Thursday, 30 June 2016

Resource Availability and Demand

Source: Dreamstime
There is an unprecedented global demand for land, energy, food, water, and minerals and scarcities frequently occur. The migration of people has led to an accelerated exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources. Resources are frequently used interrelatedly and a resource nexus exist. The resource nexus comprises the linkages between natural resources and raw materials that arise from economic, social, and natural processes. Physical, economic, and social interconnections between resources are growing and influence resource availability. The richness in natural resources has attracted people to urban areas but they are susceptible to over-exploitation or inappropriate use and are of global importance (Andrews-Speed et al 2012; Bathelt 2005; World Economic Forum 2014; National Geographic (sa); and Hayter and Patchell 2015).

Source: Pixempire
Our life is based on natural resources. Natural materials become resources when humans value them. People settle where they can make a living and where resources are available. Resources are extremely varied. A resource is a product of biological, ecological or geological processes that satisfies human wants and obtained from the environment to meet our needs and wants (food, water, and shelter). Natural resources in the form of materials, water and energy, as well as the land available to us on Earth, are the basis of all living beings on our planet. Natural resources (food, water, energy, and minerals) are stocks of materials that exist in the natural environment that are both scarce and economically useful in production or consumption, either in their raw state or after a minimal amount of processing. It originates in the interconnections between different resources (e.g. from the requirement of one resource as an input to produce another). It is biophysical materials that satisfy human wants and provide direct inputs to human well being. Resources can’t be consumed in their original form so resource development help to process into more usable commodities.  All goods either embody natural resources or require resources for their production (e.g. food crops require land and water to grow). The utility of resources and their contribution to human welfare may be experienced directly – for example, as material inputs such as food and shelter that enable subsistence – or indirectly via its role in exchange (Gregory et al 2009; Miller 2007; World Trade Report 2010; WEF 2014; Andrews-Speed et al 2012; Muilerman and Blonk 2001; SERI 2009; Hayter and Patchell 2015).
Source: Glacier Energy

There are three types, namely perpetual (the use of which does not lead to a reduction in their size, e.g. solar energy), renewable resources (e.g. fresh water, agricultural products (e.g. crops) and fish, and wood that can be harvested – but not faster than their rate of replenishment, and non-renewable (created by very slow geological processes, so slow in human terms that their use diminishes the available stocks, e.g. fossil fuels for energy and minerals) (Miller 2007; Muilerman and Blonk 2001). 

Natural resources depletion has taken at an unprecedented, rapid, and environmentally unsustainable pace. On a finite planet, the supply of food, water, energy, land, and materials is limited. Nature provides humans with all resources necessary for life. Without the constant use of natural resources, neither our economy nor our society could function. With a growing global population, economy, and affluence, our consumption of nature grows. Developing countries are more dependent on natural resources as their primary income source and for their livelihoods. Global extraction and consumption of natural resources will continue to increase dramatically, unless measures are implemented to reduce the overall amounts of resource use (UNEP 2014; SERI 2009; Moseley et al 2014; Andrews-Speed et al 2012; Muilerman and Blonk 2001; UNEP 2010).


With a dramatically increase in population, the demand for resources is taking place. The biosphere has a finite supply of material resources, but demand for them grows exponentially, leading to unprecedented shortages. Over the next 20 years, the world will see accelerating demand for natural resource commodities. To meet the growing demands for fresh water, food, timber, fuel, and fiber, humans have extensively changed ecosystems. The natural resource base our societies are built on is in danger of over-exploitation and collapse. Even if we manage to keep resources in use or in an accessible form, the amount of resources available is limited compared to the potential demand of a growing and increasingly affluent society. Against the backdrop of global environmental change, globalization, and urbanization, the resource nexus has implications both for lifestyles and livelihoods humanity’s demands exceed the planet’s capacity to efficiently provide for us (WEF 2014; SERI 2009; Andrews-Speed et al 2012; UNEP 2010; Balteanu and Dogaru 2011; and Harvey 2014).

