Help Save Creatures Great and Small on World Animal Day
On World Animal Day, we celebrate all the furry, scaly, winged and finned creatures that inhabit our planet.
On this international day of action, participants aim to "raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe," according to organizers at the UK-based charity Naturewatch Foundation. The occasion was first celebrated in 1925 and is observed annually on Oct. 4.
Roughly 1,000 World Animal Day events, including educational workshops, adoptions, marches and fundraisers, will be held across 100 countries. Folks around the world are also making pledges, such as using cruelty-free products or going vegetarian or vegan to help make a positive difference.
At EcoWatch, animal conservation is a major priority. Animals not only inspire wonder and awe, but as important parts to the ecosystems they inhabit, biodiversity loss puts the environment and human well-being at risk.
The following list shows some of our most popular animal-related content in the past year. These five stories highlight the threats faced by creatures great and small, from pollinator deaths to "trophy" hunting. On a positive note, the list features conservation success stories, brave feats of activism and includes ways you can help protect animals in your everyday life.
1. EPA Considers Allowing Bee-Killing Pesticide to Be Sprayed on 165 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland. This Dec. 2017 article by the Center for Biological Diversity reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had considered allowing the bee-killing pesticide thiamethoxam to be sprayed on the most widely grown crops in the U.S. This harmful neonicotinoid pesticide has long been known to pose serious harm to bee populations, as well as birds of all sizes and aquatic invertebrates.
- What you can do to help: The Xerces Society, a non-profit invertebrate conservation society you should consider supporting, has a number of recommendations to protect pollinators from neonicotinoids, from avoiding pesticide use around your home and asking your local nursery to stop selling the products.
2. Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise. A census of mountain gorillas showed that their population rose from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016, thanks to dedicated conservation efforts. The mountain gorilla subspecies is the only great ape known to be increasing in number.
- What you can do to help: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund recommends asking your lawmakers to continue to support the Great Ape Conservation Fund, as well as recycling cell phones and electronics, as they contain metals that are mined from gorilla habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fund also suggests looking for sustainable palm oil, wood and other eco-friendly products, as gorilla forest habitats in Asia are being deforested for their resources.
3. Father and Son Charged With Killing Mother Bear and 'Shrieking' Cubs in Den. In April, a father and son from Palmer, Alaska shot and killed a mother black bear and her two "shrieking" newborn cubs in their den. The hunt took place on state land but the topic of trophy hunting has reignited under the Trump administration, which is proposing to overturn an Obama-era rule that protects iconic predators in Alaska's national preserves. The plan would allow hunters to go to den sites to shoot bear cubs and wolf pups, lure and kill bears over bait, hunt bears with dogs and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou.
- What you can do to help: The proposed rule, which is posted in the federal register, is still accepting comments until 11:59 p.m. EST on Nov. 5, 2018. Make your voice heard!
4. Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd. In March, an infamous Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel was arrested in Liberia with the assistance of Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation group.
- What you can do to help: Donate to Sea Shepherd, which has been patrolling the high seas and enforcing conservation law worldwide for more than 40 years. There are countless other non-profits such as Ocean Conservancy, Oceana and Surfrider Foundation that help protect our oceans and save the lives of aquatic life, dolphins, seals, whales and fish.
5. House Republicans Launch Extinction Bills to Cripple Endangered Species Act. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives initiated yet another attack on the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity reported that the move was among the 75-plus legislative attacks that have been launched against the Endangered Species Act ever since Trump took office—and more than 300 since 2011, when Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives.
- What you can do to help: The Endangered Species Act, signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, is one of the most successful wildlife conservation laws in the world. More than 99 percent of species covered under the law have been saved from extinction. Protect the law from becoming extinct itself by telling Congress that you support the law and oppose any efforts to weaken it. You can also sign these petitions from Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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