Love Seafood? Check Out These Recipes for Sustainable Seafood!

By now you have heard us talk about sustainable seafood and why it is important to be mindful when choosing which seafood to eat and which options are best to avoid. Embracing the use of sustainable seafood is one of the best ways we can all contribute to our oceans’ health, and we have three easy ways you can be fish-friendly.

  1. Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app on your smart phone – available at the Apple Store and Google Play.
  2. Be mindful and make smart choices about what seafood you eat and where you buy it. Several local grocery stores provide sustainable seafood options: H-E-B, Fiesta, Kroger and Whole Foods, just to name a few.
  3. If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable.

After your purchase your sustainable seafood from the store, take a look at one of our delicious recipes. Let us know which one is your favorite!

 

Baja-Fish-Tacos


Blackened-Catfish-with-Corn-Maque-Choux


Jerk-Catfish-with-Pineapple-Rice-and-Mango-Salsa


Korean-Spicy-Shrimp


Seafood-Cioppino


Tex-Mex-Shrimp-and-Grits


Tuna-Puttanesca

Houston Zoo Sea Lion Team Works to Remove Marine Debris

This post was written by Sophia Darling

A few Sundays ago, on March 29th, Houston Zoo sea lion team members Sophia Darling and Heather Crane, along with zoo volunteer Dale Martin, traveled down to the Surfside Jetty for the sea lion team’s monthly jetty cleanup. The Surfside jetty is a high volume fishing area, and especially now that the weather is warming up, you can find lots of people enjoying a beautiful day fishing off of the jetty and beach. Unfortunately, this comes with a cost. More often than not, the people visiting leave a trail at the jetty: aluminum cans, bait leftovers and containers, cigarette butts, and a lot of excess monofilament, more commonly known as fishing line. All of these items are described as marine debris – any man made item that ends up in the marine ecosystem, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

This is a monofilament bin located on the Surfside jetty.
This is a monofilament bin located on the Surfside jetty.

Marine debris is a huge threat to marine life all over the globe. It poses many different hazards to local wildlife, most commonly ingestion and entanglement. The sea lion team decided it was time for action to be taken!! By partnering with NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) the sea lion team has had specially designed bins installed along the Surfside jetty, providing an easy and accessible location to properly dispose of fishing line. Once a month we go down to the jetty and spend a day emptying the monofilament bins and cleaning up the debris left over among the rocks.  This last Sunday we collected 15.4 pounds of recycling, 20.5 pounds of trash, and 1 pound of monofilament fishing line!

This is why it's so important to remove and recycle fishing line.
This is why it’s so important to remove and recycle fishing line.

And we really get into the cracks and crevices to get as much as we can!! Very often plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and large wads of monofilament will get trapped in the cracks between the rocks, and it takes a little extra effort to get it out.

Supervisor Sophia Darling does a handstand between the rocks to try and reach debris among a beautiful bed of anemones!
Supervisor Sophia Darling does a handstand between the rocks to try and reach debris among a beautiful bed of anemones!

Unfortunately, we cannot get to all the inhabitants of this marine environment in time. While climbing among the rocks, we found a local ray (we’re unsure of the species) that had been caught and hooked by someone’s fishing line, most likely un-intentionally. Unfortunately, the method taken to cut the ray loose did not do anything to help it. The line was cut about 10 feet from the hook lodged in the ray’s mouth, which was not removed.

RayBycatch

There are so many things that we can do to help prevent debris from entering the marine environment, and prevention is our greatest ally! Avoid one-time use plastic and paper bags when going to the store, and bring your own thermos or cup when you visit your favorite local coffee shop. If you are going to visit the jetty, our beaches, or even a park, please, PLEASE, clean up after yourself. Make a goal for yourself, that for every visit you take to the coast, you will spend 20 minutes cleaning up a small area of the beach! Here in the city many of our storm drains and bayous lead to the gulf, so be aware of what enters our environment here! Even by overfilling your trash cans while they wait to be collected may lead to debris getting caught up in the wind. Always recycle. Every small thing that we can do can, and WILL, make a difference.

