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Cautious Experts Monitoring Atlantic Basin for a New Tropical Development After Ian Leaves Florida in Havoc
After Ian's devastation of Florida, experts are now being cautious in monitoring any potential new tropical development from the Atlantic Basin.
Scientists Track Down 'Mystery Gene' in the Body
Scientists managed to track down one of the most difficult and elusive mystery genes in the body's skeleton component.
Fascinating Study Finds First Evidence of Lasting Social Relationships of Chimpanzees and Gorillas in Wild
New research unveiled the first evidence showing lasting social relationships between chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild.
33 Million Pakistanis Suffering From Extreme Floods Might Face Food Insecurity Too
One-third of Pakistan is underwater as a result of the severe rains. The floods are impacting thirty-three million people. Seven hundred thousand animals have drowned, and villages and infrastructure have been destroyed. Henny de Vries, the incoming Dutch ambassador in Islamabad, describes one of the worst calamities to ever strike Pakistan as "these tragic realities of what we know so far."
Meteorologists Monitor Atlantic Basin for Tropical Development in the Coming Week
The National Hurricane Center has been monitoring two systems that could become tropical depressions in the coming week.
Scientists Studying Ancient Eclipse to Learn the History of Earth's Rotation
Ancient records of solar eclipses show how the Earth's rotation has altered. To find total solar eclipses, historians combed through texts from the fourth century.
Elon Musk's Neuralink Faces Allegations of Animal Abuse Over Monkey Experiments
Numerous graphic images of monkeys from Elon Musk's Neuralink WON'T be made public, as the brain implant company refutes claims of abuse made by an animal rights organization.
Ancient Armored Worm That Scuttled Along the Ocean is Ancestor to Three Animal Groups
A stubbly shelled worm that scurried through marine corals 518 million years back, is the progenitor of three aquaculture industry taxa that inhabit quite a different lifestyle presently.
Marine Mammals: Narwhals Explained with the Chaos Theory
Narwhals are intriguing aquatic creatures who captivate humanity with their distinct look as well as mysterious living conditions beneath the Arctic Ocean ice.
What’s the Fastest Animal That Moves Through the Sky?
What creature has the quickest flight speed? And what genetic characteristics allow it to move so quickly?
Coastal Storms Could Bring Flooding and Windswept rainfall to Southeastern Virginia and  Long Island
The forecast revealed that coastal storms could bring flooding and windswept rainfall to Southeastern Virginia Long Island and other parts of Northeast beaches. Coastal flooding and rainfall advisories are in effect.
Scientists Find a Way to Break Polyethylene Plastics To Create High-Value Feed Stocks That Can Reduce Usage of Fossil Fuels
Chemists have discovered a mechanism to degrade the polymer (a chain of around a thousand ethylene molecules) into three-carbon propylene molecules, which are in great demand for the production of another plastic, polypropylene.
Hundreds of Very Rare Fish Discovered in Nevada
Biologists discovered extremely rare fish species in Devil's Hole, Nevada.
Reindeer Grazing Lands Are Exposed To Numerous Pressures and Threatened by Human Expansions
Northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland have a long history of reindeer herding. It has changed the Fennoscandian alpine scenery and is also viewed as a way to reduce the impacts of climate change on flora.
Forecast Warns Nearly-Record High Temperatures in Pacific Northwest
The latest forecast revealed that Pacific Northwest could feel near-record high to warm temperatures over the next few days.
In Mexico, Hurricane Orlene Rises to Category 4, as New Jersey Faces a Snowy Winter
According to the National Hurricane Center, rapidly increasing Category 4 Hurricane Orlene is nearing western Mexico, where it is likely to inflict life-threatening floods.
Grand-Offspring: Lifestyle and External Events of Your Grandparents Could Still Alter Your Genes [Study]
The study confirms the notion that the environment can alter genes.
Florida's Power Outages Affecting Over 1 Million Customers Could Last More Than a Week Following Hurricane Ian
Hurricane Ian both made landfalls to the states of Florida and South Carolina after leaving a trail of destruction in the Caribbean.
Scientists Study Simulations Show Concerning Findings for Future Hurricanes
Researchers conducted over 35,000 computer simulations, showing concerning findings for future hurricanes, especially in the U.S.
Hurricane Orlene Forecasted to Impact Western Mexico and Southwest United States
Orlene intensified from a tropical storm to a hurricane after its formation over the Pacific Ocean just recently.
- National Geographic
Riding the Avalanche | Edge of the Unknown on Disney+
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Climbers face their fears at Helmcken Falls #shorts
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Stash House Takedown | To Catch a Smuggler
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Surrendering to the Unknown #shorts
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Fight or Die | Edge of the Unknown on Disney+
- National Geographic
Drew Brees: Performance (Full Episode) | Brain Games
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Retrograde Teaser | National Geographic
- National Geographic
Protecting the Okavango Ecosystem | National Geographic
- National Geographic
A whole new meaning to life on the edge #shorts
- National Geographic
Party Drugs (Full Episode) | To Catch a Smuggler
- World Wildlife Fund
WWF 2022 Fuller Symposium: Exploring OECMs
- World Wildlife Fund
The Cuando River Basin Report Card
- World Wildlife Fund
WWF PSA: Love it or Lose it
- World Wildlife Fund
What’s Up with Climate Action In America?
- World Wildlife Fund
The Guide
- World Wildlife Fund
Primates of the Greater Mekong
- World Wildlife Fund
Meet WWF’s 2021 Conservation Leadership Award Winner
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WWF is thankful for you
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The Green Room: Protecting wildlife in a warming world
- World Wildlife Fund
The Green Room: How food impacts the planet
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El Estado del Planeta
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The Green Room: State of the Planet
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The impact of a warming Arctic
- Danielle Broza
Loons and River Turtles and Iguanas—Oh My! Wildlife Health Is My Passion

This piece comes to us from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). To honor Hispanic Heritage Month, WCS and Nature are bringing you stories in the fields of nature and conservation.

Bruiser the sea lion is one of the New York Aquarium’s ambassadors who promotes the importance of conservation in our oceans. Photo credit: ©WCS.

Growing up in New York, my favorite memory as a child is of my mom taking me every summer to visit the New York Aquarium and Bronx Zoo. Although I enjoyed both places, aquatic life was truly where my interest lay. I enjoyed watching the animals swimming gracefully in the water and was amazed at such unique and beautiful creatures. I carried this with me into my teens, when I decided to volunteer as a docent at the New York Aquarium.

Since my adolescence, I’ve learned what it means to be responsible and driven in order to pursue my interests. As a teen, it did not matter to me that it required an almost two-hour-long train ride to get to the aquarium and back every day. That was not an obstacle or burden for me.

As a docent, I learned more about the park’s amazing animals and the importance of conservation efforts to protect them. Many of these species have been impacted by human encroachment and habitat loss due to development. It is our responsibility to assist in preserving as much of their ecosystem as possible. I felt that I needed to help in some way, but was not sure how to do so yet.

I attended New York University, where I obtained a B.A. in biology with the idea of eventually pursuing a career in marine biology or veterinary medicine. After graduating in 2002, I volunteered in the Laboratory Services Division at the New York Aquarium doing water quality sampling and testing, which is critical in maintaining a healthy environment for aquatic species.

Health assessments of endangered southern river terrapin turtles (Batagur affinis) and their reintroduction back into the Sre Ambel River in Cambodia. Photo credit: ©WCS.

I was there only a few months when I was hired as a full-time Laboratory Technician. I also assisted the veterinary team with procedures, which really interested me. Knowing that I could contribute to maintaining the health of these incredible marine animals offered me a purpose. This led me to attend LaGuardia Community College in 2007 to get my A.A.S. in Veterinary Technology, and then obtain my license as a Veterinary Technician.

In 2009, my position at the aquarium transitioned from a Laboratory Technician to a Licensed Veterinary Technician. Since then, I have been able to progress further in my career to Senior Veterinary Technician and currently to Hospital Manager.

Working at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, where we strive to educate the public and spread the importance of conservation, makes me feel that I am helping to make a difference in our community. People of all ages who come to visit are often in awe of the amazing species they encounter. I hope they each leave with a sense of urgency to help protect all wildlife and their environment, even if it’s by something as simple as recycling or reducing personal use of plastics.

Obtaining a blood sample on an endangered blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) in Grand Cayman as part of the health assessment process. Photo credit: ©WCS.

This single act can greatly reduce the dangerous plastics and microplastics found in our oceans, which harm and kill millions of aquatic animals each year, either through starvation, intoxication, suffocation, entanglement or drowning. Every little effort can help to make a big impact, and we should all take part and pride in it.

During my tenure at WCS I have been fortunate to participate in numerous field conservation projects, both locally and around the world. Some projects included diamondback terrapins in Queens, NY; loons in the Adirondacks; river turtles in Cambodia; blue iguanas in Grand Cayman; and a variety of sea turtles in Belize. In all these endeavors, my main role has been to assist WCS veterinarians in obtaining and processing blood samples.

Such samples provide us with critical information about how a given species is doing in the wild and—in some cases—making sure individuals are healthy before being reintroduced. I’m proud to have taken part in these conservation efforts which have made a positive contribution to each of these species’ survival in some way.

Obtaining an oral swab sample of a local terrapin species at JFK Airport as part of their health assessment. Photo credit: ©WCS.

I’m hopeful that in the future I’ll have the chance to be involved in conservation work in the Amazon or Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, where my ancestors and I are from. It would personally mean a lot to me if I could contribute to the survival of the wonderful and unique species that exist in my homeland.

You never know where life’s path might take you, but you need to take advantage of the opportunities and make the best out of all learning experiences. Reaching your goals might be a challenge, but not impossible. I was fortunate enough to end up in a career where my interests in both marine life and veterinary medicine go hand in hand, with the greater purpose of aiding conservation efforts.

I eventually found a way to help our marine wildlife as I had hoped I could all those years ago.

The post Loons and River Turtles and Iguanas—Oh My! Wildlife Health Is My Passion appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
African Wild Dog Fact Sheet

African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus): a wild canine native to sub-Saharan Africa.

AKA: African painted dog or African hunting dog

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Carnivora
Family: | Canidae
Genus: | Lycaon
Species: | pictus

Size and Weight:

African wild dogs weigh 40 to 79 pounds with males slightly heavier than females. They are 30 to 43 inches in length and stand 24 to 30 inches at shoulder height with females slightly larger.

Appearance:

The African wild dog has a colorful, patchy coat. They have large bat-like ears and a bushy tail with a white tip, which may serve as a flag to keep the pack in contact while hunting. Their markings are as unique as a human fingerprint, making it easy to identify individuals.

Diet:

African wild dogs are carnivores. They are opportunistic predators that hunt a wide variety of prey, including antelopes, warthogs, wildebeest calves, rats, and birds. African wild dogs have a success rate of around 80% when hunting, which is higher than other predators like lions and leopards. This high success rate is largely due to their teamwork. A pack of wild dogs will hunt together to capture prey. They often approach their prey silently and then chase it in pursuit clocking at up to 41 mph for 3 miles.

Habitat:

Their habitat ranges from dense forests to open plains in Africa.

Geography:

They are native to sub-Saharan Africa. The largest populations remain in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa, especially Tanzania and northern Mozambique.

Breeding:

An alpha female typically gives birth to 10 to 12 pups per litter with some litter sizes up to 21 pups, the most of any dog. She gives birth to these pups in a den, typically an underground burrow of another animal, such as a warthog. After giving birth, the hunters of the pack bring food to her and her newborns while she takes care of them in the den. Not only do they bring food, but other pack members also stay to help babysit or guard the den against predators.

When the pups reach about four weeks old, pack members feed them by regurgitating solid food. When they are about eight weeks old, they are warned, and by 16 weeks old, they leave the den. During the time near the den, the pack hunts nearby to help feed and take care of the young. When the pups are old enough to follow the adults to a kill, the hunters step back and watch for other predators while the young eat first. The pups reach maturity at around 18 months. Typically, the females are the ones to leave the pack at around 3 years old, sometimes with their sisters. Meanwhile, males stay with their birth pack. The pack is usually made up of mostly males and very few females.

