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Half A Billion Bees Drop Dead In Brazil Amid Jump In Pesticide Use

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Photo Credit: Cosmos Magazine
Photo Credit: Waking Times

More than 500 million bees dropped dead in Brazil in the last three months, mostly as a result of pesticide use. The pesticides used are said to have contained products which are banned in Europe, such as neonicotinoids and fipronil.

Last April, the EU imposed a near-total ban on neonicotinoids because of the serious harm it could cause to bees; however in the same year Brazil lifted restrictions on pesticides.

According to an investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed, the use of pesticides in the country has increased, with 193 products containing chemicals banned in the EU registered in Brazil in the last three years.

Data showed a significant spike in approvals of new environmentally hazardous pesticide products under the governments of Michel Temer and current president Jair Bolsonaro. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as cited by Bloomberg, Brazil’s pesticide use increased 770% from 1990 to 2016.

Brazil has become the biggest buyer of pesticides in the world; the country uses them because its economy is reliant on agriculture.

However, almost half of all products approved since Bolsonaro took office reportedly contain active ingredients featured on Pesticide Action Network’s (PAN) list of highly hazardous pesticides, indicating they pose a risk to human health or the environment.

Brazil’s health watchdog Anvisa reportedly found 20% of samples contained pesticide residues above permitted levels, or contained unauthorised pesticides.

Greenpeace report there are concerns the widespread use of pesticides in the country could have major consequences for the country’s wildlife and environment.

The mass deaths were reported by beekeepers in four Brazilian states. According to Bloomberg, 400 million bees were found dead in Rio Grande do Sul alone, while seven million were found in São Paulo, 50 million in Santa Catarina and 45 million Mato Grosso do Sul.

Lab research points to pesticides as the main cause of death for most of the bees in Brazil.

Aldo Machado, vice president of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul beekeeping association, told Bloomberg his colony was decimated in less than 48 hours after some of the bees first showed signs of illness.

“As soon as the healthy bees began clearing the dying bees out of the hives, they became contaminated. They started dying en masse.” Aldo Machado.

Bees play a vital part in the food chain, with around one-third of the food we eat relying on pollination mainly by bees.

The bee population is suffering worldwide as a result of habitat loss and climate change as well as pesticides.

In the past year in the US beekeepers lost four in 10 of their honeybee colonies, mass deaths have been reported in 20 regions in Russia and at least one million bees died in South Africa in November 2018 as a result of fipronil, BBC News reports.

Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Turkey have all also reported mass die-offs of bees in the last 18 months.

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) says unused land should be managed to better safeguard bee populations and more urban green spaces should be developed to protect bees.

More locally, Heifer International offer a list of ways individuals can help the bee population, such as allowing dandelions and clovers to grow in gardens without being mowed down, planting an array of herbs and flowers and avoiding pesticides and herbicides.

WWF point out restoring bee populations is possible but it is a task which will require many changes, including reversing fragmentation of wild flower meadows, reducing the effects of chemical pollution, protecting bees from imported diseases and taking targeted action to bring endangered species back from the brink.

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Environment

Face Masks And Latex Gloves Have Become A New Environmental Problem

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Photo Credit: Opération Mer Propre

The Covid-19 pandemic may have given the planet a temporary, though not long-lasting, breather when it comes to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s also given Earth a new environmental scourge: latex gloves on beaches and sewers filled with face masks.

A number of organizations have raised concerns that oceans, rivers, and sewers are becoming increasingly swamped with disposable face masks, latex gloves, hand sanitizer bottles, and other non-recyclable personal protective equipment (PPE) items as the world continues to grapple with Covid-19.

French ocean conservation group Opération Mer Propre regularly documents its ocean clean-up operations on social media and has reported seeing notably more pieces of PPE in the Mediterranean Sea.

Very worrying about the new waste related to Covid… We pick [this kind of pollution] up at every clean now, mainly latex gloves,” Opération Mer Propre posted on Facebook May 20.

This is the first disposable masks to arrive in the Mediterranean,” the group wrote after a clean-up operation on May 23. “It’s just the beginning and if nothing changes it will become a real ecological disaster and maybe even health [one].”

Image courtesy of Opération Mer Propre

It isn’t just Europe, or natural environments, that are feeling the burn. A number of city authorities in the US have also reported sewers and storm water pumping stations becoming clogged with latex gloves and facemasks, which they believe many people are flushing down toilets.

Although there’s no data on the scale of the problem yet, the Associated Press contacted 15 city authorities in the US and all reported they had had significantly more sewer clogs and drainage issues since the pandemic began. This might be related to people flushing PPE or, they say, it could be due to people flushing alternatives to toilet tissue amid the early-lockdown panic buying.

In light of this pollution problem, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a statement telling citizens to properly dispose of PPE. Advice included not putting used disinfectant wipes, gloves, masks, PPE, or any medical waste in recycling bins as they could be contaminated by pathogens and are considered a health hazard. A number of recycling organizations have urged people to dispose of discarded masks and gloves safely by putting them in general refuse. It should also go without saying that littering PPE is gross, inconsiderate, and dangerous, so be sure to safely put used PPE into the appropriate general refuse bin if you’re out in public.

No one should be leaving used plastic gloves or masks on the ground in a parking lot or tossing them into the bushes,” David Biderman, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), said in a statement. “Discarded contaminated PPE on the ground increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and has negative impacts on the environment.”

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Animal World

Hummingbirds Turn Into Rainbows In Amazing Photos By Christian Spencer

Who knew hummingbirds’ wings turn into rainbows when photographed against the sun?

