Monday, August 13, 2018

Happy World Elephant Day!

Yesterday was World Elephant Day, so I'm re-running the Great Big Elephant Quiz.  Enjoy!
This week’s endangered species is the African Elephant (Loxodonta cylclotis) (photo from David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust). Found in sub-Saharan Africa, these elephants are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, due to human/elephant conflicts and poaching for their ivory tusks.
Most of us have seen elephants, on TV or in zoos (or in the wild, if we’ve been lucky enough), but can you pass the GREAT BIG ELEPHANT QUIZ? See if you can answer the following 10 questions:
  1. T/F Elephants only use their trunks for smelling
  2. T/F Elephants can use their ears to cool their bodies
  3. T/F African elephants are the largest land mammal on Earth
  4. T/F Herds are led by dominant females
  5. T/F Male elephants live in herds
  6. T/F Elephant gestation is one of the longest pregnancies on Earth
  7. T/F Both male and female elephants have tusks
  8. T/F Elephants are carnivores
  9. T/F Elephants have great memories
  10. T/F Elephants are big sleepers
Answers (from Wildlife Heroes, by Scardina and Flocken; National Geographic website; and Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick)
  1. False – elephants also use their trunks for breathing, drinking, and picking up small objects. The trunk contains about 100,000 different muscles!
  2. True – thanks to radiation of heat through their ears
  3. True! Asian elephants are a little smaller
  4. True – elephant herds are made up of family groups of females, led by one dominant female
  5. False – once they hit maturity, these big guys are loners
  6. True – yes greenmomsters, your pregnancy may have seemed long, but it’s nothing compared to the 22 month gestation of an elephant. Oh, and you thought your 9 lbs baby was big? Try 200 lbs!
  7. True!
  8. False, thank goodness – elephants survive on grasses, roots, and bark. Up to 300 lbs per day!
  9. True – not just a myth! For a fascinating book on elephants, their memories, and one woman’s love story and lifetime of trying to save orphaned elephants, check out Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick
  10. False – elephants don’t really sleep for long periods of time
Need more reasons to care about elephant conservation? From Wildlife Heroes, “Elephants shape the environments in which they live by opening up forests, controlling brush and tree growth, and digging for water and minerals, which benefits other animals. Their copious amounts of dung also help fertilize the landscape and disperse seeds.”

How’s a greenmomster to help?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mammal Monday -- mountain lions

Maybe you saw this video of a family of mountain lions having a drink on a Colorado family's deck:

So let's take a look at mountain lions (Puma concolor), or cougars/pumas, for today's Mammal Monday.  This cat, the largest in North America, has a range spanning from Canada all the way to Argentina. They're usually solitary animals who can defend a territory from 10 to over 300 square miles.  As you can see from the video, they have litters of 2 to 4 offspring that can stay with the female for 1 to 2 years.  Mountain lions are considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act, with the biggest threats to the species being habitat destruction and conflicts with livestock.  Want to learn more?  Check out the National Wildlife Federation's page on the species.

Friday, August 3, 2018

I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

This quote from an old Alka Seltzer commercial is what I was thinking when I tried today’s meat-free Friday concoction. Diane’s Dad’s Summer Sandwich won the NPR taste of summer contest, and it’s my choice for tonight’s dinner. So weird, yet so tasty. Here’s how you make it:
  1. toast two slices of any bread you like
  2. layer the following IN ORDER onto the bread, starting at the bottom
  • crunchy peanut butter
  • a slice of vidalia onion
  • cucumber slices
  • tomato slices
  • a slice of white cheddar cheese
Now that’s a tasty sandwich!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Mammal Monday -- Photo Ark

Our hope is that people will look these creatures in the eyes, and be inspired to care, while there is still time.
I was checking out my instagram feed the other day and saw Joel Sartore's post about Tasmanian devils, which I wrote about back in May.  These endangered mammals were featured on Sartore's page, Photo Ark, and are threatened by a cancer called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DTFD).  The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is working to conserve these incredible little carnivores (they actually eat their ENTIRE prey, bones and all).  To help, visit the program's website.

If you love wildlife and haven't seen Photo Ark, you should definitely check it out.  Sartore has spent the last 25 years trying to document every species in human care, to photograph species before they disappear, and to get people to care about these species.  I was lucky enough to see his Photo Ark exhibit at the National Geographic in Washington DC, and you can see the photos in his book. Here's a look at a day at the office for the Photo Ark crew:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Life Well Lived


Today's Sunday TODAY included a really nice tribute to Lincoln Brower, the scientist who studied and taught all of us about monarch butterflies and their incredible annual migration.  If you plant milkweed in your garden, you can thank Lincoln Brower for helping to encourage protection of these beautiful insects.  Take a few minutes to watch this tribute and celebrate a life well lived.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Changes to the ESA

Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen some proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act from Congress and the Executive Branch. Conservation organizations are fighting many of the proposed changes, while oil and gas, ranching, and private land rights groups see these proposals as progress. One of the big changes will allow economic impacts to be considered when deciding whether to list a species as endangered -- current regulations say that economic impacts can be considered when deciding management, but not when considering the initial listing.  The current process allows science to be the basis of listing decisions, and should not be changed.

There is a middle ground -- it's in the proposals from the folks who are focusing on species recovery.  These groups think we should better fund recovery efforts and try new and creative partnerships that prevent the regulatory enforcement (the "hammer") of the Endangered Species Act.  We saw this in some of the 4(d) rulings passed under the Obama administration, such as the exemption for the greater sage grouse.  If you'd like to learn more about this issue, so that you can contact your elected officials during the current comment period, start by listening to this NPR On Point program regarding the new proposals.  The accompanying reading list is a great place to learn more about the ESA.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Is this really sportsmanship?

I don't hunt.  I don't have any desire to try hunting.  In fact, I don't even understand why someone might find hunting enjoyable.  That said, I know that many people enjoy hunting, and that hunters have significantly contributed to conservation in the U.S. (check out the valuable conservation work done by Ducks Unlimited).  Conservationists often work with hunters to preserve habitat, because hunters have the desire and expertise that makes them great teammates on conservation projects.

Unfortunately, today's political climate (and yes, I'll say it -- lead by and encouraged by our President) separates people who might be able to work toward common goals.  The latest example is the new policy on hunting in Alaska which goes against the opinions of scientists and land/wildlife managers to allow unethical measures to hunt bears and wolves on Federal land.  These practices are not only unsportsmanlike, they will damage the Alaskan ecosystem upon which these and other species rely.  Two conservationists and hunters, Dan Ashe (former director of US FWS) and Jon Jarvis (former director of NPS) recently outlined the problems with the proposed program.  I hope you'll read their piece and contact your elected leaders.