Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts

Meet the 2016 Nat Geo Adventurers of the Year

In what has become a bit of an annual tradition, National Geographic has revealed its selections for the 2016 Adventurers of the Year. As usual, the list consists of a group of people who have mad unique contributions in the area of exploration, conservation, and pushing the boundaries of human endurance. On top of that, these men and women just happen to be downright awesome. This year, ten individuals – and an entire ship's crew – were honored with this distinction.

Some of the people who made the list include climber Colin Haley, who put up some of the most demanding and impressive climbs of the entire year, paraglider Antoine Girard, who wowed us with his high altitude flight from Broad Peak, and cave diver Krzysztof Starnawski, who spent 20 years exploring a submerge cave only to discover it is the deepest on the planet. They're joined on the list by the crew of the Hōkūle‘a, a Polynesian voyaging canoe that is sailing around the world using only the starts for navigation. 

As usual, I won't spoil the entire list, because part of the fun is learning who made the cut and earned the title of "Adventurer of the Year." Needless to say however, the group is made of individuals who are all deserving of that honor, as each has done some amazing things throughout 2016. 

Of course, there is still the matter of determining the "People's Choice Adventurer of the Year" as well. This is determined by online vote, with the polls closing on December 16 and the official winner being announced in January of next year. Choosing which of these individuals is most worthy of that honor is tough too, but thankfully we can all vote once a day through the deadline next month, so we can spread our support around some. To place your vote, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

I am fortunate enough to get the chance to nominate some adventurers for this award each year, and it is always fulfilling to see some of the ones that I selected get the nod when the final choices are announced. I want to congratulate everyone who made the list. You are an inspiration to us all.  

Video: Nat Geo Tells Us Why it is so Hard to Catch Poachers

As the world's population of elephants and rhinos wanes dramatically, many countries across the globe have stepped up their efforts to combat poaching in Africa and elsewhere. This is a battle that has been raging for sometime however, and yet we continue to hear how poaching is having a dramatic impact on the number of these creatures that roam the wild. Why is it so hard to stop these illegal activities? In this video from National Geographic Live, Naftali Honig – founder of the EAGLE Network – tells us why it is so hard to bring these people to justice.

Comprehensive Elephant Census in Africa Brings Sobering News

As someone who has a deep, personal love for Africa and the amazing wildlife that lives there, this story was particularly sad to read. Yesterday, the results of a comprehensive census of the African elephant population were released, and the were sobering to say the least.

The study was conducted by an organization called the Great Elephant Census, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Alan's Vulcan organization. Using a method of arial data collection and surveillance, researchers have come to the stunning conclusion that there are now only 352,271 elephants left on the African continent. That population is spread out over 18 countries and is estimated to be down 30% in just 7 years. That's the equivalent of 144,000 elephants lost between 2007 and 2014.

According to the findings, the current elephant population loss is about 8% per year, with roughly 100 animals killed each and every day. Most of that is due to illegal poaching as the demand for ivory remains high in certain parts of the world, including Asia and even the United States. Measures have been taken recently to stem the sale of Ivory across the globe, but a thriving black market remains.

The 352,000 elephants counted in the census are believed to be at least 93% of the population that still exists in the 18 countries surveyed. That number could be higher, but it is difficult to track them completely precisely. Of those counted as part of this research study, 84% lived on protected lands, with the remaining population spotted outside preserves and national parks where they don't receive any kind of protection at all. That said, many carcasses were found inside those protected regions as poachers ignore laws and cross boundaries to seek their prey.

As you can imagine, with such a massive drop in numbers over the past decade, the possible extinction of the wild elephants in Africa is a real possibility within our lifetimes. Having seen these magnificent creatures up close and personal both on foot and from a vehicle, I can't imagine them not being a part of the wild landscape on that continent. But, if poaching continues at its current rate, they may be completely gone in as little as 20 years. When you consider that at one point, there were more than 20 million elephants in Africa, you begin to get some perspective about just how decimated the population is there.

Sad news for conservationists for sure. Lets hope we can turn this trend around in the near future.

Nat Geo Gives Us 20 National Park Leaders Under the Age of 30

As most everyone knows by now, last week the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. In the days since then, we've seen a lot of celebrations across the country, with thousands of people saluting the government agency tasked with protecting the parks while at the same time making them accessible to the public.

