Global Inaction on Climate Change Could Wipe Out Emperor Penguins

The concept of a canary in a coal mine — a sensitive species that provides an alert to danger — originated with British miners, who carried actual canaries underground through the mid-1980s to detect the presence of deadly carbon monoxide gas. Today another bird, the Emperor Penguin, is providing a similar warning about the planetary effects of burning fossil fuels.

As a seabird ecologist, I develop mathematical models to understand and predict how seabirds respond to environmental change. My research integrates many areas of science, including the expertise of climatologists, to improve our ability to anticipate future ecological consequences of climate change.

Most recently, I worked with colleagues to combine what we know about the life history of Emperor Penguins with different potential climate scenarios outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. We wanted to understand how climate change could affect this iconic species, whose unique life habits were documented in the award-winning film “March of the Penguins.”

Our newly published study found that if climate change continues at its current rate, Emperor Penguins could virtually disappear by the year 2100 due to loss of Antarctic sea ice. However, a more aggressive global climate policy can halt the penguins’ march to extinction.

Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s Atmosphere

As many scientific reports have shown, human activities are increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere, which is warming the planet. Today atmospheric CO2 levels stand at slightly over 410 parts per million, well above anything the planet has experienced in millions of years.

If this trend continues, scientists project that CO2 in the atmosphere could reach 950 parts per million by 2100. These conditions would produce a very different world from today’s.

Emperor Penguins are living indicators whose population trends can illustrate the consequences of these changes. Although they are found in Antarctica, far from human civilization, they live in such delicate balance with their rapidly changing environment that they have become modern-day canaries.

A Fate Tied to Sea Ice

I have spent almost 20 years studying Emperor Penguins’ unique adaptations to the harsh conditions of their sea ice home. Each year, the surface of the ocean around Antarctica freezes over in the winter and melts back in summer. Penguins use the ice as a home base for breeding, feeding and molting, arriving at their colony from ocean waters in March or April after sea ice has formed for the Southern Hemisphere’s winter season.

In mid-May the female lays a single egg. Throughout the winter, males keep the eggs warm while females make a long trek to open water to feed during the most unforgiving weather on Earth.

When female penguins return to their newly hatched chicks with food, the males have fasted for four months and lost almost half their weight. After the egg hatches, both parents take turns feeding and protecting their chick. In September, the adults leave their young so that they can both forage to meet their chick’s growing appetite. In December, everyone leaves the colony and returns to the ocean.

Throughout this annual cycle, the penguins rely on a sea ice “Goldilocks zone” of conditions to thrive. They need openings in the ice that provide access to the water so they can feed, but also a thick, stable platform of ice to raise their chicks.

Penguin Population Trends

For more than 60 years, scientists have extensively studied one Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica, called Terre Adélie. This research has enabled us to understand how sea ice conditions affect the birds’ population dynamics. In the 1970s, for example, the population experienced a dramatic decline when several consecutive years of low sea ice cover caused widespread deaths among male penguins.

Over the past 10 years, my colleagues and I have combined what we know about these relationships between sea ice and fluctuations in penguin life histories to create a demographic model that allows us to understand how sea ice conditions affect the abundance of Emperor Penguins, and to project their numbers based on forecasts of future sea ice cover in Antarctica.

Once we confirmed that our model successfully reproduced past observed trends in Emperor Penguin populations around all Antarctica, we expanded our analysis into a species-level threat assessment.

Climate Conditions Determine Emperor Penguins’ Fate

When we used a climate model linked to our population model to project what is likely to happen to sea ice if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their present trend, we found that all 54 known Emperor Penguin colonies would be in decline by 2100, and 80% of them would be quasi-extinct. Accordingly, we estimate that the total number of Emperor Penguins will decline by 86% relative to its current size of roughly 250,000 if nations fail to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

However, if the global community acts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and succeeds in stabilizing average global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Faherenheit) above pre-industrial levels, we estimate that Emperor Penguin numbers would decline by 31% — still drastic, but viable.

Less-stringent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, leading to a global temperature rise of 2°C, would result in a 44% decline.

Our model indicates that these population declines will occur predominately in the first half of this century. Nonetheless, in a scenario in which the world meets the Paris climate targets, we project that the global Emperor Penguin population would nearly stabilize by 2100, and that viable refuges would remain available to support some colonies.

In a changing climate, individual penguins may move to new locations to find more suitable conditions. Our population model included complex dispersal processes to account for these movements. However, we find that these actions are not enough to offset climate-driven global population declines. In short, global climate policy has much more influence over the future of Emperor Penguins than the penguins’ ability to move to better habitat.

Our findings starkly illustrate the far-reaching implications of national climate policy decisions. Curbing carbon dioxide emissions has critical implications for Emperor Penguins and an untold number of other species for which science has yet to document such a plain-spoken warning.

Giant ancient shark may have gone extinct due to extinction of its small prey

https://phys.org/news/2017-01-giant-ancient-shark-extinct-due.html

Giant ancient shark may have gone extinct due to extinction of its small prey
Credit: “Did the giant extinct shark Carcharocles megalodon target small prey? Bite marks on marine mammal remains from the late Miocene of Peru” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2017.01.001

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with members from Italy, Belgium and Peru has found evidence that suggests the reason the giant shark megalodon went extinct millions of years ago, was because its small prey went extinct due to climate change. In their paper published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, the team describes fossils they found in Peru and their link to the giant ancient shark.

