The Women Fighting Wildlife Crime in Vietnam

Screenshot from ENV’s newest filmWomen Fighting Wildlife Crime“.

This new movie shows how the women of Education For Nature Vietnam (ENV) combat the illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam, tackling almost 3,000 cases a year. This short film highlights how ENV tackles a case, from the moment wildlife crime is reported, to how they facilitate confiscations, arrests, and prosecutions, to the widespread awareness campaigns that educate millions of people in Vietnam about wildlife protection.

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Based on a real ENV case, the film illustrates each team’s role in protecting wildlife. However, not every case is as clear cut as the one used for this film according to ENV. In some cases, when a crime is reported to their Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU), it can be a struggle to generate a successful outcome.

Sometimes law enforcement authorities are so overwhelmed with other crimes that they are unwilling to prioritize the crimes ENV reports to them, and their Crime Officers have to be strong and persistent to demand effective results. Other times, criminals are so conniving that they find a way to escape law enforcement action. On top of that, with 10 new wildlife crime reports a day, the WCU team must juggle authorities, investigations, and multiple members of the public all at once.

Daunting though this might seem, they never give up or slow down, and so far they have already successfully resolved 587 cases!

Though there are challenges and a long road ahead to end demand and exploitation of wildlife, these steps towards a brighter future are possible thanks to ENV’s supporters! If you want to support their good work please see their current fundraising campaign

P.S. If you share this film with others (and they hope you do!) please also share the fundraising link! Thank you.

Studying up before my Safari!

Magnificent Maasai Mara! Paxton images photo and copyright.

Magnificent Maasai Mara! Bring full batteries and empty memory cards. Paxton images photo and copyright.

When the Sun rises over the great mosaic of grassland and Acacia trees of Kenya’s Maasai Mara, as it has done since the dawn of mankind, the experienced eyes of wildlife rangers are alert for signs of poaching activities that threaten to set the country backwards.

One such ranger, is Collins Ochumbe, who also serves the public as a paramedic and as Secretary to the new Chake Community Conservancy of Narok. Collins is also an expert safari guide with Shavicol Safaris. He and his companions walk the talk of community conservation, combining a love of the land and its people with the love of the rich native wildlife and vegetation that sustains them. In their outreach, Shavicol staff also advocate for female rights and against female genital mutilation as well as reducing human wildlife conflict. 

Before the Zoonotic COVID pandemic struck it had been calculated that every live elephant in Kenya was worth over a million US Dollars in travel and tourism revenue to the country. That’s far more valuable to the whole economy than a dead elephant is worth to the poachers that try to kill them. The global pandemic has hit ecotourism hard and thus threatens environmental conservation activities too, see Ecotourism Aids Biodiversity Conservation for more info.

Covid restrictions had cut off the valuable foreign ecotour visitors, so Shavicol has diversified into providing safari experiences for locals, experiential development courses for local business staff and even art in nature sessions

Collins believes that environmental education is an essential element of conservation and he regularly posts excellent information about the local East African wildlife. Check out Shavicol’s Facebook post on Elephants! It’s full of interesting statistics, some sad ones, but also some cause for hope for the future.

Think African wildlife experience and Kenya’s Maasai Mara leaps to mind! Surely these mighty grasslands are one of the world’s most magnificent wildlife photography hotspots. One day I hope to see the Kenyan savanna wildlife for myself.

As an ecotourist, I have learned to appreciate the value of experienced guidance in the field!  It’s possible to self-drive the game park in a hired vehicle, but that would mean missing out on the fascinating indigenous knowledge of rangers like Collins. I think its far better to enjoy safari experience with the phenological experts.  Experienced guides like Collins know where and when to look for what you want to photograph, and this means you’ll likely get better pictures and memories. This also has the benefit of contributing to the local economy and the people who are actually sustaining the wildlife that you want to see.


Check out Shavicol Safaris’ Easter Weekend trip to Naivasha with hike at Hell’s Gate on their FB page. April 3rd, 2021 they offer boat riding, Camel/Horse riding, fish eating, Hippo Watching and hiking! Sounds like fun!

US Disclaimer: Author Charles Paxton made the website for Chake Conservancy. He received no remuneration for this article.

Explore Nature’s Role in Climate Mitigation and Adaptation. Nature For Life Hub Starts Tomorrow, Sept. 24 2020

Nature For Life Hub Starts now, Sept. 24th, 2020 at 09.00 in New York, hosted by UNDP’s Learning For Nature website. Click this link to join the free The Nature for Life Hub – a virtual venue for a four-day program of multiple events “delving deep into specialist topics, practical solutions and ambitious actions” highlighting the role of Nature in climate mitigation and adaptation. It will be held in English, French and Spanish languages.

