Tag: conservation

Branson Plans to Make Lemur Paradise; Scientists Say, "It's Pretty Weird"

By Veronique Greenwood | April 22, 2011 2:14 pm

Branson’s plan to save lemurs is turning heads.

If you build Madagascar’s lemurs a new home, will they come? And can you trust them not to trash the place?

Sir Richard Branson, private moon shot funder, Virgin Group kingpin, kooky billionaire du jour, has been turning heads with his announcement that he plans to import 30 ring-tailed lemurs from zoos to one of his privately owned islands in the British Virgin Islands. The idea is to give endangered or threatened species a new place to live and breed—Madagascar’s civil war has meant a resurgence in lemur habitat loss, and ring-taileds are listed as “near threatened”—but biologists and conservationists are pointing out how Branson could be doing the island’s native ecosystem a serious disservice. “It’s pretty weird,” Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission, told the BBC. “What else lives on the island, and how might they be affected?”

Read More

2 Ways to Keep an Eye on Illegal Logging: Watch on Tiger-Cam; Bug the Trees

By Jennifer Welsh | October 12, 2010 5:24 pm

Motion-activated cameras have been used to catch bad nannies and adulterers for years. But in the forest, a high-tech, heat-detecting nannycam has caught video not just of the rare tigers that were its intended targets, but also of some unexpected forest-dwellers: illegal loggers.

In the video to the right, you can see a rare Sumatran tiger (one of only 400 left in Indonesia) strolling up to the forest spy camera and saying hello in Indonesia’s Riau Province. Seven days later a beast of a very different kind awakens the camera: a bulldozer leveling the forest.

The next day, another tiger passes by the spot, across the front of the clear-cut forest. The forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations, according to the WWF:

“Because of its status, both as a protected area and limited production forest, the area cannot be developed as a palm oil plantation, therefore any forest clearance, including bulldozing activities to clear the path, strongly indicates this excavation was illegal,” said Ian Kosasih, director of WWF-Indonesia’s forest and species program.

The forest in this area, called Bukit Batabuh, is protected because it serves as a corridor between two wildlife parks. Continued bulldozing in this area is fragmenting the Sumatran tiger’s habitat, making it more difficult for the big cats to find food, mates, and shelter.

Across the world, researchers are trying another high-tech tactic to keep an eye on logging practices. A new study in Brazil has been radio tagging trees in the Amazon to monitor the sustainability of the logging operations occurring in the area.

Read More

How to Save Gorillas: Turn People on to Snail Farming

By Smriti Rao | April 30, 2010 12:38 pm

04-29-Cross_river_gorilla_2Gorilla conservationists in Nigeria have a new ally–snails.

The critically endangered Cross River gorilla is under constant threat from poachers in this poor nation, as poachers kill the animals for their bushmeat or sell them illegally to traffickers in the exotic pet trade. With just 300 Cross River gorillas left, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hopes to offer locals an alternate source of both food and revenue so they’ll leave the poor apes alone. Enter the snail.

For this conservation project, the WCS picked eight former gorilla poachers and got them to start farming African giant snails, a local delicacy. The WCS helped the poachers construct snail pens and stocked each pen with 230 giant snails, writes Scientific American. As the snails breed quickly, farmers can expect a harvest of 3,000 snails per year. Scientific American adds:

According to WCS, this should end up being a fairly profitable enterprise for local farmers. Annual costs are estimated at just $87 per farmer, with profits around $413 per year. The meat of one gorilla, says the WCS, would net a poacher around $70.

Related Content:
80beats: Bushmeat Debate: How Can We Save Gorillas Without Starving People?
80beats: New Threat to Primates Worldwide: Being “Eaten Into Extinction”
DISCOVER: Extinction–It’s What’s for Dinner

Image: Wikipedia

The Ultimate in Sustainable Toys: A Placenta Teddy Bear

By Melissa Lafsky | October 1, 2009 3:14 pm

placentabearWebWe’re all for sustainable toys. After all, having children is the single most carbon-intensive action human beings can take, so the least we can do is give our kids a recycled rubber ball or eco-friendly duckie to play with.

