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‘Planetary Boundaries’ a flawed mechanism to safeguard Earth’s biodiversity, scientists warn

The notion that human impacts will be fine, so long as we keep them within “planetary boundaries” is seductive, but deeply flawed scientifically. Worse, though well-intentioned, it encourages harmful policies, three of the world’s leading ecologists argue in a peer-reviewed commentary published this month in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

“A critical question is how should we manage human actions that harm the natural world,” said Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “Do we really want to operate under the assumption – as the notion of a planetary boundary for biodiversity purports – that humans can go about business as usual so long as the impacts of our actions remain within some arbitrary ‘safe operating space’?”

Letting the Foxes ‘Protect’ the Hens in Ryan Zinke’s Department of Interior

On November 8, U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the creation of an International Wildlife Conservation Council that will advise him. As a recent Science Policy Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science assigned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Division of International Conservation, I’ve watched the…

Nalakite: The story of a Maasai Mara matriarch

By Gini Cowell, Elephant Aware, and Joyce Poole and Petter Granli of ElephantVoices This is a tale about a beautiful and gentle matriarch from the Maasai Mara, Kenya. Her lack of tusks and the ‘flap-cut’ notch in her left ear make her easily recognizable, even to the most inexperienced observer. Rangers, working for Elephant Aware…

Putting an End to the Elephant Crisis

In parts of Africa, elephants known as “giant tuskers” roam the land, their enormous tusks tracing a path in the ground as they walk. Although they sound like something from a fairy tale, these majestic creatures are real. But for our children and theirs, African elephants like these may soon only be seen in photographs…

It’s Japan’s turn to save the African elephant

Japan is one of the largest remaining ivory markets in the world with more ivory manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers than any country. The Japanese government needs to step up to the plate and join the international effort to combat wildlife trafficking by closing its domestic ivory market.

Elephant Country Blog 5: Behind the Scenes at Mushara

Every field season has its idiosyncrasies and challenges. This year, nature kept Tim particularly busy maintaining technology in order to keep the camp safe and operational, starting with a humane catch-and-release program for the inordinate number of brazen mice that inhabited our camp and got under foot after such good rains brought much grass seed—and abundance of food. Not only can mice be a nuisance by chewing the corners of each box of long-life milk or juice that they can, they also attract a problematic pursuer—the snake.

The Big Conservation Lie: Overview and Interview With the Authors

  Conservation is rightfully celebrated for its contribution to preserving iconic wildlife in their natural habitats. Yet there are those who question some of its ethics, wondering where people fit into the bigger picture.  With a no-holds-barred analysis (some might say assault on) the widely held African conservation paradigm, The Big Conservation Lie is a contentious, indeed…

Elephant Country Blog 4: The Unseated Ozzie

After ten years of terrorizing Mushara’s male elephant population, nature has made a course correction with a certain young bull, Ozzie. Finally, Ozzie miscalculated and ended up in the same place at the same time as the magnificent, dominant Smokey—a moment I’d been waiting for for a long, long time.

Matriarchs of Mushara

The activity for the night watch team hasn’t slowed as the heavy wind in the past few days has kept the elephants at bay until sunset. Two nights ago, the parade of families started with the Princesses arriving from the south at dusk, followed by the Pharaohs from the west, the Athletes (with Smokey escorting)…

Baby elephants romp with siblings and cousins at Namibia waterhole

Mushara Elephant Update: Everyone waits for the call—a spotting of an elephant family group in the distance for a late afternoon session in the bunker for more i.d. photos. I knew we were probably all thinking the same thing. Could we be so lucky? Much of our family group research has had to take place during night watch from 6 through 10 p.m.

Mushara Elephant Project Celebrates 25 Years With New Season in Namibia

This season marks the 25th year of the Mushara Elephant Project, but the first few days were a little too chaotic to absorb the magnitude of this momentous occasion. We arrived at Mushara the first night of the waxing moon with much to set up before nightfall. A few bulls came and went as we got ourselves situated, allowing ourselves a break at sunset to soak in the beauty of this remote oasis.

How the National Geographic Society Has Rebooted to Help Restore Earth’s Natural Equilibrium

Six months into his new position as National Geographic chief scientist, Jonathan Baillie, the former conservation programmes director of the Zoological Society of London, outlined his “scientific vision” for how the National Geographic Society would work to help create a a planet that’s going to provide for 9 billion people — and all forms of other life. “How do we do this with 9 billion people on the planet? This is the great challenge we all face. National Geographic now needs to think about its unique role helping us face this challenge,” Baillie told hundreds of National Geographic explorers and staff gathered at the Society’s headquarters for this week’s Explorers Festival.

“Elephant, I Miss You”

Elephants may be edging closer to extinction which would in turn cripple local ecosystems, but it is the stories of damaged crops and trampled people that are most salient for communities here in Malawi. Nyama is the Chichewa word used for both “meat” and “anima”’, and chirombo, which means pest, is often used to describe wild animals. The prevailing cultural belief is that they are God-given resources that will never run out.

“Elephant I Miss You” was made to challenge this view using the storytelling tradition combined with facts-based education. We hope it will stimulate discussion as well as pride in the country’s natural heritage that in turn would support wider conservation efforts.

People and Wildlife Are Both Casualties of Illicit Mining

Central Africa’s natural treasures are a blessing. They are also a curse.

The vast Congo Basin — spanning six Central African countries – supports more than 10,000 animal and 600 tree species, many of which are unique to this area. The region represents the second largest contiguous moist tropical forest in the world and provides critical habitat to the last populations of several globally important species, including African forest elephants and three of the world’s four species of great apes.

How Saving Elephants Got One National Geographic Explorer Arrested

Nights in police custody, fake elephant tusks, and terrorist organizations are all just part of a day’s work for National Geographic Society Fellow and Chief Correspondent to the Special Investigations Unit, Bryan Christy.