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A bobcat slinks through the snow in Yellowstone, which protects many species in its role as wildlife sanctuary. The center of Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring steams at 199° Fahrenheit (93° Celsius), too hot for the multicolored bacteria clustering on the cooler perimeter. Originally native to the area, gray wolves in Yellowstone were killed off as part of "predator control" practices, and by the 1970s no wolves were known to be living in the park.
Nomadic grazers, bison roam Yellowstone National Park's grassy plateaus in summer and spend winter near warm thermal pools or in the northern section of the park. America’s first national park, Yellowstone is home to wildlife from bears to bison and geological stunners such as hot springs and geysers. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River drop a stunning 308 feet (94 meters) to the canyon floor below—twice as far as Niagara Falls.
Yellowstone National Park's mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) Upper Geyser Basin contains the world's greatest concentration of hot springs and geysers. Elk are the most abundant large mammals in Yellowstone National Park, numbering some 30,000 in the summer.
From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Now an increasing number of people are turning to a new source of historical information for answers about their family history—their DNA. While the testing companies promise to unlock the secrets of your ancestry, researchers warn the science can be problematic. The two most common tests examine the paternally inherited Y chromosome (Y-DNA), which is passed down from father to son, and the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed down from mother to child, both male and female.
Deborah Bolnick, assistant professor of anthropology, studies human DNA samples in Patterson Lab. Genetic ancestry tests examine the sequence of molecules, called nucleotides, in a person’s DNA.
However, Bolnick finds the tests tend to ignore the fact that many DNA sequences are found in many different human populations. The documentary showed that genetic ancestry tests can have a profound impact on how the test-taker perceives his or her racial identity. The New York Times recently reported the story of adopted twins who took DNA tests as part of their college application process. Though many questions remain about how we should interpret the clues revealed in our DNA, scientists are rushing to expand the global database of genetic samples. On expedition in Chad, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and Texas Ex Spencer Wells explains The Genographic Project to local village leaders.
One of the most ambitious collection efforts to date is The Genographic Project, started by National Geographic in 2005 and led by geneticist and Texas Ex, Dr. From the snow-covered Tibetan highlands to the burning windstorms of the Sahara desert, Wells traverses the globe collecting samples from indigenous groups in the world’s most remote locations. For about $100, The Genographic Project will test your DNA and reveal a few aspects of your deep ancestry, the ancient migratory paths of one of your lineages. Wells echoes Bolnick’s caution about the role of genetic ancestry tests in a society that still relies on racial categorization for diversity measurements. The National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America is a handy-sized, easy-to-use tool for backyard birding. Interspersed with the species accounts are pages of information on observing and attracting birds, various behaviors, and other interesting points about backyard birds. If you are a highly attuned backyard birder already we recommend you get the National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America as a gift for a friend, neighbor, or family member to spark their interest in birds! Modern technology over the past few years has allowed us to bring you deeper into expeditions than ever before. Join us for a Google+ Hangout on Air at 10:00am EDT on Friday, August 22, 2014 to be a part of the conversation and see this hidden Eden for yourself. While Africa is where we find the earliest traces of human activity, it is also the place where the large animals that once roamed widely on all continents now make their last stand. The expedition will be led by South African conservationist Steve Boyes, and include Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation founder Gregg Treinish, data artist and educator Jer Thorp, and engineer and ocean conservationist Shah Selbe.
This kind of dedication paid off earlier this year when the Okavango was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mission of the Okavango Wilderness Project is to secure the Okavango Delta and its vast untouched catchment in perpetuity. The Okavango 2014 team joined viewers around the world for a Google+ Hangout on Air on Friday, August 22, 2014, answering questions, showing off their amazing surroundings, and telling stories of their adventure.
Born and raised in South Africa, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to restoring and preserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that call them home. Okavango Delta Traverse (August 2014)For the first time ever a group of National Geographic explorers will be sharing their every move, their research, what they are seeing, what they are hearing, their very heartbeats, and their thoughts and tweets in real-time via satellite while exploring one of the world’s richest wilderness areas, Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Into the OkavangoFollow the Okavango expedition via data uploaded daily to satellite by the team in the Delta. In Amarillo, Texas, a patty-forming machine at a Caviness Beef Packers plant (left) cranks out 24,000 half-pound hamburger patties an hour for the restaurant trade. In Amarillo, Texas, a patty-forming machine at a Caviness Beef Packers plant (top) cranks out 24,000 half-pound hamburger patties an hour for the restaurant trade.
