Awesome African Safari News and Information http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2016/05/04/explore-the-wild-side-of-your-national-parks/

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WASHINGTON—From northern leopard frogs to eastern red bats, Greater Washington’s national parks are home to incredible biodiversity. Join the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society on May 20-21 for BioBlitz, a fast-paced expedition to discover and document the species that thrive in 13 nearby national parks. This free public event, nationally sponsored by American Express, will bring together more than 200 leading scientists and naturalists, more than 2,600 students and even more friends, families and future scientists to explore and celebrate biodiversity.

The National Parks BioBlitz—Washington, D.C., is the cornerstone event for more than 100 BioBlitzes taking place across the country. The National Parks BioBlitz is the culmination of a 10-year partnership between the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society, in the run-up to the National Park Service centennial —August 25, 2016.

“Because most people associate D.C. with memorials and museums, it may be surprising to learn that this area provides important habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals—the biodiversity here is unexpectedly rich,” National Park Service Regional Director Bob Vogel said. “BioBlitz is a great opportunity for people of all interests and skills to discover these species and to contribute valuable information to national park scientists. We invite the Greater Washington community to join us in this exciting adventure.”

“Nine years ago at the first National Parks BioBlitz in Rock Creek Park, we had about 1,000 people documenting species on paper,” said National Geographic Society President and CEO Gary Knell. “This year, for the National Park Service centennial, tens of thousands of people will join forces at more than 100 parks for the first nationwide BioBlitz. This massive effort to uncover the amazing natural resources in our parks dovetails with National Geographic’s longtime commitment to exploring and protecting our planet.”

To be part of a scientist-led inventory team, register online at natgeo.org/bioblitz-dc. Examples of species inventories include:

–          Early morning birding adventures on Theodore Roosevelt Island

–          Pollinator surveys in Piscataway Park

–          Meadow exploration and fish counts in Rock Creek Park

–          Wetland exploration in Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

–          Spider surveys at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve

–          Butterfly surveys in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

–          Discovery of stream insects at Manassas National Battlefield Park

–         Acoustic bat inventory at Constitution Gardens on the National Mall

A concurrent two-day Biodiversity Festival will be held at Constitution Gardens on the National Mall (17th and Constitution Avenue NW). The festival will feature hands-on science exhibits, food and art, yoga classes and family-friendly entertainment and activities. Constitution Gardens will also serve as base camp for the National Parks BioBlitz-Washington, D.C., and a connection to more than 100 BioBlitz and biodiversity events taking place at national parks across the country that weekend. The festival will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 20-21, 2016, with a special evening of science fun planned for Friday night.

“American Express is committed to serving and preserving our nation’s parks and public lands,” said American Express Foundation President Timothy J. McClimon. “As we gear up for the 2016 National Park Service centennial, we are excited to sponsor BioBlitz and empower volunteers across the country to discover and celebrate the wealth of biodiversity in our national parks.”

American Express is a national sponsor of the National Parks BioBlitz and a premier partner of the 2016 National Park Service centennial. To learn more, visit amex.co/goparks.

Verizon, Southwest Airlines Co. and the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation are also providing support for the National Parks BioBlitz–Washington, D.C.

To learn more about BioBlitz and the festival, visit natgeo.org/bioblitz-dc or call (800) 638-6400, ext. 6186.

More on BioBlitz

The ultimate field trip
More than 3,000 students from across our nation’s capital will participate in BioBlitz during their school day! Students ages eight and above will work alongside leading scientists to discover and document the biodiversity of our region’s national parks. BioBlitz provides classes with an opportunity to experience national parks, to learn about the wide biodiversity of species that inhabit our world and to gain first-hand exposure to the work of scientists.

Going global with iNaturalist
At the first National Parks BioBlitz in 2007, 1,000 BioBlitz participants recorded species findings with pen and paper. Today, thanks to the iNaturalist app, thousands of BioBlitz participants can share their observations and crowdsource identifications of flora and fauna at the press of a button. Whether you’re a curious kid or an expert botanist, iNaturalist allows you to share information with citizen-scientists around the world and to directly contribute data to national park species inventories. Past BioBlitz participants have added dozens of species to park inventories and even discovered one species new to science!

Bugs, bats, and brews!
Toast the wilder side of the National Parks at Bugs, Bats and Brews! Join the National Park Service and National Geographic Society on Friday night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Constitution Gardens. Enjoy refreshments in the beer garden (21+ only) as you listen to animal sounds remixed into exotic beats by DJ Ecotone, see through the lens of National Geographic photographer Anand Varma, and debunk popular science myths with “The Urban Scientist,” Danielle Lee. End the night with a search for the bats and bugs on the National Mall set to a live performance by the French Horn Rebellion band.