And so we applaud the efforts of green-minded design group [re]design in putting together an exhibition of sustainable toys from around the world. But there is a line to all of this. And that line is the Placenta Teddy Bear. If you want to eat it, that’s your business—but forcing your placenta on the world in the name of sustainability is another matter. Here’s a description, courtesy of Inhabitots:

A crafty alternative for those who don’t necessarily want to eat their baby’s placenta, but want to pay their respects to the life sustaining organ by turning it into a one-of-a-kind teddy bear. Green’s ‘Twin Teddy Kit’ ‘celebrates the unity of the infant, the mother and the placenta,’ and enables preparation of the placenta so it may be transformed into a teddy bear. The placenta must be cut in half and rubbed with sea salt to cure it. After it is dried out, it is treated with an emulsifying mixture of tannin and egg yolk to make it soft and pliable. Then, you craft it into a teddy bear.

Then, you wait for the apocalypse. Which can’t come too soon.

(Hat tip to Maia Weinstock.)

Related Content:
Discoblog: Cooking with Joel Stein: How to Eat a Placenta
Discoblog: Uncontroversial Stem Cells Are Just a Used Tampon Away

Image: Inhabitots

Conservation and Boozing Collide: Turning Rainwater Into Beer

By Brett Israel | September 30, 2009 12:45 pm

Atlanta was hit hard with heavy rains and severe flooding last week. But for a part of the country that was in such a deep drought the governor resorted to praying for rain, it makes sense that the good citizens of the ATL aren’t letting this newfound water go to waste. In fact, the conservationists at 5 Seasons Brewing Company in Atlanta are using their collected rainwater to make beer.

From The Huffington Post:

The local brewery uses 100% filtered rainwater that’s captured on-site to create their “green beer” (not to be confused with the St. Patrick’s Day type). The brewers believe that rainwater is cleaner and softer than city water, which makes their beer even better.

And here’s the video, from CNN:

Embedded video from CNN Video

Related Content:
DISCOVER: From Toilet To Tap
Discoblog: Today’s Conservation Gimmick: Drink Your Shower Water!
Discoblog: The Science-Minded Frat Boy’s Dream: A PhD in Beer-ology?

Image: flickr / brendan.wood

Beware the Gray Squirrels! Brits Campaign to Kill All "Alien" Species

By Brett Israel | September 21, 2009 1:20 pm

gray_squirrelA leading British conservationist is reportedly playing the “eco-xenophobia” card. While the Brits ramp up their campaign to weed out so-called “alien species” (aka “not native to Britain”) like gray squirrels, parakeets, and rhododendrons, Ian Rotherham, Director of the Environmental Change Research Unit at Sheffield Hallam University, is saying not so fast. He believes that these foreign species attract extra attention simply because they ain’t from ’round here, and that they are no more harmful than any other creatures on British soil.

The London Guardian quotes Rotherham on his reasoning:

“I’ve coined the term ‘Eco-xenophobia’ to stress the idea that we are making judgements not through objectively supported science but through mistaken ideas of what is native, what is alien, and hence what is good or bad,” he said. “Many of these ideas and concepts are very recent and disguise real and serious issues of problem species and of sustainable land management and custodianship. What’s worse perhaps, is that they resonate with ideas growing with the [British National Party] in the UK, and with other right wing groups across Europe.”

The Department for the Environment, however says that invasive species cost the British economy at least £2billion a year, so yeah, they are kind of a problem.

The New York Times reported back in January on one way the Brits are culling their vermin—squirrel soup and pie, anyone?

Related Content:

Discoblog: Attack of the Robosquirrels
Discoblog: Mammals Attack the Middle East, Part II
DISCOVER Gallery: Conservation Cuisine: Is Vermin the Meat of the Future?

Image: flickr / infomatique

Suits Revolting: Bangladesh PM Bans Suits, Ties to Conserve Energy

By Allison Bond | September 3, 2009 1:36 pm

suitThe dress code in Bangladesh just got a lot more casual, thanks to an effort to cut the nation’s energy usage. According to the prime minister’s orders, men can no longer wear ties, jackets, or suits to work. The new rule is part of a plan to combat the power shortage the country is facing. And during the year’s hottest months (March through November), men need only wear pants and shirts, which can even be untucked(!).

