Rediscovered species, climate hazards, microplastic invasion: 3 stories you may have missed

© Frazer McGilvray

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.

1. This elusive creature wasn’t seen for nearly 30 years. Then it appeared on camera. 

A mysterious species was spotted by scientists for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The Story: A deer-like mammal known as the silver-backed chevrotain was captured alive on camera for the first time ever, reported Elizabeth Preston for the New York Times. To find this species, researchers travelled to the Annamite Mountains of south Vietnam — where the creature was last spotted nearly three decades ago — and asked residents if anyone had seen it in recent years. The researchers located the chevrotain’s potential habitat and set up several motion-sensor camera traps to record the area, capturing more than 200 photos of this mysterious mammal over the course of several months. 

The Big Picture: “Until we find the species and start learning something about it, it’s not possible to do any sort of conservation,” said Andrew Tilker, who led the expedition to find this elusive mammal. “It’s hard to protect a species if you don’t know if it still exists.” The illegal wildlife trade has decimated animal populations throughout Vietnam, and much of the remaining wildlife is vulnerable to habitat destruction caused by deforestation. Rediscovering species such as the silver-backed chevrotain can direct attention and resources to forest restoration as a method for protecting wildlife, according to the researchers.

Read more here.

A new report spells out the health and safety risks that children will face due to climate change. 

The Story: A recent report concluded that children across the world will experience a decreased quality of life due to climate breakdown, reported Umair Irfan for Vox. After tracking 41 global climate health risk indicators, the authors of this comprehensive report project that the next generation will suffer from a range of climate-related hazards if climate breakdown persists, including respiratory problems from air pollution, intensifying wildfires and extreme heatwaves.

The Big Picture: “To the extent that we’re asking, well, how is it different from before to the life of a child born today? That child now is being born for the first time into a world where their health will be affected at every single stage of their life by a changing climate,” said Nick Watts, executive director of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change. According to the report, some of the most disastrous impacts of climate change could be prevented if countries commit to greater emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement

Read more here.

According to new research, microplastics are invading Hawaii’s marine food chains.

The Story: A recent study shows that microplastics are infesting ocean slicks — marine areas where currents converge — off the coast of Hawai'i, with eight times the density of plastic as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, reported Matt Simon for Wired. Confusing the garbage for plankton, larval fish are ingesting these plastic particles, which can be detrimental to their underdeveloped immune and digestive systems — and disastrous for Hawaii's vast marine ecosystem and seafood industry. 

The Big Picture: “Seabirds feed on larval fish, adult fish feed on larval fish — it's a prominent food source,” says NOAA oceanographer Jamison Gove, an author of the paper. “So that clearly has implications for how plastics can be distributed and quickly get higher up the food chain.”

Read more here.

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

Cover image: A school of fish swimming off Oahu, Hawai'i. (© Frazer McGilvray)