Friday, February 17, 2017

What's up with the Rusty Patched Bumblebee?

Meat-free Friday will return next week!

Darryl Fears reported in the Washington Post today about a Senate hearing to "modernize the Endangered Species Act."   Unfortunately, many legislators are aiming to gut or repeal the act, rather than make improvements to its implementation.  As we saw with this week's postponement of listing of the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, the Act is always under attack.  Since most scientists agree that we are currently in the 6th worldwide extinction event (think about what happened with the dinosaurs...), and this one is caused by humans, I thought we might want to take a look at some common misconceptions about endangered species.

Misconception #1 -- Species have always gone extinct, so we don’t need to worry right now.  True, species have always gone extinct.  Scientists are not concerned about the fact of extinction; it’s the rate of extinction that is a concern.  The USFWS,states “Biologists estimate that since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies, and varieties of our Nation’s plants and animals have become extinct.”  Wow!  Current estimates of the current rate of species extinctions are 100 to 1000 times the natural rate which is estimated to be between 1 every year to 100 years.  That means that we’re living in a time of mass species extinction, comparable to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Misconception #2 -- Losing a species won’t affect humans.     Species diversity is a critical element in ecosystem health.  “Species diversity” is how many different species are found in a habitat and in what proportion they’re found.  Some habitats have greater species diversity than others – think rainforest – but all habitats are healthiest when they contain as many different species as they can sustain.  Think of a habitat as a fishing net, with each species being piece of rope that connects to other pieces to form the net.  If one of the pieces of rope breaks and leaves a small hole, the net can probably be fixed and reused.  But what if half the net is torn?  It won’t be very useable.  The same thing happens in a natural habitat; remove too many species and the habitat ceases to function.  How many species can be lost, before the habitat doesn’t function?  No one knows – is it an experiment we’re willing to try?  The habitats around us provide many services such as medicinal and agricultural resources, clean water and air, and recreation.  Healthy habitats benefit humans – they’re a necessity, not a luxury.

Misconception #3 – Once a species is on the endangered species list, it never comes off.   Incorrect!  Protections under the U.S. Endangered Species Act have led to the recovery of several species or populations of species, including the gray whale, the bald eagle, the brown pelican, and the gray wolf. Many more species have more stable populations due to the act.

Misconception #4 – Pollution is the greatest threat to biodiversity.  Actually, habitat loss is the greatest threat to biodiversity.  With 7 billion humans on the planet, we take up a lot of space and we’re changing a lot of habitat to new uses.

Misconception #5 – There’s nothing I can do to protect the Earth’s biodiversity.  In order to protect biodiversity and endangered species, we all have to make conscious choices about how we use resources.  Check out the “low hanging fruit” section as a start.  Visit to discover new ways of decreasing your carbon footprint.  Get involved in deciding how our country produces energy – research the issue and write to your political representatives.  One final thought from famous biologist E.O. Wilson,  “The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.” (From Brainy Quote. Web.  12/31/11.  <>)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

6th Annual World Pangolin Day!

February 18 2017 is the 6th Annual World Pangolin Day!  This endangered species (photo from is a small (species range from 3 1/2 to 70 lbs), scaly mammal found in southeast Asia and parts of Africa.  Also known as scaly anteaters, pangolins use their thick, strong claws and incredible sense of smell to find their primary food of ants and termites.  They are nocturnal and secretive.   The eight species of pangolins live in many different habitats including forests, thick brush, grasslands, and even cultivated areas.  All eight species of pangolin are protected under national and international law, and two of the species are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  It’s unclear how long pangolins live in the wild, but they’ve been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.  The major threats to pangolins are habitat loss and illegal hunting for their meat and scales (used in Asian medicine). 

So pangolins live on the other side of the world and we’ve never even seen one – why should greenmomsters give a flying flit about these animals?  Well, other than the fact that they’re incredibly cute, particularly when the young ride around on their mother’s
 backs near the base of their tails (photo from, these species play a vital role in the balance of nature in their ecosystems.  As stated inWildlife Heroes (Scardina and Flocken, 2011), “Pangolins play a critical role in natural insect control, especially ants and termites, saving humans millions of dollars to pest damage and reducing the need for harmful chemical pesticides.  Additionally, pangolin burrows provide shelter for many species, such as rodents and reptiles.”
Want to help with pangolin conservation?  Learn more by joining the Pangolin SSC Facebook page or make a donation toward conservation.  For more information on pangolins, check out

Ground pangolin - overview  BBC Natural History UnitBe sure to check out this video from
Pangolin Conservation Support Initiative. 2012. Save Pangolins website. Accessed 10/7/12.
Pangolin Species Survival Commission. 2012. Pangolin SSC website. Accessed 10/7/12.
Scardina, J. and J. Flocken. 2011. Wildlife Heroes. Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia PA. 264 pp.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Green chile stew!

Billy Joel might be in a New York state of mind, and James Taylor has Carolina on his mind, but I’m thinking about New Mexico today – easily one of my favorite places.  Here’s a recipe for green chile69790002 stew from Family Circle magazine that I’ve altered (rather significantly) to taste just the way I like it.  I hope it takes you to New Mexico in your mind!


  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 jar tomatillo salsa (I like Frontera)
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil3 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 3, 4 oz. cans of hot diced green chilis (I like Hatch)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 12 oz. packages of Quorn Chick’n Tenders
  • 2 15.5 oz cans of butter beans, drained and rinsed (use 3 cans if you want really thick stew, rather than soup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • sour cream, scallions


  1. In a large pot, saute onion, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil to slightly soften the peppers -- don't let the onions become transparent.  Add veggie broth, salsa, cumin, chilis, and salt. Add in quorn nuggets and simmer on low heat for at least 1/2 hour.
  2. Stir in beans and cilantro.
  3. Garnish with sour cream and scallions, if desired.  Serve with Phil's corn bread 69790001

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Superbowl Sunday!

Just in case you're not watching the game, you can't miss the EcoWarrior Kia commercial!