Social Structure:

African wild dogs are social and live in packs, with the average pack size being between 5 and 20 dogs. Within the pack, there is one dominant male and dominant female, called the alpha pair. The pack works as a group to hunt and take care of the young. While their social structure is most similar to wolves, they seem to be gentler within their pack.

Lifespan:

African wild dogs live 10 to 12 years in the wild.

Threats:

Lions are natural predators to wild dogs. Humans are the largest threat to wild dog populations. Throughout their range in Africa, wild dogs are shot and poisoned by farmers who often blame them for killing their livestock. Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation are also major threats to the species. Habitat fragmentation increases human-wildlife conflict and localized, small population extinction due to epidemic disease. As human populations expand, wild dogs are losing their habitat.

Conservation Status:

African wild dogs are listed as Endangered by the IUCN’s Red List. There are estimated to be nearly 6,600 wild dogs remaining in the wild with their populations decreasing.

Conservation Efforts:

Conservation groups are working to protect wild dogs through the creation of protected areas and the protection of major wildlife corridors. The World Wildlife Fund works to protect important wildlife corridors between major game reserves in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. WWF also works to reduce conflict with humans. The African Wildlife Foundation works to educate local community members on protecting wild dogs and equips them to do so.

Source: African Wildlife Foundation, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and World Wildlife Fund.

The post African Wild Dog Fact Sheet appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta

NATURE returns for its 41st Season, featuring new documentaries about the Great East African Migration, wild dogs, woodpeckers, ocelots, shorebirds and more.

The WNET Group’s Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning series NATURE announced its upcoming season with new episodes Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning October 19 on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/nature and the PBS Video app.
 

RUNNING WITH THE BEEST | Wednesday, October 19

The Great Migration in East Africa is a spectacle that can be seen from space and is one of the most impressive mass movements of land animals on Earth.  Over a million wildebeest, alongside zebra, gazelle and elands journey in a quest to find fresh grass. Two Maasai guides, Derrick Nabaala and Evalyn Sintoya, have spent the last 10 years tracking the wildebeest as they migrate through Kenya’s Mara ecosystem. The great migration is part of their cultural heritage, and they expose the modern-day conflict between people and wildlife and share new ideas for co-existence in a changing world.  
 

CANADA: SURVIVING THE WILD NORTH | Wednesday, October 26

Canada is a vast country, with the largest intact forest on the planet, more than two million lakes and rivers, and the longest coastline on Earth. This wild and rugged outpost is home to some of the world’s most astonishing wildlife, such as polar bears, coastal wolves, Canada lynx and harp seals. Journey from the high arctic and tundra and to the boreal forests, to discover how life manages to survive in the Wild North, where getting the timing right and seizing seasonal opportunities can make the difference between life and death.
 

WOODPECKERS: THE HOLE STORY | Wednesday, November 2

239 species of woodpeckers live on every continent except Antarctica and Australia, playing a powerful role in every ecosystem they inhabit. Woodpeckers come in all shapes and sizes, each uniquely engineered for their particular lifestyles. Filmmaker Ann Johnson Prum (Nature: Super Hummingbirds) pecks away at what makes woodpeckers so special.
 

AMERICAN OCELOT | Wednesday, November 9

Wildlife filmmaker Ben Masters follows one of the United States’ most endangered wild cats: the ocelot. Go on a brush dive into the deep South Texas chaparral to meet the biologists studying the rare cats, the ranchers with the habitat and the cats themselves. Through camera trap cinematography, witness a never-before-seen glimpse into the struggle, love and determination required of a mother ocelot to raise her young successfully. 
 

WILDHEART (working title) | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

Resilient, strong and proud – the Scots pine tree is a symbol of Scotland. Standing firm against the assaults of a fickle climate, the Scots pine is at the center of a complex ecosystem offering a home to hundreds of other wildlife, from the iconic golden eagle to the feisty red squirrel. But as one of Scotland’s longest living species, it’s also been witness to the island’s history where a wild highland landscape and its people have changed beyond recognition.
 

SOUL OF THE OCEAN | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

In ocean waters lies a complex world. Acclaimed underwater filmmaker Howard Hall (Nature: Shark Mountain) returns to Nature with a never-before-seen look at how life underwater co-exists in a marriage of necessity. Take a deep breath and discover the soul of the ocean.
 

COSTA RICA: A GLIMMER IN GREEN (working title) | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

By some measures, Costa Rica is tiny – just 0.03% of the Earth’s landmass. But inside its borders, Costa Rica is an ecological giant, bursting with 5% of the planet’s total biodiversity. The landscape stretches from Caribbean lowlands to Pacific rainforests, volcanic mountain ranges and dense cloud forests. At the heart of this towering diversity are the tiny architects and caretakers that keep the forests in flower and the ecosystems running: the hummingbirds.
 

FLYWAYS (working title) | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

Shorebirds fly thousands of miles each year along ancient and largely unknown migratory routes called Flyways. Species travel from feeding grounds in the southern hemisphere to breeding grounds in the Arctic regions and back again, flying up to nine days non-stop without food or water. But now, their populations are crashing. Follow a conservation movement of bird-loving experts and citizen scientists as they mobilize to the challenge of understanding and saving these birds. 
 

NIAGARA FALLS (working title) | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

Niagara Falls is a geological wonder, one of the most famous waterfalls in the world and an epic sight for tourists who have been visiting the attraction for 200 years. The area around Niagara Falls is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Joe Pontecorvo (Nature: Yosemite, Snow Monkeys) showcases this iconic North American natural resource over the course of a year.
 

DOGS IN THE WILD, A NATURE MINISERIES (3-part special) | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

An ambitious miniseries that travels the globe with an eye toward revealing the secrets of the most successful carnivore on the planet: the canids. From the recognizable and familiar like foxes, wolves, African wild dogs and coyotes to the lesser-known ones like the Japanese raccoon dog, New Guinea singing dog, dholes and dingoes, canids have conquered every continent except Antarctica. 
 

THE SECRET CROWN (working title) | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

In 2013, a fisherman in Guatemala, who is struggling to feed his family, is forced further offshore in a search for food. In an act of desperation, he guns his small boat straight out to sea and into dangerous waters. With no land in sight, the sun blazing, the fisherman cuts his engine and peers over the side of his boat. His expression transforms to utter disbelief. He is sitting atop a coral reef, five times the size of Manhattan and teeming with life, that no one knew existed. It is like a window back in time when Caribbean corals were thriving. The discovery is part of an even bigger story, marking an exciting new chapter in understanding corals, the fish that need them and the battle to save coral reefs all over the world. 
 

SPY IN THE OCEAN, A NATURE MINISERIES (4-part special) | Premieres Winter/Spring 2023

The latest installment of the popular Spy in the Wild series takes place in the ocean, the largest ecosystem on Earth. This four-part NATURE miniseries employs animatronic spy cameras disguised as marine animals to secretly record behavior in the wild. When these robotic, uncanny look-alikes infiltrate the natural world to film wildlife, they capture rarely seen behavior that reveals how ocean animals possess emotions and behavior similar to humans – including the capacity to love, grieve, deceive, and invent.

*Dates and information subject to change.

The post NATURE Season 41 Preview appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Ensuring a Sustainable Trade in Sharks and Rays Before It’s Too Late

Lemon Shark, Bahamas. Photo credit: ©Ron Watkins.

It’s that time of the summer. Our screens are filled with a blitz of exploitative and fear-inducing programming about one of the ocean’s top predators. Here’s the thing. I grew up watching the film Jaws. It’s one of my favorite movies. Sadly, though, the advent of the modern summer blockbuster was very good for cinema and not so great for the reputation of sharks. As many of us know too well, sharks have much more to fear from people than we do from them.

Blacktip Reef Shark, French Polynesia. Photo credit: ©Hannes Klosterman.

Sharks today are especially vulnerable to overfishing. Some 37 percent of all sharks and their cousins, the rays, are already at immediate risk of extinction. That number goes to 70 percent when isolating species traded for their fins. In response to the alarming decline of global shark populations, a group of countries from around the world recently announced a groundbreaking effort to control the unsustainable half-billion-dollar annual global trade in shark fins.

The Government of Panama leads this initiative in partnership with 40 countries around the world, including the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, The Seychelles, The Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Senegal, Gabon, Israel, the United Kingdom, Syria and the European Union and its Member States (27 countries).

Galapagos Shark, Ascension Island. Photo credit: ©Ellen Cuylaerts.

Decisions will be taken at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Panama is host of the November CITES meeting, at which 184 member nations will come together to make decisions on the regulation of international trade of the world’s most threatened species.

Panama itself is proposing that CITES regulate the trade in all requiem sharks—a family that includes the Endangered gray reef shark, beloved by scuba divers throughout the world, as well as species such as the Dusky and Ganges shark — to address the crisis in overfishing and the trade of fins that has driven them even closer to the edge of extinction.

Additional proposals look to secure similar protections for coastal hammerhead sharks, and guitarfish – flattened relatives of true sharks. My colleagues and I in the shark and ray conservation community applaud CITES Governments for matching their ambition to the seriousness of the threat to sharks and rays globally. These three proposals will shift the regulation of species found in the fin trade under CITES from only 25 percent to the vast majority.

Grey Reef Sharks, Fakarava Atoll. Photo credit: ©Jayne Jenkins.

The timing could not be more important. Sharks and rays represent the second most threatened animal group on the planet after amphibians. While requiem sharks play a critical role in the ecology of the world’s coral reefs, they are functionally extinct on 20 percent of reefs surveyed—adding stress to reef ecosystems already devastated by climate change.

By providing much-needed protections and sustainable management, the proposed listings at CITES could be a game-changer for shark conservation if adopted. Between now and the November conference in Panama, we must work to build additional support among CITES parties to reach the two-thirds threshold for adoption at the meeting.

The local police chief played by Roy Scheider on board the vessel hunting the aggressive great white shark in Jaws is remembered for suggesting at a crisis point in the film they’re “going to need a bigger boat.” Four months out from CITES, we’re going to need a bigger coalition to reach our two-thirds goal to protect sharks and rays. But I’m optimistic. We have the momentum. Now we must work together to get it done.

The post Ensuring a Sustainable Trade in Sharks and Rays Before It’s Too Late appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Happy Sharks, Rays, and Sea Cucumbers as Madagascar Strives for More Sustainable Trade

Shark and ray species (over 1,200 species globally) are literally and figuratively in hot water—their populations are declining and some of their body parts are among the most valuable in the global seafood trade, which includes the well-known trade in dried fins for shark-fin soup.

While the fins in the global fin trade come from more than 75 different species, just a handful of unfortunate species dominate the international trade volume. These include blue sharks, silky sharks, mako sharks and hammerhead sharks. In addition to these true shark species, several “shark-like ray” species, such as the wedgefishes, are also heavily targeted as they are known to have some of the most valuable fins in the trade.

Shark fins in the trade from Madagascar. Photo credit: Rhett Bennett/WCS

Shark-like rays are relatives of sharks that resemble sharks with their large vertical dorsal fins and tail fins, but which are actually rays—their gills are positioned underneath the body, making them easily distinguishable from sharks.

Dried sea cucumbers (known as bêche de mer in French and which look a bit like underwater sausages) are also traded in huge volumes globally. As is the case with sharks and rays, there are more than 1,200 sea cucumber species globally. There are increasing concerns over population declines among these species, despite having a life-history much more capable of withstanding exploitation than sharks.

International Shark Awareness Day is a global drive to raise awareness about sharks and rays, their important ecological roles, their contributions to society (food and income) in many places, and their generally poor conservation status globally (at least 33 percent of the world’s shark and ray species are considered threatened with extinction).

