Tapping Your Inner Wolf

June 15th, 2015 | No Comments
Homepage, News, Wolves

MEN often face pressure to measure up as alpha males, to “wolf up” as it were. Alpha male connotes the man who at every moment demonstrates that he’s in total control in the home, and who away from home can become snarling and aggressive.

This alpha male stereotype comes from a misunderstanding of the real thing. In fact, the male wolf is an exemplary male role model. By observing wolves in free-living packs in Yellowstone National Park, I’ve seen that the leadership of the ranking male is not forced, not domineering and not aggressive to those on his team.

Click here to read the full piece originally published in The New York Times, June 5, 2015.

photo by carl safina

photo by carl safina

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Illicit Ivory: A Film Worth Watching

June 15th, 2015 | No Comments
Elephants, Travels
elephant ivory

Elephants need their ivory, because elephants need their families. Photo: Carl Safina

Everyone, it seems, loves elephants. A new film titled Illicit Ivory premiered last week on KCET in Southern California and elsewhere. You can watch it online at KCET.org/ivory. The trailer is at LinkTV.org/ivory.

It’s an upsetting film. The good news? There is a groundswell of effort that is beginning to work to slow the ivory trade. It can be done; we can save the elephants. The more we understand, the faster each of us can help it happen.

So why watch a tough film? Must we subject ourselves to the knowledge that every 20 minutes, an elephant is killed for its tusks? How does it help us — indeed how does it help elephants — for us to know that the slaughter is driven by ignorance, greed, and an insatiable demand for ivory? Why see such disturbing images?

I interviewed the film’s producer Raisa Scriabine, to ask her some hard questions: how does it help for people who love elephants and would never buy ivory to watch an unpleasant and disturbing film about an issue that is perhaps the world’s worst animal nightmare? Here is our conversation.

CS: What are the most important facts in this program?

Raisa Scriabine: Wildlife crime is the 4th largest transnational criminal activity – next to trafficking guns, drugs and people. Illicit ivory, a burgeoning and highly lucrative business bringing in about a billion dollars a year, is a large part of it. Some of the world’s worst and most dangerous actors are involved. Raking in the biggest profits are Asian criminal syndicates. The illicit ivory trade puts guns and ammunition into the hands of terrorists like Somalia’s Al Shabab; insurgents like Uganda’s Joseph Kony who is wanted for crimes against humanity, and militias like the Janjaweed, affiliated with the government of Sudan and behind the genocide in Darfur. Illicit ivory destabilizes and militarizes already fragile and failing states in Africa – in a region where Islamic militancy is rapidly growing. It is an issue of national and global security.

Click here to read the full piece originally published on Huffington Post, June 1, 2015.

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The Good and The Bad for Atlantic Menhaden

May 27th, 2015 | No Comments
Fish, Fishing & Fishermen, Homepage, News, Overfishing, Whales

Co-authored by Elizabeth Brown

On May 5th the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission met to make pivotal decisions about the management of Atlantic Menhaden – arguably one of the most important fish in the sea.

Two keys decisions were up for discussion:

1.) What to set the Atlantic Menhaden catch limit at. Or, in other words, how many Menhaden should the fishery be allowed to take from the ocean.

2.) Whether managers should take a “big picture” or ecosystem-based approach to managing Atlantic menhaden. This means taking into account the important ecological role Menhaden play in the ocean as a key food source for many species.

Click here to read the full piece originally published on NationalGeographic.com, May 13, 2015.

humpback whale

Humpback Whale Foraging on Menhaden just off New York City. Photo by Artie Raslich, Gotham Whale.

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The glorious moms of elephants and whales

May 27th, 2015 | No Comments
Elephants, Photography, Travels, Whales

Adapted excerpt from Safina’s upcoming book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, in stores July 14, 2015.

(CNN) Four mother elephants are keeping their rotund babies in the shade of their bodies as they lead them across a sweet-smelling grassland under an already-hot early equatorial sun. Striding with deliberate purpose as though keeping an appointment, the mothers are nodding toward a wide wet marsh. They stop at water’s edge; it’s difficult to nurse while belly-deep in marsh sedges and water, so before plunging in for the morning, they fill up their youngsters. Who knew? The mothers knew.

Click here to read the full piece originally published on CNN.com, May 8, 2015.

photo by Carl Safina

photo by Carl Safina

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Big Love: The emotional lives of elephants

May 6th, 2015 | 2 Comments
Elephants, Homepage, Travels

Adapted excerpt from Safina’s upcoming book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, in stores July 14, 2015.

Alison, fifty-one years old, is right—there, in that clump of palms—see? And there is Agatha, forty-four years old. And this one coming closer now is Amelia, also forty-four. Amelia continues approaching until, rather alarmingly, she is looming so hugely in front of our vehicle that I reflexively lean inward. Cynthia Moss leans out and talks to her in soothing tones. Cynthia arrived in Kenya forty years ago, determined to learn the lives of elephants. The first elephant family she saw, she named the “AA” family, and she named one of those elephants Alison. And there she is. Right there, vacuuming up fallen palm fruits. Astonishing.

Click here to read the full piece originally published in Orion Magazine, May/June 2015.

Special thanks to the folks at Orion for letting us share this article for free. To access more content like this, kindly consider subscribing to Orion Magazine.

