In the last three weeks, at least four bears were hit by cars in Yosemite, at least two of which were killed. The two bears that survived were hit by drivers going faster than the 25 mph speed limit and were seriously injured and limping. We will never know the severity of their injuries. It is important to remember that while traveling in the park, the posted speed limits are not only there to protect people, but to also protect wildlife in areas where animals cross roads. Following posted speed limits may save the life of a great gray owl as it flies across the road, or a Pacific fisher as it runs across the road, both of which are endangered species. This easy action—slowing down—may also prevent you from hitting a bear eating berries on the side of the road, or a deer crossing with its fawn. While traveling through Yosemite, try to remember that we are all visitors in the home of countless animals, and it is up to you to follow the rules that are put in place to protect them.
Have you ever noticed the signs by the side of the road that say, “Speeding Kills Bears” with the image of a red bear on them? These signs mark the locations of bears where they have been hit by a vehicle this year, or where bears have been frequently hit in previous years. We take these signs down each winter and put them up as the accidents occur, hopefully as a reminder to visitors to slow down and keep a lookout for wildlife. If you do hit an animal while in Yosemite and need immediate ranger response, you can report it to the park’s emergency communication center at 209/379-1992, or by leaving a message on the Save-A-Bear Hotline at 209/372-0322 if you believe that the animal is uninjured. You may also use the Save-A-Bear Hotline number to report non-urgent bear observations.
Sometimes circumstances due to loss of finances, illness,death and even finding a pet, can put pets in great danger… please do your homework first and go through rescues groups or shelter and never put an ad on Craigslist or other social media sites!
Target: Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County, California District Attorney
Goal: Give woman most stringent punishment for allegedly setting fire to dog on purpose.
A brindle pit bull was allegedly burned on purpose, facing near death as a result. The woman reportedly responsible has not been publicly identified by authorities. She needs to receive the harshest legal sentence if she is found guilty of committing such unfathomable cruelty so that she will be less likely to harm other animals.
The dog was brought to the Bradshaw Animal Shelter. Officials said that over 40 percent of the pit bull’s body was burned. According to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, an accelerant, or something that is used to spread fire more rapidly, was purposely sprayed on the dog before he was set on fire. The woman who is thought to be responsible for this act is being brought up on charges of animal cruelty and arson.
Purposely hurting an innocent dog should not be tolerated. Sign this petition to demand this woman get the strictest sentence the law will allow if it is found she abused a helpless dog.
Dear District Attorney Schubert,
Police recently charged a woman with animal cruelty and arson for reportedly setting a pit bull on fire. Although the woman has not yet been identified to the public, she should be appearing in court in the near future. If she is found guilty of these crimes, she should receive the severest punishment the law will allow to better ensure more animals will not be hurt or killed.
It was determined by the local sheriff’s office that an accelerant was poured on the dog before he was reportedly set on fire. While it is good news that the dog was taken to a local shelter, he will likely need four to six weeks of treatment, since 40 percent of his body was allegedly burned.
Treating an animal in this manner is inexcusable. We therefore demand this woman receive the strongest punishment under the law if she is found guilty of such disgusting and unfounded animal abuse.
Target: Josh Minkler, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana
Goal: Punish woman who allegedly tortured animals to death and filmed the cruel acts.
A weeks-long investigation by ordinary citizens and law enforcement alike has resulted in an arrest in an alleged horrific case of animal cruelty involving scores of cats and dogs. Sickened social media users first began seeing videos and pictures of someone skinning, hanging, and otherwise brutally killing animals on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Over the next two months, the person seemingly associated with these atrocities (who had named themselves Crazy Cat Lady) continued posting highly disturbing images of torture and ultimate slaughter.
Determined advocates sought to track down the individual responsible. A subsequent investigation by authorities, who initially believed the perpetrator to be a man in Idaho, led to a 19-year-old Indiana woman’s arrest. Krystal Scott now faces charges under both a federal animal crush law and the newly minted Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act.
Scott had been suspected by local police of animal cruelty, but they lacked evidence to indict her. When law enforcement obtained a warrant for this woman’s dwelling, however, they reportedly discovered the most damning and disturbing evidence. Scott’s home allegedly contained multiple skulls and body parts believed to belong to deceased animals. Several living cats, dogs, and lizards were also found and perhaps spared from a grotesque fate. Reports claim that Scott secured animals by answering online ads from people searching for a good home for their pets.
Now that the alleged perpetrator of these unfathomable acts of cruelty is behind bars, sign the petition below to help ensure she stays there for a long time to come, if found guilty.
Dear Mr. Minkler,
An animal cruelty investigation that spanned from Idaho to Indiana, and across several social media platforms, has finally led to an arrest. Tragically, untold numbers of cats and dogs reportedly lost their lives in the interim. The case of Krystal Scott must be seen through to its appropriate conclusion.
Scott stands accused of skinning, hanging, and slaughtering innocent animals she obtained from unsuspecting online pet owners. Even worse, if possible, she then allegedly distributed these sickening, inhumane acts online for the world to see. Such actions, if they happened as reported, demonstrate a level of depravity and sociopathic tendencies that must be unequivocally condemned.
Please prosecute and seek penalties for these horrifying alleged acts to the fullest extent of the law.
Buddy liked dog stuff: running through the sprinklers, going on long car rides, swimming in the lake. He cuddled the Mahoneys—his owners and family—at the end of tough days. He humored them when they dressed him up as a bunny for Halloween. He was a protective big brother to 10-month-old Duke, the family’s other German shepherd. He loved everyone. He lived up to his name.
In mid-April, right before his seventh birthday, Buddy began struggling to breathe.
Medical records provided by the Mahoneys and reviewed for National Geographic by two veterinarians who were not involved in his treatment indicate that Buddy likely had lymphoma, a type of cancer, which would explain the symptoms he suffered just before his death. The Mahoneys didn’t learn that lymphoma was being considered as the probable cause of his symptoms until the day of his death, they say, when additional bloodwork results confirmed it. It’s unclear whether cancer made him more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, or if the virus made him ill, or if it was just a case of coincidental timing. Buddy’s family, like thousands of families grappling with the effects of the coronavirus around the world, is left with many questions and few answers.
Until now, Buddy’s identity, the details of his case, and his death were not public. A press release issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in early June revealed his general location (Staten Island, New York), his breed (German shepherd), his likely source of transmission (a COVID-positive owner), and his status (expected to recover). Public records for the few other pets to have tested positive in the U.S. are similarly sparse.
