June 26, 2010

The Big Caption

Recent posts to one of our new favorite blogs, The Big Caption, related to the horrendous nightmare also known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  The Big Caption uses typography to make jokes and statements.


June 25, 2010

First National Park Born Condor Chick Poisoned by Lead Shot

The famous first baby condor to have been born inside a National Park in over 100 years had to be brought in by biologists, and taken to intensive care, due to lead poisoning. The birds are being treated via a process known as chelation to remove the lead from their blood, which would otherwise kill them. The chick and his father were likely poisoned by lead shot from a carcass they ingested.

The NRA is currently fighting proposed bans on lead shot --- which poisons many species of wildlife, as well as human beings. To be blunt, and without cursing, I cannot possibly understand why the NRA and certain hunters insist on using lead shot, when steel shot is available. It seems to be a case of being worried that they can't budge an inch --- but it is patently obvious that lead shot is incredibly detrimental to wildlife and the environment. (As well as routinely poisoning hunters who can't possible get all the minute fragments of lead out of their kills.)

Image courtesy of our friends at the Peregrine Fund

Of course, many hunters are also great advocates for wildlife and conservation, so it will be interesting to see how this schism will play out. Let's hope we win, as it will be a great victory for the health of people, animals and the environment!

The Los Angeles Zoo is currently treating both father and chick. Let's keep our fingers crossed for them, as only 180 of these soaring giants remain in the wild.

It is currently unknown whether or not the mother has also been poisoned, though efforts are underway in Pinnacles National Monument to trap her, in order to test her lead levels.

You can support these magnificent birds through the great work of the Peregrine Fund by purchasing Barnaby Whitfield's beautiful California Condor print for ESPP.

June 24, 2010

Bumble Bees: The Next Endangered Species?

In an effort to reduce the decline of bumblebees The Society for Invertebrate Conservation and University of California at Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the insect — called a Franklin's bumblebee — under the Endangered Species Act.

Image copyright Peter Schroeder
Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini) on California poppy (Eschscholzia californica

Twelve years of surveys conducted by Dr. Robbin Thorp clearly show that this species has declined steadily.  The decline has been so severe that only a single Franklin’s bumble bee was observed in 2006 and none since.

“Over the last 12 years I have watched the populations of this bumble bee decline precipitously,” said Dr. Robbin Thorp, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis.  “My hope is this species can recover before it is too late.” 

The cause of the catastrophic decline of Franklin’s bumble bee is hypothesized to be an escaped exotic disease that may have spread from commercial bumble bee colonies to wild bumble bee populations. Research in Dr. Sydney Cameron’s lab at the University of Illinois is underway to test this hypothesis. Other threats that may be harming Franklin’s bumble bee populations include habitat loss and degradation, climate change, pesticide use, and invasive plant species.

The group is preparing petitions to protect other bumblebee species as well.  The Associated Press reports that bees pollinate about 15 percent of all crops grown in the nation, worth $3 billion.

Visit The Xerces Society for more info on this petition and bee conservation.  The full petition is available here.

June 22, 2010

New Monitor Lizard gives Scientists Double-X-Rated Surprise

A Varanus bitatawa lizard on its home island of Luzon in the Philippines.
Photograph by Joseph Brown

Scientists in the Philippines recently discovered a new species of giant Monitor lizard, as long as a human being. The new species was a surprise for several reasons: First, it is unusual for such a large species to have gone undiscovered (turns out this "incredibly secretive" lizard was hiding in the trees!), and secondly, the new species has a double penis. Yep, that's right. Two wangs.

This species with it's peculiar penis is related to the famous Komodo Dragon, but unlike it's gnarly relative known for biting prey with its bacteria filled mouth and returning to their bloated corpses to feast days later (yum) --- the Varanus bitatawa is a gentle vegetarian. What a nice fellow.

However, this gentle giant lizard is most likely in severe peril. The Philippines is one of the most heavily deforested areas on the planet, so there may not be much time to learn about this amazing species.

Forests continue to be cut down in the Philippines due to economic inequality, lack of government regulations, lack of political will, and corruption. It is hoped that international pressure (perhaps, via REDD) could slow or stop the devastation of the 5% of these forests that remain. These rain forests, rich in biodiversity, no doubt still harbor many more surprises!