Bangladesh has taken other measures to decrease energy usage, according to BBC:

Officials and ministers have also been told not to turn their air-conditioners below 24C [or 75 degrees Fahrenheit]. In June, the government introduced daylight saving, and the clocks moved forward by one hour, in another attempt to cut energy consumption.

It has said it will also soon spend $6bn (£3.6bn) on new power plants, operated by private companies. The current state-owned plants have not been able to keep up with Bangladesh’s large population and its economy, which has been growing at about 6% annually for the past five years.

Seems like this idea could be, well, suitable for other heat-drenched places such as the southern United States. After all, it’s actually pretty ridiculous to bundle up for work, then use valuable energy to keep the buildings we work in comfortably frigid.

Related Content:
Discoblog: How to Make Solar Chocolate Chip Cookies on Your Car Dashboard
Discoblog: Running on Air: New Hybrid Does Without a Battery
Discoblog: Is Googling Bad For the Environment?

Image: flickr /skyfaller

Today’s Conservation Gimmick: Drink Your Shower Water!

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 27, 2009 1:11 pm

plant.jpgIf astronauts can drink water recycled from their urine and Orange county residents can sip on recycled sewage water, then surely people can drink water from their shower, too.

Four French design school students came up with a clever concept: They proposed using a plant system made of sand, reeds, rushes, a mesh filter, water hyacinths and lemnas, and a carbon filter that can be placed underneath the tub to recycle the water used during a shower. After the water goes through eight filtering steps, the contaminants in the water, like shampoo and soap (and your newly-removed dirt), can be turned into tasty, drinkable water.

The Daily Mail reports:

[Designer Jun] Yasumoto, 34, said: “These plants have been proven to be able to remove the chemicals from your shampoo.”

Using a natural filtering principle called phyto-purification, the bathroom becomes a mini-eco-system by recycling and regenerating the wastewater.

The designers put their drawings online—and, not surprisingly, people soon wrote to them and asked how they could purchase the system. But sadly, the concept has not actually been built yet. On the bright side, there are other ways of conserving water in the bathroom—like peeing in the shower.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: From Toilet To Tap
Discoblog: Not Subtle, But It Works: Peepoo Bag Converts Human Waste Into Fertilizer
Discoblog: Celebrities Sell Cars, Beer, Clothes…and Toilet Use?

Image: flickr/ cool3c

MORE ABOUT: conservation, plants, water

Brazilians Urged to Pee in the Shower to Conserve Water

By Allison Bond | August 5, 2009 11:09 am

showerSometimes the best way to get people fired up about a cause—be it environmental, political, or anything else—is to get them angry. But instead of trying to piss citizens off, a Brazilian environmental group is trying to get the country’s residents to, well, urinate in the shower.

The group says that if a single household flushed the toilet just one fewer times a day, it would save a whopping 1,157 gallons of water each year. The organization has even come out with a video touting the idea. Urine is sterile, so peeing in the shower is harmless (except if someone has a disease that can be transmitted through their pee, such as hepatitis).

The AP reports:

The spot features cartoon drawings of people from all walks of life – a trapeze artist, a basketball player, even an alien – urinating in the shower.

Narrated by children’s voices, the ad ends with: “Pee in the shower! Save the Atlantic rainforest!”

Watch it here:

Related Content:
Discoblog: Not Subtle, But It Works: Peepoo Bag Converts Human Waste Into Fertilizer
Discoblog: Agriculture of Hard Knocks: Ex-Cons Start Organic Farm in Kenyan Slum
Discoblog: Celebrities Sell Cars, Beer, Clothes…and Toilet Use?

Image: flickr /stevendepolo

MORE ABOUT: Brazil, conservation, urine

Styrofoam Ups Biodiesel Performance, May Not Be Evil After All

By Rachel Cernansky | May 4, 2009 11:59 am

styro.jpgIn the eco-irony of the day, the dreaded un-biodegradable Styrofoam may be able to make a contribution (albeit small) to the environment after all. Scientists have found that adding polystyrene (the generic term for Styrofoam) to biodiesel can improve auto performance.

According to new research, polystyrene dissolves in biodiesel “like a snowflake in water” and increases its viscosity, building pressure inside the fuel injector and causing fuel to be injected into the engine sooner, increasing overall output.

Read More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar