3 Reasons Timorese Women Aren’t More Involved in Conservation Efforts

This blog is the third post in Human Nature’s new “Gender + Conservation” blog series; read previous posts.

women in Timor-Leste

Robela Mendes, a local leader In Com, Timor-Leste. Among other projects, she is working to start a community garden at this site to improve food security for the families of these and other women. (© World Wildlife Fund, Inc. / Tory Read)

Sitting at a seaside guesthouse in Com, a small community in Timor-Leste, I watched the moon rise over the ocean. Tiny lights began to flicker along the shoreline as women waded in the shallow waters of the reef flat, collecting crabs, octopus and sea urchins and using baskets woven from palm leaves to catch small fish.

Women in Timor-Leste interact with nature on a daily basis, but as the owner of the guesthouse, Robela Mendes, explained to me, women have a different relationship with natural resources than men. “It is important to get women involved in conservation, because they use natural resources too.”

It was the end of my research project, and I was about to return to Dili armed with stories and inspiration from the women of Nino Konis Santana National Park (NKSNP). Continue reading

Once a Marine Protected Area Is Created, What Happens Next?

You might not think travelling throughout the South Pacific sounds like hard work. Don’t tell that to Kevin Iro.

(© Conservation International/photo by Toby de Jong)

Kevin Iro, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna and CI President Russ Mittermeier walking on a Cook Islands beach in 2012. (© Conservation International/photo by Toby de Jong)

Over the past two years the former rugby star has been island hopping through the palm-tree studded, turquoise coasts of the Cook Islands, but not as a tourist. Iro has been visiting remote villages — some many hours by boat from the capital of Rarotonga — collecting information from community members that will shape the world’s second-largest marine protected area.

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Local Efforts, Global Change: Sustainable Agriculture in South Africa

A flower field in Succulent Karoo. (© John Martin)

A flower field in Succulent Karoo. (© John Martin)

Stretching from Namibia down the west coast of South Africa, the Succulent Karoo is a vast, semi-arid desert with sweeping vistas, mountain ranges, ancient rock formations, wild coastlines and clouds of stars arching overhead at night.

This is big sky country. At the time of my visit in May, it was difficult to imagine how this dry, rocky landscape transforms after the winter rainfall, when many of its 6,300 plant species blossom in a colorful explosion of wildflowers.

In the heart of this area is Namaqualand, where people depend on the landscape for their livelihoods. They graze their goats and sheep in areas historically grazed by herds of wildlife like antelope. The landscape is accustomed to grazing, and people have shaped their way of life around it.

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Conservation Tools: Satellites Sound Fire Alarm in Tropical Forests

This is the latest post in Human Nature’s “Conservation Tools” blog series, which spotlights how cutting-edge technology is helping scientists explore and protect the natural world.

A burning forest in Madagascar. (© Haroldo Castro)

A burning forest in Madagascar. (© Haroldo Castro)

At the new national park in Madagascar’s remote Baly Bay, villagers convene for an unusual festival.

At this annual event hosted by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the villagers wait for the announcement of the winners of a yearlong competition. For this contest, villages are scored on the number of fires that broke out within their assigned zones and how effective their communities were at responding and controlling fire spread.

How do the villagers know when and where to respond to a fire in a 1,000 square-kilometer (almost 400 square-mile) area in and around the national park? They’re using intelligence from NASA satellites, via technology created by CI.

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When We Explore the Deep Sea, We are Exploring for Our Own Survival

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post as part of TED Weekends.

A diver explores the sea grass bed in Honduras. (© Joanne-Weston)

A diver explores the seagrass bed in Honduras. (© Joanne-Weston)

In 1953, on the heels of a discovery of a second coelacanth specimen in the Comoros Islands off Madagascar’s coast, J.L.B. Smith, the man who described the species, wrote in the Times of London: “We have in the past assumed that we have mastery not only of the land but of the sea… We have not. Life goes on there just as it did from the beginning. Man’s influence is as yet but a passing shadow. This discovery means that we may find other fishlike creatures, supposedly extinct still living in the sea.”

Unlike the coelacanth, which was thought to have gone extinct, we have known for centuries that giant squid have existed in our oceans’ depths. But unable to observe them alive in their deep sea home, we have understood very little about how they live, where they live and how they behave. 

That is, until 2012, when Drs. Edith Widder, Steve O’Shea and Tsunemi Kobodera filmed the elusive and mysterious giant in its natural deep-sea habitat for the first time — a landmark moment in ocean exploration and an example of how technology and ingenuity can overcome the monumental challenges we face in exploring the deep. But it is a drop in the vast ocean-sized bucket of amazing discoveries waiting to be found.

