Monday, 31 March 2014

Bear cubs rescued in Kosovo

International Animal Welfare Organisation FOUR PAWS has rescued three young bear cubs that were being kept illegally in Peja, Kosovo.

First discovered was a young female aged six weeks. The bear was bought by a family at the age of just three weeks and was being illegally kept in their flat.

The family were busted by local police after they posted information up on Facebook detailing how they got the bear, and how it was being kept. The cub was confiscated soon after by the Kosovo Environment Ministry and police officers. However, just days later on 19 March, two more bear cubs were discovered in the same area. As the cubs were the same age as the female cub, it is thought likely that the three are siblings.

FOUR PAWS relocated the three cubs – which they have named Ema, Oska, and Ron – to their bear sanctuary in Prishtina, where they are being cared for. But as bear cubs in the wild spend at least two years with their mother, the condition of the young cubs remains serious. FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig explains that the cubs are stressed, fearful, and very weak. “Ema doesn’t even weigh three kilos,” he describes. “We hope that the rescue was in time and that with our expert care the cubs can pull through and recover.”

The private keeping of brown bears has been illegal in Kosovo since 2010, and FOUR PAWS is calling for the animal dealers who sold the cubs to be found and brought to justice. “There should also be legal action against the family, which bought and kept the bear illegally,” says Hertwig. 

Hormone levels linked to survival of deer calves, study suggests

March 27, 2014

University of Edinburgh

Levels of a key hormone in the blood may be important for the survival prospects of newborn animals, a study of wild deer suggests. First-born male deer that have relatively high levels of the male hormone testosterone are less likely to survive their first year compared with their peers, the research shows.

Dynamite fishing kills 22 sperm whales

March 2014: Last weekend at least 22 dwarf sperm whales and 21 dolphins were killed as a result of ‘blast fishing’ off Siargao Island in the Philippines, a process by which fisherman use explosives to stun or kill marine life for easy collection.

Among the dead whales and dolphins were a mother dwarf sperm whale and her calf, which became stranded off a resort at Kamaligan, Barangay. Marine biologist Gianni Boy Grifoni and his assistant Stephanie Chua attempted to save the wounded whales, who they described as being badly injured. The whales also suffered stab wounds as the fisherman tried to kill the whales after the explosion had stunned and injured them. In spite of their efforts to help the animals, the calf died of its injuries on Saturday 22nd March, one day after the blast fishing took place. The mother died the following morning.

Tiger electrocutions provide after-dinner entertainment - Update

Posted by: Kevin Heath / 2 days ago

Chinese police have busted a gang that killed and butchered tigers in front of customers for entertainment and to guarantee to clients that tiger parts were genuine. One of the leaders of the gang – that has killed at least 10 tigers in its 6 years of operation – killed himself when he heard police were on the way to arrest him.

The gang is thought to have set up in 2006 in Leizhou city in South China’s Guangdong province. One of its leaders was 61 year old Huang Feng who set up the execution cages that resulted in the deaths of the tigers. The animals were put into a metal cage, doused with water and then electrocuted before being butchered. When he heard that police were on their way to his home Feng ran to the roof and jumped off killing himself.

The gang of 15 is believed to be led by 54-year-old Chen Moufei, a villager from Fucheng township in Leizhou city in Guangdong province. Local media reported that the gang would use highly endangered Bengal tigers that had been imported into the state. Police did not name where the tigers were imported from or whether they had been captive-bred or caught from the wild.

It was reported that the gang would buy adult tigers at their peak, weighing between 150 and 200 pounds and would pay up to £30,000 per tiger. Once bought the tigers would be sedated and transported to the city ready for the shows. They would then charge about £40,000 for the killing and butchering of the tiger at a show for clients.

Sense Of Smell Was An Adaptation That Appeared When Insects Developed Ability To Fly

March 30, 2014

Odorant receptors of recent insects evolved long after insects migrated from water to land.

