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08.2018

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP

“We are now living


in a worldwide test of the
negative consequences
of sleep deprivation.”
RO B E RT ST I C KG O L D,
H A R VA R D M E D I C A L S C H O O L
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toyota.com/camry
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N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C AUGUST 2018

On the Cover
C O N T E N T S Wile Wennman, seven, of
Nacka, Sweden, likes to fall
asleep with the light on, says
his father, Magnus—a pho-
tographer who’s traveled
the world to capture how
and where people sleep.
MAGNUS WENNMAN

P R O O F E M B A R K E X P L O R E

17
36
8
THE BIG IDEA THROUGH THE LENS

Are We as Awful An Image’s Impact


as We Act Online? They shared a photo to
It’s not human nature warn of climate threats
that sparks mean posts to wildlife but the mes-
and tweets. But evolu- sage got sidetracked.
tion does play a role. BY C R I ST I N A M I T T E R M E I E R
BY AG U S T Í N F U E N T E S
ATLAS

DATA SHEET
Coral Reef Loss
Earth-Friendly Transit Rising sea surface tem-
Endangered Birds Transportation systems peratures cause coral
When one-of-a-kind help cities stem pollu- bleaching and death
species are on the tion, increase livability. at landmarks like the
verge of extinction, BY RYA N MO R R I S A N D Great Barrier Reef.
what persuades people K E L S E Y N OWA KOW S K I BY L AU R E N E . JA M E S
to save them? Maybe
the right images. ALSO ALSO

BY J O N AT H A N B A I L L I E • Ancient Bloodsuckers • Out of Eden Walk: Update


P H OTO G R A P H S BY • Chilling Out on Mars • Descent Into a Volcano
T I M F L AC H • Migration’s Artifacts With Sulfur Miners
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A U G U S T | CONTENTS

F E AT U R E S The Science of Sleep Poisoning Africa Butterfly Catchers


Though slumber may To stop predators that Winged beauties end
look like an idle state, kill livestock, Kenya’s up on a black market.
new science reveals herders put out toxic BY M AT T H E W T E AG U E
that our brains aren’t bait—and end up poi- P H OTO G R A P H S BY
less active when we soning the ecosystem. E VG E N I A A R B U GA E VA
sleep—just differently BY E DW I N D O B B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P. 112
active. On a good P H OTO G R A P H S BY
night, we’ll cycle CHARLIE HAMILTON JAMES
DISPATCHES

repeatedly through . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P. 78 Health Care Crisis


several sleep stages, Yemen’s war makes it
each with distinct Historic Whalers harder and costlier to
qualities and purpose. Remains of a Basque get medical treatment.
BY MICHAEL FINKEL galleon shed light on BY NINA STROCHLIC
P H OTO G RA P H S BY whalers’ life and work. P H OTO G RA P H S BY
M AG N U S W E N N M A N BY F E R N A N D O G . B A P T I STA M AT T E O B A S T I A N E L L I
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P. 40 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P. 102 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P. 134
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A U G U S T | W H AT ’ S C OM I N G

B I R DS OF
THE

P H OTO A R K
P H OTO G R A P H S / J O E L SA RTO R E
T E X T / N OA H S T RYC K E R

BOOKS

Birds of the Photo


Ark Take Flight
Of the many species
that Joel Sartore has
photographed, some
of the most glorious
are birds. Their images
fill the 240 pages
of Birds of the Photo
Ark, available where
books are sold and
at shopng.com/books.

NAT GEO WILD

Learn Insiders’
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Go behind the scenes
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the Zoo airs Sundays
at 9/8c starting July 29
on Nat Geo WILD.

NAT

GEO
Observe Wildlife in Real NAT GEO WILD

TV
Time on Yellowstone Live Safari Live Is Back
The popular real-
Within the 22.6 million acres of the Greater Yellow- time program returns,
stone Ecosystem, there are lush forests, dramatic broadcasting from
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species. For the four-night television event Yellow- and from Kenya’s
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stone Live, world-renowned cinematographers will
Reserve. Safari Live:
use cutting-edge technology to show some of Earth’s Migration premieres
most majestic wildlife in real time. Episodes will July 27 at 11/10c on
air August 5 to 8 at 9/8c on National Geographic. Nat Geo WILD.

Subscriptions For subscriptions or changes of address, contact Customer Service at ngmservice.com Contributions to the National Geographic Society are tax de-
or call 1-800-647-5463. Outside the U.S. or Canada call +1-515-237-3674. We occasionally make ductible under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code. | Copyright
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A U G U S T | 3 QUESTIONS FROM THE EDITOR

ARIANNA
HUFFINGTON
Short on Sleep
INTERVIEW BY SUSAN GOLDBERG

Thanks for sharing your expertise


on sleep, the topic of our cover
story. Thomas Edison called sleep
“an absurdity” and “a bad habit.”
Is that idea ingrained in our culture?
I think it’s deeply ingrained, but
we’re at a moment of transformation.
What stops people from prioritiz-
ing sleep is the fear that somehow
they’re going to miss out. We have
so many phrases that confirm that—
“You snooze, you lose,” “I’ll sleep
when I’m dead.” But now there are
role models, people who are priori-
tizing sleep and are superefective.

You’re known as hard-charging. Did


you have a moment when you said,
I’ve got to change what I’m doing?
Yes, in 2007 when I collapsed from
sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and
burnout. Being a divorced mother of
two teenage daughters, I had bought
into the delusion that this was the price
of success and of managing all aspects
of my life. It was after I collapsed that I
started studying this epidemic of burn-
out. There had been a lot written about
the importance of nutrition and exer-
cise, but sleep was still underrated and
dismissed. And so I wrote the book.

Will getting enough sleep ever be


Arianna Huffington, 68, co-founded the news and blog website the prioritized in our culture?
Huffington Post, and is CEO and founder of the wellness company Thrive
Its importance is becoming more rec-
Global. She has authored 15 books, including The Sleep Revolution:
Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. ognized. Of course there are holdouts,
people who still brag about how little
sleep they get, but they’re increasingly
like dinosaurs. One of the metaphors
‘WHEN I GET EIGHT I use is that sleep is like the laundry.
HOURS, I KNOW THE You’re not going to take out the laundry
DIFFERENCE. I KNOW 10 minutes early to save time. You have
to complete all the cycles in the washing
I’M MORE EFFECTIVE;
machine. Our sleep cycles have to be
I KNOW I’M THE BEST
completed too; otherwise we wake up
V E R S I O N O F M Y S E L F.’ and we feel like wet and dirty laundry.

PETER YANG
THIS INTERVIEW WAS EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY.
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P R O O F

P H OTO G R A P H S BY TIM FLACH

N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C LO O K I N G AT T H E E A RT H F ROM E V E RY P O S S I B L E A N G L E

8 N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C SHOEBILL (BALAENICEPS REX)


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EMBRACING THE ENDANGERED


If these photos make you care about protecting these birds … well, that’s the point.
VO L . 2 3 4 N O. 2

P H I L I P P I N E E A G L E ( P I T H E C O P H AG A J E F F E RY I ) AUGUST 2018 9
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P R O O F

10 N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C
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E G Y P T I A N V U LT U R E
(NEOPHRON
PERCNOPTERUS)
This vulture’s range
includes southern
Europe, Africa, India,
and Nepal. The Inter-
national Union for
Conservation of Nature
(IUCN) has assessed
the bird as endan-
gered, one of the nine
categories it uses to
describe a species’
conservation status.
PHOTOGRAPHED AT INTERNATIONAL
CENTRE FOR BIRDS OF PREY, NEWENT,
ENGLAND

PREVIOUS PHOTOS

Left: The shoebill


is found in East Africa
from South Sudan
to Zambia. The IUCN
has assessed it as
vulnerable.
ZOOTAMPA AT LOWRY PARK,
TAMPA, FLORIDA

Right: The IUCN says


this eagle is critically
endangered in its
range, which covers
the Philippine islands
of Leyte, Luzon, Min-
danao, and Samar.
PHILIPPINE EAGLE FOUNDATION,
DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES

AUGUST 2018 11
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P R O O F

M I L I TA RY M A C AW ( A R A M I L I TA R I S ) The IUCN has assessed the military macaw as vulnerable. Its range
extends from Mexico to Argentina. This captive bird was photographed at a private collection.

12 N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C
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This North American bird was hunted to extinction;


PA S S E N G E R P I G E O N ( E C T O P I S T E S M I G R AT O R I U S )
the last one died in 1914. This specimen is part of the collection of extinction expert Errol Fuller.

AUGUST 2018 13
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P R O O F

THE BACKSTORY
T O S AV E R A R E S P E C I E S F R O M E X T I N C T I O N , W E N E E D T O B U I L D
E M OT I O N A L B O N D S W I T H T H E N AT U R A L W O R L D.

C O N S I D E R T H E S H O E B I L L , whose photo unusual, obscure creatures. We saw the


opens this article. It’s a one-of-a-kind book as a great opportunity to explore
species on the verge of extinction— which images of species and habitats
exactly the type targeted for protec- would elicit an emotional response.
tion by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Were people connecting to species
Globally Endangered species program, that were larger? More colorful? Or that
aka EDGE of Existence. But when I had traits similar to human babies’,
started the EDGE initiative in 2007, such as big eyes? Was it more powerful
the challenge was getting people who’d if species were pictured in portrait style
never heard of those animals to commit or in their native habitat? Did the viewer
to protecting them. connect through seemingly shared
Ideally I could have gone to the emotions or behaviors, such as mater-
leading marketing agency for nature nal gestures, fear, and vulnerability?
and asked what to do to get people to Flach’s images have helped start the
emotionally connect with these weird discussion. Now we at National Geo-
and wonderful creatures. But no such graphic, through our Making the Case
agency exists—and we’ve only begun for Nature grants program, are inviting
to develop both the art and science of experts to ofer ideas about how to bet-
making this vital connection. ter connect humans with the natural
Tim Flach photographed the birds world. It’s a critical question; our future
in this article; all are in his book depends on it. — J O N AT H A N B A I L L I E
Endangered, to which I contributed.
At the National Geographic Society, Jonathan
Flach has a unique ability to capture Baillie is chief scientist and executive vice
an animal’s essence and an ainity for president of science and exploration.

Human actions are driving the decline of threatened bird species


Most of the forces threatening bird populations are at least in part generated by
humans. Currently, expanding agriculture and aquaculture pose the greatest risks;
in the future the leading risk factor for many birds may be climate change.

LEADING RISKS FOR THREATENED BIRD SPECIES *


Agriculture and aquaculture

Logging

Hunting and trapping

Invasive species

Industry and urbanization

Climate change and severe weather

Pollution

Geological events

Other
(Includes human 0% 25% 50% of species
disturbances, mining, fires) affected

*INCLUDES BIRDS LISTED AS CRITICALLY ENDANGERED, ENDANGERED, OR VULNERABLE ON THE IUCN RED LIST; STATUS AS OF 2017

DAISY CHUNG, NGM STAFF. SOURCE: BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL


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IN THIS SECTION

Toward Greener Cities

E M B A R K Mushrooming Growth
Chilling Out on Mars
Migration’s Artifacts

T H E D I S C O V E R I E S O F T O D AY T H AT W I L L D E F I N E T H E W O R L D O F T O M O R R O W

N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C VO L . 2 34 N O. 2

Are We as Awful
as We Act Online?
I T ’ S N O T B R U T I S H H U M A N N AT U R E T H AT P R O M P T S N A S T Y P O S T S A N D
T W E E T S , T H E A U T H O R S AY S . B U T H O W W E E V O LV E D D O E S P L AY A R O L E .

BY AGUSTÍN FUENTES

Y
your throat cut out and your
“ YO U N E E D T O H AV E
decomposing, bug-infested body fed to wild pigs.”
An anonymous Facebook user wrote that—and more
that’s unprintable—to Kyle Edmund after the British
pro tennis player lost in a 2017 tournament.
After University of Cambridge classics professor
Mary Beard spoke about the history of male suppres-
sion of female voices, she received Twitter threats,
including “I’m going to cut of your head and rape it.”
On Martin Luther King Day this year, an anony-
mous Twitter user lionized the man who killed King
some 50 years ago: “RIP James Earl Ray. A true fighter
for the white race.” The same month, U.S. President
Donald Trump tweeted that his “Nuclear Button … is
a much bigger & more powerful one” than Kim Jong
Un’s. This capped weeks of dueling statements in
which Trump called the North Korean leader “Rocket
Man” and “a madman” and Kim called Trump “a
gangster” and a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

AUGUST 2018 17
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E M B A R K | THE BIG IDEA

HOW WE EXPERIENCE THE WORLD


I S I N T E N S E LY S H A P E D B Y W H O
AND WHAT SURROUND US ON A
DA I LY B A S I S . T O DAY T H AT C A N
INCLUDE MORE VIRT UAL , SO CIAL
MEDIA FRIENDS THAN
PHYSICAL ONES.

The internet is a particularly volatile place of late.


Aggression on social media has reached such a pin-
nacle of acrimony that some U.S. House members
proposed designating an annual “National Day of
Civility.” The proposal drew civil responses—but also
tweets and posts of wrath, ridicule, and profanity.
Is this aggression on social media giving us a Lobbing hostile
glimpse of human nature, one in which we are, at
our core, nasty, belligerent beasts?
language online
No.
It’s true that hate crimes are on the rise, political How—and why—are American
divisions are at record heights, and the level of vitriol adults abusing one another on the
in the public sphere, especially online, is substantial. internet? In 2017 the Pew Research
But that’s not because social media has unleashed a Center crunched the numbers.
brutish human nature. In a study of some 4,000 people,
In my work as an evolutionary anthropologist, I’ve four out of 10 said they’d been
spent years researching and writing about how, over subjected to harassing behav-
the past two million years, our lineage transformed ior. Politics was the issue most
from groups of apelike beings armed with sticks and likely to trigger the harassment:
stones to the creators of cars, rockets, great artworks, About a third of those who’d been
nations, and global economic systems. attacked—Democrats and Repub-
How did we do this? Our brains got bigger, and our licans equally—said it was due to
capacities for cooperation exploded. We’re wired to their political beliefs. More than
work together, to forge diverse social relationships, half those who’d been harassed
and to creatively problem-solve together. This is the said they didn’t know the perpe-
inheritance that everyone in the 21st century carries. trator’s identity; nearly nine out of
I would argue that the increase in online aggres- 10 said the anonymity online pro-
sion is due to an explosive combination of this human vides cover for vicious and harassing
evolutionary social skill set, the social media boom, behavior. Among the adults polled,
and the specific political and economic context in slightly less than a third said they
which we find ourselves—a combination that’s responded or took some sort of
opened up a space for more and more people to fan action when witnessing someone
the flames of aggression and insult online. being harassed online, and slightly
more than a third said they made
LET ME EXPLAIN. We’ve all heard the diet-conscious no response. — N I N A S T R O C H L I C
axiom “You are what you eat.” But when it comes
H OW E A SY I S I Tto hurl anonymous insults on
to our behavior, a more apt variation is “You are social media? As visualized by artist Javier Jaén,
whom you meet.” How we perceive, experience, it’s as easy as if a brawny catapult were flinging
an egg—in this case, the blue egg that was
and act in the world is intensely shaped by who and Twitter’s original default anonymous avatar.
what surround us on a daily basis—our families, The aim was to express “hate in the internet
era, especially on the social network of the blue
communities, institutions, beliefs, and role models.
bird,” Jaén says. “I’m already waiting for the
These sources of influence find their way even into Twitter trolls to criticize the image.”
our neurobiology. Our brains and bodies constantly
undergo subtle changes so that how we perceive the
world plays of of, and maps to, the patterns of those
people and places we see as most connected to us.
This process has deep evolutionary roots and gives
humans what we call a shared reality. The connection
between minds and experiences enables us to share

18 N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C
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E M B A R K | THE BIG IDEA

space and work together efectively, more so than


IF THE ANTAG ONIZERS
most other beings. It’s in part how we’ve become
such a successful species. ON S O CIAL MEDIA FACE
But the “who” that constitutes “whom we meet” NO REPERCUS SIONS, THAT
in this system has been changing. Today the who ENCOURAGES THE GROWTH
can include more virtual, social media friends O F A G G R E S S I O N , I N C I V I L I T Y,
than physical ones; more information absorbed via AND JUST PLAIN MEANNESS.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram than in physical
social experiences; and more pronouncements from
ad-sponsored 24-hour news outlets than from con- collectively to punish and shame aggressive anti-
versations with other human beings. social actions such as bullying or abuse. On social
We live in complicated societies structured around media, where the troll is remote and anonymous,
political and economic processes that generate even the best intentioned individual challenge may
massive inequality and disconnection between us. devolve into a shouting match. But confronting the
This division alone leads to a plethora of prejudices bully with a group action—a reasoned, communal
and blind spots that segregate people. The ways we response rather than a knee-jerk, solo gesture—can
socially interact, especially via social media, are be more efective at shutting down aggression.
multiplying exactly at a time when we are increas- Consider the impact of the #MeToo movement,
ingly divided. What may be the consequences? the Time’s Up movement, and the Black Lives Matter
Historically, we have maintained harmony by dis- movement. Look at the public pressure brought to
playing compassion and geniality, and by fostering bear on media corporations to monitor “fake news”
connectedness when we get together. Anonymity and hate speech.
and the lack of face-to-face interaction on social These are excellent examples of how humans can
media platforms remove a crucial part of the equa- leverage social media to nurture what’s positive and
tion of human sociality—and that opens the door to sanction what’s negative.
more frequent, and severe, displays of aggression. After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman
Being an antagonizer, especially to those you don’t Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, activist
have to confront face-to-face, is easier now than it’s students called out their Twitter trolls and shut them
ever been. If there are no repercussions for it, that down. The neo-Nazi rallies have diminished, and
encourages the growth of aggression, incivility, and some of the alt-right hate websites have been taken
just plain meanness on social media platforms. oline—all because thousands of people stood up
to them and said, “No more.”
SINCE WE’LL CONTINUE to be influenced by whom Yes, it seems that the world is getting more aggres-
we meet virtually, the next question is: Whom do we sive, but that’s not because we are aggressive at our
want to meet? What kind of society do we want to core. It’s because we haven’t been stepping up, in
shape and be shaped by? That is, how do we modify unison, to do the diicult social work our contempo-
the whom by which our brains and bodies are being rary world demands. That means standing up against
molded—and thereby reduce the aggression? bullying, abuse, and aggressive harassment, and
Humans are evolutionarily successful because fostering pro-social attitudes and actions. In person
our big brains have allowed us to bond together and and on social media, we must do both.
cooperate in more complex and diverse manners
than any other animal. The capacity to observe how Agustín Fuentes, who has been a National Geographic explorer
and grantee, is the Edmund P. Joyce Professor of Anthropology
the world operates, to imagine how it might improve,
at the University of Notre Dame. He has authored numerous
and to turn that vision into reality (or at least make books, including Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You:
the attempt) is the hallmark of humanity. Busting Myths About Human Nature and The Creative Spark:
And therein lies the solution to the problem. We How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional.
are equipped with the skill set both to quell aggres-
sion and to encourage cohesion.
For countless millennia people have acted
61% 39%
ignored it

39% did not ignore

Antisocial media
online harassment.
Here’s what they did:
1. Confronted the person online
2. Unfriended/blocked the
When the Pew Research Center asked people how they person
handled their most recent exposure to online harass- 3. Reported the person
ment, 61 percent said they ignored it. The rest said responsible to website
they made some sort of response; within that group, 4. Confronted the person face-
to-face or via text/phone call
the top six responses, ranked by popularity at right, 5. Discussed problem online
ranged from confronting the harasser online to delet- 6. Changed username/
ing or changing the name on their own account online. deleted profile

SOURCE: PEW RESEARCH CENTER


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Trademarks owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A., Vevey, Switzerland


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Energized

In just days.
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through powerful combinations of natural ingredients
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E M B A R K | DATA S H E E T

are striving to improve air quality


C I T I E S A RO U N D T H E WO R L D

TOWARD and provide better transit options to their citizens by embrac-


ing environmentally friendly practices such as creating bike
lanes, using alternative fuels, and offering incentives for elec-

GREENER tric vehicles. A recent survey of a hundred international cities


ranks how well municipal governments are doing at helping
people get where they need to go while also making cities
more livable and attractive—and sustainable.

CITIES B Y RYA N M O R R I S A N D K E L S E Y N O WA K O W S K I

ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURES CITY LOCATION


Selected cities; higher numbers are better scores. Africa
North America
South America
Low levels of Protected Asia
congestion 100 ( b e s t ) green space Europe
and delays

80

SH
60

EN
RIO

ZH
DE
JA

EN
NE
IRO
40
T
UR
KF
AN
FR
20
Bicycle Low levels of
infrastructure greenhouse gas
emissions from
CAIRO transportation

ES
NGEL
LOS A

Low levels of Electric-vehicle


air pollution incentives

Legislative efforts to
lower transportation
emissions

HOW THE CITIES RANK

Munich, Berlin, Sydney, Johannesburg, Mumbai,


Germany Germany Edinburgh, Baltimore, Boston, Australia South Africa India
(#2) (#3) U.K. (#22) U.S. (#25) U.S. (#43) (#61) (#72) (#84)

Seoul,
South Korea
(#11)

1 FRANKFURT 28 SHENZHEN 52 RIO DE JANEIRO 67 LOS ANGELES 97 CAIRO


German cities Despite its rapid To combat major Electric-vehicle The densely
score high due growth from fishing pollution, the Bra- incentives and populated Egyp-
to advanced bike village to mega- zilian city launched investments in tian city struggles
infrastructure, lopolis of over a 50-year strategy public transit are to meet demand
plentiful green 10 million people, in 2015 to improve improving mobil- for public transit.
spaces, and the Chinese city air quality and local ity in the U.S. city, Offering a wider
low greenhouse has developed ecosystems by which is known for variety of transit
gas emissions. sustainable transit. using cleaner fuels. its epic traffic jams. options could help.

ART: ÁLVARO VALIÑO. SOURCE: SUSTAINABLE CITIES MOBILITY INDEX 2017, PLANET SUB-INDEX, ARCADIS
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Jim Beam Black® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 43% Alc./Vol. ©2018 James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont, KY.
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E M B A R K | CAPTURED

Magic Mushroom
This triple-exposure

FAST FUNGI photograph shows a fly


agaric blooming over
the span of 36 hours.
Mushrooms do all their
growing underground.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PHRED PETERSEN The fruit—the part
we see—emerges fully
formed, unfurling
rapidly once it hits air.
— N ATA S H A D A LY
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Get a unique perspective on the national parks—and


help protect these wild places—when you travel with
National Geographic.

© 2018 National Geographic Partners, LLC. National Geographic EXPEDITIONS and the Yellow Border Design are trademarks of the National Geographic
Society, used under license. NGM0818A
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E M B A R K | BREAKTHROUGHS

A
Bloodsuckers Even Then
Here’s proof that ticks are truly
prehistoric pests: When scientists
D I S PAT C H E S found 99-million-year-old ticks
entombed in Burmese amber, one
FROM THE FRONT LINES (A) was engorged with blood.
OF SCIENCE Judging by a feather entangled
A N D I N N O VA T I O N with another of the arachnids (B),
ticks may have preyed on feath-
ered dinosaurs in the Cretaceous
B
period. — L O R I C U T H B E R T

SPACE

HOW TO CHILL
OUT ON THE
RED PLANET
I C E H O M E M AY S H I E L D M A R S
S E T T L E R S F R O M R A D I AT I O N

Settling on Mars? That radia-


tion is a killer. To block harmful
cosmic rays while letting light
in, the protective habitat
depicted below would use ice.
The plan: A shipment of Mars
Ice Home components would
BIOLOGY land and begin to deploy.
A circular array of cells would
Salamanders Might Hold Clues for inflate and fill with water drawn
Humans on Regrowing Body Parts from Martian resources. That
A creature that can repair and regenerate limbs and organs is would freeze into the radiation
helping scientists at the University of Minnesota understand why shield. Homes could be linked
humans can’t do the same. The critically endangered axolotl— to form an expandable base.
also known as the Mexican salamander—shares a type of cell, NASA chose the project to
called a glial cell, with humans. If an axolotl hurts its spinal cord,
be part of its 2019 MISSE-11
its glial cells go to work to repair the nerve damage and fix the
injury. The same cells in humans work to form scar tissue, which
mission, which will test how
prevents nerve pathways from regenerating. Researchers hope well the home’s materials hold
that grasping the underlying process of how axolotls can regrow up by attaching them to the
their bits will one day help us regrow ours. — L O R I C U T H B E RT outside of the International
Space Station. — L C

PHOTOS: ENRIQUE PEÑALVER MOLLÁ, INSTITUTO GEOLÓGICO Y MINERO DE ESPAÑA (AMBER); TIM FLACH, COMPOSITE
OF TWO IMAGES (SALAMANDER); ARTIST’S RENDERING BY NASA/CLOUDS AO (MARS ICE HOME)
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GENIUS
JASON DE LEÓN
BY RACHEL HARTIGAN SHEA P H OTO G R A P H BY DAN WINTERS

Archaeological skills
helped him unearth the
ancient. Now he uses
those skills to explore
modern migration.
Jason De León began his career as a
traditional archaeologist. He excavated
ancient sites in Mexico, uncovering
artifacts that were centuries—if not
millennia—old. But as he was finishing
his dissertation on stone tools, he found
himself increasingly drawn to the digs’
laborers, who told him harrowing tales
of crossing the border into the United
States, only to be deported.
Although he grew up near the bor-
der in Texas and California, “I real-
ized I didn’t know anything” about
immigration, De León says now. But
he thought archaeology could be used
to understand the contentious issue.
More than five million people have
attempted to cross the Sonoran Desert
since 2000. De León’s research reveals
how that migration has changed over
time. For instance, in 2009 he began
finding black plastic bottles. White
jugs were too visible to Border Patrol
agents; now migrants carried bottles
decorated with pictures of the patron
saints of migrants or maps of important
Jason De León directs the Undocumented Migration Project.
landmarks—products of a new industry
based on undocumented migration.
De León describes his fieldwork as
“eclectic.” Some days he walks the trails.
On others he might interview migrants
WHAT HE’S FOUND: at a shelter, safe house, or courthouse—
LOVE LETTERS, A CD or launch a drone to search for dead
PL AYER, TEQUIL A , bodies. Archaeology is about “trying to
understand human behavior in the past
A BIBLE CONTAINING
through the study of what people leave
TICKETS TO A SOCCER
behind,” he says. “Nobody ever said the
MATCH IN BOLIVIA past had to be a thousand years ago.”
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E X P L O R E | AT L A S

IN THIS SECTION

E X P L O R E Hidden Afghanistan
Toxic Sulfur Mine
Starving Polar Bear

I L L U M I N AT I N G T H E M Y S T E R I E S — A N D W O N D E R S — A L L A R O U N D U S E V E R Y D AY

N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C VO L . 2 34 N O. 2

CORAL CRISIS
H A L F O F T H E G R E AT B A R R I E R R E E F Reef bleaching severity
has been bleached to death since Proportion of individual reef
2016. Mass coral bleaching, a global in 1998, 2002, or 2016 event*
problem triggered by climate change, Extreme (more than 60%)
occurs when unnaturally hot ocean Moderate (30–60%)
water destroys a reef’s colorful algae, Low (10–29%)
leaving the coral to starve. The Great
Barrier Reef illustrates how extensive
N EW the damage can be: Thirty percent of
the coral perished in 2016, another 20
G U IN EA
percent in 2017. The efect is akin to a
Osprey
forest after a devastating fire. Much of Reef
the marine ecosystem along the reef’s
north coast has become barren and
skeletal with little hope of recovery.

F
E
E
Eastern
a l R
Fields
C o r
R
R I E
Gulf of B A R NT AREA
A T
G R E ORTHERN MANA
GEME
Papua FAR N
Portlock
Reefs Ashmore
Reef
Worse than expected
Bleaching in 2016 occurred
so rapidly that scientists F
had to retool their predic- E E
R
tions for how much heat I E R Lockhart
the reef could endure. A R R River
E A T B
G R Fair Cape
Shelbur
ne B Cape
ay Grenville
81

C a p e Y o r k
N P e n i n s u l a
Saibai
Island it Cape York A
N EW s St
ra
En A U S T R A L I
T orre de
G U IN EA
av
ou

Prince of
rS

Wales Island
tr.

SCALE VARIES IN THIS PERSPECTIVE. DISTANCE FROM SAIBAI ISLAND TO CAPE YORK IS 90 MILES. *MOST SEVERE SCORE (SOME REEFS SURVEYED IN MORE THAN ONE
BLEACHING). TERRAIN RENDERING: CHARLES PREPPERNAU. ART: MATTHEW TWOMBLY. SOURCES: ARC CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR CORAL REEF STUDIES; NOAA CORAL
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H E AT S T R E S S H OW H OT F O R H OW LO N G
Great Barrier Reef
Far Northern Management Area As climate change warms Earth’s oceans,
Degree 16 underwater heat waves last longer.
heating week Coral species can’t withstand extended
(DHW) 12 hot periods. They start to die off, which
combines
intensity and Heat stress in diminishes reef diversity. After heat
8
duration of 2016 killed stress becomes severe, as it did along the
heat stress 80% of coral northern Great Barrier Reef in 2016, few
into a single 4 in this section
number. of the reef. species remain, and final die-off is rapid.

2014 2015 2016 2017


AT L A S BY LAUREN E. JAMES

Swain
Marion Reef Reefs
Lihou Reefs

F
E
IER RE
BARR
Tregrosse Reefs T
Coringa EA
GR
Bank
Whitsunday
Group Mackay

Flinders
Reefs
Holmes
Reefs

Palm Townsville
R K Is.
a P A
NEW
e DIRECTION GUINEA
E
I N
OF VIEW
S R
M A

1,15
0M
IL E
Cairns GREAT BARRIER REEF
1

S
MARINE PARK

AUSTRALIA
Brisbane
Cape Cooktown
Flattery
Sydney
Canberra
N O T I M E F O R R E C O V E RY
Cape Melville Severe regional bleaching used to hit a given reef about
every 27 years. Since the 1980s, the pace has accelerated
to every six. Even in the best conditions, badly damaged
reefs take at least 10 years to rebound. The Great Barrier
Reef, struck two years in a row, may never fully recover.

A healthy partnership Relationship breakdown 1


Algae feed the coral; Coral stressed from overly hot water expels
coral provides shelter and the algae, causing the coral to starve. The
nutrients to the algae. skeleton of dying coral decays once exposed.

Enlarged Zooxanthellae
at right algae Decay

Healthy Stressed Bleached

G u l f o f C a r p e n t a r i a

REEF WATCH; ROBIN BEAMAN, JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY; AUSTRALIAN HYDROGRAPHIC OFFICE; GEOSCIENCE AUSTRALIA; AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE; RAY
BERKELMANS AND OTHERS, CORAL REEFS 23, 2004; © OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS, AVAILABLE UNDER OPEN DATABASE LICENSE: OPENSTREETMAP.ORG/COPYRIGHT
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E X P L O R E | O U T O F E D E N WA L K

A RUGGED REALM Completed NORTH

SHIELDED FROM WAR AFRICA


ASIA

AFGHANISTAN
Planned
route
AMERICA

SOUTH
AMERICA

B Y PAU L S A L O P E K
P H O T O G R A P H B Y M AT T H I E U P A L E Y

is a place, not a war.


A F G H A N I S TA N The Out of
Taliban suicide bombings may dominate the news, but the Eden Walk
sprawling Central Asian country—bigger than France—embraces In 2013 Paul Salopek
a cosmos. One of its least visited corners, the rugged Wakhan began what he calls
corridor, is an Afghanistan as few outsiders imagine it: shielded “an experiment in slow
from violence by the Hindu Kush mountain range, locked in a journalism”: a walking
more idyllic time, and shining with alpine light. journey of 21,000 miles
along the pathways
Last summer I hiked through this utterly remote wilderness
of the humans who
hemmed by the mountain walls of Tajikistan, Pakistan, and west- first explored Earth in
ern China. For weeks photographer Matthieu Paley joined me, and the Stone Age. As he
we trekked up valleys where peaceful Ismaili farmers threshed travels, he’s covering
wheat in the biblical way, under the hooves of oxen. Waterwheels the major stories of
spun in icy creeks, grinding out flour. Villagers tending apricot our time, from climate
change to cultural sur-
orchards at the foot of glaciers were barely aware of the bloodshed
vival, by giving voice to
in the distant capital, Kabul. the people who inhabit
We traversed the largely roadless landscape in the same way them every day. You’ll
early Silk Road travelers had: with pack donkeys. “Zabardast!” find periodic updates
we cried, urging them up a nearly 14,000-foot pass. It’s a local in the magazine and
command that translates roughly as “superb” or “fantastic” or can follow the entire
journey online at
“powerful”—words that describe the Wakhan itself. Look for the
outofedenwalk.org.
story of our traverse in September’s National Geographic.

NGM MAPS
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´
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E X P L O R E | GETTING THERE

BY THE NUMBERS

7,100
E L E VAT I O N O F S U L F U R
MINE, IN FEET

1112°F T E M P E R AT U R E O F
SULFURIC GASES RELEASED
FROM THE CRACKS

1999
MOUNT IJEN’S LAST
KNOWN ERUPTION

ASIA

DESCENT
INDONESIA

Indonesia has 127 Mt. Ijen


active volcanoes. INDIAN AUS.
Only the U.S. (168) OCEAN
and Russia (144)
have more.

A 2 a.m. hike into an active volcano where miners

NGM MAPS
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‘WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MINE,


THE SKY IS COVERED BY GASES.
DAY AND NIGHT ARE CONF USED.
Y O U F E E L S U S P E N D E D I N T I M E .’
—Andrea Frazzetta

T MINUS SIX MONTHS T M I N U S T H R E E D AY S T MINUS ONE HOUR


A VO L C A N I C D R E A M ESSENTIAL READY FOR
I’ve been wanting to docu- PA C K I N G L I S T L AU N C H
ment how people live and We landed in Java and At the foot of the volcano,
work in extreme environ- drove for three days to I rented a gas mask. From
ments, because that may reach Mount Ijen. While there we climbed to the
teach us how to adapt to preparing for the trip, mountain edge, where
a changing planet. Mount I learned that the sulfu- tourists flock after dark
Ijen in East Java, Indonesia, rous gas is unpredictable. to see blue flames from the
is an active volcano that Sometimes it’s so thick combustion of gases. But
contains an acidic lake and you can’t see or breathe. if you just take a beautiful
a sulfur mine. Deep in the If that happens, I was picture of the flames, you
crater, in air heavy with advised, don’t panic—just miss the human story. The
toxic gases, miners extract wait for the wind to miners choose nighttime
chunks of sulfur. They carry move it along. to descend into the crater
150- to 200-pound loads to and do their backbreaking
the rim and then down the • Goggles labor because it’s cooler.
mountain to sell to facto- • Water and energy bars I wanted to go into the
ries, which use sulfur in the • Heavy jacket for night- mine. At 2 a.m. I followed
manufacture of things like time temperatures them into the crater to
cosmetics and sugar. • Headlamp spend the night.