Watch Climate Mitigation Hub here on Facebook

Hub organizers will work with champions, mobilizers, leaders and speakers who inspire and engage global audiences! These events will provide new content that will be broadcast live on social media and through the official virtual platform, as well as available online after the Hub.

The virtual Hub will be an opportunity to hear from political and corporate leaders, the world’s youth, indigenous and community leaders, local authorities and cutting-edge thinkers, leaders and practitioners. Each day will culminate in key messages to be fed into UN biodiversity-related discussions.

Raised for release! Young Freshwater Turtles in Close-up.

Razor-backed Musk Turtle Neonate

Happy birthday to this Razor-backed Musk Turtle neonate (Sternotherus carinatus) at ULM’s Herpetology Dept. where it was raised with siblings and turtles of many other varieties in incubators by Professor John Carr and his team! C. Paxton image and copyright.

Kimmie and I had a very fun and highly privileged view of North American freshwater turtle hatchlings recently at University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) courtesy of the head of the Herpetology Department and Louisiana Master Naturalist, Professor John Carr. We had enjoyed John’s lectures on herps previously with the Louisiana Master Naturalists at ULM and Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and also on turtles at LMNA Rendezvous at Fontainebleau State Park. Recently we have been systematically studying local species from his excellent guidebook “Amphibians & Reptiles of Louisiana” co-authored with Jeff Boundy and raised questions about the Map Turtles ( Graptemys Sp.) he kindly agreed to show us some young Ouachita Map Turtles that he has raised in his lab!

On this occasion we all resembled masked bank robbers due to the COVID-19 precautions.

Among his other research and teaching work (now conducted with COVID-19 safety protocols), John hatches freshwater turtle eggs from various local sources to release back into those sources, thus sparing those clutches from predation by raccoons (Procyon lotor). Raccoons are adept nest raiders and have lost a lot of their natural predators in recent times and so represent a considerable threat to the nesting success of the native turtles. Professor Carr’s incubation work helps to acquaint his students with close study of live turtles and evens the odds for the turtles’ survival by returning them to the wild.

When we arrived, one of the faculty staff was there with a boxed mature Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) that she’d rescued from crossing a busy road in the hope of saving it. Sadly Prof. Carr’s inspection revealed non-survivable damage.

Our spirits were raised when we were introduced to the lab’s latest cohort of hatchlings. We saw our first Razor-backed Musk Turtles, absolutely delightful, perfect little replicas of the adults and were thrilled to see one emerging, still in its shell.

We were thrilled to see the many dragonish forms of young Alligator Snapping Turtles from several nests! These were our first sightings of them too and we had never seen the amazing fringe-like texture of their shells as youngsters in photographs before.

It was exciting to see young Ouachita Map Turtles, with the wonderful ‘topographical’ markings that give them their name. We have seen these turtles basking on a log at the Bawcomville Recreation Area .

Another first for me was to see the Smooth Softshells (Apalone mutica) and rather handily, their tanks were side by side with the larger Spiny Softshells (Apalone spinifera) enabling a very clear comparison!

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Spice of Life: Who’s Been Eating My Stereaceae?

Who’s been eating my what?

Charles and I went on a fungi-hunt, or foray, and we saw a ton of this kind of orange stuff on logs. In appearance it’s not unlike breakfast cornflakes. We took a million pictures or so, then submitted our “finds” to iNaturalist. If we don’t know what something is, there’s a chance that either the app’s artificial intelligence or a fellow-naturalist can ID it for us. We learned that this is a kind of Stereaceae fungi. It’s very common, it lives on rotting wood and it also likes to create rotting wood, says This branch in our yard is soon to be a log.

Crowded parchment, Stereaceae complicatum

Like I was saying, fellow-naturalists can give you suggestions about what you see. Well, we didn’t see in person what he saw in my original picture. I’m learning that when you go outside, there is a lot more than meets the eye! He thinks that what is eating my Stereaceae are thrips! What the heck is that?!

See the little red critters? Especially at the bottom of the picture.

Google’s first response to “what are thrips” was to basically say, “they’re pests”. The concensus: they will damage crops and plants and reek general havoc to a gardener’s ideal situation. Wikipedia has it that the little varmints will get in your house too, and go after your chairs, tables and computers. Gosh! says that the majority of the more that 6,000 species-strong thrips family are garden-friendly. The nearly-microscopic insects enjoy dining on various mites, other thrips, plants, and fungi.