The celebration will continue throughout the rest of the year, but it is also a time to begin looking forward to the next century. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the national parks will be around for future generations to enjoy as well. To that end, National Geographic has selected 20 scientists, filmmakers, activists, and educators who have dedicated their lives to protecting the parks, both in the U.S. and abroad. Oh yeah, and each of these men and women happen to be under the age of 30 as well.

Amongst those making the list are Ben Masters, a filmmaker and horseman who is working to protect wild mustangs. He's joined by Cassi Knight, an NPS scientist who is searching for dinosaur remains in Denali National Park, and Elizabeth and Cole Donelson who spent the past 12 months visiting all 59 U.S. national parks. Others include Jen Guyton, a scientists helping to protect animals from poachers in Mozambique, and cartographers Ross Donahue and Marty Schnure, who are mapping remote areas of Patagonia.

As you can see, this is a diverse and interesting group of individuals, each of which is playing a vital role to help promote national parks both at home in the U.S. and in other countries around the world. The concept of creating public lands that are set aside for future generations to enjoy too has been called "America's Best Idea," and these young men and women are helping to spread that idea further. Hopefully in another hundred years we'll be continuing to celebrate the National Park Service, and the effort that these individuals have made along the way.

Tomorrow is the Opening Day for Trails!

Need yet another excuse to get outside and hit a trail this weekend? Than let the Rails to Trails Conservancy provide one. The non-profit has declared Saturday, April 16 Opening Day for Trails in celebration of all of the great trails that are available to outdoor enthusiasts in the U.S.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy is an organization that is dedicated to taking unused railway corridors and converting them to trails for use by hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, or anyone else is looking for a good place to enjoy nature. Their goal is to have 90% of all Americans living within 3 miles of a trail system by 2020. That's an ambitious, but noble goal for sure and one that I'm sure Adventure Blog readers can relate to.

For Opening Day for Trails there are over 140 free events taking place across the U.S. to celebrate the arrival of spring and our ability to hit the trail once again. Some of the great events on tap include organized bike rides, group hikes, bird watching excursions, and more. Events are scheduled in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Of course, you don't have to attend one of these outings, as you can also just organize one for you and your friends locally too. The point is to head out on a trail and enjoy the benefits that those routes provide in terms of health and well being. But, if you head over to the Rails to Trails website and take the pledge to get outside, you can also be entered to win one of two Fuji bikes as well.

Seems like as good of a reason as any to get outside this weekend. Find out more at

World's Tiger Population on the Rise for First Time in 100 Years

Last week we shared the sad news that a rare sumatran rhino that was discovered in the wild last month died of complications from an infection just days after it was captured. That was a sad blow to conservation efforts for the species, which is considered critically endangered, with only a few of the creatures still known to exist. But, those same wildlife conservationists got good news this past weekend when it was revealed that the world's tiger population has started to rebound for the first time in a century.

According to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund, there are now 3890 tigers worldwide, up from 3200 in 2010. Most of those gains are due to improved census processes and better protected areas in Russia, India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Further efforts are also underway in Malaysia, China, Indonesia, and Myanmar as well, but it is more difficult to estimate the number of tigers in those countries due to no formal conservation programs existing there.

The report goes on to say that two-thirds of the world's tigers live in India, where the numbers have gone up from 1706 to 2226 over the past five years. Those gains have come in the form of anti-poaching efforts as well as offering compensation to farmers and villagers who have suffered loss due to tiger attacks.

This is all good news for the big cat population, and it is encouraging for conservation efforts all over the world. There was a time when it seemed that the tiger might vanish from the wild on our planet, and while the species isn't completely out of the woods yet, these numbers are very encouraging. If this trend continues – and there is no reason to suspect it won't – we may be able to pull the tiger back from the threat of extinction. That is great news indeed.

Rare Sumatran Rhino Dies Days After Being Found

A few weeks back I shared a story that had conservationist feeling optimistic about the potential future for a rare species of rhino. Now, a short time later, that story has turned tragic, as it was revealed that the rhino has now died in captivity.