INTO A SULFUR MINE


extract sulfur from a crater spewing blue flames
AS TOLD TO NINA STROCHLIC P H O T O G R A P H B Y A N D R E A F R A Z Z E T TA
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E X P L O R E | THROUGH THE LENS

‘Nothing Prepared
Me for What I Saw’
BY CRISTINA MITTERMEIER

slowly and by proxy: through


C L I M AT E C H A N G E K I L L S
fire, drought, cold, and starvation. The connection

C
between an individual animal’s death and climate
change is rarely clear—even when an animal is as
emaciated as this polar bear.
Photographer Paul Nicklen and I are on a mission
to capture images that communicate the urgency of
climate change. Documenting its efects on wildlife
hasn’t been easy. With this image, we thought we
had found a way to help people imagine what the
future of climate change might look like. We were,
perhaps, naive. The picture went viral—and people
took it literally.
Paul spotted the polar bear a year ago on a scout-
ing trip to an isolated cove on Somerset Island in
the Canadian Arctic. He immediately asked me to
assemble our SeaLegacy SeaSwat team. SeaLegacy,
the organization we founded in 2014, uses photog-
raphy to spread the message of ocean conservation;
the SeaSwat team is a deployable unit of storytellers
who cover urgent issues. The day after his call our
team flew to an Inuit village on Resolute Bay. There
was no certainty that we would find the bear again
or that it would still be alive.
When we arrived at the cove on a donated vessel,
A G U T - W R E N C H I N G P H O T O. I scanned the shore with my binoculars. All I saw
A C O M P L I C AT E D T H R E AT. were a few dilapidated buildings, some empty fuel
A G L O B A L O U T C R Y. B U T drums, and a very desolate landscape in what seemed
N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C like an abandoned fishing camp. We couldn’t locate
the bear. Only when it lifted its head were we able to
S H O U L D N O T H AV E
spot it lying on the ground, like an abandoned rug,
D E F I N I T I V E LY B L A M E D
nearly lifeless. From the shape of its body, it seemed
C L I M AT E C H A N G E F O R T H I S to be a large male.
B E A R ’ S D E AT H . We needed to get closer; we boarded a Zodiac
boat and motored to land. Strong winds covered our

36 N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C
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PHOTO: CRISTINA MITTERMEIER (ON A SEALEGACY EXPEDITION)


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E X P L O R E | THROUGH THE LENS

from the Washington Post: “‘We stood there crying’:


PERHAPS WE MADE Emaciated polar bear seen in ‘gut-wrenching’ video
and photos.”
A MISTAKE NOT TELLING
We had sent a “gut-wrenching” image out into the
THE F ULL STORY— world. We probably shouldn’t have been surprised
THAT WE WERE LOOKING that people didn’t pick up on the nuances we tried
FOR A PICTURE THAT to send with it. Yet we were shocked by the response.
FORETOLD THE FUTURE. Many people expressed gratitude that we’d shined a
light on climate change, but others angrily asked why
we had not fed the bear or covered him with blankets
or taken him to a vet—none of which would have
noise and smell. From the shelter of one of the empty saved him. Those responses revealed how discon-
buildings, we watched the bear. He didn’t move for nected people are from wildlife, ecology, and even
almost an hour. When he finally stood up, I had to geography. And then there were those who are still
catch my breath. Paul had warned me about the polar bent on maintaining the dangerous status quo by
bear’s condition, but nothing could have prepared denying the existence of climate change. We became
me for what I saw. The bear’s once white coat was to them yet another example of environmentalist
molted and dirty. His once robust frame was skin exaggeration. But they ofered us a glimpse of the
and bones. Every step that he took was pained and daunting number of people we still need to reach.
slow. We could tell he was sick or injured and that Perhaps we made a mistake in not telling the
he was starving. We could see that he was probably full story—that we were looking for a picture that
in his last days. foretold the future and that we didn’t know what
I took photographs, and Paul recorded video. As had happened to this particular polar bear.
the bear approached the empty fuel drums looking I can’t say that this bear was starving because
for food, I could hear my colleagues sobbing. of climate change, but I do know that polar bears
When Paul posted the video on Instagram, he rely on a platform of sea ice from which to hunt. A
wrote, “This is what starvation looks like.” He pointed fast-warming Arctic means that sea ice is disappear-
out that scientists suspect polar bears will be driven ing for increasingly longer periods of time each year.
to extinction in the next century. He wondered That means many more bears will get stranded on
whether the global population of 25,000 polar bears land, where they can’t pursue the seals, walruses,
would die the way this bear was dying. He urged and whales that are their prey and where they will
people to do everything they could to reduce their slowly starve to death.
carbon footprint and prevent this from happening. After finding nothing of value in the fuel drums,
But he did not say that this particular bear was killed the polar bear waddled into the water and swam
by climate change. away. Paul worried that he would waste energy and
National Geographic picked up the video and die, but the bear seemed to have an easier time in the
added subtitles. It became the most viewed video water. He disappeared around a bend in the shore-
on National Geographic’s website—ever. News line. We never saw him again, but we hope that our
organizations around the world ran stories about images of this dying bear moved the conversation
it; social media exploded with opinions about it. We about climate change to the forefront, where it must
estimate that an astonishing 2.5 billion people were remain until we solve this planetary problem.
reached by our footage. The mission was a success, Until then, when we come across a scene like this
but there was a problem: We had lost control of the one, we will again share it with the world—and take
narrative. The first line of the National Geographic pains to be sure that our intentions are clear and the
video said, “This is what climate change looks narrative remains our own. j
like”—with “climate change” highlighted in the
Cristina Mittermeier is a contributing photographer, speaker,
brand’s distinctive yellow. In retrospect, National and explorer for National Geographic. She is the co-founder,
Geographic went too far with the caption. Other executive director, and vision lead of SeaLegacy, a nonprofit
news outlets ran dramatic headlines like this one organization working to protect the oceans.

Editor’s note
National Geographic went too far in drawing a definitive connection between climate
change and a particular starving polar bear in the opening caption of our video about the
animal. We said, “This is what climate change looks like.” While science has established
that there is a strong connection between melting sea ice and polar bears dying off, there
is no way to know for certain why this bear was on the verge of death. To see an updated
version of the video, go to natgeo.com/starvingpolarbear.
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N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C AUGUST 2018

Science of Sleep . . . . . . . . . P. 40
Poisoning Africa . . . . . . . . . . P. 78
Basque Whalers . . . . . . . . . P. 102
Butterfly Catchers . . . . . . P. 112
Yemen Health Crisis . . P. 134

F EAT U R E S

112
‘IT’S HARD TO PIN DOWN THE
EXACT SIZE OF THE GLOBAL
BL ACK MARKET FOR BU T TER-
F L I E S T O D A Y, B U T E S T I M A T E S
RANGE UP TO HUNDREDS OF
M I L L I O N S O F D O L L A R S A Y E A R .’

PHOTO: EVGENIA ARBUGAEVA


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Want to
Fall Asleep?
Read This
Story.

No, seriously.
Put down your phone.
We’ll show you what
a healthy night’s sleep looks like.
And how those blue lights keep
us from getting enough.

BY MICHAEL FINKEL
P H OTO G R A P H S BY MAGNUS WENNMAN

40
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Americans
sleep less than
seven hours
a night, about
two hours less
than a century
ago. In our
restless floodlit
society, we
often think
of sleep as an
adversary.

Sleep is seen as inter-


rupting life, but the
real scourge is chronic
sleeplessness. In Japan
about 40 percent of
the population sleeps
less than six hours
a night. Public dozing,
as at this all-night
diner in Tokyo,
is socially accepted.

PREVIOUS PHOTO

Wile, the seven-


year-old son of pho-
tographer Magnus
Wennman, watches
cartoons on his iPad—
a modern bedtime
ritual for some. The
stimulation may drive
off sleep, but so does
the backlit screen: Light
at night inhibits the
production of mela-
tonin, the hormone that
helps regulate our daily
biological rhythms.
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Nearly every
night of our lives,
we undergo a
startling
metamorphosis.
Swathed in tubes and
Our brain profoundly alters its behavior and electrodes, 10-year-
purpose, dimming our consciousness. For a old Francis Ajua awaits
“lights out” for his
while, we become almost entirely paralyzed. We overnight sleep study
can’t even shiver. Our eyes, however, periodi- at Children’s National
cally dart about behind closed lids as if seeing, Health System in Wash-
ington, D.C. He was
and the tiny muscles in our middle ear, even in being tested for sleep
silence, move as though hearing. We are sexually apnea, in which breath-
stimulated, men and women both, repeatedly. ing repeatedly pauses.
We sometimes believe we can fly. We approach PREVIOUS PHOTO

the frontiers of death. We sleep. At the Philharmonie de


Around 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Paris, composer Max
Richter leads a perfor-
Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering just what mance of Sleep, a min-
we were doing and why. For the next 2,300 years imalist, scientifically
no one had a good answer. In 1924 German psy- informed piece that
aims to guide listeners
chiatrist Hans Berger invented the electroen- through a rejuvenating
cephalograph, which records electrical activity rest. It lasts eight hours.

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in the brain, and the study of sleep shifted from breaks down, recent research has shown, we are
philosophy to science. It’s only in the past few at increased risk for illnesses such as diabetes,
decades, though, as imaging machines have heart disease, and dementia.
allowed ever deeper glimpses of the brain’s inner Yet an imbalance between lifestyle and sun
workings, that we’ve approached a convincing cycle has become epidemic. “It seems as if we
answer to Aristotle. are now living in a worldwide test of the nega-
Everything we’ve learned about sleep has tive consequences of sleep deprivation,” says
emphasized its importance to our mental and Robert Stickgold, director of the Center for
physical health. Our sleep-wake pattern is a Sleep and Cognition at Harvard Medical School.
central feature of human biology—an adapta- The average American today sleeps less than
tion to life on a spinning planet, with its endless seven hours a night, about two hours less
wheel of day and night. The 2017 Nobel Prize in than a century ago. This is chiefly due to the
medicine was awarded to three scientists who, proliferation of electric lights, followed by
in the 1980s and 1990s, identified the molecu- televisions, computers, and smartphones. In
lar clock inside our cells that aims to keep us in our restless, floodlit society, we often think of
sync with the sun. When this circadian rhythm sleep as an adversary, a state depriving us of

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The waking
brain is
optimized
for collecting
information,
the sleeping
brain for
consolidating.
At night we
switch from
recording
to editing.

At the Children’s sleep


clinic in Washington,
Michael Bosak, eight,
sleeps through his exam
in a position that helps
prevent the repeated
narrowing of the upper
airway—the cause of
his snoring. (This photo
was taken in the dark
with an infrared cam-
era so as not to disturb
him.) Sleep is crucial
for childhood health
and development;
it’s when most growth
hormone and infec-
tion-fighting proteins
are released. Poor sleep
in kids has been linked
to diabetes, obesity,
and learning disabilities.

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productivity and play. Thomas Edison, who gave


us light bulbs, said that “sleep is an absurdity, a
bad habit.” He believed we’d eventually dispense
with it entirely.
A full night’s sleep now feels as rare and old-
fashioned as a handwritten letter. We all seem to
cut corners, fighting insomnia through sleeping
pills, guzzling cofee to slap away yawns, ignor-
ing the intricate journey we’re designed to take
each evening. On a good night, we cycle four or
five times through several stages of sleep, each
with distinct qualities and purpose—a serpen-
tine, surreal descent into an alternative world.

STAGES 1-2
A S W E FA L L I N T O S L E E P, O U R B R A I N S TAY S
ACTIVE AND FIRES INTO ITS EDITING PRO CESS —
DECIDING WHICH MEMORIES TO KEEP AND
WHICH ONES TO TOSS.

The initial transformation happens quickly. The


human body does not like to stall between states,
lingering in doorways. We prefer to be in one
realm or another, awake or asleep. So we turn of
the lights and lie in bed and shut our eyes. If our
circadian rhythm is pegged to the flow of day-
light and dark, and if the pineal gland at the base
of our brain is pumping melatonin, signaling it’s
nighttime, and if an array of other systems align,
our neurons swiftly fall into step.
Neurons, some 86 billion of them, are the cells
that form the World Wide Web of the brain, com-
municating with each other via electrical and
chemical signals. When we’re fully awake, neu-
rons form a jostling crowd, a cellular lightning
storm. When they fire evenly and rhythmically,
expressed on an electroencephalogram, or EEG,
by neat rippled lines, it indicates that the brain New memories are
has turned inward, away from the chaos of wak- consolidated during
ing life. At the same time, our sensory receptors sleep. What happens in
the brain? At the Uni-
are muled, and soon we’re asleep. versity of Tsukuba, near
Scientists call this stage 1, the shallow end of Tokyo, Takeshi Sakurai
sleep. It lasts maybe five minutes. Then, ascend- studies the question
with optogenetics—in
ing from deep in the brain, comes a series of which a laser turns indi-
electric sparks that zap our cerebral cortex, the vidual brain cells on
pleated gray matter covering the outer layer of or off in mice that are
genetically engineered
the brain, home of language and consciousness. to be sensitive to it.
These half-second bursts, called spindles, indi-
cate that we’ve entered stage 2.

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Our brains aren’t less active when we sleep, as The strength of one’s nightly spindles, some
was long thought, just diferently active. Spin- experts have suggested, might even be a predic-
dles, it’s theorized, stimulate the cortex in such tor of general intelligence. Sleep literally makes
a way as to preserve recently acquired informa- connections you might never have consciously
tion—and perhaps also to link it to established formed, an idea we’ve all intuitively realized.
knowledge in long-term memory. In sleep labs, No one says, “I’m going to eat on a problem.” We
when people have been introduced to certain always sleep on it.
new tasks, mental or physical, their spindle fre- The waking brain is optimized for collecting
quency increases that night. The more spindles external stimuli, the sleeping brain for consol-
they have, it seems, the better they perform the idating the information that’s been collected.
task the next day. At night, that is, we switch from recording to

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Sleep reinforces
memory so
powerfully
that it might
be best if
exhausted
soldiers
returning from
harrowing
missions did
not go directly
to bed.

Resting in his bunk on


the U.S.S. Paul Ham-
ilton, a sailor wears
light-emitting goggles
for a short time after
waking. Nita Shattuck
of the Naval Postgradu-
ate School in Monterey,
California, is testing
the devices to see if
they can reset sailors’
internal clocks,
synchronizing them
with work shifts rather
than the sun cycle.

NEXT PHOTO

What makes us sleepy?


This airtight cham-
ber at the Tsukuba
sleep institute allows
researchers to pre-
cisely track a sleeper’s
oxygen consumption
and thus his metabolic
rate—and to measure
how it’s influenced,
for example, by the
brightness and color
of ambient light. Find-
ing the conditions
that best trigger sleep
could be the first step
in curing insomnia.
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antennae while napping, and they’re also sen- Steven Lockley of Brigham and Women’s Hos-
sitive to cafeine. pital in Boston.
Sleep, defined as a behavior marked by dimin- Good sleep likely also reduces one’s risk of
ished responsiveness and reduced mobility that developing dementia. A study done in mice by
is easily disrupted (unlike hibernation or coma), Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Roches-
exists in creatures without brains at all. Jellyfish ter, in New York, suggests that while we’re awake,
sleep, the pulsing action of their bodies notice- our neurons are packed tightly together, but
ably slowing, and one-celled organisms such as when we’re asleep, some brain cells deflate by
plankton and yeast display clear cycles of activ- 60 percent, widening the spaces between them.
ity and rest. This implies that sleep is ancient These intercellular spaces are dumping grounds
and that its original and universal function is for the cells’ metabolic waste—notably a sub-
not about organizing memories or promoting stance called beta-amyloid, which disrupts com-
munication between neurons and is
closely linked to Alzheimer’s. Only
during sleep can spinal fluid slosh
‘You’re talking about a level of brain like detergent through these broader
deactivation that is really rather hallways of our brain, washing beta-
intense,’ says Michael Perlis, the amyloid away.
director of the Behavioral Sleep While all this housekeeping and
Medicine program at the University of repair occurs, our muscles are fully
Pennsylvania. ‘Stage 4 sleep is not far relaxed. Mental activity is minimal:
removed from coma or brain death. Stage 4 waves are similar to patterns
While restorative, it’s not something produced by coma patients. We do
you’d want to overdose on.’ not typically dream during stage 4;
we may not even be able to feel pain.
In Greek mythology the gods Hypnos
learning but more about the preservation of (sleep) and Thanatos (death) are twin brothers.
life itself. It’s evidently natural law that a crea- The Greeks may have been right.
ture, no matter the size, cannot go full throttle “You’re talking about a level of brain deactiva-
24 hours a day. tion that is really rather intense,” says Michael
“Being awake is demanding,” says Thomas Perlis, the director of the Behavioral Sleep Med-
Scammell, a neurology professor at Harvard icine program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Medical School. “You’ve got to go out there and “Stage 4 sleep is not far removed from coma or
outcompete every other organism to survive, brain death. While recuperative and restorative,
and the consequences are that you need a period it’s not something you’d want to overdose on.”
of rest to help cells recuperate.” At most, we can remain in stage 4 for only
For humans this happens chiefly during deep about 30 minutes before the brain kicks itself
sleep, stages 3 and 4, which difer in the percent- out. (In sleepwalkers at least, that shift can be
age of brain activity that’s composed of big, roll- accompanied by a bodily jerk.) We often sail
ing delta waves, as measured on an EEG. In stage straight through stages 3, 2, and 1 into awakeness.
3, delta waves are present less than half the time; Even healthy sleepers wake several times a
in stage 4, more than half. (Some scientists con- night, though most don’t notice. We drop back
sider the two to be a single deep-sleep stage.) It’s to sleep in a matter of seconds. But at this point,
in deep sleep that our cells produce most growth rather than repeating the stages again, the brain
hormone, which is needed throughout life to ser- resets itself for something entirely new—a trip
vice bones and muscles. into the truly bizarre.
There is further evidence that sleep is essen-
tial for maintaining a healthy immune system, ccording to the U.S. Centers for Dis-
body temperature, and blood pressure. With-
out enough of it, we can’t regulate our moods
A
  ease Control and Prevention, more
than 80 million American adults are
well or recover swiftly from injuries. Sleep may chronically sleep deprived, meaning they sleep
be more essential to us than food; animals will less than the recommended minimum of seven
die of sleep deprivation before starvation, says hours a night. Fatigue contributes to more than