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8 Nature Books You Should Read This Summer

It’s summertime again in the Northern Hemisphere, a season when millions of people journey to the nearest beach or mountain in search of a break from everyday life. It’s also a time that we all seem to read more — or, if nothing else, we talk about reading more. So why not combine these two forms of escape in one?

ghost crab, Costa Rica

Ghost crab on a Costa Rican beach. (© Piotr Naskrecki)

Building off the popularity of last year’s summer reading list (as well as our winter one), here are eight more nature-themed books from CI staff.

1. “The Drowned World (J.G.Ballard)

Ballard is a British novelist (actually born in Shanghai) who became famous with “Empire of the Sun.” “The Drowned World” is his first novel, and my personal favorite. He published it in 1962, when people did not talk much about climate change yet. The story takes place in the 21st century, when “fluctuations in solar radiation have caused the ice-caps to melt and the seas to rise. Global temperatures have climbed, and civilization has retreated to the Arctic and Antarctic circles. London is inundated by a primeval swamp, to which an expedition travels to record the flora and fauna of this new Triassic Age.”

I hope this science-fiction piece continues to be seen as science fiction in years to come; it reads incredibly plausible and realistic nowadays.

–      Fabio Scarano, senior vice president of the Americas field division

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Urban Jungle: Restoring Rio’s Water Supply

This is the latest post in Human Nature’s “Urban Jungle” blog series. Read previous posts. 

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

View of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second-largest city. (© Jeff Gale)

Over the last month, millions of fans from all over the world looked toward Brazil, as teams from 32 countries and four continents have been battling for the title of 2014 World Cup champions.

This Sunday, the city of Rio de Janeiro will once again stage the final match— the first time since 1950. Back then, thousands of spectators reacted in astonishment when Brazil lost to Uruguay in the final match. This week, my generation experienced the same feeling after the seven goals scored by the German team in the semifinals. Sunday’s match will therefore be a stage for either the Germans or Argentineans to shine — may the best team win!

The city of Rio has changed a lot throughout the years. In the ’50s, the city was still the capital of Brazil (it’s since been moved to Brasilia) and its population was approximately 2 million. Today, this number has tripled.

During the last World Cup held in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro was in the midst of an urban revolution, with the opening of new avenues and construction of modern buildings downtown. The lack of water, however, was already a critical problem for the city due to deforestation in urban areas and a poor distribution system, and even inspired the lyrics of one of the most popular Carnival songs: “Rio de Janeiro / city that seduces us / during the day lacks water / during the night lacks energy.”

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Exploring Gender Roles in Africa’s Largest Rainforest

Kame Westerman with Madam Odette, one of the participants in a recent gender workshop in the DRC. (photo courtesy of Kame Westerman)

Kame Westerman with Madam Odette, one of the participants in a recent gender workshop in the DRC. Madam Odette runs a local organization that focuses on gender equality and providing family planning to villages near the park. (photo courtesy of Kame Westerman)

This blog is the second post in Human Nature’s new “Gender + Conservation” blog series; read the previous post.

One by one, the men and women stood up and rattled off a list: “Beans, sweet potatoes, peas … also sorghum.”

I was sitting on a hard, thin wooden bench in a dimly lit concrete room. Afternoon sunlight streaming in through holes near the roof provided enough lighting to display the crowd of men and women from the nearby village who had eagerly come to this meeting. “And the men,” they continued, “they are responsible for bananas, sugar cane, potatoes.”

I had come to visit a small village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) near the border of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage SiteContinue reading

Gender + Conservation: A New Blog Series

This is the first post in Human Nature’s “Gender + Conservation” series. Read other posts in the series. 

Men and women use natural resources in different ways. In coastal Madagascar, for example, men fish in carved out wooden boats, while women harvest octopuses from the reef flat.

woman in Madagascar

Young woman in Madagascar. (© Cristina Mittermeier)

Understanding those differences, and the roles that men and women play in natural resource management and decision-making, is key to ensuring that their unique uses of resources are taken into account, and that conservation efforts will benefit everyone.

But what does it mean to incorporate gender into a conservation project or program? What does a “gender-integrated” project look like? At CI, we are working closely with our staff around the world to find out. Continue reading

4 American Conservation Stories to Celebrate

Friday is the Fourth of July, an American holiday that celebrates the independence and birth of the nation. It’s a day when people in the U.S. look back to remember all the things that make them proud to be American.

bald eagle, Alaska

Bald eagle in Alaska. (© Conservation International/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn)

In honor of the holiday, here are four monumental conservation efforts by the people and government of the United States — just a few inspirational conservation victories among many that have occurred.

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