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Planting trees to save the planet has captured the public imagination, and with good reason. It’s a tangible way individuals feel able to do something about the climate and biodiversity crises. Forest restoration is recognized globally as a critical component of any pathway to limit dangerous warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Countries around the world have made ambitious restoration commitments – coordinated under the Bonn Challenge – in recognition of the benefits of restoring forests for biodiversity, climate, and local communities.
However, up to now most of the global restoration conversation has focused on re-establishing forests where they have been cleared, known as “reforestation.” While reforestation is crucial to deliver on international climate and biodiversity commitments, this focus overlooks more than half of the world’s existing forests that haven’t been cleared, but have been modified by logging or other human activities.
Because these degraded areas still retain many essential characteristics of healthy forests, they should be considered the first priority for restoration, since they can recover quickly and provide benefits much sooner than cleared areas that need time to regrow.
In a new study in the journal Conservation Biology, we estimate that there is at least as much area of degraded forest that could be restored as deforested land that could be returned to forest cover—1.5 billion hectares, in fact, an area almost the size of Russia. These forests still hold between 50-80 percent of their maximum potential carbon, remain relatively intact, and could naturally recover if human pressures were better managed.
An additional 1.3 billion hectares of forest are more severely degraded, but still currently hold 25-50 percent of their maximum potential carbon. These areas would likely require a mix of active tree planting and management of human pressures to facilitate recovery. By better understanding the extent of forest degradation, governments and land managers can identify which actions to take and where to prioritize restoration efforts.
Degraded forests represent untapped potential for climate change mitigation. Their restoration is a fast and reliable way to achieve positive climate and biodiversity outcomes. Degraded forests appear in many ways very similar to undisturbed forests, and support significantly more species compared to deforested areas. Studies have also shown that forest restoration is more successful in areas with a greater share of existing natural forest cover. As such, degraded forests that occur near forests that are in better shape can rapidly rebound to previous levels of biodiversity, carbon and ecosystem services.
Forest restoration efforts on degraded forests that occur near high integrity forests have the potential to rapidly generate large biodiversity benefits. Increasing connections between adjacent degraded forest areas can improve the abundance, richness and diversity of native species. Large areas of restored forests can also help species adapt to climate change.
Restoring degraded forests also costs less than planting, growing, and maintaining trees on deforested lands. Restoring degraded forests may also lead to fewer conflicts over land, as such areas are not actively farmed, so restoring them will not impact crop production.
Our study provides a tool for prioritizing restoration areas. Take, for example, the 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica — the largest remaining expanse of intact forest in Central America, where an alliance of national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and Indigenous groups have together committed to the restoration of 500,000 hectares of forest by 2030.
These forests are critical for wildlife, carbon sequestration, and clean water, and they provide food security for five million people. Our prioritization approach has identified areas in this region that should be restored first to provide the highest return on investment.
Restoration priority maps are one part of a complex decision-making process. As a next step, we will refine our assessment of restoration priorities in the 5 Great Forests in collaboration with key decision makers, to support local stakeholders shaping decisions about priorities, investment, and operational planning for restoration success.
Restoring forests where they have been totally lost is vitally important in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, but it is also crucial to recognize the opportunities and benefits that come from improving the condition of degraded forests. We hope that decision makers globally will recognize this approach and seek opportunities for efficient, cost-effective options to bring it to fruition.
Skunk: Mammals in the family Mephitidae.
Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Carnivora
Family: | Mephitidae
There are 10 living species of skunks. They may be found in the following three genera: Conepatus, Mephitis, and Spilogale.
Size and Weight:
The size of a skunk varies depending on the species. They can range in length from 15.6 to 37 inches, and in weight from about 1.1 to 13 pounds. Spotted skunks are the smallest species. The largest are the hog-nosed skunks.Appearance:
Skunks have moderately elongated bodies with relatively short, well-muscled legs. They have five toes on each foot, and long front claws for digging. Most skunks have black and white fur, but some may be brown or grey. All skunks are striped. Depending on the species, a skunk may have a single wide stripe along the back and tail, or two thinner stripes, or a series of white spots and broken stripes.
Skunks are omnivores. They eat both plant and animal material. Their diet may include insects, rodents, lizards, birds, snakes, eggs, berries, roots, fungi and leaves. When living near human populations, skunks are known to scavenge garbage left by humans. They also may scavenge bird and rodent carcasses left by other animals.Habitat:
Skunks live in a wide variety of habitats, including deserts, forests and mountains.Geography:
Skunks inhabit North America and South America.
Early spring is skunk mating season. Skunks are polygynous, meaning successful males may mate with additional females. The female gives birth in a den after a gestation period of about two months. She will give birth to a litter of four to seven kits, which are born blind, deaf and vulnerable. After about three weeks, the kits open their eyes. They are weaned at about two months but will stay with their mother until they are ready to mate at about one year old. Mother skunks are protective of their young and are known to spray at any sign of danger. Males are not involved in raising the young.Social Structure:
Skunks are crepuscular and solitary animals when not breeding. However, in the colder parts of their range, they may gather in communal dens for warmth. Skunks dig burrows to use for shelter during the day. For most of the year, a skunk’s normal range measures 0.5 to 2 miles. During breeding season males travel an expanded range, 4-5 miles per night.
Although skunks may shelter in their dens for extended time periods in the winter, they are not true hibernators. They go into a dormant stage when they are typically inactive and feed rarely. During the winter months, males often den alone but multiple females may huddle together, returning to the same den year after year.
In the wild, skunks live two to four years. In captivity, they may live for up to ten years.Threats:
Skunks are threatened by a long list of predators including humans, coyotes, domestic dogs, red foxes, lynx, bobcats, badgers, mountain lions, and fishers. They also can be prey for aerial predators like eagles, great horned owls and crows. Skunks are highly susceptible to diseases like canine distemper and West Nile Virus, among many others. While skunks have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, they have poor vision and are unable to see objects clearly at a distance of 10 feet or more. This leaves them vulnerable to road traffic.
To protect themselves from predators, skunks have a well-known stink strategy. In response to a threat, a skunk will first try to escape. If escape is impossible, it will hiss and stamp its feet. If the threat persists, a skunk can position itself in a U-shape so that its front and back ends are facing the threat, ensuring that its spray will hit the mark without getting a drop on itself. The skunk then emits a well-aimed cloud of stench.
Most predators are deterred by this tactic, which is one of nature’s most effective defense mechanisms. The skunk spews an oily, yellowish liquid produced by anal glands under its fluffy tail. While the liquid does no permanent damage, its stench may linger for days. And, since one of the spray’s noxious ingredients is water resistant, bathing has little effect on relieving the stench.
Eight of the ten skunk species are listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The pygmy spotted skunk (Spilogale pygmaea) and the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) are listed as “Vulnerable.”
NATURE returns for its 42nd Season, featuring a brand-new Spy in the Ocean miniseries, alongside documentaries on grizzlies, whales, shorebirds and ancient sea monsters.
The WNET Group’s Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning series Nature announced its upcoming season with new episodes Wednesdays at 8/7c beginning October 18 on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/nature and the PBS app.THE PLATYPUS GUARDIAN | Wednesday, October 18
Witness the story of an extraordinary man and a mysterious animal living on an island at the end of the world…Tasmania. Pete Walsh is a Tasmanian with no background in natural history, yet he’s become obsessed with one of nature’s least understood creatures, the platypus. Before it is too late, Pete is on a mission to observe and understand these animals and save them from urban development in the capital city of Hobart. Pete befriends one particular female platypus he names Zoom. She lets him into her secretive world and Pete learns more about the life of this enigmatic species, capturing unique footage of their behavior.
The latest installment of the popular Spy in the Wild series takes place in the ocean, the largest ecosystem on Earth. This four-part Nature miniseries deploys animatronic spy cameras disguised as marine animals to secretly record behavior in the wild. These uncanny robotic look-alikes take us to places where no spy has gone before. They will swim, float, paddle, waddle, drift and fly into every nook and cranny to film rarely seen behavior that reveals how ocean animals possess emotions and behavior similar to humans – including the capacity to love, grieve, deceive and invent.
Small animals, even tiny ones, must sometimes make epic journeys to find a home or a mate. While the distances may not seem monumental to us, to these little creatures the journey is monumental. Grasses appear like skyscrapers, mounds become mountains and raindrops fall as big as cars. Meet six heroic, tiny travelers risking it all to complete big journeys against the odds.
The most famous bear in Yellowstone is responsible for 22 descendants. Grizzly 399 has become a symbol of the clash between humans and the wild, as well as a measure of success for her species as it creeps back from the brink of extinction. Now, the stakes are higher than ever as the State of Wyoming petitions the federal government to remove grizzlies from the endangered species list—which would make it legal to hunt bears for recreation. But 399 is far more than just a symbol, she’s the protagonist of a riveting story full of twists and turns, hope and heartbreak.
ATTENBOROUGH AND THE JURASSIC SEA MONSTER | Premieres Winter/Spring 2024
Sir David Attenborough unearths a once in a lifetime discovery: the fossil of a giant Pliosaur, the largest Jurassic predator ever known. Follow a team of forensic experts on a perilous expedition to excavate the skull, uncover the predatory secrets lying deep inside the fossil, and unlock clues about the life of this giant sea beast.
For years, Patrick Dykstra has traveled the globe following and diving with whales, learning how whales see, hear and perceive other creatures in the water. In Dominica, Patrick has a life changing experience – a close encounter with a sperm whale he names “Delores.” Witness Patrick and the whale attempt to communicate with each other in extraordinary footage never before seen.
The planet’s most successful large predators are a group of birds known as raptors. United by a hooked beak, a taste for flesh and a set of razor-sharp talons, these birds of prey have conquered the globe. Raptors dominate every habitat in which they live. Learn more about eagles, hawks, and falcons as well as the lesser-known hunters like the secretary bird, the caracara, kites and more.
Ukrainian YouTuber Anton Ptushkin documents the work that Ukrainian citizens have done to rescue and care for the pets and zoo animals abandoned during the war. Before the invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had the second-highest population of pets per capita in the world. In the face of violence, pets and their owners became symbols of resistance, heroes and frontline volunteers. See how a national tragedy transformed into a global story of incredible devotion and love.
Shorebirds fly thousands of miles each year along ancient and largely unknown migratory routes called Flyways. Species travel from feeding grounds in the southern hemisphere to breeding grounds in the Arctic regions and back again, flying up to nine days non-stop without food or water. But their populations are crashing. Follow a conservation movement of bird-loving experts and citizen scientists as they mobilize to the challenge of understanding and saving shorebirds.
Gabon’s Loango National Park is home to a group of western lowland gorillas that have become accustomed to biologists who have studied them for almost 20 years. This documentary presents an intimate look at a silverback and his family, and features a newborn baby gorilla, brave researchers, forest elephants, buffalos and the last remaining wild coastline in the African tropics.
*Dates and information subject to change.
Clouded leopard: one of the most ancient cat species.
Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Carnivora
Family: | Felidae
Subfamily: | Pantherinae
Genus: | Neofelis
There are two species of clouded leopards: the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi).
Size and Weight:
Clouded leopards are larger than small cats and smaller than big cats. Males are twice the size of females, with females weighing 22 to 30 pounds and males weighing 44 to 55 pounds. They measure 26 to 41 inches in length and stand 10 to 16 inches at shoulder height. They have an exceptionally long tail, used for balancing, that measures 24 to 33 inches long.Appearance:
The clouded leopard is named after the distinctive ‘clouds’ on its coat. Its spots are partially edged in black, with the insides a darker color than the background color of the pelt. Its fur ranges in color from pale yellow to rich brown with irregular dark stripes, spots and blotches.
These medium-sized cats are well-adapted to forest living. They have a stocky build with relatively short legs and large, dexterous paws. Their paws have specialized footpads for gripping branches. These cats have specialized anklebones that allow varied positions for climbing, including climbing headfirst down trees. Clouded leopards are one of the few animals, and one of only two cat species, that can climb down trees headfirst.
Clouded leopards usually hunt on the ground and eat a variety of birds, squirrels, monkeys and wild pigs. They have an advantage in hunting as their ankles can rotate backward. This enables them to climb down a tree headfirst, to climb upside down and to hang from their back feet.
Despite their smaller size, clouded leopards have large mouths. While tigers are 10 times larger than them in body size, a clouded leopard’s 2-inch-long canine teeth are the same size as those of a tiger. A clouded leopard can open its jaws wider than any other cat, and its tooth development is most like that of the extinct sabertooth cat. These features enable the clouded leopards to take down larger hoofed mammals.Habitat:
Their preferred habitats are tropical rainforests. However, they can also be found in grasslands, scrublands and wetlands.Geography:
Clouded leopards can be found in Southeast Asia. Their range spans from Nepal, Bangladesh, and Assam (eastern India) through Indochina to Sumatra and Borneo, and northeastward to southern China and formerly Taiwan.
