21 Aralık 2008 Pazar

Dinosaur Dads Played "Mr. Mom"?

The paternal care common among birds may have its origins among dinosaurs closely related to Velociraptor, reports a new study. Researchers studying the evolution of reproduction in the swift and carnivorous creatures, which are believed to have evolved into birds, found that one species, Troodon, frequently laid large clutches of eggs.

"By volume, these dinosaurs were laying clutches that were two to three times larger than what would be expected for their adult body size, and we wanted to know why," said study author David Varricchio, a paleontologist at Montana State University, whose research appears in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.


16 Aralık 2008 Salı

The Best Green Adventures on Earth

Thirty years ago ecotourism was just an idea. Now it's going mainstream.
Here are ten places where it's making a difference—one trip at a time.
Text by Costas Christ Map by Keith Negley

Map: World
One afternoon in 1978 I found myself standing on the roof of a Land Rover in Kenya, watching the Samburu National Reserve—an arid stretch of the northern frontier roamed by rare wildlife and camera-wielding tourists—go up in flames. This was the heyday of mass safari resorts, and while large operators raked in millions, the Samburu people, the ones the park was named after, weren't benefiting. Frustrated by this injustice, they'd rather imprudently torched the savanna. As gerenuks, impalas, and giraffes bounded to safer ground, I helped the park warden and his rangers, many of them in sandals, beat the fire back.

How could a booming safari industry let its rangers go bootless and leave its local people disenfranchised? In the ensuing years, I met others—David Western in Kenya, Stanley Selengut in the Caribbean, Pradeep Sanghala in India—who shared a belief that tourism, if done right, could make places better for humans and nature. While nature travel boomed in the '80s, the tenets of ecotourism were slow to take root. In 1991, when a dozen scientists, conservationists, and tour operators from around the world gathered in a farmhouse outside Washington, D.C., for the inaugural meeting of The International Ecotourism Society, the first task was to define what, exactly, ecotourism was. We decided on this: "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." None of us, however, knew of a real working model of it anywhere.

Thirty years after setting a game park on fire, the Samburu operate community-owned wildlife reserves and lodges in the northern frontier and practice a form of tourism that promotes social and economic cooperation. Kenya, rocked by the postelection turmoil of the past few months, will need time to repair its reputation as the world's great safari destination, but it was ecotourism's early staging ground, and that approach—improving lives and preserving wildlife—can help the country find its way forward.

Since then ecotourism has gone mainstream, and we can point to thriving international successes: Brazil's wetlands, the barrier reef off Belize, the Arabian Desert, even Northern Ireland. Responsible travelers and enlightened practices are transforming the $5 trillion global travel and tourism industry into an opportunity to empower people and protect the planet in the process.


14 Aralık 2008 Pazar

8 New Africa Adventures

Map: Africa

All Across Africa

Wild safaris, bushwhacking treks, cultural close encounters—the new trend on the ancient continent is Africa as it was.

Text by Costas Christ
Map by Haisam Hussein
Africa is not generally a place for adventurers to wing it. In fact, in many places, going solo is illegal. Bush travel is a calculated risk, and reputable outfitters (with armed guides) are a given. But that doesn’t mean you’re in for the tourist treatment. Companies are refining trips that reflect a growing retro trend in Africa, offering travelers what feel more like private expeditions: jungle trekking in Guinea, sailing with Swahili seafarers, stalking lions alongside Maasai trackers. If you know where to go, and who to go with, Africa will meet you on its own terms.
1. Senegal
Lend a Hand

Before the term "ecotourism" was coined, Senegal’s Casamance region—with coiled rivers, palm-lined beaches, and rich cultural heritage—was already experimenting with travel that supported local communities. That vision was snuffed in 1982, when war flared between separatist rebels and government forces. For the next 22 years, Casamance dropped off the travel map; its villagers struggled to survive. A peace accord was signed in 2004, and the region has been stirring cautious interest again. Nonprofit outfitter H.E.L.P. Travel runs a signature 15-day pirogue expedition down the mangrove-banked Casamance River that includes wildlife treks into Niokolo-Koba National Park and trips to remote villages for hands-on community development—e.g., building wells, teaching children, working alongside local women in the fields and markets. No plush beds or gourmet meals in this Africa, just full immersion and concrete proof that your visit is helping make a difference in the lives of your hosts ($2,316 per person; helptravel.org).