At Wrangler Feedyard, on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle, night was coming to an end, and 20,000 tons of meat were beginning to stir. And so at 6:45 on a Tuesday morning I was standing with Paul Defoor, chief operating officer of Cactus Feeders, the company that operates Wrangler and eight other feed yards in the panhandle and in Kansas. Cowboys prepare to tag and vaccinate a month-old calf at the JA Ranch, east of Amarillo (left). Cowboys prepare to tag and vaccinate a month-old calf at the JA Ranch, east of Amarillo (top). Cactus Feeders, which is headquartered in Amarillo and owned now by its employees, was co-founded by a cattleman from Nebraska named Paul Engler. After that came the mad-cow scare; no one yet has gotten the human variant of the brain-wasting disease from American beef, but Americans learned that livestock protein, which can spread the disease if contaminated, had often been fed to cattle until the Food and Drug Administration banned the practice in 1997. In the truck one day I asked Defoor about zilpaterol, a controversial feed additive that makes cattle gain extra weight. Defoor was raised on a small farm north of Houston, where his family grew all their own food and sold some as well. The goal is to pump as much energy as possible through the rumen so that the animal gains weight as fast as possible without making it sick. The high-grain diet also increases the risk of acidosis: Acids accumulate in the rumen and spread to the bloodstream, making the animal sick and in severe cases even lame. GPS-guided feed trucks deliver precise amounts to each pen, and every morning feed manager Armando Vargas adjusts those rations by as little as a few ounces a head, trying to make sure the animals eat their fill without waste or illness. On the kill floor at Edes Custom Meats in Amarillo, Justin Hatch reaches for a hook to suspend a cow that’s just been killed and skinned. The biggest, most mind-numbing issue of all is the global one: How do we meet demand for meat while protecting biodiversity and fighting climate change?
If Americans eliminated beef cattle entirely from the landscape, we could be confident of cutting emissions by about 2 percent—the amount that beef cattle emit directly by belching methane and dropping manure that gives off methane and nitrous oxide. An English painting of a well-fed Hereford hangs in the home of Ninia Ritchie, owner of the JA Ranch, which her great-grandfather founded in 1876. The guru of the movement is a Zimbabwean scientist named Allan Savory, who says that managed grazing can draw huge amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere—a controversial claim. At the Blue Range Ranch in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, which sells cattle to Panorama, it was calving season when I visited.
At Wrangler I asked the veterinarian, Carter King, how it felt to ship cattle he had watched over.
That Tuesday morning, headed north on I-27, Paul Defoor and I caught up with the truck we’d been chasing, which was doing 70 miles an hour.
At the Caviness Beef Packers plant in Hereford, Texas, which slaughters as many as 1,800 cattle a day, the president, Trevor Caviness, gave me a tour.
When Zack Huggins (with the camera) moved in with Leanne Doore (yellow shorts) in Denton, Texas, they invited some friends to gather around their new grill to celebrate.
Photographer Brian Finke is a Texas native; this is his first article for National Geographic.
The magazine thanks The Rockefeller Foundation and members of the National Geographic Society for their generous support of this series of articles. Resembling a small primate but actually related to the raccoon, the Central and South American kinkajou uses its long tongue to remove honey from beehives and nectar from flowers.
Kinkajous live in the tropical forests of Central and South America, where they spend most of their time in the trees. The loss of animal species is irreversible and potentially catastrophic, not to mention heartrendingly sad. Find out what National Geographic Society is doing to save animals all over the world, and learn what you can do to help. Select your travel style--whether it's our signature expeditions, our active outdoors adventures, or our lower-priced journeys. Our newest small-group trips, provided in partnership with G Adventures, blend fun, hands-on exploration with meaningful cultural encounters, as well as more free time and choices.


It’s what everyone pictures when they think of Machu Picchu—the verdant network of stone terraces, temples, and open-walled houses; the soaring peaks of Huayna Picchu framing the dramatic scene. When I arrived at Peru’s “lost” Inca citadel in the clouds, I was expecting to round the path beneath the guardhouse, walk through the main gate, and find myself overcome by wonder, even awe, at the scene before me.
Rising from obscurity to the heights of power, a succession of Andean rulers subdued kingdoms, sculpted mountains, and forged a mighty empire. Not the largest or the most regular of the park's geysers, Old Faithful erupts more frequently, with each blast expelling between 3,700 to 8,400 gallons (14,000 to 32,000 liters) of boiling water.
But dead center is no dead zone: Billions of organisms called thermophiles flourish in the scalding water.
The Great Fountain Geyser, pictured here, erupts every 9 to 15 hours, shooting water up to 220 feet (67 meters) high. The Yellowstone begins south of the park, traveling more than 600 miles (965 kilometers) before it empties into the Missouri River in North Dakota.
