Thursday, 31 May 2012

Rare cockatoo still missing from zoo


A red-tailed black cockatoo is still missing from Sydney's Taronga Zoo, two days after it escaped.


Five of the rare birds flew off after they were spooked by sea eagles during an open-air show on Monday afternoon.


Four have been recaptured and keepers are confident the last one will soon be found and rejoin its mates in their enclosure.


A zoo spokesman says the cockatoos were easily recaptured.


'The keepers just go out and give the sign for feeding and they come down,' he said.


The birds were part of a public display at the zoo on Monday afternoon when a group of predatory sea eagles crashed the show.


'They saw them and said, Oh my God, it's an eagle, I'm out of here,'' the spokesman said.


'They just moved away from the threat. They did the right thing. If I thought I was being hunted by sea eagles I'd move areas too.'


He said the first bird was found near the zoo on Tuesday morning and another was spotted near Allambie, in Sydney's northern beaches, later that day.


The two others were caught at nearby Manly on Wednesday after tip-offs from the public.


He said the birds, which are not critically endangered but are under pressure from loss of habitat, regarded the zoo as their home and were happy to be back.


He said the zoo had only ever lost two birds from its popular open-air shows since 1997.


The runaways would rejoin the troupe for upcoming shows, he said.


http://www.skynews.com.au/eco/article.aspx?id=755689&vId=

Land and Sea Species Differ in Climate Change Response



ScienceDaily (May 29, 2012) — Marine and terrestrial species will likely differ in their responses to climate warming, new research by Simon Fraser University and Australia's University of Tasmania has found.

The study, published this week in Nature Climate Change, provides insights into why and how species are moving around the globe in response to global warming.

Researchers gathered published data from tests determining the physiological temperature limits -- tolerance to heating and cooling levels -- on 169 cold-blooded marine and terrestrial species, then compared the data with the regions the species inhabit.

They found that while marine animals closely conformed to the temperature regions they could potentially occupy, terrestrial species live farther from the equator than their internal thermometers suggest they can live. In other words warm temperatures aren't limiting them from living in closer to the equator.

Continued:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529102427.htm

Rare birds, animals sold openly in Puducherry


Puducherry: Migratory birds and endangered animals protected by the Indian wildlife laws are being sold openly in a market in Puducherry. CNN-IBN has accessed images that expose the thriving lucrative business.
The images show ibis and purple moorhens, open billed storks being sold openly at roadside stalls.
These birds visit the Oussudu Wildlife Sanctuary in the winters for breeding where they are allegedly hunted. Jungle cats, palm civets, porcupine, monitor lizards and jackals are also being sold at roadside stalls.
The birds are reportedly being sold for Rs 100 per kg while the more endangered species are being sold for Rs 400 to Rs 500 per kg.
CNN-IBN also spoke to the Divisional Forest Officer, Puducherry, who expressed his helplessness in curtailing sale of endangered species in the region. He said that poaching was mainly done by a particular tribe here, the Narikowa.
"Poaching can be attributed to a particular tribe called Narikowa. We have tried several times to curtail this, but whenever we take any action, the community stops us, gheraoes us."
"They don't have any alternate means of livelihood," he adds.

Wildlife minister Richard Benyon under fire in another game-shooting case


Richard Benyon, the Wildlife minister, was under pressure last night to explain what influence he had on a decision to drop landmark legal proceedings against a grouse-shooting estate that was burning peatland in a conservation area.

Natural England, the Government's environment watchdog, withdrew from an attempt to ban Walshaw Moor Estate from burning heather and other unauthorised activities in March. The case would have had major implications for moor owners, who burn heather to encourage new shoots, which are eaten by grouse increasing their numbers.

Conservationists expressed disappointment and surprise that the legal proceedings had been dropped. Walshaw Moor in the Pennines is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the 16,000-acre estate is responsible for protecting its peatland, which includes the habitat of rare wading birds.

Natural England and Walshaw Estate Ltd issued a joint statement in March saying that they had resolved their dispute and that the estate had entered a "new management regime" in an agreement that was binding for 25 years. At the time the RSPB called the statement "opaque" and called for clarification on the details.

