Whales Mourn Their Dead, Just Like Us

Seven species of the marine mammals have been seen clinging to the dead body of a likely friend or relative, a new study says.

Source: Whales Mourn Their Dead, Just Like Us

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Here’s Where the Ocean’s Trash Comes From

Sightings of junk-filled waters are common—and not only in Southeast Asia, says marine biologist Nicholas Mallos, who runs the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program. “Accumulations like this are unfortunately the norm,” he says, particularly in developing parts of the world where there are “rising middle-class populations along coastlines, and spending and consumption have increased, but waste management has not.”

China and the Philippines top the worst offenders’ list.

Source: Here’s Where the Ocean’s Trash Comes From

Oil & Gas Conservation Fortnight 2017

 

Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight (OGCF) 2017 starts today {4th January} and continues till the 10th of January. First started in the year 1991, in order to spread awareness about the conservation of petroleum products. This initiative grew from just being the ‘Oil Conservation Week’ to ‘Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight‘ in 2004 – since the nation-wide campaign was quite successful and new eco-friendly gaseous fuels were being substituted more regularly, that it needed to be conserved as well.

The campaign is conducted with the sponsorship by the entire oil industry under the guidance of ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. The campaign has two main concern addressed every year:

  1. the need to conserve resources for the future
  2. the environmental fallout from the non-judicious approach to the use of these fossil fuels

Conservation has always been the need of the hour, since we realised how quickly we run through our resources. Oil and Gas, however, do not feature on our ‘list for conservation’, mostly because we take it for granted. We do not realise the amount of wastage nor use of these resources, because of insufficient infrastructure and insufficient daily commodities among all the population.

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On the flip side of the coin, is the mass usage of these fuels affects the environment that we live in. Besides depleting the earth’s reserves, the effluents from the factories, homes, etc are passed into the running waterways – i.e. our streams, rivers, oceans. Lead free petrol not being a must, we end up releasing a lot of gases into the atmosphere, polluting the very air we breathe.

One of the recent wake-up calls, was when Delhi was heavily polluted, making it the world’s first most polluted city in 2016. The population, the smog, the weather change and the indiscriminate bursting of firecrackers during Diwali made the pollution cross 650 µg/m³.  The high level of particulate matter in the air, made it impossible for the city to function efficiently for a few days.

This is not recent news however, the Taj Mahal recorded damage to it’s white facade turning yellow, because of the pollution in the air, which also pointed out the that air pollution was below the WHO standards for human living conditions.

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Every year, this campaign draws more supporters, more concerns and more information to protect not only these resources, but also our lives. Do join in and learn more about this campaign through the Petroleum Conservation Research Association [PCRA] and find out more of their activities to conserve oil and gas this year and for the coming years.

 

Ringing the Warning Bell

We’ve heard about climate change. We’ve heard why it’s important to be vigilant. We some times prefer not to know, because we assume it does not affect us, but the future. However, the future is not so distant as we like to believe.

Leonardo Dicaprio’s film Before the Flood, is a documentary that meets with scientists, world leaders and activists to fully understand climate change, how we can change individual behaviour to protect the future and also, most importantly it promotes hope. Something, that most activists, environmentalists and climate change scientists forget to include in their discourse.

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picture credit: Pete McBride from National Geographic

In Iceland, land is rising as fast a 1.4 inches per year in certain areas as a result of climate change. The melting of the country’s glaciers reduces pressure on the land below and allows the surface to rise.

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picture credit: Thomas Peschak from National Geographic

While in Mexico, off the seas of La Paz, the Sea of Cortez has murky green rough waters, this year, the unusual climatic and oceanographic conditions resulted in ultra calm and clear waters.

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picture credit: Brian Skerry from National Geographic

In the High Arctic near Navy Board Inlet, Canada, the sea ice has been declining in recent years. It is predicted in a year or two, the North pole will be ice free in the summer, meaning the ships will be able to pass over the pole for the first time in recorded history.

Meanwhile, in Belize, they are celebrating 20 years of their world heritage site, the Belize Barrier System Reserve System. The country’s laws protect this large reef ecosystem in the Atlantic-Carribean region (the second largest in the world).

Which brings us around to, the burden to protect our planet, rests in our politicians hands. Which, was true for our Indian Tigers. In 1973, a political framework was put in place by Indira Gandhi to protect our tigers. A Wildlife Act that banned hunting of wildlife {mainly tigers}, that also allowed for creating sanctuaries and national parks with strict measures ensuring the safety of the land and the wildlife within.

