Surveys show that public speaking is the number one phobia in America. The fear of death is number seven! The idea of speaking before a group may terrify you, but one day you'll need to speak publicly to help animals and the planet. If you plan your speech and rehearse your presentation, you may still be nervous but at least people will listen.
Your first step in preparing a speech is to understand the nature of the people you'll be speaking to. Try to determine the age, sex, religion, occupation, and political affiliation of the group. How much do they already know about your topic? Do you share any beliefs or experiences with them? Try to put yourself in their shoes. You also need to consider how you want your speech to affect your audience. What do you want them to feel, think, or do after they've heard your speech?
Don't be afraid of "alienating" people by talking about environmental and animal issues. If you don't introduce them to new ideas, who will? How you speak is as important as what you say. A shrill, aggressive demeanor will alienate people; a calm voice and friendly manner will encourage them to think twice about those new ideas.
WRITING A SPEECH
Before you begin writing your speech, make a list of two to five main points you want to make. Write out each point in one or two sentences. Don't try to make more than five points.
You're more likely to persuade your audience if you don't speak in generalities. If necessary, do some research to find some specific examples that will illustrate your points dramatically. Statistics are boring if you overuse them, but are good for making comparisons. People are more likely to retain information if it is new, relevant and presented by vivid comparison and contrast.
Don't try to write and edit at the same time. Write the first draft as ideas occur to you. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or how it will sound. Just get your thoughts down! Editing is a separate process that should be done after writing.
Your speech will be most effective if you plan your opening and closing statements and key transitions down to the last word. Organize the speech logically with a beginning, middle and end. In other words, tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you've told them. Here are some suggestions:
Establish your credibility by briefly stating your qualifications and experience, or have someone introduce you this way.
Open with an attention-getting fact, rhetorical question (making sure you know what the answer will be), quotation (to support your message), or relevant anecdote.
You may challenge your audience, but make sure you don't sound hostile.
You don't have to start with a joke, especially if it doesn't support your message.
Keep it short. Your speech should take less than 20 minutes.
Tell the audience what the problem is, what your proposed solution is, and what actions they can take to help bring about the solution.
When you prepare your final version, write or type the beginning, ending, and key transitions and phrases in large print, and then itemize your main points. Only write two thirds of the way down the page so it won't be obvious if you need to look at your notes.
Plan a snappy conclusion that summarizes your main points. But don't say, "In conclusion "
Don't present new information at the end of your speech.
Don't just trail off at the end. Finish with an appeal for action.
REHEARSING YOUR SPEECH
You should know your speech well enough that you can speak naturally and only glance occasionally at your notes.
Practice your speech no fewer than three times, but not more than six times. Don't practice sitting down - stand up. Work on one thing at a time: gestures, voice, content or visuals. Pay attention to the beginning and end of your speech, since these will be what the audience remembers most.
Practice your speech in front of another person, and ask him or her for constructive criticism.
Be sure to pace yourself, using pauses and changes in volume for emphasis. Speak clearly and don't slur your words.
Remember that gestures, movement and eye contact can add to your impact, but make sure they're natural and relevant.
Move briskly and purposefully, but don't be afraid to stand still. Stand straight and keep your feet 12 to 14 inches apart. Don't point, put your hands in your pockets or gesture below chest level. Keep your hands away from your mouth.
Look at your audience, smile, and make eye contact. Focus on one friendly face for a complete sentence, then move on to someone else. Don't look at the floor or ceiling or stare at only one person. Also, don't look at your watch. Take it off and put it on the lectern if you need it.
Try not to speak from the lectern - it's a barrier between you and your audience. Use it to put your notes on, and then try to walk around. You can always go back to the lectern to check your notes when you need to.
Never walk away while most people are still applauding.
USING VISUAL AIDS
Visual aids can help you make your point if the subject matter is complex, dry, or unfamiliar. Make sure they reinforce your point of view and make abstract ideas concrete. PowerPoint presentations, photos, charts and videos can all help you get your point across.
When you use a visual aid, explain to people what you're showing them. Summarize the information on the slide or chart without reading it word-for-word.
Talk to the audience, not to the visual aid.
Visual aids should be simple and colorful, but remember that red and green are difficult to read from a distance. Don't reveal visual aids until you're ready to show them, and remove them after you've used them.
A few effective visual aids can help your audience understand your message, but too many will distract them.
PREPARING FOR A QUESTION-AND-ANSWER SESSION
A well-handled question-and-answer session can strengthen your credibility, demonstrate your knowledge, and give you a chance to clarify and expand your ideas. A poorly handled session can hurt your credibility, cause you to lose control of the audience, and give your adversaries an opportunity to make their case.
Try to anticipate difficult questions in advance. Play the "devil's advocate" and guess which questions your opponents might ask. Write down the toughest questions you can think of and strong responses. Practice your answers out loud, preferably with someone else asking the questions. Have friends ask hostile, aggressive questions so you're less likely to get rattled by the real thing.
Remember that tough questions aren't necessarily hostile. If you can remember that, you won't get defensive or nervous. You can also "buy time" to collect your thoughts by repeating or rephrasing the question. Then answer the question.
If someone is hostile, stay cool. You must appear calm and reasonable, even if you don't feel that way. Listen carefully to each question, be tactful, and avoid using such emotionally charged words like "obviously" when you answer. Stick to things you can prove and stick to facts.
Use the "feel, felt, find" method to disagree with someone: "I understand how you feel. Others have felt that way. But I find in my experience that ..."
Answer to the entire audience, not just the questioner (especially if it's a hostile question). If someone tries to get control of the session, ask, "What is your question?" or say, "I'll be happy to hear your comments afterwards, but we've got to end soon, so let's go on to another question."
Never forget that, when you speak in defense of the planet and animals, you are right. If you speak sincerely and with conviction, you will reach your audience. They may not walk out agreeing with you, but you will plant an idea in their minds that can grow.
As you set up tables and distribute leaflets, you'll meet people who feel the way you do about earth and animal issues. Although it's not absolutely necessary, you can increase your effectiveness by joining forces and forming a group. A group can have more clout than one person. The media, the government, and the public will usually give more serious consideration to the views of a group.
CHOOSING YOUR ISSUES
A group can start with two people. The important thing is to decide from the beginning which issues you will work on. Then choose a name for your group that reflects that focus. Do you want to work primarily on animal or environmental issues? Realistically, you won't have the time, energy, or money to focus on all issues effectively. It's usually best to stick to animal and environmental education, organizing, and lobbying and refer individual cruelty cases to the appropriate agencies in your community that should be equipped and trained to deal with them.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Before you get a group together, educate and organize yourself:
Setup a website or social media page for your group.
Get a post office box mailing address at a local post office.
Open a bank account. You'll need to keep accurate financial records from the start, so decide on a record-keeping system. At the minimum, record the date and amount of all donations, and the name and address of the donor. Also keep a record of how money is spent, including the date, amount and purpose. Save all your receipts and write on the back of the receipt the item you bought and the date and reason you bought it.
Prepare an information pack for new members and a form thank-you letter for donations you receive...and make sure you acknowledge them quickly.
Prepare a media list of newspapers and TV and radio stations with their addresses, telephone numbers and deadlines to save time when you need to publicize an event.
Do some long-term planning. Set up a tabling schedule or leafletting plan for the next three to six months.
As a small and new group, prioritize your activities. Member newsletters, for example, should be a low priority. Your time and money will be more wisely spent on educational materials, leaflets and campaigning. Remember that newsletters relate what a group has already done - they shouldn't be used as a replacement for action.
You may want to postpone incorporating your group as long as your budget is small and you're not launching high-profile campaigns.
THE FIRST MEETING
Decide how you want to operate. Should you meet once a month or call meetings as you need them? If you have regular meetings, they should be held on the same day and time each month to make them easier to remember and schedule. Can you find a room at the library or a local school or church? Avoid meeting in people's homes - you're better off in neutral territory.
LEADING THE GROUP
Expect to be the leader of your group and to do most of the work, even if you have hundreds of people interested in joining. As the leader, it's your job to prepare an agenda for each meeting. Make sure each person will leave the meeting with something to do. It may seem tedious to do this but people feel useless and drop out if they don't feel needed. Find out what kinds of things people are good at: who has web designing skills or access to a copy machine, who is good at designing posters, and who enjoys tabling.
Don't let meetings become strictly social affairs - keep on target. Avoid the "pot-luck supper" trap. Many new activists will suggest having them frequently. But people have a limited amount of time and energy, and it's more important to spend it on activism than on cooking. Make sure your meetings are friendly enough that people feel comfortable offering their feedback and ideas. Having a "work party" to prepare posters or write letters can do wonders to boost spirits.
Always be on the lookout for potential leaders to share responsibilities. Most groups are held together by one or two strong people, with short-term volunteers working only when convenient.
