Happy International Day of Forests!

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Today, with the occasion of International Day of Forests, let’s take the time and review few of most important well known benefits of forests for humanity and wildlife alike, to understand importance of fighting for for their long term preservation, in their actual state, limiting current intensive exploration by governments and private companies whose only short term and narrow minded objectives are material profits to benefit few!

Forests help us breath, also clean dirty air and keep the Planet cool: Trees absorb CO2 and emit Oxygen, essential for existence of life on Earth as we know it, whereas CO2 is stored in wood, leaves and soil, often for centuries, delaying global warming and maintaining a fragile ecosystem balance! Today’s combination of high CO2 human activity emissions and cutting down forests is leading to an accelerated global warming, with its associated disasters!

Home of biodiversity: Nearly half of all known species live in forests, estimated at 80% of biodiversity on land, including bugs and worms who work nutrients into soil, bees and birds spread pollen and seeds, and keystone top of the food chain species who keep herbivores in check, protecting on long term the well-being of forest!

Water regulator, as important part of water circuit in nature, refilling aquifers and important role in fighting floods: Large forests can influence multi-regional weather patterns, for example disappearance of Congo basin forest may impact climate on American continent! Regarding floods, tree roots are key allies in heavy rain, especially for low-lying areas like river plains. They help the ground absorb more of a flash flood, reducing soil loss and property damage by slowing the flow. Forests also act like giant sponges, catching runoff rather than letting it roll across the surface, but they can’t absorb all of it. Water that gets past their roots trickles down into aquifers, replenishing groundwater supplies that are important for drinking, sanitation and irrigation around the world.

They block wind: Groups of trees can also serve as a windbreak, providing a buffer for wind-sensitive crops and making it easier for bees to pollinate them.

They keep soil in place and clean dirty soil: A forest’s root network stabilizes huge amounts of soil, bracing the entire ecosystem’s foundation against erosion by wind or water. Not only does deforestation disrupt all that, but the ensuing soil erosion can trigger new, life-threatening problems like landslides and dust storms, or desertification. In addition to holding soil in place, forests may also help cleaning out certain pollutants. Trees can either sequester the toxins away or degrade them to be less dangerous. This is a helpful skill, letting trees absorb sewage overflows, roadside spills or contaminated runoff.

They feed us and give us medicine: Some trees provide fruits, nuts and other seeds and a wealth of natural medicines. The asthma drug comes from cacao trees, for example, while a compound in eastern red cedar needles has been found to fight an infection that resists many antibiotic drugs. About 70 percent of all known plants with cancer-fighting properties occur only in rain forests. Also many other medical benefits are yet to be explored and apply in practice, but large tropical forests disappear today faster than researchers have time to fully grasps all unexplored benefits!

They help explore and relax, reduce noise pollution and stress, lower blood sugar, help with better concentration, diminished pain and improved immunity for humans: Sound fades in forests, making trees a popular natural noise barrier, with just a few well-placed trees being able to cut background sound by about 50%! And because modern society is relatively a new born in evolutionary terms, humans may still feel natural in a forest, rather than a modern urban environment, supporting a multitude of hormones and natural process to occur in our bodies, making us happier people! It may even help us live longer!

Forests are pillars of human communities and here I am not referring to 1% richest of the planet, who probably could live happily in artificial underground palaces, if needed, but to majority 99% whose well-being and survival may depend on preservation of forests, on long term. I am sure through technology the problems as feeding the large population or shelter them may be over-come, but not sure you will feel happier, so it is in our majority interest to fight for a happier and greener future!

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Happy World Wildlife Day 2018!

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To all Wildlife lovers around the world, wishing you a Happy World Wildlife Day 2018! Let’s stay connected and join efforts in making sure there are still wild places and wild animals left in the world, where they rightfully belong! Let’s admire wilderness and take action, in any way we can, every-time is needed! The wildlife is counting on you more than ever!

Urban Wildlife

Urban and Wildlife seem from the start a contradiction, same as any other antonym words. Well, not really! As per Wikipedia, Urban wildlife is wildlife that can live or thrive in Urban environments! Different types of urban areas support different kinds of Wildlife (North America is famous for its coyotes, opossums of Virginia, moose in Anchorage, alligators in Florida, India and Africa for its urban monkeys, in Australia thrive more species of urban birds and insects), whereas some urban species have a cosmopolitan distribution, in some cases almost global. They include house mice, cockroachessilverfishblack ratsbrown ratshouse sparrowsrock doves, and feral populations of domestic species.