A decade of discovery
The 2016 National Parks BioBlitz is the culmination of a 10-year series of BioBlitzes co-hosted by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society at different national parks across the country, leading up the centennial of the National Park Service. The first in the series took place at Rock Creek Park in 2007. Other BioBlitz locations have included Biscayne National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. This year, 13 parks in Greater Washington and more than 100 national parks across the country will host BioBlitz events. A longtime partner of the National Park Service, the National Geographic Society helped draft legislation to establish the NPS in 1916. The Society has given many grants to create and sustain national parks across the United States, and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century.

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Awesome African Safari News and Information http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2016/05/02/national-geographic-teams-with-govmint-to-develop-limited-edition-of-collectible-coins-to-benefit-big-cats/

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WASHINGTON (May 2, 2016) – For the first time ever, National Geographic and the South African Mint have partnered to release limited-edition sets of legal-tender coins. The National Geographic Big Cats Coin Program will benefit the Big Cats Initiative (BCI), a long-term effort supported by National Geographic that aims to halt the decline of big cats in the wild. GovMint, one of the world’s leading sources of collectible coins, has signed on as the exclusive distributor. The collection is available for purchase on GovMint.com or by calling 1-800-642-9160.

The collection will feature on its coin face the cheetah, a native species of South Africa. Famously the world’s fastest land animal, cheetahs can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just three seconds. Their keen eyesight and ability to make quick and sudden turns also make them a fierce predator. The cheetah’s distinct spotted coat allows them to blend easily into high, dry grasses. Sadly, their population is dwindling due to human encroachment on the wide, open grasslands in which they live. It is estimated that only 7,000 to 10,000 of these big cats remain in their native eastern and southwestern Africa.

“When we consider new editions, we try to choose subjects that we think will not only resonate with our collectors, but that also represent a direct connection to the countries issuing the coins,” said Bill Gale, founder of GovMint.com. “South Africa is proud to feature the cheetah on its gold and silver coins, and shine a spotlight on such a beloved, iconic species.”

“Big Cats in the wild are disappearing at an alarming rate,” said Andy Reif, Executive Vice President, Consumer Products, Licensing, & Global Experiences for National Geographic. “It is the goal of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative to halt this decline through on-theground conservation and education projects. We are happy to support this work by partnering with GovMint.com.”

Struck at the South African Mint in 99.9 percent pure gold, each gold proof set contains four coins in tenth-ounce, quarter-ounce, half-ounce and one-ounce weights. All obverses feature the year and South African Coat of Arms depicting an eagle with a rising sun at the top and their motto. Each of the coins features four distinct cheetah designs created by the master artists at the South African mint. Each gold proof is graded in the collector’s choice of flawless Proof-70 Ultra Cameo (PF70 UC) or near-flawless Proof-69 Ultra Cameo (PF69UC). Coins are displayed in a beautifully crafted wooden case along with an official mint certificate of authenticity and booklet.

GovMint also offers a one-ounce Sterling Silver Crown 2 Rand (R2) proof. Each silver proof includes the official languages of South Africa surrounding the South African Coat of Arms. Each comes encased in original packaging from the South African Mint, accompanied by an informative booklet.

Proceeds from the National Geographic Big Cat Coin Collection supports National Geographic’s programs, including the conservation of animals and their habitats. National Geographic Society receives funds from National Geographic Partners LLC, funded in part by your purchase. To learn more, visit www.natgeo.com/info.

To find out more about the Big Cats Initiative’s work to stop the decline of lions, leopards, tigers and other big cats, visit causeanuproar.org.

About National Geographic Partners LLC

National Geographic Partners LLC, a joint venture between National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox, combines National Geographic television channels with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic Studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, catalog, licensing and e-commerce businesses. A portion of the proceeds from National Geographic Partners LLC will be used to fund science, exploration, conservation and education through significant ongoing contributions to the work of the National Geographic Society. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com and find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

About GovMint

Since 1984, GovMint.com has been one of the world’s leading sources of collectible coins. Headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, GovMint.com is an official distributor for seven major world mints and offers collectible coins from over 120 countries. GovMint.com has four offices in the U.S. More information at www.GovMint.com/bigcats or call 800-642-9160.