Mr Benyon, the Conservative minister responsible for wildlife protection at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who last week backed plans to shoot out the nests of buzzards to protect pheasants, is a keen supporter of game shooting.

Mark Avery, a former conservation director at the RSPB said: "It makes me wonder what influence did Defra or its grouse-shooting minister have on the dropping of Natural England's legal case." Mr Avery has submitted Freedom of Information requests to both Natural England and Defra. Only Natural England have so far responded and Mr Avery said he has not yet received a satisfactory explanation as to why it dropped legal proceedings.

Martin Harper, the RSPB's current conservation director, said: "We are extremely concerned about how and why Natural England reached this decision. It came as a complete surprise, and raises a series of questions. We continue to seek an adequate clarification from Natural England of the process and thinking behind their decision."

A spokesman for Natural England said: "The 25-year agreement Natural England and Walshaw Moor Estate have recently entered into provides improved environmental protection for the Moors and also allows the estate to conduct its business activities.
"The benefits of the agreement are significant. For the first time, burning activities on the Walshaw Estate will be subject to specific controls."

Defra declined to comment on the decision to drop legal proceedings, saying it was a matter for Natural England.

Representatives for Walshaw Estate Ltd could not be reached for comment.

Devastating Disease Found in Endangered Gray Bats


The deadly disease white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in endangered gray bats in Tennessee, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today (May 29).

The disease, caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, has decimated some bat populations in eastern North America after first being documented in a New York cave in 2006. White-nose syndrome (WNS) was named for the powdery, white fungal growth that develops on infected bats' snouts.  

"The documented spread of WNS on gray bats is devastating news. This species was well on the road to recovery, and confirmation of the disease is great cause for concern," Paul McKenzie, Missouri Endangered Species Coordinator for the USFWS, said in a statement. "Because gray bats hibernate together in colonies that number in the hundreds of thousands, WNS could expand exponentially across the range of the species."

Gray bats' preference for living together in large numbers in only a few caves in the southeastern U.S. has made them particularly vulnerable to human disturbances. However, conservation measures, such as restricting human access to their hibernation and roosting sites, have helped gray bat populations recover in many areas, according to the USFWS.

Baby bird with 2 heads, three beaks found in Northampton


NORTHAMPTON - There are plenty of rare sights during spring in the Pioneer Valley, but perhaps few quite as rare as what April Britt found in the backyard of her Hinckley Street home: a two-headed, three-beaked baby bird.
Britt said she found the bird near the base of a tree in her yard Monday afternoon and, figuring it wouldn't survive for long on the ground, returned it to its nest and to the pair of cardinals inside.
Britt said the deformed bird didn't make any sound that she could hear and appeared to only be able eat with assistance from the adult birds in the nest. It seemed that the bird's middle beak didn't work well and wasn't fully formed to grip food or eat on its own. And the partially formed beaks on either side didn't appear to be connected to the bird's throat, she said.
PHOTO COURTESY APRIL BRITT
Tom Lautzenheiser, regional scientist for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said abnormalities like the one Britt found do occur from time to time, but most times they're not witnessed.
Lautzenheiser said that in most cases, animals with such severe deformities do not survive to birth, and the ones that do usually perish a short time after.
Finding an animal with such a pronounced deformity having lived long enough to move about on its own and find its way out of the nest make the find that much more unusual, Lautzenheiser said.
The bird's abnormalities, Lautzenheiser said, could be the result of random chance, some type of problem during development in which a pair of embryos didn't split as they should have, man-made chemicals affecting the development of the embryo, or a combination of those factors.
On Tuesday morning, the baby bird and two adults were no longer in the tree where they had made a home, Britt said, leaving the question of whether it could survive on its own up for debate.
Britt, 67, said she has a habit of saving lost or displaced animals when she finds them - everything from a snapping turtle she lured with a stick into her car to be dropped off at a nearby pond, to the ants and spiders she finds in the house and carries outside in a jar rather than stomp on them.
She said the bird wasn't around long enough for her to give it a name, but she thought of one in hindsight.
"I could have called this one 'Beaker,'" she said.