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Hummingbirds
Photo Credit: Christian Spencer

Australian artist and photographer Christian Spencer made an amazing discovery while standing on his verandah in Rio de Janeiro. When he photographed the black Jacobin hummingbird flying in front of the sun, a beautiful prism effect occurred.

At that very moment, the hummingbird’s feathers turned into a perfect rainbow of colours.

WINGED PRISM © Christian Spencer

Spencer has been following hummingbirds with his camera for years, and his film recording of the phenomenon was included in his 2011 short film, The Dance of Time.

The movie received 10 international awards and three best film honours. But that wasn’t the end of his fascination with the rainbow hummingbirds. Years later, Spencer returned to the subject.

THE ECLIPSE © Christian Spencer

I decided to try and photograph the same phenomenon with my camera,” he told Collective Spark. The resulting series, Winged Prism, reveal “a secret of nature that cannot be seen with our eyes.”

“Nearly all of the photos were taken in 2014. I have tried many times unsuccessfully to take similar photos but I think it depends on the atmospheric conditions and how much magic is in the air,” he added.

Despite the fact that we live in an age of post-production and image manipulation, these photos were never manipulated digitally. The visual affects you see here occur naturally.

WINGS OF LIGHT © Christian Spencer
WINGS OF LIGHT © Christian Spencer
CLOUD ANGEL © Christian Spencer
VITRAL © Christian Spencer
VITRAL © Christian Spencer
COSMIC ANGEL © Christian Spencer
HUMMINGBIRD GEOMETRY © Christian Spencer
HUMMINGBIRD GEOMETRY © Christian Spencer

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Animal World

These Guard Dogs Protect The World’s Smallest Penguins (Successfully)

When foxes discovered this small Australian island and its little penguin inhabitants, they nearly wiped the colony out. But a farmer came up with a novel way to protect the birds.

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These Guard Dogs Protect The World’s Smallest Penguins (Successfully)
Photo Credit: Nat Geo

The problem first became apparent in the year 2000 when the sea’s natural current led to increased sand build-up in the area. As a result, the local fox population on this island in Australia called Middle Island started to grow as there was an easy source of food around.

The penguins – the world’s smallest actually – faced being wiped out until a chicken farmer by the name Swampy Marsh (wow) came up with a plan. He suggested sending one of his Maremma dogs to protect the birds.

At low tide, and when sand builds up in the narrow channel, foxes can cross from the mainland barely getting their paws wet.

Red fox with a Little Penguin on Middle Island (photo courtesy of Middle Island Maremma Project) and Maremma sheepdog protecting a Gannet colony (seen in the background) (photo by L. van Bommel).

The dog, the first of several to be used on Middle Island, was called Oddball – and Oddball made quite an impact. Amazingly, since Oddball and his four-legged successors were introduced 10 years ago, there has not been a single penguin killed by a fox on Middle Island.

And there came the dogs. Image Credit: Middle Island Maremma Project
Also known as ‘blue penguins’, ‘little blue penguins’ and ‘fairy penguins’, they are found in Australia and New Zealand and are the smallest of all known penguin species. Image Credit: Global Screen

By now, the fairy penguin population has gone back up to almost 200.

The current dogs patrolling Middle Island are Eudy and Tula, named after the scientific term for the fairy penguin: Eudyptula.

The dogs operate in penguin breeding season, usually from October to March, when they spend five or six days a week on the island.

Here we go. Image Credit: Middle Island Maremma Project

The project has been such a success that a movie called Oddball has been made about it.

Sources: Middle Island Maremma ProjectBBC

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Environment

This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World

Welcome to the most colourful river of the world. Rainbows are jealous of the beauty of Caño Cristales.

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This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World
Photo Credit: World of Travel

Caño Cristales is a vividly coloured river found in Colombia’s Meta region, in South America. It is commonly known as the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow,” and when you are first confronted with its breath-taking beauty, you immediately know that these names are by no means an exaggeration.

During the peak season, Caño Cristales sports vivid colours including black, blue, green, yellow and red, the last caused by Macarenia clavigera plants. The river is said to contain no fish, and it is situated in a mountainous region with nearby grasslands. The total length of Caño Cristales is 100 kilometres (62 miles) and it lies in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park.

Image credit: Moterocolombia
Image credit: Moterocolombia

Caño Cristales is a fast-flowing river with many rapids and waterfalls. Small circular pits known as giant’s kettles can be found in many parts of the riverbed, which have been formed by pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. Once one of these harder rock fragments falls into one of the cavities, it is rotated by the water current and begins to carve at the cavity wall, increasing the dimensions of the pit.

Image source: World of Travel
Image credit: World of Travel
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The river is home to a wide variety of aquatic plants. Its water is extremely clear due to the lack of nutrients and small particles – which also explain the absence of fish. Almost unique is the bright red – pink coloration of riverbed after the rainy period in the end of June – November, caused by the endemic plant species Macarenia clavígera.

Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The colours of Caño Cristales reach their peak some weeks between June and December, and this is the best time to visit. The river is in a remote area and can only be accessed by aircraft, then boat, and even then, a hike is required.

Tourists were unable to visit Caño Cristales for 20 years, from 1989 to 2008, mainly due to guerrilla warfare in the area, but also because of the potential negative effect they would have on the habitat. However, visitors have been able to tour the area since 2009 with authorised tourism companies.

Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co

Caño Cristales is among the most beautiful rivers on earth. National Geographic quotes that the river seems to have been from “The Garden of Eden” (Spanish: Paraíso), and yes, it is definitely true.

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