June 17, 2010

The Fellowship of the Whale

The time is near for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting to vote on a proposal to legalize commercial whaling. In fact, it's only days away and the vote could go either way. We've pondered the pros and cons of this proposal before. Also known as the "whaling compromise" it proposes to legalize commercial whaling for the first time in 30 years in exchange for reducing the number of whales killed each year. According to the IWC even with the global ban on whaling an estimated 2000 whales a year fall victim to unregulated whaling.

Alarmingly, some IWC members may abstain from voting on the proposal which allows killing of endangered species-the Sei whale and the Finback whale. There has been a huge global outcry against this proposal, only 30 years after the hard fought battle to ban commercial whaling in the first place.

From our friends at Avaaz:
After the global ban was first implemented on commercial whaling, the number of whales killed each year plummeted from 38,000 per year to just a couple of thousand. It's a testament to the power of humanity to move forward. As we move to confront the other crises of the modern age, let's cherish this legacy of progress -- by joining together now to protect our majestic and intelligent neighbors on this fragile planet.

An amazing piece Flights, Girls, and Cash Buy Japan Whaling Votes in the Sunday Times uncovers that Japan has been using cash, development aid, and yes prostitutes to buy the pro-whaling votes of  IWC members in African, Asian, Pacific and Caribbean states.

Reporters posing as lobbyists offered to buy the anti-whaling votes of IWC members. Their offers were repeatedly weighed against the aid and gifts promised or already bestowed upon them by Japan.  Most had marginal or no interest in whaling. The Sunday Times piece quotes the chief fishing policy adviser to the Marshall Islands as saying the only reason for the Marshall Islands pro-whaling position is because of the financial aid from Japan.

Japan even has landlocked countries believing that whales are threatening their country's food supply. This silly claim is further proof that Japan's "scientific" whaling is a farce.

Since this is a blog and we like to express our personal opinions along with the facts, I'll update you on mine. Although I can see the logic in the whaling compromise and it's potential for conservation, at the 11th hour I must cast my vote to uphold the ban on commercial whaling. I don't trust policy makers enough to hold whale hunters to the proposed quotas, especially after reading the Sunday Times piece. There is already so much illegal killing with the ban in place, I don't believe legalizing whaling will reduce illegal harvesting. I'd like to hope that something like that could work but today at least for, I have little hope for humanity's ability to restrain itself from annihilating itself along with the planet. You can add your name along with 681,289 (at the time of this post) others to a global petition to uphold the ban on commercial whaling here. That number, at least, is hopeful.

You can read what Cristian Maquieira, Chairman of the IWC has to say in defense of the new proposal here.

This post title is borrowed from a PBS documentary by the same name, The Fellowship of the Whales. Watch it here.

June 16, 2010

Endangered Strangers: The Clouded Leopards

Yeah, I have the longest canine teeth of any modern carnivore

Photo: Alain Compost/WWF-Canon
And I'm prettier than all of them too
I don't make a big deal out of it or anything
Me strong, sexy, silent type

Unless you push me...

I'm the Clouded leopard

Little is known about the clouded leopards, medium size wildcats from the forest of Asia. They are excellent climbers. No really- they are able to climb upside down, on the underside of a tree branch, and hang from their hind feet!  Their tail can grow up to 3 feet long, the same length as their body.

The Clouded leopard has the longest upper canine teeth for it's skull size of any modern carnivore.  It's jaw and skull evoke primitve saber-tooth cats and in fact, Clouded leopard skulls are unlike those of any other cat living today.

In 2007 the Borneo Clouded Leopard was declared to be a separate species. Formerly considered to be one of the now 4 sub-species of Clouded leopard, the declaration was made after a study comparing coat patterns and coloration. Researchers found the leopards on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are markedly different from animals found on the Southeast Asian mainland. Genetic testing was also done.  Researchers estimate that the two species diverged approximately 1.5 million years ago due to geographical isolation.

June 15, 2010

Lonesome G's Tortoise Tips : Picking up Litter

Here are some interesting facts. 28% of the world's 'litter' is made up of cigarette butts, and just two of these babies can kill all the microorganisms in a liter of water in 48 hours. Yikes.

