Exotic animals and summer vacation: studies suggest travel advice

If your summer vacation includes seeing some exotic animals, two studies suggest some travel advice.  

Advice No. 1:  Visit the islands sooner rather than later.

A multi-university study published in Science Advances on June 19 concluded that, given the number of species that are becoming extinct, the sixth mass extinction is already underway. And a lot of that is happening on the islands and in remote areas.

(To put things in context, the previous five extinctions included several ice ages and the loss of the dinosaur.)

“Island populations are very vulnerable to extinctions for a number of reasons,” Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction, told National Geographic.

“They tend to have been isolated…. New Zealand had no terrestrial mammals. Species that had evolved in the absence of such predators were incredibly vulnerable. A staggering number of bird species have already been lost on New Zealand, and a lot of those that remain are in deep trouble.”

“Also, those [species] that have a very restricted range, that exist only in one spot in the world, those tend to be extremely vulnerable. They have nowhere to go and if their habitat is destroyed, say, then they’re gone.”

According to the study, to-date, 468 species have become extinct, including 69 mammals, 80 birds, 24 reptiles, 146 amphibians, and 158 fish.

Advice No. 2: Save some money and do some armchair traveling.

A study published on June 9 in Nature Scientific Data showcases a massive citizen science project that captured wild birds and mammals of the Serengeti. The study is a joint effort between the University of Minnesota, the University of Oxford in the U.K., and the Department of Citizen Science at Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

Covering 430 square miles, 225 camera traps were set up. Volunteer online spotters found 48 animal species, many smiling for the camera, reported the Txchnologist.

More than 28,000 contributors classified 10.8 million images; 320,000 images contained animals.

“The consensus classifications and raw imagery provide an unparalleled opportunity to investigate multi-species dynamics in an intact ecosystem and a valuable resource for machine-learning and computer-vision research,” the study authors note.

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