Friday, April 22, 2011

We've Moved!

Dear all our lovely followers. We've moved house, so to speak. You can now find us at:

Follow us, like or reblog the posts, ask questions, submit content! It's so much more interactive over at tumblr and we can't wait to see you there!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

3D Conservation

Big things are happening in the conservation world. 

Huge issues that affect our environment - like the deforestation of tropical rainforests- happen every day without us even hearing about it. 

Now, several top guns in the media world like National Geographic and Virgo Productions are teaming up with conservationist legend Dr. Willie Smits to make a 3D movie about the plight of endangered Orangutans and their forests in Borneo. 

They will not be heading into the wilderness alone! Ten young and passionate people will be chosen to star in this deforestACTION initiative. 

Our very own biologist, Tara Beardmore, is applying for this job-of-a-lifetime and she needs our support! You can watch her video on youtube and follow the instructions to vote. But hurry as the competition closes soon! It only takes a few seconds to sign up and vote, and it is a website well worth exploring!

Tara has worked for Ecofieldtrips since 2010 after graduating with a bachelors of Journalism and Science. She has volunteered for wildlife organizations in her hometown, Brisbane, and has had behind the scenes experience in television programs - including nature show, Totally Wild! 

When she is not exploring rainforests and coral reefs with students on a trip, she is writing articles for Singapore magazine, Asian Geographic Junior. 

We wish her the best of luck with Project Borneo 3D!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Because you know how much we like Sea Turtles at EFT!

Running a turtle hatchery is no easy task. Ask any of us. Baby turtles have a habit of hatching at unreasonable hours or all at the same time or both! It's hectic because you have to release them ASAP, they use the energy from the egg yolk to dash towards the deep ocean, away from the reef and it's predators. You've also got to make sure that you release them from the top of the beach, not into the water, because the females need to remember the beach as they come back to beach they were born to give birth! 

There are strict IUCN (That's the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) protocols for running a hatchery, because Sea Turtles are endangered. Some people running hatcheries don't know of these protocols, or just ignore them. They might keep the hatchlings until they are bigger, because they think the hatchlings will have a better chance against predators. What really happens is that the hatchling has lost it's natural instinct to head out to sea, and hangs around the reef where it is STILL vulnerable to predators. Other hatcheries keep hatchlings back so tourists can hold them and play with them. Imagine if you were a new born baby, and people were passing you around, playing with you on the beach, and touching your umbilical cord. Imagine how disorientating and harmful that would be. It's not different for these turtles. Just because they have a shell doesn't mean they can't be damaged.

So do Sea Turtles a favour, support hatcheries that follow IUCN protocols, and spread the word. Remember, information is the key to conservation! 

P.S. The photo is supposed to be a gif. If the hatchling ain't moving, click on it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vanishing Act

A genius production from some students at Canadian International School Hong Kong

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Plight of the Panda

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is facing an uphill battle against extinction. The species is now reliant on conservation efforts and the wild population could be as low as just 1500 individuals, making it the rarest bear species in the world.

So why are pandas having such a tough time whilst other bear species such as the North American Black Bear seem to be able to adapt to changes in their environment? Well, the problem comes because pandas are just so fussy! Their diet is almost 100% bamboo; a grass species which is very low in nutrients and difficult to digest. Because of it's low nutritional value they have to eat pretty much constantly, and because it takes so long to digest they are not particularly active animals. What's more they won't just eat any old bamboo; they favour a particular species. Because they are pretty much the only animals that eat bamboo, in theory they would have no competition for their food and so their populations would thrive. Being a highly specialised animal is often the key to success because you don't have to fight for your food. But the case of pandas is a little more complicated; scientists believe that the bears were historically carnivorous but that their diet changed to bamboo over time because it requires less energy to forage than to hunt, and since pandas have no natural predators as adults they can afford to be out in the open grazing. What this means though is that pandas lack the necessary genetics to digest the grass easily and so rely on microbes in their stomach which is a much less effective process than other herbivores such as cows and deer use, chewing the cud several times and digesting it in their multiple stomachs.

The bamboo forests where pandas have previously reined in the lowlands of central China have been extensively deforested and turned into agricultural lands which are becoming the economic heart of the country, forcing the pandas to head for the hills. Up in the mountain ranges the pandas become isolated and it is harder for individuals to find a mate.

Pandas are also VERY fussy when it comes to mating; zoologists and conservationists have had many sleepless nights trying to figure out ways to entice pandas into breeding in captivity. From the female panda's point of view, she wants to choose the male with the best genes because bringing up baby pandas is a big task; they grow extremely slowly (a newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter - 1/900th the size of it's mother!). Generally if a mother has twins, she will select the stronger of the two and neglect the weakest which will die. The baby will stay with the mother for some 18 months and in this time she will have to boost her bamboo-eating to provide enough milk for her cub.

But even if the female does find a male that takes her fancy, convincing him to mate is another story all together. Pandas seem to be quite bashful in the bedroom and birth rates in the wild and in captivity are very low. Scientists have even tried giving pandas viagra and sex education videos to put them in the mood, and results have been patchy. In fact we know little about their courting rituals, but recent research suggests that 'chirps' and other vocalisations play a big role in panda flirting.

There have been some panda success stories recently and China has spent a lot of money setting up 50 conservation centres around the country to help save the species. China can fund these efforts by renting out it's adult pandas to zoos around the world. In fact Japan is currently renting two adult pandas from China for $1 million and the proceeds are being put towards re-building panda sanctuaries which were flattened by the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Countries around the world are starting to realise the economic value of having pandas in captivity and Japan has proudly unveiled a pair of twin pandas to the public this week which were born earlier in August. The twins will no doubt become media celebrities in the country and will hopefully bring in the important dollars needed to keep the panda from it's plight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Rarest Mammal known to Man...

The slow loris is an amazing creature - see Matt's profile of the Sunda slow loris in a previous post - and there are three species around South East Asia and all are classified as 'vulnerable' or 'endangered' by the IUCN as they face threats from loss of habitat and poaching for the illegal pet trade. Being that cute has its fair share of disadvantages. 

The Horton Plains slender loris.

Returning from beyond the grave - the Horton Plains Slow Loris, discovered in Sri Lanka in 1937, has thought to be extinct for the last sixty years. A chance encounter in 2002 encouraged surveys by the Zoological Society of London, who established that the entire population consists of a sad figure of less than a hundred individuals. 

This Slow Loris lives exclusively in the cloud forests of Horton Plains in Sri Lanka, and deforestation for firewood and agriculture has left individuals isolated in patchy forest, unable to 'date' as it were (unfortunate for a polygamous animal!). When a population is split up and isolated, individuals cannot find mates, and when reproduction rates drop, combined with a loss of habitat, it leaves that species in real trouble. This tiny mammal, at 20 cm and just 310 g is potentially the rarest mammal known to science.

Efforts are being made to protect and enhance the remaining forest areas in Horton Plains, and to try and reconnect the sporadic population. Fingers crossed for the little fellas. We hope that it's not too late.

- Sam