Should you buy those seashells sold by the seashore? On beach walks, seahorses and collecting sea shells

Kelp on beachesI love seashells.  I am a collector of little shells and interesting objects I find while walking on the beach.

While some beaches are known for their variety of seashells and for beach combing (like those in Florida, Hawaii and Gulf states), at the beaches here in  Monterey Bay, you will likely run into seaweed or giant kelp that have lost their tether and left their undersea home, rather than shells.  It is not a beach you visit to collect seashells.

Kelp on the beach web

My grandson, Gabriel, having fun with kelp that washed up on the beach.

But…you will see sand dollars, broken clam or mussel shells (perhaps remnants from many sea otter lunches), a lot of driftwood, and depending on the beach, pretty little stones, or smooth glass pieces.

Lining up sand dollars with barnacles web

The boys lining up their find of sand dollars… At this beach walk, each of the sand dollars they found (oddly) had barnacles growing on top.

The few shells that do end up on the beach are usually clean, because the animal that lived inside was already eaten by other creatures, shore birds and beach scavengers…or have rotted away before the tide and waves pushed them onto the beach.

My grandsons have picked up my little beach object collecting habit, and we have come back from beach walks with bits of shells, a pretty rock or tiny driftwood.

I started to put  their treasures in glass jars, not because they are colorful or striking like those found at other beaches, but because they liked it and picked it up, and it was a little treasure to them.

Beach combing shells

Some of the little shells and rocks my grandsons collected are in this glass jar.

Although Monterey Bay beaches are not known for pretty seashells, tourist stores — especially those at the Fisherman’s Wharf — do sell colorful sea shells from different parts of the world.

Just as people enjoy eating seafood when visiting seaside towns, people also like buying shells and related products as souvenirs.  I’m sure stores that sell seashells and dried up starfish and other marine animals can be be found in just about any seaside community that caters to tourists.

seashell-store-california

A few years ago, during the off-season for tourists, I stopped by a store off of Highway 1 that sold shells and seashell products.

Their sign indicated “Sea Shells from Around the World”… but really, the majority of the shells are from a certain part of the world, and that is the Philippines.  In fact, when I went inside to browse, about 90% of the shells were marked as being from the Philippines.

Why is this?  First, the Philippines has a rich and diverse ocean life (cited as “the center of the center” of biodiversity by researchers at the California Academy of Sciences) with an amazing array of seashells — many of which are prized by collectors.

Second, the Philippines is a poor country…so those in the shell trade could easily exploit locals with low pay to collect these shells for export to tourist shops.

Sea shell shop off season

Sea shell shop Monterey Bay “Off-season”

Growing up in the Philippines, I was accustomed to seeing seashell products fashioned into jewelry, necklaces and decorative items, or dried marine animals like starfish, seahorses glued onto frames and home decor items.

Because they were so common, I always thought that these seashells and marine animals were picked up by beach combing… as in, the creatures are already dead and washed ashore.

After a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seahorse Exhibit, I learned otherwise.  From my blog post about the exhibit…

This is not the case, and much of these animals are collected ALIVE and dried to make these souvenirs.

I am saddened at how uninformed I was  about this practice! Family and friends, please do not buy these souvenirs.

With everything else happening to our oceans, we all have to do our part to stop this. And please spread the word about protecting these fragile and fascinating creatures.  In the process, we also protect and  preserve their homes —and our home. More here

This poster from the Aquarium says it best…

Seahorse 1 rd

In support of World Oceans Day and as part of a series for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge, I am again posting this information.

If I made this incorrect assumption about the shells and dried starfish or seahorses sold at tourist shops, then there are probably others who do not know this information.  More from a shell article in Wikipedia:

…the majority of seashells which are offered for sale commercially have been collected alive (often in bulk) and then killed and cleaned, specifically for the commercial trade.  This type of large-scale exploitation can sometimes have a strong negative impact on local ecosystems, and sometimes can significantly reduce the distribution of rare species.

I am also re-posting this video from the California Academy of Sciences, on the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.  Excerpt from my post about seahorses:

…The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source.  See full post here… including a link about the sea dragons (and seahorses) supply chain and market.

Have you heard of, or used products with dried seahorses?

I can’t help but think that we are doing the same thing to our ocean and its resources, as we did with our forests.  Are we going to look back 25 years from now and find out we unknowingly wiped out certain species of marine life because of unsustainable fishing… and what seems like an innocuous shell collecting hobby?

Can we stop and first find out how these shells are harvested?  If it is done sustainably, or if these creatures are collected beach comb style, then we can happily collect to our heart’s content.  But if not, then we need to find ways to educate the public so we can make responsible choices about the shells we buy.  I don’t want my grandchildren to ask why our generation let the same thing happen to our oceans, as we did to our forests in the Philippines.

Are you  a seashell collector?  If you buy seashells from seaside tourist shops, should the shops let consumers know if the shells were collected from the shore, or sustainably harvested?

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To participate in the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ blogging challenges hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast or to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Philippines – A Marine Biodiversity Hotspot (Post for Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ #11)

When my daughter was little, one of her favorite places to visit was the California Academy of Sciences, located within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  We spent a lot time looking at exhibits there, from the dramatic dioramas in the African Hall to working in a show at the Morrison Planetarium.

Of all the permanent and temporary exhibits at the Academy, the place where we spent the most time was the Steinhart Aquarium.  It was a fascinating place for kids and adults, and when we had family visiting, it was often a place we took them during their stays with us.

The California Academy of Sciences looks much different today than it did when we lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and the Steinhart Aquarium now feature a Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit.

Philippine Coral Reef at SteinhartThe 212,000 gallon exhibit includes the largest display of living coral in the world — all from the Philippines, a country that has the most diverse reef ecosystem in the world.

I’ve always wondered what the connection was between the Steinhart Aquarium and the Philippines, and recently learned that researchers from the Academy have worked in and around the Philippine archipelago (of over 7,000 islands) for over 100 years.

Last year, a team of scientists from the Academy explored new sites and depths in an area of the Philippines off the coast of the main island of Luzon, near Batangas.

Map of Philippines highlighting Batangas

This area  — near Isla Verde — is called the “Coral Triangle” and reportedly has over 1/2 of the world’s species of coral.

Isla VerdeFrom the Academy’s website…

Within the Coral Triangle is an area known as the Verde Island Passage—waters teeming with such an abundance of life that Academy scientists suspect it may be “the center of the center” of biodiversity.

Our 2014 expedition sought to document the astounding life in the Verde Island Passage by collecting and identifying species not yet described (and in many cases never before seen) and creating a base of knowledge that will help to protect this area going forward.

And what Academy researchers found in this “Coral Triangle Area” last year was amazing.  On June 8th, 2015 — and to celebrate World Ocean Day — they made this announcement:

100 new marine speciesHere are photos of some of the new marine species found during the expedition…

Philippine new nudibranch

 

Multi colored Philippine tunicates

Nudibranch Philippines

These new marine species are stunning, and how incredible to learn that there are still undiscovered species living in our oceans!

And who knows… perhaps one of these newly discovered creatures will help us produce a cure for cancer or hold keys and answers to the mysteries of life on our planet.

So the challenge is…. how can areas like this “Coral Triangle” be protected, knowing what we do about the severe threats to marine life and the health of oceans surrounding the Philippine islands due to pollution, over-development of coastal areas, poverty, overpopulation, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices?

From the Academy website:

To combat these dangers, the Academy developed a practice of rapidly translating data collected in the field into effective marine conservation actions.