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a million auto accidents each year, as well as to a THE AGE OF SLEEP AIDS
significant number of medical errors. Even small A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
study found that older Americans are more likely
adjustments in sleep can be problematic. The to use prescription sleep aids than their younger
Monday after a daylight saving time change in counterparts. Women were also slightly more
likely than men to report they used sleep aids.
the U.S., there’s a 24 percent increase in heart
attacks, compared with other Mondays, and a
jump in fatal car crashes too.
During our lifetimes, about a third of us will
sufer from at least one diagnosable sleep disor-
der. They range from chronic insomnia to sleep
5%
of women
3%
of men
apnea to restless leg syndrome to much rarer
BY AGE
and stranger conditions.
In exploding head syndrome, booming sounds 20-39 1.8%

seem to reverberate in your brain as you try to 40-49 4.9

sleep. A Harvard study found that sleep paral- 50-59 6.0

ysis—the inability to move for a few minutes 60-69 5.5

after you’ve woken from dreaming—is the gen- 70-79 5.7

esis of many alien abduction stories. Narcolep- +80 7.0

tic attacks, uncontrollable episodes of sudden


sleep onset, often are triggered by strongly pos-
itive emotions, such as listening to a joke, being THE MARKET FOR SLEEP
tickled, or tasting delicious food. People with Sleep-deprived consumers paid $66 billion in
2016 for devices, medications, and sleep studies.
Kleine-Levin syndrome will, every few years, The figure could rise to $85 billion by 2021.
sleep nearly nonstop for a week or two. They
return to regular cycles of consciousness with- $27.5 billion
out any discernible side efects.
17.8
Insomnia is by far the most common prob-
lem, the main reason 4 percent of U.S. adults 11.9
9.4 9.0
7.2
take sleeping pills in any given month. Insomni-
acs generally take longer to fall asleep, wake up 0
+9.1% +4.8% +4.6%

for prolonged periods during the night, or both. 2016 2021 ‘16 ‘21 ‘16 ‘21

If sleep is such a ubiquitous natural phenome-


non, refined across the eons, you might wonder,
why do so many of us have such trouble with it? Sleep apnea Medications Sleep
devices centers
Blame evolution; blame the modern world. Or
blame the mismatch between the two.
Evolution endowed us, like other creatures,
THE COST OF SLEEPLESSNESS
with sleep that is malleable in its timing and
A 2017 Rand study found that lack of sleep can
readily interruptible, so it can be subordinated result in reduced productivity as well as more
work absences, industrial and road accidents,
to higher priorities. The brain has an override health care expenses, and medical errors.
system, operating in all stages of sleep, that can
Billion $/year % GDP lost
rouse us when it perceives an emergency—the
United States
cry of a child, say, or the footfall of an approach-
$411 billion 2.28%
ing predator.
Japan
The problem is that in the modern world,
$138.6 2.92%
our ancient, innate wake-up call is constantly
Germany
triggered by non–life-threatening situations, $60 1.56%
like anxiety before an exam, worries about United Kingdom
finances, or every car alarm in the neighbor- $50.2 1.86%
hood. Before the industrial revolution, which Canada
brought us alarm clocks and fixed work sched- $21.4 1.35%
ules, we could often counteract insomnia sim-
NGM STAFF. SOURCES: U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
ply by sleeping in. No longer. And if you’re one AND PREVENTION; BCC RESEARCH; RAND EUROPE

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Anyone who
regularly
sleeps less than
six hours has
a higher risk
of depression,
psychosis,
stroke, and
obesity.
Sleeplessness
undermines
your whole
body.

In Sweden hundreds
of immigrant children
whose families face
deportation have con-
tracted resignation
syndrome, a baffling
disorder in which the
child withdraws from
the world, won’t react
even to painful stimuli,
and must be nourished
with a feeding tube—
sometimes for years.
“She is not suffering
now, ” physician Elisa-
beth Hultcrantz says
of Leyla Ahmed, 10,
a Syrian refugee.

NEXT PHOTO

Mike Morris, an Army


veteran of two tours
in Iraq, wears an EEG
cap as he sleeps with
his therapy dog, Olive.
He’s part of a study by
Jeffrey Ellenbogen of
Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity that explores how
companionship and
the sounds a sleeper
is exposed to affect
recovery from trauma.

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of those people who are proud of being able to


fall asleep quickly just about anywhere, you can

REM
stop gloating—it’s a distinct sign, especially if
you’re less than 40 years old, that you’re acutely
sleep deprived.
The first segment of the brain that begins to
fizzle when we don’t get enough sleep is the pre- IN A WILD STATE OF PSYCHOSIS, WE’RE DREAMING,
frontal cortex, the cradle of decision-making and WE’RE FLYING, AND WE’RE FALLING—WHETHER WE
REMEMBER IT OR NOT. WE’RE ALSO REGULATING OUR
problem-solving. Underslept people are more
MOOD AND CONSOLIDATING OUR MEMORIES.
irritable, moody, and irrational. “Every cognitive
function to some extent seems to be afected by Rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep was discov-
sleep loss,” says Chiara Cirelli, a neuroscientist ered in 1953—more than 15 years after stages 1
at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Con- through 4 had been mapped—by Eugene Aserin-
sciousness. Sleep-deprived suspects held by the sky and Nathaniel Kleitman at the University of
police, it’s been shown, will confess to anything Chicago. Before then, because of its unremark-
in exchange for rest. able pattern on early EEGs, this period was
Anyone who regularly sleeps less than six usually thought of as a variant form of stage 1,
hours a night has an elevated risk of depres- and not particularly significant. But once the
sion, psychosis, and stroke. Lack of sleep is distinctive eye darting was documented, and
also directly tied to obesity: Without enough the engorgement of sexual organs that always
sleep, the stomach and other organs overpro- goes with it, and it was understood that virtually
duce ghrelin, the hunger hormone, causing us all vivid dreaming takes place in this phase, the
to eat more than we need. Proving a cause-and- science of sleep was upended.
efect relationship in these cases is challenging, Generally, a healthy sleep begins with a spiral
because you can’t subject humans to the neces- down to stage 4, a momentary return to wakeful-
sary experiments. But it’s clear that sleepless- ness, and a five- to 20-minute REM session. With
ness undermines the whole body. each ensuing cycle, REM time roughly doubles.
Power naps don’t solve the problem; nor do Overall, REM sleep occupies about one-fifth of
pharmaceuticals. “Sleep is not monolithic,” says total rest time in adults. Yet stages 1 through 4
Jefrey Ellenbogen, a sleep scientist at Johns have been labeled as non-REM sleep, or NREM—
Hopkins University who directs the Sound Sleep 80 percent of sleep is defined by what it’s not.
Project, which counsels businesses on how their Sleep scientists speculate that specific sequences
employees can achieve better performance of NREM and REM sleep somehow optimize our
through healthier rest. “It’s not a marathon; it’s physical and mental recuperation. At the cellular
more like a decathlon. It’s a thousand diferent level, protein synthesis peaks during REM sleep,
things. It’s tempting to manipulate sleep with keeping the body working properly. REM sleep
drugs or devices, but we don’t yet understand also seems essential for regulating mood and
sleep enough to risk artificially manipulating consolidating memories.
the parts.” Every time we experience REM sleep, we
Ellenbogen and other experts argue against literally go mad. By definition, psychosis is a
shortcuts, especially the original one—the condition characterized by hallucinations and
notion that we can mostly do without sleep. delusions. Dreaming, some sleep scientists say,
It was a glorious idea: If we could just cut the is a psychotic state—we fully believe that we
unnecessary parts of sleep, it’d be like adding see what is not there, and we accept that time,
decades to our life. In the early days of sleep location, and people themselves can morph and
science, the 1930s and ’40s, the second half of disappear without warning.
the night was considered by some to be the dol- From ancient Greeks to Sigmund Freud to
drums of rest. Some thought we might not need back-alley fortune-tellers, dreams have always
it at all. been a source of enchantment and mystery—
That period turns out, instead, to be the interpreted as messages from the gods or our
wellspring of a completely separate but just as unconscious. Today many sleep experts aren’t
essential form of sleep, practically another type interested in the specific images and events in
of consciousness altogether. our dreams. They believe that dreams result

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from the chaotic firing of neurons and, even if sleep, whether snoring or not, we’re completely
imbued with emotional resonance, are devoid of incapable of physical response, slack-jawed,
significance. It’s only after we wake that the con- unable to regulate even our blood pressure. Yet
scious brain, seeking meaning, quickly stitches our brain is able to convince us that we’re surfing
together a whole cloth out of haphazard scraps. on clouds, slaying dragons.
Other sleep scientists strongly disagree. “The Belief in the unbelievable happens because
content of dreams,” says Stickgold of Harvard, in REM sleep, stewardship of the brain is
“is part of an evolved mechanism for looking at transferred away from the logic centers and
the larger significance of new memories and how impulse-control regions. Production of two
they could be useful in the future.” specific chemicals, serotonin and norepineph-
Even if you never recall a single image, you rine, is completely shut of. Both are essential
still dream. Everyone does. Lack of dream rec- neurotransmitters, permitting brain cells to
ollection is actually an indication of a healthy communicate, and without them, our ability to
sleeper. The action in dream sleep takes place learn and remember is severely impaired—we’re
too deep in the brain to register well on an EEG, in a chemically altered state of consciousness.
but with newer technology, we’ve inferred what’s But it’s not a coma-like state, as in stage 4. Our
going on, physically and chemically. Dreams brain during REM sleep is fully active, guzzling
also occur in NREM sleep, especially stage 2, as much energy as when we’re awake.
but these are generally thought to be more like
overtures. Only in REM sleep do we encounter EM sleep is ruled by the limbic
the full potent force of our nighttime madness.
Dreams, often falsely said to be just momen-
R
  system—a deep-brain region, the
untamed jungle of the mind, where
tary flashes, are instead thought to span almost some of our most savage and base instincts arise.
all of REM sleep, typically about two hours per Freud was right, in efect, that dreams do tap our
night, though this decreases as we age—perhaps primitive emotions. The limbic system is home
because our less pliant brains are not learning as to our sex drive, aggression, and fear, though it
much while awake and have fewer new memo- also allows us to feel elation and joy and love.
ries to process as we sleep. Newborn
infants sleep up to 17 hours a day
and spend about half of that in an
active, REM-like condition. And for Every time we experience REM
about a month in the womb, starting sleep, we literally go mad. Psychosis
at week 26 of gestation, it seems that is a condition characterized by
fetuses remain without pause in a hallucinations and delusions.
state very similar to REM sleep. All Dreaming, some sleep scientists say,
this REM time, it has been theorized, is a psychotic state—we fully believe
is the equivalent of the brain testing that we see what is not there, and
its software, preparing to come fully we accept that time, location, and
on line. The process is called telen- people can morph and disappear.
cephalization. It’s nothing less than
the opening of the mind.
The body doesn’t thermoregulate in REM While it sometimes seems as if we have more
sleep; our internal temperature remains at its nightmares than pleasant dreams, this probably
lowest setting. We are truly out cold. Our heart isn’t true. Frightening dreams are simply more
rate increases compared with other sleep stages, likely to trigger our override system and wake us.
and our breathing is irregular. Our muscles, Down in the brain stem, a little bulge called
with a few exceptions—eyes, ears, heart, dia- the pons is supercharged during REM sleep.
phragm—are immobilized. Sadly, this doesn’t Electrical pulses from the pons often target the
keep some of us from snoring; this bane of the part of the brain that controls muscles in the
bed partner, impetus for hundreds of anti- eyes and ears. Our lids usually remain shut, but
snoring gadgets, is caused when turbulent air- our eyeballs bounce from side to side, possibly
flow vibrates the relaxed tissues of the throat or in response to the intensity of the dream. Our
nose. It’s common in stages 3 and 4 too. In REM inner ears too are active while we dream.

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The Japanese term


inemuri, or “sleeping
while present,” is a
distinct form of nap-
ping in which a person
dozes in a place not
meant for sleep, such
as the subway—or even
at a dinner party or
the office. “Since you’re
officially not sleeping,”
says Brigitte Steger,
a Japan specialist at
the University of Cam-
bridge in England,
“to be socially accept-
able you should behave
as is appropriate in
a certain situation.
For example in a meet-
ing, you half pretend
listening or hide your
sleeping head behind
paperwork.” If you’re
not already known
as a slacker, Steger
adds, a little inemuri
may even enhance
your business reputa-
tion: It demonstrates
that you’re working
yourself to exhaustion.

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SLEEP 75
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So are the parts of the brain that generate


motion—which is why there’s frequently a
sense of flying or falling in dreams. We dream,
as well, in full color, unless we’ve been blind
from birth, in which case dreams do not have
visual imagery but remain emotionally intense.
Men’s and women’s dreams seem to be similar
in emotional content. Every time a man dreams,
even if the content isn’t sexual, he has an erec-
tion; in women, blood vessels in the vagina
are engorged. And while we dream, no matter
how absurd, despite all transgressions against
the laws of physics, we’re almost always con-
vinced we’re awake. The ultimate virtual-reality
machine resides inside our head.
Thank goodness we’re paralyzed. When you
dream, your brain is actually trying to produce
movements, but a system in the brain stem
completely shuts down the motor-neuron gate.
There’s a parasomnia—a sleep abnormality
that afects the nervous system—called REM
behavior disorder in which the gate does not
fully lower, and people act out their dreams in
spectacular fashion, punching, kicking, swear-
ing, all while their eyes are closed and they’re
fully asleep. This often results in injuries to the
sleeper and his or her bedmate.
The end of a REM session, like the end of stage
4, is usually marked with a brief awakening. If
we rest naturally, without an alarm clock, our
last dream of the night often concludes our
sleep. Though the amount of time we’ve been
asleep helps determine the optimal moment
to wake, daylight has immediate alerting prop-
erties. When light seeps through our eyelids
and touches our retinas, a signal is sent to a
deep-brain region called the suprachiasmatic
nucleus. This is the time, for many of us, that
our last dream dissolves, we open our eyes, and
we rejoin our real life. Joe Diemand, 76,
has spent the past
r do we? Perhaps the most remark- 20 years as a truck

O
  able thing about REM sleep is that
it proves the brain can operate
driver, sometimes
driving all night. Such
work, he says, leaves
you “so tired that you
independently of sensory input. Like an artist
can’t sleep.” The World
ensconced in a secret studio, our mind appears Health Organization has
to experiment without inhibition, let loose on described night shift
its own personal mission. work as “probably car-
cinogenic to humans.”
When we’re awake, the brain is occupied
with busy work—all those limbs to control, the
constant driving and shopping and texting and
talking. The money-earning, the child-rearing.
But when we’re sleeping, and we commence

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our first REM session, the most elaborate and real wonder isn’t why we sleep. It’s why, with
complex instrument known in the universe such an incredible alternative available, do we
is free to do what it wishes. It self-activates. It bother to stay awake?
dreams. This, one could say, is the playtime of And the answer might be that we need to
the brain. Some sleep theorists postulate that attend to the basics of life—the eating and mat-
REM sleep is when we are our most intelligent, ing and fighting—only to ensure that the body
insightful, creative, and free. It’s when we truly is fully ready for sleep. j
come alive. “REM sleep may be the thing that
makes us the most human, both for what it does Michael Finkel’s latest book, The Stranger in
for the brain and body, and for the sheer experi- the Woods, is about a hermit who, after 27 years
ence of it,” says Michael Perlis. alone, had achieved this insight: “Get enough
sleep.” Swedish photographer Magnus Wenn-
Maybe, then, we’ve been asking the wrong man’s exhibit on refugees, Where the Children
question about sleep, ever since Aristotle. The Sleep, has toured worldwide.

