Trophy hunting is a controversial topic in the conservation world. Die-hard animal huggers oppose it because it promotes unnecessary killing of animals. Hunting enthusiasts tout the values of conservation and preservation – values held by people like Teddy Roosevelt – that are part of the culture that surrounds sport hunting. This blog is intended to break down some of the less obvious aspects of trophy hunting that make it such a gray area.
Many of America’s natural spaces owe their existence to hunter-led conservation efforts, especially the Boone and Crockett Club founded by Teddy Roosevelt in 1887. As environmentalism became more mainstream in the 1960’s and 70’s, it also began to acquire an awareness of the ability for humans to seriously damage natural resources. Now, trophy hunting may seem like a relic of the past to some, even while it is still a significant activity in many parts of the world, including the US.
In most places today, trophy hunting works on the basis of “if it pays, it stays”, referencing the ability for hunting revenues to be used to bolster conservation efforts. An American hunter recently gained international attention for hunting the national animal of Pakistan, the markhor. Approximately 12 people per year pay six figures for a permit to hunt these impressive creatures, and 80% of the revenue goes back to local communities. This last part is key because it enables the community to buy into the conservation efforts and really understand the value of preserving this species. Community buy-in means better adherence to the laws, better enforcement at a local level, and the creation of a shared identity around conservation of local resources. In Pakistan, the goat hunt is better managed than before because the villagers have a clear understanding of how conservation benefits them.
Programs like Pakistan’s goat hunting might actually just be a different sort of ecosystem-based management and social development. If you include humans in the ecosystem as top predators, then this is a remarkable way to make sure that villages who are the stewards for these animals are able to receive the most benefit from each kill. Before, a hunter might just use the meat to feed their family, but now the animal is able to provide clean water, sanitation services, education opportunities, and improved conservation programs and adherence.
In the Nyae Nyae community-run Kalahari Desert reserve in Namibia, trophy hunting of elephants is used to fund anti-poaching efforts and local communities. Each trip costs approximately $80,000, and the majority for the money goes to community improvement and conservation funds. The hunter takes the trophies, and the meat feeds the local San villages.
Putting economic value to animals – if it pays it stays – is similar to other conservation movements happening around the world, like carbon offset shares. It might be a different way of looking at conservation, and far from more mainstream protection schemes, but there are many ways to reach the shared goal of maintaining biodiversity on every scale.
While trophy hunting might make logical sense as the paying part of larger conservation strategies, it is still extremely hard to stomach for many people. Some of the people who participate in trophy hunting aren’t concerned with conservation, and sometimes it might seem as though animal welfare is unfamiliar territory for them. Reconciling blood and gore with species salvation isn’t a natural reaction, and many people feel forced to take a stance. This was illustrated in the aftermath of Cecil the lion’s death. People were upset and disgusted that anyone would kill a lion that we knew so much about, and it brought to light the very different mindsets on either side of this debate. For people who hunt, conservation is a way to ensure that the sport, and the wildlife that support it, is able to exist into the future. For people who are against hunting, conservation usually means eliminating hunting altogether. For anti-hunters, Cecil’s death brought to light the ugly parts of hunting and generated all the right kinds of attention for their vision of conservation.
Some biologists and activists are standing ready to tear the pro-hunting argument apart. Some point out the loss of habitat as a growing concern, and one that can’t be remedied by hunting efforts. In British Columbia, trophy hunting of grizzly bears was recently banned in response to missed conservation goals. While trophy hunting may have been contributing to local economies, it was also leaving conservation efforts understaffed and underfunded because managing the hunt required so much time and energy. In some places, even the financial benefit of hunting fees is called into question because they can’t always be traced to effective conservation efforts and instead might be taken up by inefficient bureaucracy or corrupt officials. In some places, there just aren’t enough animals left to sustain a hunt.
The right answer isn’t obvious, but it also might not be our debate to have. Some people criticize the hunting-antihunting debate as a form of neocolonism, where Western countries try to dictate wildlife management to their benefit in other, often African, countries. Still others point out that while antihunting activists have been busy shouting, hunters have been contributing millions to African economies and conservation actions. This isn’t an easy issue to talk about, and it won’t be an easy agreement to reach. The important thing to remember is that most people who engage with this issue, no matter which side of the debate they stand on, care about protecting these species and the habitats they rely on. As long as we keep that goal in mind, work with local communities to incorporate their needs and strategies, and use solid, evidence-based decision-making, together we can enjoy thriving wildlife around the globe.
