With #WorldWildlifeDay in mind, here are some of our favourite innovations protecting the welfare of animals and other wildlife.
Within all the terror and tragedy of our climate crisis, it is often our natural world, and the animals within it, that suffer the most.
There are many different ways in which animal and wildlife welfare can be preserved, ranging from the rebuilding of habitats, making cities more ecologically friendly, and raising general awareness of the problem.
With #WorldWildlifeDay in mind, here are some of our favourite innovations from recent months, all of which are uniquely trying to protect our innocent animals and the natural world in which they live.
1. TRANSLUCENT BARN IMPROVES ANIMAL WELFARE
One guiding issue in farming is how to improve animal welfare. A Montréal-based architectural studio has recently come up with a barn design that could help improve the quality of life for both animals and workers.
The La Shed Architecture-designed barn, which was created and built for an organic cheese farm in Montérégie, Quebec, features walls made of translucent polycarbonate sheeting. To ensure that the building blends harmoniously into the landscape, the framework was made from spruce and hemlock – materials commonly used to construct barns in Canada.
2. TURBINE DESIGN ALLOWS FISH TO PASS SAFELY
Hydroelectric turbines are used to produce renewable energy, but they come with risks to wildlife, particularly salmon and other fish that need to use the waterways. The fish can get sucking into the spinning blades of the turbines. To prevent this typically requires the turbines to have much larger, widely-spaced blades – which is more expensive to build and generally can’t be used in smaller dams. Now, a new type of turbine has been designed that leaves the fish unharmed without taking up additional space.
Developed by California’s Natel Energy, the Restoration Hydro Turbine has an inner diameter of just 1 to 3 metres and uses blades with a blunt, slanting edge. The design deflects the fish away from the blades. They also do not require the use of fish-proof screens, which can slow the flow of water and reduce the effectiveness of the turbines.
3. MAPPING TECHNIQUE HELPS CREATE WILDLIFE CORRIDORS
Researchers from Washington State University have created a new technique of mapping the potential for landscape restoration for improved wildlife corridors. The process provides a weighted rating for the strength of the legal authority governing each parcel of land and the naturalness of the environment under consideration. The ensuing maps provide conservation projects and organisations with data to help prioritise the allocation of resources.
4. 3D–PRINTED SEAWALLS PROMOTE BIODIVERSITY AND REDUCE POLLUTION
Specially designed 3D-printed cement tiles are being used to restore marine biodiversity in Australia. The tiles are irregularly shaped to mimic the root structure of mangrove trees, which are a favourite habitat for sea life but are disappearing at an alarming rate. Oysters, molluscs and other marine life use the artificial crevices in the gaps between the tiles to create new habitats, according to Reef Design Lab, which made the habitat. The tiles are marine-grade concrete reinforced with recycled plastic fibres.
5. GLASS BEADS MAY SLOW ARCTIC MELTING WHILE PRESERVING WILDLIFE
US-based geo-engineering nonprofit Ice911 Research wants to save the Arctic by spreading silica beads over polar sea ice. The scientists believe the beads will reflect heat from the sun and create new ice. The silica beads will reflect the sun, reducing the amount of heat sea ice absorbs. That, in turn, will reduce melting and would also, the group says, foster the creation of new ice.
Ice911 Research proposes using hollow silica beads — each one 35 micrometres in diameter — to coat the surface of the sea. The size would prevent them from harming wildlife; the beads have already been tested on minnows and birds and no harm was observed.
6. DUTCH CITY TURNS BUS STOPS INTO BEE STOPS
The province of Utrecht in the Netherlands decorated 316 bus stops with green roofs to support bee pollination. Of the 358 bee species in the Netherlands, 56 per cent of them are currently in danger of extinction. By turning bus stops into green hubs, the city hopes to encourage pollination and bee reproduction.
The roofs are mainly decorated with sedum plants, as they require low maintenance. Other benefits of green-roof bus stops include storing rainwater, improving air quality and acting as a cooling system during the summer months. The city is also incentivising residents to transform their own rooftops into green-roofs, offering compensation to anyone with a roof over 20 square metres.
7. SILK HORNS HELP CONSERVATIONISTS PROTECT RHINOS FROM POACHERS
In an exciting collaboration between materials science and conservation, a team of researchers from the UK’s University of Oxford and Shanghai’s Fudan University created a fake rhino horn that is nearly indistinguishable from a real one. The proof of concept has already survived thermal and infrared analysis, as well as mechanical tests. Using a simple and inexpensive combination of horsetail hairs glued together with regenerated silk, scientists have created an incredibly realistic fake.
26th February 2021