February 28, 2010

Help a Tonkin Out...

ESPP is looking for a conservation groups or a conservation project currently working in the field with the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. Leave any suggestions in the comments or please get in touch here. Thanks!

Image © Le Khac Quyet

February 24, 2010

Endangered Strangers: The Saiga Antelope


I am the Saiga Antelope.
And yes my nose does totally
rule, thanks for noticing.

In just one decade Earth lost half of it's population of Saiga antelope. One of the most rapid and dramatic decreases of a large mammal population ever seen, the saiga population of over one million plummeted to 50,000 in just ten years. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a combination of increased poaching and breakdown in law enforcement set the stage for this rapid decline.

Saiga sport a rather unusual nose. The saiga's probocsis is it's own unique and glorious beast. Here are some saiga nose facts from EDGE:

"The nose has a unique internal structure: the bones are greatlydeveloped and convoluted, and the long nostrils contain numerous hairs,glands and mucous tracts. These structures are thought to beadaptations for warming and moistening inhaled air during the winter,filtering out airborne dust during the dry summer migrations, andacting as counter-current heat exchange mechanisms."

That stately nose isn't the saiga's only fashion statement. Their white, woolly, winter coat changes to a shorter, toasty buff color in summer. Adult males sport heavily ridged horns.

The saiga is the only surviving representative of its genus. The closely related Saiga borealis became extinct during the Pleistocene.

Threats to the Saiga include poaching of the males for their horns (often for Chinese medicine) and habitat destruction along their migration routes.

February 20, 2010

Australia gives Japan Ultimatum on Whaling

According to a report just in at Reuters, the Australian Prime Minister (and new ESPP hero!), Kevin Rudd, has set Japan a November deadline to cease all whaling, or face an international legal challenge. Saying that he fist preferred a diplomatic solution to the complete cessation of all Japanese whaling, Prime Minister Rudd issued this statement on Australian television:

"If that fails, then we will initiate court action before the commencement of the whaling season in November 2010. That's the bottom line and we're very clear to the Japanese, that's what we intend to do,"

Despite the fact that experts say that Japan's whaling violates international laws, such as the Antarctic Treaty System, the country has continued to cull whales, claiming that it is for scientific purposes, though this has been challenged as to its veracity by multiple parties.

This issue has been seen as extremely controversial, as Japan argues that it's continued whaling is based on cultural differences and has suggested that other countries' desire to end the killing of whales is based on emotional anthropomorphism.

I myself, when in Japan in the summer of 2008, spoke to a Japanese friend of a friend who insisted that whaling was a Japanese right and that Westerners didn't understand, and didn't have a right to interfere. She also explained something that really upset me, which was that almost no one likes whale meat, except for old men, and that much of it becomes meals for school children...basically grade F meat that no one wants. Now this was just one person's point of view, but it lead me to understand that whaling has become an issue of national pride --- becoming a symbol more than an act, standing for Japanese national and cultural independence.

While I deeply respect Japanese culture, I must respectfully disagree with this course of action. In my mind, the need to end whaling does not have to do with anthropomorphizing whales or cultural values, but instead rests in scientific logic, which (hopefully) bridges all cultures. The fact is that many of the whales culled for 'research' end up being eaten, and considered low-grade food, in a wealthy country that has no need to rely on whales for sustenance. Moreover, many of those dinner-plated whales are endangered.

To quote Wikipedia:

"In 2009, published DNA analysis of whale meat from Japanese markets suggested as many as 150 large whales, from vulnerable coastal stocks were taken annually as bycatch. Japan legally allows the commercial sale of whales caught, incidentally, entangled in fishing nets designed to catch coastal fish. Market surveys also detected migratory whales such as Humpbacks, Fin whales, Bryde's whales and Gray whales some of which are endangered species."

Not to be hyperbolic, but slavery was a 'tradition' in many cultures, but most countries now agree that the practice is barbaric, and work to end it in other nations. The principle is the same for Japanese, Icelandic and Norwegian whaling --- especially the killing of threatened and endangered whale species. It's time for these countries to all to move forward. Thanks to Prime Minister Rudd for helping this to happen.

February 19, 2010

Spotted: Lynx rufus

*Update: Even though major new outlets like MSN and The Huffington Post, where we first saw this story, are reporting this non-human Olympian as a lynx (Lynx canadensis). The International Society for Endangered Cats Canada assures us it is actually a bobcat (Lynx rufus). The content of this post has been updated to reflect this new info. See comments.

Spotted: Lynx canadensis rufus, better known as the bobcat, sneaking across an Olympic downhill ski course near Whistler.

The ICUN lists the status of the bobcat at least concern.

Historically the bobcat roamed throughout the lower 48 states but has been extirpated from parts of the mid-west and the east coast. The bobcat also resides in Canada and Mexico. In all three countries habitat loss is a major threat to the bobcat. Legal harvesting of the bobcat occurs in the US and seven Canadian provinces and it is trophy-hunted in Mexico.