Upon announcement, Buddy’s milestone case appeared fairly open and shut, but the Mahoneys’ experience over the two and a half months between their dog’s first wheeze and his death was one of confusion and heartbreak. Their story puts a spotlight on the rare experience of being an owner of COVID-positive pet—a distinction shared by only a handful of individuals around the world. While more than four million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the U.S., fewer than 25 pets have. There’s no rubric for how to navigate COVID-19 in your pet dog.
“You tell people that your dog was positive, and they look at you [as if you have] ten heads,” Allison Mahoney says. “[Buddy] was the love of our lives….He brought joy to everybody. I can’t wrap my head around it.” The Mahoneys say they are frustrated that health experts didn’t more closely probe possible connections between COVID and the cascading health problems. After Buddy’s diagnosis, Allison’s husband, Robert, asked New York City veterinary health officials, who were in charge of the case, whether they were interested in doing more testing on Buddy. Robert Mahoney says the officials never asked for further testing or exams.
The narrative for the coronavirus in animals has so far been consistent and narrow: They are rarely affected. When they do get the virus, it’s almost always from an owner. They have mild symptoms. They usually recover. In reality, little is known about how the virus affects the average pet dog.
The New York City Department of Health told National Geographic that because Buddy was severely anemic, it did not want to collect additional blood out of concern for the dog’s health, and that confirmation results indicate it was unlikely that he was still shedding virus—meaning he was probably no longer contagious—by May 20, when he was tested the second time. Buddy wasn’t tested after that date.
For humans, the signs and symptoms of infection vary widely. In some, its presence is barely a flicker. In others, it causes total organ failure. For many, it’s somewhere in between. Having an underlying medical condition increases susceptibility, doctors think. We’re learning more every day.
The narrative for the coronavirus in animals, however, has so far been consistent and narrow: They are rarely affected. When they do get the virus, it’s almost always from an owner. They have mild symptoms. They usually recover.
In reality, little is known about how the virus affects the typical pet dog.
The Mahoneys’ detailed accounts and Buddy’s veterinary records now comprise some of the most comprehensive and granular information the public has on an infected animal. Their story also sheds light on the gaps in public knowledge regarding animals and the novel coronavirus, highlighting what may be a need for a more unified, consistent approach to monitoring and investigating positive cases, and bringing that information back to the research community.
When Buddy, who’d never been sick, developed thick mucus in his nose and started breathing heavily in April, no one except Robert Mahoney believed the dog might have COVID-19. Mahoney himself had been suffering through the virus for three weeks—he was weak, had a scratchy throat, and had lost his sense of taste. “They called me on Easter and said, ‘By the way, here’s your Easter gift: you’re positive,’ ” he recalls.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, I thought [Buddy] was positive” too, he says.
At first, it was difficult to find someone to examine Buddy. His usual vet wasn’t seeing patients because of the pandemic. Another local clinic wouldn’t allow Robert Mahoney to come into the office because he had COVID-19, so they prescribed Buddy antibiotics over the phone. Mahoney says the vet was skeptical that Buddy might have the coronavirus, and the office didn’t have test kits anyway.
The next week, Buddy was still struggling to breathe and had lost his appetite, so the Mahoneys’ 13-year-old daughter, Julianna, who had tested negative, was permitted to bring the dog into the office.
From April 21 to May 15, Buddy continued to lose weight. He became increasingly lethargic. The Mahoneys took him to three different veterinarians on Staten Island, none of whom thought the coronavirus was likely. He got an ultrasound and X-rays, which indicated an enlarged spleen and liver, and he saw a cardiologist, who detected a heart murmur. Buddy spent two and a half weeks on antibiotics and two heart medications, and he was subsequently put on steroids. At this point, Robert Mahoney says, Buddy’s doctors were still doubtful he had the coronavirus, and they had not yet identified lymphoma as a probable cause of his illness.
It was at the third veterinary clinic, Bay Street Animal Hospital, where Mahoney was finally able to have Buddy tested for COVID-19. That was on May 15, one month after Buddy’s breathing trouble began.
A few days later, the clinic called. Buddy’s test results were in: He was positive. Mahoney was told to bring both the family’s dogs to the clinic immediately because health officials needed to confirm Buddy’s results and test Duke, their puppy. When Mahoney arrived at the clinic with the dogs on May 20, he says that “they came greeting me looking like space martians with hazmat suits.”
“For us it was a shock factor for a moment there…how do we protect our staff?” says Robert Cohen, veterinarian at Bay Street who treated Buddy, because little is known about infected dogs’ ability to transfer the virus to other dogs or humans. “We were well-PPE’d,” he says, referring to personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
Officials collected samples from Buddy and Duke, then sent them home.
First dog to test positive
On June 2, the New York City Department of Health called Mahoney to tell him that Buddy had indeed contracted the virus. They confirmed that Buddy’s original samples collected on May 15 by his vet were positive for SARS-CoV-2, but the additional samples they collected on May 20 were negative, indicating that the virus was no longer present in the dog’s body, a department spokesperson told National Geographic. Duke had tested negative, but he did have antibodies, indicating he had been infected at some point.
Yet Buddy’s health continued to decline. He soon started urinating uncontrollably and had blood in his urine. Later that month, his breathing became so labored that it sounded “like a freight train,” Allison Mahoney says. In early July, Buddy began to have trouble walking.
Robert Mahoney took him back to the vet each time his health seemed to get worse, which was about every two weeks. He and Allison say they were surprised that no one seemed to consider that the coronavirus—though no longer in his system—may have had lasting effects on Buddy’s health.
“If [health officials] had said, ‘Mahoney family, get in the car and come to [a veterinary lab],’ I would have done it,” says Allison, Nobody even mentioned it.”
Cohen, the veterinarian at Bay Street Animal Clinic, said that his team’s focus was on treating Buddy’s symptoms. “We know that we had a very sick patient,” he says, adding that the clinic was only “peripherally involved in the [SARS-CoV-2] case in a lot of ways.”
He says he had three or four conversations with the New York City Health Department and the USDA about Buddy and whether COVID-19 could be related to any of his health problems. “We had zero knowledge or experience with the scientific basis of COVID in dogs,” he says. Even with all the experts on one call, he says, “there was a lot of silence on the phone. I don’t think anybody knew. I really don’t think anybody knew at that point.”
If [health officials] had said, ‘Mahoney family, get in the car and come to [a veterinary lab],’ I would have done it. But nobody even mentioned it.
Allison Mahoney, Buddy’s owner
On the morning of July 11, Allison found Buddy in the kitchen throwing up clotted blood. “It looked like it was his insides coming out. He had it all over. It was coming from his nose and mouth. We knew there was nothing that could be done for him from there. What are you going to do for a dog with this? But he had the will to live. He didn’t want to go.”