Let people move (and move on) at their own pace, and accept the fact that people will leave the group. Be grateful for every contribution, no matter how small, and never publicly criticize or embarrass anyone. Never make people feel guilty for not doing enough. You won't encourage them to do more; it's more likely they'll stop working completely. People's activism thrives on encouragement and recognition rather than criticism.
It's very important to avoid fighting within the group. Avoid criticizing others, even if you're speaking confidentially - your words may come back to haunt you. If it's really necessary, criticize the act rather than the individual.
Be open to new ideas and encourage people to express themselves. Have regular brainstorming sessions. Ask each person to think of several ideas, and write down every one, no matter how offbeat. Discuss the ideas only after you've finished listing them all. Don't allow people to disparage others' input. Everyone is special in some way, and even outlandish suggestions can lead to creative planning. Ask questions and listen attentively.
WHAT SHOULD THE GROUP DO?
Your group's activities will probably fall into three categories: public education, seasonal or "reaction" events, and long-term campaigns.
Every group should try to sustain a minimum schedule of public education work, including tabling, leafletting and electronic media. Your group can also host educational seminars and workshops, donate earth and animal themed books and media to libraries and schools, and host fundraising events that also educate the public on specific issues.
Seasonal or "reaction" events are another valuable activity. These include leafletting or picketing stores that carry inhumane items in response to advertised sales, demonstrating when a circus or rodeo comes to town or protesting the destruction of area wild-lands. In smaller towns where you are likely to get publicity, these one-time events can be especially effective.
The easiest way for local groups to work on long-term campaigns is to join one that has been initiated by a national organization. You can bring important issues to your community and have the benefit of the national group's literature and resources.
You may eventually want to take on a purely local campaign to shut down a lab, puppy mill or polluting factory, or to stop industrial polluting. This kind of campaign will most directly involve the local community and can be one of the best ways to bring people into the movement. Be aware, however, that this requires much more time and money than the one-shot seasonal events.
Above all, your group should be visible. Get into the public eye often, and always try to get media coverage for your events.
Tread Lightly! was started by the United States Forest Service in 1985 as a public awareness program. In 1990, Tread Lightly! became a nonprofit organization. The Tread Lightly philosophy encourages off-highway enthusiasts to enjoy the outdoors responsibly through stewardship to further the goals of responsible and ethical recreation.
Travel on trails or other legal areas.
Keep your feet and wheels on open roads, trails or in legal riding areas.
When you step off trail, watch your step and don’t trample plants.
Remember riding up and down stream beds can damage soils, plants and animals in the water.
Use maps and signs to help you stay on the trail.
Walk or ride slowly through puddles and mud on the trail—not around.
When you are on a bike or an ATV, if you can’t go over an object turn back. Report the trail obstacle to the ranger.
Keep control of your bike, dirt bikes or ATV.
RESPECT NATURE & WILDLIFE
Don’t chase, scare, feed or try to pet animals.
Don’t carve on tree bark or draw graffiti on trees and rocks.
Watch out for other people on the trails.
Keep the noise down, especially in camp.
Don’t shine your flashlight into other camps.
Don’t ride or run through other camps.
Always tell someone else where you are going, who you are with and when you will be back.
Remember to pack the seven important items: water, food, first aid kit, raincoat or poncho, flashlight, sunscreen and a whistle.
When trail riding or hiking, don’t leave the trail—you are less likely to get lost and much easier to find. If you think you are lost, stay where you are and blow your whistle.
Don’t wander off at night.
Bring a map, check the weather, and find out about wildlife to be aware of in your area.
Bring the proper clothes including good shoes and a jacket—wear a helmet and other protective gear when you ride.
LEAVE THE OUTDOORS BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT
Don’t litter or leave food or trash behind.
Pick up trash left by others—as long as it is safe.
Wash your bike or ATV and other gear after every ride so you won’t spread weed seeds.
Leave plants or flowers for others to see.
Lend a hand, plant trees and other plants with your local ranger.
You don't have to form a group to accomplish something; you can do a lot by yourself. If you've uncovered an important local issue, you may wish to print a flyer to hand out to people on the street. Or maybe you've collected signatures from people enthusiastic about earth and animal issues and want to invite them to a meeting with an inspiring speaker. Or you may want to urge local residents to spay and neuter their animals. Once you've defined your message and audience, try to prepare a leaflet that will reach them.
MAKING WORDS COUNT
Your leaflet must answer the questions what, where, when, who, and why. It must tell people specifically what they can do to help. Include contact information and direct to the reader to sources of additional information on the topic.
People won't read a long complicated leaflet, so keep your sentences short and clear. Use descriptive headings, subheadings and quotations to get your main points across, and use three or four headings to a page so that if people only read the headlines they still get the message. Keep your flier simple, to the point and easy to understand.
Don't make remarks you can't substantiate. Be careful not to make libelous statements - call the act cruel and irresponsible, not the individual.
Often, making a leaflet starts with some creative brainstorming. Taking the time to develop ideas will help when planning the printed page in more detail. You'll most likely want a central theme for the leaflet. Developing words that go along with this theme will help when it's time to create all of the text that will go into this document. Each separate fold of a leaflet may have its own unique focus, so think about how each part of your project will fit together. Consider phrasing for titles and text. With overall themes in hand, the leaflet planner can develop those into phrases or slogans that might lead in leaflet text.
CREATE YOUR LAYOUT
Do a rough layout. The rough layout for a leaflet is usually a sketch that will show where text and images will be positioned on the leaflet, how big the size of each text portion will be, and how much of the leaflet will be dedicated to each separate part or idea. This rough draft will show how much room is available and how it can be allocated.
Design leaflets are usually easiest done digitally. Digital word processor or print shop programs, such as MS Word, are common software solutions for creating leaflets. Many printing companies also provide online software. Look at your software and understand how the digital setup will translate to the printed page, especially if you plan to fold the leaflet. Do a print preview. A page layout or print preview option helps to see how the leaflet will look when it is printed. Make any needed edits, then print out a few copies and observe how they are actually printed on the page. Practice folding the leaflet and make sure that it is correct before printing hundreds of copies for distribution. Correct any errors as needed, and through trial and error, an attractive document should emerge.
When distributing your leaflets, don’t wait for people to approach you. Walk up to them, and with a friendly smile, hand them a leaflet accompanied by a positive comment like, “Have you received one of these yet?” Make eye contact and never be pushy. Simple eye contact will help you get their attention.
Be prepared for questions! Know at least three facts from the leaflet that you’re passing out and know more info that isn’t included in the leaflet.
Don’t waste time arguing. Say politely, “I think that if you read this material, you might change your mind.” Then smile, hand them a leaflet, and turn away.
You want people to take your message seriously. People will judge you by the way you look, so look clean and professional.
Hold the flyer so the title can be clearly seen by passersby.
Take people's e-mail addresses if they seem interested, but don't get caught up in a conversation that distracts you from your job.
Try to get someone else to leaflet with you, especially in potentially hostile territory.
It is illegal to drop leaflets in mailboxes, although you can put them through a letter slot in a door or leave them in door handles or on the doorstep.
If you are planning to solicit contributions, check local and state regulations.
Don’t leave a mess! Pick up discarded leaflets before you leave the area.
You may also want to post leaflets on bulletin boards in public areas such as libraries, veterinary offices, cat and dog supply stores, supermarkets, laundromats and apartment buildings. Remember to ask permission from the owner of the area before posting a leaflet to make sure that it stays posted. Some places will even allow you to leave a stack of leaflets.
A great way to reach a large number of people is to setup an information table in a busy area of town. Choose a spot with a lot of pedestrian traffic where people will see you. Find out where other groups in your community setup tables, and get a list of festivals or fairs from the Chamber of Commerce, Department of Parks and Recreation, or Tourist Department.
Once you've chosen a good location for a table, call the mayor's office or police station to learn about regulations you need to follow. Here are some questions to ask:
Do I need a permit? Permits are usually easy to apply for, although they may take two or three weeks to process.
How often can I use this spot?
Are there restrictions on the type of equipment that can be set up?
Are there any regulations on selling items such as buttons and bumper stickers at a table? If so, you can ask for donations instead of charging for the merchandise.
Ask for several copies of the application form to save for future use.
Here's what you need to set up your table:
one or two card tables or a folding display table
a plain table cloth to cover the table, long enough to reach the ground
a donation can
signup sheets (so you can contact activists for future events)
paperweights - small but heavy
Arrange your table neatly and attractively. Remove rubber bands from pamphlets so people can pick them up easily. Keep an eye on your donation can - don't let someone walk off with it. Leave a five-dollar bill and some change in the can to encourage people's generosity!
If visitors to your table seem interested, ask them to leave their e-mail address or join your social networking site. Encourage them to help with your cause. Don't spend so much time with one person that you miss contact with others who may be interested. Be especially sure not to waste time and attention on someone who disagrees with you; you may alienate people who overhear the argument. Instead, clarify your position briefly, express regret at your disagreement, and turn to someone else as quickly as possible. You may feel as if you're "backing down," but arguing at a table is a waste of time and can cause you to miss potential supporters.
