Tequila is made from a specific species of agave plants that grow in certain areas of Mexico and Southwestern United States. Did you know: no bats, no tequila?
The Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) remains crucial for tequila production because they pollinate tall, column-like cactuses and the blue agave from which tequila is made. No bats, no agave, no tequila.
Every year these bats migrate from Central and Northern Mexico into the southern areas of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico and they are endangered. These bats have been listed as an endangered species since 1988 in the US and since 1991 in Mexico. Researchers at New Mexico State in Las Cruces are part of a conservation network working with Mexican counterparts to save these bats. And tequila.
You ask, really, is this possible? The South African government is considering it to appease rhino farmers. Rhinos do not have to be killed to harvest their horns which actually grow back if cut. As a consequence South African rhino farmers think if they raise rhinos for their horns, they can get a big pay off from the constantly increasing demand for rhino horn.
Rhino horn trade remains illegal and rhino horn demand continually increases. In Asia the Chinese use it in medicine, mix the powdered form into mixed drinks, and give it as luxury gifts. Of course, there is no proof it works for anything. That seems not to matter. Currently, although it varies from time to time, powdered rhino horn brings about 60,000 dollars per gram, more than cocaine, gold, and heroin combined.
The logic behind farming rhinos is that farmed rhinos, usually white rhinos, will provide enough for the demand and save wild rhinos, especially black rhinos which in some areas are already extinct. Research indicates otherwise: that once rhino horn is legalized, the demand will increase far beyond what rhino farmers can supply. A study by Duke University indicates that many, who do not currently buy rhino horn because it is illegal, would buy if legalized. Once the demand is greater than farmers can supply, poachers will kill whatever is needed to fill the demand.
If you want to research this and discourage the South African government from legalizing rhino horn trade, go to this website: nrdc.org/rhinos.
Off and on the last month, I’ve posted about various issues on climate change and related topics. Today, Life Science published an article entitled “Extinction Rates Soar to 1,000 Times Normal (But There’s Hope)”. What causes this enormous spike? You guessed it. Humans.
Before recently, the extinction rate was one per every ten million annually. Now it is 100-1000 every million. Where do researchers and scientists find hope in this adverse increase? Let’s look at Earth’s history for a moment before answering that question. Since life began on our planet, five mass extinctions have occurred, leaving only half of living organisms each time. Reasons for these extinctions vary from Earth’s shifting axis to asteroids–see previous posts related to effects of changes in the Earth’s axis. The big question: how do humans affect the current extinction? Yes, we caused the demise of the passenger pigeon, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird. And human poaching and habitat destruction now endanger elephants, rhinos, and all subspecies of tigers, among others. One problem in accurately determining human effects is that new species are discovered annually so we are not even sure how many species currently exist. Using what we do know about current species, DNA, and some rather sophisticated techniques, scientists come up extinction rates.
Where is the hope? The most endangered species tend to range in small areas in poorer countries lacking resources to protect them. Modern technology can help, using satellite imagery, biodiversity mapping, as well as other methods. Drones have been used in Africa to track both animals and poachers. We can focus efforts on the areas where the most endangered species live.
How can you help? Become a citizen scientist. Use your smartphone camera and report your findings to scientific conservation groups. A site called iNaturalist allows ordinary individuals to upload photos of plants and animals, tagging date, location, etc. This site links to an international organization that tracks endangered and threatened species.
What else can you do: don’t buy anything with ivory in it, don’t buy anything with the fur or body parts of endangered animals. Spread the word. Become more informed, read articles and books related to these topics. Care. This is the only Earth; help save it.
Something happened to my camera while in Burma when it was Burma years ago. For this essay, I tried downloading current photos and found the panoramic view of the Shwedagon Pagoda above and the close up below.
I looked at current photos of the Inya Lake Hotel and stared in astonishment. The current luxurious resort bears no resemblance to the hotel I stayed in all those years ago. Only the garden photos seem familiar.
As Myanmar attempts modernization, downsides exist. One concern is deforestation and the consequences for the abundant rare and endangered wildlife there. Much of Myanmar is rainforest and remains one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Fifty years of isolation and limited development have protected wildlife. Foreign development and investment endanger wildlife. New laws and polices are created daily. The Irrawaddy dolphin, a close relative to the killer whales, live in both the Mekong and Irrawaddy Rivers. Rare Indochinese tigers, Asian elephants, gibbons, and langurs thrive in the remote forests. Between 1990 and 2011 the amount of forests dropped from 60 per cent to 48 per cent. So much of the country is relatively unexplored that it is difficult for scientists to even know exactly what species live there. Many questions arise: how can Myanmar successfully development economically and simultaneously save their rich wild heritage, how can they merge the old and new, how can they build the proposed new highway between Bankok, Thailand and Dawei, Myanmar without destroying precious natural resources. Hopefully, they will find a way to prosper and save their natural heritage at the same time.