The new evidence came in the form of 7-million-year-old mammalian fossils recently uncovered in southern Peru—they were of a species of dwarf baleen whale and an early relative of a modern seal (both of which grew to only 5 meters long)—both had bite marks that the researchers believe came from a megalodon—the first discovered evidence of a  attack. This, the researchers suggest, indicates that one of megalodons’ preferred meal choices was a type of small whale that went extinct, leaving the giant sharks with too little to eat.

Prior research has suggested that the tiny baleen whales went extinct because they were unable to migrate to far-away feeding grounds as the Earth cooled, causing ice build-up at the poles, lower sea levels, and resulting in colder water. Large baleen whales, the ancestors of those alive today, were big enough to migrate for food, but those that were too small to make the trip died out. As the small whales disappeared, the researchers contend, the giant sharks found themselves without a reasonable substitute and unable to migrate themselves; because of that, they died out also.

This newest  might just be part of the story, however, as other recent research has suggested that megalodons suffered from competition with white sharks and perhaps killer whales.


More information: Alberto Collareta et al, Did the giant extinct shark Carcharocles megalodon target small prey? Bite marks on marine mammal remains from the late Miocene of Peru, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2017.01.001Abstract
We report on bite marks incising fossil mammal bones collected from upper Miocene deposits of the Pisco Formation exposed at Aguada de Lomas (southern Peru) and attributed to the giant megatooth shark Carcharocles megalodon. The bitten material includes skull remains referred to small-sized baleen whales as well as fragmentary cetacean and pinniped postcrania. These occurrences, the first in their kind from the Southern Hemisphere, significantly expand the still scarce record of bite marks for C. megalodon; moreover, for the first time a prey (or scavenging item) of C. megalodon is identified at the species level (as Piscobalaena nana, a diminutive member of the extinct mysticete family Cetotheriidae). Due to the fragmentary nature of the studied material, the exact origin of the detected marks (i.e., by scavenging or by active predation) cannot be ascertained. Nevertheless, relying on actualistic observations and size-based considerations, we propose that diminutive mysticetes (e.g., cetotheriids) were some of the target prey of adult C. megalodon, at least along the coast of present-day Peru. C. megalodon is thus here interpreted as an apex predator whose trophic spectrum was focused on relatively small-sized prey. Lastly, we propose a link between the recent collapse of various lineages of diminutive mysticetes (observed around 3 Ma) and the extinction of C. megalodon (occurring around the end of the Pliocene).

The madness of Extinction Rebellion

BRENDAN O’NEILL
EDITOR

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Yesterday, in London, I witnessed an eerie, chilling sight: I saw a death cult holding a ceremony in public.

The men and women gathered outside King’s Cross station and formed a circle. They swayed and chanted. They preached about End Times. ‘What will you do when the world gets hot, what, what?’, they intoned, conjuring up images of the hellfire they believe will shortly consume mankind. They sang hymns to their god – science. ‘We’ve got all the science / All that we need / To change the world / Hallelujah’, they sang, rocking side to side as they did so.

They demanded repentance. ‘Buy less, fly less, fry less’, said one placard. Catholics only demand the non-consumption of meat on Fridays, as an act of penance to mark the day of Christ’s death. This new religion demands an end to meat-consumption entirely, as penance for mankind’s sins of growth and progress.

And if you question their TRUTH? Then, like those heretics who were hauled before The Inquisition 500 years ago, you will be denounced as a denier. A denier of their revelations, a denier of their visions. ‘Denial is not a policy’, their placards decreed. Spotting me filming their spooky, apocalyptic ceremony, one of the attendees waved that placard in my face. A warning from the cult to a corrupted outsider.

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This was, of course, Extinction Rebellion. Let us no longer beat around the bush about these people. This is an upper-middle-class death cult.

This is a millenarian movement that might speak of science, but which is driven by sheer irrationalism. By fear, moral exhaustion and misanthropy. This is the deflated, self-loathing bourgeoisie coming together to project their own psycho-social hang-ups on to society at large. They must be criticised and ridiculed out of existence.

It was a gathering to mark Extinction Rebellion’s week of disruption. The group is asking people in London and other cities around the world to ‘take two weeks off work’ and join the revolt against the ‘climate and ecological crisis’. You can tell who they’re trying to appeal to. Working-class people and the poor of New Delhi, Mumbai and Cape Town – some of the cities in which Extinction Rebellion will be causing disruption – of course cannot afford to take two weeks off work. But then, these protests aren’t for those people. In fact, they’re against those people.

Extinction Rebellion is a reactionary, regressive and elitist movement whose aim is to impose the most disturbing form of austerity imaginable on people across the world. One of the great ironies of ‘progressive’ politics today is that people of a leftist persuasion will say it is borderline fascism if the Tory government closes down a library in Wolverhampton, but then they will cheer this eco-death cult when it demands a virtual halt to economic growth with not a single thought for the devastating, immiserating and outright lethal impact such a course of action would have on the working and struggling peoples of the world.

