Eco News

 Jurassic Plant! Russian Scientists Revive 30,000-Year-Old Flower

If you’ve ever wondered if Jurassic Park was really possible, scientists may have found your answer in a river bank in Siberia, from which they were able to bring a 30,000-year-old plant back to life!


Russian scientists from the Institute of Cell Biophysics recently uncovered fruit that has laid frozen in the banks of Siberia’s Kolmya River for over 30,000 years.  They have since successfully raised plants called Silene stenophylla (of the campion family) from the ancient fruit.


The scientists found around 70 squirrel hibernation burrows in the frozen river banks at depths ranging from 20 meters to nearly 40 meters below ground level.  The burrows included bones of mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, and plant and fruit remains.  The presence of vertical ice proved that these remains in the fossil burrows have been continuously frozen all these years.
Back in Moscow, the team of scientists tried to germinate mature seeds recovered from the plant remains, but failed.  However, they found success in using “placental tissue” from the fruit itself.  According to Robin Probert, head of conservation and technology at the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank, “This is by far the most extraordinary example of extreme longevity for material from higher plants.”  Prior to this, the oldest plant material to be brought back to life was date palm seeds stored for 2,000 years at Masada in Israel.
The research from the Kolmya River project has the potential to help in scientific studies of evolution, illuminating environmental conditions of the past as well as providing insight on bringing plants back to life that have been extinct for thousands of years… provided that more squirrels hid away such treasures for us to uncover.  And let’s be honest: Can reviving dinosaurs be all that far behind?  –Raffi Simel


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International Efforts To Save The Rhino

Rhinos around the world are so threatened that there are few safe havens for them anymore (see photo below for statistics), and their future survival as a species is in serious jeopardy.

The rhino’s increasingly endangered status is almost exclusively due to poaching, which reached record levels in 2011. Rhino horns are valued at up to $45,000 per pound on the black market, exceeding gold and even cocaine and heroin.  The horns have been in increasing demand from the Asian medicine market for their healing and aphrodisiac properties.

These demands are not backed by scientific study but rather, misguided reports of the horns’ ability to cure cancer and other ailments.  The rumors and frenzy have led to the slaughter of 443 rhinos this past year, up from 13 in 2007.  Some species are even becoming extinct.  In 2009, the world’s last Vietnamese rhinoceros,  a subspecies of the Javan rhino, was shot and killed.

Up until recently it was believed that rhino poaching was a regional concern, largely confined to Asia and Africa.  However, increasing break-ins at museums and zoos across the world are finally giving this rampant issue some overdue attention.  The problem is so severe that the National Wildlife Crime Unit is warning zoos and safari parks in the UK that poachers could and likely are targeting their Rhinos.

In order to raise awareness for the threatened rhinos, musicians and poets in Kenya, New Zealand and South Africa will be volunteering their time this weekend, February 11th, for the first annual International Rhino Music Day. The musicians are performing to highlight the abuses and injustice being done towards rhinos throughout the world.  All proceeds from the day will go to Save Our Rhino K9 Investigations Anti-Poaching Unit.

The event will hopefully generate a lot of publicity and funds to keeping rhinos around the world safe, but this may pale in comparison to what they are up against.  This Saturday, be thinking of the Rhinos across the world that need our help. They won’t make it without you.  -Raffi Simel 


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The Mass Southern Migration of the Rare Snowy Owl 


“What we’re seeing now, it’s unbelievable,” said Denver Holt, head of the Owl Research Institute in Montana.


He’s referring to the mass southern migration of snowy owls from their home in the Arctic tundra to many parts of the lower 48 states, including recent spottings in Texas and Hawaii.  This winter has been very unusual for the majestic birds: rarely, if ever, have they been seen so far south.  Bird-watching enthusiasts from all over the country are taking advantage of the irregular migration, which is a phenomenon called an “irruption”–  an invasion of birds in unusual places or in high numbers.


The irruption is thought to be caused by an abundance of the owls’ main food source of small animals last summer, called lemmings.  The summer’s plentiful food allowed the owls to raise more young, which has led to increased competition over lemmings this winter.  In order to seek out food, many of the rare owls are flying further south and heading to more unusual destinations.

Perhaps the most famous fictional snowy owl is Hedwig, from the Harry Potter series, which  Harry keeps as a messenger.  The owls have a large following amongst fans of the J.K. Rowling books. But the young wizard probably doesn’t realize that the birds are federally protected in the United States and possessing them without a special permit is illegal.  We’ll let Harry slide this time.


The snowy owl has a very calm temperament and will sit for long stretches without being easily startled.  Jerry Jourdan, a birding enthusiast from Michigan, said of seeing his first (and possibly only) snowy owl, “It’s an absolute thrill, and they’re much larger than you expect.  Most people go a lifetime without seeing one.”  If there was ever a time to see such a magnificent bird, this winter may be your best chance for a while.  Keep your eyes peeled… even in Texas.  –Raffi Simel

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Denali National Park, Alaska

Fighting the Burmese Python In Everglades National Park 


The United States recently announced a ban on importing Burmese Pythons and transporting the snakes across state lines.  U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement at a flood control pumping station near the Florida Everglades with Florida Senator Ben Nelson and Florida Wildlife Commission officials as they held aloft a recently captured 13-foot python.  The ban also affects the yellow anaconda and northern and southern African pythons.


