Polar Bears Could Face Extinction Earlier Than Thought

Polar bears could become extinct faster than predicted. That is because there is a shortage of food in their habitat and scientists have now found out that polar bears need more energy than previously thought.

As a result of global warming, Arctic ice is melting quickly, so that polar bears have to travel further in search of food. In a study that has spanned the last three years, scientists found out that polar bears have to travel one and a half times more than in the past.  As a result, they lose weight.

Experiments conducted with modern technology show how polar bears move and behave. High-tech GPS collars were put on 9 female polar bears. Their movements and energy consumption have been tracked over a period of 12 days. Results show that a few of them lost up to 10%of their weight.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, polar bears spend half of their time hunting for something to eat. They rely mostly on young seals as the main source of food, but the seal population is getting scarce because of the melting ice.

A polar bear needs about 12000 kilocalories a day to stay healthy and even more to put on the body fat it needs to survive the winter months.

Over the past ten years, the number of polar bears has declined by 40%. Ice on their habitat, Arctic Sea ice is decreasing at a rate of 14% per decade.  It is currently at its lowest level in 40 years.

 

Polar bear feeding on a dead seal
Polar bear feeding on a dead seal – Image: AWeith

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • behave = act in certain situations
  • body fat = here: the fat an animal needs to protect itself from the cold weather
  • collar = band of leather or plastic that is around an animal’s neck
  • conduct = carry out
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = to go down
  • decrease = become lower
  • energy consumption = the amount of energy you need and use up
  • extinct = to die out and not exist anymore
  • global warming = increase in the atmosphere’s temperature caused by more carbon dioxide and other gases
  • further = a longer distance
  • GPS = system that shows where your position is on earth through a system of radio signals
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • lose weight = become thinner
  • melt = when ice turns into water
  • predict = to say that something will happen before it does
  • previously = at an earlier time
  • rely = here: eat
  • scarce = not very much left
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seal = large sea animal that eats fish and lives near coasts
  • shortage = not enough
  • source = where something comes from
  • span = period of time between two events
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subect
  • survive = stay alive
  • track = monitor, watch closely
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that wants to protect the environment and save animals and plants

 

 

Cloning of First Monkeys in China

Two monkeys have been cloned in a Chinese laboratory. They were created with the identical technique used to clone Dolly, the sheep back in 1996. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born a few weeks ago at a Chinese lab. Researchers say they are growing normally.

Over two decades ago, Dolly, became the first successfully cloned mammal. Since then cows, pigs, dogs and other mammals have been cloned.  The cloning of primates was thought to be more difficult than the creation of other mammals in a lab. The Chinese team has brought the scientific community one step closer to the cloning of humans.

The technique used in the test involves transferring the nucleus of a cell into an egg which has had its nucleus removed. The experiment was remarkable because it used fetal cells instead of adult cells. It took the Chinese scientists many attempts and 127 eggs to clone just two monkeys.

According to scientists, the cloning of monkeys will help to research human diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also important in drug research.

China has invested heavily in research in the past years. The successful test came at a time when American and European scientists have backed away from using monkeys and apes for ethical reasons.

 

Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form
Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form – Image: Toni Barros

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • Alzheimer’s disease = disease that affects the brain, especially of older people; it makes it difficult for you to move, talk or remember things
  • attempt = try
  • back away = stop doing something
  • cancer = serious illness in which cells can grow in an uncontrolled way
  • clone = an animal or plant produced by scientists from one cell of another animal or plant so that they are exactly the same
  • creation = making something
  • decade = ten years
  • disease = illness
  • drug research = creating new forms of medicine
  • ethical = something that is morally good or bad
  • fetal = belonging to an unborn baby or animal
  • human = a person
  • identical = the same
  • including = also
  • invest = put money into …
  • laboratory = room or building in which scientific experiments take place
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is young; humans, dogs and cows are mammals
  • nucleus = the central part of an atom
  • primate = member of a group of mammals that includes humans and monkeys
  • remove = take away
  • remarkable = unusual, surprising
  • researcher = person who studies something in order to find out more about it
  • scientific community = all the people who do research work in labs
  • technique = method; way of doing something
  • transfer = move from one place to another

 

China Bans Ivory Trade

China has put a ban on all ivory trade in the country.  The ban came into effect on January 1 of this year. 67 official ivory processing factories and shops were closed last year and a remaining 100 were shut down on December 31. A similar ban in the U.S. went into effect in June 2016.

The Chinese decision to stop the ivory trading business has been welcomed by the World Wildlife Fund and other organisations as a major effort in protecting the world’s elephant population. It is estimated that over 30,000 African elephants are killed every year.

Chinese citizens regard ivory as a status symbol. People buy jewellery, chopsticks and other objects made of ivory, leading to the development of one of the world’s largest ivory markets. When trading ivory was officially banned worldwide in 1990, China continued to sell it through shops and factories. The legal trade also brought illegal ivory into the country.

