Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Kering and Boa & Python Specialist Group of IUCN announce first ’Python Conservation Partnership’ Report on Captive Breeding - via Herp Digest

Python conservation could benefit from captive breeding

Gland/Paris, March 31, 2014 - The first report under the ‘Python Conservation Partnership’, a collaboration between Kering, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Boa and Python Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has been presented today.

The “Assessment of Python Breeding Farms Supplying the International High-end Leather Industry” is a study evaluating the economic feasibility and viability of captive breeding of pythons as a possible element of sustainable use and conservation of the species. Its aim is to provide guidance to those involved in the python trade to adopt sustainable practices when sourcing skins.

According to the report, python farming could help reduce pressure on wild python populations in Asia. The practice, however, should be viewed only as part of a holistic approach to python conservation and additional research on python farming and trade is required to determine its conservation benefits and impacts on livelihoods. The report also found that greater emphasis on the conservation of python species in the wild is needed.

“It is encouraging to finally have some concrete information about the feasibility and role of farming pythons for skins, particularly given the previous concerns raised about whether it was possible or not,” said Daniel Natusch, one of the authors of the report and member of the IUCN SSC Boa and Python Specialist Group. “Captive breeding is only part of a possible solution for a sustainable python skin trade. We shouldn’t lose sight of overall conservation goals and the greater potential of wild harvest systems to encourage conservation of wild pythons and their habitats.”

Key recommendations from the report include putting in place systems to ensure that python farming is well documented and that any trade is sustainable, legal and does not encourage trafficking from the wild under the guise of farmed animals. The study also highlights the urgent need to develop techniques to differentiate between captive-bred and wild-caught skins. The Python Conservation Partnership is currently addressing this issue by working with Viet Nam to research innovative ways to determine whether skins are derived from captive-bred or wild sources.

“Our drive and commitment to sustainable business includes going deep into sustainability across our supply chains, right to our sources,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of international institutional affairs of Kering. “This first report and the continued work we are doing in the Python Conservation Partnership to enhance traceable, sustainable sourcing and the conservation of pythons will assist our sector and move the industry towards more informed decisions in python sourcing. We will be proactive in addressing these recommendations, and in particular developing best practice guidelines in the PCP for captive breeding farms and training the suppliers we work with."

Python skins are traded primarily to meet demands from the fashion industry to make luxury leather products, with Italy, Germany and France being the biggest importers. Skins are also used for traditional Chinese musical instruments. Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam are the main source of python skins, with China, Thailand and Viet Nam all producing python skins through farming.

Southeast Asia’s pythons, the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) and the Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) - which are two of the world’s largest snakes - have been harvested from the wild for their skins for almost eight decades. Within the last 20 years, the scale of trade in python skins has increased significantly with nearly 500,000 skins exported from Southeast Asian countries per year. Continued increase in demand is likely to put significant pressure on wild stocks, according to the study.

“This report offers a possible alternative solution to the sourcing of python skins for which demand is escalating. However, there is still some way to go towards more transparent, better managed python farming,” said Jean-Christophe ViĆ©, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “We must make sure that attention is not diverted from the urgent need to preserve wild pythons and their habitats through direct site conservation and action against illegal trade.”

The report will be presented at the Animals Committee  of the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in May 2014 to contribute to the discussion on international snake trade.

"CITES is seeking to improve the legality, sustainability and traceability of international trade in pythons. It has called for further research to help the CITES Animals and Standing Committees determine what guidance should be provided and additional steps taken to ensure the ongoing sustainability and legality of this trade,” said John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). “This effort is bringing the relevant players together across all sectors to find pragmatic and innovative solutions. The “Assessment of Python Breeding Farms Supplying the High-end Leather Industry”, delivered under the Python Conservation Partnership, is making a highly valuable contribution towards this collective undertaking.”

