June 19th-25th 2017 is designated as Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior! So go out and hug your local pollinator…or maybe just plant some native wildflowers. And lay off those pesticides.
A bright note from the conservation world in 2016! Wild tiger populations are on a rise for the first time in a century, an estimated 3,890 now roam the earth-up from 3,200 in 2010. India houses most of the world’s wild tigers. The country has taken tiger conservation seriously. Russia, Nepal, and Bhutan are also seeing conservation successes.
Although this is encouraging these numbers do not indicate habitat quality (i.e. habitat fragmentation) or the status of subspecies. Populations in some countries are not well accounted for at this time and in places like Indonesia habitat destruction for the palm oil industry are negatively impacting tiger populations. Poaching for the black market (mostly for Chinese traditional medicines) and habitat destruction and fragmentation are the major causes in the decline of wild tiger populations in recent years. They are still a concern but coordinated conservation efforts and enforcement are helping tigers make a come back after a path towards extinction.
Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky, a lovely illustrated book on some remarkable women in science. I knew many of these intelligent ladies but there were a few new ones. Excellent for that budding scientist on your holiday shopping list.
Reports of two-headed sharks have increased through the years. Is it due to overfishing which reduces the size of the gene pool and allows for more of these genetic mutations to occur (think inbreeding)? Or is it just easier to report these observations (through scientific papers and social media)? It is a difficult topic to research since most of these sharks never survive. But it is a critical question that needs to be answered. Is it overfishing? Increased reporting? Pollution? Or something else entirely. Global shark populations are not doing well as it is, genetic mutations could be an additional silent threat.
Meet the Pangolin, a scaly mammal that eats insects and hangs out in trees or burrows in the ground. It’s keratin-based scales are meant for protection from predators, a unique adaptation for a mammal. There are eight species of pangolin found in Asia and Africa. Unfortunately this unique critter has the dubious title of “most trafficked mammal” due to rampant poaching for it’s meat. During the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), delegates voted to ban all trade of all extant species of pangolin.
About The Illustration: Watercolor ink and micron pens. Originally I had him playing the piano but I removed the piano and now he looks a bit awkward. Oh well.
For those of you with little ones or have little ones in your life in some way-consider picking up a copy of “Roly Poly Pangolin” by Anna Dewdney. She’s the author of the Llama Llama books. A portion of each sale goes to pangolin conservation in Vietnam.
This recent illustration appears to incorporate some random critters at first glance. Salamanders, bats, and starfish-what could they possibly have in common?
Bat populations in North America are suffering from White-Nose Syndrome. I wrote about White-Nose Syndrome in “Cave Fresh“. Starfish along the Pacific coast are dying out from Sea Star Wasting Disease. I wrote about Sea Star Wasting Disease in “Trouble Among The Stars“. Salamanders (as well as frogs) around the globe are succumbing to Chytrid fungus. I have yet to write about Chytrid but I did write about Snake Fungal Disease in “Fungus Among Us“.
Disease, unfortunately, is the common thread but it is that common thread that scientists are beginning to see across the globe and across taxa. That is why the science and health community created the One Health Initiative. A collaborative effort connecting human and animal health with environmental health in order to understand the global picture for health. The impact of viruses and warming sea water on starfish may not seem so important to you but it is an indicator of environmental health and what is to come if we do not take notice and act. We are all connected…