The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Scientists Declare One of Largest Giraffe Subspecies Endangered
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded that Masai giraffes, which live primarily in Kenya and Tanzania, are endangered largely due to poaching and habitat loss.This was the first time the subspecies had been evaluated on its own, National Geographic reported.
Giraffes as a whole are classified as vulnerable, one step further away from extinction. Of the nine subspecies, two are critically endangered. One other, the Reticulated, is also considered endangered, according to Smithsonian.com. The listing of the Masai is significant because, at an estimated population of 35,000, it's one of the largest subspecies left.
"This was devastating news...It really sounds the alarm bell," Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) International Legal Director Tanya Sanerib told National Geographic. "It really indicates that we need to be doing more for giraffes internationally and with whatever tools are available."
CBD is one of four environmental groups that has sued the Trump administration to add giraffes as a whole to the U.S. endangered species list in order to better regulate trophy hunting and fund conservation efforts. U.S. officials said this spring that giraffes may qualify for protection.
Overall, the population of Masai giraffes has fallen 49 to 51 percent in 30 years, while the population of giraffes as a whole has fallen by as much as 40 percent in the same time, according to a CBD statement.
"Masai giraffes have long had a robust wild population. An endangered assessment is an eye opener that signals the critical need for giraffe protections," Humane Society International Wildlife Programs and Operations Manager Adam Peyman said in the statement.
While it is illegal to hunt Masai giraffes in both Kenya and Tanzania, poaching has increased due to political instability and a growing demand for items like jewelry from giraffe-tail hair and bone carvings, according to National Geographic. Two to 10 percent of their population in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is hunted illegally each year. As human population expands into giraffe habitat, the animals have increasingly been struck by vehicles.
Despite their growing vulnerability, giraffes have received less attention than other iconic African mammals. Still, there are now fewer giraffes than elephants remaining on the continent.
"They're the forgotten megafauna, so to speak," Giraffe Conservation Foundation co-director and co-founder Julian Fennessy told National Geographic. "They've sort of slipped away, sadly, while more attention has been given to elephant, rhino, lion, and other species."
But Fennessy thought the IUCN status change might increase momentum behind conservation efforts.
"By identifying that they are endangered, hopefully now collaboratively with governments and partners, we can turn the tide before it's too late," Fennessy told National Geographic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.