Group of 25 whale sharks off Western Australia

Whale shark discovery prompts caution
May 2012. The group of at least 25 whale sharks was spotted earlier this month by recreational boater Luke Ryan feeding on krill west of the Muiron Islands, and later confirmed by Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) marine rangers.
DEC Exmouth whale shark conservation officer Emily Wilson said it was the first time feeding aggregations of more than 20 whale sharks had been recorded in the Ningaloo area, although aggregations of this size have been observed in other parts of the world.
"At this stage, it was clear from observations and plankton samples collected the sharks were in the area due to the abundance of food on the surface of the water, however we are unsure if this feeding aggregation is a unique event or a common occurrence at night when no-one is there to witness it," she said.
"This discovery is very exciting as it may help us unravel many mysteries about the whale shark population at Ningaloo and how it links with other populations around the world. Whale sharks are a threatened species and they need to be in prime health in order to reproduce, so disturbance needs to be minimised so that normal feeding behaviour can be maintained.
The DEC is asking boaters to take extra caution around a newly discovered aggregation of whale sharks off the Ningaloo coast. The whale sharks were feeding at the surface, making them vulnerable to boat strike.

"DEC asks that recreational and commercial boat operators watch their speed around the Muiron Islands Marine Management Area and maintain a good lookout at all times."

Dormice whiskers aid tree-climbing


Dormice use their whiskers to help them climb trees, researchers say.
By twitching them upwards, outwards and straight ahead up to 25 times a second, they sense where they are going, a University of Sheffield team has found.
The process, called whisking, is used by some other rodents, and by whiskered mammals including seals and walruses.
Dr Robyn Grant, from the university's Active Touch Laboratory says whisking is "a parallel sense to our sense of touch".
She says hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) use their whiskers, or vibrissae, in a similar way to how people use their eyes - scanning to recognise what is in front of them.
"Because of the uneven surface on branches, they vibrate them to find where to put their feet, as well as to work out where there's a gap and where to change branches," says Dr Grant.
Dormice are endangered in the UK and hibernate most of the year in small nests on the ground, but in the summer they live in trees.
Dr Grant says that they can also use the sensory nodes in their whisker follicles, which respond to the vibrations of their whiskers. This helps them to locate and determine the size, shape and quality of a food item, or to sense their way home.

'Stay away from adders', walkers urged


People out enjoying the countryside are being urged to keep away from adders, the only venomous snake native to Britain.
The Health Protection Agency says it has received nearly 200 calls in the last two years from people who say they have been bitten by an adder.
The BBC's Louise Hubball reports.

Tuatara reptile slices food with 'steak-knife teeth'


New Zealand's tuatara has a unique way of chewing its food, say scientists who have studied its jaws in detail.
This beak-headed reptile uses a "steak-knife sawing motion" as it chews.

This could help explain how the species has continued to adapt to a changing world - and changes in available prey - over more than 200 million years.
A computer model of the tuatara, recreating its jaws as it munched on prey, has revealed that it chews like no other land animal.

7 vessels caught shark fishing in Indonesian protected area

Caught in the act: community patrols find arrest shark finners in Indonesian marine sanctuary
May 2012. 33 alleged shark finners on seven vessels nabbed in Raja Ampat Marine Protected Area; contraband discovered includes shark fins, shark and manta ray carcasses and sea cucumbers valued at more than U$160,000


155,000 hectare protected area
The fishermen were apprehended in the Kawe MPA, an uninhabited 155,000 hectare protected area in north-western Raja Ampat, which is protected through traditional, regency, and national law. Over 97 percent of the MPA has been declared as a no-take zone, making it the largest functional no-take zone in Southeast Asia, and which makes fishing of any kind in this area illegal. The Kawe MPA is one of six large-scale MPAs in Raja Ampat designed in large part to support sustainable fisheries for the food security of local communities. The Raja Ampat government has also declared the entire surrounding Raja Ampat region as a shark sanctuary.

