Galapagos’ Highest Volcano Erupts For First Time In More Than 30 Years

The highest volcano in the Galapagos Islands erupted early Monday for the first time in nearly 33 years, the archipelago’s national park service reported.

Isabela Island’s Wolf Volcano sent smoke more than six miles high and glowed orange with lava as it overflowed at 1:30 a.m., CNN reported.

The 5,800-foot volcano poses no threat to people, as it is 70 miles from the nearest human population in Puerto Villamil, the Galapagos National Park Service said in a press release translated by the Galapagos Conservancy.

The park service said there is no threat to the many unique species on the islands, where naturalist Charles Darwin first conceived of evolution in the 19th century.

“The world’s only population of pink land iguanas lives on the northwestern side of the volcano, sharing the habitat with yellow land iguanas and giant tortoises,” the park service said. “This population is not expected to be affected at this time. The situation will be monitored in the area once the eruptive activity has subsided and is safe for Park rangers.”

The most pressing threats to the Galapagos Islands’ ecosystem are not natural phenomena like volcanoes, experts say.

“There are far more human-induced threats to the species of the Galapagos,” Hugo Arnal, the World Wildlife Fund’s director for Ecuador, told ABC News. Those concerns, the network reported, include “invasive species, overfishing, pollution, overpopulation and unsustainable tourism.”

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Hawaii Governor Announces Support For Controversial Telescope

Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced his support for building the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea on Tuesday, saying the project has the right to proceed.

“I do not doubt that they did more than any previous telescope project to be a good neighbor,” he said during a press conference at the Capitol.

Protests against the planned observatory on Mauna Kea, which is considered a sacred mountain by many Native Hawaiians, forced construction to come to a standstill last month after dozens of people were arrested blocking construction vehicles.

While he said the TMT has the right to proceed, Ige announced that he is asking the University of Hawaii to legally promise that this is the last area on Mauna Kea where a telescope could be built, as well as decommission at least one-fourth of the telescopes on the mountain by the time the TMT is built.

He will create a new Mauna Kea Cultural Council to advise the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and review all leases and lease renewals. He said support for the TMT will not be a prerequisite for serving on the council.

Ige also wants UH to return over 10,000 acres to the DLNR that aren’t being used for the observatories, and to substantially reduce its lease extension request.

“The University of Hawaii must do a better job in its stewardship of the mountain,” he said, adding that the state has in many ways failed Mauna Kea.

He said the university must be forthright in accepting the need to do a better job, as well as re-starting the environmental impact assessment for its application for a lease extension, including a full cultural impact analysis.

The governor said that the pursuit of science on the mountain has gotten in the way of the cultural experience, and the state —> Read More

Half Of Mozambique’s Elephants Were Slaughtered By Poachers Over The Past 5 Years

We’ve all heard the dire statistics about elephant poaching — if current trends continue, there’s a good chance we’re looking at the end of an entire species. But apparently, poachers in Mozambique don’t think that timeline is fast enough.

A startling new study shows 48 percent of elephants in the country — some 9,700 animals — have been slaughtered over the past five years.

“The numbers from Mozambique are depressing,” James Deutsch, vice president of conservation strategy for the Wildlife Conservation Society, told The Huffington Post. “Many of us were shocked. We knew that poaching was continuing, but we didn’t know that it was so bad.”

The recent data comes from the ongoing Great Elephant Census, an observation study meant to catalogue more than 90 percent of the world’s pachyderms in 21 countries. The effort, which is funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment company, has already documented “unsustainable rates of killing” across swaths of the African continent.

Elephant ivory is still highly prized in some cultures, fetching upwards of $1,800 a pound, according to reports from The Guardian. Many wildlife experts have pointed to growing demand from a rising middle and upper class in China, who value the tusks as a status symbol. The country currently has a small legal ivory trade, but many conservationists say a majority of the wildlife product is imported illegally from poached animals.

“China is clearly driving the illegal ivory trade more than any other nation on earth,” an elephant expert told The New York Times in 2013.

The country banned all ivory imports for a year in February, but the news is still grim. Some scientists have warned that African elephants could go extinct by 2020 (yes, —> Read More

Hawaii Could Face More Hurricanes Than Usual This Season

HONOLULU (AP) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center says the 2015 hurricane season in the region will see more storms than average.

Tom Evans, the acting director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said at a news conference Tuesday that the prediction is based largely on current El Nino conditions in the region. El Nino is the warming of the water on the surface of the ocean along the equator, he said, and there are more storms on average during El Nino. “El Nino has been established, it’s out there,” Evans said. “We have the warm water and it’s been increasing over the last many months.” The El Nino conditions are expected to strengthen during the hurricane season, he added.

The prediction means Hawaii and the surrounding area will likely see between five and eight storms this season. There is a 70 percent chance of having an above normal season.

In 2014 there were five hurricanes in the region, which falls within the average of four to five storms per year. The last hurricane to directly hit Hawaii was Iniki in 1992. In 2014, Hurricane Iselle approached the island chain but weakened to a tropical storm just before making landfall. Two other major storms barely missed the state last year.

The region’s hurricane season lasts from June 1 through Nov. 30. Most of Hawaii’s tropical cyclones happen in August, according to NOAA.

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Follow Caleb Jones on Twitter: @CalebAP

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