In recent weeks, fishermen in the Amazon discovered a juvenile Manatee lingering near the body of its deceased mother. The two-month-old baby was rescued and delivered to 'Friends of Manatees' (AMPA), a local organization helping to rescue, protect, and rehabilitate orphaned animals. Amazonian Manatees have been protected under Brazilian law since 1967, however poaching has been a problem for years and continues to leave countless orphans when their mothers are killed.
After becoming malnourished, the rescued manatee baby was nursed back to health and will remain in an aquatic facility until it is old enough to be returned to its native habitat. Only weighing 30 lbs. and measuring 30 inches, this little Manatee was lucky to have been rescued before starving to death.
Along with their ocean fairing sibling the Dugong, Manatees are vegetarian mammals, relying on a plant-based diet to survive. Also known as the 'seacow', the Manatee has thick, wrinkled skin, and is relatively hairless apart from a few whiskers around its mouth. Equipped for chomping down on some delicious veggies, Manatees have molar teeth that are constantly being replaced by new, more efficient ones. The Amazonian Manatee is the smallest of the species, measuring up to 2.8 meters in length, with females typically larger than males, and weighing between 360-540 kilos (790-1,200lbs).
The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA) estimates that 500 Manatees are culled each year. Traditionally targeted for their meat and hide, Manatees are now competing with humans for viable food sources and suitable habitats.
After a collective group of scientists and researchers had been studying Manatees and other aquatic mammals of the Amazon for decades, they decided to create the NGO Friends of the Manatee-AMPA in 2001. The latter promotes protection, conservation, research and management of Amazon Manatee populations as well as other aquatic mammals such as the pink river dolphin, the Tucuxi dolphin, the giant otter, and Neotropical otter. AMPA coordinates environmental education for local people to encourage mutual appreciation and the value of conserving the natural wildlife endemic to the Amazon. The five aquatic mammals of the Amazon listed above are directly affected by human impacts, and continue to be hunted for meat, fur, bait, and traditional mythological uses.
Amidst the barren and sun-bleached desert of Western Australia, a long road leads to an ocean paradise. Half way up the coastline of the nation’s most western state, the Indian ocean meets a reef like none other. A peninsula breaks away from the land, like an arm reaching out to the sea. Little Exmouth town lies in the middle of the magic, while just down the road (a mere 169 kilometres!) is the second of these two coastal settlements, Coral Bay, whose community is footsteps away from the mighty bountiful Ningaloo Reef.
A fraction of the size of the infamous Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo is in a league of its own and bares little resemblance to its east coast counterpart. Extending for nearly 300 kilometres, beginning south of Canarvon up to the Murion Islands north of Exmouth, Ningaloo is one of the largest fringing reefs on the planet. A fringing reef distinguishes itself from the commonly known Atoll and Barrier reefs in that it fringes or hugs the coastline, growing from inner reef flats near the shore to outer edge reef slopes, where beyond lies the open ocean.
Along Ningaloo’s reef system, its outer edge can be as close as 700 meters from the beach, while other parts are a few kilometres from shore. Hard corals predominate this reef, and the inner lagoons are shallow enough to allow the living corals to absorb the sun’s energy. Over 300 species of corals grow here, providing shelter and nourishment to many of the 500 species of fish calling Ningaloo home. This underwater rainbow of life also attracts seasonal visits from Dugongs, dolphins, Manta Rays, and Humpback whales, while turtles and sharks dance through these crystal clear waters all year long. Finally, the biggest fish in the sea finds it way to Ningaloo to feed on its nutrient rich waters. Whale sharks, growing to an average of 12 meters, are gentle giants with sparkling eyes and a captivating energy. They appear from the depths, visible on the surface in the waters surrounding Coral Bay and Exmouth. They gorge themselves on tiny Planktonic organisms for months on end, usually March through till July, until one day they seem to vanish, sneakily setting out on faraway journeys.