Upon hearing news of the fishermen entering the MPA, the local Kawe community patrol team, which actively patrols the MPA for outside poachers, launched a quick response. With support from the Governor of West Papua and the Raja Ampat Regency government, the community patrol team in partnership with the Navy and local police successfully apprehended the fishermen in a tense, but non-violent confrontation.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Man pleads guilty to shooting a Florida panther

Panther shot with a bow and arrow
May 2012. 45 year old Todd Alan Benfield pled guilty to shooting and killing a Florida Panther, in violation of the US Endangered Species Act. Benfield faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison, a fine of up to $100,000, and forfeiture of weapons and other equipment used to kill the animal. 

Benfield was bow hunting in Collier County, using a tree stand to hunt for deer. From his tree stand, Benfield knowingly shot and killed a Florida Panther. The following day, Benfield and an associate moved the panther into the Woodland Grade area, in an attempt to conceal the animal. Benfield then removed his tree stand from the area in an effort to conceal the fact that he had killed the panther. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer located the dead panther in a section of thick vegetation, in the Woodland Grade area. The officer determined that the dead panther had been dragged approximately 50 yards. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory conducted a genetics analysis of a tissue sample taken from the carcass and determined that it was a Florida Panther.
The Florida panther is the last subspecies of Puma still surviving in the eastern United States. Historically occurring throughout the south-eastern United States, the estimated 100 to 160 panthers are found in south Florida, in less than five percent of their historic range.

New species of skink discovered on Socotra Archipelago

Unique biodiversity
May 2012. The Socotra Archipelago, in the north-west Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, is considered to be one of the most biodiversity rich group of islands in the world, thanks to a very distinct fauna and flora with a high level of endemicity at both species and generic levels. 

UNESCO World Heritage Site
For this reason, it has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Natural site in 2008. Nevertheless, the natural history of most groups is still not clear, and their origin and evolution remain unknown. 

A team of researchers from the Department of Animal Biology (Universit√† di Pavia, Italy), the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF, Barcelona, Spain), the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Carmagnola (Italy) and the Museum of Science of Trento (Italy), have been investigating the herpetofauna of the archipelago since 2007, in the framework of the ‘Socotra Conservation and Development Project' funded by the Cooperazione Italiana and under the auspices of the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) to collect ecological data on the reptiles of the Socotra Archipelago in order to improve the sustainable development and conservation of the Socotra Archipelago's biodiversity.

In a recent paper, the team presented some new highlights on the systematics, biogeography and evolution of Trachylepis socotrana, the only endemic reptile (a skink) supposed to live in all four islands (Socotra, Darsa, Samha and Abd Al Kuri). By comparing the skinks of the archipelago with representatives of the genus Trachylepis from Middle East, Africa and Madagascar plus some individuals from each of the other three genera of Mabuya skinks sensu lato (Chioninia, Eutropis and Mabuya), they have been able to trace back the history of the Socotran skinks.



Continued:  http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/socotra-skink.html#cr

17 NEW SPECIES DISCOVERED IN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS

Increased scientific surveys have resulted in the discovery of many fascinating new species. Between the rivers of the Philippines, the rain forests of Papua New Guinea, and the Foja Mountains of Indonesia there have been 17 new species added to the books! This is encouragement for all of us to protect our precious ecosystems and let all the life forms they contain thrive. 


Pictures at:  http://thesavoia.com/2012/05/02/17-new-species-discovered-in-the-pacific-islands/

California condors numbers pass the 400 mark for the first time for 100 years

226 free flying condors
May 2012. California condor numbers have crept above 400 for the first time since they teetered on the verge of extinction. 

There are currently 226 wild flying condors, 125 in California, 80 in Arizona and a small population of 21 in Baja Mexico. Of these birds, 29 fledged in the wild, mostly in California. There are also 179 birds in Captivity, in various breeding programmes, awaiting release or for vetinerary treatment. The recovery programme has always that a free flying population of 450 birds is required as a minimum for the population to be self-sustaining.
1982 - Just 22 California Condors alive
California Condors are highly endangered - only 22 individuals remained alive in 1982. The Peregrine Fund started raising condors in captivity at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, in 1993 and three years later began releasing them to the wild at the Vermilion Cliffs release site in northern Arizona.
Endangered by lead shot
‘The greatest obstacle to a self-sustaining population of California Condors continues to be lead poisoning, the leading cause of death,' Parish said. The condors ingest lead fragments after eating carrion and entrails from animals that have been shot with lead ammunition. The bullets disperse dozens of tiny particles of lead as small as a grain of salt throughout the animal. These particles are enough to cause lead toxicity in condors when they scavenge on the remains.