In the entire park, which spreads out over parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, there are more than 10,000 hydrothermal features—half of all such features in the world. Paleontological evidence shows that the animals have been living on Yellowstone land for at least a thousand years. They left behind a huge repository of records that for many years has been the first stop for Americans researching their genealogy. More than two dozen companies offer genetic tests that claim to link people to high-profile ancestors, such as Genghis Khan or the Irish warlord Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Deborah Bolnick, assistant professor of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, studies the tests and is following the budding trend closely. With one swab of the cheek, participants mail in a sample of their saliva to a genetic lab for testing. For example, certain DNA sequences may be most common in Native Americans, but they also are found in Asians. Due to the transatlantic slave trade, many African Americans cannot easily trace their ancestry through surname research and other traditional means.
Winfrey’s results suggested her most likely match was from the Kpelles tribe in Liberia.
However, an individual’s racial identity does not always match his or her genetic ancestry, warns Bolnick. No federally recognized Native American nation relies on DNA testing when determining tribal enrollment. They always had thought of themselves as white, but the tests suggested a small percentage of African and Native American ancestry, which they hoped could be useful in obtaining scholarships and financial aid. As of April, the project has collected 22,000 samples from roughly 100 indigenous groups across five continents.
The Genographic Project, a global, five-year research initiative, will trace the migratory history of the human species, which originated in Africa. Both Bolnick and Wells believe it’s because of our history as a nation of immigrants. We regularly get numerous species of warblers that pass through, most of which are not included.
The text includes information on identification, range, food, and nesting along with beautifully illustrated artwork and large range map. There are also three pages describing citizen science which includes information on Project Feeder Watch, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and eBird. Not only is this super cool looking (includes head shots of the birds that we wish were bigger!) but it makes for a quick comparison of birds of different families but of similar colors. Using Google+ Hangouts, we’ve connected people around the world at home, (probably also at work), on desktops, laptops, and mobile phones and tablets, with explorers deep in a Maya cave, at Base Camp on Everest, in the Aquarius underwater lab, on all seven continents, and even had a message from the International Space Station.
These four creative pioneers in different fields all came together when named National Geographic Emerging Explorers in 2013. They have unique cultures and as far as i know only very few anthropologists worked with Kavango peoples. They loose their languages, traditions,tribal customs (for example 100 years ago Hambukushu had a coming of age ceremony for boys. The National Geographic film Okavango is a rallying point for the global community of stakeholders, government officials, researchers, activists, tourism operators, community members, conservationists and guides that support the protection of the Angolan catchment. This team of baYei River Bushmen, scientists, data artists, writers, photographers, bloggers, naturalists and conservation engineers will be taking the very pulse of Africa’s last-remaining wetland wilderness.
Data is also available through a public API, allowing anyone to re-mix, analyze, or visualize the collected information. Individual Americans eat 40 percent less beef now than in the peak consumption year, 1976, but there are many more Americans. Cactus ships a million head of cattle a year; Defoor and I were watching a few dozen get on a truck. More than ten tons of live freight surged onto the truck’s top deck, then another ten filled the lower deck.
In 1960, the story goes, Engler came to the area to buy cattle for a Nebraska feedlot and realized the panhandle was the perfect place for feedlots.
Engler started Cactus Feeders in 1975 and built it into the world’s largest cattle-feeding company.
It takes just seven to operate the automated mill that cooks three meals a day for 43,000 cattle—750 tons of feed. Monensin kills off fiber-fermenting bacteria in the rumen that are less efficient at digesting corn, allowing others to proliferate.
Cowboys ride through each pen, looking for an indented left flank that suggests a rumen isn’t full or a drooping head that signals a sick animal. Every animal that arrives at Wrangler receives implants of two steroid hormones that add muscle: estradiol, a form of estrogen, and trenbolone acetate, a synthetic hormone. The panhandle farmers who supply corn and other crops to the feedlots are draining the Ogallala aquifer; at the current pace it could be exhausted in this century. A common argument these days is that people in developed countries need to eat less meat in general, eat chicken instead of beef, and, if they must eat beef, make it grass fed. After my week at Wrangler, I visited a modern broiler farm in Maryland, on the Delmarva Peninsula, a region that raised 565 million chickens last year. Latin American beef, according to the FAO, produces more than twice as many emissions per pound as its North American counterpart—because more of the cattle are on pasture, and because ranchers have been cutting down so much rain forest to make pastures and cropland for feed.
Back then, cattle from Texas were often shipped to the corn belt for fattening on small lots. Like other ranchers in the region, George Whitten and his wife, Julie Sullivan, have struggled to make ends meet during a decade-long drought. Venus shone like the beam of a helicopter in the eastern sky, above a faint stripe of gray that outlined the snowcapped Sangre de Cristos.
