Articles Posted in the Conservation category

Archbishop Tutu is saving the whales

November 28, 2008
Posted in Conservation


Picture: © IFAW, T. Samson

‘This [campaign against the killing of whales] warns us that we are slowly ourselves committing a kind of suicide. If it is not a physical suicide, it is a moral and ethical suicide. For our own sakes we need to recover our humaneness, and our humanity. It is time to say no, no, no! to the killing of whales’ – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

South Africa’s much-loved Archbishop Desmond Tutu, well-known internationally for speaking out against apartheid, is adding his voice to the anti-whaling campaign.

Yesterday, he launched the Sacred Ocean – Global Voices Against the Cruelty of Whaling initiative at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town by unveiling a 3,4-metre high sculpture named Sacred Ocean by renowned cetacean artist and conservationist Noel Ashton.

The sculpture has been given pride of place in the foyer of Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium.

The installation also features a touch-screen where visitors can register their opinions on whaling and send a “virtual postcard” of themselves and the sculpture to three friends. Tutu cast the first vote via the touch-screen yesterday.

Dr Patrick Garratt, managing director of the Two Oceans Aquarium, said: “The exhibit provides a unique platform for us to gauge public sentiment on the practice of whaling. For the first time ever, people from across the globe will be able to vote for or against whaling and communicate their opinion to the decision-makers.”

Sacred Ocean is a campaign by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Jason Bell-Leask, the Southern African director for IFAW, said: “As we launch Sacred Ocean to celebrate and save whales, we do so knowing the whaling fleets have already set sail for the Southern Ocean Sanctuary to hunt and kill more than 1,000 whales – some of them endangered species – in a sham called ‘scientific whaling’.

“We believe that IFAW’s Sacred Ocean – Global Voices Against the Cruelty of Whaling will send a powerful message that ordinary, and not so ordinary people, are against the appalling and unnecessary cruelty of whaling.”

The Two Oceans Aquarium, is one of South Africa’s top tourist attractions and annually welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world. If you’re going to be visiting the V&A Waterfront, pop in to the aquarium and register your vote.

The campaign also has its own website.

Disappearing acts: amazing displays of camouflage

November 23, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The footage in this TED lecture by ocean exploration pioneer David Gallo of the way sea creatures can use colour and blend into their environment is truly astonishing.

Sonar use linked to whale strandings

October 8, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Sonar is killing more whales than we realise, says a whale expert who has been tracking the patterns of mass whale strandings around the world for the past eight years.

In a paper entitled “Navy Sonar and Cetaceans: Just how much does the gun need to smoke before we act?”, Professor Chris Parsons of George Mason University in the United States strongly argues for stricter environmental policies related to the use of sonar in the US Navy. “We are increasingly finding if there is a beaked whale mass stranding, there is a military exercise in the area,” he says.

Parsons is a national delegate for the International Whaling Commission’s scientific and conservation committees, and on the board of directors of the marine section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He has been involved in whale and dolphin research for more than a decade in South Africa, India, China, the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.

He argues in his paper that the US navy could perform its exercises and affect less of the whale population if it had properly trained, experienced whale experts as lookouts – “not just someone who has watched a 45-minute DVD”, as is now the case. They also need to avoid sensitive areas completely, he says.

“Eventually the Navy may have to reconsider the use of certain types of sonar. Without strict mitigation, they could be wiping out entire populations of whales, and seriously depleting others.”

[Via: EurekaNet]

News briefs: Wales’ eco wiki, tuna surprise and greener iPods

September 12, 2008
Posted in Green News

Wikipedia founder launches wiki for greens – Jimmy Wales and Wikia Inc have launched a new eco-focused project called Wikia Green. “The goal is to create a flexible, dynamic community wiki that covers anything and everything in the environmental and sustainable universe,” Daily Green reports.

Call for suspension of Mediterranean tuna fishing – The overfishing of bluefin tuna – highly prized for sushi and sashimi – in the Mediterranean has been described as a “disgrace” by an independent panel reviewing the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The panel said yesterday that all fishing for East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna must be suspended immediately until countries involved in those fisheries “agree to fully abide by the rules and recommendations of ICCAT and international fisheries law”, AFP reports.

iPods get the nod from Greenpeace – Steve Jobs’ announcement that Apple’s latest batch of revamped iPods – the iPod Touch, iPod Nano and iPod Classic – will now be free of PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a plastic) and BFRs (brominated flame retardants), along with an absence of mercury and the use of arsenic-free glass, has been applauded by Greenpeace. But the environmental organisation says that Jobs can go further and make more Apple products, such as iPhones and Macs, greener. “What we’d really like for Christmas is to see Apple remove toxic chemicals from all its products, and announce a free, global recycling scheme. Now, that would make a very tasty green Apple indeed!” said Greenpeace in a statement.

