Posts Tagged ‘endangered species’

it’s save the frogs day!

April 29, 2011

I couldn’t let this day go by without a nod to my amphibian friends (after all, raganella means tree frog in Italian). You might have heard that amphibian species are in trouble worldwide. Their numbers are declining, with numerous factors bringing about their demise. It’s a sad state of affairs. But that’s what this day is for. There are events taking place all over the globe to bring awareness to the frogs’ plight.

Find an event near you, or make one up (it doesn’t have to be just today, either).

Here’s one simple thing you can do to support frogs. Push for the banning of atrazine, a potent and widely used herbicide that’s no longer legal in Europe due to its harmful effects on amphibian reproduction and development (you can also take action via NRDC). Atrazine is the most commonly found pesticide in rainwater, groundwater, and tapwater in the US.

Frogs are an indicator species, showing us when an ecosystem is polluted or out of balance. Let’s listen to these sensitive creatures and stop using atrazine to kill plants (and unintentionally, amphibians).



costa rica, in a (coco)nut shell

February 11, 2010

Beautiful country, lovely people, good food, clean water, gorgeous beaches, lush forests, diverse wildlife – what more does one need? That’s the question I kept asking myself throughout the trip and upon my return. The Ticos (Costa Ricans) say ¡Pura Vida! and it really does feel that way. Simple, nothing extraneous, relaxed, taking each day as it comes – at least that’s how I experienced it. Here are some more observations from the trip to Costa Rica…


In equatorial regions, there is greater diversity of plant species than areas north and south of the equator (where there tends to be more within-species diversity). Walking through the rainforest and cloud forest, this was pretty evident. Bromeliads, orchids, and other epiphytes grow high up in the canopy, their roots dangling down like Tarzan swings. All sorts of moss, ferns, and fungus grow on the sides of trees and in any nook they can occupy.

There are hundreds of bird species, snakes, spiders, and interesting fauna, like the agouti (a large rodent), coati (or pizote, a raccoon relative), and endangered tapir.

The landscapes are diverse, too. Dry forests, rain forests, cloud forests, volcanoes, flatlands, hillsides, and beaches (Pacific and Caribbean) are all part of a country roughly the size of West Virginia.

cattle, cattle, and more cattle

Sure, the rolling hillsides with pastured cattle look idyllic, but much of that pasture was once forest. The good news is the government rewards cattle ranchers for leaving portions of their land forest, protecting habitat vital to diverse animal species and tree cover that maintains a healthy rain cycle.

To preserve the health of waterways, there must also be a 50 meter buffer zone between pasture and rivers and streams.


In response to the deforestation brought on by logging and cattle ranching, both private and government-funded preservation efforts are taking place in Costa Rica. At the diminutive Ecocentro Danaus, a secondary forest where there was once deforested and denuded land, a great amount of diversity has found its way back. We saw a mama sloth and her baby (which I was very excited about!), tree frogs, butterflies, a Jesus Christ lizard, toucanettes, and lots of other birds. For a place that’s only about 600 square meters, it was an impressive demonstration of how restoring native forests can have such a positive impact on protecting wildlife. Danaus also offers a place for the indigenous Maleku people to display and sell their gorgeous colorfully painted and carved artwork.

CapiCapi is a Maleku greeting

As part of a volcano tour (which we never ended up seeing – it was shrouded in clouds), we took a guided hike through the Arenal Rainforest Reserve. It was easy to see where James Cameron found his inspiration for Avatar. Giant trees covered in epiphytes had great significance to the N’avi in the film, and to the Mayans thousands of years before Avatar was conceived. Aside from the towering trees, we saw a deadly eyelash viper, curled up on a branch.

At the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a privately funded conservation park run by Centro Cientifico Tropical, visitors can take guided tours of the dense secondary and primary forest to discover all sorts of creatures and verdantery (okay, I think I just made up that word). Our guide, Danilo, enthusiastically walked (and sometimes jogged in order to catch a glimpse of a transitory creature) us through the well manicured trails of the otherwise wild forest.

Many nature enthusiasts come just to witness the quetzal, a bird species that is said to be in decline. Many leave without seeing one. We were lucky enough to see not just one but at least 4 quetzals. The male is especially resplendent (as they are called) for the gorgeous iridescent plume feathers that hang down from its back. Mayan kings would pluck these special feathers and add them to their headdresses – the shifting colors and soft fir-like nature of them surely made the kings appear otherworldly.