Tyson had not granted my request to visit the packing plant, but Defoor had offered to follow the cattle to the plant gate. They are able to turn their feet backwards to run easily in either direction along branches or up and down trunks.
But their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end; only about 1,100 seals remain in the wild. More than 100 million Americans are directly related to immigrants who passed through the island.
If you’re thinking about adding DNA testing to your repertoire of genealogy research tools this summer, proceed with caution. She questions the tests’ validity and reliability, and worries many people may be unaware of the underlying scientific assumptions on which the tests are based. An individual’s DNA sequence is compared to a database of samples to identify others with similar DNA sequences. As a result, some tests may incorrectly inform someone they have Native American ancestry when their ancestors actually lived in Asia. Instead, membership usually requires documenting ancestral ties to a specific tribal member and providing evidence of community involvement.
Diversity is not about checking a box simply because a genetic test said that you’re two percent Pacific Islander. The project uses participants’ DNA to map and trace migration patterns of humans who lived thousands of years ago. An additional 200,000 people, mostly from North America, have submitted samples for testing. You won’t receive a breakdown of your genetic background by ethnicity or race or geographic origin.
Steve’s passion and years-long dedication to the Okavango inspired the others, who soon realized that together they could make an even bigger impact to explore and protect this land while educating the world about its wonders. Readers can help build up to our 8-week expedition over 1,000 miles down the length of the Okavango River in 2015 by sharing this epic, once-in-a-lifetime research and conservation expedition down the full length of the Okavango River through an abandoned wilderness into the Delta.
This ground-breaking expedition launches on the 17th August and will most likely finish on the 3rd September… Join us and meet the expedition team at intotheokavango.org.
They will travel like baYei River Bushmen and be subject to the dangers of encountering the worlds largest-remaining populations of elephants, thousands of hippos, 15–foot crocodiles, and some of the last–remaining super–prides of lions on Earth.Click here for more information. Steam billowed from the stacks of the feed mill; trucks rumbled down alleys, pouring rivers of steam-flaked corn into nine miles of concrete troughs.


For the sake of the animals, our own health, and the health of the planet, we must eat less of it. By the time we got to the front gate, the truck was disappearing toward Interstate 27 and the Tyson packing plant outside Amarillo.
Calves are typically born in late winter and early spring, graze with their mothers until fall, then overwinter on forage.
Last year Americans ate on average 54 pounds of beef each, about the same amount as a century ago.
The first time I saw a rumen, in a small slaughterhouse in Wisconsin, it filled a wheelbarrow; in life it fills most of the left side of a cow.
Tylosin helps prevent liver abscesses, an affliction that cattle on high-energy diets are more prone to.
About 6.5 percent of the feedlot cattle get sick at some point, says Cactus veterinarian Carter King, mostly with respiratory infections. It achieved this while slaughtering 10 million fewer cattle, from a herd that was almost 40 million head smaller.
A study last year by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that beef production accounts for 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle belch at least twice as much methane on grass-based diets as they do on grain, says animal nutritionist Andy Cole, who has put them in respiration chambers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service lab in Bushland, Texas.
Today midwestern corn is shipped by rail to Texas Panhandle feedlots like Wrangler Feedyard (right), where up to 50,000 cattle are finished on grain for four to six months.
Today midwestern corn is shipped by rail to Texas Panhandle feedlots like Wrangler Feedyard (bottom), where up to 50,000 cattle are finished on grain for four to six months. If the grazing is managed well, it can enrich the soil and make the land more productive—doing what bison once did for the prairie.
They were first knocked unconscious by a blow to the forehead from a bolt gun, then strung up by their back hooves and killed by a man with a knife who slit the carotid and jugular. The five-year, $50 million effort aims to collect 100,000 DNA samples from around the world. The project has even caught the attention of Bono, lead singer for Irish rock group U2, who had his DNA tested for Vanity Fair’s Africa issue out this July. If Isabella Bartol (bottom, at right) had her druthers, she’d eat a burger every day. In one crowded pen after another, large heads poked through the fence and plunged into the troughs. Though most end up in a feedlot for fattening, they spend more than half their lives grazing, often on land that can’t be used for crops.
Instead we eat twice as much chicken as we did in 1976 and nearly six times as much as a century ago.
We visited the 320 acres he owns outside Canyon, where he goes after work to plow his wheat field or feed his own small herd of cows and calves. It’s a giant vat in which the food ingested by a cow is fermented by a complex ecosystem of microbes, releasing volatile fatty acids from which the cow gets its energy. At Wrangler only about 8 percent of the finishing ration is roughage—ground sorghum and corn plants.