Finite resources are being depleted and renewable resources are being extracted beyond their maximum sustainable yield.  Natural resource availability is the function of the supply and demand of resources that are discovered, processed, distributed, and consumed in intricate global value chains. Defining natural resource availability often fails to consider how they are distributed, both between countries and between individuals within countries. The challenges of sufficient and equitable access to natural resources will increase as the world population is projected to reach 8 billion by 2030, and over 9 billion by 2050. Physical, economic, and social interconnections between resources are growing, and will increasingly influence resource availability, in both positive and negative way (Andrews-Speed et al 2012; UNEP 2014; UNEP 2010; Moseley et al 2014; SERI 2009; WEF 2014; Balteanu and Dogaru 2011; Harvey 2014).

Concern over the potential for resource scarcity has grown considerably. Most resources are asymmetrically distributed around the globe. There is a great concern about whether the world’s limited natural resource base is capable of sustaining economic growth and a growing population. Notably, an increasing demand for natural resource commodities will challenge human ingenuity to continue to overcome impending resource scarcities. Actions affecting one resource often have consequences for other resources, in the same locale or on the other side of the world (WEF 2014; Andrews-Speed et al 2012; SERI 2009).

Impacts of human activities on nature have increased, changing ecosystem functions. Human activities and environmental change are strongly connected. Human-environment relationships is the interactions and feedbacks between the human and the natural components and to the linkages between the social and the geophysical systems. It deals with linkages between the social and physical systems, focusing on the human pressures on the biogeochemical processes and the environmental effects on society. It focuses on the escalating intensity of the interactions between human and nature. The interdependencies of natural and human systems are complex and can be measured by looking at spatial patterns of resource availability and demand, the changes that occur and how these patterns are affected by distribution, growth, and the movement of populations (Balteanu and Dogaru 2011).

The global economy depends on resource inputs extracted from the environment. Global economic and social development has been achieved through intensive, inefficient and unsustainable use of the earth’s finite resources. The extraction and use of natural resources are responsible for environmental problems. Many resource intensive patterns cause severe direct local environmental degradation on global ecosystems and the ecological services, including the devastation of old growth forests, the depletion and pollution of water resources, the destruction of fisheries, any species are under threat of extinction; and the despoliation of land in order to extract mineral resources. The major effects of the human impact on nature appeared first locally and then, as they multiplied and amplified, regionally and globally (Muilerman and Blonk 2001; Andrews-Speed et al 2012; SERI 2009; Harvey 2014; Sherbinin and Curran 2004; and Balteanu and Dogaru 2011; UNEP 2014). 

The human impact on the global environment and the earth system is large enough to denote a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Humanity is now a geophysical force, as influential on the earth as other major ecosystem functions. Humans cannot persist on business-as-usual paths through the 21st century because the stress on the global ecosystem and its many life-sustaining functions is too great. (Andrews-Speed et al 2012; and UNEP 2010). Thus, a sustainable livelihood is proposed.

A livelihood is sustainable which can cope with stress and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation; and which contributes net benefits to other livelihoods at the local and global levels and in the short and long term. It is founded on the ability of households to mobilize the assets that they have. It comprises the capabilities, assets (material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living. Achieving sustainable patterns of resource use is about achieving sustainable development. Sustainably utilizing resources is when resources are used to meet present generations needs without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own resource needs. The establishment of Sustainable Development Goals must integrate resource management concerns and promote the decoupling of economic growth rates from escalating resource use and environmental degradation. Goodland and Ledec (1987) (as cited in Bathelt 2005) defines sustainable development as “a pattern of social and structural economic transformations (e.g. development) which optimizes the economic and societal benefits available in the present, without jeopardizing the potential for similar benefits in the future” (Andrews-Speed et al 2012).

Urbanisation, coupled with an increase in growth and development, place stress on resources. Resources are frequently scarce. There is a greater demand than supply, inevitably exceeding its carrying capacity. Shifting to an integrated perception of future resource availability is a critical part of tackling the social and economic shifts required to reach three goals: sufficient supplies of natural resources, flourishing natural ecosystems and sustainable prosperity for global populations. To achieve a reduction in resource use, it is vital that a change in our economies deal with natural resources and the services they provide takes place. The challenge is to ensure a high quality of life without exceeding the environmental capacities of our planet. A strategy of reducing resource use will diminish the pressures on the global environment. Humans need to balance short-term rates of use against long-term availability to ensure a sustainable future (WEF 2014; SERI 2009; UNESCO 2011).

