Thursday, December 27, 2012

Conservation Comeback

The straight-horned markhor, the national animal of Pakistan, is a mythical-looking mountain goat with long, twisting horns. It reminds me of something you might see in the Lord of the Rings ...

Photo courtesy of USFWS
With the help of concentrated conservation efforts, this endangered species of markhor is on the rebound, warranting a proposed change in its listing from endangered to threatened in recent months.

Learn more about this amazing animal.  


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What do Sports and Endangered Species Have in Common?

At least six sports teams around the world are represented by mascots that are endangered species. For instance, the Florida panther is it's state hockey team's flagship animal.

Photo courtesy of USFWS
Learn about five more endangered species that adorn helmets and uniforms here:

Endangered Species as Sports Team Mascots

Sometimes, it works ...

What works?


Despite all of the news stories we hear about species declining and, worse yet, going extinct, there are instances when conservation efforts succeed in recovering species, bringing them back from the brink of extinction. 

Photo courtesy of USFWS

Learn about six success stories here:

Endangered Species Success Stories of 2012

Voluntary Simplicity

What a great term:

voluntary simplicity.

It means consciously choosing to pare down, use less, and buy responsibly.

This is an important concept to consider as the new year rolls in, and we're feeling the urge to make resolutions to better our lives--and the planet.

Get inspired to make a change that matters with these New Year Resolutions for Endangered Species.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Last Asian Unicorn?

You know how it feels when you discover a box of your favorite 


somewhere in the dim reaches of your cupboard, but then you open it ...

and discover that only a few crumbles remain?

That must be a very trivial comparison to how researchers felt when they discovered an animal called the saola in 1992.

The saola is a small relative of the cow that has two long, straight, sharp horns. It's profile has earned it the nickname "Asian unicorn." 

Photo by Silviculture at vi.wikipedia (GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0) / Wikimedia

Sadly, this interesting creature is so rare due to hunting and habitat loss that as few as 70 individuals are estimated to populate a small mountainous area between Vietnam and Laos. Take a look:

Geographic distribution of the rare saola. Photo courtesy of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, species assessors and the authors of the spatial data / Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about the critically endangered saola here:

Saola: The Endangered Asian Unicorn

Thursday, December 20, 2012

OMG! Kids Create a Conservation Movement

If the planetary problems of our generation are looming heavily over the next, then Carter and Olivia Ries are getting the jump on solving them. These two pre-teens from Georgia have started their own conservation non-profit, and it's more than mere child's play. OMG (One More Generation) is making serious strides to help cheetahs, rhinos, orangutans, marine ecosystems, and more. 

What started with caring for cheetahs became a full-fledged conservation effort by two motivated kids. 
Get inspired by the work of these young go-getters here:

OMG: Kids Helping Endangered Species




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's almost time for ...


Yes, I said it. 

As much as we'd all like to bury our heads in the sand and forget our yearly tab for government services, it's one of those two things (you know the saying) that is certain to find us, wherever we are.

This year, as you're racking up your last minute deductions, consider donating to a charitable cause that benefits endangered species.

Make a tax-deductible donation to the California Sea Otter Fund.
Photo courtesy of USFWS

I've listed a few non-profit organizations that you may not be familiar with on the following page:


Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Bird Count is Coming Up!

If you're a birder, you know just what I'm talking about. If not, get savvy and hop on board the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. Not only is it a fun excuse to get outside on wintery days, it's also a way to contribute valuable information to bird conservation efforts.

You probably won't spy an endangered Kirtland's warbler which migrates from the northern U.S. to the Bahamas during the winter.
Photo by USFWS Joel Trick

Learn More:
Count Birds for Christmas

This Land is Your Land

Now, the question is: what will you do with it? Or, more aptly, what will become of it when you're no longer in charge of it? 

Photo by David Ball / Wikimedia
If you care about wildlife and the habitat that our wild neighbors so desperately need, consider placing a portion of your property (or, heck, all of it) into a conservation easement with the help of a land trust. This is a way to legally protect your land from development or other destructive practices forever ...

Or at least as long as the U.S. government reigns supreme.

Learn more:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pets and Endangered Species Don't Mix

Our pets provide comfort, companionship, and faithful service. We name them, and we pamper them to the point that they become part of the family. It's easy to forget that Tabby or Fido are instinctive hunters. A flutter of feathers or a twitch of a tail proves irresistible to them. 

Photo by Lxowle [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL] / Wikimedia

Regardless of how tame they seem or how much food they eat at home, they will hunt without concern for their impact on prey populations.

Learn how you can prevent your kitty from killing wildlife:
Do Cats Kill Endangered Species? 


Will Species Topple off the Fiscal Cliff?

The media is muttering about the potential effects of the impending "fiscal cliff," but few newscasts are mentioning the impact this so-called "sequestration" will have on our natural resources - endangered species included.

Photo by Bicycle Bob (CC-BY-SA-2.0) / Wikimedia Commons
Learn more about the grim forecast:
Will Endangered Species Topple off the Fiscal Cliff?

