In most countries, if a dam was to cause so much destruction to the last habitat of a species, the dam would likely not get permission to be built.
It is true that the dam will only take about 20% of the land in question, directly. It will also split the population in half.
Given that only around 800 Tapanuli Orangutans survive in the wild, the loss of just a handful is bad. A loss of 20% of the remaining population could quite rapidly push the population towards extinction, particularly as it will split the few remaining Orangutans into separate populations which cannot interbreed.
Norway has a huge sovereign fund, into which it pours the countries earnings from fossil fuel extraction. Perhaps recognizing that this has a shelf life which is not far from ending, Norway has made sure that for the most part its sovereign fund is good for the natural world (alongside giving good returns)
Generally rules on financing should have ruled this project out in the past, so it is good that this decision has been eventually made.
Will the dam still get built? We will have to wait and see.
The fear is that, with the Tonga eruption, this larger than normal hole might do extra damage to the vast store of ice on Antactica.
Why is this concerning?
Well, given the Antarctic and the Greenland icesheet has enough ice to raise sea levels by 65m worldwide. This means a 5% melt in Antarctica would raise sea levels by several meters (even without any melting of Greenland at all).
This quantity of sea level rise, would threaten cities such as Shanghai and London, to large parts of Florida and Bangladesh to total nations that would be wiped out, such as Maldives.
This means that while it may well take a century and increased carbon emissions for all of the ice at the poles to melt, it could threaten human populations long before this occurs.
Around 410 million people on earth live within just 2m of the height of the sea. This is roughly 5% of human population. Currently, there are issues with just 2% immigration into the UK. A sea level rise of 2m would likely trigger an order of magnitude more to move here, Western Europe, USA and other countries. We are all going to be hit hard, but some far harder than others.
Grey wolves from Oregon now appear to be thriving in California (where they disappeared from about 100 years ago).
Wolves have never been reintroduced to California, instead they were returned to Yellowstone, re-entered Oregan back in 1999, and then entered California in 2008.
Short of a sudden sustained assault on their numbers, they are back in California and are likely to multiply over the next few decades to take back up their position as apex predators. This should not be feared in any way, with sensible management, it could end up benefiting California, with healthier ecosystems, less car crashes caused by wildlife amongst many other benefits.
Last Thursday, while wildfires raged in Greece, Italy, Tunisia, Portugal, Croatia and Algeria and British tourists found themselves being rescued by locals in boats (good boats, not those bringing people fleeing for their lives).
One of the problems with cutting down rainforest, it often what is left is so fragmented that it is useless for conservation. Remaining blocks of forest must allow a viable population of the rarest creatures, in order for the animals not to need to travel outside protected areas.
In Borneo, like in Sumatra, there has been a rapid loss of rainforest over the last few decades. Often it is claimed that enough is left behind in order to conserve the animals that live there.
In Borneo, while there is still a large quantity of wilderness, this is increasingly fragmented.
2200 polar bears live on the west coast of Greenland. It is unknown how many live on the east coast, but this group appears to be living in a place where they were formerly thought incapable of surviving.
There has been a steady 1 or 2 sightings of humpback whales off the coast of Cornwall over the last 5 or so years – with Cornwall wildlife trust identifying 10 individuals. However the others have visited in the winter, so this might be an indication of a recovering population.
This one was encountered about 2 miles from shore, so would only be seen from a boat.
Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of recovery that this whale population has to do. At their lowest it is thought that there were only 700 in the North Atlantic, but that number is now 35,000. You might think that this is a fantastic recovery, but best estimates suggest that there were around 200,000 humpback whales in the 16th century, before whaling began, so the population could still grow to be 500% of its current size and still not have reached the number of individuals that once existed.
Still, it just makes it clear, whether on the land or at sea, keep your eyes peeled, many species are recovering, and you never know what you might spot.
How many of you knew about a pangolin? How many of you knew about a pangolin before say 5 years ago when their poaching became big news.
Generally the reason that they are little known about, is that they are secretive, and one of the most strictly nocturnal animals in the bush.
Despite this, seizures of tonnes of pangolin scales are regularly made on the way to Vietnam or China (and other similar parts of Asia). To be clear, in pretty much all of these countries the authorities are making lots of effort to stamp out this trade.
So this is why it is so horrifying to hear that poaching is not the primary human cause of death.
Now it should be noted, that there is a wide range of predators in the African bush. We all know about lions and leopards, and even cheetah.
What about the smaller species?
The caracal, and serval are both cats that are incredible jumpers, and as such usual fences will not cause them a problem as they can jump over. Black backed jackals? Well these canines, are essentially the equivalent of the northern hemispheres red fox. Certainly, it is true that these animals might be a threat, but they are too savvy to be blocked by a fence, and anyway, live happily both sides of the fence as it is.
Electric fences are used in South Africa far more than other countries in Southern Africa: South Africa has about 6,000,000km of fencing, while Botswana has 3000km and Namibia 1100km.
So what can be done?
Well Pangolins are not a tall animal, but tend to travel on their hind legs. Raising the lowest strand of this fence from 20cm to 30cm would likely eliminate these deaths.
Why are they specifically at risk? Very sadly, by walking on their hind legs they expose their belly, when on the move. They struggle to see the strands of the wire, so the first thing that they know is it touches their sensitive underside. What is worse, Pangolins roll up into a ball when scared, but in this case this does not help, as this will leave the pangolin hanging from the wire. As the shocks keep coming the pangolin stays, and often starves or dies of thirst.
The African savannah elephant has declined by 60% over the last 50 years, and the African forest elephant has declined by 86% over the last 31 years.
So how close are these species to disappearing? There are currently 415,000african elephants in the wild, spread across 23 countries.
Unfortunately, their situation is highly different on different parts of the continent. Botswana still supports 130,000 Savanah elephants, while Tanzania lost 60% of their elephants between 2009 and 2014 (though some reserves till have healthy populations), one place hit particularly hard was the Selous which 40 years ago had over 150,000 and currently hosts 15,000 elephants.
While the African forest elephant was only recognized as a separate species in 2021 (there has been much argument about its status), what is not in question is its horrific decline in numbers. Indeed finding a web page that gives you an accurate figure is hard work, This may well because one does not exist. There has been horrific population declines over recent years, and the density is incredibly varied across its range.
Unfortunately one thing is clear, in areas of the Congo rainforest where elephants have lost, the forest does less well. There are many plant species which rely on elephants to carry their seeds from from where they are dropped. As such, without forest elephants we are likely to loose many species of trees – to the extent that it might threaten the survival of the Congo rainforest itself.
So how are Asiatic elephants doing? Unfortunately not great. There are 5 subspecies
First, the Indian elephant. This is the best known and most wide spread. Currently their Indian population is thought to be between 27,000 and 31,000, with between 10,000 and 14,000 across another 10 countries. While I am listing 4 subspecies these all look relatively similar.
Borneo elephant – the most positive estimate, suggests that there are 1500 remaining in the rainforests of Borneo
Sumatran elephant 2400-2800
Sri Lankan elephant 7500
Syrian elephant – this species was lost as much as 1000 years ago, and occupied the western most part of the Asiatic elephant range.
As such what is clear, is that while African elephant populations are falling fast there is time to check this decline. The Asiatic elephant populations are far more in danger.
In 2020, Trump gave responsibility for managing wildlife populations back to the states. Now one might argue that this is the right thing to do, after all it is democracy, but is it?
Many of the states in the USA are horrifically gerrymandered, with some having a small minority overruling the great majority. There are many intentional ways that this is done (republicans have been very good at it over time – there are been 2 times in recent years where democrats got more votes but lost.