Hungry goats, Australian bushfires, severe cyclones: 3 stories you may have missed

© Cristina Mittermeier

Editor's Note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

This post was updated on January 10, 2020.

1. Ravenous wild goats ruled this island for over a century. Now, it's being reborn 

A small island's unique wildlife is recovering after conservationists removed two invasive species.

The Story: Wildlife and plant populations are rebounding in Redonda, a small island in the Caribbean West Indies, following successful efforts to remove invasive rat and goat species, reported Michael Hingston for National Geographic. Foreign goat and rat species arrived on the island in the late 19th century with an industrial mining crew and have since eaten through massive amounts of vegetation across Redonda, degrading the land and leaving little food behind for endemic species. In 2016, a local conservation organization safely rounded up and relocated the goats to central Antigua by helicopter, and hired a crew to place rat poison across the landscape to control the population. By 2017, the nation's  bird populations increased tenfold and 71 different types of vegetation have returned to the island.

The Big Picture: “With a little bit of help, nature can recover,” said Shanna Challenger, the coordinator of the Redonda Restoration Program. According to restoration experts, restoring ecosystems is not always about planting new trees or breeding wildlife — nature can often grow back on its own if given adequate time and protection from human activities. In Brazil, for example, of the 70 million hectares (172 million acres) of previously forested areas that are degraded, 20 million hectares (49 million acres) could grow back naturally. 

Read more here.

Unprecedented wildfires are killing people, destroying forests and decimating wildlife populations across Australia. 

The Story: Bushfires have burned through more than 13 million acres (5.26 million hectares) of land in Australia, killing at least 25 people and nearly 480 million animals, reported Umair Irfan for Vox. This has been the hottest and driest year ever recorded in Australia, with national average temperatures reaching 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in December, 2.41 degrees Celsius (4.338 degrees Fahrenheit) above historic temperatures for the month. 

The Big Picture: Fires are not unusual in Australia’s ecosystems, but droughts and rapidly warming temperatures caused by climate change have fueled one of the most severe and long-lasting fire seasons the country has ever experienced. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, an industry that accounted for 40 percent of global carbon emissions in 2019. By reducing its reliance on the coal industry and supporting renewable energy, Australia could help curb global emissions and slow the climate breakdown intensifying these record-breaking fires.

Read more here.

*As of January 10, 2020, the fires in Australia have burned through 17.9 million acres (7.2 hectares), killing at least 27 people have and an estimated 1 billion animals. 

Mozambique’s long coastline and unpredictable weather patterns make the country vulnerable to the impacts of climate breakdown — and communities can’t keep up. 

The Story: The people of Mozambique are struggling to adapt to the increasingly severe cyclones, floods, heat waves and droughts caused by climate change, reported Rebecca Hersher for NPR. Back-to-back cyclones in 2019 impacted roughly 2 million people across the country, some of whom were cut off from rescue crews for weeks due to the country’s lack of coordinated disaster response. 

The Big Picture: "The example of Mozambique must be an alert for all," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said when he visited the country over the summer. Despite only contributing 0.02 percent of global emissions, Mozambique — like other small, island nations — is already experiencing the effects of climate breakdown at a disproportionately high rate. To protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from the worst impacts of climate change, the world’s top emitters — including the United States and China — must make immediate, drastic cuts to their emissions.

Read more here.

Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A boobie from a colony in Redonda Island. (© Cristina Mittermeier)

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