Conservation Made Simple
Cover image: Brent Stapelkamp, National Geographic
Karin Larsen, CBC News. B.C.’s grizzly bear conservation strategy failing, according to new report
Michael Paterniti, National Geographic. Trophy Hunting: Should We Kill Animals to Save Them?
Marc Silver, NPR. A U.S. Hunter Paid $110,000 To Shoot A Pakistani Goat.
WOOP WOOP!! Today marks one year of being a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are extremely excited! This last year was filled with many great memories, challenges, and accomplishments, and we have come out stronger and farther along than any of us had expected. We launched our first official program: Visual Ballads, conducted six booth events over the summer at the Sail-in Cinema in Everett, and started plans for seven programs, three projects, regular events, and an in-depth YouTube channel and podcast! We are beyond grateful for everyone who has followed us along this journey through our social media or newsletter, and for those who have donated to our mission. Although I could go on and on about what the last year has brought, how thankful I am for all your support, and what is to come this next year, I would like to dedicate this post to the people who have made all these wonderful things happen. Conservation Made Simple would not be growing at the rate it is if our team didn’t put blood, sweat, and tears into this organization day in and day out. Keep reading to meet them!
President and Founder
Hello! My name is Cameron Winkler and I am the founder and president of Conservation Made Simple! I live in Snohomish, Washington and keep myself very busy with Conservation Made Simple and running two businesses on the side. Conservation Made Simple is such an incredible opportunity to create a positive impact on the world around me and allows for a chance to unite like-minded people who desire to make conservation work their main goal in life! I thoroughly enjoy getting to work with this amazing crew of passionate people and look forward to seeing this organization grow to add more changemakers to the team. Outside of CMS, I enjoy being an entrepreneur in multiple endeavors, filming, hanging with friends, and being heavily involved in my local church. I plan to make CMS my future and I can’t imagine it any other way!
Hi! My name is Isabel Quimby and I am the Vice President of CMS. I currently live in Bellingham, Washington and I am in school studying environmental education and sustainability at Western Washington University. CMS has been a place for me to connect with passionate, hardworking individuals and work towards a common goal of creating a healthier planet. In my free time I love to scuba dive, make art, and experiment in the kitchen with unique plant-based recipes. My hope is to create a career that supports my environmental conservation endeavors as well as open a business in the near future where I can sell my art.
Ahoy! My name is Ryan Taisey and I am the Treasurer of CMS. I live in Everett, Washington, on a boat with my beautiful wife and four wonderful kids! I am currently working multiple jobs and running a photobooth business to one day support my family as we sail around the world! We are so excited to supply unique stories and photos to CMS while we circumnavigate the world from our sailboat home. Every day I look forward to bringing my experience in finance and sailing to the CMS team.
Hello! My name is Jack Holmes and I am the Secretary of CMS. I live in Seattle, Washington, while pursuing a degree in Biology at Seattle University. What excites me about this organization is the ability to explore my passion for environmental sustainability and wildlife preservation/protection through education and outreach. I think it is important to be aware of our (human) impact on the environment and how current practices cannot be sustained for generations to come without intervention. Outside of CMS, I enjoy running for long periods of time, making musical sounds with my voice, population genetics and conservation biology, eating plants, capturing moments and/or moving images with various photographic devices, and pondering my existence on a daily basis. I am hoping to become a science teacher in the future!
Head of Environmental Programs
Hello! My name is Jeni Ronald and I am the Head of Environmental Programs. I am from Mound, Minnesota, but currently live in Seattle while I am pursuing a degree in Marine and Conservation Biology at Seattle University. CMS is everything I am looking for to make a change in this world—to bring people together and help our environment. I wanted to be involved so I can work directly with animals and ecosystems to restore and see positive results of conservation work. When not working on CMS you can find me playing volleyball, running my freelance photography business, and exploring new places around Washington! My future plans are to finish my degree, continue working for CMS, and to do more work directly with animals, whether that be reintroduction of species, rehabilitation, or education.
