Earth Hour – 29 March 2014


 

Today, Saturday 29th March 2014, billions of people in over one hundred and fifty countries (that means over seven thousand cities) will turn out the lights. A World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) initiative, dating back to 2007, has once again united the world in an effort to bring attention to energy consumption, sustainability and climate change issues.

This remarkable annual global occurrence takes place between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm (YOUR) local time.  Starting in New Zealand and ending in Tahiti, lights of some of the world’s most iconic monuments, landmarks and skylines will be switched off. Many will also turn off their televisions, computers, Xboxes and PlayStations, and any other power-driven gadgets they have.  

This is undoubtedly the largest ever collaboration to help safeguard the planet, and numbers of participants are growing every year. The hour has, in many places, evolved into something much longer. Environmental projects are taking place, such as tree-planting and litter clearance. Stargazing without the hindrance of bright city lights has become very popular. Candle-lit activities have been arranged, parties are being thrown and acoustic concerts given. In fact, masses of entertaining activities are going on around the globe – and all without the use of power. 

Will you be turning your lights out?

There are some fabulous interactive images here from Earth Hour 2013, where, from image 2, you can click on each image and see the lights fade out.

And a few still shots of some of the places where the lights have been turned off in past years.

Sydney Harbour Bridge and S...

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, Australia

Makati, The Philippines

Makati, The Philippines

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Kiev - Earth Hour 2013

Kiev, Ukraine

Hong Kong - Earth Hour 2013

Hong Kong

Earth Hour in Islamabad, Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

The Empire State building

The Empire State building, New York

Vienna's City Hall - Earth Hour

Vienna’s City Hall, Austria

Houses of Parliament, London - Earth Hour

Houses of Parliament, London

Cairo - Earth Hour

Cairo, Egypt

Lights out in South Africa

Lights out in South Africa

Earth Hour by Jeremiah Armstrong WWF-Canada.

Earth Hour by Jeremiah Armstrong WWF – Canada

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 91 – The Maned Wolf


Maned wolf by Tambako the Jaguar

Maned wolf by Tambako the Jaguar

“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival”
Wendell Berry

Called a wolf and looking remarkably like a long-legged fox only adds to the mystique of this unique canid.  Invariably described as a ‘fox on stilts’, the maned wolf (genus Chrysocyon – the only species in this genus) is not closely related to either fox or wolf. Its closest extant relative is the bush dog (genus Speothos).  It is also very distantly related to a few others with bizarre names, such as the crab-eating fox and the short-eared dog.

Maned wolf walking with two pupsBut being one of a kind has not protected this species from the onslaught of encroaching agriculture and road building.  A great many maned wolves are killed on the roads every year. A problem which has been addressed with introduced speed limits and local awareness, but as usual, not everyone takes note and fatalities on the roads are still high.

The maned wolf has been greatly misjudged in the past.  Under the false label of chicken, cattle and sheep killer, it was once hunted mercilessly by farmers.  It is now known these shy, retiring creatures will not approach human settlements for any reason, and will run away in fear if they see humans approaching elsewhere.  Consequently, with the exception of a few very remote areas, the reputation of the maned wolf has altered in its favour.

Maned wolf pupLet’s not forget, of course, the now-to-be-expected threat of folk medicine.  The eyes of the maned wolf are purported to bring good fortune and as a result are made into amulets.  This is very local, not big business, and certainly not a serious threat to the species, but a change would be helpful.

The most remarkable feature of the maned wolf are the legs.  Extraordinarily long, they are thought to be an adaptation enabling the species to see its prey in the tall grass. The legs have a pacing gait which allows each side of the body to move together, helping it to travel quickly across large areas of its territory.

Maned wolf pup curled upManed wolves weigh up to seventy-five pounds, can reach over three feet at the shoulder and be as long as five and a half feet from head to tip of tail.  The ears are large, and can be rotated when listening for prey moving through the high grass. 

Maned wolves have reddish-brown fur with black legs, a black muzzle, white markings on the throat and a white tip on the tail.  They have a distinctive black ‘mane’ which, when erect, signals displays of aggression or potential threats, rather like a domestic dog’s hackles going up.

The species does not come together in packs, which is quite unusual in the canid world. They are mainly solitary animals and nocturnal hunters.  In order to flush out its prey, the maned wolf will tap its foot on the ground, pounce and kill.  It will kill the prey by biting the neck or back, or simply by shaking it to death.