Critically Endangered scalloped hammerhead shark Sphyrna lewini landed in Madagascar. Photo credit: Christelle Razafindrakoto/WCS

Madagascar, a country with extensive fisheries for trade in sharks, rays, and sea cucumbers, embraced the spirit of this year’s International Shark Awareness Day on July 14, as numerous government and non-government stakeholders met formally to tackle the challenges of managing the trade in these highly sought-after food products.

Representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MEDD), Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy (MPEB), European Union, its Madagascar Governance Strengthening Program (RINDRA project), Fisheries and Marine Sciences Institute (IHSM), National Centre for Oceanographic Research (CNRO), the fishing traders company, Customs Department, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Florida International University (FIU), TRAFFIC and other organizations were among the nearly 80 delegates in attendance.

For nearly half a century, Madagascar has been a party to the world’s primary international wildlife trade control mechanism CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—a multinational environmental agreement developed to ensure sustainable international trade in animal and plant products), and the State is thereby bound by CITES trade controls.

CITES Parties meet every few years to discuss species that are in need of stricter international trade controls to curb their unsustainable trade. Globally, 14 shark, 30 ray and 3 sea cucumber species are listed on Appendices I and II of CITES—lists of species whose trade Parties are obligated to control (these include 12 shark, 9 ray and 2 sea cucumber species present in Madagascar).

Delegates at the Madagascar CITES implementation meeting. Photo credit: Wilfred Razafindramasy/WCS.

The species listed on Appendix II need stricter monitoring and control of their trade, to ensure sustainability, while those on Appendix I are prohibited from international commercial trade.

The meeting in Madagascar, a great support for Shark Awareness Day, allowed global and local scientists and experts to share information and expertise to raise awareness on shark, ray and sea cucumber species, and to work together to develop ways to improve the implementation of CITES measures for them, to help ensure that their international trade becomes sustainable.

This work is part of a broader initiative to raise awareness and improve the implementation of CITES trade controls for sharks and rays in the Western Indian Ocean and globally. The initiative is a priority in the face of increasing reports of the scale of marine biodiversity loss and the recent outcomes of the UN Ocean Conference and WTO Fisheries Subsidies meetings.

Furthermore, countries are preparing for the 19th Conference of the Parties to CITES, which will take place in Panama in November 2022, where several other species of sharks, rays and sea cucumbers will be tabled for potential listing on the CITES Appendices.

The information shared during such national workshops helps governments to decide which species are in need of improved trade controls, and which proposals warrant their support. However, the implementation of CITES controls, and thus the extent to which they can be effective, is dependent on the willingness and capacity of governments to make this happen.

The Honourable Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, VINA Marie-Orléa, in her heartfelt opening speech at the recent Madagascar meeting, made a call to action for the Malagasy people and management authorities, saying “We need to face the critical damage to nature. Nature does not only belong to the Government, it belongs to the Malagasy population and the world’s population. Each person has a responsibility to protect our environment and marine species.”

The Madagascar government, through this meeting, has thus made an unequivocal statement of its intention to improve the sustainability of trade in these highly sought-after and highly threatened species.

[This CITES implementation meeting in Madagascar was made possible through the generous financial support of the European Union’s RINDRA project and the Shark Conservation Fund. The Shark Conservation Fund is a philanthropic collaborative pooling expertise and resources to meet the threats facing the world’s sharks and rays. The Shark Conservation Fund is a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.]

The post Happy Sharks, Rays, and Sea Cucumbers as Madagascar Strives for More Sustainable Trade appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Komodo Dragon Fact Sheet

Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis): the largest living lizard in the world.

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Reptilia
Order: | Squamata
Family: | Varanidae
Genus: | Varanus
Species: | komodoensis

Size and Weight:

Komodo dragons are the largest living lizard in the world, of over 3,000 lizard species. Females measure up to 6 feet in length and males measure up to 10 feet in length. Females can weigh up to 155 pounds and males can weigh up to 300 pounds.

Appearance:

In the early 1900s, before the discovery of these lizards by western scientists, rumors existed of a gigantic dragon-like lizard in the Lesser Sunda Islands. These rumors contributed to their common name. They also have a long, yellow, forked tail, similar to that of mythical dragons. Depending on their location, their coloring ranges from black to yellow-gray. They have rough, durable skin reinforced with osteoderms, or bony plates, protecting them from injuries. These lizards have a large, muscular tail and long, powerful claws.

Diet:

Adult Komodo dragons eat almost any type of meat that is available to them. Its natural prey is the Timor deer, but their diet also includes anything from small rodents to large water buffalo. They stalk their prey and then attack using their long claws and sharp teeth. Their saliva also contains potentially harmful bacteria, which is believed to help weaken prey that is too large for a single dragon to overpower. If their prey escapes, they can use their long tongues to find them even up to a mile away. Young feed primarily on small lizards and insects, as well as snakes and birds.

Habitat:

Their home islands are volcanic, so they are rugged and hilly. The islands are covered with both forest and savanna grassland. The climate on these islands is hot with daytime temperatures during the dry season reaching 95 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent humidity. In comparison to other large predators, Komodo dragons have the smallest home range.

Geography:

Komodo dragons are endemic to only five islands in southeastern Indonesia. They can be found on Indonesia’s four islands within Komodo National Park: Komodo, Rinca, Gili Montang, Gili Dasami. They can also be found on the island of Flores.

Breeding:

Female Komodo dragons do not breed every year that they are fertile. They take time off to recover from the energy costs of egg production. Females use three different nest types for their eggs including hillside nests, ground nests, and mound nests built by the orange-footed scrub fowl. They will often dig decoy nest chambers as a way of discouraging predators like male Komodos and other female dragons from stealing their eggs.

A female lays between 15 to 30 eggs at a time, which are about the size of a grapefruit. She guards her nest and eggs for the first few months. The incubation period ranges from two to eight months. When they hatch, the newborns are only about 12 inches long and incredibly vulnerable. To stay safe from predators, they need to hurry from their nest to the closest tree so the adults won’t eat it. Adults are too heavy and uncoordinated to climb trees.

While living in trees, the youngsters feed on eggs, grasshoppers, beetles, and geckos. The Tokay gecko is their food of choice. They are large enough to come to the ground when they are about 4 years old and 4 feet long. They reach sexual maturity when they are 5 to 7 years old.

Social Structure:

The Komodo dragon is a solitary creature that lives in hunts alone. Some dragons build or find shallow burrows to keep warm at night, to rest, and to escape the heat during the daytime. These burrows are typically found along the slopes of dry streambeds among tree roots.

A mature dragon leads a leisurely life. The dragon begins its day by emerging from its burrow to look for a sunny spot to warm up in. Once heated up, the dragon searches for its first meal, which is followed by a nice long nap in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Next, the dragon searches for its afternoon meal, which is followed by bedtime.

Lifespan:

Komodo dragons live about 30 years in the wild.

Threats:

Komodo dragons have long been hunted both legally and illegally. However, the largest threat to their population decline is habitat loss and their limited range. Since the 1970s, Komodo dragons have not been found on the island of Padar, due to the poaching of Timor deer, the dragon’s primary food source. Climate change is another major threat to the species as sea level rise and heat waves threaten their habitat.

Conservation Status:

Komodo dragons are listed as Endangered by the IUCN’s Red List. There are estimated to be nearly 1,400 adults in the wild and their populations are considered stable.

Conservation Efforts:

Most wild Komodo dragons live in the Komodo National Park, which was established in 1980. While illegal activity still takes place, strict anti-poaching laws exist to protect the dragon in this area. The Dutch colonial government instituted protection plans as early as 1915. These dragons promote tourism and provide economic incentives for local people to support the Komodo dragon’s protection. Numerous conservation groups and zoos are working to protect these species through research and education.

Source: The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

The post Komodo Dragon Fact Sheet appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Working Behind the Scenes to Make Science Happen

Cassandra in the Aquatic Bird House at the Bronx Zoo. Photo credit: Madeleine Thompson/WCS.

Think of a job in conservation science. What did you come up with? Field researcher, perhaps? Maybe a marine biologist? How about a zookeeper? These are only some of the many job titles people imagine when thinking about the world of conservation. My job, though, is not usually considered.

As the Library Assistant at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), I have a critical role in the process of scientific research and publication. Yet some people are surprised to learn that WCS has a library to begin with.

I didn’t always know that I wanted to work supporting conservation science. Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher. In high school, I wanted to be a museum curator. In college, I studied art history and museum studies. It wasn’t until I heard one of my college librarians describe her job as that of a perpetual student that I even considered becoming a librarian.

Picture montage: Cassandra with family at the Bronx Zoo in 1997 (left) and at the Children’s Zoo in the Bronx Zoo in 1996 (right). Photo credit: ©Laura Paul.

I’ve always had an incredible passion for learning and then sharing what I’ve learned with anyone who’ll listen, so the field of Library Science was appealing to me.

During my graduate program in Library Science, I came across the job listing for WCS. I knew that zoos and aquariums went together with museums under the umbrella of cultural institutions, but had never considered working at one. The idea of working at the Bronx Zoo, a landmark I had grown up visiting regularly, was exciting.

I had always loved studying science, particularly biology, in school but I never imagined I would be able to pursue biology as a career due to my poor math skills. When I was considering applying to work at WCS as a librarian, though, suddenly I could picture myself working in support of the science I once thought an impossible dream.

Cassandra getting back to work in person in the WCS Library. Photo credit: Cassandra Paul/WCS.

Every day I get to see the books, journal articles, and reports that WCS scientists are authoring, inviting me to learn about their conservation work in New York City and around the world. I have the privilege of learning about the amazing history of global conservation at WCS through the photographs and illustrations we hold in our archival collections.

I’m able to see the big picture of how WCS’s work in the field is constantly translated into our zoo exhibits in real time and I’m also able to hear how WCS staff reflect on that work, share it with scientific communities and the public, and set ever higher goals.

I’m excited to help WCS staff catch up on the newest theories, historical knowledge, and data they need to keep their work moving forward. Luckily, though, my work lets other scientists and researchers access the publications that WCS produces on almost a daily basis. I ensure that all research publications written by WCS staff authors, or published by WCS, are discoverable in the WCS Publications Database.

Now that we have launched our official Open Access Policy and Initiative, the research coming out of WCS will be even easier than ever for anyone to access. Opening up access is crucial since this is the science that justifies the need for new laws and regulations, such as state ivory bans or the proposal to designate the Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary.

Cassandra with members of the WCS QUEER Employee Resource Group. Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.

As a queer person, I am similarly invested in our laws and regulations around queer identities being backed by rigorous scientific research rather than reductive social constructs. Afterall, humans, too, are members of the animal kingdom and research shows that animals do not have the same strict cultures around gender and sexuality that humans like to enforce.

Through my work as co-lead of QUEER (Queer people and allies Uniting to Expand Equity and Respect), a new Employee Resource Group at WCS, I am able to use my voice and the resources of my position to advocate for a safer and more inclusive workspace that is defined by the science I support every day.

By being a representative of the queer voices at WCS, I have the privilege of sharing the many intersecting identities held by conservationists in our organization. We may not always come to mind first when you picture someone working in conservation science, but we are always working in the background to make that science happen.

The post Working Behind the Scenes to Make Science Happen appeared first on Nature.

- schmidta
Humpback Whale Fact Sheet

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae): a species of baleen whale.

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Cetacea
Family: | Balaenopteridae
Genus: | Megaptera
Species: | novaeangliae

Size and Weight:

Humpback whales weigh up to about 40 tons and can reach up to 60 feet in length. Their flukes can be up to 18 feet in width.

Appearance:

The humpback whale is named for the distinctive hump on its back. They have a unique body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. Inside their pectoral fins are the biggest arms on the planet. Their bodies are primarily black with some white on their pectoral find, bellies and the underside of their fluke, or tail. Their tail flukes are as unique as human fingerprints and can be used to identify individuals, thanks to their pigmentation pattern, shapes, sizes and prominent scars.

Diet:

Humpback whales are baleen whales, meaning they are equipped with fibrous “baleen” plates in their mouth. They use these plates to filter out and consume quantities of krill, plankton, and crustaceans. During the warmer months, humpbacks spend most of their time feeding and building up blubber to sustain them throughout the winter.