Local eco-tourism around the Ningaloo reef has boomed in the last decade, with annual visitors to Exmouth reaching 300,000 during the busiest months. Whale Sharks and Manta Rays attract snorkelers and ocean enthusiasts, while keen fishermen, divers, surfers, conservationists and research scientists become enthralled by the sheer richness of these waters. It is love at first sight for most first time visitors, and few can stay away once they get a glimpse of the magic below.
A small number of marine tour operators acquire Whale shark licences, enabling them to bring small groups of tourists to the outer reef’s where, with the help of a spotter plane, they will be guided into the water and swim alongside a Whale shark in the wild. This experience, often overwhelming and emotional, is one tourists’ will not likely forget. The brilliance of such an encounter reminds some of the ocean’s magic, while others are instantly transformed into defenders of ocean wildlife.
Contrary to seeing a Whale shark or dolphin through the glass panel of an Aquarium, swimming next to the biggest fish in the sea reconnects humans to nature, and is capable of bridging the gap between people and our living marine environment.
During my time as a Whale shark guide, I personally witnessed elderly people, young children and non-swimmers alike, make it into the water, peer through their goggles and, in an instant, lay motionless in complete amazement of the wild creature peacefully floating next to them.
Marine interactions in the wild are just that, wild. There are no cages, ropes, or boats towing you along a free swimming Whale shark. Once in the water, you must stay close to your guide, keep your eyes on the prize, and most importantly, respect the animal in its natural habitat. The rewards are powerful, and from my own experiences with Whale sharks, manta rays, and sharks; I can vouch that love, empathy, and passion grows with each encounter. My wish is that more people would venture out of their comfort zones; jump, dive or swim among ocean wonders like those of the Ningaloo reef, and be left with an unrelenting desire to protect pristine pockets of life struggling to survive in the vast expanse of our blue planet.
Exmouth visitors centre: http://www.exmouthwa.com.au/
Discover West holidays: http://www.discoverwest.com.au/western_australia/ningaloo_reef.html
Ecocean: Whale shark photo Identification Library: http://www.whaleshark.org/
In a special ceremony in New York city, U.S., one special environmental crusader was acknowledged by the United Nations for his efforts as Campaign Director for Brazil's Amazon Greenpeace mission. Paulo Adario was awarded a medal and celebrated as a hero for the Amazon rainforest he has been working to protect for over a decade.
"I am delighted to accept this award in the name of all the people fighting daily to protect the forest they made their home.." , said Adario in his acceptance speech. Adario built the Greenpeace Amazon campaign from scratch in his home base of Manaus, the capital of Brazil's Amazonas state.
Adario sought to expose the illegal logging industry in Brazil, as well as the effects of deforestation on local Indigenous communities, native wildlife and countless natural habitats. He introduced the idea of 'protected areas' or 'buffer zones' throughout the rainforest which would be off limits to industrial development, and in 2003 the government of Brazil, with the help of Greenpeace and Adario, successfully implemented a Moratorium on the international trade of Mahogany. The latter is a prized wood in Brazil, as one tree can produce up to $130,000 U.S in products on the American marketplace. Illegal logging of Mahogany in Brazil was a hugely profitable industry in the 1990's, and saw the 'Mahogany mafia' dominate the criminal logging operations for years before the Brazilian government intervened.
Southern Brazil is the agricultural center, with native land now overrun with cattle ranches and soya bean crops. Adario's many efforts were geared at establishing agreements with international companies to safeguard the Amazon rainforest, while shedding light to the areas and populations most vulnerable to deforestation.
From meeting with government officials and negotiating with international corporations, Paulo Adario also creates awareness for the Amazon by leading expeditions to some of the most remote and pristine areas of the river basin. Today, more than ever, the Amazon needs to be sustainably developed and conserved. Harboring 1/3 of all the world's biodiversity and the biggest reserves of freshwater on the planet, the Amazon river basin is a global treasure. Yet millions of hectares are being stripped for agriculture and logging, not to mention the effects over-fishing, coastal development and agricultural run-off are having on the Amazon and its tributaries.
