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Preservation efforts benefit all

The “Woodpecker” film recently shown at East Tennessee State University captured well the joyous excitement in the whole country when traces of a bird deemed extinct (Ivory-billed woodpecker) sug-gested its possible survival in a forest in Arkansas.
Through broadly based efforts in 2010, proclaimed as the “Year of Biodiversity” by the United Nations, biological researchers have been able to discover many “new” species and rediscover some thought lost long ago.
Among the latter were six frogs in a remnant forest patch in Haiti, a country which has lost to cutting almost all (99 percent) of its original forest.
One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt expressed hope in the fact that scientists were beginning to study, and “enlightened men and women here and there” to take action toward preserving wild animals and plants.
Several reports in a January issue of Science this year described inspiring and encouraging work, ongoing in several countries, toward this end.
One of the world’s most endangered primates is making a stand — in two families and four loners totaling only 22 members in all — on Hainan in southern China.
The island having been covered in tropical forest in earlier times, most of that was lost to beach resorts and rubber plantations since the 1960s, and villagers hunted the gibbons for use of their body parts in traditional medicine.
This extremely shy, arboreal ape had retreated to ever higher altitudes as the lowland forests disappeared.
Yet, its main food trees were mostly in the latter, forcing it to roam very far for forage, thus risking human encounters.
In the early 1990s, the Chinese authorities, “realizing that something precious was about to be lost” established the forest reserve where it survives.
Local people were trained to collect seeds from fallen fruits of forage trees, of which 80,000 were since planted.
Four pairs of rangers monitor the animals. With three females being pregnant now, the protection measures apparently effective and enough food accessible, the researchers state a cautious hope in this primate’s survival prospect.
At a university-based aviary and research facility in Western Ontario, Canadian and U.S. researchers make warblers and other migratory birds “go the distance.”
With the aid of a wind tunnel in which atmospheric features such as temperature, humidity and barometric pressure can be controlled, they are measuring the birds’ energy consumption and other physiological functions during long times aloft.
With better understanding of their essential fuel needs, the scientists hope, conservation efforts for migratory birds can be more effective.
A Cornell University scientist studied the “parliamentary-debate” behavior when honey bees are faced with an existential problem, needing to find another home when a new queen has been raised in the hive.
The decision to swarm, it turns out, is thoroughly fact-based, scout bees’ information on potential homes being much “discussed” over days, plans revised and agreement then reached, communally and cooperatively, triggering a cohesive exodus and relocation.
From “Honey Bee Democracy,” one might say, our own parliamentarians have a lot to learn.