Archive | Population Growth

Traveler Detained for Possessing 200 Illegal Animals

An Indonesian man was arrested Wednesday at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand for attempting to smuggle 200 live animals – including tortoises, snakes, squirrels, spiders, lizards and a parrot – in three suitcases.

The international wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said in a statement Thursday that the traveler was stopped after airport officials spotted the animals in images of the scanned luggage.

“It’s not unprecedented to find numbers — sometimes even hundreds — of live animals inside luggage like this,” TRAFFIC spokesman Richard Thomas told msnbc.com. “What makes this case unusual is the wide variety of wildlife in the cases. Animals like tortoises are usually taped up to keep them from moving, and being detected, but quite how the man in this instance expected not to be found out is quite extraordinary.”

The suspect said he had illegally purchased the animals from an outdoor market in Bangkok.

“One really has to question how Chatuchak Market, which is located just down the street from both Wildlife Protection and Nature Crime Police Offices, can continue these illegal mass sales,” TRAFFIC regional director William Schaedla said, according to MSNBC. “The situation is totally unacceptable in a country that claims to be effectively addressing illegal wildlife trade.”

TRAFFIC reportedly found the following animals crammed inside the three black bags:

88 Indian Star tortoises

34 ball pythons

33 elongated tortoises

22 common squirrels

19 bearded dragons

18 baboon spiders

7 radiated tortoises

6 Argentine horned frogs

6 mata mata turtles

4 spiny tailed lizards

4 striped narrow-headed turtles

3 aldabra tortoises

2 boa constrictors

2 Sudan plated lizards

2 corn snakes

2 king snakes

1 ploughshare tortoise (world’s rarest turtle)

1 pig-nosed turtle

1 African gray parrot

1 milk snake

1 hog nosed snake
The man is currently in police custody and faces smuggling charges, TRAFFIC said.

Posted in Amphibians, Birds, Mammals, Reptiles0 Comments

New York City Canal Contains Suspected Carcinogens

An investigation of New York City’s Gowanus Canal has revealed the waterway’s widespread contamination, which authorities say poses a threat to people and the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday released a study that assessed the pollution of the 1.5-mile canal, which was named eligible for the federal Superfund cleanup program last year.

The channel, which flows through an industrial area near affluent Brooklyn neighborhoods, is tainted with various metals and over a dozen contaminants, including suspected carcinogens like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the EPA said.

Under the Superfund program, the government will force polluters to pay for the canal’s cleanup. Officials say restoration will require major dredging and will last 10 to 11 years beginning in 2015 at a cost of $300 to $500 million.

The EPA said the canal also contains the contaminate polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, another suspected carcinogen.

Agency regional administrator Judith A. Enck told the New York Times that people should refrain from swimming in the canal and eating fish from it.

“What we found is no surprise,” she said. “The report paints a pretty serious picture of the level of contamination.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has opposed Gowanus’ designation as a Superfund site, saying the label would scare off developers.

Posted in Toxic Substances, Water Pollution, Water, Oceans, & Ice0 Comments

Pollution Standards Won’t Apply to All, EPA Says

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday reversed pollutions standards for a California power plant waiting for a permit, and the decision could leave a dozen additional industrial facilities exempt from the stringent new rules as well, The Associated Press said Wednesday.

A top EPA official reportedly told a federal panel that a California facility would not have to comply with new federal air pollution regulations.

The EPA on Wednesday appeared before a Senate panel to go over its new federal controls on heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Republicans say the new restrictions will kill jobs and slow economic growth.

AP reported Wednesday that the reversal could exempt about 10 to 20 industrial facilities from the standards on smog and pollutants responsible for acid rain.
An EPA official said the change would not influence efforts to fight global warming.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution Prevention, Air Pollution Remediation0 Comments

Cyclone Yasi Churns Toward Flood-Ravaged Queensland

A potentially deadly storm system, Cyclone Yasi, is swirling toward Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland, an area still recovering from last month’s massive flooding.

On Tuesday officials airlifted hospital patients out of the cyclone’s path and urged residents in low-lying areas to evacuate immediately due to risk of flash flooding. The evacuation warnings were not mandatory.

Queensland state Premier told reporters that the 400-mile front Yasi “is huge and life threatening.”

Experts said the Category 3 storm could be the worst cyclone in Queensland’s history after it hits the coast as a Category 4 storm Wednesday.

The storm was expected to unleash winds of 131 to 155 mph and dump up to 3 feet of rain on areas already ravaged by flooding, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Those floods left 35 people dead from December to Jan. 13, affecting 30,000 homes and businesses in the Brisbane area, UPI reports. The government expects damages from the tropical deluge to cost about $5.6 billion.

