Will Cooper

Photo by Rainforest Trust

When I was a young child, I couldn’t wait for my birthday. Aside from the celebration of me with my friends, it also meant I was growing taller, getting stronger, and could go more places without a parent supervising. I was so excited to turn 12 and get my boating license with my friend Steve. We bought a little Zodiac boat and a 3.3 horsepower motor. We could carry them from my house down to the beach on Long Island Sound and putter around fishing for hours chasing schools of snapper or schoolie striped bass. I was excited…


Angela Yang

Forests have long served to protect and provide for all of Earth’s species. Trees help buffer climate extremes and natural disasters, absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere, keep our water sources pristine, preserve land cover and topsoil, and provide sources of food and refuge for an abundance of species, including our own. Trees are integral to a functioning, healthy forest ecosystem, but so are pathogens, the agents of disease. And in nature, this is the fragile, but intrinsic, ecological balance that sustains our world.

When ecological integrity is fractured through processes like deforestation, conditions are created that…


Ethan Freedman

This year, Rainforest Trust and the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST) purchased almost 20 acres of shoreline along Thailand’s Inner Gulf. This property, Pak Thale, is an important habitat for many migratory shorebird species, including the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is an incredible — and incredibly threatened — bird. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that only 240–456 mature sandpipers are still alive, anywhere in the world. Yes, you read that right. The entire species population is no more than 500 individual birds. …


Madison Lemelin

A young orangutan. Photo by Andrea Scheiber.

Humans share about 97% of our DNA with orangutans, making them one of our closest evolutionary relatives. Indeed, their name means “person of the forest” in Malay. Part of our similarities lie in cognitive brain function; we learn behavior in nearly the same way. And much like us, the development of behavior in orangutans is based on their environment. Several studies have shown that these primates can create tools to live productively and sustainably with their surroundings.

Scientists have witnessed orangutans using sticks or branches as foraging tools to reach fruit on high branches and even for protection…


Madison Lemelin

A male lion. Photo by Pieter.

Disney’s The Lion King reboot has made quite an impact. Everything in the film — from the vast African savannas down to the dung beetles — is created from computer generated imagery (CGI), making for an unparalleled visual experience. While filmmakers and critics are discussing how the technological advancements will change the way that movies are made, The Lion King also brings about a new question: Could advanced animation play a role in the future of conservation?

The wide variety of surreally life-like animals in the opening ballad “Circle of Life” almost fools audiences into believing that Africa is filled…


Ethan Freedman

Elephants are, to state the obvious, very big. I mean, have you ever stopped and looked at one of them? They’re huge, massive, enormous creatures. They’re so big, their hearts only beat every two seconds — that’s 30 beats per minute. Count it out — it’s a long time between beats in their giant, oversized, gargantuan hearts. A low human heart rate is 60 beats per minute. Mouse hearts can beat up to 840 times per minute.

But the elephant — just once every two interminable seconds.

Every. Two. Seconds. Photo by Wildlife Alliance.

Their size helps them become what ecologists call “ecosystem engineers.” That means that…


Madison Lemelin

The Aldabra atoll. Photo by UNESCO.

Thanks to an obscure evolutionary phenomenon, a small flightless, chicken-sized bird was able to bring itself back from extinction.

A new study from the University of Portsmouth and Natural History Museum in London revealed that the White-throated Rail — also known as the Aldabra Rail — has gone extinct and returned back from the dead over the course of tens of thousands of years.

The species’s ancestors were native to Madagascar, but, due to population growth, large flocks would often emigrate from the island. The flocks who flew to the north and south drowned in the ocean. Predators ate the…


Ethan Freedman

The story of Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest is like so many other protected areas. First, biologists noticed incredible species in an ecosystem. In Monteverde’s case, the forest contained tropical birds like the Resplendent Quetzal and amphibians like the Golden Toad. But then, like so many other protected areas, they also documented threats — in this case, habitat degradation from squatters and hunting. So, at last, they worked to protect the forest.

And thus, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve came into existence in 1973. Soon after opening, it hosted tourists and researchers from around the world. …


Alex Antram

Interdisciplinary analysis isn’t something new in science, conservation included. Indeed, interdisciplinary collaboration is necessary to address the complexities of conservation. Biologists, ecologists, geologists and others all can and do work together. But one recent disciplinary partnership has the potential to transform conservation scientists’ usual go-to partners.

I’m talking about astro-ecology.

Scientists in Borneo are combining the science of our world with the science of the beyond. An innovative project is monitoring great ape populations by harnessing technology used to study stars.

Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutans make their nests in the forest canopy. To estimate populations, researchers count those nests. …


Ethan Freedman

Conservation and animal rights advocates have always anthropomorphized nonhuman animals to inspire empathy. And for good reason: it’s hard to look into the eyes of a sad pup while Sarah McLachlan sings and not feel a kinship with the creature.

But those clips always seemed shallow, at least for conservation science. As conservationists, we preach the gospel of admiring wildlife for their own sake — not through an anthropocentric lens. That’s why some of us like March of the Penguins more than Happy Feet.

Rainforest Trust

We purchase and protect the most threatened tropical forests, saving endangered wildlife through partnerships and community engagement. www.RainforestTrust.org

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store