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Killings of Rare One-Horned Rhinos

Posted on 12 January 2013 by RE Team

Two more Rare Great One-Horned Rhinos are poached in last 48 hours in Assam, India. Assam which is the last surviving land for the magnificent One-Rhinos has seen an increase in the poaching of the Rhinos in the last year. The recent two kills are first report of Rhino poaching of 2013.

 

First two killings of Rhinos of the year reported from Assam - courtesy pardaphash.com

 

Kaziranga National Park, which houses more than 50% of the world’s wild population of One-Horned Rhino, is usually praised for recent protection and conservation process for this rare mammal. But in recent years the poaching in and around the National Park has increased drastically. The poachers are also backed by the devastating flood by the river Brahmaputra that flows through the park. The Rhinos come out of the park during these flood days and become easy target of poachers. The forest authorities also shows a lack of effort and intention to protect these rare animals. Along with the Rhinos, many other animals like elephant, deers are killed during the flood.

In a recent statement published by the authority, there were at lest 42 Rhinos killed in the Kaziranga National Park in the year 2012, of which, 15 were killed by poachers and 27 died due to floods. Not to mention thousands of other big and small animals falling victim to the poachers and flood both.

Though most of the killings are attributed to the flood, the recent killings are not related to it. As the current season in the region is dry, these two killings are mere failure of the authority. Both the rhino carcasses, which were recovered by forest officials on Friday, bore bullet injuries. The horns were missing, and poachers are suspected to have made off with these.

 

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The Legendary Vultures of South India

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

This is a small story of how diminishing vulture population in India is affecting beliefs and faiths of local people.

A small town of Southern India, Thirukazhukundram, is known for centuries among the Hindu pilgrims for a large temple called Vedagiriswarar situated in a mountain top in the town. This temple is popularly known as Kazhugu koil(Eagle temple). Even the whole town is popularly named as Pakshi Theertham, meaning Birds’ Holy Place.  Interestingly all these names are given after not a special bird species, but for only after a pair of birds.

 

Photo of the Sacred Vultures taken on 1906 - Edgar Thurston

 

Not known the exactly time line, but there is a century long tradition in the Vedagiriswarar temple to feed a pair of eagle like bird every day. Exactly at noon, the birds would fly down from the sky to partake of a prasadam of wheat, rice, ghee and sugar from the temple’s priest.  The pair of birds have been fed many generations of priests counting years to many centuries.

According to the legend the two birds fly every day from Varanasi on the Ganges(Northern India) to this temple flying about two thousand miles, arriving at noon. They have lunch here and then fly southern most point of India, to Rameswaram. They then fly north up the coast to Chidambaram, go to sleep, and in the morning they fly north to Varanasi for a bath in the Ganges and then off back to Thirukazhukundram again.  They are not considered as normal birds but as mythical “eight sages” or Asthavasus. In Indian Mythology, Asthvasus were guard to the eight points of the compass. But they did penance on which Hindu Lord Shiva was angry and cursed them to turn into vultures. When they asked for forgiveness, Lord Siva directed them to the temple of Vedagiri Ishwara where they would be fed and worshiped. They remained there in the temple. In the last three yugams(epoch), three pairs died leaving the last couple surviving in this epoch. Legend also says that the birds will not come if there are sinners in the crowd which assembles at the temple.

Till 1998 , the mystical bird pair used to appear every day at noon at Thirukazhukundram. But one day they stopped coming and they simply vanished. For the local people its a bad omen and attributed to the presence of “sinners” among the onlookers. For a decade now, no mythical birds has visited the temple but the ritual is of practiced by the temple priest in the hope that they eventually will turn up some day.

 

The Vultures were fed by the Temple Priest till late 90s

 

Unfortunately the faith of the temple priest may remain stay just in hope in future.  Because from the research by Zoologists, it reveals that those birds were no eagles but a vulture species, the Egyptian Vulture! It is still a real puzzle for the Scientists about this unusual fare for the vultures, at Thirukazh. Specially the fact that and only two birds used to show up, although vultures are fond of gathering in goodish numbers to feast on corpses is a mystery to the scientists. As the tradition continued for centuries, many generations of vultures must have been involved int the fair, passing on the tradition, perhaps from mother to son, or husband to wife. Zoologists define this culture as an imitation of patterns of behaviors of one animal by another. Viewed from this perspective, the vultures of Thirukazhkundram certainly qualified as rather unusual animals of high culture.

But it is really sad the centuries long tradition is lost and probably never be recreated. For researchers its obvious that the unusual vulture also must have fallen prey to the human civilization and took the path of millions of other vultures in the country.

We have lost two very mysterious and unusual bird specimen whose study could have revealed many mysteries of the wild! More unfortunately we are losing the complete race of vultures from India!

Its time to save the Vultures! Whether they are in the tradition or not, they are a real useful species in the eco-chain cleaning up the whole environment.

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The Remotest Island on Earth: Bouvet Island

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

Though Earth is densely crowded with humans now, yet there are places which are really remote and humans place their feet not even in decades. One such place is the remotest island in the world. It is the Bouvet island, named after it’s discoverer. The island is so remote and difficult to approach that it took around a century for any human being to land in it after its first viewing.

 

Bouvet Island - The most remote island on Earth

 

The story of Bouvet island’s discovery is interesting. The island was first discovered by Jean-Baptiste-Charles Bouvet, a French Navigator in 1739. He was born into a distinguished naval family but orphaned at an early age. As a grown up boy he joined the French India company in 1731 and eventually attained the lieutenant rank soon. For three years he tried to persuad the company to send him south on an exploration to look for harbors suitable for company’s use. He was actually hoping to locate the land reported by Binot Paulmyer De Gonneville when he returned to France after a expedition in 1505. Gonneville stated that he had spent six months in a land far south, whose fine climate and friendly inhabitants commended it to french colonization. This virtual land was called “Gonneville Land” at that time. Gonneville probably referred to a land near Brazil, but Bouvet’s expectation was to find that land sailing far south from the Cape of Good Hope.

Finally his appeal was accepted by his company and he started his expedition equipped with two ships, the 280 tonAgile and 200 ton Marie. He was supplied with provisions sufficient for a voyage of one and a half year. Captain Ducloscommanded Marie and Bouvet commanded Agile as a leader. The two ships started their voyage on 19th July, 1738 from Breton port Lorient. Expecting to find a tropical or at least temperate land, they were ill-prepared for the increasing cold. Bouvet had chosen to explore the are of the world’s oceans most empty of land. With great determination he carried out a thorough search between latitudes 44 and 55 degree South. On 1st January, 1739 a land was first seen, a high rock cliff, possibly an island, or more likely according to Bouvet, a promitory of a larger land. Despite of bad climate and scurvy rife among his crew, Bouvet kept this island in view for tweleve days. While he desperately attempted to approach closer to the island, always being kep away by the impassible ice. They also didn’t dare to launch boats for the fear that they will not be able to find Agile and Marie again in the fog.Eventually the attempt had to be abandoned, leaving the true nature of his discovery unknown, Bouvet sailed back north to reach Cape of Good Hope on 24th February and lorient on June 24th.

 

Bouvet Island

 

Unfortunately, Bouvet, a very competent navigator but handicapped by the instruments available to hime at that time, gave the position of the island as 54 degree South and 11 degree East. He named the land he saw as Cape Circumcision. Many later expeditions were made to search for Cape Circumcision. But explorer like James Cook, James Clark Ross, Thomas Moore, etc. in mid 19th century failed to find the island. This was because, there location given by Bouvet was significantly erroneous. Meanwhile the island was rediscovered in 1808 by two British whalers in their vessels Snow Swan and Otter , James Lindsay and Thomas Hopper. Because of the wrong coordinates reported by Bouvet, they considered this as a new island and was named as “Lindsay Island”. On December 7 1822, American sealer Benjamin Morrell reported sending his second mate ashore where he took 172 fur seals. he is the first recorded landing on the island. He also measured the circumference as just 25 miles. In 1825, sealers Sprightly and Lively, under the command of Captain george Norris, sighted two islands.  He also landed the islands and named them as “Liverpool” and “Thompson”. After this sighting, for decades navigators could not sight the islands. Only in 1878, Captain Williams of America claimed the sighting of the island again. Captain Joseph Fuller also sighted both islands on 1893. But mysteriously, on 1898 when it was rediscovered by Carl Chun, there were undisputed only one island. The Thompson island was never sighted later. It is most likely that the island subsided under sea.

