According to WWF, over the last 15 years, the population of orangutan’s residing in forest patches surrounding palm oil plantations in the Malaysian state of Sabah declined by as much as 30 per cent. Despite the alarming drop in numbers, the overall population in the region remains stable. WWF says the results are the product of the most intensive study ever done on any great ape in the world.
Overall population remains stable
The study found that orangutan numbers declined by 30 and 15 per respectively in Kulamba and Tabin between 2002 and 2017. Orangutans can be found in the Bornean rainforests which is where Sabah is located as well as on Sumatra which is an Island in Indonesia. WWF says that between 2002 and 2017 at least 650 orangutans were lost in the protected Eastern lowlands of Sabah. The overall population however, held steady at 11,000.
In a statement WWF says that whilst the population or orangutans has stablilised in large forest areas, their number in and around the forests within palm oil landscapes in Sabah’s Eastern lowlands fell. Because palm oil plantations are monoculture in nature, they are unable to support species that depend on forest environments such as orangutans.
Forest patches important
Forest patches within plantations perform an important function, allowing orangutans the ability to travel between forested areas and are key to the species survival, particularly in the lowlands of Sabah according to a spokesperson for the Sabah Wildlife Department. Malaysia depends on palm oil which is an ingredient that is used in everything from chocolate spread to lipstick.
Billions are at stake
The commodity generates billions of dollars every year in foreign exchange, supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and is Malaysia’s largest agricultural crop and export. After Indonesia, Malaysia is the second ranked grower of palm-oil with Sabah the most productive state in the country. The palm oil industry is responsible for widespread deforestation over the decades as land is cleared for plantations using slash and burn techniques that result in heavy pollution.
WWF has accused the European Commission of “deliberately harming climate action”. The conservation group claims that the Commission deliberately avoided releasing a report that showed just how little EU farming policies were doing in the way of helping prevent climate breakdown. The report on the climate impact of the Common Agricultural Policy was completed more than a year ago but languished unpublished until WWF lodged a formal freedom of information request for its release.
The report was eventually quietly released the day following the EU elections and found that the European Commission was not acting in a strong enough manner to encourage the farming industry to reduce its emissions. A spokesperson for WWF says that the delayed release of the report may well be considered an act of deliberate climate harm. The spokesperson adds that the EU Commission has been talking about the urgent need to act on the climate whilst failing to release a damaging report showing its farming policy is harmful and how much more it can and should do.
Serious questions raised
The report asked some serious questions regarding the wisdom of farmers ploughing land which is a practice known to release massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Common Agricultural Policy is the main instrument used by the EU to manage the farming sector. A spokesperson for Greenpeace says the report clearly shows that European agricultural policy is failing the climate test and the EU must do something about the over-production and over-consumption of meat and dairy which are key drivers for carbon emissions.
Reversing the trend
The EU’s farming sector contributes as much as 10 per cent of the its greenhouse gas emissions but policy changes could result in a reversal and the sector could capture and store a significantly larger amount of carbon dioxide claims WWF. The organisation argues that the Common Agricultural Policy has done almost nothing to support low-carbon and nature-friendly farming. WWF adds that the policy continues to support a market driven set of farming practices that are high-input instead of incentivising environmental or climate commitments.
The WWF spokesperson concludes by arguing that it is possible for both the climate and farming sector to achieve victories by rapidly cutting emissions and adopting practices that would see more carbon going into the ground and landscapes. The EU has already drafted a strategy for long term action to deal with climate change which clearly shows that agriculture can and should do more to help Europe achieve net-zero emissions.
Approximately 90 per cent of the world’s wild plant species depend on animal pollination for reproduction and an astonishing 75 per cent of crops do as well. The species that pollinate include wasps, bees, moths, beetles, butterflies and ants. There are over 250 different bee species in the UK alone. The honey bee normally lives in hives typically managed by beekeepers. Other species such as bumblebees and solitary bees live out in the wild.
Bees worth hundreds of millions of pounds to UK
In the modern industrialised world, bees are facing a wide variety of complex and intersectional threats, the cumulative effects of which may well have a large impact on the abundance and diversity of bee species. According to the IUCN, as many as 24 per cent of all bumblebee species in Europe now face the threat of extinction. That, despite the fact that they are worth a whopping £690 million a year to the British economy. It is believed the driving factor behind decline in bee numbers is habitat fragmentation, but climate change is also thought to have an increasing role.
Third of all species declining
A recent study looked at 228 bee species throughout the East of England and assessed their populations in the region. The study found that a third of pollinator species experienced declining populations between 1980 and 2013 with only a tenth increasing. Bees are critical to British agriculture. One of every three mouthfuls we eat is because of pollinators. Bees pollinate a wide variety of crops and if we lose bees and other pollinators, it would become very challenging.