Urban areas range from fully urban – areas having little green space and mostly covered by paving, tarmac, or buildings – to suburban areas with gardens and parks. Pigeons are found scavenging on scraps of food left by humans and nesting on buildings, even in the most urban areas, as the tall buildings resemble their natural rocky homes in the mountains. Rats can also be found scavenging on food. Gulls of various types also breed and scavenge in various coastal cities. With an endless supply of food, more city chicks survive each year, and become accustomed to urban living. They in turn breed even more birds, with less reason to undertake a winter migration. The advent of these animals has also drawn a predator, as Peregrine falcons have also been known to nest in urban areas, nesting on tall buildings and preying on pigeons. The peregrine falcon is becoming more nocturnal in urban environments, using urban lighting to spot its prey. This has provided them with new opportunities to hunt night-flying birds and bats. Numerous animals can also live within buildings. Insects that sometimes inhabit buildings include various species of small beetles such as ladybirds, which often seek refuge inside buildings during the winter months, as well as cockroaches. Bigger mammal species like the moose seem to favor vicinity of people, especially when they have small calves, as they learned the predators won’t follow them in proximity of humans!

These animals living in urban areas sometimes come into conflict with humans, as some of them will open garbage bags in search of food, eat food left out for pets, prey on unattended pets, feed on prized garden plants, dig up lawns or become traffic hazards when they run out into the road. However one thing seems to be sure, these Urban species are here to stay, thanks to their very adaptive skills, and may be around long time after people are gone!

Europe’s big cat, the Lynx

Europe’s biggest wild cat, the Lynx, is weighing anywhere between 30 Kg (the Eurasian Lynx) and 9 Kg (the Iberian Lynx) and up to 70 cm height. It is considered a national animal in the Republic of Macedonia and is displayed on the reverse of the 5 dinars coin. It is also the national animal of Romania.

The Lynx (FB profile) is native to European, Central Asian, and Siberian forests. While its conservation status has been classified as “least concern”, populations of Eurasian lynx have been reduced or extirpated from Western Europe, where it is now being reintroduced. Lynx in Britain were wiped out in the 17th century, but currently the efforts of conservation groups have intensified, to persuade locals and government to re-introduce the lynx in the wild, to naturally curb the numbers of deer and hares.

In Spain starting 2004, a government survey showed just two isolated breeding populations of Iberian lynx in southern Spain, totaling about 100 lynxes. Since then, through massive effort and protection, the population has increased today to count over 400 individuals! However this effort must continue, to assure this sub-specie survives!

The Lynx is a strict carnivore, consuming about one or two kilograms of meat every day. It feeds on a wide range of animals from white-tailed deer, reindeer, roe deer, small red deer, and chamois, to smaller, more usual prey: snowshoe hares, fish, foxes, squirrels, mice, turkeys and other birds ( Video of lynx feeding in the wild).

Do animals have feelings or emotions?

More than half of world population lives in cities today. In the developed world, the percentage is much higher! And the urbanization trend will continue and accelerate in future, as cities give more opportunities for a higher living standard, to an increasing number of people. It means also that contact with nature and other species will be limited to sporadic country-side visits, exceptional contact with urban smaller wildlife or vacations visits to shrinking national parks, for most urban people. It is not surprising that younger generation today may have lived their entire life without constant basic contact with natural state of things, with nature itself, with wildlife and even with domestic animals, on which we ultimately feed.

A book I recently read and I think it might bridge the gap (as a starting point before real nature exploration) and would like to recommend is “The Inner Life of Animals“, which based on life-long observations of author and practical science easy for anyone to understand, presents animals (both domestic and wild) as beings capable of human-like emotions and feelings (e.g. pain, grief, gratitude, courage, happiness, empathy, altruism, fear,…), to help people better understand the subject through empathy, starting to see animals not as simply food or at best “creatures that experience only pale imitations of our rich range of sensations”, but as evolutionary complex beings, each very special in each own way, deserving human protection and a place in an unaltered nature, which they have earned along millions of years of evolution, a peer we should respect and learn from!

Author’s hope, which I share, is that humans which evolved in a world full of species (first human like ape, Lucy, is aprox. 3 Mil years old), and “had to survive despite them and with them”, by learning to read the intentions of predator species, or of animals we eventually domesticated, can quickly recover those traits and re-start the way we see the nature, and ecosystem, and the other species before they disappear, and to be able to take daily educated decisions on what we eat, how we treat animals, what negatively impacts nature and ultimately us, what to consume, and why bond with nature needs to be kept, which will assure preservation of a natural state of planet with its biodiversity, support healthy and moral humanity evolution and will ultimately make us humans happier!

Enjoy the reading!

The Inner Life of Animals Amazon hyperlink

Exclusive interview with the “Big Bad” Wolf

Wildlife-Reporter: If we would have a “TIME” magazine type of nomination, you would definitely be on the cover of the 2017 edition. Not once you made the headline in Europe, you made a remarkable comeback in Greece, France, Italy, Germany and even Belgium (article example), you have been subject of conflict between wildlife protection NGOs and government in Norway, and it is 3rd year in a row when the famous Yellowstone National Park in U.S. exceeds 4 Mil tourists, where you are the main attraction!