By working with Filipino and international governments, organizations, and communities, we’ve been able to create real-world change.

Real world change means that as new discoveries are made, scientists take the data and work in collaboration with Philippine government officials and decision makers so that in turn, policy makers can take immediate actions to help protect these areas.

I realize solving the problems that harm our oceans are complex, and will require global cooperation and focus — especially as it relates to pollution and poverty.  But it seems to me, the method directed by Academy scientists may be a good model if immediate steps are indeed taken to preserve natural resources.

It is easy to be cynical (I know I am at times!) but I do think this approach, and increasing awareness about marine life is a positive step towards helping us — and the next generation of human beings — to be better stewards of our oceans and our natural resources.

Maybe the next time someone is tempted to leave trash or plastic bottles on the beach, they will remember these amazing creatures and the harm that it will cause…and do the right thing.  Ideally, the new generation will place as much focus on conservation issues as is placed today on celebrity news / political gossip.  Yes, I’m hopeful!

This video from the Academy tells how the 7,107 islands in the Philippines came to be…and the urgency in studying its marine biodiversity hotspots.

Have you heard of these new discoveries?

Are you hopeful, as I am, that scientists, conservation groups and a willing government / policy makers (and we, the public) can reverse the decline of our ocean’s health… or do you think it is too late?

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This post is part of a series in support of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast.  To take part in this blogging event and to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Previous Earth-Friendly Chroniclers articles posted on LolaKo.com are here.

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Related:

10 Ways to Rise Above Plastics

Article about the plastic bag ban in California (California is the first U.S. State to ban single use plastic bags)

Link to California Academy of Sciences

Rural Philippines Clothes Washing

I posted an article about water use (and water saving tips), and about Filipinos — as well as Filipino-Americans using a “tabo” for the weekly WordPress Earth-Friendly challenge.

SONY DSC

Photo via Mom Bloggers For Social Good

The website Mom Bloggers For Social Good recently posted photos and an article about Women and Water in the Philippines

You can see a tabo on the photo above in a community area for washing clothes.  Click on the photo or here to read about water and sanitation projects happening in rural areas in the Philippines.

There are also photos of women washing clothes at a Philippine river for my post on the Weekly Photo Challenge theme, Humanity (Liberated from Laundy?).

Laundry day 2a web

Laundry day 1 web

It is great to see development projects focused on improving conditions for women, especially water projects — and I take comfort in my belief that dedicated people are working to alleviate the causes poverty and inequality in our world.

Especially because my Philippine laundry photos — in our modern times — should be MUCH different from the one below, taken over 100 years ago…

clothes washing old Philippines

Photo circa around 1890s from the book “The Philippine Islands”.

Unless… Earth-Friendly Friday: My Water Footprint and about the Filipino “tabo”

This week’s Earth-Friendly challenge continues on the theme of water (last week was about our watersheds – and our watershed in Monterey County is the Salinas River Watershed).

The challenge this week asked us to take a “Water Footprint Calculator” developed by National Geographic.  I highly recommend taking this survey — I was surprised at the information learned including:

  • It takes 880 gallons of water to produce a gallon of milk
  • 1 cup of coffee takes 55 gallons of water to make (we drink a lot of coffee!)

Here are the numbers for our household:

Water Footprint Calculator

Part of why we use less water than the U.S. Average is that we live in an area with very mild climate and we do not have a typical lawn (though our neighbors do, and one in particular has installed a “fake” or plastic lawn — see photos here).

So…it takes very little water to maintain the trees and shrubs where we now live, and we also save on energy bills because no one needs an air conditioner in this area.

We are older and do not need or buy as many “stuff” as most.  And again, because of the mild climate, our clothing do not need to be washed as often as say, if we lived in the Philippines or a hot climate where clothing would be drenched in sweat every few hours and must be washed frequently.

The area we can continue to improve upon to reduce our water footprint is our diets and to eat less meat.  Though we eat a lot of chicken, I do want to eventually transition more to a mostly vegetarian diet.  Cutting out beef and pork completely (which my younger sister has done) and some form of meat is still a challenge because

  1. Jeff grew up in the Midwest and although he is a great cook and we eat a variety of styles of food, his basic go to meal consists of a plate with a “meat”, potatoes, and vegetables.
  2. Pork is a big part of my Philippine culture and celebrations — as with many Pacific / island nations — and I’m not quite there yet in terms of completely cutting that out of my diet (see post “My Germany and Philippine Connection” and you will get an idea, since a Filipino party is not a real party without our “lechon”.

The bottom line is there are always areas to improve on,  in our household’s water footprint.

I recently met two women who go above and beyond most in their water saving efforts, and I add their ideas for this blog post.

Marilyn Water Saving HeroineThis is Marilyn — a water saving heroine.

She is a retired teacher and lives in Bakersfield (Southern California) where there are water restrictions in place because of California’s continuing — and severe drought conditions.

She told me that when she takes a shower, she puts a bucket under the tub/faucet to capture water that otherwise would go down the drain, while she waits for the water temperature to warm to her liking. She also uses her washing machine “grey water” to water her garden.

She has been able to reduce her water use and bill by 50% with these new habits!

Amalia Water Saving HeroineThis is Amalia — she lives in Marina (Monterey County, California) and is also a water saving heroine.

She is mindful about saving all the water she can, including using the grey water from washing her dishes to water her plants.

She is originally from the Philippines and does something that some Filipinos still practice — in the Philippines — and that most Filipino-Americans would not think to do here in the U.S.

She uses a “tabo” (pronounced as“TAH-boh”) to bathe.

So what the heck is a tabo, you ask?  Technically, a sort of water dipper and tool for taking a tropical shower!

The modern tabos are made with plastic and has a handle.  Traditional ones were made of hollowed bamboos with a handles, or large coconut shells.

Tabo

A plastic “tabo”. My older sister and I each brought one back from a trip to the Philippines, because we had not seen anything like it (with a handle) for sale here in the states.

The tabo is also used for bathroom hygiene and cleaning, and is pretty much a fixture in bathrooms in the Philippines — in private homes as well as in public places (work places, restaurant bathrooms, etc.).

Using a tabo to bathe is actually akin to an old-fashioned “military shower” where you rinse, shut off the shower water, lather, shampoo, etc., then turn the shower on again to rinse off.

Except that instead of the shower,  the tabo is used with a big bucket (called a “balde”) or other larger container of water.  Same idea, you dip the tabo in the bucket, pour the water over your head and body to rinse…then soap, lather, shampoo, then do a final rinse.  It saves A LOT of water.

Amalia is super dedicated to saving resources not for herself but as she put it “for my children, and their children…and those living here on earth after I am gone”.  She says she often gets into disagreements with her sister and family members about her eco-habits, and they don’t understand why she takes a Filipino style bath, telling her “you are in America now, why are you still using a tabo?”….yet she proudly sticks to her water-saving practices.

While I admire Amalia’s dedication to water conservation, I’m now quite fond of the American style shower.  Though she has inspired me to check to see if the shower heads we have use the absolute least amount of gallons per minute!  Always room for improvement, right?  🙂

To participate in this timely WordPress weekly challenge hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org, and inspired by the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax,  click here.