Photo by Wolf Ademeit

Photo by Wolf Ademeit

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A Sea in Flames

May 6th, 2015 | No Comments
Climate Change, Fish, Fishing & Fishermen, Gulf of Mexico Oil Blow-Out, News, Pollution, Travels

Though a bit imprecise, the time, approximately 9:50 p.m. on April 20, 2010, marks the end of knowing much precisely. A floating machinery system roughly the size of a forty-story hotel has for months been drilling into the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico. Its creators have named the drilling rig “Deepwater Horizon.”

Oil giant BP has contracted Deepwater Horizon’s owner, Transocean, and various companies and crews to drill deep into the sea floor 40-odd miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. The target has also been named: the Macondo formation. Giving it a name helps pull the target into our realm of understanding. But by doing so we risk failing to understand that it is a hot, highly pressurized layer of petroleum hydrocarbons—oil and methane—pent up and packed away undisturbed inside the earth for many millions of years.

Oil from the air near the bleeding well, June 2010.  Photo by Carl Safina.

Oil from the air near the bleeding well, June 2010. Photo by Carl Safina.

Click here to read the full blog originally published on NationalGeographic.com, April 20, 2015.

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Lemurs of Madagascar

May 6th, 2015 | No Comments
Lindblad Expeditions Cruise, Travels

On board with Lindblad Expeditions Southern Africa and Indian Ocean tour.

I’d just arrived in Madagascar for the first time. I was with the foremost expert on the primates called lemurs, trying to pay attention. I had everything to learn. We’d just gotten there on the shipNational Geographic Orion, courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.

As soon as we docked in Toliara, people in dugout canoes arrived at our ship seeking to sell us sea turtle shells for one dollar. You start to see right away that the problems are the usual: poverty, ignorance, the need to eat. (We soon met Dr. Garth Cripps who described the innovative programs of Blue Ventures, helping local people set up protected areas on depleted reefs and gain access to family planning.)

We were told that one dollar could buy us a sea turtle’s shell. Photo by Carl Safina

We were told that one dollar could buy us a sea turtle’s shell. Photo by Carl Safina

Click here to read the full blog originally published on NationalGeographic.com, April 13, 2015.

In the Agulhas

May 6th, 2015 | No Comments
Dolphins, For the Birds, Lindblad Expeditions Cruise, Travels

March 27, 2015 – The Agulhas current flows down the east coast of Africa from the north. It’s described as “narrow, swift, and strong” on our briefing material aboard National Geographic Orion. As it reaches the southern tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas (Cape of Good Hope is not actually the continent’s southern tip), it recirculates. Thus a major source of the current is the current itself.

In May to July millions and millions of Southern African Pilchards (Sardinops sagax) come to spawn in northbound water, forming the famous Agulhas Current sardine run. Schools can each be five miles long, a mile wide, and a hundred feet deep.

A juvenile Cape Gannet streaks in among a group of Spinner Dolphins – Photo by Carl Safina

A juvenile Cape Gannet streaks in among a group of Spinner Dolphins – Photo by Carl Safina

Click here to read the full blog originally published on NationalGeographic.com, March 30, 2015.

Great White Sharks of Gansbaai: No Hooking, No Handling, No Harm

May 6th, 2015 | No Comments
Lindblad Expeditions Cruise, Sharks, Travels

March 23, 2015 – As we began our cruise up the southeast coast of Africa aboard the shipNational Geographic Orion, we departed Cape Town, South Africa. Several of us spent the day on an outing with Marine Dynamics out of Gansbaai to see great white sharks near Dyer Island. We anchored in an easy swell, and weren’t there five minutes when the first of the day’s sharks showed up.

Click here to read the full blog originally published on NationalGeographic.com, March 25, 2015.

Photo by Carl Safina

Photo by Carl Safina

 

Why U.S. East Coast Should Stay Off-Limits to Oil Drilling

March 10th, 2015 | No Comments
Climate Change, For the Birds, Gulf of Mexico Oil Blow-Out, News, Pollution, Sea Turtles, Sharks, Whales
A Shell oil platform launches off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas. Photo by Eddie Seal/Bloomberg.

A Shell oil platform launches off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas. Photo by Eddie Seal/Bloomberg.

When it comes to the Obama administration’s recent move to open portions of the Atlantic coast to oil exploration, I’m a bit out of synch with environmentalists who are worried about the big spill. They warn of another Deepwater Horizon or Exxon Valdez-type fiasco coming to the Southeast. But to me, it’s just about the day-to-day business of chasing oil, the wrong-headedness of it all.

It’s not that I don’t have some personal history with the major oil calamities of recent decades; I do. In my early teens the first televised images of oil-coated birds during the 1969 blowout off Santa Barbara shocked me and the nation, inspiring the first Earth Day and propelling a burst of environmental laws. Twenty years later, at home working on a scientific paper, I heard the radio’s news of the Exxon Valdez’ rupture and of thousands of oiled birds and otters, and began sobbing at my desk. A decade later, I visited Cordova, Alaska, and saw how the pain and disruption from the spill had seeped into lives of the people there as thoroughly as the oil had seeped into shoreline sediments and the livers of waterfowl. And in 2010, I spent a lot of time along, on, and above the Gulf of Mexico while oil freely gushed from the hole that BP had made in our coastal soul. There was the failure of the ‘blowout preventer’ to prevent the blowout, the crazy “junk shot” attempt to jam golf balls and shredded tires down a gushing well against the force of the upward-shooting oil, the ghastly photo of the nearly unrecognizable brown pelican jacketed in crude as it died. My chronicle of that summer of anguish became the book A Sea in Flames.

Click here to read the full blog originally published in Yale Environment 360, February 23, 2015.

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