Coral reefs represent one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems in the world. Not only are corals themselves tiny animals, belonging to the group cnidaria (with a silent "c"), but they also provide the perfect habitat for many other organisms. But did you know that these reefs are continuously struggling to flourish due to environmental stresses?

Benefits of Coral Reefs

The values coral ecosystems provide in terms of biodiversity and habitat for other species can be measured in billions of dollars, but they also provide important benefits for humans. 
  • Reefs protect the shore by acting as a barrier against waves and storms.
  • Fisheries use reefs to supply food and income for millions of people. Reef-based recreation like diving or fishing creates a source income for local economies and leisure for millions. 
  • Reefs also have the invaluable contribution to the medical community with its potential for compounds isolated from organisms living on reefs.

What Problems Exist?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are two types of stresses on reef systems, natural and human-induced, that can range from negligible to catastrophic. Reefs can adapt well to short-term natural catastrophic events, like hurricanes. After an event, usually a greater diversity of organisms can populate the reef, which benefits the long-term ecological integrity of the reef. However, reefs cannot survive exposure to long-term stress. Many land-based activities have important negative implications for reefs:
  • Agricultural activities can introduce herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and runoff from animal feed lots. 
  • Sewage discharges can introduce nitrogen and phosphate compounds along with pathogens and mixtures of toxics. 
  • Uncontrolled land clearing can result in erosion, with the resultant increase in sediment loads to surface waters. The surface waters in any watershed eventually discharge into coastal or near-coastal waters, and can then impact coral communities associated with these discharge points. Thus, activities even far away from the reefs can still have a serious impact. 
Without coral, countless animals would be left without their necessary habitats. The amount of carbon dioxide in the water would also rise dramatically, negatively affecting ALL living things on Earth.

What Can We Do?

Here are 10 Easy Steps to Help Protect Coral Reefs provided by The Nature Conservancy.
  1. Conserve water: The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater will pollute our oceans.
  2. Help reduce pollution: Walk, bike or ride the bus. Fossil fuel emissions from cars and industry raise lead to ocean warming which causes mass-bleaching of corals and can lead to widespread destruction of reefs.
  3. Use only ecological or organic fertilizers: Although you may live thousands of miles from a coral reef ecosystem, these products flow into the water system, pollute the ocean, and can harm coral reefs and marine life.
  4. Dispose of your trash properly: Don't leave unwanted fishing lines or nets in the water or on the beach. Any kind of litter pollutes the water and can harm the reef and the fish.
  5. Support reef-friendly businesses: Ask the fishing, boating, hotel, aquarium, dive or snorkeling operators how they protect the reef. Be sure they care for the living reef ecosystem and ask if the organization responsible is part of a coral reef ecosystem management effort.
  6. Plant a tree: Trees reduce runoff into the oceans. You will also contribute to reversing the warming of our planet and the rising temperatures of our oceans. Help us Plant a Billion.
  7. Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling: Do not touch the reef or anchor your boat on the reef. Contact with the coral will damage the delicate coral animals, and anchoring on the reef can kill it, so look for sandy bottom or use moorings if available.
  8. Volunteer for a coral reef cleanup: You don't live near a coral reef? Then do what many people do with their vacation: visit a coral reef. Spend an afternoon enjoying the beauty of one of the most diverse ecosystems on the Earth.
  9. Contact your government representatives: Demand they take action to protect coral reefs, stop sewage pollution of our oceans, expand marine protected areas and take steps to reverse global warming.
  10. Spread the word: Remember your own excitement at learning how important the planet's coral reefs are to us and the intricate global ecosystem. Share this excitement and encourage others to get involved. Send a free coral reef e-card today!


Sources:
Global Issues
Ocean World
EPA
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
The Nature Conservancy
 
 
I would like to share these useful resources I found through Peta--and particularly one that allows you to see which companies and products are cruelty-free. Peta's database includes which companies do and do not test on animals, and now has the section, "Working for Regulatory Change" listing companies that work to promote development and validation of non-animal methods. 
Here is the link to the database along with some related resources:
 
 
Recently in Brazil, nurse Camilla Corrêa Alves de Moura Araújo was caught on videotape brutally abusing a Yorkshire Terrier. She is shown in this video mercilessly kicking, dropping, throwing, and fatally injuring the Yorkie. To make matters worse, she committed this atrocity in front of her 18-month-old daughter. Regardless of her excuses such as having stress and a bad day, she wounded the dog severely enough for him to die two days later. Many have joined Facebook groups or signed an online petition demanding that this woman and her crimes be brought to justice. Join them by Signing the Petition--against Camilla's savagery and to protect her child and other animals from further violence.

