Water removal from Colorado River putting fish species at risk

The Colorado River Delta used to be a historically low-salinity river system that consisted of the huge Colorado River, which flowed into the Northern Gulf of California. Due to the unique freshwater conditions, ecological species evolved and adapted to the low-salinity environment, and are distinct from closely related species in the saltier estuaries in other regions of the Gulf.

However, due to invasive agriculture and domestic activities consuming much of the Colorado River water, the river is now more similar in salinity to the other estuary systems in the Gulf of California. The nature and severity of the impact of this fresh-water loss on the ecosystem and fisheries of the Colorado Delta and Gulf of California is controversial.

A new study in the journal PeerJ finds that there are risks to the unique local biodiversity of the tidal portion of the Delta that were previously unknown. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) analyzed species of silverside fish in a genus that is only found in the Gulf of California.

One species, Colpichthys hubbsi, only lives in the Delta and is on the endangered species list due to its restricted range. Through genetic and morphologic analyses, the researchers revealed that this species hybridizes along the western edge of the Delta with Colpichthys regis, a relative of C. hubbsi that is widespread throughout the estuaries in the Gulf. In earlier museum collections, no evidence of hybridization between these species was found.

While the genes from C. regis – the widespread species – were found to be common in the range of the C. hubbsi – the Delta specific species. However, there were no genes from the C. hubbsi found anywhere else in the Gulf. This shows clear evidence of gene movement in one direction between the two species, which may put the Delta species at risk of extinction as its genome is replaced by genes of C. regis.

But it isn’t just one species that is affected by this change in salinity. Other groups of fishes – as well as crabs – appear to have evolved as ecological species unable to leave the Colorado Delta’s ecosystem. These species may also be at risk.

As water extraction continues to accelerate in large river systems around the world, it is likely that the loss of ecological species in deltas and estuaries around the world is also accelerating. Although more work needs to be done to determine the exact causes of species separation, it’s clear that efforts need to be made to slow down the destruction being done to these ecosystems.

By Connor Ertz, Earth.com Staff Writer

Hundreds of turtles killed by entanglement in ocean trash

Hundreds of marine turtles are killed each year from becoming entangled in waste found in oceans and on beaches, including plastic six pack rings that are commonly used for packaging beer and soda cans.

The rise in plastic marine litter is harming turtles of all species, and a recent worldwide survey reports that 91 percent of turtles found entangled in garbage are dead. The research by the University of Exeter also finds that there is a substantially larger impact on hatchlings and young turtles.

The experts detailed serious wounds from entanglement, ranging from choking to maiming. Some of the surviving turtles were forced to drag debris along with them.

Besides plastic six pack rings, turtles are getting caught up in fishing nets, nylon fishing line, plastic packaging, wooden crates, and many other types of waste. The research is part of a growing collection that is exposing the extent of the threat of plastic pollution to marine animals.

Lead author Professor Brendan Godley says that, as plastic pollution increases, more and more turtles are likely to become entangled.

Death from entanglement has already increased substantially with both marine mammals and birds as well.

Of the 106 experts surveyed on the Atlantic, Pacific Caribbean, Mediterranean and Indian ocean coast, 84 percent said that they had found turtles tangled in waste, including plastic debris and discarded fishing gear.

Overall, the investigation showed that more than 1,000 turtles are likely to die annually due to entanglement. The researchers acknowledge, however, that this figure is likely to be a “gross underestimation” of the actual threat to turtles. Not all dead turtles get stranded on beaches and those that are stranded are not always found. For example, some turtles are taken by local people to eat.

“Plastic rubbish in the oceans, including lost or discarded fishing gear which is not biodegradable, is a major threat to marine turtles,” said Professor Godley. “We found, based on beach strandings, that more than 1,000 turtles are dying a year after becoming tangled up, but this is almost certainly a gross underestimate. Young turtles and hatchings are particularly vulnerable to entanglement.”

“Experts we surveyed found that entanglement in plastic and other pollution could pose a long term impact on the survival of some turtle populations and is a greater threat to them than oil spills. We need to cut the level of plastic waste and purse biodegradable alternatives if we are to tackle this grave threat to turtles’ welfare.”