An insect’s sense of smell is vital to its survival. Only if it can trace even tiny amounts of odor molecules is it is able to find food sources, communicate with conspecifics, or avoid enemies. According to scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, many proteins involved in the highly sensitive odor perception of insects emerged rather late in the evolutionary process. The very complex olfactory system of modern insects is therefore not an adaptation to a terrestrial environment when ancient insects migrated from water to land, but rather an adaptation that appeared when insects developed the ability to fly. The results were published in the Open Access Journal eLife. (eLife, March 26, 2014, doi: 10.7554/elife.02115)

Many insect species employ three families of receptor proteins in order to perceive thousands of different environmental odors. Among them are the olfactory receptors. They form a functional complex with another protein, the so-called olfactory receptor co-receptor, which enables insects to smell the tiniest amounts of odor molecules in their environment very rapidly.

Water test to end the great newt scam

Posted by: Kevin Heath / 2 days ago

Claiming that they’ve seen protected greater crested newts on a proposed site is something that is often used by anti-housing campaigners. It adds costs to any planning application and can also delay the development process for many months as ecologists have to make repeated visits to a site to try to find evidence. Now a simple water test can be used to determine the presence – or not – of newts.

Following substantial testing by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Natural England has said it will accept the results of a water test as an acceptable way of determining if the protected species is present on a site. The water test can cut the costs by 80% and prevent unnecessary delays in developments.

The new test looks for eDNA (environmental DNA) of greater crested newts in water bodies on a proposed site. The research leading to the test was carried out by a group led by the Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT).

The use of eDNA testing makes it possible to detect newts simply by taking water samples whereas conventional sampling for the protected species often requires several repeat visits during the breeding season which can be costly and time-consuming.

Dynamics behind Arctic ecosystems revealed

March 27, 2014

Aarhus University

Species such as the musk ox, Arctic fox and lemming live in the harsh, cold and deserted tundra environment. However, they have often been in the spotlight when researchers have studied the impact of a warmer climate on the countryside in the north. Until now, the focus has been concentrated on individual species, but an international team of biologists has now published an important study of entire food-web dynamics.

Critically endangered Mediterranean monk seals return to Croatia

March 2014: Once thought to be extinct in the Adriatic around Croatia, the Mediterranean monk seal has recently been sighted in these waters once again, and are being seen with increasing frequency.

According to the State Institution for Nature Protection of Croatia, the seals have been regularly found near the Kamenjak Cape, on the eastern coast of Istria, and the western coast of Cres and Lošinj.

Although exact numbers have yet to be reported, Emanuele Coppola, President of the Mediterranean Monk Seal Group, says, “Based on the data gathered it is estimated that the Adriatic now harbours between four to five Mediterranean monk seals.” The Group have so far collected over 4,500 photographs and video, indicating that the mammals have made a permanent home in this area. 

Japan's whaling future in balance as ICJ set to rule on hunting in Antarctic

Activists say case brought before international court of justice by Australia is make-or-break for whales' future in Southern Ocean

Agence France-Presse in the Hague

The Guardian, Sunday 30 March 2014 18.37 BST

The leading court at the UN will rule on Monday on whether Japan has the right to hunt whales in the Antarctic, an emotive case that activists say is make-or-break for the mammals' future.

Australia took Japan to the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague in 2010, accusing Tokyo of exploiting a loophole by hunting whales as scientific research to get around a 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

Australia has asked the ICJ to order Japan to stop its Jarpa II research programme and "revoke any authorisations, permits or licences" to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean.

During hearings last year, Canberra accused Tokyo of doing nothing more than "cloaking commercial whaling in a labcoat of science".

Norway and Iceland maintain commercial whaling programmes in spite of the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium, but Japan insists its programme is scientific, while admitting that the resulting meat ends up on plates back at home.

Japan has killed more than 10,000 whales under the programme since 1988, according to Canberra, allegedly putting it in breach of international conventions and its obligation to preserve marine mammals and their environment.

3 Chinese arrested boarding a plane with 14 rhino horns

Posted by: Kevin Heath / 3 hours ago

Namibia has announced that 3 Chinese nationals were arrested on 23rd March as they boarded an aircraft with 14 rhino horns and leopard skins hidden in their luggage. They were arrested as they tried to board a flight to Hong Kong from Namibia.

