank you, Joanne, for sharing your story and your passion for nature! Members who give monthly as Guardians of Nature providing us crucial support on a steady and ongoing basis.  You can join as a monthly donor online or by calling Anna at 1-800-267-4088 ext. 225.

The post Member Spotlight: Joanne Papineau appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada

In May 2022, an Alberta Court of Appeal majority held that the federal Impact
Assessment Act is unconstitutional. Nature Canada disagrees, and is preparing
to intervene on behalf of nature in the appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada
this March 2023. As Nature Canada—represented by West Coast
Environmental Law—argued before the Alberta court, the Impact Assessment
Act is reasonable, justified and falls squarely within federal jurisdiction.


The appeal has every chance of success in the Supreme Court. This case
matters because it will confirm the extent to which federal authorities can
inform themselves about the potential impacts, risks and benefits of large
development projects that might harm nature, climate or human well-being,
or impact Indigenous rights. In other words a law to “look before you leap”, as
well as a key process for the public to have a say in projects that affect them,
and to seek the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people.


The Alberta Court’s opinion perpetuates the myth that this law—formerly
known as Bill C-69—will stop all development in its tracks. In fact, federal
impact assessment has led to the rejection of less than a handful of
development projects over three decades. The claim also ignores the fact that
the Impact Assessment Act applies to roughly a dozen projects a year across
Canada. The notion that the law is an economic chokehold as claimed by the
Alberta Court of Appeal is simply unsupported by facts.


Impact assessment is just smart decision-making. In this age of climate and
biodiversity crises, and of increasing recognition of the need to uphold
Indigenous rights, this law is more important than ever. Nature Canada is
preparing our legal arguments in this fight for nature, and we are confident
the Supreme Court will agree when this case is heard, in just a few weeks time.
Consider making a donation today to help support our efforts to stand up for
strong environmental laws in Canada.

The post Intervening for Nature at the Supreme Court appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada

Known for their striking white fur, Arctic Foxes—fittingly nicknamed “snow foxes”—are uniquely well-suited for life in frigid temperatures. Living as far south as Canada’s northern boreal forest, all the way up to the Arctic, they are more than a match for  winter, ice and cold.

In Canada, Arctic Foxes are the smallest members of the canid family (which includes wolves, dogs, and coyotes). In adulthood, they are only about 75 to 115 centimetres in length. Despite their small size, these creatures are sly predators, able to smell a seal den a mile away!

How do Arctic Foxes deal with the cold? Read on to find out.

Fantastic Fur

An Arctic Fox’s luxurious fur coat is more than just an accessory—in fact, it’s essential to their survival! It gets cold where these foxes live (up to -50°C), but they’re dressed for the weather, with thick fur that keeps their bodies at a toasty 40°C! Even their furry tails serve a purpose, acting as a blanket when they sleep (and providing balance while they’re on the prowl).

Their fur grows in between their toes, acting as snow boots and muffling their footsteps lest predators are near. In the winter, the whiteness of their coats makes it difficult for bears, wolves and hungry birds of prey to spot them. Depending on the time of year, Arctic Foxes can also turn brown, gray, or even blueish, which allows them to blend in with other seasonal tundra colours.

Life in the Den

Like insulative fur, an Arctic Fox’s den is another key to survival. These surprisingly excellent diggers can create burrows as far as two to three-and-a-half metres underground, with up to 100 entrances.

During a particularly bad stretch of weather, or during a series of unsuccessful hunting excursions, Arctic Foxes take their cue from winter’s sleepiest survivors… bears! So long as they’re warm in their dens, these foxes can hibernate like bears for short periods of time by slowing down their metabolism and heart rates. These dens are so crucial, Arctic Foxes will use the same hideout for generations! Some dens that have been discovered are 300 years old.

Once Arctic Foxes awaken from their slumber, lemmings better beware. Although lemmings are their favourite snack, Arctic Foxes will also eat other rodents, birds, fish, berries, or insects. If things get desperate, they’ll even eat vegetables and scavenge for bear leftovers.

Threats to Arctic Foxes

In addition to the cold, Arctic foxes are up against a few other threats, such as inadequate food supply, hunters, and diseases like rabies and mange. 

Want to help Canadian species like the Arctic Fox and more? Stay tuned with the latest in Canadian nature by subscribing for email updates. You’ll receive regular updates about what we’re doing to protect Canadian nature and how you can help.

The post Meet the Arctic Fox, the warm-blooded critters of the cold North! appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Nature Canada reports back – Major wins to halt and Reverse Nature loss at COP15!

After months of preparations and two weeks of intense engagement in Montreal, nature lovers can celebrate some key wins at COP15.

Along with other members of the Nature Canada team, I was at the NatureCOP pushing for a strong global deal and new federal government commitments to protect nature here at home. 

