More

We might soon have 1 fewer animal on the endangered species list. Here's why that's a bit worrying.

The conservation efforts have been a "success story," but is it too early to take humpback whales off the endangered species list?

We might soon have 1 fewer animal on the endangered species list. Here's why that's a bit worrying.

Since June 1970, humpback whales have been considered an endangered species, but that might soon change.

In what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is calling a conservation "success story," it looks like some humpback whales might be removed from the endangered species list they've been on for the past 45 years.

This isn't to say that all is well in the world of humpback whales, but NOAA has noted a marked improvement, suggesting that whale populations have stabilized in many parts of the world.


Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Last month, NOAA announced plans to segment humpback whales into a number of groups and take most off the endangered species list.

As you can see on NOAA's map, under their proposal, only the whales found in zones shaded in pink would remain "endangered," and the ones shaded in yellow would be "threatened." The rest would be considered "not at risk."

Image by NOAA.

However, some conservationists aren't on board, saying the plan is premature and that the whale population hasn't increased enough yet to be removed from the list.

In an interview with The Guardian, Regina Asmutis-Silvia from Whale and Dolphin Conservation of North America said, "Humpbacks are a really complicated species to really review for declaring these distinct population segments. They are highly migratory in most places, but not everywhere."

She added, "It's not so simple as drawing a line and saying, 'They belong to this population and there's a lot of them so we are going to take them off the list.'"

In other words, the same whales might travel in and out of zones marked "endangered" and "not at risk" simply through their regular travels, regardless of which group they're in.

Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images.

At first glance, this looks like a great idea. However, this might not be as well-intentioned a move on NOAA's part as we're led to believe.

Two groups — one in Alaska and one in Hawaii — want NOAA to take humpbacks off the endangered list, but they have their own interests at heart in doing so.

Being on the endangered list means that individuals and businesses need to take extra precautions when it comes to working near the whale's habitat. For example, this might mean not being able to drill for oil or have ships come in and out of state ports as freely as a group would like.

So, while the whale population HAS made a comeback in recent years, the reasons for taking them off the list have to do with the very things that made them endangered in the first place.

NOAA is accepting public comment on their new proposal from now until July 20, 2015, at which point they'll make a decision about whether or not to remove the whales from the endangered species list.

Humpback whales are beautiful, smart creatures, and they deserve our protection.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less