Leatherback Turtle Nesting Ground Protected In Puerto Rico

leatherback turtle
Puerto Rico has just declared 5.4 square miles of coastline as protected land in order to preserve a leatherback turtle nesting ground, BBC reports.

The Northeast Ecological Corridor has been a battleground between conservation groups and big business for 15 years. The choice was basically between two ideas: “Hey, look at this beautiful natural wonder; let’s preserve it for low-impact ecotourism!” and “Hey, look at this beautiful natural wonder; let’s put up a bunch of luxury homes, hotels and golf courses. We’ll wreck the place but make a ton of cash!”

Luckily, the government of Puerto Rico chose correctly.

Leatherback turtles are a critically endangered species and this stretch of coastline is one of their largest remaining nesting grounds. In addition to the turtles, the Northeast Ecological Corridor is home to 866 species of plants and animals, including 54 rare, threatened, endangered and endemic species.

The area was declared a nature reserve in 2008, but that protection was taken away the next year under pressure from “developers.” In 2012 two-thirds of the area were once again named as a reserve. Now all of the area will be protected, although considering how the government has flip-flopped on this issue before, this may not be the last time we report on this issue.

[Photo courtesy Coalición Pro CEN]

Retreating Italian Glacier Reveals Dead From World War I

World War OneTwo soldiers’ bodies from World War I have been discovered on an Italian mountain, the Telegraph reports.

Workers on the Presena glacier in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of the Dolomites in Italy found the bodies at an altitude of 9,850 feet. The glacier has been receding because of an unusually hot summer and the workers were covering it with a giant tarpaulin to keep it from thawing further.

The soldiers are believed to have been from an artillery unit of the Austro-Hungarian army and were killed in 1918. The skeletons were identified by remnants of uniform and insignia. No word yet on whether they can be named.

During World War I, Italy fought against Austro-Hungarian and German forces in the bitter cold of the mountaintops. One favorite tactic was to fire artillery shells above enemy positions to cause avalanches to bury them. In other cases soldiers died from wounds or exposure and were lost. Many of these bodies have been found in later years.

From more on the Italian Front, there is an excellent website and photo collection here.

The Presena glacier isn’t the only one melting. The entire Alps is seeing less ice cover, reducing the number of ski slopes and increasing the risk of avalanches for trekkers.

[Photo courtesy German Federal Archive]

World Tourism Day Promotes Energy Awareness With Photo Contest

World Tourism Day

World Tourism Day is coming up on September 27 and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hopes to raise awareness about the role of tourism within the international community. Showing how tourism affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide, this year’s theme puts a spotlight on the role of tourism in a brighter energy future.

If the United Nations has its way that will be a future in which the world’s entire population has access to modern, efficient and affordable energy services. To raise awareness, the UN hosted a photo contest looking for pictures that captured new ideas to increase energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy and photos showing how tourism is bringing modern and clean energy to local communities.

%Gallery-166318%With a record 467 million tourists traveling in the first half of 2012, international tourism is on track to reach one billion tourists by the end of the year. That means there are one billion reasons to focus on a tourism industry committed to using energy responsibly. On cruise vacations alone, a record 20 million people took a cruise last year, an increase of almost 2 million, according to the latest industry figures.

As much of an impact as the global tourism industry has on the environment, those visiting destinations around the world can have a huge impact by focusing on being eco-friendly travelers, as we see in this video:


Snowkiting Harmful To Reindeer, Scientists Say


Snowkiting is becoming big in Norway. At first glance it looks like some extreme fun in harmony with nature. After all, you’re just zipping across the snow while being dragged by a kite. It looks environmentally friendly.

Not true, says a new scientific study. The BBC reports that Norwegian scientists have discovered the kites spook reindeer and may have a negative impact on their population.

The scientists studied the response of reindeer to skiers and snowkiters and found that the reindeer showed a much greater fright response to snowkiting. They theorize that it’s the swooping kite that scares the animals. Because the kite is visible from farther away than someone on skis, reindeer are running far away. This may limit their feeding and breeding grounds.

The study concludes that controls need to be put in place to ensure reindeer aren’t harmed by this new craze.

Scottish Wildcat May Go Extinct Within Months

Scottish wildcat
A new survey by the Scottish Wildcat Association of the endangered Scottish wildcat has revealed only about 35 purebred individuals, prompting the group to announce the cat may go extinct within months, the BBC reports.

It was previously thought that their population numbered about 400. Another survey, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and published last month, estimated about 150 breeding pairs. The Scottish Wildcat Association believes this figure is unrealistically optimistic and calls the cat “Britain’s most endangered mammal.”

Whatever the real figure, it’s obvious the Scottish wildcat is on its way out. Inbreeding, disease, and breeding with feral domestic cats threatens to eliminate the purebred species.

The Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) is found only in the Scottish highlands but once roved all over Britain. A few can be found in captivity, such as these two in the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, photographed by Peter Trimming.

Scotland is one of Europe’s wildest and most beautiful hiking destinations. If these figures prove correct, it looks like it will soon be a little less beautiful and a little less wild.