Andrews-Speed, P., Bleischwitz, R., Boersma, T., Johnson, C., Kemp, G., & VanDeveer, S.D.  2012. The Global Resource Nexus: Struggles for Land, Energy, Food, Water, and Minerals [online]. Washington DC: Transatlantic Academy.

Balteanu, D. & Dogaru, D. 2011. Geographical Perspectives on Human-Environment Relationships and Anthropic Pressure Indicators. Rom. Journ. Geogr., 55, (2), p. 69–80 [online].

Bathelt, H. 2005. Resources in economic geography: from substantive concepts towards a relational perspective. Environment and Planning Volume 37, pages 1545 – 1563 [online]. 

Gregory, D., Johnston, R., Pratt, G., Watts, M., Whatmore, S. 2009. The Dictionary of Human Geography 5th Edition. West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing.

Harvey, R. 2014. From Natural Resource Dependence to Diversified Economies: An Agenda for Future Research. Policy Insights (5). SAIIA. Governance of Africa’s Resources Programme.

Hayter, R., & Patchell, J. 2015. Resource Geography 2nd edition. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Volume 20 p. 568 – 575 [online].

Krantz, L. 2001. The Sustainable Livelihood Approach to Poverty Reduction: An Introduction. [online]. Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

Moseley, W.G., Perramond, E., Hapke, H.M., & Paul, L. 2014. An Introduction To Human-Environment Geography: Local Dynamics and Global Processes. West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell Publishing.

Miller, G.T. 2007. Living in the environment: principles, connections, and solutions 15th Edition. Belmont: Cengage Learning.

Muilerman, H., & Blonk, H. 2001. Towards a sustainable use of natural resources. [online].

National Geographic. [sa]. ‘Resource’.

Rigg, J. 2007. An everyday geography of the Global South. Abingdon: Routledge.
Sustainable Europe Research Institute. 2009. Overconsumption? Our use of the world’s natural resources [online].

Sherbinin, A. & Curran, S.R. 2004. Completing the Picture: The Challenges of Bringing “Consumption” into the Population-Environment Equation. Essay Prepared for Consideration by the Population-Environment Research Network Cyberseminar 17-31 May 2004.

UNEP. 2010. Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials. [online]. International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management.

UNEP. 2014. Managing and Conserving the Natural Resource Base for Sustained Economic and Social Development [online]. International Resource Panel.

UNESCO. 2011. The impact of global change on water resources: The response of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme. [online].

World Economic Forum (WEF). 2014. The Future Availability of Natural Resources: A New Paradigm for Global Resource Availability.

World Trade Report. 2010. Trade in Natural Resources. World Trade Organisation. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

Threats to Sharks

Because they are very slow to reach reproductive age, sharks have great difficulty recovering their populations after extreme depletions. Despite their superior physiology and hunting skills, many shark species are now threatened with extinction. Of the 465 assessed species of sharks living in our oceans, 74 are currently listed as threatened (including 11 species which are critically endangered) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The IUCN has estimated that one quarter of all shark, ray, and chimaera species are threatened with extinction.

Sharks are unfortunately disappearing at an alarmingly fast rate due to several threats. In a study conducted by Oceana, researchers estimated that as many as 100 million sharks are still caught and killed worldwide due to bycatch, illegal fishing, and the demand for shark fins. This makes it extremely difficult for endangered sharks to survive.

Bycatch is the accidental capture of non-target fish and other marine life, and occurs in fisheries around the world. When lines are unattended, such as in some longline fisheries, the toll can be particularly high. The species that are most at risk include dusky sharks and scalloped hammerheads. Dusky shark populations off the Atlantic coast has declined by 85 percent. Scalloped hammerheads are extremely susceptible to fishing mortality due to their uniquely shaped and sensitive bodies.

Oceana reports that up to 24 countries may be catching sharks within the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea without reporting such catches. Commercially-caught species like mako and blue sharks are fished without any restrictions.

The international fin trade is one of the greatest threats to shark species. It is a wasteful and harmful practice in which only two to five percent of the shark is even used — once a shark's fins are cut off at sea, the shark is tossed back into the water to drown.

The impact of commercial fishing on shark populations is astonishing. Recreational fishing for sharks is popular in many places and species targeted are blue sharks, shortfin mako, porbeagle, and thresher sharks.