http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/california-condors-2012.html#cr

Phew, it's swarm out


IT was the day a Hampshire town was invaded – by a massive swarm of 20,000 bees.
Stunned onlookers described how the air turned black over parts of Romsey when the honeybees flew around residential areas on the lookout for a new home.
Even the police were called as the giant swarm moved south where some settled on homes and the corner of a garage in Anderson Road.
Resident Ian Little, of Footner Close, first spotted them as he drove into his road.
He said: “The air was literally black and it wasn't until I came to a stop that I realised what it was.”
Shocked Mr Little got out of the car and heard an “intense buzz and the slamming of windows”.
Volunteer beekeeper Peter Grimes was called out to deal with the bees, estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 in number.
He said they could have come from a hollow tree in woodland, outbuildings or someone’s chimney.
Mr Grimes, a member of the Romsey and District Beekeepers Association, was contacted by police to remove them and he used a protective veil over his face and gloves to move many into a temporary swarm box on the roof. He was watched at a distance by local residents.


Huge shark spotted in Cornwall harbour



An enormous basking shark has been delighting locals and tourists in Cornwall in what is believed to be the first such sighting in 20 years.

The beautiful creature accidentally swam into the Looe harbour on Sunday, where crowds gathered on the town's quayside and Banjo Pier to get a rare glimpse at such close quarters.

The animal was said to be between 8ft and 10ft and spent about an hour in the harbour, according to the BBC.

Looe lifeboat operations manager Dave Haines said it was the first time in nearly 20 years a basking shark had been seen in the river - and he took the opportunity to get some snaps.



According to The Sun, he said: "It's really unusual to see them there in the harbour. He went right in close to the people, I'd say he was around 8ft away.

"The shark just came in with the tide. He was trying to swim out to the river again, trying to find his way out the harbour.

"We were worried because last time they couldn't find their way out and we had to herd them out with the boats.

"He found his way out on his own though when the tide was coming in."

He added: "It was great to see him, it's not the sort of thing you see all the time - I hope I don't have to wait another 20 years to see another one."



Continued:  http://travel.aol.co.uk/2012/05/21/huge-shark-spotted-in-cornwall-harbour/

Tanzania: Rhino and Calf Killed in Serengeti National Park


A rhino and her calf have reportedly been found dead, with their horns hacked off, in the Moru area of Serengeti National Park.

According to allAfrica.com, the tragedy occurred “between last month and early this month” and apparently went unnoticed by rangers for several days.

Member of Parliament Mr. Kebwe Steven Kebwe wants the government to investigate the matter.

It is surprising that these two rhinos were killed but the rangers on duty did not notice the incident until several days later. This is quite unusual and government should investigate the matter.

He added that the rhinos had been fitted with warning devices.

These devices set off an alarm whenever a human being gets into the radius of at least some 600 metres from the animals. I am upset this latest incident went unnoticed.

This is the third reported incident in Serengeti National Park since the killing of a black rhino named “George” in November 2010. Four suspects were later arrested.

George was one of five eastern black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) that had been translocated from South Africa in May 2010, as part of the Serengeti Black Rhino Repatriation Project sponsored by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Nduna Foundation and the Wildlife Without Borders program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Source: http://www.rhinoconservation.org (http://s.tt/1cPAH)