The three men were arrested at 07.40 am on Sunday 23rd March. Customs officials discovered the rhino horns during a routine scan of luggage. They had been wrapped in foil and plastic before being hidden in clothes. They were about to board a flight to Johannesburg with a connection onto Hong Kong as their final destination.

Deputy commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi from the Namibian police revealed details about the Chinese following investigations.

The Chinese had flown from China on March 9th and arrived in Zambia. They then arrived in Namibia on 12th March on a tourist visa at the Wenela border post.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Malagasy dismantles tortoise traffickers’ network - via Herp Digest

March 12, 2014 |  by- RIVONALA RAZAFISON, Daily Nation

Police intercepted one Malagasy man carrying protected tortoise species at the Antananarivo Ivato International Airport Tuesday.
The trafficker named Dominique Rasoanaivo, 45, was arrested as he prepared to board a flight to Tanzania.
The scanning of his luggage discovered 136 exotic tortoises.
“According to the information in our possession, the Tanzanian main city Dar es Salaam was his final destination via Nairobi,” Mr Ali Mohamed Randrianirisoa, head of the Migration Department Office, said.
The official stressed the man was part of the traffickers’ network of protected species in Madagascar.
He was allegedly linked with a Russian woman who was arrested last week at the Ivato airport when she wanted to take away dozens of reptiles from the rural areas of the country. Officials warned that they will take particular measures to stop any attempts to rob the national heritage from now.
Neighbouring airports of Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Mauritius are the most familiar hubs for protected species illegally transported from the island nation heading to Asian destinations.
Also, thanks to the international cooperation, the police in Malaysia and Thailand often seized banned animals from the island.
On the island nation, special stations like the Tortoise Village in Mangily Ifaty Toliara, south-western, have been operational for years to care for any animals which were prone to ill-treatment after being illegally removed from their natural habitat.

New Spider Species Bagged By Students On Field Course

As a spin-off (pun intended) of their Tropical Biodiversity course in Malaysian Borneo, a team of biology students discover a new spider species, build a makeshift taxonomy lab, write a joint publication and send it off to a major taxonomic journal.

Discovering a new spider species was not what she had anticipated when she signed up for her field course in Tropical Biodiversity, says Elisa Panjang, a Malaysian master’s student from Universiti Malaysia Sabah. She is one of twenty students following the course, organized by Naturalis Biodiversity Center in The Netherlands, and held in the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The aim of the one-month course, say organizers Vincent Merckx and Menno Schilthuizen, is to teach the students about how the rich tapestry of the tropical lowland rainforest’s ecosystem is woven.

Besides charismatic species, such as the orangutans that the students encounter every day in the forest, the tropical ecosystem consists of scores of unseen organisms, and the course focus is on these “small things that run the world”—such as the tiny orb-weaving spiders of the tongue-twistingly named family Symphytognathidae. These one-millimetre-long spiders build tiny webs that they suspend between dead leaves on the forest floor. “When we started putting our noses to the ground we saw them everywhere,” says Danish student Jennie Burmester enthusiastically. What they weren’t prepared for was that the webs turned out to be the work of an unknown species, as spider specialist Jeremy Miller, an instructor on the course, quickly confirmed.


Capture of Nile crocodile adds to Everglades invasion risk - via Herp Digest

By Christine Stapleton, 3/13/14 Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The ante just went up on threats from exotic invaders in the Everglades with the capture of a Nile crocodile Sunday.
Although American crocodiles — rare and shy of humans — are occasionally seen in the northern Florida Keys, only a few Nile crocodiles have been spotted and captured in the Everglades. Nile crocodiles are much more aggressive, prefer larger prey and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people in Africa every year.
Nile and American crocodiles average 13 to 16 feet and can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. However, it is not uncommon for male Nile crocodiles to reach 20 feet and weight 2,000 pounds.
The Nile crocodile captured on Sunday was a juvenile and not old enough to breed, according to the National Park Service. It was about 5.5-feet long and weighed 37.4 pounds, according to the National Park Service. Several other Nile crocodiles have been captured in the southern Everglades, though not nearly as many as the Burmese pythons, another invasive species.
Members of Swamp Apes, a group authorized to remove exotic species in the Everglades National Park, notified the park service after they had spotted the Nile crocodile during a routine Burmese Python survey. An inter-agency team from the park service, University of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Swamp Apes quickly responded and was able to corral the crocodile into a small section of canal in an area of the park that is closed to the public.
A criminal investigation is underway to determine how the crocodile found its way into the Everglades. The National Park Service issued a news release Wednesday about the crocodile capture. However, the release did not say what happened to the crocodile after it was captured.

