Exclusive interview with the Lion King

Wildlife-Reporter: Your Highness, we are very happy to have you! After the amazing success of 2019’s animation movie – The Lion King – we definitely nominated you the Wildlife character and image of the Year, before even the year ended! How are you doing?

The Lion King: Thank you for having me! Indeed, for a short time, as the latest version of the movie “The Lion King” was rolling in the cinemas, our species got the a lot of sympathy from people of all ages around the world! However, did you know that in reality, between the release of the first version of “The Lion King” in 1994 until now, so in just 25 years, the number of wild lions reduced in half?

W-R: How is that possible? The movie didn’t share such tragic message…I was not aware!

L.K.: Indeed most people are too busy with their daily routines… And the movie was offering only a distraction to that routine, and bit of entertainment for the young ones, but doesn’t reflect our reality…

W-R: Is the mighty Lion King losing the fight against the Hyenas?

L.K.: Far from that…another human world stereotype! In our world, as opposed to Hollywood’s virtual world, we don’t have good characters and bad characters, we are all part of the same world, lions and hyenas, zebras and other animals and plants, locked in a permanent race for survival, but somehow always in a natural state of balance – the famous cycle of life! Hyenas are only our competitors in the Savannah, but they are doing a great service to the nature and to our world, and they are not the cause of our disappearance! Animals are an easy subject of the media since they cannot protest, they can be inserted into any story as a positive or negative hero. Loss of prey species, loss of habitat, and human encroachment (agriculture and poaching) have caused our numbers to precipitously decline!

W-R: But will your fans around the world be able to help your kind?

L.K.: No doubt some of our human fans help a lot, through donations, by raising awareness of our reality or simply visiting national parks, where our kind is usually the main attraction…But we have lost already 94% of our historical range, and this is part of a bigger picture. Human world today looks rather similar with Hyenas world in the movie, where nature’s sustainable balance has been broken, there are no other species around and even the grass stopped growing! The human laws today are above Nature, serving only themselves, especially the top 1%…and another big majority, especially urban population, living in a state of “Hakuna Matata”, where good life is a guarantee and not much responsibility is desired! There is less and less room for wildlife and nature in the human world! Man is born into a world of artificially created institutions which are the only ones he considers to be objective and natural, standing apart from truly natural processes! And the impenetrable barrier only deepens between the realm of nature and culture! In this division nature is passive. It embodies irrationality, instinct and therefore primitivity!

W-R: If there was an All-Mighty Human King, what should he do to reverse the trend in a better direction, for humans, wildlife and Nature together?

L.K.: As said in the movie, the compassion is the main quality of a king, but not only, should be of each person, because change must start with each of you! A world without its biodiversity will be a different world, one of loneliness, one of suffering… even if the latest technology makes lions look very real on the cinema screen, the virtual world is no substitute for the real one! Human societies and leaders should be wiser today, think more long term, drive the change, educate others, do the right things…you have this responsibility, and you need to embrace it, as the supreme species of the Planet! Objective is to overcome the imaginary boundary between wildlife, nature and man, only this will enable a society to view nature as a place where all organisms can live together!

W-R: Is there still hope?

L.K.: There is always hope! But hoping without acting, that is dreaming! Think how you can help, set a number of objectives, learn, make some changes in your lifestyle to make it more nature friendly, influence other where you can and visit wildlife national parks, and spend more time in nature!

W-R: Thank you, Your Highness! Hope our worlds will never set apart, and we will meet again, in the African savanna next time!

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Did you know that…

scientists have tried and so far failed to recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth?

The complexity of Earth’s biosphere is illustrated by man’s inability to construct artificial, closed and self-sustaining ecosystems.  The best known and largest of these experiments was Biosphere 2. From 1991 to 1994, scientists built a 1.6 acre glass dome housing a closed ecosystem acting as a life-support system for its inhabitants. This dome included varied environments such as rain forest, desert zone, swamp, an artificial ocean, agricultural areas, and human habitat.