Minister Steven Guilbeault prepares to address Nature Canada’s panel on his commitment to a national action plan to halt nature loss in Canada

We went to Montreal buoyed by the thousands of Canadians who demanded action – and the federal government stepped up with important new action to halt and reverse nature loss in Canada, and to help deliver a new global deal to halt biodiversity loss around the world. So how did it shake out?

Here’s how COP15 landed in the five key areas of action that we felt would define success.

1. Agreement on a strong new Global Biodiversity FrameworkYou did it!

What we wanted: A new global deal to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 with measurable targets, equitable financing through financial contributions to developing countries and a redirecting of harmful subsidies, and strong recognition of nature as a climate ally.

What we got: The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework –In the wee hours of Monday morning, a historic global agreement was reached to Halt and Reverse Nature loss by 2030 that commits to conserve 30% of land and ocean by 2030, and in that same timeframe to triple North to South financing for conservation to $30 billion a year, and reduce government subsidies that promote nature loss by $500 billion, starting with the most harmful. For its part, Canada announced over $600 million in new funding for biodiversity conservation in developing countries. 

The agreement recognizes the negative impacts climate change is having on ecosystems, and the need for “nature-based solutions or ecosystem-based approaches” to minimize this harm. In general this new CBD framework is a significant improvement over its predecessor in terms of the measurability of targets, which is needed for accountability. At the same time, while many of the 23 targets have clear timeframes or markers for success, this is uneven across the document. Ambition was  also rolled back in key areas like for pesticides due to corporate lobbying. And overall, the agreement lacks a mandatory ratcheting mechanism that increases requirements for government action over time if milestones are not met.  As with most UN agreements then, accountability will come mainly through domestic pressure created within nation states to hold governments to account for their commitments under this deal.

2. Clear support for Indigenous rights and leadership – Yes!

What we wanted: Canada to work to ensure that Indigenous knowledge and rights were at the centre of the new global deal, and to expand funding for Indigenous-led conservation and restoration.

Indigenous representatives at COP stage an action to highlight that their rights are a Redline (non negotiable) issue for the agreement being negotiated.

What we got: A global deal that recognizes the fundamental role of Indigenous Peoples and, in Canada, $800 million in funding for new Indigenous protected areas in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and the North-West Territories, the launch of a National Guardians Network with $100 million in funding for Indigenous-led restoration, and significant new Indigenous-led conservation agreements in Manitoba and Yukon. First Nation, Inuit and Metis leaders were present throughout COP, alongside strong representatives from Indigenous nations worldwide demanding respect for  their authority, cultures and knowledge systems. The Indigenous Leadership initiative hosted an Indigenous village that showcased how First Nation conservation leadership carries the solutions the world craves. 

Mandy Gull-Masty, the Grand Chief of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee 3. Commitment to a national action plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in Canada – Yes!

What we wanted: Canada to signal its commitment to deliver a high-ambition national action plan to halt and reverse nature loss in a way that centres Indigenous rights, includes restoration of damaged ecosystems, ends harmful subsidies, and advances new laws and public engagement.

What we got: A commitment by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault to deliver a whole of government action plan to halt and reverse the loss of nature in Canada that includes continued action to protect a minimum of 30 percent of land and ocean by 2030, and the prioritization of Indigenous knowledge and conservation. He committed to action to end the subsidies that harm nature but without a timeframe. The new global deal requires countries to  achieve reductions by 2030 but we need action sooner than this in Canada. Importantly the Minister announced his support for a new federal biodiversity accountability law, which we hope can be brought forward in 2023.

Canada also committed to restore 19 million hectares of forests by 2030 (an area almost the size of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia combined) and to phase out international fossil fuel subsidies. The latter is critical given the danger climate change poses to nature’s recovery, new commitments for moving on fossil fuel subsidy elimination at home must be next. Despite calls from Nature Canada and our partners, the federal government did not commit to a timeline to deliver its action plan to halt and reverse nature loss. We will need to work together to keep the pressure on to ensure that this plan is delivered in 2023 and that it includes key commitments such as restoring 20 percent of all degraded ecosystems, halting the widespread degradation of forests from logging, ambitious targets for ending harmful pollution, and broadening equity of access to nature for all.

4. Priority to safeguarding ocean biodiversity – A good start!

What we wanted:  We wanted to make sure the Ocean was in the Room! We joined with other Canadian nature organizations in the SeaBlue coalition  in a campaign calling for oceans to be central to the COP15 international agreement and for action by Canada to better protect ocean ecosystems at home, including by limiting bottom trawling and placing a moratorium on seabed mining. 

What we got: The global ocean and coastal areas are implicated throughout the new agreement, and environmental organizations fought hard to ensure that the 30 percent protection by 2030 target included the ocean. Canada released a new policy for marine protection standards and  also stepped forward with $230 million in new funding for ocean restoration and conservation in Canada, but did not announce a moratorium on deep sea mining or new limits for bottom trawling.  