Coastal development has increased significantly which has altered habitats, increased levels of pollution and resulted in the general environmental degradation. Many shark species use inshore coastal and estuarine habitats as a safe place for finding food, giving birth and growing up away from predators and competitors. Thus, they are vulnerable to negative changes in their habitat.

Sharks are susceptible to pollution (filtered from land activities or directly deposited into the seas) and environmental contamination. As apex predators with very slow growth, they accumulate the pollutants and toxins in the environment and bioaccumulating all the toxins of their prey.


Great White Shark

Source: Kids Konnect
Other names for this lethal predator include: White Death, Great Pointer or White shark.

Kingdom          Animalia

Phylum            Chordata

Class                Chondrichthyes

Subclass           Elasmobranchii

Superorder       Selachimorpha

Order                Lamniformes

Scientific Name Carcharodon Carcharias

Type                Fish

Source: NSW Government
It is well-known for its size, reaching upwards of 6.4m (21 ft) in length. Females are larger than males. Their weight limit is approximately 3,000 kg (7,000 lb). It is the fourth largest shark, following the megamouth shark, the basking shark and the whale shark.

It's famous for its dark to light grey upper body and all white lower half. To a seal swimming on the surface, the shark would resemble the murky depths below it and if seen from below, the stark white belly would resemble the light from above, known as countershading.
Source: Mirror UK

It has a long pointed conical snout, similarly sized upper and lower lobes of the tail and a mouth filled with serrated teeth. The jaws of the sharks are lined with rows of teeth just beneath the gum. It is composed of nearly pure muscle, with very little fat. It stores fat in the liver for emergency use or for travelling long distances without eating.

The Great White’s behaviour is not well known. But some have been found to have bites matching other Great Whites, suggesting that a proximity warning is given with a light bite. Spy hopping is frequently done as the shark breaks the surface of the water and looks above the ocean for prey. Research suggest that it has to do with smelling for prey, as smell travels faster through air than water.

They also breach whereby they, usually while attacking, charge from below the prey at up to 40kmph (25mph). This results in huge sharks breaking the surface of the water while grabbing the prey, flying up to 3 m (10 ft), above the water.
Source: The Animal Globe
They are carnivorous, preying on nearly any fish in the ocean, but preferably fat rich animals. Juvenile (younger than 15) sharks hunt and eat small fish because the cartilage in their jaws isn’t mineralized to withstand the force for a stronger bite. Older sharks are able to hunt larger prey, such as elephant seals, sunfish and even whales. They also scavenge food, consuming off the dead carcasses of, for example, whales. This particular species is warm-blooded and although it doesn’t keep a constant body temperature, it needs to eat a lot of meat to regulate its temperature. 

Their distribution is widespread, found in every ocean and sea across the world. They are commonly found as far north as the Upper Atlantic and Pacific, just south of Arctic waters and as far south as the southern tip of Australia. The Great White is considered native to the Mediterranean states, United States, sub-Saharan coastal states, South America and the Australian states. They stay close to coastal shelves, preferring to hunt off the coastline. They spend their time in temperate waters all over the world, but have made fleeting trips into colder water in the north.

Source: Animal Fact Guide
Sharks reach reproductive maturity at 15 years. Females are ovoviviparous (they hatch their eggs internally then give birth once their pups are strong enough). Pups are oophagous (they eat the weaker eggs while gestating). After mating the female develops several eggs which hatch in her womb. They give birth between spring and summer and have specific breeding grounds. They have anywhere between 1-5 pups. Pups are roughly 1 ft. long when they are born and weigh around 5kg. Their jaws are strong enough to kill within their first month of life.

Their numbers have steadily declined, though there is no exact number of population size. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, their status is currently Vulnerable but it is on the cusp of being labelled endangered due to overfishing.

Source: HD Desktop Wallpapers

Shoutout to SHARKS


Source: Shark Facts
It is indisputable that sharks are some of the most majestic creature of the marine world. Sharks are an apex predator and they are at the top of the marine food chain and, consequently, regulate species populations that are below them. Sharks have been around for 400 million years (pre-dating dinosaurs and even trees). Their Conservation Status is Threatened. Frequently there is a misconception about them. Although they still remain dangerous species, attacks on humans are more commonly rare and they are far more scared of than we could ever be of them. There are more than 465 known species of sharks in our oceans. More worrisome is the fact that shark populations have declined considerably and has cascading effects throughout the ocean’s ecosystems. In fact, they are amongst the most threatened marine vertebrates on Earth, with some species facing extinction as they face numerous human threats.