Clouded leopards reach sexually mature around 2 years old. Mating can occur in any month. After a gestation period of 85 to 93 days, the mother gives birth to a litter of one to five cubs, typically two or three. At birth, the cubs are small and helpless. At two to three weeks, they open their eyes, and a week later their teeth begin to emerge. By five weeks, cubs leave the nest. By the time they are six months old, they are fully weaned and have full adult coloration. This is when the mother most likely teaches her young to hunt. At 20 to 30 months old, they are ready to strike out on their own. Females can produce a litter every year.
Like many cats, clouded leopards have various reproductive challenges. Males are twice as large as females, so there is a higher chance of injury to the female cat in a breeding encounter. Males sometimes kill their potential mates during courtship. When potential pairs are introduced to each other at an early age, they have better breeding success.Social Structure:
Clouded leopards live solitary lives with the exception of mothers and their cubs. These cats can communicate through calls. Their calls include a low, moaning roar, a soft chuffle, a growl, a hiss, and meows.
In the wild, clouded leopards live about 13 years.Threats:
The greatest threat to clouded leopards is habitat loss due to a growing number of farms. Its rainforest habitat is often divided into small, unconnected patches of forest by industrial logging and the development of agricultural areas. While they are protected by law, clouded leopards are still illegally hunted for their beautiful coat.
Both clouded leopard species are classified as “Vulnerable” by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.Conservation Efforts:
Numerous conservation groups are working to protect the clouded leopard. For example, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and local wildlife authorities are working together to establish anti-poaching units and strengthen anti-poaching law enforcement in Bhutan.
Capybara: a giant rodent native to South and Central America.
Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Rodentia
Family: | Hydrochaeridae
Genus: | Hydrochoeris
There are two species of capybara: the capybara or greater capybara (Hydrochoeris hydrochaeris) and the lesser capybara (Hydrochoeris isthmius).
Size and Weight:
Capybaras are the largest rodent species. An adult capybara weighs 60 to 174 pounds, depending on the sex. They measure 3.2 to 4.2 feet in length and measure 1.6 to 2 feet at shoulder height. The lesser capybara tends to be smaller than the greater capybara.Appearance:
These large rodents are built like a barrel with legs. They have long, light brown, shaggy hair, and a face that looks like a beaver’s face. They have no tail, a blunt snout and slightly webbed feet, as they spend much of their time wallowing in shallow water. They have dry skin, which requires them to spend time in swimming holes to stay healthy. While they were originally thought to be a species of pig, they are now known to be rodents, closely related to cavies and guinea pigs.
Capybaras are herbivores, grazing on grasses and water plants by using their long, sharp teeth. An adult can eat 6 to 8 pounds of grass per day. They typically spend their days wallowing in shallow water and mud to keep cool and spend their evenings wandering out to graze. When fresh grasses and water plants dry up during the dry season, these rodents eat reeds, grains, melons and squashes. They also eat their own poop to get beneficial bacteria, which helps their stomach break down the thick fiber in their meals.Habitat:
Their habitat includes swampy, grassy regions bordering rivers, ponds, streams and lakes.Geography:
Capybaras live in Central and South America.
Adult females typically produce one litter of young per year. Breeding occurs year-round with a peak in May and June, the beginning of the wet season. After a gestation period of 5 to 6 months, the female gives birth to a litter of up to 8 pups. The pups weigh only 2 to 3 pounds at birth and are vulnerable to predators. The pups reach sexual maturity when they are about 15 months old.Social Structure:
Capybaras live in small groups of about 10 individuals. These groups are made up of a dominant male, one or more females, one or more subordinate males and several young. During the wet season, as many as 40 capybaras can be found living together. The adults keep an eye out for predators, as their young often fall victim to caimans, ocelots, harpy eagles and anacondas.
These rodents live up to 10 years in the wilderness and can live up to 12 years in expert care.Threats:
Adult capybaras have one main natural predator, the jaguar. They use water to escape from danger. A capybara can stay underwater for up to five minutes at a time to hide from predators. They use their slightly webbed feet to swim and dive away from threats.
Deforestation, habitat destruction and illegal poaching are the largest threats to capybaras. While they are not classified as endangered, the species was in trouble due to hunting. In their native range, these large rodents are sometimes used as a food source and their teeth are sometimes worn as ornaments by local human populations.
Sources: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus): small bears found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
AKA: Dog-face bear, Malay bear, and honey bear
Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Carnivora
Family: | Ursidae
Genus: | Helarctos
Species: | H. malayanus
Size and Weight:
Sun bears are the smallest bear species, measuring 4 to 5 feet long on their hind legs and weighing 60 to 150 pounds. This is only about half the size of an American black bear.Appearance:
Sun bears are named for the golden patches of fur on their chests, which are said to resemble a rising sun. Each bear’s crest is as unique as human fingerprints. They are stockily built, with large paws, strongly curved claws, small rounded ears and a short snout. Their fur is generally jet-black but can vary from grey to red. Its unique morphology of inward-turned front feet, flattened chest, and powerful forelimbs with large claws suggest adaptations for climbing.
These bears are omnivores. Their diet includes insects, leaves, lizards and berries. Honey is their favorite snack. To get the treat, they use their sharp claws to open beehives. Then they use their extra long tongues to extract the honey inside, often gobbling up bees with the sticky sweet.Habitat:
Their habitat includes wooded areas and tropical forests. As the most arboreal bear, the sun bear is an excellent climber and creates its nest in tree branches.Geography:
Sun bears can be found in Southeast Asia.
Sun bears don’t have a particular breeding season. Adult females are the only type of bear to cycle several times each year. They create their nests in leafy vegetation on the ground, in tree branches, or in hollow logs. After a gestation period of 95 to 100 days, the female gives birth to 1 to 2 cubs. Cubs are born hairless and helpless, unable to hear or smell. They depend on their mother for food, warmth, and protection.
By 4 to 5 months of age, cubs are able to run and play. And by 18 months, they are weaned off their mother’s milk. The cubs stay with their mother for about two years and reach sexual maturity when they are 3 to 5 years old.Social Structure:
Sun bears are typically solitary, except for a mother and its cubs or during mating. These bears are usually active during the day. It is arboreal and an exceptional climber. It sunbathes or sleeps in trees 7 feet to 23 feet above the ground. They are also excellent swimmers.
These petite bears vocalize using a variety of different sounds. Adult bears use a clucking noise, similar to a hen, to signal friendly intent. Aggressive bears bark, growl and roar. Cubs hum while nursing and squawk or cry when in need of their mother’s attention.
In the wild, sun bears live up to 25 years.Threats:
Sun bears are shy and elusive, making them difficult to find and study. While current data has them listed as endangered, their population size is believed to be rapidly declining. The largest threats include habitat loss, poaching for their meat and their use in medicine, and the pet trade. Their appetite for oil palm and other commercial crops has led to conflict between them and humans.
As of 2016, sun bears are classified as “Vulnerable” by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
With the exception of Malaysia and Cambodia, laws prohibit the hunting of sun bears throughout their whole range. However, these laws are not strictly enforced. Numerous conservation groups, including The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), aim to protect these bears. BSBCC aims to provide care and rehabilitation to rescued sun bears and to increase awareness of sun bears internationally.
Sources: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
In a world where we are often left uninspired by the outcomes of global convenings, we recently saw two remarkable landmark achievements in quick succession.
In Montreal in December, nearly 200 nations agreed on a framework to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, which included a widely visible “30×30” target to protect 30 percent of land and water by 2030. Three months later, nearly 200 nations signed the High Seas Treaty, a landmark agreement that introduced the possibility for new protections for the parts of the ocean that lie outside national borders.
These two moments are milestones that provide the teeth necessary to enforce protections for our oceans—a wellspring of life on our planet, a source of food for families around the world, and a powerful nature-based tool for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
While conservation of the High Seas is essential to meet the biodiversity goals of 30×30, we must also prioritize areas that are of greatest value to both nature and people. This includes an essential but thin strip of ocean known as the territorial seas as defined by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. These waters, which extend 12 nautical miles from the coast, contain 70 percent of all ocean biodiversity.
According to the UN, nearly 2.4 billion people live within 100 kilometers of the coast. Close to one-fifth of them depend on small-scale fisheries, the vast majority of which are coastal fisheries critical for livelihoods. All of the world’s mangroves and sea-grass beds and 83 percent of coral reefs are found within these waters. Forty percent of the total global fish catch comes from small-scale fisheries. Simply put, these waters are vital to food security, livelihoods, and the climate resilience of communities around the world.
Given this incredible and unique symbiosis among marine biodiversity, productivity, ecosystem services, livelihoods and society, we suggest these waters should more aptly be called “community seas.”
Despite the value that far exceeds their size, these waters are often overlooked and poorly managed. They contain only 11 percent of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and less than 15 percent of ocean philanthropy is dedicated to community-based coastal habitat conservation and small-scale fishing issues, based on an estimate by CEA Consulting.
This is due in part to social and political hurdles that are as diverse as the countless communities and cultures bordering these seas. Rules around access rights and tenure run the gamut. The human rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPs and LCs), like the right to social and economic development or cultural rights, must be maintained. There is simply no one-size-fits-all solution.
Yet, protections and management are needed, and where they have been implemented well they have been shown to reap measurable benefits for people and planet. To safeguard community seas, we need inclusive, effectively managed MPAs and to recognize and support governance models that support community led conservation in the form of Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures, or OECMs.
While MPAs deliver results for nature and provide valuable ecosystem services to people, OECMs are also often designed with people and nature in mind, and thus are a key complement to MPAs. Marine OECMs include fully-protected marine reserves, areas off-limits to fishing, allowing fish populations to rebound in protected habitats. Most importantly, OECMs allow for decentralized and efficient adaptive management that can provide durability to both governance and associated conservation outcomes. This balanced approach delivers for people and nature.
Community led OECMs still must be designed in a manner that is equitable, inclusive, and reflective of the values and needs of IPs and LCs—those closest to the resource. Design and declaration must be led by local leaders, fishers, and their communities, unlocking the power of the too-often absent voices of women and youth.
Studies show that inclusive participation of local or Indigenous people in the management of their community seas leads to a greater increase in fish biomass than heavy-handed penalties. And as the FAO states, successful, long-term, positive change must originate from the fishers and communities themselves.
Many countries are already tackling balancing protection with sustainable production. Coastal nations like Colombia and Mozambique have passed national legislation to protect coastal waters while centering the role of local communities in their management and use. They follow nations like Indonesia and the Philippines that have already embraced the community-based approach.
To maximize the potential of OECMs and protect the community seas, governments must drive policy change and translate the recent international commitments into updated national targets and strategies. Together with local leaders and communities, national governments should secure preferential rights for small-scale fishers through exclusion zones, enable community co-management, and enforce appropriately designed fishery regulations, while applying human-rights-based principles.
Protecting and effectively managing the community seas is difficult but critical to achieving the goals of 30×30. Coupled with larger-scale MPAs, OECMs offer a complete solution for ocean conservation. As the global community builds on the momentum of Montreal and the High Seas Treaty, our focus should turn to the community seas and deploying OECMs as a fair and equitable solution for people and nature.
Last year those who have spent the past decades trying to raise awareness of the global collapse of shark and ray populations spent the summer looking ahead to the possibility that governments would take action to save these ancient ocean predators at an international meeting late in 2022.
At that meeting, the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Panama last November, they were rewarded. Over 180 governments took the decision to fully regulate the trade in shark fins, a product used as a delicacy in East Asia, and that has led to catastrophic shark declines worldwide.
That trade is made up of over 100 species, including some of the most iconic and unique shark families found in our oceans. They include the whip-tailed thresher sharks, hammerheads with their bizarre head shape, and the makos—the world’s fastest sharks. With these protections, we stand a chance of still seeing these species in the wild in decades to come.
This is a crucial step, but the hard bit comes next. As we celebrate Shark and Ray Awareness Day, recognized each year on July 14, all who care about the future of these iconic ocean predators helping to keep our ocean ecosystems healthy need to work together to ensure we build on recent conservation successes with ever stronger protections. Sharks remain the second most threatened animal group on the planet. There is no time to waste.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been working in countries like Madagascar, Gabon, and Bangladesh that have asked for assistance to turn these international protections into strong conservation action. Those requests have resulted in new protections for a wide range of shark species. We plan to continue our work in those locations and expand our efforts to more than 14 countries over the next three years.
We hope that these new obligations will kickstart shark conservation action around the world, and we will start to see the protections, and then the recoveries, that these species so urgently need.
By Mike Fitz
If you watch any of the wildlife or animal-themed cams on explore.org, then you know that they provide an exceptional lens through which we can view the lives of individual animals. The gorilla Pinga’s leadership and maternal devotion allowed her blended family group at GRACE to heal from trauma. The California condor Inikio survived wildfire only to be prematurely evicted from her nest by another condor. The legendary brown bear Otis is a quintessential example of longevity and adaptability in bears.
During my bear cam live chats, I focus a lot on the lives of individual bears and then relate those bear’s experiences to bigger ideas. Understanding how Otis has adapted to a lower rank in the bear hierarchy, for example, allows us to better understand how old bears adapt to change and challenge.