However, the Tiger initiative has had its ups and downs till date, with more activists and celebrities backing the project. However, nothing ensures results when any initiative has complete political backing and that has fallen short over the years.

This does not mean that we as individuals still cannot do something to help. During the floods in Chennai, a group of people came together and over the weekends following the flood, they cleaned up the beach and a few areas of all the plastic and other debris washed in by the river Cooum.

Another initiative started by a social organisation Grow-Trees.com, identifies locations that need tree cover in India, that will enable the wildlife as well as the tribals in that area, while giving you the opportunity to donate an amount in your name or in another person’s name allowing for a ‘grove of trees’ to be planted.

There are many more programmes that are out there that depend on individual support, volunteering and effort. The bottom line however is very simple, climate change is real. Climate change is happening. Do watch ‘Before the Flood’, the documentary if you can, and share the information with all around you.

 

Why Harambe?

October 2016, saw the resurgence of vigils being held for Harambe, in fact, there were two held in the country itself. However, it was strangely obvious that the true nature/reason for the vigils had been lost – which is surprising considering the social media firestorm that broke over this.

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Who is Harambe?

In May, a 4 year old toddler had fallen into a Gorilla enclosure. Harambe – a 400 pound 7ft Silverback Gorilla – got ahold of the child and was roughhousing with the child, as he would a Gorilla young one. To rescue the child, Harambe was unfortunately shot and killed. Harambe, was one of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla’s, a species that is critically endangered.

What does that all mean? 

Since the 80s, there have been reports of humans (toddlers and adults) falling into Zoo enclosures and either miraculously surviving or being mauled to death by the wild animals inhabiting those enclosures. Western Lowland Gorillas, like all Gorillas in the world are on the Endangered list. There are fewer than 95,000 present in the wild with about 765 being reared in captivity. Hunting for their meat along with the outbreak of diseases like Ebola (yes, even Gorillas suffer from these diseases) have wiped out their numbers by up to 60%. So killing Harambe has a lot of people upset about this.

Shooting Harambe, was a blow towards the conservation of this species.

 

Was there really no other way? 

Most people disregard the fact, that killing Harambe was a very difficult decision to make for the Zoo Officials, and in their shoes, we would have been shaking with fear. Protect the child, or save the critically endangered Wild animal.

Harambe was like any curious Gorilla, touching, prodding, dragging something new that was in front of him. He was rough with the child, because humans are weaker than wild animals. However, from the videos it did show that Harambe was in a manner playing and being protective of the little toddler – in essence, it might have been normal Gorilla behaviour.

Experts do mention that it was playful behaviour, and they stand by the Zoo’s decision, because at the end of the day, Gorilla’s are volatile creatures. No matter how much research into a wild animal and their behaviour, it is always difficult to predict how they will react or behave. Tranquillising Harambe would have been risky because it could have agitated him – thus harming the toddler – before it finally did take effect. Tranquillisers take time to release into the blood stream, precious moments when the Gorilla had his hands on the child.

 

Poor Harambe, Shameful Mother?!

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Social media went into quite a rage, because when you are anonymous and behind a keyboard you are bolder than if you were to say it front of a crowd face-to-face. What was shocking was many calling out the mother for not keeping an eye on her son and for being responsible for the murder of Harambe. Also worth mentioning, is that while reporters talking about Harambe were passionate and had more emotion in their voices, reporters covering mass shootings or any other violence (in America or the world) had bland, calm voices, almost as if it was ‘par for the course’.

 

What’s wrong with taking sides? 

 

Argument A:

A video or an article does not give a complete picture. Toddlers are spritely and full of energy that losing track of them in a blink of an eye, does happen. Judging a mother and her apparent parenting capabilities is not right. We were not that family, we were not there, we were not in that family’s shoes. Condemning them is not our place. Parenting is a difficult job.

Argument B:

There is so much happening in the world today, keeping informed is easy and difficult. A beggar on the street, we walk by without thinking of their plight. A man doesn’t have a vehicle to transport his deceased wife because of his status in society, becomes the news of the hour. See another story like that and it’s no longer interesting. However, watch as a man throws a dog off a building and we get up in arms over it calling for that man’s head.

And that is the other side of the coin, Zoo officials and the experts were quite clear, Human life is important! However, it’s interesting to note, that most of us behind the keyboard place our preference with an animal than a human.