Above all, remember to smile, be friendly, and be patient. You, too, were once unaware of animal and environmental issues. Let others know that your background is much like theirs, but that once you learned about animal suffering and the state of the environment you decided to take action. Lifestyles and attitudes are easy to change - you're living proof! And you can show others how to be more compassionate, too!
Much of the work you will do as an activist requires no more (and no less) than caring and motivation. On the other hand, making flyers, setting up tables and forming groups also requires some money to cover costs.
TARGET YOUR EFFORTS
People like to know how their donations will be used. It's always more effective to target your fundraising efforts for a specific purpose. Make it clear what the proceeds from your raffle or flea market will be used for.
ACTIVITIES THAT RAISE FUNDS
Product sales: If you have some money to invest, you can purchase T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers and books to sell when you set up tables and hold meetings.
Food sales: Vegan bake sales can do well either as an independent fundraiser or when combined with another event. Groups should appoint someone to be in charge and to get each member to contribute a baked item (or try offering tofu hot dogs or veggie burgers). Choose a busy spot or a craft fair or festival and check ahead with the police and health department about permits and food regulations.
Garage sales: You'll make more money if your goods are clean and well displayed. Tag clothing with size labels and make sure prices are clearly marked.
Thrift shops: Setup an ongoing thrift shop at a church or unused garage. You'll need a staff of volunteers to sort, price, display and do the sales and bookkeeping.
Annual sales: Hold the sale at the same time each year. Plan ahead to get a good location and publicize the event. If you have a good spot for storage, you can collect donations year round.
Raffles: The two keys to a successful raffle are a good prize and lots of ticket sellers. Print the name of your group, the date and place of the drawing, and a list of the prizes you're offering. Make sure ticket sellers always have enough tickets on hand. Try setting up a table at the supermarket on Saturday or outside a church to sell tickets during the weekend. Ask local merchants to donate prizes or have a 50/50 raffle, meaning that the prize is half the money you collect. Make sure you comply with local solicitation regulations.
Sponsored events: In a walk-a-thon or bike-a-thon, for example, a group of people commit to participating in the event, and they then ask family, friends and local businesses to sponsor them for a certain amount. Choose a safe route and check it first with the police. You'll need to prepare sponsor forms with the name and address of the group, the purpose of the event, the date and time, and the route. Also include columns for the sponsor's name, address, and amount pledged per mile (establish a minimum). Encourage local athletic groups to participate.
Do chores and odd jobs: Have all your members spend a Saturday cleaning, painting, raking leaves, or putting up storm windows. Advertise ahead of time and schedule as many jobs as possible.
Recycling: Many communities have recycling facilities that will pay you for cans, bottles or other items.
Give up something: Ask people to give up smoking for a week or lunch for a day, and donate the money they save.
Miscellaneous: Place donation cans in stores, go Christmas caroling for donations, sell heart-shaped dog biscuits on Valentine's Day, have a car wash ... use your imagination!
ASK FOR GOODS OR DISCOUNTS
Another kind of fundraising effort is to ask for something other than money. Ask print shops if they will give you a discount. Ask local businesses to donate new or used office equipment. Send each business an individualized request describing your group and its goals and asking for a specific item or service. If you are tax-exempt, that will encourage donations. But don't be afraid to ask even if you're not tax-exempt.
Another good source of financial support is your supporters. Ask them to pay a yearly membership fee. Set different levels for dues such as $10 to $20 for regular members, $50 for sponsors, $100 for sustaining members, and $500 to $1,000 for lifetime members. Student and senior citizen memberships could be offered at discounted rates.
Consider offering members an incentive, such as a free book or T-shirt with a large donation. Ask for regular donations either monthly or quarterly, and always be sure to send a thank-you note promptly. (If you are tax-exempt, your thank-you note should inform donors of the deductible portion of their gift, i.e., the amount of the gift minus the value of any incentive you give them in return.)
TAXES & REPORTING
Virtually all fundraising has tax - and financial - reporting consequences. Donation and sales revenue is generally taxable unless you qualify as a tax-exempt organization. Even if you are tax-exempt, you must still collect and remit to the government sales tax on many types of sales. Also, most states require charities to register as soliciting organizations and to file annual reports. (Note that automatic exemptions may exist under some of these rules for small organizations.) Check with your state taxing authority, secretary of state, attorney general, and consumer affairs agency. It is also a very good idea to have a CPA on your managing committee!
CHARITABLE SOLICITATION CERTIFICATE
File with your state's Charitable Solicitations Division. They will give you a certificate that allows you to solicit funds in that state. You may be required to list a registered agent - someone who resides in the state and can be served with legal papers if necessary - in order to file. Different states have different thresholds for the amount of money you must have to file. But even if your group falls below that threshold, you cannot ignore the charitable solicitations office. You must, in that case, file for an exemption from formal registration as a charitable organization. If you intend to solicit funds in other states as well, you need to file similar forms. Some states require that you file applications for a "certificate of authority to transact business" in the state before you will be allowed to register for charitable solicitation. This may require an attachment to the application of a "certificate of good standing" or a "certification of articles of incorporation" from the state in which you are incorporated. After receiving your certificate to transact business you may have to file it in the county or state of your registered agent.
FORMS REQUIRED ANNUALLY
Now that you have done all the necessary paperwork to setup, you must do the paperwork necessary to continue to exist legally. The federal government requires you to file Form 990, "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax," annually. You may also need to file Form 990-T to report taxable sales that are not related to your tax-exempt purpose. The state governments require an "annual report of tax" and an "annual report of domestic nonprofit corporations." If you do not fill out these forms, your organization can be dissolved by the state.
Establish an accounting system to maintain tax compliance, to assist in management of the organization, and to establish a general trend to provide long-range planning for the organization and its resources.
The trophy hunting industry is driven by demand, and sadly, demand for animal trophies is prevalent worldwide. Even in the face of extinction, imperiled species are still being hunted every day in order to serve as the centerpiece of someone’s décor. It is unconscionable in this modern day when species are under so many threats to survive.
Killing For Trophies: An Analysis of Global Trophy Hunting Trade is a report that provides an in-depth look at the scope and scale of trophy hunting trade and isolates the largest importers of animal trophies worldwide.
The result of a comprehensive analysis of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Trade Database, the report found that as many as 1.7 million hunting trophies may had been traded between nations during a ten year period, with at least 200,000 of that being made up of categories of species, also known as taxa, that are considered threatened.
Research found that 107 different nations (comprised of 104 importing nations and 106 exporting nations) participated in trophy hunting in one decade, with the top twenty countries responsible for 97 percent of trophy imports. The United States accounted for a staggering 71 percent of the import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nation on the list—Germany and Spain (both 5 percent).
Of the top 20 importing countries, most of the trophies were killed and imported from Canada (35 percent), South Africa (23 percent) and Namibia (11 percent), with the largest number of threatened taxa coming from Canada to the U.S., followed by African nations to the U.S.
Three of the four threatened taxa from the highly-prized species known as the “Africa Big Five” (African elephant, African leopard, and African lion) are among the top six most traded of imperiled taxa. African lions in particular had the strongest statistically significant increase of trophy hunting trade, with at least 11,000 lion trophies being traded worldwide in only 9 years.
Other big five species also remain popular with trophy hunters, with over 10,000 elephant trophies and over 10,000 leopard trophies being legally traded worldwide in one decade. Like African lions, elephant trophy hunting trade has increased significantly.
There are many ways you can help to conserve important animals across the globe. Here are a few examples of things you can do to help support international conservation efforts:
Volunteer! Many conservation organizations depend on volunteers in your country and abroad. Do a web search to find an organization near you.
If you can't volunteer, donate. Wildlife conservation organizations require funding to carry out their critical missions of saving animals.
Wild animals do not make good “pets”, and it is illegal to buy endangered species. Wild animal belong in the wild. Rescue a companion animal from a shelter.
Learn more about threatened and endangered species and tell your friends! Lesser known species do not receive as much support as other more well-known species.
Read your labels! Palm oil plantations and animal agribusinesses are contributing to massive habitat loss around the world. Valuable forests and other ecosystems are being cleared at alarming rates. If palm oil is in your product, read the label to check if it was sustainably grown.
Be a conscious shopper when abroad. When you travel, it is important to think about what you are buying. When purchasing souvenirs or gifts for family and friends, think about where that item might have come from. Does it contain wildlife products? One of the main ways to limit the wildlife trade is to stop the demand for wildlife products. If you don’t know, don’t buy!
Be an eco-tourist and travel green. Eco-tourists are able to experience species in their natural habitat while supporting local livelihoods and conservation efforts. Sustainable and humane travel practices allow visitors to experience nature while limiting human impacts on wildlife.
