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Florida Sanctuary Welcomes Former Circus Elephants, Promises New Life

There will never exist again a time quite like P.T. Barnum’s. The growth of circuses in America and their role in culture is hard to quantify. Once a traveling show that brought entertainment from one city to the next, we now recognize the harm that circuses can cause animals of all types and sizes. For that reason, this story is particularly heartwarming and more than slightly bittersweet.

The White Oak Conservation Center would announce in 2021 that they were welcoming female Asian elephants at their Yulee refuge, seated just north of Jacksonville. The expectation is that an additional 20 elephants are poised to arrive at the 2,500-acre space.

Newcomers to the White Oak Conservation Center

The White Oak Conservation Center is considered a one-of-a-kind location. Nestled in the heart of northeastern Florida, White Oak encompasses more than 17,000 acres of land with dedicated spaces to endangered species including rhinos, elephants, zebras, condors, and more.

White Oak recently made headlines when it was announced that they were acquiring up to 20 elephants that had previously traveled with circus acts such as Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The elephants were retired in 2016 and desperately in need of a home for care and attention.

Nick Newby is the team leader at the White Oak Conservation Center, and he took point on many of the questions surrounding the new additions. Newby said of the elephant’s arrival, “Watching them go out into the habitat was an incredible moment.” Newby would go on to describe how the elephants all gathered together to comfort and reassure one another before exploring the habitat as a unit.

There are nine fully interlinked areas throughout the White Oak Conservation Center that encompass wetlands, woods, meadows, and more. The Asian Elephants will eventually travel throughout all of these interlinking areas even while the center is continuing construction on future areas. While Oak hopes to have an additional 11 waterholes and a trio of barns installed before too long.

White Oak was established by Kimbra and Mark Walter, a pair of philanthropists with an animal-focused tilt. Already encompassing nearly 17,000 acres, White Oak seeks to become a home to endangered species far and wide.

Understanding the Asian Elephant

The Asian Elephant is sometimes referred to as the Asiatic Elephant. Traditionally found throughout Southeast Asia, the Asiatic Elephant is the largest living land animal on the continent. Endangered since 1986, the Asian Elephant has seen its population decline rather precipitously over the last three generations, entailing a total of 75 years.

Asian Elephants are primarily targeted by poachers, and they are impacted by habitat degradation, fragmentation, and habitat loss due to human encroachment. At the time of this writing, the wild population of Asian elephants sits around 48,000 on a global level.

Within the captive population, female elephants can live upwards of 60 years. Asian elephants don’t always prosper in zoos at a young age, however, which makes fostering their population growth an even tougher challenge due to early deaths.

In the wild, Asian Elephants are classified under the mantle of megaherbivore, consuming more than 330 lbs of plant matter every single day. As grazers and browsers, these giant creatures like to roam for their nutrition, ensuring the consumption of more than 200 liters of water a day in addition to their food stores.

Intelligent and elegant animals, restoring the Asiatic Elephant population is a goal that all conservationists should align on. With the White Oak Conservation Center providing a home for retired female Asian elephants, we can hope that there is more progress in the future.

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Re-purposing Old Wind Turbine Blades With Smart Ideas

Shannon Jackson

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People have probably seen them in the distance next to highways or out in the country, wind farms generating energy for local and regional communities with a free resource in the local wind patterns shaped by geological forms in the area.

However, like anything mechanical, eventually even giant wind turbines start to breakdown and need replacement. And that creates a new issue about what to do with old turbine blades. Interestingly, there is no shortage of solutions for this challenge.

Industrial rafters in Ireland have found the old turbine blades ideal for being repurposed into recycled base material. The output has been turned into reinforcement for bridges, concrete forms, wake walls along the coastlines and noise barriers. Not only are the turbine blades large in size, producing a great amount of workable material for crafters, they are made of fiberglass, which is an extremely flexible and strong material. Traditionally, fiberglass is not recyclable. However, that fiberglass can become raw material for repurposed fiberglass in other structures. It finds a use for what otherwise would end up in the landfill and the same channel helps reduce the need to create more fiberglass as well.

Given the first generation of blades had some challenges with being reused until folks got creative with the fiberglass source, the subsequent generations of turbine blades are now being made from carbon fiber instead. Carbon fiber has a very high re-use factor, and that’s a good thing for Ireland, which is already dealing with what do about 11,000 tons of old blades coming into waste management within the next four or five years.

A typical junked blade runs a length of 14 meters, more than long enough for small bridges that may only be 5 to 10 meters long. The blade becomes the core for a new bridge, and the outer material is wrapped around it for both protection and aesthetics. The result is a walking bridge that has an ideal gentle curve for walking and an integrity that can easily handle pathway weight on it without problems.

On the coast, wake barriers provide a needed protection to help stop erosion and keep soil on land versus being washed into the ocean. The old blades provide a durable and element-resistant material that can last for years as a barrier, stopping erosion and re-using material otherwise destined for landfill space. Alternatively, other jurisdictions are thinking about using the blades for transmission towers and electrical elevated junction points for power grids.

The creativity that is being shown with how to re-use old turbine blades has been an amazing development, and it’s a good sign that the first generation of blades is not going to be yet another mistake created by good intentions but ending up polluting the environment in a different way. Not to mention, the re-utilization of the blade material has produced various other building material savings as well, producing downstream positive effects and less consumption overall as a result.

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Finding Spirituality in Stray Dogs

Jess

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Monks have long been known to be attuned to their surroundings, seeing both the spiritual aspects of a situation as well the far more obvious physical ones. That’s the case for Zhi Xiang, who frequently finds himself surrounded by dozens of dogs at a time.

Instead, Zhi Xiang has been dedicated to both caring for and maintaining the health of the many dogs he finds himself being the foster owner of when they are pulled off the street in Shanghai. Normally, the dogs would end up being killed in a few days under traditional animal control measures. However, because of Zhi’s efforts, the canines are instead given a second chance at life either in the animal shelter Zhi manages or at a monastery.

Zhi Xiang prescribed to a Buddhist monk’s path in his calling. It has become his goal and pursuit to care for as many discarded dogs as possible. That’s a big order in a city known for an explosive population and thousands of stray dogs from families no longer able to care of them or dislocated from the countryside. For thousands of years, dogs have found their fate tied to humans, so Shanghai is, like many cities in Asia, crammed with people who have become a food resource for stray dogs.

As for Zhi, however, his faith propels the monk to care for 8,000 dogs, and the list is growing. A small portion are relocated and adopted out in Europe and the U.S., but the great majority of the animals in Zhi’s care stay put in China. For Zhi, the calling is absolute; if he can’t save the street dogs, they are dead. Ironically, the program started when Zhi first helped cats recover after they had darted in front of a moving car and were injured. In those days, stray animals in the city streets were a rare site. However, only a handful of years later, and now stray dogs are seen everywhere.

Much of the cause of the problem has been people buying puppies without proper training or an ability to care for the animal, as well as not understanding the need to spay or neuter them.

Zhi’s temple has become one of the primary safe havens for lost animals in Shanghai. And it’s not just dogs or cats; he also has a few chickens, a peacock, and other birds as well. Not every resident recovers. About 30 percent of rescues are too far gone with disease or injuries and eventually die, even with care from Zhi. But he tries anyways.

Ironically, in a country where the state runs all the systems, Zhi’s program gets no government help at all. The monk and volunteers do all the work, survive on charity and handouts, and social media fund drives online. Adoption channels overseas have helped, which also moves the animals to better homes outside of China.

Zhi knows he can’t do his work forever, but he tries each day and takes a photograph of as many of the animals as he can. Eventually, those photographs are what he wants to go through when he is too old to handle the labor anymore physically.

