Short-eared dog? Uncovering the secrets of one of the Amazon’s most mysterious mammals

by Jeremy Hance 

Fifteen years ago, scientists knew next to nothing about one of the Amazon’s most mysterious residents: the short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis). Although the species was first described in 1883 and is considered the sole representative of the Atelocynus genus, biologists spent over a century largely in the dark about an animal that seemed almost a myth. But all this changed when veterinarian and researcher, Renata Leite Pitman, embarked on a long-term study of these enigmatic carnivores, even having the good fortune of being guided by a semi-wild short-eared dog named Oso. 

"My first thought when I heard about this ghost-like animal was that people must have been mistaking it for a similar-looking species, like a tayra or a jaguarundi," Leite Pitman told mongabay.com. "So I looked into the literature on the short-eared dog and found it was full of contradictions. One book had it occurring in this region, the other didn’t. One said the species was diurnal, and the other nocturnal. This mismatching information made me very curious," 

In fact, here was a good-sized mammal—a carnivore nonetheless—that was totally unheard of outside the Amazon and even little-known by locals there. 

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Huge waves measured for first time in Arctic Ocean

As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water which is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle of this century. Storms thus have the potential to create Arctic swell – huge waves that could add a new and unpredictable element to the region. A University of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm. The results were recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

"As the Arctic is melting, it’s a pretty simple prediction that the additional open water should make waves," said lead author Jim Thomson, an oceanographer with the UW Applied Physics Laboratory.

In an article written for Truthout, Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis, reports on the twin threats of capitalist development and climate change in Morocco, and how ordinary Moroccans are resisting.

IN MANY ways, Morocco exemplifies the cultural possibilities of a freer humanity. One meets on the streets, fields, mountains and deserts of this geographically and climatologically variegated country, a population universally fluent in at least two languages, many effortlessly switching, mid-sentence, between Arabic, French and Amazigh, the mother tongue of 50 percent of Moroccans. Hospitality to guests is taken very seriously; meals among friends and family are shared and eaten communally, while a common glass is passed around for drinking water. A large percentage of the land is held in common and administered locally by elected tribal leaders for the benefit of all.

A cradle of cultural intermixing, Morocco sits at the crossroads of empires, past and present. A mere 12 miles from Europe, fringed by the warm waters of the Mediterranean to the north, the fisheries of the Atlantic Ocean to the west, crisscrossed by the snowcapped Atlas mountains, providing the lifeblood for the agricultural areas and floodplains of the coast as rivers descend to the sea, and bordered to the south by the gigantic dunes of the Sahara, fading east toward Algeria, its people are comfortable in many social, ecological and cultural worlds.

Unfortunately, seldom have Moroccans been able or allowed to decide their own destiny, despite formal independence from the French in 1956. Classified by the World Bank as part of the strategically important MENA region (Middle East-North Africa), a term invented to cover 20 predominantly Arabic countries without mentioning the word “Arab,” Morocco replicates the colonial moniker of “Middle East” as a designation foreign to the people who live there, but useful for the people who don’t.

 … WITH CLIMATE change, an already arid country, one that so lacks rainfall in the south that the country becomes desert, is becoming gradually drier. The MENA region is home to 6 percent of the world’s population, but has less than 1 percent of renewable water resources. Countries such as Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Jordan and Palestine are already suffering from acute water shortages (defined as less than 500 cubic meters per person per year).

Just as the rains become less dependable and decrease in amount, a greater and greater amount of fresh water is needed. Irrigation is by far the largest single user of water, at a moment in time when agriculture is being switched to often water-intensive, cash crops for export. In addition, the government is behind plans for a massive expansion of the tourism industry, with the building of giant new tourist resorts.

The government’s “Plan Azur” calls for the construction of six tourist “stations,” along the Mediterranean coastal area of Saïdia and the Atlantic, covering a total of 7 million square meters. One of the six already under construction, in Saïdia, will “develop” one of Morocco’s most important hotspots of biodiversity, the estuary of the Oued Melouia, home to some of Morocco’s rarest species, living in and amongst its dune forests.

 … The conflict over water and the priorities of “development” are perhaps nowhere better exemplified than in Ben Smim, a village of 3,000 inhabitants high in the Atlas Mountains. When a water bottling company first came to the village in 2001, hoping to take advantage of the pure mountain stream water that had sustained the villagers and their cattle breeding since the 17th century, tribal elder Moulay Tahiri Alaoui organized the resistance.

A union worker and activist since his days working at the hulking tuberculosis sanatorium nearby, built by the French in the colonial period and long-since abandoned, Tahiri knew from the beginning that the people’s water would be stolen and their access restricted. He was becoming progressively more worried about the increasing number of droughts and knew that the villagers’ way of life would be further threatened should the village’s spring be diverted by the Euro-Africaine des Eaux water bottling company.