Kingdom                      Animalia

Phylum                        Chordata

Class                            Chondrichthyes

Subclass                       Elasmobranchii

Scientific Name           Selachimorpha

Type                             Fish

Source: Wikipedia
It features include a torpedo-like body shape, large distinctive dorsal fin and gaping tooth filled jaws. They are highly sophisticated. Their general anatomy is fairly consistent in all the various species.

Sharks boast five to seven gill slits on the sides of the head, unlike most fish that only have one gill. They rely on a large oil filled liver for buoyancy and takes up around 30% of their total body mass, using it in conjunction with forward movement to control vertical position.

Chondrichthyes have skeletons made up of cartilage rather than bone, and lack a swim bladder. Cartilage is lighter, more durable, and flexible than bone, contributing to their overall agility whilst also saving energy. This is vital when sharks must constantly move to prevent sinking.

Sharks have powerful jaws. The jaws of sharks are not attached to their skull. It moves separately with independent upper and lower jaws, allowing them to lift their head and thrust their mouth forward to bite its prey. The surface of shark’s jaws have extra support in the form of tiny hexagonal plates called ‘tesserae’ – calcium salt deposits which give shark cartilage more strength.
Source: Kidzone
Their teeth are sharp and pointy. Sharks may have up to 3,000 teeth at one time and are fully embedded into the gums. A shark bites with its lower jaw first and then its upper.  Each type of shark has a different shaped tooth depending on their diet. Interestingly, sharks never run out of teeth – they continuously grow multiple rows of replacement teeth in a groove inside of the jaw, and are usually replaced one at a time as opposed to entire rows. It is estimated that some sharks may lose 30,000 or more teeth in their lifetime, with replacement rates varying from several days to several months.

The shape and size of the teeth vary depending on their purpose. There are four main types of shark teeth:
·         Needle-like teeth are found in sharks whose diet consist of small to medium sized fish and are effective at gripping onto agile and slippery fish.
·         Serrated, wedge like teeth are found in larger species that feed on larger prey. It is effective at cutting off chunks of flesh for easy swallowing.
·         Teeth which serve no purpose are found in plankton feeders (for example the basking and whale shark who uses their gills to filter feed).
·         Dense, plate like teeth are used to crush the shells of prey (for example bivalves and crustaceans). Includes smaller sharks like nurse or angel sharks.

Fins and Tails
The majority of sharks have 8 rigid fins:
A pair of pectoral fins that lift the shark as it swims
One or two dorsal fins offering stability
A pair of pelvic fins offering stability
An anal fin offers stability
A caudal fin (tail) that propels the shark forward

The shark’s tail provides its forward motion, with speed and acceleration dependent on shape and size. Some tails have large upper lobes for slow cruising with short and sudden bursts of speed, whereas others have larger lower lobes for continued pace.

Their skin is made of denticles and not from ordinary fish scales and act as an outer skeleton for easy movement and for saving energy in the water. It is constructed like hard, sharp teeth and help to protect the shark from injury. Sharks wounds heal quickly.

The upper side of a shark is normally dark to blend in with the water from above and their undersides are white or lighter coloured to blend in with the lighter surface of the sea from below which helps to camouflage them from predators and prey.

Their size vary from 17cm (Spined Pygmy Shark) to 12 metres (Whale Shark).

Most shark species are carnivorous. The range of prey is exceptionally broad, including small bivalves, crustaceans, plankton, krill, marine mammals, and even other sharks (for example, a tiger shark might eat a bull shark, a bull shark might eat a blacktip shark and a blacktip shark might eat a dogfish shark). Generally sharks eat live prey, but have been known to feed on large whale carcasses. Sharks also have a very acute sense of smell that allows them to detect blood in the water from miles away. The gentle giants (for example the whale and basking shark) feed on plankton, filtering the water and trapping small organisms with sieve-like filaments. Sharks eat normally alone, but sometimes one feeding shark attracts others and all begin to try to get a piece of the prey. Some shark species attack and surprise their prey (such as seals and sea lions) from below.