SLEEP 77
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A young male lion was one of three members of Kenya’s famous Marsh Pride to die in 2015 after eating a
cow carcass that Maasai herders had laced with carbosulfan, an insecticide. The lions had killed several cows.
78
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BY EDWIN DOBB
P H OTO G R A P H S BY C H A R L I E H A M I LTO N JA M E S

Poisoning
Africa D E A D L Y , C H E A P PESTICIDES...
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A traditional way to kill animals with poison is to tip arrows—like these made by Maasai at a market in
Olpusi Moru, on Kenya’s border with Tanzania—with a lethal substance from the bark of the Acocanthera tree.
80
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...A R E P O T E N T W E A P O N S I N AFRICA...
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Conservationists hold a sickened gray heron and birds that died after aerial spraying of the pesticide
fenthion in the Bunyala rice-growing area. Villagers collect and eat the birds, even though they’re poisoned.
82
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...A N D A R E R A V A G I N G I T S WILDLIFE.
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Two male lions had


been killing cattle and
goats for weeks. The
Maasai herdsmen in
Kenya’s Osewan region
had seen enough.
Solve the problem by Christmas, the Maasai The legal insecticide
told the Kenya Wildlife Service in late December Marshal (at far right)
is readily available in
last year, or we’ll solve it for you. “We know how Kenya, including at this
to kill lions,” one young Maasai warrior said in shop near Amboseli
Swahili during a heated community meeting, and and Tsavo West
National Parks. The
he didn’t mean only the spears that he and his saleswoman, Faithy
fellow Maasai carry. He also meant poison, now Ndungu, says she
a weapon of choice for herders who see lions as wouldn’t knowingly sell
Marshal to someone
threats to their livelihood rather than the national wanting to kill wild-
symbols the wildlife service tries to protect. life, but it has shown
Kenneth Ole Nashuu, a senior warden with up on carcasses to bait
predators. The U.S.
KWS, as people call the wildlife service, decided company that makes
that the best solution was to relocate the lions Marshal, FMC, says it
from Osewan, north of Amboseli National Park, doesn’t know of any
misuse of the poison
where they’d come in contact with grazing live- and is investigating.
stock, to a neighboring national park, Tsavo
West. But first they had to be tranquilized.
On Christmas Eve night Ole Nashuu and other
rangers were joined by Luke Maamai, from

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the conservation group Lion Guardians. They passed-out lioness into a cage, Ole Nashuu con-
climbed into a Land Cruiser, drove to a clear- gratulated the group on a successful mission. The
ing in the bush, and parked. Under a big, bright removal of the female, he said, would disrupt
moon, with lights of, they waited for the rogue the pride and stop the brothers from preying on
predators—young brothers—to appear. the community’s livestock—a curious claim, it
Maamai, who’s Maasai, placed a speaker on the seemed, because the young male lions, the pri-
roof of the vehicle and broadcast into the dark- mary mischief-makers, were still out there.
ness the recorded bleating of a dying bufalo calf, Later that night my guide, Simon Thomsett,
a sound lions can’t resist. After just 15 minutes a a leading expert on raptors in Kenya, and I
large animal stepped from the shadows on the were trying to sleep in his Land Cruiser when
right. Ole Nashuu switched on his headlights. It we heard growling and grunting—first at a dis-
was a lioness, one of two sisters that partnered tance, then closer. It was the two male lions,
with but weren’t related to the brothers. The lion- presumably searching for the female. The team
ess, about 10 yards in front of the vehicle, moved darted and captured one of the brothers, but the
cautiously toward a small tree Maamai had baited other escaped. The captured male and female
with goat innards. Ole Nashuu signaled to a veter- eventually were released in Tsavo West. Previous
inarian who was sitting in a second Land Cruiser, experience suggests they probably haven’t sur-
his rifle loaded with a tranquilizer dart. vived: Lions dumped without acclimation into
After directing his men to shimmy the another pride’s territory are treated as intruders

POISONING AFRICA 85
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and often experience a torturous death.


“We want to give them a second chance,” says
Francis Gakuya, head of veterinary services at
KWS, which is responsible for the welfare of all
wildlife in Kenya. But many lion experts believe
that in such situations, it would have been more
humane to kill the troublesome lions on the spot.
Meanwhile, contrary to the warden’s the-
ory about disrupted prides, the remaining
male continued to prey on livestock. This time
herdsmen— possibly not local—didn’t seek
outside help. They poisoned the male and the
other female by lacing a goat or cow carcass with
chemicals that killed the lions after they fed on
the dead animal. By the time KWS heard about it
and sent a veterinarian to investigate, the lions’
bodies had rotted.
The vet also found the remains of vultures and
a hyena, probably only a fraction of the animals
that had died after feeding on the contaminated
livestock carcass—the extended “crime scene”
that’s common in wildlife poisonings. Unfortu-
nately the vet didn’t take samples for testing,
even though certain poisons can stay in a body
for a long time. So the only people who know
what substance killed the lions are those least
likely to talk about it.

poison is used
I N K E N YA A N D A C R O S S A F R I C A , highways, railroads, power plants, and power
to kill small creatures for food (the impact on lines to heavy industry, high-tech centers, and
human health is unclear), poach elephants and growing cities—is encroaching. Kenya’s popu-
rhinos for their tusks and horns, and acquire lation, already overwhelming local resources,
animal parts for traditional medicine. Another is expected to nearly double to more than 80
vexing use of poison results from encounters million by 2050, and open country is being con-
between people and wild animals—when a lion verted into farms, blocking animal movements.
or hyena kills livestock, for example, or an ele- As a result, lands adjacent to parks—the
phant destroys property—and it usually involves large, collectively owned tracts known as group
a pesticide, because pesticides are cheap, readily ranches, as well as other community lands—are
available, and deadly. becoming inhospitable to wildlife. For elephants
“Poisoning is a big problem,” Gakuya acknowl- and other large animals that need those areas for
edges. And judging from the Osewan episode, migration between parks, for seasonal dispersal
it’s a problem that continues to elude solution. to find food and water, and for giving birth, the
Retaliatory poisoning can happen anywhere any- onslaught is catastrophic.
time, but the evidence of it is often anecdotal and Kenya has arrived at a crossroads. “We’re
almost always incomplete. Even so, nearly every- no longer preserving our nation as a haven for
one monitoring Kenya’s wildlife—biologists, wildlife,” Thomsett says, referring to Kenya’s
KWS staff, and conservation groups—agrees accelerating economic growth. “We’re trying
that poisoning is likely to increase because to become the Dubai of Africa.” That may seem
human-wildlife conflicts are increasing. extreme, but it’s hard to argue with the facts.
Kenya’s protected areas are under siege, The lion is Kenya’s signature wild animal, but
including all the premier reserves and parks in fewer than 2,000 remain in the entire country,
the south: Masai Mara, Amboseli, Tsavo West, down from an estimated 20,000 five decades
and Tsavo East. Rapid development—from ago, and the species has vanished from about

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Ornithologist Martin
Odino (at right) and
a helper burn African
mourning doves poi-
soned by pesticide in
the Bunyala rice fields.
Incinerating the doves
prevents more deaths
of birds and scavengers
that would feed on the
carcasses. Vulture pop-
ulations in Kenya have
crashed because of
wildlife poisonings.

BELOW

A Maasai herder reveals


the carbosulfan he
stashes near his home.
The night before, he
used the poison to kill a
hyena that had preyed
on his goats.

POISONING AFRICA 87
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SOUTH TURKANA
NATIONAL RESERVE
NASOLOT
TOXIC CASCADE NATIONAL Contested grassland
RESERVE Wildlife and
and humans
humans

Lethal
compete most
most heavily
heavilyfor
for
7 lions, 2004
resources in
in grasslands,
grasslands,
where livestock
flocks graze
graze
andand
wild animals
animals subsist.
subsist.
3 lions, 2006

Landscape Kitale
3 lions, 2006

Rumuruti
are increas-
A F R I C A’ S A N I M A L S 1 elephant, 2016
ingly losing ground to human LAKE BOGORIA
MT. ELGON NATIONAL RESERVE
pressures. Habitat loss, especially NATIONAL PARK Eldoret
to farming and grazing, is forcing
people and wildlife to compete

A
Webuye Eldama

UGAND
KENYA
Ravine
for finite space and resources.
Bungoma Nakuru
Farmers and pastoralists react with

ia
powerful weapons: potent poisons Kakamega

zo
LAKE NAKURU

N
such as carbofuran that can wreak NATIONAL PARK
havoc not just on targeted wildlife Busia
but also on the animals and humans
Ugunja Kericho
around them. Some 8,600 animals Kisumu
3,186 birds, 2009
are known to have been poisoned 1,233 birds, 2015
during the past two decades. Port
Bondo
Bunyala 1,028 birds, 2014 Bomet
For every documented case,
dozens go unreported. 16 vultures, 2017
Lake Kisii
Victoria 5 elephants, 2016
Rongo 8 elephants, 2014
RUMA
NATIONAL Sare MASAI MARA
Reported wildlife-poisoning incident PARK NATIONAL RESERVE
2000–2018 15 vultures, 3 lions,
Highway Migori 1 eagle, 1 jackal, 2015
Isebania 13 hyenas, 6 jackals, 2013
Other road or path
Railroad N 78 vultures, 2008
Olpusi Moru
Cropland 0 mi 40 SERENGETI
Rangeland NATIONAL PARK
0 km 40

WHY PESTICIDES ARE MISUSED WHERE THEY’RE APPLIED


To protect livestock Pesticides are added to carcasses placed
Predators are poisoned in to bait wildlife as well as to natural water
retaliation for eating cattle, and food sources.
chickens, and goats.

P O I S O N E D C A RC A S S
To hunt animals for trade
A China-driven global demand
for animal parts—including
ivory and fur—fuels the trade.

P O I S O N E D WAT E R
To kill animals for meat
Meat of fish and birds is sold
without disclosing that the
animals were killed with poison.

To safeguard crops POISONED SEEDS AND FRUITS


Crop-eating elephants, mon-
keys, and birds are targeted
to reduce farmers’ losses.

MATTHEW W. CHWASTYK AND MANUEL CANALES, NGM STAFF. KELSEY NOWAKOWSKI. SOURCES: DARCY OGADA, PEREGRINE FUND; AFRICAN RAPTOR DATABANK, HABITAT INFO; WAGENINGEN UNIVERSITY
& RESEARCH; AFRICAN WILDLIFE POISONING DATABASE, ENDANGERED WILDLIFE TRUST; DUTCH MINISTRY OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS; WWF-NETHERLANDS; RAPTORS MOU, UNEP/CMS; LIVING WITH LIONS; NORTH
CAROLINA ZOO; WDPA; NASA EOSDIS LAND PROCESSES CROP EXTENT; WRI; ROAD DATA © OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS, AVAILABLE UNDER OPEN DATABASE LICENSE: OPENSTREETMAP.ORG/COPYRIGHT
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SHABA Garissa
NAT. RESERVE
SAMBURU
NATIONAL BUFFALO SPRINGS
RESERVE NATIONAL RESERVE KORA
4 lions, 2005 5 lions, 2007 NATIONAL
50 vultures, 2009 MERU PARK
NATIONAL PARK
20 vultures, 2007
4 lions, Meru
2012 4 lions, 2015 A F R I C A

na
Ta
2 lions, 2 lions, 2003
2008
KENYA
Nanyuki AREA
MT. KENYA Wildlife-poisoning
4 lions,
Mt. Kenya NATIONAL PARK prevalence ENLARGED
17,057 ft
2004 5,199 m
3 vultures, 1 cheetah, 2018 Low High

Like Kenya, other African


African
Nyeri countries regularly record
record
ABERDARE Sagana wildlife-poisoning incidents,
incidents,
NATIONAL PARK especially near protected areas.

K E N Y A Kitui

Naivasha Thika OL DONYO SABUK


NATIONAL PARK
MT. LONGONOT
NATIONAL PARK 1 elephant, 2014
Simisi
HELL'S GATE NAIROBI Machakos At

a
5 vultures, 2014 10 elephants, 2014

iv
NATIONAL PARK Wote hi T
NAIROBI 216 vultures, 5 eagles,
NATIONAL PARK 1 hyena, 1 jackal, 2004
T S AV O E A S T
1 elephant, 2017

Kibwezi N AT I O N A L PA R K
3 hyenas, 2 vultures, 2010 1 elephant, 2014
CHYULU HILLS
Kajiado NATIONAL PARK
8 lions, 2002
Tsavo 1 elephant, 2015
Ilbisil
Magadi 3 lions, 2015 7 lions, 2002
O S E WA N TSAVO WEST
2 lions, 1 hyena, 2017
vo
AMBOSELI 2 vultures, 1 hyena, 2008 Ts a
NATIONAL PARK NATIONAL Voi
KENYA 5 lions, 2010 Oloitokitok
TANZANIA PARK Maktau
KILIMANJARO N.P.
Lake Kilimanjaro
Natron 19,340 ft 1 elephant, 2017
5,895 m
Taveta
1 jackal, 1 lion,
vultures, 2016

PRIMARY TARGETS COLLATERAL DAMAGE


Animals that are directly targeted include Because chemicals linger in the environment and
lions that are poisoned to protect cattle the food chain, victims are widespread. Humans
and elephants poached for their tusks. too can get sickened.

Lions
Hyenas Eagles Leopards Vultures
Insects Aardwolves Bat-eared foxes

Elephants
Fish Ducks Buffalo Otters Cattle Hippos

Elephants Storks Doves Primates


Birds Insects
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Until recently Maasai drove tens of thousands of cattle into the Masai Mara National Reserve. Cattle incursions
fluctuate in response to subdivision of neighboring lands, population growth, local politics, and drought.
90
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These Maasai drive cattle and sheep from their village into Masai Mara reserve, reducing forage for wildlife
hunted by lions and hyenas. The predators kill livestock, and herders retaliate by poisoning carcasses.
92
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90 percent of its original range. Some experts


predict that within another 20 years, lions will
be reduced to zoo-like numbers, living under
zoo-like conditions. Every deliberate poisoning
brings Kenya one step closer to what the African-
wildlife photographer Peter Beard famously
called “the end of the game.”

PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD have long used


poisons to hunt game and kill enemies. In East
Africa the Acocanthera tree contains a com-
pound that even in small doses can arrest the
heart of a large mammal and has been popular
for centuries. More recently the use of strychnine
for “pest” control was so routine that none other
than George Adamson, the celebrated conserva-
tionist known fondly in Kenya as Baba ya Simba
(Father of Lions in Swahili), used it to dispatch
hyenas he deemed a nuisance.
But the most fateful change, the mixed blessing
that still plagues much of Africa and countries
elsewhere, including the United States, was the
development of synthetic poisons—insecticides
and herbicides—for agriculture. Beginning in the
1980s, when the human population started to
explode across Africa and competition for space
and food increased sharply, landowners and
pastoralists found that pesticides could also be
employed to kill predators (lions, leopards, wild on food crops in the U.S. Yet Kenya had allowed
dogs, jackals), scavengers (hyenas, vultures), and the substance to be imported via the Juanco
crop raiders (elephants, certain birds). At some Group, a distributor in Nairobi.
point people also started using the deadly com- During his first visit to the Bunyala region,
pounds to poach ducks and other waterfowl and Odino found that most agro-vets—small
then sell them as food. agricultural-supply stores in rural areas—sold
A national movement to address poisoning Furadan 5G to anyone. He confirmed that
began when Nature Kenya, East Africa’s old- poachers were applying Furadan to rice to
est natural history organization, learned that kill ducks and to snails to kill African openbill
farmers were using pesticides to kill lions in the storks that feed on them. Animals were dying
north. Darcy Ogada, who was on Nature Kenya’s by the thousands. Poachers sold the birds to
Bird Committee, volunteered to design and over- local residents, who believed that contami-
see surveys to gauge the extent of the problem. nated bush meat, if properly prepared, could
She enlisted an aspiring ornithologist named be rendered harmless, or almost so. Men eat-
Martin Odino to conduct the surveys. ing soup containing poisoned bird parts told
One place they focused on was the Bunyala Odino that their knees felt weak afterward, a
rice fields, in western Kenya, along Lake Victo- symptom consistent with a compound that can
ria. According to unoicial reports, people there disrupt brain-cell activity. But no studies have
were killing birds with the pesticide Furadan been conducted.
5G, a purple granular substance made by a U.S. Ogada took the findings to Paula Kahumbu,
company, Philadelphia-based FMC. Furadan 5G CEO of WildlifeDirect and one of the most influ-
contains the compound carbofuran, a neurotoxin ential conservationists in Kenya, who had been
so poisonous that it had been banned or severely hearing about similar incidents elsewhere in
restricted in Canada, the European Union, Aus- the country. Kahumbu assembled a task force to
tralia, and China and had been prohibited for use address the problem. The inaugural meeting, held

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Lions of the Talek Pride


often prey on Maasai
cattle. In this attack
they killed two cows
and injured another.
The herders chased
off the lions, but this
young male was killed
months later, likely
with a poisoned arrow.

BELOW

Villagers in Empopogi,
east of Masai Mara,
treat an injured goat
with brightly colored
antiseptic spray. The
night before, hyenas
killed more than a
hundred goats and
sheep, ripping open
their bellies.

POISONING AFRICA 95
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A Maasai girl bounces on the carcass of a 52-year-old female elephant near Amboseli National Park, which is
hemmed by farms. Rangers suspect the elephant was poisoned for raiding grain stores and removed her tusks.
96
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In Masai Mara, villag-


ers, along with rangers,
community leaders,
veterinarians, and NGO
staff, participate in
a three-day poison-
response workshop
under the auspices of
the Endangered Wild-
life Trust. They learn
how to conduct foren-
sic examinations, using
dead animals like this
goat, and revive wild-
life sickened by poison.

BELOW

This young elephant,


lovingly cared for at
a retreat in Nairobi,
was orphaned in Masai
Mara when her mother
was shot with a
poisoned arrow.

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the country from elsewhere in Africa. And now


counterfeit Furadan is in circulation, as are
other carbofuran-based products from China
and India. Meanwhile another FMC pesticide, a
pink substance called Marshal, has shown up on
carcasses meant to lure predators. Marshal
contains carbosulfan, which breaks down into
carbofuran in low, yet still toxic, concentrations.
Despite the eforts of Kahumbu, Odino, Ogada,
and others, Kenya’s government has not outlawed
carbofuran. President Uhuru Kenyatta has prior-
itized food security, and the nation’s population
growth makes a ban doubtful. More food means
more intensive farming, with more herbicides
and insecticides, according to Kahumbu. “Ban-
ning any pesticide is quite unlikely,” she says.
As for FMC, Cori Anne Natoli, a company
spokeswoman, wrote in an email that “this is
the first that we have heard of any misuse of
Marshal insecticide,” adding that the company
is investigating and claims no responsibility for
any availability in Kenya of Furadan.