Humpbacks have several techniques for herding and capturing prey, including the use of bubbles, sounds, the seafloor and their pectoral fins. One feeding method is called “group coordinated bubble net feeding,” which involves using curtains of air bubbles to condense prey.

Habitat:

Humpbacks live throughout the world’s major oceans.

Watch The Whale Detective:

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Geography:

Humpback whales can be found in oceans around the world. They are known to travel long distances during their seasonal migration, up to 5,000 miles between high-latitude summer feeding grounds and winter mating and calving areas in tropical waters.

Breeding:

Humpback whales are polygamous, with both males and females having multiple partners. Mating and breeding typically take place in the winter in tropical waters. A male will trail either a lone female or a cow-calf pair, he is known as an “escort”. The male closest to the female is known as the “principal escort”, and he fights off the other suitors known as “challengers”.

After an 11-month gestation period, the female gives birth to a single calf. At birth, calves measure 13 to 16 feet in length. The calves stay with their protective mother for the first year of their lives before weaning. According to NOAA fisheries, while calves are not believed to maintain long-term associations with their mothers, they are more likely to be found in the same feeding and breeding areas as their mothers. They reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 10 years. A female will typically birth a calf every 2 to 3 years, with some females reportedly having a calf annually.

Social Structure:

Humpback whales normally associate in small, unstable groups. They are known to be highly active at the surface, performing aerial behaviors like breaching, tail slapping, and flipper slapping. While the cause of this behavior is unknown, there are several theories for their function including play, communication, parasite removal, and displaying excitement or annoyance.

Humpbacks are also widely known for their songs. Males especially are spectacular singers, producing complex songs that can last more than 15 minutes and may be repeated for hours. Scientists do not currently have a definitive reason for their songs, many theories exist. One theory is that their songs are a mating call. However, the recent data shows that the whales also sing while hunting for food and migrating along the coast.

Lifespan:

The lifespan of humpback whales is unknown but is estimated to be about 80 to 90 years.

Threats:

The largest threats to humpback whales include vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, vessel-based harassment, and climate change. Many of the threats to humpbacks are human-induced. Throughout their range, humpbacks are vulnerable to inadvertent vessel strikes, which injure or kill the whale. They are also at risk of becoming entangled in fishing gear. When entangled, the whale may be able to swim with the gear attached but may fatigue more quickly when swimming long distances. Whale-watching vessels and recreational boats are another threat to humpbacks as they can cause stress and behavioral changes in the whale. Humpbacks are a popular tourist attraction because they are often found close to shore and typically surface when active.

Climate change is another threat to humpbacks. However, the impacts on these whales is not yet known. Climate change’s impact on sea ice coverage, ocean temperature and prey distribution will likely have an impact on the species. For example, changing water temperature and currents could impact the timing of environmental cues important for navigation and migration.

Conservation Status:

According to the IUCN’s Red List, humpback whales are listed as Least Concern. There are estimated to be around 84,000 mature individuals with numbers increasing.

Conservation Efforts:

According to NOAA Fisheries, humpback whales are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOAA Fisheries continues to work to protect and conserve humpback whales, including designating marine protected areas for humpback whales, working to minimize whale watching harassment, addressing ocean noise, and reducing and responding to whale entanglement.

Source: NOAA Fisheries.

The post Humpback Whale Fact Sheet appeared first on Nature.

- The Nature Conservancy
Conserving the Laramie Foothills in Colorado
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Conserving Texas' Coastal Grasslands
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Kankakee Sands 25th Anniversary
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Community Visioning: Creating a Safer Future Together
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Farmers in a Changing Climate - Short Version
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2022 Photo Contest
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The Highwall Project
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Wildlife at TNC's Phantom Canyon Preserve
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Climate and Energy Policies Benefit America
- 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.

- explore

If you like the Africams, you’ll love their new semi-weekly collaborative series! Mark your calendars and get ready to learn all about the wild visitors who appear on the live cams.

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 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 Lion Day (August 5th)

Ranger Russell Gerber talks about the lions of Africam and conservation efforts around lions.

The Africam Show: World Lion Day Part 2 (August 10th)

Russell airs live cam highlights to showcase the lions of Africam and gives viewers the opportunity to ask questions about the prides that appear on camera. There will be a special lion quiz during the broadcast to test your Africam knowledge!

Africam4Good Show: World Elephant Day (August 12th)

Russell talks about the elephants of Africam and the conservation efforts being made to protect elephants.

The Africam Show: Virtual Safari (August 17th)

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

Africam4Good Show: Snaring & Poaching (August 19th)

Russell talks about the dangers of human-wildlife conflict, snaring & poaching.

The Africam Show: Virtual Safari (August 24th)

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

Africam4Good Show: World Wild Dog Day (August 26th)

Join Ranger Russell and Africa Geographic Science Editor Jamie Paterson for a live discussion on painted dogs for World Painted Dog Day. Jamie discusses what she loves about painted dogs as well as naming conventions for the dogs.

The Africam Show: Virtual Safari (August 31st)

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

Africam4Good Show: World Vulture Day (September 2nd)

Join Ranger Russell and Kerri Wolter from Vulpro, a vulture conservation organization, to discuss the trials and triumphs of vulture conservation.

- Nature Canada
How Genetic Pollution Could Change Nature as We Know It

2013 was a big year for Canadians. Pop star Justin Bieber was caught on camera urinating in a bucket, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford came clean about his crack cocaine use, and genetically engineered salmon eggs were approved to be produced on land in Canada.

By 2016, Canada became the first country in the world to approve a genetically engineered, ‘fast growing’ salmon for human consumption that could change wild stocks forever if it were to escape and breed with already at-risk wild Atlantic salmon. And as these operations scale up, it becomes a question of “if”, not “when”.

Illustration of CRISPR, gene editing tool What is Genetic Pollution?

You’ve probably seen certain types of pollution with your own eyes: from takeout containers on the street to plastic bottles floating in the water. But human activity is creating a more insidious type of pollution: genetic pollution. Genetically engineered organisms like ‘fast growing’ salmon can put both wild species and ecosystems in danger. 

Genetic engineered organisms as pollution is a relatively new concept. Simply put, genetic engineering is when humans use laboratory techniques to directly alter the DNA of an organism. At Nature Canada our focus is on engineered species that could breed with their wild counterparts changing their genetic make-up forever.

In the darkest scenario, genetic pollution could weaken a wild species, and along with all the other threats, put it at risk of extinction. 

Transgenic zebrafish, genetically modified fluorescent fish marketed as “GloFish”. Credit: Paulo De Oliveira via André Magalhães

It’s already happened. In Brazil, fluorescent Glofish are lighting up waterways and breeding in the creeks of the Atlantic Forest—one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Created as a novelty for aquarium enthusiasts, Glofish have escaped fish farms and are now swimming unchecked in the natural world.

The bright blue, green, and red hues of these genetically engineered zebrafish that make them attractive as pets now have the potential to make them more visible to predators. And if these fish were to breed with their wild counterparts, they’d all essentially be swimming around with ‘eat me’ signs that could be their end.

Let’s go back to the salmon. In Norway, farmed Atlantic Salmon escaped into rivers, resulting in 52 percent of the 147 salmon studied showing significant farmed genetic introgression. In other words, genetic information from the farmed salmon had been transferred into wild salmon species. There are all too many ways in which genetically engineered salmon can escape their captivity, such as human error, natural disasters, regulatory slippage, and corruption, just to name a few.

Atlantic Salmon. Credit: Nick Hawkins

If genetically engineered salmon were to escape in Canada, such genetic pollution would pose a real and irreversible threat to already at-risk Atlantic Salmon. Wild species could be outcompeted for food, or if interbreeding were to occur, be fundamentally changed. This would affect the livelihoods of hundreds of Canadians and disrupt ecosystems forever.

How will our Canadian Environmental Protection Act amendments address Genetic Pollution?

Nature Canada is taking a stand against the growing threat of genetic pollution. We’ve brought together Indigenous Peoples, scientists, anglers, and conservationists to recommend changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to keep wild species wild. 

Here are our recommendations:

Align CEPA reform with Indigenous rightsRecognize all Canadians’ right to a healthy environmentEnsure a living organism cannot be used until its safe use is demonstratedReform risk assessment and ensure better use of science in decision-making.Make labelling of foods and consumer products containing genetically engineered organisms mandatoryImprove accountability and transparency, including meaningful public involvement and informed acceptanceRequire opportunities for the public to review and comment before anything is proposed or put in motionPublish all details of the information provided to the Minister(s) and publicDemand transparency when a substance or living organism that is subject to a significant new activity notice and that is on the Domestic Substances List is transferred

Nature Canada is actively working to ensure these recommendations make it into the Act. But we need your help. Read on to find out what’s developing right now in the legislative process and how you can help. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if humans acted before—not after—the proverbial (genetically engineered) horse has left the barn?

Where are we in the amendment legislative process?

Back in June, Nature Canada supporters raised their voices in support of our amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. In doing so, we took a big step towards protecting nature from genetic pollution when Bill S-5 passed the Senate with two out of three of our amendments included. 

Now, MPs in the House of Commons will debate and amend the Bill further, hopefully upholding our currently accepted amendments and adding our third amendment.  

Add your name to ask that the federal government modernize our environmental laws to protect nature from the unintended consequences of genetically engineered animals.

The approval and commercial production of genetically engineered salmon sets a dangerous precedent. If the genome of any wild species is allowed to be tampered with, where does the line between humans and nature stand?

The post How Genetic Pollution Could Change Nature as We Know It appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Save the World’s Birds:  Global Bird Rescue

Unceded Algonquin Territory, Ottawa, ON – October 3rd, 2022

TORONTO – Fatal collisions with building windows are a leading (but easily preventable) threat to bird species. Although this danger is receiving increasing attention in North America due to FLAP Canada’s tireless and influential advocacy work, there is a major knowledge and education gap in other regions of the world. To increase international action and awareness, FLAP Canada, in partnership with Nature Canada, has united teams and individuals across Canada, the United States, State of Palestine, China, Nepal, Costa Rica, Germany and Spain for Global Bird Rescue (GBR) 2022.

An injured bird rescued by a FLAP volunteer. Credit: Yuko Miki

Between October 3-9, during the peak of fall migration, teams and individuals around the world will search for and rescue injured birds that have hit windows in their communities. The collected data will be inputted into the Global Bird Collision Mapper, adding knowledge about species susceptibility and the overall scale of this issue in understudied regions.

“Not only are we empowering local residents to do something tangible about this tragic issue by rescuing birds in need in their own communities, but we are also fostering a global network of bird-safety champions,” said Michael Mesure, Executive Director of FLAP Canada.

Join us on the street!  FLAP staff and volunteers will be out searching for birds during this event and would be keen to share this experience with you. High-resolution photos of rescued birds will be available as well.

FLAP Canada’s mission is to safeguard migratory birds in the built environment through education, policy development, research, rescue and rehabilitation. 

For more information: 

Michael Mesure | Executive Director 
Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada 
31 Adelaide Street East, PO Box 430
Toronto, ON M5C 2J5

T: 416-366-3527 | C: 905-649-9223 

flap@flap.org

flap.org | birdsafe.ca |globalbirdrescue.org 

The post Save the World’s Birds:  Global Bird Rescue appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada

Evidence has shown that letting cats roam free is bad for wildlife conservation, human health, and cats themselves. Free-roaming cats hunt and kill native wild animals, especially birds, and can even transmit diseases to humans. Not to mention, outdoor cats can themselves be harmed by wild animals, cars, or disease. 

Recorded on Wednesday, September 28th from 12 – 1PM EST and brought to you by The Stewardship Centre of BC and co-hosted by Nature Canada, the Effective Stewardship Strategies for Cat and Bird Welfare: Tools to Take Action Together webinar featured expert panelists speaking about Translation Ecology to facilitate multi-stakeholder collaboration principles to help facilitate working with diverse interest groups, such as folks working directly on bird conservation issues and cat welfare.