The Bouvet island is a small volcanic island, 6 miles by 4 miles in size. It is the most isolated and remotest island in the world, being 2000 km north of Antarctica and 2525 km south west of South Africa. Bouvet’s success of falling in with this microscopic and isolated spot of land in the course of a brief excursion southward of his normal course is one of the most remarkable lucky dips in the whole history of exploration.

In 1927, Bouvet island was claimed by Norway but British annexed it initially. But later it was accepted and became dependent territory of Norway in 1930. In 1971, Norway declared it as a nature reserve. The island still considered to be difficult to approach by sea. he easiest way to access the island is with a helicopter from a ship.

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Elephants : New Industrial Prospects

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

Money matters the most to our human civilization! It is the only factor that has made so many species extinct or endangered in Earth. Poaching for money, clearing forests for money driven factors are the main reasons for depletion of wildlife in our beautiful planet. But if human can extract the money from any wild species without harming them, then it will open a new horizon in the movement of saving wildlife. Such an inspirational story is slowly coming into focus from our very own Elephants. And to be precise its the Elephant Dung that making way for Industrial prospects in the South East Asia region! The industrial product from the true waste of this largest land mammal is ‘PAPER’. Unbelievable? But its quiet true!

 

Asiatic Elephant - courtesy nationalgeographic.com (Tim Laman)

 

The story of  this innovation starts in different countries in different contexts accidentally. In Thailand, the man behind the Elephant dung paper is Mr. Wanchai. On his way home from work he used to pass a natural paper factory and was impressed at the simplicity of the process that used natural tree fibers to make high quality hand made paper. He then took a trip to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang Northern Thailand and saw piles and piles of dung. He looked at the dung and noticed that the dung was very fibrous. This was the birth of the idea.

In India, the Elephant Dung paper, named as “Haathi Chaap” was started in 2003 Mahima Mehra, a psychology graduate and Jaipur-based handmade paper producer, Vijendra Shekhawat. “I and Vijendra were walking up to Amer Fort when the idea of making paper came to me as I saw mounds of elephant waste every few steps. It also has a lot of fibre which is main element of paper making,” says Mahima Mehra. Srilanka and Nepal also are also producing such papers, but the techniques are indigenous and different in each countries.

 

Elephant Dung - Now Opening new industrial prospects

 

Elephants apparently have a bad digestive system, which makes their dung highly fibrous. Elephants normally eat 200-300 kgs of plants and excrete more than 50% percent of it. 500 sheets of thin paper can be made out of 15kg of elephant dung. So it can be imagined how much productive is Elephant in Paper Industry!

All handmade paper is made using a fibrous material, and is boiled and beaten to make the fibre pulp. With elephant dung paper, the elephant has done the pulping for us, leaving us to collect the dung, clean it by boiling and steaming so all bacteria are killed, then putting the pulp in a shallow mold as usual. The coarseness of the paper is entirely dependent on the elephants diet, again making no two sheets identical.

These elephant dung papers are already getting popularity and are exported to various western countries. As Elephants are becoming money machines, keeping them alive is also becoming important. Hope this will save lives of many wild elephants along with many trees that are cut down for paper production.

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Sailing Stone – The Mysterious Nature

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

The Planet Earth is full of mysteries for the scientists of all specializations. The mysteries of nature seem to be never ending. One of those that has been giving researchers a check for more than six decades is the “Sailing Stones of Death Valley”.  It is a stunning geographical phenomenon where Stones weighing hundreds of pounds move in long tracks along a plain smooth valley without any human or animal intervention. This is observed around the dried lake Playa in Death Valley and also known a Racetrack.  These valleys are filled with dry cracking muddy ground during summer and ice during winter.