OVER THE ensuing years, the villagers staged a heroic resistance, including occupations, petitions and blockades. Women were at the forefront of the protests because they bear the brunt of water-related activities. The authorities responded with repression, arrests, including of tribal elder Tahiri, and for a period of time, the cordoning off of the entire village from the outside world. The protests reached the king, and some compensation and extra jobs were promised, along with new roads, to make up for the ones the company was destroying with their trucks.

The combination of repression, arrests, jail terms and bribes, were enough to force the villagers to concede their historical common water rights. Since 2010, when the company completed construction of the plant and began operation, it has created only 10 jobs and withdraws over 300,000 liters of water a day from the communal spring that is now fenced off. As Tahiri predicted, villagers have been forced to ration water for domestic and agricultural use and move to a multi-day rotation system, whereby houses have water only every third day.

Hey everyone! One of my best friends could really use your help. She has been working in Africa for the past few years on agroforestry projects as well as some large predator conservation. She is trying to help the local villages in Cameroon develop more sustainable forms of agriculture, which improves the quality of life in the village as well as fosters a better relationship with the local ecology. Unfortunately the greedy hands of humans are ever present and she has been robbed of pretty much everything, including the tools and such she needs to do her work. She has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough funds to continue assisting Cameroonians protect their unique wildlife and rare forests. She would greatly appreciate anyone willing to give some money to help to continue to serve these wonderful people and the environment they live in. Any amount is super helpful. 

Head over to this link to donate some much needed cash:
http://www.gofundme.com/bdbz0o

Thank you kindly!

www.facebook.com/indefenseofplants

Let’s get this show on the road!

Hi! We are David (left) and Phil (right), and we’re the presenters of Eco Sapien, a new YouTube channel created to illustrate the importance of biodiversity.

Our videos offer a portal into the spectacular world of biodiversity, and its relevance to our everyday lives. If we help you discover a new insight, we’ll consider our mission a success.

We hope everyone enjoys our videos and most of all, gets involved! We would love questions and discussions on all our social media, so don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll be running regular competitions, and hopefully if we get enough support, we can start handing out prizes!

The first episodes are out tomorrow, so watch this space. And please subscribe!

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4

Dead Trees Are Anything But Dead

by Dani Tinker

I recently learned that dead trees provide vital habitat for more than 1,000 species of wildlife nationwide. The two most common types of dead wood you’ll find in your yard, along a trail or at a park are snags (upright) and logs (on the ground).

Despite their name, dead trees are crawling with life. From the basking lizards on top to the beetles underneath, the list of wildlife that depend on logs feels endless. Here’s a sampling of what you may find if you explore a log more closely. What have you observed on, under or near a dead tree? …

(read more: National Wildlife Federation)

photographs by D. Tinker, Avelino Meastas, Philip Poinier, and Danielle Brigada

3
Rachel Louise Carson

Born: May 27, 1907
in Springdale, Pennsylvania

Died: April 14, 1964 
in Silver Spring, Maryland

Rachel Carson, writer, scientist, and ecologist, grew up simply in the rural river town of Springdale, Pennsylvania. Her mother bequeathed to her a life-long love of nature and the living world that Rachel expressed first as a writer and later as a student of marine biology. Carson graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) in 1929, studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and received her MA in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932.

She was hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries to write radio scripts during the Depression and supplemented her income writing feature articles on natural history for the Baltimore Sun. She began a fifteen-year career in the federal service as a scientist and editor in 1936 and rose to become Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She wrote pamphlets on conservation and natural resources and edited scientific articles, but in her free time turned her government research into lyric prose, first as an article “Undersea” (1937, for the Atlantic Monthly), and then in a book,Under the Sea-wind (1941). In 1952 she published her prize-winning study of the ocean, The Sea Around Us, which was followed by The Edge of the Sea in 1955. These books constituted a biography of the ocean and made Carson famous as a naturalist and science writer for the public. Carson resigned from government service in 1952 to devote herself to her writing.

She wrote several other articles designed to teach people about the wonder and beauty of the living world, including “Help Your Child to Wonder,” (1956) and “Our Ever-Changing Shore” (1957), and planned another book on the ecology of life. Embedded within all of Carson’s writing was the view that human beings were but one part of nature distinguished primarily by their power to alter it, in some cases irreversibly.

Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson reluctantly changed her focus in order to warn the public about the long term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring (1962) she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government, and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world.

Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some in government as an alarmist, but courageously spoke out to remind us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment. Rachel Carson died in 1964 after a long battle against breast cancer. Her witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures.

Biographical entry courtesy of Carson biographer © Linda Lear, 1998, author ofRachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997).

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