At a time when blows to the environmental conservation movement seem to come almost daily and corporations seem more concerned about the bottom line than the greater good, it’s important to recognize those companies that are doing something in an effort to make a difference. So when Coca-Cola announced yesterday that they were partnering with our friends at World Wildlife Fund to help protect the polar bears’ endangered Arctic habitat, it got our attention.
Coca-Cola has used the polar bear in its always-clever ad campaigns since 1922, so changing their iconic red cans to white (starting November 1) and featuring a mama polar bear with her two cubs is undoubtedly a savvy marketing ploy. But they’re also donating $2 million to WWF’s polar bear conservation efforts right up front, and encouraging the brand’s U.S. fans to join their “Arctic Home” campaign by texting package codes to 357357 (to donate $1). Coke will match all donations up to an additional million, but we at Green Global Travel challenge the brand to consider matching ALL donations to the campaign to show their corporate commitment to the cause.
The funds will be used to aid WWF’s efforts to protect the rapidly dwindling polar bear habitat, particularly a 500,000-square mile area high in the Arctic, where summer sea ice is likely to last the longest. “Polar bears [are] massive, powerful, beautiful and they live nowhere else except the Arctic. Their lives are intimately bound up with sea ice, which is now melting at an alarming rate,” said Carter Roberts, WWF’s President/CEO. “By working with Coca-Cola, we can raise the profile of polar bears and what they’re facing and, most importantly, engage people to work with us to help protect their home.”
The partnership also includes legendary IMAX filmmakers MacGillivray Freeman Films (The Living Sea, Everest), who will be releasing To The Arctic 3D in 2012. Footage from the film will be featured on the Arctic Home website, where visitors can learn about polar bears and their Arctic habitat, conduct live video chats with WWF scientists, track polar bear sightings and make donations. Visit ArcticHome.com for more info. –Bret Love
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The news headlines last week were devastating: “48 EXOTIC ANIMALS KILLED AFTER OHIO ESCAPE.”
The details of the story seemed too incredible to believe. Zanesville, Ohio resident Terry Thompson opened the enclosures of the exotic animals he’d assembled on his 73-acre farm, then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Nearly 50 animals– including 18 rare Bengal tigers, 17 lions and numerous bears– were killed in an all-night hunt, and the resulting photos were tragic enough to make any wildlife lover tear up in sadness and anger.
Unfortunately, as the documentary The Elephant In The Living Room makes all too clear, the situation in Zanesville was hardly unique. Director Michael Webber‘s film focuses on two central characters, wildlife rescue specialist Tim Harrison and exotic animal owner Terry Brumfield, both of whom live in Ohio. They’re initially at odds: Brumfield has been raising a pair of African lions in a small pen for several years and, when the male escapes, is forced to relocate them into an even smaller horse trailer. The lions are unhappy, the clinically depressed Brumfield (who raised them from cubs) loves these animals as his children and can’t bear to part with them, and Harrison is trying to do the right thing by helping to relocate the lions to a facility designed to give them adequate care.
The emotional storyline grabs hold of your attention and won’t let go, but Webber also addresses the bigger issue of the sale and ownership of exotic animals in a state that has ZERO regulations in place to control the industry. We see monkeys, cougars, hyenas and deadly poisonous snakes being auctioned off in the heart of Amish country. We see a small child holding a baby alligator, oblivious to the fact that it will grow to be an 8-foot long carnivore that could consume him on one gulp. And we see the results of the exotic wildlife trade– an infant choked to death by the family’s boa contrictor, a woman mauled by her friend’s pet chimpanzee, a trainer killed by the grizzly bear who’d co-starred in Will Ferrell’s Semi-Pro.
Webber wisely refuses to choose sides between Harrison and Brumfield, who ultimately become close and do what’s best for the animals. But, through Harrison, The Elephant In The Living Room makes a potent statement that ownership of exotic animals needs to be more firmly regulated, both in Ohio and in the other 9 states that have no laws to control this insidious industry. The result is one of the year’s most powerful and moving documentaries. –Bret Love
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Can You Identify This Mystery Fish From the Galapagos Islands?
It all started because we needed to head to the island of Baltra to get gas for our ship, Ecoventura’s M/Y Eric, which required all passengers to remain below deck for a few hours to ensure our safety during the refueling process.
We’d been cruising the Galapagos Islands for five days at this point, snorkeling at least once (and sometimes twice) per day, and word had spread among the intimate 20-passenger ship that Mary and I had gotten some incredible underwater video footage. Several people had asked if we would mind having a little video-viewing party on the flat screen TV in the ship’s salon during our downtime. Since we hadn’t had much of a chance to look at the footage ourselves, we happily obliged.
We showed them the highlights, everything from turbo-charged penguins and sea lions to diving flightless cormorants and grazing marine iguanas and sea turtles. Then someone reminded me of the unusual fish I’d seen on our very first day, snorkeling off the coast of Playa Ochoa. I’d honestly forgotten about it, as we had seen so many incredible sights since our arrival that the fish just seemed like another extraordinary creature in this extraordinary ecotourism haven.