As a bonus at the end of our tour, Danilo teased a female tarantula out of her nest for us to see. Then we visited the hummingbird gallery to engulf ourselves in the buzzing and humming of the quick and tiny birds.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was at one time part of a Quaker settlement (and is in part still managed by Quakers). Knowing their water supply for ranching would be severely compromised if the mountaintop forest were no longer there, the Quakers worked with Centro Cientifico Tropical to ensure protection of the cloud forest.

blue flag beaches

The national water utility and the tourism board got together and created the Bandera Azul Ecologica (ecological blue flag) to reward beach communities for their ecological responsibility. A 90% score or better in water and environmental quality gets the beach a blue flag. Find out which beaches earned blue flags here.

Turtle eggs are protected from poaching and predators at Playa Junquillal, a blue flag beach.

dogs, dogs, everywhere

Without rabies to worry about, dogs roam the streets freely. They seem more cat-like than dogs in the US. Independent, finicky, sometimes aloof, apprehensive of other dogs, yet loyal to humans. We had the companionship of 4 such dogs at the house where we stayed in Playa Negra. They were serious about protecting their property from other animals and strangers, but they were really friendly to us. It was comforting having them there, even when their middle-of-the-night howling at who-knows-what took me out of my dreams.

up with the sun, down with the sun

Without the distractions of TV and internet, it was easy to get into a more natural rhythm of waking with the sunrise and winding it down a couple of hours after the sun set.

not without its environmental problems

The government protects 40% of the land from development and the majority of Costa Rica’s power comes from renewable sources of energy (mostly hydroelectric). There are some really good recycling efforts in place in some locations, with even organics (compostables) collection. But for such an eco-friendly country, there’s still room for improvement.

One of the biggest problems I witnessed was littering. Mostly truckers throwing plastic soda bottles out of their windows, or people leaving bags of trash on the roadside (I’m assuming to avoid paying for trash pick up). Colorful striped plastic bags (the equivalent of the black or white deli or takeout bag in the US) lined the highways, despite signs requesting “no tirar basura.”

Just like here, there is disposable everything and individually wrapped goodies in the pulperias and supermercados. It felt just like home with all of the industrialized food options at the grocery store. And then there are the nasty chemical cleaning products proliferating the shelves and being used in businesses and households pretty ubiquitously (at least from what I saw in my 8 day stay). And don’t get me started on the cologne.

Illegal logging is still an issue, as is poaching plants from protected parks.

But despite these gripes, I am truly glad (and very lucky) to have experienced the pura vida way of Costa Rica.

If you plan on visiting Costa Rica, here are a few tips to consider:

1. Don’t underestimate the power of the equatorial sun. It can really do some serious damage to your skin. Stay out of the sun during the midday hours, basically anytime from 10am to 4pm is probably a good call. Of course, wear plenty of sunscreen, at least 30 SPF. Use brands that are less toxic  – my favorites are California Baby and Badger.

2. Check into an eco-lodge. promotes lodging that’s not just ecologically sound but socially responsible, too.

3. Just like at home, consider your own ecological impact while in Costa Rica. Here’s a simple rule: Take only photos and leave only footprints.

4. Skip the plastic. If you plan any trips to the supermarket or pulperia, BYOB – bring your own bags. It’s easy enough to tuck a couple of foldable shopping bags into your suitcase or backpack. Also, drinking water from the tap is safe and delicious, so no need to buy the bottled stuff.

5. Crafts made by locals and indigenous people make nice souvenirs.

6. US dollars (dolares) are accepted just about everywhere, so there’s usually no need to exchange money.

7. If you’re an apprehensive driver, leave the driving to a taxista or a tour company. The roads have greatly improved in the last few years, but there are still some seriously bumpy (and winding) back roads on the way to some of the more frequented destinations. If you do decide to drive, get a GPS and bring a map for back-up (sometimes the GPS prefers the most direct route, not the most sane route).

¡Pura vida!

make the call for those who can’t

December 9, 2009

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to wildlife. Please call your Senators at 1-800-217-7379 and ask them to support climate legislation on behalf of those who cannot call themselves.

i think my cable’s out by i don’t care, except…

April 9, 2009

Last night I got home and there was a big fat goose egg on the display of the cable box. Didn’t bother me any ’cause I haven’t turned the TV on since my boyfriend’s been in LA all week. Until now. I just read that there’s a PBS special on Appalachia tonight. What’s so special about that?