Head of Oregon Operations
Hi! My name is Laura Pena and I am the Head of Oregon Operations for CMS. I live in Corvallis, Oregon, where I attend Oregon State University working toward a degree in pre-veterinary medicine. CMS is a great opportunity to get involved with my community and the environment. I want to contribute everything I can to making sure the ecosystem around me is safe and healthy. When not working on CMS, I have been volunteering at a humane society as well as working with a farrier throughout Oregon. I love working with animals and making them feel happy, loved, and healthy. Eventually, I would love to be a veterinarian and work with large exotic animals.
Head of Public Image
Hello! My name is Liz and I am the Head of Public Image. Conservation Made Simple is a constant source of inspiration for me. I love working with so many passionate people who are all pushing the envelope of what is possible to better our relationship with the environment. I am currently working as a marine mammal technician on the Olympic Peninsula. This means that I assist in research efforts on Gray whales, sea lions, and other local marine life. I’m also the stranding coordinator, so when animals wash up on our shores, I’m responsible for learning as much from them as I can and sharing that data with other scientists in the region. I love hiking, reading, and I recently took up surfing! My work is my passion and I truly love being able to come home each day knowing that I helped advance our understanding of our place in the natural world. Eventually I would like to go back to school and be able to lead my own research projects. In the meantime, I’m happy spending my days learning in the great outdoors.
Head of Fundraising
Hello! My name is Malcolm Fox and I am the Head of Fundraising for CMS. I live in San Antonio, Texas, where I am a full time undergraduate student at Trinity University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Religion and a minor in Arts, Letters, and Enterprise. CMS is an avenue for me to build my non-profit business experience and to have a positive impact on the environment. I enjoy filling my time with grant writing, fundraising, and nonprofit management. I plan to work in the nonprofit fundraising and management sector while researching abroad in multiple countries!
Head of Events
Hi! My name is Alex Aarona and I am the Head of the Events team for CMS. I am from Waimanalo, Hawaii, but currently live in Seattle, Washington, while studying Marine and Conservation Biology and Environmental Science at Seattle University. To me, Conservation Made Simple means being aware of your impact on the environment and learning how to best support and care for it. I am excited to be involved with Conservation Made Simple in order to promote healthy environmental practices within myself and others! Currently, I am working as both a resident assistant for Campion Hall and a study group facilitator for the general biology series. When not knee deep in this, I can be found diving into conservation science, musical theatre, discovering new coffee shops, and promoting self-care! After attending grad school, I want to work in conservation research back home in Hawaii.
Head of Education Outreach
Hello! My name is Carlene Harmon and I am the Head of Education Outreach for CMS. I live in Bremerton, Washington and stay busy working as an administrative specialist for in service engineering at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and being an active volunteer for Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and for the SEA Discovery Center. CMS fulfills my desire to be involved in educating the public and inspiring the community about the environment that they live in, and to teach them how to help conserve and protect the life around us. I love doing field research and working on issues surrounding water quality, salmon, storm water, water sheds, conservation, pollution, ocean acidification, garbage in our oceans, public education, and teaching kids cool facts. In my down time I also enjoy photography, bird, fish and plant identification, GIS, hiking, and kayaking. I am working towards being a water quality field technician and am learning about data collection and analysis and restoration projects. I also want to work with the public by presenting and talking with kids and teaching or leading groups to beaches, trails, rivers or educational programs.
Head of Technology and Design
Hi! I am Tyler Dowd and I am the Head of Technology Design. I live in Azusa, California, where I am studying seminary full time at Azusa Pacific University. I believe in what CMS is doing and I want to aid them in their goals using my talents. I enjoy conducting research, playing music, learning new technological software, doing marketing and graphic design, and creating animation shorts. My career goal is to become a theology professor, worship pastor or potentially a missionary.
I would like to also thank our many volunteers who help our day to day operations:
They contribute endless hours of their time to make sure that CMS runs smoothly behind the scenes. We couldn’t do it without them.
Conservation Made Simple would not be the thriving community it is today without the dedication of this incredible team. I can’t wait to keep working and growing with each of them as we watch CMS come to life.
Dogs aren’t just man’s best friend, they are helping save other species around the world too!
Conservation Canines is a program run by the University of Washington’s Center for Biological Diversity that trains dogs to help with wildlife research. Using techniques that were developed to train drug detection dogs, Conservation Canines turns shelter dogs into scat-sniffing superheroes.