She and her husband rushed Buddy to the vet, and they made the decision to euthanize him. No one asked Robert about a necropsy, he says—only if he wanted to do cremation or a burial. He chose to have Buddy cremated. Although that day was a blur, he says he knows that if he’d been asked about a necropsy to learn more about the virus in his body, “I would have said, ‘Take whatever you need,’ because I don’t want any other dog to suffer like he did.”
After Buddy’s death, Cohen says he asked the New York City Department of Health whether they needed the dog’s body for any follow-up research. The city had to consult with the USDA and other federal partners, Cohen says they told him. By the time the Department of Health got back to him with the decision to do a necropsy, Buddy had been cremated.
On the day Buddy was euthanized, the vet told Robert that new blood work results indicated that he almost certainly had lymphoma, which could explain many of his symptoms.
The Mahoneys say they’re confident the team at Bay Street did their best for Buddy. They acknowledge that these are uncharted waters for everyone. “I think they are learning as well. It’s all trial and error. And they tried to help us the best way they can,” Allison says, although they still wonder whether COVID played a role in Buddy’s fatal illness.
Cohen says he personally relates to the Mahoneys’ confusion and heartbreak because his father died of COVID-19 two weeks ago in a Florida nursing home at age 94.
“I was unable to see him. And I could say exactly the same criticisms [as the Mahoneys] about how his case was handled—the people didn’t act fast enough,” he says. But like the Mahoneys, he acknowledges that “everyone has good intentions,” grappling with the challenges of treating a horrific, widespread, and little-understood disease.
Buddy’s case highlights an important question: Are animals with underlying conditions more likely to get sick from the coronavirus, just as humans are? It also highlights just how little information is available about infected pets.
Most of what’s known about the coronavirus in companion animals comes from research done on dogs and cats in labs, says Elizabeth Lennon, a veterinarian who specializes in internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, who reviewed Buddy’s medical records for National Geographic. The coronavirus in dogs and cats in the real world could look and act differently than in a lab, and that’s what Lennon’s research is trying to discern.
Despite this being her area of study, Buddy’s vet records were the first she’d seen of an infected pet. While writing a funding proposal to study the virus in dogs and cats recently, she says she realized “this is the first time in my life I’ve ever written a grant proposal where I’ve cited more press releases and media reports than actual scientific reports.”
Besides the published research on cats and dogs in labs, scientists also have access to the USDA’s public database of every positive animal case in the U.S., with only basic information. The World Organization of Animal Health maintains a similar database of global cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an extensive toolkit on its website that includes a regularly updated list of known symptoms in animals, but more specific case data is not currently available to the public or the broader research community.
Twelve dogs and at least 10 cats have tested positive in the U.S. Lennon says few case details have been made available to researchers. “What are their signs? How long did they present? What are the blood work changes?” Lennon asks. (Researchers are scrambling to understand which animals the novel coronavirus—which is believed to have originated in bats—can infect.)
Experts involved in these cases will likely publish the details in scientific journals in the next six to 12 months, she says, but while publication of the scientific research on COVID-19 in humans has generally been fast-tracked, “on the vet side of things, we haven’t seen that acceleration yet.”
Buddy’s case also highlights the need to take a more holistic look at all the known cases of infected pets. There has been “no analysis of all cases as a single unit to determine whether there are risk factors other than living in a house with a positive human,” says Shelley Rankin, chief of clinical microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and a colleague of Lennon’s.
It seems that potentially helpful specific case information isn’t always shared among state veterinarians either. State veterinarians typically take the lead when a pet tests positive, and they report details up to the CDC and USDA. Casey Barton-Bahravesh, director of the CDC’s One Health Office in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, says she has a weekly call with state veterinarians to share what the CDC is learning about the virus in animals. It’s not clear, however, whether states are learning enough details of each other’s cases. When National Geographic contacted state veterinarians in the seven states where dogs have tested positive, several said that each state is focused on its own cases and communicating directly with the CDC and USDA.
‘Cart before the horse’
Lennon says that based on research so far, people can feel fairly confident that healthy dogs and cats don’t pose a big risk of infection to humans or each other in most situations. The primary message from the CDC and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) is similar: There is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of the virus. Because of that, they do not recommend widespread testing of pets.
If we’re telling the world that prevalence [of animal cases] is low, then we have to look at high [test] numbers.
Shelley Rankin, Chief of clinical microbiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
That doesn’t necessarily make sense to Rankin, who says that broader testing of pets would allow public health experts to say with more confidence that pets aren’t being infected on a broad scale (or playing a significant role in the spread off the virus). “We’ve sort of put the cart before the horse,” she says. “If we’re telling the world that prevalence [of animal cases] is low, then we have to look at high numbers.”
It’s not clear how many animals in the U.S. have been tested. The CDC’s Barton-Bahravesh says her team is working to collect that data, but it’s difficult because reporting of animal testing is not mandatory.
Lennon says more testing would also shed light on whether animals in certain circumstances—such as those with underlying conditions—are more likely to contract the virus or have the virus for longer.
The second dog to test positive in the U.S., in Georgia, and the sixth dog, in South Carolina, have both died, for example, and their deaths were attributed to other conditions. Similar to Buddy’s case, state veterinarian Boyd Parr says that while there was no compelling evidence that the South Carolina dog’s condition made it more susceptible to the virus, there also wasn’t enough data to say that it didn’t.
“Certainly it is likely the underlying condition could weaken the dog’s natural defenses to a lot of things,” he said in an email.
The CDC’s toolkit includes guidance on caring for and treating a positive pet, and safety guidelines for caregivers, but Lennon says it would be helpful to see guidance that specifies what information veterinarians should collect and what tests they perform on a coronavirus-positive animal to build a consistent and complete picture of how the virus affects pets.
There’s also room to create more opportunities for owners of pets with the virus to connect with researchers. In the Mahoneys’ case, they were keen to have Buddy more closely examined but say that they struggled to connect with experts. “It highlights a missed connection for people who are interested in researching this and owners interested in donating samples,” Lennon says.
“My pet was like my son,” Allison Mahoney says. “When he was passing away in front of me, he had blood all over his paws. I cleaned him up before we drove to the vet and stayed with him in the back seat. I said, ‘I will have your voice heard, for all our furry friends. Your voice will be heard, Buddy.’ ”
One of those furry friends is Duke, the Mahoney’s surviving dog. Even though he didn’t get sick, the Mahoneys worry about possible long-term effects of the virus. The puppy has been visibly depressed since Buddy died, the Mahoneys say, and he lies in all of Buddy’s old napping spots.
The Mahoneys hope to pick up Buddy’s ashes this week.
Two German studies, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Cardiology, found heart abnormalities in COVID-19 patients months after they had already recovered from the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.
