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
 
 
Hello lovebirds! I hope you've all had an exciting day. I know I haven't blogged in a while, but it's Valentine's Day so I wanted to show you some love! Here are some photos to help spark the romance. Follow your instincts and go wild!

xoxo,
AnimalAtHeart

Sources:

Google Images
Pinterest
 
 
It's Friday the 13th, a day for many of you that holds a bit of distress and apprehension over unlucky events and occurences. However, I actually believe these days are lucky. I think it's all about what energy you put into the universe and how you direct it. Nevertheless, to celebrate the spirit of today, here are some interesting animal superstitions. If there's one that you like the most or is not listed below, please comment about it! I would love to hear any relevant superstition stories too.

Albatross

In the days of sail, an albatross flying round a ship in mid-ocean was an omen of wind and bad weather to come. It was very unlucky to kill it because it was thought to embody the restless soul of some dead mariner. BatsA bat means long life and happiness, a good omen, to the Chinese and Poles.
Bees
If a bee enters your home, it's a sign that you will soon have a visitor. If you kill the bee, you will have bad luck, or the visitor will be unpleasant. 
Birds
A bird that flies into a house, foretells an important message.
The white bird foretells death.
A bird call from the north means tragedy; from the south is good for crops; from the west is good luck; from the east, good love.
Butterfly

If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year.
Calf
If the first calf born during the winter is white, the winter will be a bad one. 
Cat
A black cat is lucky or unlucky, depending on where you live.
In Egypt it was believed that a black cat crossing one's path brought good luck.

If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it. 
Source: Old Wives Tales

A cat onboard a ship is considered to bring luck. 
Source: Old Wives Tales
A kitten born in May - a witches cat
Stray tortoishell cat - bad omen
Cats bought with money will never be good mousers
Cat sneezing once - rain
Cat sneezing three times - the family will catch a coldKilling a cat - sacrificing your soul to the Devil
Kicking a cat - Rheumatism

Cricket

A cricket is a lucky house spirit that takes it's luck away when it leaves.
Crows
One's bad, 
Two's luck, 
Three's health, 
Four's wealth, 
Five's sickness, 
Six is death.
Dogs

When a dog is staring intently, at nothing, for no apparent reason, look between the dog's ears and you'll see a ghost. 
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Martha Conolley (heard in West Virginia)When a dog howls in an otherwise silent night, it is said to be an omen of death, or at least of misfortune. A howling dog outside the house of a sick person was once thought to be an omen that they would die, especially if the dog was driven away and returned to howl again. A dog which gives a single howl, or three howls, and then falls silent is said to be marking a death that has just occurred nearby. 
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page
Meeting a dog - good luck (especially dalmations)
A greyhound with a white spot on it's forehead - good fortune
Being followed by a strange dog - bad luck (especially black dogs)
A dog eating grass - rain

Dragonfly
Catching a dragonfly - marriage within the year

Eagle
Strength, divinity and immortality
Christian belief - symbol of ressurection
Several eagles flying together - peace
Eagles sitting motionless - an enemy approaching
Eagle egg eaten by two people - protection against witchcraft
Hearing the cry of an eagle - omen of death
Fish
Throw back the first fish you catch then you'll be lucky the whole day fishing.
Frogs

Frogs, like toads, were once thought to have peculiar properties, and were frequently used in healing charms, and in others of a slightly less innocent nature.A well known country cure for thrush was to hold a live frog with its head in the patient's mouth. As it breathed, so it drew the disease away and into itself. Warts could also be cured by rubbing a frog across them.HornetsIf the hornets build their nests high in trees during the summer, it will be a bad winter. If they build their nests low in bushes, it will be an easy winter. Source: Dog Hause Visitor Martha Conolley (heard in West Virginia)
Horses
Spotted horses are magical.
Grey horses and horses with four white socks are unlucky.
Horseshoes