The study is published in the journal Endangered Species Research.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: Kate Charles, Ocean Spirits

Bees improve their flower routes with experience

New research from the Queen Mary University of London reveals that bees have a strategy to find the best routes between flowers. They are constantly improving the flight paths they take and the order in which they visit flowers, according to the study.

Just like birds, humans, and other animals, bees face the challenge of finding the shortest work route that allows for all the necessary stops.

Previous studies, which examined the order that animals arrived at each destination, have demonstrated that animals often identify the most optimal course. Prior to the current study, however, it had not yet been explained how these routes are determined.

“Animals cannot simply inspect a map to find out where the best food sources are or plan how to get between them,” said lead author Dr. Joseph Woodgate.

As bumblebees set out to forage, they know nothing about the terrain and must explore the landscape. They discover the locations of food sources one at a time and then must somehow merge these memories into an organized route.

“Only by monitoring every move they make as they explore and try to generate a better route, can we understand how they tackle this challenge,” explained Dr. Woodgate.

Using harmonic radar technology, the research team tracked bumblebees as they developed routes to visit a collection of artificial flowers. The bees gradually figured out which flight paths to take to visit all of the flowers.

The experiment produced one of the largest datasets of bee flight ever recorded, along with the first-ever comprehensive look at route development. The researchers found that the movements of bees in between feeding stations are critical in understanding how animals tackle the challenge of finding optimal routes.

The study showed that the bees began flying straighter and exploring less as they gained experience. As a result, their flight path distances and the time it took for the bees to complete their routes were greatly reduced.

However, the bees never became completely dedicated to the exact same routes. The researchers uncovered evidence that suggests that they use random processes to introduce some variation into their paths, which may help them change up the order of feeding stops to test for route improvements.

“Understanding how small-brained animals like bees find efficient rules-of-thumb to accomplish complex and flexible behaviours has great potential to inform the development of artificial intelligence and advanced robots,” said study co-author James Makinson.

“It’s also important to understand how bees and other pollinating insects search for food and use the landscape is crucial to managing the risks to pollinator services posed by habitat loss and agricultural intensification.”

The study is published in Scientific Reports.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Whales could soon go extinct, report finds

North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction, according to a new report from the federal government.

Low reproduction rates, small populations, and an increase in human-caused deaths through fishing operations have all negatively impacted the whale’s chances to survive.

This news comes following a particularly tough 2017 for the whales, with 17 deaths so far and only 100 breeding females left in the entire North Atlantic right whale species. As numbers continue to dwindle, it’s time to consider the very real possibility that the whales will become extinct unless immediate action is taken.

“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for the NOAA Fisheries. “The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency.”

According to Bullard, both America and Canada need to work together to regulate fishing operations and reduce instances of entanglement, or the whales may never recover.

Entanglement takes a greater toll on North Atlantic right whales than was previously thought, which is why Bullard and other officials have called for immediate action to mitigate human interference.

A study published in the journal Endangered Species Research discovered that whales who have undergone long periods of entanglement in fishing gear are under great levels of stress and this affects reproduction long after.

According to the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History, 50 North Atlantic right whales are entangled every year, and 83 percent of all whales have had at least one instance of entanglement.

The grim reality of the North Atlantic right whale is evidenced by low reproduction rates and decreasing numbers. Policy makers will need to make the whale’s survival a priority or the species could very soon no longer exist.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Green shore crab thrives in harsh conditions thanks to its gills

A species of resilient crab is quickly invading new parts of the ocean and has been put on Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans watch list for invasive animals.

The North Sea native green shore crab is a cannibalistic predator that can survive extremely harsh conditions like low oxygen and rapid changes in water salinity.

This ability to persist in even the most unlikely of areas has baffled scientists, but now researchers have gained new insight into what gives the green shore crab its edge.

Green shore crabs can use their gills to absorb nutrients from the water. If food is low, the crab won’t go hungry thanks to this remarkable dual function in the gills.

However, this also means that the crab species is incredibly resilient to most ecosystems.

It was previously thought that the crabs were not able to soak up nutrients in the water because of their hard exoskeletons, but research has proven otherwise.

“We found that their gills, these specialized and delicate tissues that are designed for transporting things in and out of the body, are way more important than we originally thought,” said Tamzin Blewett, the study’s lead author. “While we knew that the crab gill takes up oxygen and deals with ions and toxicants in the environment, they are also being used for nutrition.”