The first study included 100 patients from the University of Hospital Frankfurt COVID-19 Registry who were relatively healthy adults in their 40s and 50s. About one-third of the patients required hospitalization, while the rest recovered from home.
Researchers looked at cardiac magnetic resonance imaging taken nearly two and a half months after they were diagnosed and compared them with images from people who never had COVID-19. The study found heart abnormalities in 78 patients, with 60 of those patients showing signs of inflammation in the heart muscle from the virus. null
“When this came to our attention, we were struck,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an editor at JAMA Cardiology.
Experts say the prevalence of inflammation is an important connection to COVID-19 as the disease has a clinical reputation for a high inflammatory response. Dr. Thomas Maddox, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Science and Quality Committee, said heart inflammation could lead to weakening of the heart muscle and, in rare cases, abnormal heart beats.
Yancy said inflammation is the first prerequisite for heart failure and, over a longer period of time, could “leave important residual damage” that could “set up the scenario” for other forms of heart disease. null
“We’re not saying that COVID-19 causes heart failure… but it presents early evidence that there’s potentially injury to the heart,” Yancy said.
Maddox says the study contributes to growing evidence to suggest that heart injury in COVID-19 patients may be a “bystander effect” of the overall inflammatory reaction to the virus instead of direct viral invasion of the heart.
Although the inflammation is indicative of COVID-19, Dr. Paul Cremer, a cardiovascular imager at the Cleveland Clinic, says having imaging before patients were sick could have strengthened the study’s argument that the disease could have caused these heart abnormalities.
The findings come after a Cleveland Clinic study published July 9 in the medical journal JAMA Network Open spotlighted a number of cases of “broken heart syndrome,” or stress cardiomyopathy, doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have invested $350 million to fund treatment and vaccine research to fight coronavirus. USA TODAY
Stress cardiomyopathy occurs in response to physical or emotional distress and causes dysfunction or failure in the heart muscle. Experts say more research is needed to understand the implications of these studies and their long-term effect on the heart.
“We need to understand longer term clinical symptoms and outcome that might occur in patients who’ve had it and recovered,” Maddox said. “That will just take some time to look at as more and more people get the infection and recover.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
“If the law doesn’t change, I don’t expect we will see full election results on election night on the 11 o’clock news,” said Randall Wenger. Author: Grace Griffaton (FOX43) Published: 5:39 PM EDT July 29, 2020
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — This November 3 General Election, you could do everything right — aka be registered to vote, make it to the polls or deliver your mail-in ballot on time.
Election officials warn that doesn’t mean you’ll see immediate results election night.
That’s because places are seeing record-setting numbers of mail-in ballot applications. null
In Lancaster County, officials expect upwards of 120,000 mail-in and absentee ballots.
“If the law doesn’t change, I don’t expect we will see full election results on election night on the 11 o’clock news,” explained Randall Wenger, the county’s election director.
It’s a tradition every presidential election. Voters sit glued to their TV’s, where they anxiously await the results. According Wenger, it would take at least 84 people, working at least 12 hours each, and a space large enough for them to be socially distant to make it even remotely possible.
“Just simply, that volume – we don’t have space to run that scale of an operation,” explained Wenger, who anticipates COVID-19 will still be cause for concern and health guidelines in place. “It will take days for counties to have all the mail-in ballots counted.”
Wenger is hopeful House Bill 2626 will pass and allow pre-canvassing to start three weeks before election day. That means mail-in ballots could be counted ahead of time. It also also calls for video recordings of each pre-canvassing session. According to the bill, results would not be disclosed until polls close. Under current law, ballots can’t be counted until after polls open election day.
Janelle GriffithJanelle Griffith is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
Officials in at least 28 states are urging residents to report any unsolicited packages of seeds that appear to have been sent from China because they could be harmful.
The agricultural departments in those states released statements in recent days saying residents had reported receiving packages of seeds in the mail that they had not ordered.
“Based on information provided by constituents, the packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them,” the Delaware Department of Agriculture said in a statement Monday. “All contained some sort of seed packet either alone, with jewelry, or another inexpensive item.”The Delaware Department of Agriculture is advising residents not to plant unsolicited seeds purportedly sent from China.Delaware Dept. of Agriculture
Public notices about unsolicited shipments of seeds from China were also issued by agriculture officials in Alabama, Colorado,Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington state, West Virginia and Wyoming.
“USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment,” the statement said.
“If you receive seeds from China, DO NOT PLANT THEM. And don’t throw them in the trash,” Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson said in a statement on his Facebook page.
The Montana Department of Agriculture said in a statement Monday that the seeds have not yet been identified.
“They could be invasive, meaning they may have the potential to introduce diseases to local plants, or could be harmful to livestock,” the statement said.
Steve Cole, director of Clemson University’s Regulatory Services unit in South Carolina, said: “If these seeds should bear invasive species, they may be a threat to our environment and agriculture. We don’t want unknown species planted or thrown out where they may wind up sprouting in a landfill.”
WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration urges its DEA-registered practitioners and members of the public to be cautious of telephone calls by scammers posing as DEA employees attempting to defraud and extort victims. The schemers call the victims, spoofing DEA phone numbers in order to appear legitimate, and threaten arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for supposed violations of federal drug laws or involvement in drug-trafficking activities unless victims pay a “fine” over the phone, via wire transfer, or through a gift card.
The reported scam tactics continually change but often share many of the same characteristics. Callers use fake names and badge numbers or names of well-known DEA officials and may:
use an urgent and aggressive tone, refusing to speak to or leave a message with anyone other than their targeted victim;
threaten arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and, in the case of medical practitioners, revocation of their DEA numbers;
demand thousands of dollars via wire transfer or, in some instances, in the form of untraceable gift cards taken over the phone;
falsify the number on caller ID to appear as a legitimate DEA phone number;
will often ask for personal information, such as social security number or date of birth;
reference National Provider Identifier numbers and/or state license numbers when calling a medical practitioner. They also might claim that patients are making accusations against that practitioner.
It is critical to note that DEA personnel do not contact practitioners or members of the public by telephone to demand money or any other form of payment; will not request any personal or sensitive information over the phone; and will only notify people of a legitimate investigation or legal action via official letter or in-person.
Impersonating a federal agent is a violation of federal law.
The best deterrence against these bad actors is awareness and caution. Anyone receiving this type of call from a person purporting to be with DEA should report that contact using our online form or by calling 877-792-2873. DEA registrants can submit the information through “Extortion Scam Online Reporting” posted on the DEA Diversion Control Division’s website, www.DEADiversion.usdoj.gov.
Reporting these scam calls will help DEA stop, find, and arrest the criminals engaged in this fraud. Anyone with urgent concerns can call their local DEA field division. For contact information for DEA field divisions, visit https://www.dea.gov/domestic-divisions.
