Sunday, 26 March 2017

Katter’s Australian party push to legalise crocodile hunting after Queensland attacks

Party to draft laws allowing a controlled cull of protected reptiles, including Indigenous-run safari hunts, after two suspected attacks in state’s far north

Joshua Robertson

Monday 20 March 2017 08.00 GMT Last modified on Monday 20 March 2017 08.49 GMT

Two suspected crocodile attacks in the same north Queensland area within a day have prompted a bid by Katter’s Australian party to legalise hunting of the protected predators.

Wildlife officers and police believe Warren Hughes, 35, may have been killed by a 4m-plus crocodile that later “charged” a police boat searching for the Cairns man’s body on Sunday night.

The body of Hughes, who went missing on Saturday while spearfishing alone 200m off Palmer Point, was recovered on Monday with injuries “consistent with a crocodile attack”, police said.

It followed the mauling of a teenager who tried to swim the Johnstone River in Innisfail on a “dare” before dawn on Sunday, as well as several attacks on dogs around Cairns at the weekend.

Matt Brien, the manager of northern wildlife operations at the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, said wildlife officers would set out on Monday night to try to remove the crocodile suspected of attacking Hughes, with “lethal force” an option.

“The animal charged the [police] boat and behaved quite aggressively and it seemed to have something in its mouth, although it couldn’t be confirmed,” Brien said.

“But based on the behaviour of this animal and the location, and also in recovery of the body, it appears that this animal may be responsible for the death of this man.”

Shane Knuth, one of two Katter’s Australian party crossbench MPs in Queensland’s hung parliament, said the party would draft laws allowing a controlled cull of the reptiles, including bounties and Indigenous-run safari hunts.

'Better de-horned than dead' – zoo chops rhino horns to foil poachers

Czech zoo takes saw to the horns of its 21 rhinoceroses in response to deadly attack at Paris wildlife park this month

Associated Press in Prague

Wednesday 22 March 2017 01.25 GMT

A Czech zoo has started to remove the horns from its 21 rhinos as a precaution after the recent killing of a rhinoceros at a wildlife park in France by assailants who stole the animal’s horn.

With rhino horns considered a wonder cure in Asia – for everything from cancer, colds and fevers to high blood pressure, hangovers, impotence and other ailments – poachers have killed thousands of the animals in Africa and elsewhere.

It is estimated that 6,000 individuals from the world’s five species of rhinos have been killed in the last nine years, leaving a global wild population of about 30,000.

But the attack at the Thoiry zoo near Paris earlier this month was a warning sign for zookeepers around the globe that poaching could be spreading beyond the killing fields of Africa and Asia.
The Dvur Kralove zoo, 70 miles north-east of Prague, has four southern white rhinos and 17 black ones, the largest group of its kind in Europe.

Director Přemysl Rabas said on Tuesday that it was a tough decision to saw off the animals’ horns.

But, he added: “The risk that the rhinos currently face, not only in the wild but even in zoos, is too high.

“The safety of the animals is our first concern. A de-horned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino.” The zoo said the procedure is painless for the animals and has been used before for safety reasons, especially when the rhinos are moved to other locations. The severed horns will gradually grow back again.

Major study shakes the roots of dinosaur family tree

March 23, 2017

by Chuck Bednar

The origins and classifications of dinosaurs as we have known them for the past century may be completely wrong, and the first such creatures may have emerged around 15 million years earlier than previously believed, claims research published this week in the journal Nature.

As part of the new study, scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Natural History Museum of London re-examined the lineages of and relationships between the dinosaurs for the first time in 130 years, and found that existing theories of their evolution could be incorrect. In fact, according to BBC News, lead author Matthew Baron of Cambridge and his colleagues looked at fossil evidence and determined that the dinosaurs may have actually originated in the Northern Hemisphere – possibly in a region that is currently part of the UK.

“The northern continents certainly played a much bigger role in dinosaur evolution than we previously thought and dinosaurs may have originated in the UK,” Baron told the media outlet. “We may be looking at the possibility that the very earliest dinosaurs were roaming an area that has become Britain and the group itself could have originated on these shores.”

Friday, 24 March 2017

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

March 24, 2017

Researchers at Lancaster University have found a way to detect subtle early warning signs that reveal a frog population is at risk from pollution.

Worldwide, amphibian populations are declining due to habitat loss, disease and pollution which is cited as a major threat to their survival.

Scientists publishing in Scientific Report, have found evidence of stress in tadpoles taken from ponds most impacted by pollution caused by nutrients and pesticides. They say the technique they used to spot these changes could offer an early warning system for populations at risk.

Working over a three-year period they looked at common frog populations in urban and rural ponds subject to varying degrees of pollution. Using a special kind of biochemical 'fingerprinting' detected via infrared spectroscopy, the team looked at tissues taken from tadpoles as well as frogspawn to examine their biochemical makeup - searching for markers such as glycogen which can vary as the organism responds to stress. The team found strong evidence of higher levels of stress in tadpoles living in those ponds most impacted by pollution, more so than frogspawn embryos, which are protected to some degree by their jelly coat.

These subtle detrimental effects are otherwise very hard to detect using conventional biological toxicity tests and analytical chemistry but the new technique of biospectroscopy can act as an early warning before a local population becomes extinct. The test could potentially help scientists carrying out environmental monitoring on frog and amphibian populations to indicate which freshwater systems are at risk from pollution, before it's too late.

Dr Crispin Halsall, an environmental chemist at Lancaster University, said: "Amphibians are particularly vulnerable to contamination due to their sensitive life-stages, particularly tadpoles. Agricultural pesticides and nutrients from fertilisers are a threat to frogs during their breeding season.
Researchers at Lancaster University have found a way to detect subtle early warning signs that reveal a frog population is at risk from pollution.
 Credit: Lancaster University

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Bad breath: Study find array of bacteria when orcas exhale

March 24, 2017 by Phuong Le 

In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, a female orca leaps from the water while breaching in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whale. Using unique breath samples captured over four …more

When the mighty orca breaks to the surface and exhales, the whale sprays an array of bacteria and fungi in its his breath, scientists said, some good, and some bad such as salmonella.

The findings in a new study raises concerns about the potential role of infectious diseases as another major stress factor for the struggling population of endangered Puget Sound orcas.

Those orcas' breath samples revealed microbes capable of causing diseases. Some were resistant to multiple antibiotics frequently used by people and animals, suggesting human waste contaminating the marine environment, according to a study published online Friday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Scientists followed the whales as they swam in Washington state waters and waited for them to surface and exhale. The researchers on boats would swing a 25-foot long pole with several petri dishes above an orca's blowhole, capturing the droplets that sprayed out.

Using those unique breath samples captured over a four-year period, the study identifies an array of bacteria and fungi contained in the exhaled breath of the small, distinct population of southern resident killer whales of the northeast Pacific Ocean.

The number of Puget Sound orcas has fluctuated in recent decades as they have faced threats from lack of prey, pollution and noise disturbance from vessels. The orcas were listed as endangered in 2005, and now number 78.

Scientists also found healthy bacteria in the breath samples but also worrisome drug-resistant ones such as salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus.

The whales swim through urbanized waterways and encounter a number of environmental stressors caused by humans, including everything from what gets flushed down toilets to agricultural runoff.

"They're recruiting the bacteria in their habitats," said Stephen Raverty, the study's lead author who is a veterinary pathologist with British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford.

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