Monday, 27 April 2015

At home with the world's last male northern white rhinoceros

With rhino numbers collapsed due to poaching for their horns, a lot rides on one pampered animal in the Kenyan savannah doing his best to further the species

Murithi Mutiga in Ol Pejeta

Monday 27 April 2015 05.00 BSTLast modified on Monday 27 April 201512.18 BST

Mohamed Doyo seems to have a dream job. Every evening, he patrols the Kenyan savannah, glimpsing lions chasing down darting Thomson’s gazelles, hearing the calls of red-chested cuckoos and, when there is a full moon, seeing the majestic, snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya in the distance.

But Doyo can scarcely stop to admire the extraordinary views because he and a large squad of rangers perform an extraordinary job: they must keep poachers away from one of the rarest species on earth, including the star attraction at the 135 sq mile conservancy, Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino.

“This responsibility weighs so heavily on our shoulders,” says Doyo. “It is sad what human greed has done and now we must keep watch every minute because it would be unimaginable if the poachers succeeded in killing these last few animals.”

The precipitous decline in the number of wild rhinos is the result of the dramatic rise in poaching in the 20th century.

About half a million rhinos roamed in Africa and Asia in 1900. That figure had fallen to 70,000 by 1970, with some species near to disappearing.

By 2011, the western black rhino had been declared extinct, an abrupt end to a species that had walked the earth for 5m years.

Recent conservation efforts have rallied overall rhino population numbers to 29,000, but poaching remains a real threat.

Launch of European Red List of Bees: Fostering bee-friendly agricultural practices

22 April 2015 | News story

The recent release of the European Red List of Bees had found that 9.2% of Europe’s 1,965 wild bee species were threatened with extinction. This trend affects a broad variety of stakeholders, given the bee’s key role in the pollination of crops and wild flowers, which is essential to society and agriculture.

Pollination provides not only economic value, but it is also essential for securing food production and delivering important ecosystem services. The intensification of agriculture has been identified as one of the main culprits for the decline of bee species, but at the same time, the agricultural sector is most affected by a decline in pollination services from bees. 

Hong Kong Officials ask Pakistan to Receive 751 smuggled turtles - Herp Digest

by Faiza Ilyaa - Karachi-Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2015 

The Hong Kong authorities have recently approached Pakistani officials with a request to receive a consignment of 751 black pond turtles that were being smuggled into their territory over a month ago, it emerged on Sunday.

According to sources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) management authorities of Hong Kong had contacted their Pakistani counterparts last month and informed them about the seizure of 751 black pond turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii).
The freshwater species consignment with an international protected status, the sources said, was concealed in a fishing vessel sailing in the Hong Kong waters in February this year.
Although the Hong Kong officials haven’t yet confirmed the origin of turtles and the case is still under investigation, a request was sent to the CITES management authorities of Pakistan to consider receiving and releasing these turtles into the wild since Hong Kong is not the range state of these turtle and the species might be smuggled out of Pakistan.
The Hong Kong officials that also offered to bear the delivery cost, sources said, had asked Pakistani counterparts to provide information on turtle smuggling in their region.
According to sources, Pakistani officials had informed the Hong Kong officials about the Hongda Trading Company that was involved in a recent turtle smuggling case reported at Karachi port. The company had previously sent three shipments to Hong Kong in the cover of a certificate declaring these turtles as fish maw.
The Hong Kong authorities, sources, said, were investigating the company’s links in their territory. In the meantime, the federal officials had asked the Sindh wildlife department for their opinion over the matter.
Majority of the officials in Sindh, the sources pointed out, were in favour of receiving the turtles from Hong Kong considering the depleting population of freshwater turtles in the province and its subsequent impact on ecology.
“Yes, the issue is being debated and soon a decision will be taken,” confirmed the Sindh wildlife conservator, adding that if the Sindh government decided to take and release the turtles into the wild, all the required scientific protocols would be met.
It is noteworthy that a Hong-Kong bound consignment of dried body parts of over 4,000 freshwater turtles was confiscated at the Karachi port last month. It was officially declared as the largest seizure involving turtles in the country’s history.
The body parts were identified as those of Indian narrow-headed softshell turtles, a critically endangered and protected reptile in the country.
Last September, over 200 black pond turtles were confiscated at the Karachi airport.
The species were found in the luggage of a man who had arrived from Lahore. Forty-five turtles died due to suffocation and injuries they suffered during travel while over 170 turtles that survived were later released into the Haleji Lake.
The same month, another batch of 200 smuggled black pond turtles was released into the Indus River (in the Kalar block) near the Rohri forest. They were smuggled out of Sindh and confiscated in Taxkorgan, China. The turtles were handed over to Pakistani officials in a ceremony held at Khunjrab Pass on the Pakistan-China border.
Eight different species of freshwater turtles are found in Pakistan — five of them are globally threatened species — namely Indian soft-shell turtle, Indian peacock soft-shell turtle, Indian narrow-headed soft-shell turtle, Indian flap-shell turtle, black pond turtle, Indian roofed turtle, brown roofed turtle and crowned river turtle.
All these species are listed in the CITES Appendices I & II that means their import and export without a legal permit is prohibited. These turtles are found in the entire Indus River system. The range states of the black pond turtle include southern Pakistan (Indus and Ganges River drainages), northeastern India (Assam), and Bangladesh.
The Sindh government last year declared all freshwater turtle/tortoise species found in Pakistan as protected and included them in the Schedule II of the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance 1972. Rules were also framed to impose heavy penalties on turtle poachers and smugglers.
The information gathered from the internet shows that illegal turtle trade is thriving in the region. Last year, 88 black pond turtles destined for Bangkok were seized at the Chennai airport and 230 endangered Hamilton turtles which were smuggled from India were seized at the Bangkok airport.

Hey, that's my cappuccino! Coyote captured outside lower Manhattan cafe

April 25, 2015 2:44 PM


A coyote is shown after being captured by the New York City Police Department in New York April 25, 2015. …

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police captured a young, female coyote outside a cafe in a residential area of lower Manhattan on Saturday, the latest in a series of coyote sightings in New York City, where an increasing number of the predators are making their home.

An emergency operator fielded a 911 call early Saturday morning reporting a coyote sighting at North Cove Marina near Battery Park City, said Detective Annette Markowski, spokeswoman for the New York Police Department.

Armed with a tranquilizer gun, officers spent an hour trying to corner the animal near a cafe with an outdoor seating area. Eventually they "contained, darted and secured" the animal, police said. It was placed in a cage and transported in a police cruiser to Manhattan Animal Care and Control for examination.

Iridescent animals shine to startle predators

Date:April 23, 2015

Source:University of Lincoln

Summary:Animals which appear to shimmer and shine may have evolved these qualities as a way to startle predators, new research suggests.

Iridescent animals, such as kingfishers, peacocks and dragonflies, can produce a mesmerising display of colour depending on the angle of illumination or observation. However, until now there has been limited scientific understanding of the function of iridescence and why this quality, known as 'interference colouration', has evolved independently several times in insects such as beetles and butterflies.

In a new study, published in the scientific journal Biology Letters, Dr Thomas Pike, a behavioural and sensory ecologist at the University of Lincoln, UK, suggests that for some organisms, iridescence evolved as a way to confuse predators. By producing startling changes in colour and brightness, the animal is able to briefly surprise a potential predator, increasing its chance of escape.

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