Oceans’ Call to Action

© Alexis Rosenfeld

We’re a day behind on World Oceans Day, but John Tanzer’s words are lasting, despite the date.

Don’t Waste A Crisis – A World Oceans Day Call to Action.

By John Tanzer, Oceans Practice Leader, WWF International

It was early March when the realization hit. Our Year of Ocean Action wasn’t going to happen — at least not in the way so many had been planning. 2020 would be extraordinary, but for all the wrong reasons. Our Super Year was meant to be the launch platform for a decade of strong global efforts to restore the ocean. Clearly, the attention and resources we had hoped to harness have been in much demand elsewhere.

I was not looking for a “silver lining” to the suffering and loss caused by the coronavirus, but somewhere in the back of my mind was a quote about not letting a crisis go to waste. Was it Winston Churchill who said it? Or a contemporary politician?

It turns out, it was not Churchill, and it wasn’t even a politician. The line can be traced back at least as far as 1976, to M. F. Weiner’s article in the journal Medical Economics, “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own.” Weiner apparently meant that a medical crisis can be used to improve all aspects of a patient’s well-being.

So, it wasn’t a callous sentiment about seizing the upper hand in a moment of chaos. It was an acknowledgement that a crisis may arise which so disrupts the norm that all preconceptions are set aside, and all solutions are on the table.

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Big Cats, WWF & The Guardian’s Coverage

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A jaguar captured by a camera trap on the island. The WWF researchers plan to set more traps in 2020. Photograph: WWF Brazil

Jaguar and other wild cats, big and small, have been a topic of interest on this platform since we began back in 2011. We have also featured many stories where WWF is the hero, carrying out important work that needs support. Phoebe Weston somehow escaped our attention until now, so special thanks to the Guardian for maintaining their commitment to quality coverage of nature and environmental issues, which I depend on for my daily exercise in awareness:


A jaguar resting on a tree on Maracá-Jipioca. The WWF hopes to collar two more cats next year.
Photograph: André Dib/WWF Brazil

A thriving population of jaguars living on a small, unspoilt island off the coast of the Brazilian Amazon has learned to catch fish in the sea to survive, conservationists have found.

The Maracá-Jipioca Ecological Station island reserve, three miles off the northern state of Amapá, acts as a nursery for jaguars, according to WWF researchers who have collared three cats and set up 70 camera traps on the remote jungle island.


A jaguar caught on camera with a fish in its mouth. Photograph: WWF Brazil

Although jaguars have previously been spotted catching fish in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands, this is believed to be the first evidence the elusive creatures have been jumping in the sea to catch prey.


A three-toed sloth, a flock of flamingos, and a toco toucan, all inhabitants of the Maracá-Jipioca Ecological Station reserve. Photograph: André Dib/WWF Brazil

“This is the first time that behaviour has been spotted in the Amazon,” said Marcelo Oliveira, senior programme officer at WWF Brazil, who is leading the NGO’s first jaguar-collaring research. Continue reading

Aana Art Equaling Life-Sized Conservation

Elephants have held highest honors in our family for decades, as symbols for the importance of Nature Conservation, and later infused with the power of Ganesh when we lived in India.

Elephant conservation has taken many forms over the years. When writing about the recent Real Elephant Collective collaboration exhibit that took place in Cochin a few months ago, I realized that art installations using elephants as symbols for big picture conservation have existed for some time.

Having been unable to attend the exhibit personally, Anoodha and the Curiouser team make me feel that I was there.







Elephants By The Sea

100 life-size lantana replicas of wild elephants will travel across three continents spreading the message of peaceful coexistence with nature.

The beautiful herd of Asian Elephants calmly drinking from this watering hole poses no threat to any onlooker. They’re actually sculptures made from the invasive lantana, introduced to the Indian subcontinent as an ornamental shrub by the British. The harmless looking plant is a scourge to native flora, animals and people of the regions where it’s taken over, as it literally poisons its surroundings so nothing else can survive there, destroying the natural biodiversity of the area.

30 of these extraordinary, life-sized works of art have been on display in Kerala, at Kochi’s South Beach, coinciding with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The outdoor exhibit, entitled Co-Exist: Matriarchs for a Whole Earth, is on display for only until the end of February, after which it will travel to Bangalore and New Delhi. In 2020, the elephant models will be taken to England where they will be displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Parks, both in London. In 2021, they will travel by truck across the USA, where they will finally be auctioned, the proceeds of which will go to preservation of wild animals.

