"This is Christy Ferguson, calling from the bridge of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise ... On behalf of Greenpeace and over 3 million Arctic Defenders around the world, we demand that you cease all preparations for oil drilling and return to port."
It was our first encounter with the Akademik Lazarev, an oil exploration vessel working for the Russian oil giant Rosneft, which is preparing to drill in the high Arctic. Our captain spotted the vessel on the radar as we moved through the Barents Sea north of Russia, and we made our approach.
We started by making radio contact. I called the captain of Akademik Lazarev over the ship's radio and told him why we were here: To protect the Arctic from the disaster of oil drilling. The captain confirmed that he was working for Rosneft, told me he had authorisation from the Russian state, then cut our conversation short.
With the captain unwilling to talk further, we got in a couple of inflatables and approached the vessel. We wanted to get a closer look, document its operations and bear witness. As we came up, we could hear the booming of underwater cannons and we could feel the shockwaves beneath us. It was a frightening feeling-the sounds they produce are so loud that they could deafen or even kill you if you were to fall in.
Seismic testing works by firing underwater air cannons that create incredibly loud booming noises. The soundwaves from these noises travel to the ocean floor, reflect back and are picked up by sensors towed behind the vessel. The data points are then used to create detailed undersea maps, which oil companies use to determine locations for drilling.
Seismic testing is dangerous for two reasons: First, it is a further step towards reckless Arctic drilling; drilling that we know will never be safe. Second, the testing itself poses lethal risks to local wildlife, especially whales and other marine mammals.
If whales are within 450-500 metres of the air cannons, they may lose their hearing permanently. Just imagine what this means for an animal that navigates by using sound. If whales are within 150 metres of the cannons and are assaulted directly with the full 245 decibels of sound, they will die.
Of course the companies claim there's no real problem here because mammals will simply leave the area when they hear the cannons. It's easy for them to make that claim when no one's watching. But this time, someone is watching - not only the crew of the Arctic Sunrise, but more than 3 million Arctic defenders around the world. And as we watched, we saw something disturbing.
As we made our way back to the Arctic Sunrise in our inflatable boats, we spotted a pod of dolphins. There were at least a dozen of them playing in the water, some of them mothers and pups swimming side by side. It was an amazing sight, and we were very excited to see them breaching around our boats ... until we realised that they were heading in the direction of less friendly vessels, ones that could cause them irreparable harm.
And so we radioed again to the Akademik Lazarev, this time informing the crew that we'd seen dolphins heading towards their vessel and asking them to shut down the sound cannons so as not to do them harm. They radioed back that there were no dolphins nearby, and just kept on going. No dolphins, no risks, no climate change, no spills. The oil industry truly does speak with one voice.
Luckily, the world now has another voice: The voice of over 3 million people coming together to protect the Arctic from dangerous oil drilling and calling for a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole.
You can join this movement at SaveTheArctic and help us draw a line in the ice and say to the oil companies: "You come no further."
Christy Ferguson is a Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner
Actor and animal defender Alec Baldwin describes the sad plight of elephants who are torn from their families and forced to perform grueling tricks in the circus.
"It's still trying to move. It's trying to breathe. Will it live?"
That's the question asked by a worried child after catching a small fish during the Youth Fishing Derby at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, Virginia.
A video shot by a PETA investigator at the tournament shows small fish with hooks impaled in their mouths writhing in fear and pain. The children, who obviously had no idea what they were in for, looked sad, confused, and concerned. Despite the fact that the children are assured that the fish "should" survive, fish who were thrown back into the lake are shown bleeding from their wounds and floating lifeless in the water.
It is estimated that up to 58 percent of fish die within six days of being released. In addition to the stress of being impaled by a hook and slowly suffocating while they are out of the water, fish become more prone to bacterial infections and parasite infestations after they are handled and the delicate protective coating on their scales is damaged, often irreparably.
Armed with this video evidence of both cruelty to fish and the distress it causes children, we have written to the Fairfax County Park Authority and asked it to make its latest Youth Fishing Derby, which took place last Saturday, its last and ban future youth fishing tournaments in all Fairfax County parks.
