The Next Level in Office Amenities: Wild Horses

STOREY COUNTY, Nev. — You can’t ride the wild mustangs at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Nevada, but you’re nearly guaranteed to see bands of them loping over sagebrush in a scene that feels straight out of the 1800s.

At least until the dust clears and Tesla’s 5.3-million-square-foot “Gigafactory” comes into focus.

Welcome to the Silver State, where Elon Musk, a cryptocurrency tycoon and a brothel owner are using a symbol of Americana as a social media recruiting tool.

The water cooler used to be the spot in the office to talk shop. Then came on-site cafes, fitness and yoga studios, rooftop gardens, fire pits and rock-climbing walls. “The overarching trend of the last five years has been the hotelification of the office,” said Lenny Beaudoin, an executive managing director at CBRE.

For employers, the newest amenities to wow workers are ideological, with environmental commitments topping the list, said Jason H. Somers, the president of Crest Real Estate, a Southern California real estate consultancy.

progress by corporate giants, but most efforts remain so opaque that it’s tough to spot greenwashing, the use of sustainability efforts to appear more attractive.

Embracing high environmental standards can be challenging and expensive. Some companies pay others to reduce emissions. Others plant trees, which can take years to grow and rely heavily on water and care.

Tesla used a $1.3 billion state tax break to build its $5 billion factory, tapping into a local work force still reeling from the Great Recession and ushering in a wave of Silicon Valley heavies. Switch, a technology infrastructure company, set up three data centers, then Google gobbled up 1,200 acres. Blockchains bought 67,000 acres for $170 million in 2018, becoming the park’s biggest tenant.

hoped to transform the expanse into an experimental city run by his encrypted digital systems. He pledged to build 15,000 homes, turning it into a huge innovation zone, with his company overseeing everything from schools to courts, law and water.

“I want this to become the greatest social experiment in the history of the world,” he said. “It’s going to be a cross between Disneyland and the chocolate factory from Willy Wonka.”

He’ll have to rethink the scope: In March, the county voted against the secession plan.

Mr. Berns says he plans to develop around 25,000 of his 67,000 acres, but for now, it will remain an outpost for wild horses.

Nevada is home to more than half of the country’s 95,000 wild horses and burros, descendants of animals brought to the continent by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. Managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management to the tune of about $100 million annually, wild horses live on protected and private land crisscrossed by freeways.

Wild Horse Connection, an advocacy group. “Horses in traffic, on the wrong side of fencing, vehicular, train accidents, sick or ill horses.”

Rescues triple once mares start foaling, said Ms. Vance, whose annual budget is about $100,000, including small donations from the office park and tenants. She says further expansion depletes open spaces and decreases grazing areas.

“Horses have migration patterns, and when a development comes in, it cuts that off and there’s more interactions with people,” she said.

One solution is humane horse fertility so the animals, which can spend up to 16 hours a day eating, don’t overpopulate and overgraze.

American Wild Horse Campaign, has worked with the office park since 2012, spending more than $200,000 on fertility control, water and feeding in the last three years.

“Development displaces wildlife,” she said. Water stations help, she said, as does an underground crossing built by Switch.

But the horses will not offset the park’s overall carbon footprint, said Simon Fischweicher, the North American head of corporations and supply chains at CDP. Tenants like Tesla, whose lithium-ion batteries are costly to mine and nearly impossible to recycle, require a lot of energy.

Switch is installing its own solar panels, and there are two green fuel plants on site, but distribution and data centers use large amounts of water for heating and cooling, and “supply chain emissions are on average 11.4 times higher than operational emissions,” Mr. Fischweicher said.

Others question the need to use the horses as a lure. Mr. Thompson says most of the roughly 25,000 workers at the office park are blue-collar Nevadans living within an hour commute. They’re here for jobs, not because of horses.

Growth for the industrial park means luring workers from out of state, expanding limited housing nearby and developing more land — all of which jeopardize the wildlife incentive.