Perlemoen poaching and other threats to our heritage

September 2, 2008
Posted in Green News

Fruit and wine farmers measure their carbon footprints
South African fruit and wine farmers have launched an initiative, with funding from the British government, to determine the environmental impact of their industries to keep up with the demand for green products in their export markets. Fully story

Perlemoen poaching
The department of environmental affairs and tourism announced yesterday that it is planning “further steps” – about which it is reportedly reluctant to give details for fear of tipping off crime syndicates – to stem the rampant poaching of South Africa’s marine resources, especially perlemoen. About 2 000 tons of poached perlemoen, worth R1.2-billion, was smuggled out of South Africa last year, reports Sapa. Full story

Restoring the fynbos
Anglo American-owned Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West plans to restore 2,000 hectares of farmland back to pristine fynbos by 2014, reports the Cape Argus.

Mine water threat to Cradle of Humankind
Acidic mine water pollution caused by gold mining on the Witwatersrand could cause irreversible damage to the ancient hominid fossils of the Cradle of Humankind, including the Sterkfontein Caves, cave expert Mike Buchanan has warned in an open letter, the Saturday Star reports. The government needs to take urgent action to save the famous World Heritage Site, says Buchanan. Fully story

Animal news in brief

August 22, 2008
Posted in Conservation

ELEPHANT MASSACRE IN THE CONGO: Poachers have killed a fifth of the elephants in the DRC’s Virunga National Park this year, Reuters reports. The park lies in eastern DRC on the border with Rwanda and Uganda. Read the full story.

SA PLAN TO SAVE THE SEABIRDS: The department of environmental affairs and tourism has launched a plan of action to help prevent seabirds from being killed by the fishing industry. More than 28 species of albatross and petrel have been recorded caught by South African fisheries. Thirteen of them are threatened with extinction. The National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Long-line Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds) illustrates the country’s commitment to managing seabirds and fisheries responsibly, says DEAT.

Also this week, the WWF released a report which it says underscores the need for international co-operation on preventing seabird deaths. Dr Samantha Petersen, manager of the WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme, “This report substantially improves our understanding of the circumstances under which seabirds are killed and for the first time reports on experiments conducted in South African waters to develop techniques to reduce seabird bycatch under local conditions.” Read more on WWF site

LONESOME GEORGE, LONESOME NO MORE?: Lonesome George got his name because he is the last remaining Pinta Island tortoise. For years researchers have been hoping that he would breed with a tortoise from a similar Galapagos subspecies at the research station where he has lived since 1972. George has two female companions in his corral, but scientists seem to have struggled to coax him to reproduce. But there appears to have been a breakthrough because two nests containing eggs have reportedly been found in George’s corral. Eight eggs have been incubated and fingers are crossed that genetic tests will show that George is the father. Read more on the Galapagos Conservancy website

SA trawl fishing kills thousands of sea birds a year

August 18, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Scientists who monitored catches on 14 different vessels trawling for hake in the Benguela Current, off South Africa’s west coast, estimate that about 18,000 seabirds may be killed a year in this fishery alone, reports Birdlife International.

The majority of bird deaths were a result of collisions with wires – known as warp lines – leading from the stern of the vessels. “Most mortality relates to the dumping of fishing waste behind the boat. This attracts seabirds which can either hit the warp lines or become entangled in the nets,” said Dr John Croxall, chairman of BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme Read more

Penguin spotting on Robben Island

July 2, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Much like no two zebras have the same stripe pattern, scientists working on Cape Town’s Robben Island believe that African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) have a pattern of black spots on their chests that is unique to each penguin – a useful way of identifying individuals.

Monitoring a population of 20,000 or so penguins is something of a challenge, though. Using conventional tagging techniques, only a small percentage of the population can be captured, tagged and monitored. But thanks to the penguin’s spots, scientists working on the Penguin Recognition Project have developed a far less intrusive monitoring system. Read more

Whales not having a whale of a time

June 23, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Despite 20 years of “moratorium” on whale hunting, the populations of these animals aren’t showing significant signs of recovery, say scientists in an AFP report.

This fact will be contested by whaling nations such as Japan, Norway and Iceland at the International Whaling Commission in Chile this week. But scientists say that it would need decades of uninterrupted growth for whale populations to return to their original numbers – even those species who appear to be thriving may not be out of danger, they say.

Besides commercial hunting, whales have to contend with other dangers posed by sharing the oceans with people: they are struck by their vessels, become entangled in fishing nets, are poisoned by pollution, their habitats are destroyed and bombarded with noise. Add to this the effects of climate change, one of which is the potential acidification of the oceans which could sharply reduce the number of krill on which whales feed, and these giant mammals are in for a hard time.

We humans really need to be less greedy and learn to share the planet with other species instead of looking at everything as potential resources that are only of value if we have a use for them.

Via :: Terra Daily