Monday, 30 April 2012

In Everglades, tracking pythons may provide clues to vanishing wildlife


EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. — Kristen Hart’s search for a cold-blooded killer came to an end at a perfect hideout — thick scrub brush, dense trees and shade. She crouched with three scouts and whispered.
“Do you see her?” asked Hart, a research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. “Yeah, she’s in there,” answered Thomas Selby, a wildlife biologist. “I think she knows we’re here,” said Brian Smith, another biologist.
Within seconds, the 16 1 / 2-foot Burmese python uncoiled and made a run for it. What happened next is a drama that plays out every week or so, as state and federal biologists try to prove — or disprove — that the giant invasive snakes are the reason for the near disappearance of rabbits, opossums, raccoons, foxes and even bobcats in the southernmost section of the 1.5 million-acre Everglades.
Smith and Selby charged into the trees. “I’ve got the head!” Smith shouted. “Grab the tail!” They stumbled out with the writhing snake in a chokehold, huge mouth agape, ready to bite.
It was actually the second time biologists got their hands on Python 51 — the 51st caught. Two months ago, they surgically fitted her with a radio transmitter, motion detector and global positioning system to study her diet and movements.

Opponents: State's crackdown on invasive wild boar is a pig in a poke

By Tina Lam

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

They're huge, they're invasive, they reproduce quickly, they eat everything in sight and now, they're illegal.

Sound like Asian carp?

Nope, these are wild Russian or Eurasian boars and their relatives, illegal to possess in Michigan as of April 1. But the backlash against a new order that designated them an illegal invasive species has gone viral on property-rights and natural-foods websites across the country.

Hunting ranches that stock the boars and some pig farmers who raise specialty breeds that have some boar-like characteristics say the new rule will wipe out their business, and they are fighting back.

Since April 1, when enforcement of the new rule began, the Department of Natural Resources has searched two ranches with warrants and inspected 18 others to make sure all their wild boars were destroyed or sold. Three ranches and a pig farmer have filed separate lawsuits, saying the new law violates their constitutional rights.

Internet sites have painted the DNR as a government agency out of control, bringing in jackbooted, weapons-carrying officers to take private property and turn farmers into felons.

"I am hereby calling for the armed citizens' arrest of DNR officials who must be brought to justice for their crimes against Michigan farmers," said the editor of NaturalNews.com.

"That's very irresponsible rhetoric," said DNR spokesman Ed Golder. Officers do carry guns but despite assertions, the DNR has arrested no one and has shot no pigs, he said.

The killing agency: Wildlife Services' brutal methods leave a trail of animal death


First of three parts
The day began with a drive across the desert, checking the snares he had placed in the sagebrush to catch coyotes.
Gary Strader, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, stepped out of his truck near a ravine in Nevada and found something he hadn't intended to kill.
There, strangled in a neck snare, was one of the most majestic birds in America, a federally protected golden eagle.
"I called my supervisor and said, 'I just caught a golden eagle and it's dead,' " said Strader. "He said, 'Did anybody see it?' I said, 'Geez, I don't think so.'
"He said, 'If you think nobody saw it, go get a shovel and bury it and don't say nothing to anybody.' "
"That bothered me," said Strader, whose job was terminated in 2009. "It wasn't right."
Strader's employer, a branch of the federal Department of Agriculture called Wildlife Services, has long specialized in killing animals that are deemed a threat to agriculture, the public and – more recently – the environment.


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/28/4450678/the-killing-agency-wildlife-services.html#mi_rss=Bee%20State%20News#storylink=cp
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Bats: An Unexpected Virus Reservoir

ScienceDaily (Apr. 24, 2012) — Where do viruses dangerous to humans come from, and how have they evolved? Scientists working with Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten, Head of the In¬stitute for Virology at the Universit√§tsklinikum Bonn, have made significant progress in answering this question. "We already knew from prior studies that bats and rodents play a role as carriers of paramyxoviruses," said Prof. Drosten. The many varied members of this large virus family cause, e.g., measles, mumps, pneumonias and colds. The highly dangerous Hendra and Nipah viruses cause types of encephalitis that result in death for one out of two patients. Paramyxoviruses also play a role in veterinary medicine, causing e.g., canine distemper or rinderpest.



