It’s Christmas Eve! What will you wish for at Christmas this year? Read this article on how to make your Christmas celebrations friendlier to our planet.
Christmas and the winter chill remind us that the year is drawing to a close. Although people around the world have faced many challenges due to Covid-19 and climate change, the past year has given us many reasons to marvel and cheer. We bring you this special year-end edition of Nature Nuggets where we review some happy developments from 2021, celebrate the resilience of nature, and marvel at the human ingenuity that can help save our planet.
New species discovered
Glow-in-the-dark sharks, a gecko named after actor Jackie Chan, and a ‘nano-chameleon’ are some of the new species that have been described in 2021.
According to reports published this year, 557 new species were added to India’s fauna and 267 to its flora in 2020. Many more species have been added over 2021! Did you know a Himalayan snake was discovered thanks to an Instagram post?
Lost species rediscovered
Some species that have not been sighted for years or were thought of as possibly extinct were rediscovered in 2021. The giant river otter, thought to be locally extinct in Argentina, was sighted there again after nearly 40 years. The black-browed babbler, after being lost to science for 172 years, was found in Borneo. In Sri Lanka, three plants declared extinct in a 2012 report were rediscovered.
Species on road to recovery
Conservation efforts seem to be paying off! In 2021, China upgraded the status of the giant panda from endangered to vulnerable as panda numbers in the wild have improved. Seven Tasmanian devils were born in an Australian reserve, three thousand years after the species was wiped out everywhere except the island of Tasmania. Humpback whale numbers are rising, and four tuna species are recovering thanks to controls on commercial fishing.
Initiatives on plastics
This year, many countries took steps towards reducing the use of plastics and curbing plastic pollution. France announced a ban on the use of plastic packaging for fruits and vegetables will begin in January 2022. WWF-India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) together launched the India Plastics Pact to promote a circular economy for plastics.
Advances on sustainability
Several scientific advancements made in 2021 could aid climate action and sustainable development. The world’s whitest paint, which reflects up to 98.1% of sunlight, could reduce our need for air conditioning. A new plant-based material, inspired by spider silk, could be a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics. Amusingly, researchers found that training cows to use a ‘toilet’ could help battle greenhouse gas emissions!
Global climate action
At the much anticipated 26th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (or COP26) that took place in November, the U.S. and China, two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, agreed to work together towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. Countries agreed to “phase down” their use of coal, a step that, although insufficient, would still be a positive development. Over 100 countries signed the Global Methane Pledge, agreeing to cut emissions of methane, the most potent greenhouse gas, by 30 % by 2030.
Did you know that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is now considered a human right? This gives us yet another reason to ring in 2022 with much celebration!
Common Name: Indian Flying Fox
Scientific Name: Pteropus giganteus
Have you seen bats hanging upside-down in trees and on buildings? The Indian flying fox, the largest bat found in mainland India, is one of the most common species in the country. It has a fox-like face and wings that span sometimes four or five feet.
Indian flying foxes roost in large groups all day. At night, they fly into the darkness to feed on ripe fruits and flowers, also acting as pollinators. Read this article for more on Indian flying foxes.
Bats have most unfairly received much blame for the Covid-19 pandemic. It is true that bats, like many other wild animals, carry bacteria and viruses, some of which can infect humans. But bats rarely transmit these germs to humans because the animals prefer to keep to themselves! The risk of transmission increases as humans encroach upon and destroy bat habitats and hunt these animals for their meat and other parts. We are safest when we give bats and other wildlife the respect and space they deserve.
Time to check your Nature Quotient!
Which of these statements about bats is true?
- Bat babies are called cubs.
- Bat droppings are called guano.
- All bats are blind.
- Vampire bats are found in India.
Answer to be revealed in our next edition!
Previous edition answer: The correct answers are a, b, and d! Millipedes belong to a group of animals called arthropods. Other animals included in this large group are centipedes, insects, spiders, and crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. Tapeworms belong to a different group of animals altogether—the cestodes.
Congratulations to everyone who guessed it right!
Knowledge and compassion are the best defences against superstitions and incorrect beliefs about different animals. Bats are often feared and thought of as evil. But these animals are vital to ecosystems, helping with pollination, seed dispersal, and insect control. Bats’ wings have inspired many technological advances, including the designs of the wings of micro air vehicles and the wingsuits of base jumpers.
Bats’ ability for echolocation has influenced the design of sonar systems and technology that could help visually challenged people ‘see’ using sound. So, let’s learn more about bats and defend our furry neighbours from prejudice!
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