VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


How Borders Can Cross the Line on Caring for the Environment

Set up for political and cultural reasons, human borders can have a major effect on many more things, especially the environment.

Dog detectives leading the way in law enforcement

By Lindy Taverner Canines are increasingly being used in crime tracking and detection work.  The heroes in the shadows of conservation are of the four-legged, furry variety. These dog detectives are not only able to locate hidden firearms and cocaine, but can sniff out ivory as well, greatly complementing conservation law enforcement efforts. A specialized…

How one polar bear cub had Germany (and the world) enthralled

Even in death, Knut arguably has the distinction of being the world’s most prominent polar bear. “It cannot be that the little Knut is completely forgotten,” said a woman who spent U.S. $5,000 on a public Knut memorial marker—one of several, in a city that teems with monuments commemorating two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the Iron Curtain.

Knut’s short career at the Berlin Zoo and his “afterlife” as a taxidermy exhibit at the city’s Museum of Natural History highlight our obsession with this species and the status it has gained. His story is representative, touching upon issues of captivity and commercialization, upon the appropriation and preservation of animals, upon history, psychology, economics, belief, and ecology. The story of Knut can also be read as a footnote on thousands upon thousands of polar bears that have lived and died anonymously, but no less shaped human culture and consciousness.

CITES Upholds Rhino Horn Trade Ban; But Will This Reduce Rhino Poaching?

By John Frederick Walker

Zzzzrrrghh! The saber saw screeches as it cuts through the front horn of a sedated two-ton rhinoceros kneeling on the parched earth. A team of game guards push against the massive beast to steady it; another two hold a tarp under its head to capture pale shavings spewing from the snarling saw. On the black market, rhino horn is more valuable per ounce than gold—even tiny flecks are worth saving.

National Seafood Month: An Opportunity to Think About Sustainable Local Ways to Grow Fish

By Joe Hankins, director of the Freshwater Institute, The Conservation Fund October is National Seafood Month. What better time to examine the critical role seafood plays in our global food system? Given that over 90 percent  of U.S. seafood is currently imported, and that twice the current supply will be needed by 2050, there is an urgent…

The Lesson of Niue: Conservation Relies on Traditional Knowledge

Photos and text: Jon Betz It was a strange thing to wake up this morning on land. It’s easy to get used to the creaks and gentle rocking motion of ship life. In its place today I woke up to an awkward chorus of roosters at 4am. Quite a difference, and it gave me pause…

It’s Time to Stop Pumping Our Poop Directly Into the Ocean

Most folks assume that when they flush their toilet, the local sewage treatment plant will take care of the rest. Unfortunately, during wet weather, this is rarely the case. It’s a plumbing problem: Rainfall rushes down streets into storm drains that empty into pipes shared by the sewage produced by homes and businesses. Within minutes of a downpour, the volume of combined liquid overwhelms sewage treatment plants and millions of gallons of untreated wastewater get vented directly into nearby waterways, contaminating the water with harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and forcing beach and shellfish bed closures in an effort to protect human health.

During my 130+ mile swim from Montauk to New York City, I am calling for a permanent end to the dumping of raw sewage into our waterways. My thinking goes like this: We live in the most technologically-advanced nation on Earth. If we can put people on the moon, split the atom, and build an iPhone, we can find a way to make our waterways safe for swimming every day.

Nature’s Power to Heal the Injustices of the Past

By Andrew Zaloumis, 2016 John P. McNulty Prize Laureate We all dread the thought of another tragic wildlife incident, another Cecil the lion. Poaching of rhinos and other critical species continues to afflict important conservation areas throughout the world.  Yet, while national parks sometimes feel more like military bases, this is a dangerous path to travel on.All…

A Sherlock-Worthy Look at an Ancient Horse Mummy

Tiny marks and deformations reveal clues to the ancient cultures that rode these plains for millennia.

Getting Stung for Science in the Rain Forest

Today I was stung by a livid South American wasp for the 70th time. But it’ll all be worth it if I can learn what drives the startling social relationships of these amazing insects.

Life in an Indian Village Through the Eyes of a Child

Evidently, even if you’re from a rural village in the Eastern Himalaya, candy is still the treat of choice for a little girl.

More Highs Than Lows for Wildlife at CITES Meeting

By Born Free Foundation

After almost two weeks of intense debate, the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) drew to a close on 4th October.

Solving the Mystery of the 18th-Century Killer “Beast of Gévaudan”

From 1764 to 1767, in the historical region of Gévaudan, located in southern France, and in adjacent areas, about one hundred children, youths, and women were killed by a so-called “Beast”. Numerous other humans survived the attacks, many of them seriously injured. The series of attacks has been confirmed by a great variety of historical documents and is not called into question by scientists.

Historians claim that wolves, or a hybrid of a wolf and a domestic dog, had attacked the victims; the “hybrid-assumption” is based on the description of a canid, shot in June 1767, that was said to have strange morphological characteristics. However, a critical evaluation of historical texts, including the publications of the French abbots François Fabre and Pierre Pourcher, revealed that neither this animal, nor any other wolf killed in Gévaudan, had anything to do with the attacks of the Beast.

In this post, German biologist Karl-Hans Taake posits that The Beast was a very different carnivore to a wolf.

Animal Experts Travel to South Africa in Collaborative Effort to Save a Declining Species

By Kylene Plemons and Mike McClure There has been a steady decline of African penguins since the late 1950s when there were around 300,000 individuals in South Africa. In 2001, there were over 100,000 individuals and recently it has been estimated that there are less than 50,000 penguins left in that region. Scientists project an…

Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe and Viking Longship Meet for First Time

Two different traditional voyaging canoes from opposite ends of the globe find parallels in their missions of exploration.