Humans are doing better by animals. Mexico joins the ranks of countries banning animal testing for cosmetics, and an endangered marsupial is gaining ground in Australia.
1. United States
Two genetic genealogists are helping find justice for missing and slain transgender and gender nonconforming people. Cold cases are notoriously difficult to solve, and when the victims are trans, the challenges multiply. They may be estranged from their family, meaning no one is filing a missing persons report, and police agencies often misidentify the gender of victims, making it harder for loved ones to find them. Meanwhile, research shows trans people are more than four times as likely to be victims of violent crime as cisgender people. A couple in western Massachusetts are helping to revive these cold cases.
Why We Wrote This
In our progress roundup, conservation targets range from large to seemingly small. But whether saving entire regions or single species, the efforts require commitments to funding and coordination.
Anthony Lukas Redgrave and Lee Bingham Redgrave founded the Trans Doe Task Force in 2018. Both are trans, and had previously founded a private genetic genealogy services company and volunteered with the DNA Doe Project. TDTF has a small team that searches cold cases for trans victims who may have been miscategorized as a “Jane” or “John” Doe, and uses DNA and ancestry records to build a victim’s family tree. The group also facilitates a private database of slain, missing, and unclaimed LGBTQ people. TDTF has helped solve two cases, and is tracking 173 others as of mid-September. Beyond keeping these cold cases from fading out of view, the Redgraves also consult with police departments, media, and forensic professionals on handling LGBTQ cases.
xtra, Williams Institute, Trans Doe Task Force
Mexico became the first country in North America – and 41st globally – to ban animal testing for cosmetics. Last month, the Senate unanimously passed a federal bill banning the testing of individual cosmetics ingredients or finished products on animals, a move many say was inspired in part by the Humane Society International’s viral film “Save Ralph.” The animated story of a cosmetics research rabbit had millions of views on social media and gathered more than 1.3 million signatures for anti-testing legislation in Mexico. The law also prohibits the manufacture, import, and marketing of cosmetics tested on animals elsewhere.
The legislation in Mexico had the support of major beauty companies including L’Oréal, Avon, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever, which are members of a group developing alternative methods of testing. “This is a monumental step forward for animals, consumers and science in Mexico,” said Antón Aguilar, executive director of HSI Mexico, “and this ground-breaking legislation leads the way for the Americas to become the next cruelty-free beauty market, and brings us one bunny-leap closer to a global ban.”
Treehugger, The Business of Fashion
UNESCO has designated a 4,876-square-mile area around the Mura, Drava, and Danube rivers the first biosphere reserve to span five countries. Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, and Slovenia have been campaigning for recognition of a biosphere reserve – dubbed the “Amazon of Europe” – for years. Europe has degraded up to 90% of its flood plains, according to river experts at the World Wildlife Fund. The reserve’s status will help efforts to restore Mura, Drava, and Danube flood plains, and ensure the well-being of the region’s forests, riverbanks, and backwaters. While the reserve includes towns and agricultural development, it also houses several important species, including the continent’s densest population of breeding white-tailed eagles.
“The five countries involved prove that nature conservation can overcome country borders for the benefit of everyone,” said WWF project coordinator Arno Mohl. “In the context of the current climate crisis and massive species extinction, protecting the last natural areas has become a matter of our survival.”
Vending machine programs are bringing clean, affordable water to Nairobi’s largest slums. In recent years, skyrocketing demand for water in Kenya’s capital has hit poor settlements the hardest, where more than half of residents live. Homes are not connected to the water grid, and residents are forced to rely on exploitative water cartels.
Until recently, the daily search for water was dangerous, time-consuming, and expensive. In Mukuru, where most residents earn less than $1.90 a day, resident Josephine Muthoni says she would need to pay cartels 45 cents for 5 gallons of often-polluted water. But with new token-operated vending machines, she can take home twice as much clean water for as little as 1 cent. The dispensers are modeled after a similar system launched in 2016 in Nairobi’s Kibera settlement. There, local nonprofit Shining Hope for Communities operates 23 machines with water sourced from boreholes. Residents say they pay half of what they used to for clean water, with those costs covering machine maintenance and electricity. Inspired by Kibera’s success, the city has drilled nearly 200 boreholes across five Nairobi settlements since April 2020, and while residents wait for the machines to be installed, they can get free, clean water from those wells. “Seeing so much water in Mukuru slums is what we call magic,” said village elder Gideon Musyoka.
Thomson Reuters Foundation
In a conservation first, Australia’s eastern barred bandicoot is back from the brink of extinction. The small nocturnal marsupial was once common throughout southwest Victoria, but habitat destruction, foxes, and feral cats nearly killed off the bandicoot. By 1988, only 150 remained in the wild. After three decades of conservation work, and millions of dollars invested in captive breeding programs and anti-predator fencing, there are now an estimated 1,500 bandicoots in the wild. Victoria’s environment minister recently announced the animal’s threatened species status was downgraded from “extinct in the wild” to “endangered” – a first for Australia, which has the highest animal extinction rate of any country.
That status change enables Zoos Victoria to end its breeding program. Amy Coetsee, a biologist who’s been working with bandicoot populations for years, says the development offers “hope that with persistence, determination and the support of government, volunteers and communities, we can win the fight against extinction.”
BBC, The Sydney Morning Herald