Researchers double the number of known paramyxovirus species
With support from numerous scientific institutes in Germany and around the world, they tested a total of 9,278 animals from Europe, South America and Asia, including 86 bat and 33 rodent species. "These animals live in very large social communities with millions of individuals in some cases," reported the Bonn virologist. "Their close contact promotes mutual infection and provides for great variety in circulating viruses." Using molecular biology methods, the scientists identified which virus species are rampant in bats and rodents. According to their own estimates, they discovered more than 60 new paramyxovirus species. "That is about as many as the number that was already known," said Drosten.

From Embryonic Stem Cells, a Sperm Replacement and Easier Path to Genetic Modification

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2012) — Researchers reporting in the April 27 issue of the journal Cell have devised a new and improved method for producing genetically modified animals for use in scientific research. The method relies on haploid embryonic stem cells (haESCs) instead of sperm to artificially fertilize immature egg cells. Such stem cells are similar to sperm in that they carry only genetic material from a mouse "dad."


Not only will the advance make it easier to produce genetically modified mice, but it may also enable genetic modification of animals that can't be modified by today's means. The technique might ultimately be used in assisted human reproduction for those affected by genetic disease, the researchers suggest.

"The current procedure to generate genetically modified animals is tedious and very inefficient," said Jinsong Li of the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences. "We thought if we can generate haploid embryonic stem cells and produce semicloned animals by simply injecting those cells into oocytes, we would be certain to get a transmission into offspring with limited breeding as half of the progeny will inherit the genetic modification."

Chinese Workers In Zimbabwe Are Eating Endangered Tortoises, Pythons And Leopards – via Herp Digest


Erin Conway-Smith, GlobalPost  is GlobalPost's South Africa correspondent.| Apr. 13, 2012 
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Chinese workers in Zimbabwe are buying up the local wildlife for dinner, feasting on endangered tortoises, pythons, leopards — and even village dogs.

Viewed as prestigious dishes, they would be expensive to serve at banquets back in China. But in Zimbabwe they are relatively cheap. Worse yet, in this cash-strapped country there’s a lack of resources to thwart the appetite for endangered game, conservation groups say.
China is investing significantly in mining, agriculture and construction, and its companies bring along thousands of workers.
Where there are Chinese in Africa, illegal trade in rare animals inevitably increases, according to experts. In Kenya, elephant poaching rose sharply along roads built by Chinese construction crews, and markets in Ethiopia cater to the Chinese demand for ivory chopsticks and other illicit souvenirs.
One recent case in Zimbabwe involved the gruesome discovery of meat and skeletal remains of 40 tortoises, during a raid on Chinese workers' homes in Masvingo province. The endangered Bell’s Hinged tortoises had been dropped into boiling water while still alive in order to separate the meat from the shell, police and animal welfare officials said.
Authorities also found 13 live Bell’s Hinged tortoises — which are protected under international laws governing trade of endangered species — kept in steel drums without water or food.
Four Chinese workers were fined $300 each and deported over the killing of endangered tortoises “for personal consumption.” In some parts of China, tortoises are used to make a very expensive soup.
“Our wildlife remains a legacy for future generations of Zimbabweans and we should jealously guard their future wellbeing,” the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) said at the time.
The ZNSPCA plans to meet with the Chinese embassy about the pillaging of animals for food, according to Ed Lanca, the group's national chairman.
“It’s an ongoing trend. If it’s not tortoises, it’s dogs, if it’s not dogs, it’s pythons,” he said. “We’ve even been told that leopard is also in demand.”
Chinese “are encouraging local communities to procure the meat for them,” Lanca added. 
There have been reports of Chinese workers stealing baby tortoises from nature conservancies in Zimbabwe, leading at least one to ramp up security.
Lanca said another major concern is trade in endangered animal parts used in Chinese medicine, including pangolin scales and lion bones.
China's embassy in Zimbabwe wouldn't comment on the accusations, but was aware of the tortoise case.
"We are doing the research to see if this is true or not," a spokesman said.
Chinese workers "respect the culture here," and "the Chinese people are doing a lot of good things," including helping Zimbabwe's economy, the embassy spokesman added.
There’s a saying in China that people from the country’s south are renowned for eating everything with legs except tables, and everything that flies except airplanes. 
But it’s not just rare animals that are being targeted for the dinner plate. Chinese nationals are also said to be buying dogs from villagers.
“Some are strays, but they could well be people’s pets,” Lanca said.
Two years ago, Chinese engineers installing transmitters in Matabeleland South were accused of stealing local dogs to kill and eat. Several Chinese nationals were arrested after being found brutally slaughtering dogs at their camp, but were released with only a police warning.
The problem seems to be continuing: Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette reported last month on allegations that dogs and cats are being served at upmarket Chinese restaurants in Harare.
Last year, China sent a high-level delegation to Zimbabwe to hold seminars encouraging Chinese expatriates to respect the local culture, after reports of poor treatment and underpayment of workers caused resentment and anger.
Lanca said the ZNSPCA doesn’t have the money or human resources to address the new problems caused by Chinese workers. The organization, financed entirely by donors, is already tasked with looking after the welfare of all Zimbabwe’s animals, from pet hamsters to giraffes and everything in between. 
“We’re terribly, terribly underfunded,” Lanca said, adding: “If we had enough vehicles and manpower, we could take tackle this.”