Back in March, it was revealed that a rare, and highly endangered, species of rhino was discovered in the wilds of Sumatra. Those creatures were believed to be totally extinct, as none have been spotted there in more than 40 years. In order to protect the animal, she was captured in a pit trap and taken to a sanctuary where it was believed that she would be well protected from poachers.

But over the past few days, the rhino – who was named Najaq – saw a down turn in her health as she struggled to fight off an infection. On Tuesday, it was announced that she lost the fight, and passed away due to complications from the infection. There is a pending investigation to learn more about the situation, but it is believed that Najaq suffered an injury from a snare set by poachers prior to her being discovered. Wounds from that injury grew infected, leading to the death of the rhino.

This is obviously sad news. A few weeks ago the discovery of this creature brought hope that perhaps the species could be brought back from the brink of extinction, but this is a setback that makes those efforts even more difficult. Najaq does give us hope however that there are rhinos still out there in the wilds of Sumatra just waiting to be discovered. Hopefully conservationists find them before the poachers do.

Rhino Thought to be Extinct in the Wild Found After 40 Years

There was good news from the World Wildlife Fund this week when it was announced that a very rare Sumatran rhino was found in Kalimantan, the Indonesia part of Borneo. It is the first time that such a creature has been spotted in the wild in more than 40 years, and bringing hope to conservationists that the species can be brought back from the edge of extinction.

The female rhino is said to be about four or five years old, and she was reportedly safely captured in a pit trap on March 12. She is now being held in a safe enclosure until she can be transported to a safe sanctuary in Indonesia.

It is believed that fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos still exist in the wild, all of them on the island of Sumatra. The rhinos that existed in Kalimantan were declared extinct last year, although now there is hope that a few may yet wander the jungles there.

As with rhinos in Africa, the Sumatran rhino has faced serious threats from poaching, but also encroachments on their territory from miners, loggers, and farmers as well. These challenges have made the species one of the rarest on Earth.

In the same press release, the WWF also announced that three new calves have joined the breeding herd of Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon National Park. That rhino population was down to just 60 animals worldwide as of September, 2015. But now, another three rhinos have been born as the slow process of reviving that species continues as well.

Hopefully these positive gains to these rhino species will continue.

Air Shepard Program Uses Drones to Hunt Elephant and Rhino Poachers

I write about the use of drones in the outdoor world regularly here on The Adventure Blog, although much of the time it is in the context of adventure filmmaking. But these fantastic tools can be used for more things than just capturing stunning aerial footage for a movie. In fact, some people are doing some very innovative things with drones that have nothing to do with creating media at all. Take for example the Lindbergh Foundation Air Shepherd program, an organization that is using unmanned drones to fight poachers in South Africa.

The program actually officially launched last month, but it is now ramping up more fully. The Air Shepard program uses drones that are capable of flying at night, and spotting poachers operating in the field using infrared cameras and GPS thermal imaging. This gives ranges operating in protected areas the chance to spot poachers – who usually conduct operations under the cover of night – before they can locate the animals they are searching for.

So how effective has the program been? Operating in one area that was experiencing up to 19 rhinos killed each month, that number has now been dropped to zero. Over a six month period of testing and collecting data, that location has seen no deaths at all. That's a fantastic reversal of fortunes for areas where poaching is common.

Right now, the Air Shepherd program is operating the Province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, which is home to more than 2500 wild rhinos. Perhaps more importantly however, it is also home to the deepest genetic pool of rhinos as well, which could be crucial for rebuilding the species in the years to come.

This great program combines two things that I'm passionate about technology – specifically drones – and wildlife conservation in Africa. Poaching is a horrible practice, and it is quickly pushing some important species to the brink of extinction. If we don't do anything to prevent this practice, elephants and rhinos will disappear from the wild. Having seen these creatures in their natural setting, that saddens me. Fortunately, this program is proving to be very effective. Hopefully we'll see it rolled out to other areas in the near future. Find out more in the video below.

Air Shepherd 1026_2 from BURNISH creative on Vimeo.