Since August 2014, the Houston Zoo sea lion team has collected 18 pounds of monofilament, 58.5 pounds of recycling and 82.5 pounds of trash from the Surfside jetty. We continue to get this message out in our shows here at the zoo, and we encourage anyone to come talk to us about marine conservation and what we can all do to help!!

Our Little Jumping Bean!

Written By Joshua Cano

Louise and AnnabelleIf you have been to the zoo recently and gone to the mandrill exhibit, you have probably seen our little bundle of joy hopping around the exhibit next to mom.  Annabelle is now 5 months old! She is the first offspring of Louise (mom) and Ushindi (dad).  Annabelle’s birth here at the Houston Zoo was a very important birth for not only our zoo, but for every zoo in the United States with mandrills. And, she is the very first mandrill ever born at the Houston Zoo!

When Annabelle was first born she did not have the typical mandrill coloration, but she is just starting to get her color. She now looks like a miniature adult. Annabelle is very curious, playing with browse, playing with her mom’s enrichment items, and walking further and further away from mom exploring her home. While inside, she is a very vocal little girl! She lets her keepers and her mom know exactly what she wants. It is not uncommon to hear her screaming at mom for not paying enough attention to her. And, she has just started to do the “crow” vocalization that is typical of this species.

 

Mandrills are considered vulnerable in the wild according to the IUCN Red List. Mandrills in the wild are hunted for bush meat and affected by the mining of tantalum, used for cell phones and computers. You can help save mandrills in the wild by recycling your old electronics at the zoo by joining our Action for Apes Challenge.

What is the best time to see Annabelle and her family? She and her family are out every day that the weather is good, and in spring, that is most of the time. If you haven’t seen Annabelle yet, next time you stop by the zoo, be sure to stop by mandrills and say hi to our sweet little girl, Annabelle.

Mandrill Baby Dec 2014-0038-4599

Fish of the Week – Post #7

By now you have heard us talk about sustainable seafood and why it is important to be mindful when choosing which seafood to eat and which options are best to avoid. Embracing the use of sustainable seafood is one of the best ways we can all contribute to our oceans’ health, and we have three easy ways you can be fish-friendly.

  1. Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app on your smart phone – available at the Apple Store and Google Play.
  2. Be mindful and make smart choices about what seafood you eat and where you buy it. Several local grocery stores provide sustainable seafood options – H-E-B, Fiesta, Kroger and Whole Foods, just to name a few.
  3. If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable.

This can make a huge impact on our oceans and the animals living there! fish blog


The final recipe in our Fish of the Week series is Seafood Cioppino. 

cioppino

A classic Italian dish: a great seafood stew with slices of French bread perfect for a date night with that special someone.

Ingredients:

3 tbls Olive Oil
2 tsp Garlic, Minced
6 oz Chorizo Sausage, Raw
1 cup Leeks, Diced
1 cup Onions, Diced
½ cup Fennel, Diced
2 tbls Tomato Paste
2 cups Chicken Stock, Store Bought
2 cans Diced Canned Tomato
1 cup White Wine
1 tsp Fish Sauce
16 ea Mussels, Cleaned
8 oz Red Drum
1 lb Large Shrimp (Peeled and Deveined)
1 ea French Bread Loaf

Preparing the Stew:

Clean mussels and pull beards

Cut Red Drum into 1-inch cubes

In a deep pan, brown chorizo and remove from pan. Remove half the grease.

Add leek, onions, garlic and fennel to pot. Cook until tender or for 2 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook until darkens to a deep brown, careful not to burn the paste.

Add white wine and reduce heat by half.

Add chicken stock and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer

Next, place cooked sausage and seafood into pot. Cook until mussels open.

Add parsley.

Serve into soup bowls and enjoy with a couple slices of French bread.

Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult


We hope you have enjoyed our featured meals and learned how you can help protect our oceans and the animals who call it home. Thanks for doing your part to save wildlife. And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in the wild!