However, there is a major concern that the new law does not apply to HongKong, an important ivory trading hub. Authorities in the former British colony are working on a ban of their own, expected to take effect soon. On the other side, customers will probably go to Laos, Vietnam or other Asian countries, where trading laws are not so strict.

In the past year, ivory prices started to go down as more and more Chinese shops were closing. The ban will have a big impact on African countries, especially Kenya and Tanzania,  where most of the elephant poaching is taking place.

Elephant tusk with a carved decoration
Elephant tusk with a carved decoration

Words

  • apply = take effect
  • authorities = government organisations that have the power to make decisions
  • ban = to forbid something; not allow
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • concern = feeling of worry about something important
  • development = growth
  • effort = try
  • especially = above all
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is by the information that you have
  • former = in the past
  • however = but
  • into effect = start to work
  • illegal = not allowed; against the law
  • ivory = hard, smooth yellowish-white material from the long teeth of elephants
  • jewellery = small things that you wear for decoration, like necklaces or rings
  • legal = allowed by the government
  • major = important
  • official = allowed by the government
  • poaching = to shoot or catch animals illegally
  • processing = here: when you make an elephant’s tusk into jewellery and other objects
  • protect = here to keep animals safe
  • remaining = those that were left
  • similar = almost the same
  • status symbol = something that you have that you think shows high social rank or position
  • strict= here: law that must be obeyed
  • trading hub = here: a place where ivory is bought and sold
  • welcome = to be glad that something has happened
  • worldwide = around the world
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that tries to save and protect endangered animals

 

 

Dog Ownership May Improve Your Health

A Swedish publication released recently says that having a dog could not only make your life more worthwhile but actually save it. Apart from being great companions, especially for single individuals, dog ownership may lengthen your life. The survey studied Swedish individuals between 40 and 80 over a 12-year period.

The study found out that owning a dog reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by almost a third. The risk of suffering a heart attack is 11% lower compared to singles without a dog. People who owned hunting dogs, like terriers and retrievers, benefited the most.

Dog owners are more active because they exercise with their dogs. Extensive physical activity reduces the risk of heart diseases, strengthens the immune system and makes life less stressful. It also results in lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Dogs are increasingly used as a therapy after a severe illness. An American study shows that patients who have undergone surgery recovered more quickly if they had contact with dogs.

On the other side dogs have a calming effect on people and are important company for those living alone. Loneliness and lack of social interaction is one of the biggest problems of older people. Petting a dog, for example, has proven to be helpful to those suffering from depression. In addition, dogs are especially helpful in helping and guiding disabled and blind people.

 

Dog helping an elderly person
Dog helping an elderly person

Words

  • apart from = besides; in addition to
  • benefit = to have advantages
  • blood pressure = the force with which blood travels through your body
  • calming = relaxed and quiet
  • cardiovascular  disease = illness connected with the heart and blood moving through your body
  • cholesterol = chemical substance in your blood; too much of it may cause heart disease
  • company = when you are with someone else and not alone
  • compare =to look at two things and show how much the same or different they are
  • companion = friend
  • depression = the feeling of sadness  that makes you think there is no hope for the future
  • disabled = someone who cannot use parts of their body properly
  • especially = above all
  • exercise = physical activity that makes you stronger and keeps you healthy
  • extensive = a lot ; much
  • guide = lead to a place
  • heart attack = when your heart suddenly stops beating
  • heart disease = illness related to your heart
  • illness = disease
  • immune system = system by which your body protects itself  against diseases
  • in addition = also
  • increasingly = more and more
  • lack = not enough of …
  • lengthen = make longer
  • loneliness = being alone
  • ownership = having or possessing something
  • patient = someone who receives medical treatment in a hospital or at a doctor’s
  • pet = to touch or move your hand softly over an animal
  • publication = when you make something known to the public
  • recently = a short time ago
  • recover = to get better after you have been ill for some time
  • reduce = lower
  • release = to publish
  • severe = bad
  • social interaction = when two or more people do things together
  • strengthen = to make stronger
  • survey = a set of questions you ask a larger number of people about a certain topic
  • therapy = treatment or an illness after  a long period of time
  • worthwhile = if something is important or useful; you can profit from  something
  • undergo surgery = to be operated on

Behaviour of Whales and Dolphins Connected to Brain Size

Scientists have found out that the behaviour of marine mammals, especially dolphins and whales, is connected to their brain  size . In a recent study, researchers have found out that mammals with larger brains behave in a more complex way.

Researchers have collected information on about 90 different types of dolphins and whales. They found out that social behaviour among these two  species is more complex  than previously thought.

