Captain Planet, also known as Garrett Stuart, is a Marine Biologist that promotes conservation and education. He not only talks-the-talk, he walks-the-walk by promoting sustainable agriculture and cleaner oceans. Garrett is unique in that his weapon of choice is education. He understands the importance of protecting natural resources, especially in Florida where we are facing enhanced algal blooms and an alarming rate of coral and fish die-offs. His vision is to see everyone become citizen scientists and planet protectors. Garrett's down-to-earth knowledge and passion is inspiring.
The Captain is making a difference by attacking apathy and using compassion to motivate others.
As Garrett says: "What did you do for the planet today?"
The Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi) is a beautiful wildcat native to Florida and quickly facing extinction. There are only 100-180 panthers left in the breeding population. This large cat that once freely roamed a majority of the southeastern United States is now confined to the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.
Panthers live in a variety of habitat types, from wooded areas to swamps, but prefer vast areas for optimal prey accessibility. Areas with dense understory are ideal for feeding, resting, escaping the heat, and creating dens.
Florida panthers are carnivores and mostly sustain on white-tailed deer and wild hog. They are also opportunistic predators and will consume smaller mammals like raccoons and rabbits, and sometimes even livestock and pets. However, encounters with livestock and pets are rare as panthers are generally reclusive.
Urbanization, road construction, and vehicle fatalities increasingly threaten these already endangered cats. The current goals of wildlife officials are to encourage breeding and monitor the adult population with the hopes of moving the Florida panther from the endangered to the threatened list.
Here are a few ways that you can assist the Florida panther population:
1) Abide by posted speed limits, especially in wildlife management areas.
2) Report panther sightings, injured or orphaned panthers to the FWC at:
Cane toads are native to South and Central American and they can grow to be almost 6 inches long. These giants secrete a toxin from their skin, which can kill wild and domesticated animals. They are particularly a problem for dogs because dogs tend to like to put everything in their mouths.
Cane toads will eat anything: native frogs and toads, rodents, snakes, carcasses, dog food, snails, your wallet...Anything. These toads are considered an invasive species here and Florida, but we have something the toads are not expecting, we have the Toad Trapper.
Landen Grey of Naples, Florida is taking back the South Florida streets (and yards). Landen is hired by locals for $5.00 per house to keep their yards cleared of Cane toads and business is booming. The 10-year old is booked out by two weeks at any given time! Landen is also working with the state to use the toad poison to attract Cane toad tadpoles so that they can be euthanized before reaching adulthood! How cool is this kid?
If you want to join the effort to protect native Florida species, be sure to do your research. Small Cane toads can look very similar to native toads and the last thing you should do is kill something you're not sure about. Keep in mind that compassion goes a long way. Cane toads were brought here by a much more invasive species - humans. The best way to kill a Cane toad is to rub 20% benzocaine toothache gel on the lower belly of the toad, then wait for it to immobilize and place it in the freezer for 48 hours.
Scallops can have up to 200 eyes and each has a tiny mirror that reflects light onto the retina above it. Researchers recently found that these eyes act like reflecting telescopes and are made up of tiny, square guanine crystals that look like tiles .
Scallops see rather well thanks to hundreds of these eyes. Some species of Bay scallops in Northern latitudes may live over 20 years .
1. Biologically controlled crystal growth: the image-forming mirror in the eye of the scallop. Acta Crystallographica. Palmer et al. 2017.
The oldest rainforest, Taman Negara in Malaysia, arose nearly 130 million years ago and has flourished with remarkable species until recently. Taman Negara is home to the Malayan tiger, Malayan gaur and Asian elephant. Malayan tigers are critically endangered and only around 250 to 340 remain in the wild.
Unfortunately, this ancient rainforest also attracts poachers that profit from extinction. Six poachers were recently arrested with tiger skins, claws and meat from Malayan tigers. They were also busted with parts from protected bears and leopards along with goats and pythons. Malaysian officials say they have witnessed a disturbing increase in foreign poachers.
Most people feel like there's very little they can do to stop poaching, it is such a distant problem from those we face in our day-to-day routines. So what can you do?
Educate yourself and others. How can funding be raised to eliminate poaching if no one knows it's a problem to begin with?