For the study, the researchers observed green shore crabs at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island.

The observations showed that the crab’s gills absorbed the amino acid leucine through its nine sets of highly specialized gills.

The green shore crabs have made their way from the North Sea to Canada’s west coast, and according to the researchers, they are everywhere. Now, thanks to this new study, researchers have a greater understanding as to why the crabs are so adaptable to new environments.

The gills might do more than just take in food, but further research will need to be done to fully understand how the green shore crab is able to withstand such harsh environments.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

National parks, Trump and the Ghost of Teddy Roosevelt

During Teddy Roosevelt’s time as president, he was derided as being a traitor to his race and class; it’s hard to see Trump as anything but.  The one striking similarity between the presidents’ is their apparently shared love of big game hunting.  Much has been made of Trump’s moves to reduce his predecessors’ national monuments and the possibility of attempting to rescind some.  Less attention has been paid to how the standing national parks and monuments are becoming an exclusive place for the rich to vacation.

It seems obvious that lifting bans on importing game trophies such as elephants will mostly benefit the elite with money for African safari vacations.  Certainly Teddy Roosevelt was rich enough to safari in Africa and collect specimens for the Smithsonian.  Likewise Trump’s sons have taken an interest in the kingly pastime of gunning down animals.  Pictures of Eric and Donald Jr. can be found online, posing holding an elephant’s tail and together with a dead leopard among others.  The difference lies in Roosevelt’s naivety in thinking that killing of predators could help other wildlife as well as his dedication to scientific collecting.  Of course Roosevelt did enjoy the sport of killing as well but held to some code of ethics.  For Trump, what’s of utmost importance is that the rich can enjoy killing (or anything else they want) and decorate their walls tastefully with glass eyed heads.  Roosevelt also worked hard to create wildlife reserves, bird sanctuaries, National Parks and forests: the spine of American conservation.  

Trump recently reduced Bear’s Ears by 85% and Grand Staircase Escalante by 50%.  It’s unlikely Trump will completely rescind any national monument but he could try that as well.  What Trump will more likely do is make National Parks less relevant.  More precisely Trump’s secretary of the Interior, Zinke may make National Parks less relevant.  

The National Parks have a problem with the lack of visitor diversity.  As of 2016 less than 2% of visitors at Saguaro National Park were Hispanic.  To clarify, Saguaro sandwiches Tucson AZ to the east and west, a city with a population 44% Hispanic or Latino.  Only 20% of visitors to national parks in the US were minorities, despite minorities making up 40% of the overall population.

It seemed that Obama tried to make more inclusive national monuments.  Obama declared Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Stonewall National Monument and Cesar E. Chavez National Monument among many others.  These aren’t ‘wilderness’ National Monuments but monuments celebrating the history of underrepresented people in America.  Bear’s Ears was a more typical ‘wilderness’ monument and it did something else fantastic, Bear’s Ears is to be the first National Monument co-managed by Native American groups and the federal government.  This is a heritage Trump’s administration seems to take issue with.    

Now the National Park Service has proposed steep fee hikes.  The proposal would increase from $30 fees for a car at the Grand Canyon to $70 during peak season.  Fees would be hiked in 17 national parks.  Places like Joshua Tree and Yosemite along with most of the iconic western parks (and others) would become prohibitively expensive.  

The reason for the fee hikes Zinke explained, is for better park infrastructure.  I wonder how John Muir or Ed Abbey would feel about that.  For those who may not know; Muir once built a ‘cabin’ with no walls spanning a creek and happily noted frogs jumping through it.  Abbey of course opposed virtually any development in the parks.  Teddy Roosevelt didn’t even support cars in National Parks, would you drive into a cathedral?  These are the men who fought to preserve the land in the first place; why are we so quick to ignore them now?  

With the increase of park fees, it seems unlikely diversity in the parks will increase.  It seems more likely that the parks will become whiter and richer, the way Trump likes things.  With less people and only one type of person at that, there will be less resistance to further development.  I wonder how long until Forest Service and BLM Lands come under similar management plans?  Or perhaps the idea is with less people outside, more unobstructed mineral extraction.  Trump’s already looking at opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.  One wonders, if he were alive today, would even Teddy Roosevelt oppose the rule of this government?  

