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Ten years ago, the pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus Pygmaeus) lived undisturbed ten miles off the coast of Panama on a tiny island the size of Central Park in New York City. In mid-March, a volunteer pilot from LightHawk, flew a donated flight with the Zoological Society of London to map the sloth’s remaining habitat on the island which is mostly inaccessible on foot.
Exploring the entire island from the air enabled scientists to quickly identify imminent threats and pressure points. The Critically Endangered pygmy three-toed sloth only eats red mangrove leaves and can stay in one tree for up to 36 hours. National Geographic VoicesResearchers, conservationists, and others around the world share stories and commentary on the National Geographic Society's conversation platform Voices.
Society Field Inspection 2016: Gulf of CaliforniaDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. Support National GeographicWe've supported more than 11,000 grants to scientists and others in the field.Learn more about our work.
Two years after being discovered deep in a South African cave, the 1,500 fossils excavated during the Rising Star Expedition have been identified as belonging to a previously unknown early human relative that National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger and team have named Homo naledi. With at least 15 individuals of all ages and both sexes represented, the find adds an unprecedented amount of information to our understanding of early human evolution in Africa. In addition, the absence of any other animal remains or large debris in the fossil chamber strongly suggests that these non-human beings intentionally deposited their dead within this cave. WASHINGTON—African elephants are being massacred across much of the continent, with illegal slaughter accounting for 90 percent of recorded deaths in central Africa. National Geographic reports that representatives of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and practicing Buddhists in Thailand and China are actively complicit in the illegal ivory trade or unwittingly facilitate it. CITES, the treaty organization that sets international wildlife trade policy, has viewed the Philippines primarily a way station for ivory destined for China. The elephant is revered in Buddhism, and in Thailand demand is driven by the ironic idea that carving in ivory honors both the animal and Buddha.
In addition to revealing the links between religious leaders and the illegal ivory trade, Christy exposes flaws in strategies adopted by CITES, including overreliance on ivory seizures as the metric for estimating smuggling activity, which doesn’t accurately portray poaching behavior. In reeds tinged red in the Central Asian sun, a tiger once roamed.  There, in riparian forests that line rivers like the Vakhsh on the border of the former Soviet country Tajikistan, the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) prowled.
Reedy, tangled forests, or tugai, line rivers in Central Asia; tugai was the haunt of the Caspian tiger. In the late 19th century, the Russian government instructed its Army to exterminate all tigers as part of an agricultural conversion project across Central Asia.
In 1947, Russia banned hunting of the Caspian tiger and its close relative, the Siberian, or more properly Amur, tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), still found today in the Far East.  But the edict came too late for the Caspian tiger. The last tiger in Tigrovaya Balka was glimpsed in 1958.  Although a matter of debate, the legendary final wild Caspian tiger is said to have been killed in February, 1970, in Hakkari Province, Turkey.
DNA evidence, however, reveals that we may not have seen the last of this tiger-of-the-riverbanks, says Carlos Driscoll, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Chair in Conservation Genetics at the Wildlife Institute of India. Now scientists at WWF and other organizations are working to bring the Caspian tiger back to life.
Tigers likely stopped meeting at this ecological crossroads within the last 200 years, a result of increasing human presence in the region.
The findings, however, raise the possibility of repopulating a now tiger-less Central Asia with Amur tigers, says biologist Igor Chestin, CEO of WWF-Russia. Tugai along the Ili River Delta in Kazakhstan, a prime location for the possible reintroduction of the Caspian tiger. WWF biologists have conducted a feasibility study for Caspian (Amur) tiger reintroduction in Central Asia.  The Ili River Delta looks especially promising, says Chestin. The Ili River Basin offers some 400,000 hectares of likely tiger habitat, the WWF study found. Scientists are working to increase numbers of Bukhara deer and other tiger prey in Central Asia. What are the prospects for the “Caspian” tiger?  Will it return to Central Asia by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022? That’s the goal of the WWF effort, a partnership with the Government of Kazakhstan and the Kazakhstan Geographic Society.
The program represents a new direction in the ecological development of Kazakhstan, according to Karim Massimov, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister.
Driscoll, Chestin, Pereladova and other researchers are hopeful.  “Tigers’ reintroduction to these landscapes would provide an effective conservation framework for the protection of many other species,” they state in a paper on Caspian tiger recovery in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
Despite a drop in wild Amur tiger numbers, supporters of a tiger reintroduction in Central Asia say it’s an important goal. We'll look for answers and post them here, along with regular updates about the science and conservation status of felids.