Maned wolf carrying pupManed wolves are monogamous, coming together only during the breeding season.  There is  a gestation period of up to sixty-five days.   After which a litter of anything between one and six pups, each weighing about one pound, will be born.  Both eyes and ears are closed until the pups are nine days old.  The mother will provide regurgitated food when they reach four weeks.  By ten weeks, their black fur will change to red, and by fifteen weeks they will be fully weaned.  They will still be reliant upon their parents for provision of food for their first year, at the end of which they will be fully grown.  Originally, it was thought the female alone cared for the young. Now it is believed the male also takes part in this process.

Natural Habitat
Semi-open tall grasslands, wet grassland, woodlands and scrub forest.
Where
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru.  Possibly Uruguay – but it is generally thought they have been extirpated.
What they eat
Fruits and vegetable matter, insects, small reptiles, birds and small mammals such as cuis, rabbits and viscachas.
Threats
Habitat reduction due to agricultural conversion (mainly to soy bean plantations) and road building.  Maned wolves are often killed on the roads, too.  Competition with, and the transmission of diseases from, domestic dogs has also played a part in their decline. “The maned wolf is particularly susceptible to infection by the giant kidney worm, a potentially fatal parasite that may also infect domestic dogs.” (Wikipedia)  Body parts are sometimes used in local folk medicine.  The species do not have any natural predators.
Status:  Near Threatened 
The Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Near Threatened (likely to become endangered in the near future).  The species is also listed under  CITES Appendix 11.  It is protected in Argentina as an endangered species and included on the list of threatened animals in Brazil.  It is also included in the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species List.  Hunting is prohibited in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.  Law enforcement is lax.

There are thought to be little more than twenty thousand maned wolves left in the wild today.  Most of these are found in Brazil.

There are over four hundred maned wolves reportedly kept in captivity.  Less than one hundred of these are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.  Mane wolves breed don’t well in captivity and there is a high recorded mortality rate of pups. There are various other conservation plans in progress initiated by a wide variety of non-profit organisations.  One of which is the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – forest conversion plans have been put in place in the hope of restoring some of the maned wolf’s habitat.

Related Articles
Dying Wolf Given Stem Cells Stuns Vets With Recovery (2011)
The Maned Wolves of Caraca Natural Park
In Brazil, tracking the Big Five: maned wolf

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 83 – The Malayan Tiger


Malayan Tiger at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Photographer: Greg Hume

“As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Regrettably, the magnificent tiger has been exploited for body parts and skins for centuries, and the Malayan tiger is no exception. Much is done in many countries to try and save tigers from extinction.  In Thailand, the home of the Malayan tiger, there are 20,000 forest rangers employed to protect all wildlife, but this is becoming an increasingly dangerous occupation.  In September Malayan Tiger in water2013, two rangers were fired upon by five poachers they had tracked to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Thailand.  On their way, the poachers had poisoned various animals, which the rangers suspected had been left behind as tiger bait (although, it is known they were hunting for various species). Four of the rangers were shot  in the incident, and two later died.  To add to the tragedy of the deaths of the rangers, when shots were exchanged, shockingly, the hunters were seen to be armed with AK-47 and carbine automatic rifles.  This does not imply poaching for subsistence food.  Instead, it smites heavily of terrorist activity.

Sadly, these incidents have become commonplace across Asia.  In the past four years, forty-two forest rangers have been killed on duty in Thailand alone.  These poorly paid, hard-working, dedicated rangers could do with a lot more support from the rest of the world as well as their own people.

A large part of the market for body parts and skins is created by the demand of middle class Asian consumers, in particular the fast-growing middle classes of China  (many of whom think elephants shed their tusks naturally), and it is not slowing down.  The demand for young animals as pets and exhibits has also become huge.  But, more often, it is terrorism which benefits most from these killings and live trade.  The trade in illegal wildlife, dead or alive, is now worth an estimated nineteen billion dollars a year.

Under such adverse circumstances, it seems only matter of time before the beautiful Malayan tiger, like so many other species, is lost to this world forever.

Slightly smaller than their Indian counterparts, female Malayan tigers can reach an average of seven feet ten inches in length, and Malayan Tiger and cubmales as much as eight feet six inches. They can stand at anything between two and four feet high at the shoulder and weigh between one hundred and four pounds and two hundred and eighty-four pounds.

The tiger’s orange, black and white striped coat is designed as camouflage in the forest or long grass.  It has huge front paws with five retractable claws on each.  It has incredibly powerful jaws housing large canines with which it is able to grab its prey and suffocate it.  In fact, in favourable circumstances it would have a more than fair chance of defending itself against its human predators.

Not always successful in every attack, one in twenty seems to be the kill rate, tigers can eat up to eighty pounds of meat in one feeding session.  The rest they will cover and come back to later, having already marked their territory with deep claw marks on trees.