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess is Back to Talk About Ocelots

Carolyn-Jess-2014-ResizeWe have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

 


If you have read my other blogs, you can see that ocelots mean a lot to me.  They are beautiful yet elusive and are quickly disappearing from their natural scrub land habitat in south Texas.  Habitat loss and highways are making this mysterious animal almost nonexistent.  Last year, two ocelots were hit by cars on highway 100.  The concrete barrier between the roads caused the ocelots to get trapped and confused.  The loss of these ocelots is devastating because it  diminishes the breeding population and shrinks the genetic diversity. But, I have some exciting news!  The Texas Department of Transportation is planning to install FOUR highway wildlife crossings for ocelots this summer.  These crossings are built to go under the roads so the ocelots can travel safely without crossing the busy streets.  The barriers work by having fencing up to block the animals from crossing the highways and funnels the animal down to the tunnel under the road.  This was done in Florida to help their panther population and has been successful.

Hearing this news and knowing that people are trying to make a difference for our Texas ocelots shows that there IS hope for our ocelots and people are aware of their situation.  This is a huge step in ocelot conservation.  This is how conservation works!!

By teaching and telling others about our endangered species, you can get the knowledge out there.  That knowledge spreads quickly!  Texas Department of Transportation is helping the ocelot stand a chance at surviving and YOU can too!  Spread the word about endangered species like the ocelot.  There are many ways you can help, but being aware is the very first step.  Next, find something you can do to help.  I had my annual fundraising for the ocelot and just sent my donations over to researchers at CKWRI – they work directly with the ocelots in south Texas.  You can even adopt an ocelot  on the Laguna Atascosa website. Be an advocate for the animals.

Science Made Simple: How’d That Fish Get On Your Plate?

My name is Ryan and I love science. Join me as I try to make tough science a little less confusing.

Follow along as I research the issues, untangle the mess, and figure out what you really need to know to help animals and the environment.

 


Today’s Topic: How’d That Fish Get On Your Plate?

 

 Short Version: The way that seafood is caught matters. Overfishing has drastically reduced the amount of fish in the ocean. Supporting practices that encourage sustainable fishing and harvesting will improve the health of the ocean, allow marine populations to recover, and ensure that seafood stays on the menu.

Confusing Science: “More than 80% of the world’s fish stocks are considered fully exploited or overexploited (FAO, 2012) and the global marine fish catches have stabilized around 80 million tons annually since the early 1990s (FAO, 2012). However, the effort spent to catch fish has steadily increased after the catches peaked (Anticamara et al., 2011), and the fishing fleets have expanded toward deeper and more remote fishing locations (Swartz et al., 2010)” (Emanuelsson et al., 2014).

What That Really Means: To put it plainly, people love seafood. Whether it be shrimp, halibut, Bluefin tuna, or one of many other fish species, we’ve all got our favorite seafood choice. Unfortunately, to put these fish on your plate, many species are being overfished. Overfishing means that the fish are being taken out of the ocean much faster than they can reproduce. Even though more and more commercial fishermen are out on the oceans, the total amount they catch isn’t increasing. This is a good example of overfishing.

Confusing Science: “Ecosystem health and human health are closely connected and interdependent (Fleming et al. 2006). Therefore assessing and promoting sustainability requires a focus on both ecosystems and people, and active participation and commitment by the latter” (Micheli et al., 2014).

What That Really Means: If we don’t pay attention to how seafood is caught, many different types of fish will not only disappear from our menu, but also from the ocean. Luckily, there is a growing movement that is working to keep the ocean healthy by fishing sustainably. Fisherman and companies that provide seafood can make changes that will ease up on the pressure we’re putting on the ocean and allow fish populations to increase. However, if the average person doesn’t show that this issue is important, there’s not a reason for companies to make a change!


Confusing Science:  “Generic seafood sustainability labels may not convey sufficient meaning to compel action, since consumers may fail to connect their purchases to contributing to a more sustainable fishery” (Gutierrez & Thornton, 2014).