By Zach Fitzner, Earth.com Staff Writer

Crows fashion hooks out of wood to get food

Crows are probably one of the most recognizable birds in North America, especially considering their distinguishable loud, piercing calls.

Crows are scavengers and predators, but they are also highly intelligent and able to problem solve and even craft tools to get food in hard to reach places.

Biologists from the University of St. Andrews set out to examine how the New Caledonian crow fashions its most sophisticated tool, a stick with a hook at the tip.

The study was published in the journal Current Biology and further emphasizes the intelligence of New Caledonian crows, which are the only animals that make hooked tools in the wild.

Other species have been observed using sticks and rocks to aid them in getting food, but the Caledonian crow is the only crow that purposefully fashions the end of a stick into a hook-like shape.

Christian Rutz, the leader of the study and an expert on Caledonian crows, noticed that the hooks the crows were making varied greatly in size and shape.

This led the researchers to wonder why there was such inconsistency in how the hooks were made, and if certain shapes or styles of hooks had an advantage for getting food.

“We suspected that tools with pronounced hooks are more efficient, and were able to confirm this in controlled experiments with wild-caught crows,” said Rutz. “The deeper the hook, the faster birds wrinkled bait from holes in wooden logs.”

When it comes to making tools, there are two important factors to consider: the quality of the materials and skillset.

The more intricate hook depended on the crow that was making the tool and the kind of wood or plant material that was being used.

If the crow employed controlled skillful “cuts” with their bills, the hooks were deeper than if the crow just pulled away branches.

Even though careful cutting and shaping of the sticks leads to better hooks, the researchers found that adult Caledonia crows more often than not just stripped away branches and didn’t take time to fashion or carve the hooks.

This means that deeper hooks are not particularly advantageous in the wild.

“It probably takes more time and effort to make such tools, and experienced birds may try to avoid these costs,” said Rutz. “It is also possible that deep hooks break more easily when inserted into narrow holes and crevices.”

The study shows what goes into tool making for New Caledonian crows, and could also help paleo-anthropologists understand the evolution of tool making in humans.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Hidden genetic diversity behind disappearance of sea snakes

Across Australia, there has recently been an unexpected uptick in the disappearance of sea snakes, particularly in the highly-protected Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, protected reefs in New Caledonia, and the southern Great Barrier Reef. Researcher Dr. Vimoksalehi Lukoschek of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University set out to discover why this was occurring.

For her study – published in the journal Diversity and Distributions – Lukoschek collected genetic samples from more than 550 sea snakes around Australia. This led her to discover that there is actually a previously unknown array of genetically different sea snake populations on the Western Australia coast. “The previously unappreciated genetic distinctiveness in coastal Western Australia is critically important,” explains Lukoschek. “It means that this region is home to genetic diversity not found elsewhere in Australia. If those populations die out, then that biodiversity and potential for adaptation is lost forever.”

The reason for this sudden disappearance is still unexplained. Lukoscheck found none of the usual indicators of species disappearance, such as changes in habitat or over-fishing. “We are left with a list of other possible causes including disease, invasive species, pollution, seismic surveys or recruitment failure,” the researcher says.

Moving forward, Lukoscheck believes that there is a need for more focused research on habitat and diet requirements, disease susceptibility, reproductive biology, and the impacts of man-made processes on these sea snake populations. Furthermore, she says that conservation planners should be incorporating genetic information into their work, including identifying and prioritizing evolutionarily significant lineages.

“It’s important we investigate sea snakes in particular, as traditional conservation actions that focus on tackling common causes of species decline, such as habitat loss, may not optimize the conservation of genetic divergence and diversity in these vulnerable populations,” she says.

While further, long-term research must take place, in the short term it’s important that destructive activities such as trawling be minimized in order to reduce stress on the ecological systems in these reefs.

By Connor Ertz, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: Rick Stuart-Smith, www.reeflifesurvey.com

Why some rare species persist while others face extinction

Climate change, habitat degradation, and anthropogenic interference, have all posed a threat to already dwindling species across the globe. Ecosystems depend on biodiversity, but as climate change continues to progress unchecked, more and more species will suffer.

But some species are simply rare by nature and are somehow able to persist through the years without large populations.

