An important win for the world's largest tropical wetland

An important win for the world's largest tropical wetland

The world’s largest tropical wetland notched an important win today with new commitments that require sustainable development of the Pantanal, a 42-million-acre wetland that touches three countries. It ensures that all future development of this essential landscape is balanced with the needs of wildlife and people.

Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay signed the landmark declaration that calls for sustainable development of the Pantanal, a 42-million-acre wetland that touches each country. The decision follows years of collaboration among the governments that are securing a prosperous future for one of the most biologically rich ecosystems on the planet. WWF has assisted this effort and applauds this landmark move. 

The Pantanal is a surprisingly well-kept secret in comparison to the Amazon, despite its massive size and the more than 4,700 animal and plant species that live within it.

Millions of people living downstream rely on its crucial natural resources and benefits, including natural flood control, groundwater recharge, river flow for boats to navigate, and absorption of carbon. A study conducted by Brazil's Agricultural Research Corporation concluded that these natural benefits are valued at $112 billion a year.

An essential resource under threat
All of the Pantanal’s natural wealth could be highly threatened if it is not developed in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Harmful land uses in the Pantanal have already contributed to the loss of more than 12% of the region’s forest cover. And scientists predict that the Pantanal’s native vegetation will disappear by 2050 if we don’t act now to combat this trend. Inadequate development planning by any of the three countries could damage not only the region's lucrative economy and the well-being of its inhabitants, but also the stability of the world’s fifth-largest basin, the Rio de la Plata, in which the Pantanal is located.

By signing the Declaration for the Conservation, Integrated and Sustainable Development of the Pantanal, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay recognize their shared responsibility to steward this vital resource. Together they’re ensuring that development of this beautiful and essential wetland is balanced with the needs of the environment and people.

Want to do more to protect valuable freshwater resources? Join WWF's Freshwater Force.

Published March 22, 2018 at 05:00AM

Last male northern white rhino dies

Last male northern white rhino dies

He was known as the Last Male Standing and attracted the attention of people around the world, but on March 19, 2018 the last male northern white rhino died. Sudan, 45 years old, had been under armed guard to protect him from the threat of poachers.
His death is heartbreaking. The extinction of the northern white rhino is happening before our eyes.

Why has this happened?

Rhinos are the targets of poaching because of an insatiable demand for their horns on the black market. It's thought that an average of three rhinos are lost to poachers every day, and poaching gangs are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Sudan was guarded and cared for by Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and died at an old age, but for many rhinos it's a different story.

It's illegal to buy and sell rhino horn, but the trade continues because of a belief in the horn's medicinal properties. It's a stark example of the devastating impact of the illegal wildlife trade on threatened species.

Urgent action to tackle the illegal wildlife trade is needed now more than ever. To prevent more tragedies like that of the northern white rhino, everything possible must be done to cut demand, crack down on corruption, and tackle poaching.

Cause for hope

The story is almost over for the northern white rhino, with only two females remaining in the world, but there is good news elsewhere. The southern white rhino has recovered from a population of fewer than 100 in the late nineteenth century to just over 20,000 today, and rhino poaching in Nepal has been reduced to almost zero.

WWF will continue to fight for rhinos, and to put an end to the illegal wildlife trade once and for all.

Published March 21, 2018 at 05:00AM

How businesses can support a world united around water

How businesses can support a world united around water

There are few things that connect the human race as acutely as water. We all need it – to drink, to wash, to heal, to do just about anything. But we also all impact it. Water is the ultimate shared resource – what we dump into a river leads to the ocean and connected freshwater sources all around the world, affecting everyone. Water both builds and binds us, so it’s together that we must care for this precious resource.

While there’s a responsibility for everyone and everything to protect our water – from governments to communities and everyone in between – businesses have a special opportunity to be water stewards.

For your average business, water is present everywhere. Water flows from corporate headquarters, through manufacturing facilities and complex supply chains, into the fields where raw materials are grown and to communities where people live and work. That water doesn’t come from a tap - it is generated from river and groundwater basins – the likes of which collectively drive our world economy.

If we address water issues, we can secure the productivity of the world's 10 most populous river basins, which is projected to double by 2050. Doing so will not be easy – already freshwater species are disappearing from the planet faster than any other. This is why we are working to help achieve the world’s big, audacious water goal – to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Most companies already know that water will affect their business growth and profitability and are making the businesses decisions to address water needs – particularly on how to operate facilities in ways that reduce water risks and promote sustainable management. Even shareholders and investors are increasingly interested in how companies are addressing water issues. Water is now recognized as a material risk, and stewardship is critical to long-term business growth.

But private sector’s impact on water issues can go well beyond the locations they choose to build their companies. Businesses can act as agents of innovation and change that will help us meet the water challenges of today and tomorrow. Private sector’s influence is enormous, and where it chooses to lead on natural resource management will be critical to tackling our water issues. That’s why working with corporations to be water stewards is a priority for World Wildlife Fund.

At WWF, our water team has a local-to-global approach that enables us to partner with companies ready to become water stewards, while also advancing the global dialogue on water issues. We help companies understand water risks, connect them to the tools to care for water, and create holistic water strategies that benefit their bottom lines and the world.