Source: Animal Fact Guide
Sharks occur in all seas and have adapted to living in a wide range of aquatic habitats and varying temperatures. Some species inhabit shallow, coastal regions, others live in deep waters, on the ocean floor and in the open ocean. They mostly avoid fresh water. An exception is the bull and river sharks that swim between sea and fresh water. They are normally found to a depth of 2,000 meters, with some existing even deeper. ‘Pelagic’ sharks (for example the Great White) prefer large open waters. ‘Benthic’ sharks (including the wobbegong) are seen skating along the ocean floor. Typically, sharks are confined to their suited habitat for their whole lives. But some migrate short distances or entire oceans for feeding or breeding purposes.

Only a few species are solitary hunters (including the great white) but, they too, often coexist at active hunting or breeding grounds. Most execute a range of social behaviour, hunting in packs or congregating in large numbers. Sharks characteristically cruise at an average speed of 8km per hour because they need to move in order to breathe. This forces water over their gills, delivering oxygen to the blood stream. Conversely, some shark species have adapted to benthic living, resting on the sea bed, and pumping water over their gills. Interestingly, they never enter a true state of sleep. Their eyes remain open and even track the movements of their surroundings during periods of inactivity. Some species are even able to ‘sleep swim’ by being unconscious while meandering around the ocean as a result of swimming being coordinated by their spinal cord and not their brain. Most sharks are particularly active at night when they hunt. Some shark species are solitary, while others display social behaviour. For example, hammerhead sharks school during mating season around seamounts and islands.

Source: Animal Fact Guide

Sharks have excellent senses. Two-thirds of a shark's brain is dedicated to its smell sense. They are able to detect a drop of blood from very far away and it gives them the ability to determine the direction of a particular scent based on the time it takes to reach one nostril compared to the other. Their nostrils are primarily used for smelling (as opposed to breathing) and are located on the underside of their snout.

Furthermore, they have great eyesight. New research shows that sharks may be colour-blind. A mirror like layer in the back of the eye called the tapetum lucidum doubles the intensity of incoming light and allowing them to see remarkably well in dim conditions. They don’t blink, even though they have eyelids. They rely on surrounding water to clean their eyes. When hunting or being attacked, some sharks have tough membranes that slides over and protects the eyes. Species that don’t have this membrane, roll their eyes backwards when striking prey.

Sharks do have ears which are located within a small opening on each side of their head, but it isn’t visibly present. Sound travels faster in water and sharks rely on it to alert them to prey or danger which can detected from over 800 feet away.

They are able to feel vibrations in the water using a line of canals that go from its head to its tail and are filled with water and contain sensory cells with hairs growing out of them. These hairs move when the water vibrates and alerts it to potential prey. Sharks also have a sensory organ called the "ampullae of Lorenzini" which they use to "feel" the electrical field coming from its prey.

Sharks mostly live 20-30 years. They mature slowly and reach a reproductive age from 12 to 15 years. Sharks are a k-selected species (they produce a small number of larger, more developed young), resulting in a relatively high survival rate. Nevertheless, mating between sharks is still rarely observed, especially between the larger species such as the great white. Many species only give birth to one or two pups at a time and have difficulty recovering after their populations have declined.
 There are also different ways that sharks come into this world, including: eggs are laid (like birds); eggs hatch inside the mother and then are born; and pups sharks grow inside the mother (like humans).

Source: Arkive
Baby sharks are called pups. Shark pups are born with fully-fledged sets of teeth. Sharks don’t care for their babies after they are born, but they do search for a safe place where they can lay their eggs or give birth. Soon after birth, they swim away to feed and live on their own.

It is problematic to estimate population numbers since there are many dissimilar species spanning a large geographic area. But it is undeniable that overall shark numbers are on the decline due to several threats they face in the wild. Their lifespan is about 20-30 Years in the wild.


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Giant Pandas

Source: Animal Wikia

Giant Pandas are some of the most beloved and beautiful animals in the world. They are one of the world’s best known species because of their black and white coat and prominent black eye patches. However, the ‘Bamboo Bear’ is among the shyest and rarest animals in the world.

Source: Animal Fact Guide
Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus and species: Ailuropoda melanoleuca (meaning 'black and white cat-foot'). 