Extinction Rebellion says mankind is doomed if we do not cut carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2025. That’s six years’ time. Think about it: they want us to halt a vast array of human activity that produces carbon. All that Australian digging for coal; all those Chinese factories employing millions of people and producing billions of things used by people around the world; all those jobs in the UK in the fossil-fuel industries; all those coal-fired power stations; all that flying; all that driving… cut it all back, rein it in, stop it. And the people who rely on these things for their work and their food and their warmth? Screw them. They’re only humans. Horrible, destructive, stupid humans.

The sheer backwardness of Extinction Rebellion was captured when two of its members appeared on Sky News yesterday morning. They complained, hysterically, about modernity. One of them bemoaned all the electricity that is used in a city like London. So the very lighting up and warming of cities, the electricity that powers homes and workplaces and transport systems and life-support machines, is offensive to these hair-shirted, self-flagellating loathers of arrogant humankind. ‘Switch it all off’, is their alarmingly immoral cry.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show.

California condors reach recovery milestone

With a population of over 100 in California and Baja, the species could soon be downlisted.

This article is from Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Read more stories like this at HakaiMagazine.com

A narrow strip of US Route 1 brings millions of tourists a year to the steep chaparral flanks of the Santa Lucia Range of Big Sur, on the rugged central California coast. Head east into the mountainous Ventana Wilderness, however, and there are few roads and almost no development. On this remote terrain, five California condor chicks were getting ready to fledge in the October sunshine.

These six-month-old condors mark an important milestone for the species. Just 28 years ago, California condors were extinct in the wild. Now, with these five chicks, their population in central California has ticked above 100. Throughout the southwest United States, their total wild population is well over 300 and still increasing.

In the coming months, the Ventana Wildlife Society, which co-manages the central California condors with Pinnacles National Park, plans to release six more captive-bred condors, says Kelly Sorenson, the society’s executive director. The park also plans to release two, pushing the regional population to 111.

This California Condor, known as AC-4, was captured in the 1980s from the wild and has become a pivotal part of species recovery effort as he’s sired more than 30 chicks.

“To have more than a 10% increase in condor population in one year is just amazing,” Sorenson says. “The story of the condor is a hopeful one and shows we can make a difference if we work at it.”

This success has been decades in the making. By 1987, biologists had captured the last of the 27 wild California condors. The population of these black-feathered birds, with their large pinkish-orange heads and 10-foot wingspans, had shrunk from thousands spread across nearly all of the Pacific coast — from southern British Columbia to northern Baja California — to a handful in the coastal California mountains.

A captive breeding program, initiated in 1987, kept the birds from disappearing altogether. By 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was releasing juvenile condors into the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, nearly 44 miles east of Santa Barbara, California. But these birds were plagued by the same threat that had brought them down in the first place: lead.

Ranchers and farmers have long used lead bullets to shoot ground squirrels, coyotes, and other mammals. Condors would scavenge these carcasses then die. For California condors, even a small sliver of lead from a bullet fragment is fatal. Since the recovery program began in 1992, 83 condors have died from lead poisoning — 40% of the recorded deaths, Sorenson says.

The condors have hit this important new population milestone thanks in part to efforts to stamp out the threat of lead poisoning. Since 2012, the Ventana Wildlife Society has handed out lead-free ammunition to hunters and ranchers for free. And on July 1, California banned lead ammunition.

Another key piece in the recovery is the rebound of marine mammals on the California coast, where pinnipeds such as harbor seals and California sea lions are nearing their maximum sustainable populations. At the same time, cyclical fluctuations in their numbers, along with die-offs in El Niño years and during heatwaves, have given condors ample sustenance.

For many species, climate-driven changes in the Pacific Ocean are leading to a concerning uptick in marine mammal deaths. But harbor seals and California sea lions tend to rebound quickly, says Jim Harvey, director of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, about 40 miles north of Big Sur. Since condors feed on death, “there’s a little bit of nuance to it,” he notes.

The nutrient-rich flesh of marine mammals has actually been good for the birds.

“I’ve never seen condor chicks so fat and healthy as when their parents were feeding them from a beached gray whale,” says Joe Burnett, a biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society’s condor recovery program.

California condors are close to reaching the recovery goals set by Fish and Wildlife in 1996, which call for a wild flock of at least 150 in California and Baja as well as 150 in Utah and Arizona, with 15 nesting pairs in each region and a population that is self-sustaining, Sorenson says.

“We’re on the verge of attaining recovery goals, then we’ll need a whole new set of targets,” Sorenson says. “It’s exciting that we are close to downlisting condors from endangered to threatened.”

This article first appeared in Hakai Magazine and is republished with permission.

Editorial: Don’t give up on red wolves

Groups sue in bid to save red wolves (copy) (copy)
The once successful reintroduction of red wolves in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is now in jeopardy because the wild population has dwindled from about 150 to 14 in recent years. Without intervention, they could be declared extinct for a second time. Above, this file photo shows two sister red wolves bred at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge that were released into the wild.

The red wolf is in dire straits and in danger of going extinct in the wild — again.

To avoid this sad fate, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to reinvigorate its once successful reintroduction program in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Reserve, where the number of wolves has dwindled to about 14.