"In animal communication research, vocal labeling refers to incidents in which an animal consistently uses a specific acoustic signal when presented with a specific object or class of objects. Labeling with learned signals is a foundation of human language but is notably rare in nonhuman communication systems. In natural animal systems, labeling often occurs with signals that are not influenced by learning, such as in alarm and food calling. There is a suggestion, however, that some species use learned signals to label conspecific individuals in their own communication system when mimicking individually distinctive calls. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are a promising animal for exploration in this area because they are capable of vocal production learning and can learn to use arbitrary signals to report the presence or absence of objects. Bottlenose dolphins develop their own unique identity signal, the signature whistle. This whistle encodes individual identity independently of voice features. The copying of signature whistles may therefore allow animals to label or address one another. Here, we show that wild bottlenose dolphins respond to hearing a copy of their own signature whistle by calling back. Animals did not respond to whistles that were not their own signature. This study provides compelling evidence that a dolphin’s learned identity signal is used as a label when addressing conspecifics. Bottlenose dolphins therefore appear to be unique as nonhuman mammals to use learned signals as individually specific labels for different social companions in their own natural communication system."
07/16/2013 | Press release
Hillary Rodham Clinton has agreed to take up the public fight of saving African elephants, who are being slaughtered in large numbers to supply the growing demand for ivory in China and other Asian countries.
Clinton, who met privately with representatives from a dozen environmental groups and National Geographic at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Central Park Zoo on Monday, pledged to use her political connections as America's former secretary of state to enlist other world leaders in the effort to curtail the illegal ivory trade.
Cristian Samper, WCS president and CEO, said in an interview that elephant poaching has reached such a crisis point that the world's leading conservation groups are launching a coordinated strategy to address the problem.
Clinton agreed to "take some very specific steps, including using her political contacts with heads of state in trying to raise awareness about this issue," Samper said. "This is an issue that needs to be elevated, not just in terms of public awareness, but particularly with the political leaders in other countries."
As the demand for ivory has grown in Asia - where the ivory from a tusk can sell for $1,000 a pound - the poaching of African elephants has exploded. Roughly 30,000 African elephants were killed illegally in 2012, according to the World Wildlife Fund, the largest number in 20 years.
There were roughly 1.2 million elephants in Africa in 1980, compared to roughly 420,000 last year. The African forest elephant, which resides in the Congo Basin and is smaller than the renowned savannah African elephant, has been hit particularly hard. This spring, WCS estimated that the population of African forest elephants plummeted 76 percent in the last decade.
"The fact that we've lost three quarters of the elephants, it's alarming and clearly we have to do something about it," Samper said.
As secretary of state, Clinton showed an interest in the plight of African elephants, hosting a conference on the issue in Washington last year. Clinton declined to comment Tuesday.
John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General.of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), welcomed Clinton's involvement in the issue.
"The magnitude of the threat requires a commensurate response from enforcement-related bodies and personnel at all levels - national, regional and global," Scanlon said in a statement. "In particular, we must use our collective efforts to help national enforcement officers deploy the same suite of tools used to combat other types of crime."
The groups at the meeting - including the African Parks Network, the American Association of Zoos and Aquaria, Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, TRAFFIC and WWF - agreed to pursue a three-pronged strategy aimed at stopping the killing, trafficking and demand for elephants.
Two weeks ago, President Obama launched a major initiative aimed at curbing wildlife trafficking, creating a Cabinet-level presidential task force charged with devising a national strategy and pledging $10 million in technological and training assistance to African governments so they could better combat poaching.
PETA protested outside SeaWorld parks in San Antonio and San Diego today, just one week after the marine-animal prison chain was hit with a $38,500 repeat violation fine from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for allowing dangerous contact between employees and orcas in defiance of a federal court order—and basic decency.The fine resulted from a follow-up investigation and photos and footage on TV of trainers who hugged and kissed orcas without any protective barrier, as required by an earlier OSHA ruling. SeaWorld fought OSHA's decision with two unsuccessful appeals, but the ruling stands.
Aggression between orcas is nearly non-existent in nature, but the constant stress of living in forced social groupings inside tiny tanks at SeaWorld causes them to lash out, posing a danger to animals and employees alike. SeaWorld's own corporate incident logs contain reports of more than 100 incidents at its parks. Orcas have pulled trainers into the water, held them at the bottom of the pool, head-butted them, slammed into them, breached on top of them, and, of course, killed them—and those are just the episodes that have been reported.
What You Can Do
Please tell everyone you know to leave all marine-animal parks and aquariums out of their family travel plans, and ask SeaWorld officials to release their animals to sanctuaries.