October 21, 2010

New Milestone in Study of Snow Leopards

 A team of wild cat researchers from Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust were recently successful in collaring their twelfth snow leopard, for study and tracking 6,500 feet high in South Gobi, Mongolia’s Tost Mountains. The collaring of the female cat is historic in that the South Gobi team is now monitoring twice the number of cats ever monitored in any previous study of the species.

This most recent snow leopard, temporarily named F4 until the team chooses a name, is a female snow leopard weighing 81 pounds. The GPS-satellite collar she was fitted with will allow scientists to track her movements for the next 20 months, giving insight to the information needed to save the elusive wild cats from extinction. There are believed to be between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards remaining in the wild today. 

The collaring of “F4” is particularly exciting because the researchers believe she is the mother of another nearly grown female that was fitted with a collar just a few months ago. The team has determined that F4 is still travelling with her cub, so this will be the first time scientists are able to learn how snow leopards rear their cubs and prepare them to leave home to establish their own territory. 

“Following a mother-daughter pair and seeing when the younger female leaves home and where she establishes her own home range is an exciting possibility,” said Panthera Snow Leopard Director Dr. Tom McCarthy. “This collaring, and the ones before it, has helped us reach a new level of understanding about these iconic cats; an understanding that could help us bring them back from the brink of extinction.”

The project in Mongolia is a collaboration between Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust.  For more information on this study and to follow F4 and the other cats, visit http://www.panthera.org/species/snow-leopard.

Image & video courtesy Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust

October 11, 2010

Eco-razzy: American Snack Consumers

Really? Seriously? A major American manufacturer of snack chips goes all out of its way to produce a biodegradable bag to package it's snacks in, and Americans force it off the market? Why would they do such a thing?

Well because the bags are noisy. The crinkly sound hurts their wimpy little ears. Seriously what. the. hell. America?

So now, Frito-Lay will return to packaging made of plastic for five of the six varieties of SunChips.  It will keep the biodegradable and recyclable bags for the original, plain flavor.  The flavor most favored by earthy, crunchy types whose tolerance for noise produced by planet-friendly bags is apparently higher than those who favor the Spicy Chipotle flavor.

According to the Frito-Lay website the bags are made from plant based materials and are designed to compost in about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost bin or pile. That is awesome!

Apparently, it's not awesome enough for most consumers to put up with... sound. Hey, if you need to snack in secret that is an issue all your own, please don't take it out on the planet.

I admit, I tried the  SunChips biodegradable bag and it is loud, laughably so. But that is all I did - laugh and say "this bag is crazy!"  I didn't go to YouTube to post a video complaint. However many  consumers did complain.  Sales declined each month the bags were on the market and Frito-Lay felt forced to return to plastic.

At least, until they can come up with an amazing bag that biodegrades in 14 days and is quiet enough for America.  Frito-Lay says they remain committed to finding a more popular sustainable bag solution.

Would you rather have your snacks in noisy bags or live on litter covered planet landfill?  Hmmm, I guess you could always eat the chips from a bowl... and still hear the TV.

October 8, 2010

New Print Released : Noah Scalin's Vaquita

We're excited to share our newest print with you all --- the gorgeous Vaquita print by artist Noah Scalin. (Be sure to click the image to see if full size.) Noah has been a long time friend of mine, and I love the beautiful piece that he created for ESPP.

Our first photographic/object-based piece, Noah's print was made by carefully arranging tangled threads to form the shape of the little porpoise. He decided to create the print in this way because the main threat to the Vaquitas (of which only an estimated 250 remain) are the nearly invisible gillnets which fisherman use in the Gulf of California. Vaquitas, being mammals that need to breathe air, become entangled in these nets and drown. It is estimated that between 39 and 84 individuals die this way each year, an obviously unsustainable toll on the naturally small population.

Noah's piece, which existed only for a short time, was intended to reflect the tenuous existence of these charming creatures that live in the shallows and lagoons of the Gulf of California. Please also check out Noah's website and his extremely popular project Skull-a-Day, which spawned a super cool book, and even landed him on Martha Stewart's show! Who knew the Martha was into skulls?

Noah's print benefits the wonderful organization ¡Viva Vaquita!, which is working at full tilt to change the situation in the Gulf --- in a way that will be beneficial to local fisherman, while also saving the Vaquita from the brink of extinction. Please check out our site to purchase a print. As always, 100% of the purchase price will support this great organization's work.

October 6, 2010

Endangered Strangers: Northern Abalone

Do you think I'm pretty?

Then why you keep wearing me as jewelry?

I is not wacky pendant.  
I is an animal, just like you. 
I am the Northern abalone. 
And you...
you totally bought that necklace at an art fair, didn't you?

One of the most primitive groups of molluscs on the planet, abalone have remained relatively unchanged for about 500 million years.  Northern abalone are found along the Pacific coast of America from Sitka Island, Alaska, in the north, to Turtle Bay, Baja California in the south. They feed on red algae when they are free roaming infants and settle into the brown algae and a sedentary life as adults.  I'm sure we can all relate to that. Abalone use their rough tongue-like radulas to scrape algae off of rocks. They also catch phytoplankton as it drifts by. Yum!

For hundreds of years abalone were harvested for their meat and decorative shells with a limited impact on their population.  Then... horror movie music played, masked scuba divers swarmed the abalones secret hideouts, reaching out their creepy rubber-gloved hands,  devastating the abalone's numbers and leaving their children homeless and motherless and wait, what happened? The invention of scuba diving! Scuba diving led to the over-harvesting of abalone, whose previously unreachable, remote hang outs kept them safe from human's insatiable greed.

Today there is a total ban on harvesting Northern abalone in British Columbia and partial bans exist elsewhere.  Poaching is a continued threat. A National Recovery Strategy and National Recovery Action Plan for the species have been created in Canada, a superior country where I would like to live.