For Full Report 

Study launched to find out how male and female orangutans meet to mate

April 2014: A graduate student from the University of California is embarking on an 18-month expedition using cutting-edge technology to study orangutans in Southeast Asia.

James Askew, whose family lives in England, will spend nine months each at Gunung Leuser National Park in Northern Sumatra and Kutai National Park in East Borneo. His research focusses on deciphering the role male orangutan calls play in the animals’ social structures and reproductive strategies. The calls can last for four minutes at around 100 decibels – roughly as loud as a chainsaw – and the sound can be heard as far away as a mile.

“Orangutans are highly dispersed, rarely encountering one another in dense jungle,” said Askew. “Yet they are very cognitively able and demonstrate relationships that appear to be based on previous encounters. So, interpreting what’s encoded in long distance calls, and how females are using this information, will play a pivotal role in our understanding of their social structure and reproductive relationships.”

Cardigan Bay is perfect home for bottle nosed dolphins

The waters along a 60-mile stretch of mid Wales' coastline have provided the perfect breeding ground for Europe's largest population of bottle nosed dolphins.

Cardigan Bay in Ceredigion is home to 250 of the playful creatures and, as the area marks National Dolphin Day, they are a popular tourist attraction.

Dolphin experts in New Quay say the bay has shallow waters and plenty of food.

It means the mammals, who can live to 30, remain in the bay permanently.

The Sea Watch Foundation in New Quay tracks the dolphins in Ceredigion over their lifetime.

"One of the main reasons they stay here is they have a very nice place to play, breed and have all the food they need to get by," said scientist Dr Salome Dussan-Duque.

Cane toads learn to sleep at night - via Herp Digest

February 28, 2014,
Pak Yiu
Cane toads are abandoning their nocturnal ways, a new study has found. Photo: David Gray
Cane toads have started to abandon their nocturnal habits as they adapt to hotter conditions, new research has found.
University of Technology Sydney research shows the invasive species is changing its behavioural patterns to survive the desert’s dry conditions and spread its presence.
Unlike desert-dwelling Australian frogs, cane toads do not have the physiological mechanisms that allow it to bury and form a cocoon to prevent extreme dryness.
Researchers led by UTS ecologist Jonathan Webb reveal the normally nocturnal cane toad had become diurnal.
For the first time, researchers attached fish tags to 20 adult cane toads and placed data loggers in man-made dams.
The activity of the toads in the Northern Territory’s Tanami desert were recorded and analysed over a six-month period in the dry season.
 “What we discovered was the toads had to visit the dams every couple of days in order to survive in the landscape,” he said.
“It is surprising that they switched from being a traditional nocturnal animal and are now active in the day time.
“This daytime hydrating and cooling down allows them to survive an environment where ground temperatures often exceed 40 degrees for several hours each day.”
The relentless coloniser requires water to survive and can be found near open dams.
They can often spread out to waterless areas when it rains but cannot survive for more than a couple days without water.
Researchers believe the may explain why cane toads are one of the world’s most successful invasive species.
"Plasticity, or evolution in behavioural responses, is a key attribute of successful animal invasions," Dr Webb said.
"The behavioural phase shift that this research has revealed has rarely been reported in invasive species and could facilitate ongoing invasion success for the cane toad."
Dr Webb said this is bad news for native predators that are already environmentally stressed.
“[Cane toads] will have a massive effect for goannas, frog-eating snakes and anything that eat frogs,” he said.
“They are going to encounter a lot of these toads around water bodies and they don’t have mechanisms to deal with the toad toxins.”

Wolves at the door: Study finds recent wolf-dog hybridization in Caucasus region

April 14, 2014

American Genetic Association

Hybridization of wolves with shepherd dogs in the Caucasus region might be more common, and more recent, than previously thought, according to new research. Scientists found recent hybrid ancestry in about ten percent of the dogs and wolves sampled. About two to three percent of the sampled wolves and dogs were identified as first-generation hybrids.

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