The project is a collaboration between multiple organizations, designers and indigenous community artisans. Members of the Ashoka Trust Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment (ATREE) devised a way to safely craft with lantana as a raw material and support for the making and display of lantana elephants is through the NGOs Elephant Family, The Real Elephant Collective (TREC), and The Shola Trust.

Fort Kochi To Have 100 ‘Lantana’ Elephants. And Here’s Why You Need To See Them

Highlighting the cause of nature and wildlife conservation at a global scale, the Lantana elephants are part of a greater initiative to raise funds for conservation and help people and elephants live together more harmoniously.

On February 7, if you are wandering around the popular South Beach in Fort Kochi, you are sure to come across a magnificent herd of 100 Asian elephants.

If you are wondering about the possibility of such a huge congregation of these beings at one place, let us break the news.

These are beautifully sculpted life-size elephants that have been made by tribal artisans from Thorapalli in Gudalur using Lantana camara or Lantana, a toxic invasive weed.

Lantana elephants are part of a greater initiative to raise funds for conservation and help people and elephants live together more harmoniously.

“Our vision is to bring Asia’s elephants and the issues they face out of India and the shadow cast by the African ivory crisis. With Asian elephants numbering only a tenth of their African counterparts, the importance of this unique migration cannot be underplayed. The survival of a species is at stake,” says Ruth Ganesh, principal trustee and the creative force of Elephant Family.

She had conceptualised the Lantana herd along with Shubhra Nayar of TREC. Modelled on real elephants from the Gudalur-Pandalur region, in its bid to raise awareness and funds for the conservation of Asian elephants, this unique project is also clearing the harmful Lantana from the Nilgiri forests while providing livelihoods to about 70 artisans from the Paniya, Bettakurumba and Soliga communities.

With their inherent knowledge of wild elephants and their exceptional crafting skills with Lantana, these artisans are bringing life to the elephant forms, while earning a dignified income. The elephants are designed by Shubhra Nayar and Tariq T of TREC, with Subhash Gautam overseeing the process. Continue reading

Bad News for a Few European World Heritage Sites

Protections have been weakened for Russian natural areas like the Western Caucasus. © WWF-Russia / Sergey Trepet

Last time we mentioned UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it wasn’t good news either, when many Sites were listed as “in danger.” The places newly at risk, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), are often in the way of logging enterprises, often by the very governments who should be protecting the internationally recognized areas.  From the WWF:

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee today expressed concern over three sites facing severe pressures from harmful industrial activities, but failed to take bold action to protect them.

At the meeting, WWF objected to a sharp logging increase in the Polish portion of Bialowieza Forest World Heritage site, which also spans part of Belarus. The forest is one of Europe’s oldest, and is home to the most wild European bison, as well as lynxes and wolves. The government of Poland has argued that logging is necessary in order to combat a bark beetle infestation, a claim Polish scientists reject.

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Support Conservation In India!


A Royal Bengal Tiger at Kaziranga National Park in India in 2014. CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

Some moderately good news from the home front here in India gets us back in the mood to shout out in the interest of conservation-focused tourism:

Number of Tigers in the Wild Is Rising, Wildlife Groups Say

There are now an estimated 3,890 wild tigers, mostly in Asia, up from a worldwide tiger population of 3,200 estimated in 2010, the World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum announced on Monday. Wild tigers are considered endangered and had seen shrinking numbers because of hunting, poaching and loss of habitat, such as deforestation, particularly in Sumatra, for palm oil, and paper and pulp industries, the groups said. The official count had declined every year since 1900, when tigers numbered an estimated 100,000. Continue reading

Camera Trapping Bounty


A female mountain lion called P-35 was photographed by a camera trap in the Santa Susana Mountains northwest of Los Angeles. National Park Service

 From today’s Science section of the New York Times:

Photographing Wildlife Without a Photographer


Camera traps can help illuminate the world’s most elusive animals. When a cougar, elephant or other creature triggers the device’s motion sensor, it snaps a picture.

“Most animals are hiding, you actually never get to see them and you might be led to believe there’s nothing out there,” said Roland Kays, a zoologist at North Carolina State University and author of the forthcoming book “Candid Creatures: How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature.” Continue reading

This Earth Hour Could Be Epic

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This Earth Hour, join the biggest solar revolution ever – go solar!