What That Really Means: You can tell if seafood has been harvested sustainably by reading labels in restaurants and the supermarket. That’s important because as more people buy fish that was caught or farmed in environmentally responsible ways, we as consumers can show commercial fishermen and companies that we want to protect the oceans while still enjoying seafood.


What Can YOU Do?: You can help in the most deliciously simple way. All you have to do is eat or buy sustainable seafood. Next time you are buying seafood in a restaurant or in the grocery store, take 1 extra minute to read labels or ask if the fish was responsibly harvested. Promoting these environmentally friendly practices will allow us to keep a healthier planet and ensure a future for marine life! For more details on sustainable seafood, be sure you check out Seafood Watch.


That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more as I try to make science easier to understand. Never stop learning,
-Ryan 

 Have a topic you’d like me to explore? Post it in the comments!


References:

Anticamara JA, Watson R, Gelchu A, Pauly D (2011) Global fishing effort (1950–2010): trends, gaps, and implications. Fish Res 107(1– 3):131–136

Emanuelsson, A., Ziegler, F., Pihl, L., Sköld, M., & Sonesson, U. (2014). Accounting for overfishing in life cycle assessment: new impact categories for biotic resource use.International Journal Of Life Cycle Assessment, 19(5), 1156-1168.

FAO (2012) The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome

Fleming, L., Broad, K., Clement, A., ( 2006). Oceans and human health: emerging public health risks in the marine environment. Mar Pollut Bull 53: 545–60.

Gutierrez, A., & Thornton, T. F. (2014). Can Consumers Understand Sustainability through Seafood Eco-Labels? A U.S. and UK Case Study. Sustainability (2071-1050), 6(11), 8195-8217.

Micheli, F., De Leo, G., Shester, G. G., Marione, R. G., Lluch-Cota, S. E., Butner, C., & … Sáenz-Arroyo, A. (2014). A system-wide approach to supporting improvements in seafood production practices and outcomes. Frontiers In Ecology & The Environment, 12(5), 297-305.

Swartz W, Sala E, Tracey S, Watson R, Pauly D (2010) The spatial expansion and ecological footprint of fisheries (1950 to present). Plos One 5(12):e15143.

Action for Apes Groups Are Making A Difference!

There is a little over a month left in our 2015 Action for Apes Cell Phone Recycling Challenge, which means there is still time to participate!

We are up to 26 local Houston schools and organizations who are recycling cell phones to help save gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild! These 26 groups have an estimated 7,744 people participating to save apes in the wild!

AFA-Gorilla

Are you interested in participating in the 2015 Action for Apes Challenge? It’s easy and fun, and you get to save animals while you do it! Just check out our website to register your group.

AFA-gorilla-2Thank you to the following groups who have joined the 2015 Action for Apes Challenge and are working hard to save animals in the wild!

  • American Recyclers
  • Bay Colony Elementary
  • Berry Elementary
  • Birkes Elementary Student Council
  • Calder Road Elementary
  • Copeland Elementary
  • Cy Woods Student Leadership
  • East Early College High School
  • Environmental Action Club
  • George Brooks’ Office
  • Girl Scout Troop 16399
  • Go Green Club
  • Heritage of Towne Lake
  • HISD – Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School (MCLIMS)
  • Holbrook Elementary
  • HW Grady Middle School
  • Incarnate Word Academy
  • Jersey Village High School Science National Honor Society
  • Keeter Family
  • KIPP Liberation College Preparatory
  • Lake Jackson Intermediate
  • Lantrip Elementary
  • Noah Consulting
  • Smith, Seckman, & Reid
  • Sneed Elementary
  • T.H. Rogers School

If you haven’t signed up for the 2015 Action for Apes Challenge yet, it’s not too late – do it today! The Action for Apes Challenge is open to any business, community group, church, school, scout group, any group of people who would like to help save animals in the wild!