This bobcat's graceful appearance and artful leap over the Vancouver 2010 sign leaves the displays of athleticism by our Olympians look just a little less awesome.

We can't help but wonder what kind of impact the 2010 Olympics are having on Canada's rich and wonderful wilderness. According to news reports on this Olympic lynx that is actually a bobcat locals say that the animal is common around Whistler and can be seen during their mating season.

February 17, 2010

Endangered Strangers: The Vaquita

Yo soy guapo! You soy chico! Yo soy raro!

Yo soy la Vaquita!

Vaquita photo by Barb Taylor

Ssssqueak, squeeek! Squizzle! Ssssssqueeeee!

Allow me to translate. That's our poquita Vaquita friend's way of saying, "Help us, amigas! Por Favor!" And seriously, one look at that little face -- how can you resist? You're not resisting, you say? Oh good...Fellow Vaquita lovers, please read on:

The Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), whose name means "little cow" in Spanish, is one of the worlds smallest cetaceans (a group which included dolphins, whales and porpoises), and is certainly one of the most adorable and charming too. Sadly, since the Baiji of China has recently become extinct, the Vaquita is now Earth's most critically endangered cetacean, with estimates putting the population between 100-300.

Vaquitas live only in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) -- which is the body of water between the skinny peninsula of Baja California and Mexico. In fact, Vaquitas only live in the extreme north of this body of water, also making them the cetacean with the most limited range.

Due to their small range, the existence of this rare porpoise was only confirmed in 1985. Though Vaquitas have never been hunted directly, they are often trapped and killed in gillnets set to catch fish and shrimp. In the year 2000, the Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, found that 39-84 individuals are killed each year by such gillnets --- which is an obviously unsustainable level.

There is some hope, however. The Mexican government has set aside a portion of the Vaquita's habitat as a nature reserve, but conservationists would like to see that reserve extended. Even if the threat of gillnets is eliminated, chlorinated pesticides flowing into the water, reduced flow of freshwater from the Colorado River due to irrigation, and inbreeding still present serious threats to this tiny population.

Vaquita Illustration by Brett Jarett

Here are a few ways you can help:

- The plight of the Vaquita is not well known outside of certain communities, so tell people about this amazing little guy!

- Since fishing is the main danger to the Vaquita's survival, if you eat seafood, please make sure you're not harming Vaquitas or other sea mammals in the process. Unbelievably, fisheries kill hundreds of thousands of marine mammals each year or more than 1000 per day. You can find a list of seafood that is safe for you and the planet here and, download a printable pocket-sized guide for your region here. Take it with you to the grocery store and restaurants and make copies for your friends and family!

- It's also important to let your representatives in government know that you care about the health of our oceans, so sign those petitions and answer those emails --- they all count! Time for the Vaquita, is of the essence. We have only a couple years to save this unique and valuable species.

February 10, 2010

Endangered Strangers: Coral

What what! Corals in the house!

Blue coral - Heliopora coerulea
This endangered species is unique and amazing --- it's the sole member of it's taxonomic order and is known for it's distinctive permanently blue skeleton.

Wellington’s solitary coral - Rhizopsammia wellingtoni
Sadly, this species is critically endangered and may be extinct. This deep purple-black coral was known from just a few sites off the Galápagos Islands.

Elkhorn coral - Acropora palmata
This species is critically endangered. This type of coral is an excellent reef-builder and occurs in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean.

Elegance coral - Catalaphyllia jardinei
This endangered species is known as one of the most beautiful corals, with gorgeously colored polyps...hence its elegant common name.

Mushroom coral - Heliofungia actiniformis
Rather than forming colonies like most species of corals, this charmingly-patterned endangered coral is solitary.

Right, so everyone pretty much has got it by now that we're animals and not plants...sheesh! But maybe not many peeps know how hard we have it right now in the ocean, what with pollutants, harvesting for tropical fish tanks and jewelery, and warming oceans. We're also feelin' real freaked out about this new jazz that ecologists everywhere are talking about: OCEAN ACIDIFICATION! Very, very uncool. Please, help a coral out and get down with the science below.

Okay, so what the corals are worried about is true. Aside from the more regular threats they face from being collected, drenched with sediment, choked with algae blooms due to fertilizer runoff etc --- the twin threats posed by the rapid increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are very real and very serious --- not only for coral, (though corals are some of the oceans most at risk inhabitants,) but for much of ocean life.

Corals are very sensitive to ocean warming, and when stressed by high temperatures, they can loose their symbiotic algae and undergo what is called 'bleaching,' which leads to severe stress and sometimes death of the organism or entire reefs.

In addition, because corals' skeletons are made of calcium carbonate, the increasing acidity of the oceans, can quite literally, dissolve corals away. Ocean acidification occurs as our oceans absorb a portion of the additional carbon dioxide emitted by the activities human beings. This creates carbonic acid, making our oceans gradually more acidic --- and can eventually kill organisms that rely on calcium carbonate for their shells and skeletons. Many people call this the 'hidden threat' of global warming.