Tune in and learn from expert speakers… 

DG Blair, Executive Director, Stewardship Centre for British ColumbiaMeghann Cant, Manager, Companion Animal Welfare Science & Policy, BC SPCA Elizabeth Gow, Research Scientist, Environment and Climate Change CanadaJames Casey, Conservation Lead, Birds Canada

Animal welfare organizations, animal and human health professionals, municipalities, pet owners, wildlife conservation groups and non-pet owning community members need to come together to fix this complex problem. Learn more about the solution today.

Watch the recording

The post Webinar: Effective Stewardship Strategies for Cat and Bird Welfare – Tools to Take Action Together appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Meet the Moose, Nature’s Long-Legged Vegetarians

Most people don’t realize just how enormous Moose are until they see one up close and personal. Moose are the largest members of the deer family. They can weigh up to 1200 pounds and stand over two meters tall! Moose can be brown, reddish, greyish, or even almost black with grey or white ‘socks’ on their legs.

Newborn calves make deep grunting sounds that develop into nearly human-like wails after a few days pass. Adult Moose are very vocal during their breeding season, with females making a nasally bawling sound and males bellowing in a cough in response.

Photo by Scott Rickett Moose Habitat and Eating Habits

Lucky for us, these giants are herbivores. Their favourite snacks are willow, aspen, and balsam fir trees. They eat mostly leaves, buds, twigs, bark, grass, and aquatic plants. In fact, the word “moose” means “eater of twigs” in Algonquin. Moose have poor eyesight, making them inefficient hunters, but have excellent senses of smell and hearing. Perfect for sniffing out the juiciest greens!

Since Moose are big with insulating fur, they need cold climates. Moose can be generally found in forested areas as well as near lakes, swamps, and ponds during the summer. These places tend to have moist conditions due to the proximity of the bodies of water. In the winter, moose live in places with snow cover.

Photo by Robert Berdan Moose Conservation

Moose face a variety of threats in the wild, such as climate change, hunting, habitat destruction, parasites, and disease. In Canada, moose populations are endangered in mainland Nova Scotia. It’s important to protect Moose. Moose play a key role in ecosystems. Simply by grazing, they are able to change the composition of vegetation in an area. They are also significant to Indigenous Peoples, serving as a traditional source of food and clothing.

Moose Fun Facts Moose are great swimmers and can sustain a speed of 6 miles an hour. They can also hold their breath for 30 seconds.Bull moose shed their antlers and regrow them each year.Moose tend to be very shy animals!Baby moose are called calves.

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 Moose, Nature’s Long-Legged Vegetarians appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Tree Equity: Bringing the Canopy to All

You’ve got to hand it to trees.

They make oxygen, absorb pollutants, keep cities cool, capture carbon, anchor ecosystems and provide erosion control. They reduce stress and crime rates and lift us up with their sky-seeking architecture. 

But not everybody gets to enjoy trees equitably. Research suggests that people living in racialized and marginalized neighbourhoods don’t have the same access to urban trees and forests as those in better-off neighbourhoods. 

Nature Canada’s new report, Canada’s Urban Forests: Bringing the Canopy to All, shows who has (and doesn’t have) access to the urban treescape and provides recommendations on how to improve that access.  

To explore the issue, we used both a map analysis and interviews with experts.  The maps in question were municipal tree canopy maps (“canopy” is defined as the extent of tree foliage coverage).  On the canopy maps of twelve Canadian cities, we superimposed data related to income and race.

Nature Canada’s Tree Equity Map of Vancouver, portraying the differing levels of tree canopy, income and percentage of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) residents.

Maps can give us the big picture, but only people can tell us how to change it. That’s why we also interviewed experts such as urban forest specialists, equity champions and municipal staff.

The results

Our map analysis reinforced previous findings that tree canopy tends to be much sparser in low-income and racialized neighbourhoods. The interviews with experts highlighted some of the reasons for this: lack of funding, absence of a planning process that values trees, and weak public engagement with those communities that need trees.  

Given these obstacles, how do we achieve tree equity? Many municipalities are proposing city-wide canopy targets (Toronto, for example, has committed to achieving 40% urban forest canopy cover by 2050). While laudable, such city-wide targets don’t address the needs of particular communities. 

For Nature Canada, tree equity goes beyond city-wide targets and includes three elements: proximity to urban canopy (i.e., the ability of residents to actually get close to their trees), forest quality (measured in both biodiversity and the cultural needs of users), and equitable governance.

Based on our analysis, Nature Canada offers a series of recommendations to municipalities, governments and advocacy groups. A tree can grow by itself, but a pan-Canadian tree initiative needs high-level nurturing. The federal government has a role to play in achieving tree equity through such programs as the 2 Billion Tree Program (2BT) and the Natural Infrastructure Fund. These programs can prioritize tree planting in urban and near-urban landscapes while also increasing climate resilience in racialized and marginalized communities.

But cities are caretakers of their own green spaces, and much of the real progress will happen there. To municipalities across Canada, we make the following recommendations: 

Decolonize the urban forest and prioritize equity. Cities need to give voice and power to those in underserved and marginalized neighbourhoods. This is particularly important for Indigenous communities,the original caretakers of the land. Build urban forest strategies into the planning process. Trees cannot be an afterthought in laying out cities but must form a core part of municipal land-use policies. Develop tree inventories across the city and set neighbourhood targets. Tree inventories give a clear picture of the arboreal “haves” and “ have-nots.” They are an essential starting point for setting tree canopy targets by neighbourhood. Promote urban biodiversity. Municipalities should plant trees in order to reconnect landscapes, provide habitat for wildlife and reverse biodiversity loss. Incentivize tree planting on private land. Since a large part of the urban tree canopy is not found on public land, cities need to encourage private landowners to pitch in.

All these changes will come about only if citizens fight for them. Our final set of recommendations is intended for nature and community organizations: 

 Spread the word by writing op-eds, organizing events, and sharing our report on your social channels. Identify the social and climate justice groups, tenant and community associations and tree groups in your city.  Get to know your city’s Urban Forest Management Plan and the federal 2 Billion Tree program. Meet with municipal councillors to talk about tree equity.Start a petition to show your municipal council that tree equity is an important issue for the whole community.Take pictures of the tree-lush and tree-deficit neighbourhoods to send to your councillor. Post them on social media and tag relevant decision-makers. Start a letter-writing campaign to have community members bring the issue forward to their own councillors. Sign up to speak at budget, infrastructure, and environment meetings on the importance of trees in all areas of our lives.Offer your knowledge and support for any policy changes required. 

And of course, you can always Invite Nature Canada to speak at your event or meeting. For us, trees hold up the world, and everybody should be able to enjoy their benefits equally.

Go the extra mile

Join our efforts to promote equitable access to nature by sending a letter to your Member of Parliament and Canada’s party leaders to pass Bill C-226, an Act to prevent and address environmental racism in Canada and advance environmental justice today.

The post Tree Equity: Bringing the Canopy to All appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Meet Ann, a ‘Monarch Midwife’ and Nature Canada Legacy Donor

I gasped. I blinked. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen this kind of butterfly before and it landed right in front of me in my new garden in Grand Manan. I learned it was a Great Spangled Fritillary. I remember being just tickled by the name—like something out of a storybook. That was when I first fell in love with butterflies, about 15 years ago. I started planting butterfly bushes and adding milkweed. That’s when the Monarch butterflies started to grace me with their enchanting presence. I didn’t know anyone else creating butterfly gardens at the time, so I was really winging it.

I watched and learned from them. And now I’m kind of a Monarch midwife. I collect the eggs (leaving them on the leaves) that they lay on the underside of my milkweed and put them in big pickle jars, 4 to a jar. I move them into what used to be a shed but is now also a monarch nursery. When the eggs hatch into caterpillars all they do is eat and poop so everyday I empty the poop and add fresh leaves. Then in the next stage of the process known as metamorphosis, the caterpillar forms a pupa, which hangs from the upper side of the jar. After a few more weeks the pupa turns black or transparent, and I know it will hatch in 24 hours. When I see the butterfly, I put it out in the sun on a bush where it stays for a few minutes or hours before flying away.

At the right time, I’ll have 5 or 10 Monarchs at once fluttering around in the garden and that brings me much joy.

I’m proud to support Nature Canada because of their work to protect nature and save wildlife. Climate change is already impacting wildlife, including my precious monarchs. Donating is my way of taking action. I’m impressed by the range of Nature Canada’s work—protecting wild places, lobbying governments and defending our environmental laws, encouraging people to get out in nature, and more.

I make a point of looking at and revising my Will every few years, and adding Nature Canada makes me feel good, knowing this work will go on forever. My Will reflects my values. I believe in the power of collective action. Supporting Nature Canada means I can have more impact, alongside like-minded people, and that gives me hope.

Thank you, Ann, for sharing your story. I love connecting with our donors and hearing your stories about why you love nature and commit to protecting it with your gifts today and your gifts in the future. You are always invited and encouraged to contact me for a confidential conversation about your gifts in action and how you can protect nature forever with a gift in your Will. Or consider attending our upcoming webinar on October 4th to hear more.  You can reach me at 1 (800) 267-4088 ext. 239 or jjoy@naturecanada.ca. Thank you!

The post Meet Ann, a ‘Monarch Midwife’ and Nature Canada Legacy Donor appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
 If You Love Animals, Keep Your Cat Indoors

Call it cat-rovercial, but if you’re a cat owner keeping them indoors is the best way to show them you love them. Compared to indoor cats, outdoor cats only have an average lifespan of five years, while indoor cats can live to see their 20th birthdays!

Free-roaming outdoor cats are more likely to be… 

Hit by carsKilled by chemicals or poisonPicked up by animal controlHarmed by diseases/infections/parasites from other animalsBecome lost or trappedAbused by peopleGet frostbiteBe eaten by coyotes, hawks, or foxesHurt or killed in fights with other cats or wild animals 

Imagine your beloved cat not coming home, or coming home with life-threatening injuries or diseases. This is the sad reality for too many pet owners. Even the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has taken an official position against free-roaming.

Cat safety is only one of the reasons why Nature Canada is calling on municipalities to limit free-roaming cats.

Doing so will do more than just keep fluffy safe. Keeping cats indoors reduces cat overpopulation, protects public health, and saves bird lives.

Yup—that’s right. Keeping cats indoors will benefit both our feline friends and our feathered friends. If you’ve had a dead bird ‘gifted’ to you by your pet cat, you’ll understand why. Every year in Canada, free-roaming and feral cats are estimated to kill somewhere between 100 and 350 million birds, not to mention that they leave orphaned baby birds behind.

This is especially bad news considering so many Canadian bird species are already Species at Risk. Between the years of 2001 and 2014, the number of bird species listed as At Risk increased from 47 to 86 between 2001 and 2014. Climate change, habitat destruction, and human activity are all devastating bird populations. 

Birds are up against so much. Let’s not add cats to the ever-growing list of threats to our feathered friends.

In Toronto, big things are happening around the indoor/outdoor cat debate. Proposed changes to the Toronto Animal Protection Bylaw #349 that would have prohibited letting cats roam free in the city were shot down by city council. This will only make things worse for Toronto’s birds (not to mention cats, people, and other wildlife). 

In 2011, Toronto Animal Services picked up more than 1,300 dead cats from the streets of the city—coming in second only to racoons and squirrels. Toronto is one of Canada’s leading and largest cities, and it needs to do better at protecting birds and other biodiversity. The City of Toronto was one of the very first to pass Bird Friendly Building Design Guidelines, why not go the extra mile to protect their feline and feathered friends? 

If you love animals, cats and birds alike, do not let your cat roam free amidst the many dangers the outside world offers. There are still plenty of ways for your pet to enjoy time outside, such as through outdoor enclosures, harnesses and leashes, pet strollers, and even pet backpacks!

If you’re curious as to how you can help to advocate in your municipality to help keep cats safe and save bird lives, check out our Municipal Brief for Cat and Bird Conservation. Already have an outdoor cat who may be resistant to indoor training? Nature Canada has you covered with our Retraining Guide.

