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Category archives for Africa

The legend of Babakoto

Safina Center Fellow Ben Mirin travels to the rainforests of Andasibe, Madagascar, and learns the legend of Babakoto…the indri lemur.

How One U.S. Zoo is Supporting African Wildlife Conservation

Despite the sensation of  tough gravel, I never expected a rhinoceros to feel so soft around the back of the ears and mouth.  Staff at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York had graciously allowed me to come face to face with Bill, the resident southern white rhinoceros who, funnily enough, was more interested in being petted than…

Anja on fire

Safina Center Fellow Ben Mirin travels to Anja, Madagascar, to record wild soundscapes. While there he finds a community grappling with how to balance protecting nature with making a living.

World body that could protect elephants—decides not to

Acutely, an elephant’s problem is ivory. Chronically the problem is shrinking space. Rich or poor, humans seem too much of a good thing. One wonders where this trend of growing human numbers and appetites, afflicting elephants and humans alike, is headed.

Keeping peace with predators can cut livestock deaths

When predator animals like tigers, lions, bears and wolves attack livestock animals like goats, cows and horses, you need to kill off the predators to reduce livestock deaths, right? Wrong.

African Lions on the Brink: A Conversation with Lion Expert Craig Packer

With roars that rend the African night, lions have captured our imaginations since the dawn of humankind. “Lions have long been celebrated in art and literature throughout the world,” says ecologist Craig Packer, National Geographic Explorer and Expeditions Council grantee, and director of the University of Minnesota Lion Center. In the face of habitat loss and…

Taming Rivers: A Fulbright-National Geographic Journey

“Simply, water is surpassing oil itself as the world’s scarcest critical resource. Just as oil conflicts were central to twentieth-century history, the struggle over freshwater is set to shape a new turning point in the world order and the destiny of civilization” — Steven Solomon, Water   The Dam, located in the leafy Johannesburg suburb of…

Where an Owl Egg Is Worth More Than Ivory or Rhino Horn

The exact beliefs surrounding the use of owl eggs are not well known, but calls I received generally came from well-educated individuals seeking to cure a relative of cancer or HIV-Aids.

EU Fails to Lend Necessary Support to the African Elephant Coalition

By Katarzyna Nowak and Keith Lindsay The European Union (EU) – a regional economic integration organization of 28 member states – became the 181st party to the major wildlife treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in July 2015. This month became the first time the EU votes…

Q&A: Extreme Drought in South Africa’s Kruger National Park: How is Wildlife Faring?

Bone-dry winds are blowing across South Africa’s Kruger National Park (KNP), uprooting savanna grasses and whirling them like tumbleweeds across a sere landscape. How is the park’s world-renowned wildlife faring in an extreme drought? To find out, I talked with Izak Smit, Science Manager for Systems Ecology at South African National Parks (SANParks), which oversees KNP.…

To save African elephants, scientists say ivory sales must stop

While that “regulated” ivory sale idea might sound nice on paper, experts say it has now been officially debunked.

How Climate Change Is Fueling a Food Crisis in Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria

The frontline of global warming is on farms. But the story is about much more than hunger. The village of Nowcaca is nestled in the verdant hills of northwestern Mozambique, some 600 miles north of the coastal capital Maputo. A footpath winds through a sea of shoulder-high grasses, leading from a two-lane highway back to…

How Forensic Technology Can Help Fight the Ivory Trade

Here at the CITES conference in Johannesburg, almost anyone can tell you that African elephants are being slaughtered at a rate of tens of thousands per year. There are lots of approaches on how to solve the problem: reducing demand for ivory, providing alternative livelihoods for would-be poachers, training anti-poaching units—and forensics.

Sam Wasser of the University of Washington uses DNA testing to identify where the ivory confiscated in major seizures comes from. This makes it easier to know where law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts should be concentrated.

How Fighting the Bushmeat Trade Protects Lions

Sometimes, when traveling through Maasai Mara, visitors may see elephants with half of their trunk missing. The poor creatures must kneel to pluck grasses, and they are unable to reach leaves from the canopies of trees at all. It is no mystery what maims these elephants. Over smoky fires, well hidden from passersby on the…

Tiny ants may pose a big threat for diversity in Laikipia

In the shadow of Mt. Kenya, everyone has a story about a small, shiny ant that steals their cooking oil and sugar. When the seasonal rains come, they retreat into their underground nests, but they strike with full force during the dry months. The “big-headed ants” (Pheidole megacephala, which literally means “big head”) don’t bite or…