However, there’s relatively little in the scientific literature exploring how personal connections to individual animals affect a person’s support for conservation. In fact it’s been argued that this is a myopic strategy, and most conservation efforts focus on the species level. The individual animals that we watch on explore.org each have a large and devoted following, so how might our connection to individual animals influence our support for conservation of a species? A new paper, of which I’m a coauthor, finds that individual and favorite animals can have a large, positive influence on our attitudes toward conservation efforts.
My research colleagues on this project developed an online survey of bear cam viewers that was available in summer 2019 and summer 2020. When survey participants were asked if they could identify individual bears 14% of viewers said yes, 56% responded sometimes, and 30% said no. Viewers who could identify individual bears were also asked how many individual bears they could identify. Twenty-one percent of those respondents indicated they could identify one bear, 45% could identify 2–4 bears, 20% could identify 5–7 bears, and 14% could identify more than 7 bears. When asked if they have a favorite bear 53% responded yes and 47% responded no.
So what do those results mean? Not much until we examined the answers to follow-up questions. In particular, viewers were asked to rate their agreement with the statement “the ability to learn about and/or identify individual bears influences my willingness to support conservation programs.” The question was on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Those who could identify individual bears agreed with that statement at significantly higher levels (4.86 ± 1.86) than those respondents who could not identify individual bears (3.31 ± 1.80). Importantly, those who said they had a favorite bear reported even higher levels of support for bear conservation (5.01 ± 1.58). These results are consistent with another study based on the same survey that found the ability to identify individual bears positively influences a person’s willingness to pay to protect individual brown bears. Furthermore, intentionally watching the bearcams when a specific bear was on screen yielded better conservation outcomes according to the survey results (that is, if you said you watched the bear cams more when Otis or 503 or another favorite bear were on camera then you were more likely to state you supported bear conservation).
A separate series of questions in the survey aimed to evaluate a person’s emotional connection to brown bears through a statistical method called conservation caring. This is a numerical measure of a person’s positive emotional connection to species or place. These questions were on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 9 (strongly agree). A higher score indicated a greater emotional connection. Viewers who could identify individual bears had significantly higher conservation caring levels (7.06 ± 1.68) than viewers who could only identify individual bears sometimes (6.81 ± 1.54) and viewers who could not identify individual bears (5.85 ± 1.70). Conservation caring levels also climbed with the number of bears a person said they could identify.
If you can’t identify bears on the bear cam, then don’t worry. It’s not a competition and I’ll continue to work to give everyone the tools and stories that allow us to connect with individual bears. I also know there are many people who still care for bears greatly but don’t place as much of an emphasis on getting to know individuals. What’s more important is that we recognize the individuality of wild animals and acknowledge that they are not automatons acting merely on instinct. They think and feel and their lives are important in the conservation of entire species. Other Otis-like bears doing Otis-like things roam over wild areas of North America, and if we can secure and maintain healthy habitat for Otis then other bears will benefit.
We hope to expand on these results and publish more about the influence of individual bears on conservation. I’m also interested in exploring how interpretive events—such as the live chats and Q&As that I lead during the bear cam season—provoke people to act to conserve bears and other wildlife. After all, it’s one thing to say you support wildlife conservation, but it’s another thing to take action.
Many viewers of explore.org know that watching wildlife through webcams can be a powerful and meaningful experience. With the statistical support of this and future studies, perhaps we can inspire more parks and protected areas to utilize webcams and interpret the lives of individual animals to build greater support for wildlife conservation.
I’d like to thank the researchers who made this study possible—Jeff Skibins (who drafted this paper and did the data analysis) and Lynne Lewis and Leslie Richardson (who were instrumental in the survey design and implementation). I’d also like to thank the Katmai Conservancy for covering the expense to make the paper available to everyone through open access.
by Candice Rusch, Director of New Media at explore.org
Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey and gave us feedback about what you want to see in a new comment system. In this blog post, I’ll lay out our goals and analyze the results. Before we begin, I want to offer two caveats. We are still in the planning phase of development. Things can, and likely will, change. The features outlined here may not be feasible. Or, we might need to release these features in phases. The primary goal of the survey was to help us understand what features to prioritize in development. This new system will be for the community and we need you to be a part of this process with us. The second caveat is that we removed feedback from the analysis that was specifically related to moderation policies. This survey was designed to help us understand how to better design a comment system. Moderation policy is a different conversation. Don’t worry, we did read your feedback, but if it was related to moderation then it is not reflected in this report.Explore.org’s Goals For a New Comment System Stability
It is no secret that Disqus has been buggy. 21% of the free answer portion of the survey was people lamenting how buggy Disqus is as a system. Most of our feedback inbox is filled weekly with people who face issues with the Disqus comment system. Snapshots don’t post. Comments are inaccurately marked as spam. Actual spam floods the site. Comments disappear. Notifications don’t work. The list goes on. The reason we periodically create new comment boards is that Disqus gets even more buggy as a comment board fills up.
Our primary goal is a new comment system that is stable. To accomplish this, we will have an extensive beta-test. During this test, the new comment board will be placed on a handful of cameras. We will need you to help us test this system: find bugs, tell us where things didn’t function as anticipated. The more feedback the better. I cannot say that our new system will never have bugs, but instead of having to wait days and sometimes weeks for a resolution from Disqus, we will be able to address the issues ourselves. Having our own system also gives us the opportunity to be transparent with you about fixes and their implementation.Features That Fit Our Needs
Disqus is a 3rd party system that we license. We don’t have any control over what features they release and when. This has caused some issues in the past. Most recently their “advanced moderation” feature catches legitimate comments in a spam filter, and we have no ability to opt-out. Even worse, we don’t have the ability to add features that would benefit our community. We feel that the recent tensions around the off-topic rule is a design problem, not a policy problem. This survey revealed that for every person who was sad about the off-topic rule enforcement, there was another person who was happy that the chats are focused on the cams. The community is split in half. We are trying to please two diametrically opposed groups with a system that doesn’t allow us to make any accommodations. Thankfully, you also gave us some great ideas about how to create a chat that can fit more casual conversation, while allowing for people to filter out conversation they don’t find relevant. Explore is unique. It became clear to us that to grow, we need to create something designed for our community. Your responses to the survey were a great help in understanding what you want!Security & Accessibility
From the moment we started the discussion about what a self-hosted comment system would mean, security and accessibility were at the top of our team’s mind. Part of accomplishing these goals will be consulting with experts to audit the system. Security experts will look at our system and assess it for vulnerability. We will design the system with accessibility in mind from the start. During the beta test we will specifically ask for accessibility testers to reveal any issues there. Once the system is live, we will create guides to help people navigate the new comments.Survey Results
Do you currently use a commenting account on explore.org?
It actually came as somewhat of a surprise to me that 40% of people who took the time to participate in the survey do not comment. The next question explains why people don’t comment.If you said no, why don’t you use a commenting account?
To analyze the results of this question, I removed everyone who answered, “I do comment.” We accidentally made this a required question. Sorry about that. I then pulled out all the “other” answers and found a few common themes.
By far the biggest reason people don’t comment is simply that they don’t want to, or are content reading the comments. The rest of this result confirms our suspicion that the bugs in Disqus are preventing people from being able to comment. This validates our goal of trying to build a stable commenting system first. The rest of the “other” responses have given us a lot to think about. For those of you who cited security concerns, we fully agree that the security of our users’ information is vital. I can confidently say that explore does not, and will never, sell our users’ information. It also looks like we could be better at educating our community about what is possible on the site. I was personally surprised that there were a number of people who didn’t know how to comment or didn’t know they even could comment on explore.If you use a commenting account, what is your favorite feature?
To analyze this question, I did something similar to the previous question. I removed all the people who said that they don’t comment. I also broke out everyone who answered “other” and organized the answers around the themes that emerged.
We learned a couple things from this question. First, we confirmed our hypothesis that explore.org would not be a good fit for a scrolling chat like Youtube, twitch, and other live streaming platforms. The ability to leave and come back is essential to our community. We also learned that while many of you love the ability to post snapshots to comments, it has been deeply frustrating that that feature has been unstable at best. We agree. The reason it hasn’t worked recently is that Disqus’ system flags most attempts to post a snapshot to comments from explore as spam. If we host our own system, we will obviously not flag our own traffic as spam. This would be a very easy win for explore staff, moderators and fans alike.If I were to change one thing about the commenting system, it would be
This was one of the more insightful questions in the survey! Like the previous questions, I sorted the “other” responses into themes. There were quite a few pointing out specific bugs in the Disqus. I sorted the bug complaints into the label, “a stable system that works.”
By far most people wanted an easier way to find information they are interested in. The responses in the Other section came with very helpful suggestions. We are currently discussing search and filter options that would let people more easily find what they are looking for! Many of these suggested features are also found in the free-answer portion of the survey, so I will address more of them there.
There were a small minority of people who urged us not to move away from Disqus. While we are happy that you have not experienced issues, we hope that this blog helps you see the extensive problems most of the community face. We want to reassure people that our goal is to make the transition as simple and painless as possible. Ideally you will be able to comment on the new system with your existing explore.org account and won’t have to sign up for anything new. As much as possible, we aim to maintain any existing features that work, while improving their stability. Any additional features we add will be tested to make sure they add value to the community.“How Interested Are You” Questions
These questions were meant to gauge the interest of the community on some features that the explore staff brainstormed in one of our planning meetings. While the primary goal is to create a more stable system, we have the opportunity here to add features that could be fun and useful. As a reminder, 1 is Very Uninterested and 5 is Very Interested.
This response was actually somewhat surprising to us! We thought that the ability to private message friends would be a good way to allow for off-topic chatter without making it visible for those that were uninterested, but 56.8% of people were either very uninterested or uninterested in this feature. Only 24.5% of people were interested or very interested in the feature. This was very helpful feedback. Private messaging adds a layer of complexity to the development process. With such a strong response against private messages it is unlikely we will release this feature in the first phase of the new comment system. There were many responses in the free answer portion that specifically asked for private messages. If you were one of those people, know that this doesn’t mean we won’t ever support private messages. It just means that it will not be prioritized over some of the other highly requested features like expanded search and comment filtering.
This feature was suggested in response to a somewhat common complaint about the phenomena of multiple posts of the same photo in chat. We thought if people could curate multi-photo posts it might incentivize them to curate one large post instead of posting a lot of the same photo. The response here is split. 39.7% of people were some form of uninterested, 36.7% had some form of interest. With a split response, the release of this feature will come down to ease of development and implementation. We might ask for more feedback on multi-photo posts when we have a more concrete example to show people.
To be honest, this is a feature that the explore staff is very strongly interested in. We use the Fan Favorites section to create the Fan Cam Friday newsletter. As it stands, it is not super obvious how to favorite other community members’ snapshots. I would not be surprised if some people learn right now from this blog post that they can go to a gallery and favorite other people’s snapshots. Moving this feature directly to the comments would add another way to interact with your friends AND it would help us curate the Friday newsletter better. With 36% of the people uninterested and 42% of people interested, we will probably move forward with this feature!
I actually expected this question to even more strongly favor the Very Interested side than it did. 36.5% of the people were uninterested while 44.1% were interested. We know that comment archiving is critical for several fan wikis. We are exploring ways to import Disqus history into the new comment system. We are currently discussing how long we should archive comments in the new system. Text is fairly inexpensive to store. Addition of media such as photos, videos, and gifs, adds to the eventual storage costs of a self-hosted system. We are trying to find a way to balance the need to archive comments with operational costs. Rest assured we are planning on archiving comments, though for how long is an open question. We might request more feedback later in the development process to understand how you are currently using comment archives.
This feature was suggested as a way to use the snapshot galleries in a new fun way. 37.5% of the respondents were uninterested while 40% of the respondents were interested. Several people mentioned in the free-answer portion of this survey that this would be a great way to discuss bear IDs. It’s a fantastic observation that we didn’t consider!
We often get feedback that the explore.org app would be better if it had comments. 32% of people were uninterested while 44% of the people were interested. We have tried to get Disqus to work with our app multiple times over the years, and it just has not worked. App integration is very high on our feature requirements for a new comment system.
We suggested this feature because we know that many schools and parents have their kids watch explore. It is not a huge surprise that 69.4% respondents were not interested in this feature while only 13.4% were interested. Explore’s website audience does trend to people who no longer have school age children. This strong response against parental controls means that it will not be very high on the feature list. Again, this does not mean that we will never release this feature, only that it will not be prioritized in the beginning.Is there anything else you’d like to see out of a new comment system?
Personally, this was the most interesting and insightful part of the whole survey. Some of the features suggested here we have already addressed. I won’t address every suggested feature, but I would like to highlight a few.
This has been addressed throughout this blog. It is our primary goal for a new comment system. The ongoing bugs are detrimental to the community. They are also the primary source of complaints for the explore.org website.
Search & Filtering
These suggestions were the best thing to come out of this survey. So many of you had great ideas for how to use search and filtering to make information easier to find, and to interact easier with other fans. We are currently brainstorming an “off-topic” tag that would allow people to filter out off-topic comments while creating space for people to interact with their friends.