According to red wolf expert Christian Hunt of Defenders of Wildlife, “the tools are still there.” For starters, the USFWS needs to release more captive-bred wolves, reinstate adaptive management strategies and stand up to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which has fought the program, he said.

Meanwhile, the relatively healthy captive-breeding program needs to be continued to promote genetic diversity, and a coyote sterilization program, discontinued in 2015, needs to be restarted to prevent cross-breeding.

Eventually, the USFWS would need to find other habitats suitable for wild populations, such as the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri. Smaller wild populations might be reintroduced to Bull’s Island in the Cape Romain wilderness, where the captive breeding program flourished, or parts of the Francis Marion National Forest. A short-lived effort to reintroduce red wolves to the Great Smoky Mountains (1993-98) might also deserve a second look.

Establishing multiple wild populations would be the best safeguard against extinction. As it is, red wolves exist in the wild only in the Alligator River wilderness.

At the moment, the USFWS is rightly being sued by conservation groups for failing to make public what it is doing to save the lone wild population from extinction. Absent renewed conservation efforts, most wildlife biologists expect red wolves to become extinct within a decade, according to a species status report published by the USFWS last year.

Declared extinct in the wild in 1980, the canine predator that used to roam much of the Eastern United States made a tentative comeback between 1987 and 2012, thanks largely to a captive breeding program in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge that enabled the USFWS to reintroduce the wolves in North Carolina.

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But around 2006, the wild population in North Carolina peaked around 125 wolves and has been declining ever since. About a quarter of the wild wolves lost were shot or trapped. Others were run over by cars or poisoned. A 2016 study in the Journal of Wildlife Management concluded that about half the deaths involved some manner of “foul play.”

And in 2015, the USFWS stopped releasing captive-bred pups into the wild in part because of opposition from North Carolina wildlife officials. The federal agency also stopped sterilizing coyotes in the area to prevent cross breeding.

We shouldn’t give up on the red wolf and neither should the USFWS. Congress must provide the wildlife service with the funding and legislation needed to save the species. And farmers, hunters and the general public need to realize that predators like wolves play an important role in keeping nature in balance. For example, researchers believe sea turtles have fared better in areas where red wolves have been reintroduced because the wolves reduced the number of turtle-egg-eating raccoons.

It would be shameful to let red wolves go extinct in light of good evidence that they can be, and have been, successfully reintroduced to the wild. We may not get another chance.

Seven Worlds, One Planet review – breathtaking, moving, harrowing

David Attenborough and the BBC play us like pianos – and at this point in the evolution of natural history TV, they are maestros. Prepare to weep

A face-off between a penguin and a giant leopard seal in Seven Worlds, One Planet.
 A face-off between a penguin and a giant leopard seal in Seven Worlds, One Planet. Photograph: BBC NHU

Any nature programme is now, in essence, just a list of things we’re killing. A record for posterity (whatever that looks like) of what we once had and fished, boiled and starved to death via climate breakdown. But if you can set aside the growing sense of fiddling with the remote control while Rome and every single other point on the globe burns, there is still much to enjoy in the latest offering from the BBC: Seven Worlds, One Planet.

Each earthly continent gets an episode narrated by David Attenborough (can you imagine the calls from the agent of any land mass whose wasn’t?), beginning with the one we only noticed 200 years ago – Antarctica. In spring, king penguin chicks, endlessly adorable and absurd, mass on St Andrew’s Bay beach in South Georgia under strict instructions from their parents (who are no more able to tell them apart than we are, unless they can hear their voices) not to move, but toddle off to investigate seedheads and elephant seals regardless.

In summer, humpback whales blow spiralling walls of bubbles in the southern ocean to corral some of the 400 trillion krill in existence into banquet-sized groups so they can survive the rest of the year. In autumn, teenage chicks and pups do their best to avoid predators and grow to adulthood. In winter, only the deep sea life continues unperturbed as the sea above them freezes at a rate of 40,000 sq miles a day. Sea anemones catch jellyfish and feast for four days. Three-metre-long worms ripple across rocks. Hermaphroditic white frills known as nudibranchs fertilise each other. Blue and orange starfish continue to starfish as they have for millennia.

David Attenborough in Seven Worlds, One Planet.
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 David Attenborough in Seven Worlds, One Planet. Photograph: Alex Board/BBC NHU

As ever, the makers play us like pianos and at this stage of natural history television’s evolution they are maestros. Majesty – snowy wastelands! The largest congregation of feeding whales ever filmed! – is followed by melancholy. Warming glaciers are calving so rapidly that their floating rubble masks the penguins’ enemies from them – and the depredations against the environment and its wildlife are putting their function as a massive carbon sponge for the world in jeopardy.

Triumph is followed by disaster, or as close to the latter as they think we can bear. And there is the emotionally pulverising set piece. This one was provided by the albatross chick blown out of its nest by one of the increasingly violent storms (for which we and our climate-convulsing ways are also responsible) and its desperate attempts, amid the lifeless bodies of even less fortunate babies, to clamber back in. It chirped uselessly at its mother, who ignored it utterly. Adult albatross recognise their offspring only by virtue of them being on the nests where they left them. Watching the chick flail at the feet of its oblivious parent was every childhood nightmare made flesh. At last, it got there, and was tucked under the warm maternal belly once more. The creatures around which the mini-narratives centre have an almost suspiciously uniform tendency to survive while their compatriots die, but if there are shenanigans or filmic sleight-of-hand going on here, let the record show that I consider this very much in the tradition of public service.