A circular ring made from an iron horseshoe nail gives the same protection against evil as the horseshoe itself. The horseshoe or crescent moon shape was seen as a sign of good fortune and fertility. One legend says that the Devil called on St. Dunstan, who was skilled in shoeing horses. St. Dunstan recognized him and fastened him to a wall. He then set to work with such roughness that the Devil roared for mercy. St Dunstan turned the Devil loose after making him promise never to enter a home on which a horseshoe was fixed. Witches fear horses, so they are also turned away by a door with a horseshoe mounted on it, The horseshoe must be hung with the points up to keep the luck from spilling out.Horseshoes are considered lucky for their healing powers (cures hiccups) and for their protective influence (specifically against witches). It resembles the crescent moon and is thought to protect against the evil eye. Similar-shaped charms were used among the Chaldeans and the Egyptians. Related to animal worship, it approaches the form of a serpent biting its own tail-a universal symbol of eternity. There is a time-honored belief in the magical power of iron. Blacksmiths were often identified as sorcerers and the efficacy of fire as a bane to demons supported this idea.
A horseshoe, hung above the doorway, will bring good luck to a home. In most of Europe protective horseshoes are placed in a downward facing position, but in some parts of Ireland and Britain people believe that the shoes must be turned upward or "the luck will run out." 
Source: Old Wives Tales
A horseshoe hung in the bedroom will keep nightmares away. 
Source: Old Wives Tales

Ladybug
The bright scarlet ladybug is a luck-bringer, probably because it is traditionally associated by its color with fire. It is a sign of good fortune if one lands on a person's hand or dress. It must, however, be allowed to fly away of its own accord, and must not be brushed off.Landing on you - very good luck
Landing on your hand - Good weather
Number of spots - number of happy months ahead
Direction after it leaves your person - the direction from which your future love will come

Peacocks
A peacock feather has an evil eye at the end. Argus, the Greek legend, says a hundred eyed monster was turned into a peacock with all it's eyes in it's tail.
Rabbit's Foot
Because of the rabbit's ability to reproduce, the rabbit's foot also became a symbol of fertility. Rabbit's feet are also symbols of new life because of their prolificacy, they also were linked with darkness, witches and the devil because they live underground. By owning a rabbit's foot as a talisman, you would have vital connections with many powerful forces.
Seagull
Killing a seagull - bad luck
Seen far inland - bad weather

Sheep
To meet a flock of sheep on a journey is an omen of good luck. 
Sparrows

Sparrows carry the souls of the dead, it's unlucky to kill one.
Spiders

Superstitious people probably don't kill spiders because it has been unlucky since a spider spun a web over baby Jesus to hide him from Herod.When the spiders build their webs high, it's going to rain soon. 
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Martha Conolley (heard in West Virginia)
Swans

A swan's feather, sewed into the husband's pillow, will ensure fidelity.
Wolf
During the middle ages, wolves were ascribed magical powers and wolf parts became an important part of many early pharmacies. Powered wolf liver was used to ease birth pains. A wolf's right paw, tied around ones throat, was believed to ease the swelling caused by throat infections. 
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle (Wolf Country Web Site)

Sources:
The Dog Hause
http://www.angelfire.com/realm/swordandchalice/cerribits/animals/index.html

and other websites with the same exact information
 
 
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:
 
 
 Happy Holidays everyone! 
I created an album with some of the best Holiday Animal pictures and Holiday Animal Videos that I think you'll really enjoy!. Click on the picture below to go to the album. Hope it brings a few smiles!
 
 
Just created some new logos. Which one you like best? Thanks for any input!
-AnimalAtHeart


 
Zebra logo
Leopard Logo
Peacock logo
Red Peacock Logo
Feather logo
Red Trees Logo
 
 
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.)
 
 
Every day this week at noon the National Zoo will post a new picture on I Can Has Cheezburger of baby Cheetah cubs so that we, the fans, can write captions and help name all of them. 
Add your submission by clicking on the first picture shown or the Sources link for the Contest page. And please VOTE on mine, which are shown below in this post! Just click on my pictures to go straight to the voting page. Thanks :] 
This is my entry for yesterday:
And for today:
You can vote by clicking on my pictures! Thanks!
 
 
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