National Geographic supports scientific research of lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, and other big cats with a view to finding viable ways to protect them in their natural habitat. Death is always near, and teamwork is essential on the Serengeti—even for a magnificent, dark-maned male known as C-Boy. Go behind the scenes of recent National Geographic coverage of some of the world's top predators. 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. Ninety percent of the plants and animals found on the island of Madagascar evolved there and nowhere else. This mother selling bananas and bread in the central-plateau region likely can trace at least part of her ancestry back more than 2,000 years to Indo-Malayan explorers, whom evidence suggests were the first people to reach the island.
Famed Irish adventure traveler Dervla Murphy once noted, "Apart from the Tibetans, I have never traveled among a people as endearing as the Malagasy." This playful young girl walks with her family in St. The bustle of a busy market in Antananarivo, Madagascar's capital, can't keep a Malagasy baby from a nap. A researcher navigates the skin-ripping pinnacles of the limestone tsingy formations in central-western Madagascar. Now that’s changed and the pint-sized slowpokes are teetering on the edge of extinction.
The information the scientists brought back will help create a conservation plan to protect the sloth’s only home.
Posters and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules and other terms of service. To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016.

The animals are being killed for their tusks, despite a 1989 ban on international ivory trading.
Their actions appear to be motivated by religious beliefs that ivory as a carving material best symbolizes purity and devotion. But author Bryan Christy’s report for National Geographic exposes a thriving and devout Catholic market for ivory in the Philippines, one where the head of protocol for the country’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese gives Christy smuggling tips and contact information for his favorite carvers. Elephant keepers legally sell the clipped tusk tips of live domesticated Asian elephants, but this legal trade provides cover for smuggled African ivory, which is easily mixed in with Asian ivory.
This results in skewed analysis and led to a mistake with grave  consequences — CITES’ endorsement of a massive purchase by China and Japan of more than 115 tons of legal ivory from four African countries in 2008. Once their prey has reached sufficient numbers, says Chestin, the tigers could be taken from three sources. With behavioral training to hunt in the wild and to avoid people, some biologists say, pure Amur tigers in captivity around the world may offer a source for translocation. There are 38 species of felids, ranging from the seven-pound tabby in your lap to 500-pound Siberian tigers—with cheetahs, leopards, ocelots, and other striped and spotted cats in between. We'll also share National Geographic articles, videos, and behind-the-scenes features and keep you up to date on our Big Cats Initiative work to help big cats hang on in the wild.
Bloggers and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules and other terms of service. Combining the resources of National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo, and drawing on the skills of an incredible crew, we documented these amazing cats in a way that’s never been done before. 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.
All of the country's 70-plus species of lemur—including this sifaka—are considered endangered. Archaeologists aren't sure whether they crossed the Indian Ocean or came overland to the east coast of Africa and then sailed from there.
Madagascar's Avenue of the Baobabs, in the Menabe region, is one of the island's most popular tourist destinations. A gregarious species, it also has a voracious appetite—one that can anger Madagascar's rice farmers, who try to scare off the birds, trap them, and destroy their nests.
Located about five miles (eight kilometers) off the country's northwest coast, this heavily forested volcanic outcrop, fringed with brilliant reefs and turquoise waters, is one of Madagascar's most popular tourist destinations. Antananarivo, which means "city of a thousand warriors" in Malagasy, is home to nearly two million of Madagascar's 20 million inhabitants. These unique reptiles are a study in interesting adaptations, from their pincer-shaped feet and independently movable eyes to their extremely long tongues, which can be more than twice the length of their bodies. Its camouflage works so well that the lizard doesn't have to hide during the day—it simply flattens itself against a tree trunk while waiting for darkness and insects to eat.
The city, located in the central highlands about 180 miles (290 kilometers) south of Antananarivo, is at the center of Madagascar's main wine- and tea-producing region. They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society. While motivation for the rise in killings is most commonly linked to China’s demand for ivory, National Geographic magazine reveals in its October 2012 cover story “Blood Ivory” that religion is a driver of the illegal ivory trade in key countries, including China.
These devotional markets are supplied in part by groups who smuggle the ivory from Africa through middleman countries such as Malaysia.
The ivory is used for elaborately carved religious icons that are integral to many Filipinos’ practice of their faith. While the Vatican in its role as a governmental entity has signed transnational agreements on drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime, it has not signed the CITES 1989 global trade ban on ivory.