Donate to reputable organizations that are responsible for working with governments to stop poaching, track animal numbers, and provide protection for animals. Google is an amazing tool for this. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation is great.
Get involved: Support stricter guidelines and laws for poaching in your own area. Here in Florida, we work very hard to preserve the Everglades and bring awareness to how the loss of species diversity directly impacts humans.
Be a better human. Leave the world better than you found it or what was the point of the journey?
Taking the quote 'the world is yours' to an extreme: The Osprey
If you ever find yourself in Florida and near a relatively large body of water (which is pretty much everywhere in Florida), you just may be lucky enough to spot the beautiful Osprey soaring above your head.
And when I say lucky, I really mean that. The Osprey was one of many birds species, including the Bald Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon, whose U.S. population was decimated due to widespread overuse of DDT. Between the 1950's and 1970's, nearly 90% of the breeding pairs were wiped out in some areas. Fortunately, their populations rebounded extremely well after the ban of DDT, and it is estimated that the U.S. breeding population is ~100,000 and growing! I love birds and success stories, and the Osprey fits both of those.
Here are some quick facts on the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
The Osprey can be found on every continent except Antarctica . . . which is pretty awesome if you ask me!
99% of their diet consists of fish that weigh anywhere from 0.33-0.66 pounds.
They dive, sometimes as deep as 3 feet, and successfully catch a fish around 25% of the time (that is a higher success rate than when I open the refrigerator looking for a snack)
For aerodynamic purposes, after catching a fish the Osprey holds the fish in a head-first manner as it flies back to its perch.
Female Osprey typically have a pronounced black 'necklace', whereas males have a more solid white neck/breast. This makes them one of the easier birds of prey to distinguish between the sexes.
Greater chance of being hit by lightning, yet here we are: Alligator at the beach
As for my own "lightning strike" I give you the juvenile alligator I spotted at Bayport Park in Weeki Wachee. This little one was not in the springs, but in a kayak launch right off of the beach area.
Should people be afraid? Nope, well not of alligators, but the drivers and boaters are a different story. Alligators are amazingly tolerant of humans and given that there are at least three alligators in every puddle in Florida, it's amazing more people are not harmed. They have outstanding lifespans and ferocious immune systems.
Use common sense when living in or visiting Florida:
Do not feed the wildlife. Fed wildlife lose their fear of humans. Fed wildlife are ultimately dead wildlife.
Dogs or small children? Keep them away from water, especially murky water. Keep them on a leash or whatever people use for kids these days.
Do not pet the alligators. I know it may be tempting here folks, but don't.
Want that awesome picture of the baby alligators? Get a powerful lens. Mother alligators will aggressively defend their young.
Practice appreciating nature and respecting that you're hiking in, swimming in, and invading the homes of many wild animals.
If you see an alligator at the beach, take a picture and leave it alone. Everything craves some sunshine and crab meat from time to time.
Be a good human. If you hate nature and animals - move to the city where it's quiet and safe...Oh wait.
The Internet provides quite a bit of knowledge and power to anyone with access to it, but unfortunately that includes poachers and people involved in illegal plant and animals trades. For years, archaeologists have been obscuring and protecting the locations of important sites out of a fear of attracting looters. The current trend in conservation biology is moving in the same direction, with calls to remove GPS data embedded in photographs of endangered species before posting the images online, or avoiding uploading images of at-risk species with identifying landmarks present in the photograph. Some researchers have even suggested limiting scientific publishing on endangered species in order to avoid putting them at risk of poachers. As a public service announcement for anyone concerned: Windows lets you edit the data embedding in a photograph by right-clicking, and going to Properties -> Details.
Yo'oko was one of the only three known jaguars roaming the US, where this large cat is considered endangered (that's probably obvious considering there are only two left). Jaguars have a large range and they once roamed from Arizona, Mexico, to Argentina and Brazil. Unfortunately, we're now down to just two in the US and there's been a 21% drop in populations throughout their range.
Yo'oko was killed by poachers, but it's unknown who or exactly when he was killed. Side-note: it's pretty darned illegal to shoot endangered species.
Jaguars can live up to 28 years in captivity, but generally only 11 to 12 years in the wild. This is mainly due to habitat loss, accidents and being shot by humans. Is it too much to ask for that cleansing, human specific, sterility causing virus yet?