Let’s face it, the world can be an ugly place. From flame wars on social media to heartbreaking stories on the nightly news, humanity’s awfulness can occasionally be overwhelming. Every once in a while we like to take breaks from stories about poaching, habitat loss, and the effects of global warming to marvel at the incredible array of beauty that still exists on this planet we call home. And so it is that we present to you 26 Wonderfully Weird Animals (from A to Z)– many of which are endangered– that we believe make this world a more interesting place…
Africa is in serious trouble. And no, we’re not just talking about ebola (although the outbreak certainly isn’t helping matters), but poaching.
The Asian hunger for wild animal parts purported to work miracles ranging from increasing virility to curing cancer has driven poaching and profits from illegal trafficking to record-shattering levels. Africa is losing an average of 5 Lions per day, 5 Elephants per hour, and a Rhino (whose horn is currently valued at around $65,000 per kg) every 7 hours in South Africa alone. The devastating decline of these key species, which could eliminate the continent’s entire wild population by 2050, threatens both the environment and the economy of myriad African nations.
Ecotourism is an enormous industry in east and south Africa, generating approximately $80 billion in annual revenue. Much of this money comes from wildlife safaris to search for “the Big 5″– Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos and Buffalo. If these species disappear, it will likely set off a chain reaction in which tourism revenue declines, poverty rises and poaching for bush meat increases… a vicious circle that spells bad news for wildlife and those who treasure it. With growing concerns of ebola fears hurting African tourism to places like Kenya and South Africa, the importance of addressing the poaching problem head-on becomes even more vital.
Award-winning filmmakers (and National Geographic Explorers-In-Residence) Dereck and Beverly Joubert are among Africa’s most outspoken wildlife conservation advocates. Through their Big Cat Initiative, the Botswana-based couple took the front lines on the battle to protect Africa’s beloved felines by raising awareness and implementing change to the dire situation facing Lions and Leopards. The project has since funded 60 projects in 23 countries.
Now, through their Great Plains Conservation and Great Plains Foundation arms, the Jouberts have launched Rhinos Without Borders, an attempt to save endangered Rhinos by translocating 100 of them from South Africa to Botswana in order to protect them from the tragic rise in poaching. To do this, they’ll need to raise nearly $5 million, as the costs to capture, transport, quarantine and release these animals will average about $45,000 per Rhino.
Our company Green Travel Media will be partnering with the new Travelers Building Change non-profit and 50-100 travel bloggers to help raise funds for Rhinos Without Borders, with the goal of raising enough money to save #JustOneRhino. We recently spoke to Dereck Joubert at great length about his ambitious undertaking, discussing why it’s crucial to focus on Rhinos now, why Botswana is safer from poachers than South Africa, and controversial Rhino conservation methods ranging from poisoning their horns to cutting them off entirely.
SPECIES: North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
CURRENT RANGE: Along the east coast of North America, from Canada down to Georgia and Florida
CURRENT THREATS: Ship strikes, entanglement in commercial fishing lines
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
WHERE CAN YOU SEE THEM: With just 400-450 left, chances of spotting them are slim, but your best bet is off the Georgia/Florida coast in winter.
(The following is a guest post from Margherita & Nick Ragg of adventure & nature travel blog The Crowded Planet. Follow their adventures via Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a blogger interested in guest posting on GGT, please email pitches to Editor-In-Chief Bret Love at GreenGlobalTravel@gmail.com.)
In The Land Below the Wind, Agness Keith wrote of the Bornean orangutans that used to visit her garden in order to eat fruit from the trees. The book was written in the 1930s, when the country was still covered in primary rainforest, thick and unexplored, providing habitat for a wealth of wildlife. It was said that orangutans could cross the whole of Borneo, swinging from one tree branch to another, without ever touching the ground.
Orangutans are one of four species of great apes, and found only in Borneo and Sumatra. Their affinity with humans was first recognized by the native people of Borneo, the Dayaks, who named them after the Malay-Indonesian words for man of the forest. Dayaks believed orangutans could talk, but chose not to in order to prevent being enslaved and put to work.
I realize this may sound like exaggerated hyperbole. But, until you’ve come face-to-face with an animal more than twice your height and 75 times your weight, it’s hard to fathom how the experience can alter your perception of humanity’s place in the Universe.
For me, it happened during the first game drive on the first day of my safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
He was a massive bull elephant, feeding on a tree about 75 yards from our open-air safari vehicle in Londolozi Game Reserve. As he noticed us, he slowly turned and ambled our way with a sense of purpose. When he got within 50 yards, I began looking at our guide nervously. By the time he’d reached the 30 yard mark, we asked if perhaps it was time to move the Jeep and give him some space. Solomon assured us that it was fine, as the elephant came closer and closer and closer.