Off Topic Comments
I did say at the top of the blog that we were not addressing moderation policy issues, but I also acknowledged that the off-topic tension is a symptom of the limitations of Disqus. We obviously want people to feel like they are welcome on explore and we understand that many longtime friendships have been formed here. On the other hand, we also got a lot of feedback from people who say that the off-topic comments make them feel unwelcome, and distract them from the goal of learning more about the live cams. It is a difficult balance. We hope that some of the search and filtering options can create room for both perspectives.
No Repeated Snapshots
This was also a common complaint. We don’t have any solid solutions here yet but we are actively considering how to address this issue. In a similar vein, many people requested a way to hide media. We think a filter that would let you see Images Only or Text Only might be a good solution.
Reactions & Emoji’s
This was also suggested in one of explore’s brainstorming meetings! It is something we are also interested in developing.
Block and Unblock users
This was on our list of basic feature requirements already. Not being able to unblock a user on Disqus is confusing to us as well.
This came up a few times in the survey. Explore does not, and will never, advertise on the site. If you are currently seeing ads in Disqus please let us know, because they should not be doing that. We can guarantee that there will not be ads in the new product.Conclusion
Thank you to everyone who made it this far! This will be a long process, but we thank you for helping us start this journey. I didn’t address every feature or concern raised in the survey here, but we have read all of them. Your feedback is critical in making a comment system everyone will enjoy. We will continue to provide updates as we move forward. As always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please email us at email@example.com
by Mike Fitz
Watching unfiltered footage of wild animals on explore.org means that we’ll inevitably witness nature’s harsh realities. Bears strip the skin off of living salmon. Lions subdue zebras. A python snares an unsuspecting bird from its perch. Falcons fight for nesting territories. Ravens pillage an unoccupied eagle nest. Although these events can be difficult to watch, the reasons for them are typically clear. Hunger and reproduction are powerful motivators. Other behaviors and situations, though, challenge our best available science as well as our sensibilities of right and wrong.
A bird nest is a dichotomous place of nurturing and conflict. Parents care for their vulnerable young, while chicks compete for food and space. The competition in a bird nest can manifest in ways far beyond the times when my brother, sister, and I fought over the last cookie.
An extreme form of sibling rivalry at a bird nest may lead to siblicide. Also called Cainism after the biblical story of Cain and Abel, siblicide occurs when a nestling’s behavior leads to the death of one or more of its siblings through starvation, physical injury, or eviction from the nest. While siblicide is not common among birds overall, it does happen in a wide variety of birds. It’s documented in the osprey, shoebill, southern ground hornbill, white-bellied swiftlet, blue-throated bee-eater, and blue-footed booby as well as certain species of cranes, eagles, egrets, hawks, herons, guillemots, gulls, owls, pelicans, penguins, and vultures.
Siblicide in birds often occurs as soon as a larger or more aggressive nestling gains the size, strength, and weaponry (such as a sharp beak) to cause significant harm to its younger and smaller nest mate(s). On explore.org we’ll likely witness it on the webcam that features the African black (Verreaux’s) eagle nest in South Africa, and it is possible that we could see it at the cams of great blue heron, osprey, black guillemont, and bald eagle nests in North America. But, there are differences in how it occurs. African black eagles experience obligate siblicide: two eggs are laid, they hatch at different times, and the older chick always kills its younger sibling. In contrast, siblicide is facultative in herons and osprey: it is circumstantial and doesn’t always occur.
Distinguishing the nuances of obligate and facultative siblicide doesn’t make it any easier to witness, of course. I wonder if this behavior is so difficult to watch, in part, because it is so difficult to explain.
Many organisms including humans make overt efforts to help ensure the survival of related individuals. This trait isn’t universal, though. At best, many more organisms behave indifferently to their siblings’ survival. Others take a more aggressive stance. Certain species of sharks attack and eat their siblings in the womb.
If siblicide was maladaptive, if it failed to provide survival benefits in the near or long term, especially if an alternate life history strategy such as cooperation among nestlings led to higher survival and reproductive rates, then those with the siblicidal trait might eventually have their genes winnowed from the population or species. Yet since siblicide persists, then scientists—or at least my interpretation of their conclusions—have operated under the assumption that siblicide, especially obligate variation, provides some sort of benefit that leads to reproductive success for the individuals that practice it.
During the last few decades, scientists have hypothesized many potential explanations for siblicide in birds. Maybe the only thing we know for sure is that there are certain factors that make it more likely to happen, although none appear to be universal. Among birds, siblicide is correlated with large body size at maturity, complex hunting and foraging behaviors, a protracted period of learning in early life, and a slow life history pace (that is, you live a long time and have a low reproductive rate). In addition, siblicidal bird species are more likely to have a long nestling period and effective weaponry at a young age such as a sharp bill. Regarding the nesting period, consider that American robins (a species with no documented siblicide) leave the nest about 14 days after hatching, while the African black eagle doesn’t fledge for 95 days or longer. The nests of many siblicidal species usually offer limited escape possibilities too. A mallard duckling spends relatively little time in its nest after hatching and its ability to move and feed independently allows it to easily avoid a pushy sibling, unlike a heron chick that remains in a nest high in a tree for weeks after hatching. Additionally, if the species practices asynchronous hatching, then the older, first-hatched chick has a head start on growth and those few days can make a tremendous difference. A mother Canada goose may lay many eggs, but she does not start incubating until the entire clutch is laid and all of her eggs hatch at about the same time. In contrast, a female African black eagle begins to incubate her first egg immediately even though she usually lays a second egg three or four days later. As a result, her first chick hatches several days before the second. When the second chick hatches, the older black eagle chick uses its strongly hooked beak to attack its younger, vulnerable sibling. In More than Kin, Less than Kind: The Evolution of Family Conflict, biologist Douglas Mock notes a case when an older African black eagle chick attacked its nest mate within a few hours of its sibling hatching. The younger chick died three days after hatching and weighed 18 grams less than when it hatched due to the repeated attacks and food monopolization from its older sibling.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, food availability and hunger play an important role, especially in species with facultative siblicide. If the parents deliver food in large parcels, then the older or stronger chicks may be able to monopolize the food to the detriment of their siblings. If the parents feed their chicks infrequently and food transfer between feedings is slow, then an older or stronger chick can also interfere with the feeding of its sibling.
Competition for food can become more intense as chicks grow. But, sufficient food can also allow younger or smaller chicks with the fortitude and energy to withstand and survive the aggression of their nest mates. One study on great egrets found that the amount of food had little direct influence on fighting behavior between siblings, though it consistently influenced chick survival. When scientists provisioned a great egret nest in Texas with extra food they found that nest mates didn’t reduce their aggression toward each other, but more chicks to survive to fledge.
There may be other factors that influence siblicide as well. One idea, for example, posits that some chicks may be more vulnerable to parasites. These infestations might leave a chick in a weakened state where it cannot withstand the aggression of its nest mates.
As species with facultative siblicide demonstrate, all nestlings can survive when circumstances allow. Parent birds are often great hunters and select their nesting territories well, which makes obligate siblicide perplexing. Food is not always in short supply for young (less than one week-old) African black eagle chicks. So if “Cain” is always going to kill “Abel,” then what’s the point of laying a second egg? Perhaps obligate siblicide evolved in anticipation of food shortages later in the nesting period or maybe there are other, stronger reasons. After all, natural selection operates on a continuum of scales.
For a mother African black eagle the energetic cost of laying a second egg is relatively small, but the payout could be huge—at least in terms of reproductive success—if something happens to the first egg. In this way, a black eagle’s second egg might serve as an insurance premium of sorts. An independent analysis of one chick mortality study in African black eagles found that about one in five of the second-to-hatch chicks survived to fledge. In fact, “Abel” survived to fledge at the Black Eagle Project’s Roodekrans nest, where explore.org now has a webcam, in 2005 and 2006 after the first egg failed to hatch. Although the probability of the second egg surviving remains low, it still may offer just enough of a reproductive reward to ensure the effort of laying a second egg, even if sibling aggression will lead an older chick to kill its nest mate in most instances.
I offer this information knowing that it won’t make siblicide any easier for many of us to witness. It is appropriate and natural to feel for animals and empathize with their struggles. Siblicide is often difficult if not disturbing to watch, so always remember that it is also okay to take a break from the cams or watch a camera that focuses mostly on scenery rather than wildlife when things get unpleasant.
The diversity of survival strategies among wild animals, though, serves as a never-ending point of fascination for me and I hope you as well. I wasn’t always the best brother to my younger siblings when I was a kid, but I was vested in their welfare. So something like siblicide in birds seems so out of the ordinary to feel alien. However, rather than judging whether it is right or wrong, I see it as something different, something outside of human ethics, a behavior that has purpose for the animals that experience it. Although siblicide in certain species of birds seems to have evolved to benefit survival, it remains a behavior that provokes our discomfort and is difficult for science to reconcile.
The Africam Show (Tuesdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A special live Q&A session to catch up on the best weekly Africam moments. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask Ranger Russel Gerber questions on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube chat roll.
Africam4Good Show (Thursdays at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET) – A weekly conversation about the conservation of African wildlife, and an overview of great moments from the live cams. Watch these special broadcasts on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube channel.
● The Africam Show: (2nd November)
Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.
● Africam4Good Show: Predator Conservation (4th November)
Russell chats with Thandiwe Mweetwa from the Zambian Carnivore Project about her conservation efforts in Zambia and what it’s like having a career in conservation.
● The Africam Show: (9th November)
Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.
● Africam4Good: Ground Hornbill Project (11th November)
Russell chats to Kyle-Mark Middleton about the endangered Southern ground hornbill and their current efforts to protect the bird’s future.
● The Africam Show: (16th November)
Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and updates us with highlights of animal characters.
● Africam4Good: Tembe Elephant Park – (18th November)
Russell chats with Ernest Robbertse from Tembe Elephant Park about his water project for the Tembe community and to chat about the history of Tembe.
● The Africam Show: (23rd November)
● Africam4Good: Kalahari Wild Dog Project (25th November)
Russell chats to Nadja le Roux from the Kalahari Wild Dog Project about her conservation work with the endangered painted dog.
● The Africam Show: (30th November)
All live events for the Polar Bear Cam will take place on the Tundra Connections Channel.
Tuesday, October 19th, 1:00pm Central
Polar Bears on the Tundra: Cam Kick-off
It’s that time of year again! Polar bears are gearing up for the sea ice to return soon, gathering along the shores of Hudson Bay in anticipation of eating soon. In the meantime, we’ll be watching and live-streaming their every move while letting you know what we’re seeing! Join us as we kick off the season with familiar faces and answer all your questions about what this season holds!
Thursday, October 28th, 11:00am Central
The Arctic is known to be a harsh environment, but we choose to work there anyway! We are going to talk about some of our favourite new technologies and innovations allowing us to learn more about polar bears and help us keep them in the wild.
Thursday, November 4th, 12:00pm Central
Polar Bear Tracking: Past, Present, and Future
From bulky radio collars in the 80s to stick on tags smaller than a deck of cards in 2020, polar bear tracking has come a long way! Join us to discuss the difficulty, evolution, and importance of tracking an animal that lives on the Arctic sea ice for most of its life!
Friday, November 12th, 1:00pm Central
Farewell to the Tundra
It’s been another amazing season! We will discuss our favorite (and fan favourite!) highlights from this bear season and look at what’s next for the polar bears of Western Hudson Bay.
The Africam Show (Tuesdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A special live Q&A session to catch up on the best weekly Africam moments. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask Ranger Russel Gerber questions on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube chat roll.
Africam4Good Show (Thursdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A weekly conversation about the conservation of African wildlife, and an overview of great moments from the live cams. Watch these special broadcasts on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube channel.
● The Africam Show: World Animal Day (5th October)
● Africam4Good Show: Charlie Annenberg – Founder of explore.org (7th October)
Russell talks to Charlie Annenberg, the founder of explore.org. He discusses his love for Africa and what inspired him to set up live cameras around the world.
● The Africam Show: (12th October)
● Africam4Good: Giraffe Conservation Foundation (14th October)Russell chats to Arthur Muneza about giraffe conservation and the work done by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to help protect giraffes across Africa.
● The Africam Show: (19th October)
● Africam4Good: Birdlife South Africa (21st October)
Russell talks to Ernest Retief about the flamingos at Kamfers Dam and the conservation work done by BirdLife South Africa.
● The Africam Show: (26th October)
● Africam4Good: Elephants Alive (28th October)
Russell talks to Michelle Henley from Elephants Alive about her projects involving elephant identification and conservation.
Celebrate the success of Brooks River’s world-famous bears during Fat Bear Week. Your vote decides which bear will be crowned the fattest of the year. National Park Service rangers and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz are hosting many live events to help inform your vote. Watch the bears every day on explore.org.
Fat Bear Junior
For these young and maturing bears, it is win and you’re in! During this warm-up event for Fat Bear Week, you choose the cub who will compete in the annual Fat Bear Week tournament. Join the bracket reveal with Mike Fitz from explore.org and Katmai National Park ranger Naomi Boak during a live play-by-play on Monday, September 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific. The Fat Bear Junior vote takes place September 23 – 24 on fatbearweek.org.