By Lynda V. Mapes Seattle Times environment reporter
July 27, 2020 at 3:18 pm | Updated July 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm
Tahlequah is pregnant again.
The mother orca raised worldwide concern when she carried her dead calf 17 days and more than 1,000 miles, almost exactly two years ago. Now, she has another chance at motherhood, scientists have learned.
The pregnancies are not unusual, so the scientists don’t usually announce them. But Tahlequah’s pregnancy carries a special meaning for a region that grieved the loss of the calf.
The southern residents are struggling to survive, and most pregnancies for these embattled whales are not successful. Tahlequah’s baby was the first for the whales in three years. The southern residents have since had two more calves, in J pod and L pod. Both are still alive.
Tahlequah’s baby is still a long way away, and like all the orca moms-to-be, Tahlequah, or J-35, will need every chance to bring her baby into the world — and keep it alive. The gestation period for orcas is typically 18 months, and families stick together for life.
Everyone on the water all over the region can help, Fearnbach and Durban said. All boaters of every type should be careful to respect the whales’ space and give them the peace and quiet they need, they said.
Whales use sound to hunt, and boat disturbance and underwater vessel noise is one of the three main threats to their survival, in addition to lack of adequate, available salmon and pollution.
Just as important as the number of salmon in the sea — especially chinook, the southern resident orcas’ preferred food — is the salmon that southern residents can readily access in their traditional fishing areas.
“Just like human fisherman that don’t just go drop a hook in the ocean,” Durban said. “They have their favorite places.
“They are amazing societies that pass culture down from generation to generation. They are creatures of habit.”
However, right where orcas hunt — the west side of San Juan Island, Swiftsure Bank, and other salmon hot spots in the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca — right now are busy with boaters, commercial ships and fishermen.
Down to a population of just 72 whales, every baby counts for southern resident orcas. And their chances for successful pregnancies are not good. About two-thirds of all southern resident pregnancies are typically lost, researcher Sam Wasser of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington has found. Stress from hunger due to lack of salmon is linked to the whales’ poor reproductive success, according to his research.
Several of the juveniles in the pods also are looking thin, Fearnbach said, including J-35’s living offspring, J-47.
“There are stressed whales out there, critically stressed,” she emphasized.
While doing their field work this year, both scientists said they have seen a lot of boat traffic on the water, too much of it moving too fast. The faster the boat, typically the louder it is.
It’s likely that Tahlequah will once again lose her calf, given the history. She lost another calf before the baby she gave birth to two years ago, which survived only one half-hour. She carried the more than 300-pound, 6-foot-long calf day after day, refusing to let it go.
Will her next calf live?
“We are concerned if she has a calf, will she be able to look after herself and the calf and J47, too?” Durban said. “There has been a lot of talk I am not sure a lot has changed for the whales.”
In their observation of the orcas this summer, the families are quite spread out as they travel in small groups, over miles of distance, Fearnbach said.
That is a sign of working hard to find enough to eat, with less resting and socializing.
The scientists will take another set of photos of the whales this fall and hope to see Tahlequah even rounder.
“People need to appreciate these are special whales in a special place at a vulnerable time,” Durban said. “These whales deserve a chance.”
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2515 or email@example.com; on Twitter: @LyndaVMapes. Lynda specializes in coverage of the environment, natural history, and Native American tribes.
Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a rich tomato sauce that has existed in Mediterranean cultures for centuries. This vegan shakshuka recipe uses potatoes and beans instead of eggs for a healthy and delicious breakfast, brunch, or dinner.
When Louise and I were working in Dublin—Ireland, shakshuka was one of our favourite dishes for our Sunday brunch. We would go to this tiny little place on Bath Ave called Juniors, and we would eat ourselves into an afternoon-long food coma. We weren’t vegan at the time, and so the shakshuka was with two large eggs in it.
Fast-forward a few years and we are both vegans. Sadly, we realized that it is not easy to find a good vegan shakshuka around. And so, a couple of weeks ago we made our own. The result was so delicious that we decided to make another one, but this time with potatoes and Italian spices instead. And it was a success!
For the ingredients, you’ll need tomatoes and small, yellow potatoes. If you live in a country with good tomatoes, then go for fresh, red, extra-ripe tomatoes. On the other hand, if you don’t have access to good tomatoes, then get some Italian canned whole peeled tomatoes. Add some tomato paste to give the sauce extra richness.
You’ll need fresh or canned white or cannellini beans. You can sub these with most other legumes such as chickpea, black-eyed beans, other beans, etc. Onion, celery, carrot, and garlic form the base for many Italian-inspired dishes. Chop them up and gently fry them in some olive oil to give max flavour to your dish (soffritto). Since this is an Italian version of shakshuka we use bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, and chili flakes. You can sub these with the traditional shakshuka spices (cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, nutmeg).
Lastly, you’ll need extra virgin olive oil, a must in most Mediterranean recipes, flat-leaf parsley, and fresh spinach to add on top. Enjoy!
Vegan Mediterranean-Inspired Shakshuka With Potatoes and Beans
Peel the potatoes and set aside in bowl with cold water
In a cast iron pan or stainless steel pan, fry carrot, celery, onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for three minutes.
Add one cup of water, tomato paste, salt and chili flakes. Stir continuously to create a curry-like paste. Let cook this paste for two mins.
Turn the heat to medium-low and add the pelati tomatoes, crush the tomatoes gently with a wooden spatula and stir well.
Once tomatoes are crushed, add thyme, rosemary and bay leaves.
Add the peeled potatoes and three cups of water, let simmer for 30 minutes on low-medium heat.
Add the white beans and stir well, let simmer for another 15 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked and can be pierced with a fork.
Let cool ten minutes before serving, this will increase intensity of flavour.
Serve with a slice of thick sourdough bread or your favourite grain (rice, couscous, and buckwheat all go amazingly well with this dish).
If you enjoyed my vegan Shakshuka dish, try making this vegan Mediterranean risotto with chickpeas and a creamy cashew sauce. According to the recipe’s author, “this vegan risotto’s creaminess is accomplished using cashews, marinated artichokes, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, and garlic cloves.”
Audrey EnjoliSTAFF WRITER | LOS ANGELES, CA | CONTACTABLE VIA: AUDREY@LIVEKINDLY.COM 6-8 minutes
Colorful, iridescent betta fish are popular starter pets. Pet stores often market the vibrant swimmers as being easy to care for because they’re small—so they take up minimal space—and are inexpensive to care for.
But proper betta care is a bit more specialized than some pet stores lead on. And although they’re appearance may make them popular for display, they are actually one of the most exploited fish in the aquarium trade.There are more than 70 different species of betta fish.
