Recently in Island Species Category
We just got this GLOWING update via email from our field rep in Indonesia about the 99,000-acre marine reserve off the coast of Daram Island. (Seacology is funding the construction of a community center in nearby Fafanlap village in exchange for their support of the reserve)
It was so great we just had to share:
The last time I dived this site was with the Seacology trip in 2007 and while it was spectacular four years ago, the reef has exploded with fish life since then. For the first time we saw schools of Napoleon wrasse, blacktip sharks and aggregations of big grouper, all of which seem to have been locally extinct on most Indonesian reefs for over a decade. There were so many fish on this dive that our heads were spinning. I was emphatically pointing one way and Mark was emphatically pointing another way the whole dive. I came out of that dive exhilarated and full of joy and hope that other reefs in the Misool area, with continued protection, will also look like Fafanlap in just a few short years. If they do, I can foresee that S.E. Misool will have THE best diving in the world, hands down.
This Times article about Haiti's dying reefs I think illustrates an important point about marine conservation efforts: it's not necessarily a case of environmentalism-vs-industry. You need to protect reef habitats in order to prevent the kind of "Tragedy of the Commons" scenario we're seeing unfolding in Haiti, where over-fishing continues even when it's obvious it's bad for everyone in the long run.
In Haiti 54,000 fishermen rely on the ocean for their livelihood... [and in] recent decades, as their usual catches of Nassau groupers and snappers have dwindled and disappeared, many of them have subsisted by netting and spearing small reef fish that keep coral clean of algae. Now those too are almost gone, and the algae have taken over....
Pierre Guy LaFontant, Haiti's director general of fisheries, acknowledged that overfishing was a problem and said that officials were receptive to the idea of establishing protected waters. But if the government cannot enforce its existing fishing regulations, can fishermen be persuaded to abide by an invisible line in the water?
But of course it's not as simple as just protecting and waiting, since these Haitian fishermen have basic short-term needs that can't easily be put on hold.
The whole article is worth a read... As bad as things are for Haiti's coral reefs, it's good to know that conservation efforts are beginning.
Henry Hilaire, who has fished for 36 years, gathered nets from a sailboat with several other Haitians in waters that Reef Check hopes will eventually be protected.... Mr. Hilaire pulled two small fish, each about five inches long, from his basket. "It's really too young to keep," he said, but "circumstances are such that if we didn't keep them, we'd go hungry."....
They're desperate, trying to survive, so how do you tell them not to fish here?" asked Romain Louis, 37, a literature teacher hoping to become part of the eco-diver team.
Mr. Louis suggested that the fishermen would need an incentive... "Maybe, if these fishermen got a trade-off, they'd stop fishing on overfished reefs."
So what kinds of creatures are being protected? Here's a quick tour of some of Batukahu Forest's residents:
The forest cat has big eyes and is very ferocious, while the long-tailed macaque looks a little sad, but their babies are adorable.
Meanwhile, the pangolin looks a lot like an armadillo, and the flying fox (AKA the kalong) is not a fox at all, but instead a rather large bat.
Within the animal kingdom, sharks are known for their sharp teeth, and their increasingly threatened conservation status due to the popularity of shark fin soup. But now, a study suggests that sharks are also unique for the importance they place on good hygiene and healthcare!
Scientists at Bangor University in Wales have observed thresher sharks (seen in image below) visiting shallow coral reef ecosystems near the Philippines for what appear to be full-body cleanings. Upon arriving at the reef, the sharks slow down and swim in a small circle, apparently to attract the cleaner wrasse, a small fish with excellent shark-grooming skills.
One scientist describes the process as "a bit like a surgery...The sharks come in with cuts and scrapes where they might have scabs and these are treated by the cleaner wrasse, which remove dead tissue from the wound area and any parasites from the skin." The sharks remain for their cleaning for up to 45 minutes, swimming in small circles near the reef.
This shark medical care is just another example of the often surprising interactions between different species within an ecosystem. Unfortunately, with threats to sharks on the rise, sometimes a trip to the cleaner wrasse may have a tragic ending. The shallow reefs where these cleanings take place are often shared by fishermen, who either hunt the sharks (or, more brutally, remove only their fins), or use dynamite or hooks on other marine species, inadvertently killing the sharks along with them. These practices, along with irresponsible tourists who hurt the reefs while observing the sharks, also cause immense harm to the cleaner wrasse fish and all other species who depend on the coral reef.
Image courtesy of NOAA
Many animal species are known for the intense labors they undergo for the sake of their offspring. Sea turtles travel for thousands miles to lay their eggs on the same beaches where they hatched. Male Emperor Penguins spend two months without food while incubating their eggs in the frigid Antarctic winter. A recent discovery adds another bird--the albatross--to the ranks of these determined parents.
The oldest known bird in the Northern Hemisphere is an albatross--a large seabird known for their massive wingspan (some can be up to 11 feet wide!). Recently, scientists made a surprising discovery about this ancient bird, appropriately named Wisdom: At the age of 60, rather than considering retirement, she is the proud mother of a new baby albatross!
Albatross lay only one egg a year, but scientists estimate that Wisdom has already raised at least 30 chicks in her lifetime. Many take a year off between parenting, and most albatross mate for life. Below, Wisdom is pictured with her newest baby.
Islands cover a tiny fraction of the planet's surface, but are home to over half of all extinctions. In this series, we'll introduce you to some of the rare and fascinating animals found on islands.
Unless you are an ornithologist, the word "megapode" might conjure images of a transformer-like creature in your mind. In reality, megapodes, or "incubator birds," are chicken-like birds who are the only type of birds to use something other than their body heat to incubate their eggs. Instead, they bury their eggs under large mounds of sand or decaying vegetation, using geothermal or volcanic heat to warm the eggs. The picture below shows a megapode standing atop his huge incubator mound. Imagine starting your life under a pile of volcanic-heated compost!
Read on for more information about these unique birds.
Worldwide, islands harbor some of our planet's most rare and fascinating species. The island of Madagascar, located off the eastern coast of Africa, is no exception. With abundant biodiversity, the island provides a home to 8 plant families, 4 bird families, and 5 primate families that are endemic, or found nowhere else on earth. One of Madagascar's most famed endemic species is the lemur, a small primate found in the island's forests.
Welcome back to Seacology's "
Welcome back to Seacology's "