More leadership will be required in the coming year to ensure Canada’ ocean policies and programs align with the government’s biodiversity and climate agenda, including the commitment to support Indigenous governance and rights in marine areas. On Dec 18th at NatureCOP Canada signed a joint statement along with Norway Australia and over 30 other countries on the importance of protecting and conserving  marine and coastal biodiversity. We will therefore be watching for Canadian leadership to help land a High Seas Treaty to protect biodiversity in the ocean as well as a global moratorium on deep sea mining. The IMPAC5 global ocean conference, to be held in Vancouver in February of 2023, is Canada’s next opportunity to  showcase leadership, and we hope to see significant progress on protecting sites towards our 30% target.

5. Launch of a Nature movement – You betcha!

What we wanted: We hoped Canadians would join us in this once in a decade opportunity to help  build a strong and diverse public movement demanding ambitious government action to address the biodiversity crisis. 

What we got: The hosting of COP15 in Canada has helped spawn a renewed and strengthened nature movement. Hundreds of Canadians participated in Nature Canada’s multi-province Nature Bus tour, and thousands sent messages urging the government to act now to halt species extinction. With thousands joining forces to march the streets of Montreal during COP15, pressure is building on Canada and the world to bend the curve on species loss starting now.

Significant steps were taken at COP15 – both globally and in Canada – to protect nature and halt mass species extinction. But much work remains to implement the actions necessary to achieve the target of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030. 

We look forward to working with you in 2023 to halt and reverse nature loss in Canada and around the world! 

Thank you for all your support and wishing you all best wishes for a joyous and nature-ful holiday season! 

The post Nature Canada reports back – Major wins to halt and Reverse Nature loss at COP15! appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada

Lake Ontario is a biological gem. This globally significant freshwater ecosystem is home to a wealth of wildlife, including hundreds of fish, birds, and plants. As the Great Lakes gateway to the St. Lawrence River, every single drop of the system’s freshwater flows through Lake Ontario.

From the majestic thunder of water tumbling from the towering apex of Niagara Falls to the hundreds of ghostly historical shipwrecks that lie forgotten upon the lakebed many meters down, Lake Ontario is a sight to behold from top to bottom.

It makes sense that the province of Ontario was named for this incredible lake—Niigani-gichigami, Oniatarí:io, the lake of shining waters—rather than the lake being named for the province.

Lake Ontario has been stewarded by several First Nations for millennia, and is still to this day. The Haudenosaunee, Anishnaabe, and Huron-Wendat have ancestral ties to these waters and continue to exercise their inherent and treaty rights on the waters.

Despite being the smallest of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario is the most urban and populous. This means that it is also the most vulnerable of all the Great Lakes. The lake and its inhabitants, people and animals alike, are threatened by pollution, habitat degradation, wetland loss, invasive species, and climate change.

Lake Ontario is home to rare species, and 243 species at risk such as Blanding’s Turtle, Piping Plover, and Deepwater Sculpin. Since 2015, the number of species at risk in Ontario rose to 243, marking an eight percent increase. 

Despite its ecological value and endangered species, Lake Ontario is one of the least protected Great Lakes. That’s why Nature Canada is on a mission to establish a National Marine Conservation Area in the eastern basin of Lake Ontario. You can help by telling the government you want more protection for Lake Ontario. Add your voice to take action today!

The post Discover Lake Ontario: The Lake of Shining Waters appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
CLIF Camp Day: NatureHood Contest Winners

“I am so excited!!” the 6-year-old beamed as she jumped around in her pink snow pants, brimming with anticipation. Bright and early, the first family joined us at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton, Ontario. Her mother, Manna, explained that Hazel didn’t have school yesterday and couldn’t stop daydreaming about the CLIF Day camp we were about to embark on together. Having just moved to Canada a few years ago from India, now was the opportunity to finally experience Hazel’s “wish list” of nature activities.  

This year, Nature Canada’s NatureHood program held a drawing competition for children with the support of CLIF Bar to encourage young people to discover and explore nearby nature. The grand prize winners received the greatest gift – the gift of a day in nature.

As an environmental educator, engaging youth with the outdoors is so much more than playing outside. For me, encouraging the next generation to form a relationship with nature, no matter the season, is a direct form of climate action. Needless to say, I too, was excited to create a unique opportunity for the families and an experience that would be transformational for the children. 

That morning, we set our intentions for the day which included drawing ‘peace’ and ‘inspiration’ from the land. It was wonderful to have Elder Garry Sault to open the day with an Indigenous ceremony, and for him to share the history of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation who have stewarded this land through the years. 

As I kicked the day off with icebreakers and games, it may have appeared as though they were simply playing in the snow, but in fact, there was more at play (pun unintended). They were actually learning about the larger ecosystem that they are connected to. They also learned about a variety of food chains that actively surrounded them on the very land we stood on. This was a reminder that although things may not be in our view, the creatures we share this planet with coexist alongside us. 

