New National Park In The Congo Will Protect Lowland Gorillas

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is hailing the creation of a new national park in the Republic of Congo as a major step towards protecting western lowland gorillas. The park, which was officially created on December 28 of last year, is believed to be the home of more than 15,000 of the creatures, which have been on the “critically endangered” list for many years.

Located in the northern region of the country, the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park spreads out over 1765 square miles. The interior of the forest is said to be so dense that explorer J. Michael Fay, who spent 455 days walking across the region back in 1999, once called it a “green abyss.” The lush rainforest is the perfect place for the gorillas to make their home, however, and they share the new preserve with an estimated 8000 elephants and nearly a thousand chimpanzees – two other species who face extinction as well.

Because the park is still so new, there isn’t a significant tourism infrastructure built up around the destination just yet. But the region is home to a number of small villages and towns, which hope to see a boost to the local economies in the future. Tourism dollars have been used effectively in nearby Rwanda and Uganda to not only improve conditions for the people that live there, but also fund conservation efforts for gorillas and other animals.

When the WCS visited the Republic of Congo back in 2008 they were surprised to find a population of 125,000 gorillas living in remote regions there. But the species continues to come under threat from increased deforestation, illegal poaching and the Ebola virus, which has been known to decimate gorilla populations. The creation of this new park should help ensure that the lowland gorillas that live there will have a measure of protection for the future.

[Photo Credit: Fred Hsu via WikiMedia]

World’s most eco-friendly beaches to visit now

If your idea of heaven isn’t a beach packed with crisping bodies, balls of crude, or the lingering whiff of raw sewage, don’t worry. CNN has provided a list sandy idylls that retain their purity, even though a few, like Oahu’s Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, are major tourist attractions, or located in tourism hotspots. Not surprisingly, most of these places are located on preserves or otherwise protected land, or are so isolated, they’re spared the excesses of humanity.

Other top picks include Whitehaven Beach in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands, Koh Libong in Trang Province, Thailand, and Oregon’s Oswald West State Park, as well as locations in South and Central America, and Europe. Best of all, there’s something for almost everyone on this list, as accomodations range from off-site luxury, to nearby camping and mid-range beach bungalows and guest houses (due to remote location, prices are somewhat jacked up). Small price to pay for a slice of paradise.

[Via Mother Nature Network]

A Ranch in Texas that Welcomes Visitors – Part One

One of the subjects I write about for magazines is where to go to enjoy nature. One of the places I included in an article about native plants in Ohio was the Highlands Sanctuary. This is a privately owned preserve in the southern part of the state that welcomes visitors.Here’s a post from my Blogging Ohio days that highlights it’s charms.

I recently found out about another privately owned preserve. This gem is in Texas. Visitors who make advance arrangements are welcome. Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve is a working ranch, but the aim here is also to nurture the land and foster an appreciation for it in others. Due to the efforts of David Bamberger, the owner, the 5,500 acres (this is the largest private restoration project in Texas) visitors can take in fishing, bat viewing, dinosaur track fossils and a herd of Scimitar-horned Oryx . These animals aren’t from Texas, but from Niger and Chad, Africa. The reason they’re here is because Bamburger offered to operate a captive breeding program to reestablish endangered species.

Along with making arrangements to visit the ranch, there are special events and public tours. One workshop this coming September is a land stewardship workshop in case you want to buy your own plot of heaven to nurture and protect the environment. For people who want a longer stay there are two cabins to rent. One is made of recycled materials from other buildings and the other is a replica of a general store. The more I read about this place, the more I want to head here.

There are two other ranches in Texas where individuals have used their passions to offer visitors an unusual get-a-way. One is the Benini Sculpture Ranch. The other is Reimer’s Ranch Park. You can go to all three ranches in a day. I’ve been to this part of Texas. For a city fix, head to Austin; it’s close-by.

When Patrons get Pooped On

With waterfront property at Long Beach, California, one might think the restaurant Schooner or Later had it made in the shade. It’s the shade that actually was causing problems. Blue herons loved the palm trees that used to shade Schooner or Later’s patio. As birds are known to do, they relieve themselves and that was the problem. Folks eating out on the patio were getting pooped on. There was a article about this back in September on MSN. The story wasn’t just about the restaurant, but about the blue heron population that is finding a hard place to live since development has encroached on so much of its habitat. Therefore, the palm trees that line the beach are perfect if you happen to be a heron.

Today, the story was a Day to Day segment. For awhile, the owner of the restaurant had been trying to get permission to move the four trees that shaded his patio. He didn’t get permission, but someone cut back the trees anyway. Even though it was the landlord who cut the trees, the owner’s pleased. I’m sure the people getting pooped on are pleased as well. According to some, however, this is an example of nature conservancy and tourism being at cross purposes. The blue heron used to be considered endangered and there is worry blue herons may become endangered again if their nesting places keep disappearing. If you want to see a heron habitat that’s protected, head to Morro Bay State Park that includes the Heron Rookery Natural Preserve.

Spring Equinox Ritual Celebration

As I’m blowing my nose, yet again, wondering when this cold might end, and lamenting that yesterday’s 70 degrees and sunny has turned into today’s blustery grey complete with snowflakes, I’m thinking, “I could really use some spring renewal.”

I came across an event that would do just that. At Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in southwestern Wisconsin, the Welcome Spring Festival, March 24, is a tribute to the Spring Equinox. This is a child-friendly event with crafts, nature walks, egg hunts, house-cleaning rituals and shared food. It sounds homey and nurturing which I think is the point.

The Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve is not open for public use on most days, but during festivals, everyone is welcome. You do need to register. The sanctuary, on 200 acres of forested hills is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to nature preservation and healing. If you’re interested in finding out more information about the sanctuary and other spirit gatherings the website has much information.