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Big Cat Week: More to Leopards than their Spots

Most leopards are light colored and have dark spots on their fur. These spots are called “rosettes” because their shape is similar to that of a rose. There are also black leopards, whose spots are hard to see because their dark fur.   Leopards can be found in various places around the world – they live…

Cheetahs in southern Africa are closer to extinction than thought, National Geographic–supported research finds

A comprehensive assessment of cheetah populations in southern Africa supported by the National Geographic Society reveals the dire state of one of the planet’s most iconic big cats, the Society said in a news statement today. “In a study published today in the open-access journal PeerJ, researchers present evidence that low cheetah population estimates in southern Africa and population decline support a call to list the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the news release said.

Supported in part by the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative, estimates only 3,577 adult cheetahs exist in this extensive area, which is larger than France, and a majority (55 percent) of individuals are found within only two habitats. This estimate is 19 percent lower than the IUCN’s current assessment, supporting the call for the uplisting of cheetahs from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered.” A species assessed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Species assessed as Endangered are considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Big Cat Week video: What it takes to rescue a fierce leopard

What would you do if you came face-to-face with a 175 pound, agitated leopard? If you’re conservation power-couple Marlice and Rudie van Vuuren, you’ve been on the receiving end of such a scenario about 112 times.

Big Cat Week video: Helping cheetahs find a mate

You may not have had “cheetah matchmaker” featured at your high school career fair, but that’s just what Vincent van der Merwe’s business card may as well read. But trying to repopulate the highly vulnerable species can be as dangerous as it is exciting. Watch the video to see what happens when van der Merwe tries to translocate a very unhappy cheetah across South Africa.

Cheetahs: Fast facts about world’s fastest cat

This beautiful animal is threatened by loss of habitat and prey, as well as conflict with humans. As a result, the cheetah is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red list, and, today, an estimated 9,000-12,000 remain in Africa.   The fastest land animal in the world, a cheetah can reach 69.5 mph in just three seconds – faster than a sports…

Thrills, Spills, and Seabirds in the Subantarctic

This is Part Three of “Voyage of the Yellow-eyed Penguin.” See Part One and Part Two. Endangered (by) Sea Lions Alternate title: Mom, Don’t Read This One 11 November 2017 Chambres Inlet Imagine you’ve sailed 300 miles south of New Zealand to a subantarctic island. You’ve been dropped off by dinghy before sunrise in a secluded cove,…

Are Africa’s Forgotten Lions Doomed to Slip Into Extinction, Unnoticed?

What is the glue that forever binds lions to East and Southern Africa? Was it the pioneering Serengeti research done by Bernhard Grzimek? The high volume of lion films, featuring terrestrial backdrops like the Okavango Delta? Or is it simply that iconic picture of panthera leo, resting on a granite kopje or under an umbrella tree,…

Goliath Pacific groupers under threat in a biodiversity hotspot

“If you miss the first shot, it might try to eat you,” Apsalon, a local spear fisherman, told me during an interview for my research. He was once half-swallowed by a massive goliath grouper near one of his favorite fishing spots, Playa Blanca in Chocó, Colombia. Although they may sound terrifying, these massive fish are…

Penguins Wanted

Voyage of the Yellow-eyed Penguin, Part Two (See Part One) The Search 8 November 2017 Port Ross and Enderby Island It was cold and clear and very dark when six hardy souls climbed over the ship’s rail and down into the little dinghy, surging up and down against Evohe’s hull. Hamish the helmsman yanked the engine into…

Voyage of the Yellow-eyed Penguin

The latest numbers say that yellow-eyed penguins are still heading toward extinction on mainland New Zealand. Their only other breeding habitat is a handful of islands hundreds of miles to the south. In this four-part story I join a surreal voyage to the all-but-inaccessible Auckland Islands, where we’re trying to find out how this gravely endangered penguin is faring in the…

Residual Fragments of Past Lives

Residual Fragments of Past Lives (Patagonia’s Untold Stories) Decaying fragments hang from the cavity’s roof as streaks of viscous dark red liquid meander down its sides. The peculiar scent of extracellular digestion from fungal mycelia impregnates the stale air. I force myself into the cramped cavity to further investigate. With only half of my body…

Fragmentos Residuales de Vidas Pasadas

Fragmentos Residuales de Vidas Pasadas (Historias no Contadas de la Patagonia)   Con solo la parte superior de mi cuerpo dentro de la estrecha cavidad, miro hacia arriba con asombro. El sonido del silencio es abrumador. Fragmentos en descomposición cuelgan del techo de la cavidad, mientras un viscoso líquido color magenta escurre por sus lados.…

Photography teaches youngsters to “see” the beauty of their Galapagos home

“You’re the Galapagos Photographer. I like your photos. I take photos too.” These were the words from a 7-year-old that helped me understand that through photography, my message about caring for the Galapagos was succeeding in reaching people of all ages. Two years have gone by since this conversation with little Fabio, a conversation I…

The battle for Bristol Bay isn’t over

By David Aplin, interim managing director of WWF’s U.S. Arctic program

Time and time again, the people of Bristol Bay, the State of Alaska, and the United States have said overwhelmingly that the risks associated with development of the Pebble Mine are too great. Bristol Bay’s sustainable ecosystems and all of the values they support should not be compromised. Local business leaders don’t want it. The region’s tribes don’t want it. And more than a million Americans have gone on record demanding that this national treasure be protected.

Can anti-poaching activism save 25 million birds a year?

It’s 3 a.m. and I am running through a dark field with a live, wild quail in my hand. I have just extracted it from a poacher’s net in the Famagusta region of Cyprus, one of the most dangerous places for birds on Earth. A poacher’s patrol car passes nearby. Ahead of me in the dark is one of the masterminds of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter’s (CABS) Cyprus operations, Bostjan. Our odds are pretty good. Bostjan has been evading poachers in Cyprus for six years. He knows how far we need to be from the headlamps of a poachers’ car to remain undetected and, perhaps more importantly, he knows how to calm down angry men. We gain some distance from the patrol car and continue working. By the end of the night, we have found six massive quail nets, and the relentless electronic decoys that draw the migrating birds to their deaths.