Whales, for example, change calling songs regularly and pass certain information on to their younger ones and other groups. They use various languages which are similar to human dialects. Sperm whales, with a brain six times the size of a human one, organise other whales to babysit for them while they go hunting for food.

Other whale species, like blue or humpback whales, have smaller brains. They live in a more solitary way and don’t have long-term relationships.

Dolphins have a way of contacting  other individuals , even if they are not present. Scientists regard this as a form of gossip. As well as having rich and varied diets, they play and hunt  together.

Scientists think that bigger brains have evolved in order handle the complex way that mammals socialise.

Sperm whales
Sperm whales – Image : Gabriel Barathieu

Words

  • behaviour = the things that a person or animal does
  • brain = the organ inside your head that controls how you think , feel and move
  • complex = here: with many different parts; difficult to understand
  • especially = above all
  • evolve = develop
  • gossip = information that is passed on to others about how they behave
  • handle = deal with
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is young
  • marine = in the sea or ocean
  • previously = before now; some time ago
  • recent = a short time ago
  • regard = think, consider
  • regularly = often
  • researcher = a person who studies something closely in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • similar = like
  • size = how big something is
  • social behaviour = here: the way they behave in groups
  • socialise = here: to spend time together with others or in groups
  • solitary = spending a lot of time alone; not in a group
  • species = group of animals or plants that are similar and can have babies together
  • study =  a piece of work done to find out more about certain things
  • varied diet = here: they eat all kinds of different food
  • various = different kinds of …

 

 

Thousands of Penguin Babies Die in the Antarctic

Thousands of penguin babies have starved to death in the eastern Antarctic recently . Observers found thousands of unhatched eggs and lifeless baby penguins  on the coast. According to scientists , only two baby penguins survived during the 2017 breeding seasonAdélie penguins live in colonies that consist of thousands of animals.  It is the second time that a whole colony has been wiped out after no babies survived in 2015.

The World Wildlife Fund says that krill fishing in the area has led to the starving of penguin babies. Officials state that fishing in the area may permanently endanger the whole penguin population in the Antarctic.

Another reason for the declining number of Adélie penguins is possibly climate change.  In regions where ice gets thicker, adult penguins must  travel further away from the shore in order to find food. When they get back they find many of their babies already dead.

The WWF  and other organisations now demand that the eastern Antarctic coastline be declared a Marine Protected Area in order to help endangered penguins. Commercial fishing should be banned around these areas .

Adélie penguins live along the Antarctic coast  and usually breed from October to February.  They lay eggs in nests made up of stones.

 

Adélie penguin
Adélie penguin – Image : Andrew Shiva

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • adult = grownup
  • ban = forbid
  • breed = two or more animals get together in order to have babies
  • commercial fishing = fishing in order to make money
  • consist of = made up of
  • declare = to officially say that something exists
  • declining = going down
  • demand = want to have
  • endanger = to put a person or an animal in danger
  • krill = small shellfish
  • lifeless = dead
  • Marine Protected Area = area in the ocean where fishing and mining is banned and where animals and plants are protected
  • permanently = exist for a long time in the future
  • observer = a person who watches something closely
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • starve = to die because you do not have enough to eat
  • survive = to live on after a dangerous situation
  • unhatched = if a baby animal does not come out of an egg
  • wipe out =  destroy completely, so that nothing is left
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that protects endangered animals and plants

 

 

Largest and Smallest Animals At Risk of Becoming Extinct

Researchers have found out that the size of an animal is important when it comes to extinction. Scientists have determined that the biggest and the smallest animals are more at risk of dying out than medium-sized animals.

Heavy animals are mostly endangered by hunting and poaching while the smallest creatures may die out because their living area is being polluted. Among the most endangered animals are elephants, lions and rhinos. Public awareness is large  and campaigns to save such animals have been around for a long time. It is the smallest species that get the least attention. Especially fish and frogs are in danger of dying out.

The species that are most at risk have a weight of over 1 kilogram. They are in danger of being killed because we need food, skin and other items.

According to the study, animals that are becoming extinct affect large ecosystems, like  forests, deserts and oceans.

 

The common frog - an endangered species
The common frog – an endangered species – Image by Richard Bartz

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • affect = to change a situation or a place
  • attention = to listen, look at or think carefully about something
  • campaign = actions that lead to solving a special problem
  • determine = to find out the facts about something
  • ecosystem =all the animals and plants that live in a certain area and how they live together
  • extinction = when a plant or animal stops existing
  • least = less than anything else
  • poaching = to catch or shoot wild animals illegally
  • pollute = to make something dirty and unusable
  • public awareness = most people know that a problem exists
  • researcher = person who studies a subject in order to find out something new about it.
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science
  • skin = the outer part of a person or an animal’s body
  • size = how big something is
  • species = group of animals that are similar and can have babies with each other
  • weight = how heavy something is