Don't patronize zoos, circuses, aquariums and other forms of animal entertainment. Imprisoning wild animals for profit and human entertainment is cruel and unethical.
Buy local products and support the local economy. Support local communities’ livelihoods by purchasing unique, handcrafted goods that do not contain animal products.
If you see suspicious products, speak up. If abroad and you think you see wildlife or products derived from wildlife traded or sold illegally, let the local police or your hotel management know. If possible, warn fellow travelers in the same area.
Don't buy wildlife products, whether they are legal or illegal.
Reduce or eliminate all animal product purchases. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, habitat loss and greenhouse gases – which are the leading causes of species extinction. Make the connection.
Electronics donation and recycling is a great way to help conserve resources and natural materials. It is important to make sure you are donating and/or recycling electronics safely and correctly.
Why Recycle Electronic Products?
Electronic products are made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture. Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing virgin materials.
For example: Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
Before Donating or Recycling Your Used Electronics
- For your computer or laptop, consider upgrading the hardware or software instead of buying a brand new product.
- Delete all personal information from your electronics.
- Remove any batteries from your electronics, they may need to be recycled separately.
- Check to see what requirements exist in your state Exit or community.
Where to Donate or Recycle
Manufacturers and retailers offer several options to donate or recycle electronics. Search for Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge participants.
Most people don't realize how much food they throw away every day — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. About 95 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills or combustion facilities - more than 35 million tons of food waste each year. Once in landfills, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.
Benefits of Reducing Wasted Food
- Saves money from buying less food.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
- Conserves energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling food (not to mention hauling the food waste and then landfilling it).
- Supports your community by providing donated untouched food that would have otherwise gone to waste to those who might not have a steady food supply.
Ways to Reduce Wasted Food
Planning, prepping, and storing food can help your household waste less food. Below are some tips to help you do just that:
- By simply making a list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and time and eat healthier food. If you buy no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all.
- Keep a running list of meals and their ingredients that your household already enjoys. That way, you can easily choose, shop for and prepare meals.
- Make your shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home. Will you eat out this week? How often?
- Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals.
- Include quantities on your shopping list noting how many meals you’ll make with each item to avoid overbuying. For example: salad greens - enough for two lunches.
- Look in your refrigerator and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have, make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it.
- Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
- It is easy to overbuy or forget about fresh fruits and vegetables. Store fruits and vegetables for maximum freshness; they’ll taste better and last longer, helping you to eat more of them.
- Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables - especially abundant seasonal produce.
- Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.
- Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold.
- If you like to eat fruit at room temperature, store in the refrigerator for maximum freshness then take what you’ll eat for the day out of the refrigerator in the morning.
- Prepare perishable foods soon after shopping. It will be easier to whip up meals or snacks later in the week, saving time, effort, and money.
- When you get home from the store, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.
- Befriend your freezer and visit it often. For example, freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time. Cut your time in the kitchen by preparing and freezing meals ahead of time.
- Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month.
- Be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to use up. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish.
- Shop in your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
- Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies.
- If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons, beet tops can be sautèed for a delicious side dish, and vegetable scraps can be made into stock.
- Learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates.
- Are you likely to have leftovers from any of your meals? Plan an “eat the leftovers” night each week. Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers too. Search for websites that provide suggestions for using leftover ingredients.
- At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them to make your next meal.
- At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.
If You Can't Reduce Wasted Food, Divert It From Landfills
- Nutritious, safe, and untouched food can be donated to food banks to help those in need.
- Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away.
If you need a new light bulb, you have a hard decision to make. There are several kinds of light bulbs to choose from. What are they? Does it make a difference?
Lights use a lot of electricity, so it's important to use the most efficient ones. Efficient bulbs use less electricity to make light. Using less electricity in turn creates less pollution and saves you money. It's better for everyone.
So what are the different kinds of light bulbs? The most common light bulbs you can find at the store are incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), light emitting diodes (LED), fluorescent, and halogen. It can feel overwhelming. Let's look at each one individually.
If you think about a regular light bulb, you're most likely picturing an incandescent bulb. They have the classic tear-drop shape. You can see the little piece of metal inside the glass that creates the light. This is an old design. These bulbs make a lot of heat when they're turned on. That heat is wasted electricity. For that reason, incandescent bulbs aren't very energy efficient.
Compact fluorescent bulbs are a newer design. They sometimes are shaped like a coil. These are very energy efficient. They don't create as much heat as incandescent bulbs do. They also last much longer. But CFL bulbs have mercury in them. This is a dangerous element, so CFL bulbs need to be treated with care. You can't throw them in the trash like other bulbs. They need to be recycled. You can take unbroken bulbs to special recycling centers.
Fluorescent lights are the bigger version of CFLs. These are the lights that lots of office buildings and businesses use. They create a lot of light for big areas. Just like CFLs they have mercury in them. They need to be treated with care.
Light emitting diodes are another newer design for lighting. They create a lot of light with very little electricity. They're very energy efficient. And they last a very long time - even longer than a CFL. And unlike CFLs, they don't have mercury. That means they're better for the environment. They don't need to be specially recycled. The only problem is that LEDs are much more expensive than other bulbs. But many people would say they are worth it.
Some light sockets use halogen bulbs. These work about the same way as incandescent bulbs. They create a lot of heat, but are a little more efficient than incandescent lights. They last for about one year, and they don't contain mercury. These bulbs are usually used for recessed lights like ones set into the ceiling in homes.
“Lightning bugs” or “fireflies” are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the aptly named Lampyridae family. Fireflies have special cells that, when the insects takes in oxygen, combine it with a substance called luciferin. This chemical process takes place in dedicated organs located under the fireflies’ abdomens and produces the light. Fireflies flash their light in patterns that are unique to each of the 2,000 species of firefly. They are communicating with their light, each blinking pattern an optical signal to a potential mate.
Sadly, as with so many of the Earth’s creatures, fireflies are disappearing all over the world. The clearing of forests, the destruction of wetlands, the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture and on residential lawns and gardens are all to blame. But the lovely firefly may suffer from something we might not think about - light pollution. It is likely that light from development and traffic may contribute to the firefly’s decline. Ambient light may be responsible for reducing firefly numbers by disrupting their mating signals, making it harder for them to find mates and breed.
You can support firefly populations by following these simple steps. If you make your property or garden a firefly haven, the beauty of their light will more than repay you for your time and effort.
DO NOT CATCH THE FIREFLIES
Adult fireflies live only long enough to mate and lay eggs. Catching fireflies in glass jars is a nostalgic pastime for children on a summer’s evening, but how sad it is to waste one precious moment of a firefly’s brief existence trapped in a glass prison. Let them find their mates and complete their life cycle without disturbance.
KEEP YOUR BACKYARD IN THE DARK
Turn off exterior lights and remove even solar garden lights. If you have bright interior lighting, draw your drapes and lower your blinds at night.
LEAVE ROTTING LOGS AND LEAVES ON THE GROUND
Provide firefly larvae the conditions they need to grow to the adult, breeding stage. Allow some of the branches and leaf litter that fall naturally from the trees on your property to remain under the trees. Or cut them up and tuck the logs into your garden. Use bark mulch, preferably large nuggets, around your plantings to create a thick layer of organic, moisture retaining material.
CHOOSE PLANTS THAT CONSERVE MOISTURE
Solomon’s Seal, iris and hydrangea are a few plants that shade the ground beneath them. To create even more shade for the fireflies, plant low growing plants like wild ginger under the taller plants. Beds thickly planted in this way are like mini jungles, perfect for not only fireflies, but also toads and other moisture loving animals.
CREATE A WATER GARDEN
Any source of water will bring fireflies to congregate. A water garden will attract them and if you plant the edges of your pond with bog plants and keep it moist, the fireflies will stay and hopefully breed there. Chemically treated ponds and pools are not a natural environment for anything. A balanced water garden does not need chemicals.
DO NOT USE PESTICIDES
Pesticides and weed killers have had their effect on firefly populations. (It is widely believed that their use has also negatively impacted the honey bee.) Firefly larvae may eat insects that have been poisoned after eating plants that have been sprayed. The larvae are then poisoned as well.
USE NATURAL FERTILIZERS
Artificial chemicals rarely mix with nature, and many of the harmful chemicals found in pesticides are also found in fertilizers. It is very possible that chemical fertilizers harm firefly populations and the populations of other beneficial insects. Your garden can flourish beautifully with natural fertilizers such as compost. And fertilizing your lawn just makes more work for you and costs you and the Earth more in gasoline.
DON’T OVER-MOW YOUR LAWN
Fireflies stay mostly on the ground during the day and fly at night. Frequent mowing disturbs them. Fireflies prefer to live in long grasses. So mowing less often and leaving some areas of long grass may increase their numbers in your yard.