Loss of wild spaces
The study found that 17 species have become locally extinct, an additional 25 species are threatened and a further 31 are of conservation concern. The most vulnerable species include the Bilberry Mining Bee which collected pollen only from a couple of plant species that grow in only one location in England. The UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries and the loss of wild spaces means that bees lack the natural spaces they need to survive.
Loss of synchronicity
Many of the rarer species require between 10 to 20 square kilometres of habitable area in order to support a stable population, but that amount of precious natural habitat is being lost at an alarming rate. On top of habitat loss, climate change is also a key stressor because bees cannot cope with weather extremes. One effect of climate change is shifting seasons which are far less predictable plus freak weather such as droughts in the summer and extended flooding seasons. The rapid changing of season means that flowering plants that pollinators the feed on end up losing synchronicity.
WWF says we need to protect and manage bee friendly habitats as habitat fragmentation makes bee species more vulnerable who probably cannot expand their ranges in response to climate change. We need to prioritise the habitats in the East of England and coastal areas which are vitally important. WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report found that globally 60 per cent of wildlife populations have declined since 1970.
Westminster Environment Act
WWF says the Westminster Environment Act is a real opportunity for the UK to take a leading role in the restoration of nature. Politicians have the ability to reverse the catastrophic natural decline by enacting new environmental legislation to protect and restore nature across the UK. WWF wants the Act to be a global leader and include legally-binding targets to restore nature. There are lots of ways individuals can help bees near them. For those with access to green spaces or have gardens, create a bee friendly haven, plant wild flowers and leave grass to grow which will give bees space to thrive.
According to a recent report from WWF, more than 1,000 harbour porpoises die in British waters every year unnecessarily. The WWF study found that these small porpoises end up becoming accidentally trapped in the nets of fishermen resulting in them suffocating and dying. The report highlights three black spots, in the South-West and South-East of England as well as the Shetland waters and in the North East of Scotland.
Immediate action necessary
WWF is urging for immediate actions to address the crisis. WWF produced the report in collaboration with the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign. The report claims that gill nets which are a wall of netting that traps the fish by their gills are responsible for the death of porpoises. The report suggests that there should be other techniques introduced as well as improved monitoring techniques.
WWF fisheries programme manager Helen MacLachlan says that it is a national scandal that porpoises tragically die in the harbour and that this can no longer be ignored. Many people in the UK will be shocked to learn the scale of the problem and horrified that these amazing mammals may well be dying in the same nets used to catch the fish that sits on their dinner plates. It is critical that the UK takes immediate action to ensure that nature is restored and remains protected.
UK waters globally important
There are approximately 177,000 harbour porpoises that ply the waters of the United Kingdom and it is a globally important area for both breeding and feeding. The report cites a number of academic studies and estimates during 2017 anywhere between 587 and 2,615 porpoises were killed with the best guess being 1,098 or roughly three per day.
Real number of deaths must be much higher
The estimates are partly based on data recorded by observers on board a number fishing vessels and that has been extrapolated to estimate the total number of harbour porpoises inadvertently killed by the entire fleet. WWF however believes that the real number may be much higher since the estimate does not take into consideration the nets laid by smaller vessels and the number of dead porpoises that fall out of nets as they are drawn in.
The black spots where the number of porpoise deaths are especially high include Cornwall, Kent, Sussex and the coastal waters of the West of Shetland. WWF says the areas that are particularly abundant in marine life tend to attract both large numbers of gill-net fisheries and porpoises. WWF says the UK does comply EU regulations regarding gill net by-catch of harbour porpoises. However, the NGO says there should be alternatives such as hooks and hand lines for catching certain species.
Most people seem to think that wildlife is the enemy of fruit of and vegetable patches. Some species are even considered to be pests. It is however possible and perhaps beneficial to welcome wildlife into your vegetable patch according to WWF. Unfortunately, the UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries but harmonious gardening with nature can give species particular to gardens a large helping hand as well as creating wild habitats that not only help endangered species but humans as well.
Connecting with nature
You should leave areas for long grass to grow as well as wild flowers and nettles around the edge of your garden which will serve as shelter and food for insects that benefit the patch like ladybirds, hoverflies and wasps. The wasp is the true friend to the gardener because they eat a wide range of invertebrates that feed on vegetables such as ants, caterpillars and ants.
You could also create a pond that will attract toads and frogs or construct a log pile that hedgehogs will be enticed by. This will encourage them to feed on slugs that may devour young plants. They also feed on beetles, worms and insect pests. Fruit bearing trees and shrubs can serve as both shelter for birds that feed on caterpillars, aphids and other insect that chow down on your greens. A single baby blue tit can consume up to 100 caterpillars every day getting rid of the daily requirement to put plastic nets over brassicas.
