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Animals

Pokémon Go Players Become Unusual Heroes for Animals

Pokémon Go—the app that has hoards of people roaming streets, parks and public spaces looking for imaginary Pokémon—turns out to be beneficial for animals.

This is what Pokémon Go players see when their eyes are glued to their phones.Photo credit: brar_j, Flickr

While playing the app several users have stumbled upon abandoned or injured animals and offered help. Cornell University Animal Hospital in Ithaca, New York, is just one of the organizations receiving these injured and abandoned animals, Inhabitat reported. Since July 6, when the app was released, the hospital has been the recipient of a screech owl, rabbits, opossum and a baby squirrel.

People wandering around with their eyes glued to their phones is often seen as a nuisance, but some animal lovers are praising the habit.

"The whole 'Gotta Catch 'Em All,' it's great!" Victoria Campbell, owner of WildThings Sanctuary, said.

Campbell was part of a bat rescue. Pokémon Go player Olivia Case rescued a juvenile bat while she was in the pursuit of Pokémon in Ithaca. She called Campbell to tell her about the bat and Campbell directed her to Cornell University Animal Hospital.

"They showed up at almost midnight with this baby bat," Campbell said. "I was like 'Wow, where did you find it?' and they were like, 'We were out playing Pokémon Go.'"

Case isn't the only Pokémon Go player/animal rescuer out there. In Rochester, New York, a man found eight ducklings stuck in a storm drain and got them help. In South Houston two players saved 20 hamsters and seven baby mice that were found in a cage abandoned in a park. Also in Texas, in the town of Lufkin, two players found an injured puppy.

"The puppy was laying by the tree and a trash bag and could not move," Kaitlin Kouts told KTRE 9 News. "His mouth was bleeding, he wasn't moving very much. He looked like he was in pain. We found out his back leg was broken. His gums were pale and blue and so were his ears."

Kouts and her fellow Pokémon Go player were helped by Skyler Jerke, a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and pizza delivery man. Jerke stabilized the puppy and helped take it to a local veterinary clinic to undergo surgery for its broken bones.

Photo credit: Kaitlin Kouts

Pokémon Go doesn't only provide rescue services to animals, but exercise opportunities as well. Some animal shelters, such as Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana, are using Pokémon Go players to walk their dogs.

"The idea is that they take the dog on kind of an adventure for the day," Phil Peckinpaugh, shelter director, told The Huffington Post.

So next time you come in contact with a Pokémon Go player, just think, they could be on their way to rescue an animal in need.

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World’s Deepest Blue Hole Discovered in South China Sea

Chinese scientists believe they have discovered the deepest "blue hole" on the planet.

"Dragon Hole," in the Paracel Islands—which are disputed islands claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam—is reported to be 987 feet deep, according to Chin's state-run news agency Xinhua. The blue hole—a giant pit in the sea that is known for its distinctive blue color—previously thought to be the deepest is Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas. Dragon Hole is more than 300 feet deeper than Dean's Blue Hole.

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Climate

Mysterious Air Bubbles Make Siberian Land Act Like a Waterbed

Fifteen mysterious bubbles have been discovered in Siberia. The mysterious bubbles produce a natural waterbed-like reaction when stepped on.

Photo credit: Giphy

Researchers Alexander Sokolov and Dorothee Ehrich, working on the island of Belyy, first spotted a mysterious bubble last year. While the exact reason for these spots hasn't been determined, environmental researchers think they could be linked to the release of methane by melting permafrost under the surface.

When Sokolov and Ehrich punctured one of the spots, air escaped from it. The air contained 200 times more methane and 20 times more carbon dioxide than there is in the air we breathe. Preliminary guesses link the spots with a recent heat wave in Europe.

"It is likely that that 10 days of extraordinary heat could have started some mechanisms, [and the] higher level of permafrost could have thawed and released a huge amount of gases," Sokolov told the Siberian Times.

"It is evident even to amateurs that this is a very serious alarm," he added. "As for the future, we are interested in further study of the bubbles."

Leaking methane from melting permafrost has been linked to sinkholes and craters across Siberia, so Sokolov's current hypothesis could be true. The team will continue to study the strange spots and geologist will monitor the region as well, Science Alert reported.

It is also possible that more bubbles will appear as 2016 is expected to be the hottest year on record, according to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report.

The waterbed-like response can be seen in this video created by the Siberian Times:

Science

Thousands Watch as Giant Flower That Smells Like Death Blooms for First Time in a Decade

The corpse flower, best know for its terrible smell, is blooming in two locations in the U.S. But you might not want to stop and smell this flower.