A firefly habitat needs trees to create shade. Shade and low light areas give the fireflies more time to find a mate. Fast-growing shade trees include Red Maple, River Birch, Tulip and most pine trees. Also, if left to accumulate, leaf litter and the fallen needles of pines will provide a habitat for the worms and slugs that firefly larvae eat.
SPREAD THE WORD
As with all animal issues, be an advocate. Let your friends and neighbors know that if we don’t take action now, fireflies may become just a memory of summers gone. You can set an example for your neighbors when you create a backyard sanctuary for wildlife. If only one of them follows your lead, you will have helped not just the fireflies, but also the other creatures that live around us.
It’s a common phenomenon around the world: when humans observe wildlife in their neighborhood that they consider a nuisance they call wildlife officials to have the animal removed and transported elsewhere, often great distances away. It makes people happy to think they are ridding themselves of a potential problem without killing the animal.
What they don’t know is they may be killing the animal after all, and it can be a long, slow death.
Human-animal conflicts happen everywhere, but translocation of the animals should be the last option considered. It should only be used if it has been proven to work. Research shows it does not work for most animals.
Relocation of wildlife appears to be successful with only a few species, including some larger mammals and tortoises. It doesn’t work for snakes and it does not appear to be very successful with many other small animals.
Most wild animals know their home range really well, so if they are dropped off someplace else they take off and make all sorts of unusual movements that are not typical of their normal behavior. The more they move, the less time they spend eating, reproducing and finding hiding places. Movement is a good indication of how well the animals are doing, and relocated animals move a lot and do not do well.
Many relocated animals are killed by other animals or run over by vehicles. Some just give up and die a slow death from stress.
Long-distance translocation is clearly not the answer. A short-distance relocation to the nearest natural habitat, which may be as close as 20 yards away and probably no farther than 500 yards away, is a more humane solution. That way the animal does not become completely separated from its home range.
Most short-distance relocated animals are likely never to be seen again, since they prefer to avoid people.
There is a widespread notion that translocation works. People want to save the animal, take it away from the area and put it in a pristine environment. But it’s not that simple. Individual animals are tied to their home range. Make the humane choice and only relocate animals near their natural habitat.
Despite their professed concern for animals, zoos remain more "collections" of interesting "items" than actual havens or simulated habitats. Zoos teach people that it is acceptable to keep animals in captivity, bored, cramped, lonely and far from their natural homes. They are a form of animal entertainment, not education.
Zoos range in size and quality from cageless parks to small roadside menageries with concrete slabs and iron bars. The larger the zoo and the greater the number and variety of the animals it contains, the more it costs to provide quality care for the animals. Although more than 112 million people visit zoos in the United States and Canada every year, most zoos operate at a loss and must find ways to cut costs (which sometimes means selling animals) or add gimmicks that will attract visitors. Zoo officials often consider profits ahead of the animals' well-being.
Animals suffer from more than neglect in some zoos. When Dunda, an African elephant, was transferred from the San Diego Zoo to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, she was chained, pulled to the ground, and beaten with ax handles for two days. One witness described the blows as "home run swings." Such abuse may be the norm. "You have to motivate them," says San Francisco zookeeper Paul Hunter of elephants, "and the way you do that is by beating the hell out of them."
Zoos claim to educate people and preserve species, but they frequently fall short on both counts. Most zoo enclosures are quite small, and labels provide little more information than the species' name, diet and natural range. The animals' normal behavior is seldom discussed, much less observed, because their natural needs are seldom met. Birds' wings may be clipped so they cannot fly, aquatic animals often have little water, and the many animals who naturally live in large herds or family groups are often kept alone or, at most, in pairs. Natural hunting and mating behaviors are virtually eliminated by regulated feeding and breeding regimens. The animals are closely confined, lack privacy and have little opportunity for mental stimulation or physical exercise, resulting in abnormal and self-destructive behavior called zoochosis.
A worldwide study of zoos conducted by the Born Free Foundation revealed that zoochosis is rampant in confined animals around the globe. Another study found that elephants spend 22 percent of their time engaging in abnormal behaviors, such as repeated head bobbing or biting cage bars, and bears spend about 30 percent of their time pacing, a sign of distress.
One sanctuary that is home to rescued zoo animals reports seeing frequent signs of zoochosis in animals brought to the sanctuary from zoos. Of chimpanzees, who bite their own limbs from captivity-induced stress, the manager says: "Their hands were unrecognizable from all the scar tissue."
More than half the world's zoos "are still in bad conditions" and treating chimpanzees poorly, according to renowned chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall.
As for education, zoo visitors usually spend only a few minutes at each display, seeking entertainment rather than enlightenment. A study of the zoo in Buffalo, N.Y., found that most people passed cages quickly, and described animals in such terms as "funny-looking," "dirty," or "lazy."
The purpose of most zoos' research is to find ways to breed and maintain more animals in captivity. If zoos ceased to exist, so would the need for most of their research. Protecting species from extinction sounds like a noble goal, but zoo officials usually favor exotic or popular animals who draw crowds and publicity, and neglect less popular species. Most animals housed in zoos are not endangered, nor are they being prepared for release into natural habitats. It is nearly impossible to release captive-bred animals into the wild. A 1994 report by the World Society for the Protection of Animals showed that only 1,200 zoos out of 10,000 worldwide are registered for captive breeding and wildlife conservation. Only two percent of the world's threatened or endangered species are registered in breeding programs. Those that are endangered may have their plight made worse by zoos' focus on crowd appeal. In his book The Last Panda, George Schaller, the scientific director of the Bronx Zoo, says zoos are actually contributing to the near-extinction of giant pandas by constantly shuttling the animals from one zoo to another for display. In-breeding is also a problem among captive populations.
Zoo babies are great crowd-pleasers, but what happens when babies grow up? Zoos often sell or kill animals who no longer attract visitors. Deer, tigers, lions and other animals who breed often are sometimes sold to "game" farms where hunters pay for the "privilege" of killing them; some are killed for their meat and/or hides. Other "surplus" animals may be sold to smaller, more poorly run zoos or to laboratories for experiments.
Ultimately, we will only save endangered species if we save their habitats and combat the reasons people kill them. Instead of supporting zoos, we should support groups like the International Primate Protection League, The Born Free Foundation, the African Wildlife Foundation and other groups that work to preserve habitats, not habits. We should help non-profit sanctuaries, like Primarily Primates and the Performing Animal Welfare Society, that rescue and care for exotic animals, but don't sell or breed them.
Zoos truly interested in raising awareness of wildlife and conservation should create high-tech zoos with no animals. Visitors could observe animals in the wild via live satellite links with far off places like the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier reef and Africa.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
It is best not to patronize a zoo unless you are actively working to change its conditions. Avoid smaller, roadside zoos at all costs. If no one visits these substandard operations, they will be forced to close down. Zoos are covered under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which sets minimal housing and maintenance standards for captive animals. The AWA requires that all animal displays be licensed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which must inspect zoos once a year. However, some zoos that have passed USDA inspections with flying colors have later been found by humane groups to have numerous violations. Start a "Zoocheck" program to build a strong case for implementing changes.
Glue traps are often used to catch mice, rats, sparrows and other small birds, and is thought by some to be a more humane method of catching small animals that are seen as pests. Glue traps, however, are an extremely cruel method of catching animals. If people understood the degree of cruelty associated with the use of glue traps, they would want no part of them.
A 1983 test that evaluated the effectiveness of glue traps found that trapped mice struggling to free themselves would pull out their own hair, exposing bare, raw areas of skin. The mice broke or even bit off their own legs, and the glue caused their eyes to become badly irritated and scarred. After three to five hours in the glue traps, the mice defecated and urinated heavily because of their severe stress and fear, and quickly became covered with their own excrement. Animals whose faces become stuck in the glue slowly suffocate, and all trapped animals are subject to starvation and dehydration. It takes anywhere from three to five days for the mouse to finally die. This is nothing less than torture.
If traps are needed to remove mice or rats, humane box-type traps are available from humane societies and hardware stores. These traps are a box-like plastic or cage-like metal with a spring-release trap door at one end that closes behind the animal once he or she enters the trap. The trap can then be taken outdoors where the animal can be released. Live, humane rodent traps are widely available, and have the added benefit of being reusable, while glue traps are not. The labor involved in using these is comparable to glue traps, as someone will always have to pick up the trap and discard it, or in the case of a humane trap, release the mouse outdoors.
You can then take measures to prevent mice from re-entering the building, as they surely will over time. Patch all holes larger than 1/4" in diameter, seal cracks in the walls and floor, and close gaps around plumbing, doors, windows. This should help to prevent the need to deal with the problem of removing mice again. If you need to do so in the future, you will have the humane traps at your disposal.