Fat Bear Week in the Classroom
We invite teachers to take bearcam into the classroom and consider the different ways in which bears find success in Katmai’s challenging environment. Ranger Lian Law from Katmai National Park and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz will record a special broadcast to answer your students’ questions. Learn more about how your class can participate. Questions are due by September 28. The recorded broadcast premieres on October 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific on the Explore Live Nature Cams YouTube channel.
Fat Bear Week Live Chats
September 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
The road to Fat Bear Week greatness began months ago. After a summer-long effort, brown bears at Brooks River in Katmai National Park have reached peak fat. How did they do it and what challenges did they face along the way? Those are a couple of the questions that explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Katmai National Park rangers Naomi Boak and Lian Law will answer as they reveal the contenders and the bracket for the 2021 Fat Bear Week tournament.Welcome to Fat Bear Week
September 29 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
Winter comes quickly in Katmai and bears must get fat to survive it. Fat is the fuel that powers their ability to endure winter hibernation as well as the key to their reproductive success. Learn more about the importance of fat in the survival of the Fat Bear Week contestants with explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Katmai National Park rangers Naomi Boak and Lian Law.A Very Fat Bear Play-by-Play
October 4 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
A favorite of rangers and bearcam fans alike, play-by-plays are live events when rangers and other experts narrate the bear and salmon activity at Brooks River. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the individual bears on the cams and how they survive.Fat Bear Tuesday
October 5 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
In the tournament of champions that is Fat Bear Week, the merely pudgy bears have been winnowed away. The truly fattest are left standing. On Fat Bear Tuesday we conclude another titanic Fat Bear Week, and the two finalists are quintessential examples of success and the supreme adaptations that bears possess to survive. Explore the lives of the two final contestants with explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Katmai National Park rangers Naomi Boak and Lian Law.
Chat in the comments with Mike Fitz, explore.org’s resident naturalist, and rangers from Katmai National Park during our weekly Q&As. Bring your questions about bears, salmon, and Katmai.Explore.org: Every Tuesday (except October 5) from 5 – 7 p.m. Eastern / 2 – 4 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Live Chat channel. YouTube Q&As: Every Thursday from 2 – 4 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Falls YouTube page. Tiktok Q&As: Join on the explore.org Tiktok channel. October 1st at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific.
Brown Bear Superlatives
Choose your favorite bear among many categories including “most respected mom” and “best angler” in this post-Fat Bear Week celebration and fundraiser for the Katmai Conservancy. New superlatives are chosen each day from October 6 – 9 on the Brooks Falls YouTube page.
A Brown Bear Celebration
October 9 at 4 p.m. Eastern / 1 p.m. Pacific on the Brooks Live Chat channel.
After Fat Bear Week concludes, bears continue to fish at Brooks River and the Katmai Conservancy continues its work in support of Katmai National Park. Join the Katmai’s Conservancy’s Sara Wolman, explore.org’s Mike Fitz, and several special guests for this live event celebrating the 2021 brown bear season at Brooks River.
Did you see something on the bearcams you’re curious about? Or, would you like to submit a question in advance for our live events? Ask it here. Rangers and expert staff may answer your question in a live chat, in the bearcam comments, or in a blog post.
Late summer is here and Katmai National Park’s brown bears are packing on the pounds in preparation for their winter hibernation. National Park Service rangers and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz have many live events in store this month, including Fat Bear Week which begins September 29. And, don’t forget to watch the bears every day on explore.org.
Join park rangers and other experts for in-depth conversations about brown bears and salmon. Find these events on the Brooks Live Chat channel. And, if you miss any of our live chats, you can find the replays on our Bears and Bison YouTube channel.A Conversation with Katmai National Park Superintendent Mark Sturm: September 1 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
What challenges does Katmai face now and in the future? Get a superintendent’s perspective on the park’s priorities, issues, and plans for the future when Ranger Naomi Boak interviews Mark Sturm, superintendent of Katmai National Park. Submit your questions in advance using Ask Your Bearcam Question.Late Summer at Brooks River: September 8 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
During a season when daylight wanes and nights begin to grow long and frosty, Brooks River is still very much alive. Brown bears, who seem to have an unlimited stomach capacity, seek to satisfy their hunger while spawning salmon attempt to complete their life’s work. Join explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz and Ranger Naomi Boak from Katmai National Park as they discuss the late summer season at Brooks River. It is the second peak season on bear cam and a time of year that offers bears their last opportunity to gain the fat reserves necessary to survive winter hibernation.The Language of Bears: September 15 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
So you speak English, German, Urdu, etc. Want to learn Bear? In this chat Ranger Naomi interviews Bear Management Ranger Nick to translate bear language into our own. What does it mean when a bear lowers its head? That popping sound—what does that signal? Is that a fierce growl or a friendly greeting? No need for Google Translate today.Katmai’s Keystone: September 22 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
Pacific salmon are born in freshwater, grow large in the sea, and return to their place of birth to spawn and die. Their uncommon lives have extraordinary consequences for the ecosystems they inhabit. Join Mike Fitz to explore the amazing lives of Pacific salmon—the heartbeat of Bristol Bay’s economy, culture, and ecology.
Which chubby cubby will face off in the first ever Fat Bear Junior tournament? Find out at the beginning of the bearcam play-by-play on September 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific.
Fat Bear Week
Choose the fattest bear of the year! Some of the largest brown bears on Earth make their home at Brooks River in Katmai National Park. Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament celebrating their success in preparation for winter hibernation. From September 29 to October 5, your vote decides who is the fattest of the fat. Visit fatbearweek.org and join the special live events on the Brooks Live Chat channel.Fat Bear Week Junior: It is win and you’re in for these young and maturing bears! During this warm-up event for Fat Bear Week, you choose the bear cub who will compete with the largest adults in the annual Fat Bear Week tournament. Fat Bear Week Junior takes place Sept. 23-24 on fatbearweek.org. Fat Bear Week Bracket Reveal: September 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific. Welcome to Fat Bear Week: September 29 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific.
September 6, 13, and 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific
A favorite of rangers and bear cam fans alike, play-by-plays are live events when rangers and other experts narrate the bear and salmon activity at Brooks River. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the individual bears on the cams and how they survive. Find these events on the Brooks Live Chat channel. You never know what might happen!
Chat in the comments with Mike Fitz, explore.org’s resident naturalist, and rangers from Katmai National Park during our weekly Q&As. Bring your questions about bears, salmon, and Katmai.Explore.org: Every Tuesday from 5 – 7 p.m. Eastern / 2 – 4 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Live Chat channel. YouTube Q & As: Every Thursday from 2 – 4 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pacific in the comments on the Brooks Falls YouTube page. Tiktok Q & As: Find these on the explore.org Tiktok channel. September 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30 at 5 p.m. Eastern / 2 p.m. Pacific.
Fat Bear Week in the Classroom
We invite teachers to take bear cam into the classroom and consider the different ways in which bears find success in Katmai’s challenging environment. Rangers from Katmai National Park and explore.org’s resident naturalist Mike Fitz will record a special broadcast to answer your students’ questions. Learn more about how your class can participate.
Did you see something on the bear cams you’re curious about? Or, would you like to submit a question in advance for our live events? Ask it here. Rangers and expert staff may answer your question in a live chat, in the bear cam comments, or in a blog post.
The Africam Show (Tuesdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – A special live Q&A session to catch up on the best weekly Africam moments. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask Rangers Phill Steffny and Russel Gerber questions on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube chat roll.
Africam4Good Show (Thursdays at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET) – Join ranger Russell Gerber and Phill Steffny for a weekly conversation about the conservation of African wildlife, and an overview of great moments from the live cams. Watch these special broadcasts on the Africam Shows Channel or on our YouTube channel.Africam4Good Show: World Vulture Day (2nd September) Russell talks to Kerri Wolter from Vulpro, a vulture conservation organization. Kerri discusses the trials and triumphs of vulture conservation. The Africam Show: (7th September)
Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.Africam4Good: Care For Wild: Rhinos (9th September) Russell talks to Petronel, the founder of Care For Wild, a rhino rescue and rehabilitation organization. She chats about the live cams and rhino conservation and the upcoming World Rhino Day! The Africam Show: (14th September)
Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.Africam4Good: Elephants (16th September) Russell talks to Adine from the organization HERD about elephant rescues, rehabilitation and conservation. The Africam Show: (21st September)
Russell and Phill take us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.Africam4Good: Flamingos (23rd September) Russell talks to Ester, the Environmental Specialist at Ekapa Mining. She chats about flamingos and the exciting new flamingo cam. The Africam Show: (28th September)
Russell takes us on a virtual safari with the live cameras and update us with highlights of animal characters.Africam4Good: Leopards (30th September) Russell talks to a leopard expert about the conservation efforts being made to protect one of the most elusive cats, the leopard.
By Mike Fitz
Perhaps no other group of bears captures our attention like mothers and their cubs. We empathize with their plight and wish them success. Mother bears often show a high tolerance for each other, almost as though they recognize their mutual problems.
Bears have large appetites, though. They must eat a year’s worth of food in six months or less. Limited fishing success and empty stomachs increase the frequency and intensity of conflict between bears at Brooks Falls. Although bears avoid physical conflict most often, we still see them fight. How should we react when bears don’t play nice?
It’s been an unusual year at Brooks River so far. The salmon run was slow at first even as the number of salmon entering the greater watershed climbed above two million. It strengthened and increased in the river toward the end of July and has remained somewhat strong through much of early August. This has kept many bears around at a time of year when they usually disperse away from the river.
As recently as the beginning of the week, dozens of bears have been fishing within sight of Brooks Falls. Congregations like this don’t happen without some level of mutual tolerance, even as the bears warily eye and look to usurp fishing spots from each other.
Mother bears, in particular, must work especially hard to keep their cubs protected and well fed. They display their work ethic and devotion in subtle and overt ways. Some mother bears avoid areas with high numbers of bears, foregoing prime fishing opportunities to give their cubs greater security. As a group, though, no matter if they fish at the falls or elsewhere, mothers are the most defensive of all bears.
128 Grazer, for example, often isn’t willing to back down when another bear approaches her family too closely. If Grazer senses another bear might threaten her offspring, she confronts the threat head on. Under those circumstances her defensiveness extends to most all other bears. She’s defended her yearlings from the largest adult males as well as younger bears who maybe took too great of a risk to satisfy their own hunger.
Here is a cam highlight that shows Grazer defending her cubs against an adult male.
128 Grazer, 854 Divot, and their yearling cubs, engaged in a prolonged conflict over space and a fish on August 10, 2021. In my experience at Brooks River, it’s quite rare to see mother bears compete so vigorously with each other. This situation, interestingly, was precipitated by the yearlings. Grazer’s yearlings wanted a fish that Divot’s yearlings had in their possession. Divot felt the need to defend her yearlings. Each time Divot stepped in, she got too close to Grazer’s yearlings and that caused Grazer to react defensively. It was, for a moment, a feedback loop.
Grazer’s defensiveness, in particular, has provoked a wide range of reactions among webcam viewers, everything from awe to fright to concern to disdain for her aggressiveness. Some viewers have also wondered if Grazer poses an undue threat to other bears. She doesn’t FWIW, but this has got me wondering, once again, how do our human-centered perceptions of the world affect our reaction to the behavior of wild animals?
Although it elicits the ire of many people in the natural sciences, it’s sometimes difficult to not anthropomorphize animals. We are human and applying human characteristics to non-human creatures is common in literature and in real life. We usually have few qualms interpreting the feelings of our pets as sad, happy, or guilty even if our interpretations are sometimes incorrect. When we see Grazer beat up a small, seemingly non-threatening subadult bear, her behavior can seem harsh.
If I’m being honest with myself and you, her behavior is harsh. However, I use that word with caution. The act of being harsh may come loaded with negativity in our minds. I use it, therefore, not as a judgement but as a description.
For a moment, consider the world through Grazer’s eyes. She’s a sentient individual living in a difficult and competitive environment. Her survival and that of her cubs is not guaranteed. While bears are not as asocial as their reputations suggest, Grazer doesn’t live within a permanent social group. She’s devoted to her cubs, yet cannot rely on the help of other bears to raise them. Her species hasn’t evolved a sense of reciprocation. Like other bears, she establishes her place in the hierarchy through the use of body size, strength, and force. She senses the clock ticking perpetually toward winter, when she and her cubs must outwait famine by hibernating. Grazer faces those challenges daily.
If we can decouple the behavior of bears from the implications of the words we use to conceptualize their behavior—whether that’s moral or ethical—then perhaps we can more easily understand why bears make the decisions they do. Grazer is harsh toward other bears. Yet, her morals and rules for life are not our own. If I am to be fair to her, even as she is unfair to other bears, then I should consider life from her perspective rather than my culture’s and species’ rules for social engagement.