What makes a species chronically rare and how do they continue to survive even in the wake of other species facing extinction?

These are the questions answered in a new paper by Geerat Vermeij from the University of California, Davis and published in the journal Ecology Letters.

Rarity, according to Vermeij, is typically associated with endangered or threatened species, but chronically rare species might have characteristics that specifically allow them to withstand becoming extinct.

Vermeij, in his paper co-authored by Rick Grosberg, a UC Davis evolution and ecology professor, examines some of the characteristics that could give rare species an advantage and guarantee continued survival.

One of the reasons that rare species can persist has to do with their reproduction. According to the authors, a species can sustain smaller numbers based on several different reproduction methods.  

These methods include fertilization that occurs inside or close to an adult, if adults are highly mobile, if they have pollinators that deliver egg cells and sperm across long distances, or if they can attract mates from afar.

“Not all species have to have many individuals close to each other for the species to survive,” said Grosberg. “The strategy for establishing viable populations is to consider how they reproduce.”

Species that don’t use these kinds of reproduction methods would not be able to recover from major population declines by the very nature of their evolutionary and biological makeup.

Grosberg and Vermeij’s work could help conservation efforts by shining a light on the little-discussed species that are chronically rare by nature. The research can also help manage and protect species who don’t have the same advantages as those that are rare.

Not much is known about rare species, and the authors call for more research to better understand how they persist and survive even while other species face steep declines.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: Flickr/prilfish

Genetic modification could manage rat populations

Science could offer a new solution to city pest problems by genetically modifying rats to be infertile or only have male offspring.

According to a new report from the Daily Mail, researchers from the University of Edinburgh have suggested make populations of rats infertile over the next two years.

Researchers in Australia have already used gene-modifying technology to help combat malaria, which is carried by insects. Many mosquito populations are now almost entirely male in certain areas which means that breeding is practically an impossibility.

Even though this has been successful with mosquitos, this is the first time that researchers will be using the method on mammals.

Rats are, of course, a nuisance in urban areas. They can spread disease and are difficult to deal with once they infest a home or area. Their population numbers also fluctuate dramatically, leading to periodic surges in city subways and streets.

The United Kingdom spends an estimated £1.2 billion each year on pest control, and in New York City, annual budgets have approved millions of dollars to “wage war on rats.”

Instead of investing thousands of dollars in rat traps and other expensive pest control options, genetic modification is a much less traumatic way of controlling the species.

“There are obvious benefits of this gene drive strategy compared to current control measures that are really quite brutal – shooting, poisoning, trapping, kind of ‘bash over the head’ techniques,” said Gus McFarlane, co-author of a study told the Daily Mail. “’It is more humane to cause a population decline with minimal animal suffering.”

The researchers suggest using CRISPR/Cas 9 which is a tool that allows scientists to edit DNA with exact precision.

CRISPR has been likened to a pair of “molecular scissors, ” and in this case, the Edinburgh researchers would specifically target fertility genes or sex chromosomes in rats.

The rats would then pass on their genes to other rats or only have male rats in the next generations which would drastically decrease rat populations.

The researchers are hoping to start trial studies on lab rats in the next couple of years.

CRISPR is not without its controversy, with some scientists urging for caution as the long-term risks of precision gene editing are still unknown.

“’We have the makings of a technology that could reduce or eliminate a pest population in a humane and species-specific manner,”  Bruce Whitelaw, a principal investigator at the Roslin Institute, told the Daily Mail. “We need more research to better understand the risks, and whether these can be mitigated, but we believe the potential benefits merit further investigation.”

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Rainy winters can shake up marine ecosystems

Last winter, the state of California experienced more rain from October to February than it had in over 100 years. Marine biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have discovered that the record-breaking season took its toll on some marine species in the San Francisco Bay.

“As you get wetter and wetter, there are fewer and fewer [marine] species that can tolerate those conditions,” said the study’s lead author, Andrew Chang.

Chang has been observing invasive species in the San Francisco area since 2000. Chang is particularly interested in aquatic animals like tunicates and bryozoans that grow on boats, docks and fishing equipment. Though some of the creatures are visually stunning, they destroy fishing nets and clog gear.

Chang has noted that some species need the salty water of the bay to survive. When a wet winter sets in and brings large amounts of freshwater into the bay, these types of organisms suffer.