Mr. Wolf: Usually for us attracting human attention means troubles, that is how you would explain our nocturnal habits, shy nature and illusive appearance! Nevertheless is true and there is hope, that with support of NGOs, we may take back our place in the ecosystem in Europe! But our recent comeback is rather due to abundant wild prey (after an extended period without predators) and our survival and adaptability skills, but future is far from secured, under threat by hunting, poaching, loss of habitat (including lack of natural corridors to unite our wild populations) and human transport networks, more and more developed and wildlife un-friendly! Without human society understanding and acceptance, we may lose this survival battle and we may be bound to limited spaces within ZOOs or national parks, as element of tourism industry and not as an essential part of a healthy ecosystem!

W-R: How the nick-name “Big Bad” Wolf was attributed to you and sticked for such log time?

Mr. W: Personally I prefer the nick-name “Guardian of the forest”, as it is closer to our role in the ecosystem, being on the nature’s top of the food chain, regulating the number of herbivores, which would otherwise multiply too much and would exhaust the food resources! It is a typical natural predator-prey relationship, assuring the ecosystem balance and long-term survival of predator, prey and plants! The term “Big” is rather subjective of human imagination, we are not bigger than some dogs for example, our size is perfectly suited to environment and size of wild prey we rely on, and the term “Bad” does not even find a place in nature, where as I mentioned, we all live in a balanced dependency, this is the natural state of a healthy eco-system, there is no such thing as good or bad wild animal, each has its role in the ecosystem!

W-R: Tell us more about yourself, what people should learn?

Mr. W: Our relationship with humans goes back more than 40.000 years ago, and has not always been bad. Some early humans were benefiting from our hunting skills and were often taking our prey but also some of our ancestors found in people a source of security, and they left the wilderness to be now part of human societies, these are modern day dogs, also called “human’s best friend”! But most of us continued our way in the wilderness, as we did for millions of years. We are not so different from people in certain regards, we have a complex family structure around an Alpha pair, we communicate between each-other, we defend a territory, we compete with our kind as well as other predators for food, to be able to raise our families, which, same as with humans, is our top priority, human parents can understand this!

W-R: How does a typical day in your life look like?

Mr. W: Depends really on the season! In winter we live in an extended pack format, we are more sociable and very mobile, we could easily cover 40 to 60 km in one night, as we are not bound to one place since our babies have grown and they can keep up with us. Most activity is focused on hunting, where tasks are split between team members. In a pack, as well as with help of deeper snow, it should be easier for us to make a successful hunt, but not all wild animals we encounter are being turned into food, we rely on our senses to detect certain weaknesses in our prey, mainly old age and possible diseases. With this, we may have the chance to catch our food once per week, that is a 1 in 10 chance of success! In summer, in a light pack format, we are bound to our nursery place, where we have to return after every meal we find, to feed our youngsters as well the dedicated nurse wolf assigned to take care of the cubs! And regardless of season, we are also busy protecting from other predators, or marking the boundaries of our territory to keep other packs at distance!

W-R: Did you eat the Red Riding Hood or not?

Mr. W: Continuously hunted and persecuted by people during centuries, we learned to associate the smell of people with danger, from early age, even if we never saw a human before. Therefore we run away at first human scent, normally never get close to humans. In rare case, when a wolf catches rabies, it may than get closer and bite people, or anything that comes across! Otherwise, humans have nothing to fear, wolves do not bite nor eat humans! On the contrary, it is our kind being hunted, trapped, poisoned, cursed, blamed and driven to extinction by humans! However folklore has its role in influencing humans, what is interesting is that at an early age children rather like wolves and other wild animals and nature, it is later on that their opinion changes in the opposite direction, and here people need to work more on education and keeping touch with nature in order to avoid this derail.

W-R: What about the ubiquitous accusations from part of farmers and killing of their livestock?

Mr. W: These accusations are surely over-exaggerated! Studies proved that a cow is statistically more likely to be hit by thunder, ran by a car or die from diseases, rather than being killed by a wolf. Sheep can also be easily protected by guarding dogs, very old and efficient method! Exceptions happen, and this is also human’s fault, when live-stock is left to graze in wild areas without guarding dogs, and wild prey is exceptionally rare, and when young wolves, potentially orphaned by hunters, may have to attack live-stock or face starvation!

W-R: Any wishes for 2018 and beyond?

Mr. W: Our biggest existential threat today is human misunderstanding! If people would understand our role in the ecosystem, and how the ecosystem and planet really work, we would all be able to live side by side, in harmony, as we did for millions of years! I wish therefore more understanding, peace, more wisdom and a healthy ecosystem for all to share and enjoy! And to all people fans, wishing you an excellent holiday time, together with dear ones, Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018 Year, full of good news from wilderness!

Mr W