Argument C:

Also, many blamed the Mother of the child for bad parenting, instead of including the Father, he was around that day as well. It’s amazing how we all fall into the gender stereotype trap so easily. Anyway, the main issue here is not about the Zoo killing Harambe or the boy and his mother.

Argument D:

The issue is about this tragic situation in it’s entirety. A life was saved, while another had to be sacrificed. There are no sides to this argument –  each was horrifying.

The boy for being in the clutches of a wild animal for a few minutes, for the mother watching her son get dragged by a wild animal so much more stronger than her and her boy and wondering if she would see her son again all while blaming herself, and finally Harambe, for no fault of his, being a curious Gorilla exploring something that would not have been in his natural habitat.

Argument E:

We overtake these amazing creatures’ homes and develop their homes to satisfy our growing population, while we stick them in closed spaces expecting to protect them and view them at our own convenience as well. It was brought home once again when silverback Kumbuka escaped his enclosure from the London Zoo recently. It was a contained situation, however, Kumbuka did want to make an escape – someone noted that the more number of visitors, the more agitated the Gorillas got and attacked each other or growled at the visitors in the zoo.

 

Back to Harambe

Mentioned at the start of this article, we discussed how vigils were held for Harambe. The importance of these vigils isn’t to focus on the tragedy or the blame game. It needs the focus to be on CONSERVATION. Many species are being held in captivity to propagate their species because there is no guarantee that they will be safe in their natural habitat. Humans have amassed a lot more land taking away from theses magnificent beings, however, something’s got to give. Conservation is the need of the hour. Education towards the need for these species being important for the environment is a must. That is what Harambe symbolises, not the divide between humans and wildlife nor the divide between Harambe and the mother of the toddler.

The Truth Behind Those ‘Cute’ Wildlife Viral Videos

Recently there has been an influx of ‘cute’ videos on social media – the bear, lion and tiger cub living together, or the tickling slow Ioris and the latest being the ring-tailed Lemur asking for a back scratch. However, these create a market for an illegal wildlife/pet trade.

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What is Illegal Wildlife Trade? Selling of wildlife or animals parts or even plant resources is wildlife trade. Not all wildlife trade is illegal. When there is an overexploitation of certain species of wildlife or plants laws are put into effect in a bid to sustain and maintain the balance in nature. Poaching of tusks from elephants, horns from rhinos and skin and bones of a tiger are examples of illegal wildlife trade.

What is Illegal Pet Trade? Selling of wildlife for use as pets is illegal pet trade since it threatens countless species that sends them towards extinction. Parakeets, turtles, Lemurs are a few animals that are captured from their habitat gradually emptying forests, rivers and skies for a global consumer market.

How does this start? Demand drives the illegal wildlife trade. Rhino horns have become a much more prized commodity since inaccurate information got around about rhino horn curing cancer. Tiger skin and bones have always been traded illegally because of its apparent health benefits. With the illegal pet trade, it mostly stems from cute viral videos that misses crucial context. Slow Iorises were a species not known to most people, however a video of an slow Ioris lifting her hands up while being tickled turned into the most demanded pet.

What other reasons are there?

  1. There are many nations that have a high demand for wildlife or wildlife goods and expect that lifestyle to be supplied.
  2. On the flip side of the coin, there are people suffering in extreme poverty who see bartering of wildlife as a viable source of income.
  3. Governing bodies do exact laws and have harsh penalties, however, there are gaps in conserving wildlife.
  4. Certain countries have competitions with these illegal pets taking centre stage.

How do the viral videos tie in with the bigger picture? Watching the bear, tiger and lion cubs tumbling around with each other similar to a littler or puppies or cats disillusions you to the actual danger of the wildness of these magnificent beasts. Watching a slow Ioris with its arms raised while being tickled makes you believe these are animals make adorable pets. The lemur being back scratched again disillusions you into believing that this wild animal can be domesticated and live as pets.

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Why is this dangerous? Half information, out of context information is always very dangerous. Rhino horns do not cure cancer and tiger parts do not help make you healthy. However, that has not stopped the illegal wildlife trade. In the same vein, a slow Ioris doesn’t actually like being tickled. Arms raised is a sign of distress, because a venom is released under its armpit that it licks and then bites the source of threat. Lemurs are social creatures and need to be surrounded with other lemurs, they are also vicious and do not like being domesticated.

What has been the fallout from the Illegal Wildlife Trade? Tigers, Elephants and Rhinos are among the most endangered animals in the wild. Conservationists are trying their best to protect these wild beasts however, deforestation, reduction in habitats and poaching are causes for concern. Governing bodies and conservationists can only do so much, however, there are too many ‘illegal trade hot-spots’ that eradicating this trade is difficult.