PERHAPS THE MOST GLARING reminder that


Kenya continued to be a pesticide free-for-all
after the Furadan recall was a poisoning inci-
dent nearly three years ago involving the Marsh
Pride, the immensely popular lions that were
in April 2008, was “pivotal,” Ogada says. “For the featured on the BBC series Big Cat Diary. In
first time a whole group of conservationists were early December 2015, the pride, which breeds
talking about the issue in the same room.” Still, in the Musiara Marsh, near the northwestern
Kahumbu knew it would be diicult to persuade boundary of Masai Mara, killed several cattle. In
the government to ban a chemical that Kenya’s response, herders spiked a carcass with poison.
booming agricultural industry had become One lioness died, and a second, severely weak-
dependent on. “They don’t have a cheaper and ened, was mauled to death by hyenas. Shortly
equally efective alternative,” she says. afterward a debilitated male was trampled by
The poisoning problem received worldwide bufalo and had to be euthanized by a KWS vet.
attention in early 2009, when a U.S. television A postmortem revealed traces of carbosulfan
newsmagazine, CBS’s 60 Minutes, aired a report as well as old spear wounds—battle scars from
about Furadan 5G killing lions in Kenya and herders’ previous attempts at retaliation.
highlighted Furadan’s availability. Citing “30- The edges of all protected areas have become
plus poisonings” in the Amboseli region and more dangerous for wildlife, but nowhere is the
“another 35 or 40” in pastoral lands (not conser- threat to large, highly mobile animals more obvi-
vation ranches) in Laikipia, northwest of Mount ous than in the eastern part of the Mara region.
Kenya, carnivore biologist Laurence Frank told Outside the reserve, ranch livestock herds have
correspondent Bob Simon, “That’s gotta be just been expanding and open land shrinking,
the tiny tip of the iceberg.” prompting Maasai pastoralists to drive more and
The exposure embarrassed FMC, which pulled more cattle into the reserve to graze, especially
Furadan 5G from the market in Kenya and set up during the dry season or times of drought.
a buyback program. The strategy was efective, At the height of the incursions, thousands of
to a point: Since about 2010, agro-vet shops hav- cattle amble illegally into lion habitat. The lions
en’t sold Furadan 5G. But carbofuran is still very develop a taste for witless, slow-moving prey,
much available. Occasionally Furadan enters taking victims on both sides of the boundary.

POISONING AFRICA 99
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In a country where guns are diicult to acquire which manages the Mara Triangle—the western
legally, the herders turn to the weapons at hand: and most ecologically robust section of Masai
poison or spears. “At night it’s mayhem,” Thom- Mara. “At the national level, conservation is not a
sett says, evoking a part of the wildlife experience high priority,” he says. Heath, also a former KWS
tourists don’t see. trustee, points out that the government gives
Recognizing that ending the mayhem, or at considerably more money to the tourism board
least containing it, will rely on the cooperation than to KWS, even though the tourism industry,
of local people, nongovernmental organizations the second largest sector of Kenya’s economy,
have tested a new approach—community-based would collapse without the great species and
conservation—to try to reduce retaliatory poi- places KWS is charged with protecting.
sonings, poaching, and other kinds of violence The country’s national parks are understafed,
toward Kenya’s wildlife. and many staf members are undertrained. Vet-
The most notable of the organizations use erinarians often are overworked because they’re
similar strategies. They include patrolling for required by law to treat every human-inflicted
homemade wire snares—a cheap and efective injury to wildlife, even minor snare wounds,
method for disabling zebras and similar animals which can delay them from responding to a poi-
for bush meat—compensating livestock own- soning incident with multiple animal deaths. “It’s
ers for lost cattle and goats (with government very frustrating,” says KWS’s Francis Gakuya.
and private money), and providing sturdier Everywhere basic resources are insuicient, from
bomas, the often flimsy stick-and-branch cor- too few vehicles to not enough fuel.
rals where animals are kept at night. Since 2010 Another overlooked piece of the national
the Anne Kent Taylor Fund has fortified nearly puzzle is the role of police and judges. Mara
800 bomas in the Mara region, and in almost Conservancy rangers caught two of the sus-
every case livestock predation has decreased, pects in the Marsh Pride poisoning. But their
which means the main motive for retaliatory Maasai neighbors raised bail, and the men were
and protective poisoning was eliminated. released. That was the end of it—no follow-up,
One of the groups’ most promising strategies no trial, no one held responsible. Prosecutions
has been to hire area residents as rangers, con- for poisoning wildlife in Kenya have increased
flict mediators, and conservationists. “Wildlife recently, but most ofenders go unpunished.
management is people management,” says Rich- “The most important thing to do is to start
ard Bonham, co-founder of Big Life and its Africa arresting people,” says ornithologist Odino,
director of operations, referring to the problem of echoing the lament of everyone who believes
human-wildlife conflict around Amboseli. the gravity of animal-poisoning crimes is still
not appreciated.
to hold the Kenya Wildlife
I T WO U L D B E E A SY And so the poisonings continue. Carbofuran
Service primarily responsible for the failure remains popular, but anything handy and lethal
to stop wildlife poisoning, and some people will do. Some 40 vultures died in a single inci-
do. The agency’s ambitious vision—“to save dent in Masai Mara this year, almost certainly
the last great species and places on Earth for the collateral damage of retaliation against lions.
humanity”—seems to exceed its capacity. Traditional concoctions are still used, especially
Everywhere I traveled, I heard accounts of among elephant poachers in Tsavo East, where
incompetence: samples from poisoned animals at least half the elephants killed are felled by poi-
not taken, samples lost, samples misidentified, soned arrows—possibly as many as 15 last year.
samples not being tested, and results never It’s easy to smuggle strychnine from Tanzania on
coming back from the lab. There also were com- a motorbike, and any employee of a flower farm
plaints about improper treatment of injured but can divert a new insecticide to the local black
recoverable animals that led to needless deaths, market. Even cement has been used to poison
poorly executed crime-scene investigations, wildlife, a perverse irony in a country booming
and a lack of consistent, comprehensive data with construction. Near Nairobi I saw a billboard
on which to base policies and procedures. advertising Simba Cement, which is made in
But KWS is at the mercy of larger forces, and Kenya. The sign depicted the face of a male lion
chief among them is inadequate funding, says over which the following words were superim-
Brian Heath, head of the Mara Conservancy, posed: “King of the Concrete Jungle.” If nothing

100 N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C
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else, the species will survive as a symbol. Around Amboseli, Big Life recently started
another experiment on neighboring group
O N E DAY T H E A N T I - P OAC H I N G PAT RO L of the Anne ranches: purchasing conservation easements,
Kent Taylor Fund escorted me on a behind-the- which are agreements not to put up fences,
scenes safari into Nyakweri Forest, atop the Siria construct new buildings, or otherwise disrupt
Escarpment, outside Masai Mara. Patrol leader wildlife habitat.
Elias Kamande, a young Kenyan conservationist, What will happen if the easements and con-
showed me a wooded area that until recently had servancies fail?
been an elephant nursery. “The park is dead,” Big Life’s Bonham says.
“Two hundred females giving birth at one During certain times of the year, almost all of
time,” Kamande said. Today the refuge is Amboseli’s roughly 200 lions, like the two rogue
being decimated by charcoal producers. Where brothers near Osewan, live outside the protected
months before had stood large, leafy hardwood area, in the greater Amboseli ecosystem. As long
trees was now a clear-cut area the size of four as big animals such as lions and elephants have
football fields—one of hundreds such tree- safe access to the overall ecosystem, which at
less scars scattered throughout the remaining two million acres is more than 10 times as large
patches of escarpment forest. The lucrative but as the park, they’ll likely remain resilient. Both
illicit charcoal industry is a by-product of land populations have crashed before, in the case of
subdivision. Maasai here and outside other lions mostly because of retaliatory spearings
protected areas have been dividing up group by Maasai. But they’d never have rebounded
ranches, with every male age 18 or older receiv- to today’s numbers (about 1,600 elephants) if
ing a share—essentially privatizing the land they’d been confined to the “island” known as

Kenyans and visitors are getting used to seeing fewer


and fewer lions. It’s not hard to imagine a time when
pesticides are not a concern: NO WILDLIFE, NO CONFLICT.
while transitioning to sedentary life. Amboseli National Park. Managing the livestock
“Five years from now,” Kamande said, refer- ranches for the benefit of wildlife as well as agri-
ring to the Nyakweri Forest, “all this will be culture would keep alive the possibility of lions
gone.” What will replace it? Settlements, herds, and elephants surviving in Kenya.
crops, and fences, lots of fences. That’s likely to Either way people are adept at living without
lead to the elimination of animals—elephants, things once deemed indispensable, a phenome-
lions, giraffes, hyenas, buffalo—that have non Peter Beard described in terms of elephants.
moved freely between the Mara Triangle and The animal’s “ability to destroy its habitat while
the escarpment, both of which are part of the adapting with great cunning to that destruc-
larger Mara ecosystem. tion,” he wrote, is also a trait of Homo sapiens.
Kenya still has time to save crucial dispersal Kenyans and visitors to Kenya are growing
areas and migration corridors. Doing so hinges accustomed to seeing fewer and fewer lions—
in large part on areas called conservancies that so few now that each lion has its own name, like
are managed to make it attractive, by providing a domestic pet, and an online fan club. It’s not
local people with income from tourist lodges, as hard to imagine a time when pesticides are no
well as other incentives, for landowners outside longer a concern: no wildlife, no conflict. Or as
protected areas to set aside habitat for wildlife. Simon Thomsett says, “There will be nothing
When conservancies are established—from left to poison. Game over.” j
the regions of Masai Mara and Amboseli to the
Tsavos—poisoning tends to decrease, at least in Edwin Dobb’s previous stories include “Alaska’s
the short term. “It’s still an experiment,” Heath Choice,” about a controversial mine, in the Decem-
ber 2010 issue. Charlie Hamilton James covers
says, noting that drought, population growth, conservation issues in Africa and the Amazon.
or government policy could undo everything. This is his seventh story for the magazine.

POISONING AFRICA 101


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PORT OF PASAJES, SPAIN

ON THE HUNT WITH Whaling timeline 1 Provisioning

THE BASQUE WHALERS JAN.

T
After the wreck of a Basque galleon—thought to be the San Juan—was A DISTANT CHASE (
discovered of the coast of Canada, National Geographic wrote about its It was voyages to North
exploration (July 1985 issue, at left). Now, we revisit the 16th-century ship’s America to fish for cod
history to illustrate what we’ve learned about the risks and rewards faced by that first led the Basques
to the whaling grounds
the Basques in the new lands they called Terranova. Their quarry: baleen more than 2,000 miles St.
whales and the oil from their blubber, worth millions in today’s dollars. from home.
B Y F E R N A N D O G . B A P T I S TA

Icela
Bris

Galleon
San Juan
79 ft

Cannon
(bombarda)

Sma
(med
barric

PREPARING FOR THE TRIP


15-26 g

Casks loaded with beans, dried peas, Heavy weapons Personal items Shore-station supplies
bacon, and ship’s biscuits (flour-and-water Ships carried artillery such Combs, breeches, woolen Whalers brought roofing
crackers) sustained the crew. Hearty meals as swivel guns and cannons stockings, leather shoes tiles, nails, knives, saws,
were washed down with wine and hard to guard whaling waters and boots, and other and other materials
cider and supplemented with berries, fish, and project sovereignty basic gear were packed for the onshore oil-
and whale meat, when available. over European rivals. in small barrels or chests. processing stations.
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SHIP WEIGHT
2 Sailing 3 Hunting and processing oil 4 Sailing
209 tons
JUN. DEC.
CARGO
Spitsbergen
OUTFITTING THE SAN JUAN 239 tons
T E R R A N O VA Greenland Canadian researcher
60°
W

(NORTH AMERICA) Jan Mayen Selma Huxley Barkham


A RCTI C C I R C L E pored over Basque
3 archives detailing the
Red Bay 30° Iceland fate of the ship and how
Gulf of
0° it was provisioned—
Lawrence analysis that helped
locate the 1565 wreck.
4
ATLANTIC London
OCEAN 2 Amsterdam
Bristol Antwerp
45° N Rouen E U R O P E
Basque fishing or Nantes
whaling area (1530–1760) 5 whaleboats
1 (chalupas)
and Other Basque whaling location Pasajes Floorboards could be 5 copper
stol Main trading city for whale oil SPAIN removed to fit barrels cauldrons
on return trips.

AFRICA

Small barrels:
sardines, olive
oil, bacon

Ship’s biscuits:
240 barrels

WATER
LEVEL

1,000 barrels were


transported in pieces
to preserve space.

Extra-large
((bota)
bota))
bota
247 gallons
Cider: 220 barrels

Wine
Stones secured barrels.

Large Medium
(pipa) (barrica)
120 gal 55 gal

MASTER AND COMMANDED


On a typical voyage, the captain handled navigation
Ship’s and ship operations; the master managed shore oper-
Rope biscuits ations and cargo. A ship of this size usually had a crew
made up of 60 to 65 men and boys.
ll
dia OFFICERS
ca)
gal
Captain Master Steward Boatswain Gunner Carpenter Caulker
(shipboard accounts) (rigging and sails)
Barrel shipping Working women
The cost-conscious With sailors gone for months OFFICERS 20
whalers carried oil on their at a time, women regularly 16
return trips in reusable worked on the docks. Head 5 5 5
barrels originally designed wraps distinguished each
for the wine trade. woman’s city of origin. Flenser Coopers Chalupa Harpooners Seamen Apprentices
(strips blubber) (barrelmakers) skippers
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STRAIT OF BELLE ISLE, CANADA

HOW THEY HUNTED Sneak attack First harpoon Second harpoon

Scouts patrolled in small boats called chalupas, signaling to Quietly rowing, the Standing in the bow, If the whale broke free
crew would close in on the harpooner struck of a first harpoon, a
other crews when they spotted whales in the Strait of Belle Isle. the whale from behind— the whale’s body when buoy on a second one
Skippers of the chalupas, each typically carrying six oarsmen its blind spot. it surfaced to breathe. helped track the animal.
and a harpooner, directed their crews to row in haste—but
stealthily—toward the surfacing or sleeping giants.

Harpooner

S addle Island
Saddle

Chalupa skipper Lances

Sails

Masts

Whale line,
720 ft

Ax to cut Buoy
the whale line

Shown at right
THE CHALUPA BOWHEADS AND RIGHT WHALES
Oak whaleboats, called chalupas, were The top two planks of A thick layer of blubber made these slow-
so fast and maneuverable that native a chalupa overlapped swimming baleen whales a prime target.
peoples of the region adopted the (clinker style), while the Bowheads—the whalers’ prize catch for
technology. With adjustable masts, rest were set edge to their higher oil yield—often swam near Bowhead whale 56 ft Whale’s head North Atlantic right whale 49 ft
chalupas could also be sailed. 26 ft edge (carvel style). pack ice alone or in family groups. Balaena mysticetus 100 tons from above Eubalaena glacialis 60 tons

PROCESSING THE PRIZE


The whale carcass was buoyant, First, slings were attached Tryworks station Hunks of blubber were Blubber was slowly
so processing could begin on the to the whale; the capstan boiled down in onshore melted, purified, and
water. At land-based tryworks, blub- and pulleys were then Oven tryworks, tiled-roof poured into barrels.
5 ft
ber was boiled down to oil; barrels used to rotate the carcass shelters covering stone Baleen was extracted,
of it were floated back to the ships. as men stripped blubber. ovens with cauldrons. cleaned, and bundled.
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Basque fishing or Red Bay


whaling areas (enlarged)
(1530–1580) Strait of
Belle Isle
CANADA
Deep pursuit The kill Moving the bounty dla nd RED BAY
Gulf of St. f oun
48° N Lawrence New Each season some 1,000 men on
Harpoon lines uncoiled rap- Whalers severed strong Chalupas worked together 15 ships hunted or manned 15
idly as the tethered whale tail tendons to avoid being to drag the whale, a rope ATLANTIC tryworks (oil-rendering stations)
Buoy
Buoy
y OCEAN
sped up or dived under- flipped by the whale, then tied around its tail, from at the height of Basque whaling
0 mi 200
water to attempt escape. lanced its vital organs. open water to ship or shore. in the 1560s and ’70s.
60° W 0 km 200

Tryworks
Sunken wharf
P
Penney y
I d
Island Shipwreck

0 ft 1,000

0m 250
T
Tryworks
s Red Bay
C
Cemetery
y The
Harbour
San Juan?
(1565)

1 ftt
108
3 m
33 SSaddle
Sadd l e
IIsland
Isl a ndd Cemetery TTwin
winn
IIsles
sless
Basque crews killed about
13,000 whales in these coastal
waters during the 16th century.
Direction of
Strait of Belle Isle view in scene

U
Upper jaw
w

S n
Skin M
Muscle
e THE TRADE
Mounted on wooden
Blubber
B
Baleen
n shafts, iron-headed
12 in
harpoons and lances
were coated with wax to
protect against corrosive
seawater.

The oil harvested from Filter-feeding baleen LLip


p
the whales’ insulat- plates, strong and ((coveringg
HHarpoon
ing blubber lubricated flexible, were used as bbaleen))
((head,
head,
Europe’s looms, burned corset stays and later aactual
ctual size))
in oil lamps, and was as umbrella ribs and
mixed into soaps. fishing rods.

