conservation or restoration

You know a lot of people don’t know this but…

A new chapter in the wild began today for 26 eastern indigo snakes reared at the Zoo in the latest milestone in a conservation partnership to restore a native species to its original range. In a collaboration between Zoo Atlanta, the Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation and Auburn University, the snakes were released into the Conecuh National Forest near Andalusia, Alabama, on July 14, 2017.

Previously to the beginning of a reintroduction effort, the eastern indigo snake had not been sighted in the wild in Alabama in around 50 years. The snakes are a keystone species of the longleaf pine-wiregrass and sandhills ecosystem, and their reintroduction carries significant positive ecological benefits for the national forest.

Zoos are known for their conservation work on other continents around the world, but conservation begins in our own backyards. This is a notable example of a project that continues to have a direct impact on re-establishing an iconic species in its native range.

Our Zoo has reared more than 80 eastern indigo snakes for the reintroduction program, which is a cooperation among stakeholders throughout the Southeast. Additional project partners include the Alabama Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and The Nature Conservancy.

The newest group of reintroduced snakes had been reared here since 2015. As they had been designated for release into the wild, the young snakes received care and feeding in behind-the-scenes facilities where they had limited interactions with humans. In this environment, the snakes were able to grow to a size capable of avoiding many of the predators that feed on juvenile snakes.

Prior to their release, the snakes received passive integrated responder tags (PIT) for identification. Preliminary results from tracking efforts have shown that previous groups of reintroduced snakes are surviving, thriving, and reproducing.

To date, more than 100 eastern indigo snakes have been released into Conecuh National Forest, a majority of which have been reared at the Zoo. The goal of the project is to release 300 snakes over a 10-year period at an average of 30 snakes a year.

The largest nonvenomous snake species in North America and a native of southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi, the eastern indigo snake has declined across its historic range with the destruction of its ecosystem. This decline is also observed in Georgia’s state reptile, the gopher tortoise, which creates burrows that are often used by eastern indigo snakes and other species.

Eastern indigo snakes play an additional valuable role in their environment by keeping other snake populations in check, as they are known to eat venomous species, including copperheads. These snakes are not constrictors; instead, they overpower their prey using the crushing force of their jaws.

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Behind the scenes at major art museums, conservators are hard at work, keeping masterpieces looking their best. Their methods are meticulous — and sometimes surprising.

The painting conservation studio at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is filled with priceless works sitting on row after row of tall wooden easels, or lying on big, white-topped worktables.

The studio is where I first met Senior Conservator Ann Hoenigswald years ago as she was fixing the sky on one of Claude Monet’s impressions of the Rouen Cathedral in France. Bits of paint had flaked off over time, and Hoenigswald was carefully mixing her blue to match the old master’s. Seeing the painting outside of its fancy frame, it felt like being inside the artist’s studio. (I greatly wanted to try my hand at filling in some tiny bare spot in Money’s sky, which had once been covered by paint. Of course, the thoroughly professional Hoenigswald politely refused to hand over her brush.)

Conservators must take classes in studio art, art history and chemistry. Sometimes guidance comes from artists themselves. For example, Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, asking for specific shades of paint — Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Geranium Lake. Painters in earlier centuries rarely left such clues.

With Chemistry And Care, Conservators Keep Masterpieces Looking Their Best

Photos: Liam James Doyle/NPR

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Yes, lions were found in North America in prehistoric times. They had an almost global range - everything but South America, Southeast Asia and Australia, and the coldest parts. There were even lions in Great Britain.

In far more recent times, in actual recorded Roman and Greek history, they lived from Greece throughout the Middle East all the way to India. As did cheetahs.

The European bison, like its American cousin a century ago, is all but extinct in the wild, only a few thousand animals are left, mostly kept in reserves. They once ranged from western Iberia to Lake Baikal in Russia.

Asian elephants lived all the way to Turkey, while today only a few fragmented pockets from India to Borneo are left.

This is but a fragment of all these examples I could give you, I simply took the animals that have the biggest cultural impact on us.

Apparently even 800 years ago, Crusader forces knew it was a good idea to always leave yourself a way out of a sticky situation. Conservation and restoration work in the old city of Tiberias exposed a secret escape tunnel that connected the Crusader citadel directly with the harbor on the Sea of Galilee in the 1100s. The tunnel may have been used in times of danger, such as when Saladin besieged the city in 1187.

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The Apollo 11 command module, which took the first moonwalkers to lunar orbit and back in 1969, is undergoing a painstaking restoration, in preparation for an unusual national tour later this year.

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth

Photos: Shelby Knowles/NPR and NASA/Getty Images

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What does a “love letter” look like more than 2,000 years ago? 

Chinese experts have managed to restore its original appearance.

Look at this. This is the result of a rewilding project in the Scottish Highlands. On the right is managed land, planted and protected under a rewilding scheme. The left is unmanaged; unplanted and subject to excessive deer grazing (their natural predators are long extinct in the UK; though not forever, if certain rewilding projects get the green light). If I had my way, all of my country would be well on the way to looking more like the land on the right. I can’t wait until these baby pines grow into a true forest.

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A British Pattern 1897 Infantry Officer’s Sword before and after restoration by Paul Macdonald at Macdonald Armouries. Paul’s work looks great–he has conserved the sword and brought it back from the brink without making it look like new. This is how it should be done. It pains me when collectors completely refurbish their swords so that they look brand new. 

Getting my act together so I can hang these puppies and have a show! Still trying to decide pricing since like many folks out there, I want a good portion of the profit to go toward specific organizations that help protect, restore, and are a voice for nature that strive to make a positive and lasting change. I’ll have more information on this soon! 

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Restoring an antique cavalry officer’s sword scabbard

Restoring an antique cavalry officer’s sword scabbard - please excuse the less than great image quality - since rendering this video I have found the cause of the issue and it will now be corrected for future videos.

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Francis Picabia’s materials and techniques - "Promenade des Anglais (Midi)“

“We FINALLY found the right size macaroni,” (image 1) recalled Jean Volkmer, former Chief Conservator at MoMA, during the restoration of Picabia’s Promenade des Anglais (Midi) (1924–25) (image 2). This view of Nice’s famous beachfront walkway, was a familiar one, often reproduced on tourist postcards. Picabia’s interpretation of it, however, was highly unusual, incorporating bucatini pasta, rhea feathers, and cut-up hair-curlers! Duchamp arranged for the elaborate snakeskin frame, which evokes open window shutters looking out onto the Côte d’Azur.

Explore other stories about the materials & techniques of Francis Picabia at mo.ma/picabia_conservation.

Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction closes this Sunday, March 19th. More info at mo.ma/francispicabia

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (otherwise known as the BP oil spill) in April of 2010 flowed for 87 days and released an estimated total of 210 million gallons of oil. This spill left a sheet of petroleum on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the most devastating spills in history. In November 2012, BP and the United States Department of Justice settled federal criminal charges with BP pleading guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors, and a felony count of lying to Congress. BP also agreed to four years of government monitoring of its safety practices and ethics, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that BP would be temporarily banned from new contracts with the US government.