We need our water, we share water, so let’s take care of it together.

Published March 22, 2018 at 05:00AM

An illegal logger in Tanzania becomes a forest defender

An illegal logger in Tanzania becomes a forest defender

When his three daughters were hungry, Omary Mbunda would turn to illegal timber for money. For him and others in his village of Mbondo, Tanzania, the trees and wildlife in nearby Liuninga Forest Reserve were reliable sources of income and food.

That changed when the CARE-WWF Alliance—a partnership focused on creating food systems that better nourish vulnerable communities while supporting healthy ecosystems—began promoting sustainable forestry management and conservation agriculture in Mbondo in 2015. Mbunda’s neighbors elected him to participate in a local committee to conserve the surrounding landscape and its natural resources, including timber. Who better to protect the forest than someone who’s intimately familiar with illegal logging?

Mbunda began employing his deep knowledge of the Liuninga Forest to collaborate with village game scouts to apprehend illegal poachers and loggers.

“The CARE-WWF Alliance intervention in Mbondo village…gave us insights on forest conservation and its significance,” Mbunda said. “The forest brought us rain, water, as well as good breathing air. Together with the district council’s officials, [the Alliance] has strengthened our understanding on forests conservation and its benefits. Also, they taught us proper ways of harvesting timber and other forest products for relatively cheap prices, by getting proper licenses and permits.”

Now, rather than selling a single illegally harvested piece of timber for less than a quarter, the Village Natural Resources Committee selectively harvests whole trees—determined by a combination of the forest’s regeneration capacity, market demand, and economic value—to turn a greater profit.

With the support of the Alliance, illegal forest activities like unsustainable logging and poaching are far less tolerated. Villagers tend to comply with bylaws, procedures, and guidelines put forward in the forest management plan, and those who don’t face fines, permit fees, and confiscation of timber. The natural resources committee has collected several thousand dollars from violators, which they’ve used to purchase three bicycles to help village game scouts more effectively patrol the Liuninga Forest and larger wildlife management area and development priorities as determined by the community, including latrine construction and buying desks for Mbondo’s primary school.

When Mbunda turned away from illegal logging, he redoubled his farming efforts, formerly his secondary source of income. Alongside his wife, he now devotes himself to growing a mix of cash and staple crops to support his family, including maize, sorghum, sesame, and peas. He's also considering adopting climate-smart agricultural practices taught by the Alliance’s Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) to increase their yields and incomes, reducing annual expansion into nearby forests. “Now I see the FFBS plot performing wonders, so am more convinced that I personally can do the same,” Mbunda said. “Without [the Alliance], our fragile natural resources would be in jeopardy [and] the future generation would not perhaps get a chance to see them.” Alliance interventions may serve as an important catalyst, but sustainable livelihoods and forest conservation are driven by the openness to change and hard work of people like Mbunda.

Learn more about the CARE-WWF Alliance.

Published March 21, 2018 at 05:00AM

9 reasons for hope in the face of climate change

9 reasons for hope in the face of climate change

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing people, wildlife, and the planet. From warming temperatures to more extreme weather, communities in the US and around the world are already feeling the impacts.

But we can create a safer and more resilient future if we work together to rethink the way we produce and consume energy, food, and water; protect the world’s forests; and help people prepare for inevitable change. Such a task can feel overwhelming and daunting at times. After all, doing so requires swift and collective movement from every nation at a time when visions don’t always align.

Although the US government has announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement—the world’s roadmap for addressing climate change in coming the years—a new generation of climate leaders in America is committed to ensuring the US remains a global leader in fighting climate change. With the help of WWF, millions of people, America’s leading businesses, cities, states, colleges and universities are joining world leaders to tackle climate change.

We believe that addressing climate change requires collaboration from everyone. Here are nine reasons why we’re hopeful in the face of this threat:

  1. In response to the Trump Administration’s intent to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, thousands of CEOs, college presidents, mayors, governors, tribal leaders, and communities of faith are standing shoulder to shoulder, declaring with one voice that America is “still in” on fighting climate change. As part of the We Are Still In movement, these 2,600 leaders from the are committed delivering on the US’ goals under the Paris Agreement and to ensuring the US remains a global leader in reducing emissions.

  2. More than 1,800 businesses and investorsrepresenting over $2.3 trillion in annual revenue and employing over 4.7 million Americans—are part of the We Are Still In movement. As the face of the US economy, these businesses and investors can make a significant impact in the global fight against climate change.
  1. Today, 18 states and tribes, and more than 250 cities and counties are part of the We Are Still In movement, representing 130 million residents and roughly one third of the entire US economy. Cities and states must reduce their carbon emissions in order for the US to deliver strong action on climate change.
  1. 335 of America’s colleges and universities are committed to climate action and the We Are Still In movement. These institutions are cutting their carbon pollution and equipping more than 4.2 million students with the skills and knowledge to build a low-carbon future.

  2. Half of America’s Fortune 500 companies have a goal to cut climate pollution. Their efforts are equivalent of taking more than 40 coal fired power plants offline for a year.
  1. A total of 74 American companies seek to power their operations with renewable energy—the equivalent of powering 6.2 million American homes. They’re calling for greater access to renewable energy across America to power their businesses, and encouraging other companies to follow their lead.