Malayan tiger - Three-month-old Malayan tiger triplets at San Diego ZooThere is no specific breeding season for tigers.  It is an all-year-round event which is followed by a gestation period of roughly fourteen weeks.  Females birth in deep grass hollows or caves. Normally, a litter will consist of three cubs weighing about three pounds each.  They will stay with their mother for the first eighteen months to two years of their lives, in which time they will be taught all they need to equip them for a life of independence.

Habitat
Tropical forests, grasslands, and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.
Where
The southern tip of Thailand and the Malaysian Peninsular.
What they eat
Deer, wild boar, sun bears and occasional livestock.
Threats
Habitat destruction due to logging operations and development of roads for the same, and conversion of forests to agriculture or commercial plantations.   Poaching for skins and Traditional Chinese medicine, and human conflict.  An ever-diminishing prey base.
Status: Endangered
The Malayan Tiger  (Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It is also listed on  CITES: Appendix I.  Only five hundred or so Malayan tigers are still thought to exist in the wild.  Many are kept in captivity around the world. In the wild, most live outside protected areas.
Various agencies are addressing the issue of the Malayan tiger.  The World Wide Fund for Nature, for example, has initiated programs focusing on raising awareness, education and the reduction of human conflict.

Related Articles
How to Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade from Funding Terrorist Groups
Two forest rangers killed in gun battle with tiger hunters 
Scientists: to save the Malayan tiger, save its prey
Thousands come together for the Malayan Tiger!
Little Rock Zoo: 5-year-old tiger gives birth to 4 cubs

Related posts by me
Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)
Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 35 – The Humphead Wrasse


Humphead wrasse

Photo: Jeff Rotman / WWF

Description
The humphead wrasse is one of the ocean’s most spectacular sights.  Despite this, it has become a plated delicacy for indiscriminate diners.  This huge fish, it can grow up to seven feet in length and weigh in at anything in the region of four hundred and twenty pounds, is being hunted mercilessly for its flesh.

But, looking at a wild creature and saying,  “I don’t care how many of you are left  –  I think you’re really tasty, so I’m going to eat you anyway”  –  is just not acceptable.  So, if you see it on the menu  –  order something else. Thankfully, this is a recognised fact and, for this and other reasons for concern, the humphead wrasse has now become widely protected. Needless to say, they are still taken and killed despite the penalties.

They are sedentary creatures who, resting in caves at night, are highly vulnerable to unscrupulous divers and fishermen.  At night, scuba divers are able to sneak up on them unawares, using flash-lights, and simply take them or kill them.  Fishermen use cyanide, stunning them for capture.  The humphead wrasse is one of the most expensive live reef fishes in the world.  This species cannot be hatchery reared, meaning all those traded come from the wild population, making trade restrictions especially important.

It is often solitary, but has been seen in small social groups consisting of a limited number of male, females and juveniles.  Humphead wrasses possess a remarkable immunity to the toxic spines of starfish, boxfish and sea hares.

An adult humphead wrasse can change its colour, the shape of its body, and even its sex. Which it has been known to do when there has been an absence of the opposite sex.

Habitat
Steep outer reef slopes, channel slopes, lagoon reefs up to 300 feet in depth. Juveniles seem to prefer staghorn coral thickets, seagrasses and bushy macroalgae.
Where
They are widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific region, though nowhere are they common.
What they eat
Mainly molluscs, fishes, sea urchins and crustaceans.  With their sharp, hard teeth, they are also known to prey upon the toxic crown-of-thorns starfish, boxfish and sea hares.
Threats
Habitat loss and degradation, spear-fishing at night with scuba gear, illegal fishing, destructive fishing techniques, including the use of sodium cyanide and dynamite, and intensive capture for the Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT) (the use of cyanide has been found to be the most efficient way to take the wrasse, which is not only directly detrimental to the wrasse but also has a devastating effect on the coral which they depend on for shelter).  As a food, the flesh of the humphead wrasse is highly sought after.  Dwindling numbers are pushing the price up causing a further decline in numbers. Capture for the export trade in juvenile humphead wrasse for the marine aquarium trade is also a large problem.
Status: Endangered
The humphead wrasse was placed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered in 2004 and was listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in October 2004.
The WWF is working with others to attempt to re-populate the coral reefs with this extraordinary species. Live fish, captured for resale by local fishermen, have been bought back by the WWF and released into the wild. Almost nine hundred have been returned to their natural environment, by this method, since 2010.
IUCN Groupers and Wrasses Specialist Group aims to raise awareness throughout the region. In many areas this fish is now protected.

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace”
Albert Schweitzer