Yasi was expected to steer north of Brisbane, but Bligh urged all the flood-weary residents of Queenland’s coastal communities to prepare for the worst.

“It’s such a big storm – it’s a monster, killer storm – that it’s not just about where this crosses the coast that is at risk,” Bligh said, as quoted by The Associated Press.

“I know many of us will feel that Queensland has already borne about as much as we can bear when it comes to disasters and storms,” she said. “But more is being asked of us.”

The storm was expected to hit hardest in Cairns, a tourist gateway city of some 164,000 people. More than 9,000 people were ordered to evacuate from that region.

Posted in Climate Science & Weather, Natural Disasters0 Comments

Winter Storm System Headed for Midwest

The Great Plains and Midwest are bracing for an intense winter storm expected to dump  10 inches of snow on the area beginning Tuesday.

Meteorologists say freezing rain and snow will sweep through the country’s core region starting Monday, with heavy snow and 30 mph winds to follow on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The light freezing rain is expected to complicate things for commuters.

“It could be enough to make the roads, especially secondary roads, pretty slick,” said Matt Dux, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, according to the Kansas City Star.

The weather service posted a blizzard warning for Tuesday and Wednesday for southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and northwest Indiana. Some areas in the nation’s midsection could receive more than 2 feet of snow.

Weather service officials warned that the heavy gusts of winds combined with snowfall could create whiteout conditions, especially on Tuesday night.

Posted in Atmospheric Science, Climate Science & Weather0 Comments

Endangered Crocodiles Released into Wild in Philippines

Wildlife officials released nineteen critically endangered crocodiles into the wild in the Philippines Thursday in the hopes that the species will rebound from the brink of extinction.

Conservationists with the Mabuwaya Foundation raised the rare freshwater crocodiles for 18 months in a breeding center prior to loosing them in a remote national park, which is one of just two remaining natural habitats for the freshwater reptiles, AFP reports.

“The Philippine crocodile is the world’s most severely threatened crocodile species with less than 100 adults remaining in the wild. It could go extinct in 10 years if nothing is done,” Mabuwaya Foundation spokeswoman Maria Balbas told AFP.

The species has suffered devastating losses to habitat destruction, dynamite fishing, and hunting by humans who consider it dangerous.

But Balbas is confident that the baby crocs will have a safe home in the Sierre Madre Natural Park, which is located in the northern province of Isabela.

“There is enough food and people are educated on how to protect them. We actually have groups in the local community who guard the sanctuary. They are aware that killing crocodiles is prohibited,” she said.

If the reptiles survive, the population of known Philippine crocodiles will surge by about a fifth.

The baby crocodiles are only 14 to 20 inches long, but they will grow to be up to nine feet in length, AFP reports.

Posted in Reptiles0 Comments

Sea Turtle Populations Drop Following Spill

The BP oil spill was especially unkind to sea turtles, experts say. A new report finds that more turtles were killed or injured in the Gulf of Mexico in the time after the April 20th disaster than in any similar period in the past twenty years.

Researchers with the National Wildlife Federation, the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and the Florida Wildlife Federation say there were four to six times more turtles found dead, disabled, and diseased in the months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill than average.

The analysis did not pinpoint cause of death, although researchers said that many of the 600 creatures certainly died of exposure to crude. But while many turtles could have died from other factors such as entanglement in fishing nets and cold weather, the spike in deaths following the spill is still significant – and troubling.

“Of all the species affected by the oil spill, those for which I have the greatest concern are the sea turtles,” said study co-author Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation.

Inkley believes the oil spill was at least partially responsible for the above-average deaths, although necropsies performed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association indicate that most of the turtles drowned in fishing gear.

Sea turtles are especially vulnerable because it takes them 10 to 30 years to reach adulthood, so it could take decades to restore dwindling populations to healthy numbers.

Four of the turtle species dwelling along the Florida coast – green, hawksbill, leather back, and Kemp’s ridley – are endangered.

Posted in Reptiles0 Comments

5-Ft. Monitor Lizard Scares Californians

A 5-foot Monitor lizard weighing in at 45 lbs. was caught wandering the grounds of a condominium complex in Riverside, Calif. Wednesday.

Animal control officer Jenny Selter responded to a 2:30 p.m. call about a “huge” lizard in the complex.

“She said she saw it and almost jumped back in her truck,” said John Welsh, spokesman for Riverside County Animal Services, as reported by The Associated Press. “The residents were freaking out because here’s the Godzilla-like creature walking down the sidewalk.”