“Quality of food, retail choices and housing are going to shape those decisions more than having wild horses nearby,” Mr. Beaudoin of CBRE said. “I would never bet against someone like Elon Musk, but there are other factors to attract workers.”

View Source

Pink Dolphins in Hong Kong Find Respite Thanks to the Coronavirus

HONG KONG — The most popular reward for hiking to the top of Fu Shan, a hill near Hong Kong’s westernmost point, is a selfie backed by the setting sun, the gleaming new bridge across the Pearl River or a flight landing at the nearby airport.

But for those who look more closely, there is the chance of a rarer prize: a glimpse of Chinese white dolphins swimming among fishing boats and cargo ships in the milky jade water.

“It’s amazing that Hong Kong still has this kind of rare animal,” said Michelle Chan, as she watched from Fu Shan on a recent day.

On the water below, a half-dozen tourist boats from the nearby fishing village of Tai O surrounded a single white dolphin. People cheered as it breached.

a report by 15 conservation groups and regional universities, as pollution, marine traffic and large-scale land reclamation projects have made the environment increasingly hostile.

coronavirus pandemic, however, has spurred some hope that the dolphins could find respite. Regional travel restrictions led to the suspension of high-speed ferries that crossed the Pearl River Delta between Hong Kong and Macau, a few times each hour, curbing one key threat to the animals.

“All vessel traffic is an issue, but high-speed ferries are a particular issue,” said Laurence McCook, head of oceans conservation for the WWF-Hong Kong. “They move so fast there’s a risk of vessel strike, but they also just physically disturb the dolphins because the dolphins run away from them.”

With the ferry suspension, dolphins are getting a little peace in one of their most favored areas in the region.

“What we have documented fairly clearly is that dolphins are moving back out into the ferry zone,” Mr. McCook said. “That actually is their most prime habitat under current circumstances.”

Still, the increased visibility of the white dolphins in places like the waters off Fu Shan is most likely the result of them being freer to use parts of their preferred territory rather than a sign that their numbers are rebounding, researchers say.

established a marine park to compensate for the loss of habitat, but dolphins have been slow to return, most likely because work continues in the area on a new runway.

“Every time we have a project like the bridge,” Mr. Ho said, “they set up a marine park as some kind of compensation. But we think it’s too late.”

On one recent survey trip, the first dolphin the team identified was number WL79, which Mr. Ho quickly identified by the V-shaped notch near its tail, the result of getting tangled in a fishing line or net.

“If we identify individuals, we can follow their life history — where they like to hang around, whether they have calves,” he said. “This is important, because one of the worries is reproductive rate of dolphins is quite low. To keep the population healthy, we want to see calves. But that’s not happening in Hong Kong.”

Newborn dolphins are gray in color and gradually lighten as they get older, their darker parts becoming distinct spots. Some become completely unspotted. They stay with their mothers for three to four years, but sometimes as long as eight or nine years, and typically live into their 30s.

Soon after the team spots another adult, WL168, identified by a large scar on its back. This one has also been seen near Macau, another Chinese territory 15 miles to the southwest, an indication of how local populations are not bound by political boundaries.

The dolphins eat a variety of fish, including gray mullet and lion head fish, the same sort of food, notes Mr. Ho, that appears in markets around Hong Kong. The overfishing of such species adds to the threats to dolphins, as does pollution from various sources including agricultural and industrial waste, urban runoff, discharge from ships and marine plastics.

Researchers also worry that dolphin viewing boats further stress the mammals, particularly those that race out from Tai O for a 20-minute, $25 trip.

Conservations groups say they hope the benefits of the ferry suspension will encourage regional governments and ferry companies to reconsider routes across the Pearl River. By traveling somewhat farther south, they could bypass key areas of dolphin habitat along Lantau, Hong Kong’s largest island. Such a move would only add a few minutes to the trip, they say.

It would, of course, ease just one of the many threats the dolphins are facing.

“Rerouting the ferries is not a magic cure-all,” Mr. McCook said. “But we think that can help us catalyze other actions and demonstrate it’s not a fait accompli that we lose the dolphins.”