No camp day would be complete without pitching a tent! The kids used their teamwork to set the tent up and quickly learned how important shelters were for animals, thanks to the cold winds that blew by. They also saw this in action when they went birding afterwards, with Brittany Vezina and Teagan Netten and noticed that there were no birds in sight out in the open wind. But, as we walked under the pine trees, we could hear them chirping. Much like the chickadees, the children, Adeline, Selena, Hazel and their parents were able to experience the warmth that the trees provided as a barrier to wind and snow. Thanks to their binoculars, they also spotted a Hairy Woodpecker looking for food at the edge of the escarpment. These are the moments that nature reminds us how intelligently animals adapted to survive the winter. 

They saw James Morrison build a fire using only elements from nature: a cattail, tree bark and firebow. Then, of course they took the opportunity to roast marshmallows and enjoy some s’mores! The last hike of the day was led by Brian Ford, a botanist who brings the forest trails to life like no other naturalist! It was yet another reminder for families that despite it being a time when people tend to connect less with nature, the forest is very much active and the trees don’t need leaves to be the life of the forest. 

As an educator, I am constantly thinking about what teachable moments can be drawn from their experiences. “Should I connect this to the climate crisis? Do the kids know that these cold, snow-covered trails will be rarer when they’re my age, living in a warmer climate? Do they know that we are standing in one of the lushest parts of the protected Greenbelt that is currently under threat of development by the provincial government?” These are the thoughts that ran through my mind. 

But, as with all teaching experiences, I left learning something from their excitement- which was to simply be present. Sometimes the best thing we can do for nature is to BE immersed in it physically and mentally. Nature is the best teacher, and I know that it’s these moments that foster a deeper connection to nature, and our desire to advocate on its behalf. 

A big thanks to CLIF Bar for their incredible support, to Vortex Canada for donating binoculars and to lululemon for donating winter apparel to the families. Check out the earlier blog to see the winning drawings and the full list of contest winners.

The post CLIF Camp Day: NatureHood Contest Winners appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada

As part of the UN Conference of the Parties (Nature COP) in Montreal, Canada has announced that it will spend $350 million to support developing countries in protecting their biodiversity. This was welcome news and shows Canadian leadership to motivate  other countries to follow suit. This will be critical because unless more resources are mobilized, squabbles over money threaten to water down or even sink the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Having shown its willingness to lead, Canada must not allow a desire to save dollars and cents to risk the collapse of nature and everything that depends on it – including people.

A main continued threat to landing a strong GBF is the disagreement over how much funding wealthy countries should provide to developing countries to help them meet ambitious biodiversity targets. The dispute is simple. Poorer countries, backed up by science, argue that they need support and funding to help them commit to and attain meet strong new biodiversity obligations under any  new CBD global framework. But many rich countries would rather keep their money.

The two sides are continents apart. Right now, the draft GBF requires rich countries to provide US $10 billion per year in international biodiversity aid. This is far too low. Conservation organizations have said that this needs to increase to at least $60 billion per year. A group of developing countries is calling for at least $100 billion annually to start. And they want funding to rise to $700 billion a year by 2030. This group has said that they will not sign the GBF absent this level of support.

In response to these requests, rich countries, including Canada, should put their money where their mouth is. In fact, they have a responsibility to do so. Wasteful consumption of resources by wealthy countries is driving nature’s decline around the globe. Habitat destruction, over-exploitation, and climate change all result from the extravagant demands of rich economies. The countries that are causing the bulk of the biodiversity crisis should be the ones to pay to fix it.

This is not just a matter of opinion; it is a principle of international law. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and articles 20(4) and 21 of the Convention on Biological Diversity all say that every country must work together to address global problems, but the countries causing those problems have a special responsibility to act. This is the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and it must be respected to protect nature. 

But this responsibility is not really a burden on the rich world, it is actually good for business. The World Economic Forum estimates that $44 trillion of the global economy relies on healthy ecosystems. The decline of pollinator populations, fisheries, and native forests alone could lose us $2.7 trillion in 2030. Each wealthy country spending a few billion dollars a year will help avert these far greater costs down the road. In biodiversity protection, as with so many other things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Importantly, these global efforts will also help nature at home. For example, Canada hosts hundreds of iconic migratory species. Canada geese, monarch butterflies, loons, leatherback sea turtles, whooping cranes, and many other species that can only thrive if they are protected in Canada and wherever else they may fly, swim, or walk. Helping other countries protect migratory species supports global biodiversity and ensures healthy populations at home of wildlife that Canadians love.

