The 10th edition of the movement’s signature lights-out event saw WWF and Earth Hour teams in an unprecedented 178 countries and territories mobilize individuals, communities and organizations to act on climate. As more than 7,000 iconic landmarks dimmed their lights, a collective hope for the planet shone through with more than 1.23 million individual activities being undertaken to help #ChangeClimateChange. From protecting peatlands in Indonesia and promoting renewables in Uganda and India to spreading awareness on sustainable food and lifestyles in China and Italy, teams harnessed the movement to mobilize public action on climate.
A new survey undertaken by Professor Terry Hughes found that 95 per cent of the reef’s most pristine northern section has been bleached. Professor Hughes told Australian TV that huge levels of bleaching have occurred in an area stretching around 1 000 kilometres. “This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever,” he said, adding that he expects to see about half of the bleached corals die in the coming months. WWF is calling for improved management of the reef and its watershed, especially to reduce the run-off of agricultural chemicals from farmland, which adds to other stresses facing the reef – including the impacts of acidification and warming associated with climate change.
The Guardian newspaper reports that the 28,000-square-kilometre reserve, which includes Darwin and Wolf islands and covers an area the size of Belgium, will bring a third of the waters around the Galapagos under protection from fishing and extractive industries. The new sanctuary adds to the existing 20,000-square-kilometre marine reserve created in 1998. In addition, a plan to regulate management of the Galapagos protected areas has been approved, with support from WWF and partners. A volcanic archipelago 1,000 kilometres off Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos is a biodiversity hot spot, supporting almost 3,000 fish, marine mammal, endemic seabird and other species, including a marine iguana as well as 34 shark species.
At a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, leaders of 40 airlines, shipping firms, port operators, customs agencies, and other organisations including WWF, signed a landmark declaration which aims to stop wildlife criminals exploiting legal transport routes. The agreement includes 11 steps to strengthen law enforcement. “The poaching crisis is bringing violence, death and corruption to many vulnerable communities and threatens to rob future generations of their livelihoods,” said HRH Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, adding that this crisis can be stopped and the declaration can secure a “game-changer in the race against extinction”. Prince William called on other transport companies to join.
Austral Fisheries will offset about 27,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year by planting around 190,000 trees annually, which is the equivalent of taking roughly 4,000 cars off the road. This world-first builds on Austral’s existing commitment to sustainability, having achieved Marine Stewardship Council certification for all its operations, including its icefish, toothfish and northern prawn fisheries. WWF applauded this move and suggested that going carbon neutral becomes standard practice for vessels in the Southern Ocean, whether for fishing, tourism or Antarctic base re-supply – extending environmental benefits beyond marine habitats.
Following several recent births, there are now 63 Javan rhino in Ujung Kulon National Park, the only area where this rarest of rhinos survives. WWF has worked with the government for years to save the species, and is now helping study the feasibility of translocating rhinos to establish a second population in a secure habitat. And in a boost to chances of saving the world’s second rarest rhino, a WWF team helped safely capture a Sumatran rhino in Kalimantan, where it was once thought to be extinct. It is the first live sighting of a Sumatran rhino – of which only 100 remain – on Indonesian Borneo for more than 40 years. The female rhino will be relocated to a secure location, which is envisaged to become the second Sumatran rhino sanctuary in Indonesia.