Extreme changes in the climate like the years of drought in California leading up to the wet winter of 2016 are predicted to become more common with climate change. In the past, scientists have tracked how these shifting weather patterns affect certain species.

Chang and his team examined how San Francisco’s fouling community as a whole changed over 13 years of wet, dry, and average weather. The team tracked the growth of these species in Richmond Marina, a mostly saltwater marina in northeastern San Francisco Bay, beginning in 2001.

The study revealed that when bay waters remained salty during the dry years, the invasive tunicate Ciona robusta dominated. This translucent filter feeder from Asia has invaded five continents, including North America’s West Coast. Due to its rapid growth, the species is known for crowding out other species.

When wetter winters occurred, however, the Ciona and similar tunicates were unable to withstand the massive influx of fresh water, and mat-like colonial tunicates and encrusting bryozoans took over in their place.

Chang says that freshwater years reset the system, which will work to the advantage of some invasive species.

“If you’re a new invader arriving to San Francisco Bay, for example, what better time to come in than right after a wet winter has killed off most of your potential competitors?” he said.

Chang’s team observed a couple of native species that thrived in wet years as well, indicating that wet seasons could be used to benefit native species.

The study is published in Global Change Biology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Earth.com exclusive: Beef, jaguars, and the border wall

How do jaguars, hamburgers and border walls relate to each other?

Beef is usually not thought of as sustainable. Yet there has been some progress towards making beef a more sustainable enterprise.

In a world where ‘sustainable’ has become the gold standard of buzz words, we must ask, ‘Is sustainable enough?’ Is sustainable beef good for jaguars? Basically something being sustainable means that it can go on for the long term; however you define ‘long term’. Sustainable beef means it has only sustainable inputs, there aren’t finite resources being used for the creation of your hamburger. Sustainable resources are those like water and sun, resources that aren’t going to run out in the foreseeable future. Things get a little murky here though. If water is being pumped from an aquifer that fills at an extremely slow rate, it becomes a less sustainable source of water. If solar panels are made in an intensively fossil fuel dependent process, they’re less sustainable. Is sustainable enough?

Even in a truly sustainable beef production model, things don’t necessarily bode well for big predators. Long have predators been the bane of the rancher. Wolves were villainized throughout the US partly because they were blamed for cattle death. Wolves and their place in the western US is still incredibly contentious. The place of jaguars in the west is on even rockier terrain than that of wolves.

In 1963 a hunter shot a big cat which he thought was a big bob-cat; it turned out the man had killed a jaguar. The jaguar was heralded as the last jaguar in the US, the end of an era. Since that time, other jaguars have been seen crossing the US Mexico border but no evidence of a US breeding population has been found.

Some say, so what? Jaguars wander into the US occasionally and wander out. Their home is further south, not in most of North America. However, it’s hard to deny that historically the jaguar didn’t have a much larger home range, extending further into the US.

In Mexico as in the US, ranchers do not like jaguars. Jaguars have been poisoned and shot for as long as European cattle have been threatened by the big cats. One jaguar with a radio collar was burned to destroy evidence. Recently I saw hope of that changing. At a talk at a Tucson REI, the Northern Jaguar Project expounded on their relationship with ranchers. NJP has started paying ranchers for photos; photos of live predators. Jaguars caught with camera traps on ranchers land pay the most but there is also a reward for ocelots, bobcats and mountain lions. In the US the government and other organizations have offered reimbursement for predation by wolves and other protected predators. NJP however is the first example I know of with positive reinforcement. The project is small but it’s growing, trying to recruit and sign contracts with more ranchers even as they expand the size of a more traditional reserve.

North of the border there is no positive incentive for ranchers to abstain from killing jaguars. Then again, there aren’t a lot of jaguars in the US and making true of the threatened border wall won’t help anything. An almost negligible amount of beef in the US comes from Central and South America, so the hamburger you’re eating isn’t necessarily the problem. Beef isn’t the problem with the jaguar’s current situation. With climates trending warmer, there is the potential of more conflict between jaguars and American cattle ranchers, then that burger becomes something else. It’s my view that we shouldn’t be happy with keeping the world as it is but should be involved in making things better; better for jaguars as well as humans.

By Zach Fitzner, Earth.com Contributing Writer