By John R. Platt
Here at The Revelator, we love a good shark story.
The problem is, there aren't all that many good shark stories. According to recent research, sharks and their relatives represent one of the world's most imperiled groups of species. Of the more than 1,250 known species of sharks, skates, rays and chimeras — collectively known as chondrichthyan fishes — at least a quarter are threatened with extinction.
Speaking of Shark Week:<p><a href="https://therevelator.org/film-fakery-shark-week-conservation/" target="_blank">Film Fakery: Does Shark Week Harm Conservation Efforts?</a></p>
Big Questions:<p><a href="https://therevelator.org/shark-conservation-success/" target="_blank">Are We Ready for Shark Conservation to Succeed?</a></p>
Sharks and Fisheries:<p><a href="https://therevelator.org/protect-sharks-overfishing/" target="_blank">How to Protect Sharks From Overfishing</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/florida-anglers-endangered-sharks/" target="_blank">Florida Anglers Are Targeting Endangered Sharks</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/recreational-fishing-environmental-impact/" target="_blank">Fishing for Fun? It Has a Bigger Environmental Impact Than We Thought</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/fins-protected-sharks-traded/" target="_blank">Fins from Protected Shark Species Still Heavily Traded</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/essential-unprotected-fish-habitats/" target="_blank">'Essential' But Unprotected: How the United States Fails Its Most Important Fish Habitats</a></p>
Sharks and the Extinction Crisis:<p><a href="https://therevelator.org/lost-shark/" target="_blank">Found But Lost: Newly Discovered Shark May Be Extinct</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/rhino-rays-cites/" target="_blank">A Chance to Save the 'Rhinos of the Sea'</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/one-million-extinctions/" target="_blank">What Losing 1 Million Species Means for the Planet — and Humanity</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/extinction-crisis-keep-feeling-overwhelmed/" target="_blank">The Extinction Crisis is Here. How do We Keep from Feeling Overwhelmed?</a></p>
Broader Ocean and Conservation Issues:<p><a href="https://therevelator.org/ocean-biodiversity-mpa/" target="_blank">The Top 10 Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots to Protect</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/protect-species-environmental-dna/" target="_blank">How Do You Protect a Species You Can't See?</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/global-ocean-treaty/" target="_blank">Here's Our Best Opportunity to Save the Oceans — and Ourselves</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/coral-reef-replanting/" target="_blank">Coral in Crisis: Can Replanting Efforts Halt Reefs' Death Spiral?</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/oceans-challenges/" target="_blank">What Are the Biggest Challenges for Saving the Oceans?</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/empowering-communities-save-ocean/" target="_blank">Empowering Communities to Save the Ocean</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/toxic-plastic-pollution-food-chain/" target="_blank">Something Fishy: Toxic Plastic Pollution Is Traveling Up the Food Chain</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/trump-offshore-oil-wildlife/" target="_blank">Trump's Offshore Oil Plan: Like Nothing the Country Has Ever Seen</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/john/" target="_blank">John R. Platt</a> <em>is the editor of <em>The Revelator</em>. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in <em>Scientific American</em>, <em>Audubon</em>, <em>Motherboard</em>, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/sharks-imperiled/" target="_blank">The Revelator</a>.</em></p>
New satellite images have revealed 11 new throngs of emperor penguin colonies, lifting the number of known emperor penguin colonies by 20 percent and their total population by 5 to 10 percent, according to The Guardian.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Eoin Higgins
Environmental groups on Friday condemned the announcement of a new rule proposed by President Donald Trump that would further weaken the Endangered Species Act by making it easier to destroy habitats vulnerable species rely on for survival.
By John R. Platt
A porcupine's diet is wide, varied, and a little hard to digest. A lifetime of grasses, herbs, bark and other vegetation can leave little bits of indigestible matter behind in a porcupine's digestive tract, where they occasionally congeal into a hard ball called a bezoar.