 

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Awesome African Safari News and Information http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2016/05/04/first-of-its-kind-global-analysis-indicates-leopards-have-lost-nearly-75-percent-of-their-historic-range/

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WASHINGTON (May 4, 2016)—The leopard (Panthera pardus), one of the world’s most iconic big cats, has lost as much as 75 percent of its historic range, according to a paper published today in the scientific journal PeerJ. Conducted by partners including the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative, international conservation charities the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Panthera and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group, this study represents the first known attempt to produce a comprehensive analysis of leopards’ status across their entire range and all nine subspecies.

The research found that leopards historically occupied a vast range of approximately 35 million square kilometers (13.5 million square miles) throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Today, however, they are restricted to approximately 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles).

To obtain their findings, the scientists spent three years reviewing more than 1,300 sources on the leopard’s historic and current range. The results appear to confirm conservationists’ suspicions that, while the entire species is not yet as threatened as some other big cats, leopards are facing a multitude of growing threats in the wild, and three subspecies have already been almost completely eradicated.

Lead author Andrew Jacobson, of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, University College London and the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative, stated: “The leopard is a famously elusive animal, which is likely why it has taken so long to recognize its global decline. This study represents the first of its kind to assess the status of the leopard across the globe and all nine subspecies. Our results challenge the conventional assumption in many areas that leopards remain relatively abundant and not seriously threatened.”

In addition, the research found that while African leopards face considerable threats, particularly in North and West Africa, leopards have also almost completely disappeared from several regions across Asia, including much of the Arabian Peninsula and vast areas of former range in China and Southeast Asia. The amount of habitat in each of these regions is plummeting, having declined by nearly 98 percent.

“Leopards’ secretive nature, coupled with the occasional, brazen appearance of individual animals within megacities like Mumbai and Johannesburg, perpetuates the misconception that these big cats continue to thrive in the wild — when actually our study underlies the fact that they are increasingly threatened,” said Luke Dollar, co-author and program director of the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative.

Philipp Henschel, co-author and Lion Program survey coordinator for Panthera, stated: “A severe blind spot has existed in the conservation of the leopard. In just the last 12 months, Panthera has discovered the status of the leopard in Southeast Asia is as perilous as the highly endangered tiger.” Henschel continued: “The international conservation community must double down in support of initiatives protecting the species. Our next steps in this very moment will determine the leopard’s fate.”

Co-author Peter Gerngross, with the Vienna, Austria-based mapping firm BIOGEOMAPS, added: “We began by creating the most detailed reconstruction of the leopard’s historic range to date. This allowed us to compare detailed knowledge on its current distribution with where the leopard used to be and thereby calculate the most accurate estimates of range loss. This research represents a major advancement for leopard science and conservation.”

Leopards are capable of surviving in human-dominated landscapes provided they have sufficient cover, access to wild prey and tolerance from local people. In many areas, however, habitat is converted to farmland and native herbivores are replaced with livestock for growing human populations. This habitat loss, prey decline, conflict with livestock owners, illegal trade in leopard skins and parts and legal trophy hunting are all factors contributing to leopard decline.

Complicating conservation efforts for the leopard, Jacobson noted: “Our work underscores the pressing need to focus more research on the less studied subspecies, three of which have been the subject of fewer than five published papers during the last 15 years. Of these subspecies, one — the Javan leopard (P. p. melas) — is currently classified as critically endangered by the IUCN, while another — the Sri Lankan leopard (P. p. kotiya) — is classified as endangered, highlighting the urgent need to understand what can be done to arrest these worrying declines.”

Despite this troubling picture, some areas of the world inspire hope. Even with historic declines in the Caucasus Mountains and the Russian Far East/Northeast China, leopard populations in these areas appear to have stabilized and may even be rebounding with significant conservation investment through the establishment of protected areas and increased anti-poaching measures.

“Leopards have a broad diet and are remarkably adaptable,” said Joseph Lemeris Jr., a National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative researcher and paper co-author. “Sometimes the elimination of active persecution by government or local communities is enough to jumpstart leopard recovery. However, with many populations ranging across international boundaries, political cooperation is critical.”

NOTE: For access to National Geographic press-approved leopard imagery, please contact ckingwoo@ngs.org.

 

About the National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to change the world. The Society funds hundreds of research and conservation projects around the globe each year and works to inspire, illuminate and teach through scientific expeditions, award-winning journalism and education initiatives. The National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative (BCI) was founded in 2009 with Explorers-in-Residence, filmmakers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert as a long-term effort to halt the decline of big cats in the wild. BCI supports efforts to save big cats through assessment activities, on-the-ground conservation projects and education. For more information, visit CauseAnUproar.org.

About Panthera
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to the conservation of wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 50 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats – securing their future, and ours. For more information, visit Panthera.org.

About the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our ground-breaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information, visit www.zsl.org.

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