The inaugural World Wildlife Day took place earlier this week, marking a day to celebrate the beauty and variety of plants and animals. It was also a day to recognise and act on the causes that threaten their biodiversity, so we’ve picked an animal, insect and plant causing a stir in the news, and examined the various technological tools designed to help us secure their future.
Honeybees are experiencing a rough time at the moment. On top of coping with the adverse effects of pesticides and climate change, they’re susceptible to mite infestation, various diseases, and food shortages. In an attempt to unravel the complex and multi-faceted causes of colony decline, a group of researchers have created ‘virtual bees.’
BEEHAVE simulates the life of a honeybee colony in a realistic landscape to understand the most influential factors that affect bee colony growth and survival. Released on Monday (apt timing for World Wildlife Day), the model simulates everything from the queen’s egg-laying to collecting nectar and pollen. This information will help researchers and beekeepers to predict colony development and honey production.
Keeping an eye on rhinos
As demand for their horns soar, it was also revealed on Monday that dozens of South African rhinos could be moved to Australia in a last-ditch bid to defend the species from rampant poachers. Over one thousand rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa last year, and their horns are now worth nearly $20,000 on the black market.
The growing poaching problem has led the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to work with partners in Namibia to implement a host of technologies, including bungee-launched drones. Drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), will be fitted with night vision and thermal sensors to help rangers spot poachers and monitor the animals in real-time. This hi-tech tool will also be used to help protect elephants, 96 of which are killed each day for their ivory in Africa.
Milkweeds aren’t in danger of extinction, nor are they in danger at all, but certain pesticides have significantly reduced their numbers in the US, and this in turn has led a historic decline in migrating monarch butterflies. The monarchs’ annual migration from Canada to Mexico is at its lowest since 1993, and pesticide use on milkweeds - their prime source of food – has been pitched as the problem.
The solution? To encourage gardeners to plant monarch-attracting locally-sourced milkweeds, a non-profit group has utilised the power of the internet for the cause. Monarch Watch scoured the net for nurseries that supply milkweed plants and seeds and compiled them together in an easily accessible database by region and state.