 

Sailing Tones in Racetrack Playa, Death Valley (Pirate_Scott) @wikipedia

 

Racetrack stones only move every two or three years and most tracks develop over three or four years. With time tracks of each stone varies from the other. Some stones which start next to each other start out traveling parallel, but one may abruptly change direction to the left, right, or even back the direction it came from. Length also varies because two similarly sized and shaped rocks could travel uniformly, then one could burst ahead or stop dead in its track. Some stones make linear turns others make oval turns while others create a wavy shape on their tracks. No one has ever seen them move and nobody knows the speed they move with.

There are many hypothesis proposed for this Sailing Stone phenomenon.  In 1955 George M. Stanley first proposed the theory that the rocks move with the assistance of ice sheets forming after the Playa surface is flooded. Bob Sharp and Dwight Carey started a Racetrack stone movement monitoring program in May 1972. In 1976, they proposed the ice-sheet theory. They analyzed the tracks and concluded because of track characteristics and the geometries of the tracks relative to each other that ice sheets could not have been involved in forming the tracks and moving the rocks. They stated, “It is concluded that wind moves the stones when conditions are just right, that this normally happens at least every one to three years on Racetrack Playa, and that ice sheets are not necessary.” In 1995, John B. Reid, Jr. and other geologists from Hampshire College disagreed with Sharp and Carey’s conclusion. Using data from seven Death Valley visits in the late 1980s through 1994, they support Stanley’s original ice sheet hypothesis. This is however not entirely true because the stones move during the summer when the temperature is too high and even dries the stones themselves.The mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley not only slide on smooth ground but dig and leave shallow track in their wake.

We hope future advanced technology will shed more light no the mystery of the sailing stones at the Racetrack Playa of Death Valley, however no matter how much is determined about the sailing rocks, their beauty and magic will stand as unique creation of Nature.

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Immortality is a gift of nature!

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

Immortality is one of the fascinations of humans. It may be a science fiction for us, it’s not a wonder for nature. But, nature has gifted immortality to one of the species already. The only known species in Earth with biological immortality is “Turritopsis nutricula“. This species is a type of Jellyfish can be of the size of a human nail (diameter of about 4.5 millimeters) when fully developed.

 

The immortal Turritopsis Nutricula

 

Immortality is one of the fascinations of humans. It may be a science fiction for us, it’s not a wonder for nature. But, nature has gifted immortality to one of the species already. The only known species in Earth with biological immortality is “Turritopsis nutricula“. This species is a type of Jellyfish can be of the size of a human nail (diameter of about 4.5 millimeters) when fully developed.

The Jellyfish has achieved the immortality through a biological cell development process, called transdifferentiation. Cell transdifferentiation is when the jellyfish “alters the differentiated state of the cell and transforms it into a new cell. With this process, the species can revert to the polyp stage, a sexually immature, colonial stage, after becoming sexually mature. Theoretically, this process can go on infinitely, effectively rendering the jellyfish biologically immortal. No single specimen of this Jellyfish has been observed for any extended period, so it is impossible to estimate the age of an individual.

This species was first discovered in 1883. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that this unique ability to transform back into younger self once it has become sexually mature and has mated was uncovered. Many marine biologists and geneticists are now studying the jellyfish in order to determine how it is able to reverse its aging process.

Turritopsis is believed to have originated in the Caribbean but has spread all over the world. It is believed to be spreading across the world as ships are discharging ballast water in ports. Since the species is immortal, the number of individuals could be spiking. Are we on the verse of a a worldwide silent invasion??

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Who is the King of the Earth?

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

Various animals and species have been capturing the imagination of Humans since the beginning of the civilization due to their majestic powers.  Myhtology and history of Human beings usually referred to various animals as the kings. The limitation on  geographical and biological knowledge caused various civilizations to accept different animals as the King.

We have compiled a list of animals that can be considered as the most powerful in various nature kingdoms. There can’t be an absolute definition to the crown in Natural world, so the list is open for debate!

King of the Animal Kingdom on Land - The Lion has been considered as the King of the animals by most of the civilizations for it’s Majestic look, strength and top predatory nature. But unfortunately once well spread across the globe, the King is currently confined to only African Savannah and India. The Lion can grow beyond 300 kg in weight and 9 feet in length(excluding tail). The mane of the male Lion gives it a royal look making it the King of all the animals. Lion takes the top position in the predator list and no other animal keeps the strength to kill a full grown Lion.