Luckily for us, we already know what we need to do. The Green Budget Coalition has crunched the numbers and says that Canada can become a global biodiversity leader by spending $2.4 billion over the next four years to support nature abroad. The federal government should commit at least this much. One-off payments like that recently announced are great, but consistent annual funding is required. Around $600 million a year may sound like a lot, but it is peanuts compared to the $11 billion dollars Canada provides in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry each year.

If Canada and other rich countries are unwilling to help developing nations, the price of saving money today will mean the collapse of nature tomorrow.

The post Money could cost us everything: The rich world must commit to more international biodiversity aid at NatureCOP appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada

With COP15 – or NatureCOP –  starting today in Montreal we are poised at a potential turning point for nature. Delayed for two years due to COVID, the international community is finally coming together to see if they can work across differences to agree on a global plan to save nature under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  

With close to one million species hurtling towards extinction around the world, including over 2,000 plants and animals at risk in Canada, action can’t come soon enough. Scientists are referring to this crisis of biodiversity loss as the sixth mass extinction effect in history, noting it is human-caused—and creating a tipping point for planetary stability. 

The Canadian government has been taking notice and stepping up in a leadership role. At the G7 Summit in 2021, Canada and other nations put forward a bold new vision, committing to Halt and Reverse Nature Loss by 2030 as part of a “Nature Compact”. 

A number of ”high ambition” countries like Canada are working hard to make ‘Halt and Reverse Nature Loss’ the overarching aim of the new CBD global framework; a clear global goal to act as a North Star in setting targets and strategies for the next ten years. Currently, things are looking uncertain. Even the word “halt” is in brackets in the draft negotiating text, which is UN code for ‘not agreed to yet’. 

But Canadians and citizens around the world are mobilizing as never before. We’ve seen this through the NatureBus Tour with our supporters and newly engaged folks joining us at every step of the way inspiring us to keep up the pressure to protect nature.

The Nature Canada team is in Montreal to carry your messages and hopes for Nature, working with partner groups, community, and Indigenous leaders to push decision makers to show leadership at this pivotal moment.

What are we hoping for from NatureCOP? 

There are five key things we are watching for:

1. Agreement on a strong new Global Biodiversity Framework with measurable targets to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 across land and ocean over the next decade.

The world gathers only every ten years to set new targets under the CBD and the last set of targets, which expired in 2020, remain largely unmet. A new ten year post-2020 Global Framework should include:

Comprehensive and Measurable targets: We need effective and measurable commitments—like a global goal to protect 30 percent of land, freshwater, and ocean by 2030—under 21 target areas that can truly address the core drivers of biodiversity loss, including habitat destruction and degradation from the changing use of land and ocean, direct exploitation of nature, climate change, pollution and invasive species. Clear targets will help us hold governments accountable. Equity and Adequate Resources: A new global deal must recognize the differential capacity of wealthy and poorer countries to address biodiversity loss, and the larger role the Global North has played in the overexploitation and destruction of nature to date. Significant commitments of financing from the North to the South are needed. Resources should also be mobilized by commitments to redirect subsidies that are causing harm to nature.

Nature – Climate linkage: The global deal must recognize that nature is a key ally in the fight against climate change and that nature’s resilience is also eroded by climate change and needs protection.

2. Clear support for Indigenous rights and leadership in the global agreement, during the COP proceedings, and through new Canadian commitments 

As a country committed to reconciliation, and home to vibrant strong Indigenous communities, we will be looking to see how Canada supports the full and effective participation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis nations in all aspects of COP15 deliberations. In line with recent calls from the Assembly of First Nations, we also want to see Canada advocate for a global biodiversity deal that puts Indigenous rights and knowledge at its center, and calls on all conservation actions to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination and free, prior, and informed consent.

More specifically, Canada should use NatureCOP as an opportunity to increase funding and develop new financing tools. Canada needs to expand Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Indigenous Guardians initiatives to match the level of ambition desired by First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities (more than 500,000 square kilometers of new protected areas). 

3. Canadian leadership including through a public commitment for a comprehensive national action plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss—at land and sea—by 2030

Beyond leadership in working to land a global deal, Canada must signal its commitment to deliver a high-ambition national action plan that will engage all levels of government, Indigenous governments, and wider stakeholders to halt and reverse nature loss in Canada by 2030. This action plan needs to be developed post COP15, but the government should commit that it will: 

Reflect a whole of government approach to align federal policies and actions with Canada’s biodiversity commitments Centre Indigenous rights and conservation Reinforce the commitment to protect 30 percent of lands and ocean in Canada by 2030 Set a target for restoring degraded ecosystems and accelerate action for species recoveryExpanded support for nature-based solutions to better value and conserve Canada’s biodiverse, carbon-rich ecosystems on land and seaLay out a timeline to end forest, farming and agricultural subsidies that harm natureStrengthen accountability measures to support implementation, including creating  stronger laws in CanadaInclude a strategy to engage the public on the urgency and opportunity to protect nature and expand equity of access.

