Friday, 7 December 2018

Saving the last West African giraffes in Niger

4 December 2018
For almost 50 years, the highly threatened West African giraffe has been absent from Niger's Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve.
Illegal hunting, climate change and habitat loss have all contributed to the population's decline.
An ambitious conservation initiative has now re-introduced eight giraffes into the reserve, in the first conservation effort of its kind for the West African subspecies.
Under the initiative, spearheaded by the Nigerien authorities, the eight giraffes were captured in the country's Giraffe Zone, a government-defined region approximately 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital, Niamey.
Until this move, the world's last West African giraffes had only been found in and near this Giraffe Zone.
There, West African giraffes share their habitat with local communities, and compete with them for space and natural resources.
The animals face a number of threats, including human population growth, hunting and agricultural encroachment.
Giraffes have now started to migrate out of the Giraffe Zone as a result of the growing population of both humans and giraffes themselves.
As a result, the animals have come into conflict with humans who are not used to their presence, and also stray into restive areas on the border with Mali.

Hundreds of apparently 'flash-frozen' turtles wash ashore in New England

Conservationists record unusually high number of strandings
Many of turtles are critically endangered Kemp’s ridley species
Associated Press in Welfleet, Massachusetts
Sun 25 Nov 2018 14.30 GMTLast modified on Mon 26 Nov 2018 14.16 GMT
An unusual number of sea turtles have washed ashore in New England in the recent cold snap, many dead and appearing to have been “flash-frozen”.
Many of the turtles are from a critically endangered species called Kemp’s ridley, Robert Prescott, director of Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, told the Cape Cod Times.
The number of stranded turtles has already surpassed what is considered normal for the season. Prescott told the Times that at least 219 turtles washed ashore from Wednesday to Friday on Cape Cod beaches. He told CNN 173 of those turtles had died.
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All but one of the 82 turtles found on Thursday, the Thanksgiving holiday, were frozen solid and dead, Prescott said, due to unseasonably cold temperatures.
 “It was like they were flash-frozen, flippers in all weird positions like they were swimming,” he said.
On Friday, temperatures were a few degrees higher and that along with a slight shift in wind direction, meant more turtles found alive, Prescott told the paper.

Queensland flying fox species decimated by record heatwave

‘As far as we know, [the spectacled flying fox] has never suffered heat deaths before,’ ecologist says
Thu 29 Nov 2018 17.00 GMTLast modified on Thu 29 Nov 2018 17.02 GMT
Thousands of threatened flying foxes have dropped dead due to heat stress brought on by extreme temperatures in far north Queensland this week.
Conservationists and wildlife volunteers estimate more than 4,000 have perished this week during the record heatwave, which has seen temperatures in Cairns reach all-time highs of 42.6C.
The species of flying fox affected is the spectacled flying fox, an endemic Queensland species found in north Queensland.
It’s currently listed as vulnerable under national environment laws but conservationists have been pushing to have the species up-listed to endangered because of declines in the population.
Volunteer carers that have been counting dead animals and taking orphaned young into care say it is the first time the species has suffered mass deaths because of extreme heat.
 “It’s never had a heat stress event before because it’s in the tropics,” said Maree Treadwell Kerr, a wildlife carer and president of the Bats and Tree Society of Cairns.

Climate change impacts on the distribution of venomous snakes and snakebite risk in Mozambique - via Herp Digest

Climatic Change Page 1-13
First Published Online—11/23/18
Authors- Daniel Zacarias 1,2,3,4,
Rafael Loyola 3,5

1- Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e EvoluçãoUniversidade Federal de GoiásGoiás Brazil
2- Programa de Pós-graduação Ciência para o DesenvolvimentoInstituto Gulbenkian de CiênciasOeiras Portugal
3- Laboratório de Biogeografia da Conservação, Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade Federal de GoiásGoiás Brazil
4- Escola Superior de Hotelaria e Turismo de InhambaneUniversidade Eduardo MondlaneInhambane Mozambique
5- Brazilian Research Network on Global Climate Change – Rede ClimaSão Paulo Brazil
This paper aims to understand the impacts of global climate change (GCC) on the distribution of dangerous venomous snakes and snakebite risk in Mozambique, as a contribution to the enhancement of public health policies and snake conservation. 

We modelled current and future distribution of all 13 dangerous snakes occurring in Mozambique using ecological niche models to assess the likely impacts of climate change estimated as the difference between lost and gained climatic suitable area per species. In addition, we developed a normalized index of snakebite risk based on species diversity and species-specific traits for each time slice. We then superimposed our index to data on human population density to identify areas most prone to this burden. 

Our findings suggest considerable future reduction in climatically suitable area for nine out of 13 species, with species experiencing a north-south range shift and high rates of species turnover in northern Mozambique. We also found that GCC might alter the spatial patterns of snakebite risk in the country, with considerable increase in the future, affecting most areas in central and southern regions. This finding suggests that GCC will be harmful to venomous snakes in Mozambique with potentially adverse effects on public health. 

As GCC might induce the approximation of snake climatic suitable areas to highly populated areas, efforts are needed to increase human knowledge of snakebite prevention measures and increase awareness of the relative safety and attacking behaviour associated with some of the snakes studied here ensuring reduction in snakebites and improving species conservation.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

New butterfly named for pioneering 17th-century entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian

Date:December 5, 2018
Source:Florida Museum of Natural History

More than two centuries before initiatives to increase the number of women in STEM fields, 52-year-old Maria Sibylla Merian sailed across the Atlantic on a largely self-funded scientific expedition to document the animals and plants of Dutch Suriname.

Born in Germany in 1647, Merian was a professional artist and naturalist whose close observations and illustrations were the first to accurately portray the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths and emphasize the intimate relationship between insects and their host plants.

Now, a new Central American butterfly species has been named in her honor.

Catasticta sibyllae is a rare, black butterfly known from only two male specimens found in Panama decades apart. One had been stowed, unidentified, in a drawer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History since the 1980s. The other was collected in May.

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