The show concludes, as is customary, on a hopeful note: the recovery of the southern right whales.
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 The show concludes, as is customary, on a hopeful note: the recovery of the southern right whales. Photograph: Stephen Bradley/BBC NHU

It was all as gorgeous, breathtaking, moving and harrowing as we have come to expect from this world-leading branch of the BBC. There is nothing to criticise or cavil at here, unless you consider yourself to be on sufficiently high moral ground to whine that it and Attenborough could have started leveraging their power to highlight the environmental crisis some time before they did.

We exited, as is customary, on a hopeful note: the recovery of the southern right whales since the ban on commercial whaling (adhered to, the programme noted with a level of detail unusual enough to be considered pointed, by all except Japan, Norway and Iceland) in 1986. 35 remaining females have become a population of 2,000.

So on, possibly, we go.

‘We Should Be Worried’: Study Confirms Fear That Intense Ocean Acidification Portends Ecological Collapse

“We have been warned.”

A new study regarding fossil records reveals that ocean acidification could cause mass extinction. (Photo: Rodfather/Flickr/cc)

The acidification of the Earth’s oceans, which climate scientists warn is a dangerous effect of continued carbon emissions, was behind a mass extinction event 66 million years ago, according to a new study.

Small-shelled marine organisms survived the meteorite that struck the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, according to researchers at the GFZ geosciences research center in Potsdam, Germany, but the subsequent sharp drop in pH levels in the ocean caused the marine life to go extinct.

“We show ocean acidification can precipitate ecological collapse,” Michael Henehan, who led the study, told The Guardian.

Researchers examined shell fossils in sediment dating back to the time period just after the meteorite struck the planet, which showed that the oceans’ pH dropped by about 0.25 units in the 100 to 1,000 years after the strike.

“In the boundary clay, we managed to capture them just limping on past the asteroid impact,” Henehan said.

But, the newspaper reported, “It was the knock-on effects of acidification and other stresses, such as the ‘nuclear winter’ that followed the impact, that finally drove these foraminifera to extinction.”

“We have been warned,” climate campaigner Ed Matthew tweeted with a link to the research, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Today, climate scientists warn that the continued burning of oil, gas, and coal is causing ocean acidification that, left unchecked, could cause a pH drop of 0.4 units.

If policymakers are able to help limit the warming of the globe to two degrees Celsius by ordering that fossil fuels be left in the ground and shifting to a renewable energy economy, the ocean’s pH level could drop just 0.15 units.

“If 0.25 was enough to precipitate a mass extinction, we should be worried,” Henahan told The Guardian.

As Common Dreams reported in July, MIT researchers also recently turned their attention to ocean acidification as well. The researchers released data showing that today’s carbon levels could be fast approaching a tipping point threshold that could trigger extreme ocean acidification similar to the kind that contributed to the Permian–Triassic mass extinction, which occurred about 250 million years ago.

Angry commuters drag Extinction Rebellion protesters off trains during London travel disruption

(CNN)London commuters dragged climate change protesters off the top of trains on Thursday morning, as clashes broke out between peak-hour passengers and activists who disrupted travel in the British capital.

Protesters from the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion climbed onto carriages and glued themselves to trains, bringing parts of the city’s transport network to a grinding halt.
Demonstrators, who are intent on forcing government action on ecological breakdown, hung a black banner in the east London station of Canning Town that read: “Business as usual = Death.”
With trains stopped at the station, angry commuters soon took action into their own hands. Videos on social media showed a large crowd shouting at a protester on top of a train and throwing objects at him, before a commuter grabbed his ankles and dragged him off the roof. The crowd below surged forward into a physical altercation, which ended only after station staff and other passengers intervened.
Four people have been arrested so far due to the “obstruction incidents at Stratford and Canning Town,” according to the British Transport Police (BPT).
The BPT added that they were still at Shadwell Station, where “specialist teams are working to remove four other protesters.”
Commuters took to social media to criticize Extinction Rebellion’s actions, saying that the group was alienating working people by disrupting public transport, and that blocking an electric DLR train was “hypocritical,” as it forced passengers to take taxis to work.
But Extinction Rebellion has said the actions are necessary to bring about the type of radical change necessary to reverse the climate crisis.
“The question people need to be asking themselves is, ‘why does anyone, regardless of their class, regardless of their race, feel willing to put themselves in a situation as dangerous as the one we saw this morning. Protesters have shown an incredible act of sacrifice to fight for the lives of thousands of people around the world, who are already dying because of this ecological crisis,” Joel Scott-Halkes, a spokesman for Extinction Rebellion told CNN.
Extinction Rebellion protesters hold a sign that reads: "Business as usual = Death."