 

Science Made Simple: Is Using Recycled Paper Really That Important?

My name is Ryan and I love science. Join me as I try to make tough science a little less confusing.

Follow along as I research the issues, untangle the mess, and figure out what you really need to know to help animals and the environment.

 


Today’s Topic: Is Using Recycled Paper Really That Important?

Short Version: Trees are being cut down at an alarming rate in order to make all the different types of paper we use every day. From printer paper to toilet paper, you can help protect forests and the animals that live in them by recycling your paper and buying paper made from recycled content!
Confusing Science: “One of the most produced sanitary papers is toilet paper. The most important raw material is pulp, originates either from primary (virgin) cellulosic fibers or recovered fibers” (Vlase, 2013).

Cutting-it-down

What That Really Means: It shouldn’t surprise you that people want/need toilet paper. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, it’s pretty much recession proof and grocery stores usually devote an entire aisle to it. Wood pulp is needed to make toilet paper, and lots of trees have to be cut down as part of the production process. As we’ve talked about in previous Science Made Simple posts, anytime trees are cut down, we reduce the habitat available to animals that rely on these forests for survival.

Confusing Science: “Between 2010 and 2030, the global demand for timber products is expected to rise by 70 % (FAO 2009). In this time period, the global demand for wood-based panels will increase from 280 to 500 million tons per annum, while the production of paper and paperboard will grow from 400 to 700 million tons annually” (Obidzinksi, 2012).

What That Really Means: The amount of paper we use for writing, printing, toilet paper, etc. is astronomical. I tried really hard to find a way to put the numbers above into perspective. The picture below is a United States Navy Ford-Class aircraft carrier. The Navy specifications on this type of aircraft carrier list a weight of approximately 100,000 tons.

Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier [Media]. U.S. Navy. Retrieved from http://www.navy.com/about/equipment/vessels/carriers.html
Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier [Media]. U.S. Navy. Retrieved from http://www.navy.com/about/equipment/vessels/carriers.html
So if that ship weighs 100,000 tons, you would need FOUR THOUSAND of those ships to equal the weight of the paper currently made each year! It’s nearly impossible to think about that amount of paper.

Confusing Science: “The logging that goes toward disposable paper products is especially frustrating given how much paper continues to be wasted. Each year, US consumers dump about 35 to 40 percent of all the paper they use into dumps and landfills. According to University of Colorado’s Environmental Center, “in this decade Americans will throw away over 4.5 million tons of office paper and nearly 10 million tons of newspaper … almost all of which could be recycled” (Robbins, 2010).

wipeWhat That Really Means: In short, we are throwing away far too much paper that could be made into other products. Recycling used office paper or newspapers can reduce the number of trees needed to meet our paper demands and preserve valuable wildlife habitat.

What YOU Can Do?: Fortunately, there are lots of companies that use recycled paper in their products. You can protect forests and the animals that live in them by recycling your paper and buying paper products that are made from recycled content. Here at the  Houston Zoo, we only use toilet paper made from recycled paper, and you can help animals by doing the same!


That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more as I try to make science easier to understand. Never stop learning,
-Ryan 

 Have a topic you’d like me to explore? Post it in the comments!


References:
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) (2009) State of the world’s forests 2009. FAO, Rome

Obidzinski, K., & Dermawan, A. (2012). Pulp industry and environment in Indonesia: is there sustainable future?. Regional Environmental Change, 12(4), 961-966.

Robbins, N. (2010). NOT A SQUARE TO SPARE. Earth Island Journal, 25(3), 57-60.

Vlase, R., Viorel, I., & Gavrilescu, D. (2013). RESOURCE CONSERVATION IN SANITARY PAPER MANUFACTURING. Environmental Engineering & Management Journal (EEMJ), 12(4), 757-762.

Fish of the Week – Post #5

It’s week five of seven for our Fish of the Week blog series! This week’s meal features sustainably-sourced catfish along with a recipe provided by our very own Chef Larry. We hope you are enjoying these meals at home, and we thank you for helping protect marine wildlife and their ecosystems!