  2. More than 300 companies around the world are setting targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions based on climate science. Just this week, McDonald’s set a new science-based climate target, becoming the first global restaurant company to do so. By aligning their business plans with the Paris Agreement’s global temperature goals, companies are driven to find new and innovative ways to reach them—and encouraging their supply chains to make similar pledges. Companies that reduce emissions and cut energy use can often save money, too.

  3. More than 3.3 million Americans are employed in the clean energy economy. There are more American jobs in renewable energy than in traditional fossil fuels.

  4. You! People like you who care about our planet are standing together to take action on climate change. Join us by turning off your lights for Earth Hour at 8:30 local times this Saturday and spread the word to friends and family through word of mouth and on social media using #EarthHour. Every individual gives Earth Hour a louder voice.

Published March 20, 2018 at 05:00AM

Activists make a splash on Capitol Hill advocating for international conservation funding

Activists make a splash on Capitol Hill advocating for international conservation funding

A group of Marylanders wended through a narrow underground passage painted in peach and punctuated by a series of doorways leading to halls and rooms unknown. The path led them to a stone spiral staircase and when they reached the top, a door swung open to a far grander space: The United States Capitol.

Here they would meet with Representative Steny Hoyer—a Maryland Congressman—to share their thoughts on the most pressing environmental threats facing our planet and thank him for his support of international conservation funding.

Activists from around the country assembled on Capitol Hill for WWF’s Lobby Day 2018 to persuade lawmakers to maintain the amount of funding the United States government provides for international conservation programs. Altogether they made their voices heard through more than 100 meetings with representatives, senators, and congressional staff.

“Being in those meetings speaking with staff, speaking with representatives, and understanding how our government works was such an amazing experience,” said Christopher Pham, a WWF Panda Ambassador from Maryland. “It gave me a peek behind the curtain to realize that these are people, too, and whether it’s a representative or the staff or other activists, people care. And knowing that I’m not alone—that we’re not alone—in this fight is something I’ll take away.”

Meeting with representatives in person is one of the best ways to affect change. It lets them know their constituents care and are paying attention, making them more likely vote to continue US supports for these vital efforts.

A history of support
The US government has long been a leader in international conservation and encouraged other countries to cooperate on efforts to conserve wildlife, habitats, and natural resources, particularly in the developing world. The foreign assistance budget is less than 1% of the federal budget, and conservation funding is even smaller—less than 1% of that. The programs funded through the international conservation federal budget help countries manage their natural resources sustainably, crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking, and combat the illegal trade of timber and fish. This assistance overseas helps prevent future conflicts, strengthen our relationships abroad, and create a brighter economic and natural future for both other nations and ourselves.

Activists rising
Throughout the day, activists expressed their passion for conservation through a personal lens. An entomologist tied insect populations to the health of forests; a seventh-grader described a class field trip to the Chesapeake Bay that helped spark his interest in the natural world; a woman from Hawaii explained how what happens in the ocean in one place impacts life thousands of miles away.

Together, their voices made a striking impression in the halls of Congress.

“Yesterday, we opened doors for conservation,” said Sara Thomas, director of activism and outreach for WWF. “As I walked the halls of Congress, participating in several meetings alongside our supporters, I watched as Panda Ambassadors transformed into seasoned activists, telling their story and hosting important conversations with congressional staff across party lines. I witnessed a sea change of hope as relationships between activists and congressional leaders were established and common bonds formed over the need to protect our planet for a better future.”

For the Maryland group making their way to legislators through elegant walkways and hidden shortcuts, the power of Lobby Day 2018 was clear. Both the sheer number of activists who joined them in their cause and the positive response from their representatives proved that using your voice matters.     

“Putting face time in and showing up is a big deal,” said Amanda Jorgensen, a Panda Ambassador from Maryland. “We’re letting our representatives and senators know that we are here. We are going to show up and do our part. We care.”

Want to get more involved in WWF's conservation work? Become a Panda Ambassador.

Published March 15, 2018 at 05:00AM

Climate change could imperil half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas

Climate change could imperil half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas

Up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas—including the Amazon and the Galápagos—could face extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked.

A new study examines various climate change scenarios—from 4.5°C rise in global mean temperatures if we don’t cut emissions to a 2°C rise if we meet the upper limit for temperature set in the Paris Agreement—and their impact on nearly 80,000 plant and animal species in 35 of the world’s most diverse and naturally wildlife-rich areas. Researchers selected each area for its uniqueness and the variety of plants and animals found there.

The findings point to an urgent need for action on climate change:

  • We’ll see almost 50% species loss in areas studied if global temperatures rise by 4.5°C
  • We’ll see less than 25% species loss in areas studied if we limit global temperature rise to 2°C

“Hotter days, longer periods of drought, and more intense storms are becoming the new normal, and species around the world are already feeling the effects,” said Nikhil Advani, lead specialist for climate, communities, and wildlife at WWF. “While we work to ratchet down emissions, it’s critical we also improve our understanding of species response to climate change and develop strategies to help them adapt.”