Grow different species
A more wildlife-friendly vegetable patch obviously means more habitat for wildlife and less work for you. Plus, it acts as a regular food supply putting natural food on the plate without incurring the carbon emissions associated with buying from the supermarket. There are a number of things you can do to get started. Bush tomatoes are easier for example than other tomatoes. There are varieties of salad leave can be sown easily in the ground or pots and harvested if kept well-watered. Courgettes are the easiest crop to grow and purple sprouting broccoli takes a while to harvest but worth the effort.
According to WWF, the number of tigers in Nepal has nearly doubled over the last nine years helping to save the species from extinction in the wild. In 2009 there were 121 tigers in Nepal and this year the population estimate is now 235. This is fantastic news because it means the global trend of rising wild tiger populations that began for the first time in a century during 2016 is intact. The tiny landlocked country of Nepal looks on track to reach its 2022 goal of doubling its wild tiger population compared to 2010.
The goal of doubling wild tiger numbers
This target has been adopted by 13 other countries that the tiger roams wild in. Ghana Gurun, WWF’s person on the spot in Nepal says every tiger is another step closer to saving the species from extinction. Whilst Nepal is just a few tigers away from the goal of doubling the species population by 2022, it emphasises the continuing requirement to keep tigers and their habitat protected for the long-term survival of the species.
With a little help from its friends
The survey was conducted by the government of Nepal and used a number of techniques including camera traps to come up with an estimate of the wild tiger population in the country. Leonardo DiCaprio has a foundation which also funded conservation efforts in Nepal’s Bardia Natioanl Park for the last eight years. The movie star says that the significant increase in wild tiger numbers in Nepal is evidence that when everyone works together, it is possible to save the Earth’s wildlife including species on the brink of extinction.
Wild tiger numbers have fallen dramatically
Mr DiCaprio says he is proud of his foundation’s partnership with WWF to support the efforts of the government of Nepal and local communities to double the population of wild tigers. Whilst the story is positive we should pause to remember that wild tiger populations have fallen by more than 95 per cent since the turn of the 20th century and the species continues to be under threat as a result of human wildlife conflict, habitat destruction and poaching.
Still under threat
The illegal trade in wildlife such as tiger bones, skins, claws and other body parts continues to boom in Asia where they are used for medicine or displayed as status symbols. Thanks to much of the conservation work done by governments of countries in Indian, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan in partnership with agencies such as WWF, the wild tiger population has increased from 3,200 in 2010 to 3,890 today.
The top four British environmental groups say Brexit is a “once in a generation opportunity” to change the direction of the huge decline in Britain’s wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, WWF UK and RSPB all say that the UK’s countryside is “key to our identity as a nation”. The charities urged the government to repeal the heavily criticised EU Common Agricultural Policy subsidy with a British subsidy that would pay farmers in the UK to maintain high environmental standards.
Farmers complain they haven’t been consulted
The National Farmers Union says its members understand exactly how important it is to ensure the environment remains protected, however it added that some organisations were making suggestions about agricultural policy without first speaking to stakeholders. For their part the four conservation groups issued a joint statement called a new policy for our countryside which said that Britain’s exit from the EU “will be one of the most defining events for farming and our environment in living memory”.
“[It] provides an unprecedented opportunity to revitalise our countryside in a way that balances the needs of everyone, for generations to come. Our vision is for a thriving, healthy countryside that delivers multiple benefits for society. As well as products such as food and timber, we need the natural environment to provide services like clean water and healthy soils, and the benefits to our wellbeing that contact with abundant and diverse nature brings. In turn, these services play a key role in supporting a prosperous rural economy.”
Long term future at stake
The groups argue that the long-term future of farming is at stake if the natural systems around which it is based are not replenished. Farmland covers over 75 per cent of the UK, farmers are in a unique position to help with ensuring the UK meets the challenge of restoring nature. The charities have also called for the creation of an independent commission which would be set up to develop policy as well as the drawing up of a 25-year plan.
The government needs to be brave
Steve Trotter director of The Wildlife Trusts in England says that wildlife is a critical part of what makes the countryside so special. He argues that the government needs to be brave and take a revolutionary approach to the way subsidies are used to deliver things that we require from a healthy countryside. This includes clean water, beautiful landscapes and nutritious food. He adds that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the government to develop policy to help reverse the huge decline in wildlife and we should not miss it.
If you are someone who believes there is no reason to worry about climate change because its effects won’t be felt for ages you would be dead wrong. It doesn’t matter what you care about, the fact of the matter is that the impact of climate change is being felt everywhere today. There is some good news though, there is still time to make enough of a difference so that it doesn’t get worse in the future. Here are five reasons why we should care about climate change.