Bird sanctuary needs help

ROSEMARY MCLEOD



Bob Dylan's nasal voice grates through the sound system, almost breaking through the cries of small children. The Rata Cafe in the Zealandia visitor centre has attracted a small mob of mothers, toddlers and pushchairs, and I'm waiting for the guided tour to start on a chilly, drizzly day.
I'm on my way to the group rendezvous point when I see the first of Zealandia's special species grubbing in the earth beside the walkway. They're humanis volunteeris, the backbone of Wellington's financially challenged ecological attraction, industriously ridding the path of introduced weed species like so many large, pecking birds with woolly plumage. There's a big job ahead, with 225 hectares of regenerating bush and 32km of tracks, but Zealandia's vision of creating a true pre-human environment covers an ambitious 500 years into the future. The androids will be grateful.

TOP BIRD: One of the star attractions at Zealandia is T2 the takahe.  Photo: Kevin Stent/Fairfax NZ


Like most Wellingtonians, I suspect, I've stayed away because (a) There's heaps of native bush that you can walk in for free; (b) I think native birds are so well camouflaged that I'll be lucky to see any, especially with excited children about; and (c) It's expensive to go there, much more so at night, when it's more than $60 to hopefully see spotted kiwis foraging.
My handbag has been examined for mice, incidentally, inside the great predator-proof fence that defines the sanctuary perimeter. Mice are the one pest and predator they haven't got rid of yet – which seems to contradict the claim that the valley has been pest-free since 1999.
I see blackbirds. I hear tui cackling and trilling, and catch a glimpse of one. I see a colony of pied shags on a collapsed tree in the former Karori Reservoir lake. They look, in the distance, like a Chinese painting. The ducks swimming about are the usual mallards.
I hear the distinctive cry of an invisible bird, or possibly a toddler, and then we're in the takahe enclosure, looking at two of the rarest birds now in existence. They have awkward-looking, long plastic tracking devices poking out of their backs, and are quite unafraid as they nibble the grass a metre away from us. No wonder they nearly died out.

'Inhabitants of Madrid' Ate Elephants’ Meat and Bone Marrow 80,000 Years Ago

ScienceDaily (Apr. 24, 2012) — Humans that populated the banks of the river Manzanares (Madrid, Spain) during the Middle Palaeolithic (between 127,000 and 40,000 years ago) fed themselves on pachyderm meat and bone marrow. This is what a Spanish study shows and has found percussion and cut marks on elephant remains in the site of Preresa (Madrid).


In prehistoric times, hunting animals implied a risk and required a considerable amount of energy. Therefore, when the people of the Middle Palaeolithic (between 127,000 and 40,000 years ago) had an elephant in the larder, they did not leave a scrap.
Humans that populated the Madrid region 84,000 years ago fed themselves on these prosbocideans' meat and they consumed their bone marrow, according to this new study. Until now, the scientific community doubted that consuming elephant meat was a common practice in that era due to the lack of direct evidence on the bones. It is still to be determined whether they are from the Mammuthus species of the Palaleoloxodon subspecies.
The researchers found bones with cut marks, made for consuming the meat, and percussion for obtaining the bone marrow. "There are many sites, but few with fossil remains with marks that demonstrate humans' purpose" Jose Yravedra, researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and lead author of the study published in theJournal of Archaeological Science said.

Rescue wildlife in 'Animal Kingdom' game

By Jinny Gudmundsen

Most parents are aware that their teenage kids socialize on Facebook. But some parents might not realize that their teens also play games within the Facebook application. While many of these Facebook games are simply fun time-fillers, the new Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers teaches players about real world ecology and conservation issues. This Facebook game has even been tied to raising money for the Jane Goodall Institute.

