Archive | April, 2014

California’s Greatest Conservation Success Story

In California’s greatest conservation success story, better water quality and intentional ecosystem management have brought great white sharks back in significant numbers to waters off the California coast.

White Shark by Ken Bondy on Flickr:

White Shark – Photo by Ken Bondy

“Great white shark” is the common name for the species scientists usually refer to as “white sharks.” A study of the migrations of these sharks has lead to the discovery of two nurseries for baby white sharks, one along the Southern California coast and another in the Baja area and Dr. Christopher Lowe, California State University, Long Beach Professor of Marine Biology says that white sharks should not be considered threatened or endangered at this time.

Great white sharks pre-date dinosaurs in evolutionary history and have evolved to be warm-blooded. They give birth to 2 to 14 live pups. Babies average a little less than six feet in length, growing in the first year to over 11 feet. Adults are 11.5 to 12 feet in length.

Dr. Lowe discussed the 10-year research project that documented this success story at an April 11 Lunch and Learn talk at the California Science Center (CSC) in Los Angeles. Havasi Wilderness Foundation Director Sandor “Alex” Havasi and Assistant Director Marilyn Fordney were invited to attend the talk.  Dr. Lowe explained that biologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Southern California Marine Institute partnered with Cal State University, Long Beach to learn the migrations of juvenile great white sharks in waters off Southern California and Baja California.  

Today, when a white shark is caught in an off shore net, fisherman must report the incident. To facilitate research and to protect the shark, a tag is put on the captured shark’s fin and it is released. These hi-tech devices transmit data via satellite, allowing researchers to learn where they migrate in the winter and where their nurseries are located.

Marine stock and marine mammals declined in California’s coastal waters when the use of entangle nets began in 1949. But in 1994, Proposition 132 banned the use of the entangle nets in certain waters and near shore gillnets were banned in 1999. Since that ban, researchers have seen an increase in numbers of white sea bass, giant black sea bass, leopard shark, and soupfin shark.  Sea lion populations have been on the upswing since their lows in the 1920s. Their population is currently growing at an explosive rate of 6.5% annually, creating an attractive food source for large predators.

Cleaner waters have also helped the white shark population rebound. Presently there is wastewater treatment along the entire Southern California coast, though urban runoff and trash remain a problem. Many contaminants have been banned, such as DDT which has been banned for over 40 years, and environmental levels are decreasing. Other important conservation measures that have contributed to growth in the number of white sharks along with many species of fish include the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972.

By being careful to minimize the human impact on the environment, this species that predates humans by tens of millions of years has been able to make a comeback off California’s coast in just the last few decades.


Madagascar 3D

Madagascar 3D

Recently the director and assistant director of the Havasi Widerness Foundation (HWF) attended the premier of “Island of Lemurs-Madagascar 3D” that was held at the California Science Center’s IMAX Theater. HWF partners with the California Science Center (CSC) to help inner city students enjoy what the CSC has to offer.

This true story is about lemurs and the only place on earth where they live in remote Madagascar. Lemurs arrived millions of years ago as castaways to the island of Madagascar. It is thought they must have floated from Africa on branches of trees. Over centuries, hundreds of diverse species of lemurs evolved and are now highly endangered due to erection of buildings and taking land to produce food for growing populations.

Dr. Patricia Wright is the scientist who has been on a lifelong mission to help these strange and adorable creatures survive in the modern world. She discovered the Golden Bamboo lemur that was previously unknown to science. The mouse lemur is the smallest primate in the world but it still has the same genetic foundation of all primates, including humans. Mouse lemurs in captivity are one of the few animals that have been documented getting Alzheimer’s disease. The most recognizable of all lemurs is the ring-tailed lemur because it is seen in zoos around the world. In the wild, they travel in groups of about 20 and the females are dominant.

Another very enjoyable sequence of the film is seeing the dancing Sifakas who leap great distances because they are built for jumping, not walking. When they travel on the ground, they skip and dance from side to side in “a charming lateral ballet.”

One part of the film shows an Indri who gives birth and this species is the largest of the lemurs. They are vocal and have a plaintive wail that echoes through the forest and whole groups join in unison to sing to each other from great distances.

Madagascar’s top international recording artist, Hanitrarivo (Hanitra) Rasoanaivo and her band Tarika feature four songs on the film track. Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman narrates the film.

Learn about how special the lemurs are and what you can do to save the rainforest and the lemurs by visiting the California Science Center in Los Angeles and seeing this 3D IMAX film. Visit the website: and click on “video” to see the trailer.