Scat samples can be used to answer a wide variety of wildlife research questions. What is this animal eating? Is it pregnant? What toxins have they been exposed to, and at what levels? Where are they finding food? Answering these questions provides wildlife researchers and managers with the information they need to understand how animals are doing and what they need to thrive.
Traditional methods for collecting scat are more invasive or are biased toward certain behaviors, which means that the scat collected may not be a good representation of what is normal for that animal. Using dogs, scat samples can be collected after they are deposited normally, which helps scientists be more confident about their answers to those important questions. Dogs are also able to cover a large area in a short period of time, and some experienced dogs can identify scat from up to 13 different species.
For some species, finding scat is just plain difficult. For researchers studying the Southern Resident Killer Whales, one conservation canine named Tucker has made it easier for them to collect samples from these whales without disturbing them. Tucker waits patiently on the bow of the research boat and directs the team to each orangey-brown slick on the surface for collection. Using these samples, researchers have been able to analyze hormone levels in the whales to determine stress and look at prey remains to identify their most important food sources. This information is crucial to help researchers, managers, and lawmakers understand this endangered population and identify what steps to take toward their preservation.
Another group of dogs is helping save wildlife in a very different way. Karelian bear dogs are trained by Wild River Bear Institute to scare bears away from developed areas without harming the bear. They describe their approach as teaching “both bears and humans correct behaviors to reduce conflicts”. By chasing the bears away with dogs, the bears develop a healthy fear of human civilization. By using dogs to chase the bears away, they teach people that there are more humane options available than euthanization or forced relocation. Have a look here to see these incredible dogs in action!
As climate change continues to alter the natural landscape around us, animals are forced to adjust their range to follow their food sources and other important resources. These changes can put wildlife into contact with people in places where they haven’t traditionally been. For polar bears, melting sea ice in the arctic is forcing them to spend more time on the mainland searching for food in new places, and this is bringing them into villages throughout the arctic in Russia, Alaska and Canada. Dogs might be the only option to keep both bears and people safe. In places where oil and gas extraction are expanding in the Arctic, dogs also help by finding polar bear hibernation dens so that appropriate protection zones can be set up around them. The Karelian bear dogs have even been used to find poached animals and enabled officials to prosecute the offender.
While it can often seem like conservationists are tasked with protecting our natural world single-handedly, these canine companions have proven that preserving our natural spaces will always be a collaborative effort.
Conservation Made Simple
There are many terrestrial species with a strong reliance on sound, but only the bat comes close to the complete reliance seen in many marine and aquatic species. Just as the bat needs sound to find prey and navigate its nocturnal world, species that inhabit water use sound to overcome the rapid loss of light at depth. The use of sound to locate prey and mates, navigate along migration routes, communicate with conspecifics and defend against predators is seen in a diversity of forms in the ocean. With increasing ocean noise threatening more well-known top predators, like the southern resident killer whales, understanding the impacts further down the food web has never been more important.
While most people know about the songs and sounds made by whales, few people know that other animals in the ocean make sound too! Here’s a look at some of the more interesting examples from shrimp to fish.
In crustaceans, like crabs and shrimp, sound is mainly used to deter predators or stun prey. The snapping shrimp (Alpheus heterochaelis) takes things to another level. These little guys can close their claws so quickly that they produce cavitation bubbles, and when these bubbles collapse they produce sound and light, which was named “shrimpoluminescence” by the researchers who discovered it. In the tropics and subtropics, the snapping noises they produce dominate the soundscape both day and night, interfering with active and passive acoustic efforts and likely shaping the way that other animals in the ecosystem use sound. The displacement of water that the snapping motion creates can be sensed by hairs on the snapping-claws of other snapping shrimp, making it an important mode of communication as well.
When approached by predators, spiny lobsters (Pallinuridae) produce a loud rasping sound as a startling deterrent (Sound 1). While most arthropods use friction between hard surfaces to create rasping sounds, lobsters use a different ‘stick and slip’ mechanisms that allows them to produce sound even when they have a soft shell following molting. This reduces their vulnerability to predation because they are still able to deter predators when their exoskeleton has not yet hardened. The movement spiny lobsters use to produce sound is similar to the motion of a bow across the strings of a stringed instrument; the bow sticks and slips in rapid succession, creating vibrations from the unstable movement. This type of sound production is called stridulation.