Surprising information gathered from cheetah tracking in Namibia

Radio collars enable project to track cheetah movements
May 2012. The N/a'an ku se Carnivore Conservation Research Project is a new project focused on conserving the land, cultures and wildlife of Namibia and rescuing cheetahs, leopards and brown hyena who are threatened by an ever-shrinking habitat.
Cheetah collared
Recently the project released a cheetah names Boris, back into the wild. Boris was trapped and taken to N/a'an ku se's wildlife sanctuary in May 2011, after he had been hunting game repeatedly on a small game farm in the Windhoek area. Boris was released back into the wild with a fitted radio collar which transmits GPS co-ordinates daily to the project to assist them in tracking his movements.
Living amongst livestock but hunting wildlife
The collar has helped the project identify that Boris has moved into areas where livestock farming is prevalent causing some anxiety amongst some local farmers. Fortunately, Boris ignored the goats and sheep and instead hunted springbok. The co-ordinates generated indicate that Boris prefers mountain bases, going against what most would have expected of a lone male.
The money which Action for the Wild donates to the N/a'an ku se Carnivore Conservation Research Project will help the project continue with its cheetah relocation work, and provide the funds needed to purchase 3 new radio collars to allow the project to check on the movements of any released cheetahs, just like Boris. The collars will also help to understand more about cheetah ecology.
The N/a'an ku se Carnivore Conservation Research Project is a new project supported by Colchester Zoo's Action for the Wild charity.
For further information on this project or to find out how you can help please visit www.actionforthewild.org.

Rare falcons take roost in city park

MEMBERS of a threatened species have made the middle of Gisborne their home and no one is more delighted than Whataupoko residents Keith and Margaret Scholes.

Four New Zealand falcons — Karearea, moved into the district in the middle of March.

The four, thought to be a family of two adults and two young, live in the Cave Road-Riverside Road area and every day base themselves in Whataupoko Park opposite the Scholes’ home.

There are only 400 pairs in New Zealand. Mr Scholes, who has lived in the area most of his life, has never seen the birds there before.

“Never in the 60-odd years have I seen them here and now they are backwards and forwards every day. They seem very settled here.”

The vantage point of a high pine tree with dead top branches is their most common day-time spot.

“Perching at the top against the dark dead wood, they just look so regal,” says Mrs Scholes.

“They are the biggest time-wasters — when they first arrived I spent the whole week sitting on the porch looking through the telescope.”

Hunters not scavangers, the falcons operate in pairs and one will capture a bird up to the size of a thrush and they transfer the prey by dropping it mid-air from one to the other.

“Once we watched one of them eat a thrush in a tree only five metres away. They are not at all bothered by our presence or by park users including dogs.”

A catch, arrival and departure is accompanied by a low, coarse screech that sends the Scholes looking to the sky to see what the falcons are up to. Watching the birds’ escapades is a daily thrill.

“It’s not every day you get to see a threatened species.”

The New Zealand falcon is described as a “fast and fearless hunter” by Wingspan, a bird of prey trust. They are capable of taking prey up to six times their own weight and mainly feed on small birds, insects and rodents.



http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/article/?type=article&id=27905

Protestors claim railway line trees victory in Network Rail fight... for now


Environmental campaigners have claimed victory in their fight to stop Network Rail from clearing trees close to a railway line - for now.
More than 100 protestors with placards gathered for a demonstration in Whitstable this morning.
Three women even chained themselves to trees in protest at plans to clear embankments beside the railway line.
They say the trees, which are behind Cromwell Road, are home to dozens of pairs of breeding birds as well as protecting residents from noise.
Network Rail bosses have now decided to delay any clearance work until September after finding evidence of rare birds nesting beside the track.
KentOnline reporter Jess Banham, who was at the protest this morning, said: "There are some very happy protestors here.
"Network Rail have done another walk of the track and have decided there is evidence of rare birds nesting, so they're going to delay any clearance work until the end of September.
"But it's not quite good enough for the women chained to the tree, though - they're going to stay there until they get everything in writing."
Alan Johnson, from the RSPB, said: "We think this is an important green corridor and we need to protect it.
"We need to make sure birds are, during the breeding season in particular, well protected."

Wolf shot on Newfoundland and New Brunswick canid confirmed as a wolf


Wolf probably crossed sea ice from Labrador
May 2012. DNA tests have confirmed that a hunter shot a wolf of Newfoundland’s Bonavista Peninsula in March. The hunter was shooting coyotes but realised, after shooting the animal, that it was too large to be a coyote.
New Brunswick wolf
DNA tests have also shown that another wolf was shot in April in New Brunswick, the first seen there for 150 years. Again the hunter was shooting coyotes and only realised after the event that the animal was very large for a coyote.