NOTE: For this post, my explanation of the tabo is for its use as a “tropical shower”.  In the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia, a tabo is part of the culture — and specifically, the bathroom culture (and may be controversial or disgusting to non-Filipinos).  So if you really are curious, there is a comprehensive Wikipedia article about the Filipino use of the tabo, its history, and includes mention of a Filipino who was fired from his job in Australia for using a tabo.  Click here to read…

Related:

ecology_center_headerBerkeley, California-based Ecology Center’s Guide to Greywater-Compatible Cleaning ProductsWastewater that is discharged to the greywater system ends up in the garden soil and can either be beneficial or harmful to soil, water systems, and plant life. A common problem with improper use of greywater systems is salt build up in the soil…

2014 California ShowerMy post last year about California’s drought emergency as it relates to showers and crop production

 

baths v shower cat dog image

Which method uses less water — Bath vs. Shower? Question answered by Umbra at Grist.org

Philippine President on Global Security, China and Climate Change

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Photo via Here & Now website: Jeremy Hobson speaks with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in Boston. (Samantha Fields/Here & Now)

Climate change is a reality.  The Philippines has experienced strange weather patterns over the last few years — typhoons in November / December when they normally end by September.

The November, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (called “Yolanda” in the Philippines) was the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record and one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

The Philippines is a member of the United Nations (UN) Commission on Climate Change, and President Benigno Aquino spoke at the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 2014.

The day before he spoke at the Summit, President Aquino was interviewed by Jeremy Hobson on the public radio program Here and Now

In case you missed it, here are links to the broadcast…worth a listen, covering global security and climate change as it relates to the Philippines and the U.S – Philippines relationship.

Interview excerpt:

On the threat of climate change for the Philippines

“If you look at the maps, especially for storms coming from the Pacific side, it seems like we’re a gateway to the rest of Asia.”

“For instance, Typhoon Haiyan. We don’t get typhoons in December. They normally end by September. A typhoon happening in October is considered a late event. Having a major typhoon in December (and this has happened for practically ever year that I’ve been in office) … is truly alarming to us.

“Even the planting cycles, which are really very dependent on weather — there seems to be a return to normal this year — but for the past few years they kept on changing, which affects the food security, not only for us, but for a whole range of other countries.”

Note: If you cannot play President Benigno Aquino’s interview from this page, link to the Here and Now program’s web page, here.

Liberated from laundry? Humanity and my take on this week’s photo challenge

We walked to the river carrying everything we needed to do the laundry…from the bundles of clothes and wash basins balanced on top of our heads, the bars of soap, the pot of rice, bananas and other food we will cook and eat while we wait for the warm sun to dry the clothes on the rocks.

This was laundry day when I was a kid and lived in the province (away from the city). Since my younger sister and I were still little, we played and splashed in the water while the other women in our household went about the task of washing clothes.

Fast forward decades later, I am  back to the Philippines, and while stopped over a bridge to take in the view, I look below and see a scene from my childhood…women washing clothes by the river.

Laundry day 3 web

I am nostalgic and remember the fun we had playing in the river during laundry day — rearranging rocks to form our own little swimming pools and creating dams to capture fish and freshwater shrimps.

Then I thought, wait….I am a grandmother now…why are these women STILL doing laundry this way?

My take on this week’s WordPress photo challenge are photos about something we share as modern humans..that is, we all wear clothes, and these clothes need to be washed.

Laundry day 2a web

How we go about doing laundry though is a symbol of how developed the area is where we live, and how much time is available to women.

Here in the US, over 80% of households have clothes washers (even almost a decade ago, based on the these stats from the US Department of Energy):

Percent clothes washer stats US

For poor households, over 60% still had clothes washers…and anyone can go to laundromat to wash clothes.

We take for granted the clean running water we have access to, and the machines that liberate us from tedious tasks, like washing clothes.

Laundry day 5 web

How often is this scene still repeated around the world daily?  Imagine how liberated human beings  — particularly women — can be, simply by having a  machine that we take for granted here in the US.

Laundry day 4 web

It may not be something we ever think about, but to me, how laundry is done around the world is an indicator of progress.

And the work towards eradicating poverty worldwide — so that everyone has access to the tools, and yes, machinery — to allow us more time to live a good life and express ourselves is part of what defines our humanity.

To see beautiful humanity inspired photographs and other imaginative takes on the challenge, visit the WordPress Photo Challenge Site. 

For more on why I think there is still so much poverty in my home country of the Philippines, see my post Chameleons: Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world.

Otters in the Philippines (Asian short-clawed otters)

I adore sea otters and have posted several articles / photos / videos about California sea otters on my blog.  Until recently — and although I grew up in the Philippines — I did not know there were otters in the Philippines, too.

California Sea Otter - Photo by my grandson (then 8 years old) Jun-Jun

California Sea Otter – Photo by my grandson (then 8 years old) Jun-Jun

It turns out that sea otters are found not only along the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean in North America but also in parts of Asia.

Philippine Map Source US State Department

Map Source: US Department of State

In the Philippines, otters live in the Palawan area, on the western part of the archipelago.

There is not much information about Philippine otters posted on-line, not even within the comprehensive National Geographic website.

And I could not find information on exactly how many otters are left in the wild in Palawan or anything else about their current status.

So far, here is what I did find:

From Arkive.org:

The Asian short-clawed otter has a large distribution, ranging from north-western and south-western India, through southern China (including Hainan) and the Malay Peninsula, to Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Riau Archipelago (Indonesia), and Palawan Island in the Philippines.

The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) list Asian sea otters in the “Threatened” category.  

Specifically, Asian sea otters are listed as “Vulnerable” under the IUCN Red list.

As with other wildlife vulnerable to or facing extinction in the Philippines, the threats to  otters include deforestation, pollution, humans destroying the otters and their natural habitats (e.g., turning mangroves into aquaculture farms).

Compared to the sea otters we see here on the central California coast, the Philippine otter is much smaller. This video from Diana J. Limjoco’s blog shows 3 young Philippine otters brought to her Palawan home by locals.

The otters on this video — like most otters — are truly adorable.  I am curious about how they are doing, especially health-wise living among the other domesticated pets in the household.

I am also curious if there is a program in the Philippines established to care for orphaned otters so they can be re-introduced back into the wild (as the topic of the film Saving Otter 501 — shown on the PBS show Nature).

In neighboring countries of Malaysia and Singapore, otters are totally protected by the government.  In the Philippines, Republic Act # 9147 (2001) prohibits the killing, collection, possession, and maltreatment of wildlife.

But if locals do not know about the R.A. 9147 law or how special and rare these creatures are, and if there is no funding to enforce the law or do public service announcements (PSAs), then the law is useless in terms of saving remaining Philippine otters.

There was a blog started by Philippine otter researchers called “Palawan Otters” (Lyca Sandrea G. Castro) but it may be abandoned as there were only a few post, and not any new information since last year.  I hope they are continuing their research and will post new information on the blog soon.  (NOTE – as of September, 2014, Ms. Castro has revived the blog — YAY!!! I have added the “protecting otters” poster from the Palawan Otters blog at the bottom of this post.)

Here is another video of Asian small-clawed otters at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand playing with a pebble, via Wikipedia commons.

When I think of poverty issues facing many Filipinos it seems that my interest and focus on endangered animals are inconsequential.  What is the point of learning about these animals and writing a blog post if they are so close to the edge of extinction.  What difference is it going to make…

I suppose there is always hope, and I am again reminded of the 1968 quote from Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum:

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”

Sometimes, endangered wildlife are killed simply due to a lack of understanding of their role in our ecosystem, or by necessity, caught for food…it is as basic as that, and goes back to poverty issues.