Well, for one: The Appalachians are the nation’s oldest and the world’s most biologically diverse mountains. Really? Go on!

The Appalachians are at risk for more mountaintop removal coal mining if the hungry coal machines aren’t stopped. Find out more about this topic at

Too bad I won’t be able to watch the series, but I can read about it on the website.

Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People
Airs tonight @10pm on PBS
Check your local listings!

Thanks to Rob Perks on the NRDC Switchboard for the tip off.

buzzin’ and a-bumblin’

April 9, 2009

I feel all abuzz and I’m going to thank the lovefast for it.

I’m also feeling buzzed ’cause the bees in NYC are getting some new attention. I’ve mentioned before that beekeeping is illegal in this crazy city… even pointed readers in the direction of a petition to make raising the little pollinators legal.

Well Brooklyn Based blog (3 bees!) has done me one better. Read all about the secret beekeeping societies popping up in NYC — started, of course, in the bee-lovin’ borough of Brooklyn! And find out how you can learn to be a beekeeper and reap the benefits of a honey harvest from your very own hush-hush hive.

Thanks, Brooklyn Based!

action, action, we want action!

February 18, 2009

Things are not looking up for our feathered, finned, and furry friends. Climate change, overfishing, and pollution are posing a threat to these magnificent creatures. But you can do something to help. Get involved. All it takes is a couple of key strokes and a click to help save species on the brink.

Help birds survive global warming
[National Audobon Society via Care2]
For the past 40 years, as our climate has warmed, birds have shifted their winter ranges further and further north. This ecological disruption is yet another wake up call that we must act quickly to solve the climate crisis. The birds’ northward movement is another signal that climate change is here and action is needed now.

Save sea turtles from reckless fishing practices
[Defenders of Wildlife]
Bottom longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of imperiled sea turtles. Snagged by razor sharp hooks on fishing lines that span anywhere from four to nine nautical miles, loggerhead and other threatened and endangered sea turtles are drowning and dying right now in the Gulf of Mexico.

Help imperiled coral reefs and tropical forests

[World Wildlife Fund]
You can help protect coral reefs and tropical forests — two of the most valuable and threatened ecosystems on the planet — by urging your members of Congress to cosponsor the Tropical Forest and Coral Conservation Act.

Say YES to sustainable seafood
[World Wildlife Fund]
Consumer demand for sustainable seafood can act as an extremely powerful incentive for better fisheries management. If you buy or ask for seafood that comes from sustainable sources, you are helping to protect our marine environment and, at the same time, ensuring that seafood can be enjoyed for many years to come.

Protect endangered species from coal mining
[World Wildlife Fund]
Coal mining is devastating Appalachia and harming endangered aquatic life. Widespread and increasing mountaintop removal mining — a form of mining in which entire tops of mountains are removed and the debris is dumped in valleys and sometimes directly into streams — is despoiling hundreds of miles of rivers and streams within the Southeast Rivers and Streams ecoregion, which World Wildlife Fund has identified as one of the richest, rarest and most biologically important ecoregions in the world.

support sustainability with your cell phone

January 12, 2009

Be fish savvy with Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

I’ve been carrying around this little Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch card for a few years now. It tells me which fish are okay to eat, whether they’re overfished or full of mercury or other contaminants. Well, now it’s available as an app for iPhone. Since I broke down a couple of months ago and got an iPhone (that’s another story…), as soon as I found out, I downloaded that puppy.

Seafood Watch app features

  • Free, up-to-date recommendations at your fingertips
  • Sushi guide lists fish by Japanese name as well as common market name
  • Regional guides highlight the seafood that’s best in each area of the country

Got an iPhone? Get your free Seafood Watch app here, or at the iTunes store (did I mention it’s free?).

No iPhone? Seafood Watch recommendations are available for all mobile devices with an Internet connection. Visit for their online pocket guides.

No web phone? Do it the “old-fashioned” way, check out the website.

Raise awareness of endangered species with Rare Earthtones

Tired of hearing Samba, Fanfare, or Rondo Alla Turca when someone rings your cellie? How about giving endangered species a voice instead?

The Center for Biological Diversity has over 90 ringtones ranging from peregrine falcon calls to beluga whale songs. And they just added 7 new ones, including the cry of an elephant seal pup.