Bringing the thylacine back to life


Not far from Cradle Mountain in Tasmania's rugged northwest the thylacine is being brought back to life.
It's not a scene from the sequel to The Hunter but an intriguing new exhibition on the much-lamented Tasmanian tiger.
The Wilderness Gallery at Cradle Mountain Chateau has joined forces with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery to put together a thought-provoking show on what was the world's largest carnivorous marsupial.
Few are unmoved by a sorry story that ended in extinction, not least because of the famous film footage from 1936 of the last tiger in captivity.
That footage is part of the display, as is a rare rug made of the thylacine's fur bought at auction in 2002 and believed to be worth more than $1 million.
The faint possibility the thylacine might still be running around Tasmania's untrodden wilds has given the creature an almost mythical status.
The 2011 film starring Willem Dafoe as a hunter sent to find the last tiger has only raised those hopes.
Imaginations may be sent roaming but staff at Cradle Mountain Chateau say few bushwalkers arrive back saying they have spotted a tiger.
"We certainly get more senior people talking about it when they come through," says manager Mark Whitnell.
"We end up with lots of different stories about people's childhood experiences around the Tasmanian tiger.
"There's still that little bit of mystery about, well, maybe it is still out there and we certainly don't try and change people's thoughts around that."
The exhibition uses one of 10 rooms at the gallery, which makes for a nice distraction if, or when, the weather turns ugly.
The remainder of the gallery showcases the largest wilderness photography collection in the southern hemisphere, including works by the iconic Tasmanian photographer Peter Dombrovskis.
The chateau and gallery complex is nestled in alpine woodland a short drive to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park with its invigorating walks.
The 6km stroll around Dove Lake, at the base of Cradle Mountain, is mostly flat and takes around two hours.
The walk to the summit is an all-day adventure and is subject to changeable and severe weather.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Cradle Mountain is a four-hour drive from Hobart or a two-hour drive from Launceston.
STAYING THERE: Cradle Mountain Chateau (www.cradlemountainchateau.com.au) has rooms from $295 per night.
PLAYING THERE: The Tasmania Tiger Exhibition (www.wildernessgallery.com.au) is part of the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery. The gallery is open every day from 10am-5pm and costs $5 for guests of the Cradle Mountain Chateau and $7 for visitors.
MORE: www.puretasmania.com.au
  • The writer was a guest of Pure Tasmania

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Water Snake Stirs up a Commune (Nam Nguyen) – via Herp Digest



VIETNAM NET (Hanoi) 5/12/21 A water snake has been considered as a ‘preternatural snake’ by residents of Tung Loc commune in the central city of Ha Tinh.

Over the past month, people in Tung Loc commune have kept discussing the appearance of a snake that laid eggs near a local family. A series of mysterious stories about this snake has been widespread dispersed in the commune. Locals proclaim this water snake as a preternatural animal and a living treasure of Tan Quang hamlet, where the snake appeared. They even built a temple for worship the snake.

If one visits Tan Quang hamlet and asks anyone about the snake, he will be told the same story about the appearance of the Mr. “mysterious snake,” as follow: In the morning of April 14, Ms. Nguyen Thi Ly in Tan Quang saw a yellow toad sitting near the wheel of her motorbike, in her home. Near the toad were small, white eggs.

Ly thought that these were toad eggs so she put them into a plastic bag and place the bag on her front yard. Several hours later, she was frightened seeing a water snake tied round the motorbike neck and it held the egg bundle by his tail.

The woman saw a magician named Son in her village, who told Ly to buy offerings and burn incense to ‘invite’ the snake to leave her home. After holding the rite, Ly put eggs into a bag of banana leaves and used a long stick to take the snake to the village’s power station on April 16, where an altar was made for the snake. However, some villagers did not believe that it was a mysterious snake so they released the snake to the field.

On April 20, magician Son confirmed that the “miraculous snake” would return to the village at noon of April 21. Some people were doubtful but they still went to the power station to wait for the snake. Until early afternoon, a local woman named Chinh saw a toad jumped from the power station and it was followed by the “miraculous snake.” Locals praised magician Son.

Since then, a lot of stories about the “miraculous snake” have been widespread. A temporary temple was built at the power station to worship the snake. Many people burned incenses, gave offerings to the snake. Hundreds of people from surrounding areas also flock to the village each day to worship the snake.

