By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor
I’m a skeptic when it comes to “International X Day” or “World Y Day.” Mostly they’re niche topics that give us an excuse to post photos of our cats or eat donuts. To be clear: I’m not complaining. But from a journalistic perspective, there’s not a ton for us there.
World Wildlife Day on the other hand—I can work with that. The UN-designated holiday falls on this Tuesday, March 3, and its theme is “sustaining all life on Earth.” It’s about raising awareness about the importance of our planet’s rich diversity of wildlife and what’s at risk if we continue to exploit it.
This is a message we strive to deliver in our journalism every day. We work with the goal that our storytelling inspires readers to care enough to take action to protect the world’s wildlife. Bringing you stories on important animal issues you may not know about is how we play our part. From shining a light on the world’s most trafficked mammal—which many people have never heard of (above)—to highlighting the threat invasive species pose to sensitive ecosystems, our photographers and writers aim to arm you with the information and inspiration to care about, and care for, Earth’s biodiversity.
Thank you for reading and sharing our stories. Thank you for the story ideas and feedback. And to our subscribers especially—thank you for helping us continue to do this kind of journalism.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Stand your ground: A western diamondback rattlesnake is poised to strike in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. Photographer Joel Sartore says this snake will coil and stand its ground when threatened, rattling the end of its tail rapidly to warn off any creature creeping too close.
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Today in a minute
The scope: Just how big is China’s secretive wildlife farm industry? The closures ordered in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak show the scale of the industry, which China says it will permanently ban. The Guardian reports the shutdown of nearly 20,000 wildlife farms, which raised species including peacocks, civets, porcupines, ostriches, wild geese, and boar.
Do solar storms affect whales? A study suggests that the disruptions, which produce high levels of electromagnetic radiation, may throw gray whales off course, and even lead to standings. The whales must navigate from as far north as Alaska's Aleutian Islands to Mexico before giving birth, Nat Geo's Douglas Main reports.
Should we eat octopus? The world wants more. But they are highly intelligent critters. And catches have fallen in traditional octopus meccas such as Spain and Japan and warming, acidifying seas threaten further declines. So, is aquaculture the next step, farming the fast-growing mollusks? So far, Eric Scigliano reports for Nat Geo, progress on that front has been halting—and controversial.
Stop with the turtles: At first, they were a pleasant diversion at Central Park. But then New York officials began wondering: Where did all the turtles come from? City officials are urging private pet owners not to dump their shelled slow-moving reptiles in the city's parks, which are being overrun (or overwalked), reports Caroline Hopkins for Nat Geo.
The bear whisperer: Wildlife officer Steve Searles tries to use stern voice commands rather than a gun to keep foraging bears, and other critters away from the 2.5 million annual campers, hikers and skiers around California’s Mammoth Lakes. Hired to hunt down bears, Searles soon shifted tactics. “Dead bears learn nothing,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “If you kill one, another will come in from the mountains to replace it."
Overheard at Nat Geo
Interoffice mail: Office workers of the world: How many of you have seen an internal message like this one, sent Tuesday by Nat Geo journalist Douglas Main? “Somebody left a box with a bunch of Himalayan caterpillar fungus in the lobby,” Main told the staff via Slack. “Regardless, I gave it to Kem (Onukogo) at the lobby security desk so nobody could swipe it.” The mystery fungus among us was solved within minutes; it was being used by a Nat Geo Explorer for a talk. Of course. And yes, we’ve written about it (and taken photographs, above, on gathering, cleaning, and bundling the valuable fungus).
The big takeaway
Once revered: Why are snow monkeys doing street circus-like shows in Japan? Doesn’t the nation hold the animal in great respect? Weren’t monkeys seen as the protectors of horses and intermediaries with the gods? Now, the macaques dress in diapers, walk on stilts play air hockey with passers-by. Some of their human “trainers” are harsh, Rene Ebersole and Jasper Doest discover.
Subscriber exclusive: Once revered, snow monkeys in Japan now do circus-like acts
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The last glimpse
Too big to radiate? Meet Chaos. This 16-year-old lion made headlines worldwide this fall when he underwent radiation treatment in a human clinic for two cancerous lesions on his nose. Here, the 600-pound lion fits (mostly) onto the radiation table. He’s recovering now, South Africa’s Sunday Times reports.