September 28, 2018
Conservation Finds Allies on
a Surfboard
Photo by Yacha/flickr
Across the globe, hundreds of areas with world-class surfing waves also contain a variety of diverse marine species.

Those waves mean big money — generating an estimated  US$ 50 billion in economic activity  from surfers.
But beneath those waves is something that’s also extremely valuable: a wealth of marine life.

For conservationists looking to protect these areas, it seemed natural to appeal to the people who greatly value them. Surfers make powerful advocates for the ocean, according to Scott Atkinson, senior technical adviser for Conservation International’s Hawai‘i Program and Coral Triangle Initiative. Recently, Human Nature caught up with Atkinson — a surfer himself — who spoke about a new partnership between CI and the Save The Waves Coalition to mobilize the surfing community to help protect marine areas.

Animals May Pass Along Migration Know-How
By Brandon Keim/Anthropocene
Photo by farmboyted/flickr
Animal migration is usually considered to be a mostly instinctive behavior. They feel some innate pull, set off across the landscape, and that’s it. What individual animals know and the lessons they pass to future generations isn’t much considered — yet these may play a vital role in migrations of sheep, moose, and other large mammals, and be of crucial importance to their future.

“Conservation of existing migration corridors, stopover sites, and seasonal ranges not only protects the landscapes that ungulates depend on,”  write researchers in the journal Science . “Such efforts maintain the traditional knowledge and culture that migratory animals use.”

Led by biologists Brett Jesmer and Matthew Kauffman of the University of Wyoming, the researchers are not the first people to think of animal migration this way. Indigenous Arctic dwellers, for example, long forbade the hunting of caribou considered to be the leaders and knowledge-keepers of their herds, and scientists have described memory and social learning in bison, white-tailed deer, and other ungulates.

Empirical evidence, however, was lacking — until Jesmer and Kaufmann’s team affixed GPS collars to nearly 400 bighorn sheep and moose and tracked the animals.

How Tusks Became a Genetic Liability
By Natalie Angier/The New York Times
Photo by Charles Peterson/flickr
We are searching for the elusive tuskless elephants of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique -- elephants that naturally lack the magnificent ivory staffs all too tragically coveted by wealthy collectors worldwide.
Tuskless elephants  can be found in small numbers throughout Africa , but Gorongosa is known to harbor a sizable population of them, the legacy of a violent 15-year civil war. Tusked elephants were slaughtered for their ivory at a harrowing rate, and the park’s rare tusk-free residents thus gained a sudden Darwinian advantage.
Today, about a quarter of the park’s 700 or so elephants are tuskless, all of them female, and I am determined to catch a glimpse of at least one. Yet a week of ground searches has proved fruitless, and now we are circling in a plane and still nothing and, holy mother of Horton, how can such massive creatures go missing?

Has ‘Teddy’s Bear’ Really Recovered?
By Sara Sneath/
Photo by USDA/flickr
The species on which the famous Teddy Bear was inspired, however, has not fared as well. The bottomland hardwood forests where Louisiana black bears lived were drained and cleared for agriculture in the decades after the famous hunt. It’s estimated that 80 percent of the bear’s habitat in Louisiana was destroyed by 1980.

At one point, there may have been fewer than 120 bears left, according to the  2015 Louisiana Black Bear Management Plan . It took a lawsuit before the bear found protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. Since then, more than 834,000 acres of habitat have been acquired, protected and or restored. In 2016, the Louisiana black bear was pronounced recovered and removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.

But conservationists warn that the law credited with saving the Louisiana black bear now faces extinction. A case, expected to go before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall, will concern a Louisiana landowner challenging measures to protect a rare frog. The Supreme Court’s decision in that case has the potential to weaken future habitat protections under the act, said Oliver Houck, a professor of law at Tulane University.

Bass Pushing Out Salmon on Famous River
Sporting Classics Daily
Photo by dparsons1/flickr
The mighty Miramichi River is legendary for its wild Atlantic salmon and the camps along the iconic river that have sustained generations of families.

Today the salmon, and those who depend on it for their living, are in crisis. Striped bass populations have exploded with the undesired side effect of swallowing up young salmon. The Miramichi Salmon Association Inc. (MSA) is taking steps to raise awareness about the risks to New Brunswick salmon populations.

“We need to get the ecosystem in balance. Predatory bass have exploded from 50,000 fish 10 years ago to over 1 million today. At the same time wild Atlantic salmon populations are in crisis and at historic lows. Twelve years ago transmitters on young salmon smolt confirmed 70% were making the successful journey to sea from the Miramichi. Today preliminary data results for this year indicate that less than 25% are making it to sea. We need action from DFO before we lose the salmon completely on the Miramichi. It’s that serious.” says Mark Hambrook, MSA President

"How beautiful the leaves grow old.
How full of light and color
are their last days.” 

-  John Burrows 
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