For those unfamiliar with Facebook gaming, these games open up in a separate window within the Facebook application. You have to own a Facebook account and be logged in to play. Meant to be shared with other friends on Facebook, these games provide ways to invite others to play and/or help you while you play.

Playdom's Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers is offered for free, but it does have items in the game that players can buy for real money. Some teens will be tempted to spend real money to speed up the game.

Inspired by the Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park and incorporating some scenes from the Disneynature'sChimpanzee movie, this Facebook game lets players join a Global Wildlife Research team. The game transports you to wildlife areas that need help. For example, while in Africa, you will find a baby elephant that has been separated from its mother. On another quest, you must clean up after poachers who have left trash in a preserve. The game starts in Africa, but expands to other areas, including the Amazon Rainforest and the Rocky Mountains.


Continued: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/jinnygudmundsen/story/2012-04-29/disney-animal-kingdom-facebook-game/54582176/1?csp=34tech&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+usatoday-TechTopStories+%28Tech+-+Top+Stories%29

Analysis: U.S. mad cow find: lucky break or triumph of science?

By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, Apr. 25, 2012 (Reuters) — The discovery this week of the fourth U.S. case of mad cow disease was one of two things for food safety experts: a validation of a decade-long focused surveillance regime or a lucky break that highlights the need to revisit previously scrapped efforts for more comprehensive surveillance.


For now, calls for greater monitoring seem likely to go unheard, both because the "atypical" case appeared to be a one-in-a-million genetic mutation that officials said posed no threat to the food supply, and because of tightening budgets.

Funding for cattle health programs in the proposed 2013 budget is set to fall by 20 percent compared to two years earlier.

Discovery of the infected dairy cow at a rendering plant in central California may stoke an intensifying debate over food safety in the United States, already a major topic after the "pink slime" furor this spring, fungicide-tainted orange juice from Brazil and never-ending efforts to control disease in food caused by salmonella and e Coli bacteria.

While major importers from Japan to Canada pledged to maintain beef shipments and U.S. officials stressed that the "atypical" case had occurred in the cow spontaneously and was not in others animals, critics were quick to respond.

People 'worried' to report dolphin deaths


People are still afraid to report on dolphin deaths due to repercussions from the fishing industry, a University of Otago zoology professor says.
A critically endangered Maui's dolphin was found dead by a member of the public in Taranaki last week.
The dolphin, of which only 54 are believed to be left, was found by a member of the public on Thursday or Friday on a beach near Pungarehu, south of New Plymouth.
It was collected by the Department of Conservation and taken to Massey University for an autopsy.
It's not yet known if the dead dolphin is a Maui or closely related Hector's dolphin. A latest population survey found a couple of Hector's mingling further north than usual with the Maui's dolphin.
Otago professor Liz Slooten said it would be "hard to get information out of the tiny community of Parihaka''.
It would be the second Maui's dolphin found dead in Taranaki this year. Another, a female, was accidentally killed by a fisherman in January.
"It's only because of recent media attention and websites that people are realising how important this is.''
People were still scared of speaking up about dolphin deaths for fear of repercussions from the fishing industry, Slooten said.
A research student of hers saw up to five Hector's dolphins trapped a day in nets while working on a fishing boat. He was hesitant on reporting the incidents.
"His parents live in the area and it would take five minutes for someone to figure out who had reported it.''
While gill net fishing is banned in parts of Manukau and Kaipara harbours, it is not from north of New Plymouth to south Taranaki.
"As a biologist it's really frustrating,'' Slooten said.
"I've done surveys down there and wrote an article in 2005 to say the Maui is going much further south than the protected area.''

Lion Man warned ministers of cat danger


Government ministers and departments were warned a tragedy was "inevitable" at a Northland big cat reserve – shortly before a handler was mauled to death.
A three-day coronial inquiry starts in Whangarei on June 12, more than three years after Dalu Mncube, 26, was killed in an enclosure at Zion Wildlife Gardens by Abu, a white tiger.
At the time, park founder Craig "Lion Man" Busch was in a legal battle for control of Zion after being dismissed by his mother, Patricia, in 2008.
The park has since been renamed the Kingdom of Zion and Busch has been rehired by its new management.
The Sunday Star-Times can reveal Busch sent a series of warnings to officials – including one three weeks before Mncube's death – saying it was a matter of time before "someone gets badly hurt or killed".
The warnings were sent to then Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson and David Carter, then minister for agriculture, biosecurity and forestry, the Department of Labour and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
On May 9, 2009, Busch wrote of staff taking "dangerous shortcuts".
"A cavalier attitude to health and safety prevails," he wrote. "A serious or fatal accident is inevitable if this is allowed to continue."