The village set up a “provisional management board” to manage the snake temple. Visitors have donated several thousands of USD to the temple, which is used to build a new temple for the snake.

The “miraculous snake” is around 70cm long, in light blue. It looks like a water snake in Vietnam’s delta. The snake lives by water, fresh orange juice and cereal powder.

The local government has been urged to crush out superstitious activities related to a water snake.

Pennsylvania May Mandate Permits for Reptiles, Amphibians – via Herp Digest



PET PRODUCT NEWS (Mission Viejo, California) 5/9/12 Pennsylvania is considering legislation that would mandate pet owners and dealers to acquire an appropriate permit from the state’s Fish & Boat Commission before possessing, purchasing or receiving a nonindigenous or exotic reptile or amphibian. Annual permit fees would be $200 for a nonindigenous or exotic reptile or amphibian dealer permit and $25 for a possession permit. It is not clear whether a possession permit would cover multiple animals. 

Pennsylvania House Bill 2233 also authorizes the state’s Fish & Boat Commission to establish standards for the housing and care of the reptiles and amphibians and for the protection of the public from these animals. The commission would not be able to grant any permits until it “is satisfied that the provisions for housing and caring for the nonindigenous or exotic reptile or amphibian and for protecting the public are proper and adequate and in accordance with the standards established by the commission.”

The legislation also instructs the commission to institute a 30-day program prior to the permit program’s effective date to allow residents to relinquish unwanted reptiles and amphibians but does not address issues permits to current reptile and amphibian owners. The legislation, if approved, would become effective Jan. 1, 2013.

House Bill 2233 would also make it unlawful for any person to release a nonindigenous or exotic reptile into the wild, fail to safeguard the public from an attack by such an animal, or recklessly engage in conduct which could place another person in danger of an attack by such an animal.

Violations of the law could result in fines of up to $100 and prison terms of up to 20 days. The commission’s executive director would also be empowered to revoke or suspend permits for violations and to order the disposal of any nonindigenous or exotic reptile or amphibian held.

The legislation has been assigned to the House Game & Fisheries Committee.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council reports that, as written, the bill is overbroad in its regulation of these animals as it includes all reptiles and amphibians not native to Pennsylvania—even those animals that do not pose a threat to public health or safety.

http://www.petproductnews.com/headlines/2012/05/09/pennsylvania-may-mandate-permits-for-reptiles-amphibians.aspx

A lonely birth - Millions of Olive Ridley hatchlings head out to sea sans mothers – via Herp Digest



POST NOON (Hyderabad, India) 5/8/12 -Kendrapara: Emergence of millions of baby Olive Ridley marine turtles along the tranquil Gahirmatha beach has brought cheer to conservationists here.

Wildlife lovers are elated as hatchlings broke out of eggshells and crawled towards their seaward journey in the nesting grounds at Nasi Island.
About 1.68 lakh turtles had arrived at Nasi-2 nesting ground from March 20 to March 28 to lay eggs on the sandy beach.
“Since Saturday night, newborn babies are emerging with mother turtles nowhere in sight. Nasi-2 Island is teeming with baby turtles and wildlife officials of Bhitarkanika National Park stationed at these nesting grounds are the sole witness to this unique natural heritage involving the birth of babies sans mother”, forest officials said.
Tourists and researchers were denied entry to witness it as the unmanned islands are located in close vicinity of Wheeler’s island defence test range centre, a prohibited territory.
“Emergence of hatchlings fr­om egg shells is expected to continue at least for a week. The 1 km beach is virtually littered with newly born hatchlings. The babies are literally jostling for space to move around before the­ir plunge into seawater,” Ma­noj Ku­mar Mahapatra, Divisional Fo­rest Officer, Rajnagar Man­grove (wildlife) Forest Division, said.

The babies broke out of the shackles of eggshells and wandered aimlessly around the sandy beach for nearly an hour before making their way to seawater, he said.

“Nearly two million hatchlings have emerged out of pits since past 24 hours. The process of turtle birth is expected to continue for few more days,” the DFO said.
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