The Burmese python is the most prevalent “invasive species” in subtropical Florida.  Native to southeast Asia and  considered one of the six largest snakes in the world, Burmese pythons are one of many invasive species that start out as seemingly harmless pets.  At a young age, pythons can measure less than a foot in length.  But within a matter of years, they typically grow to be 12 feet long, and in some cases closer to 20 feet.  The enormity of the snakes, and the effort involved in caring for one, has led many pet-owners to let their pythons loose in the wild.



The increasing disposition of the pythons to the Everglades has led to an overabundance of pythons that the fragile ecosystem simply cannot handle. Producing an average of 12 to 36 eggs per female each year in March and April, needless to say the species is thriving.  According to the US Natural Park Service, over 1330 Burmese Pythons had been captured by the end of 2009, and the numbers seem to be getting worse each year.  Their diet often consists of endangered birds and mammals, but pythons are known to have attacked and eaten alligators, as well as swallowing entire deer.


A February 2008 report published by US Geological Survey scientists concluded that, by the end of the 21st century (based on global warming predictions and climate modeling for the snakes’ natural habitat), Burmese Pythons could migrate and flourish in one-third of the continental United States.  Although a more recent study using different ecological modeling has attempted to contradict this claim, the Pythons’ growing numbers in Florida is worrisome.  Hopefully the recent ban is enough to halt the species’ rapid territorial expansion and keep the already fragile Everglades ecosystem intact.  –Raffi Simel

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Waterfall In Palau, Micronesia Announces Best Ethical Travel Destinations for 2012 


Our friends over at have selected ten developing countries to make up its annual list of The Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Travel Destinations.


Over the last half century, as developments in commercial aircraft and information technology have been taken advantage of and used more widely, the world has become increasingly interconnected.  This fact has brought opportunities for global adventurers to travel like never before.  However, the typical traveler’s limited resources don’t allow him or her to travel to every destination in the world: We must choose, and for the sake of the planet we must choose responsibly.  To do so, we must understand and maximize our power as consumers, using our dollars and sense to financially support the most ethical destinations.


Scenic View of Mauritius


But what qualities do the folks at Ethical Traveler look for when measuring the world’s most ethical travel destinations?  The primary factors they take into consideration include Environmental Protection, Social Welfare and Human Rights. After weighing the scores of hundreds of destinations around the world, the countries to be congratulated  this year (in alphabetical order) are:

The folks at Ethical Traveler have an incredibly in-depth ranking procedure that compares data from sources such as Freedom House, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the World Bank, and many other environmental indicators such as the Socioeconomic Data & Applications Center and the Environmental Performance Index, just to name a few.  The data is also examined over time, to determine the growth of these destinations in these critical areas.


The Andes Mountains of Chile


Many countries that did not make their 2012 list ranked very high on one or two of the aforementioned criteria, such as Environmental Protection or Social Welfare, but failed to meet the standards on the others, such as Human Rights.  The countries selected for the Best Ethical Destinations list really have to have the whole package: The highest rank went to The Bahamas, followed by Chile.


In Environmental Protection, Costa Rica had the highest marks– the only developing country in the world to score in the “100-85” category in the Environmental Protection Index (EPI).  Chile scored particularly high in environmental protection as well.  Namibia has been thought of by many environmentalists as one of the most environmentally progressive countries in Africa, but they have not been included on Ethical Traveler’s list because of their horrific fur seal slaughter rates.  Hopefully they will end the annual wildlife massacre soon, and be included on next year’s list.


Social Welfare included indicators such as child mortality rates (Serbia and Latvia scored particularly well), access to safe drinking water, malnutrition, vaccinations, as well as sustainable water and agricultural management.


The Bahamas Ranked #1 Overall On This Year’s List


Perhaps the most interesting criteria, though, was Human Rights.  The Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Palau and Uruguay received the highest possible scores in Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Rights for homosexuals also proved to be critical in consideration for the rankings. Argentina’s senate passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage (the only Latin American country to do so).  Nations such as Ghana, Belize and Guyana have incredibly impressive records in environmental standards and boast a lot of travel appeal, but their anti-gay statutes are stringently enforced and for that reason alone they were removed from consideration.


While all of the country on the list would be excellent destinations to visit, the indirect aim of their ranking system is to urge travelers to become more mindful of how powerful their travel choices can be, and what those choices say about their personal priorities.  We here at Green Global Travel hope that you’ll take these factors into consideration in your future travel plans, and perhaps you’ll prioritize visiting one of the great destinations on this list.  –Raffi Simel


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Destinations We’ve Covered:

Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
India- Ranthambhore National Park
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities


Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

America’s Best Volcanoes
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba