Free-flowing rivers bring life to Alaska’s Bristol Bay

For salmon, Bristol Bay is like a warm reception hall. Every summer, after years of navigating the wild waters of the Pacific Ocean, tens of millions of salmon arrive, seeking entry to the freshwater rivers that flow into the Bay. The fish surge upstream, instinctively navigating the clear waters of the intricate network of streams and lakes where water flows freely for miles and miles. In this pursuit to spawn, salmon also form a cornerstone to  a natural cycle that supports whales, birds, brown bears—and people.

Of the five salmon species fished in Bristol Bay, the sockeye fishery alone is worth $1.5 billion each year. In fact, nearly 20,000 jobs throughout the United States annually depend on the health of this run. Beyond the economic benefits, some 4,000 Bristol Bay locals, including many native Yup’ik and Dena’ina, depend on these fish, along with other subsistence foods  for 80% of their protein.

These fish form an integral part of the food chain for wildlife, from the offshore ecosystem of Bristol Bay all the way up to the headwaters. While belugas and orcas hunt offshore, brown bears and eagles in the tundra and hills above fish for their next meal. Even in a lake hidden hundreds of miles away in the bay’s headwaters, one of the planet’s only population of freshwater seals feast on the salmon.

These fish are the red blood cells that bring life to this region, the rivers the arteries that carry them. When those arteries become poisoned, then the system starts to break down. Now a proposal for a large, open-pit copper and gold mine risks ruining the natural resources that people and wildlife have relied on for centuries.

The Pebble Mine would extend one-mile-wide and a quarter-mile deep, destroying over 3,000 acres of wetlands and more than 21 miles of salmon streams. The infrastructure required to construct this mammoth mine would also disrupt this intact, free-flowing network of rivers that brings the entire watershed to life. For example, the current project calls for a road more than 80-miles long crossing more than 200 streams with a port facility at the end of it and a two-mile long dock into a shore of Bristol Bay that’s known habitat for an endangered population of Beluga whales.

In addition to the calamitous infrastructure, the tons of acid mine waste generated from this temporary extractive enterprise would pose a direct risk to the health of the bay and its headwaters, as well as the globally important fishery that swims in them. Disruptions to the hydrology and ecosystem health would harm the local economy and people with global ripple effects.

The US government is attempting to fast track the permitting process for Pebble Mine, a development that the US Environmental Protection Agency warns would cause irreparable, damaging impacts on both people and nature. In fact, the EPA found in a scientific study that, even without a mine disaster, construction of the Pebble deposit would destroy 94 miles of salmon streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds.

To protect the health of the ecosystems, wildlife and communities dependent on these connected waterways, WWF is educating the US government about the importance of the bay to Alaska and the rest of the U.S. We are also partnering with in-region organizations to amplify the voices of local communities and Native voices as well as promoting  support for a sustainable economy that lasts well into the future.

People from around the world are vocalizing their opposition to the project, citing the unparalleled ecological value of this region.

News Source: Worldwildlife

Should Facebook block “Illegal Wildlife Trafficking” advertisements?

While Mark Zuckerberg was testifying before Congress about Facebook providing user information to Cambridge Analytica, additional disturbing news about his company was making headlines.

Facebook has been making a profit by selling ads on pages that are operated by illegal wildlife traffickers. The pages sell the body parts of endangered animals, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

That’s right, Facebook has allegedly been making money off of the sellers of items like elephant ivory, rhino horns and tiger teeth — in fact, an Associated Press article included a screen grab of a Facebookgroup page displaying buckets full of the teeth.

According to the complaint, Facebook is violating its responsibilities as a publicly-traded company by knowingly profiting from the criminal trafficking of endangered species. The anonymous whistleblower complaint was filed in August 2017 by the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto.

As for just how much Facebook is profiting from these ads, the company has never disclosed in its regulatory findings the revenue it may be earning from illegal traffickers, the AP reports.

Hopefully the complaint will launch an SEC investigation into exactly how much of the company’s annual $41 billion revenue is from the sale of endangered animal parts.

Ironically, Facebook was one of 21 technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, that joined the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online just one month ago. The coalition’s goal is to reduce online wildlife trafficking by 80 percent over the next two years.

“Extinctions are forever, so it is an urgent necessity to stop the trafficking on Facebook of critically endangered species immediately and forever,”said the law firm’s Stephen M. Kohn in a statement April 10. “Part of the SEC’s responsibility is to ensure that Facebook investors aren’t unwittingly involved with the criminal trafficking of endangered species.”

That same day, Facebook released its own statement saying it doesn’t permit the sale of wildlife, endangered species or their parts, and that it removes groups that have been identified as engaging in illegal conduct.

But according to the statement from Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, a months-long investigation of various social media platforms by the law firm’s undercover team found “rampant wildlife activity in two places: Facebook and Instagram.”