4. The Ocean is in the Room. Clear priority must be given to safeguarding ocean biodiversity at NatureCOP

Oceans must be central to discussions at COP15. Most of the planet is ocean and we are still learning about the incredible biodiversity it contains. What we do know is that the health of the ocean is essential for our own. We will be watching to see if world leaders remember to #CarryTheOcean in the room during negotiations for a global deal for nature.

Canada can demonstrate ocean leadership at the COP with action at home to better protect intact ocean ecosystems. A great start would be committing to a limit to the northward expansion of bottom trawling and declaring a moratorium on seabed mining in Canadian waters.  We’d also like to see new approaches and funding to better protect and restore fish habitat in freshwater and coastal ecosystems.

5. The Birth of a Nature movement

We hope Montreal can be a historic turnaround moment for nature, where collectively, we’ve sparked a movement for accountability to end this crisis. We know that Canadians care deeply for nature and can be rallied to support new policies and approaches to secure our shared future. Let’s hope Montreal can be for Nature what Paris was for Climate.

Already the NatureBus tour has sparked a massive coming together of diverse people of all ages, regions, backgrounds and walks of life. At NatureCOP in the weeks ahead, we hope to see people demanding change in creative ways from demonstrations in the streets, to art exhibits, to letter writing, to local and online events and beyond. On December 10th, there will be a March for Biodiversity and Human rights. Nature Canada will be there, inspired by your passion. 

We will send you updates from COP and reflect back to you how we fared on these five critical issues when it’s over. 

And together, all parts of society will need to carry this momentum forward long after the COP as well. It’s up to us to sustain the pressure on decision makers to deliver on global and Canadian commitments to restore and protect nature over the next critical decade.

Stay with us!

The post What will success at NatureCOP look like? appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Nature’s Future in Brackets: NatureCOP Needs High-Level Engagement

Biodiversity – the amount and variety of life on Earth – is declining rapidly across the globe. Today, there are over 1 million species at risk of extinction.

Despite this crisis, there is no global strategy in place to protect our natural habitats. The last plan, the so-called Aichi Targets, achieved little and expired in 2020. The Aichi Targets were supposed to be immediately followed by the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which would provide a plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. But unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and international politics delayed the GBF by almost three years.

Now, the GBF is expected to be signed off at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (the Nature COP) this December in Montreal. But, political disagreement on what the GBF should say and limited international leadership has put the transformative GBF needed to stop nature’s decline at risk. 

With just 1 month left to go, almost none of the draft GBF has been agreed upon. Under the rules of the Nature COP, the text can only be approved if everyone agrees. Currently, only 1 out of the GBF’s 22 biodiversity targets has reached this threshold. Most of the rest of the text is ‘bracketed’ – a term for disputed content that comes from the diplomatic practice of showing text that is not settled in square brackets.

The current state of Target 2 of the GBF, copied below, provides a sense of how little is confirmed. Remember, only the green text that is not in square brackets is settled.

These brackets come from the many disagreements between countries on what the GBF should – or should not – require. While some disagreements are trivial, others are fundamental. Like whether to protect 30% of land and ocean by 2030, whether and how to stop over $500 billion in subsidies that harm biodiversity, and where and how to include the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Even so, all these disagreements are overshadowed by the negotiation’s make-or-break issue: payments from developed countries to developing nations. The argument goes like this: developing countries require funding to help them meet strong biodiversity targets that they cannot otherwise afford to meet. They point out that developed countries have grown rich by exploiting nature and that it is demand in rich countries that drives global biodiversity loss. But developed countries, simply put, do not want to spend the money. 

These disagreements are difficult to solve because of a lack of high-level attention to the GBF. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the Nature COP being postponed, then rescheduled, and finally relocated from China to Montreal. And while Canada is the meeting venue and a champion of the GBF, China retains the presidency of the Nature COP and controls the event. Given current tensions between Canada and China, China has little reason to promote a gathering of world leaders in Canada. With the Nature COP just weeks away, China has still not invited world leaders to participate. 

The result of these delays and tensions is a lack of high-level political engagement. An open letter from conservation organizations pointed out the absence of strong political leadership supporting the GBF. In this context, the co-chairs of the GBF negotiations themselves said that, without change, the GBF would not be signed in December.

To overcome these difficulties, nature needs to be moved up the political agenda. Much of life on Earth depends on it. Global leaders must come to Montreal. Either China should invite them, or they should invite themselves, perhaps with Canadian encouragement. If leaders do not show up the opportunity for a strong GBF may slip through our fingers. If that happens, both nature and people will lose out.  But, regardless of what happens at the Nature COP, Canada needs to act. Biodiversity experts from across Canada, and over 200 organizations, have urged the government to implement a comprehensive national action plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. This must be done regardless of what happens at the Nature COP. Canada’s size and rich biodiversity mean that how we protect our nature has global impacts. We must act for the globe, our country, and future generations of Canadians – even if we have to do it alone.