Catfish are also known to produce sound through stridulation. An interlocking mechanism at the base of the pectoral fins produces sound through the same ‘stick and slip’ mechanism used by the spiny lobster.
Seahorses also use this mechanism between bones in the cranium to produce a wide variety of sounds, like clicks and growls. For seahorses, sound is mainly used during competition between males, in stressful situations, and during feeding.
Croaking gouramis from the genus Trichopsis produce croaking noises as part of breeding displays and to assert dominance over other gouramis. To produce sound, the fish stretches their pectoral fin tendons and then “plucks” them with the cartilage that supports the fin structure. On the outside, the fish looks like they are just beating their fins back and forth. These sounds are used mostly by male gouramis to maintain their dominance over other males. Interestingly, females use a separate purring sound to entice males and synchronize mating, one of the only instances of this behavior among fishes.
While swimbladders mainly help fish maintain their neutral buoyancy, for some species they are also important for sound production and amplification. The most famous fish that produces sound using the swimbladder is the Oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau). Male toadfish produce courtship boatwhistle calls for hours at a time that are used to attract females to their nests. To produce boatwhistles, the toadfish uses the fastest known vertebrate muscles. Two muscle positioned on either side of the heart-shaped swimbladder are contracted at the same time, producing sound waves in the air-filled swimbladder. Another closely-related species that uses the same mechanism is the Plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus). In parts of California these species make the local news for keeping residents awake with their loud and disturbing humming!
In some places, these sounds are drowned out by ship noise and other man-made sound, disrupting the important communication that is occurring. One listen to a hydrophone makes it obvious just how loud the sea can be. While traditional pollution is still a hazard for many ecosystems, scientists are only beginning to understand the impact of noise pollution on sensitive ecosystems around the globe. For many animals, like most species of sea turtle, there is almost no research about their sounds, so judging the potential negative impact we might be having is extremely difficult. Next time you dip your head under the waves, take a closer listen and see who else is sharing the sea with you. You might be surprised at just how much is happening without us even knowing.
Conservation Made Simple
For the especially curious…
Here’s the link to the hydrophone located at Lime Kiln State Park, on San Juan Island, WA. Take a listen and a see which sounds you can identify. Scientists mainly use this hydrophone to keep track of southern resident killer whales, but it also illustrates the impact of ship noise really well. Orcasound has a network of hydrophones around the Salish Sea, and most of them have live streams that you can access on their site.
Bouwma PE, Herrnkind WF. 2009. Sound production in Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus and its role in escape during predatory attack by Octopus briareus. N Z J Mar Freshw Res. 43:3–13.
California Academy of Sciences. Spiny Lobster Sound File | California Academy of Sciences [Internet]. [place unknown]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HnwBaYQU38
Fine ML, Friel JP, McElroy D, King CB, Loesser KE, Newton S. 1997. Pectoral Spine Locking and Sound Production in the Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus. Copeia. 1997:777–790.
Gray G-A, Winn HE. 1961. Reproductive Ecology and Sound Production of the Toadfish, Opsanus Tau. Ecology. 42:274–282.
hudsonempire. Catfish croaks [Internet]. [place unknown]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfmPN9OaHTY
Knowlton C. 2017. How do fish produce sounds? Discov Sound Sea [Internet]. [cited 2018 Mar 28]. Available from: https://dosits.org/animals/sound-production/how-do-fish-produce-sounds/
Ladich F, Brittinger W, Kratochvil H. 1992. Significance of Agonistic Vocalization in the Croaking Gourami (Trichopsis vittatus, Teleostei). Ethology. 90:307–314.
Lim ACO, Chong VC, Chew WX, Muniandy SV, Wong CS, Ong ZC. 2015. Sound production in the tiger-tail seahorse Hippocampus comes: Insights into the sound producing mechanisms. J Acoust Soc Am. 138:404–412.
LiveScience. Seahorses Click When “Horny” – Growl In Distress | Video [Internet]. [place unknown]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4DnPEjpsYc
Lohse D, Schmitz B, Versluis M. 2001. Snapping shrimp make flashing bubbles. Nature. 413:477–478.