Eight scientists were hermetically sealed inside the dome for a first 18-month experiment. Apart from rearing domestic animals and plants, they studied ongoing changes in the artificial ecosystems. The aim was to construct a fully self-supporting and regenerating system that did not depend on the input of material or energy other than sunlight. Such systems are a prerequisite for extended space missions, where continuous supply is impossible.

Contrary to the planned use for one century, only two enclosing experiments were actually conducted. The ecological balance in Biosphere 2 became unstable. The problems were caused by small details that had been overlooked. The harvest was lower than predicted and the team faced food shortages. Bacteria introduced with the soil produced nitrogen oxides, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, while lowering the oxygen levels. Cockroach and ant populations increased unchecked, but the bees necessary for pollination died. Both experiments were terminated prematurely. It all goes to show you can’t recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth. More details and lessons learned here.

Therefore, shouldn’t we do more to protect the Earth, the only viable ecosystem we have? Contrary to latest discussions, we won’t colonize Mars or other planet pretty soon, far from it. And even if we would, majority of people will still be bound to Earth, where even more inhospitable places are far more human survival friendly than other planets known to-date.

My take, in contradiction to Stephen Hawking’s advise*, I would say: Always look down at your feet before looking up! You’d avoid falling off a cliff before you learn how to fly!

*Stephen Hawking quote: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”

biosphere_2

Bears of South Kamchatka Sanctuary – part 2

We are back in Russia, where unfortunately massive wildfires are ongoing in several regions of Siberia, at a scale never seen before, covering million of hectares of pristine forest, sparked by unusually dry weather conditions. The coverage though gets so little attention in other parts of the world, where is business as usual, with everyone out for vacations in major cities, failing to grasp the meaning of this and other climate change effects, for all of us, regardless the location…Climate change can wait, vacations not!

In Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula however bears are just preparing for another feast, in anticipation for the yearly salmon run, which as of early July, didn’t yet start! Visibly skinnier after the long winter season, the bears still put safety before hunger, when a large boar makes his appearance on this beach, that is enough to send some even adult bears up in a tree (as heavy bulk is not an issue in early summer days)! Besides, this is an excellent spot for watching both neighbors and coming salmons!

Enjoy some of the great photos taken in July 2019 at Kuril Lake, South Kamchatka Sanctuary!

The Caucasian leopard

Leopards are usually associated with exotic places like African Savannah, but in reality, this master of survival, was once common in Eurasia as well.

Today, one of the subspecies, namely the Persian or Caucasian leopard (depends on the area where can be spotted, from Northern Iran to Russia Dagestan’s mountains), is fighting for its survival. According to Wikipiedia, as of 2008, of the estimated 871–1,290 mature leopards:

  • 550–850 live in Iran, which is the leopard’s stronghold in Southwest Asia
  • about 200–300 survive in Afghanistan, where their status is poorly known;
  • about 78–90 live in Turkmenistan;
  • fewer than 10–13 survive in Armenia;
  • fewer than 10–13 survive in Azerbaijan;
  • fewer than 10 survive in the Russian North Caucasus;
  • fewer than 5 survive in Turkey;
  • fewer than 5 survive in Georgia;
  • about 3–4 survive in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Some of these countries, together with WWF, have joined forces to make a priority the survival of this magnificent wild species! You can read more on Wilderness-Society blog or WWF Armenia website on the related monitoring, educating and conservation initiatives and the progress made and the beautiful pictures captured in the wild! During our trip to Georgia and Armenia we did enjoy beautiful nature and wonderful people as well as ancient history and culture, but we did not spot the leopard. We do share with you some of our pictures taken and hope for the best outcome from the Caucasian Leopard survival projects!

Chernobyl’s accidental Wildlife Sanctuary

According to Yuval Noah Harari‘s latest book “21 lessons for 21st century“, there are 3 main risks that humanity is facing today: nuclear, climate change and technology disruption.