And urge congress to get their ducks in a row before December 31: 
Tell Congress: Don't send wildlife over the budgetary cliff

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Drum roll, please ...

At last, the newest panda cub to be born at the San Diego Zoo ...

Bai Yun, proud and prolific mother of NEW CUB at the San Diego Zoo.
Photo by Matthew Field (GFDL , CC-BY-SA-3.0) / Wikimedia Commons

... has a name!

No longer known as simply "little sausage," the pudgy, prosperous panda is now known as 

"Little Gift,"

or Xiao Liwu, in his native Chinese tongue.
After receiving thousands of suggestions from panda fans, the zoo narrowed the selection down to six choices, which were put to a popular vote. 

Xiao Liwu officially received his name at a zoo ceremony yesterday morning. 

Learn more about the San Diego Zoo's successful panda breeding program HERE.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Miniscule, yet Mighty?

It never ceases to amaze me that there is someone out there

somewhere ...
Photo of Earth by NASA / Wikimedia
right NOW

who is working for a cause so small

that the world-at-large knows nothing about it,

yet so daunting

that even if we did, we might dismiss it as hopeless. 

Take, for example, efforts to save the most endangered animals on earth. As their populations dwindle to less than the sum of the numbers on our iPhone keypads, is there really any hope left?

The optimists among us shout, "Yes!" 

And they're not going down without a fight.

Learn how you can support conservation organizations that are striving to save 10 of the planet's most endangered animals HERE

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Taking Sides

As I mentioned in my last post, euthanasia (or "zoothanasia" as some call it) is a population management strategy used by many of the world's zoos. 

A mother cheetah with cubs in the wild.
Photo by Siddharth Maheshwari (CC-BY-SA-3.0) / Wikimedia

In short, animals are allowed to breed and raise their young as per nature, but then the offspring are killed when they hit puberty.

Hard to imagine here in the U.S., where we often rally around the individual at all costs. Zoos in Europe, however, argue that euthanasia is a kinder approach to raising wildlife in captivity while maintaining the genetic integrity of entire species. 

Learn more about both sides of the dilemma HERE.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What would the Pope say?

Have you ever considered how zoos keep their resident populations in check? 

I doubt you have, but now you're thinking about it, aren't you?

Ah, young love ... cheetahs at the Houston Zoo.
Photo by Karamash [CC-BY-3.0] / Wikimedia

As it turns out, zoo animals are on birth control. Yep. Pills, implants, injections, you name it. 

It's the zoos' way of allowing family groups to coexist without the risk of inbreeding or ending up with too many offspring. 

Stray tiger cubs? Grizzly bears? Komodo dragons? Nobody wants that. 

In Europe, zoos favor euthanasia as a means of population control, but that's another blog post. 

In the meantime, you can learn more about the science of contraception for conservation HERE.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Habitat, Not Handouts

One winter years ago, my yard was a gathering place for a handful of does and fawns as they made their daily begging rounds about the area. After filling up on day-old bakery goods at my neighbor's place, they'd come down and wait at my front door for a few carrots, cucumber rind, or whatever apples I had to spare. My babes and I delighted in the daily visit, and we took great satisfaction in providing the deer a bit of "healthy" food to get them through the often frigid nights.  We slept a little easier believing that we helped take the edge off the suffering the deer might endure.   

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
In mid-February, a perfectly healthy-looking yearling fawn wandered into my backyard and bedded down at the edge of the heavy brush line behind the house.  Even though the days were getting warmer and the snow was pretty well melted, I threw pints of cherry tomatoes and wholegrain cereal to her.  She could use a little comfort food, I reasoned.  For three days, she lingered there, standing up occasionally to nibble, but becoming noticeably weaker by the day.   On the fourth morning, I walked outside to find the fawn dead beside a sizable pile of droppings, indicating that she had been eating plenty of food.  But, through her thick coat, I could see deep troughs between her ribs.  She had obviously died, in part, due to insufficient fat reserves, but I wondered why the extra food hadn't given her a boost.
With a little bit of research, I discovered that there are many pitfalls to feeding deer, and maybe my offerings weren't as helpful as I'd hoped. 
Read more about why healthy habitat is so much more important to wildlife than handouts HERE, and learn how you can help improve winter habitat in your area HERE.

Saving Salmon: Possible?

Of course, I'd like to think that anything is possible ... even preserving the wild salmon runs that are still clinging to life in the Columbia River Basin.

The survival of salmon lies in our hands. Photo by USFWS

I have a small personal stake in this epic battle for life. For one sweet summer, I practically lived in the cold flows of the upper watershed, contributing to a restoration project that successfully drew spawning steelhead back to a long-lost natal stream.

It worked, and I helped (no Shake 'n Bake jokes needed, thank you very much).

At any rate, my participation in salmon conservation proved to me that good work can be done. But among the many techniques being used to save salmon from the maws of many dams on the Columbia, barging seems like a lost cause.

It just isn't enough.

Learn more about it HERE.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Red List, Green List!

No, silly, it's not a new twist on an old schoolyard game. 