Lower
Lower jaw
w L
Lancess F
Flensing
t
tools,
Working in shifts day and
t strip
to
night, two teams of men b
blubber r
could capture and pro-
cess a whale into 60 bar-
rels of oil within 2.5 days.
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RED BAY, CANADA

READY TO RETURN
CARGO The Basques were the master whalers of their day, but n
290 tons PACKING THE WHALE OIL their ships weathered the voyages. Seamen’s court testimon
Barrels were interlocked to insurance claims tell of a costly end to the San Juan: drive
prevent shifting and max- the rocks by violent winds before departure in 1565. But the
imize space. On a typical
return voyage, chalupas survived, many barrels were recovered, and the Basques d
Cider
may have been left behind nated the hunting grounds of the north into the next cent
and some men given extra
wages to winter in Red Bay
to allow more room for oil.

Barrels of ship’s Whalers relieved


biscuits, cod themselves over
the beakhead,
with tarred rope
as toilet paper.

Fifteen to 20
whales yielded
enough oil to fill
the cargo hold.

WATER
LEVEL
Beakhead
Galley

Flensing
operations
Bundles of baleen—
in higher demand
at the end of the
16th century—were
stacked and bound. Crew’s
quarters

1,000
barrels of
whale oil

16TH-CENTURY PROFIT SHARING


The ship’s owners, outfitters, and crew each got a third
of the cargo. The captain and master negotiated their
share with the owners and outfitters, and the crew- Barrels were floated from
members’ shares varied based on their position. land to ships for loading.

$10,000,000 Barrels per person


total value of cargo Owners and
FERNANDO G. BAPTISTA, RILEY D. CHAMPINE, DAISY CHUNG,
in 2018 dollars captain 12 Harpooners AND EVE CONANT, NGM STAFF; PATRICIA HEALY. SHIZUKA AOKI
AND ELIJAH LEE, BIORENDER (BOWHEAD WHALE, INTERNAL ANATOMY).
4 Seamen SOURCES: XABIER AGOTE AND MIKEL LEOZ AIZPURU, ALBAOLA BASQUE MARITIME
Outfitters HERITAGE ASSOCIATION; BRAD LOEWEN, UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL; NINYA
and master 3 Apprentices MIKHAILA AND JANE MALCOLM-DAVIES, THE TUDOR TAILOR; J. CRAIG GEORGE,
$10,000 DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT, UTQIAĠVIK, ALASKA; ROSALIND ROLLAND,
ANDERSON CABOT CENTER FOR OCEAN LIFE, NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM; BRENNA
per barrel Crew 8 Officers FRASIER, SAINT MARY’S UNIVERSITY, NOVA SCOTIA; CINDY GIBBONS, PARKS CANADA
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N
not all 1978: RECOVERING THE SAN JUAN
More than
ny and 2,000 miles 45 feet Found under kelp and silt, the ship’s flat-
Reconstruction of remains
n into Red Bay Pasajes
tened hull had been preserved for centu-
e crew Seafloor ries by icy waters. The first plank brought
Actual remains
up was oak, not native to the region but
domi- known to be used by the Basques. Red
tury. Original position of the shipwreck Back view Bay is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

During voyages, the


crew cooked food
Officers’
in cauldrons over a
quarters
stone-lined firebox.
Sandglass

Captain’s
cabin
Capstan
Compass
box
Bilge
pump
Tiller

Crew’s
quarters

Sailors slept
on straw-
filled sacks.

Seamen passed the time Anchors attached by


weaving, playing checkers, cables were hoisted
and carving designs into onto the San Juan by
baleen or the ship’s hull. the capstan.

When sailing, pilots care-


fully recorded distances,
tides, and the ship’s prog-
ress, guided by rudimen-
tary instruments such as a
Bottom sandglass—to measure time
of mast Rudder and speed—and a compass.
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The
Butterfly
Catchers
IN THE MURKY WORLD OF CAPTURING
A N D T R A D I N G T H E D E L I C AT E I N S E C T,
THE COLORFUL PRIZE IS MESMERIZING.

B Y M AT T H E W T E AG U E
P H O T O G R A P H S B Y E V G E N I A A R B U G A E VA
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A goliath birdwing
hatches in the kitchen
of a tourist house in
West Papua, Indonesia.
Hatchlings are killed
young, to preserve
their wings. The trade
in rare butterflies—
both legal and illegal—
spans the planet, from
catchers to middlemen
to collectors.

113
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It can be a
treacherous thing,
hunting this
particular
butterfly. Baco Bugis follows
his own migration
pattern from Decem-
The peacock swallowtail, Papilio blumei, lives ber to March, moving
only here, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, hundreds of miles to
follow butterflies deep
and only at a certain altitude. Its mountain into remote Indone-
home is a steep rock covered with a thin layer sian forests. He hunts
of wet earth, where every handhold and step the elusive birdwings—
sometimes finding just
sends away a small mudslide. And somewhere one or two a week—for
along the way, between the valley and the peak, which dealers can pay
an economy becomes clear: This is why some up to a hundred dollars
and foreign collectors
butterflies are valuable. This is why there’s a much more.
black market for the rare ones.
The hunter, a man named Jasmin Zainuddin, PREVIOUS PHOTO

stops a moment. He carries a stick that he uses to A catcher on Bacan


island, Indonesia, sorts
prod the mud, testing it. “Only a little bit higher,” his specimens, which
he says. he’ll sell in Bali. From
Jasmin has lived his entire life on this island, there the butterflies
are exported through-
and over decades he has built a network of out Asia and on to
informers, transporters, and catchers to move collectors worldwide.

116 ILLUSTRATION OF PAPILIO BLUMEI: MONICA SERRANO, NGM STAFF


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butterflies from local mountaintops to collectors his mud-testing staff, Jasmin breathes hard
around the world. Today his morning started through an open smile. “Close now,” he says.
in Makassar, a city at the island’s southwestern Eventually the mountainside begins to shape
tip. A van carried him and several helpers on a itself into terraced rice paddies, and Jasmin’s
winding road up from the lowland heat, through destination appears above. It’s a hut he built
jungle, and finally into a mountain village himself, raised high on stilts. One by one, he
where the road became too steep and slippery. and his helpers climb a log to enter it.
There Jasmin moved his supplies and crew onto As the sun sets, Jasmin stretches out on the
the backs of a half dozen motorbikes, mostly floor of the hut. He’s middle-aged now, and haul-
driven by small boys. The road crumbled and ing supplies gets harder every trip. Tomorrow,
narrowed into a path, which became a series he says, the hunt will begin in earnest. For now,
of swinging bridges that could bear one motor- two women, one middle-aged and one younger,
bike at a time, and which ended altogether at prepare dinner.
the next village. From there everyone disem- Every word Jasmin speaks, every item he
barked, took up sacks of rice and jugs of water, touches, every memory he recollects centers
and started to climb. on butterflies. He has studied, followed, and
It’s an arduous journey. But now, leaning on caught them since an encounter with a foreigner

B U T T E R F LY C AT C H E R S 117
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A young mother on
Indonesia’s Sulawesi
island sorts her catch.
Closest to the original
sources, the butterfly
trade is a means of sub-
sistence. Families often
tend a farm during one
season and catch but-
terflies in another. Each
specimen may earn
them a penny or two.
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when he was a small boy. Now he pays an army local people did. For example, when Jasmin was
of small boys himself, all equipped with gos- young, a French collector showed him a glass
samer nets. Together they make up the lowest bell in which he trapped butterflies with a bit
step in a butterfly market that ends in private of ether. “A killing jar,” Jasmin says.
parlors and corporate boardrooms in faraway A government project forced his family to
lands, where some collectors pay thousands of move soon after that, he says, but that pecu-
dollars for specimens they display under glass. liar jar stayed in his imagination: the motion
In the near darkness the women laugh at of the butterflies, and how easily they slipped
Jasmin’s prone figure as they cook. The older into stillness.
is Mujiauna, his wife of almost 30 years. They The next turn in his life came a few years
smile at each other a lot. later, in the 1980s. A small group of Japanese
Jasmin sits up. “You must have a wife?” he says. visitors arrived on Sulawesi with questions
It’s the first time he has veered from the sub- about butterflies. One of them, a man Jasmin
ject of butterflies, and the question is so unex- called Mr. Nishiyama, spoke some Indonesian,
pected I struggle with it. and noticed the boy. He thought Jasmin was
“No,” I say. “Or not anymore.” smart, paid attention, and seemed to have a
“Something happened to her?” genuine ainity for the butterflies.
“Yes.” Over the next two decades Mr. Nishiyama
He sits in silence a moment and lies down returned to the island many times, always hir-
again. ing Jasmin to help him on expeditions into the
mountains. As they hiked, the Japanese man
of the
T H E H U T S I T S O N T H E W E ST E R N FAC E revealed an entire world of butterflies: their pat-
mountain, so that the next day arrives as a slab terns of flying, mating, resting; what drew them
of light sliding between the mountainside and in, what repelled them. Only years later did Jas-
low rain clouds. min learn his teacher was Yasusuke Nishiyama,
Jasmin rarely climbs all the way to the top one of Asia’s great lepidopterists. He wrote books
anymore, he says, but today he’ll accompany about the butterflies they found together.
his favorite catcher, a young man named Aris, Now Jasmin points beyond a high waterfall.
part of the way. They each carry a net. “There,” he says. That’s where the blumei live.
A stream runs past the paddies, and they Aris continues climbing. He springs among
follow it to a small river, and then follow that wet roots and rocks like a leopard. Jasmin
farther up the mountain. Along the way Jas- remains below. As he recedes into the forest, he
min talks freely—butterflies are deaf to human doesn’t immediately turn away; he lets his eyes
voices—but his eyes read the forest with a spe- linger on the mist above the waterfall. Absently
cific literacy. In a scene of ferns and vines and he lets his butterfly net sway in gentle arcs, with
dripping water he can pick out any tiny winged the net drifting like a cobweb on the air.
thing resting on the underside of a leaf. “No,” he
says each time. “Too common.” is the first of a
T H E WAT E R F A L L , I T T U R N S O U T,
Jasmin’s father caught butterflies before him, series. Aris climbs them and eventually breaks
starting in the early 1970s. They lived in a vil- past the cloud cover, emerging into clear sky
lage called Bantimurung, which Alfred Russel framed by high jungle canopy. He stops and
Wallace, the great British naturalist, had visited reaches into a triangular wooden box that swings
a century earlier. He described Bantimurung at his hip. From it he withdraws a triangular
as “a beautiful sight, being dotted with groups piece of wax paper, and from that he tenderly
of gay butterflies—orange, yellow, white, blue, removes a specimen of the butterfly he hopes
and green—which on being disturbed rose into to find. Papilio blumei.
the air by hundreds, forming clouds of varie- Its wings look like black velvet, each with a
gated colours.” stripe of peacock blue-green. It’s a startling
The father’s technique was rudimentary. object, like a jewel, and it’s immediately clear
He caught whatever creatures floated near the why collectors on distant continents would
family home and ofered them to foreigners who desire it.
visited the island. Soon the foreigners who came Aris cuts a tiny sliver of wood from a tree, no
seemed to know more about the butterflies than bigger than a matchstick, and sharpens it to a

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point. He uses it to pin his butterfly specimen So I stop the story there. There’s no need to
to a large leaf about waist high, then retreats to explain about the cancer that had already taken
watch from a rock outcropping. hold in Nicole during that trip and would take
“Female,” he says, nodding. “The male will her away, in pieces, over the next two years.
come, looking for a mate.” Sometimes now my girls remove the butterfly
He settles into a hollow spot in the rock to wait. earrings from their case and admire them in the
He has a mate of his own, he says, and a new mirror. They’re inexpensive jewelry, but the girls
baby. They live at Jasmin’s hut year-round, sur- always handle them like treasures.
viving on rice and income from the butterflies. He “I miss my wife,” Aris says.
and the other catchers bring them to Jasmin, who Me too, I say.
pays a few cents for each butterfly. Jasmin sells We sit a long time. Hours. Catching butter-
them either at the market in Bantimurung or to a flies is a lonesome endeavor. Then Aris’s finger
man in Jakarta—an Indonesian butterfly boss— shoots toward the sky: “Look.”
who then sells them to dealers around the world. High among the treetops—higher than I would
By the time a blumei’s final seller mounts the but- have searched for a butterfly—there’s a flicker of
terfly in a display case, it might go for close to a blue, like a scrap of confetti. Slowly it descends in
hundred dollars. Other species—internationally a drifting, indirect route toward the decoy.
protected species—sell for astronomical prices.
The idea of trading in butterflies sounds
quaint, almost Victorian, but the internet
has enabled the modern market. In 2017 Brit-
ish authorities, for the first time, convicted a Butterflies exist on
man for capturing and killing a large blue, one
of the United Kingdom’s rarest butterflies.
the edge of nonexistence,
Investigators linked Phillip Cullen to an online floating along this side
of a mortal veil.
auction account.
In 2007 a multiyear investigation by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service in Los Angeles led to
the conviction of Hisayoshi Kojima, a Japanese Such is their delicacy:
man who described himself as “the world’s most
wanted butterfly smuggler.” He had ofered to
unattainable in life,
sell an undercover agent an illegal collection of
butterflies worth more than a quarter million
unsatisfying in death.
dollars. It’s hard to pin down the exact size of
the global black market for butterflies today,
but estimates range up to hundreds of millions As it comes closer, I realize just how diferent
of dollars a year. it is from the decoy. It is a glittering thing, not
“Do you see butterflies at home?” Aris says. one peacock tone but many. Its color has a fourth
Sometimes, I say. dimension; moment to moment as it moves,
My hometown of Fairhope, Alabama, is at the the color changes depending on the angle of its
center of the migration path for monarch but- wings in the sun.
terflies. One of the last outings my wife and I Scientists have tried for years to replicate
made with our two girls was to a museum where this quality of the blumei’s. In 2010 a team of
we watched a documentary called Flight of the U.K. university researchers from Cambridge
Butterflies, about the orange-and-black mon- and Exeter tried to describe its essence in the
archs’ great annual movement from Canada to journal Nature Nanotechnology: “Although the
central Mexico and back again. We all fell in love physics of structural colours is well understood,
with them, and as we left the museum, my it remains a challenge to create artificial repli-
daughters begged us for butterfly-themed books cas of natural photonic structures. Here we use
and toys. My wife, Nicole, bought a delicate pair a combination of layer deposition techniques,
of monarch earrings. including colloidal self-assembly, sputtering and
Aris likes the idea of a butterfly movie. It atomic layer deposition, to fabricate photonic
makes him laugh. structures that mimic the colour mixing efect

B U T T E R F LY C AT C H E R S 121
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HOMERUS SWALLOWTAIL
Papilio homerus
Named after the Greek
poet Homer. Featured on
Jamaican postage stamps.

Male
NORTH
AMERICA
JAMAICA

SOUTH
AMERICA

Female

Winged Desire
Of the planet’s roughly 20,000 species of butter-
Actual size
of largest
O. alexandrae
on record
All other
butterflies
flies, swallowtails are especially intriguing to shown at half
collectors. The more than 560 swallowtails include actual size.
the world’s largest butterflies—birdwings—and
Host plant some of the most expensive and threatened (five
Hernandia
are shown here). They face a triple menace of
catalpifolia
habitat loss, climate change, and poaching. Thanks
to conservation programs and anti-poaching laws,
swallowtails are surviving despite a black market
where prices start in the pennies and run into
the thousands for protected species.

LUZON PEACOCK
SWALLOWTAIL
Papilio chikae
Discovered in 1965; traders
often mislabel this species to
elude law enforcement.
Male Female

ASIA
PHILIPPINES
Euodia glauca

AUSTRALIA

WALLACE'S GOLDEN BIRDWING


Ornithoptera croesus
Named after the famed nat-
uralist, who nearly fainted at
first sight of its beauty.
Female

Male
ASIA

INDONESIA

AUSTRALIA

gaudichaudii
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Females lay eggs after SENSORS QUEEN ALEXANDRA'S BIRDWING


tapping leaves with their Ornithoptera alexandrae
forelegs, which have sensors The O. alexandrae is the
to detect their target plant. LEAF largest butterfly known to
scientists—its wingspan
Aristolochia
dielsiana can reach nearly 12 inches.

ASIA
PAPUA
NEW
GUINEA

AUSTRALIA

CLEAR
SCALE

DARK
SCALE
Female

Male

Microscopic scales scatter


light, creating iridescent
colors and patterns that
likely help attract mates.

Flying rarities
A coveted half-male, half-
female gynandromorph
can occur if a fertilized egg
unevenly divides into the
two cells that form each side
of a butterfly’s body.