The same problems that cause wildlife to become extinct — pollution from pesticides, loss of their habitat due to illegal activities that degrade the environment — are issues that also make people vulnerable to other disasters. So I don’t think we have a choice…we have to learn about endangered wildlife and how their loss affects our ecosystem, and spread the word.  It can only improve our prospect for saving our environment and perhaps make the difference for future inhabitants of our planet.

UPDATE:  As I was getting ready to publish this post, I googled “Philippine Wildlife Act 9147 sea otters” and found a comprehensive paper written by Jeric Bocol Gonzalez titled Distribution Exploitation and Trade Dynamics of A.cinereus in Mainland Palawan, Philippines.  Published in 2010, the situation did not look promising for rare Philippine sea otters back then!  Does anyone have any new information since publication of Jeric’s thesis?

Otter Protection Photo from Palawan Otter Blog

Click on the photo to link to Palawan Otters blog

Other (Sea) Otter posts on LolaKo.com:

And for more about California sea otters, see The Otter Project. and the Monterey Bay Aquarium website page Sea Otters as Risk.

Related endangered wildlife posts:

LAST NOTE:  If you want more information about otters in other parts of the world, visit the IUCN’s Otter Specialist Group website (where I found Jeric Gonzalez’s paper).

Philippine Eagle on the IUCN Redlist (critically endangered) and Species of the Day Feature

The Philippine Eagle is critically endangered, and has been on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red list since 1994.

Considered to the be largest bird in the world, the Philippine Eagle is endemic to the Philippines and is known to exist only in the islands of Mindanao, Leyte, Samar and eastern Luzon —  of the thousands of islands in the Philippine archipelago.

Endangered Philippine-Eagle-Close-up

Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com

The rapid decline of these magnificent birds — and official  national symbol of the Phillipines —  is mainly due to extensive deforestation and illegal logging in the Philippines.

Here is a link to quick facts on this magnificent bird, featured on the IUCN Red List Species of the Day feature: http://www.iucnredlist.org/sotdfiles/pithecophaga-jefferyi.pdf

For more on animals listed on the IUCN’s Red list of Threatened Species, visit the website at http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Related Lolako articles on the Philippine Eagle- Haring Ibon (King of Birds):

Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle

Post on the Philippine eagle video at ARKive.  ARKive’s mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

Typhoon “Bopha” Philippines

Here is a link to an article by BULLIT MARQUEZ on Huff Post World and the latest on the devastation caused by Typhoon “Bopha” in the Philippines.

The death toll has climbed past 500, and more than 310,000 people have lost their homes.

Sadly, there are again allegations of illegal mining activities that may have contributed to the flash floods in the hardest hit areas (New Bataan)..

Excerpts from Bullit Marquez’s article:

…The economic losses began to emerge Friday after export banana growers reported that 14,000 hectares (34,600 acres) of export banana plantations, equal to 18 percent of the total in Mindanao, were destroyed.

The Philippines is the world’s third-largest banana producer and exporter, supplying well-known brands such as Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte mainly to Japan and also to South Korea, China, New Zealand and the Middle East.

AP Photo/Bullit Marquez — An almost completely destroyed banana plantation is seen Friday Dec. 7, 2012 following Tuesday’s typhoon named “Bopha” which hit Nabunturan township, Compostela Valley in southern Philippines.

…Government geological hazard maps show that the farming town of New Bataan, population 45,000, was built in 1968 in an area classified as “highly susceptible to flooding and landslides.”

...Most of the casualties were killed in the valley surrounded by steep hills and crisscrossed by rivers. Flooding was so widespread here that places people thought were safe, including two emergency shelters, became among the deadliest.

Poverty is widespread in the Philippines, and the disaster highlights the risks that some take in living in dangerous areas in the hope of feeding their families.

“It’s not only an environmental issue, it’s also a poverty issue,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said. “The people would say, `We are better off here. At least we have food to eat or money to buy food, even if it is risky.'”

View photos, videos and read the full article here...

Giant Pacific leatherback turtle washed up dead off island in central Philippines

Recently, a giant Pacific leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) washed up dead off the central Visayas island of Leyte, in the Philippines.

The endangered leatherback sea turtle is one of earth’s oldest species, and the largest reptile living on our planet.

Photo by Austin Don Perez for Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, via post by Iloed.C at www.skyscrapercity.com

It is sad to see, especially as leatherback turtle populations — along with many other types of sea turtles — have dramatically declined over the last 2 decades.  These turtles play an important role in thinning out jellyfish populations, and balancing our ocean’s ecosystem.

Hopefully, it died of old age or natural causes, and not because of accidentally ingesting plastic items and bags floating in our oceans — which it mistakes for jellyfish.

This turtle was estimated to weigh 600 kilos (1,323 lbs).

For more on these amazing creatures, please view my post: Monterey Bay and our connection to endangered leatherback sea turtles.

Last Friday, a 700 lb, leatherback turtle was also found near Monterey, California.  Link to photo of the turtle (and video footage) from local news provider, KTVU.com here. Excerpt:

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found at 3 p.m. that the turtle likely died from natural causes.  Officials transported the heavy sea animal to a marine research facility in Santa Cruz.

These turtles nests in Indonesia, then migrate all the way to Monterey Bay and other parts of the U.S. West Coast.  They take this 6,000 mile journey to feed on abundant jellyfish in our waters.

An article on the website BayNature.org indicated that Pacific leatherback turtles have been spotted in the coastal waters off central California — first in Monterey Bay, then by Santa Cruz, and then in Half Moon Bay.  The leatherbacks arrived earlier this year (compared to previous years), and so far, there have been 17 sightings, compared to a total of 23 sightings for all last year.  The article states that there is a lot of food for them here, and that in July, marine biologists reported the most abundant and dense jellyfish bloom seen in years.

If you reading this from the Philippines and have more information on the leatherback turtle that washed up off the Leyte coast, please comment.  Thank you.  – Lola Jane

For related pollution and conservation topics, please visit Lolako posts: 10 ways to rise above plastics, Trash vortex now the size of Texas, and 12 minutes, on plastic bag bans.

Philippine Eagle Video at ARKive

Shared by artist David Tomb, a video of the magnificent Philippine Eagle, on the ARKive website.  I will add the link to the post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle (currently LolaKo.com’s most viewed post).

Click here to view the 1 minute video, especially if you are not yet familiar with this beautiful — and simply awesome — eagle.  There are 11 Philippine eagle videos on this site.

I’ve seen many photographs of the Philippine eagle, and I am continually amazed at the expressions I see on these images.

Photo by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com of Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jeffery), captive, Philippine Eagle Center, Davao, Mindanao, Philippines

Related Links:

Lola Jane’s post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine Eagle

ARKive (www.ARKive.com) – whose mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

“A vast treasury of wildlife images has been steadily accumulating over the past century, yet no one has known its full extent – or indeed its gaps – and no one has had a comprehensive way of gaining access to it. ARKive will put that right, and it will be an invaluable tool for all concerned with the well-being of the natural world.”

Sir David Attenborough -Wildscreen Patron

Population Philippines: Too many mouths to feed?

The program “Marketplace” featured a series of reports on food challenges we will face as the world population continues to grow. There are 7 billion people living on the planet today, and according to the United Nations, there will be another 2 billion by the middle of this century.

The Marketplace program, Food for 9 Billion, is a collaboration of Marketplace, Homeland Productions, PBS NEWSHOUR and the Center for Investigative Reporting.  It examines the challenge of feeding the world at a time of growing population, shrinking land and water resources, climate changes and rising food and energy prices.