It is important to remember that though small and removed from our day-to-day world, mice and other small animals are mammals, with nervous systems and perceptions of pain that are similar to humans. There is no evidence that mice suffer any less than we do.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Use only humane traps. Seal all holes in your home to prevent infestation. Educate others on the issue and ask local retailers to carry humane traps and not glue traps.
Don't be afraid OF sharks; be afraid FOR them. There are more misunderstandings and untruths about sharks than almost any other group of animals on the planet. While many people fear sharks, it is the sharks who should be fearing us.
According to the shark attack file, maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History, on average 5 people die worldwide from shark attacks. Research published in 2006 found that up to 70 million sharks are killed by humans each year, mostly for their fins. This is a devastating death toll for a long-living species that is as slow to reproduce as sharks.
Sharks have roamed the oceans far longer than most land animals have been here. They were here before many of the dinosaurs and have outlasted them. But an international assessment of sharks undertaken by the World Conservation Union reveals that their future is in doubt.
Of 546 shark species assessed, 111 species were at significant risk of global extinction. Twenty species are listed as critically endangered and 25 as endangered. A study published in the journal Science concluded that some shark species have lost 80% of their populations just in the past 40 years including hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks and porbeagle sharks. While hammerhead shark is a name familiar to most, most people have never heard of porbeagle sharks...some of the lesser known sharks are in even greater danger.
Sharks can range from being just inches in length (like the tiny cookie cutter shark) to being larger than a school bus (like the giant plankton-eating whale shark). Though sharks perform the same role in the ocean ecosystem that is performed by well-known predators such as lions, tigers and cheetahs on land, the fact that they live in such an alien world makes it hard for us to know about their lives. What we do know is pretty fascinating.
Sharks shed their teeth. A single shark may lose thousands of teeth over its life and this accounts for the many shark teeth found by beach combers throughout the world. Their teeth are connected to a membrane in their mouth that is constantly being pushed forward as new teeth form. New teeth are generally slightly larger than the ones before. This allows the size of the shark's teeth to keep pace with the growth of the rest of the body.
Sharks are picky eaters. Some sharks eat only plankton, others eat small fish or squid, and still others eat large fish and marine mammals. The type of teeth a shark has will show you what it eats. Great white sharks have teeth with serrated edges for slicing off pieces from larger prey, the teeth of mako sharks are thin and pointed for grabbing onto slippery fish. Nurse sharks and other bottom dwellers tend to have thicker teeth for crushing shellfish. No matter the tooth shape, sharks never chew their food.
You're more likely to die as a result of being electrocuted by lighting than being attacked by a shark. More deadly than shark attacks each year are crocodile attacks, hippo attacks, and even attacks by pigs.
Many sharks are warm blooded. Unlike the rest of the fishy world, many large sharks can maintain their body temperature higher than the ocean temperature around them.
Some sharks lay eggs, but others give birth to live young and may not be sexually mature until they are over the age of 10.
We don't know whether sharks sleep. Sometimes they seem to rest, but their eyes don't close and if they sleep, they certainly don't sleep the way that mammals can.
There is a lot we don't know about sharks, but we DO know that if we don't act soon to stop overfishing, some of the most ancient and magnificent animals on the planet may soon disappear.
While some claim the manatee is ugly, with ‘a face only a mother could love,’ most people seem drawn to this fascinating marine creature. Whether it’s their sad, puppy-like demeanor, or their sluggish, gentle manner, something about manatees is awfully endearing.
The manatee, or sea cow, is an aquatic mammal. With a round cylindrical body, they can measure from 8 to 13 feet from tail to head. Weights can vary from 450 lbs for the smallest species to 1,300 lbs for the larger ones. Some can even grow up to 3,000 lbs.
Primarily herbivorous, manatees spend up to eight hours each day quietly grazing on seagrasses and other aquatic plants, though they will occasionally feed on fish.
Manatees surface for air about once every five minutes, but can remain submerged for up to twenty minutes when they are resting. Their lungs are positioned along the backbone, which helps with buoyancy control. They swim by waving their wide paddle tails up and down, and because they do not possess the neck vertebra that most other mammals have, they must turn their entire bodies to look around.
Manatees can hear quite well, at least at high frequencies. This is likely an adaptation to shallow water living, where low frequency sounds aren’t transmitted well because of physical barriers. Their inability to hear the low frequency churning of an approaching boat might explain why manatees are susceptible to injury by boat propellers, a top reason for the decline in their populations.
West Indian Manatee
West Indian manatees are the largest of the three main manatee species. They are gray in color, have a whale-like body, and a tail that is shaped like a paddle. This species of manatee is mostly found in the waters of the Caribbean Sea and south-eastern fringes of the US, especially the coastal areas of Florida and Georgia where they prefer to wade in warm shallow waters. They also occur in Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean. This species takes in a daily diet of sea weeds and plants, up to 10-15 percent of their body weight.
West Indian manatees were listed as endangered in 1967 concurrent with the creation of the Endangered Species Conservation Act, an act that pre-dated the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Accidental collisions with boats are the primary cause of death for these shallow water-inhabiting animals, followed by low reproductive rates and a decline in suitable habitat. Another important threat is loss of reliable warm water habitats that allow manatees to survive the cold in winter. Natural springs are threatened by increased demands for water supply. Deregulation of the power industry may also result in less reliable man-made sources of warm water. Seagrass and other aquatic foods that manatees depend on are affected by water pollution, and sometimes direct destruction.
The Amazonian manatee can reach up to 9 feet in length and weigh up to 500 lbs. It is the smallest of the tree species. This species of manatee is basically a fresh water creature found in the upper reaches of the Amazon river and its tributaries that span the countries of Brazil, Guyana, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Water lettuce and hyacinth are their main diet, requiring 8 percent of their body weight daily. They have a flat and elongated rear and a hippo-like snout, both characteristics that make the Amazonian manatee an unusual looking animal.
Although hunting of the Amazon manatee was banned in 1974, there seems to be no end to the poaching of the animal. It's still being hunted down for its meat and oil. Massive deforestation of the Amazon basin, and mining for gold, has led to the habitat of the manatee considerably shrinking over the decades. Once found all over the huge Amazon basin area, it is a rare sight nowadays – leading conservationists to believe that it could become extinct.
West African Manatee
Of all the three species of manatee, the West African is the one few people have heard of. They dwell all along the coastline of West Africa, especially in the shallow and warm waters of estuaries and lagoons flowing into the Atlantic. The country-wise distribution of their habitat is Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Sierra Leone. The preferred daily diet of this species is the leaves of the low overhanging trees of the extensive mangrove forests abounding the mouth-waters of the massive Niger river and Congo river deltas.
For the West African manatee, the threats are similar to its Amazonian cousin in the sense that its meat fetches a considerable price in the markets. In many places it is openly displayed for sale. It is also poached for sale to zoos and aquariums of private collectors. Rapid agricultural and urban expansion, massive and unhindered exploration for oil in Nigerian delta waters, and extreme congestion of vessels and boats in shallow waters are serious threats to the habitat of the African manatee. Fishing equipment, such as large nets, are also a threat. Manatees trapped inside them are killed by the fishermen before they can cause considerable damage to the nets. Natural occurrences, like shifting tides and eddies, are also threats as manatees are shallow-water creatures. Like the Amazonian manatee, their numbers are dwindling.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) enforces controls on the export of the West African manatee. Hunting of the animal is now banned in almost all the countries of its habitat. In countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, conservation programs have seen areas being demarcated as protected zones for the manatees. Conservation organizations are also making an effort to educate the populace in these regions about the manatee.
Fight For Survival
Manatee conservation and recovery involves many partners from government and industry, as well as many citizens. Great strides have been made in the protection and recovery of the manatee. Numerous manatee speed zones have been established. Many sick and injured manatees are rescued every year. These animals are often rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Recommendations and actions to prevent manatee deaths related to water-control structures and navigation locks have included modification of gate openings and installation of pressure sensitive and acoustic devices on some of the most deadly locks. All efforts to reduce water pollution help to maintain and restore aquatic vegetation. Extensive manatee conservation education work has been conducted by federal, state and private entities.
The West Indian manatees are now doing comparatively better than their Amazonian and African counterparts. However, there is much left to be done to secure their future. This will require the cooperation and support of everyone: government, orgainzations, the private sector and boaters.
Rotors of fast-moving water crafts once took many lives each year. Thanks to awareness and dissemination of information concerning the safety of the sea mammals, such mishaps have been reduced considerably. But areas where watercraft-related injury and mortality continue to occur have almost no protective measures for manatees.
Warm water wintering sites need to be secured. Important spring flows must be maintained. We must ensure that aquatic vegetation is adequate to support a recovered population.
Red tide, a natural occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico, is another threat to the manatee. Exposure to toxic algal bloom created by the red tide can be lethal to manatees. Scientists are investigating links between the run-off of wastes into the sea and the red tide phenomena.
