AMAZING HUMANS AND ANIMALS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT IN 2020
President of the Waorani of Pastaza and co-founder of the Ceibo Alliance, Nemonte Nenquimo, has made a globally-recognized name for herself while fighting to protect her ancestral territory. In 2018 the Ecuadorian government announced that it was going to put up 16 new oil concessions covering 7 million acres of Amazon Rainforest up for auction. Nenquimo led the fight against these concessions, and launched the “Our rainforest is not for sale” digital campaign, collecting over 400,000 signatures from around the world.
When the case made it to court, Nenquimo acted as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Ecuadorean government. Her argument stated that the government had not obtained proper and appropriate consent from the Waorani to put the land up for auction, as the land largely overlaps with the Waorani territory. The judges ruled in favor of the Waorani, declaring that the 500,000 acres in question are protected from oil extraction. The ruling also stated that in the future, the government would have to ensure free, prior and informed consent before auctioning any other land, setting a rare but successful precedent for future cases of Indigenous rights.
Environmental activists rejoiced across the world and celebrated the Waorani's victory. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that Nenquimo landed a spot on Times Most Influential People of 2020 List and in the same year, won the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize. The fight between indigienous rights and governments is far from over, but there is no doubt Nemonte’s fight and successes brings hope to those who are suffering similar injustices.
It's been quite the year for the world's most illegally trafficked non-human animal. Most went into 2020 not knowing what a pangolin even is. Then all of a sudden this scaly anteater was front in center because of it's link to COVID, as there is plenty of reason to believe it was an illegally trafficked pangolin that was carrying the novel coronavirus and consumed in Wuhan.
While there is a long way to go and a lot of work to do to save this incredible mammal from being pushed to the brink of extinction, there is reason to celebrate. In June of 2020, shortly after we actually finished our Pangolin Conference here at Animalia, China removed pangolin scales from its list of approved ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine.
While this could still be purely cosmetic unless China actually enforces it, it is a BIG DEAL if they follow through. Traditional Chinese medicine is the #1 source of pangolin poaching worldwide. The follow thru remains to be seen, but this is a push in the right direction. It's sad it took a global pandemic for this to happen, but it is one of the silver linings we can be excited about.
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Verena Mohaupt made our list for no shock of anyones. Mohaupt was the logistics coordinator for a year-long mission known as the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). The mission, which was the largest Artic research expedition in history, set out to gather unprecedented data on climate change to better help modellers forecast how warming will transform the region and the globe in the coming decades.
Needless to say, this mission was not for the faint hearted. The mission operated in constant darkness, where meanwhile, polar bears would roam nearby, storms would rock the ship and the ice would shift and crack. When the sun would come up to replace the darkness, the ice would begin to melt, which created a slew of other safety hazards- it was essentially a safety and logistics nightmare. Nevertheless, tasked with the security of the mission, Mohaupt designed an extensive training course for the participants to learn techniques to ward off those hazards when on site. Training activities ranged from jumping into a fjord only to learn how to climb out using just ice picks, to learning how to escape out of a crashed helicopter. And it wasn't all extreme sports centered either, as they also trained to exercise their emotional and mental wellness, including the psychological effects of being far from home.
The frigid cold, environmental dangers, and unexpected conditions were no match for Mohaupts, and she is largely credited for the mission’s success and longevity.
Xiao Qi Ji AKA “Little Miracle”
While we struggle with our own relationship with zoos here at Animalia, we felt it was important to highlight the birth of Xiao Qi Ji at the National Zoo in Washington DC run by the Smithsonian Institute.
This is because pandas have been notoriously challenging to successful breed in captivity, which is proving to be a necessary discomfort given their dwindling wild population numbers and loss of habitat.
This is one of the positive roles zoos can play - repopulating species on the brink. However, this requires an equal amount of effort if not more so being put into protecting their habitats and not turning this adorable panda cub into a long term side-show.
The National Zoo has had a lot of trouble in the last decade with violations of failing to meet many basic welfare conditions for it's animals. So while things seem to be getting better and the successful birth of a panda cub is no doubt something to celebrate, it's a glass half full type of feeling this took place in a notoriously problematic zoo and we really hope this is a rallying cry to protect pandas in the wild and hold zoos to stricter standards for holding animals. Hopefully Xiao will be repopulated successfully when ready and continue on his legacy in the wild where he belongs.
Giraffe Translocation in 2020
It was a huge year for Giraffe Conservation due to a series of successful translocation projects.
One of the longstanding challenges of conserving giraffe has been migrating them from under-resourced, dangerous areas into more protected and flourishing national parks in Africa. This is due not only to the size of the giraffe but also it's very skittish and uncooperative nature when being coerced into anything, and the risk of injury that can be extremely hard for them to overcome.
Dr. Eric Chivian, founder and director of the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, is drawing revolutionary connections between loss of environmental biodiversity and human health. Over the past few decades Chivian has inspired countless medical and environmental professionals, policy makers, economists, and religious groups to recognize the implications of biodiversity loss. One of the rarely talked about implications, being that of human health and well being.