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Dogs attacked - by kung fu guinea pig


A Slovakian woman couldn't believe her eyes when her pointer dogs were attacked - by a kung fu guinea pig.

Marta Domotorova, of Hradok, says the pint-sized ninja suddenly attacked her Hungarian pointers during a stroll on heathland near her home.
The curious hounds had spotted the guinea pig and trotted over to investigate - but it scared them off with a series of spinning kicks and leaps.
Mrs Domotorova said: "Bona started barking and Meggie wanted to sniff it.
"I guess it got pretty scared although both dogs are harmless and just wanted to play.
"But then they got pretty scared when the guinea pig started its kung fu chops."
Local wildlife experts believe the furious furball is a household pet that's either escaped or been abandoned.
"It's not the first time we've heard of this. These creatures are usually docile family pets but when they feel threatened they will fight for their lives like any animal that thinks it's been cornered," explained one.

Thailand’s Shrimp Farms Threaten Rare ‘Fishing Cats’


By DAN HARRIS (@danbharris) and JAKE WHITMAN
Normally, cats avoid water like the plague, but Thailand’s “fishing cats,” with their partially webbed feet and pointed heads evolved for diving, are built for hunting in the mangrove swamps and streams.
But this rare breed’s entire future could depend on the decisions made in, of all places, the frozen food section of the supermarket.
Biologist Namfon Cutter, who has researched these fiercely private animals for eight years, said she has only once seen one in the wild with her own eyes.
“In a way, that kind of makes it even more exciting, because you want to give them some respect,” Cutter said.
Cutter and her team of researchers head out in the jungle to monitor the fishing cats through camera feeds and radio collars. When they find tracks, they set up a camera and put out a trap baited with a piece of chicken. Cutter is now tracking and studying dozens of these fishing cats through camera feeds and radio collars.
Fishing cats only live in South and Southeast Asia and there are only several thousand of them left in the wild. One of the big culprits in their potential extinction is shrimp farms.
Shrimp farmers dig big holes and raise hundreds of thousands of shrimp, which are then sorted, put on ice and shipped out.
The farms threaten fishing cats in two ways, Cutter said. The first is that the cats are losing their natural habitat to metastasizing shrimp farms, and are sometimes driven to kill chickens belonging to local villagers. Then those villagers turn around and kill the cats.
Sometimes the animals Cutter and her team have been tracking for months simply disappear, she said.

Stressed-out penguins on the mend


Penguins which had to be given anti-depressants after a break-in left them stressed have made a full recovery.
A trespasser broke into their enclosure at Scarborough's Sea Life Centre one year ago and chased the birds.
Staff at the centre said the birds had been left "frightened" and needed medication, reports the BBC.
The birds have now recovered and two couples have even produced eggs which are due to hatch later this year, curators said.
Lyndsey Crawford, displays curator, said: "Penguins only lay eggs when they feel happy enough to do so.
"This is a really good sign particularly as this is the first time for each couple."
Penguins are particularly vulnerable to any change of routine which was why the incident last year had proved so upsetting for them, she explained.

Hard to swallow? Greedy bird gets to grips with gigantic fish lunch


The anhinga water bird, usually found in warmer parts of America, looked pleased as punch after catching himself an enormous snack at Everglades National Park, a renowned wildlife world heritage sight



An anhinga gobbles up a gold and green fish for his lunch (Picture: Caters)

However the greedy bird, which lives primarily off a diet of fish, struggled as it attempted to wolf down its meal. 


Its catch may have been almost double the size of his head, but that didn't stop the eager anhinga, also known as the Snakebird.

The scene was captured by amazed wildlife snapper Javier Parrilla Perez, who explained: 'Throughout the morning, my wife and I were photographing wildlife in the Everglades, an amazing place for bird photography.

'At one point we were shooting an alligator in the canal when we saw this incredible anhinga with fish in its mouth.

'We couldn't believe it because the bird was only a few metres away from us. Camera in hand we set out to shoot without stopping, we knew it was an incredible moment and we didn't want to miss it.'

With its small head and extra-long neck, it took the anhinga a while to digest its meal fully, but got there in the end. 

Mr Perez added: 'The bird seemed to expend so much effort wallowing the fish. At one point we thought he was going to choke.

