It's #SharkAwarenessDay, and our oceans' primary megafaunal predators continue their decline, victims of bycatch, habitat destruction and, perhaps most loathsomely, the Asian "delicacy" of shark fin soup. Here's a piece I wrote on shark conservation, done partly from the perspective of these ancient predators, the leopards and lions of the sea.
In today's Earth Island Journal's online News section I take a look at the sky island of Shenandoah National Park, one of the East's great ecological and recreational treasures. Its founding was fairly brutal, with the forced removal of mountaineers in the 1920s, but as Virginia continues to suffer the expanding sprawl of DC the park serves as a wonderful redoubt of natural beauty between the Valley and Piedmont.
A Century of Protecting Virginia's Wildlife Resources
Government for the people … and their wildlife. I was honored to be chosen to write a longform piece for Virginia Wildlife magazine honoring the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries's centennial year. Conservation officers and an informed and concerned citizenry are all that stand between healthy wildlife populations and an emptied world. Now them's my kinda cops...
In my first piece for Discover's "The Crux" blog I take a look at the tentative resurgence of South Asia's vulture species, which were almost driven to extinction through eating the carcasses of livestock treated with an anti-inflammatory drug call diclofenac--good for cattle, deadly for vultures. Especially in India, where cattle are considered sacred and beef is verboten among observant Hindus, the pileups of deceased cattle pose enormous health risks in the form of disease outbreaks, It's hoped that the delegalization of diclofenac will allow these aerial purifiers the chance to once again clean the subcontinent.
In today's Mongabay I take a long hard look at the incessant corruption and failure to enforce poorly-drafted legal codes that is crippling efforts to preserve orangutans, gibbons, gorillas and chimpanzees in Southeast Asia and West Africa. Industrial agriculture--much of it in the form of palm oil plantations--is benefitting from corrupt local officials and centralized despots to destroy ape habitat in tropical forests.
For my first article for Vice's science section Motherboard I examine a study speculating on what the world would still look like without humanity's annihilative presence (hint: it's a lot more exciting).
The lovely Iberian lynx is slowly recovering from near extinction due to habitat loss and poaching, but a new threat could send populations plummeting again: climate change. For my first piece for Yale Environment360, I take a look at the work being done by Spanish and Portuguese scientists to ensure that this lovely little predator will stalk the maquis thickets and sere grasslands of Iberia for centuries to come.
For my second feature for Mongabay I took a look at the insidious network of trafficking in wildlife--the living and the dead--that is plundering the world's richest rainforest of its wonderful wildlife. In writing this piece I learned two surprising things: first, that the market for live animals for the "pet" trade isn't just about exporting macaws overseas, but that Latin American cultures are very much mired in an ingrained fixation on the display of captive native wildlife for social appeal. Second, that one of the biggest markets for wildlife and their organs, skins, bones and lives is right here in the US, which next to China is the largest market in the world for endangered species.
We usually think of golden eagles as hunters of the sere canyonlands and sagebrush flats of the American West, but a small and genetically invaluable subpopulation from eastern Canada overwinters every year in the Appalachian mountains. I go on a freezing search for these powerful predators in the latest issue of Virginia Wildlife magazine.
In recent features for Mongabay and Virginia Wildlife magazine I examine some of the wondrous wildlife being brutally trafficked in Amazonia, then profile a local conservationist whose work on behalf of the natural world has taken him from Namibia to the Shenandoah Valley.
William H. Funk
I'm a freelance writer focusing on natural history, conservation, and environmental law, policy and politics.