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It’s been an uphill battle trying to restore wild Plains Bison to the prairies of Canada and the U.S., in the shared global 200 ecoregion known as the Northern Great Plains. This includes land straddling Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana. In the early 1900s, some of the very last Plains Bison were rescued from Montana by the Canadian government. This led to the establishment of Buffalo National Park (now Wood Buffalo National Park). Success! However, the struggle continued after that, as there are many obstacles to overcome (natural, political, etc.) when trying to conserve land and wildlife. But now, for the second time in three years, bison are being relocated back to their ancestral home in Montana – 70 of them this time. They come from Elk Island National Park in Alberta.
These bison, along with those BFFs, endangered sage-grouse, and vulnerable pronghorn (“prairie antelope”) among many, migrate back and forth from Canada to the U.S. As my colleague Steven Price so wisely says, “wildlife knows no borders”. This reintroduction is a great example of the need for conservationists to work on a multinational basis to achieve globally significant conservation goals.
Two hundred and thirty two, that’s what.
I’m a bit late on this one, but it’s no less AMAZING one month after the news release. For once SOS isn’t a sign of distress. It stands for “State of Observed Species”. Based out of Arizona State University, the International Institute for Species Exploration is made up of scientists around the world who study, explore, and discover species. I’m sure there is some miscommunication sometimes, but the scientific community tries to keep their species straight so we have a good idea of how many there are and where they’re located.
From the site: “The SOS is a report card on the status of our knowledge of earth’s species and summarizes the number of species newly described in the most recent year for which complete data are available”. The 2011 SOS report released January 18th, 2012 stated that scientists identified 19, 232 species of ‘previously unidentified living things’.
Isn’t that incredible?! To think that so many new creatures can still be discovered in this day and age. Remarkable and awe-inspiring. Good for nature – keeping the mystery alive. 🙂
It is, indeed a wonderful world. [video: 2mins,4secs. Worth it.]
Everyone is looking for ways to reduce their ecological footprint these days. With good reason! But when it comes to waste reduction, the emphasis seems to be on the third ‘R’, recycle. What ever happened to reducing and reusing? They seem mighty important but more often than not get pushed out of the spotlight. It’s all well and good because recycling is a great step toward sustainable living, but let’s take a quick looksie at numbers one and two.
Reduce. Reducing the amount of waste you create is easy: buy fewer items in containers, reuse containers you already own, carry tupperware to restaurants for take-out and left overs, etc. etc. These are all excellent habits to get into!
Reuse. As I mentioned above, reuse containers – I save money on tupperware by keeping all my yogurt containers, jam jars, etc.. Reuse napkins – I love my mom for always keeping slightly used napkins to clean up spills later on. Genius! I mean, people often use their napkins once to dab a bit of pasta sauce from their white blouse…definitely not soiled it by any means, which leaves a perfectly reusable paper item! (Better idea is to use cloth napkins many times over before washing them…details, details). There are lots of ways to reuse items that seem disposable – think twice before you toss things into the recycling!
AnyWHO, all of this is to say that I came across (another shout out to mom, who sent it my way) an absolutely fantastic video about a man who thought of a great way to reuse pop bottles and reduce energy bills…definitely worth a watch! [length: 2mins, 15secs]
Speaking of reducing energy bills, tomorrow – Feb 9 – is National Sweater Day! How do I participate, you ask? Simply turn down your thermostat by 2 or 3 degrees (hardly noticeable) and put on your favorite sweater! You can also click on that link to send yourself and your 100 closest friends reminder calls from a granny…don’t ask, just check it out! You’ll see how easy it is to save energy – I mean, everyone loves a good sweater, right?
Rats. You either love ’em or hate ’em. I quite enjoy them, but would never push them on anyone. I’ve recently learned about a type of rat that I DEFINITELY wouldn’t push on anyone…for their safety.
It has recently been discovered by scientists in Oxford that the African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) uses plant toxins as a defense mechanism. This isn’t uncommon in insects, reptiles, amphibians, and even mammals. However, a mammal having the ability to kill with these defenses was unheard of – until now.
Lots of animals are able to incorporate toxins from plants and other animals, usually insects, either into their bodies or onto their skin and fur. For example, hedgehogs often spread poison acquired from toads onto their quills. One bite of that awful taste sends predators running. Capuchin monkeys ward off bothersome mosquitos and ticks by rubbing extracts from millipedes and ants on themselves.
Many of these tricks can indeed by lethal. But Jonathan Kingdon and his colleagues have discovered for the first time in mammals, enough acquired toxicity to be potentially lethal! In a paper titled “A poisonous surprise under the coat of the African crested rat“, Kingdon and friends describe how these rats chew up the bark and Acokanthera schimperi trees and then spread their saliva onto their fur. This fur is specialized to soak up the toxins from the saliva, ready to fend off any unwelcome nibbles.