APOLLO
Parnassius apollo Male
Varied wing patterns led Male Female
collectors to wildly inflate
the number of subspecies. Female

EUROPE
ASIA
Sedum album G YN AN D RO M O RP H

AFRICA

MONICA SERRANO, LAUREN E. JAMES, AND RYAN T. WILLIAMS, NGM STAFF. LORI PUMA. SOURCES: ED NEWCOMER, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE; FABIEN CONDAMINE,
CNRS; THOMAS TURNER, CARIBBEAN WILDLIFE PUBLICATIONS; BRENT KARNER, BIOQUIP; MARK COLLINS, SWALLOWTAIL AND BIRDWING BUTTERFLY TRUST; MARTIN FEATHER,
FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN; RUDI VEROVNIK, UNIVERSITY OF LJUBLJANA
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found on the wings of the Indonesian butterfly diicult to escape the moment the blumei ceased
Papilio blumei.” to move. It remained beautiful afterward, but
All of that—the sputtering atomic beauty— in an instant all its fourth-dimensionality had
is on display as the butterfly descends. It is, in drained away. It had become a mere gemstone
short, alive. or a splash of paint.
As it moves toward its potential mate, Aris’s More than for the butterfly, I feel sorrow for
net shoots out and swallows it whole, like a whoever will eventually hang it on a wall or tilt
diaphanous predator. it on a desk. That person will never know just
It’s painful to see. I had forgotten, for a how exquisite it had been in life.
moment, about the net.
Aris’s face is alight with joy. And of course at the hut,
O V E R T H E N E X T C O U P L E O F D AY S
it is—with great patience and skill he has just catchers bring Jasmin specimens for inspection.
captured a prize that will help provide food for They come from all directions, sometimes in the
his wife and new baby. He reaches gently into morning, sometimes emerging from darkness.
the net and takes it in his hands. With its wings They bring butterflies, mostly, but a hand-
pinned back between his thumb and forefinger, ful of moths and other insects. One evening as
he uses the other hand to pinch its body for a the sun sets, a few catchers sit talking on Jas-
moment, and it dies. min’s high porch. Then suddenly one—an older
He gathers up the decoy, puts it and the new man—stands up, grabs his net, and leaps to the
specimen into their little triangular wax paper ground below. The others cheer as he sprints
envelopes, and slips them into his box. As he uphill, waving his net toward a dark, ghostly
walks now, he whistles. shape in the air.
As we descend the waterfalls, though, it’s He returns, and the men take turns examining

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soil washed away and left great cones and towers


of rock that rise and lean over the landscape. The
corridors between them twist and dive, some-
times underground, and emerge where ancient
waterfalls still carve them in slow motion.
The market piles up against the entrance to
A butterfly dealer in
West Papua attracts Bantimurung Ecotourism Park, a gateway to the
moths for a Japanese national park. In contrast to the quiet loneliness
collector by making of the catchers setting their traps in mountain
traps with white sheets
and bright lights. The mist, the market is explosive and many-colored,
dealer hires villagers to a carnival. Hawkers call out “kupukupukupu-
breed butterflies and kupu!”—butterflies! butterflies!—as a crowd
work as guides, provid-
ing jobs that make the moves among rows of stalls. Two types of visitors
butterflies important populate the scene. The first is tourists who wear
to the local economy butterfly T-shirts and sip from butterfly cups;
but may harm conser-
vation efforts. they nibble butterfly candy under butterfly para-
sols. The other group is mostly men in button-
PREVIOUS PHOTO up shirts—dealers who’ve come to do business.
From subtle hues They peruse the stalls where thousands upon
come vibrant colors:
The variations in thousands of butterflies sit on display, some
birdwing chrysalides— framed, some encased in shadow boxes.
the final stage of Indonesia’s rules governing the capture, sale,
metamorphosis from
which a winged adult and export of butterflies are complicated and rid-
emerges—mimic the dled with exceptions, which allow even endan-
vegetation surrounding gered species bred for the commercial market to
the pupating caterpil-
lars. These specimens be bought and sold in certain instances. But how
are native to Cambodia. does one tell a wild butterfly from one raised on
ROBERT CLARK
a breeding farm?
As Jasmin moves among the stalls, I ask him:
Is there a section for legal trade, and a section for
his catch: a birdwing. A rare butterfly, and a pro- the black market? He wraps his arms together,
tected species. and then interlaces his hands and fingers, to
“It’s just a small one,” Jasmin says. indicate the two markets are intertwined.
Even so, it is enormous, able to cover a man’s If he notices a protected species on display,
entire hand. Its wings appear dull and mottled would he mind pointing it out?
until Jasmin slides the forewing away from the He shakes his head and gives a soft smile, then
hind wing, revealing a shock of yellow between. walks along the stalls, touching frames and dis-
A ribbon of hidden beauty. plays as he goes. “This,” he says. “This... this...
The men celebrate. The birdwing will make a this... this... this... this... this...” He indicates
good sale, they say, even better than the blumei. about half the butterflies.
They don’t discuss why: The blumei is illegal to When the men in button-up shirts are seri-
capture inside Bantimurung Bulusaraung Na- ous, they duck behind the stalls into back
tional Park, but catching the birdwing is restricted rooms to negotiate private deals. Jasmin is
everywhere. So it will go to the black market. serious. In a room behind a storefront, another
The next day Jasmin makes the journey down man shows him several boxes full of the wax
from the mountain to the market outside Banti- paper triangles. These butterflies started their
murung park. He and his helpers make their journey in the nets of boys on far-flung islands,
long trek in reverse: the mountainside climb, then were transported in vans driven by mid-
the motorbikes and swinging bridges, the van, dlemen, and finally they have been funneled
and finally the heat of the lowlands. here—heaps and mounds of them, waiting for
You can see Bantimurung park from miles an overseas buyer.
away. It’s part of one of the largest karst forma- Surely the government knows about this trade?
tions in the world, shaped when limestone and Jasmin gives the soft smile again and

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A sculpture of a Papilio
blumei—symbol of local
pride—tops the gate-
way to Bantimurung
Ecotourism Park. The
surrounding national
park, established in
2004, helps address
some threats to butter-
flies—habitat loss and
pesticide use—but also
faces challenges from
butterfly poachers.
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Delicate nature displays


have drawn collectors
to Deyrolle, a Paris
taxidermy shop, since
1831. That’s about when
butterfly collecting
took off in Europe, as
lepidopterists began
searching worldwide
for specimens. Today
collecting is especially
popular in Japan.
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moves to a window, where he points into the before what appears to be a small garden dec-
crowd: “Look... look... look,” he says. He’s orated with large rocks. The context is so jar-
pointing out men in police uniforms, who ring—we can hear tourists squealing at the water
seem unperturbed. park—that only gradually does the meaning of
“Let me show you something,” he says. the stones take shape.
We walk into the park itself, where we see a They’re grave markers.
fading hotel and natural water slide and tour
guides leading groups toward underground cav- he plays on the floor
B A C K AT J A S M I N ’ S H O M E ,
erns. Butterflies decorate every surface, down with his small granddaughter. He wants his son
to the pavement itself, but there are no actual to follow him into the butterfly business, he says,
butterflies to be seen in the air. “The government but the young man shows no interest.
does not care,” Jasmin says. As they play, I look over maps of the area. Ban-
He points to a building. “That is where my timurung Bulusaraung National Park, I realize,
home was when I was small.” Banti murung is larger than I had thought. Much larger.
Ecotourism Park, he says, was the government What was the name again, of the village near-
project that ousted his family when he was a boy. est his hut?
He walks deeper into the park, past his for- “Laiya,” he says.
mer home, past a glassed-in terrarium that once And there on the map is tiny Laiya—at the foot
held butterflies but now sits empty. Around a of the mountain. Deep inside the park.
corner and down a narrow passage, away from So all the butterflies he and his catchers bring
the crowds, he begins to walk more slowly and from that mountain are caught illegally.
speak more softly. He shrugs. “As long as there is the forest, there
“This was my family,” he says. He stands will be butterflies,” he says.

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that he cannot read, but which he gazes at with


his granddaughter. The bricks in the walls them-
selves are shaped into familiar wings.
There’s no part of Jasmin’s home, like his life,
that isn’t touched by butterflies.

why butterflies inspire


I T ’ S D I F F I C U LT T O S AY
such obsession. Why Victorian collectors went
mad for them or Japanese businessmen devote
whole rooms to them, or why the great novelist
Vladimir Nabokov studied them in microscopic
detail throughout his lifetime. “I have hunted
butterflies in various climes and disguises,”
he wrote in Speak, Memory, “as a pretty boy in
Collectors and dealers knickerbockers and sailor cap; as a lanky cos-
buy and sell butterfly mopolitan expatriate in flannel bags and beret;
specimens from Africa,
Asia, the Americas, and as a fat hatless old man in shorts.”
beyond at the annual I suspect the endurance of their appeal lies
Tokyo Insect Fair, which in their very ephemerality. Like the blumei
has no website but
attracts enthusiasts that Aris pinched so tenderly on the Sulawesi
from around the globe. mountaintop, they seem to exist on the edge of
The international mar- nonexistence, to float along just this side of a
ket for butterflies
is, like the creatures mortal veil. Such is their delicacy that they are
themselves, quiet and unattainable in life, and unsatisfying in death.
difficult to pin down. In the spring, back home in Alabama, my
Estimates of the trade
range as high as hun- younger daughter looked up during a car ride
dreds of millions of and said, “Do you know something Mommy
dollars a year. always wanted us to do?”
She’s 11 now, and we’ve been on our own for
four years. Four years that I’ve flinched at ques-
He feels an ownership, because his family tions like this one. They remind me that because
came from that land. The government took away I have not found another mate, my girls have no
his birthright, in his view, so he takes it back. mother figure; and of everything I haven’t done,
But if everyone does the same, I start to say— or can’t do, or am too tired to try, alone.
and for the first time, Jasmin bristles. But I can’t let her see that, so I say, “Nope,
“As long as there is a forest,” he repeats. “But what’s that?”
they are taking the forest.” “A butterfly garden.”
He raises an index finger, angry now, and “That’s a good idea,” I say. And then, to myself:
begins to reel of a series of scientific butterfly It really is. I can do that.
names. I choose one—Ixias piepersi—and look it So we pick a spot in the yard and dig several
up in one of his illustrated books. It doesn’t seem holes and lower into them an assortment of
remarkable in any way, just yellowish and small. plants and flowers that monarchs love. Lantana
But they have existed only in a small stretch of camara and Bulbine frutescens, especially.
coastline between Bantaeng and Bulukumba on After the last one we step back for perspec-
the south edge of the island. Now coastal fish tive. My older daughter says, “Not bad. I hope
farms have wiped out their habitat, Jasmin says, they come.”
and he fears they are going extinct. They will. It’s just a matter of waiting for the
Now Jasmin’s eyes are wet. “No one loves the season to change, I tell her. And the days are
kupu-kupu more,” he says. “Look at my home. already getting warmer. j
Look around.”
Butterflies are woven into his tablecloth and Matthew Teague profiled South Sudanese ele-
phant herds in the November 2010 issue. Evgenia
painted into the decor. He has signed editions of Arbugaeva photographed reindeer herders in
Mr. Nishiyama’s books in Japanese and English the Russian Arctic for the October 2017 issue.

B U T T E R F LY C AT C H E R S 133
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D I S PATC H E S | YEMEN

Trapped in a Health Crisis


CIVIL WAR HAS SHATTERED YEMEN’S MEDICAL CARE ,
LOCKING CITIZENS INTO A WORLD OF VIOLENCE AND DISEASE.

BY NINA STROCHLIC P H O T O G R A P H S B Y M AT T E O B A S T I A N E L L I

135
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EUROPE
CHOLERA CRISIS ASIA

Since April 2017, more than a million Cholera infection rate


suspected cholera cases have been April 2017–March 2018 A FR I C A
YEMEN
OMAN
reported in Yemen. An international
blockade and reliance on imported Low High
medical supplies have made it difficult
to contain and treat the outbreak. North and south Yemen were
SAUDI ARABIA governed separately until
the country unified in 1990.
Tensions between political fac-
Sadah
tions erupted in 2014, creating
what the UN deems the world’s
worst humanitarian disaster.

0 mi 50

-
H
Sayun

RT
E
O
0 km 50

D
Hajjah Amran
N
VI
Marib ER

DI
RM TH
Sanaa FO
S O
U Y E M E N
Al Hudaydah Arabian
Red Dhamar Al Mukalla Sea
Sea
Ibb Area under control or influence
As of May 2018
Ad Dali
Taizz Houthi rebels (supported by Iran)
e n
A d Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
f o f
Aden G u l and tribal allies

Hadi government and other forces


AFRICA Bab el Mandeb (supported by the Saudi-led coalition
and allies)

13°34'39" N, 44°01'04" E was a strategic port at the entrance to


the Red Sea, made rich by spices and
T H E YO U N G WOM A Nwas carried into the scents. Today it’s one of the poorest
hospital at 9:30 a.m. Twenty minutes countries in the world. Until 1990
earlier she had been hanging laundry north and south Yemen were governed
A father holds his baby
when a bomb fell in her courtyard on separately, and this divide continues
at the Mother and
Child Hospital after the the outskirts of Taizz, an ancient city to fuel conflict. In late 2014 separat-
child was treated for in southwest Yemen. A man covered in ist Houthi rebels seized the capital
a respiratory infection. blood, her cousin, cried as the doctors of Sanaa in an attempted coup. Fear-
Doctors and nurses rushed her to the trauma center. ing a regional shake-up, neighboring
have fled Yemen, leav- “Both legs?” he asked when the Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of
ing hospitals stretched
doctor returned and gestured to show President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s
thin. “A lot of my col-
leagues have already where they would amputate. One leg former government. With support
left or are trying to was shredded; the other had a protrud- from the U.S., the U.K., and nearly a
travel to the Gulf states ing bone. Both, the doctor confirmed. dozen Arab states, a Saudi-led coali-
to find a better life,” She was put in an ambulance and taken tion launched an air campaign to help
says one Yemeni doc- to another hospital. Then there was Yemen’s government keep its grasp on
tor working in Sanaa.
silence. The nurses scrubbed blood of large swaths of the country.
the floor and waited for the next patient. After three years of fighting, the
PREVIOUS PHOTO
That night, Matteo Bastianelli, an numbers are stunning: In a nation of
In a dedicated ward of Italian photographer who’d watched nearly 29 million, 22 million Yemenis
the Al-Nasser Hospital,
the scene, wrote in his diary about are in need of humanitarian assistance,
babies are treated
for malnutrition— life in Taizz after three years under according to the UN. Two million have
they’re just two of the siege: “Doctors wait, with the thunder been displaced. At least 10,000 are
estimated 1.8 million of airplanes in their ears and the dust dead. With the economy and health
acutely malnourished in their eyes, living with the fear that care system in shambles, Yemenis
children under age something terrible and irreparable make desperate decisions to find med-
five. Yemen’s depleted
could happen at any moment.” ical treatment. Some take dangerous
health ministry relies
on humanitarian orga- cross-country journeys to hospitals
nizations to provide by the Romans as Ara-
O N C E K N OW N run by humanitarian groups; others
medical care. bia Felix, “Fortunate Arabia,” Yemen spend their savings at private clinics.

CLARE TRAINOR, NGM STAFF. SOURCES: RISK INTELLIGENCE;


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More than half of Yemen’s hospitals


are closed or partly functioning, and
sometimes administrators must choose
between buying medical supplies and
fuel for generators. Infectious diseases
such as cholera and diphtheria are ram-
pant, reflecting the lack of treated water
and other basic government services.

BEFORE 2015 the recently built, five-


story white stone building on the
outskirts of Taizz was slated to be a
hotel. Less than two miles behind a
battlefront, it’s now a maternity hos-
pital and trauma center run by Doctors TOP
Without Borders. Behind the concrete
Long lines to refill
barrier, malnourished babies are fed, canisters are a common
cholera patients recover, and war vic- sight at gas stations.
tims are bandaged: young boys hit with Since 2015 fuel prices
shrapnel while playing in their yards, have more than dou-
the hospital’s own night watchman, bled and the country
has lost more than
hit by a shell while shopping.
40 percent of its
Doctors and other health workers GDP. “The economic
at public hospitals haven’t been paid disaster is even worse
since 2016. Humanitarian groups are than the killing,” says
supporting the health ministry with Radhya Almutawakel,
salaries and supplies. But a Saudi-led co-founder of the
Mwatana Organization
coalition blockade on the country’s
for Human Rights,
airports and ports in an attempt to stop in Sanaa. “People
supplies from reaching the rebels has are dying behind
arbitrarily delayed or diverted aid ship- closed doors.”
ments, says Kristine Beckerle, with
Human Rights Watch, adding that both BOTTOM LEFT

sides “are weaponizing aid.” An average of five


Since 2017 the country has seen children have been
killed or injured each
more than a million suspected cholera
day since the conflict
cases—the worst outbreak in modern began, according to
history. One NGO ordered a shipment of UNICEF. At the Mother
medication in July 2017. It didn’t arrive and Child Hospital,
until April. nine-year-old Arzaa
Many of Yemen’s doctors have Abdalbaqu Abdella
received fresh dressing
moved to private hospitals or fled the
for a fracture.
country, leaving a shortage of medical
professionals. Those who stay behind BOTTOM RIGHT
train their neighbors to treat wounds in A seven-year-old boy
case of an emergency overnight, when hit by shrapnel from
it’s too dangerous to travel. an explosion is treated
The private clinics cost more than by Doctors Without
even a middle-class civilian can aford. Borders in a hospital
outside Taizz. The city
If you are dying, one elderly man told
has been battered
Bastianelli, you have to pay to be pro- by Saudi-led coalition
nounced dead. The other option is air strikes.
to drive across the front lines to one
of the country’s two open airports. PREVIOUS PHOTO
Few can afford the cost of fuel—or Hundreds of schools
the risk. “They’re locked in Yemen. like this one in Ad Dali
No country is giving them asylum or have been destroyed
by air strikes. Currently
making a humanitarian corridor,” says
two million school-age
Bastianelli. “They count the days and children are not
wait to die.” j enrolled in school.

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YOUR SHOT
KHAI NGUYEN
PHOTOS FROM OUR COMMUNITY

WHO Nguyen plans his family’s vacations around what


Khai Nguyen, a video he calls his “photo bucket list.” When he dreamed of
game animation director
in Montréal, Québec photographing kangaroos, Google Earth led him to
WHERE
an Australian beach known as a kangaroo hangout.
A beach famous for its His first early morning visit was a bust: There were
kangaroos in Cape Hills- no kangaroos. Risking his family’s ire, he returned to
borough National Park, discover a dozen kangaroos and wallabies foraging
in Queensland, Australia
WHAT
for seaweed in the waves. Two were wrestling—one
A Sony a7R II camera, with apparently more interested than the other. “The
a Sony FE 55mm F1.8 lens smaller one reminded me of my son,” Nguyen says.
Join National Geographic’s Your Shot community and share your photos at YourShot.ngm.com.

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