Half of Africa’s wildlife at risk for extinction

Environmental news just keeps getting more and more discouraging.  Today, I read the following on the BBC:

The actions of mankind could lead to the extinction of half of African birds and mammals by the end of 2100, a UN-backed study has said.
The report conducted by 550 experts from around the world said reduced biodiversity could affect people’s quality of life.
It also found 42% of land-based animal and plant species in Europe and Central Asia have declined in the last decade.

The study said the main causes of the decline are due to climate change, pollution, and deforestation.  In other words, problems we can reduce with our actions.

Climate change is the biggest worry, as no amount of action can stop the near future threats of rising seas and extreme weather (such as periods of drought or terrible storms).  But, the hope is countries will take steps to prevent the problem from getting even worse.

If we had enough leadership and support, we could reduce deforestation and pollution quickly.  Sadly, countries like Brazil have reversed some protections for rainforests in the past year.  Palm oil plantations in countries like Indonesia continue to grow at a rapid rate.  The USA is reducing environmental protections and promoting increases of funding for the coal industry and oil exploration.

It may seem like the individual has no effect, but I firmly believe that’s not true.  Continue to be an example for others by being as environmentally friendly as you can.  Continue to learn about the issues and let companies and politicians know you care.

Today will mark the March for Our Lives in Washington.  The students from Parkland have changed the conversation on gun control in just one month.  So far, the political action has been small, but their voices are being heard and I think it is inspiring to see how a small group of vocal students have created a nationwide movement.

Perhaps we can join their generation in changing the conversation about environmental issues too.



My picture: March for Science last year in my home town



Very disappointing news shared by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:

USA lifts ban on elephant trophy imports

In another twist in the trophy hunting debate, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced that it is withdrawing its ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia with immediate effect. Instead, permits will now be granted to hunters on a ‘case-by-case basis’. A number of other decisions made previously under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are also being overturned.

The ban on importing trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia was put in place under the Obama Administration in 2014 as a measure to protect elephants, after evidence showed that hunts in these countries did not enhance conservation efforts. The current US Administration first tried to lift the ban in November 2017, but a subsequent global backlash forced President Trump to put the decision on hold, pending a further review.

Though USFWS remained tight-lipped on any formal decision, Trump indicated at the time that the ban would remain in place, calling trophy hunting a ‘horror show’ and the attempt to overturn the ban ‘terrible’.

Yet, just a few months later, here we are again, with the US Administration lifting the ban to allow imports, this time on a case-by-case basis – appointing itself as judge, jury and executioner to elephants.

This latest announcement comes as a disappointing u-turn and one that could lead to the killing of more innocent elephants by US hunters.

Rhinos in trouble

IMG_5864There are only three Northern white rhinos left in the world, and sadly, the one male is gravely ill.  He is forty-five years old and is facing death due to natural causes.  The hope of a naturally conceived rhino is now slim to none, so scientists are trying to see if in-vitro fertilization is an option or if cross-breeding with another species of rhino is possible.  The loss of the northern white rhino will follow the loss of the western black rhino, which became extinct seven years ago.

The three remaining northern white rhinos are under heavy armed protection at all times.  While Asia has made strides at reducing the demand for elephant ivory the past few years, rhino horn is still being sold in many open markets in countries like Vietnam.  Misinformation that rhino horn treats disease such as cancer has made prices soar.

All rhino species are in danger, and organizations such as Save the Rhino are doing the best they can to educate, inform, and raise awareness.  Some fundraising has been creative – for example, last year Tinder named the Northern white rhino male as the most eligible bachelor in the world.  But, rhinos do not share the same prestige as elephants (which have been featured in countless fables, children’s stories, art, religious imagery, etc), and it has been more difficult to get the public to rally to save rhinos or to open their wallets for the cause.

(photo taken at my zoo)



Korean food

I enjoyed watching the Olympics, and travelled in spirit to Korea by looking up recipes and videos on how to make Korean food.

I went to the international aisle of my supermarket and found a great variety of Korean supplies like red pepper paste, noodles, and kimchi.  The great thing is I found brands that use natural ingredients (no MSG!).

I’ve had a variety of Asian cuisine (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Thai) but have never tried Korean.  I must say I think it has become my favorite!  I think it’s because I like spice but I’m not a huge fan of salt, which dominates fish sauce and soy sauce.

These Korean dishes do not use either.

IMG_6741Some supplies I found at the supermarket, full of flavor but low in sodium.


Korean fried rice – kimchi is stir fried and then add cooked rice and red pepper paste, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and toasted nori.  Delicious.

