VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Law enforcement agencies, NGOs, and business leaders gathered from across the world in Washington this week to share information and expertise and organize a concerted strategy to combat the global scourge of wildlife trafficking.
The unprecedented collaboration was heralded at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters on Tuesday, at an event held against the backdrop of recent news of a catastrophic plunge in the last wild populations of African elephants and other species. The meeting also set the stage for CITES CoP17, a conference in Johannesburg at the end of this month that will bring more than a hundred governments together to review the planet’s biggest wildlife challenges and opportunities.
Researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology show catastrophic declines in wilderness areas around the world over the last 20 years, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said today.
“They demonstrate alarming losses comprising a tenth of global wilderness since the 1990s – an area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Amazon. The Amazon and Central Africa have been hardest hit,” the New York-based WCS added in a statement released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii.
All eyes are on government delegates attending the forthcoming 17th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP17), to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), opening on September 24 in Johannesburg. Many of the issues raised in motions at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii this week relate to illegal and unsustainable trade and to the impact of parallel legal markets for body parts of endangered species.
In yet another example of a species well on its way to extinction almost before it is identified and studied, scientists and conservationists have hurried to assess a little-known underground-dwelling spider on the Azores as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species — at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
The booming, multi-billion dollar seaweed farming industry could easily and needlessly drop into expensive pitfalls experienced previously in both agriculture and fish farming, the United Nations University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (a UNU affiliate institute), warned at the IUCN World Congress in Hawaii today.
President Obama addresses the leaders of the Pacific Islands and representatives of the IUCN Congress on climate change, his expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea National Monument and other protected areas in the U.S., and his administration’s focus on clean energy. “We’ve got to ‘unite to move forward,’” he said, quoting a traditional Polynesian saying. “We have to row as one. If we do, we might just save the one planet that we’ve got.”
The UN Environment Program (UNEP) deputy head Ibrahim Thiaw released the following statement in reaction to the results of the Great Elephant Census, which showed African savanna elephant populations declined by 30 per cent (144,000 elephants) between 2007 and 2014: “The findings of the Great Elephant Census show clearly that poaching is still decimating elephant…
The latest warning light from the environment: Long-lived industrial and household chemical compounds associated with liver toxicity and reduced fertility have been found at detectable levels in the blood of both American alligators and South African crocodiles populating waterways a third of the globe apart. Two studies are first-of-their-kind examinations of PFAA levels in these “sentinel” reptile species, which the researchers say are especially useful for investigating the impacts of long-lived chemicals in the environment. PFAAs (perfluorinated alkyl acids) have been used in products that include water-repellent clothes, stain repellents, waxes, nonstick pans and fire-suppressing foams.
European researchers find a gene that appears to curb coffee consumption. This means that a person with the genetic variation would not need to consume as much coffee to get the same caffeine hit. “The results of our study add to existing research suggesting that our drive to drink coffee may be embedded in our genes,” says Dr Nicola Pirastu, of the University of Edinburgh.
Three decades after the first reports of the arrival in Botswana of Salvinia molesta–a free-floating, mat-forming water fern native to Brazil– scientists from the southern African country’s Department of Water Affairs say they are at last prevailing in the struggle against a weed that has come close to threatening the entire Okavango, Africa’s largest wetlands that is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to some of the world’s most endangered species.
Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have shown how the effect of exposure therapy can be improved by disrupting the recreation of fear-memories in people with arachnophobia (the extreme fear or loathing of spiders).
Hiroshima University scientists examined lobster feces to discover that the crustaceans surround their servings of jellyfish in protective membranes that prevent the stingers from injecting their venom. The results inform aquaculture efforts to sustainably farm lobsters for diners around the world, the university said in a news statement.
Scientific understanding of rainbows highlights many practical applications of their interaction between light, liquid and gas.
Growing sunflowers begin the day with their heads facing east, swing west as they follow the sun through the day, and turn back to the east at night. “The plant anticipates the timing and the direction of dawn, and to me that looks like a reason to have a connection between the clock and the growth pathway,” says Stacey Harmer, a plant biologist at UC Davis.
The world population will reach 9.9 billion in 2050, up 33 percent from an estimated 7.4 billion now, according to projections included in the latest World Population Data Sheet from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). While Africa will see a doubling in population density in that period, several countries will experience a decline. There will be fewer people in Europe than there are today.