1. Because snow leopards, turtles and polar bears are awesome
It should come as no surprise has big implications for animals all over the world. This means if you care about amazing species you should be concerned about climate change. A hotter planet means that animals will find it increasingly difficult to come by food. A world which doesn’t care about deforestation means animals will find it ever harder to survive. WWF places a lot of emphasis on climate change because so much of the natural world is affected by it – everything from wonderful species to stunning habitats such as the Amazon.
2. Because we all need access to clean water
Nearly ten per cent of the world’s population lack access to clean drinking water. We don’t think of water as being precious, but it has limited availability in many parts of the world. Climate change means this situation is only going to get worse. As the planet heats up the water cycle will be destabilised and this means some parts of the world will experience more frequent droughts whilst other parts will see more intense rainfall which will result in floods.
3. Because you need your coffee fix each morning
According to a recently released report on climate change from the United Nations, the world’s supply of coffee beans could shrink due to global warming. If this is not enough to worry you then we don’t know what is. Crops need specific climates to grow and thrive. If this changes then some crops will stop growing in areas where they previously used too.
4. Because coral reefs are amazing
Who didn’t love the film Finding Nemo? Climate change poses a huge threat to Nemo’s home. Warmer ocean temperatures will result in the bleaching of coral. This is a process whereby the coral loses all of its beautiful colour and ends up dying. This is terrible news for diving fans, not to mention the fish in the sea.
5. Because rainforests are incredible
One of the planet’s more precious habitats are the rainforests. These spectacular areas are often referred to as the Earth’s lungs. They are really amazing. Did you know that the Amazon serves as home to 1 in 10 of all of the planets species? This makes the rainforests both unique and irreplaceable. Deforestation is a major cause of climate change and is extremely bad news for rainforests.
At the end of last year, something truly incredible happened. As many as 190 countries agreed to a ground breaking deal to act against climate change. The countries of the world decided that it was important that global temperature rises should be kept to well below 2°C and in fact it is important that the temperature rise should be below 1.5°C. Currently when we add up all the commitments made by individual countries to reduce emissions, we are still not quite at the target but there are plenty of reasons why we should celebrate the agreement.
- The countries that signed the agreement have promised to fight against climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. This means that fossil fuels will start to be phased out as the world migrates to renewable energy and protects its forests.
- Over time the countries that participate will have to strengthen their promises and this means doing so in advance of 2020 when the agreement comes in to effect. In fact it is critical they do so if we are to keep the rise in temperature below 2°C.
- The agreement means that developing countries that are vulnerable to climate change will get the support they need.
So what now?
Make no mistake COP21 was a huge step in the fight to protect our planet from being ravaged by climate change. Now we have finished with negotiating a deal, WWF says it is time for action by all governments that participated in the deal. In many ways the UK is leading the way with its world leading Climate Change Act which made it the first country to commit to phasing out coal power. Whilst all of that is good news there is still much more to be done.
WWF hopes to see that there is real certainty that the UK and the rest of the world is heading towards a future that is based on renewable energy. It is possible that by 2050 the world will be able to derive 100 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources but in order to so we will need ambitious policy from our governments to get us there.
WWF is supporting scientists working in the polar region who are studying Adélie penguins in East Antarctica. The object of the exercise is to identify the areas of the Southern Ocean which act as important feeding grounds for the species. The researchers also hope to predict how the species might adapt to climate change. The results of the study will be used as evidence to support the case for a large scale Marine Protected Area of the coast of East Antarctica.
Data suggests some important trends
So far the study has collected three years of tracking data and Dr. Yan Ropert-Coudert who heads up the research project says there are some important trends that are emerging. Female Adélie penguins were tagged with GPS tracking devices whilst they were incubating their eggs. The following results were found. During the 2013/2014 austral summer, the breeding effort suffered from catastrophic failure with none of the chicks surviving from as many as 30,000 breeding pairs. There were a couple of factors responsible:
- During the beginning of the breeding season, the sea ice extent was unusually high.
- There were multiple days of rain which is extremely rare in what is one of the driest places on Earth (Antarctica is officially classified as a polar desert)
When penguins first hatch, their feathers are not yet waterproof so the unusual rainfall led them to die from hypothermia. The high extent of the sea ice meant that adult penguins were forced to travel much further to forage in the open sea. In some cases the distance was as much as 453 km. In previous seasons penguins were able to feed closer to shore and travelled just 335 km.
WWF making an important contribution
WWF is making an important contribution to conservation efforts whilst Dr. Ropert-Coudert and his team are enabling us to gain a better understanding of penguins and their habitat. WWF will continue to advocate for a network of Marine Protected Areas around the Southern Ocean to ensure that Adélie penguins in East Antarctica have their homes protected.
How can you help?
You can help WWF secure the future for this wonderful species. All you need to do is make a small donation to WWF’s ‘Ends of the Earth’ campaign and this will help the organisation ensure these amazing wild places are protected for both the Adelie penguin and other species that live there.