Foraging bats can warn each other away from their dinners

March 27, 2014

University of Maryland

A new call that some bats use to tell other foraging bats to 'back off' from bugs they've claimed for themselves has been identified by scientists. This sound, called a 'frequency-modulated bout,' warns other bats away from prey. The researchers are first to report this ultrasonic social call produced exclusively by flying, foraging male big brown bats, in a new article.

Being Gay Is Natural: Just Ask Bonobos (Op-Ed)

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, Duke University | March 28, 2014 05:41pm ET

Brian Hare is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, and Vanessa Woods is the author of "Bonobo Handshake"(Gotham, 20011). Woods and Hare are on the board of the nonprofit Lola ya Bonobo, a sanctuary for orphan bonobos in Congo. The authors contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Lodja sees Mwanda and shrieks in excitement. They run toward each other with such force that when they embrace, they fall to the ground in each other's arms. Without much foreplay, Lodja grinds her hips against Mwanda and their clitorises rub together with increasing speed and friction. They hold each other tight, cry and shriek, and when it is over, they fall apart exhausted, and lazily snack on some fruit.

There are hundreds of examples of non-reproductive sex among animals, from albatrosses to koalas. But none of these examples can make people quite so uncomfortable as bonobos do. Two bonobo females having sex looks very different than two female albatrosses sitting placidly on their nest. Bonobo sex looks human.

Austrian tourist killed by shark on 'world's deadliest beach'

The 72-year-old man was swimming with other tourists at Port St John's Second Beach in the Eastern Cape when he was snatched by a shark

By Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg

3:53PM GMT 23 Mar 2014

A 72-year-old Austrian tourist has become the latest victim of a fatal shark attack at the world's deadliest beach, in South Africa.

The unnamed man was swimming as part of a group of tourists at Second Beach in Port St John's when the shark struck at around 3pm on Saturday.

He was the eight person to be killed at the beach in five years. The average fatality rate for shark attacks in South Africa is one in five but in Port St Johns, all but one shark attack has resulted in death since the spate started in January 2007.

Worldwide, no single other state or country has notched up the same number of deadly shark attacks as Second Beach in the past decade.

Most of the attacks were blamed out by Zambezi or bull sharks, also known as the "pitbulls of the ocean" for their habit of biting and shaking to cause catastrophic injuries.

The last person to fall victim was Fundile Nodumla, 39, from nearby Mthatha, in March last year. He fought off the shark and was pulled out of the water by passersby with injuries to both arms, his chest and stomach.

Endangered red wolf killed by gunshot wound

A radio-collared red wolf has recently been found dead due to a suspected gunshot wound. The wolf was found on 11 March near Creswell, in Washington County, North Carolina, and is the second red wolf killed by an apparent gunshot wound this year. US Fish and Wildlife Service and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission suspect that the wolf was killed illegally and are investigating the incident.

Once found widely throughout the southeastern United States, the red wolf is now one of the rarest canines in the world, and is federally protected in North Carolina under the Endangered Species Act as an experimental, non-essential population. This means that landowners are legally entitled to kill a red wolf if it attacks their livestock or pets. In addition, a red wolf killed accidentally during legal activity – such as coyote hunting – on private land isn’t against the law providing the death isn’t intentional. The death must also be reported to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, or the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission within 24 hours.

‘Extinct’ deer found in Vietnam

The Roosevelt muntjac was first discovered in 1929, and was not seen alive again until earlier this year

Roosevelt’s barking deer, or Roosevelt’s muntjac, was first discovered in 1929 by the sons of President Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Jnr and Kermit Roosevelt, in Lao. After that, the animal had never been seen alive again anywhere in the world until a camera trap in Vietnam photographed two of the deer deep in the forest earlier this year, 85 years after its last sighting. 

