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All you Need to Know About Animal Culture

Animal culture to conserve endangered species

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Animal culture
Animal culture - the learning of non-human species through socially transmitted behaviour - is being linked to conservation action. Pixabay

For the first time, animal culture – the learning of non-human species through socially transmitted behaviour – is being linked to conservation action, biologists said on Wednesday.

The Convention on the Conservation on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) has been spearheading efforts to use scientific knowledge on animal culture, to better protect endangered wildlife.

Two such proposals were presented to delegates meeting this week in Gandhinagar to consider conservation measures for the eastern tropical pacific sperm whale and the nut-cracking chimpanzee.

Animal culture
The Convention on the Conservation on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)is the only United Nations treaty that addresses migratory species and their habitats. Pixabay

There is evidence that whales, dolphins, elephants and primates acquire some of their knowledge and skills through social learning.

In addition to individual learning, some animals may learn socially from adults or peers about various behaviours, including optimal migration routes.

The concerted action of the sperm whale recognizes the complex social structure within four subspecies. They differ little from each other in their nuclear DNA, but their vocalizations vary considerably, and these can only be acquired through social interaction and learning.

Collecting data through acoustic and photographic records can help conservationists fully understand the social structure of all subspecies. The proposed conservation measures call for research and transboundary information exchange to close knowledge gaps.

The initiative for the nut-cracking chimpanzees highlights the species’ unique technological culture. The species can crack open different types of nut by using stones and pieces of wood as a hammer and anvil.

Despite nuts, stones and wood being commonly available, nut-cracking skills occur only in the most westerly parts of this subspecies’ range spanning Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Co’te d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and not in other populations across Africa.

Scientists say this cultural capacity enables these chimpanzees to survive dry seasons in their western habitats.

Such behaviour could enhance survival prospects of chimpanzees in areas showing climate induced changes to vegetation.

Animal culture
The Convention on the Conservation on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) has been spearheading efforts to use scientific knowledge to better protect endangered wildlife. Pixabay

Human activities that disrupt the social fabric of culturally developed species can have severe impacts. Once a species has vanished from an area, critical knowledge can also be lost.

For example, the southern right whales’ knowledge of migration routes around New Zealand’s coastline was lost to the species as a result of commercial whaling in the 1800s.

Nowadays, a handful of whales, however have again started to calve around New Zealand.

Recent evidence of genetic mixing among these whales suggests that the species may recolonize forgotten migration destinations once the population recovers from the impact of whaling.

Protecting cultural knowledge among peers and across generations may be vital for the survival and successful reproduction of certain species.

Supporting individuals that act as “repositories” of social knowledge such as elephant matriarchs, or groups of knowledgeable elders, may be just as important as conserving critical habitat.

Understanding how sperm whales pass on valuable information to their offspring or why some groups of chimpanzees have a culture of cracking nutritious nuts with stone tools while others do not, can be key to evaluating conservation challenges for such species.

Scientific research has made significant progress in animal culture. However, it is necessary to develop findings and recommendations that show how this complex issue can be further considered in conservation efforts under CMS.

Also Read- Health and Future of Every Child Under Threat Due to Climate Change: Report

CMS is the only United Nations treaty that addresses migratory species and their habitats.

Delegates at the ongoing 13th meeting of the CMS COP13, which India is hosting for the first time, will also consider the need for guidance and implementation tools to mitigate the impacts of linear infrastructure on migratory species. (IANS)

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Neutralizing Ocean Acidification Possible with this Surf Wax Formula

Activists create surf wax formula to neutralize ocean acidification

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Ocean
Environmentalists have developed a surf wax that will reduce acidification in ocean. Pixabay

Australian environmental activists said on Tuesday that they have developed a surf wax formula that helps neutralize ocean acidification.

SmartWax, a brand manufacturing the formula, comes with the image of global leaders that deny climate change, such as US President Donald Trump, the non-profit responsible for the project, Clean Ocean Foundation Australia, told Efe news.

Surfers commonly apply the wax on the board before going into the sea as it helps to prevent them slipping.

From January 2020, they will also include the face of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

About 25 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, one of the planet’s major polluters, are absorbed by oceans, contributing to their acidification and endangering marine life and ecosystems.

Surf Wax
This surf wax should be applied on the surfing board. Pixabay

According to Unesco data, if measures are not taken to reverse its effects before 2100, more than 50 per cent of marine life will be extinct.

“We can no longer afford to sit by and watch our oceans turn to acid and marine environments turn into a wasteland. SmartWax shows that we can all shape a better future for our ocean if we stick to it,” Clean Ocean Foundation CEO John Germill said in a statement.

Also Read- Global Warming Can Make You Fall ill More Often: Study

This wax, made from a natural substance capable of neutralizing ocean acids, will contribute towards small gradual changes to try to get the sea waters back to their natural pH levels.

With about 35 million surfers worldwide, Clean Ocean estimated that if all surf-board wax brands used their formula, it could help treat about 112 million liters of seawater per day. (IANS)