Plastic bags can trap and kill animals or end up in their stomachs, often causing death. And we all know about how birds can get caught in 6-pack rings.

I'm also wondering how much recycling never makes it into a recycling bin.

So, litter...what can we do about it?

You may initially be hesitant to touch a can or plastic bag on the sidewalk, but you'll be surprised how easy it is to change your attitude towards litter. When I was a kid, my family went on many backpacking and hiking trips with the Sierra Club. The Club's rule was to 'take only pictures, leave only footprints,' --- and moreover to leave the place cleaner than you found it. Though this is especially relevant in our parks and wild places, I say we extend this last part of the motto to everywhere we go.

It's a simple step to begin to be aware of litter around you. As you walk down the streets of Chicago or wherever you live, if and you see a bottle --- pick it up and toss it in the recycling.

This goes double for nature. You'll be surprised how great it feels to know that you helped clean up cans, bags, and bottles, and left a beautiful place more beautiful than when you arrived!

June 11, 2010

Lonesome G's Tortoise Tips : Rethinking Paper Towels

Today's Tortoise Tip is on rethinking paper towels, where they come from, and how necessary they are. (Hint: they're not.)

According to Wikipedia, consumption of paper towels and other tissue products is highest in the US, with consumption 50% higher than in Europe, and nearly 500% higher than in Latin America. Yikes!

Where do paper towels come from? "The store" is not the right answer here. Of course, everyone knows the answer, but we often don't think about it. Paper towels come from trees. Trees like:
spruce, pine, fir, larch, hemlock, eucalyptus, aspen and birch. You don't want to dry your hands on these guys, right? Wouldn't they be better creating habitat for animals and birds and sucking up that pesky CO2?

Not only that, but paper towels are industrially manufactured, often in a dirty process utilizing bleach, which is highly toxic to fish (and you).

International Paper Company...part of 'where paper towels come from'

So, okay, I'm going to advocate for something that may not be so popular, but seriously, it's really easy once you get used to it, and makes a big difference. Here it comes: STOP USING PAPER TOWELS. 100%. Paper towels were invented in 1931, so clearly humanity survived for many a year without them, and I think we can do so again. In your home, in public restrooms...there is really no need to use trees to clean up spills or dry our hands.

At home: Cut up worn-out clothes, or transition those old tea towels to be rags. You'll have lots on hand soon enough --- so when you use one to wipe up spilled milk, no need to cry, just toss it in the laundry basket after it's too dirty to re-use. (You're washing with cold water, right?) Simple. I've been doing it for ages, and now I wouldn't even know what to do with a roll of paper towels. :)

Public restrooms: Somewhat more of a trick......or is it? Guess what you always have with you that you can dry off that wee bit of water with? Your clothes! I have been drying my hands on my pants, skirt, sweater etc for years, and no one has ever called me a disheveled bum. It's so little water, it barely matters. Okay, so say you're wearing a suit or a silk dress. Use that handkerchief you should be carrying with you anyway or keep a little hand towel in your purse or pocket. This is what I saw that all the ladies in Japan do. It's stylish and sensible, and something that every person could easily do.

Your Mini-Activism Assignment: How many times have you been in a public restroom and seen someone horking out paper towels like there's no tomorrow? I haven't come up with a way to say something to these people that will leave them actually understanding your message, rather than being pissed off, but the good people at "These are Made Out Of Trees" have come up with a clever solution: little stickers that remind people where paper towels come from.

Savvy readers may have already noticed a link to this site, where, for a modest fee, you can get some very cool stickers, and get your mini-activist on. I just hit up a fave bar last night, and it felt very satisfying. Apparently each sticker can save up to 100lbs of paper each year.

Okay guys, go do it! Vive la revolution!

June 10, 2010

Alaotra Grebe Declared Extinct

Sad news readers, we've lost another one. Another wonderful and distinct species that will never again grace our planet. R.I.P. Alaotra Grebe.