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What has been the fallout from the Illegal Pet Trade? The slow Ioris is a prime example of this. No one knew what a slow Ioris was until there was a YouTube video. The pet trade flourished because of this, because they bite their threats with a venom from under their arms – their teeth were clipped out without proper anaesthesia causing a lot to die from infections or blood loss. Many died during transport conditions which are very overcrowded, stressful situations. If a slow Ioris survives the transport to its new owner, they do not survive too well, since even well-meaning owners do not understand the animals needs, habitat requirements and food requirements. Most of these social animals die in loneliness. This has caused the slow Ioris to become an endangered animal. The lemur is already an endangered animal as well, and many owners are unable to maintain them as pets and these are locked, abandoned or killed, since even in a domesticated environment they are aggressive.

What can you do? Learning more is always a plus. Find out more about the animals that are there in the videos – are they endangered, do they really make good pets? It’s always beneficial to learn more, photos and videos tend to skew our perceptions, as many people believe dolphins and chimpanzees are perfect animals in captivity. However, till date every dolphin in captivity has died as they are social creatures and we do not know much about their way of life that we cannot recreate it in captivity. Chimpanzees, though ape-like and show similar characteristics to humans are wild animals and cannot be domesticated either as they tend to show aggressive tendencies as well. If you end up sharing videos make sure you spread the correct context about the creature involved. Speak out about wildlife trade. Stand with the Indian Government and conservationists in protecting the countries endangered wildlife {India is committed towards fighting illegal trade of elephants, tigers and rhinos}.

Remember – Increasing an animal’s appeal as a pet, encourages illegal trade and threatens the species.

Sources: National Geographic, Huffington Post, WWF

Recycling and It’s Importance in Our Current World

Reduce, recycle and reuse. We’ve all heard the call. We know it needs to be done because it does affect everything around us, including us. However, we sometimes miss the reason for the importance of recycling.

What is Recycling? It is essentially converting waste into reusable material. Recycling requires far less energy, fewer natural resources and keeps waste from piling up in our garbage landfills.

What causes waste?

  1. Rising economic conditions makes it easier to buy products that ultimately create waste.
  2. Rising populations means more people create more waste on this planet.
  3. New lifestyle changes such as eating fast food, creates non-biodegradable waste.
  4. New products and technological products being developed contains many products that are non-biodegradable.

Why should we recycle? Recycling is important to the environment as well us;

  1. Recycling helps reduce pollution caused by the waste.
  2. Recycling reduces the need for natural resources, meaning our forests can be preserved a lot longer for the future generations.
  3. Using recycled materials means habitat for wildlife is not damaged.
  4. Recycling requires less energy, thus saving more natural resources for the future.
  5. Waste gets collected in garbage landfills, which currently are overflowing. Recycling helps, since there is less space for the waste in these landfills.
  6. Making products from raw materials costs much more than if they were made from recycled products, making recycling a financially viable option.

Still, why is Recycling important? Follow this example along for why, we need to recycle.
We all know that our oceans cover about 72% of the Earth’s surface. In the recent years, our oceans have become warmer, more acidic, oxygen deprived and most important – Polluted! Our waste in some form or the other eventually ends up in the waterways from our garbage landfills right into the Pacific Ocean garbage patch.

Non-biodegradable plastic materials end up in the stomachs of many sea life creatures {some fish mistakenly assume it is plankton}. Scientists discovered many plastic fragments in the stomachs of lanternfish. Lanternfish are the major food source of tuna and mahi-mahi, which in turn end up on our plates!

Over the past 26 years, glass, plastic bottles, diapers, food packaging, light bulbs, appliances, and many more items containing plastic were found during annual ocean cleanups. 80% of the products thrown away can be recycled, but only 28% are being recycled. In India, many cities do not encourage recycling, other than paper items.

What can you do? Plastic takes 600 years to degrade, meaning it will be around for a long, long time. To help the ecosystem, it’s best to start with plastic. Cut down the use of plastic.

  1. Carry your own bag, cut down on plastic bags and plastic papers.
  2. Recycling furniture or any wooden goods. Reduce and recycle wood products whenever possible.
  3. Going paperless, recycling paper are also good ways to conserve forests.
  4. CDs, DVds, Batteries, appliances, clothing can all be recycled. Find the recycling services you can use in your city to recycle these products.
  5. Encourage recycling among your friends, family and neighbourhood.