The department said Selter used a catch pole – a long pole equipped with a loop that is usually used to catch vicious dogs – to capture the reptile. A police officer had to hold onto the lizard’s body while Selter held onto its tail. Together they loaded it into her truck.

Welsh said authorities believe the lizard is an escaped pet.

The carnivorous reptiles, which are native to the African grasslands and parts of Asia, are not illegal to keep in the state.

Posted in Reptiles0 Comments

City Dwellers Are More Green-Minded, Study Finds

People who live in big cities are more likely to participate in “green” behaviors than their rural-dwelling counterparts, a new study suggests.

Researchers with the Michigan State University in East Lansing surveyed over 5,000 people living in large and small Chinese cities. They found that big city residents are more likely to recycle, volunteer for environmental organizations, and care about environmental issues.

Although the study was restricted to China, its implications are far-reaching, said head researcher Jiangua “Jack” Liu, a sustainability scientist at Michigan State University.

“China is the largest country in the world, it has had the fastest growing economy in the last three decades, and urbanization is growing really fast,” Liu said, adding that China produces more carbon dioxide emissions than any other country. “Anything that happens in China now is affecting the rest of the world.”

Participants were asked six questions about their behaviors in the last year: whether they had sorted their garbage, talked about environmental issues with relatives or friends, recycled plastic packing bags, volunteered for environmental education programs, or participated in environmental litigation.

Liu and his colleagues found that people living in the country’s largest cities — such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin — were more likely to engage in environmentally conscious behaviors than those living in smaller cities.

Despite the commonly held notion that environmentalism is more prevalent among the wealthy, researchers did not find a correlation between income and “green” behaviors. Instead, they said simply being employed was a bigger factor. Liu speculated that this was because many Chinese employers host company-sponsored events to encourage environmental action.

In addition, big city dwellers are more likely to come into direct contact with pollution and other environmental issues in their daily lives, which may make them want to do something about those problems.

“What we found was that in big cities, people are more likely to take environmental action,” Liu said. “The big question is whether those actions will be enough.”

The study was published in Tuesday’s edition of the British journal Environmental Conservation.

Posted in Conservation, Recycling & Waste, Urban Development0 Comments

Floods Endanger Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Floods in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland have swamped an area the size of France and Germany combined, displacing thousands and leaving dozens missing. But the devastating deluge may have another victim: the Great Barrier Reef.

The expansive swath of coral reaching over 1,430 miles along Queensland’s coast is in trouble, experts say. As the driving rains drum on, the Burdekin River is dumping massive amounts of sediment – which contains top soil and harmful pesticides and fertilizers – into the southern end of the reef.

There’s another troubling factor to consider: the area has been pummeled with an unhealthy amount of fresh water, and the potential result is dead coral.

“These are extraordinary events. The whole of the inner-shore reef lagoon filled with river water,” says Jon Brodie, Principle Researcher for the James Cook University’s Australian Center for Tropical Freshwater Research, according to CNN.

Brodie and his colleagues say the coral reefs closest to the river mouth have been impacted the most. But the inundating fresh water could affect the reefs stretching from Frazer Island, 124 miles north of Brisbane, as far as Cairns, 930 miles away.

High levels of nutrients and sediments have been known to cripple coral diversity and increase seaweed cover on inshore reefs, Katarina Fabricius, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told msnbc.com.

Couple the sediment runoff with reduced salinity from all the freshwater, and you have a devastated ecosystem, Brodie says.

Experts expect the immediate death of corals and sea grass, with consequences that will reverberate from grass-eating dugongs up the food chain.

And while larger fish can swim out of the plumes of fresh water, smaller coral reef dwellers won’t be so lucky, says Brodie.

When coral organisms die, they lose their vibrant colors and leave only their white skeletons behind – hence the term “coral bleaching.”

While the event would be potentially devastating for marine life, some species would profit from the flooding.

“Some fish species thrive in the current flood plume conditions which can enhance productivity for some popular inshore species,” Andrew Skeat, General Manager of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said in a press statement, according to CNN.

Previous large floods have created algae blooms and starfish outbreaks that overtake the reefs, Fabricius said.

Michelle Devlin, a researcher at James Cook University in northern Queensland, told AFP that the fresh water, soil nutrients and pesticides will act as a harmful “cocktail” for the fragile reefs.

“This is a really massive event,” Devlin said. “It has the potential to shift the food web, it has the potential to shift how the reef operates.”

Posted in Aquatic Life, Oceans & Coastlines, Wastewater & Runoff0 Comments

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