Please, send your letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and his ministers, today. 

The post Nature’s Future in Brackets: NatureCOP Needs High-Level Engagement appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Mark

Dear Mr Pursglove, Happy New Year!

Thank you for the letter, dated 20 January from Defra which you passed on to me and I received yesterday. I am grateful to you for your efforts on my behalf.

However, the letter was in response to your letter on 18 August when you forwarded my letter to you of 10 August. It has taken Defra five and a half months to reply to our request. This is unacceptable – isn’t it?

Am I right to think that I can complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman about this appalling level of service from a government department https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/making-complaint/what-we-can-and-cant-help but only if I first complain directly to Defra?

I have today complained to the Defra Service Standards Complaints Adjudicator and copied you in on the complaint  [see previous blog post]. As I understand it this may be a 2-stage process which has to be exhausted before I can go to the PHSO – is that right please?

When I wrote to you it was summer and Swifts were flying over my house in Raunds, HM The Queen was on the throne, Boris Johnson was Prime Minister and George Eustice was at Defra. In the time it has taken for Defra to reply to you (and me) the Swifts have travelled to sub-Saharan Africa and winter thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings, are now flying over my house, we have a new (now newish) monarch, we ‘gained’ and lost Liz Truss as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has now been PM for almost twice as long as Ms Truss, Ranil Jayawardena has come and gone from Defra and we now have Therese Coffey.
During that time inflation has soared and the economy has tanked. Might it be that the government of which you are a member is totally incompetent across the board – from running the country to answering correspondence?

A further thought occurs to me. Given the level of industrial unrest we now see, it can’t be that Defra has been on strike for months and nobody told us, could it? They are certainly on a go-slow.

I would like your advice on how to push home a complaint about Defra please. And very specifically, do you think that the fact that you did not get a reply for over five months was acceptable?

And by the way, today is the last day of the petition about which I wrote to you. It has passed 107,000 signatures and limiting the shooting season of Woodcock will be debated in Westminster Hall in due course. Here is the link – click here.

many thanks for your efforts on my behalf,

Dr Mark Avery

- Mark
Defra Service Standards Adjudicator I wrote to my MP on 10 August last year about the failure of Defra to respond properly to a parliamentary petition. My MP, Tom Pursglove, forwarded my letter to George Eustice (then Secretary of State, Defra) on 18 August.  Yesterday, 24 January, I received a reply from Defra (from Trudy Harrison MP, Minister for Natural Environment and Land Use) dated 20 January. A period of more than five months to address a letter sent by an MP on behalf of a constituent is unacceptable. That is my complaint. Parliamentary petitions last 6 months – today is the last day of the petition to which my letter referred. You can sign it here Limit the shooting season of Woodcock – Petitions (parliament.uk) if you do so before midnight. Dr Mark Avery by email
- Mark
Guest blog – Calling it for what it is by Ian Parsons

Ian Parsons spent twenty years as a ranger before running his own wildlife tour business. He now writes books and articles on wildlife.  He has contributed many articles to this blog (see here).

His book A Vulture Landscape (reviewed here) was published by Whittles Publishing in 2020, this was followed by Seasonality in 2022 (reviewed here).

A forthcoming book, entitled Of the Trees and the Birds will be out later this year.

You can follow Ian on Twitter @Birder_Griffon

 

The recent shooting of five Goshawks and the subsequent dumping of them in Kings Forest in Suffolk has, rightly, upset and outraged many, many people. I am one of those people. I spent twenty years as a ranger with the Forestry Commission, and in that time I had the privilege of monitoring these amazing birds of prey, watching with satisfaction how, with protection, they have come back to so many parts of the country.

I started my time with the FC in what was then Thetford Forest District, a district that included Kings Forest. I can remember very clearly the excitement of being taken into an active Goshawk site by my manager, hearing the adult female shouting at us as we got near and seeing fleeting glances as she circled the canopy above us. It was by necessity a brief visit, a licenced check on the nest, but those brief moments are still as clear to me today, thirty one years later, as they were that evening when I relived my first ever Gos encounter in a phone conversation with a very jealous friend.

It was 1992, the Goshawk was extremely rare in England, a television program was in the production stages documenting these bird’s gradual recolonisation (I believe it was a Survival Special, I know it was entitled The Phantom of the Forest), people were beginning to publicly talk about these birds again. But it was a hushed talk. The secrecy surrounding the nest sites of these birds was incredible, it was a need to know basis within the district office and it had been determined that most people didn’t need to know. But as well as the secrecy, I also remember the pride. Everyone that knew about those birds felt enormous pride that they were where they were.