What Is A Betta Fish?
Betta fish are small, freshwater fish. They are members of the Osphronemidae family and are native to Southeast Asia. They are relatively small, ranging anywhere from six to eight centimeters long.
There are more than 70 different species of betta fish in the wild. The fish live in shallow water, including ponds, flood plains, slow-moving streams, and marshes. They are carnivorous by nature. They have a wide-ranging diet that consists of small crustaceans, insects—including mosquito larvae, worms, and even smaller fish.
Store-bought betta splendens—also known as Siamese fighting fish—are one of the more popular species of betta fish because of their vibrant coloring.
However, these ray-finned fish look nothing like their wild counterparts. Wild betta fish typically have short fins and sport a dull grey coloring. The betta fish sold in pet stores are a product of selective breeding—the process of breeding animals to develop more desirable characteristics and traits, such as a particular color or size.
Store-bought betta fish have been bred to display a wide variety of colors. Betta fish sold in stores have also been bred to have different types of fins, such as a double tail, crowntail, delta, halfmoon, and more.Male bettas are highly territorial.
Why Do Betta Fish Fight?
Male betta fish are highly territorial, compared to their female counterparts. As such, they can become aggressive toward other male bettas when defending their territory. Male bettas will also attack similar-looking fish of other species of fish with flowing fins. When disturbed or threatened, they will often flare their fins in order to show aggression.
Male bettas are also fiercely protective of their offspring. They build bubble nests, which are formed by air bubbles that are coated with saliva in order to make them stronger, for their young. So they can also become aggressive when predators or other fish breach their territory.Betta fish are commonly kept in tiny containers in pet stores.
What’s Wrong With Buying Betta Fish?
A quick glance down the fish aisle at your local pet store will likely and you’ll likely see rows of small plastic containers filled with immobile bettas.
Some of these fish that are sold in U.S. pet stores are captured in the wild. But the vast majority are bred in countries like Thailand in Southeast Asia.
An investigation by the Asian branch of animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia exposed the ways in which bettas suffer in the global fish trade. The exposé highlighted Thailand’s betta fish industry. A video released with the investigation shows betta fish confined to small containers that were not filled with an adequate amount of water to cover their bodies.
PETA Asia’s undercover investigator visited ten different betta breeding factories and packing operations. Dead bettas were seen on the floor; some were seen left out of water for extended amounts of time while they were prepared for shipping.
Once shipped, it can take days for bettas to reach their destination. The investigation found tranquilizers are sometimes added to the bettas’ water to keep the fish from consuming their own tails out of distress. Some bettas are dead upon arrival. A company that supplies betta fish to Petco told the investigator that of the 100,000 bettas shipped per week to the U.S., up to 1,000 of them die before reaching distributors.Bettas require specialized care if kept in captivity.
What’s Wrong With Home Aquariums?
Bettas, and other fish, that are held in captivity in home aquariums can suffer from inadequate environments and lack of proper care.
Unlike some other types of fish, bettas require warm water and supple filtration. They must be fed and have their tanks cleaned on a regular basis. They also need environmental enrichment. This can be in the form of caves and plants that they can spend their time traversing. Too-small of a tank and poor water quality can impact bettas’ overall well-being.
Studies show captive bettas can suffer from a host of physical ailments. These include loss of color or appetite, listlessness, cloudy eyes, frayed fins, bloating, weight loss, labored reservations, and erratic swimming. They can also suffer from a number of other health issues like fin rot, bacterial infections, and fungus.
Similar to humans and other animals, bettas can suffer emotionally. They can experience boredom, depression, and stress due to being held in captivity. A 2017 study into the potential welfare issues impacting captive bettas found that most captive environments lack the complexities common to their natural habitat. This negatively impacts bettas’ wellbeing.
“We do know obviously that fish, in general, are more than what we thought they were, in a sense that their cognition is more developed than we previously thought and that they may even experience emotions, for example when in pain,” the study’s author, Christel P.H. Moons told the National Geographic.Bettas can suffer emotional and physical ailments in captivity.
Should You Have Pet Fish?
Although bettas may be regarded as easy to care for by some, they need highly specialized care. They also require an enriched environment similar to their natural habitats. This is in order to promote good health, both physically and emotionally.
Regardless—whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit, or fish—adding a pet to the family should be a decision that entails much consideration and deliberation. If you are dead set on keeping a pet fish, and already have an adequately-sized aquarium with a stimulating environment, see if anyone in your area is offering fish for adoption to avoid supporting the fish trade.
Elephant bodies lay strewn over the vast Okavango Delta bushes north of Botswana. Their tusks were still intact and no gunshots or other physical wounds were detected.
What killed at least 275 of these giant mammals remains a mystery three months later.
After post-mortems and laboratory analyses failed to reveal the cause of death, Botswana sought assistance from laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe and the US.
The discovery of the wildlife disaster, according to the Botswana government, was on April 25 in areas around the Okavango Delta. Government has so far verified the 275 elephant carcasses of the 356 that were reported to its wildlife and national parks body.
Botswana says it cares about elephants
Botswana, which has considered culling to deal with the elephant-human conflict, said the impression had been created that it had no interest in the mass elephant deaths.
“It is not true that the Botswana government has not been keen in finding out what has been killing our elephants. These allegations that we have not been showing keenness, seriousness and promptness in attending to this issue is a concern for us in that we are now wrongly reduced to a government that is irresponsible and not protecting its wildlife which is our treasure and the backbone of our economy, that is not true,” said Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Minister Philda Kereng.
“We do not want to rule out any human factor or anything that has to do with toxicology but investigation is ongoing to find out what exactly has been killing our elephants”
Government’s action so far
Kereng said they sprang to action the moment the first case was reported to the department.
“A search was launched to locate the carcasses and get the numbers and when we realise mortality cases were increasing, an investigation team of wildlife veterinarians and biologists was put together to start a wider investigation. Post mortems were done on some of the elephants and we did not find any definitive cause of deaths,” she said.
Tissue samples were taken to veterinary laboratories for analysis and a detailed investigation was done with veterinarians, epidemiologists, pathologists and biologists.
“We also took the samples to laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada and the US. There have been delays due to the Covid-19 restrictions in terms of transportation and travel but we are expecting the last analysis from the US this week.”
The possibilities and suspicions
Earlier this month, Botswana announced that there was no evidence of poaching, especially because the elephants were found with their tusks still intact.
Wild animals such as elephants have been put down in Botswana after they attacked and killed people. Farmers and community members have killed elephants after they attacked them or destroyed their crops. These human wildlife conflict incidents pushed Botswana to do something about its high population of elephants.