Although the immensity of the Amazon rainforest helps it absorb an unprecedented amount of Carbon Dioxyde from the atmosphere, deforestation has led Brazil to become the 4th biggest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet and one of the top food producers in the world. This complex issue is a global one, but top on the global agenda should be the protection of our oxygen-purifying forests. In the face of climate change and global warming, there has never been a more vital time for us to take action and insist on the conservation of our finite resources.
We salute Paulo Adario for dedicating his life to the preservation and conservation of the Amazon, one of the world's most unique natural wonders.
Citation: Jess Miller. "Forest Hero: Amazon awards Amazon campaign director". Greenpeace blogpost. 9.02.12. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/forest-hero-un-awards-amazon-campaign-directo/blog/38963/
The America's Cup has long been the top sailing event on the planet, bringing together teams from various countries and cultures to brave the ocean's elements and race to global victory.
This year, the America's Cup Even Authority (ACEA) has pledged to use the spotlight and attention generated by the Cup to highlight a bigger goal of improving the state of our oceans. Given the event revolves around the water, the ebb and flow and shifting energies of our seas, protecting and defending the health of our oceans is not only natural, but essential.
The America's Cup Healthy Ocean Project (H.O.P.) is set to become the world's 'largest communication outreach program focused on improving ocean health' (2012, ACEA). Partnering with such environmental figures as Dr. Sylvia Earle and her Mission Blue organization, Sailors for the Sea, 1 world, 1 ocean, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature, this year's events are shaping up to generate much needed attention to our marine environment.
Sailors, watermen, lovers of sport are vital stewards for our oceans and can potentially be some of the most influential players in the movement to 'awaken, inspire, and engage' entire generations to defend the health of our blue planet. (2012, ACEA).
Almost two decades ago, Sir Peter Blake won the America's Cup for his native New Zealand in 1995 and then again led his team to victory in 2000. He was then, and still now remains a great ambassador for our global environment. Following his racing successes, Sir Peter embarked on a new quest to generate awareness and provide education to the world regarding the importance of safeguarding our environment amidst growing human impacts on nature. His travels to Antarctica and the Amazon rainforest sought to expose the changing chemistry of our marine resources and the fragile beauty of such 'pulse spots'. In the age of Climate Change, increasing pollution and habitat degradation, Sir Peter Blake's work to protect the earth's biodiversity is remembered today, and continues to nurture and motivate our environmental quests here at the Eco-Odyssey Foundation.
This year will mark the 8th straight summer that conservation society Sea Shepherd has rallied a team of volunteers to enforce international maritime law and commit to saving the lives of innocent whales being slaughtered in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary by the Japanese Whaling fleet. Under the convenient umbrella of ‘research’, the Japanese have successfully continued to hunt and kill marine mammals and seasonally target whales migrating to Antarctica’s vast ocean.
Armed with 88 crew and 3 ships (Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and Brigitte Bardot), the Sea Shepherd fleet will head down to one of the most volatile regions on earth; to save whales. Fuelled up with a passion for the ocean environment and a resolve to defend our sentinels of the sea, this group of people is having a profound effect on the world, and weakening the Japanese whalers one nautical mile at a time.
Funded entirely by donations, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a grassroots movement fearlessly fighting for wildlife while defying the status quo and standing out as nature’s defense force.
Mr.Watson has decided his team will continue focusing their efforts on breaking the Japanese whaling fleet where it hurts, the bank. If they maintain course and close in on the factory and processing tanker Nisshin Maru, Sea Shepherd will halt the fleet’s ability to continue whaling, thus costing them money everyday they are not killing whales.
However this year the Sea Shepherds have the extra wild challenge of having to negotiate a buffed up Japanese fleet financially and culturally devoted to reaching their 1,000 whale quota. This archaic practice is still so entrenched within the Japanese tradition, the government has re-invested nearly $30 million dollars to highten the killing fleet's security.
With some criticism and claims Watson is a 'eco-pirate', Sea Shepherds and their founder simply respond “it takes a pirate to catch a pirate”. And so they will continue to be the crowd with the gutso and heart to veer from the conventional path of environmental conservation and push for tangible results and life-saving actions.