 

Lion - King of the Animals

 

Though Lion is the King of  animals, it lives only in Savannah, there is another distant relative of it who rules the dense Jungles of Earth. Yes, it is the biggest of all big cats, Tiger.  With black stripes on rusty reddish or brown coat and the white fringes around it’s face make the Tiger attractive and very much different from others. A large tiger may weigh more than 350 kg and more than 12 feet in length (excluding tail). Tiger is the most powerful and intelligent hunter in the jungle and is unbeatable.

The King of the sky is the giant Eagles in various part in the world. The Philippine Eagle in South-East Asia, Steller’s Sea Eagle in the coastal region of Asia, The Wedged-tailed Eagle in Australia, Martial Eagle in Africa and Harpy Eagle in America are rulers of the sky in their respective regions. They are expert hunters and the most powerful as no other species can beat them in the sky.  The Steller’s Sea Eagle which the heaviest among them can grow beyond 9 kgs in weight.  These eagles have body lengths of more than 1 meter and can have wingspan of 3 meter (Wedged-tailed and Martial).

The King of the Oceans is Killer Whale or Orca. Though blue whale is the largest animal in the Oceans and White Shark is the largest and sharpest predatory fish, Killer Whale is known to even kill both of them. This mammal is gigantic in size and is equally intelligent and powerful hunter. They are known to hunt seals, sea lions, dolphins and at times large blue and grey whale and also giant white shark. There is no species in the sea water that kill this King.

And at last the King of the whole planet Earth, whether it’s land or water or sky, is Homo Sapien or Human due to their intelligence. No other species can even close human. They are a keepers of the planet and have the responsibility to save all other species.

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The first ever sanctuary dates thousands of years old!

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

There are thousands of wildlife reserve/sanctuaries in the present day earth to save special species and nature. It is one of the greatest initiatives of human civilization towards protecting the nature. But this is not an effort from the modern day mankind, but started around 2,500 years ago in the small island of Sri Lanka, Asia.

Mihintale, situated 13 km east of the ruins of the great city, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, was declared as wildlife sanctuary in 247 BC by king Devanampiya Tissa. One day king Devanampiya Tissa was hunting deer in Mihintale which was sighted by India’s emperor Ashoka’s son Arahath Mahinda. Mahinda was a Buddhist missionary monk and he stopped the king in the track and preached to him that all mammals, birds and other creatures enjoy an equal right to live in this land, wherever they may want. The land belongs to all the people and animals. The king is only the ruler and not the owner of this land. The monk’s words really impressed the king and he not only took Budhdhism as his religion also renounced the pleasure of animal hunting.  Mahinda also advised King Devanampiya Tissa to designate Mihintale and the surrounding jungle areas as a sanctuary for wildlife. This is how the first wildlife sanctuary in earth got established.

 

The first Wildlife Sanctuary in human history still exists in Srilanka

 

Mihintale is still a wildife sanctuary under Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation with history over two thousands years old. Apart from the wildlife sanctuary, King Devanampiya Tissa also built the first Buddhist temple of Sri Lanka in Mihintale. He also built a Vihar and 68 caves for the monks to reside in. At the  foot hill of Mihintale, there are still ruins of an ancient hospitals, medical baths. It is also believed to be one of the oldest hospitals in the world.

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Frog Sizes in Extremes

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

A frog species can be as small as few millimeter, while the largest species grows more than a feet. There is an interesting world of this amphibian.

Few years back in the jungles of Borneo, Dr Indraneil Das and colleague Alexander Haas discovered a new tiny species. It is a frog measuring only 3 mm in length. The full grown adults of the species are of the size 9mm to 12mm. This species named as “Microhyla nepenthicola” was found in Kubah National Park, Malayasia. This is one of the smallest known frog species in the world. But what is the smallest known Frog?

 

Goliath Frog in it's natural habitat @ courtesy Arkive.com

 

There is fierce competition for the smallest Frog award. Till 1996, Brazilian Gold frog (Psyllophryne Didactyla) was unanimously accepted by scientists as the smallest known Frog. This species grows 9.8 mm. But in 1996, a new frog species discovered  in Monte Iberia, Cuba claims equally small size. This species is names as  Eleutherodactylus iberia.