“This is not about disrupting specific types of transport, but disrupting business as usual… everything needs to stop and we need to make drastic changes,” he added.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned protesters for the action, which he said was “dangerous,” “counterproductive” and an “unacceptable disruption to Londoners who use public transport to get to work.”
Khan urged the demonstrators to “protest peacefully and within the boundaries of the law,” adding that their action was an unfair burden on an already overstretched police force.
In a statement Thursday morning, after the fights broke out, Extinction Rebellion said the protesters had understood that violence “was a possibility,” but that they were willing to go to prison for their cause.
The group added that it had targeted the central London Underground lines because it would “have a severe impact upon business within the capital.”
Normal service has now resumed across London’s transport network, according to the Transport for London site. All other lines are operating as usual, but are wary of further scuffles — the Metropolitan Line posted on Twitter asking commuters not to attack the protesters or “resort to violence.”
Canning Town Station was closed down during the scuffles, but has since been reopened.
Just this week, London became the first city to prohibit Extinction Rebellion from staging protests. Police cleared activists from makeshift camps in Trafalgar Square and other sites in London, where the group had congregated since its “International Rebellion” protest began last week.
London’s Metropolitan Police said the crackdown was intended to prevent “ongoing serious disruption to the community.”
Extinction Rebellion decried the London ban as “erosion of democracy,” and called for greater attention to the climate crisis as hand. The day after the ban was announced, the movement’s co-founder, Gail Bradbrook, climbed atop the entrance of the UK Department of Transport while other activists glued themselves to the building below. Bradbrook was arrested shortly afterward.
Since Extinction Rebellion launched a year ago, the decentralized organization has attracted thousands of protesters to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at forcing government action on ecological breakdown.
Though they have helped transform the public debate surrounding the climate crisis, they have also been criticized for their tactics. In previous demonstrations, they have sprayed 1,800 liters of fake blood at Britain’s finance ministry, poured fake blood over the famous Charging Bull statue on New York’s Wall Street, and glued themselves to the entrance of a power company’s offices in the Netherlands.

Sarawak to make the pangolin a totally protected species

The pangolin, a unique and protected species among Bornean mammals in Sarawak, is to have its classification upgraded to the “totally protected” category in the state. — NSTP Archive By Bernama – October 14, 2019 @ 10:00pm

KUCHING: The pangolin, a unique and protected species among Bornean mammals in Sarawak, is to have its classification upgraded to the “totally protected” category in the state.

The animal, which is also known as the “Scaly Anteater” or its scientific name Manis javanica, has been topping the chart as the most frequently seized mammal in Asia’s illegal wildlife trade and is currently facing extinction.

Naming the shy and quiet animal as his favourite, Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton said the corporation would conduct a study to find out its current population, before submitting a proposal to the government to upgrade its category.

This, he said, was a common procedure.

However, he added that if there were indicators, for instance from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, saying that they had to do it immediately than the classification upgrade would be made a priority.

“For now, on our job list, we want to review our Wildlife Masterplan, after that the relevant laws, but if there are indicators by outsiders, if they say, look you must do it, if not they (species) will go extinct, then we have to put it as priority,” he said.

In Sarawak, species that are totally protected may not be kept as pets, hunted, captured, killed, sold, imported or exported or disturbed in any way, nor may anyone be in possession of any recognizable part of these animals.

Animals in the category include the proboscis monkey, the bornean gibbon, rhinoceros, naked bat, dugong and marine turtles.

Zolkipli said Sarawak still had quite a number of pangolin, but in other states, the numbers were declining.

“So, these smugglers now want to come over here (Sarawak). We have been warned by other people, better look after your pangolins.”

He said the animal, being a rare and hardly seen species, had numerous myths surrounded it, especially among traditional medicine practitioners, which contributed to demand, among others, for its scales.

“They say it has medicinal value, but I can quote an article by the World Conservation Society that says that pangolins scales are made of keratin, which is the same material as human fingernails, so in reality there is no medicinal value there, but because of tradition, people tend to go for these things.

“There are some who like its meat, but pangolin meat is not even fleshy,” he said.

Zolkipli said the SFC would also review its wildlife-related laws to increase the penalty for offenders.

Traffic Southeast Asia director Kanitha Krishnasamy, in an article earlierthis year, posed a rather intriguing question about the penalty involving offences related to wildlife smuggling in the country and wanted state governments to review their laws.

Citing a case on Feb 7 this year, where Sabah Police and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) shut down a pangolin processing factory and warehouse after seizing 30 tonnes of pangolin and body parts.

She was quoted as saying that the maximum amount of fine under the state’s enactment was nowhere near the syndicate’s possible revenue.

“This is also important because the worst financial penalty the suspect in the Feb 7 case may get, if convicted under the Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment, is a fine of RM250,000.

“Meanwhile authorities have valued the seized items at RM8.4 million, making the syndicate’s revenue 33 times higher than the law’s heftiest fine,” she was quoted as saying.

The pangolin, with its prehensile tail and lacking teeth, normally eats ants and termites taken from nests in trees, on the ground or below ground with insect nests opened with their strongly clawed feet and the contents licked up with the long, sticky tongue.

Usually nocturnal, sleeping during the daytime in underground burrows, it is mostly seen on roads at night, where it is slow-moving and conspicuous, although the eyes reflect very little light. – Bernama

https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2019/10/529938/sarawak-make-pangolin-totally-protected-species

What we lose when animals go extinct

Animals are disappearing at hundreds of times the normal rate, primarily because of shrinking habitats. Their biggest threat: humans.