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Hyd Child Receives a Super Expensive Medicine to Survive

Kelly Taylor

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There have been multiple stories of how expensive pharmaceuticals can be for modern health. While some of them produce great miracles in solving health problems that previously would kill patients without a solution, they come with a big price tag. For example, when a botulism cure for babies was created, the average cost of the drug was over $21,000 a dose.

Social Media to the Rescue

In the case of Zolgensma, a drug created by Novartis, a similar price tag applies. And for a small Hyderabad boy named Ayaansh, it was a life-changing treatment. Ayaansh suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA, a condition that essentially weakens nerve cells in the back and spinal connection to the brain. Zolgensma has been identified as a viable pharmaceutical option for children under 2 years of age with SMA. Using gene therapy, the drug essentially helps the body replace a faulty SNM1 gene with a normal one. It’s delivered intravenously one time, so the treatment can only be applied in a medical setting by a physician. Doctors identified Zolegensma as an effective treatment for Ayaansh, but the price of the drug was going to total some 16 million rupees. Ayaansh’s parents didn’t have that kind of money, nor did their family.

However, with a bit of awareness and the Internet through social media, Ayaansh’s parents were able to garner the financial help needed from 65,000 donations via crowd-funding. Almost four months later, the charity drive pulled together the necessary funds to cover the cost of the Zolgensma treatment, giving Ayaansh a real chance at recovery and a longer life than he would have without the drug.

Ayaansh is Given a Real Chance

With the financial matters squared away, Ayaansh was provided the treatment at the Rainbow Children’s Hospital, located in Secunderabad. Doctors monitored the reaction in the child for a given period, and ultimately Ayaansh was released without ill side effects. Currently age three, Ayaansh, may now have the ability to enjoy a better life outlook, thanks to the help provided by many donors across India working together via the power of crowd-funding. Some of the more notable donors for Ayaansh included Virat Kohli and spouse, Anushka Sharma, as well as other famous names like Sara Ali Khan and Dia Miza. Even the government helped things along by disregarding the normal import regulations and duty taxes as well as expediting the drug delivery from Novartis. Normally, the import duty tax would have equaled 6 million rupees before the drug could even be used in-country.

Expensive Cures Are Always Paid By Someone

The cost of drugs like Zolgensma continue to create controversy, but the fact remains that the research and science that goes into their creation is expensive. The market approach to allowing drug companies to profit from their efforts remains one of the most effective ways to bring new medical technology into being, but someone, somewhere has to pay for the related cost. Historically, drug companies have relied on developed nations’ economies like those in the West to pay for the initial cost of bringing a new, effective drug to market, meaning many other countries had to wait until the drug became affordable as patents expired. However, crowd-funding and the Internet are obviously changing the dynamics of drug access, as was seen in the case of Ayaansh above.

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80,000 Spiteful Pennies Turned to Something Good

Kevin Wells

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Kids who go through a divorce end up fighting in their parents’ battles, even if the parents never intended to involve them at the start. That was the case for Avery Sanford. She was about to graduate from high school, and her parents were already separated and officially divorced. However, there was the detail of child support that still kept them connected. Just a few days before the big high school event, Avery’s father showed up in front of the family house that Avery and her mother still lived in. And, he began to dump 80,000 pennies on the front lawn.

For Avery’s father, the pennies represented his last child support payment due and, as far as he was concerned, delivered. After all, pennies are still legal U.S. tender and currency, just inconvenient as hell to use. For Avery, the whole spectacle was a huge embarrassment in front of the neighbors, something her father didn’t seem to care about, even for his own daughter.

For the next hour or so, the high school graduate, her mother, and helpful neighbors worked at picking up the pennies and putting them into containers for a more manageable approach. That, of course, gave them plenty of time as well for how to think about what to do next. The answer came to them after a bit of time: the $800 would be donated to a domestic abuse shelter and help center.

The money was provided to the Safe Harbor Shelter, a non-profit dedicated to helping people who have been or are victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault and similar. In addition to the help, Avery and her mother realized they had the ability and power to take what started off as another nasty chapter of a divorce into a positive impact on other people’s lives going forward.