Look at ’em go! They’re really chowing down on that fungus!

NCSU’s General Entomology page tells us that thrips are thrips if they are singular or plural, i.e. there’s a thrips and there are some more thrips, (not thripses, my precious) and some thrips only eat fungi. tells us: that some thrips have wings and some don’t, and even though they are very, very small, they can still bite. The naturalist who introduced thrips to me, said that their ancestors were fungi-eaters from the Mesozoic. Well, that makes sense that some are fungi-fans!

They even have nicknames, says Wikipedia. Something that didn’t seem to exist not too long ago even has other names. Nature is an endless wonder! My favorite of those listed: thunderbugs. Such a tiny creature?! explains: “A common name for thrips is thunderfly. This is because they drop to the ground in large numbers shortly before thunderstorms! The build-up in static electricity interferes with their flying and they simply drop from the sky.

The next time I go on a fungi foray I will take a closer look…and maybe bring an umbrella!

Spice of Life: Slugs and Snails

Raise your eye-stalks if you’re a snail.

If you’re a mollusc, you’re a part of a very large phylum of creatures, including squids, clams and octopuses. And if you’re a slug or a snail, and you cruise around on your belly and leave a trail, then you’re a gastropod too–gastropod is Greek for “stomach foot”. And since you’re cruising around on your belly, you’ll benefit from some slime. Slugs and snails produce mucin (slime) from glands to help them get around, recognize each other, stick to stuff, reproduce and other necessary gastropody tasks.

Snails, which can be recognized by the shell on their backs, can be found up mountains, under rocks, in the desert, and under water (aquatic snails) says Snail-World. If you go outside and look under a log, you’ll probably find one there (hangin’ out with roly-polies). Slugs, don’t usually have shells. If they do, they are very small ones, or have only small internal shells.

Slugs and snails do eat our plants and that’s not so nice, but they are doing some important work otherwise. They breakdown organic matter in our yards and gardens, which, in the end, becomes organic matter, which makes good fertilizer. See below for our gastropods (and their poop).

Slugs and snails placing their organic matter on this cardboard.

They feed a whole host of critters from birds to reptiles to rodents. Scientists have replicated the slug’s sticky yet flexible slime into a surgical glue to help repair soft tissues without damaging them, says NPR. Cosmetics companies “milk” garden snails for their mucin. The methods by which they do this are unclear, says Racked. In Japan, they just stick the slimy critters on your face and they glide around, transferring that rejuvenating sliminess right onto your skin. Wikipedia has more examples of their usefulness going back to Ancient Greece. Need a good cough syrup, go no further than your local snail.

A snail’s eye view.

A parting video: mating leopard slugs. I would say this is X-rated.

Spice of Life: Nuts About Squirrels

Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger

In Louisiana, the mention of a squirrel would elicit conversations about how this rodent should be cooked. I personally prefer to adore ’em–not eat ’em. Today, we can learn about the fox squirrel. Recipes can be found elsewhere. 😉

“I see you!”

This creature’s bushy, red tail tells us why it might be called a fox squirrel. These plump critters are slower-moving than their kin, the cat squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), so it’s easier to get a good look at them (and see how cute they are). Some “foxes” are melanistic, that means their fur is black. That helps support it’s name S. niger (meaning “black”). Other colorful fox facts: they have pink bones! I found this out from Kelby Ouchley’s book Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country–an excellent source of info about our area and its creatures–and entertaining too.

They pretend to hide their nuts to trick other squirrels, says Squirrel Gazer‘s blog. And they’ll stuff leaves and sticks and stuff in the hole, acting like it’s a nut. Those cunning fiends!

Lurkin’ and posin’

They warn other squirrels and forest creatures that an enemy is near with alarm calls. Enemies like owls, snakes, hawks or people. We’ve often heard them “hollerin'” up there in the trees…at us. We think it sounds like “Fraaaannnkkk!”.

If you should, by chance, meet a bunch of squirrels hanging out together, you would refer to them as a “scurry of squirrels”. You would note that they probably have “love” on their minds. Animal Diversity explains that other than gathering to plan future squirrels, to put it politely, they are otherwise not social animals.

As we learned in our Mammals workshop with LMN-NE (our blog has more info), foxes are called “stump-eared squirrels” and “chuckleheads”. I wonder what it did to get such a name?! We also learned that foxes have one less tooth and are typically found in areas where “cats” aren’t, and vice versa.

They’re helpful in the forest by planting nuts then forgetting about them. Later, young trees emerge. And maybe they will then be reminded where that nut was.

Fox squirrels: helpful, adorable, cunning and [apparently] delicious!