This week’s recipe is: Blackened Catfish with Corn Maque ChouxRedfish-Maque-Choux

Good ole down home cookin’ – Yum! When buying your catfish filets, the best option is going to be U.S Farmed, though most options are all Good Alternatives.

Ingredients:

Spices Blend:
3 tbls Paprika
2 tbls Garlic Powder
2 tbls Onion Powder
1 tsp Thyme, Dry
1 tbls Black Pepper, Ground
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Oregano, Dry
1 tsp Basil Dry
1 tbls Salt
4 ea Catfish Filets
3 tbls Vegetable Oil

Corn Maque Choux:
2 tbls Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Garlic Minced
6 ea Fresh Ears of Corn
1 link Andouille Sausage, Diced
½ cup Onion Chopped
¼ cup Green Pepper, Diced
¼ cup Red Pepper, Diced
¼ cup Celery, Diced
1 cups Half-and-Half Cream
2 oz Cream Cheese
½ cup Green Onion, Chopped

Garnish:
½ cup Green Onions, Bias Cut

Cooking Instructions:

Mixing the Spice:
Combine first 9 ingredients in a baking dish.
Rub your catfish filets with spice rub and hold to marinate

Making the Corn Maque Choux:
In a medium pot, heat oil. Add sausage, onions and garlic cook 2 min.
Add celery and peppers. Cool 2 min, add 1 tsp of blacken spice.
Add corn and cook 3 min. Add half-and-half and reduce heat by half. Taste for seasoning & adjust if needed.
Add cream cheese and hold for service on low heat, stirring every so often.

Cooking the Fish:
In a medium cast iron skillet, heat remaining oil to almost smoke point.
Carefully add catfish to the oil taking great care not to burn yourself. Cook 3 min each side on med high flame.
In a soup bowl or plate, place the corn maque choux in the center of dish and place the catfish on top
Garnish with bias cut green onions

Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes


 

 

AA035422Here’s the low-down on sustainable seafood and a few ways you can be fish-friendly!

 

You can think of the ocean like your own heart. Just as your heart circulates blood and regulates the body’s temperature, the ocean controls the circulation of water and moisture throughout the planet, affecting both sea and land life! Texas fishermen use responsible fishing techniques to harvest your favorite seafood. They do this to ensure that fish are healthy and abundant for future generations.

 

 

How can you help, you ask? Here are a few ways:

  • Make smart choices about what you eat and where you buy it. This can make a huge impact on our oceans and the animals living there! Some of the top grocery stores in North America have public sustainable seafood sourcing policies – this list includes (but not limited to) Fiesta, H-E-B, Kroger, Target, Walmart and Whole Foods. These stores provide sustainably-sourced seafood options for you to purchase and be confident you are making fish-friendly choices.
  • If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable. Choosing responsibly-sourced seafood is one of the best ways to contribute to our oceans’ health.SFW Logo
  • You can also refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch consumer guide to learn which seafood options are best choices or good alternatives. Click here to download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Thanks for doing your part to save wildlife. And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in wild!

Science Made Simple: How Recycling Phones Helps Animals

My name is Ryan and I love science. Join me as I try to make tough science a little less confusing.

Follow along as I research the issues, untangle the mess, and figure out what you really need to know to help animals and the environment.

 


Today’s Topic: How Recycling Cell Phones Helps Animals

Short Version: “Ingredients” used to make your cell phone are destructively mined from sensitive wildlife areas. Recycling your old cell phone and other electronics like cameras and laptops can help reduce the harmful mining, allowing the materials to be reused in newer devices. You can drop your old cell phone off at the zoo!

This week, I’m taking a look at what’s inside your cell phone. Don’t worry, I’ll be focusing on the hardware, not all the selfies. I’ve found a few great articles on our topic that have been published in scientific journals that should help us get a better look at what is going on. Let’s make science simple! 