It’s okay to feel when we watch bears. We are emotional creatures, after all. Try as I might, I can’t fully channel my inner Spock well enough to remove myself emotionally from the bears’ lives. I only need to acknowledge that the bears’ minds, morals, and ethics are not human. Bears and other non-human creatures behave in ways that may clash with our values of right and wrong. And, that makes their behavior neither right nor wrong but something unique to them alone.
This guest blog was written by Makaila Machilek, the 2023 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award Winner.Life in the Mountains
A life growing up in the mountains of British Columbia led me to a deep love of the natural world. My early days were spent turning over rocks to collect insects, and it was always a good day when I found a garter snake that I could move safely off the road. This love of critters eventually made me into a naturalist, and an illustrator as well.
Growing up, my dream was to become a wildlife artist. I was fascinated by the paintings in natural history books and field guides, and did my best to replicate them. As I grew older, I spent much of my free time photographing wildlife and painting the animals I encountered on hikes and in the yard. In high school, I discovered the paintings of famous ornithologists, and with them: a love of birds. Ever since, birds have been a prominent figure in my works of art.
It was a spring trip to visit family in Hawai’i when I began to consider a career in the sciences. I was presented with the opportunity to spend an afternoon tagging green sea turtles in Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. The day was hot and the work was demanding, but it didn’t matter. Nothing felt so incredible as being so close to an animal and knowing you were doing work to preserve its future. This brought me to realize that perhaps I might be more interested in pursuing field biology than the arts.University and a Love for Birds
At the end of high school, I applied to McGill University for Environmental Biology, and to my utter delight, was accepted. At first, I was unsure of what to expect, but university has opened me up to ways of seeing the world I would never have expected. I have been shown new ways to approach conservation that I had never considered, and learned about subjects I never would’ve found interesting on my own.
Though it comes with many exciting new aspects, first-year university work can be hard, and the winters in Quebec are long and dark. To take my mind off the stress of schoolwork, I started going for daily walks. Originally I found them dull. The deep months of winter and the urban setting made the world seemingly devoid of life, other than the squirrels and crows. But soon, I figured out where to look. One evening, I found myself peering out over grey water. In the fading light, I could see silhouettes of wintering ducks, bobbing out on the Saint Lawrence River.
I admired their tenacity. Floating amongst the ice floes, they carried on, unbothered by the fierce weather around them. Soon after, I found myself becoming a regular birder, seeking inspiration from these tiny lives that persevered against whatever was thrown their way.Nature and Bringing People Together
An experience that sticks out since I came to Quebec was going to a marsh that is popular for birding. Upon pulling up, I was instantly greeted by people with long lenses and binoculars. Everyone was eager to share what they had found, and though I wasn’t sure of bird names in French, everyone still managed to figure out what the other was talking about. What really struck me about this encounter was that though everyone spoke different languages, had different life experiences, and ranged in age from six to sixty, everyone was brought together by the same love of the natural world.
Currently, I have been conducting surveys to protect bird habitats in Quebec. My work brings me to various different places, and I count the different species I hear and see. My next steps are to bring this work to the public. This year I plan to connect with local schools and community groups to organise nature walks and talks. Many people don’t realize the accessibility of the natural world. Seeing incredible nature documentaries trick people into believing you need to go to the high Andes, African Savanna, or Antarctica to see incredible animals, and they fail to notice the ravens doing barrel rolls in the wind, or the parula singing outside their window.
Being outside and fully immersing oneself in the life around you gets people out of their own heads, and helps bring communities together. I want to help people form a connection with the world around them, as with this connection comes the need to protect something you’ve come to care about so deeply. In the past 50 years, the world has changed rapidly, and bird populations have plummeted drastically. I want to make sure people are paying attention to this, and to the birds that so desperately need our help.Conservation and Future Plans
Many of the solutions to bringing back bird populations are accessible to the public: keeping cats indoors, avoiding pesticides, and turning out city lights during migration. But the first step in protecting our wildlife is showing people why they should care, why we should help these little lives that continue to fly vast distances, survive the harshest of winters, and thrive in the most unlikely of places.
I have a while before I graduate from university but in the meantime, I hope to find opportunities for research, ideally something that gets me out in the field, or community outreach. I have a particular interest in sea birds, as well as the threatened salmon populations of British Columbia, and hope to find opportunities there for work.Gratitude
I want to say an immense thank you to the Labatiuk family and Nature Canada for providing this scholarship. Being a recipient allows me to further pursue my education and continue the work I love. I am also incredibly thankful to my family for encouraging my love of nature — allowing me to keep crickets in a terrarium, pointing out the coyotes in the yard, and introducing me to the birds I’ve come to love so much.
The post Announcing the 2023 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award Winner: Makaila Machilek appeared first on Nature Canada.
As the back-to-school season sweeps across Canada, a unique opportunity presents itself to instill a deep-rooted sense of ecological awareness and responsibility in the hearts and minds of the younger generation. The importance of ecological education during these crucial months cannot be understated, as it not only empowers children with the knowledge to understand and address environmental challenges but also fosters a lifelong commitment to preserving Canada’s rich natural heritage. As a teacher and outdoor educator I often see the need for ecological education and alternative supports for learning throughout the public school system from K-12.Understanding the Importance of Ecological Education
Ecological education goes beyond traditional classroom learning, encompassing a holistic approach that integrates scientific knowledge, hands-on experiences, and a strong sense of stewardship for the environment. It equips children with the tools to comprehend complex ecological systems, appreciate biodiversity, and grasp the interconnectedness between human actions and the natural world. By nurturing this understanding early on, we lay the foundation for a generation that is capable of making informed decisions and leading initiatives that promote sustainability and conservation.Building a Sustainable Mindset
The back-to-school months provide an ideal window to introduce ecological concepts in a comprehensive and engaging manner. Through interactive lessons, field trips, and practical projects, children can be exposed to real-world environmental issues such as climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution. These experiences not only awaken their curiosity but also inspire them to become active participants in safeguarding the planet. By fostering a sustainable mindset from an early age, we empower children to critically assess their own behaviors and encourage positive changes within their families and communities.Connecting Classroom Learning with Real-World Applications
Ecological education thrives when it bridges the gap between theory and practice. Collaborations with local environmental organizations, nature reserves, and wildlife centers can bring children face-to-face with the wonders of nature and the challenges it faces. Hands-on experiences like planting trees, participating in clean-up drives, and observing wildlife in their natural habitats create lasting impressions and a profound connection to the environment. These practical encounters transform abstract concepts into tangible actions, inspiring a sense of responsibility and accountability for the world around them.Promoting Inclusivity and Diversity
Ecological education also has the power to promote inclusivity and diversity by emphasizing the interconnectedness of all life forms and ecosystems. By exploring different biomes, cultures, and indigenous knowledge systems, children gain a broader perspective on environmental issues and solutions. This approach not only enriches their understanding but also cultivates empathy and respect for diverse perspectives, enabling them to become effective global citizens who collaborate across boundaries to address shared environmental challenges. Further, students who often are not wired for the structured setting of public school education often find support, guidance, and real world experiences that provide skills and knowledge that can last a lifetime.Preparing Future Leaders and Innovators
The ecological challenges facing Canada and the world demand innovative solutions and informed leadership. Ecological education nurtures the qualities required to tackle these challenges head-on. Children exposed to ecological concepts are more likely to pursue careers in environmental science, policy-making, conservation, and sustainable development. In addition, youth with behaviours deemed unacceptable for certain learning environments often thrive and blossom into capable critical thinkers who will become the future leaders and voices of ecology, biodiversity, and the fight against climate change.
By imparting a profound understanding of the natural world, fostering a sustainable mindset, connecting classroom learning with real-world experiences, promoting inclusivity, and preparing future leaders, we are nurturing a generation that holds the key to a greener, healthier, and more harmonious planet. In the end, the investment in ecological education today ensures a legacy of environmental stewardship and sustainable progress for generations to come.
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The post Cultivating Ecological Education: Nurturing Young Minds for a Sustainable Future in Canada appeared first on Nature Canada.
Nature Canada has been working in support of Cree communities’ effort to identify and protect important bird and wildlife habitats within Eeyou Istchee, their homelands, for about 10 years. Ultimately our goal is to help the Cree communities here develop a plan to permanently protect their lands and waters in a way that will support their sovereignty, traditional use, and the ecological integrity of the landscape.
“The forest fires we faced this summer were not our first. We’ve seen and survived through many over generations, but this one was one of the most devastating seasons we’ve had, causing anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration.”
— Chief Daisy House, Cree Nation of Chisasibi
Nature Canada provides expertise in bird surveying and identification to local conservation organizations and along with community partners, we run site surveys during late breeding and early migration. This provides the Cree communities and governments with data to inform their conservation decisions. We are particularly interested in shorebird species for their amazing life history and declining status. They fly from breeding grounds in the arctic to wintering grounds, some as far as South America, every year. In between those two extremes are important habitats used to rest and refuel. These are key to the survival of the birds on their migration and therefore, the success of the species. James Bay is one such site.
Every year we look forward to fieldwork. It is a great opportunity to connect with our partners, get boots on the ground and spend some time with the Nature that we all love. It takes a lot of coordination to plan. We rely on satellite imagery and local knowledge to select survey sites. The community partners help organize everything: from remote camps that we can rent, to knowledgeable boat captains who expertly navigate the shallow waters of James Bay, and guides who know the land with an interest in participating in the surveys. Even with all this planning, surveys in the area are unpredictable. We are often at the whim of the weather which dictates if it is safe on the bay and how active the birds will be. The land is beautiful and complex and with fieldwork, being flexible with your plans is key.
Summer 2023 was to be focused on the coastal region around the most northern and populous community in the region: Chisasibi. With the plans set, and less than a week to the 16 hour drive north, the wildfires picked up. The only access road into the area was officially closed and our plans to survey were put on hold. For the next month, we checked the road access daily. We connected with our partners regularly, some of whom were stuck outside of the communities as well. We watched the forest fires continue to grow at alarming rates.
Across Canada the total area burned rising to almost triple the previous record by mid July with no end in sight. In Quebec, just one of the biggest fires grew to burn over 1,000,000 hectares. Fires burned through massive swaths of the Quebec’s Boreal, Taiga and Hudson ecozones.
“Eeyouch are severely impacted. But we know the animals are suffering, too. I recently spoke with an Elder about the fires and the devastation. It broke my heart to hear him say it was unlikely he would see caribou again in his lifetime on his trapline. This will disrupt our Eeyou meechum, the traditional food that we rely on each passing season.”
— Chief Daisy House, Cree Nation of Chisasibi
In early August,with the roads still closed to non-essential people, we finally made the call that no field work would happen this year. We had missed breeding season, we wouldn’t have enough time and bay access was becoming restricted. We were stuck in the south, intermittently trapped indoors by dangerous levels of wildfire smoke and disappointed that our field work was unlikely to go forward this year. Our inconvenience was, however, trifling as compared to the challenges that our partners in communities throughout Eeyou Istchee were facing.
To help, Nature Canada and our partners decided to pivot. We are now developing a plan, along with the American Audubon Society and our local partners, to figure out how we can estimate the impact of these wildfires on wildlife, especially birds in the Boreal. This area is affectionately referred to as the nursery for North America’s birds as it provides nesting habitat and migratory stopover to almost half of North American species. As such, the impact on migratory birds will be felt across the continent and into South America. Forests, wetlands, rain-forests and backyards from Chisasibi to Chile may well feel the impact of the wildfires in Eeyou Istchee this summer.
And Eeyou Istchee, the people’s land, is not empty land — the Cree, expert stewards, are very present despite decades of colonialism. Describing the impact of the wildfires needs to include the impact on the Cree people and culture. Working with partners in Chisasibi, we are speaking to community members and running the numbers to help tell a complete story of the impact of the wildfire season on Eeyou Istchee.
Make sure you are subscribed to Nature Canada for more updates and listen to this message from Chief House of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi calling on all Canadians to care, to listen, and to share their story:
The post Update on 2023 Fieldwork and Wildfire Impact in Eeyou Istchee appeared first on Nature Canada.
Sharing adventures and having fun with your children outside can look different for every family, some may enjoy hiking whilst others prefer puttering about in the garden at home. However you choose to get your green time in, there are massive benefits to be reaped from just a few hours of outdoor interaction with your children.
Here are just a few of the ways you can spend quality time outdoors with your family, and the ways that doing so will benefit your children’s development and well-being.Go on an adventure
Kids love to be outdoors, and you can sneak in many educational lessons if you get creative with your outdoor adventures. Get everyone excited to explore new places by creating a picture sheet of the local wildlife and see how many you can all spot on your walk. You can also do this with different types of fauna, flora, and fungi — teaching children to be observant and comparing the shapes and colours of different leaves, flowers, and mushrooms. Working together to tick off as many as you can find promotes positive skills such as teamwork, sharing, and problem-solving.
Outdoor play has huge positive effects on children’s development, in all areas. Ever notice how young children don’t just walk? They skip, run, jump, climb, and balance because they are driven to constantly push their bodies in order to fine-tune their gross motor skills. When you give your children the opportunity to explore new outdoor environments, they naturally expand these skills and become stronger and more sure of their physical capabilities.Become a member of a conservation group
Spending time outside with others in a conservation community and joining in with environmental campaigns as a family has massive benefits all around. Not only does it add manpower to the efforts of the cause, but you’ll be nurturing your children’s innate desire to connect with and protect the world they live in.