Photo credit: U.S. Botanic Garden via Wikimedia Commons

Brave soles—or those that don't have a sense of smell—can bare witness to this once-a-decade event at New York Botanical Garden and the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. The flower only blooms for about 24 to 48 hours. The New York corpse flower is currently in bloom, but Washingtonians are still awaiting their chance to see one of the world's largest and rarest flowers, which is expected to bloom any time between July 28 and 31.

"When it blooms, the corpse flower will release a scent that's been compared to the odor of rotting flesh," Marc Hachadourian, manager of New York Botanical Garden's Nolen Greenhouses, told The Huffington Post. "It's foul and nasty, but the plant does this to attract pollinators that are attracted to dead animals."

Unfortunately, the corpse flower doesn't just smell like rotting flesh. In fact, floriculturist Tim Pollak at the Chicago Botanic Garden, analyzed the flower's stench. It consists of:

  • dimethyl trisulfide—also emitted by cooked onions and limburger cheese, known for its pungent smell
  • dimethyl disulfide—which has an odor like garlic
  • trimethylamine—found in rotting fish or ammonia
  • isovaleric acid—which also causes sweaty socks to stink
  • phenol—sweet and medicinal, as in Chloraseptic throat spray
  • indole—like mothballs
  • benzyl alcohol—a sweet floral scent found in jasmine and hyacinth

Jasmine. That's a plus. Pollak said the corpse flower does have a scientific reason behind its terrible smell.

"The smell, color and even temperature of corpse flowers are meant to attract pollinators and help ensure the continuation of the species," he told Live Science.

Dung beetles, flesh flies and other carnivorous insects are the corpse flower's primary pollinators. These insects, which usually eat dead flesh, are attracted by the smell and the dark burgundy color of the flower's petals.

"Corpse flowers are also able to warm up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.7 Celsius) to further fool the insects," Pollak said. "The insects think the flower may be food, fly inside, realize there is nothing to eat, and fly off with pollen on their legs. Once the flower has bloomed and pollination is complete, the flower collapses."

The corpse flower was first discovered in Sumatra in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari. The plant, which grows in the wild only in Asia, is becoming increasingly rare due to deforestation, pollution, farming and other factors that decrease its natural habitat.

The pungent flower can grow between 10 and 15 feet. Its leaves can be as big as 13 feet wide. The tallest bloom recorded, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was a corpse flower measuring 10 feet 2.25 inches, blooming on June 18, 2010 at Winnipesaukee Orchids in Gilford, New Hampshire.

If you don't want to endure the stench, New York Botanical Gardens has a live cam of the flower. You can watch others suffer the smell as you sit comfortably at home or work, hopefully smelling something better:

Climate

More Chemicals Allowed in Florida Waterways, Toxic Algae Blooms Continue to Spread Across State

Florida regulators voted to approve new water quality standards that would increase the amount of carcinogenic toxins allowed in Florida's waterways.

The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a proposal by state regulators that would set new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the Sunshine State and revise regulations on 43 toxins, most of which are carcinogenic. State regulators claim the new plan will protect more Floridians than current standards, the Miami Herald reported.

"We have not updated these parameters since 1992," Cari Roth, chairwoman of the commission, told the Miami Herald. "It is more good than harm. The practical effect is, it is not going to increase the amount of toxins going into our waters."

Under the new proposal, acceptable levels of toxins in Florida waters will increase for more than 24 known carcinogens. The acceptable levels would decrease for 13 chemicals that are currently regulated.

The new regulations are based on a one-of-a-kind scientific method the Florida Department of Environmental Protection created, called "Monte Carlo." The method is being criticized by environmental groups, warning the new standards would allow polluters to dump high concentrations of dangerous chemicals into Florida's rivers and streams.

"Monte Carlo gambling with our children's safety is unacceptable," Marty Baum, of Indian Riverkeeper, said.

The known carcinogens can be released by oil and gas drilling companies, dry cleaning companies, pulp and paper producers, nuclear plants, wastewater treatment plants and agriculture. While most of these industries are supportive of the new rules, pulp and paper producers still think the measures are too restrictive.

Florida's proposal will now head to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its approval. Several members of Florida's congressional delegation have sent a letter to voice their concerns to the EPA. The letter calls for a public comment period to carefully evaluate the proposal.

If the EPA still decides to approve the proposal, Linda Young, executive director of the Clean Water Network, said the organization "absolutely ... will file suit."

Florida's easement of regulations on carcinogenic and toxic chemicals could be another threat to the state's waterways and the health of residents. The state is already challenged by "guacamole-thick" algae.