The IUCN Red List, in case you didn't know, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of conservation statuses of threatened and endangered species.

In other words: bad news.

But now, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is mobilizing to create a Green List, which will catalog and, essentially, congratulate conservation efforts that are succeeding in bring species and their habitats back toward long term sustainability.

In other words, good news--at last.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Read more about it HERE

Thursday, October 18, 2012

If all else fails ...

What do Calvin Klein, toxic toads, and abandoned pets have in common?

Do cane toads wear cologne? No, silly, but tigers sometimes do! 
Photo by  Brian Gratwicke [CC-BY-2.0 (] / Wikimedia

Bet you didn't guess endangered species.

Are you curious?

If so, head to my site at to discover some strange ways to save endangered species.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Going under ...

Underwater, that is.

Do you ever dream of diving? Snorkeling? Would you love to poke around a coral reef without worrying about pesky sharks lurking in the shadows?

Photo by Jerry Reid / USFWS
Well, then this is your lucky day!

Get ready to go on an undersea expedition with Google Oceans. It's easy and free. No wetsuit or oxygen tank required.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You just never know ...

Name the first "green" president that comes to mind. 

For me, it's always Teddy Roosevelt, no question.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a list of Richard Nixon's environmental actions

Yes, Nixon!

The ol' Watergate wonder, who once likened environmentalists to a bunch of animals, was actually responsible for many of the acts that protect our country's precious natural resources.

It's true; you learn something new every day.

In response to intense political pressure from concerned citizens in 1972, Nixon went all-out to placate his conservation-minded constituency. 

Ah, those were the days.

It wasn't so long ago that citizens took precedence in this country. Today, it seems the only way we might regain our influence is to ban together, stick an "Inc." at the end of our collective names, and throw our paychecks at the president.

Who's game?

Friday, October 12, 2012

The little things we miss ...

Twenty-nine years ago today, the unassuming little Santa Barbara Song Sparrow was officially declared extinct. 

While no photographs are known to exist of the extinct Santa Barbara Song Sparrow, it resembled this common mainland song sparrow.
Photo by Ken Thomas / Wikimedia

I fondly remember a song sparrow who lived outside my kitchen window on Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge. It made every morning just a little merrier. 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Envirothon: Everyone's Doing It

Does your community participate in the North American Envirothon? 

Photo by Erica Szlosek / USFWS

It's an environmental education competition for middle and high school students. My husband coached a team in Mountain View, Arkansas for a couple of years, and they had a great time (they even placed in the Forestry division).

If your kid (or class) is interested in learning more about the upcoming competition which takes place next summer, you still have time to get involved. 

Check out my Envirothon fact sheet here.

Souvenir Savvy

Years ago, when I set off on a boat to explore 300 miles of the Amazon River, I was eager to preserve every moment of my great adventure. I wanted to take a million pictures and bring back as much Amazon stuff as possible. Not only did I want to give friends and family a tangible connection to my journey, I also wanted to hold on to things that would remind me ... as if I could forget.

The boat that carried me from Iquitos, Peru to Tabatinga, Brazil and back. Photo courtesy of EcoAdventures, Inc.

I bought and bartered for carvings, masks, jewelry, and other native pretties. I even bought a framed butterfly from a boy in Iquitos that has been with me all these years, traveling from wall to wall as I moved back and forth across the country. In retrospect, I have some remorse about buying the butterfly. At the time, I thought I was conscientiously collecting my souvenirs - no feathers, bones, claws, or other endangered animal parts that might contribute to the destruction of the region's incredible biodiversity. Buying the butterfly was legal, but maybe it would've been best left behind.

All these years later, the souvenirs that have meant the most are my photos (almost a million) and the memories that remain fresh in my mind. I can still picture my first view of the river as I flew over it, coiling like a glossy constrictor through dark miles of jungle on a moonlit night.

You can't buy that.

In a roundabout way, I'm suggesting that we make wise decisions while wandering those intoxicating marketplaces which beckon when we're abroad. Every penny we spend can help support a local economy, but it can also have far-reaching effects on fragile ecosystems

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bird Poop and Beach Trash

Ah, those were the days ...

Back before I discovered the need for a real job, I spent a year working my tail off (for free) as the resident caretaker of Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, three miles off the northern coast of Washington in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

My husband and I were the island's only human residents, and we worked as a volunteer team to protect the island's sensitive wildlife species from disturbance, including 70 percent of the Puget Sound's seabird population, rare raptors, and a family of northern elephant seals. 


Photo of a Glaucous-winged gull by DickDaniels [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL] / Wikimedia Commons

Um ... I think not. 

A large part of our time was spent hosing seagull poop off of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service boats and docks, and during the winter we picked up a lot of water-logged trash that washed ashore. 

Even so, that year was one of the best of my life, and I didn't pocket a dime.

Volunteering can be incredibly rewarding hands-on work that is instrumental in protecting wildlife and habitat (plus, it can offer opportunities to get up close and personal with fascinating creatures). 

If you have the time - and don't need a paycheck - you can find information about volunteering in my new article:

Volunteer to Help Endangered Species