The Philippines — where more than 2 million babies are born every year — is one of the countries featured in the program series.  The report by Sam Eaton starts:

There’s a saying in the Philippines, “pantawid gutom.” It means to “cross the hunger.” When a family can’t afford rice, they’ll water down a pack of instant noodles or feed their  babies brown sugar dissolved in water to ease the hunger pangs. The fact that this saying even exists should tell you something about what it means to be poor here. Clarissa Canayong is 42 years old. She has 10 surviving children — the youngest only a year old. And she lives in an urban Manila slum called Vitas, at the edge of a garbage dump.

Population growth among the poor in the Philippines, where birth control remains largely out of reach, is about four times higher than the rest of the country.
– Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Click here to listen to the radio broadcast, and to view the related videos and photos for the series (http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths).

More than a quarter of the Philippines’ population lives in poverty — many in conditions similar to these.
– Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Related LolaKo.com links (click to view article):

Living with the dead

Earlier this year, my friend sent this link of a poignant video from London-based Stefan Werc, about Filipinos who live among the dead at the Navotas cemetery.

It is interesting to see all the religious objects in the shacks.  Religion and faith may be what sustains one’s spirit, and to have hope, despite living in these conditions.  But sadly, religion — at least in the Philippines —  is also what stands in the way of reproductive rights legislation…needed to help solve overpopulation, and subsequent poverty issues.

How bleak and sad do living conditions have to get?  Would the fact that people live in cemeteries confirm we have huge problems in the Philippines with poverty and overpopulation?

Will churches house, feed, and take care of these people?  It is obvious that they cannot.  I implore leaders to have compassion and stop blocking family planning initiatives, and let those who need it most — the poor — have access to family planning programs.

Above and Below from Stefan Werc on Vimeo.

See also, related articles:

Lola Jane’s A Demographic Riddle: Do women bear fewer children because a country is prosperous, or does a country’s economy grow when women have fewer children?

Lola Jane’s International Human Development Indicators (HDI) United Nations Report and where the Philippines stands in human development between 1980 to 2011 (compared to countries like Brazil, Thailand and Egypt).

The Filipino Scribe – Blogger and freelance writer Mark Pere Madrona’s blog post on the Philippines’ Reproductive Health(RH) bill:  Passing RH bill is our priority, PH tells UN rights body

On the “burden of civilization’s excess” and 5gyres.org

Found via the website 5gyres.org, another disturbing photograph on plastic trash problems in the Philippines, taken last year after the floods related to Ondoy.

At first glance…the road?  No, it is a river of floating plastics and other debris. It is no wonder parts of our planet’s ocean are turning into plastic soup

Photo by Francis R. Malasig via 5gyres.org

Excerpt from the accompanying blog post by Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres, and words from Marcus Eriksen, Executive Director of 5gyres.org:

The people at the end of the road, that we sometimes forget exist, bear the burden of civilization’s excess. 

The developing world wants the affluence and convenience of the west, but the infrastructure for waste management does not exist. 

Our collective conscience cannot tolerate the synthetic chemistry of our industrial and technological advances to become the burden of our poorest communities or reside in the bodies of our children, yet today everyone carries this chemical legacy. 

The producers of plastics have an obligation to plan for the post-consumer life of their product, all the way to the end.  If you want to clean the 5 gyres in the ocean of plastic waste, then give your time and funds to those that clean up these watersheds, where plastic hurts people.  And more importantly, to those legislative advocates that prevent the proliferation of plastic pollution throughout society. 

To reach the people at the end of the road, we have to begin our work there and work backwards to ourselves.

Marcus Eriksen’s words — especially “the burden of civilization’s excess” — resonated with me.  And yes, of course…those from developing nations want what everyone else wants.

Sometimes, new plastic “stuff” replaced functional items used in the home…like those now ubiquitous stacking, plastic chairs, that have replaced native, local bamboo or woven rattan chairs.

It seemed convenient, and cheap…until we learned about the problems with plastic trash.  Then we realized, oh-oh…maybe it is not so good, if we consider the loss of income to the locals who use to build a lot more bamboo and rattan chairs, and indeed, as we find out the “true cost” of all this cheap plastic stuff.

We know that unlike bamboo and rattan chairs that biodegrades back to earth, there are not always collection systems for broken plastic chairs, broken buckets and planganas (basins for washing clothes), broken plastic totes, etc.

Where will this used or broken plastic trash end up…oh right, see photo above.

It is a problem indeed, with the ever growing population of the Philippines — now the 12th most populous on our planet, in need of even more stuff.   In an archipelago nation like the Philippines, uncontrolled trash is always just a few short breaths away from the sea, at the next big rainfall or during typhoon season.

How do we manage all this plastic garbage?  Do we get plastics manufacturers or those who import plastics to have a plan to dispose of plastic trash?  Should the manufacturers be required to take it back?

Can we consider a moratorium on plastics until a solution is found or at least, until the infrastructure is in place to deal with, and to recycle these items?

Unlike most communities in the Western world, many areas in the Philippines still do not have established waste management or recycling programs, so when that plastic chair breaks, it is just more trash — the scary kind of trash that sticks around for a very long time.

One way or another, this uncontrolled plastic trash already affects us.  When it ends up in one of the trash vortex, or when we eat seafood that have eaten bits of our plastic trash, or through the extinction of species directly related to our actions…or our failure to take action.

See Also – Lolako’s Category Archives: Philippine related environment and conservation topics

And post from March, 2014,  Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

Philippine plastic garbage problem

If this photograph from Joshua Mark Dalupang, published with the Guardian’s article “Tide of plastic bags that started wave of revulsion”  does not convince you about the plastics problems in the Philippines….well, I don’t know what else will.

Plastic pollution in Manila Bay, the Philippines. Other countries including South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and China have introduced bans on single-use plastic bags. Photograph: Joshua Mark Dalupang / EPA

It truly is sad — and at the same time revolting — to see this anywhere, let alone my dearly loved Philippines, especially that plastic bags are a preventable type of pollution.

Are there programs in place to address this…or at least projects in the works?  If you live in the Philippines, in Manila or other large cities with this problem (and solutions), please comment — and especially if you live in a city that has banned plastic bags.

Note: Plastics never fully biodegrade: the estimates above refer to the time it takes for plastics to break down into smaller pieces. Graphic from www.saveourshores.org

We really have to ask ourselves — is the convenience of single use plastic bags worthwhile, when we know the resulting pollution it creates?   We already know that it does not biodegrade fully — and as you can see from the above photo, rarely recycled.

What do you think happens to these plastic bags?   Where does the plastic end up?  In an ocean environment, these bags

  • will break down into smaller and smaller pieces
  • absorb other toxic substances
  • is ingested by wildlife and creatures living in our oceans (sea turtles mistake these bags as jellyfish and accidentally ingest the bags)
  • then enters the ocean wildlife food chain — including OUR food chain when we eat seafood

I posted an article titled Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor, after reading Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.  The book is about the history of plastic and our love of plastic products, and delves into — among other fascinating topics — the problem of plastic bags and plastic waste.