ResizeConfusing Science: “At the core of eastern Congo’s regional violence are the country’s rich mineral resources. Specifically, DRC contains substantial deposits of what are commonly known as the “3 Ts”: tungsten, tantalum, and tin, as well as gold (Enough Project, 2009).” (Veale, 2013)

What That Really Means: You might have heard the term “Congo”, which is often the used to talk about The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),  a country in Central Africa. These beautiful rainforests are  home to animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, okapis and mandrills. This area also holds lots of minerals underground which are very valuable all over the world.

Confusing Science: “More than 60% of tantalum is consumed by the electronics industry for use in electrical capacitors (Bauchman, 2010) and tin replaced lead for use in the circuitry of most electronics (Montgomery, 2011).” (Veale, 2013)

What That Really Means: Tantalum is an element that is used in all sorts of electronics, including your cell phone! Because cell phones and electronics are so popular, there is a high demand for tantalum in order to make new phones and electronics. Unfortunately, getting tantalum out of the ground isn’t easy or environmentally-friendly. Huge amounts of rainforest are cut down to make room for mining operations that are destructive to wildlife. The animals near the mines are forced out because their habitat has been destroyed and the area is stripped of nearly all wildlife.

SMS-Gorilla

Confusing Science: “Further, as roads cut into previously inaccessible forests, they will pave the way for an influx of commercial bushmeat hunting to supply major urban centers and foreign labor (Wilkie & Carpenter 1999; Cowlishaw et al. 2005; van Vliet et al. 2012), and wildlife traders, who supply the international trade in pets, ivory, or medicinal products (Stiles 2011; Luiselli et al. 2012; Maisels et al. 2013). These are major extinction threats to many large bodied mammals and traded species (Barnes 2002; Fa et al. 2005).” (Edwards et al., 2014)

cell phone recycle boxWhat That Really Means: To get deep into the rainforest where the materials like tantalum are, new roads have to be made. More trees have to be cut down, and less habitat is available for the animals. The sudden growth of people in these areas causes a rise in bushmeat hunting. Bushmeat hunting is when animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, and other rare or endangered animals are hunted for food. Even more troubling is that animals near the mining are trapped or killed so that they can be sold illegally around the world.

What Can YOU Do?: It’s simple! Recycling your old cell phone and other electronics like cameras and laptops can help protect the animals in these sensitive areas, because the materials from old electronics can be reused in newer devices, reducing the amount of mining needed. You can even drop your phone in our special cell phone recycling box at the zoo!


That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more as I try to make science easier to understand. Never stop learning,

-Ryan 

 Have a topic you’d like me to explore? Post it in the comments!


References:

A Comprehensive Approach to Congo’s Conflict Minerals – Strategy Paper | Enough Project. (2009). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/comprehensive-approach-conflict-minerals-strategy-paper

Barnes, R.F.W. (2002) The bushmeat boom and bust in West and Central Africa. Oryx 36, 236-242.

Bauchman, M. (2010, December 1). Tantalum Capacitor Market Update. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.ttiinc.com/object/me-tti-20101201.html

Cowlishaw, G., Mendelson, S. & Rowcliffe, J.M. (2005). Structure and operation of a bushmeat commodity chain in southwestern Ghana. Conserv. Biol. 19, 139-149.

Edwards, D. P., Sloan, S., Weng, L., Dirks, P., Sayer, J., & Laurance, W. F. (2014). Mining and the African Environment. Conservation Letters7(3), 302-311. doi:10.1111/conl.12076

Fa, J.E., Ryan, S.F. & Bell, D.J. (2005). Hunting vulnerability, ecological characteristics and harvest rates of bushmeat species in afrotropical forests. Biol. Conserv. 121, 167-176.

Montgomery, M. (2011, January 25). Tantalum. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://tantaluminvestingnews.com/1146/rising-tantalum-prices-wodgina-mine-back-into-production/

Roots of the Crisis – Congo. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.enoughproject.org/conflict_areas/eastern_congo/roots-crisis

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