Sure, extinction is part of natural selection, survival of the fittest and all that --- but what many anti-environmentalists fail to realize when they make this argument is that the nature and efficacy of natural selection, in terms of selecting the fittest, is being fundamentally mutated by human beings. It's not "natural" selection when a species fails to adapt to climate change, over-hunting, or the pollutants poured into their habitat. Human beings continue change the environment too quickly for species to adapt, and then they're gone forever.

In the case of the little Alaotra Grebe, which lived in Madagascar, a particularly imperiled region (see our Madagascar tag for more info), the cause of its extinction was mostly habitat loss, poaching, and predation by a species of carnivorous fish introduced by human beings.

Unfortunately, only one blurry photograph (above) of the grebe exists, but an illustration can be seen below:

Bye little guy...

According to Monga Bay: "The Alaotra grebe is the third grebe to vanish in forty years, and the 132nd bird species to vanish since 1600, although it is likely birds unknown to science also went extinct during that time.

To date 1,240 birds are threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List, which added 25 species to the list since last year."

This is what ESPP is working to prevent people. Help us support conservation with any of ESPP's limited-edition prints, which you can purchase here. Remember 100% of the profits go to protect the species depicted.

We're in it to win it, and serious about bio-diversity. Join the team!

You can read more about the former Alaotra Grebe in this excellent BBC article here.

June 9, 2010

Lonesome G's Tortoise Tips : Introduction

In the spirit of the past few posts about how we can all step up to the plate and help out, we're starting a new section on the ESPP blog, dedicated to our pal Lonesome George.

Lonesome George is the name given to last member of the most endangered species on the planet, the Pinta Island Tortoise (Geochelone nigra abingdoni), and the mascot/logo of the Endangered Species Print Project. While other somewhat related Galapagos Tortoises species still exist, Lonesome George is the last member of his species.

Pinta Island's vegetation was devastated when human beings introduced feral goats to the island, and when and Lonesome George was discovered in 1971, it's possible that he has already been alone and mate-less for some time. Efforts to interbreed George with related female turtles of other species, have sadly been unsuccessful, producing only non-viable eggs.

Because we all want to do everything in our power to prevent more last lonesomes on the brink of extinction, let's all pull together, take the time to change our lives for the better, and be sure to pass the word on to our friends, family, and strangers on the bus. We need a groundswell and your help and engagement is vital!

So, Lonesome G is going to be bringing you suggestions from and for everyday life, that in the end can make a big impact on the health and biodiversity of our planet. They are simple things that have occurred to us in our daily lives --- and we also welcome your comments or emails with suggestions! We're going to try to come up with things that you may not have thought of before, or give a new spin on things that you may already know about. Some will be big and others small, but everything counts.

We should all be thinking about how every action we take impacts our environment, and the planet we'll leave to our children.
Things like turning off the tap water when we brush our teeth, or drying your hands on your pants, instead of taking 100 paper towels ---- we like to call this mini-activism. And it matters!

We also ask you to help with the most crucial part. Be sure to pass these tips --- repost them on Facebook using the link below, tell people about them in person, set a good example, and email them to friends & family.

Lonesome G thanks you!

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Wildlife Updates

An article published by Our Amazing Planet titled Oil's Effect on Endangered Species Possibly 'Mind-Bogling' discusses the potential effect of the spill on the smalltooth sawfish and other animals.

© Doug Perrine

The Numbers
NOAA's daily report on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for today verifies from April 30 - June 7 within the spill area: 315 turtles were stranded 263 were dead, 22 stranded alive (3 later died). 35 dolphins stranded dead, 2 stranded alive (both now dead). Although these numbers are higher than in previous years, NOAA states that not all of these strandings can be proven to be an effect of the oil spill. They note "In part, this may be due to increased detection and reporting and the lingering effects of an earlier observed spike in strandings for the winter of 2010." In which case I guess the strandings are just an effect of climate change or naval testing or some other human-created disaster.

Care2 reports What it Takes to Save Oil Soaked Animals and notes 289 birds found alive. 547 found dead.

Hermit crabs struggle through oil on a barrier island off of Louisiana
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

What it's Worth
"Kill, don't clean" has been proposed as the correct response to oil-soaked birds by German animal biologist Silvia Gaus. Among the reasoning for this proposal Gaus lists catching and cleaning birds can cause them a fatal amount of stress. The costly, labor-intensive, and low success rate of cleaning birds is also sited.