Images of the deer were taken in the Xuan Lien Nature Reserve, Thanh Hoa province. It was not expected that the camera trap would capture images of the animal as it was thought to be extinct in Vietnam. Prior to this, all records of the species were from Lao PDR only.

In order to confirm that the animal was indeed the rare Roosevelt’s muntjac, a team of researchers from the Centre for Natural Resources and Environment Studies at Vietnam National University collected horn and skin samples from the Reserve, and also found samples from the deer in the homes of local people. The samples were subject to DNA testing, which confirmed the identity of the Roosevelt muntjac.

When the muntjac was discovered in 1929, there was much scepticism and debate about whether the animal was actually a new species previously unknown to science. However in 1999 new evidence came to light after DNA testing of a number of muntjac skulls was carried out, which confirmed the deer’s unique genetic makeup.

Bees and the crops they pollinate are at risk from climate change, IPCC report to warn

Climate change will exacerbate the risk of extinction for bees and other pollinating insects already under threat from pesticides and habitat loss, experts say
By Emily Gosden

7:00AM GMT 29 Mar 2014

Bees essential to pollinate British crops face increased risk of extinction because of climate change, a major UN report is expected to warn.

Changes to habitats and to behaviour of different species as a result of warmer weather will exacerbate the danger to bee species already facing numerous other threats, according to scientists.

Some species could face extinction while declining numbers would harm harvests of British crops such as apples, raising fears from businesses such as cider-makers that their livelihoods could be at risk.

Bees pollinate more than £1 billion worth of crops in the UK each year including fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cabbages, apples and pears.

In a vast and wide-ranging report on the likely global impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to warn that rising global temperatures are having severe negative impacts on bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects and could result in more species extinctions.

Leaked draft copies of the report say: “Climate change, after land-use changes, can be regarded as the second most relevant factor responsible for the decline of pollinators.”

It cites research by scientist Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Reading University.

Professor Potts told the Telegraph bees faced two major threats as a result of climate change: habitats moving, and changing seasonal behaviour of different species.

“Under climate change you would expect habitats that bees and pollinators use will shift – but the bees may or may not be able to move; there may be no connection between the habitat they have now and the new area,” he said.

As a result of climate change, bees were also “emerging earlier and earlier” in the year.

“Both the bees and flowering plants are shifting because of climate but, on average, the UK flowers are getting earlier by 4 or 5 days each decade whereas the bees we have looked at are becoming earlier by 7-10 days per decade. So we are worried that bees are starting their activity before any of their flowing plants are available.”

He said: “There is definitely an increased risk of extinction. If these things are already vulnerable and climate is increasingly putting pressure on them, it is going to tip them over the edge so we will get local extinctions.”

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Climate Change Will Test Turtles’ Mettle-Sea turtles face a raft of threats in a warming world - via Herp Digest