View Source

A Biologist, an Outlandish Stork and the Army of Women Trying to Save It

Life can change in an instant, as I experienced when I first laid my eyes on a tall and bizarrely striking bird known as the greater adjutant.

It was India in 2018, in the northeastern state of Assam. I’d ended up there partly because of absurd circumstances, which involved being filmed for a reality television pilot while navigating a motorized rickshaw through the Himalayas. After traversing some of the highest and most dangerous roads in the world, including the Tanglang La mountain pass, I ventured off to see a traditional selection of endangered animals: Asian elephants, greater one-horned rhinos, western hoolock gibbons.

While en route to Guwahati, Assam’s capital, I saw a 5-foot-tall bird towering near the roadside. I was so taken by its appearance that I asked the driver to pull over so I could have a better look. It had piercing blue eyes, an elongated electric-yellow neck, a wobbly, inflatable neck pouch, long legs that moved with a stiff military gait, and spindly black hairs atop its (mostly bald) prehistoric-looking head. Little did I know that this outlandish animal — also endangered, though not famously so — would change the course of my professional life.

ecologically important water storage basin threatened by pollution and encroachment.

cattle egrets, were the spectacular greater adjutants, who were circling and stiffly marching alongside the other foragers.

rare and endangered scavengers.

taxonomic bias, since humans generally favor attractive mammals with forward-facing eyes. “The more people who see hargilas as a bad omen, disease-carrier and pest,” Dr. Barman told me, “the more I am obsessed.”

towel-like textile — with transfixing speed and expertise.

Carla Rhodes is a wildlife conservation photographer who lives in the Catskills. You can follow her work on Instagram.

View Source

The Search for Animals That Could Carry the Next Deadly Virus

What animal is most likely to host the next deadly coronavirus?

With the Covid-19 pandemic fueling a sense of urgency, researchers are finding new ways to predict the answer to that question.

“We are thinking about the next one,” says Maya Wardeh of the University of Liverpool, one of the authors of a paper in the journal Nature Communications that found there are far more mammals that can be infected with multiple coronaviruses than previously known.

A number of countries around the world are involved in or fund programs to test wild animals that have been linked to past outbreaks or are considered high risk, such as bats and rodents. Samples are collected and sequenced to identify novel viruses including those with the potential to infect humans. There are also efforts under way, including one at Ohio State University, to test domestic, wild, zoo and livestock animals to see whether they can get SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes Covid-19 infections.

The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked additional strategies to better quantify risks, make more precise predictions and then home in on which animals require closer surveillance.

View Source

Scientists Grow Mice Embryos in a Mechanical Womb

The mouse embryos looked perfectly normal. All their organs were developing as expected, along with their limbs and circulatory and nervous systems. Their tiny hearts were beating at a normal 170 beats per minute.

But these embryos were not growing in a mother mouse. They were developed inside an artificial uterus, the first time such a feat has been accomplished, scientists reported on Wednesday.

The experiments, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, were meant to help scientists understand how mammals develop and how gene mutations, nutrients and environmental conditions may affect the fetus. But the work may one day raise profound questions about whether other animals, even humans, should or could be cultured outside a living womb.

In a study published in the journal Nature, Dr. Jacob Hanna described removing embryos from the uteruses of mice at five days of gestation and growing them for six more days in artificial wombs.

Two other papers published in Nature on Wednesday report on attempts that edge near creating early human embryos in this way. Of course, Dr. Meissner said, creation of human embryos is years away — if it is permitted at all. And for now, international regulations prohibit studying human embryos beyond 14 days of fertilization.

In the future, Dr. Tesar said, “it is not unreasonable that we might have the capacity to develop a human embryo from fertilization to birth entirely outside the uterus.”

Of course, even the suggestion of this science fiction scenario is bound to horrify many. But it is early days, with no assurance human fetuses could ever develop entirely outside the womb.

Even assuming they could, Dr. Tesar noted, “whether that is appropriate is a question for ethicists, regulators and society.”

View Source