On the contrary, the largest living frog is out of any competition. It is known as Goliath frog (Conraua goliath) and found in central western African country Cameroon. This frog can grow up to 33 cm (more than a foot) without counting the legs. It can weigh around 3.3 kg (7 lb). Though very huge in size, this frog is very calm in nature and has a life span of 15 years. Though the Goliath frog is the largest “living” frog, the largest ever ”known” frog is called “Devil Frog” and lived in Madagascar 65-70 million years ago. From the fossils found it is apparent that it could grow till 40 cm in length and weigh up to 4.5 kg (11 lb). It was powerfully built, and had a very wide mouth and strong jaws.

There are hundreds new species of frogs discovered in recent. The above records may change any time. But, unfortunately the frogs along with all amphibiansa are facing serious extinction threat. It is estimated that more than 100 species have been declared extinct from the planet in last three decades. Thousands of them are on the verse of extinction. This mass extinction of amphibians is due human cause pollution, deforestation and also due to fungal a skin disease.

Scientists and researchers are taking serious steps to save them from this extinction event!

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The tallest in the planet

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

James Cameron may have imagined giant hometrees in Pandora with height more than 150 meters in his 3D animation movie “Avatar”. But our own planet Earth is also not too behind in this in reality. Do you know the tallest living organism in our planet? We have listed down all the competitors in the race here.

1. Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) - Tallest in North America and the TALLEST in the planet. It is an evergreen, monoecious tree with a life span more than 3000 years. Currently found in coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon in the United States, this species of tree can grow beyond 100 meters. The tallest known living Redwood is 115.3 meters (379 feet) known as Hyperion. It was discovered September 8, 2006, by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, naturalists who explored California coast redwoods including Redwood National Park.

 

Coast Redwood - courtesy Richard Masoner @flickr

 

2. Australian Mountain-ash (Eucalyptus regnans) - The Australian Mountain-ash, a species of Eucalyptus native to southeastern Australia, in Tasmania and Victoria, is a contender from Oceania. It is defnitely one of the tallest species in the planet and in very close run with Coast-Redwood. It’s always debatable which species is the tallest, but the Mountain-as is the undoubtedly the evergreen tree os the tallest flowering plant with an average heightof  around 80 meters.  The tallest measured living specimen, named Centurion, stands 99.6 metres tall in Tasmania. But there are many controversial claims exceeding more than 120 meters. Due to heavy deforestation, logging in Australia in lste 19th century, it is believed that many of the tallest specimens fell prey to humans. Historically, the tallest individual is claimed to be the Ferguson Tree, at 132.6 metres (435 ft), found in the Watts River region of Victoria in 1871.  The claim considered to be unreliable. The most reliable claim stands at  112.8 metres (370 ft)  in 1880 by a surveyor, George Cornthwaite, at Thorpdale, Victoria.

 

Australian Mountain Ash - courtesy Poytr(Pete the poet) @flickr

 

3.  Yellow Meranti (Shorea faguetiana) - The contender in this category from Asia is a Yellow Meranti. This tree is in Tawau Hills Park of Malaysia. The tree is measured as  88.32 Meters (about 290 feet) in height. This is supposed to be the tallest tropical tree in the planet.

4. Caucasian Fir (Abies nordmanniana) - The tallest native tree of Europe is the Caucasian Fir, which grows in the Caucasus as well in Turkey. Alan Mitchell (1996) gives 68.6 m (225 feet) as its greatest height.
Vladimir Dinets (e-mail 1998) gives a maximum height of 78 m (255.9 feet) near Mzymta River in the Caucasian National Reserve, Russia.

5.  Patagonian Cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides) -  This large evergreen, dioecious tree species is the contender from South America. It is not only the tallest in South America but also one of the logest living species known in the planet. The tallest specimen though not recorded may be more than 70 meters in Argetina. Guardaparques (park rangers) state in Argentina has trees ranging 60-70 meters that can be found on the southern branch of Lake Menendez, but that area is restricted to visitors and there aren’t trails or roads to get there.

6. Antarctica is out of this contest as no tree grows in the continent.

 

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MOST CONCERNED ENDANGERED SPECIES

Photos of Nature