Just by joining your neighbours during community clean-ups and rewilding projects, you and your family could create a pollinator’s paradise a few steps beyond your front door that can do wonders for local wildlife. You could also get involved with any eco-friendly campaigns run by your child’s school or nursery. Aside from the benefits to the planet, your children will also reap the rewards of being part of a community. Social skills and self-confidence are boosted greatly when children build these types of connections, and they’ll feel proud of their contributions and more strongly bonded to your local community.Visit national parks and nature reserves
Exploring places such as nature reserves and national parks presents the perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of protecting endangered species and wildlife with children. Spending time enjoying the outdoors together also fosters a love for nature that will help children become empathetic and responsible world citizens.
Always prepare for your trip and plan ahead to ensure you have the right supplies (don’t forget the snacks) and appropriate clothing for the weather and terrain. When possible be careful not to disturb any habitats while out on an adventure, and always remember to leave no trace when exploring the outdoors. You can engage kids during outings by using iNaturalist to identify different plant species and animal tracks found while exploring, and uploading observations once exploration is over.Find Your Local NatureHood!
Joining a young naturalists club or a forest school gives you and your child the opportunity to make like-minded nature-loving friends. Emotional intelligence also gets a positive boost from playing outside with others. Without the confinement of being inside, children tend to become more open to sharing and working cooperatively with their peers. This builds social skills and encourages them to become more aware of others’ feelings. Building dens, helping each other climb a tree, or navigating a trail all help children learn to problem solve and work together.Create a garden together
If you have outdoor space at home, why not get the kids involved in gardening? By teaching them how to sow seeds, grow plants and even create their own vegetable patch you’ll also nurture your children’s mental development. There’s a great sense of satisfaction to be found in gardening, and children feel immensely proud to share their produce with friends and family. This boosts their self-esteem and confidence, as well as reinforces the importance of healthy eating and sustainability. Community gardens in particular reconnect youth with nature and each other while encouraging local residents to consider the importance of locally sourced food.
If you don’t have much of a garden, you can create a window box of various herbs, or utilize vertical space on a patio with raised planters. Fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, and herbs and vegetables such as beans are all great options for smaller gardens.
Aside from planting food, you could spend time together outdoors at home by enjoying other crafts. Painting terracotta flower pots, drawing with chalk and playing with bubbles are activities that entertain little ones for hours and all create fond memories that reinforce family connections and bonds.Let them set the pace
As all parents know, children don’t like to travel in a straight line. They become distracted and intrigued by everything and love to zig-zag across the path, stopping frequently to investigate every new thing they see. Our best advice? Let them. By focusing on sharing those moments with your children rather than pressing ahead to the finish line, you’ll nurture your connection and open up multiple conversations with your children that you may otherwise miss. Overall, have fun whilst exploring the natural world with your family.
The Trans Canada Trail is an accessible and engaging trail of trails that stretches from coast to coast and connects Canadians to nature and to each other. If you or your family are interested in exploring nature a few steps outside your front door, check out the nearest access point to you!
The post How Can Parents and Children Spend Quality Time Together Outdoors appeared first on Nature Canada.
This month’s Nature Canada calendar shows you why this beautiful resident of eastern Canada is near the top of every birder’s list.Where do they live?
The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), sometimes referred to as the Common Puffin, is found on the North Atlantic shorelines in breeding season, and moves in the winter out to the open Atlantic, always south of the icepack, and sometimes as far south as New York.What do they look like?
The Atlantic Puffin is a small, duck-like bird: 30 cm in length with a 50 cm wingspan and weighing 380 g. Males and females are similar in appearance, with a black body, a white chest and orange legs. Its most remarkable features are the red and black markings around the eyes and the large and colourful beak on a white face. The beak is red, yellow and orange in the breeding season; it is shed to reveal a duller beak in winter.What do they eat?
The young are fed sand lance, herring, capelin, cod and other small fish. Adults forage at sea for fish and crustaceans within 15 m of the surface.How do they reproduce?
The Atlantic Puffin is solitary in winter; in breeding season, however, they are gregarious, forming huge colonies. They form monogamous pairs after a courtship display with their colourful beaks. Nests are in long burrows in rock crevices or under rocks along shorelines. These are reused year after year by the same pair. Usually, only one egg is laid. Both parents take turns incubating the egg over 36-44 days, and both feed the nestling (sometimes referred to as “puffling”). Initially, they feed small fish directly to the young; as they get older, the parent drops the fish on the nest floor. The young leave the nest 38-44 days after they hatch and fly out to sea.
Breeding first occurs between three to six years of age.
Puffins are reported to live for approximately 20 years in the wild.Interesting stuff The Atlantic Puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador. This province has ~95% of all North America’s breeding areas. The largest puffin colony in the Western Atlantic is in Newfoundland, at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Unlike other seabirds that regurgitate caught fish for their young, the Atlantic Puffin carries the fish whole to their nestlings. Puffins can capture and carry many small fish at a time. Two important features make this possible: the serrated beaks have a hinge that allows the top and bottom halves to meet at different angles, and the rough tongue can hold the fish against the palate while it opens the beak to catch more fish. Puffins can swim under water for up to a minute at a time, using their wings as fins and feet as rudders.
In the past, the Atlantic Puffin and their eggs were a food source, and their skins, with feathers intact, were traditionally sewn together to make a waterproof cloak or coat. Today, puffin populations are threatened by pollution and overfishing that endanger their food source, invasive predators, and the warming trends in climate changes that affect their breeding success. You can enjoy these delightful birds in protected areas like the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve; you can also ensure that future generations will enjoy them as well by supporting conservation efforts to protect the Atlantic Puffin habitat and food sources.
Stay up to date with the latest in Canadian nature by subscribing to our emails. You’ll receive regular updates about what we’re doing to protect wildlife like the Atlantic Puffin — and how you can help.
This summer’s wildfires — on top of ongoing industrial logging — are destroying a vast area of some of the world’s last remaining intact forests in the north of Canada. We all must stand up now to demand action to protect what remains. As a key step, add your name to our Freedom of Information request urging the Government of Canada to reveal the true climate impacts of logging!
In just weeks, wildfires have destroyed an area of Canadian forests the size of Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie, combined1 — more than 3% of all forested areas in our country.
Fires have displaced over 150,000 people in Canada2, led directly and indirectly to innumerable deaths, destroyed and disturbed wildlife and their habitats, and caused billions of dollars of property damage and lost productivity.
And the fires have now spewed out more carbon pollution than our entire country emitted in 2021.3
Canada’s boreal forest is one of the last remaining intact forests on the planet, and home to more than 600 Indigenous communities. It provides habitat to hundreds of species and billions of migrating birds and stores more carbon than all the world’s known oil reserves.
It is critical to our survival that we protect it.
But ongoing clear-cut logging is destroying large areas of primary forest in Canada — about six NHL hockey rinks worth every minute.4
And logging is also a massive carbon emitter: Earlier this year, Nature Canada calculated, based on government data, that logging caused the release of 75 million tonnes of carbon pollution5 in 2021, equivalent to emissions from the entire province of Quebec.
As this recent MinuteEarth video shows, the federal government is masking the true impacts of logging: by giving industry credit for a massive carbon sink in forests they have never logged, the industry is allowed to portray itself as a carbon-neutral climate solution, when in fact, it is one of the highest emitting sectors of the Canadian economy.
In fact, a recent study published in the prestigious journal Nature found that, globally, industrial logging emits about 4 billion tonnes of CO2 — about 10% of human-caused emissions.
There is also evidence that replanted (often single-species) forests are more at risk of catching fire than diverse, older-growth forests.
Canada needs an emergency plan to protect its remaining primary and old-growth forests.
A key first step would be for the federal government to publicly reveal the true carbon emissions caused by logging – so that effective action can be taken to reduce those emissions, by protecting carbon-rich intact forests.
Click here to add your name to Nature Canada’s Access to Information request that demands the government release the true net logging emissions at federal, provincial, and territorial levels.
Thank you for standing up for forests and our future.The Globe and Mail: Canada Sees 100,000 Square Kilometres Burned This Record-breaking Wildfire Season The Globe and Mail: What’s the Difference Between an Evacuation Alert and an Evacuation Order in Canada? Axios: Canada Wildfires Devour Land, Vault CO2 Emissions Higher Natural Resources Defense Council: Logging Is One of Canada’s Greatest Climate Liabilities Nature Canada: What Are the Net Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Logging in Canada?
The post Wildfires and Clear-Cut Logging Are Destroying Canada’s Boreal Forests appeared first on Nature Canada.
You may have missed it – but the campaign to save the ocean got a big win as Canada’s leaders made waves by calling for a pause on deep-sea mining. For years, Nature Canada, our partners, and supporters have been calling on Canada to show leadership by standing up to big mining companies who want to fast-track destructive Deep-Sea Mining operations. At the meeting of the International Seabed Authority, Canada’s delegation listened and said “NO”–it’s the leadership we’ve been waiting for and an important step in protecting the ocean.
Deep-sea mining is a new industry seeking to extract metal from the seabed in international waters. Those deep-sea ecosystems which we know support fragile marine life, like dumbo octopus, are outside national jurisdictions and largely unregulated. Unfortunately, mining companies – including Canadian mining giants like The Metals Company – want to take advantage of the regulatory gap and begin destructive mining before international regulations can be put in place. This reckless approach puts 50 percent of the planet’s surface at risk and puts even more pressure on marine ecosystems already reeling from climate change, plastic pollution, and over-fishing.
That’s why Nature Canada has been helping our Nature Network partners like Oceans North, MiningWatch, and more to pressure Canada’s leaders to say no to deep-sea mining. For the last few years, nature lovers across Canada have helped us raise the alarm, and guess what? We did it!
Transit ads: Raising awareness of threats to deep-sea life
Social media ads: Raising our voices together to protect the ocean
Nature on the Hill: Working with partners to bring our message to Ottawa
On July 10, Canada’s leaders, including Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray, announced that they would be calling for a moratorium on international deep-sea mining until the international community has time to assess the impacts and draft proper rules and regulations.
The fight against destructive deep-sea mining is not over. We know that powerful lobbyists in the mining industry are already at work. But today, we can take a moment to celebrate that nature lovers raised our voices and were heard. Make sure to stay tuned for more opportunities to defend marine life.
The planet is facing the biggest extinction since the dinosaurs – and it’s being driven by humans. Ocean ecosystems are at the forefront, and iconic Canadian species like orcas, salmon, belugas, and seabirds are under tremendous pressure. But did you know that Canada’s government has a target of protecting 30 percent of our oceans by 2030 to help halt nature loss and put us on course for recovery?
Nature Canada is helping protect our oceans by engaging local partners, calling for Indigenous-led conservation measures, and raising the voices of nature lovers all across the country. You can help! Tell decision makers that ocean protection matters to you and you want to see effective marine protected measures today. Follow the link below to find out more and speak up for the ocean!
The post A Win for Ocean Defenders! Canada’s Leaders Call for Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium appeared first on Nature Canada.
Nature Canada is so excited that this is our 10th annual Nature Photo Contest! To celebrate 10 years of appreciating Canadian nature through photos, we decided to share and highlight our favourite unique photos. These favourites have been featured in past editions of Nature Canada’s calendars!
Sulphurs by Peter Ferguson (2014)
From the photographer:
“On warm, early mornings, you can find resting butterflies—often with dew upon them—in open fields. This pair of Yellow Sulphurs chose to spend the previous night together on a knapweed bloom. I captured this image in Short Hills Provincial Park in the Niagara Region of Ontario.”
Stained Glass Dragonfly by Shauna Howerton (2014)
From the photographer:
“I took this photo on a warm summer day in my garden near Chickakoo Lake, AB. The Variable Darner dragonfly (Aeshna interrupta) was beautifully lit, reflecting the green grass, blue sky, and my pink shirt in the many facets of its wings. The Chickakoo Lake region is an important habitat area, home to an abundance of wildlife and a vital part of the migratory songbird corridor.”
Hummingbird Moth by Tom Lusk (2015)
From the photographer:
“This photo was taken on Hill Island, Ontario, in the St. Lawrence River, on a parcel of land that has been successfully re-naturalized by Parks Canada. Along with native plants and wildflowers though, some invasive species from other parts of the island have taken root—including the Spotted Knapweed. On the positive side, Hummingbird Moths seem to love these “invaders”. I’ve been intrigued by Hummingbird Moths since I first saw one several years ago, and I never tire of trying to capture the perfect shot of these unique little creatures.”
Belted Kingfisher by Tim Hopwood (2017)
From the photographer:
“On an early autumn afternoon, a spur of the moment decision to visit Calgary’s Inglewood Bird Sanctuary led to a chance encounter with this Belted Kingfisher that perched for a few moments above a poplar-lined lagoon watching for unwary fish. The background is the yellow poplar leaves reflected on the still surface of the lagoon – a reflection that you will only enjoy for a brief, but beautiful, week or so in late September.”