(Instagram – surprise! — is owned by Facebook.) The statement described the amount of wildlife parts being sold in closed and private Facebook groups as “horrifying.”

“At a time when the world is losing 30,000 elephants a year to poachers, the amount of ivory sold on Facebook is particularly shocking,” the law firm stated.

Its undercover team identified more than a dozen wildlife trafficking networks operating on Facebook and traveled to Vietnam and Laos to meet with ivory traders to confirm they were actively marketing their products on the social media platform.

The word “horrifying” was also used by Gretchen Peters, executive director of the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime, a nonprofit dedicated to helping governments and communities more efficiently counter these groups.

“I have looked at thousands of posts containing ivory, and I am convinced that Facebook is literally facilitating the extinction of the elephant species,” Peters told the AP.

Instead of helping to decimate what’s left of endangered species, Facebook could do a lot to save them by turning over the information it has about wildlife traffickers to authorities – just like it turned over information about users to Cambridge Analytica.

Doing so could help lead to the largest wildlife law enforcement operation ever, the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto said in its statement.

Facebook is already losing users, along with billions of dollars in shareholder wealth, over its mishandling of their private information. Even more users and shareholder wealth could (and should) be lost over the very troubling news that Facebook is apparently enabling the illegal trafficking of endangered wildlife.

Please sign this petition urging Facebook to stop advertising on the pages of illegal wildlife traffickers, remove the pages and report these criminals to authorities.

This article was first published by on 12 Apr 2018.

For a new relationship with Wilderness

There was a time, not-so-very-distant-at-all, when wilderness management corresponded to “the art of producing sustained populations of wild vertebrates for man’s convenience, pleasure, and use” (Alexander, 1962). Wildlife conservation so far has indeed been more about human satisfaction than natural balance.

A healthy wildlife population is one of the pillars of humanity and nature as we understand it. From termite to tiger, each link of the chain of life matters, and it matters that they remain wild. Let us explain why wild animals make your life possible.

The simplification of life

But first, we must understand what makes an animal wild or tamed, and how we came to this distinction.

Animal domestication appeared before agriculture did. Over the course of generations, humans have selected and favorised the breeds, the genes and the attitudes they prefered for their use. This led to specific traits such as aggressivity, physical aspect or diet to progressively fade or become more prominent. This effectively created a genetic difference between wild and domesticated animals.

Wild animals evolve in much more complex environments. Nature opposes challenges that teach animals to think on their feet and to stay on their toes (they don’t learn to walk though). But they are to a certain degree and in many respects more astute than “our” domestic animals.

Wilderness also has a way of regulating itself that civilisation simply hasn’t been able to match nor imitate. The natural system leaves no waste aside. The variety of ecological niches allows for individual species to develop, evolve and naturally move in different directions. This in turn creates more biodiversity, and adds complexity to what can be considered the most intertwined network of all, life.

On the contrary, domestication tends to simplify and deconstruct this biodiversity. Take tomato for example, which is not wildlife but has been domesticated too. There were dozens of tomato species, from Atacama desert tomato to the Andean mountain tomato. They were reduced to a few strands that only thrive with the help of human irrigation to fit the customer’s criteria of beauty and size, mostly.

This situation is similar for cows, fowls, chicken, salad and virtually all other forms of domestication, which voluntarily direct a species in a specific direction, rather than let the genomes evolve freely.

The age of man

So have we overturned the natural selection process? By systematically killing all forms of life posing a potential threat to humans, the most established apex predators are down to their last members, and evidence of animals evolving according to human realities is piling up.

Elephants now hide their tusks from the sight of men (we know this thanks to the monthly documentary screening series organised by Plan A, monkeys have figured out how to make the most of cities and even bacteria is learning to digest plastics. This shows how much humans have shaped their environment, and how deeply it is influencing life on this planet.

Clothing, food, shelter, rodent patrol, hunting and herding aides, pollination, transportation and mechanical labour… Animals – wild or tamed – are still at the heart of human activity. Today, it may not seem so obvious, thanks to the advent of mechanisation and synthetic materials, but wildlife and pristine nature still control the very air and water we intake, and act as enabler for any subsequent development. It’s quite simple actually: no nature, no life.

The anthropocene is a reality that affects not only the atmosphere and inorganic aspects of the planet’s mechanics, but also the living parts of this equilibrium. Preserving and protecting wildlife is essential because that they may well be the most fragile part of this superb machinery.

The age of symbiosis

Despite what we may believe, humans rely more on wildlife than the contrary. We would be crazy to believe that your dog waiting at the apartment door for your return speaks for all the living creatures. After all, it was living organisms – microscopic plankton, and then mighty trees – that made this planet habitable for oxygen-breathing species like hoomans (and cats, and lemur, and fish, and 99.9% of the fauna on Earth).