Luckily, this is starting to be recognized and studied, and hopefully we can all act before it's too late. Just yesterday, in fact, 82 coral species were submitted for review to be protected under the US Endangered Species Act.

Here are a few ways you can help:

- If you have a saltwater aquarium, please don't buy wild-harvested corals.

- Please don't purchase new jewelry made from coral, and sign SeaWeb's 'Too Precious to Wear" pledge here, which is part of a great campaign that's even supported by Tiffany & Co.

- And of course, the largest and most important thing all of us can do is work hard to reduce our own carbon footprints! Be conscious when you make any choice, of how you are affecting the world around you. Yes, walking instead of driving is making a real difference for thousands of exotic and beautiful marine species of coral world-wide. Try that line out on your friends.

- Also, learning more and spreading the word is an amazing help! You can learn more about ocean acidification, here, or more about anything in this post with a quick Google search.

Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi...or whatever your name is. You're our only hope!

February 8, 2010

Amelia's Anthology of Illustration

Anaconda Wave Power by Liv Bargman

Ethically produced in the U.K. using vegetable inks and FSC approved paper Amelia's Anthology of Illustration pairs some terrific illustrators with "obscure new alternative technologies" to imagine a future free of fossil fuels. I already looked up Anaconda Wave Power for you.

February 4, 2010

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals Protected

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

In good news for one of the world's most imperiled marine mammals, this Tuesday a Hawaiian senator introduced legislation that would make it a felony to kill or harm Hawaiian monk seals and other endangered species. Within the past year, two male monk seals and one pregnant female fell victim to deadly shootings -- even as the seal's population is expected to drop below 1,000 animals within a few years due to starvation, climate change, entanglement in marine debris, habitat loss, and other threats. Last year saw the lowest number of pups ever produced during breeding season; the population is declining by 4 percent annually. The Hawaiian monk seal's cousin, the Caribbean monk seal, was announced extinct in 2008.

The news about new legislation to protect Hawaiian Monk Seals is especially interesting news for us here at ESPP HQ, since (I'm going the leak some intel here) the Hawaiian Monk Seal is going to be one of the next ESPP print releases. ESPP is also excited to announce that we are partnering with a great on-the-ground, in-the-waves organization working in Hawaii to save these seals, that even operates an 800 number for seal spottings and seal-related emergencies! Keep your eyes open underwater, and check out
the ESPP site soon for the new print!

    February 3, 2010

    Endangered Strangers: Minor's Chemeleon


    I am the Minor's chameleon.

    Huh? I am not a cartoon character! I am a real chameleon.
    And this is my threat display, punk.

    Yeah, that'sright, tough guy. This is me showing you what's up. These days I use this technique a lot on punks like you, humanstrying to chameleon-nap my lady for her beautiful colors.
    Ahh, isn't she lovely?
    What? Yeah I know usually male chameleons have the pretty colors
    but we're Minor's chameleons and that's just how we roll.

    As part of our continuing effort to raise awarenessabout the current situation in Madagascar (read ESPP on Madagascar here and here) we'd like to introduce the Minor's Chameleon. Likethe majority of wildlife on Madagascar the Minor's Chameleon is endemic to the island, and it's existence is tied to the island as a whole.

    Minor's chameleons can change the color of their skin. Females carrying eggs or developing young exhibit a lovely array of color variations. Described by Arkive as having "alternating greenish-black and yellow bands, with yellow speckling highlighting the dark areas.Two conspicuous blue to violet, reddish-black-bordered spots also adorneach side of the chest, just behind the head, while vivid red sets offthe lower jaw and top of the head. At rest, the coloration of the female is green with slight yellowish banding."

    Male Minor's chameleons are not as colorful ranging from brown-orange to black and whitebanding. They do have an impressive appendage protruding fromthe end of their snout however, and that cool threat display. Both sexes hunt using their long sticky tongues to capture their food.

    Minor's chameleons are threatened by the exotic pet trade. Although it is no longer legal to export Minor's chameleons the currentpolitical instability in Madagascar has left no central government to enforce such laws, andinternational conservation aid to the island has been frozen. This situation has left theisland's unique and often endangered resources up for grabs. Organized criminal poachers are taking advantage of thesituation. Animals and treesare being illegally harvested from the forests at an alarming rate. The Wildlife Conservation Society, a naturalist group, has previously estimated the size of the illegal exotic pet trade at $6 billion per year.

    Minor's chameleons are also threatened by the severe loss of forest habitat in Madagascar. They were officially listed as Vulnerable in 1996 by the Madagascar Reptile and Amphibian Specialist Group. It is possible the status of the Minor's chameleon may change as the science is updated and their population is studied. Currently there are no specific conservation efforts for the Minor's chameleon.
    You can see my lady's threat display in this Arkive video. And she ain't playin', punk.