Sources:
Peta2
Mail Online
Live Leak
Warning: This video contains graphic content.
 
 
Recent plants by Federal officials involve eliminating essential protections for wolves living in Wyoming. If this plan succeeds, wolves would be considered predators, and individuals even without hunting licenses would be protected under law to kill any wolf they deem a threat. A shoot-on-sight state policy will cover nearly 90% of the state, and could lead to indiscriminate wolf killing, even in national forests where animal conservation is the foundation of its preservation. Wolves are not any more dangerous than many of the animals living in Wyoming and should be treated just as the other wildlife, and protected under law rather than alienated. Please SIGN THE PETITION by January 11, 2012 to oppose this new policy!

Read more about this issue on Defenders of Wildlife and TAKE ACTION on similar campaigns to help save America's wolves.

(Sources are cited via the links.)
 
 
About two weeks ago, Maria Assunta, the wealthy widow of an Italian property tycoon, died at the age of 94, leaving her cat Tomasso a fortune worth about $13 million. Now, I am all for keeping your animals safe, happy, and healthy throughout their lives, but no single cat could ever need millions of dollars or properties in Rome, Milan and land in Calabria. This story disappoints me because I know that a fortunate woman like Maria could have made a big difference in the animal world with her money, yet she left it solely to her cat. She could have liquidated her assets, set aside money to cover her cat's every possible expense, and had millions left over to donate to helpless animals, ones like Tomasso that she found wandering the streets of Rome just four years earlier. 

If at any point in your life you have some money to donate, please consider charities like:
The Humane Society
Peta
RSPCA
Best Friends Animal Society
World Wildlife Fund
or even your local no-kill animal shelter. You alone can make a difference in so many hearts and lives.

Sources:
Time magazine News Feed
ABC News
 
 
I'm writing to you today about an issue that has been overlooked or unnoticed for many years by most of us unsuspecting animal adopters. Investigations have uncovered the dismal truth about the origins of dogs in pet stores and online pet retailers across the globe. These unfortunate animals have grown up in Puppy Mills--facilities where they are forced to live in extremely inhumane conditions. Not only are the puppies confined to cramped wire, metal, or mesh cages with no exercise, veterinary care, socialization, or positive human interaction, the breeder dogs are also treated with the same cruelty, producing litter after litter, as well as having their pups taken away after only a few weeks. When the fertility of these breeders decline, they are often abandoned, sold cheaply to another mill, or killed. Their puppies often continue to suffer for hundreds of miles during their transportation to pet stores without adequate food, water, ventilation, or shelter. As a result from a lifetime of neglect and abuse, these dogs often come with behavioral or health problems, causing many disappointed adopters to abandon their dogs within weeks, months, or years, which intensifies the overpopulation crisis. Although a pet store may claim they do not buy their dogs from puppy mills, there is a high chance the broker they bought from did. In addition, online puppy retailers like Purebred Breeders, LLC, have supplied sick puppies for sale on nearly 800 domains, with the intention to deceive customers into believing that they are dealing with local breeders when they shop online for a puppy.
So what can you do?
You can find your next companion animal through an animal shelter or a rescue group instead of a pet shop. You can also make or sign a pledge to help stop puppy mills through The Humane Society or become an Oscar's Law Ambassador to spread the word about this issue.

Read More/Sources:
Peta
The Humane Society- Puppy Mills 
The Humane Society- Purebred Breeders, LLC 


 
 
Starting Sunday December 11th at 8pm, National Geographic will begin their Big Cat Week, full of episodes about Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Cheetahs, and Jaguars. Their Episode Guide details when these shows will be airing and what they're all about. Capturing the triumphs and plights of these cats in their natural environment, they aim to bring awareness to these majestic animals' declining numbers in the wild, with Cause an Uproar--National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative. They prompt animal lovers to Take Action by Donating to the initiative to raise money for research, wearing gear from their online store, uploading your kitty's picture, and sharing their initiative on Facebook. What will you do to help save these big cats from extinction?
 