What is more, our race with our arch-enemy, disease, is still raging. Wildlife provides a world-sized incubator for research and development of cures that already exist in nature, in the forest or in the sea. Or maybe both.

The way we come out of the anthropocene will determine the name of what comes next. Hopefully we can make it a more interspecies kind of moment? More favourable to other life forms? Symbiocene is a proposed term. The era in which man and nature share the Earth equitably, for the benefit of all parties.

Did someone say parties?

Full article available on PlanA.Earth/academy

The Heaviest bony fish in the world

Image result for about the sun fishThe ocean sunfish  (Mola mola) is the heaviest known bony fish in the world. Adults typically weighs between 247 and 1,000 kg. The species is native to tropical and temperate waters around the globe. It resembles a fish head with a tail, and its main body is flattened laterally. Sunfish can be as tall as they are long when their dorsal and ventral fins are extended.

Sunfish live on a diet consisting mainly of sea jellies, but because this diet is nutritionally poor, they consume large amounts to develop and maintain their great bulk. Females of the species can produce more eggs than any other known vertebrate, up to 300,000,000 at a time. Sunfish fry resemble miniature pufferfish, with large pectoral fins, a tail fin, and body spines uncharacteristic of adult sunfish.

Adult sunfish are vulnerable to few natural predators, but sea lions, killer whales, and sharks will consume them. Among humans, sunfish are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. In the EU, regulations ban the sale of fish and fishery products derived from the family Molidae. Sunfish are frequently caught in gillnets.

IUCN Conservation status: The ocean sunfish

The red-lipped batfish

The red-lipped batfish or Galapagos batfish is a fish found around the Galapagos Islands and off Peru at depths of 10 to 249 ft. Red-lipped batfish are closely related to rosy-lipped batfish, which are found near Cocos Island off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This fish is traditionally known for its bright red lips, yeah, really red. Batfish are bad swimmers; they use their pectoral fins to "walk" on the ocean floor. When the batfish reaches maturity, its dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection. Like other anglerfish, the red-lipped batfish has a structure on its head known as illicium. This structure is employed for attracting prey.

The batfish feeds on other small fish and small crustaceans like shrimps and mollusks.

The body color of the red-lipped batfish is light brown and a greyish colour on its back, with a white stomach. On the top side of the batfish there is usually a dark brown stripe starting at the head and going all the way down the back to the tail. The snout and horn of the red-lipped batfish is a brownish color. As the name of the fish states, the batfish has bright, almost fluorescent, red lips. The color of the squamation of the red-lipped batfish is shagreen-like with a relatively smooth texture. The bucklers are concealed by a layer of fine spinules.  The red-lipped batfish reaches up to 8.0 in in length.

Check its IUCN Conservation status: The red-lipped batfish

A Dutch court has sentenced a Chinese man to a year in jail for smuggling rhino horns

A Dutch court has sentenced a Chinese man to a year in jail for smuggling five rhino horns and four other horn objects worth about €500,000 ($613,000) in his luggage.

The man was caught by customs officials at Schiphol airport in December as he traveled through Amsterdam on his way from South Africa to the Chinese city of Shanghai.

It recalled that trading in endangered species is banned under the CITES convention prohibiting sales of protected animals and plants.

South Africa is battling a scourge of rhino poaching fuelled by insatiable demand for their horn in Asia. The country’s ministry of environmental affairs said earlier this year that 1,028 rhinos were slaughtered in 2017.

In the last eight years alone, roughly a quarter of the world population of rhinos has been killed in South Africa, home to 80% of the remaining animals.

Most of the demand comes from China and Vietnam, where the horn is coveted as a traditional medicine, an aphrodisiac or as a status symbol.

The Bloated Nostril Saiga Antelope

The saiga antelope, according to the records on the IUCN redlist is a critically endangered antelope.

The saiga stands 24–32 in, at the shoulder, and weighs 57–152 lb. The head-and-body length is typically between 39 and 55 in. They have a very prominent feauture which obviously sets them apart, "the pair of closely spaced, bloated nostrils directed downward". They have dark markings on the cheeks and the nose, with a 2.8–4.7 in long ears. During summer migrations the saiga's nose helps filter out dust kicked up by the herd and cools the animal's blood. In the winter it heats up the frigid air before it is taken to the lungs.  Only the male saigas possess horns. These horns that are thick and slightly translucent, are wax-coloured and show 12 to 20 pronounced rings.

Saiga has been hunted since prehistoric ages, when hunting was an essential means to acquire food. Saiga's horns, meat and skin have commercial value and are exported from  Saiga's horn, traditionally were of medicinal value to the chinese.