Kennedy Warne for Nattonal Geographic,  March 17, 2014
These are tough times for sea turtles. Historically plundered for their meat, shells, skins, and eggs, turtles continue to be poached even where they're legally protected.
And they suffer injury and drowning when they come into contact with fishing operations.
As a result of the pressures on them, all seven species of marine turtles are considered at risk globally.
A warming climate will present new threats to these ancient reptiles. Warming may upset turtle population sex ratios. The sex of turtle hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which the eggs develop in the nest, with higher temperatures favoring the production of females.
Finely Tuned Creatures
Turtles have evolved to synchronize their nesting with times of year when the incubation temperature produces roughly equal numbers of male and female hatchlings. If that ratio goes out of whack, populations could plummet, owing to a scarcity of one or the other of the sexes.
The problem could become acute in the Scattered Islands, which dot the Mozambique Channel in the southwest Indian Ocean. (See "A Tale of Two Atolls.") Here, five species of sea turtles feed and breed. Biologists have been focusing their research on the green turtle, one of the most widespread species.
Greens form rookeries of up to 50,000 nests on some of the islands, and their nesting times differ latitudinally. In the cooler southern islands, such as Europa, the peak is in summer, and in the more northerly islands, such as Mayotte and the Glorieuses, egg laying is most prolific in winter.
In theory, a warming climate could make Europa’s nesting peak shift toward the cooler winter months, allowing those turtles to maintain a healthy sex ratio.
But that option isn’t available for turtles on Mayotte and the Glorieuses, where they’re already nesting at the coolest time of year. For these rookeries, warmer air temperatures could result in an excess of females and a paucity of males, disrupting the equilibrium of the population.
Other Threats
Skewed sex ratios aren’t the only challenge posed by climate change. A predicted increase in extreme weather events triggered by a warmer atmosphere heightens the risk of storm surges that can inundate turtle nests. Storm surges can also destroy nesting beaches.
And as global sea levels rise, nesting habitat will shrink. It’s hard enough for turtles to find suitable egg-laying beaches now, as real-estate development spreads along coastlines, let alone in a future when seas may be several feet higher. (See "Rising Seas.")
Sea turtles face other, less predictable climate impacts. Increases in sea temperature and acidity might limit the growth of sea grasses and other fodder on which some turtles browse. Increasing air humidity could make eggs more susceptible to disease, resulting in higher mortality.
Rising temperatures could also lead to profound changes in ocean circulation—a serious concern in regions such as the Mozambique Channel, with its complex eddies and currents.
Instead of being carried to traditional foraging sites by long-established gyre systems, turtle hatchlings might end up in places that are far from ideal for their survival and growth. Familiar migratory pathways might also be lost.
Uncertainty surrounds all these potential effects, but of one thing biologists are certain: Almost every aspect of turtles’ lives—both on land and in the sea—is linked tightly to environmental conditions. Their ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment will be crucial to their survival.
Shore Them Up Now
To help sea turtle populations cope with unknown future threats, one of the best things we can do is protect them from existing known harms—fisheries mortality being one of the most grave.
Biologists at the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea, in La Réunion, have been working to identify the migratory corridors green turtles use to travel between their feeding and nesting areas.
Where those corridors bring turtles close to areas of fishing activity—especially coastal gillnetting, which entangles and kills thousands of sea turtles each year—mitigation strategies could include altering the design of nets to make them less likely to snag turtles, illuminating nets with light sticks, building in turtle escape devices, and, most importantly, say the biologists, educating fishers about the need to avoid turtle bycatch.
Tracking technologies have transformed turtle research, and a recent study led by conservation biologist Jérôme Bourjea has shown where turtles that nest in the Scattered Islands go to feed.
Europa’s turtles, for instance, swim an average of 1,500 kilometers (more than 900 miles) in 21 days to reach their feeding grounds, traversing the offshore waters of five countries.
There's still much to learn, especially about the movements of newly hatched turtles, which are too small (weighing less than an ounce) to have conventional transmitters attached to their shells. Researchers would like to know at what point in their lives hatchlings become active swimmers as opposed to passive drifters in ocean currents.
Shadowing all this work is the question of whether sea turtles will be able to adapt quickly enough to the environmental changes that are predicted to occur in the oceans over the coming decades.
In the case of green turtles, Bourjea draws at least a modicum of hope from history.
“This species is one of the oldest in the world,” he says. “They have weathered many climate crises in the past, so maybe their capacity to adapt will keep working for them.”

Saturday, 29 March 2014

RSPB launches a new nutritious treat to feed your garden hedgehogs


Hungry, Hungry Hedgehogs!
RSPB launches a new nutritious treat to feed your garden hedgehogs
Morwenna Griffiths, speaking for the RSPB in the South West said, "As temperatures gradually rise, and nature begins to unfurl, our garden friends the hedgehogs also stir from their spiky-ball hibernation.  Sadly, it’s estimated that UK hedgehogs have declined by a third in the last ten years so it's vital that we do our little bit to give them a home in our own gardens this year.
“To help supplement the hedgehogs’ natural diet the RSPB has launched a new food specifically designed to meet their nutritional needs.  Cranberry Crunch is made from top quality ingredients, including: premium suet pellets; sunflower hearts; peanut nibs; dried mealworms; and dried cranberries.

