Endangered Species | WABE 90.1 FM

Endangered Species

E.J. Keller / Wikimedia

Neuroscientist Gregory Berns has a closet full of brains in his lab at Emory University.

There are brains from a few species of dolphins. There are coyote brains and a Tasmanian devil brain, which Berns said is sort of the jewel of the collection -- it's the only one in North America, as far as he knows.

He pulls one in a plastic container down off the shelf. 

“This is the brain of a German shepherd who I knew, who was owned by a friend of mine.” He said it's a little sad working with that brain, since he knew the animal.

Alison Guillory / WABE

For Valentine’s Day, here's a story about a long separation, where – finally – the boy and the girl are united.

This is not a story about people. It's not even a story about animals.

This is a story about plants.

First, a very short botany review: Most plants are both male and female. Their flowers have both parts. But some kinds of plants aren't like that; there are males with male flowers, and females with female flowers.

Sea to Shore Alliance, taken under NOAA permit #14388-02

It has not been a good year so far for North Atlantic right whales. The endangered animals have their calves off the coast of Georgia, and officials have seen only three calves so far.

In good years, back in the 2000s, wildlife biologist Clay George says there were 22 to 24 calves in a season, but there's been a downward trend over the past five years.

In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, illegally trafficked leopard and tiger heads stored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Law Enforcement fill the shelves of a warehouse inside the National Wildlife Property Repository in Commerce City, Colo.
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Conservation officials and environmental advocates cracking down on wildlife trafficking unveiled a public campaign at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Wednesday.

The illegal wildlife trade is pretty broad; it includes ivory, rhino horns, shark fins and sea turtle shells. Live animals get trafficked, too: reptiles, tropical fish, birds.

“There's people who are sort of professional smugglers,” said Peter Knights, executive director of the conservation group WildAid. But regular people unintentionally support trafficking, too, he said:

By Craig ONeal [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Parks and natural areas can be like islands for wildlife, surrounded by rivers of roads or seas of development. And as the climate changes and temperatures rise, those islands are changing, too.

Plants and animals will need to move in order to keep living in the conditions they evolved to live in. And to do that, they’ll need to be able to island-hop to higher elevations or higher latitudes. Doable for birds, perhaps, or seeds that travel on the wind. Tougher for, say, a gopher tortoise.