Masky. Sparkling gourami croaking [Internet]. [place unknown]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUoAqaFbjSo
Michel Versluis. On the Sound of Snapping Shrimp [Internet]. [place unknown]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg10Et8FEWc
Mohajer Y, Ghahramani Z, Fine ML. 2015. Pectoral sound generation in the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus). J Comp Physiol A. 201:305–315.
Patek SN. 2001. Spiny lobsters stick and slip to make sound. Nat Lond. 411:153–4.
Versluis M, Schmitz B, von der Heydt A, Lohse D. 2000. How snapping shrimp snap: Through cavitating bubbles. Sci Wash. 289:2114–7.
Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, longer than we have been walking the earth! What makes these apex predators so fascinating? Here, you can learn more about different shark species and what makes each of them one of a kind!
Photo by David Snyder / Florida Museum
COMMON NAME: Tiger Shark
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Galeocerdo cuvier
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 15 or more years
SIZE: 10 to 14 ft
WEIGHT: 850 to 1,400 lbs
The tiger shark can be found in tropical and moderate coastal regions, usually swimming in murky waters. It gets its name from the dark vertical stripes on its body, however, when it ages, the stripes fade. The tiger shark is the fourth largest shark, behind the whale shark, basking shark, and great white shark. Although it can swim to up to 20 mph, the tiger shark usually swims slowly, making it difficult for their prey to detect them. These fish tends to live in deep waters, but swims in shallow waters to hunt. The tiger shark has the ability to crack the shells of sea turtles and due to its aggressive and indiscriminate feeding style, they often eat inedible objects, such as oil cans, tires, baseballs, and plastic. Found to be near threatened, this shark is heavily hunted for skin, teeth, fins, and liver which contain high levels of vitamin A. The tiger shark is considered to be sacred by some native Hawaiians, who believe the eye of the tiger shark have special seeing powers. Legend suggest that many kings living in historical Hawaiian environment acquired their future decisions by consuming the eye of the tiger shark. It is said that the mother of the most famous king of Hawaii, king Kamehameha asked for the eyes of the tiger shark during her pregnancy because they wanted to enhance the leadership qualities of the future king she carried.
Great White Shark
Photo by Jim Abernethy
COMMON NAME: Great White Shark
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Carcharodon carcharias
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN WILD: 20 years
SIZE: 15 ft to more than 20 ft
WEIGHT: 4,000 to 5,000 lbs, liver makes up to 25% of weight
The great white shark, also known as the white death, white pointer, white shark, and even man eater, migrates all coastal areas except for Antarctica. With a mouth measuring 1.2 m wide and containing extremely sharp teeth, these animals feed on fish, seabirds, sea lions, dolphins, and even other sharks. The great white shark does not chew its food and even has the ability to eat a sea lion in whole. It can even reach speeds up to 15 mph and can jump 10 ft in the air. Being the largest predatory fish, this animal does not have very many predators of its own – only orcas and other great whites. The great white normally breeds late in life, sometimes up to 25 years old, and live till they are around 20 years old. They are curious by nature and are believed to be very intelligent.
Photo by David Clode
COMMON NAME: Hammerhead Sharks
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sphyrnidae
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 20 to 30 years
SIZE: 13 to 20 ft
WEIGHT: 500 to 1,000 lbs
The hammerhead shark can be found throughout the world in warm water. There are 9 species of hammerhead, all that have heads that are laterally flat and extend to form a cephalofoil, giving it a hammer shape. Although the sharks hunt together during the day, at night they can be found hunting alone. Their diet consists of octopus, small fish, crustaceans, and squid and are not known to attack humans. A food favorite for the hammerhead shark are stingrays! When needed, the hammerhead shark will swim up to 15 mph. Additionally, these sharks can give birth to up to 40 pups at a time.
