Recently in Island Species Category



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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.
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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.

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."

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.

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Seacology is funding the construction of a new community center in Banjar Anyar, a small village on Indonesia's island of Bali. Part of the agreement is that the good pepole of Banjar Anyar continue to serve as the guardians of the surrounding Batukahu Forest.

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.

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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.

Seacology has many projects that work to protect the sharks, fish, and other wildlife in the coral reefs of the Philippines and other areas around the world.

Image courtesy of NOAA 

Old Mother Albatross

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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. 

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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!

800px-Brushturkeykansaszoo.jpgRead on for more information about these unique birds.

The world's largest living species of fish, whale sharks are internationally recognized as vulnerable, facing threats from commercial fishing and habitat destruction. In the summer months, as many as 300 whale sharks gather north of Isla Mujeres, off Cancun, and farther north near Holbox, Mexico. These gentle giants are welcoming to human visitors, and many divers have experienced the thrill of swimming with them. Trouble is, several times a week, huge cargo ships travel through congregation sites, sometimes striking the slow-moving creatures. Currently, there are no demarcation buoys to create shipping lanes and warn ship captains to stay clear because of the vulnerable whale sharks. Seacology is working with local guides to deploy a series of state-of-the-art demarcation buoys complete with GPS transponders that will warn ships to stay clear. Once these buoys are deployed, official navigation charts would also denote the area as a whale shark reserve.
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Seacology has teamed up with Undercurrent, a leading dive magazine, to help protect the whale sharks that make their home around Mexico. Undercurrent subscribers have already contributed nearly $6,000 toward the $45,000 needed for the buoy project, and the local tour operators, hotels, and other businesses in the area will be donating up to half the cost, as long as Seacology can raise the rest. Now, for every dollar you give to this project, Undercurrent subscriber Elaine Mathews of Long Beach, California, will match it with a dollar of her own, up to $5000. That's right; your tax-deductible contribution will be doubled. Please help protect these gentle giants, by donating to Seacology. Be sure to note that your tax-deductible donation is for the whale shark buoy project. Remember, every dollar you give will be doubled, thanks to the generosity of Elaine Mathews' matching gift. Please donate now to help save the whale sharks!

Whale Sharks In Mexico

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Next time you are in Mexico and someone asks you to play with dominoes, you may be in for a very large surprise.  Due to the many white spots that mark their gray bodies, in Mexico the common nickname for  whale sharks is "dominoes."  Indeed these gentle giants do resemble dominoes - very, very large ones, that is.  At up to 48 feet in length and weighing up to 25 tons, whale sharks, or Rhincodon Typus as they are known to scientists, are the world's largest fish.  Despite their enormous size, comparatively little is known about them.  One of the reasons for this is that there are not large numbers of them left in the oceans and for much of the year they are solitary animals.

Whaleshark0025.jpg Less than ten years ago, marine biologists discovered that during the months of June to September the world's largest aggregation of whale sharks takes place off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.  In recent years they can be found north of Isla Mujeres, a small island just off the coast of Cancun.  A smaller number can also be found off of Holbox Island near the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Whale Sharks are listed on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Red List of Vulnerable Species, meaning their future is in danger.

Madagascar's Silky Sifakas

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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.

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Welcome back to Seacology's "Islands 101" blog series! Knowing that not everyone eats, sleeps, and breathes islands, we've put together some basic information to help bring you up to speed on the ins and outs of island conservation. If you haven't already, check out our first "Islands 101" post, which covered island geography and ecosystems. 


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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Island Species category.

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