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks Landscape by Bill Settle (2017)
From the photographer:
“Spirit Island, AB remains one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rockies but because it is only accessible by boat, only a fortunate few are able to witness the raw beauty and magnificence of this location during a summer sunrise. Spirit Island remains a true iconic Canadian destination.”
Saw Whet Owl by Robert Berdan (2019)
From the photographer:
“This Saw Whet Owl was photographed in Kananaskis provincial park near Turner Valley. I was with a friend and fellow bird photographer Alan Mackeigan who had been searching the area for owls and shared the location of this owl with me. Nikon 300 mm F2.8 lens.”
Mushrooms in Autumn Forest Blossoms by Bill McMullen (2019)
From the photographer:
“One of my favourite times to be in the forest is autumn. The colours are vivid and the lighting can be striking. This scene was taken at an outdoor education centre as the
maple leaves were near peak colour and the late afternoon autumn light seemed to illuminate the forest floor and especially the numerous mushrooms and other fungi.”
Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird by Keri Fisher (2019)
From the photographer:
“Hummingbirds are very territorial over their food sources, which is why I position many feeders around the yard. This little male became very territorial over the feeder positioned near a large tree, and he would defend it viciously. He had a specific branch in the nearby tree where he would lord over “his” feeder, and this photo was taken when he was taking a break and having a good stretch.”
Gray Treefrog by Edward Busby (2020)
From the photographer:
“While out cleaning up around the gardens in our yard, I happen to spot a tiny frog on one of the Brown-eyed Susans. I was surprised at how small it was and was interested to find out what type of frog it was. I hurried over to get my camera and came back and started taking all kinds of photos. Then off to my right I spotted this one guy happily hanging on to a Hosta leaf, looking somewhat like Kermit The Frog! Later I learned (after using my son’s nature book) that these little frogs were Gray Treefrogs.”
Anna’s Hummingbird by Jennifer Callioux (2022)
From the photographer:
“Hummingbirds are my happy place. Their tiny details and beautiful iridescent colours are absolutely stunning to witness. Depending on the angle of the sun, the tiny bubbles in their feathers reflect various colours with a shimmering effect! You may be surprised that this magically colourful image was taken on a very rainy day. It made for a challenging capture in terms of angles and photo gear, yet added to the wondrous capture of this little beauty. I love to admire the hummingbird balancing tiny drops on the bill, while enjoying the rain shower in a meadow of pink flowers. I feel so fortunate to have spent a minute in this little world.”
Have any of your own photos of unique species that you want to share? Or ocean animals? Submit them or any other nature-themed photos to this year’s Nature Photo Contest.
The osprey is a large hawk with relatively long and narrow wings with a bend at the wrist that gives this bird a distinctive shape. Ospreys live and hunt around water. The osprey has a mix of white and brown feathers, the underside of its body and wings are mostly white, with a few brown spots, and the top of its wings are mostly brown. The white crown and throat divided by a heavy brown eye line makes an unmistakable facial pattern. The sexes appear nearly identical, though the male is smaller, as is the case with most raptors.Skillful at fishing, with a twist
The osprey is well known for its ability to catch fish. It will circle a body of water looking for a fish to catch, occasionally hovering in a stationary position before diving into the water to grab the fish with its claws. The osprey has a reversible outer toe and barbed feet pads to secure its slippery prey as it emerges from the water. Their dives are usually successful 25% to 70% of the time, and so they eat live fish almost exclusively.Snowbirding and a penchant for a room with a view
During the summer months, the osprey’s breeding grounds span parts of Alaska and the northern United States, as well as all Canadian provinces and territories, including Nunavut, where it is on the edge of its breeding range. When fall arrives, ospreys migrate to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America and the northern half of South America, where it occupies large wetlands and river systems.
Always close to water, most osprey nests are near the top of large trees. In the absence of large trees, they often make their nests on built structures like utility poles or cell towers. The female lays 2 to 4 eggs per year that take, on average, 38 days to hatch. Once hatched, the young osprey learns to fly after about 51 to 54 days.Future outlook and concerns
The current population is stable or even growing in Canada, attesting to concerted conservation efforts to recover this and other species, in particular by banning certain pesticides and protecting them from persecution. However, like many different species of aquatic birds, threats to aquatic ecosystems like droughts and water pollution can negatively affect prey populations and lead to a decrease in osprey numbers. In addition, due to some forestry practices that lead to the removal of large trees, the osprey is increasingly reliant on built structures for nesting. Unfortunately, adult ospreys sometimes incorporate different plastics in their nest that can end up entangling a chick’s foot and injure it. Due to this, they are one of the species that are most affected by plastic pollution.
Canada has identified the osprey as a priority for conservation and stewardship strategies in the hopes of maintaining their current numbers. Advocating for the conservation of wetlands in Canada, a reduction in single-use plastics, and conserving nature, in general, are great ways to support the osprey.
Want to help Canadian species like the osprey and more? Stay tuned with the latest in Canadian nature by subscribing for email updates. You’ll receive regular updates about what we’re doing to protect Canadian nature and how you can help.
An earlier version of this article indicated, “Male and female ospreys look identical for the most part, with the smaller size of the females being the most noticeable difference.” We have made an update to correct the error: “The sexes appear nearly identical, though the male is smaller, as is the case with most raptors.”
The post Osprey: Raptor Masterful at Fishing, With a Unique Edge appeared first on Nature Canada.
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We heard you loud and clear—municipalities and built environments of all sizes must do more to protect, defend, and conserve their natural areas, wildlife and biodiversity at large. As urban expansion continues, bird friendly actions must be at the forefront of our minds if we want to continue to make our cities, towns, and villages safer places for species at risk and migratory birds. By protecting and restoring natural bird habitat through Nature Canada’s Bird Friendly City Certification Program, community members and decision-makers will have the opportunity to experience the immense benefits of getting outside and viewing birds1 and wildlife — while ensuring their protection.
Furthermore, a Bird Friendly City (just like the 15+ others across the country!) is a badge of honour and a source of community pride. Our certification standard is now even more rigorous than when the program first launched in 2019. The updated criteria now reflect the importance of keeping cats indoors, establishing no-roam animal control bylaws, and banning rodenticides and other harmful herbicides/pesticides that cause insect declines. The new standard also promotes bird-friendly businesses, bird-friendly design guidelines and much more.
You can learn more about our newly updated Bird Friendly City and Small Town Standards by watching our bilingual webinar recordings below or visiting our YouTube channel. Now is the time to apply to become the country’s next Bird Friendly City or Town!
These webinars were previously recorded on July 11th and 12th respectively.
Join Naturalist Director Ted Cheskey and Nature Canada’s Organizing Team to discuss our newly updated Bird Friendly City and Small Town Certification program standards. Whether applying for the first time or renewing an existing certification, these will be the standards by which your application will be judged. We will also set your Bird Team coalition up for success when submitting your application this upcoming September, 2023.
With Nature Canada since 2006, Ted holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in environmental studies, regional planning and resource management from the University of Waterloo. He was a contributing author and steering committee member of Canada’s landmark State of the Birds: 2012 and 2019 Reports and the 2016 State of North America’s Birds, and has authored many publications and presentations related to bird conservation and natural history.
Ted also has a long history of fieldwork and research, both as a citizen scientist and conservation professional. He spent twenty years studying the impact of urbanization on forest birds for the City of Waterloo, Ontario. He co-founded and is past president of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory.
Joignez-vous au Directeur Naturaliste, Ted Cheskey, Amélie Falcon-Borduas, Directrice adjointe de Québec Oiseaux, et à l’équipe et à l’équipe organisatrice de Nature Canada pour discuter de nos nouvelles normes pour notre programme de certification ‘Ville Amie des Oiseaux‘ récemment mises à jour. Notre équipe vous supportera tout au long du processus d’application pour assurer le succès de votre coalition.
Please email Autumn Jordan, Urban Nature Organizer at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about Nature Canada’s Bird Friendly City: A Certification Program.
1 Tryjanowski P, Murawiec S, Grimalt R. Nature and Mental Health – Birding is a Proven Solution. Alpha Psychiatry. 2022 Sep 1;23(5):262-263. doi: 10.5152/alphapsychiatry.2022.22916. PMID: 36426272; PMCID: PMC9623220.
I was in two minds about whether to say yes to the publisher about sending me this book as I’m no expert on marine issues – but obviously I’m interested. The three things that persuaded me were (in no particular order); the cover (looks serious and beautiful), the words ‘past and present’ in the subtitle (ah! this is about long-gone marine mammals too and about change) and the word ‘cornerstone’ in the subtitle (this sounds ecological). Anyone can be seduced, or put off, by a cover (so it’s surprising that some publishers appear to give them little thought), but the subtitle’s wording did not deceive and I enjoyed this book because it takes a long perspective and it is about ecology. And those are the reasons I recommend it to you.
There are five main chapters: Evolution (Walking Whale, Aquatic Sloth, Oyster Bear etc); Discovery (how existing and extinct species were discovered); Biology (lots of fascinating stuff for the non-expert like me); Behaviour (eg lekking manatees, Beluga social groups) and Ecology and Conservation (How we lost the Yangtze River Dolphin, will we lose the Vaquita but also how many marine mammals have been saved by restrictions on exploitation, and whither the Polar Bear?). Each chapter is a buffet of marine dishes.
There are many highly attractive images throughout the book.
I came away from reading this book with a better understanding of marine events and a deeper feeling that it would be good to know even more.
The cover? Whale in the water – it’s good. I’d give it 7/10.
Sea Mammals: the past and present lives of our oceans’ cornerstone species by Annalisa Berta is published by Princeton University Press.
This is a smallish book, Ladybird book in size, of 80 pages, over 20 of which are occupied by Maxime Beck’s attractive illustrations. The text, by Elvira Werkman, covers a lot of ground very clearly in such a short space. I read most of the book, with pleasure, in one sitting. There is a useful index.
The Painted Lady is a phenomenon – some years there are few seen in the UK but in others the numbers are very high. I remember, but it was years ago, seeing tens of thousands of Painted Ladies on thistles in a single field. And another time, happening to be at canopy level in a Northants woodland, seeing butterflies whizzing past, at quite a lick, all heading generally northwards – they were Painted Ladies.
This year seems to have been quite a good year in the UK, but not one of those truly exceptional years where this butterfly seems to be everywhere for a few weeks. My buddleia in the garden is still flowering and Painted Ladies would be welcome to visit!
The Painted Lady is the most widespread butterfly in the world – found in Europe/Asia and Africa and in North/Central America too. We now understand that it is a habitual migrant with the population about to head south for Africa now and that it will return to northern Europe next spring and summer. But who returns? Not the same individuals as they don’t live that long. A year will see the species cover nearly 15,000km but that is achieved in around 8-10 generations of butterflies. How stupendous! And the same scale of migration, from Canada to Mexico is taking place, by the same species, in North America. Wow!
An individual butterfly currently in northern Europe may cross the Alps, the Mediterranean and then the Sahara to produce the next generation in the Sahel if the rains have come at the right time and with sufficient volume. Just wow!
This book fills in the details of the Painted Lady’s life story and something of its place in human culture. It’s a short and gripping read.
The cover makes it pretty clear what the book is about and is rather nice. The illustrations through the book are of similar quality and enhance the reading experience. I’d give it 8/10.
This book is set a few miles from where I live – down the River Nene a few miles – around Oundle. The author makes regular walks, through the calendar year, and covers quite a lot of ground beside the river near his home. He sees much of the local Kingfishers, but much more besides. There are accounts of other wildlife, of the history of the places along the river, and visits further afield up and downstream of the river.
I liked it, as it was a great mixture of the familiar and unknown for me, and I learned much about familiar places. I didn’t know there is a small and long-lasting colony of Midwife Toads in Oundle (I knew of the one in Bedford) – how exciting! But you don’t need to know any of the places to get a lot from this book which is written in a very sympathetic manner. This could be the story of many rivers in England, and some elsewhere in the UK – a mixture of history and natural history with comments on life and human activities.
A bonus for the reader is that the author has recorded sounds, which can be accessed to accompany the book. I’ve tried them and they work very well. The Nightingale is, surely, the star but there are another 40 recordings, mostly of birds but also those Midwife toads and some mammals too. The author is a maker and user of musical instruments and a writer of music, and uses his ears much more than I use mine. That gives this book a very refreshing and personal flavour which is entirely welcome.
The production values of the book are a bit cheap and cheerful I fear – the quality of the writing has to work against a rather downmarket feel to the book, but because ot its quality it does win through.
The cover? Not great. Those wing feathers just aren’t right. On the rear, the black wingtips of a Red Kite just about disappear against the dark blue background making the bird look misshapen. I would have gone for a scene of the River Nene with a small Kingfisher as the book is about the river and its environs much more than about Kingfishers. I’d give it 4/10.
Call of the Kingfisher: bright sights and birdsong in a year by the river by Nick Penny is published by Bradt Guides.
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