Scientists weren’t really sure if giant pandas were indeed bears or possibly closer related to raccoons. But studies of panda DNA have confirmed the panda's relationship with bears and are now classified as part of the bear family because of their similarity to other bears in their general looks and the way they walk and climb.

The giant panda was once widely found throughout southern and eastern China, as well as neighbouring Myanmar and northern Vietnam. They once lived in lowland areas, too, but due to human activities such as farming, forest clearing, and other development they are restricted to the mountains. Giant pandas they naturally inhabit the remote, mountain forests. Due to expanding human populations and development, the species is restricted to 20 isolated patches of bamboo forest in six mountain ranges in China's Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Wild pandas still remaining live in the Minshan and Qinling mountains.

Source: Animal Fact Guide
Giant pandas live at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet in broadleaf and coniferous forests with a dense understory of bamboo. Torrential rains or dense mist throughout the year occur, often covered in heavy clouds. High bamboo forests are cool and wet—just as pandas like it and perfect for their needs. They will climb 13,000 feet (3,962 m) up the mountains of their home area to feed on higher slopes in the summer. Giant pandas make their dens from hollowed-out logs or stumps of conifer trees found within the forest.

Source: WWF
They are also called great pandas, parti-coloured bears, bamboo bears, and white bears. It has a body typical of bears. Giant pandas are distinguished from other pandas by their large size and black-and-white colouring. Giant pandas are identified by their distinctive black and white colouring. It has black fur on ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, and shoulders. The rest of the animal's coat is white. Speculation about why they are black and white relates to the bold colouring provides effective camouflage into their shade-dappled snowy and rocky surroundings. Their thick, woolly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. Giant pandas have large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles for crushing tough bamboo. They have a special bone that extends from their wrists called a “pseudo-thumb” to hold and manipulate bamboo.

Source: National Geographic Kids UK
They are about the same size of an American black bear, giant pandas stand between two and three feet tall at the shoulder (on all four legs), and reach four to six feet long. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 250 pounds in the wild. Females rarely reach 220 pounds.

There are an estimated 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild and is extremely endangered. More than 300 pandas live in breeding centres and zoos. Because Giant Pandas in the wild or rare and elusive, most of what we know about them comes from studying zoo animals.

Giant Pandas are omnivores as they eat both vegetation and meat. They have especially an insatiable appetite for bamboo as a wild giant panda’s diet consist almost exclusively (99 per cent) of bamboo. There are about 20 different species of bamboo that pandas will eat and is the most important plant in their life. They eat half the day—a full 12 out of every 24 hours!—and relieves itself dozens of times a day. Due to the low nutritional value of bamboo, pandas need to forage and eat 10-20 kg (20-40 lb.) a day to satisfy their daily dietary needs. The giant panda's stomach is ideal for digesting bamboo. The walls of the stomach are extra-muscular to digest the wood of the bamboo. The stomach is also covered inside with mucus that prevents it from being punctured by splinters. Occasionally pandas will eat other available food and the balance comprises of other grasses and, occasionally, small rodents, fish, birds, or musk deer fawns. A panda eats while sitting upright, in a pose that resembles how humans sit on the floor. This posture leaves the front paws free to grasp bamboo stems. An evolutionary trait is their protruding wrist bone that acts like a thumb to help hold bamboo while they munch on it with their strong molar teeth. The giant panda has the largest molar teeth of any carnivore. Their strong jaws are capable of crushing bamboo stems up to 4cm in diameter. They use their teeth to peel off the tough outer layers of the stalk to reveal the soft inner tissue.

Water: Wild giant pandas get most of the required water from bamboo, a grass whose contents are about half water. But they need more than just what bamboo can provide. Therefore, they also drink fresh water from rivers and streams that are fed by melting snowfall in high mountain peaks.

Adult giant pandas are normally solitary, but they are able to communicate occasionally through scent marks, calls, and sporadic meetings. Offspring stay with their mothers until they are about three years old.

Source: International Business Times

Giant Pandas living in the wild, have shorter lifespans than in zoos and is approximately 20 years. Zoo pandas can live up to 35 years.