The great news for these likeable creatures and their enthusiasts is that their count has increased five-fold within a decade and half. In 1991, a count of the West Indian manatees around Florida found just 1,267 inhabiting the area. The number has increased to an astonishing 6,250. The West Indian species is finally out of the list of endangered animals.
Although the struggle will be uphill, one can only hope that similar efforts are made to wean away the Amazonian and West African manatee from the path of extinction and put them in one that leads to multiplication of their numbers.
You can get great exposure for earth and animal issues by writing letters to the editors of newspapers or magazines, writing letters to businesses and writing letters to legislators. Use your clout as a consumer to protest companies that exploit the environment and animals. While everyone is good at complaining about politics to their friends, too few citizens express their opinions to those who can do something about it: legislators.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
By writing letters to the editors of newspapers or magazines, not only will you be reaching thousands of readers, you will also be bringing your concerns to the attention of policymakers who often refer to the opinion pages to learn what issues really matter to the public.
Read local papers and magazines to get ideas for letters. Watch for articles, ads or letters that mention earth and animal issues.
Letters don’t have to be rebuttals. Let people know how you feel. Write on good news as well as bad. Thank the paper for its coverage of earth and animal issues.
Be brief. Sometimes one paragraph is enough. Three hundred words is the maximum length that most papers or magazines will allow without cutting, and it’s better for you to do the cutting than for the editor to do it. The ideal length is 100 to 150 words (10 to 15 typed lines).
Type if possible. Otherwise, print legibly. Be sure to use correct grammar and spelling, and remember to have your letter proofread by someone with good language skills.
Make the first sentence catchy to get the readers’ attention, and stick to one issue. The letter should be timely. If you’re responding to an article, send it no more than three days after the article was published.
Make sure you include your name, address and telephone number in your letter. Some newspapers verify authorship before printing letters.
Don’t just send letters to the biggest paper in town. The smaller the paper, the better the chances of getting your letter printed. Small weekly papers can help you reach hundreds or even thousands of people. Occasionally, you may have the chance to write an opinion piece for the local paper, especially if you are involved in a controversial campaign. These are longer articles of 500 to 800 words that summarize an issue, develop an argument, and propose a solution. Send the article to the editorial page editor with a cover letter explaining why it should be printed. The opinion piece has a better chance of getting printed if it is signed by someone prominent, even if you wrote it for him or her.
You can also write (or call) television and radio stations to bring attention to earth and animal issues or to compliment them on programs that promote environmental and animal issues.
Increase your credibility by mentioning anything that makes you especially qualified to write on a topic. Try to tell readers something they’re not likely to know and suggest ways to take action. Include something for readers to do. Keep personal grudges and name-calling out of letters; they’ll hurt your credibility.
Speak affirmatively. Avoid self-righteous language and exaggeration. Don’t assume your audience knows the issues. Use positive suggestions rather than negative commands. Personalize your writing with anecdotes and visual images.
Avoid speciesist language. Instead of referring to an animal with an inanimate pronoun (“it” or “which”), use “she” or “he” and “who.” Avoid euphemisms; say what you really mean. Criticize the cruelty, not the newspaper.
LETTERS TO BUSINESSES
Send letters to companies that exploit the environment and animals. Tell cosmetics manufacturers that you will purchase other brands until they stop testing on animals, or tell a store that you won’t shop there until it stops carrying live animals—and explain why.
LETTERS TO LEGISLATORS
Constituent input really does make a difference. If you don’t communicate with the officials representing you, who will? You’re probably not going to single-handedly convince your legislators, but many legislators share your objectives and just need to be convinced that there is sufficient public support before putting their necks on the line.
Find out who your federal and state representatives are. Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, not as a member of an organization; legislators want to get feedback from their constituents, not lobbyists. Keep letters brief—no more than one page. If you’re writing about a specific bill, mention in the first paragraph the bill’s name (and number if you know it) and whether you support or oppose it. Include reasons and supporting data in the next paragraph or two. Conclude by asking for a response.
Focus on a specific topic. Don’t ask the legislator just to “support animals and the environment.” Very few legislators vote in favor of all earth and animal protection bills, because different issues are at stake with each one. Be polite and concise. Keep everything relevant to the bill or issue in question. Never be threatening or insulting. Remember, each letter pertaining to a particular piece of legislation is usually counted as a “yes” or “no.”
Don’t get overwhelmed by the project. Just get those letters written and in the mail. As few as 10 letters on any one topic can sway a legislator’s vote. Several hours of letter writing every month can make a big impact. And don’t be discouraged if you receive unfavorable responses; the more we communicate with public officials, the sooner they’ll change their positions.
Ethics addresses questions of morality, such as what makes our actions right or wrong. Animal ethics focuses upon the constantly evolving way in which society thinks of nonhuman animals. Through our use of animals as goods for food, clothing, entertainment and companionship, animal ethics is something that we all interact with on a daily basis.
Environmental ethics is the philosophy that considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world. There are many ethical decisions made by humans with respect to the environment.
When we begin to explore our behavior towards animals and the environment, we find that what is presented as acceptable conduct is often inconsistent. While we love and value the nonhuman members of our family, such as the cats and dogs who share our homes, we distance ourselves from the lives of billions of wild animals, farmed animals, animals used in experimentation, animals used for clothing and animals used in the entertainment industry.
Our consumer choices shape our daily lives and it is through them that we have come to regard some animals not as individuals, but in terms of the financial value placed upon them. The distance we maintain between their lives and our own allows our use of their bodies to continue unchallenged. Can this inequality in how we regard other animals ever be truly justified?
Environmental ethics address questions of right and wrong regarding the natural world and our relationship with plants and animals. We must find meaningful ways to deal with pollution, resource degradation and plant and animal extinction - not only because it is vital to saving our human race - but because it is simply the right thing to do.
All plants and animals are an important part of the planet and are a functional part of human life. Maintaining environmental ethics ensures we are doing our part to keep the environment safe and protected. It is essential that we respect and honor the environment and use morals and ethics in our daily decisions.
Environmental ethics builds on scientific understanding by bringing human values, morals and improved decision making into the conversation with science. While moral reasoning is not a substitute for science, science does not teach us to care. Scientific knowledge alone does not provide reasons for planet protection. It only provides data, knowledge and information. Environmental ethics uses this information to ask how can we live in harmony with the environment and why should we care.
Environmental ethics considers three key propositions:
The planet and its plants and animals are worthy of our ethical concern.
Plants, animals and the environment have intrinsic value; moral value because they exist, not only because they meet human needs.
We should consider whole ecosystems, including other forms of life, in our daily decisions.
Industrialization has created pollution and ecological imbalance. It is not only the duty of that industry to make changes to protect the environment, but all of us must make daily decisions that help to restore the environment and make it sustainable.
Ethical consumerism is buying things, only when needed, that are made ethically. Generally, this means they are made without harm to or exploitation of humans, animals and the environment. Ethical consumerism involves positive buying and moral boycotting.
Positive buying means favoring ethical products, be they fair trade, cruelty free, organic, locally produced, recycled or re-used.
Moral boycott means refusing to buy products that exploit humans, animals and the environment.
Shopping is a form of voting; a way to express our moral choices. If we care about the planet and animals, but continue to buy from companies that harm animals and the environment, than we are participating in that unethical behavior.
Ethical consumers research products before purchasing to ensure they are environmentally friendly, animal friendly, sustainable and do not exploit humans.
We must also not limit our places in society to that of consumers only. We are, after all, people not consumers, with the free will to take more direct action. Our responsibility does not end after we stop ourselves from buying unethical products. We must also work to stop unethical corporations from abusing the planet and animals.
Different approaches to animal ethics, such as welfarism and abolitionism, vary greatly both in their philosophical viewpoints and their practices. Their shared focus is achieving the inclusion of nonhuman animals within our moral community.
The call for ‘higher-welfare’ products, through consumer demand for 'humane treatment' and products such as free-range meat, eggs and dairy, is termed welfarism. Welfarism modifies systems of abuse through changes to legislation and working practices, while allowing exploitation of nonhuman animals to continue.
By rejecting their commodification as ‘products’ and property, abolitionism affords nonhuman animals a right to life and freedom from exploitation. Abolitionism challenges the legitimacy of abusive industries and what we demand from them, working to end suffering by ending exploitation as a whole.
Animal Ethics In Practice
We can prevent nonhuman animals from being degraded into the class of things by promoting a compassionate attitude towards them. An attitude that demonstrates a lack of respect for other animals and unfair behavior towards them is known as speciesism. Like both racism and sexism, speciesism is a prejudice which builds a general disregard for the lives of others based upon an unreasonable differentiation. Only by allowing all animals equal consideration can we be unprejudiced in our actions.
When we start to value nonhuman animals as individuals, we recognize that they are not mechanical units of production and profit. Gradual changes to how animals are treated, confined and slaughtered may alter aspects of how we use other animals but they do not challenge the wrongs of their enslavement. On the surface, welfare changes may appear compassionate, however, by looking at the wider picture we can see that they leave animals within abusive environments and allow their exploitation to continue. By regulating cruelty, welfarism actively accepts the trade in nonhuman animal lives.