Over 200,000 Rare Earthtones have already been downloaded by thousands of people in more than 150 countries, including the UK, Canada, China, Japan, Iran, India, Poland, Germany, France, Brazil, Australia, and the US.

I’m going to download the Chiricahua leopard frog call right now. What will your endangered animal call be?

Get it here.

save endangered species

December 16, 2008

You can help stop Bush’s last minute attempts to destroy habitat critical to the survival of endangered species.

Donate to the Center for Biological Diversity to help them meet their goal for a grant that will aid them in their efforts to protect animals from extinction.

Read on…

for the bees

December 15, 2008

Q. What do cows, goats, and bees have in common?

A. None of them can be legally kept in NYC.

But you can help change that — for the bees at least. How? By signing the petition to make beekeeping legal in NYC at the Just Food website. According to Just Food,

Honeybees are garden heroes! Honeybees help gardens grow more fruit and vegetables and produce sweet honey. They are nature’s best pollinators and contribute to productive harvests in community gardens, public parks and nature centers.

So make beekeeping legit and sign today!

surviving australia

November 30, 2008

When I saw the posters outside of the Australia Museum for the exhibit “Surviving Australia,” I thought maybe it was an exhibit about how humans survived all of the deadly creatures on this isolated continent, once known in Europe as “terra australis incognita” (unknown southern land). This was only part of the story.

Upon entering the exhibit I realized it was more about how the creatures survived the deadly invading humans. Extinct, endangered, and threatened animals were featured in varying media. Threatened and endangered animals had taxidermied representatives. The extinct were mainly shown in illustrations, with the eerie exception of the Tasmanian tiger, of which there was archival film footage.

Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was exterminated by man by the early 20th century. It had the appearance of a canine, but like many Australian animals, it was marsupial. [Read more here.]

There were life-sized recreations of megafauna, long extinct when Westerners arrived. Giant wombat-like marsupials and enormous kangaroos (up to 10 feet tall) once roamed the continent.

Thylacoleo, an extinct marsupial lion.

The fate of several animals was doomed upon the arrival of the white man. According to the exhibit, “in the last 200 years, over 50 vertebrate species and an unknown number of invertebrates and plants have disappeared from Australia — presumed extinct.” With habit destruction, introduction of foreign plant and animal species, and sometimes intentional extermination, the pig-footed bandicoot, several types of emu, kangaroo, and wallaby, and the Tasmanian tiger met their untimely end. Today, countless birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals are endangered or threatened because of humans. And Australia is sparsely populated compared with other continents (barring Antarctica), with about 21 million people covering the whole country.

The endangered regent honeyeater.

The endangered Tasmanian devil (I have a photo of a live one in my broken memory card).

When land is cleared did you know that everything living is killed? Between 1972 and 2006 it has been estimated nearly 4 billion birds, mammals and reptiles have died as a result of land clearing in Australia.

One-third of Australia’s woodlands… has been destroyed.

An estimated 50 percent of wetlands have been destroyed.

Over three-quarters of Australia’s rainforests have been destroyed.

Alright, let’s get down to the fun stuff — the animals that are deadly to humans! I timed my trip to the museum perfectly, because the next day we were off to the tropical north, where all of these toxic creatures live. Saltwater crocs, chironex and irukandji box jelly fish, death adders — they’re all in Queensland’s coastal regions. And let’s not forget the great white shark!

Huge, predatory Saltwater Crocodiles are one of Australia’s most famous dangers. They’re the world’s biggest living crocodiles and can swim underwater at 30 kilometres per hour [18.6 mph] without causing a ripple. They can leap out of water fast enough to outrun a horse (over a short distance) and far enough to catch low-flying birds.

It was kind of an exciting prospect to be able to possibly witness one of these creepy beings. I avoided going in the water for fear of deadly jelly stings. (I went for a horseback ride and even Rocky, my trusty steed, wouldn’t take a dip — maybe he knows something I don’t!) Every branch brushing against my legs was a Sydney funnel-web spider waiting to intoxicate me.

An interactive display describes the chironex box jellyfish

Alas, the scariest thing I came across was a little baby reef shark on the Great Barrier Reef — and he was so scared of me that he darted away as soon as a I spotted him. But my boyfriend got to see a young saltwater crocodile on Bedarra Island — I wonder where mama croc was?!