Wildlife Without Borders -Russia and East Asia in 2011 awarded an $80,000 grant to the Saiga Conservation Alliance. This funding will support on-the-ground conservation action in Russia and Mongolia, enforcement efforts in China, and a dialogue between authorities in Mongolia and China to address illegal trade.

The Scary Looking Deep sea Fangtooth

The Fangtooth is a horrorful looking deep sea creature with teeth as long and scary like that of a vampire in a movie, obviously that's where it got its name, fangtooth. it belongs to the family of Anoplogastridae, with a circumglobal distribution in tropical and cold-temperate waters.

While understandably named for their disproportionately large, fang-like teeth and unapproachable visage, fangtooths are actually quite small and harmless to humans: the larger of the two species, the common fangtooth, reaches a maximum length of just 16 cm (6.3 in); the shorthorn fangtooth is less than half this size though currently known only from juvenile specimens.

The head is small with a large jaw and appears haggard, riddled with mucous cavities delineated by serrated edges and covered by a thin skin. The eyes are relatively small, set high on the head; the entire head is a dark brown to black and is strongly compressed laterally, deep anteriorly and progressively more slender towards the tail. The fins are small, simple, and spineless; the scales are embedded in the skin and take the form of thin plates. As compensation for reduced eyes, the lateral line is well-developed and appears as an open groove along the flanks.

The Fangtooth, like most ocean monsters, lives in the deep water and are unable to survive at shallow depths. They are found as deep as 5 kilometres/3.5 miles deep. At this depth, there is no light. Any light found is generated from other fish. The water in their habitat is between 36°F to 32°F/ 2°C to 0°C.
The Fangtooth uses contact chemoreception to locate its prey. Contact chemoreception is a means in which a fish is able to detect chemical signatures in the water. Chemical signatures of other fish. This, along with radar, is the only option for locating food in the deep ocean where it is sparse.
Most of the time, Fangtooth are found between 600 to 6,500 feet/200 to 2,000 meters down. Even at these depths, light is not visible and the world is dark and cold.

Fangtooths have planktonic larvae and are assumed to not be egg guarders; spawning frequency and time are not certain, but some activity has been reported from June–August. The juveniles of common fangtooths begin to assume adult form from about 8 cm (3.1 in) in length, at which time they begin to descend into deeper water. Onset of maturity is not known, but common fangtooths are known to be mature at 16 cm (6.3 in). They are probably slow-growing, as are most deep-sea fish.

The Weird Blobfish of the deep sea

The Blobfish is a weird looking deep sea fish. It inhabits the deep waters off the coasts of mainland Australia and Tasmania, as well as the waters of New Zealand. They live at depths between 600 and 1,200m, where the pressure is 60 to 120 times as great as at sea level, which would likely make gas bladders inefficient for maintaining buoyancy. Their diet consists of small crustaceans like crabs, sea urchins, and shellfish. These goodies are sucked into the blobfish’s mouth as it floats along.

Lacking both bones and teeth, they do not actively hunt. In fact, their extremely low muscle mass doesn’t allow for much movement at all. Besides eating, conserving energy is the blobfish’s main job.

The female lays thousands of small pink eggs on the seafloor. Either the female or male blobfish will sit on the eggs to protect them from predators.

The world’s rarest big cat grows in number

New camera trap images reveal an increase in Amur leopards
Inside Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park, more than 400 cameras are positioned to capture images of wildlife, specifically the critically endangered Amur Leopard. These cameras are the main source of monitoring data for the Amur leopard and their latest reveal is one to celebrate.

Recent images documented 84 adult cats and 19 cubs inside the park. This is a significant increase since a 2000 census recorded just 30 cats, and a 2015 survey numbered only 70.

The Land of the Leopard National Park is the core area for the rare wild cat. Formally established in 2012, the park is home to the majority of the Amur leopard’s known territory and provides the cat sufficient prey and protection from poachers. It is also home to a population of Amur tigers and other wildlife.

Camera trap monitoring is the main research method used to study Amur leopards in the wild, and individuals are identified by their unique spot patterns. With around 400 cameras monitoring wildlife in the park, it is the largest camera trap network in Russia. Scientists processed the collected data over several months before announcing the new population numbers. WWF, along with partners WCS and the Far Eastern Leopard Centre, helped the park with camera trap monitoring and data processing.

"Our forecasts were optimistic, and since the establishment of the Land of the Leopard National Park in 2012, the number of the rarest large cat has increased significantly,” said Sergey Donskoy, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia.

Experts believe more leopards may inhabit the territory outside the national park and are now working to collect more data from places like China where camera traps are already in place.

“Considering the Amur leopard is one of the most endangered large mammals in the world, this increase is such welcome news and reflects the importance of regular species monitoring to assess their health in the ecosystem,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, Senior Program Officer, Asian Species

News Source: World Wild Life