Photo by Sebastian Lambarri
COMMON NAME: Whale Shark
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rhincodon typus
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 70 years
SIZE: 18 to 32.8 ft
WEIGHT: 40,000 lbs
The massive whale shark inhabits all warm and tropic seas. Biologically, the whale shark’s correct name is Rhincodon typus, which means rasp teeth. This shark has 300 rows of 4,000 small, rasp-like teeth allowing it to feed on plankton and small fish. It’s mouth is very large, about 6.5 feet wide, which the shark leaves wide open while swimming. The whale shark tends to swim and feed in groups, with up to 400 whale sharks together at one. Despite their size, the whale shark is known to be very gentle and can often be found with human divers and photographers by their side. The whale shark is the largest fish on earth, giving birth to 2 foot long babies, although no man has ever witnessed a whale shark mating or giving birth. These unique sharks do not attain sexual maturity until age of 30 years and can carry up to 300 eggs, some of which don’t fully mature. Additionally, the spots on these massive fish are just as unique as fingerprints on a human!
Photo by Lawson Wood
COMMON NAME: Basking Shark
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cetorhinus maximus
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: unknown, estimated to be 50 yrs,
SIZE: 20 – 26 feet, some found to be around 40 feet
WEIGHT: 10,400 lbs
Basking sharks have shown to be very social creatures, sometimes swimming in sex-segregated schools of over 100 sharks and have been thought to follow visual cues. They have the smallest weight-for-weight brain size of any shark, reflective of its relatively passive lifestyle. The basking shark only swims at a 2.5 mph speed and much like the whale shark, it will funnel plankton into its large mouth, which will then get trapped in its gill rakers. While feeding, the basking shark can be found to have its entire dorsal fin out of the water. It is the 2nd largest fish in the world, behind its plankton-eating look-alike, the whale shark. The basking shark does not yet have a territory map, as it has been found everywhere it was previously determined not to inhabit. Furthermore, the basking shark is the most vulnerable shark to threats and is hunted for its sweet meat and liver oil, which is then used for food and cosmetics. In response, their numbers have been reduced by 80% since 1950.
Photo by National Geographic
COMMON NAME: Goblin Shark
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mitsukurina owstoni
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: unknown, but estimated to be 36 years
SIZE: 12-15 ft
WEIGHT: 460 lbs
This rare, deep-sea shark is known as the prehistoric shark, with lineage reaching 125 million years old. It can be found 5,000 ft deep in the sea and is considered one of the oldest living creatures on earth. So far, there have been only 45 documented files of research on the goblin shark. Previously, a goblin shark was captured and kept at Tokai University, where it only survived a week. This unique shark has been found to practice ‘slingshot feeding’, where their ligaments release tension and the fish catapults its jaw forward at a speed of 3.1 m/s. Its diet consists of crabs, squid, and deep-sea fish like dragon fish and rattail. Goblin sharks have soft, flabby, blade-like bodies and long snouts, which tend to get smaller as they age. In the past, the Japanese have used the goblin shark for liver oil and production of fertilizer.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was established in 1973 in response to a growing movement of citizens calling for the extinction of…well…extinction. The purpose of the ESA, as described by the US Supreme Court, is to “reverse and halt the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” This noble and lofty goal is upheld primarily by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The ESA requires that any action that is permitted, funded, or carried out by the federal government does not endanger the existence of any listed species, either directly or through the destruction of their critical habitat. The law also prohibits “taking” a listed species, or participating in commerce for a listed species. Before we go any deeper, here are some definitions you might need to know.
Take – taking a listed species doesn’t mean grabbing it and running away. The official definition is “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct.” This includes damaging the habitat of an animal in a way that causes harm or death by altering behavior or access to necessary resources.
Species – the definition for species includes subspecies, varieties, and distinct population segments (or DPS, which you can read more about here)
Listed – a species that has been designated as either Endangered or Threatened under the ESA
Critical Habitat – specific areas within or outside of a species range that contain physical or biological features necessary for recovery (more here)
Extinction – the termination of a species, after the death of the last individual
Extirpation – the termination of a species in one section of its range, though it still exists in other places
The first law governing commerce in animals was enacted in 1900, but it wasn’t until the ESA that comprehensive protections for species in danger of extinction were made possible. In order to be protected under the ESA, a species must first be listed. Members of the public can submit a petition to consider a species, or the agencies can initiate the process all on their own. In order to be considered for listing, the species must meet one of the five criteria under section 4(a)(1). These criteria are:
If the proposed species meets one of these criteria, a 90-day screening period begins. While candidate species are being considered for listing, economic factors are not allowed to be considered, and decisions must be “based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available”. This means that species should be listed based on the severity of their situation, not how many challenges to protection they face, how expensive it will be, or how many people may disagree. At the end of this screening period, the species is given one of three designations; “not warranted”, which means it does not qualify for listing, “warranted”, which means it continues on immediately, or “warranted but precluded”, which means it qualifies, but is of low priority so it will be tabled until action becomes necessary.