Video: Through the Thick - Preserving the Wild Rhino in South Africa

As someone who absolutely loves traveling through Africa, the thought of some of the iconic wildlife there being hunted to extinction is incredibly difficult to fathom. But poachers are killing off rhinos and elephants at an alarming rate, to the point where there may not be any left in the wild within a few decades. This video takes a look at the efforts to preserve rhinos in South Africa, where those creatures have been the target of illegal poaching for a long time. It is a fantastic 15-minute short documentary that is both informative and moving. This is definitely something everyone should see.

Through the Thick - Preserving the Rhino in South Africa - a Documentary from Nino Leitner on Vimeo.

Ripcord Travel Protection Supporst Anti-Poaching Efforts Namibia by Running an Ultramarathon

My friends over at Ripcord Travel Protection have been very busy lately. In addition to lending a hand to travelers all over the world, they've also gearing up for one of the most demanding ultramarathons in the world – the 250 km (155 mile) Sahara Race held in Namibia. But they won't be undertaking this tremendous effort solely for the challenge, as they're also using it as an effort to raise funds to combat illegal poaching in that country too.

The Redpoint team will consist of the company's Vice President, Tom Bochnowski and Operations paramedic Andrea Waters. They'll travel to Namibia at the end of April so they can be at the start of the race on May 1. In the week that follows, they'll travel self-supported through the desert as they push themselves to complete each stage of the race under grueling conditions.

Tom and Andrea's efforts will also serve as an opportunity for Redptoin to help raise funds for the Next Generation Conservation Trust Namibia, an organization dedicated to stomping out the poaching of rhinos and elephants there. The nonprofit has pioneered the use of unmanned drones to combat poachers, but those UAV's are expensive and more are needed to combat the problem. To support this good cause, Ripcord has set up a donation page for those who want to contribute.

Last year while climbing Kilimanjaro, my travel insurance was covered by Ripcord and I had the chance to see them in action. Two members of our team had to be evacuated from the mountain and the professionals at Ripcord took care of the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. I was so impressed that I can't help but recommend them to any adventure traveler looking for the best coverage possible when traveling in remote places. In fact, I'll be using them again when I travel to Mongolia later this year. If you're planning an adventure of your own, visit the Ripcord website for more info.

Video: Nat Geo Looks Back at Science and Exploration in 2015

Men's Journal isn't the only outlet that is reviewing the events of 2015. In this video, National Geographic takes a look back at the year that has passed, sharing some of the big stories from science and exploration. As you would expect with a video from Nat Geo, the visuals are spectacular with some great scenery from all over our amazing planet. It was indeed a busy and exciting year.

North Face Founder Doug Tompkins Dies in Kayaking Accident in Chile

There is sad news for the outdoor adventure community today as it was announced last night that Doug Tompkins, the founder of The North Face, has passed away in a kayaking accident that took place in Chile. He was 72.

According to reports, Tompkins was on a kayaking trip in the Patagonia region of South America. He, and several others were paddling across General Carrerra Lake in high winds and strong waves, when six members of the team, including Tompkins, capsized. They were all waters that were below 40ºF (4ºC) for an extended period of time, which led to Tompkins eventually passing away due to extreme hypothermia.

Doug founded The North Face back in 1964 as a local gear retail shop in San Francisco. Later, he would also found the Esprit clothing company as well. Both would grow into billion dollar empires. Tompkins retired from the business back in 1989, and moved to Chile where he purchased thousands of acres of land, both in that country and Argentina. Most of that land was turned into a private nature reserve to help keep the Patagonia region free from developers.

Tompkins' legacy will of course be The North Face, and his important work in conservation. But in 1968 he was part of a four-man team that spent six months traveling to Patagonia and climbing there. He and the team put up a new route on Fitzroy, and documented their efforts in books and films. One of the other members of that squad included Yvon Chouinard, who would go on to form Patagonia and also go to great lengths to help preserve the natural landscapes of Chile and Argentina.

None of the other members of Tompkins kayaking team were seriously injured in the accident. Unfortunately, he succumbed to hypothermia in the intensive care unit of a Chilean hospital. I wish to extend my sincere condolences to Doug's friends and family. He will certainly be missed.