This year's bloom, which first appeared earlier this month, is the eighth such bloom since 2004, National Geographic reported. The outbreak has spread to Florida estuaries and has caused state officials to declare a state of emergency for four counties.

"This is absolutely the worst," Evan Miller, founder of Citizens for Clean Water, told National Geographic. "We've never seen algae so thick. You can see it from space. There are places ... that are on their third and fourth cycle of blooms now."

Blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, thrives in warm, calm water. Two conditions that are currently working against eradicating the blooms are climate change and political inertia—or in Florida's case, as water advocates believe, politics moving backward on regulations.

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Climate

Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Flea and More Featured on Just Released Pathway to Paris Album

For those who missed out on the action, or just want to relive it, Pathway to Paris released Wednesday an album of its two-night event last December in Paris, which coincided with the UN's climate change conference, COP21.

Pathway to Paris, an initiative in partnership with 350.org, brings musicians, artists, activists, academics, politicians and innovators together to participate in live concerts to raise consciousness, foster dialogue and inspire climate action and the need to transition to renewable energy. Co-founders Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon organized the Dec. 4 and 5 events at Le Trianon concert hall in Paris.

The evening included performances by renowned artists and speeches by prominent environmentalists. The Path to Paris Live @ Le Trianon album includes:

  • Wing by Patti Smith
  • Bloom by Thom Yorke
  • Elemental Prayer by Tenzin Choegyal
  • White Nile by Flea and Warren Ellis
  • Service by Fally Ipupa
  • Nature by Patti Smith, Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon
  • Heartstrings by Tenzin Choegyal
  • Peaceable Kingdom by Patti Smith
  • Two Suits by Flea and Warren Ellis
  • Sweet Life by Fally Ipupa
  • People have the Power by Patti Smith
Speakers on the album include:

All proceeds from the the album will benefit 350.org and the United Nations Development Programme. Pathway to Paris @ Le Trainon can be purchased online for $9.99.

For a taste of the album's content, watch the following two videos that recap both nights of performances:

Dec. 4, 2015:

Dec. 5, 2015:

Business

Morocco Bans Plastic Bags

A plastic bag ban went into effect this month in Morocco, the second-largest plastic bag consumer after the U.S. But, officials say, its going to take some time for shops and retailers to get used to the new law.

Morocco's ban on the production and use of plastic bags went into effect July 1 after the plastic ban bill was passed by parliament in October 2015. As the July 1 deadline approached, shop owners scrambled to find and collect reusable bags. Green campaigners, AlJazeera reported, say consumers may need years to fully comply with the ban.

"It's a big cultural shift with that type of broader law," Jennie Romer, a New York-based lawyer," told AlJazeera. "As long as the government has the motivation to really enforce that. There is a lot of potential. The government entity that is implementing it has to be completely on board in order to make that really happen in practice."

Morocco uses about 3 billion plastic bags a year, according to the Moroccan Industry Ministry. The U.S. uses about 100 billion a year, according to the Earth Policy Institute, and 1 trillion are used globally per year.

The North African country has been working on banning plastic bags for years. A ban of the production and use of black plastic bags was put in place in 2009, but the bags were still being produced.

This time around, officials hope to prevent that situation by providing alternate solutions. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, industry minister and initiator of the bill, tweeted that bags made of paper and fabric will be made widely available.

Yassine Zegzouti, president of Mawarid, said changing consumer habits will be the toughest part.

"The formal sector will need four to five years to comply with the new law," Zegzouti said. "But the use of plastic bags is anchored in [consumer] habit. All actors need to change these habits to not have any damage in the future."

Morocco is ranked one of the world's greenest countries, along with Costa Rica, Bhutan and Ethiopia. The country's biggest achievements come in cracking down on carbon emissions and production of solar power. It is considered a green leader among developing nations.

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Animals

Take an Underwater Virtual Reality Tour of One of the World's Most Biodiverse Regions

Over a decade ago, Bird's Head Seascape was just another example of the damage overfishing and destructive fishing practices can cause on coral reefs. But, the community stepped in, and the region is now thriving.

Diver with Schooling Scads at Arborek Jetty.Photo credit: Jeff Yonover, Bird's Head Seascape

Valen's Reef, a virtual reality movie shot in 360-degrees, explores the Raja Ampat Islands in the Coral Triangle and the progress Bird's Head Seascape has made. Local-fisherman-turned-reef-scientist Ronald Mambrasar narrates the movie, recounting the history of the region and the Bird's Head Seascape initiative to his son, Valen:

"When the illegal fishermen came, we welcomed them at first. They brought us gifts. After they dropped bombs and poison, we would scoop up the fish for them. The fish and coral started to be lost. We knew it was not right."