Further, the story sparked a wave of reaction, also positive for the Shelter. Based on the local news carrying the details of the morning fiasco, folks who sympathized with Avery and her mother decided to follow their example and donate as well. The result was another $5,000 donated to the Shelter for its operations.

Interestingly, Avery and her mother aren’t interested in the limelight. Their privacy is worth a lot more, and they have purposefully avoided engaging with the press or any follow-up associated with the incident. While the police did get involved due to a call from Avery’s address about a domestic incident, they concluded no crime was committed. When Avery herself got home, the whole family was upset about the matter and the embarrassment, but it was a slight that not much could be done about. From his perspective, Avery’s father probably thought he got the last laugh. As it turned out, little did he expect, Avery and her mother were going to twist things for the better.

When Mary Maupai, the development director of Safe Harbor Shelter, received an email, she was not expecting it was going to turn into an $800 donation. However, As Maupai read the digital note, she saw a familiar story laid out by Avery’s mother and realized why they were giving the shelter the money involved. That in turn led to the domino effect noted above, and the Shelter realized a cascade of donations right after, ranging from $25 to $1,000. As the Shelter management summed up the event, it was a godsend at the right time.

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Nigerian Houses Feature Plastic Bottles In Incredible Display

Kelly Taylor

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There are more than two ways to accomplish a goal and that was on prime display in Nigeria as houses made from bottles began to spring from the ground. Of course, these houses were put there by savvy Nigerian workers who decided to turn them into what would have otherwise been trash, clogging up waterways and overfilling landfills throughout the country.

This fascinating story can be traced back to the village of Yelwa where the first plastic bottle house of Nigeria was ever constructed.

Welcome to Yelwa

Nestled in the heart of Kebbi State, Yelwa is a town located on the Niger River. With a dark history dating back to the violent massacre that occurred there in 2004, some good news coming out of the town was more than welcome. Traditionally a center for trade in the Yauri Emirate, Yelwa produces millet, cowpeas, tobacco, peppers, sugarcane, and peanuts.

As reported by the BBC, the village of Yelwa has been in the news thanks to its restorative efforts in working with waste to build sustainable housing. Taking massive amounts of what would otherwise be river waste, these builders were able to turn the trash into effective housing materials by crafting durable homes that could withstand even earthquakes!

More than just plastic bottles lined up in a row, the village of Yelwa and its construction workers would fill each container with dry soil, sand, or construction waste. After the bottle has been filled, it is set in a row similar to brick before being bound by mud. The result of this process is a well-insulated, inexpensive, sturdy structure that can withstand both earthquakes and bullets. More than just a local effort, even community leaders and government officials have become interested in the effort.

An Alternative to Traditional Construction

Restorative efforts on the environment in Nigeria will have to assess the impact made by plastic bottles and other pollution. According to the environmental writers at Eco Nigeria, millions of plastic bottles end up in landfills and waterways each year throughout Nigeria. The writer notes, “Bottle houses take the dangerous waste out of the environment and make it useful.”

Ecological concerns are paramount to Nigerian workers as they seek to limit, reduce, and eliminate the spread of toxic pollutants. Plastic waste can take thousands of years to decompose, creating a long-lasting environmental impact that is hard to truly calculate. Toxic pollutants can cause untold damage to the health and vitality of local humans, plants, and wildife.

More than 14,000 bottles were collected for the first bottle house erected in Yelwa. Others are to come with an estimated 8,000 or so required for an additional home. These techniques have made their way out of Yelwa as well, with Eco Nigeria noting that India, South America, and Central America have also adopted the bottle-home technique.

While construction efforts are continuously underway, plans for the bottle homes in the future include solar energy with fuel-efficient appliances, fertilization systems, water purification tanks, and urine filtration. The ultimate eco-friendly sustainable home is apparently just a few more bottles away!

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