No trace of the wild South China tiger, Panthera tigris amoyensis (critically endangered, possibly extinct in the wild), has been seen for more than a decade. Zoos hold fewer than 200 in… Read More
SUZHOU SOUTH CHINA TIGER BREEDING BASE

This story appears in the October 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

LIFE, BESIEGED

Most of the animals shown here are among the more than 28,000 species of animals and plants that the International Union for Conservation of Nature says are threatened with extinction. That number actually understates the risk. Since 1964, when the IUCN established a “red list” of threatened species and began compiling data gathered worldwide, the list has become the preeminent global database of endangered life and an essential tool for conservation policy. Yet the IUCN has been able to assess only about 106,000 species of the more than 1.5 million species of animals and more than 300,000 plants that scientists have described and named—which they estimate is less than a quarter of what’s really out there. A recent intergovernmental report on the biodiversity crisis estimated that extinction threatens up to a million animal and plant species, known and unknown. The IUCN hopes to raise the number of species assessments to 160,000 by 2020. Next up on its agenda: a “green list” of conservation successes. It will be much shorter than the red one.

The large yellow-footed tortoise, Chelonoidis denticulata (vulnerable), from South America and the Caribbean, is hunted for its meat, which is considered a delicacy. It also is captured and traded as a pet.KANSAS CITY ZOO, MISSOURI

THE BIGGEST THREAT: HUMANS

Habitat loss—driven primarily by human expansion as we develop land for housing, agriculture, and commerce—is the biggest threat facing most animal species, followed by hunting and fishing. Even when habitat is not lost entirely, it may be changed so much that animals cannot adapt. Fences fragment a grassland or logging cuts through a forest, breaking up migration corridors; pollution renders a river toxic; pesticides kill widely and indiscriminately. To those local threats one must increasingly add global ones: Trade, which spreads disease and invasive species from place to place, and climate change, which eventually will affect every species on Earth—starting with the animals that live on cool mountaintops or depend on polar ice. All of these threats lead, directly or indirectly, back to humans and our expanding footprint. Most species face multiple threats. Some can adapt to us; others will vanish.

Left: Humphead wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus (endangered)
Right: Arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus (least concern)
DALLAS WORLD AQUARIUM (LEFT) AND GREAT BEND–BRIT SPAUGH ZOO, KANSAS (RIGHT)
Lesser flamingo, Phoeniconaias minor (near threatened)CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO

If we lived in an ordinary time—time here being understood in the long, unhurried sense of a geologic epoch—it would be nearly impossible to watch a species vanish. Such an event would occur too infrequently for a person to witness. In the case of mammals, the best-studied group of animals, the fossil record indicates that the “background” rate of extinction, the one that prevailed before humans entered the picture, is so low that over the course of a millennium, a single species should disappear.

But of course we don’t live in an ordinary time. Everywhere we look, species are winking out. Just in the past decade, two mammal species have gone extinct: a bat known as the Christmas Island pipistrelle and a rat, the Bramble Cay melomys.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists more than 200 mammal species and subspecies as critically endangered. In some cases, like the Sumatran rhino or the vaquita—a porpoise native to the Gulf of California—there are fewer than a hundred individuals left. In others, like the baiji (also known as the Yangtze River dolphin), the species, though not yet officially declared extinct, has probably died out.

Bachman’s warbler, Vermivora bachmanii (critically endangered, possibly extinct)
One of the United States’ smallest native warblers, it may already be extinct because of severe habitat loss from development in the southeastern U.S. and its Cuban wintering grounds. The last time a live sighting was reported was in 1988.TALL TIMBERS RESEARCH STATION AND LAND CONSERVANCY, FLORIDA

And unfortunately, what goes for mammals goes for just about every other animal group: reptiles, amphibians, fish, even insects. Extinction rates today are hundreds—perhaps thousands—of times higher than the background rate. They’re so high that scientists say we’re on the brink of a mass extinction.

The last mass extinction, which did in the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago, followed an asteroid impact. Today the cause of extinction seems more diffuse. It’s logging and poaching and introduced pathogens and climate change and overfishing and ocean acidification.

But trace all these back and you find yourself face-to-face with the same culprit. The great naturalist E.O. Wilson has noted that humans are the “first species in the history of life to become a geophysical force.” Many scientists argue that we have entered a new geologic epoch—the Anthropocene, or age of man. This time around, in other words, the asteroid is us.

Gray woolly monkey, Lagothrix cana (endangered)
This young, malnourished woolly monkey from Brazil was raised as a pet. When she was captured, her mother likely was killed. Environmental police rescued her, and she’s been treated, but she’ll need to live in captivity the rest of her life.CETAS-IBAMA, BRAZIL

What’s lost when an animal goes extinct?

One way to think of a species, be it of ape or of ant, is as an answer to a puzzle: how to live on planet Earth. A species’ genome is a sort of manual; when the species perishes, that manual is lost. We are, in this sense, plundering a library—the library of life. Instead of the Anthropocene, Wilson has dubbed the era we are entering the Eremozoic—the age of loneliness.