If wildlife can move freely to new locations, then the risk of extinction in these areas decreases from around 25% to 20%—but only in a scenario in which we keep global mean temperature rise to 2°C. And if species cannot move or evolve, they may not be able to survive.


Impacts of Climate Change on Wildlife

What Can We Do?

The best way to protect against loss of wildlife and plant life is to keep global temperature rise as low as possible. The Paris Agreement pledges to reduce the expected level of global warming from 4.5°C to around 3°C, which reduces the impacts. But we see even greater improvements at 2°C. And if we can limit that even more, to a 1.5°C rise, we could protect even more life.

Although the US government has signaled its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, America’s cities, states, businesses, and others are working with world leaders to turn the promise of that agreement into concrete action through the We Are Still In movement.

In the immediate, WWF is working to better understand how a changing climate impacts wildlife and developing and implementing adaptation solutions. We are assessing various species to determine traits that can make them resilient or vulnerable to changes in climate; crowdsourcing data on climate impacts; and funding projects which have potential to reduce the vulnerability of species to changes in climate through our Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund.

WWF hopes to use lessons learned from this research and testing to provide useful guidance that moves conservation beyond business-as-usual approaches and scale up promising efforts to help wildlife endure under conditions of rapid change.

The faster and more effectively we act, the better chance we have of saving invaluable species around the world in the face of climate change.

Read the study, completed by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University, and WWF.


Published March 13, 2018 at 05:00AM

Across Mozambique and Tanzania, women show us how to improve communities and protect our planet

Across Mozambique and Tanzania, women show us how to improve communities and protect our planet

As WWF works with communities around the world to preserve habitats, wildlife, and natural resources, we know that it is critical to engage both women and men for the best results—environmentally, socially, and economically.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women make up at least half of subsistence, smallholder farmers, yet have far less access to farming inputs, from seeds and fertilizer to finance and markets. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), if men and women in rural areas around the world had equal access to agricultural resources, they could increase yields on their farms by 20%-30% and lift 100 million-150 million people out of hunger.

Working with communities in Mozambique and Tanzania, the CARE-WWF Alliance empowers women to improve their livelihoods and sustainably manage the natural resources on which they depend. In this partnership, we have witnessed firsthand how important women are to organizing communities, conserving natural resources, creating economic opportunities, and setting up the next generation for success. Here are a few who have inspired us over the years:

The Leader

At first blush, Alima Chereira is similar to many Mozambican woman—wife and mother of six who spends her days tending to the family farm, collecting wood for cooking, fetching water and managing a busy household. But Chereira pushes beyond these responsibilities. Besieged by drought brought on by climate change and other pressures on her community’s natural resources, Chereira decided to be the change she wanted to see in the world. With help from a local extension agent, Chereira formed an agricultural association exclusively with other women. Together, they learned conservation agriculture techniques through an Alliance Farmer Field School. The women were so impressed with the techniques that they established more associations to share these climate-resilient farming practices with others. Said one of the women in her community, “Alima has been more than we could have hoped for in a leader. She is patient and encouraging, but also convincing—and she believes in us as we believe in her.”

The Wealth Builder

In a growing number of villages across Mozambique and Tanzania, hundreds of women and men are working with the Alliance and local partners to establish Village Savings and Loan Associations. By harnessing the ancient practice of group savings and pooling their wealth for small loans, poor men and women are ensuring they have savings or can take loans to cover unexpected expenses or invest in their future. But before the Alliance reached her island near the Primeiras e Segundas archipelago, Fatima Apacur had already helped her community form a savings association. When the Alliance arrived to support establishment of savings and loan associations, Apacur and her husband trekked to the session to learn more about finance so they could improve their community’s prospects for the future even further. Today, women and men in the Alliance and other village savings and loan associations in and around the Koti Islands have used their new savings practices and improved access to finance to put their children through school, cover unexpected expenses like health care and disaster recovery, and invest in new businesses that continue to provide income for them and their families.

The Voice

A farmer and mother of six, Angela exemplifies the power of dialogue. In her community of Saua Saua and elsewhere, tradition dictated that men deserved the respect of a full meal, even if it meant that women and children would go hungry. There, the Alliance led a series of workshops to explore with men and women the impact that malnutrition can have on their families’ and communities’ well-being. As Angela told us in 2016, “One of the greatest changes occurred after a dialogue we took part in about food access. It helped us realize that every family member has the right to food and that children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age have special nutritional requirements that should be prioritized.”

The Sustainers

Magreth Chilala, Brighita Kambona, and Zainabu Noel farm sesame seeds in southern Tanzania’s Nachingwea district. Their traditional methods of farming entailed scattering seeds and planting the sesame close together, which yielded skinny plants with fewer seeds. Rather than planting on the same land, they cut down trees and burned them every year to create new farms to keep production going. But after becoming among the first members of the Alliance’s Farmer Field and Business Schools, they learned climate-smart agricultural techniques—such as spacing the plants more deliberately—could dramatically improve their yields. As Kambona told us, “climate-smart agriculture has allowed us to increase our productivity, the plants are healthier, and have many branches.” And they help their local environment, as well, by maintaining forests instead of clearing them for new farms.

The Protector

Like many fisheries around the world, coastal Mozambique’s stocks have been depleted by poor governance, overfishing, as well as climate changes. To help the stocks rebound, the Alliance helped establish three community-managed fish sanctuaries. Since then, in communities with no-fishing zones, fish biodiversity in the sanctuaries tripled, boasting 50% more species compared with unprotected areas. Due to spillover effects, more than 70% of fishing families reported increased catches. This effort has been successful because of people like Piedade Lucas. As one of eight monitors for the no-fishing zone near her community in Angoche, Mozambique, Lucas’ contribution to protecting this small area is critical to the nutrition and income security, as well as long-term sustainability of her subsistence fishing community.

Published March 07, 2018 at 06:00AM

Love lobster tails? Thank The Bahamas’ Mia Isaacs

Love lobster tails? Thank The Bahamas’ Mia Isaacs

We humans aren’t the only animals that think lobster are a tasty treat. Dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles do, too. These spiny crustaceans are a critical link in the food chain that keep our oceans healthy.

And that’s why the work of Mia Isaacs is so important. As president of the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association and managing director of Heritage Seafood, a leading lobster processor, Isaacs is working with her fellow exporters, fishermen, the Bahamian government, and international NGOs like WWF and The Nature Conservancy to ensure lobsters are fished sustainably. The goal is for the fishery to reach the Marine Stewardship Council standard, the world’s most robust and credible certification program for sustainably managed fisheries. Everyone wants to ensure lobster can be enjoyed not just by our children and grandchildren, but by future generations of marine wildlife as well.

Isaacs is also special because she’s showing women that they can be leaders. Many women work on the floors of lobster processing plants, cleaning, sorting, and packaging lobster tails for export to mostly US supermarkets and restaurants. But like business in general, men occupy most executive positions in the lobster industry. As the head of her company, Isaacs hasn’t just created a leadership role for herself, but she’s also put women in every other leadership position within her company. It wasn’t intentional, she says; she just found the best people for the job.

Isaacs is an inspiring force for change, driving social, economic, and environmental sustainability in one of the Caribbean’s crown jewels. She’s demonstrating that not only can we protect the planet and promote gender inclusivity at the same time, but that we must.

Published March 07, 2018 at 06:00AM

One Arctic town's very busy polar bear patrol

One Arctic town's very busy polar bear patrol

Living with polar bears

Dine steps outside the incineration plant early in the morning to smoke a cigarette. Flicking on his lighter, he finds himself looking into the eyes of a polar bear standing by his ATV four meters away. The bear moves straight towards him. Dine races for the corner of the building, and fortunately, the bear chooses to move in another direction.

Mikkel, who works at the weather station, goes to launch a weather balloon at 22:00. As he walks towards the building, he hears the ice crunch behind him. He turns around and sees a polar bear three meters away. He runs inside, and the polar bear takes off down the slope at the dump and swims towards Storesten.

The hard work of the polar bear patrol

Throughout the Arctic, conflicts between polar bears and humans have risen as summer sea ice shrinks due to climate change. In some areas, bears are now forced to stay on land for longer periods than before. In their search for food, they are often attracted to nearby villages.

In Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland, the problem is particularly severe as a deluge of bears created life-threatening situations for both bears and the villagers.

In 2007, nine polar bear conflicts were registered in all of Greenland. By 2017, there were 21 conflicts between August and December in Ittoqqortoormiit alone. In almost all of the 21 cases, the local polar bear patrol was called to ensure that the bears were scared away from the community and kept under observation.

WWF provided support for the community to establish a polar bear patrol in 2015 to protect the town's 450 residents from dangerous encounters on their way to school or work, and to reduce the number of bears killed in self-defense. During peak polar bear season in autumn, the patrol is particularly active just before school opens each morning.

“The community members tell us that the patrol gives them greater peace of mind, and we prevent a lot of polar bears from being shot in self-defense”, says Bo Øksnebjerg, Secretary-General of WWF-Denmark. “So on the one hand, we’re glad that the polar bear patrol is working so well. On the other hand, we regret that the patrol is so busy. Everything indicates that the problem of hungry polar bears in communities will continue to grow as the sea ice shrinks.”

WWF supports similar polar bear patrol projects in Alaska and Russia. These community projects aim to prevent unintended and potentially fatal encounters between polar bears and people, keeping both towns and bears safe. Deterrence tools such as noisemakers as well as better lighting near public places, bear-proof food storage containers, and warning plans for when bears enter communities are further effective means of protection.

The village of Wales, Alaska—the westernmost town in mainland North America— started a polar bear patrol in 2016. Now, they are embarking on an expedition to six other villages in the region to tell their story, listen to the concerns of other villages, and see if a polar bear conflict avoidance/deterrence program might be a good fit for them. WWF has committed to helping two additional Alaskan villages initiate polar bear patrol programs in 2019. 

Published February 26, 2018 at 06:00AM

3 things you should know about January’s record-low Arctic sea ice

3 things you should know about January’s record-low Arctic sea ice

January brought record-low sea ice cover to the Arctic, according to new data released by the US government. That’s bad news for the ocean, wildlife, and local communities that rely on both for survival.

1. The science is solid

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) uses satellites to measure how much ice is covering the planet and found it nearly 10% below average this January in the Arctic, an area larger than the states of California, Oregon and Washington combined.

There is consensus among experts that the Arctic climate is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, which inevitably leads to more weather anomalies. In fact, this winter, parts of the Arctic have experienced temperatures upwards of 45°F above average.

Carbon emissions are driving this change and researchers warn that even if world leaders meet their climate commitments, “warming and substantial ice loss are projected for the next 20 to 30 years, along with other major physical, biological, and societal changes.”

2. Record-low sea ice has real world impacts

There’s a reason nature needs sea ice and record low coverage presents a real problem for wildlife and people. Polar bears, for example, rely on sea ice as a platform to hunt for food, rest, and breed. A warming climate is the biggest threat to their survival.

In the 2017 Arctic Report Card, which tracks the region’s environment relative to historic records, the US government warned that, “The unprecedented rate and global reach of Arctic change disproportionally affect the people of northern communities, further pressing the need to prepare for and adapt to the new Arctic.”

Billions of people around the world could feel the effects of accelerated warming in the Arctic—sea level rise, droughts, severe storms—thanks to what’s called a feedback loop. As the Arctic warms, melting snow, ice, and permafrost release even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which further fuels warming. And less ice means less of the sun’s energy is reflected back into space, which means more of that warmth gets absorbed by Earth. 


3. The March maximum will be crucial

The January record low is an important data point, but the trends worth watching come from gauging the annual minimum and maximum over time. This year’s data on the Arctic sea ice maximum will be reviewed in March. Last year the analysis revealed that Arctic sea ice set its lowest spring extent since satellite record keeping began in 1979. The Arctic’s maximum sea ice cover has been declining at a rate of about 3% every decade.

WWF has been sharing details of retreating sea ice season, after season, after season. It’s a story that needs repeating as pressure grows to rethink oil and gas drilling in areas historically out of reach for industry.

Want to help? Take action to keep oil and gas leasing out of the waters of America’s Arctic.

Published February 22, 2018 at 06:00AM

Remarkable video shows how minke whale feeds

Remarkable video shows how minke whale feeds

For the first time ever, scientists in Antarctica attached a camera to a minke whale and captured incredible evidence of how it feeds. The camera – one of three “whale cams” funded by WWF-Australia – is part of efforts by scientists to better protect whale feeding areas in Antarctica.

The camera was secured to the whale’s body using non-invasive suction cups that are designed to fall off after 24-48 hours. In an incredible stroke of luck, the camera slid down the side of the whale but stayed attached. The resulting footage—which would not have been possible with the original camera placement—shows how the whale’s throat expands as it moves through the water and feeds.

Minke whales grow to about 29 feet and are the second smallest baleen whale. They filter primarily krill or small fish out of the water using specialized feeding plates, known as baleen, in a method known as lunge feeding.

 “What was remarkable was the frequency of the lunges and how quickly they could process water and feed again, repeating the task about every 10 seconds on a feeding dive,” said Dr. Ari Friedlaender, an associate professor from the University of California Santa Cruz and lead scientist on the research. “He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding.”


Sea ice is an important part of a minke’s habitat, a place where they feed and hide from killer whales. The minke’s ability to maneuver through sea ice, due to its relatively small size, and its skill in feeding quickly has helped the whale survive in the Antarctic. But because of climate change, sea ice in the Antarctic Peninsula is shrinking.

There is also concern that critical feeding areas for baleen whales – and other krill predators such as penguins, seals and seabirds – overlap with the krill fishery industry.

“WWF is working with Dr. Friedlaender and his team to put his vital new information about whales before decision makers,” said Chris Johnson, senior manager of WWF’s Antarctic Program, who joined Dr. Friedlaender on the trip as part of the research team.

WWF-Australia has provided funding for three ‘whale cams’ to help scientists better understand critical feeding areas in the Southern Ocean and the impact of shrinking ice caused by warming sea temperatures. WWF is advocating for more marine protected areas in Antarctica to protect its remarkable biodiversity. 

Dr. Ari Friedlaender’s work is supported by OneOcean Expeditions and is in collaboration with scientists from Stanford University and the California Ocean Alliance. It is conducted under permits granted from the National Marine Fisheries Service and Antarctic Conservation Act, including institutional animal care and use protocols.

The research is being conducted in collaboration with scientists at the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart and under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission’s Southern Ocean Research Partnership (IWC-SORP). The aim of the Partnership is to implement and promote non-lethal whale research techniques to maximize conservation outcomes for Southern Ocean whales.

Published February 20, 2018 at 06:00AM

Artificial nests bring new hope for vulnerable shy albatross

Artificial nests bring new hope for vulnerable shy albatross

Dozens of fluffy shy albatross chicks sitting on artificial nests are a promising sign for scientists behind an innovative plan to give the vulnerable species a boost to help counteract the negative impacts of climate change.

Over 100 specially built mudbrick and aerated concrete artificial nests were airlifted on to Bass Strait’s Albatross Island off the northwest coast of Tasmania in July 2017 to trial a program aimed at increasing the breeding success of the shy albatross.

Higher air temperatures and increased rainfall associated with climate change are reducing breeding success for Australia’s only albatross, and the rapid warming of the ocean may also make it harder for foraging parents to find prey. Monitoring shows that birds with inferior nests are less likely to successfully raise a chick.

Luckily, the artificial nests appear to be working.

“Shy albatross lay a single egg in late September and those eggs have now hatched,” said Dr. Rachael Alderman, a biologist with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. “At this stage in the trial, the breeding success of pairs on artificial nests is 20% higher than those on natural nests. There are many more months ahead for all the chicks, and a lot can change, but so far it’s very promising.”

Endemic to Australia, shy albatross only nest on three islands off the coast of Tasmania—Albatross Island, Pedra Branca, and Mewstone. In some parts of the Albatross Island colony, birds struggle to find and keep sufficient nesting material, resulting in poor quality nests.

Conservation scientists and funding partners from the Tasmanian and Australian governments, WWF-Australia, WWF's Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund, CSIRO Marine Climate Impact, and the Tasmanian Albatross Fund have worked together to place nests in areas where they were typically of lower quality. Recent monitoring shows that the birds are accepting the nests and personalizing them with mud and vegetation.

“Albatross Island gets hit with wild weather,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s head of living ecosystems who recently visited the project site. “Good quality nests keep eggs and chicks safe and sound. The artificial nests were all intact, but many of the natural nests were already starting to deteriorate. That’s not the best start in life for a chick.”

When the chicks are fully grown and about to fly from the island for the first time, scientists will attach tiny satellite trackers to them to capture the movements of their first few months at sea. This will provide crucial information about why fewer juveniles are surviving.

As the climate continues to change, scientists need to develop, test, and evaluate new approaches to protecting vulnerable species. This collaborative innovation is an encouraging step for the future of the shy albatross and can serve as a model for other wildlife recovery efforts.

“It’s fantastic to see this project come to fruition,” said Dr. Sally Box, Australia’s threatened species commissioner. “We all have a role to play in protecting our threatened species, and thanks to contributions by government, scientists, and non-government partners, we are starting to see some really positive outcomes for the shy albatross in Tasmania.”

Published February 15, 2018 at 06:00AM

Conservation on the move

Conservation on the move

One muggy morning, a group of uniformed fifth graders files from their classroom and forms a circle in the grassy common of State Elementary School 192. At their center, wielding a microphone, a compact, energetic man named Samsuardi counts them into groups of three, and announces their roles: Ones and threes will grasp each other’s shoulders, representing large, shady trees in the forest; twos are elephants, which must hide under the trees for shelter.

The elephants dutifully find trees to crouch beneath. “HUNTER!” Samsuardi shouts, his high-pitched voice ricocheting off the compound walls. The elephants scurry out from under the trees to the edge of the field. He calls them back, then bellows, “LOGGER! LOGGER!” This time the trees flee, giggling as they miraculously uproot themselves and leave the elephants exposed.

The game looks like anything you’d expect to see on a playground, until Samsuardi ends it with a mini conservation lesson. “It’s important to keep elephants and trees together,” he tells the students, his tone serious now. “If there is no forest, the elephants will suffer.”

State Elementary School 192 serves Tri Makmur Village in central Sumatra. Since the mid-1980s, small-scale and industrial farming operations have gnawed away at the Indonesian island’s rain forests, steadily replacing its lush native trees and vegetation with palm oil and rubber plantations. As those forests have shrunk, critically endangered Sumatran elephants and Sumatran tigers have been pushed into smaller and smaller habitats—and more conflict with nearby human communities

The rapid deforestation of Sumatra has caused severe consequences for people too, Local villagers lose the built-in services provided by intact forests—including flood and erosion control. They may also suffer from health-endangering haze when land is illegally cleared by slash-and-burn methods on a massive scale. Tri Makmur Village lies close to a forest known as Thirty Hills (Bukit Tigapuluh in Bahasa), one of the last remaining havens for Sumatra’s elephants and tigers.

Samsuardi, an awareness education specialist for WWF, directs the Mobile Education Unit , a conservation program started in 2016 and funded by the Michelin Foundation. Through games like the elephant-and-tree exercise, a mobile library, and a series of lessons taught by School 192’s teachers, the MEU is helping students here—along with those at nine other local elementary schools—learn how to protect vulnerable wildlife and prevent conflict with elephants and tigers. 

The program also works to educate local adults and companies. “As of June 2017, we’ve already engaged 400 community members, about 350 students, and employees at two companies,” Samsuardi says.

The hope is that each resident will become an ambassador for protecting the forest and its species. For students at School 192, that means going home and sharing what they’ve learned from the MEU with their families.

"Teach these stories and games to your mothers, your fathers, your brothers, and your sisters,” Samsuardi tells the whole student body at the end of the MEU’s visit. “Tell them about the importance of protecting the forest. Habitat is home, so it’s important to protect our home.”

Published February 07, 2018 at 06:00AM

Dams planned along the Mura River would devastate the “Amazon of Europe”

Dams planned along the Mura River would devastate the “Amazon of Europe”

As a little boy, WWF Freshwater Expert Arno Mohl would chase lizard and frogs along the free-flowing rivers that meandered through Central Europe. He would catch fish with his parents along the rivers' shores, enjoying the amazing scenery and plethora of life. Now he clings to these memories as the wild rivers that anchored them have transformed into chains of reservoirs.

For several decades, the pressure on river landscapes has increased steadily. People are straightening and regulating rivers to better serve their needs; mining them for gravel and sand, which are critical to construction industries; or harnessing them for hydropower.

"You have to travel farther to find river landscapes and floodplain forests of the kind that were typical of the whole of Central Europe in the past," said Mohl. "Most flowing water bodies fall victim to electricity production."

Some pristine wilderness remains along the floodplains of the Mura, Drava, and Danube rivers, which flow through Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, and Serbia. The area is justifiably referred to as the “Amazon of Europe” due to its immaculate natural beauty and abundance of life. The rivers provide opportunities for recreation and nature tourism, and they supply clean drinking water and natural flood protection. In 2011, the governments of all five countries signed an agreement committing to the long-term protection of this area.

Unfortunately, the Mura river—a relatively connected stretch of water that serves as one of the last refuges for wildlife and rare fish like otters and the Danube salmon—is at significant risk of dam development. Eight currently proposed dams, the first of which is in Hrastje-Mota, would devastate wildlife habitat and more than 31 miles of river. Endangered migratory fish species would no longer be able to move up and downstream, and river bed deepening would dry out floodplain forests, oxbows, and agricultural areas. The loss of natural water retention areas would lead to increased flood risk for communities downstream.

Damming the Mura, and consequently transforming the river into eight lifeless reservoirs, also goes against the Slovenian government’s commitment to ensure international protection of the area.

Last year, Slovenia’s Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, with the support of the Slovenian government, nominated the area to join a future multi-national UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. At 1.9 million acres, it’s the largest and first protected area in Central Europe that crosses country borders. The area is also part of the European Union’s protected areas network called Natura 2000, designated for the protection of vulnerable habitats of specific species. Damming the river would breach both Slovenian legislation and EU environmental law.

Together with our partners, WWF is urging the Slovenian government to stop the eight hydropower dams planned on the Mura. This river needs to remain free-flowing for the people and wildlife that depend on it.

"In some places, the river paradise of my childhood still exists,” Mohl said. “We will fight to keep them.”

You can help. Sign our petition to Irena Majcen, Slovenia’s Minister for Environment and Spatial Planning, and urge the stopping of the eight hydropower dams planned on the Mura.

Published February 05, 2018 at 06:00AM

5 interesting facts about the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland

5 interesting facts about the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland

Wetlands—places where the land is covered by water, either salt, fresh, or somewhere in between—cover just over 6% of the Earth's land surface. Sprinkled throughout every continent except Antarctica, they provide food, clean drinking water, and refuge for countless people and animals around the world. Despite their global significance, an estimated one-half of all wetlands on the planet have disappeared.

Amid the loss, one specific wetland stands out: the Pantanal. At more than 49.4 million acres, the Pantanal is the largest and one of the most pristine wetlands in the world. The Pantanal sprawls across three South American countries—Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay—and supports millions of people there, as well as communities in the lower Rio de la Plata Basin.

WWF is working on the ground to conserve the region through the creation of protected areas and promoting sustainable use of natural resources.

Check out these facts about the Pantanal that every wetland enthusiast should know!

1. The Pantanal is larger than 29 US states and at least nine European countries.

That’s right! If the Pantanal was overlaid on the US it would be bigger than New York, Florida, and Wisconsin, among 25 other states. Put the Pantanal over Europe, and it would be larger than at least nine countries, including England, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Ireland.


2. The Pantanal comprises about 3% of the entire world’s wetlands.

A conservative, cumulative estimate of the size of the world’s wetlands places the figure at 1.4 billion acres. Though only a fraction of that figure, the Pantanal remains more intact and pristine that most other wetland systems.


3. The Pantanal is a refuge for iconic wildlife.

This massive wetland has the largest concentration of crocodiles in the world, with approximately 10 million caimans. Jaguars, the largest feline in the Americas, hunt caiman in the Pantanal, which has one of the highest density of jaguars anywhere the world. The Pantanal is also home to the biggest parrot on the planet, the hyacinth macaw. Sighting these animals and others help attract the 1 million tourists who visit the Pantanal every year.


4. Less than 5% of the Pantanal is protected.

The areas that are protected are globally significant, with parts that fall under an agreement called Ramsar that requires national governments to conserve and wisely use wetlands, and some that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves. Around 95% of the Pantanal is under private ownership, the majority of which is used for cattle grazing.


5. Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil are creating a new way to manage the Pantanal across borders.

WWF supports a new initiative in which the three countries are working on a tri-national agreement for the sustainable development and conservation of this globally significant freshwater resource. The framework they're creating could be replicated in other places around the world. 


Published January 31, 2018 at 06:00AM


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