I tend to think that just because we cannot save them all, does not mean we shouldn't try. All we have is hope.  Hope that we could save one bird, that this will be a huge wake up call for America, that new energy solutions will now be our utmost priority, that Sarah Palin will finally shut the...oops. It's costly? Send the bill to BP. Tax us at the gas pump.

Here in Chicago, Ken Ramirez,  the vice president of animal collections for the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago disagrees with the "kill don't clean" mentality. "The oil is not a natural substance," he says. "These animals ingest it, swim through it, and species can go extinct if we don't help."

Ramirez also points out an environmental catastrophe lurking below the Gulf's surface: "Eggs will be laid that will never hatch. Animals will eat them and have deformities. Hundreds of thousands of animals you will never see will be impacted," he said.

June 8, 2010

Kicking Ass

"I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar," 
"We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick." 
 - President Obama

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, East Grand Terre Island, LA, 6/3/10 
 Bird covered in oil

I know there are some who deserve the ass-kicking more than others. I  hope they get it. Perhaps they should be, as my 4th grade bus driver used to threaten, "bolied in oil." That being said, I think all Americans need an ass kicking, Mr. Obama. Our entire society is implicated in this most horrendous disaster. We all need to change our ways. Myself included. Petroleum is used not just for gas but in materials such as plastic and wax, used to package items we consume on a daily basis. There is much re-thinking and re-vising we need to do.

You can start by signing a petition to end America's dependence on oil here. Carry an aluminum water bottle so you use less plastic already.  Stop taking so many napkins with your to-go lunch, people in Chicago, I see you! Those come from trees! Do you really need 7 napkins? Are you really that big of a slob? Then maybe you should get a bib! If I fly into a rage at your napkin use, people who eat lunch at the (thankfully somewhat eco-friendly) Chase cafeteria, I'm just helping President Obama to kick ass. Let's change our ways and invent new solutions. I'm tired of hauling my recycling home from the office. 

June 4, 2010

ESPP Arty Updates

 My Love For You is a Stampede of Horses featured ESPP and Barnaby Whitfield's beautiful California Condor print.

Jerstin Crosby
You Cannot Control What is Wild

ESPP artist Jerstin Crosby's show In the Manner of Smoke at Good Citizen Gallery was reviewed in the May issue of Artforum. The exhibition included a public billboard designed by Jerstin. Good job JC!

ESPP artist The Mincing Mockingbird will be exhibiting at the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair this weekend.

ESPP artist & blogger Christopher Reiger will exhibit in "Single Lady," a group exhibition opening next week. The show is curated by Jenny Salomon, Candice Madey, and Kate Gilmore, and includes a good number of terrific artists.  Importantly, half of all proceeds will benefit Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT.

Prints and paper goods by ESPP artist and founder Molly Schafer are now available at the brand spanking new and extra lovely Arrow to Arrow.

ESPP artist & founder Jenny Kendler collaborated with Linsey Burrit on their installation Early Thaw of the Northwest Passage. The piece featured Jenny's drawings and sculpture inside of an ice cave.

Jenny Kendler & Linsey Burrit

And last but not least you have only 8 more days to catch ESPP artists Barnaby Whitfield and Aaron Johnson's amazing exhibition Don't Be Scared, You're Supposed to Be at Irvine Contemporary in Washington, DC. The exhibition closes June 12.

Oh! And in case you missed it ESPP had it's first exhibition!

June 3, 2010

Stamps for Species

The Wildlife Conservation Society is petitioning the Senate to pass the Stamp act. We'd like to take this opportunity to suggest ESPP artists be considered when it comes time to create the artwork for these stamps...
From WCS:
There may be as few as 3,200 wild tigers in the world today - and they need our help. The world's remaining tigers are threatened by poaching, conflict with humans, and the loss and fragmentation of habitats.

Congress can help tigers by authorizing a new postage stamp whose purchase would support wildlife conservation projects - to create protected habitats, stop illegal poaching and expand education.
When we put our voices together we can make a roar powerful enough to save wild tigers from a dire fate.