IMG_6743Cold spicy somen noodles, with similar ingredients and topped with cucumbers, spring onions, and hard boiled egg.  I really liked this one.

IMG_6742Korean rice bowl, my favorite one…steamed veggies and bean sprouts, fresh cut cucumbers and spring onions, kimchi, egg, nori, and red pepper paste all on top of steamed rice.  Top with roasted sesame seeds and drizzle with sesame oil.  So healthy, and yet so good.  Traditionally, you’d fry the egg, but I just used the other half of the hard boiled one I used earlier.


Korean pancakes – I used kimchi and sprouts to make these, but other ones to try include zucchini or potato.

check out maangchi videos online www.maangchi.com for your own inspiration.

Why I like Obama’s Portrait


Photo: ABCNews

The official portraits of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald have been revealed.

At first, I liked them but thought, “Those are the official portraits, to be in the gallery? I don’t know how I feel about that – they’re so….modern!”  Then I remembered we are in the 21st century and I should not be expecting more of the same…in fact, I should be embracing something new.

So, here are my thoughts on the Barack Obama portrait.

It is fresh.

He is in a flower garden, which is fresh and fragrant and alive.  He is not inside by a stack of books, which would showcase the past.  He is in the present moment.

It is vibrant.

Look at the diversity and colors of flowers.  America is diverse and colorful, and this portrait seems to be saying that is beautiful.  And if you plant seeds and care for them, beautiful flowers will grow and blossom.

Also, when you visit the gallery, guess which Presidential portrait will appeal to children?  The colorful, vibrant one – the future generation will be choosing this version of America.

He is an outsider.

The President is not inside the White House like past Presidents.  He is an outsider.  But, he’s sitting in contemplation.  (And, he’s been there a while, as the flowers are not crumpled from his footsteps.) There’s a feeling that even though he doesn’t have history physically surrounding him, we as viewers can see him thinking about everything that has happened in the office, and what his role will be in history.

There’s a wall.

A wall of flowers.  No bricks, no stones, no glass.

Here’s the image, to be displayed in the great hall: a man looking strong but kind in front of a wall of flowers.  It’s pretty great.

I then listened to the artist talk about the work, and discovered the meaning of each flower in the painting.  I highly recommend going to YouTube and watching the video of the unveiling.










Influential Conservationist Killed

Sad news featured on BBC today:

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.
The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.

An influential conservationist, Martin was fearless in his pursuit for truth and justice.  He traveled to a China, Laos, Vietnam, and other locations posing as a black market dealer, taking secret photographs of ivory whilst in the presence of gang members.  He was instrumental in providing accurate reports of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade to the UN and conservation groups, and gets a lot of credit for pushing China to ban ivory.

A US citizen, he first went to Kenya in the 1970s to begin his reports to combat the rise of ivory trading.  He died there in his home, likely the unfortunate victim of robbery rather than a premeditated revenge killing.

Tributes from groups like Save the Elephants have been released in the press and on social media.





Arctic Drilling

IMG_5453Photo: sea lion at my zoo

With the earthquake this morning (a 7.9 magnitude), I was reminded of yet another reason I oppose drilling in the Arctic.  The Trump administration is determined to open up this vast area for oil exploration and extraction.

Here are some reasons to oppose it:

1. Oil Spills

The US government itself estimates that there is a 75% chance of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if it is opened to offshore drilling.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico spill, the remote location and ice will greatly complicate the clean up.  In fact, there is no proven method for cleaning an oil spill off an icy landscape.

2. Animals

An oil spill would be disasterous for wildlife.  But, development will hurt animals too.  197,000 caribou migrate to their calving grounds.  Migratory birds, sea lions, seals, wolves, polar bears, and more call this area home.  Building rigs requires building transport routes and human settlements, undoubtedly causing disruption.

3. Environmental impact everywhere

World scientists are trying to limit average global warming to 2 degrees C.  Drilling in the Arctic will make it  nearly impossible to meet the goal.  Rising sea levels will affect all areas, so if you’re living in Miami you should still care about the great white north.

4. Technology

I was shocked to see a few minutes of CNBC – the stock channel – and hearing them saying they were opposed to drilling in the Arctic and on US coastlines.  If anyone was for it, I would think it would be those looking to make a quick buck.  But, the commentator explained that new technology used by companies like Halliburton have made drilling in current locations very profitable and efficient.   It is possible to have a surplus of production without drilling in new areas.  He believed the long term costs of opening vulnerable areas to drilling would far outweigh any benefit, and hurt our economy in the future.