Corruption is rife, with one monk offering to assist Christy in transporting smuggled African ivory inside Thailand — and advising that if anything goes wrong, Christy should tell officials he’s bringing the ivory to the monk’s temple. Most of it is done, but I need to check things over so I will be publishing it in sections.
To help protect them and other unique species, the government has set aside more than nine million acres (3.7 million hectares) of land. They also have the ability to change color, a response triggered more by temperature and mood than a need for camouflage. Overemphasis on seizures continues to misdirect enforcement efforts, Christy reports, rewarding countries for confiscating ivory instead of prosecuting criminals higher up the demand chain — including large-scale dealers and kingpins whose crimes cost the lives of both elephants and the African rangers hired to protect them. This is a tough one for me to write, as I flew over northern Laos frequently as part of an electronic reconnaissance crew.
They use their long, skinny tongues to slurp honey from a hive, and also to remove insects like termites from their nests. Kinkajous also eat fruit and small mammals, which they snare with their nimble front paws and sharp claws. 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. 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.
Praised as a powerhouse of team spirit and enthusiasm, they bring pride to parents and symbolize hope and achievement to the Hmong community. It develops quickly, however, and by the end of the second month, it is already able to hang upside down from its tail. Extracted from "The Hmong: Laotian Refugees in the 'Land of Giants'", presented by National Geographic, October 1988. They live throughout the US, most notably in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Florida and Washington.The 2000 US census said there were 170,049 Hmong people from Laos living in the United States. I have seen an estimate for 2005 that said their population in the US had increased by then to 183,265. We can conclude that their population in Wisconsin has increased as well.Members of the CIA's Hmong Secret Army in Laos, circa 1965. Drawn from, "The Hmong Dream," by Gary Yia Lee, presented by North by North East.There are some Americans who know the Hmong exceedingly well. They fought with them in the Second Indochina War, known generically to most Americans as the Vietnam War.
The First Indochina War was between the fight for independence from the French.Ethnic Hmong and Laotian veterans, who served with the US Army during the Vietnam War, and representatives from the Center for Public Policy Analysis participate in a memorial and wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War in Laos and to honor Hmong and Laotian veterans, May 16, 2008 at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. Hmong SGU and US Special Forces veterans standing in remembrance of their friends at the Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial, Deland Park, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, May 26, 2008. Presented by Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial.To these Americans, the Hmong were loyal, hard-fighting allies in combat against communism in Laos. Most of the survivors were driven from their homes, many to refugee camps outside Laos, mainly in Thailand.
Many have been shipped back from Thailand to Laos where they will be in great danger, and, as we have noted, there are now more than 183,000 living in the US.

We suffer and die just like the Jews in World War II, but the world ignores us."As an Air Force veteran of the Indochina War who flew as a crewmember aboard electronic reconnaissance missions over Laos, I knew we were supporting the Hmong and our special forces working with them in the field, through CIA. I lack the needed command of the English language to express my deep sorrow for the US having left them to die and suffer as we suddenly left that war unfinished.
An impromptu evacuation was masterminded by General Heinie Aderholt (left), who arranged for a motley fleet of aircraft including a C-130, C-46, and Pilatus Porter. Drawn from, "The Hmong Dream," by Gary Yia Lee, presented by North by North East."That collapse was devastating to the Hmong--tens of thousands were killed by the communists during the next 10 years, and today, the Hmong who survived are on the bottom economic rung of a profoundly impoverished country. Many of those were eventually repatriated against their will, and others disappeared into Thailand as illegal immigrants. Some of the Hmong who escaped Laos came to the United States, but only a handful of backseaters who flew with the Ravens (USAF Forward Air Controllers employing O-1 Bird Dog aircraft) survived. After the fall of Laos in 1975, he travelled on foot from Long Tieng through enemy lines, then swam the Mekong and spent four years in a Thai refugee camp."About all I can do at this juncture is to write this article and give Wisconsinites a chance to learn something about them and their history. Some years ago a Vietnamese-American became the number one graduate of the US Air Force Academy, and went on to be an Air Force doctor. Some day, a Hmong-American will do the same.Hmong women and children in their village in Laos, dressed in formal attire. Garrett, January 1974 edition, National Geographic.The Hmong belong to an ethnic group, tied largely by language and a historic tradition of living in mountainous regions of southern China and adjacent areas of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. While the Hmong have never had their own country, most agree that they originated in China. They speak the Hmong-Mien languages of southern China, northern Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, also known as Miao-Yao. Writing "The Hmong, Laotian Refugees in the 'Land of the Giants'", published in the October 1988 edition of National Geographic, Spencer Sherman wrote this about the Hmong:"Anthropologists have described the Hmong as tribal mountain dwellers with strong clan loyalties, a people steeped in animistic ritual, bound by good and evil spirits to a way of life filled with the magical and mystical. Development specialists have called their agricultural life in Laos primitive and environmentally unsound. In the United States, refugees call their resettlement a worst-case situation."The Hmong have one other attribute that make them worthy of special note.