Video: Nat Geo Invites Us to Change the World Together

National Geographic has long been at the forefront of research, conservation, and exploration. For decades, the nonprofit organization has used compelling storytelling to inspire and inform us about the biggest challenges our planet faces. But as we move deeper into the 21st century, those challenges only continue to mount, with animals facing extinction, natural habitats under siege, and climate change threatening to alter the environment dramatically. In this short, but powerful, video Nat Geo invites us all to work together to change our world, once again using amazing images to reinforce that point, and remind us of the importance of exploration.

Adventurers to Spend a Year in the Wilderness to Stop Mining

Remember Dave and Amy Freeman? They're the couple that were named National Geographic Adventurers of the Year back in 2014 for their 11,000+ mile (17,700 km) journey across North America, during which they established the Wilderness Classroom as a way to use adventure to help educate kids. Last year they also took a paddling trip to Washington, D.C. as a way to raise awareness of the threat of sulfide mining to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. Those efforts did not go unnoticed, but the threat remains very real. So now the husband and wife adventure team are planning to take yet another step in their campaign to protect the area they love, but this time they'll be spending a whole year in the wilderness to draw attention to the cause.

Starting on September 23 of this year, and running until September 22 of 2016, Dave and Amy will embark on a 365-day adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. During that time, they'll travel by canoe, snowshoe, and dogsled as they explore more than 500 lakes and streams that are threatened by sulfide-ore mining that is taking place on the edge of these protected lands, as well as Voyageurs National Park.

Dave and Amy hope to save the Boundary Waters by putting an end to mining operations there. Those mines sit on private lands just off the protected areas, but still threaten to have a harmful effect on the environment. This is an area that the couple knows well, and has fallen in love with, so they have made it their mission to protect it from this challenges.

The start of their year-long adventure is still two months away, but the duo is busy preparing for the challenges ahead. Once underway, you'll be able to read updates on their journey at

Video: Mile for Mile - Trail Running to Support Conservation in Patagonia

We all know that Patagonia is one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet. It is also one that is becoming increasingly threatened. That's why the team at Conservacion Patagonica have been working hard to create a national park in southern Chile to protect this wild and rugged place. The video below is entitled Mile for Mile, and follows three trail runners – Krissy Moehl, Jeff Browning, and Luke Nelson – as they embark on a 106 mile (170.5 km) run across what will eventually be that national park. Along the way they get to experience Patagonia in all of its glory, and it viewers get the opportunity to understand what makes the place so special.

As the park nears completion, there are still about 50 miles (80 km) of trail that needs to be built. To help with that effort, the gear company Patagonia is matching all funds donated to the cause through the end of the year. They also sponsored the creation of this short film, which considering the ties that the company has with the region is completely understandable. Find out more about the film, and the effort to create the trails in the park, at the official Mile for Mile campaign website.

Video: 50 Great Things About Northwest Rivers From a Kid's Perspective

A few days back American Rivers, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the waterways of the U.S., released this great video. It features a young man by the name of Parker who shares his 50 favorite things about the rivers of the Northwest. It is filled with fun images that I'm sure many of us can relate to, and for some of us the outdoors still make us feel like children from time to time. That is a special feeling indeed.

Video: A Line in the Sand

This video comes our way from Our Canyon Lands, a nonprofit that is working to preserve and protect the public lands of the American West, particularly those around Canyonlands National Park in Utah, which is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in all of North America. The stylized animation that make up this clip help to deliver the message that public lands are being threatened by outside interests, and unless something is done, we could use lose some amazing wilderness areas. While the imagery is definitely dramatic, and a bit over the top, it still hammers home the point. We must do something to ensure that these lands exist for future generations to enjoy too. We must draw a line in the sand.

A Line in the Sand from Our Canyon Lands on Vimeo.

Video: Adventure For A Purpose in the Himalaya

When professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones traveled to the Himalaya last year, he not only wanted to have a great adventure, he wanted to do something good as well. He teamed up with Gregg Treinish from Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, an organization that seeks to pair adventurers and explorers in the field, with scientists who need help collecting data. In Jeremy's case, that meant putting him in contact with researchers studying the retreat of glaciers across the globe. So, while he was in Nepal snowboarding, he also collected samples of snow and ice from the mountains that could provide crucial data to those researchers. The video below describes the project,  and provides some great footage of Jeremy in the Himalaya. It is an excellent story, and a good example of how we can use adventure for a purpose.