About one percent die before they reach butchering weight, generally between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds. Finally, during the last three weeks of their lives, the Wrangler cattle are given a beta-agonist. The pens were crowded but not jammed—the cattle had around 150 to 200 square feet each, and since they tend to bunch up anyway, there was open space.
The hormones and beta-agonists used at Wrangler are not considered, by the FDA at least, to be a human health concern.
Prices for corn and sorghum drop, which helps a bit in Africa, but globally the key food grains are wheat and rice. But if the world abstained entirely from beef, emissions would drop by less than 6 percent, because more than a third of them come from the fertilizer and fossil fuels used in raising and shipping feed grain. Corn is also grown here; to irrigate cornfields, farmers are draining the Ogallala aquifer.
In New Mexico and Colorado, I visited several grass-fed-beef producers who practice what’s sometimes called management-intensive grazing. A fine mist formed on our windshield: A heifer in the truck ahead was relieving herself through the slatted sides.
Isabella, nine, prefers just ketchup on her cheeseburger; sister Betsy, four, puts everything on hers.
For most of the 43,000 cattle here, it would be just another day of putting on a couple pounds of well-marbled beef.
Last January, as part of a longer journey into the world of meat, I spent a week at Wrangler, in Tulia, Texas. After 24 years away, he came back to Amarillo in 1993—a traumatic year for the beef industry.
At Wrangler, I came to understand, a rumen is also like a high-performance race-car engine, cared for at frequent intervals by a highly trained pit crew. Zilpaterol, the one with the biggest effect, causes them to pack on an extra 30 pounds of lean meat.
I spent hours riding around the lot with the windows open and standing in pens, and the smell wasn’t bad. But as the animals excrete them, the effect they might have on the environment is less clear.
If your goal as a meat-eater is to minimize total animal suffering, you’re better off eating beef. If Americans eat less beef, corn farmers in Iowa won’t export wheat and rice to Africa and Asia.
Hristov of Penn State, the 50 million bison that roamed North America before settlers arrived emitted more methane than beef cattle do today.
If we were to close all the feedlots and finish all cattle on pasture, we’d need more land and a much larger cattle herd, emitting a lot more methane per animal, to meet the demand for beef. Manure stockpiled at Wrangler is delivered to farmers for fertilizer; runoff from the cattle pens collects in a pond and evaporates. Instead of letting cattle fan out over a huge pasture for the whole year, these ranchers keep them in a tight herd with the help of portable electric fences, moving the fences every few days to make sure the grasses are cropped just enough and have time to recover. They aren’t extracting nutrients in the form of corn from heavily fertilized soil in Iowa, shipping them up to a thousand miles on 110-car trains, and piling them up as manure in Texas. The deaths I saw at Caviness and at another slaughterhouse I visited seemed quicker and less filled with terror and pain than many deaths administered by hunters must be.
They use their long, skinny tongues to slurp honey from a hive, and also to remove insects like termites from their nests.
I was looking for an answer to one fundamental question: Is it all right for an American to eat beef? Four children died and hundreds of people were sickened by hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants that had been contaminated by a virulent strain of E. Behind Hatch, the head of the cow awaits the USDA inspector, who’ll check the glands and carcass for signs of disease.
Still, you might think that if Americans ate less beef, more grain would become available for hungry people in poor countries. Though Americans have reduced the amount of beef they eat, they’ve replaced it mainly with chicken. Kinkajous also eat fruit and small mammals, which they snare with their nimble front paws and sharp claws.
This is one of the last places on Earth where modern humans can witness the balance of wild animals and landscape that preceded our era of construction and domestication. But last year, after 17 cattle turned up lame at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in Washington State, Tyson and other beef packers began refusing cattle that had received zilpaterol. Argentina’s famous appetite for beef has fallen because of cholesterol consciousness and economic downturns. They roam and eat at night, and return each morning to sleep in previously used tree holes.Kinkajous form treetop groups and share social interactions such as reciprocal grooming.
Americans eat a lot of meat but still spend just 11 percent of their income on food, less than people in many other countries.
It concerned me that Defoor, a deeply scientific man, wasn’t much bothered about climate change. In countries where meat is a newly affordable option, animal protein is a boon, not a debate. They are vocal animals—though seldom seen, they are often heard screeching and barking in the tropical forest canopy.Female kinkajous give birth to one offspring in spring or summer.
But by 2050, when the world’s population is expected to surpass nine billion, crop production will need to double to provide feed for livestock as well as direct human consumption.
It develops quickly, however, and by the end of the second month, it is already able to hang upside down from its tail.



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