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How Paris Hilton's Instagram Post Endangers the Survival of Orangutans and Chimpanzees
The United Nations's Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) is speaking out against the increasingly popular and upsetting pastime of celebrity animal selfies as it glamorizes illegal wildlife trafficking and damages conservation efforts.
According to GRASP research, as reported by The Guardian, an increasing number of orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos are being stolen from the wild and wind up in private gardens, zoos and restaurants in Gulf countries.
With the rise of selfie culture, many celebrities have posted images of themselves on social media with endangered animals that they might not realize were illegally obtained, GRASP coordinator Douglas Cress warned.
“These pictures are seen by hundreds of millions of fans, and it sends the message that posing with great apes—all of which are obtained through illegal means, and face miserable lives once they grow too big and strong to hold—is okay as long as it’s cute. But it’s not. It’s illegal, and it contributes to the destruction of already endangered species,” Cress told The Guardian.
Reality stars Paris Hilton and Khloe Kardashian have separate Instagram selfies with a dressed-up orangutan named Dior, who lives in a private zoo in Dubai.
"This is baby Dior, and she's one years [sic] old, and she's the cutest little girl in the world," Hilton says in her Instagram video.
Kardashian called Dior her "new best friend."
Cress told CNN that "every time a famous face is seen cuddling an ape in this way, it undoes years of our work."
"It lowers the value of the animal, and the public sense of conservation drops," he said.
"If you can laugh at an animal, or you can empathize by how human it is in clothing, then you rob it of its natural wildness. It becomes something comic, or a pet," Cress added.
"So when you have a celebrity like Paris Hilton holding an orangutan with a dress on, they can impact millions of people because their audience is so huge."
Iraqi Kurdistan and Armenia are reportedly hotspots for the wildlife black market and Libya has been a stopover for trafficked apes on the way to Egypt, The Guardian reported.
"The Middle East is both a transit region, and where many rich families have private menageries," Cress told CNN.
Cress explained that owners of private zoos can easily obtain these animals "because law enforcement is relatively weak against a wealthy elite that appear untouchable."
The illegal wildlife trade is even more devastating when you consider how taking baby primates from the wild usually involves killing many of their family members since they resist separation from each other.
"In the case of chimps, which live in families of 10, they're not going to just give their babies up. So you have to kill a lot, to get one," Cress said. "They are then sold to a middleman, then to an exporter, and transported in suitcases and shopping bags—it's that blatant."
Real Madrid soccer player James Rodriguez also posted an Instagram photo of himself with orangutan in Dubai four months ago.
"The selfies taken by Paris Hilton, Khloe Kardashian and others in the Middle East are incredibly damaging to honest conservation efforts, as studies indicate that images of celebrities cuddling apes make the general public care less about conservation and the extinction threats facing these species," Cress told MailOnline.
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Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?