January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Mark your calendar.

A young’un peering at me from its den.

Spice of Life: The Rough with the Smooth

You, I and this snake know that most folks don’t take too kindly to the “no shoulders”. Ever since that incident in the garden of Eden way back when … Anyway, I’ve grown much fonder of snakes since I have proven by practice that they are not out to get us. I don’t want to blab on about that and try to convince anyone about anything. What I do want to do is to learn more about this guy and share what I’ve learned.

The rough green snake’s Latin name is Opheodrys aestivus. Thanks to the Illinois Natural History Survey, I’ve learned that Opheodrys comes from two Greek words: ophis meaning “serpent” or “reptile” and drymos, meaning “forest” or “woods”. Aestivus is Latin for “pertaining to summer”. So, we have a forest-dwelling reptile that you can see in the summer, according to its name. We did see one in a bush in 40 degree weather, so that’s a pretty generalized name.

O. aestivus has keeled scales (scales with ridges), similar to rattlesnakes. Could that be why it’s called rough? Certainly its behavior is very well-mannered and genteel, unless you happen to be a caterpillar, tree cricket or a small spider. Today’s rough green snake is nonvenomous, unlike the rattler. Also, unlike the rattler, this snake is primarily diurnal, which means it’s out mostly in the day time. It has big eyes compared to other snakes, and has round pupils. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is a characteristic of diurnal snakes.

Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana says these “non-biting snakes” primarily eat insects and spiders and tend to do so while they are off the ground in trees or bushes. When we have seen rough green snakes, they have been in bushes and near water, as the book mentions.

They’re quite difficult to spot sometimes when the whole world seems green in the height of summer. They do prefer to remain still and camouflaged. If you’ve read this far, maybe you’ll agree that they sound like they’re pretty harmless. I think they look sweet. I do hear (in my mind) all the lady-folk in my family disagreeing: passionately. So, if you’re of a similar mind or not, thanks for reading about the rough green snake and remember you have absolutely nothing to fear from it unless you’re a small arthropod!

Spice of Life: “Reed-Jumper of Louisiana”

Not a new species to report, but rather an old friend by another name.

Wikipedia explains that the Carolina wren’s Latin name is Thryothorus ludovicianus. Thryothorus, not a word said with a lisp, but a combination of two Greek words: thryon meaning “reed” or “rush” and thourus, ultimately meaning “to jump at” or “leap up”. Ludovicianus basically means “of Louisiana”. They do seem to be the busiest birds in the forest–always flittin’ and hoppin’ and tellin’ you like it is.

This Carolina wren is gathering nesting materials at Tensas River NWR.

Their favorite habitats are generally wooded areas near water–thus the need for “reed” in its name. But if you’ve got a little brown, plucky bird with a pert tail living on your porch, you will find another one of the wren’s preferred habitats.

Its call, which sounds like, “liberty, liberty, liberty” is distinctive. The trills and chirps coming from the hedges also tell us that we are in a wren’s territory. I’ve found that wrens will come quite close to us to check us out, and to remind us whose turf we’re on.

Well, wouldn’t you know it! I’m finally getting to learn one bird, and now I’m seeing that there are a slew of other wrens! All About Birds will indeed tell you all you want to know about birds. Here’s the link if you want to learn more about the members of the wren family.

This wren was singing its early morning song.

This wee blog is dedicated to my brave and devoted Daddy, Stephen Chason, who finished his race a year ago this Friday. The wren was his favorite bird, and their song will always make me smile.

Spice of Life: A Tail of Two Turkeys

Nature puts on a beautiful show.

Have you ever seen mushrooms like this growing on a log? They are pretty to look at and they provide a residence for a variety of tiny insects, mollusks and arachnids. If you wanted to find out what kind of fungi they are, you’d have to “flip” it, like a puppy or a kitten, and find out what it was.

Today I found some good samples to compare. Could they be Turkey Tails? Here’s the pics:

Trametes and Stereum topside

These are also colorful, fan-shaped fungi growing on logs, like our mystery shrooms above. Let’s flip it and see what we can see:

Rolies and shrooms love the same habitat

Oh look! Some roly-polies! Now I can’t stop seeing them! But seriously…

Trametes and Stereum underside

The top one has pores; see the little dots? The bottom one is smooth. That means that the top one could be a Turkey Tail and the bottom a False Turkey Tail. There are a bushel of fungi that look like the true Turkey Tail. If you’re keen to learn more about Turkey Tails or just mushrooms in general, check out the Mushroom Expert‘s site and take the Totally True Turkey Tail Test.

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