Related posts:

September 30, 2014 – California the first U.S. state to ban single-use plastic bags

Francis-Malasig-photo-philippine plastic trash problem

Click on the photo for more on the Philippine trash problems —  River of trash photo by Francis Malasig via 5Gyres

Also See on the “burden of civilization’s excess” for more on Philippine plastic trash problems, and on those now ubiquitous plastic stacking chairs adding to trash in the Philippines (or click on Francis Malasig’s photo above)

Resources and information on plastic bag bans at the end of my post “12 Minutes” (twelve minutes is the average use time of a plastic bag).

Link to article about Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story and photographs of plastic packaging at a typical seaside market in the Philippines

Trash and plastics vortex now the size of Texas (about the North Pacific trash gyre)

Seahorses – Magical Fish

More on the magical seahorse on this video from the California Academy of Science, with Healy Hamilton discussing the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.

The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source.

All species of seahorses are internationally protected and no one is supposed to be harvesting seahorses…but the problem of course…..is enforcement.

INTRODUCTION: The destruction of coral reefs, trawling and the use of seahorses in Chinese medicine is leading to their decline. How do we stop this near-mythical sea creature from becoming extinct? “Wired” interviews Academy researcher, Healy Hamilton, to discuss this unique fish and the dangers that threaten them.

Also…here again is the link to Alex Pronove’s blog and his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market.  Click  here – or click on his photo below.

Photo by: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/

Don’t forget…the Seahorse Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium will be closing this summer. Click here for more information.

Wild World Weather January 2012

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) NCDC State of the Climate Report publishes a chart of significant climate anomalies and events.  Here is the chart for January 2012.

Chart Source: NOAA - http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/

Click on the chart or here to view a larger version of the January 2012 climate anomalies chart.  Highlights:

  • Global Temperatures are 19th warmest on record for January, since record keeping began in 1880.
  • Arctic sea ice extent was the fourth smallest extent on record for January, at 7.5 percent below average.
  • January 2012 marks the coolest month since February 2008. However, January 2012 also marks the 26th January and 323rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below average temperatures was February 1985.

In Australia – coolest maximum January temperatures since January 2000, and 13th coolest since national record keeping began in 1950

In the Philippines – torrential rainfall since mid December 2011 (and after the already devastating Typhoon Sendong) led to another mudslide in January, killing 30 people and leaving 40 others missing on the island of Mindanao.

In southeastern Brazil – heavy rains led to flooding and landslides, killing eight people and forcing over 13,000 people to evacuate the area.

Germany had its sixth wettest January since record keeping began in 1881.

While the contiguous United States experienced the 4th warmest January since record keeping began in 1895, parts of Alaska experienced record cold temperatures and snowfall.

In Spain, January 2012 was the 6th driest January in the last five decades.

Source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/map-blended-mntp/201201.gif

  • Monsoonal rains brought heavier-than-average rainfall to southwestern and southeastern Australia.
  • Rainfall was also well above average in south Asia, part of eastern Russia, and southwestern Greenland. Much drier-than-average conditions were observed across northern Canada, the north central United States, eastern Brazil, and northern Sweden.

Males who get pregnant and give birth? Learn more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

In case you live in the area and have not been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in a while, now is a great time to visit.  With much less crowds, you can relax, take in the beauty of the exhibits, get inspired and take pictures of your favorite creatures with ease.

Also, it is a good opportunity to check out the fascinating exhibit, The Secret Lives of Seahorses, which will be closing in August this year.

I posted an article about seahorses and our visit to the aquarium with our grandsons last year (click here to view).

And yes, there really are  males in the animal kingdom who become pregnant and give birth.  It’s the extraordinary seahorse!

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the seahorse exhibit:

Seahorses, sea dragons, pipehorses and pipefishes come in many shapes and sizes, but beneath the surface they’re all fish, with fused jaws and bony plates in place of the scales normally associated with fish.

Perhaps what most distinguishes seahorses from the rest of the animal kingdom is their unique life history—the males become pregnant and give birth. Seahorse fathers shelter their young in protective pouches, while sea dragon and pipefish fathers carry their young on spongy patches on the undersides of their tails.

And on a related topic, I recently learned about blogger Alex Pronove— who returned to the Philippines and now lives in the Palawan area, and writes about “discovering my new island home”.  Check out his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market here – or click on his photo below.

Photo: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/

 

Vanishing Birds of the Philippines: Art Exhibit at The Bone Room

The artist David Tomb of the conservation group Jeepney Projects Worldwide will speak about his artwork and connection with the Philippine Eagle Foundation at 7:00 PM, on Thursday, February 23 at The Bone Room.

Philippine Eagle Print by David Tomb - www.JeepneyProjects.org

Art by David Tomb will be available at The Bone Room Presents until February 28th, 2012.  The Bone Room is located at 1573 Solano in Berkeley, CA 94707 (Tel. 510-526-5252).

From the Jeepney Projects website:

This exhibition will feature works on paper of the iconic and critically endangered Great Philippine Eagle and the other beautiful endemic birds of the Philippines, including the Rufous Hornbill. There will be living plants and an audio installation that will highlight sounds of the Mindanao jungle. The show shines a light on the rare and beautiful Philippine birds, and the challenges and tension these creatures face to survive and share a sustainable future with an ever-growing Filipino population.

Rufous Hornbill by David Tomb - www.JeepneyProjects.org

Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle

Photograph by Klaus Nigge, National Geographic

Many countries use symbols from nature to represent their nation.  These symbols are on flags, coat of arms, official seals and patriotic material  (e.g., the bald eagle for the United States, the Malayan tiger in Malaysia, llamas and condors for Bolivia and Columbia).

In the Philippines, one of the nation’s symbol is the Philippine Eagle, pithecophaga jefferyi – and referred to as “haring ibon” or king bird.  It is among the rarest and most powerful birds in the world.   In 1995, it was designated as the national bird as well as an official  symbol of the Philippines.

The Philippine eagle is one of only four official national symbols enacted through a proclamation by the executive department.  The others are the sampaguita flower, the narra tree, and arnis — the traditional Philippine martial arts, also known as eskrima.

Photo by Harry Asuncion Balais

Sadly, the Philippine Eagle is critically endangered.

Its habitat is the forest, and only 5% is all that remains of the Philippines’ virgin forest.

Although this eagle is one of the largest raptors in the world, it is defenseless against logging — both legal and illegal — that have diminished its home.

These days, it can only be found on four Philippine islands: Mindanao, Luzon, Samar and Leyte.

Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com

Among bird — and especially raptor— enthusiast, the Philippine eagle is considered to be a truly magnificent bird.  While most raptors have yellow or brown eyes, this eagle has a more uncommon blue-gray eye color.  Its average height is over 3 feet tall, and with a wingspan of over 6 feet, it is among the largest birds on our planet.

Lord of the Forest – Photograph by Klaus Nigge for National Geographic

The February, 2008 issue of National Geographic featured an article on the Philippine eagle by nature writer Mel White, with amazing photographs by Klaus Nigge.

Mel White writes about how the potential loss of this eagle “would steal some of the world’s wonder”.  Excerpt from the article  “Lord of the Forest, can the Philippine eagle survive in the shrinking forests of its island home” below:

If the irrevocable transition of one species from rarity to extinction causes a rent in the fabric of our planet, exactly how big a hole would be left by the loss of the Philippine eagle?

No disrespect is meant to the basking malachite damselfly or the fine-lined pocketbook mussel, because all creatures—and plants too—help turn the infinitely complex cogs of the biosphere.

But the loss of this glorious bird would steal some of the world’s wonder. It glides through its sole habitat, the rain forests of the Philippines, powerful wings spread to seven feet, navigating the tangled canopy with unexpected precision.