Across the globe, we are seeing staggering biodiversity loss. Birds are suffering. Isn’t it worth it to keep your cat safe indoors to help do your part to lessen unprecedented extinctions?

The post  If You Love Animals, Keep Your Cat Indoors appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Saving The World’s Birds: Global Bird Rescue

Have you ever had a bird hit your window at home? At work? During the peak of fall migration in North America, an estimated 4 billion birds will have to navigate through cities, neighbourhoods, and other built environments. With the increased use of glass on buildings, railings, bus shelters and walkways, these areas become a dangerous obstacle. Millions of these birds will not arrive at their winter homes due to a fatal collision with glass. Did you know that you can help ensure they arrive safely?

A dead Red-breasted Nuthatch laying below a commercial building in Downtown Toronto. Reflective and transparent windows are seen.©Yuko – savebirdsto Join us for Global Bird Rescue

Global Bird Rescue, October 3-9, 2022, is an annual event held by FLAP Canada in partnership with Nature Canada, that encourages everyone to search for and rescue birds injured from collisions with glass. Anyone can participate and make an impact! Global Bird Rescue Teams and individuals from around the world take to the streets to search for and rescue injured birds, while recording window collisions on the Global Bird Collision Mapper. The data collected during this event, and all year round, inspires home and workplace bird-safe retrofits across the globe. There are currently teams in Canada, the USA, Palestine, China, Costa Rica and Nepal. The event is graciously sponsored by LUSH, Feather Friendly and Niagara Action for Animals.

©FLAP Canada, Patricia Seaton The Global Bird Collision Mapper

Every bird reported onto the Global Bird Collision Mapper during Global Bird Rescue (and the rest of the year!) helps us further understand the bird-building collision issue and push for bird-safe retrofits on dangerous buildings.

The Global Bird Collision Mapper (birdmapper.org) allows a registered user to report the species, location, time and status of the bird they recover, anywhere in the world. This community science tool shows every collision on its interactive GIS map, providing invaluable data.

Other ways to help during Global Bird Rescue 1. Make your windows bird-safe

Did you know the majority of bird collisions happen at low story buildings like homes and cottages? Make your windows bird-safe by following these window marker guidelines to make sure you don’t have any collisions at home this fall. There are products available like Feather Friendly DIY Tape, Acopian BirdSavers, or even DIY options like tempera paint, tape, and even soap. Every window we make bird-safe is a huge step towards protecting birds.

Image showing a window with bird-safe markings on them. One side shows dots, the other side shows criss-crossing lines. Text on the image reads: "Bird-safe Window markings should be:  1. On the outside of the window 2. Covering the entire window 3. Placed every 2 inches 4. Easily visible on the glass 5. Larger than 6mm in diameter."©FLAP Canada 2. Bird-safe legislation and retrofits

Pushing for bird-safe legislation will ensure that we continue to protect birds. Reach out to your local member of provincial parliament, City Councillors, and let them know about the issue, and that you would like them to support bird-safe legislature. Encouraging retrofits on commercial buildings with known window collisions is another fantastic way to help. Have you witnessed bird collisions at your workplace? Try reaching out to the building manager to let them know that retrofitting the building will save countless birds’ lives.

3. Turn lights off at night

As birds migrate at night, they use the stars to guide them. Bright lights from urban centres can draw birds off course. Once in these urban spaces, they risk colliding with glass. Do you have outside pot lights? Do your neighbours? Try turning these unnecessary outdoor lights off during migration in spring and fall, to help birds by-pass dangerous cities.

You can make a difference

Every single person can help protect birds from fatal collisions with glass. Participating in Global Bird Rescue and helping injured birds, making your home windows bird-safe, pushing for bird-safe legislation, telling your friends, neighbours and family about the issue, are all great ways to make a difference. Every year FLAP Canada picks up thousands of birds. Together, we can reduce these numbers.

The post Saving The World’s Birds: Global Bird Rescue appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Get to Know the 2022 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Winner: Kianna Bear-Hetherington!

Meet this year’s recipient: Kianna Bear-Hetherington, a proud Wolastoqey woman from the beautiful community of Sitansisk located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Being proudly of the Wolastoqiyik “people of the beautiful and bountiful river”, she grew up with a special relationship with the land and all living things in it. 

“My relationship with nature is based on a profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth.”

Kianna Bear-Hetherington A Passion for Indigenous Conservation 

A deep spiritual connection to nature and a burning desire to help Indigenous communities thrive drove her to complete a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Natural Resources with a major in Water Resource Management at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). She has recently applied to the University of Carleton in Ottawa to pursue a Master of Public Policy with a Concentration in Indigenous Policy in hopes of restoring connections to ancestral lands in meaningful ways through impactful legislation and policy changes.

In all areas of her life, she is a fierce advocate for the advancement of Indigenous rights by returning to our sacred relationship with our Mother Earth. 

“Reconnecting with my culture has helped me discover many passions and find purpose in the work that I do with the land. I am deeply passionate about bridging Indigenous knowledge systems and western science to establish a sustainable relationship with the land. My studies will allow me to create more inclusion of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge in the governance of natural resource management.”

In previous years, she assisted with major treaty rights and consultation files with Sitansisk and the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick (WWNB). These experiences were not only empowering as she was able to engage as an active member of her community, but also reinforced the beliefs and values that she intends to bring forward in her chosen career path. 

Currently, she also sits as the Indigenous Representative (Nuci Putuwasuwin) for the University of New Brunswick. In this role, she focuses on advancing efforts that improve the experiences and opportunities offered to Indigenous students through a culturally safe lens. 

Giving back to her community

“Volunteering my time to help my community thrive is something that I value and never get tired of. Some of that volunteer work is spent at various powwows, helping out wherever I am needed, but also in organizing culturally relevant workshops for youth including harvesting sweetgrass, traditional basket making and drum making.”  

These experiences have also allowed her to connect more with the people in her community in meaningful ways, hearing their stories and experiences and using that to help guide her leadership. 

Diving into Nature

Kianna recently had the incredible opportunity to spend the whole month of July in Croatia as a Research Assistant with Operation Wallacea. The first two weeks, she was based in Krka National Park where she was responsible for conducting conservation fieldwork that included transect surveys, point counts, and mist netting on a range of species that called Krka their home.

She spent her final two weeks diving off the coast of Silba Island, within the Adriatic Sea gaining both her PADI Open Water Qualification and Advanced Diver Qualification. Here, she focused on marine research and participated in a Mediterranean ecology and survey techniques course while undertaking research surveys on Mediterranean fish communities, the impact of sea urchin populations and the role of seagrass meadows in supporting fish and invertebrate biodiversity.

Plans for the Future 

Her future career goal is to complete a law degree so she can represent a collective of voices which often go unheard the most. She is inspired to create greater recognition of Indigenous governments and peoples through the courts, parliament, and legislatures because it is important to acquire their perspective on all issues, not just the ones that affect non-Indigenous people.

“I want to be a voice for communities facing environmental injustices and encourage the youth in my community to use their voices as well. Through my passion for environmental stewardship and Indigenous rights, I hope to educate and inspire Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth alike to engage in respectful, reciprocal relationships with nature and Indigenous communities. It is important to empower the next generation to become conscious leaders in conservation.”

A thank you to the Labatiuk Family

“I want Nature Canada and the Labatiuk Family to know how incredibly honoured and grateful I am for this opportunity I have been awarded. Without your donation, I wouldn’t be able to raise the funds necessary to fulfill my ambition of becoming a lawyer to represent the Wolastoqey nation. Your generosity is allowing me to make my goals and dreams a reality. Woliwon, Welalin, Thank you for your continued support and investment in my future.”

We at Nature Canada are excited to see Kianna’s next step in the world of Indigenous conservation. We are confident her passion for nature will make a real difference in the world. 

The post Get to Know the 2022 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Winner: Kianna Bear-Hetherington! appeared first on Nature Canada.

- Nature Canada
Greetings From the Red-necked Grebe, Water Dancer Extraordinaire

Contrary to what their name suggests, Red-necked Grebes aren’t resourceful country folk wielding duct tape and wearing overalls unironically. Still, these birds have a unique charm that’s all their own. Read on to learn about these deep-diving-feather-eating dapper dancers!

Red-necked Grebe Identification

Nonbreeding Red-necked Grebes have dark grey backs, pale bellies, and light coloured cheeks and sides of neck. Breeding adults develop a rust-coloured red breast and neck front, as well as a black cap and well-defined silver cheek. These aquatic birds have long necks and big, knife-like yellow bills. They are larger than most Grebes, but are a little smaller than a Mallard

These birds have small legs and wings, making take-offs difficult and making them clumsy in flight and on land. Outside of migration, Red-necked Grebes much prefer swimming to air travel, and if they’re trying to make a quick getaway from a predator, they’re going to dive rather than fly away.

Where do Red-necked Grebes live?

Red-necked Grebes are migratory waterbirds that inhabit lakes, marshes, and coasts in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, like northern North America, Europe, and Asia. They tend to migrate over land at night and off coastlines during the day. They usually like to live in freshwater lakes and ponds in the summer and saltwater bays and estuaries in the winter, preferring calm and shallow waters over rough waves. 

A Day in the Life of a Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebes build nests made of plants that float on shallow marshy water, anchored by the stems of standing plants. They dive underwater looking for fish to eat or they forage for insects, invertebrates, crustaceans and waterside plants on the water’s surface. They can be territorial when it comes to protecting food sources and their young, and aren’t above low blows like attacking transgressors underwater and jabbing them in the stomach with their sharp bills.

Nothing brings more excitement to the life of a Red-necked Grebe than mating season. Courtship displays of the Red-necked Grebe are loud and intricate, and complex, with a cacophony of squeaks, wails, and even growls! Males raise their handsome crests, and ‘dance’ breast to breast with females, rising up out of the water and turning their heads side to side. Could this tango be why a group of Red-necked Grebes are called a “water dance” of grebes? For especially lucky ladies, males bear gifts of the most succulent, verdant weeds from the bottom of the waterbody. 

Once nests have been built, dinner has been eaten, adversaries have been chased away, and love has been found, it’s time to relax. Like many birds, Red-necked Grebe like to kick back with some self care by preening their feathers. Sometimes, they swallow their feathers and feed them to their chicks! The exact reason for this is unknown, though the behavior may have the digestive benefit of protecting the lower tract from sharp, hard, or indigestible material like bone. 

Are Red-necked Grebes endangered?

Although Red-necked Grebes are considered a species of Least Concern, their population status is not well known, and may be slightly declining due to polluted habitat in their winter coastal areas. Oil spills degrade habitat while commercial fishing nets can entangle the birds in deadly snares.

Red-necked Grebes play an important role in their habitats. They help keep the balance of the ecosystems they live in by keeping fish populations in check, while their eggs and chicks provide food for predators like eagles, mink, and pike.

Stay tuned with the latest in Canadian nature by subscribing to our emails. You’ll receive regular updates about what we’re doing to protect species like the Red-necked Grebe, and how you can help.

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- Mark
An update on bird flu

There’s a very good article in October Birdwatch by David Campbell – of course it doesn’t make happy reading but it covers the ground and the issues well, including some interesting international aspects. As the article says ‘…losses were catastrophic’.

On Farming Today this morning (click here about 7 minutes into the programme) there was discussion of vaccinating commercial flocks of poultry, but this seems to have quite a few drawbacks at the moment – including the fact that it probably won’t work very well! My ears pricked up when I heard ‘We must be clear, vaccination can only be one arm of the control programme. The baseline of any control programme has to be, to prevent the virus entering your farm or your birds and so good biosecurity is critical to that.‘.  What a pity then, that we understand so little about the mechanism by which the virus does get into poultry sheds. What is the link, the actual real link, between wild birds and infections in closed poultry units? I’ve been asking this question since at least 2016 on this blog (see here) and actually for much longer, but we do not appear to be much further fowrward with it. That’s because DEFRA has been content to be in ignorance so that they can say ‘wild birds’ over and over again, I reckon.

