Environment Forum

Global warming research getting more dangerous?

polar.gif Talk about occupational hazards.Five Wildlife Conservation Society scientists studying the effects of global warming on shorebirds in Arctic Alaska had to be airlifted away from their remote camp late last month because of the appearance of another species whose life is changing as warming helps erode shores and melt sea ice. The researchers said a polar bear stuck on land forced them to evacuate their camp north of the remote Teshekpuk Lake on the Beaufort Sea –leaving food and tents behind.  The carnivorous bears would normally be out on sea ice this time of year. But with recent warming the ice is miles from shore and polar bears, which were recently listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, are becoming increasingly trapped on land well away from their usual seal prey, said Dr. Steve Zack, who leads Arctic studies for WCS ”We had no idea how hungry they’d be and thus how ornery they’d be,” Zack, who made the decision for the researchers to evacuate even though they had been trained in bear safety, told me by his mobile phone from his current base near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. ”Where there’s one polar bear there are usually more,” he said, adding that government scientists have seen 32 polar bears stuck on shore this year, up from only one or two in previous years. In subsequent fly-overs over the abandoned camp, the team discovered that bears had eaten all of the food left by the researchers and destroyed two $500 tents. ”It was an ironic circumstance that studying climate change issues for our shorebirds put us in harm’s way with climate change effects on polar bears,” said Zack.  Image by Mark Maftei, WCS 

Good news on the Texas turtle front


There are two turtle tales brewing on the coast of Texas at the moment and they’re both good.

First the numbers tale. 

The dedicated folks at the South Padre Island conservation facility Sea Turtle, Inc, report record numbers of nests by endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

“We have had record numbers of ridley nests on the Texas coast this year. We have found over 170 so far in 2008 compared to the previous record of 128 for all of last year,” Sea Turtle, Inc, curator Jeff George told Reuters.

Carbon credits to rescue a Madagascar forest?

lemur1.jpgCan credits traded in the world’s financial centers stop local farmers in Madagascar from burning up a rain forest filled with lemurs and other life found nowhere else in the world?    

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society is working with the government of Madagascar to sell about 9.5 million tonnes of carbon credits to help save the Makira Forest, which contains 22 species of lemurs, hundreds of bird species and thousands of plants. Many of those species are found nowhere else on the planet. 

 ”We want to create incentives so people don’t deforest,” Ray Victurine, the finance expert at WCS, told me. 

Chinese turtle species depends on two very old zoo guests


The fate of a Chinese species may rest on whether the turtles in this photo mate.   

Biologists believe only four Yangtze giant softshell turtles are left on the planet.  So this month they shipped a more than 80-year-old female that had been living in China’s Changsha Zoo more than 600 miles to the only known male in China, who is more than 100 years old and lives at the Suzhou Zoo.

“I hate to call this a desperation move, but it really was,” said Rick Hudson, a conservation biologist at the Fort Worth, Texas Zoo who helped coordinate the move. “With only one female known worldwide, and given that we have lost three captive specimens over the past two years, what choice did we have?”