Best of luck to the Sea Shepherd team on this year’s journey to Antarctica. It will surely be one like no other, and hopefully a time when war at sea will see whales triumph over human greed.
Follow Sea Shepherd’s “Operation Divine Wind” in Antarctica as they aggressively (but non-violently!) find the Japanese fleet and prevent them from taking any more whales from our oceans.
For thousands of years, indigenous tribes of the Amazon have been utilizing the abundant fruit growing in the trees of the rainforest. It is believed that in fact tribes use over 2000 out of the 3000 known fruit trees native to the Amazon region. But the one fruit gaining an incredible amount of noteriety recently is the Acai berry. Until now, Acai has been the Amazon's best kept secret and one of the most potent, nutrient-packed, healing fruits in the world!
Pronounced Ah-Sigh-ee, the Acai berry grows on a tall palm tree, often hanging in clusters some 25-30 meters high. Approximately 1 inch in diameter, this small fruit was discovered by Amazon tribesmen about 1000 years ago. They discovered Acai was excellent for assisting in building a strong immune system, fighting infection, boosting metabolism and stamina, as well as improving mental state. In fact, history has shown that Amazon warriors used to eat the Acai berry before going into battle.
Since its introduction to the modern world some 30 years ago, scientific reserach on the Acai berry has suggested the juice of this powerful fruit also protects the heart, controls prostate enlargement, and can be useful in the development of some antibiotics. Moreover, following a University of Florida study on the berry, they found Acai is capable of triggering a self-destruct response in up to 86% of human cancer cells. Not to be mistaken for a cure, but the scientific community is encouraged by these findings.
Today the Acai berry is a hot commodity, with international media spreading the word that the fruit is the '#1 Power Food' and television personalities such as Oprah Winfrey featuring the berry's many health properties on her wildly succesful talk show. From entertainment avenues to headline health news, the Acai berry is now on the global stage, far from its humble beginnings as one of the Amazon's many secret gems.
The growing popularity of the Acai berry is playing an instrumental role in helping to prevent deforestation in certain areas of the Amazon. Given the palm tree that habours the Acai berry can be harvested 2-3 times per year, it is the best interest of farmers and foreign exporters to keep the trees intact in order for them to yield the most fruit. Each Acai palm tree produces 20 kilograms of fruit per year, and so most farmers are deciding against chopping down the trees and helping to ensure that regions' dense with Acai palm trees will be spared mass destruction.
Although for now the Acai palm tree is safe, the modern western world could stand to learn from the Indigenous people of the Amazon who have always lived from the land, using nature's gifts sustainably in order to survive deep in the jungle. Now recognized as an antioxidant 33 times more powerful than red wine and grapes, the Acai berry is a native Amazoninan plant and should be harvested in a ethical and ecologically sensitive manner.
✦ For more on the Amazon's natural splendor, head to our 'Current Expedition' page: http://www.eco-odyssey.com/main/expeditions.html and our 'Habitat Loss' section for more on deforestation in the Amazon: http://www.eco-odyssey.com/main/hot-topics/Habitat-Loss.html
✦ Medicinal properties of the Acai berry: www.acaiberrystudies.com/acai-berry-overview.html
✦ Acai berry in the media: www.acaiberrystudies.com/acai-in-the-media.html
Information sourced from www.acaiberrystudies.com
Commonly known as the "Unicorn of the Sea", the Narwhal is a fascinating and unique resident of the Arctic waters around Canada and Greenland.
The Narwhal's unique appearance is due to a huge tusk, a second tooth, that grows out of the animal's top jaw. Reaching lengths of 2.5 meters and weighing up to 10 Kilograms, this 'unicorn' has no formal use and has never been seen as a fighting tools in males.
Perfectly adapted for life in the Arctic, Narwhals use echolocation to map our holes in the ice so they can reach the surface for a breath. Staying close to loose pack ice, Narwhals must be very precise in order to find enough breathing holes to survive.
Narwhals are still hunted by the Inuit people of Canada for their tusks and meat, and are especially vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change on the Arctic environment.