'But after a few minutes of wrestling he finally swallowed it. It was an unforgettable moment of intense emotion.'


http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/897241-hard-to-swallow-greedy-bird-gets-to-grips-with-gigantic-fish-lunch

Corky, Kitten Born With Criss-Crossed Legs, Saved By Breakthrough Leg Surgery


After a months-long Facebook campaign that resulted in an outpouring of donations from animal lovers all over the world, staff members at CATS Cradle Shelter Rescue and Adoption in Fargo, North Dakota were able to arrange a life-saving surgery for Corky, a rescue kitten born with leg deformities.
During the 5-hour surgery performed on Thursday, April 5, Dr. Dan Burchill at Casselton Veterinary Services in North Dakota, worked to correct a rare congenital condition called "Bilateral Arthrogryposis of the Tarsus," which causes the legs to develop backwards and criss-crossed.
"Dr. Burchill is our hero. He basically invented this surgery for Corky," Cat's Cradle co-founder Gail Ventzke told the UK Daily Sun. "He's fallen for Corky, too. He comes in on his days off to personally change Corky’s bandages because he doesn't want anyone else to touch him."
Ventzke told The Huffington Post that she and fellow CATS Cradle Co-Founders Amber Schaffer and Carol Stefonek discovered Corky last year while visiting an animal pound in Moorhead, Minnesota. The three were picking up two other cats at the pound when employees asked if they were interesting in taking at a look at a third cat that they "just had to see for themselves."

Magnetic fields light up 'GPS neurons', scientists say


The question of how birds navigate using - among other signals - magnetic fields is the subject of much debate.
These new "GPS neurons" seem to show how magnetic information is represented in birds' brains.
However, the study reported by Science leaves open the question of how they actually sense the magnetic field.
David Dickman of the Baylor College of Medicine in the US set up an experiment in which pigeons were held in place, while the magnetic field around them was varied in its strength and direction.

Rare bees on their way to Dungeness from Sweden


A second international effort to reintroduce the rare short-haired bumblebee to Kent is underway after the first one ended in disaster.
The first time round, scientists bred several queen bees in New Zealand in the hope of shipping them back to Dungeness. But they all sadly died.
Now a second operation to bring specially bred female bees in to the UK is underway – this time a little closer to home, from Sweden.
The species was last recorded at Dungeness in 1988, but the experts are confident this latest attempt at bringing them back will go well without any sting in the tail.
The team of scientists have already set off for Sweden on their mission to collect around 50 short-haired bumblebee queens.
They became extinct in the UK after suffering declines following a loss of wildflower rich habitat.
But they are doing well in Sweden and conservationists are now ready to begin the delicate work of transferring a small number of the queen bees to Kent.
The queens are being collected from the province of Skane, on the southern tip of Sweden, using bee nets before being transferred into glass vials and placed in refrigeration to induce a temporary hibernation.
After a boat trip to Britain they will go in to quarantine at Royal Holloway University of London to ensure they are free from diseases or parasites that could affect native wildlife. Assuming all is well they are expected to be released within weeks.
Project manager Dr Nikki Gammans said: “It’s a delicate operation, which we’ve been meticulously planning with our colleagues in Sweden for over a year. The queen bees will be emerging after the winter in hibernation and will be well fed before beginning the journey home. We’ve been collecting pollen from the sites in Kent to feed them while they are in quarantine and they will be released at the end of May.”
All the time this is going on, final preparations are underway at the RSPB’s Dungeness reserve and farmland across Romney Marsh to create the ideal conditions for the bees to flourish.
Over the past three years Natural England and the RSPB worked with Dungeness farmers to prepare flowering field margins to give the Swedish bees the best possible start and encourage other wildlife across the peninsula.
More than 650 hectares of new suitable habitat has been created.
RSPB Dungeness warden Natalie Holt said: “We’ve lost 97 per cent of our wildflower meadows in the past 60 years and this has had a devastating impact on our precious native bumblebees.
“We’ve done a lot of work to prepare for this day by establishing good wild flower habitat, rich in pollen and nectar which will provide a healthy, vibrant habitat for a whole range of insects, wild plants, birds and other animals as well as the short-haired bumblebee.
“We’ve already seen a number of rare bee species spreading locally including the shrill carder bee which has returned to RSPB Dungeness nature reserve after a 25 year absence. This shows how successful conservation work really makes a difference in bringing life back to back to our countryside.”
The previous elaborate project failed when the entire stock died in New Zealand during hibernation. The RSPB said at the time: “A small number were due to be released on the June 11, 2010, but sadly they did not survive hibernation in New Zealand.”
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