The department revealed that the elephants were dying in the Okavango region covering Seronga, Beetsha, Gunutsonga and Eretsha villages.
Government has also warned communities near the areas where dead elephants were found not to touch them or consume their meat.
“It is not true that the Botswana government has not been keen in finding out what has been killing our elephants.”
There are suggestions that the animals might have been poisoned. However, government has maintained that despite the increase in human wildlife conflict cases, Batswana have lived side by side with the wildlife animals and would not just kill them for no reason. But pressure is mounting for Botswana to establish what killed the elephants.
“We do not want to rule out any human factor or anything that has to do with toxicology but investigation is ongoing to find out what exactly has been killing our elephants,” she said.
The minister said the mysterious deaths were a first in Botswana.
The body of a suspected covid-19 victim lies in an Indonesian hospital. After the patient died, nurses wrapped the body in layers of plastic and applied disinfectant to prevent the spread of the virus. Photograph by Joshua Irwandi
The image is frightening. A corpse lies stiffly on a hospital bed, wrapped in plastic—a modern mummy. The room is dark, sterile, impersonal. No one sits with the body to mourn the life that was lost.
A suspected victim of COVID-19, the person died in an Indonesian hospital. Nurses, fearful of infection, wound plastic around the body and sprayed it with disinfectant. Now it’s utterly anonymous—physical characteristics shrouded, name and gender unknown, an object waiting to be discarded.
Photojournalist Joshua Irwandi made the image while shadowing Indonesian hospital workers as part of a National Geographic Society grant. The photograph ricocheted through the nation of 270 million people, which has been slow to fight the global pandemic.
“It’s clear that the power of this image has galvanized discussion about coronavirus,” Irwandi said from his home in Indonesia.
But is it enough to change the trajectory of the pandemic in Indonesia, where the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracker reported 4,665 deaths and 95,418 cases as of July 24—a toll believed to be vastly undercounted?
This sort of question arises every time a photograph seems to distill a current catastrophe. Can an image of death or suffering change public policy or popular sentiment? Even if images from the past have done so, do photographs retain this power in our image-saturated world? And if images can make a difference in the 21st century, what’s taking so long?
On the other side of the world, a photograph by Julia Le Duc provoked such questions a year ago. A young man lies face down in murky water, his child beside him in red pants, dead too, still tucked under his black T-shirt, her arm around his neck as if he were carrying her into the ocean for a refreshing swim. Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, a refugee from El Salvador, drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into the United States with his daughter Valeria, who was not quite two.
Photographer James Rodriguez, who has documented the aftereffects on Guatemalan families of Donald Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy on immigration, said not long after the photo went viral: “This is beyond what we’ve seen so far. You have a sort of crescendo, so much coverage, so many images. But then comes something like this, that pops. The head inside the T-shirt. You don’t see faces. You don’t see blood.”
“We who work on this issue hope that with the narrative, there is eventually a straw that breaks the camel’s back, to affect public opinion and impact public policy.”
Yet he and others wonder why images of “dead foreigners,” as he put it, appear far more frequently in American media than do images of dead Americans. “With all the gun deaths in the U.S., have you seen a single photo of a child killed?”
To this day he remembers the boy’s first name: Aylan.
Back then, in 2015, predictions were that such a powerful image, photographed by Nilufer Demir, could change opinion about refugees, who were and remain widely distrusted and resented.
Pictures of death or suffering do become iconic, in ways that both hurt and help. Two days after the photos of little Aylan went public, then British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his nation would take in thousands more Syrian refugees.
But other news emerges after photos grab our hearts. The little girl crying in a renowned photo by Getty photographer John Moore, who was documenting family separations at the border, turned out to be just a photo of a little girl crying. Her mother picked her up two minutes afterwards, and all was well.
A year after another image of a Syrian boy became famous—he looked beaten and bloody, forlorn in an orange chair—its subject appeared on the news in Syria in support of the government. He had become a symbol of the government’s terror against its citizens, but now his hair, shaggy and dirty before, was tidy, his face pudgy and smiling. Mohamad Kheir Daqneesh, the boy’s father, criticized Syrian rebels in the TV interview, saying that he feared for his son’s safety after the image received so much publicity. “I changed Omran’s name,” he said. “I changed his haircut, so no one [would] film him or recognize him.”
As I worked on this story, I reported this to a photo editor at National Geographic. “Oh, that’s great news,” he replied. “I think about him every now and again. Good to know he’s ok.”
It has happened before. In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, Vietnamese himself and just 19, had just finished photographing a skirmish when a plane sprayed napalm.
In a 2012 interview he replayed the moment: “I saw her left arm burned and the skin peeling off her back. I immediately thought that she was going to die…. She was screaming and screaming, and I thought, ‘Oh my God.’”
His editors debated whether the photo should be sent out. The girl was naked, and they were concerned about offending readers. But one editor insisted, and newspapers around the world published it.
“The next day,” Ut said, “there were anti-war protests all over the world. Japan, London, Paris…. Every day after that, people were protesting in Washington, D.C., outside the White House. ‘Napalm Girl’ was everywhere.”
The girl survived after Ut drove her and other children to a hospital and threatened media exposure if the overwhelmed workers refused to care for them. Now a middle-aged woman, Kim Phuc calls the photographer “Uncle Nick.”
After the 2008 hurricane in Haiti, Miami Herald photographer Patrick Farrell won acclaim for an image of another naked child, this time a boy, pushing a filthy and broken baby stroller, apparently reclaimed from the muddy rubble around him. Again, one boy, leading viewers to wonder about his story, his future, and contrast it with their own.
Farrell, still with the Herald, told me in 2015 that the image was among the first published after the initial Haiti storms. It, along with others, won him a Pulitzer. “They were striking and graphic and painful to look at,” he said, “but they opened people’s eyes, especially in Miami, two hours away by plane. It brought them out of their very comfortable lives.”
More than $4 billion was pledged or donated after the earthquake. Nobody knows what happened to the boy, with whom Farrell never spoke. He believes the image is compelling because “everything is destroyed, but this kid has piled a few things in a stroller and he’s pushing it somewhere. We don’t know where.”
The face of another refugee also captured a crisis and captivated those who saw it. Photographer Steve McCurry’s image of a young Afghan girl at a refugee camp in Pakistan appeared on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic and remains etched in millions of memories: a girl with tousled hair draped in a rusty red cloth, her eyes huge and fiery with …. what? Fear? Defiance? Determination?
McCurry returned to Pakistan 17 years later to find her, worn and weary. Sharbat Gula had never seen her iconic photo. She had not been photographed since. But her blue-green eyes are recognized and remembered for having cracked open hardened hearts around the world.