This Earth Hour, switch off your lights and switch on the power of the sun. Find out how you can join the biggest solar revolution ever, right here in India, and be a part of the global climate action!

We clicked on the India option first (since so many of our own initiatives are there), which led us to India’s activities related to Earth Hour. Next, Costa Rica. If you visit the website WWF set up to explain and promote Earth Hour, you will get the simple explanation:

As the world stands at a climate crossroads, it is powerful yet humbling to think that our actions today will decide what tomorrow will look like for generations to come. This Earth Hour, ​switch on your social power​ to shine a light on climate action. This is our time to #ChangeClimateChange…our future starts today.

Earth Hour is on Saturday, 19 March 2016 8:30 p.m. local time. Continue reading

Saving the Hill of Her Childhood

Plant and animal life on Flag Hill, near the hill station town of Mussoorie in north India, has been restored through the efforts conservationist Sejal Worah.

Plant and animal life on Flag Hill, near the hill station town of Mussoorie in north India, has been restored through the efforts conservationist Sejal Worah.

Environmentalist and WWF India Programme Director, Sejal Worah, and her local team have spent the last two years attempting to revive a 400 acres area situated in the Garwhal Himalayas, in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand.  From being a degraded and over grazed territory, within two years of conservation efforts the protected area has become a sanctuary for wildlife which hadn’t been reported for years, like the Himalayan black bear and Sambhar deer.

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Saving a Gentle Giant

1,600 WWF's Paper mâché pandas representing today's Giant Panda population

1,600 WWF Paper mâché pandas representing today’s Giant Panda population
Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

The Giant Panda is the logo for WWF, the world’s largest conservation organization and it isn’t hard to see why they’re such a successful symbol. Their black and white coloring, and compellingly large eyes have tugged on the heartstrings of millions of people around the globe. This past week the newest baby panda was born at the Washington D.C Zoo.  Mei Xiang’s cub was welcomed with applause and awe from around the world, but this event has also brought about some questions about the money going into WWF for saving the Giant Panda. National Geographic recently addressed this issue.

Is the considerable effort and millions of dollars put into breeding the animals in captivity really worth it?

Some conservationists say yes, claiming public “pandemonium” can translate to real conservation action. But others argue that the money could be better spent on other things, such as preserving threatened habitat.

Statistically, Giant Pandas have a lot stacked against them for the survival of their species. First, there are approximately only 1,600 individuals in the world today, and of those, 300 are held in captivity. Secondly, according to biologist Devra Kleiman, the Giant Pandas have a very small mating window. The female panda is only “in heat” for 2-3 days a year, and thirdly, the natural areas where the panda thrives are fractured and damaged, making it less likely that a pair will find one another easily during that limited period of time.

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Bravo, WWF & Odnoklassniki!

Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) come ashore at a gravel beach on Arakamchechen Island in the Bering Sea, Chukotka, Russia. Photograph: Jenny E Ross/Corbis

Thanks to Guardian’s coverage of this excellent, innovative campaign:

The 148m users of the Russian social network service Odnoklassniki are being targeted by a World Wildlife Fund for Nature campaign that uses ‘404’ error pages to raise awareness of species on the verge extinction.

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Gulf Of California Partnership

Reviewing events in the region since I was last there, I came across this news (three years late, for something this interesting, is better than never to learn about it). WWF, to its great credit and the world’s benefit, found creative ways to partner with entities during the time since I completed my small task for them.  Listening to this man speak on behalf of the aquarium, I see the enormous educational impact such an institution can have (and here I must acknowledge that I have always found zoos and aquariums melancholia-inducing places, with charismatic mega-fauna trapped in relatively small spaces for us to muse over; but I am changing my perspective):

The WWF press release at the time started:

Long Beach, Calif., April 30, 2008— Described by Jacques Cousteau as the world’s aquarium, Mexico’s Gulf of California is one of five marine ecosystems in the world with the highest diversity of wildlife.

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Borneoculars: Observations from a Scientific Expedition in Borneo

Guest Author: Nicole Kravec

Indiana Jones would be proud of the entire scientific expedition team.  For two weeks we trekked through the jungles of Malaysia’s Imbak Canyon, the “biological gene bank” in the heart of the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo.  It was one of the best – and most adventurous – trips of my life.

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