It is possible that no one has ever described this rare raptor, one of the world’s largest, without using the word “magnificent.” If there are those who did, then heaven heal their souls.

Philippine Eagle Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com

In the kind of irony all too familiar to conservationists, however, the very evolutionary adaptations that made it magnificent have also made it one of the planet’s most endangered birds of prey.

There is no competition for prey from tigers, leopards, bears, or wolves in the Philippine archipelago, the eagle’s only home, so it became, by default, the king of the rain forest.

Expanding into an empty ecological niche, it grew to a length of three feet and a weight of up to 14 pounds. A nesting pair requires 25 to 50 square miles of forest to find enough prey—mammals such as flying lemurs and monkeys; snakes; and other birds—to feed themselves and the single young they produce every other year.

“The birds had the islands all to themselves, and they grew big,” says Filipino biologist Hector Miranda, who has studied the eagles extensively. “But it was a trade-off, because the forest that created them is almost gone. And when the forest disappears—well, they’re at an evolutionary dead-end.”

The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list the Philippine eagle in the “Threatened” category, and specifically, as “Critically Endangered“.

Photo of Philippine Eagle by Nigel Voaden / IUCN Web Site

IUCN conservation statuses

There are 3 stages within the “threatened” category:

  • Vulnerable
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species, and it means that a species’ numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations.

We must do what we can and work to save these creatures as next on the IUCN list is the symbol EW – extinct in the wild —- and then, EX – EXTINCT!

Extinction Extinction Extinct in the Wild Critically Endangered Endangered species Vulnerable species Near Threatened Threatened species Least Concern Least Concern

Although the Philippine Wildlife Act 9147 prohibits the killing, collection, possession, and maltreatment of wildlife, poachers — and perhaps those who do not know about the plight of these birds — continue to capture and harm Philippine eagles.

Last year, four birds were rescued from captivity by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).  A Philippine Star article by Edith Regalado, quotes PEF Executive director Dennis Salvador:

The abuse and harm caused on Philippine eagles illustrate our reckless management of our natural resources. If the Philippine eagle, which is already perhaps the most prominent and recognizable of Philippine wildlife species, suffers a fate as grim as the above four eagles have experienced, how much more other species? What bigger injustices could possibly be happening to the rest of the Philippine environment?” Salvador explained.

Salvador said crimes committed against nature have a much bigger impact than we can imagine, like the deforestation that caused landslides in Leyte.

“We condemn these acts of violence against nature and call on our fellow Filipinos to adopt more sustainable paths towards progress. Our economy is built on natural resources – the indiscriminate killing and plunder of these resources is not development. This will only bring us several steps backward,” Salvador added.

Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jeffery) in flight.  Female delivering twig to nest tree, Lantapan, Mount Kitanglad, Mindanao, Philippines. Photo by Klaus Nigge

As I write this post, and look at these photographs, I am saddened by thoughts of how close these creatures are to being extinct.  I hope it is not too late for these magnificent birds, and a national symbol for the Philippines.

Photo of captive eagle by Klaus Nigge

The same decimated forests that caused these birds to be critically endangered have caused havoc to human beings.

Deforestation is also the root cause of many mudslides and devastating floods that have killed thousands of people in the Philippines.

The most recent being the December, 2011 Typhoon Sendong that struck Northern Mindanao, the Visayas and Palawan and killed over 1,000 souls, and left tens of thousands homeless.

Perhaps by saving these magnificent creatures and what remains of their forest home, we can prevent future disasters and save lives.  Save the forest, save the eagles….and save ourselves?

Time is running out for the Philippine eagle.  If you can help, please click here to help the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

Related Links:

Photograph by Klaus Nigge

Stunning Photographs of the Philippine Eagle by German Photographer Klaus Nigge – can be viewed on his website http://nigge.com/projects/philippine_eagle/thumbnails.html or visit the National Geographic article “Lord of the Forest” for more of Klaus Nigge’s photographs as well as videos.  I was in awe…and I promise you will be too.

 

Eagle Print by David Tomb – www.jeepneyprojects.org

The Jeepney Projects

Art for Conservation http://jeepneyprojects.org/current-projects/

Fine art prints to raise money for research and public outreach/education about the eagle and it’s plight and the need for conservation of habitat where it still survives.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – mission to help the world find
pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges

Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) – Fostering Partnerships for the Environment

FPE’s mission is to be a catalyst for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of communities in critical sites.

Christian Artuso Birds, Wildlife – post on Christian’s Mindanao trip, and birding, conservation, ecology and animal behavior topics.  Except from post:  As you have no doubt gathered from reading through these posts, the level of endemism on the Philippines is extraordinary. In fact, the Philippines not only boasts over 200 endemic species….

ARKive (www.ARKive.com) – videos of the Philippine eagle.  ARKive’s mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

“A vast treasury of wildlife images has been steadily accumulating over the past century, yet no one has known its full extent – or indeed its gaps – and no one has had a comprehensive way of gaining access to it. ARKive will put that right, and it will be an invaluable tool for all concerned with the well-being of the natural world.”

Sir David Attenborough -Wildscreen Patron

Top 9 rice exporters and year 2012 rice supply

Rice Fields in the Philippines, ready for planting

The Philippines is home to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a non-profit, independent research and training organization.

According to the IRRI, the Philippines is the 8th top producer of rice in the world, and also the top rice importer.

China is the world’s biggest producer of rice and is largely self-sufficient (at 130 tonnes a year), while Thailand is the world’s top exporter of rice.

Chart source: The Economist

Since Thailand is a top exporter of rice, I wondered if the devastating floods we heard about in Thailand last year will impact rice supplies in 2012.

The Economist magazine ran an article about this topic (How serious will the impact of the Thai floods be on Asian tables) and it turns out  2011 was an excellent year for rice crops overall, and for other rice producing countries.

Although drought conditions in Arkansas — America’s main grower of rice — will affect US rice exports, bumper crops in Pakistan and India should help with any rice shortfalls from Thailand and the U.S.

The top 9 exporters of rice in 2010-2011 (if the chart included in this post does not load) are:

  1. Thailand
  2. Vietnam
  3. India
  4. United States
  5. Pakistan
  6. Burma
  7. Cambodia
  8. Uruguay
  9. Brazil

See more of Lola Jane’s rice related posts (and more rice field pictures) here.

International Human Development Indicators (HDI)

I am continuing to work on a post about the Philippines and the topic of development — and ways that it is measured — and found a detailed report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Within this report are International Human Development Indicators (HDI).  It measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development:

        • a long and healthy life
        • knowledge
        • and a decent standard of living

The most recent HDI is a composite index that covers the period from 1980 to 2011.  It is included in the 2011 issue of the UNDP’s Human Development Report.

The goal of the report is to provide information to help advance human development. The full report can be ordered from the UNDP website or downloaded for free in 18 languages.

The data collected is comprehensive and complicated, and the UNDP has a Frequenty Asked Questions (FAQ) page about the report, which can be accessed here.  Also, background on how they come up with the composite index and the concept of human development is available on the UNDP’s Indices & Data page.

There are a total of 187 countries tracked by the UNDP for this report.  Some countries did not have available data and are not included — e.g. North Korea, Somalia, Monaco.

For this post, I list the top 20 countries, the Philippines and its neighboring countries, as well as countries that might be of interest due to population, or connections for Filipinos (countries in the Middle East where there are large numbers of overseas Filipino workers).