A bezoar and typical medical claims, posted to Instagram. Screen grab July 24, 2020.<p>Previous research has suggested that bezoars only grow in an incidentally small portion of the porcupine population, so the total number of animals killed to accumulate that quantity for sale could conceivably have been in the tens of thousands.</p><p>And since the study didn't look at the e-commerce sites every day, it probably uncovered only a portion of the total trade.</p><p>This paper calls for more study about this issue and additional conservation actions to protect porcupines. Currently the various species enjoy some national-level protection but precious little on the international level, because they're still perceived as relatively common. In fact, most old-world porcupine species currently appear on the IUCN Red List as <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=porpupine&searchType=species" target="_blank">either "least concern" or "data deficient."</a> Only the <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/10753/22231557" target="_blank">Philippine porcupine</a> (<em>Hystrix pumila</em>) is listed as "vulnerable to extinction." None are currently protected by the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.</p><p>Should that change? While the authors acknowledge the limitations caused by their study's short time frame and their inability to examine and verify the nature of the bezoars (some of which could have come from other animals or been counterfeits), they still uncovered an alarming level of trade. The authors warn that "current trade levels are likely unsustainable, and we predict that porcupine species may become threatened in the future should current trade levels continue."</p><p>And while some porcupines are farmed, this study indicates pressure on wild porcupines, which also face threats from habitat destruction and the bushmeat trade, as well as persecution as agricultural pests. It suggests a need to protect certain populations which fetch higher prices due to their purported purity. The study quotes one popular website: <em>"The most valuable for the porcupine bezoars are procured from … the rainforest of Indonesia or Borneo. The porcupines here eat unpolluted herbs that have high medicinal value causing the bezoars … to be of the rarest and highest value. The price is very high and has collection, medicinal and stockpiling value."</em></p><p>In many ways this isn't surprising. The bezoar trade has been around for centuries, and it isn't restricted to southern Asia. The paper notes that Europeans in the 16th to 19th centuries, who sometimes wore the stones as jewelry, valued porcupine bezoars so much they priced each one "as high as forty times its own weight in gold."</p><p>Bezoars today don't fetch quite that amount, but the study still found them selling for around $151 a gram — two and a half times the current price of gold — all for a useless clump of congealed, inedible food.</p><p>Too bad we don't value a living porcupine half that much.</p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/john/" target="_blank">John R. Platt</a> is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard</em><em style="">, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.</em></p>
Every day, sharks suffer from different threats. Up to 100 million sharks disappear every year, due to destructive fishing by humans and the impact of climate breakdown. One-third of the world's known shark species have been listed as "threatened" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
This whale shark smiles for the camera in the warm water off the coast of the Philippines. Greenpeace<p>2. Sharks come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny lantern sharks, which are about the size of your hand, to giant whale sharks, which are about the same size as a bus.</p>
A former fisherman, now a whale shark guide, hand feeds a whale shark as a tourist takes an underwater photo, Tan-awan, Oslob Cebu. Greenpeace<p>3. Greenland sharks, which live in cold polar waters, hold the record as the oldest known vertebrate animals on the planet. Since they are estimated to live as long as 500 years, there could be some alive today that were born in the Middle Ages. For reference, Leonardo Da Vinci painted the <em>Mona Lisa</em> 500 years ago!</p>
An oceanic whitetip shark in Egypt. Greenpeace<p>4. Mako sharks hold the record for being the most athletic sharks, reaching swimming speeds of over 40 miles per hour! They are also known to have jumped as much as 30 feet out of the water.</p>
A whale shark photographed from above in Cenderawasih Bay National Park, Indonesia. Greenpeace<p>5. The world's biggest sharks also have the widest mouths and eat only tiny ocean plankton, just like the largest whales.</p>
A whale shark in the Philippines. Greenpeace<p>6. Carpet sharks live on the ocean floor and have elaborate patterns to blend in with perfect camouflage. The Tasseled Wobbegong shark takes this to the extreme, with a fringe of feathery 'tassels' around its body.</p>
Lemon shark and other fish underwater at Tuamotus, French Polynesian. Greenpeace<p>8. Hammerhead sharks' elongated heads not only give them super-sense when it comes to electromagnetic detection, but they also have almost 360-degree surround vision.</p>
A Blue Shark (Prionace glauca) near the Azores. Greenpeace<p>9. When sharks are turned upside down, they go into a natural suspended state called tonic immobility.</p>
A shark is seen in the Republic of Palau. Greenpeace<p><span style="background-color: initial;">10. It's dark in the deep sea, so tiny lantern sharks have developed their own way to glow in the dark. It's not yet known if this is to find food, find each other, or help avoid being eaten!</span><br></p>
Grey Reef Sharks in Tahiti. Greenpeace<p>In June 2019, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza went to the North Atlantic to confront the overfishing of sharks. At the same time, Greenpeace International issued a report, <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/international/publication/22700/sharks-under-attack/" target="_blank">Sharks Under Attack: Overfished and under-protected</a>. It proposed a solution: secure a strong Global Ocean Treaty at the UN.</p>
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Without bees, future generations may not be able to identify with adages like, 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away.'