Chivian has dedicated his life and work to encouraging the use of a medical model in our efforts to protect the global environment. Chivian himself thinks "the greatest danger for the environment lies in the profound lack of understanding among political leaders and policymakers, particularly in the United States, of the fact that human health ultimately depends on the health of the global environment."
He presses that ecosystems provide the goods and services that sustain all life on the planet, including human life. These goods and services can be damaged to a point of no return, where restoring them is not an option. All changes to the environment, whether it be from pollution, deforestation, or other causes, irreparably affect the living world. Once a species or gene is lost in an ecosystem, it is gone forever. Nature, which many of our medicines are derive from, is also a focal point of medical research. Some wild species may possess attributes that make them uniquely well suited for the study and treatment of human diseases, however If the species are lost, they will take the secrets with them.
Dr. Chivian’s groundbreaking research and teachings are just another reminder that climate change is affecting the world in ways we don't realize or understand. Through his advocacy of conservation and relations with various pivotal groups, he is truly a warrior of the fight against climate change.
This is Cronutt, the first ever sea lion to successfully come out of brain surgery to reverse his epilepsy which causes seizures that can lead to his drowning in the wild.
Why are so many sea lions and otters suddenly getting epilepsy? Due to warming ocean waters, algae blooms are creating toxins ingested by sardines and anchovies, which are then eaten by sea lions and otters and driving up epilepsy cases.
That's right. Climate Change is at it again. The far reaching pain of our constant attack on this planet seems to never end. This time hitting sea lions and otters that we all love and adore.
We are still waiting to hear how Cronutt is doing a couple months after this surgery, but if it holds up, this is a MAJOR breakthrough that will allow conservationists to save more of these species in the years ahead. Of course this only buys us a bit more time to slow down the larger issue of our warming oceans.
We love you Cronutt!
"No one is an environmentalist by birth," she said, "It is only your path, your life, your travels that awaken you."
These are words by Sunita Narain, the director general of New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), who is regarded as a pioneer for climate justice in India. It comes as no surprise she won this year’s Edinburgh medal for her impactful contributions to science and technology and her understanding and well being of humanity. The recognition also underscores strong leadership by her, especially in championing climate justice for the poor and disenfranchised.
Narains work is centered around the belief that the challenges that India faces in regards to the climate crisis have accessibility and financial complexes as well. As India’s economy continues to grow, now ranking 5th in the world, so do its levels of greenhouse emissions.
Narain has dedicated her life's work to champion change for India’s environmental and economic conditions, believing that sustainable growth must be affordable, inclusive and equitable. She has been working with leaders and environmentalists to create a new paradigm of growth, acknowledging that development does not have to stop amid the fight to slow climate change. A sensitive topic in India, she presses that they cannot afford to do what China and the U.S. did, and “have decades of 8 percent GDP growth, then do a cleanup act later”.
Taylor and Tate
It's hard to imagine that the Australian Bushfires where the FIRST terrible incident of 2020 given everything that has taken place since.
One of the heroes of that disaster relief was Taylor, an English Spaniel who used her incredible nose to sniff out koalas who were injured and dehydrated.
Koalas are notoriously hard to spot and find as they tend to hide and burrow at the sight of humans. Taylor however was able to locate them with precision, which was critical as time was of the essence for many of the aerobeal marsupials.
Many projects are underway to replant the eucalyptus forests that were lost in these fires.
Don't forget you can support WIRES, an incredible conservation in New South Wales, with every purchase of our Australian Wildlife Tee, which is now 50% off for the last of our inventory.
And check out our podcast episode recapping the Bushfires 6 months later and what we learned and how to prevent such disasters in the future.
John Kamanga is a grassroots conservation leader who has dedicated his career to developing a vision for the co-existence of pastoralists and wildlife. His conservation philosophy draws on indigenous traditions, while incorporating modern realities and conservation opportunities.
Kamanga, recipient of this year’s Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa, is founder and director of the South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO). SORALO represents 16 Maasai communities living in a large area of Kenya, and helps to protect one of Kenya’s most critical conservation areas. A significant amount of wildlife in Kenya live outside protected areas, so Kamanga’s work sets out to empower communities and equip them with the modern tools to conserve wildlife.
Pastoralism, as a way of life, is the reason that wildlife had survived so abundantly in Kenya historically. Using traditional and modern practices, alongside the mobilization of the neighboring communities, John has created responsible and productive land management strategies. In addition, he oversees various projects all geared towards conservation. Some of his projects include the hiring of rangers to patrol the lands to ensure the safety of the lands being used by people and wildlife, and also establishing a resource center for international groups to visit. Here, they have also given women a chance to manage their own businesses. His rapport with international organizations, governments and ministries and ability to promote and articulate the role of communities in conservation has been crucial in the conservation of this land.
Grey Wolves Voted to Return to Colorado
In a landmark decision, Colorado has voted to return Gray Wolves to the state after years of being eradicated from open hunting.
While this move was opposed by the ranchers who hunted them down in the first place for fear the wolves will attack their livestock, there are MANY proven modern measures to protect livestock without killing wolves.
Wolves, as apex predators, are so critical for their natural ecosystems in maintaining population levels of prey like elk and deer, and provided food for scavengers like fox and eagles.