animals, wildlife conservation

Images from Instagram and Wikipedia

It’s true that much of our wildlife is in danger. Like, an alarmingly large amount. In 2021 alone, 22 species were declared extinct in the United States.

And globally, Earth is facing what scientists refer to as its “sixth mass extinction,” primarily thanks to human activity. You know, deforestation, climate change, overconsumption, overpopulation, industrial farming, poaching … the usual suspects.

It sounds like dystopian science fiction, but sadly, it’s the reality we are currently living in.

But today, there is a silver lining. Because the World Wildlife Fund recently reported 224 completely new species.

From a snake who channels David Bowie to a monkey with ivory spectacles, there are a lot of newly discovered creatures here to offer a bit of hope to otherwise bleak statistics.


mekong, mekong wildlife

a map of the Mekong region

upload.wikimedia.org

WWF’s report, released on Jan. 19, covered the rich, biodiverse habitats of the Greater Mekong region, which includes China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Myanmar.

Mekong is home to many species both strange and peculiar. Among the 163 species reported in 2016 were the rainbow-headed snake of Laos, noted for its similarity to Ziggy Stardust, and a Klingon newt, pleasing Star Trek fans everywhere … including me.

Mekong is also where you might find the extremely rare saola, otherwise known as the Asian unicorn (oddly enough, it doesn’t only have one horn).

And let’s not forget the dementor wasp, a vicious insect named after the soul-sucking specters in “Harry Potter.” These gnarly creatures inject a paralyzing venom into their prey before gobbling them up alive.

If that’s not nightmare fuel, I don’t know what is.

The latest list includes a monkey with ghostly white circles around its eyes, dubbed the Popa langur, named after Myanmar’s once active Mt. Popa volcano.

The Popa langur also carries the title of “Only New Mammal Discovered.” It’s a bit of a mouthful, but still noteworthy.

upload.wikimedia.org

In addition, there's the bright orange twin slug snake, which consumes, you guessed it, slugs. You are what you eat, after all.

Plus a new ginger plant called the stink bug for its pungent odor, which wasn’t found in a jungle at all, but rather at a plant shop in northeastern Thailand.

Though these findings are extraordinary, K. Yoganand, regional lead of wildlife and wildlife crime for WWF-Greater Mekong, told Reuters that these plants and animals still face “intense threat,” saying that “many species [will be] going extinct even before they are described.”

The Popa langur, for instance, is already a candidate for extinction, as only 200-250 are estimated to survive in the wild, CBS reported.

That is a sobering reminder. But luckily there are ways our species can help.

On its website, WWF offers two options. Under the “Action Center,” you’ll find different ways you can actively join in on particular campaigns, like repealing oil and gas programs in the arctic.

Alternatively, under the “adopt an animal” section, you’ll find gift and apparel items available for purchase, where proceeds go toward helping those animals facing the threat of extinction. I’m personally eyeing the adorable plush black jaguar.

These amazing creatures provide so much beauty, awe and wonder to the planet. No action toward their preservation is too small.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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