Tag Archives: ecology

Link

Ivory Confiscated in Mikocheni – 200 Elephants Dead

While I was at the AMMUN conference in Jordan, IPP media published this article about a recent ivory haul in Mikocheni, just a few blocks from my house in Dar es Salaam. Police uncovered more than 700 pieces of ivory, “representing more than 200 tuskers killed,” according to the newspaper’s sources.

I post this link because I want you to realize that poaching isn’t just something that happens ‘out there’ in the bush. It is inherently linked to the trade and economy of Dar es Salaam, and it is happening in our neighborhoods. You probably sit next to someone who is somehow involved in poaching each time you’re stuck in one of Dar’s famous traffic jams.

Poaching in East Africa

One of my favorite things about living in Tanzania is the amazing diversity of ecosystems in this country – the grassy plains of the Serengeti, mist-shrouded slopes of volcanic mountains like Kili and Meru, vibrant coral reefs of Mafia and Mnemba islands, the waterfalls and forests of the southern highlands, and the semi-wooded savanna of the Selous all come to mind.

Mikumi savanna.  Image credit: Brad Kremer

Mikumi savanna.
Image credit: Mr Kremer

Habitat diversity like this gives rise to an incredible level of biodiversity, with a large number of endemic species found across Tanzania: Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, Pemba flying fox, the kipunji monkey of the Udzungwa Mountains, Ancistrorhynchus refractus orchids from the Kitulo plateau, plus several native chameleons such as the Usambara two-horned chameleon (pictured below) and the Uluguru one-horned chameleon. Follow this link for a more complete look at Tanzania’s Living National Treasures.

West Usambara two-horned chameleon.  image credit: http://mitschis-chamaeleons.de/

West Usambara two-horned chameleon.
image credit: http://mitschis-chamaeleons.de/

Sadly, Tanzania’s diversity is threatened by a rapidly-growing and highly-lucrative practice – poaching. Most poachers don’t kill or capture animals because they’re inherently evil people; instead, most of them do it because it’s the easiest way for them to earn enough money to feed their families. Food on the table trumps a pretty landscape pretty much every time.

But how does poaching impact Tanzania? What are the effects on the food webs in our beautiful national parks? What are the economic and social pressures on communities near these reserves to either actively participate in poaching or turn a blind eye to it? How does poaching’s links to organized crime influence local and national politics? These are the questions you should address in your next assignment – People and Poaching in East Africa: a One World Analysis.

Below, once again, is the UN document outlining the links between poaching, organized crime, and the illicit drug trade in East Africa. It’s a little dense but still pretty fascinating to read, if you ask me.

Here’s another presentation on elephant poaching, which links east Africa with the Philippines and other parts of Asia.

And lastly, check out this AFP article about a hunting group in Texas, USA, which wants to sell a permit to kill one endangered black rhino in Namibia as part of an effort to save the species. What do you think of this approach?

Video

The Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles

Biogeochemical cycles trace the movement of matter and nutrients through living organisms (“bio-“), planetary systems (“geo-“) and chemical reactions (“chemical”) throughout every part of Earth. The carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle are possibly the 2 most important biogeochemical cycles on Earth. Here are a few fun videos to help you learn about these two essential cycles in our study of life and ecology.

First, a nice explanation of the carbon cycle:

Second, a little carbon music video:

Third, click on this link to BBC Bitesize Science for a very well-thought-out activity about the carbon cycle. It incorporates photosynthesis, respiration, biological molecules, and trophic levels.

Fourth, this animated tutorial found at W.H. Freeman thoroughly explains each step in the nitrogen cycle. While not super exciting, it’s well-done and includes a brief 3-question quiz.

Fifth, CrashCourse Science at YouTube offers us this entertaining and educational video about the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles (You don’t have to know about the phosphorus cycle in this class, but it’s helpful if you take more advanced biology courses):

Ivory, Poaching, and the Drug Trade in Tanzania

Thanks to Matt Erdosy for passing this along to me, and to Neil and Liz Baker of the Tanzania Bird Atlas for their contribution. Below please find a short version of a recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which details the extent of ivory poaching in Tanzania and other east African nations. The numbers are just staggering:

  • Over the last 10 years a third of Tanzania’s elephants have been slaughtered.
  • 20 elephants were killed in the 2nd quarter of 2013 in Tanzania’s protected Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
  • One prominent Tanzanian Game Reserve and a National Park have lost 42% of their respective elephant populations over the last 10 years, amounting to a staggering count of 31,348 carcasses.
  • 10,000 elephants are killed annually (that’s 27 elephants a day, or just over one every hour!).

The rest of the report is pretty fascinating as well. It details migrant smuggling in the Horn of Africa region, heroin trafficking from Asia into Africa, and piracy from Somalia. Click on this link to read the full document, Transnational Organized Crime in East Africa: A Threat Assessment.