Waiting for change
Photographers are inclined to believe that searing images will surely rip others’ hearts so much that they will shred old policies that hurt people so badly. Farrell was certain the image of the drowned Syrian boy would force action on the decades-old refugee crisis.
“People in the States have been breezing through these stories. It’s like a noise you hear but tune out.”
But, so far, Syria remains under siege in every way, its people wounded and dying.
The crisis continues at the U.S.-Mexican border, and in the scrabbling nations south of it.
And in Indonesia, reactions to the image of the COVID-19 victim have been hostile, with the head of the government’s coronavirus taskforce questioning Irwandi’s ethics for taking the photo. In response, the nation’s photojournalism association determined that the photo met journalistic standards,
If powerful photographs can indeed change history these days, history is taking its sweet time.
Susan Ager, a freelance writer based in Michigan, has previously covered the power of photographs for National Geographic.
Cook Inlet belugas are on the brink of extinction – but we can help them right now by keeping toxic waste out of their home.
These belugas are declining, and as a small population, every loss severely impacts the group’s chance of survival. Experts believe that pollution could be one of the barriers standing between these whales and recovery.
But the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency responsible for issuing Clean Water Act permits, hasn’t stood in the way of toxic waste dumping in Cook Inlet. One corporation, Hilcorp, has been allowed to dump waste in Cook Inlet for years – the only place in U.S. waters where this kind of dumping is allowed.
With the survival of endangered belugas on the line, we can’t wait to act.
Send a message to the ADEC: Stop permitting toxic waste dumping in Cook Inlet that threatens marine wildlife!
Earth’s oceans, covering two-thirds of the planet, are so vast and so deep that it’s easy to take their importance for granted.
They provide us with oxygen and regulate our climate by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — important functions for both humans and wildlife. Unfortunately, the world’s oceans — home to whales, sea otters, seals and sea lions, dolphins, manatees, seabirds, sea turtles, sharks, fish, corals, and countless other species of marine life — are in a sea of trouble. The oceans are overworked; they cannot remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere quickly enough to keep up with how much we create, leading to ever-increasing ocean acidification.
The Arctic Sea is now warming at twice the rate than in past years, reducing sea ice — a growing threat to threatened marine mammals such as polar bears and ice seals. Over a third of the Great Barrier Reef is dead, harming commercial and recreational fish stocks and impoverishing Australia’s iconic biodiversity. We are killing off marine mammals, sharks and rays, and fish stocks faster than they can replenish themselves. The health of the Earth’s oceans are indicators of our planet’s overall health; when they’re in trouble, so are we. It’s important to keep our oceans healthy not just for marine life, but also for the future health of the entire planet.
Myriad threats face our oceans and marine wildlife. Climate change causes ocean acidification, warming temperatures, changing ocean currents, sea level rise, and stronger storms. A warming planet makes it more likely for temperature-dependent species like sea turtles and manatees to face cold stress or venture past their usual habitats. Increased shipping traffic and offshore seismic blasting and drilling also increase noise pollution, threatening marine mammals and species at every level of the food chain. Shark finning, bycatch, overfishing and fisheries entanglements endanger sharks and rays, marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and many other species. Contamination from pollution and plastics and the toxic effects of red tide and other harmful algal blooms caused by fertilizer runoff sicken and kill vulnerable marine species. To top it off, habitat loss and the loss of protected areas reduce the spaces already-vulnerable marine species need to forage and reproduce.
Defenders is fighting for ocean habitats and ocean protection off all our national shores and around the globe. We defend marine national monuments and national marine sanctuaries from administrative attacks. We are opposing seismic blasting and offshore drilling in the courts and in Congress.
We are working to develop best management practices for responsible wildlife-friendly offshore wind siting, construction and development. We defend the Marine Mammal Protection Act from legislative and regulatory rollbacks and work to protect individual marine species through the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act. We worked to gain international protections for sharks and rays and have worked to translate those protections into protections at the domestic level through the ESA.
In Washington State, we are actively engaged in the governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, working to protect the dwindling southern resident orca population and restore the Salish Sea.
In 2017, Defenders joined forces with the National Marine Fisheries Service, state agencies, local and national organizations and hundreds of local residents to redirect community science efforts into a new program called ‘Belugas Count!’ to help monitor Cook Inlet beluga whales in Alaska.
We advocate for North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales as a conservation member of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, a stakeholder group under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that advises NMFS on how to implement fishery management measures to minimize or avoid the risk of deadly entanglements.
The United States has a total coastline of around 95,471 miles, and 23 states and all five major territories have coasts of their own.
The mainland U.S. has the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north of Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico towards the southeast.
Coastal areas are some of the most important habitat for migratory birds, nesting sea turtles, kelp forest-loving sea otters, sea ice-dependent seals and polar bears, anadromous fish like salmon, Florida manatees and many other species.
Intertidal zones are areas of the shore that are above the water at low tide and below at high tide, like some estuaries and rocky tide pools. These areas are important habitat for invertebrates like abalone that often form the base of the food web along coasts.
Coasts and intertidal zones are facing a barrage of threats, but climate change-related impacts are decimating coasts around the country. Sea level rise, erosion, strengthening storms, ocean acidification and rising temperatures are just some of the threats facing coastal and intertidal zones.
When storms rip through coastal areas, they destroy important habitat and deposit silt and debris across the coast. Intense pollution is running down river systems from agricultural areas, cities, and mining and coal ash plants, creating dead zones and spreading disease in estuaries and coastal areas.
Massive conversion of coastal wetlands and shoreline has destroyed important estuaries and nearshore habitat that serve as nurseries for fish and wildlife. Millions of tons of plastic pollution are clogging our oceans, drowning and choking marine mammals and breaking down into microplastics so fine that they are showing up in the tissue of fish and in zooplankton.
Offshore drilling threatens cetaceans with seismic testing and the risk of an oil spill is omnipresent. As we saw with Exxon Valdez and BP, it’s not a matter of if, but when, another spill will occur. When oil spills, no wildlife or habitat is spared, and the effects are felt decades later.
In our field offices and in the national and international arenas, we fight every day to ensure the survival of iconic marine species. By protecting these charismatic species, we also protect their marine and coastal habitats, as these species cannot survive and thrive except as interconnected parts of healthy and vibrant ecosystems.
Our experts work with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as other federal, state, tribal and private entities to restore and protect fragile systems to provide marine and coastal species with the habitat they need for their continued survival in the face of climate change.
We also work with local and coastal communities to increase awareness and understanding of wildlife coexistence tools and to oppose offshore drilling. Where necessary, we use our legal tools to ensure that federal, state and local governments comply with their obligations to protect marine wildlife species and their habitats.
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