They were Vietnam war veterans and, in the opinion of former Central Intelligence Agency Director William E.
Garrett, at the time a senior assistant editor of National Geographic, wrote "The Hmong of Laos, No Place to Run," published in the January 1974 edition of that magazine. In many power struggles to gain power and control, the Hmong were defeated by the Han Chinese.
Video grab from, "The Hmong Journey - China," presented by You Tube.My observation is that it has been this zest for freedom that has marked their history over the past 4,000 years.
Much of the research has been limited by the difficulties associated with reading and interpreting Chinese. And the Hmong have been on the move for much of their history, making documentation difficult. Hmong themselves have recently begun to dig into their history with a fervor, and they have been challenging some things that have been written by some very notable researchers. Since I am no expert on the Hmong, I relied heavily on the works of Andrea Matles Savada, Laos: A Country Study, 1994. I used her work to form an outline, and tried to fill in some spaces with research done by others.I commend the Hmongnet to you as an excellent place to access a wide variety of resources on Hmong history. For example, the Hmong Studies Journal has many articles about the Hmong on line and these are nicely sourced at Hmongnet. Presented by Hmong in Alaska.The Hmong emigrated from China in many waves throughout the centuries.
That said, it is important to note that this emigration, by foot, was extraordinarily difficult. The terrain was uncharted, quite mountainous and lined with heavy tropical jungles, the latter quite a different environment from what they experienced in China. There are some 3 million, perhaps 4 million, still there to this day --- tough to get a good count.A good many emigrated to Southeast Asia in the 18th century, many of them to northwestern Vietnam, part of an area then known as Tonkin. The group on whom we will concentrate are those who went to Laos, since most of those Hmong who now live in the US are from Laos. As mentioned earlier, the Hmong of Laos are of special interest to me personally.These Hmong who settled in Laos began their settlements there in northeastern Laos with gradual movements to the west, across the Mekong and into Siam (Thailand). The Hmong would settle in Laos as far south as Vientiane on the Mekong River border with northern Thailand. Much of the lowlands was already occupied, so the Hmong, traditionally used to the mountains of China, most often chose to live and operate on mountain and ridge tops in Laos. Their preferred method of clearing land for agriculture was known as swidden, or slash and burn. They could grow crops such as rice and corn for a couple years, and then have to leave it dormant to restore its fertility.
This in turn translated to their having to move their villages quite a bit, especially in northwestern Laos.
That said, the Hmong in northeastern Laos managed to remain in established villages for very long periods of time.Indochina Ethnolinguistic Groups From Indochina Atlas, 1970. Presented by University of Texas.A point to remember here is that the Hmong were spread across the uplands of all northern Laos. I should zoom in on northern Laos so you can get your bearings a little better.The gray to the far north reflects Tibeto-Burman, the light purple the Lao (Tai), the brown Tribal Tai and the yellow Tribal Mon-Khmer. During the war, the areas in this light green were hotly contested by US and Hmong forces fighting against enemy communist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese. I should be up front here and highlight that we and the Hmong would also fight against Hmong allied with the enemy, many of whom were forced into service by the enemy.The Hmong are considered to be part of the Lao Sung, or highland people. The Lao Sung made up about 10 percent of the Lao population, and the Hmong were the largest ethnic group among the Lao Sung. Broadly speaking, the Hmong were a small percentage of the population living in Laos but were our strongest ally in war in this region.It is hard to pin down a number for how many Hmong lived in Laos. By the time the French came in 1893, about the best we can seem to do is say there were enough of them to tax, and enough of them to revolt and cause the French a major headache.
There is a lot I wanted to do with this report, too much, making it unmanageable and a struggle to publish. I have decided for purposes of this report to focus on that Hmong history that got them from China to Laos and joined with the US to fight the Indochina War. My main purpose is to help Americans understand the Hmong living as our neighbors and friends, especially those here in Wisconsin. That said, I feel compelled to some day finish this by addressing the Indochina War and the Hmong participation as an American ally in the Laos War.

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