Crop yields for key crops like apples, cherries and blueberries are down across the U.S. because of a lack of bees in agricultural areas, a Rutgers University-led study published Wednesday in The Royal Society found. This could have "serious ramifications" for global food security, reported The Guardian.
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By Stuart Chapman
The goal set 10 years ago to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 remains one of the most ambitious conservation goals ever for a single species. Currently home to the vast majority of the world's remaining tigers, well-resourced protected areas are a cornerstone of this goal. Tigers are a conservation-dependent species and the persistence of tigers relies on well-funded and well-protected conservation areas.
A Bengal tiger in the Khata Forest, which 10 years ago was a degraded patch of land. This image was captured by a camera trap between November 2019 and March 2020 by WWF-Nepal.
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Ecuador authorities are keeping tabs on a fleet of roughly 260 fishing boats near the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ecuadorian boats are patrolling to try to stop the fishing boats from entering the area, according to Reuters.
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By John R. Platt
Raging, guttural vocals. Pounding snare drums. Blazing-fast guitar riffs.
First up, what’s an “eco-slam”? And why death metal for such an already dark topic?<p>I've always been fascinated with the juxtaposition of extremes in death metal, which often takes lyrical concepts to an absurd degree of foreboding exaggeration, while the music itself is equally eager to achieve a kind of rhythmically visceral and disturbing impact. There's a sub-genre of death metal called "slam," which is often some of the most ridiculous and lowbrow of the style and is an excellent opportunity to combine Neanderthal-esque delivery with relevant factual concepts and content. The idea is to subvert the extreme metal expectation that the topics must necessarily be comically grotesque and therefore easy to brush off as gory escapism, while also adhering to the underlying spirit of death metal in plainly confronting the horrors of reality.</p>
What were the origins of this project?<p>The idea for the project first took hold after I had read a <em>National Geographic</em> article sometime shortly after New Year in 2019. It was a small, touching story about how a tree snail (George) had been declared extinct just a few days earlier. Something about it just struck an unexpected nerve. I hadn't really considered how many known species were going extinct every day.</p>
Peter Hauschulz, photo by Smilla West.<p>It was a perfect fusion of a genuinely dark topic that really wasn't being processed, either in the extreme metal community or at large, and therefore a ripe topic for deeper exploration.</p><p><em>(George's story was one of two songs on an </em>Extinction<em> demo album called "</em><a href="https://extinctionevent.bandcamp.com/album/anthropogenic-degradation-of-ecosystemic-vegetation-demo-2019" target="_blank"><em>Anthropogenic Degradation of Ecosystemic Vegetation</em></a><em>," released last year.)</em></p><p>For me, art and music are at their best when they seek to entertain, inform, inspire and connect with the listener. I felt that there was an opportunity to artistically energize the topic by connecting it to charity causes as well. It's very easy to become discouraged or feel like one isn't "doing enough" for the world, so I'm hoping to support the idea that we can all contribute in different ways according to our own needs and values and abilities, and not be held to an arbitrary standard of perfection that may be more discouraging than anything.</p><p>A few dollars here and there may not seem to be much, but it's important for me to try to align aspirations and ideas with actions. I hope that doing so artistically may inspire others to find clever ways to bring their unique talents and ideas to the world.</p>
What are your creative goals when developing music and lyrics about such a difficult subject, and what do you hope your listeners will get out of it?<p>My main goal with the project is to develop and foster connection between myself and the world, myself and other people, and hopefully inspire people's connection with their world, too.</p><p>Of course, encased in that is my own impulse to continuously challenge myself and hone my craft, so I hope listeners experience a feeling of deep urgency as a result of the music, but also a sense of inspiration to harness that feeling for something positive.</p>
What’s your writing process?<p>The process often involves a lot of iteration, bouncing from concept to experimentation on guitar or drums and back again, until it seems like it's congealing into something unique and alive. My primary musical focus is on the rhythms first, since I've always loved the way that aspect of music can reach deep into the core of a body and electrify it and give it motion.</p><p>I try to set the lyrics together in such a way that they amplify the music and give it a conceptual direction for that movement. For instance, the lines "flames of greed lick their black boots, inferno of corruption boils the frog, our spirit croaking for release, from the hell of our own kind" in the song "Electile Dysfunction" are some of my favorites in capturing the wretched spirit of greed behind so much of our planetary destitution.</p>