The first one, the nuclear risk, is recently reclaiming people’s attention with “Chernobyl“, a recent HBO production, that tells the story of the 1986 nuclear accident in former Soviet Union, one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, and the sacrifices made to save Europe from a greater unimaginable disaster.

But what is less known is that in 1988, two years after the Chernobyl disaster, a closed nature reserve, Palieski State Radioecological Reserve, was established in Belarus to isolate the most affected territory of the country. While the area will remains inappropriate for human habitation for hundreds more years, wildlife has since flourished there. The reserve hosts many rare and endangered species, which thrive here thanks to the mere absence of humans. A complete ecosystem, the reserve is now home to large predators as Brown Bears, Wolves (allegedly 7 times the number of wolves outside the  the reserve) or Lynx, as well as herbivores like Elk, Moose and prospering herds of European Bison and Wild Horses (Przewalski’s horses – released in the Zone after the accident), and rare birds as Greater Spotted Eagle and Eagle Owl and White-tailed Eagle.

More than 30 years later, the area is the nearest that Europe has to a wilderness and gives key lessons on how wildlife doesn’t need us, and how nature can recover from worst man-made disasters to its primeval state, if only allowed to do that!

Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe

Costa Brava’s successful ecological project

Spain’s Costa Brava is one of the most visited touristic place in Europe, and yet somewhere on its Mediterranean shores, through the Pletera Life Project (2014 – 2018), nature activists and local authorities (as well as European Union through its generous funding), successfully worked together in returning to nature a large area of paramount importance for the local ecosystem and its wildlife.

The salt-marshes of la Pletera harbored a series of lagoons that were drained in 1987 in order to build an almost 1 km long promenade and six apartment blocs, of which only one was ever finished. The deconstruction and restoration of the site has regenerated the coastal salt-marshes and lagoons, which are now home to more than 80 species of birds as well as other small mammals. The place attracts also many tourists which love nature, here being able to enjoy fresh air, nature’s finest songs (those of the birds), long walks, excellent biking routes, and a long list of water sports, from swimming to diving and canoe, all in a nature-friendly way!

For me this is a great example that nature still has a place in today’s social and economic reality, and through understanding and willingness we can contribute into restoring nature and wildlife to their lost habitats! Others places and its people and authorities should follow the example! Kudos to all that made this happen!

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Debate over the future of Wildlife

Dear Readers and Wildlife lovers,

I would like to launch a debate over the future of Wildlife, by the means of this blog, and I encourage all of you to express a personal opinion by commenting on this article! The topic is:

In the light of today’s reality, should humans use the latest advances in bio-technology and genetics to “resurrect” some extinct species?

When I say “today reality” I make reference to IPBES‘s latest 2019 report: “Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’ Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating” and when I say “using technology to resurrect extinct species”, I can recommend reading Torill Kornfeldt‘s (science journalist and author) findings on the topic, described in her “The re-Origin of Species” book, which I would encourage reading in detail.

But to summarize, IPBES’s report is of utmost concern, “from 8 million species of plant and animal species on Earth, up to 1 million are threaten with extinction within decades, at the current accelerated rate of extinction, which is tens to hundreds of times higher compared to average over the last 10 million years”!

Then, shall humans use science and technology to bail us out, and “resurrect” most important species to the environment? Using Torri’s example, mammoths were useful in maintaining the Siberian permafrost, by removing trees or snow in large areas of land when searching for food, which would be very useful today in combating global warming, and saving this way many present marine species! But scientists may never be able to re-create a 100% genetically identical mammoth, but could be within reach of creating a whole new species of elephant, resistant to cold weather, which could be relocated to Siberia, and perform the natural role that the mammoth was performing 10.000 years ago?

The re-Origin of Species

What is your view on this? Let’s kick-start the conversation!