I also hear rumours that DEFRA is seriously considering admitting that bird/poultry flu is now endemic in the UK.

Tomorrow will probably see the weekly update on cases of bird flu in wild birds.

- Mark
Guest blog – Saving Dead Wood (2) by Les Wallace

Who I am – Scottish with a fascination for wildlife from childhood – in lieu of formal qualifications (and not being able to flash them about!) – was on the 1990 International Youth Conservation Exchange to Hungary, was the 1993 winner of the BBC Wildlife Magazine ‘Realms of the Russian Bear’ competition and spent nearly two weeks in the Aksu Zhabagly Reserve in Kazakhstan as the prize – found the local stomach bug was much more dangerous than the brown bears. Especially interested in the removal of invasive non native plants and conservation of dead wood and trees and associated fauna/flora as conservation issues – my personal experience suggests they are badly neglected topics. My main background is in recycling and waste reduction.

Les’s previous guest blogs here were in September 2018, Driven Grouse Shooting – your bluff’s been called, in February 2021 Jagged Ends,  Blue Frogs and Scimitar Cats and Saving Dead Wood (1) both in August this year.

‘ADVENTURES’ WITH A PLAQUE TO SAVE DEAD TREES

Saving Dead Wood Part 1 looked at the triple whammy that hits it in public woodlands through failings in the current public consultation process, a dislike and even repugnance a proportion of the public has for it, and conservation organisations being very poor in promoting the ecological value of dead wood generally. It’s therefore usually removed, at worst to be burnt in situ or in a stove or at very poor best stacked under a bush somewhere out of sight to provide some, if probably reduced, value for flora and fauna. This seriously compromises the wildlife value of our woodland, at the same time as our area of native tree cover expands its ecological function and biodiversity declines, more and more young trees, less and less woodland with dead wood – wildlife continues its downward spiral.

Standing dead wood like this old birch provides a different habitat from loose, horizontal dead wood. It’s more exposed therefore warmer and drier for invertebrates and some species like, as here, bracket fungus (almost certainly birch polypore Pipoporus betulinus) only grow on upright dead wood. It also provides infinitely better and safer roost, nesting and hibernation sites for invertebrates, birds and bats than if it were lying on the ground. Unfortunately dead trees are highly conspicuous and usually the first and biggest victims of anti dead wood prejudices and ignorance.

Worst affected of all are of course dead trees, standing dead wood. Through contrast with adjacent live trees extremely conspicuous, if anything even more so when standing alone. There’s no way we can pretend they’re not there. When most voices in a public consultation say dead wood is unsightly, at least loose dead wood can be moved where it won’t be seen, but dead trees have to come down and that’s very bad news for the fungi, lichens and beetles that specifically need standing dead wood which is drier and warmer than the horizontal variety. Although woodpeckers can feed on the latter they’re not comfortable in doing so, they’re designed to feed on vertical structures. Likewise, while a dead tree can be an excellent roost for bats, it would be virtually useless as such once fallen over or cut down – then it’s far more accessible for predators but less accessible for a flying mammal landing and taking off.

Bird and bat boxes, artificial pine marten dens and to a certain extent bug hotels are a bit like the prefab housing built just after WWII, emergency accommodation in the absence of the ‘proper’ kind. We have a massive dearth of dead standing wood and there’s nothing we can substitute for the full range of ecological niches for either the species that feed upon the various elements of it or the invertebrates, birds and mammals that use the incredible variety of physical niches from soggy rot holes to gaps behind peeling bark dead trees provide for breeding, roost, and hibernation sites. There’s a desperate need for more dead trees, but it takes a very long time for them to develop, pretty much mirroring the time taken to reach maturity. Instead as outlined in the previous guest blog dead and dying trees are all too often the victim of warped aesthetic conventions. Putting up a nest box is essentially an apology for creating a dire wildlife housing crisis, but we need to make full amends starting by protecting dead trees, not vilifying them as an eyesore.

It’s a problem that’s plagued me for years, how can we nip in the bud that kneejerk, uniformed response from many that sees a dead tree as a visual abhorrence that must come down? Information stands might have a limited role to play in some locations, but expense and general impracticality (susceptibility to vandalism for one thing) means that it’s not really the answer most of the time or place. Putting up a nest box on a conspicuous position on a dead tree might deter people from asking for it to be cut down. Even if it’s too exposed to be used by birds in a rather messy and convoluted way the nest box is still establishing an association between a dead tree and wildlife in peoples’ minds. It’s hardly educational as such though and although not the worst gimmick in the world, still a gimmick. Not the answer, more an act of desperation.

What may turn out to be a genuine and surprisingly effective part of the answer had been staring me straight in the face for many months before it finally occurred to me. I once spent fourteen months working as a Home Energy Advisor on a government scheme aimed at reducing household fuel poverty and carbon emissions. This required going door to door carrying out surveys and giving advice. In that time, I must have looked at hundreds of house numbers carved into or painted on a piece of wood made from a cross section of tree that was hung next to the door. You’ll have seen them yourself, basically what could be called a wooden plaque made from cutting a slice out of a tree trunk. Relatively simple, and potentially inexpensive what if instead of house numbers these could carry a concise message and an image (of the wildlife using dead trees – bats, woodpeckers, and invertebrates) to be put high up on dead trees to be conspicuous and out of reach of vandals? They would rot down very slowly over many years with the tree they’re on and aesthetically being naturalistic, asymmetric in look would fit in very well. Even a square piece of planed wood would seem a little out of place, artificial and intrusive while rough wooden plaques would fit in so much better visually, and you could tailor the message/image on each individually regarding where it’s to go. It’s a very simple idea that really should’ve occurred to me sooner, but at least its simplicity could be its strength.

One of Westquarter Wildlife Group’s pro dead wood plaques in its ‘natural habitat’, doing its job. Definitely simple in concept, straightforward if you can get the wooden discs and someone is good with a router, so potentially cheap too with enough goodwill. One or more of these on a dead tree could prevent a tidy sum being spent cutting it down for no better reason than someone doesn’t like looking at dead trees. Worth a try?

The problem with ideas is that it takes hard work and ability to turn them into reality, and therefore I was stuffed and totally dependent on other people to do so. At the time I was a member of the sadly now defunct, but wonderful while it lasted Westquarter Wildlife Group. It had been going for some years before I joined in a lower income area several of us had grown up in. It showed that pigeonholing natural history and conservation as solely a middle-class interest or even affectation is a myth and a dangerous one, nature is free that makes it even more, not less, important for people with restricted incomes. It must be said that the support we received from outside individuals and organisations because of where we were and what we were trying to do was outstanding. It was because of this that when the group decided to pursue this idea, we got fantastic help from the start.

Yes, the ‘blanks’ we needed cut from tree trunks were theoretically straightforward, simple things until you try to get your hands on any, we hardly ran our own sawmill. Fortunately, an acquaintance at what was then Forestry Commission Scotland provided some from ongoing forestry operations (no trees were cut down specifically for us) which was the crucial first step without which we’d have been stuck – so thank you Gordon!! We decided we would use what’s called a router to carve out wood to form the message, the same principle as engraving metal or glass. Funds provided by the National Lottery were used to buy one, then friend and group member Amanda took it upon herself to learn to use it. She did well, the plaque with a woodpecker was I think a wee masterpiece. Because space is restricted on these plaques and using a router time consuming, we took a path that I’m afraid will offend some sensibilities. We used ‘textese’, for instance ‘DIS TREE IS GR8 4 WILDLIFE’ – it made life easier for us and there was some fun to be had in dreaming up the text. It’s not obligatory, English teachers might wish it was a capital offense if it were.

Not our best pro dead wood plaque, but it serves its purpose as a prop to help get the idea across when speaking to other wildlife lovers at meetings, events, festivals, presentations and consultations. I’ve had a few wee ‘adventures’ with it over the years.

Once finished one of our council’s rangers and an assistant helped us secure a couple of the plaques to dead trees in our local wood where they were conspicuous and safe from vandals. It was a rather damp, underwhelming autumn afternoon, but as far as I know it was technically a world first in the world of dead wood conservation, a thought that pleased me at least. We learned a few things the hard way. Bark peels away from a dead tree and that will happen more quickly if a comparatively heavy plaque is attached to it. Sadly, we lost our best one Amanda’s beautiful woodpecker thanks to that – best to attach plaques directly to a solid, bark less part of the tree. The plaques also weathered and darkened quickly so the router should have carved out wider channels that would’ve been more prominent, and perhaps a wee bit of varnish might’ve helped. There’s also nothing stopping having more than one plaque per tree.

An option we never got round to trying, but I believe could be very effective is getting school children involved. True using a router and or going up a ladder are probably out for them from a H & S perspective, but once it’s explained why dead trees important, and what wildlife is dependent on them, they could certainly design and stencil the images and messages to be used and be in attendance when the plaques are placed on to the dead tree(s), hopefully with local press in tow. Braying to have dead trees taken down because they’re supposedly ugly when children have tried to educate their ‘peers’ about their value to wildlife would look and feel rather tawdry – because it would be. Ignoring the ‘morality’ of putting subjective aesthetics before wildlife, and the wishes of children to protect it is the height of selfishness and being naff, not good having it underlined publicly.

So, there we go potentially a very simple and practical idea – essentially nailing a small piece of wood to a much bigger one – that could save a wildlife friendly dead tree and the time, effort and lots of money spent taking it down because someone says they think it doesn’t look nice. A big step forward from the current…well nothing….and a useful addition to the toolkit conservation organisations use to educate the public about the vital conservation importance of dead wood. Except that there isn’t any toolkit for educating the public about dead wood.

That’s quite a strong and rather accusatory statement so please bear with me a while I try to justify it. After a slow start giving the conservation of dead wood the attention it deserves (see previous blog ‘Jagged Ends’) many organisations are finally starting to do some very advanced work, snapping branches off with winches to replicate how storm damage creates fractured surfaces with niches for invertebrates and fungal spores, translocating dead wood associated species, boring holes in stumps to create rot holes etc, etc. My goodness this is sometimes even accompanied by good quality educational work!

But what’s happening or rather not happening outside of these little bubbles called nature reserves? Where’s the high-profile awareness raising to get the public to appreciate and understand the role of dead wood in their local woodlands? We have high big campaigns to get people to plant trees, to the point they end up getting planted where they shouldn’t and all too often too many get planted too close together because of the numbers game. Technically you’re expecting less of people by asking them not to dislike dead wood than you are by asking them to put on a pair of wellies and come out to get muddy sticking in trees on often rather dreary autumn weekends when there’s so much else, they could do. So, why in the public sphere the deafening silence about the conservation value of dead wood?

I have my own personal theory or more accurately suspicions why there’s such a glaring anomaly and failure in conservation/public education policy. No one is ever likely to criticise efforts to save farmland birds like turtle doves, yellowhammers, and tree sparrows, even the comparatively drab corn bunting is still a ‘sweet little birdie’. Now compare that with the reaction you’ll get if you publicise the importance of having dead trees wherever you have live ones, or in waterways or in any habitat in fact. There’ll be a very loud and negative reaction from a section of the public who loath the sight of dead wood, claiming it’s ugly and even diseased. Unfortunately, even ill informed, selfish, and arrogant attitudes somehow become sacrosanct when they are from ‘the public’ – obviously non pc to question them, all views MUST be treated with respect, which is surely ridiculous and very damaging. Only allowing all to have their say and give it a fair hearing should be mandatory, that’s democracy, but so is being able to challenge it.

When it comes to avoiding any negativity to conservation in the public sphere the NGOs seem to be treading on eggshells. Finally, progress is being made in getting wildflower meadows in more public spaces, flowers are pretty, and they help pollinators upon which many of our crops are dependent – like farmland birds not exactly a hard sell. However, many of those same pollinators need ‘weeds’ such as bramble, nettle, and dock for their larval stages and how many conservation organisations are calling for the creation and protection of them alongside wildflowers? There’s clearly acceptable and unacceptable nature in the eyes of some, but ecosystems don’t work on that basis we need all of it.