Remember – We cannot stop the pile-up of waste, however, we can HELP recycle! Spread the word.

Sources: oceanconservancy.org, greenfacts.org, conserveenergyfuture.com,

Disappearing Woodlands and Their Importance

With the recent Uttarakhand Forest fires – forests and their importance has been splashed everywhere from newspapers to magazines and even your news channels. It is a very big cause for concern to even those not in the vicinity of the forest fires.

What is Deforestation? The permanent destruction of forests converting them to lands for other uses other than forest cover is Deforestation. Forests cover over 31% of the Earth’s surface and about 1,19,000 to 1,50,200 square kilometres of forests are destroyed annually. In about 50 years, 17% of the Amazon Rainforest has been lost.

What causes Deforestation? There are many causes for deforestation, here are the main reasons:

  1. The logging industry has strong sanctions against felling of trees thus causing them to turn to illegal means – such as causing forest fires.
  2. Growing populations and the need for space for us humans, has caused many forests to be destroyed for road and infrastructure building.
  3. Agricultural lands, especially in India, has caused farmers to raise forests to the grounds in an effort to get more agricultural space. Forest fires also cause the land to become a little more fertile and create a good crop.
  4. Cattle ranching is another industry that requires a lot of space and forests are cleared for this.

Why are Forest spaces important?

  1. About 50% of the Earth’s Plants and animals call rainforests home even though rainforests cover about 2% of the Earth’s total surface area. Many plants, insects and animals go extinct with deforestation.
  2. Destroying forest cover shrinks the habitat for wild animals, causing them to roam closer towards civilization. These animals end up destroying crops and livestock because food in the forests becomes scarce for them.
  3. In India, tribals rely of forests for their food, clothing, fresh water, medicine and shelter. About 1.6 Billion people in the world, rely on forests.
  4. Global carbon emissions are absorbed into the forests. Less forests mean, more global carbon emissions floating in the atmosphere. Indirectly responsible for global warming.
  5. Removing forest cover, has also caused more floods to occur. Deciduous forests, like in Uttarakhand, helped ease the water into the rivers at a measured pace allowing for towns and villages on the banks of the river to utilise the water. However, with no forests to slow the waters, the waters spread over the banks and cause floods damaging properties and lives.

What can you do? United States, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, China, Russia and Dominican Republic of Congo are the 7 countries that cause about 60% of the Earth’s Deforestation. This is a concern that countries and governments have to actively participate in to pass stricter laws thus ensuring forests and the wildlife within are protected. Awareness has been at a minimum, however, because of the Uttarakhand forest fire, more information has come out. Forests fires are either caused intentionally or by the dry heat conditions.

  1. Increasing knowledge over the subject, raising awareness among you will help to a certain degree, ensuring that it is an important matter to discuss.
  2. Recycling furniture or any wooden goods. Reduce and recycle wood products whenever possible.
  3. Going paperless, recycling paper are also good ways to conserve forests

Remember – We cannot stop deforestation, however, we can HELP.

Sources: National Geographic, WWF, CustomMade

Are you Prepared?

We live in a world where the news is at our fingertips. Social media beats out news channels and papers in up to date and opinionated news. Everyone has an opinion, however, not everyone has all the facts. Half information is always a dangerous thing.

In our current climatic landscape with forest fires, earthquakes and other calamities, we need to be prepared. We need to know what needs to be done, we need to be quick thinking in those scenarios and that is only possible if we have the correct and complete information!

What is a ‘Disaster Emergency Kit’ and what does it contain? What do you do when you are trapped in a building during an earthquake? Or for that matter during a building fire? Some times timely intervention from the Government or emergency services is delayed and to survive and protect yourself and those around you, you need to remember these tips.

Be prepared, in this world, thinking ‘It can never happen to you!’ won’t help you when you do find yourself in one of these scenarios. Things happen that are beyond our control, and being informed is always a boon.

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Salient Points: Keeping copies of important documents outside of the home; having an out of town contact to coordinate with during a crisis; Do not spread rumours; Move away from falling objects, breakable objects, etc during cyclones/earthquakes/floods.

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Salient Points: Do not help injured/trapped persons – instead call for emergency services if you do not have training; As part of an organisation – network with other NGOs and government agencies to provide timely and appropriate distribution of relief materials; Make sure gender fair practices are carried out after a crisis as women and children are most vulnerable then.