 
Yet another despicable money making scheme, thieves have resorted to stealing rhinoceros horns from museums and auction houses, selling them at $50,000 per pound. But the horror doesn't stop there, poachers have been slaughtering rhinos for their horns in both Asia and Africa.  So far in 2011, about 405 rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone! What these people don't seem to realize is that rhino horns aren't actually aphrodisiacs-- they simply contain the same protein found in our hair and fingernails. To take a stand against this atrocity, please visit STOP RHINO POACHING.

Sources:
msnbc
The New York Times
Bloomberg

 
 
Animal At Heart has gathered 9 simple tips for keeping your pet happy, safe, and healthy during the Winter months.

Tip 1: Keep your pet indoors as much as possible.
When the temperature drops, both dogs and cats are safer indoors, except when taken out for supervised exercise. All cats should be kept inside during the winter, because they can freeze, become lost or stolen, injured, or killed. However, all cats and shorthaired, very young, or old dogs should not be left outside regardless of the season.

Tip 2: Keep your pet on a leash and give him/her an ID tag.
This may seem instinctive, but there are many dangers that can be avoided by using a leash. With snow or ice, and especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.  In addition, a leash becomes very crucial when walking them near suspected frozen bodies of water. The ice may not be sturdy enough to support your pet and he/she could fall through. If a pet breaks through the ice, do not attempt to rescue your pet yourself; call 9-1-1 or go for help.

Tip 3: Be mindful of your pet’s feet.
If your pet walks on salted or chemically treated areas, be sure to wash its paws after your walk. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Gently rub the bottom of the feet to remove these irritants as soon as your dog is off the road. This may be surprising but many dogs need boots in cold weather, regardless of its coat length. A way to tell that your dog’s feet are uncomfortably cold is by watching to see if your dog frequently lifts up his paws, whines or stops during walks. Also, snow can get stuck between dogs' toes and freeze, causing pain and discomfort. A way to prevent this is to trim the hair between the toes and keep the nails cut short to make it easier for them to walk in icy areas and to prevent accidents. You can visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information. 


Tip 4: Consider clothing for your pet.
When taking your dog for a walk, some dogs, especially short-coated breeds may feel more comfortable wearing some form of protective and insulated clothing or boots. I know many of you may feel opposed or think it is ridiculous, but adding a layer can actually be very beneficial for them to stay healthy.

Tip 5: Pay attention to your pet’s food and water supply.
Keeping warm in the winter will exhaust their energy levels, which is why it is important to make sure they have access to enough food and water. You should also routinely check your pet's water dish to make sure that the water is fresh and unfrozen. Also, when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal bowls, so try using plastic instead to help them avoid that painful experience.

Tip 6: Be aware of dangerous resting or hiding places.
Outdoor cats, and other wild animals, sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars and when the motor is started, they can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If outdoor cats live in your area, please bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to vacate the area.

Tip 7: Do not leave your pet in the car.
During the cold winter months, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death. 

Tip 8: Give your pet a warm and comfortable place to rest.
Find a cozy place for your companion to rest, preferably off of the floor and away from any drafty areas, to ensure their well being.

Tip 9: Be aware that existing pet ailments can be intensified.
Cold or damp weather aggravates existing conditions in pets, such as arthritis, especially in older or overweight animals. Pet stores and veterinarians can provide natural and medicinal treatments for a number of conditions.

Sources:

1-800-PetMeds
Yahoo! Voices
ASPCA
EOPSS
The Humane Society
 
 
LA's wildlife sanctuary is on the endangered list.

Here's an excerpt: 
"Some of Hollywood's biggest stars have rallied around the WayStation in the past decade. Still, the fate of its remaining 420 animals is endangered by a drop in donations, rising upkeep and food costs, and the inability to pay staff.
'If the WayStation does not find a way out from under the horrific financial burden it is currently facing, caused by the current recession and disastrous economic downfall, then all these animals that came to us for safe haven are in real jeopardy,' Colette said last week."

Read the full article here: http://goo.gl/3qeJs