This article is adapted from Joel Sartore’s new book, Vanishing, published by National Geographic Books.

Joel Sartore has been photographing animals for his Photo Ark project for 13 years. In an ever growing number of cases, animals housed in zoos or special breeding facilities are among the last remaining members of their species. In some instances, they are the only members.

Toughie, a Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog from central Panama, lived at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. He became the last known of his kind when a fungal disease swept through his native habitat and a captive-breeding program failed. Toughie died in 2016, and it’s likely the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog is now extinct.

Romeo, a Sehuencas water frog that lives at the natural history museum in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was likewise believed to be a sole survivor. Scientists created an online dating profile for him. It linked to a donation page, and the $25,000 raised helped fund expeditions in the eastern Andes, where the species was once abundant.

Amazingly, the search has revealed five more Sehuencas water frogs, two males and three females. All were taken to Cochabamba; the one female mature enough to breed with Romeo was named Juliet. Whether she will prove a worthy mate and perpetuate the species, no one knows.

Was the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog beautiful? Not in the flashy way of, say, the Spix’s macaw (which is believed to be extinct in the wild) or the Gee’s golden langur (which is endangered). But with its expressive brown eyes and gangly limbs, it had its own kind of charm.

Niho tree snail, Partula nodosa (extinct in the wild)ST. LOUIS ZOO

Sartore treats all creatures—great and small, handsome and homely—with reverence. His photos capture what’s singular and, I’d also like to say, soulful about every living thing. One of my favorite images of Joel’s is of a Partula nodosa, or niho tree snail, laying down a trail of slime. There used to be dozens of Partula species in the South Pacific, occupying different islands and different ecological niches. Much like Darwin’s finches, they are the darlings of evolutionary biologists—living, slime-producing illustrations of the power of natural selection. The introduction of carnivorous snails from Florida drove nearly a third of the Partula species extinct; several survive solely thanks to captive-breeding programs.

Precisely because extinction takes place so frequently now, it’s possible to become inured to it. This desensitizing is what makes Sartore’s images so crucial: They show us just how remarkable each species is that’s being lost.

We live in an extraordinary time. Perhaps by recognizing this, we can begin to imagine creating a different one—one that preserves, as much as is still possible, the wonderful diversity of life.


THREAT: DISEASE

Since the 1980s, a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis, likely spread through direct contact and by infected water, has ravaged global amphibian populations. More than 500 species have been affected; 90 of these may be extinct. The fungus disrupts transmission of electrolytes through the skin of a frog or toad, ultimately stopping its heart.


THREAT: INVASIVE SPECIES

Kagu, Rhynochetos jubatus (endangered)
Like many island species, the nearly flightless kagu, native to the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, was seriously affected by the arrival in the late 1700s of European settlers and their animals. Roughly chicken size, the kagu continues to fall prey to non-native pigs, cats, and dogs. The birds nest on the ground, and rats eat their eggs. Recent population estimates suggest fewer than a thousand kagu survive. Scientists nevertheless have some hope for the future: Decades of successful captive breeding have resulted in the reintroduction of the birds to the wild, and predator control has allowed some populations to rebound.HOUSTON ZOO

THREAT: FRAGMENTATION

Mhorr gazelle, Nanger dama mhorr (critically endangered)
This subspecies of the dama gazelle was once widespread across the western Sahara. Now there are fewer than 300 damas combined in Mali, Chad, and Niger. Their range is broken up by grazing lands for livestock, and they’re at risk from hunting. Reintroduction of captive-bred animals has had mixed success.BUDAPEST ZOO

THREAT: HABITAT LOSS

Butterflies can fly long distances and feed on many types of flowers, but caterpillars are locavores, eating plants they hatch on or near. As those plants are lost to development or farming, butterflies disappear. The ones here aren’t listed by the IUCN—which has evaluated only 8,100 insect species—but are considered at risk by other authorities.


THREAT: POACHING

Asian elephant, Elephas maximus (endangered)
Early in the 20th century, perhaps 100,000 elephants roamed across Asia. Since then, their population likely has been cut in half. They’re killed not just for their ivory tusks but also for their meat and hides—and sometimes in retaliation for the damage they do to crops.LOS ANGELES ZOO

THREAT: DEFORESTATION

For tree-dwelling lemurs, there’s no life without the forest—or Madagascar, their only home. Yet the island nation has lost 80 percent of its trees to development, charcoal production, and slash-and-burn agriculture. Lemurs are squeezed into limited protected areas; 38 species are critically endangered. Fuel-efficient stoves are being introduced to encourage people to reduce wood use and protect forest habitat.

Diademed sifaka, Propithecus diadema (critically endangered)
Females may only be fertile one day a year, limiting this lemur’s ability to rebuild fragmented populations.LEMUR ISLAND, MADAGASCAR
Left: Aye-aye, Daubentonia madagascariensis (endangered)
Though rare, this lemur—the world’s largest nocturnal primate, at around six pounds—is still found across the island. But local lore holds that aye-ayes are bad luck, and they’re often killed… Read More
DENVER ZOO (LEFT) AND OMAHA’S HENRY DOORLY ZOO AND AQUARIUM, NEBRASKA (RIGHT)