Norway is the top country in this ranking, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is at the bottom.  Click here if you want to see the full report (all 187 countries).   You can also click on the individual country below for further information.

The countries are categorized as:

  • Very high human development (scores of 0.889 in 2011- the USA is in this category)
  • High human development (scores of 0.741in 2011)
  • Medium human development (0.630 in 2011 – the Philippines is in this category)
  • Low human development (0.456 in 2011)

HDI Rank Country     The number columns represent from left to right, the years starting from 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and last column are numbers from  2011.

1 Norway 0.796 0.819 0.844 0.876 0.913 0.938 0.940 0.942 0.941 0.941 0.941 0.943
2 Australia 0.850 0.859 0.873 0.889 0.906 0.918 0.920 0.922 0.924 0.926 0.927 0.929
3 Netherlands 0.792 0.806 0.835 0.866 0.882 0.890 0.897 0.902 0.904 0.905 0.909 0.910
4 United States 0.837 0.853 0.870 0.883 0.897 0.902 0.904 0.905 0.907 0.906 0.908 0.910
5 New Zealand 0.800 0.812 0.828 0.861 0.878 0.899 0.901 0.903 0.904 0.906 0.908 0.908
6 Canada 0.817 0.834 0.857 0.870 0.879 0.892 0.897 0.900 0.903 0.903 0.907 0.908
7 Ireland 0.735 0.754 0.782 0.813 0.869 0.898 0.904 0.909 0.909 0.905 0.907 0.908
8 Liechtenstein .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 0.904 0.905
9 Germany 0.730 0.745 0.795 0.835 0.864 0.895 0.898 0.901 0.902 0.900 0.903 0.905
10 Sweden 0.785 0.796 0.816 0.855 0.894 0.896 0.898 0.899 0.900 0.898 0.901 0.904
11 Switzerland 0.810 0.817 0.833 0.846 0.873 0.890 0.893 0.893 0.892 0.899 0.901 0.903
12 Japan 0.778 0.803 0.827 0.850 0.868 0.886 0.891 0.894 0.896 0.895 0.899 0.901
13 Hong Kong, China (SAR) 0.708 0.745 0.786 0.810 0.824 0.850 0.857 0.870 0.885 0.888 0.894 0.898
14 Iceland 0.762 0.782 0.807 0.830 0.863 0.893 0.895 0.899 0.895 0.897 0.896 0.898
15 Korea (Republic of) 0.634 0.690 0.742 0.793 0.830 0.866 0.873 0.881 0.886 0.889 0.894 0.897
16 Denmark 0.783 0.802 0.809 0.833 0.861 0.885 0.887 0.890 0.891 0.891 0.893 0.895
17 Israel 0.763 0.785 0.802 0.823 0.856 0.874 0.877 0.882 0.882 0.884 0.886 0.888
18 Belgium 0.757 0.777 0.811 0.854 0.876 0.873 0.877 0.880 0.882 0.883 0.885 0.886
19 Austria 0.740 0.762 0.790 0.814 0.839 0.860 0.866 0.870 0.876 0.879 0.883 0.885
20 France 0.722 0.742 0.777 0.819 0.846 0.869 0.873 0.877 0.879 0.880 0.883 0.884
23 Spain  0.691 0.717 0.749 0.801 0.839 0.857 0.862 0.866 0.871 0.874 0.876 0.878
24 Italy 0.717 0.735 0.764 0.795 0.825 0.861 0.866 0.869 0.871 0.870 0.873 0.874
26 Singapore .. .. .. .. 0.801 0.835 0.843 0.850 0.855 0.856 0.864 0.866
28 United Kingdom 0.744 0.759 0.778 0.816 0.833 0.855 0.853 0.856 0.860 0.860 0.862 0.863
30 United Arab Emirates 0.629 0.652 0.690 0.724 0.753 0.807 0.818 0.827 0.835 0.841 0.845 0.846
33 Brunei Darussalam 0.750 0.760 0.784 0.807 0.818 0.830 0.834 0.835 0.834 0.835 0.837 0.838
37 Qatar  0.703 0.728 0.743 0.760 0.784 0.818 0.816 0.825 0.825 0.818 0.825 0.831
42 Bahrain 0.651 0.700 0.721 0.750 0.773 0.795 0.799 0.804 0.806 0.805 0.805 0.806
56 Saudi Arabia 0.651 0.668 0.693 0.710 0.726 0.746 0.751 0.755 0.760 0.763 0.767 0.770
57 Mexico 0.593 0.629 0.649 0.674 0.718 0.741 0.748 0.755 0.761 0.762 0.767 0.770
61 Malaysia 0.559 0.600 0.631 0.674 0.705 0.738 0.742 0.746 0.750 0.752 0.758 0.761
63 Kuwait 0.688 0.715 0.712 0.737 0.754 0.752 0.755 0.756 0.757 0.757 0.758 0.760
64 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya .. .. .. .. .. 0.741 0.748 0.755 0.759 0.763 0.770 0.760
84 Brazil 0.549 0.575 0.600 0.634 0.665 0.692 0.695 0.700 0.705 0.708 0.715 0.718
95 Jordan 0.541 0.577 0.591 0.623 0.646 0.673 0.678 0.685 0.692 0.694 0.697 0.698
101 China 0.404 0.448 0.490 0.541 0.588 0.633 0.644 0.656 0.665 0.674 0.682 0.687
103 Thailand  0.486 0.528 0.566 0.603 0.626 0.656 0.661 0.670 0.672 0.673 0.680 0.682
112 Philippines 0.550 0.552 0.571 0.586 0.602 0.622 0.624 0.630 0.635 0.636 0.641 0.644
113 Egypt 0.406 0.461 0.497 0.539 0.585 0.611 0.618 0.626 0.633 0.638 0.644 0.644
124 Indonesia  0.423 0.460 0.481 0.527 0.543 0.572 0.579 0.591 0.598 0.607 0.613 0.617
128 Viet Nam .. .. 0.435 0.486 0.528 0.561 0.568 0.575 0.580 0.584 0.590 0.593
134 India 0.344 0.380 0.410 0.437 0.461 0.504 0.512 0.523 0.527 0.535 0.542 0.547
187 Congo (Democratic Republic of the) 0.282 0.289 0.289 0.254 0.224 0.260 0.266 0.271 0.270 0.277 0.282 0.286

My notes:

It is not surprising to see countries like Norway,  the USA and Canada among the Top 10.  What did surprise me is to see that the Oceana countries —  Australia and New Zealand —  are also in the Top 10.

Japan, South Korea and  Hong Kong are the only Asian countries in the top 20 ranking.

In 1980, HDI scores for the Philippines were higher than Brazil, Thailand and Egypt

  • Brazil’s 1980 HDI number was 0.549 (Brazil is the 5th most populous country in the world, with the largest catholic population — 68% of the population or about 122 million)
  • Thailand was at 0.486
  • Egypt was at 0.406
  • The Philippines was 0.550

For the year 2011,

  • Brazil’s HDI number went from 0.549 to 0.718 and they are now ranked #84 out of 187 countries
  • Thailand’s number went from 0.486 to 0.682 and jumped to a ranking of #103
  • Egypt jumped from a low of 0.406 to 0.644 and now rank #113
  • The Philippines number went from 0.550 to 0.644  and now rank #112

What has happened over the last 30 years to reflect these numbers?  What has changed in Brazil…in Thailand?

Have you heard about this measurement system on the topic of human development — and what do you think about this ranking data?