It is an all too common experience to read the brilliant blogs of Raptor Persecution UK and learn of yet more persecution of our natural heritage, shockingly it is no longer a shock to read them, such is the frequency of these crimes, but the recent blog detailing the five dead Goshawks in Kings was particularly galling for me, their bodies being dumped just a handful of miles away from where I first saw these magnificent birds. I monitored Goshawk elsewhere in my twenty years, I felt that same pride and the tremendous high of seeing nests I kept an eye on fledging young. I also felt the lows too. Losing birds to the moronic miniscule minority that feel they have the right to deprive the vast majority of us from experiencing the thrill of seeing these predators.

It is depressing, but I console myself with the truth. The morons have lost, Goshawks are back and their population is booming, from small numbers in 1992 to much larger ones now. Yes, the persecution of these birds still continues, but their overall population continues to recover. So in the last few days I have tried to ensure that I am thinking about that, thinking about the positives, but I have also been thinking about this, the main topic of this blog…

Those Goshawks were killed illegally, it was a crime. Those Goshawks were shot by a gun. Therefore, by a very straightforward process of logic and understanding of the English language, we can call what happened to those birds a gun crime. Except it wasn’t. Because in Britain, carrying out crimes with guns doesn’t necessarily make those crimes gun crime.

The Home Office is very careful about how it defines what makes a crime carried out with a gun a gun crime. They use a definition that limits what crimes, carried out with a gun, can actually be classed as gun crime, a definition that is useful if, say, you wanted to manage statistics that show crime levels. Now you might think I am being pedantic here, after all a crime is a crime no matter how it is labelled, but it does matter. Because how that crime is labelled dictates how it will be investigated and how it will be punished.

If I walked up the main road that runs through the village where I live carrying a loaded gun, that I legally own, and then discharged it into the air I would run the risk of a large police response, a well resourced investigation and charges laid against me under the Firearms Act. Charges that could result in a minimum jail term of five years. If I walked through a public open space (eg.moorland, forestry etc.), with the same legally owned loaded gun and then used it to kill a protected species of raptor, I may or may not get a police response, and if I did, the subsequent investigation would most likely be poorly resourced. If by some chance charges were laid against me, they would be under the various Wildlife Acts and the sentence I could receive would most likely be a small fine or even a conditional discharge.

One of the above crimes would be classed as gun crime, the other one not. Five years in prison is a deterrent. A small fine and a conditional discharge is not.

Maybe my grasp of the English language is not what I thought it was, but for me, a crime carried out with a gun is a gun crime. Simple.

Gun crime, as defined by the Home Office, is an absolute national police priority (and so it should be). Tremendous resources are thrown at combatting it, at ensuring that it is always thoroughly investigated and that appropriate punishments are handed down by the courts. If the Home Office’s grasp of the English language suddenly improved, and all crimes carried out with a gun were defined as gun crime, it would be a game changer in the protection of our natural heritage.

Whilst I think it would be great if everyone reading this contacted their MP to ask them to explain why a crime carried out with a gun isn’t a gun crime, I’m too cynical to believe that the Home Office’s definition will change any time soon. They are not going to want it to. Various Home Secretaries have always prided themselves in keeping gun crime at low levels – which is easier to do if you’re careful with your definitions. They don’t want the definition to change on their watch because if it did, the number of gun crimes officially recorded per year would suddenly shoot up. There would be questions raised in the House, the media would have a field day, reputations might get damaged etc. etc. But it is not just the politicians that would feel the heat, the police forces would too. Suddenly Chief Constables would find themselves under pressure from their Police Commissioners, from their MPs, from us, to explain this sudden rise in gun crime. Maybe I am being cynical, but I think that for the powers that be, it is far more comfortable to not record all crimes carried out with guns as gun crime.

But just because the Home Office employs a somewhat illogical definition of what constitutes a gun crime, it doesn’t mean that we have to. It is time for us to call these crimes what they are, they are wildlife crime, but they are also gun crime, they are crimes carried out with a gun.

On social media, in press releases, in interviews with the media, in articles we write, on blogs, in fact everywhere, we should call it as it is. A crime carried out with a gun is a gun crime. Calling it what it is will draw attention to the fact that criminal elements living amongst us are knowingly and wilfully using guns to commit crimes and then getting away with it (or ending up with mere judicial slaps of the wrist). Calling it what it is will no doubt provoke responses from certain sectors saying that it isn’t gun crime, but the simple answer to those remarks is ‘It is a crime committed with a gun, ergo it is a gun crime.’ If these people continue with their denial of this very easy to understand definition, then we should be publicly asking them why it is they don’t want these crimes committed with guns classified as gun crime. Are they afraid of the implications for themselves, or the people they represent, if crimes carried out with guns are called gun crime? Of course they are.

It is important for me to state that this is by no means a blog against the legal ownership of firearms or their legal use. It is a blog about us calling it for what it is, we mustn’t shy away from the very simple fact that a crime carried out with a gun is, by simple logic, a gun crime.

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