Elephants in Africa, particularly in Tanzania, have faced a devastating population drop in recent years. This is primarily due to a rapid rise in elephant poachers killing them for their ivory tusks in order to meet the increasing demand in Asia.
The elephant population has diminished by nearly 60% in a matter of five years, according to National Geographic. In 2009, the population consisted of 109,051 elephants, but that number had dropped to 43,330 last year. Some suggest that this drop may be due to migration, but such a rapid population decrease can only be explained by increased poaching all across East and South Africa.
However, a slew of recent arrests, initiatives and policy changes suggest that the people of Tanzania– and around the world– are finally ready to take serious action to reduce elephant poaching.
In what The Guardian calls “the worst manmade environmental disaster since the BP gulf oil spill,” vast swaths of vital forests in Borneo and Sumatra are being consumed by fire. These fires were intentionally set by palm oil and paper companies, simply because slash & burn agriculture is the cheapest, fastest way to clear land for plantations.
But these fires in Indonesia– tens of thousands of them– are raging out of control due to record drought throughout the region. In places like Pematang Gadung and Sungai Besar, where the forests are filled with orangutans and other endangered species, some animals have died from smoke inhalation, while others have been poached or abducted into the illegal wildlife trade. But a precious few are being rescued by non-profit organizations such as International Animal Rescue.
But it’s not just animal life that’s endangered: The toxic haze from Indonesia’s fires has created a thick layer of smog over the entire country. The city of Palangkaraya has become one of the most polluted places on the planet, and locals are literally choking on the devastating effects of unchecked corporate greed. Experts believe the impact of carbon released from these burning peat forests on climate change will be catastrophic if something isn’t done soon.
“The problem with fire and smoke is absolutely dire,” says IAR communications manager Lis Key. “Orangutans are badly affected by the smoke. Some suffer upper respiratory tract infections, which can prove fatal. Some of the babies we’ve taken in recently have been suffering from dehydration and malnourishment through lack of food, as well as breathing problems from the polluted air.”
Last week IAR sent out a desperate plea for help drawing international attention to (and financial support for) their fire-fighting and orangutan rescue efforts. To get a boots-on-the-ground insider’s perspective on the struggle, we spoke to Karmele Llano Sanchez, Program Director of IAR’s Indonesian initiatives (Yayasan IAR Indonesia).
Barrier islands have proven to be popular vacation getaways for well over a century now, and with good reason.
Stellar views of sunlight glistening like gems on the ocean’s rolling waves, sandy beaches strewn with driftwood artfully sculpted by the sea, gulls and pelicans soaring over dunes lined with Sea Oats and Sea Grapes, hungry shorebirds hunting for fish in tidal flats, and golden light streaming through dense coastal forests provide welcome relief from the stress and strife of everyday life.
The unique ecosystems that can be found on these islands have been thriving with flora and fauna for countless eons. And there has been a remarkable interconnectivity between the land, the sea and the communities of people that live on and around them dating back well over 10,000 years, with each depending on the other to varying degrees.
What a week it is when the powers-that-be in the grand ol’ USA decide to take a leap towards greener energy!
We’ve become far too familiar with weak environmental policy efforts that involve pacing around, arguing over the validity of Climate Change, while fossil fuels continue to vaporize into greenhouse gases.
So this week’s revelation of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan was a monumental moment that will soon change our entire energy system… for real!
Held on June 8, World Oceans Day is an annual day of celebrating our oceans and taking actions to protect them. Originally proposed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 by Canada, the day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008. Now, thousands of conservation organizations around the world observe the day with events such as beach cleanups, educational programs, art contests and sustainable seafood festivals.
To honor this year’s theme of “Healthy Ocean, Healthy Planet,” the Florida Keys-based Coral Restoration Foundation is hosting its first ever Plantapalooza. The event will find eight vessels taking around 70 volunteers to plant 1,000 healthy stag horn corals in seven different reef sites. In the process of promoting the World Oceans Day message of international ocean awareness, they’ll also be helping to save one of the world’s most threatened coral reef systems.
We recently spoke with the CRF’s Education Outreach Coordinator Ashley Hill to learn more about the importance of corals to the marine ecosystem, the importance of healthy oceans to our planet, and what divers, boaters and other travelers can do to make a difference.