Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Zimbabwe wants ivory ban lifted so it can sell $600-mln stockpile

JUNE 24, 2019
Some countries in southern Africa are pushing for a global ivory ban to be relaxed as their elephant numbers grow
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa opened a UN wildlife summit on Monday with a call to lift the global ivory trade ban so that the country can sell $600 million of stockpiled tusks.
Mnangagwa said selling the elephant tusks and rhino horns would enable the impoverished nation to fund conservation efforts for 20 years.
Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia have all cited the growing number of elephants in some areas in their bid to have the ban relaxed, angering many conservationists.
Opening the UNEP wildlife economy summit in Victoria Falls, Mnangagwa called "for the free trade in hunting products as these can have an important impact on national and local economies."
"Currently Zimbabwe has about $600 million dollars worth of ivory and rhino horns stocked—most of which is from natural attrition of those animals.
"The revenue would suffice to finance our operational conservation efforts for the next two decades."
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits the sale of ivory, is under pressure from southern African countries that have seen growing elephant numbers.

Monarch butterflies bred in captivity may lose the ability to migrate, study finds

JUNE 24, 2019
Monarch butterflies purchased from a commercial breeder did not fly in a southward direction, even in offspring raised outdoors, in a new study conducted by scientists at the University of Chicago. Wild-caught monarchs bred indoors under simulated outdoor conditions also did not orient south, suggesting that captive breeding disrupts the monarch's famous annual migratory behavior.
The National Wildlife Federation estimates that the North American monarch population has declined 90% over the last two decades. As the number of butterflies that reaches their winter habitats in California and Mexico dwindles, monarch enthusiasts have turned to a variety of conservation efforts, including captive breeding and release of the butterflies throughout the summer and autumn. However, the new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that these well-intentioned practices may not have the desired effect.

Playing 'tag': Tracking movement of young oysters

JUNE 25, 2019

by Dauphin Island Sea Lab
A new publication in the journal Estuaries and Coasts investigates the use of a fluorescent dye to track movements of young oysters. The publication, "Field mark-recapture of calcein-stained larval oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in a freshwater-dominated estuary", provides new knowledge on methods for tracking oysters in low salinity environments common to coastal waters, particularly in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This information is important to understand where oysters settle and grow compared to locations of parent stocks and to guide management practices of oysters or any marine species with larval stages that live in the water column.
Free-living aquatic animals have the potential to be transported long distances during early life development. These movements can influence adult distributions and subsequently how populations are connected. By understanding larval transport pathways, we can better inform restoration efforts of remaining marine invertebrate populations globally. This information is particularly important for commercial species such as oysters, which are a valuable resource for Alabama and other coastal waters.

How the dragon got its frill

JUNE 25, 2019

The frilled dragon exhibits a distinctive large erectile ruff. This lizard usually keeps the frill folded back against its body, but can spread it as a spectacular display to scare off predators. Researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics report in the journal eLife that an ancestral embryonic gill of the dragon embryo turns into a neck pocket that expands and folds, forming the frill. The researchers then demonstrate that this robust folding pattern emerges from mechanical forces during the homogeneous growth of the frill skin due to the tensions resulting from its attachment to the neck and head.

In Jurassic Park, while the computer programmer Dennis Nedry attempts to smuggle dinosaur embryos off the island, he is attacked and killed by a mid-sized dinosaur that erects a frightening neck frill. This fictional dinosaur is clearly inspired by a real animal known as the frilled dragon, which lives today in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. These lizards, also known as Chlamydosaurus kingii, have a large disc of skin around their head and neck. This frill is usually folded back against the body, but can spread in a spectacular fashion to scare off predators and competitors. Folding of the left and right sides of the frill occurs at three pre-formed ridges. But it remains unclear which ancestral structure evolved to become the dragon's frill, and how the ridges in the frill form during development.

In an era of mass extinction, who decides which species to save – and how?

22 May 2019
This topic will be explored at the Global Landscapes Forum Bonn 2019 on 22–23 June. Register to attend or tune-in digitally here.
Wednesday, 22 May, is the International Day for Biological Diversity, and following the damning IPBES report stating that a million species are at risk of extinction, the cause of protecting the variety of life on Earth seems more pressing than ever.
In the absence of infinite time and resources, the hard truth is that prioritization must come into play, and the decisions made about where to focus attention are never neutral. A disproportionate amount of conservation efforts to date have focused on “charismatic megafauna” – well-known, popular species like dolphins, elephants and orangutans – as opposed to other species that are less glamorous but equally important to Earth’s ecosystems, such as bees, frogs and earthworms.
Often, too, priorities at national and international levels can be at odds with those of local and Indigenous communities. For example, in Aotearoa New Zealand (A/NZ), kiwi conservation is often privileged since the bird is a well-known national icon and identity marker (many New Zealanders proudly refer to themselves as “kiwis”). But some indigenous Māori tribes have quite different priorities. For example, the Tūhoe people of the Te Urewera region prize the kererū bird as a valuable food source and indicator of forest wellbeing and have recently gained the right to manage their forest homeland of Te Urewera and make kererū population restoration a priority.

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