Mambrasar was one of the locals who joined Conservation International and a group of international non-governmental organizations, local and national governments, universities, local organizations and coastal communities when the initiative started in 2004. The goal of the initiative was to balance the needs of the human population while protecting natural resources in the region. So far, the project has developed 12 multiple-use marine protected areas in the Bird's Head Seascape.

The red box marks the Bird's Head Seascape and the islands it incorporates.Photo credit: Bird's Head Seascape

Thanks to these efforts, the reef had rebounded: fish populations have recovered; sharks, whales and rays have returned; poaching has decreased by 90 percent; and coral is regrowing.

Mambrasar tells his son: "I want to be able to give you all of the nature that is here now."

The Bird's Head Seascape is home to the highest coral reef biodiversity in the world. Covering 22.5 million hectares, it is home to 1,711 species of fish, more than 600 species of coral, and 17 species of whales and dolphins. It also claims to have the most extensive mangrove forest and sea grass beds, and the world's largest pacific leatherback sea turtle nesting beaches.

Mobula feeding frenzy of the coast of southern Raja Ampat. The mobula, species of eagle ray, are swarming baitfish.Photo credit: Jeff Lemelin, Bird's Head Seascape

Almost 4 million hectares are protected by the 12 marine protected areas. The seascape also contains the coral triangle's first shark and ray sanctuary.

Take a tour of the seascape and listen to Mambrasar's story in the video below. Use the arrows in upper left corner to explore the views in 360-degrees:

Energy

Solar-Powered Plane Completes Historic Trip Around the World

Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, finished its historic trip around the world, which started back in March 2015. The plane landed in Abu Dhabi early Tuesday.

André Borschberg (left) and Bertrand Piccard (right) celebrate after Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi, completing an historic trip around the world.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr

Solar Impulse traveled around the world, breaking the journey down into 17 legs, spending a total of 23 days in the air. The plane, powered by 17,000 solar cells, traveled 42,000 kilometers (about 26,100 miles) in a little more than a year. Its trip across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City to Seville, Spain, alone took approximately 90 hours to complete, traveling at 140 km/h (about 87 mph). The plane's longest trip was from Japan to Hawaii, which lasted almost five days.

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg alternated piloting the solar-powered plane. On the ground, they were helped by a team of 30 engineers, 25 technicians and 22 navigation controllers.

After landing in Abu Dhabi, Piccard called the journey not only an achievement for the history of aviation, but a success for the history of energy. The pilots hope their journey promotes investment in clean energy.

"If we want a good quality of life today, we have to turn to clean technology and renewable energies," Piccard said.

"If governments had the courage to promote clean technologies on a massive scale, our society could simultaneously reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, create jobs and stimulate sustainable growth."

Piccard and Borschberg never had a shortage of views during their trip. Solar Impulse 2 was subject to amazing views, clean energy innovations and some of the world's most challenging problems, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It took 13 years to achieve Solar Impulse's historic journey, but now the group is moving on to other projects such as establishing the International Committee of Clean Technology (ICCT). Piccard and Borschberg created the ICCT to "continue the legacy Solar Impulse started, promoting concrete energy efficient solutions in order to solve many of the challenges facing society today."

Already 400 organizations have joined forces to help the ICCT achieve its goals. Notable patrons include H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Richard Branson and Kofi Annan, who have already dedicated their work to the environment and clean energy sources. Patrons will advise governments and corporations on how to use clean technology.

"The International Committee of Clean Technologies is a fantastic opportunity to bring together a group of experts, with diverse experiences and backgrounds, to speak in one voice and leverage the efforts needed to bring change and influence global decision makers in the areas of clean technologies and renewable energy," Borschberg said.

Solar Impulse successfully lands in Abu Dhabi with Bertrand Piccard at the controls.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr

On July 11, Borschberg also predicted the world will soon see solar drones in the stratosphere, inspired by Solar Impulse's achievements.

"Solar Impulse is of course very well positioned to contribute to the next generation of unmanned solar airplanes," he said. "When considering technological progress today, these unmanned aircrafts will be able to fly much higher than they can today, avoiding air traffic and bad weather. They will be able to fly in extremely low air density and remain in the air both day and night, essentially taking over the need for satellites in a cheaper and more sustainable way. Parallel to SpaceX and Blue Origin, they could be brought down from the stratosphere to perform repairs and upgrades."

Borschberg mentioned that Solar Impulse may take flight again in different parts of the world to spread its message about clean technology.

The Solar Impulse team in Abu Dhabi after a successful landing, ending an historic trip around the world.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr

But for now, the pilots can revel in their completion of an historic trip around the world.

Watch here:

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