Giant pandas reach breeding maturity when they are four to eight years old. They may be reproductive until about age 20. Female pandas ovulate only once a year, in the spring. The only time she is able to conceive is a very short period of two to three days around ovulation. In this short time, male and female pandas find each other through scents and calls. Female giant pandas give birth in a nest of bamboo after five months (between 95 and 160 days) after mating. In her lifetime, she may successfully raise only five to eight cubs. It is possible to give birth to two young, but only one usually survives as the mother can’t care for both.

The new born cub is blind, hairless, and tiny, weighing only 85-140 g (3-5 oz.) (about the size of a butter stick) and the length of a pencil (about 15 cm). They are born pink/white, and develop their much-loved colouring later. They only open their eyes six to eight weeks after birth.
Source: Huffington Post Australia
Except for a marsupial (such as the kangaroo), a giant panda baby is the smallest mammal new born relative to its mother's size. The mother takes great care of her fragile and tiny cub by cradling it in one paw and holding it close to her chest. Interestingly, for several days after birth, the mother does not leave the den not even to eat or drink.
Source: Daily Mail
Mothers are protective and careful tending to her cub as it is completely helpless and can’t move much on its own for nearly 3 months. A cub is nutritionally weaned at one year, but not socially weaned for up to two years. Cubs may stay with their mothers for up to two to three years until it is independent enough to establish its own territory.
Sadly, the giant pandas’ naturally slow breeding rate prevents a population from recovering quickly from illegal hunting, habitat loss, and other human-related causes of mortality.

Pandas are frequently seen eating in a relaxed sitting posture, with their hind legs stretched out before them. Although they appear to be sedentary, they’re skilled tree-climbers and efficient swimmers. They do not roar like other bears. Giant pandas are loners and have a heightened sense of smell to let them know when another panda is nearby so it can be avoided. If another comes into close contact, they will swat, growl and even bite. Their territory is about 1.9 square miles (5 square kilometers) and they mark it by secreting a waxy scent marker that they rub on their territory. Males will use their smelling ability to find a female when they are ready to mate. When they are not eating for almost half the entire day, they either sleep or rest.

·         It is a highly specialized animal, with unique adaptations.
·         When danger from predators (such as brown bears and wild dogs) is imminent, pandas can take refuge in the nearest tree due to its paws being broad with long retractile claws and furry undersides which help to grip when climbing.
Source: How Stuff Works

Source: Pure Travel
·         The giant panda does not hibernate. However, it will shelter in caves or hollow trees in very cold weather.
·         Even though they are regarded as cute and cuddly, they are just as dangerous as any other bear.
·         The panda also has a significance for World Wildlife Fund because it has been WWF's logo since our founding in 1961.
Source: WWF

The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species. There are about 1,600 left in the wild. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centres, mostly in China.

Source: Arkive
One of the primary reasons why pandas are endangered is due to the fact that habitat destruction frequently occurs as the population grow and development takes place. This forces them to live in smaller, less livable areas. It also leads to food shortages and possibly starvation because bamboo varieties bloom at different times of the year and then they won’t have anything to eat during the time it normally blooms. Clearing of areas for crop cultivation and infrastructure, and logging for timber and fuel wood occur. Fragmenting of forests isolates panda populations and prevents them from breeding. As human settlements curb the pandas’ habitat, it hampers pandas’ ability to migrate and which could also lead to starvation. Another reason is the natural die-back of the local variety of bamboo.  

What is being done to conserve pandas?
Sanctuaries have been established with sufficient space for 500-600 pandas in order to increase pandas’ numbers. Scientists are studying the animal’s habits and instituting conservation programs.  One crucial way to ensure pandas’ survival is to establish new reserves and extending existing ones. Bamboo corridors have been developed to link isolated pockets of forest, allowing the pandas within them to move to new areas, find more food and meet more potential breeding mates. China has a network of 67 panda reserves, which safeguard more than 66% of the giant pandas in the wild and almost 54% of their existing habitat.

Pandas play a decisive role in the bamboo forests where they roam because they are able to spread seeds and facilitate vegetation growth. One of the many reasons that we must save this species is the fact that we are primarily responsible for them being endangered. Another reason is the fact that we will provide a lifeline for a host of other endangered animals, including the golden snub-nosed monkey, takin and crested ibis that share the forests with the panda.

This distinctive black and white animal is adored all over the world. There is still much more that can be learned from these elusive animals. It is important that they are protected indefinitely. So, please do your part to save these wonderful animals.