Species that are designated as warranted will move on to the next stage, where the agency may consider public comment and will designate critical habitat. If a species is eventually listed, after a whole lot more paperwork, time, and consideration, it will be designated as either Endangered or Threatened. Endangered species are in danger of becoming extinct, while Threatened species are in danger of becoming endangered. For listed species, a Recovery Plan is developed to lay out the exact steps the agency will take to ensure that the species returns to healthy population levels.
While this process seems like it is full of political mumbo-jumbo and legalese, it actually requires a lot of science to get it right. For instance, in order to develop a recovery plan, the agencies have to understand what the main causes of decline are, how the population is structured, the reproductive biology of the species, and what a healthy population actually looks like. Without answers to these questions, the recovery plan would be a map without roads, labels, a compass rose or even basic topography. To answer these questions, agencies employ an army of scientists and fund projects that are carried out by other institutions, non-profits, and universities. These scientists also track the progress of a species toward recovery to make sure that the ESA is accomplishing its stated goals.
So what does success look like? Delisting! Once a species has recovered, it is removed from the list. Species that were designated as Endangered will often be “downlisted” to Threatened on their path to recovery. The factors that an agency considers for delisting include whether the threat has been controlled, the growth of the population, and the stability of its habitat.
Over the life of the ESA, 28 species have been delisted due to successful recovery. While many species still struggle with barriers to recovery, including human activity, ecosystem changes, and climate change, the ESA is a good example of how important it is to have protections in place for at-risk species.
Conservation Made Simple
Before ringing in the new year, we would like to celebrate the species discovered in 2018. Each year brings new findings that expand the Encyclopedia of Life. Of the 1.74 million species that are on earth today, here are a few that became known to man in 2018.
Photos by Cédric d’Udekem d’Acoz, copyright Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
This amphipod, who’s name you might recognize, was named after Quasimodo, the main character in Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The genus Epimeria is abundant in the Southern Ocean, south of the Polar Front and is known for its bright colors. In a 2007 publication about the genus Epimeria, it was thought that most species were already known. However, in a more recent investigation, the Epimeria quasimodo was discovered to be a new species!
Illustration by Peter Shouten
The rare Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo was last recorded in 1928 by Ernest Mayr and was thought to have gone extinct since then. It was recently spotted and photographed in the remote montane forests of New Guinea by Michael Smith. These marsupials are tree dwellers and are related to the kangaroos and wallabies that inhabit the ground. Although very little is still known about this species, the rediscovery of the Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo provides a hopeful story, as many tree kangaroo species are declining in population from overhunting, logging, palm oil farming, and mining.
Learn more about the Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo:
Photo by MarAlliance
Named after the famed shark research pioneer and founder of Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, Eugenie Clark, the Genie’s Dogfish is a member of Squalus, a genus of dogfish. These deep-water dogfish are found in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic Ocean. Although this species was previously considered part of the Squalus mitsukurii species complex, recent genetic analysis done by Dr. Pfleger and his team classified the Genie’s Dogfish as a new species.
Learn more about the Genie’s Dogfish:
Photo by L.A. Rocha
Found at St. Paul’s Rock, a harsh, isolated island off the coast of Brazil, the Tosanoides aphorodite measures between 5-8 cm in length. Males of this colorful species wear alternating pink and yellow stripes, while females are a solid, blood-orange color. Named after Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, this newly found species may be one of the most vibrant ones discovered this year!
Learn more about the Tosanoides aphrodite:
Each year, thousands of species are discovered. Although this may appear like a large amount, it seems that we have only scratched the surface. Many scientists believe that we are entering a mass extinction caused by anthropogenic (human) influence, including pollution, habitat loss, deforestation, overexploitation, and more. It may become even more important to discover new species as the years progress, as new discoveries often help fund conservation organizations and attract media attention. Discovering new species also helps us better understand the surrounding ecosystem as well as previously documented species.
We hope that 2019 will be as fruitful in discoveries as the past year has been. Happy New Year from Conservation Made Simple!
Conservation Made Simple