So how is this different from the capuchin monkeys and hedgehogs? Well, as you might guess from the trees’ common name, ‘arrow-poison tree’, they are what hunters in East Africa use to enhance their weapons. By mashing up the bark and roots, the poison is extracted. It can then be placed on the tip of an arrow, for example, and is powerful enough to bring down an elephant.
It is quite impressive that African crested rats can use this stuff without hurting themselves. Another extraordinary partnership in nature!
As we all know, you can usually tell a dangerous animal by its colors. A bright green snake – stay away. An orange spotted beetle – walk around. But black and white? The reason behind that is the stark contrast. An animal that is black and white can also be giving a warning: they are clearly not trying to hide with camouflage. They’re saying ‘you see me, now stay away’. Ring a bell? … skunks.
So next time you have a furry friend sharing your kitchen, or see a bald tail slipping under the subway tracks, think twice before being grossed out or angry. Just be happy it’s not poisonous.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B 22 February 2012 vol. 279 no. 1729 675-680
Josh Billings, aka Henry Wheeler Shaw, American humorist, apparently said this. And I like it.
The moral of the story – don’t give up! That’s something we really need to remember in this day and age. When there is an earthquake in Toronto, thousands of miles from any fault lines, a lightening storm in Cuernavaca in the middle of winter (not the rainy season by any means), the beginning of 2012, and so on, it may seem like the world is ending. Things are changing fast, but if we stick to our goals we can slow those changes and adapt to our new living ‘arrangements’ in due course.
I think the best chance there is for making change on a global scale is raising awareness. The US postal service has done something unique and genius on this front. They’ve put out a series of stamps for “Saving Vanishing Species”. When you buy these special stamps, your money goes toward the conservation of the African elephant, marine turtle, great ape, tiger, Asian elephant, and rhinoceros. That in itself is wonderful, but just think about how many people this message reaches. Everyone who goes to the post office to buy stamps, all the US postal service staff, and people around the world who sort, deliver, and receive the letters! That’s millions, and it’s sure to catch a lot of attention.
The deets: “Under the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Act 2010, the Postal Service will transfer the net proceeds from the sale of these stamps to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds.” There are 5 funds: African Elephant Conservation, Asian Elephant Conservation, Great Ape Conservation, Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation, and Marine Turtle Conservation. Find out more by clicking here.
Thanks to everyone who read my blog in 2011! I’ll be sure to keep posting in 2012. Please leave comments and ‘like’ posts if you..well…like them! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.
Someone I don’t know made my day today. Ng Tom, who writes a blog called “This is how I see the world” nominated me for The Versatile Blogger Award! I was very pleased to see this comment on my latest post: “Great shots and writing as always, therefore I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award!”
What’s the deal?
There are 4 rules for accepting this award:
1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.
So first of all, THANK YOU NG!!! So kind of you…I really appreciate the feedback 🙂
Second, here are 7 things about moi:
1. I’m North American (yup, I have Mexican, American, and Canadian passports)
2. I love nature. A lot.
3. I want to change the world.
4. I rode two horses today after not doing so for a whole year. Sore, much? (Love it!)
5. My parents own a Mexican hairless dog named Tizoc and we’re in love.
6. I love traveling. A lot.
7. Laughing is my favorite.
I’m passing this award along to:
3. It’s not exactly a blog, but it counts in my mind: Leigha Benford – pampered chef consultant
10. Make Ripples
12. World Changing
13. Green Options
It’s easy to feel like the small changes individuals make don’t really make a difference. I’ve had a hard time believing it myself, but have come to realize that not only is it possible, I think it’s our biggest chance for change. Even though I just watched a video about “People of Walmart“, I still have faith in humanity.
In university, my housemates and I would have Sunday brunches at a house across town where some of our close friends lived. One summer these friends decided that they were going to raise their own chickens. These lovely birds were a joy to have in the backyard – they provided entertainment, fertilizer for the garden, and most importantly: FREE EGGS!!
I think it is because of that experience that I had an instant soft spot for The Chicken Whisperer when I read about him. He is über famous in the states for giving average people like you and me advice on how to raise chickens in their own backyards.
A friend of mine recently shared a TED talk with me about growing your own window garden. These types of projects – from chickens to veggies – are not only pretty simple once you get down to it, but look like a lot of fun! It is amazing how many small steps we can take in the right direction. Cumulatively, it’ll make a massive difference.
Most importantly: it’s not just about whether or not our individual actions are going to “fix” climate change and so on. It’s more about our cumulative efforts. If you know the tune “itsy bitsy spider” you know that word of mouth is a very effective form of communication. If we call make small changes and inspire our friends and family to do the same, we’ll make big changes. And we need to make big changes. Now.
Need some inspiration? Check out these links for a nice Sunday view/read: