Will 30×30 reboot conservation or entrench old problems?

When governments meet next year to finalise a global deal to halt loss of the biodiversity on which human wellbeing depends, “30 by 30” will be one phrase on everybody’s lips. The target – to protect at least 30% of Earth’s land and sea by 2030 – is part of a package being negotiated under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for the next decade and beyond.

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Scientists warn of rising denial of extinction and biodiversity loss

Sea turtle drowned in fishing net

[Reposting my story for Mongabay.com]

Biodiversity scientists are being urged to “fight the creeping rise of extinction denial” which has spread from fringe blogs to influential media outlets and even into a US Congressional hearing. The call-to-arms came in a paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution last month by Alexander Lees, senior lecturer in conservation biology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and colleagues.

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The coronavirus backlash against bats is a bad idea

Fruit bat in flight

In March 2020, hundreds of bats hung crowded in cages in a market in the Indonesian city of Surakata. They waited wide-eyed to be killed and sold as meat. But Covid-19 was spreading, and people in Indonesia and elsewhere were soon blaming bats. The city authorities decided the bats could not be sold and, rather than release them into the wild, they gassed them and threw them into a fire pit, cages and all. Continue reading

How poop could counter calls to resume commercial whaling

This post was first published by Scientific American in August. As such, it refers in the future tense to a meeting that took place back in September. You will find an update — and some good news — at the end of the story.

Before whales dive into the darkness of the deep ocean they often come to the surface and release a huge plume of faecal matter—which can be the colour of over-steeped green tea or a bright orange sunset. When Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont, saw one of these spectacular dumps in the mid-1990s, he got to wondering: “Is it ecologically important? Or is it a fart in a hurricane?” Continue reading

Cocaine of the sea, ‘epic failure’ and how following the money can limit illegal wildlife trade

Vaquita6_Olson_NOAA

Two vaquitas. Only ten more remain.

It has been called the ‘cocaine of the sea’ — the dried swim bladder of the totoaba fish, when smuggled from Mexico to China, sells for US$40-60,000 per kilo thanks to its supposed medicinal qualities. While the fish is critically endangered as a result, the situation of another animal that gets caught in totoaba nets is even more dire. The illicit trade has driven the world’s smallest marine mammal — a kind of porpoise called a vaquita — to almost certain extinction. At the last count, only 12 remained alive. Continue reading