Despite its small size (around 4-5 inches long and maybe an inch wide), the fish had caught my eye from some distance away due to its brilliant, iridescent blue color, which glowed like neon in the murky waters about 75 yards from shore. As I swam closer to get the shot with our beloved Flip camera, I saw that it had what appeared to be translucent fins that reminded me of a Siamese Fighting Fish (a.k.a. Betta). The long fins seemed to envelop the fish, giving it the look of an otherworldly angel hovering in the sea.
As we showed the brief 23-second video, one of our shipmates called our naturalist guides Cecibel Guerrero and Yvonne Mortola over to take a look, and we realized we had something special on our hands when both admitted that they had never seen anything like it. That night, during dinner, Captain Pablo Jaramillo (a veteran of the Ecuadorian Navy) took great interest in our story, and when we showed him the video he broke into a broad grin and shook my hand, saying, “I think you will have a fish named after you!”
Of course, the process is not quite that easy. On Friday, after our visit to see the famous Galapagos Tortoise Lonesome George on the island of Santa Cruz, Ceci and Yvonne took us behind the scenes at the Charles Darwin Research Station to speak with some of their scientists about our discovery. In a lab surrounded by various samples and ominous looking things in jars of formaldehyde, we showed them our video, talked about where the fish had been spotted, described its physical appearance in great detail, and searched through numerous books on Galapagos fish species in search of a match.
The reaction among the scientists was decidedly mixed. One young man seem convinced that it was a juvenile wrasse that had been paralyzed by a Medusa jellyfish. Yet we could find no photos of a wrasse fish that looked anything like the brilliant blue mystery fish, and the jagged shape of the gossamer “wings” does not resemble any jellyfish we can find photos of online. The scientists seemed stumped, and called their supervisor in to take a look. After talking to us for nearly half an hour, everyone seemed to be in agreement that the discovery warranted further investigation, and the supervisor promised he would be in touch.
Now that we’re back home and have had time to analyze our footage in detail (including the still images you see here), I’m decidedly unconvinced by the “wrasse fish wrapped in a jellyfish” theory. While I find it highly doubtful that Green Global Travel discovered a heretofore-unknown fish species, I wonder if perhaps a species not endemic to the Galapagos Islands somehow found its way into the region by following the current. We contacted the Darwin Research Station today to follow up, and will definitely update this story once we get more information about the status of their investigation.
If you have any information about what this fish might be, please email us at GreenGlobalTravel@gmail.com. –Bret Love
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It’s not a new fact that capitalist production directly affects nature and natural resources, but how far is too far? Viticulture is an important part of local economies in California, but they are taking a drastic toll on local ecosystems. Sonoma County was once covered with thick redwood, oak and Douglas fir forests, but in the past 30 years they have given way to more urban fixtures such as neighborhoods, orchards, pastures and vineyards.
And trees aren’t the only ones suffering. Rivers and streams that once allowed ecosystems to thrive are being dried out by California’s vineyards. As a result, endangered coho salmon are forced to compete with thirsty vines for water critical to the survival of both. Another threatened species, steelhead trout, are also being killed in large numbers due to the diminishing water levels.
It is not unusual for a vineyard to pump out 50 gallons of water per acre, per minute to combat frost. The process literally dries out entire stretches of nearby streams. In the past decade, there has been an acreage increase of about 50 percent—an amount streams just can’t keep up with. Though the county requires permits for vineyards using stream water, permits are still being rapidly issued. Moreover, there is no limit on water usage, no requirement for outside water sourcing and no outside monitoring of the usage. These holes in the legislation have done little to improve the fish populations, and recorded fish deaths have topped 25,000 per incident.
However, the fish aren’t the only endangered species—small farmers are also a dying breed. Should they be prohibited from using stream water, many vineyards would lack any means of hydration. These farmers are in direct conflict with several environmental organizations striving to protect declining fish populations, and both groups are eagerly awaiting precedent-setting legislation on the matter, as the favoring of one species will undoubtedly harm the other’s welfare. –Holly Young
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Researchers in Australia have recently identified a new marine species, which they’ve named the Burrunan dolphin (derived from the Aboriginal Australian for “large sea fish of the porpoise kind”), or Tursiops australis for you scientific types. Detailed DNA analysis showed the species to be distinctly different from the more common bottlenose dolphins, with an estimated 150 living in the waters around Melbourne.
“This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally recognised since the late 1800s,” said Kate Charlton-Robb of Melbourne’s Monash University. “What makes this even more exciting is this dolphin species has been living right under our noses, with only two known resident populations living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria state.”
Due to their extremely limited numbers, the species may qualify for immediate protection by local conservation groups under Australia’s criteria for endangered species. As the authors of the research study wrote, “The formal recognition of this new species is of great importance to correctly manage and protect this species, and has significant bearing on the prioritisation of conservation efforts.” –Bret Love
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