Why did you pick some of these species to profile? What drew you to the need to tell their stories in musical form?<p>I tried to represent a wide variety of species types, including those outside the more relatable ones that are cute or fuzzy, because things like mosses and trees are certainly just as important, but less often make it into headlines or story form. I also tried to focus on species whose extinction was more or less directly caused by human activity, whether by direct hunting or deforestation — something that highlights our essential relationship and the negative consequences of our actions and choices as a species on the planet.</p>
You have a unique approach to merchandise and the physical distribution of your music. Where did the idea of recycled goods come from?<p>Growing up in largely DIY punk scenes, it was common for smaller bands to screen print logos on thrift-store shirts. That seemed to be the most appropriate way to minimize the band's resource footprint while also opening the door to unique artistic opportunities. So far, the best result is when I can find an old novelty shirt from a vacation at Sea World or some other aquarium. Stamp a giant Extinction logo on top of a frolicking dolphin or killer whale and now it has become more than just a gift-store item.</p>
What comes next? I know you already have a follow-up album in the works, and you were planning on touring before the pandemic hit.<p>Next for Extinction is a bit up in the air, like for many bands and people of all inclinations all over the world. I'll be creating a music video in the coming months for one of these songs, continue writing a follow-up, which will be water-species themed, probably release a charity compilation single in a few months, and seek out like-minded collaborators of all types to start collecting a live lineup.</p>
By Tara Lohan
A logged forest is a changed forest, and for woodland caribou that could mean the difference between life and death.
Tar sands mining in Fort McMurray, Alberta fragments habitat for caribou. Kris Krüg / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>But here's the twist: Moose do better in these disturbed landscapes, and that puts caribou further at risk, albeit indirectly.</p><p>Previous research has found that moose prefer the vegetation that grows in these early successional forests that follow a large-scale disturbance, like commercial logging. And a higher density of moose attracts more wolves, which are also able to <a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2664.12732" target="_blank">move faster and hunt farther</a> by following linear clearings like roads and pipelines in these developed areas.</p><p>While moose are the primary prey for wolves, caribou that wander into these forests become another tasty target.</p><p>"The bottom line," Fryxell explains, "is that the combination of vegetation changes, increase in road density, increase in moose, and consequent increase in wolves threaten long-term viability of woodland caribou in boreal landscapes of Ontario, in a similar fashion to many other parts of Canada."</p><p>A national assessment found that around 70% of Canada's local <a href="http://registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=2FEAAC82-1#_ex" target="_blank">populations of woodland caribou were no longer self-sustaining</a>.</p><p>So what's to be done?</p><p>Last year provincial managers in Quebec floated the idea of <a href="https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/12/11/news/quebec-plan-kill-wolves-protect-caribou-angers-conservationists" target="_blank">killing wolves</a> to protect caribou herds. Their idea met with public backlash, but wolves in British Columbia weren't so lucky. During the winter of 2019-2020, a whopping 463 wolves were killed by the B.C. provincial government for the stated purpose of protecting populations of southern mountain caribou, another caribou ecotype.</p><p>Some of the money to pay for the kill came from Coastal GasLink, a company actively clearing land in caribou habitat for a pipeline, the Canadian news outlet the <em><a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/a-dangerous-road-coastal-gaslink-pays-to-kill-wolves-in-endangered-caribou-habitat-in-b-c-interior/" target="_blank">Narwhal </a></em><a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/a-dangerous-road-coastal-gaslink-pays-to-kill-wolves-in-endangered-caribou-habitat-in-b-c-interior/" target="_blank">reported</a>.</p><p>And a <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10531-020-02008-3" target="_blank">recently published study</a> in the journal <em>Biology and Conservation </em>found that the culls were not likely to aid caribou and pointed out several shortcomings in previous research that called for such wolf-control measures.</p><p>There are other, and better, options — like habitat protection and restoration.</p><p>Fryxell's study concluded that "the most secure conservation measure would be to set aside extensive tracts of boreal forest with natural patterns of disturbance to sustain viable caribou sub‐populations."</p><p>Research shows that the animals need at least 65% of their range undisturbed to have a good shot at survival.</p><p>And helping caribou will come with other environmental benefits. Canada's 2018 <a href="http://registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=2FEAAC82-1#_ex" target="_blank">federal action</a> plan to restore caribou stated, "Boreal caribou is also considered by many to be an indicator of the overall state of Canada's boreal forest ecosystem." So keeping forests intact or restoring habitat is a proposition that would benefit not only caribou but many other species.</p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/taralohan/" target="_blank">Tara Lohan</a> is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard</em><em style=""> and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.</em></p>