The price for not riling the reactionary is unfortunately a seriously watered-down approach that stops a broader range of the public getting on our side if only they were given the relevant information. How many more people would want to see the rewilding of our over grazed, over burnt tree less hills if they knew it reduced the chance of their homes flooding and that their money is which is subsidising the uneconomic activities heightening flood risk would be so much better spent on anything and everything from reducing food waste to the NHS to school trips to care for the elderly than keeping hills wildlife poor and flood friendly? I can’t recall one instance where the conservation organisations really went to town pushing this issue of massive public interest. If they haven’t done so because they want to keep on good terms to debate and negotiate with the vested interests responsible for the current state of our uplands, then shame on them.

So, what might be a useful aid in protecting dead trees has in the past ten years since the first ones were put up been pretty much floating around in limbo not necessarily as a failing on its part, but the lack of a proper platform to use it. Unfortunately changes in H & S regulations meant our original supply of blank plaques ended otherwise we could have kept making ones to donate to other groups and some back to Forestry Commission Scotland itself. That could have done a lot to help, but we could find no alternative supply. If so, we could’ve sent one down to Hardcastle Crags a National Trust property in Yorkshire where they’re doing excellent work in using dead wood dams to reduce flooding downhill. On a Countryfile program the presenter asked a staff member the significance of a dead tree left standing. There was no information in situ, so it was explained because it was great for wildlife. One or more plaques on the tree would have helped get the message across when a NT employee wasn’t at hand, and of course being seen on national television would’ve demonstrated the value of the plaques to an enormous audience. I’ve contacted them since, but that’s a bit lacklustre when you don’t have anything physical to pass on, just an outline of the idea.

I do happen to have a spare plaque, but it’s needed as a prop to promote the idea at talks, presentations, and meetings – pretty much the only option left in drumming up any support for it, that and writing in guest blogs of course. Whenever I’m going to a conference, an event or outdoor festival the plaque is usually stowed away in the little ex-army rucksack that goes practically everywhere with me. If I encounter someone who I think might be interested, I’ll show the plaque and give the background story. This has resulted in a few photographs being taken so hopefully the message does get across sometimes, but in quite advanced middle age it’s strange to be overtaken by adolescent like shyness and self-consciousness when approaching a complete stranger (on the basis they work for Buglife, the Woodland Trust etc I should add) removing a wooden plaque with routered text and image on it pulled from an old rucksack, and launching into spiel about the need to protect dead trees. It wouldn’t be so bad if the adolescent awkwardness was accompanied by the adolescent flat stomach, clear complexion, and higher energy levels, but sadly sod’s law is well and truly in operation, and I’m stuck with the worst of the young and old fart me. There have been some little adventures and perhaps even close misses though in getting the message out to a wider audience over the years. The very best one was when I was invited to an evening event at the Scottish Parliament celebrating the work of Revive: The Coalition for Grouse Moor Reform three years ago. The honoured guest was to be a certain Mr Christopher Gary Packham no less. This was the golden opportunity to get what in marketing they call ‘a product champion’ on board if I was very lucky. So, the plaque went into the old ruck sack and then through the metal detector at the security portal in the entrance of the parliament. I met a few old acquaintances, some new ones I’d only known through face book before and just before the event officially began CP arrived. At one stage I was standing about ten inches away from the great man, but it wasn’t a good time to talk.

His speech was excellent and the subsequent discussions I had with fellow participants were thoroughly enjoyable, but Chris seemed to have disappeared, I assumed he wasn’t too keen on crowds. Eventually a group of us went away for our own wee meeting in the pub. It was only later I found out Chris had gone off to one side of the room where people politely approached him to have a quick chat, say hi and thanks for his many efforts on behalf of wildlife. I kicked myself for missing him, I had desperately wanted to thank him for his help with a petition I’d set up, and I felt if the idea behind the plaque was bona fide Chris would be an excellent judge and if supportive a fantastic help in promoting the idea. In the last series of Springwatch he certainly did raise the issue of the conservation value of dead trees, specifically regarding the lesser spotted woodpecker. Of course, he might have told me it was rubbish, but somehow I wouldn’t have minded it so much coming from him.

There was an incident though where things did go to plan, quite beautifully in fact and in a way that brought me incredible satisfaction. In the previous blog I wrote at length of my frustrations at the public consultation process where being loud, ignorant, and indignant tends to carry the day rather than being conscientious and well informed. I stressed that conservation organisations and wildlife lovers need to be equally assertive and forthright in putting forward their views and aims – we can’t sit in the corner, wring our hands, and get anywhere. I’m glad to say that for once I’d put my money where my mouth, ten years ago now, the plaque was involved, and it was bloody great!

The RSPB had just obtained three million pounds from the lottery to oversee the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative (I.F.L.I) a multi-year project to make both the natural and industrial/historical heritage of the upper Forth estuary more accessible to all. An excellent project encompassing an awful lot of habitats, human heritage sites and kindred communities. The RSPB therefore embarked upon a series of public consultation meetings throughout the district trying to reach as many people as possible.

I attended one in late 2012, the RSPB were welcoming, but instead of putting plans of their own forward to ask for feedback, they outlined the aims of the I.F.L.I in the very broadest sense. This was well meant, but I believe a big mistake – it looked far too much like trying to fit in conservation after everybody else had said what they wanted, relegation to the margins yet again. The RSPB was entitled to put its plans forward first then review responses – that’s what everyone else does including developers, but somehow conservation organisations must do more. The bar seems to be automatically set higher when protecting wildlife is on the cards.

After the introduction we were to separate into discussion groups on different topics. Not surprisingly I chose the table on woodlands. A RSPB staff member was allocated to us – all had been extremely friendly and never passed comment or judgement on any response, but dutifully noted them down and thanked the participant for making it. After the staffer introduced himself, we were invited to make comments. The first to do so was a man to my immediate right about the same age as myself. In a somewhat pompous, loud, and indignant voice he announced “Our woods are untidy!! They need to be tidied up!!” He didn’t specify what he meant by untidy, perhaps he was referring to burnt out cars, dumped fridges and crisp packets, but I doubt it, I’m sure he would have said so. No this was someone deeply affronted, offended even because he would go into a woodland, and it was a woodland not a sterile municipal park. Oh the suffering!!!!!

Right there and then was the vindication why I was sitting at the same table with a wooden plaque in my rucksack carrying a message to appreciate what he clearly wanted removed. After so many years of frustration at the loud, uninformed, and reactionary scuppering local conservation projects here I finally was at the right time and place to counter it for once. I wasn’t one of the RSPB employees who no doubt had to bite their tongues behind fixed smiles, I was there as a member of the public who had as much right to express their opinion as forthrightly as they wished as anybody else – so I let rip.

I would love to say that what henceforth issued forth from my lips was articulate and eloquent, it wasn’t I was too pissed off for that – my excuse anyway. However, my irritation did mean the comments were delivered in a no-nonsense tone that meant I expected to be taken seriously. I began by stressing our woodlands are not parks, people who didn’t have the education to appreciate woodlands as wildlife habitat should keep to parks and not inflict their ignorance on the rest of us (I didn’t have to hold back so I didn’t), a large number of people don’t even understand where their food comes from so it’s not surprising they don’t understand why dead wood and trees are vital elements for woodland wildlife. At this stage I produced the plaque from my rucksack and used it to underline how and why we needed to educate the public and especially children about the ecology of our woodlands not waste scarce resources to ‘tidy them up’. When I’d finished the man who’d made the original comment – for one thing didn’t claim he’d really been referring to litter – said absolutely nothing. I doubt I’d changed his attitude, but his silence was a victory of sorts. It felt great.

It might sound like I’m making a massive meal of this one incident, but it’s the comments like the one I replied to that again and again have meant small fortunes that could’ve been spent on creating wildlife habitat or environmental education have instead been used to send gangs of chainsaw operators to remove dead trees. For the want of more proactivity on the part of our NGOs, and sometimes the unwillingness of individual wildlife lovers to exert their rights to push their views as much as anyone else, progress for conservation generally is reduced to a snail’s pace, and dead wood in particular is being hammered.

I’ve been carrying the plaque around for so many years now I’ve started to joke I’m getting to be like the log lady in Twin Peaks (the ‘log laddie?’). I’m glad to say I don’t have conversations with my piece of wood…not yet at least. I do, however, almost feel sorry for it – always the bridesmaid never quite the bride. If someone could point out how it’s an impractical suggestion, a waste of time that should be dropped they’d be doing me a favour. But I can’t see how it is given the terrible technical inadequacy and lack of commitment there is within the mainstream conservation movement in promoting within the public sphere the need for dead wood and trees to be conserved. Simple and basic though they are the plaques are a something when now there’s nothing, they could be part of a future toolkit of measures to help save dead wood should the NGOs pull their socks up and create one.

If you’ve managed to read this far (well done!), as ever I’d be grateful for feedback and if anyone can secure their own supply of ‘blanks’, trees brought down because of ash dieback might be a good source (if spreading the disease via them can be avoided), get a router and have a bit more competence with it than I then there’s nothing stopping you making plaques for dead trees like Westquarter Wildlife Group. In fact, I’d be absolutely delighted if you did.

- Mark

There’s a new government in the UK and an almost completely new team in Defra, but they’ve already made their mark by making statements which, taken at face value, look like an attack on the legal protections that apply to sites, habitats and species and also the greener policies that are being developed for farming in England. If you live outside of England thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to deal with this lot, and thank your fellow voters that similar things aren’t happening in your neck of the woods.

What is happening now all goes back to Brexit. I blame David Cameron.

Post-Brexit there has always been the likelihood that some of the most ardent Brexiteers would rather mindlessly start hacking away at any legislation that had the ‘EU’ label on it, things such as the Habitats and Species Directive (actually invented by a former British civil servant and MEP called Stanley Johnson – yes, Boris’s father). With its massive majority this government was able to give itself Henry VIII powers to amend legislation without full legislative scrutiny and it looks like we may see those used in future. This is really bad news for wildlife, and we are likely to see environmental protection reduced in the name of economic growth. A lot of things are being reduced at the moment, such as the value of the pound, confidence in the UK economy and so why should the environment get away untouched? Watch this space.

But also, at the same time, it seems as though the only environmental bright spot in Brexit, the chance to come up with a better way to encourage wildlife in the farmed environment, is also being swept away – dramatically and without warning.

The background to this is that the Common Agricultural Policy has not done a good job for wildlife over many decades, but then, the clue is in the name, it started as a post-WWII policy on food security with lashings of money for farmers and has slowly evolved to have green edges, but so slowly that the impact of intensive agriculture on wildlife has outstripped any net ameliorating impact of agri-environment schemes. the declines in wildlife on UK farmland have been greater than elsewhere in Europe – maybe we were better Europeans or was it simply that our farmland has been farmed to within an inch of its remaining wildlife and that hasn’t happened to quite the same extent elsewhere in the EU?  Surely, we could do much better with our brain power out of the EU? Well, the scheme in England that has been shelved, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not, has been groping towards that position. It has to be said that Defra looks as though it has been struggling with the development and roll out of a new scheme – not so easy standing on your own feet is it?

So, the big danger, the always predictable danger (and yes, I am exercising quite considerable restraint in not saying ‘I told you so’) is that we get the cuts to protection of sites, species and habitats and get no bright new environmentally friendly management scheme to soften the blow. I didn’t vote for Brexit and have never voted Conservative – how about you?

Maybe it won’t be that bad, there really might be quite a lot of thrashing around before any of this gets sorted out. For a very sensible view on things listen to Farming Today and Dieter Helm talking about this issue this morning at the end of the programme (click here).  See also this Defra blog (click here) claiming to be misunderstood – do you believe them?

There’s a masochistic part of me that wonders whether the more the new government destroy the UK economy the more likely it is that a new government in just over a couple of years might be able to make a new start to environmental protection. Wishful thinking?

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