Killing and unacceptable harm remain an inherent part of farming animals for food and clothing, using animals in experiments, and using animals for entertainment, regardless of the practices used. The use of buzzwords such as 'humanely raised', and commercial branding of free range products, wrongly reassures us as consumers. The cheery media persona designed for these 'products' enables us to put a falsely positive image to a process which commodifies animals and causes them to suffer.
By creating a change within our own consumer demand, we can create a wider reaching change for the better. When we choose not to support exploitative industries and avoid products taken from animals, we reject the commodity status placed upon them and recognize their value as individuals. Veganism (refraining from consuming all animal products) is the simple action of removing our personal demand for animal exploitation. It is the practical application of the idea that animals are not property, nor ours to use and manipulate.
Animal Ethics & You
If you believe that we should be kind to animals and treat them with respect, only one further step is needed to reach the conclusion that all animals deserve our kindness and respect. If we extend to other animals the same compassion and morality we would hope for ourselves, we can begin to alleviate the harm that we cause them. Compassionate choices made by us as individuals offer protection to those who need it most. Changing the way in which harm takes place is not enough: we need to make choices that respect life and freedom. By leading a vegan lifestyle, we end our demand for animal suffering and exploitation. All that this requires from us is the decision to make a change.
Sales of ‘higher-welfare’ animal ‘products’ are rising each year, demonstrating consumers’ ever-increasing desire for animals to be treated compassionately. The next question to ask is surely: is killing a sentient animal consistent with wanting that animal to be treated compassionately? Is killing acceptable?
Ask someone if they believe that killing is acceptable, and they will probably answer no, or perhaps only under a few specific circumstances (e.g. to alleviate suffering, or in self-defense or defense of another when life is at risk). Ask if, more specifically, they believe that killing for pleasure is acceptable, and few people would answer yes.
Despite this, many consumers continue to choose to cause the death of other sentient creatures for reasons of personal pleasure on a daily basis, each time they buy or eat animal 'products'. However; this choice is not usually the result of a conscious, rational decision in favor of killing. Most people are brought up to believe that eating or using things taken from animals is a normal choice. This conditioning is often well established before they are old enough to understand the concept of killing and death.
Many people then continue these actions largely due to habit or convenience, rather than ever having made a conscious decision to do so. We can also find it difficult to choose behavior which is outside the expected norms in our families or social groups, or which differ from the values and traditions we were brought up with. The expectation or desire to conform can be enough to deter us from considering changing our actions - even when we know that, in truth, the change will be a positive choice.
In countries where a variety of foods, clothing and other products are available and there is therefore no need to consume or use animals, it is hard to argue that choosing to cause death in this way is a necessity, rather than a choice or simply a convenient habit. Choosing to buy vegan, 100% plant-based food and products, is an easy way for consumers to be sure that the things they buy have not caused the death or suffering of an animal.
It's Not Just About Welfare
The suffering and cruelty inflicted upon animals is a major cause for concern and a strong motivation for many vegans. Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the animal welfare concerns surrounding food production, particularly in intensive farming systems. However, the welfare of farmed animals during their lifetimes is not the only reason why vegans choose not to consume or use animal products.
There is strong evidence from behavioral studies that animals, including wild animals and farmed animals, are sentient beings with individual needs and preferences. The mass production and killing of these animals does not recognize this. Anyone who has spent time with a companion animal knows that they have complex emotions, and yet wild animals and farmed animals are no different in this respect from dogs and cats.
Killing is an inherent and unavoidable part of farming animals for food. Of course animals are killed for meat, but many people are unaware that this is equally true of egg and milk production. Millions of male chicks and calves are killed each year as 'by-products' of the egg and milk industries, considered worthless since they cannot produce milk or eggs. The dairy cows and egg-laying hens themselves are killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan, when they become too worn out to produce enough milk or eggs to be profitable.
Simply buying ‘higher-welfare’ animal products cannot change these facts. If consumers want to ensure that the food they buy is ‘cruelty-free’, by far the best way to achieve this is to buy vegan food.
It is entirely possible and increasingly easy to have nutritious and tasty food and practical and stylish clothing without exploiting other animals.
Therefore the question is not, “Why shouldn’t we use and kill animals?”, but, “Why would we?”
It's Not All Or Nothing
Living a vegan lifestyle is not an all or nothing philosophy. Vegans attempt to minimize the suffering of animals as much as possible in their daily lives. If a vegan accidentally, or intentionally, purchases or consumes an animal product, it does not suddenly exclude them from being vegan. They simply try harder in the future. If you are not ready, or willing, to be a full fledged vegan, you can still help countless animals by making as many compassionate choices as you can. For example, if you aren't ready to completely eliminate animal products from your diet, you can still reduce consumption of those products while also eliminating non-food animal products from your daily purchases and boycotting animal entertainment.
How to Save 11,000 Animals
Do you care about animals? Do you want to help stop their suffering? Then go vegan! Cutting out animal products and being vegan means voting every single day of your life with your knife and fork and by your choice of clothing, cosmetics, household products and entertainment. Your vote says no to animal cruelty.
There is now a fantastic range of vegan products on the market to make it easy for you to make the transition. Some people go vegan in a day, others take a few months to adjust. The most important thing is to make a start and use each day to work towards the goal of a compassionate vegan lifestyle.
In a lifetime a meat-eater will consume a huge number of animals. By switching to a plant based diet, not only will you stop contributing to this mass slaughter of creatures, but you will also save those animals from a lifetime of suffering. A recent study by Viva! suggests this figure could be as high as 11,000!
By redirecting unspoiled food from landfill to our neighbors in need, individuals can support their local communities and reduce environmental impact. Non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food can be donated. Donated food can also include leftovers from events and surplus food inventory.
Where to Donate
Food pantries, food banks and food rescue programs are available across the world to collect food and redistribute it to those in need.
Food banks are community-based, professional organizations that collect food from a variety of sources and save the food in warehouses. The food bank then distributes the food to hungry families and individuals through a variety of emergency food assistance agencies, such as soup kitchens, youth or senior centers, shelters and pantries. Most food banks tend to collect less perishable foods such as canned goods because they can be stored for a longer time.
Food Rescue Programs
Food rescue programs take excess perishable and prepared food and distribute it to agencies and charities that serve hungry people such as soup kitchens, youth or senior centers, shelters and pantries. Many of these agencies visit the food bank each week to select fresh produce and packaged products for their meal programs or food pantries. Many also take direct donations from stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and individuals with surplus food to share.
Remember to contact your local food pantry, food bank or food rescue operation to find out what items they accept. Also, food banks will often pick up donations free of charge.
Ideas for Increasing Food Donations in Your Community
- Leverage your existing relationships with food banks and kitchens to donate food after events.
- Enlist groups that meet within your facilities to assist in collection or distribution of donated food.
- Reach out to your local grocers, restaurants, venues and/or schools to suggest that they could donate wholesome food that will be wasted.
- Create a schedule for pick-up of donated food on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.
- Use donated food to feed the hungry or elderly of your community or for events held at your facility.
- Create a schedule of deliveries to shelters and food banks for donated food that cannot be used in your facility.
Let’s say you go to the grocery store and buy a pineapple. Why are you buying a pineapple? They’re delicious. You get in line to pay for your pineapple. The clerk says, “Paper or plastic?” Paper or plastic? Hmmm…
What should you say? What things should you think about before you answer?
Let’s think about paper first. The paper bag, like most paper, is made from trees. People cut down the trees, grind them up, and make paper from the pulp. We don’t want to cut down too many trees, though, because trees help the environment. They make oxygen that we need to breathe. They provide a place for animals to live. We can plant new trees to replace the ones we cut down, but we still should save as many trees as we can.
The paper bag might be made of recycled paper. That’s paper that has been used more than once. That means that we didn’t have to cut down more trees to make it. Recycling paper still requires energy, though. Paper is also quite heavy, which means that moving it around on trucks takes a lot of energy too.
Maybe we shouldn’t get a paper bag.
What about plastic?
Plastic is not made from living things like paper is. Plastic is made by people. It never existed before people created it. If we don’t have to cut down any trees to make it, is that better?
The trouble with plastic is that it’s not part of nature. It doesn’t fit into any ecosystem. Nothing can eat it, so when it goes in the trash, it never goes away. Plastics last for hundreds or even thousands of years. And because plastics are lightweight and blow around in the wind easily, a lot of them end up in the ocean.
Maybe we shouldn’t get a plastic bag either, then.
What should we do?
There is another question that the checkout clerk might forget to ask: “Did you bring your own bag?”
The best way to take your groceries home is in your own bag. You can use it as many times as you like. You never have to throw it away!