Cranberry Crunch is available at RSPB retail outlets such as the RSPB Shop at Darts Farm, Devon and our shop in Bath (it's available online too).  This food provides a healthier alternative to the old wives’ tale of bread and milk - which must always be avoided as it causes the hedgehogs stomach upset.  Small amounts of cake, biscuits and pastry as well as fresh and dried fruits and cooked vegetables can also be used as a tempting hedgehog treat.
“Many modern gardens have less “wild” space than they used to due to decking and paving, so Mr and Mrs Tiggywinkle now struggle to find natural shelter in hedges and leaf piles.  Planting a garden hedge helps enormously – the clue is in the hogs’ name – hedges are not only homes for ‘hedge’ hogs, but also provide habitat for nesting birds and a host of insects and small mammals.

“You can also help these prickly critters by setting up a permanent hedgehog shelter in your garden which are available from a range of outlets including the RSPB.

“Don’t forget having a hedgehog move-in can be a great advantage to any keen gardener, as they just love to munch their way through all of your pesky slugs and snails.”

The RSPB warns against using chemicals in the garden as slug pellets can be particularly detrimental.  Use non-toxic brands when putting preservative on garden sheds, fences and other wood furniture around the garden as hedgehogs often lick new smells and surfaces.

For more information visit:


For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Tony Whitehead, RSPB Press Officer, 01392 453754, 07872 414365

Images to support this story are available from RSPB Images.

To access an image, please click on the hyperlink below and then enter the user name and password when prompted.

User Name: hedgehogsw
Password: hedgehog1


Tips to Help Protect Hedgehogs
·         Hedgehogs habitually hide themselves in piles of leaves, grass cuttings, pampas grass, compost heaps and bags of rubbish.  Always check these before burning, cutting, strimming, mowing, putting a fork into or disposing of them.

·         Many plastic items can trap, ensnare or cut a hedgehog.  These include netting, plastic can holders, large necked bottles, plastic pots and barbed wire.

·         Hedgehogs can also easily fall down holes, into water troughs, ponds, swimming pools and other types of water vessel.  If you cannot prevent them from falling in, then make sure there is always a way for them to get out.

·         Dogs can injure hedgehogs, so make sure you know what your dog is doing when in the garden late at night.

·         If you accidentally disturb an active hedgehog nest, carefully replace the material.  The hedgehog will soon repair or move the nest elsewhere.  If there are young in the nest, avoid touching them.  Similarly, if it is a hibernating adult, avoid waking it.  Should it wake, you may want to leave it some food nearby.

Thylacine hunter Mike Williams confident technology will provide evidence of living tiger

MARCH 24, 2014 12:00AM

TASMANIAN tiger hunter Mike Williams is confident evidence of a living thylacine will emerge sooner rather than later because of the growing popularity of crash cameras in cars.

Mr Williams, who led an international team of naturalists searching for the thylacine last year, has urged Tasmanian motorists to invest in the technology.

“If you live in an area where you think thylacines have been seen, then crash-test cameras are the go,” Mr Williams said.

Mr Williams, who is from New South Wales, has returned to Tasmania to gather more thylacine information and is cruising around the North-East and North-West with one of the digital video cameras attached to his car.

He is interviewing about a dozen people who say they have seen the thylacine, including farmers, trappers and motorists.

Mr Williams is also going over archival evidence and camping in areas where thylacines are likely to be, looking for evidence in situ.

“I believe they are still out there,” he said.

Rhino poacher shot dead in Kenya

March 2014: A suspected wildlife poacher was shot dead at Lake Nakuru National Park on 18 March 2014. Police recovered weapons from the body, including a bow, four poisoned arrows, and a spear. Two of the man’s accomplices escaped and were able to flee with one horn. However the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) were able to recover three horns from the scene of the crime.

Lake Nakuru has been hit hard by rhino poaching. Four rhinos have been lost in the Park since the start of 2014. On a national level, 16 rhinos have so far died in Kenya; 13 were killed by poachers, and three were lost to natural causes. During the course of 2013 a total of 59 rhinos died in the country.

Where poaching crimes have been committed, KWS have undertaken work to bring those responsible to justice. Last year their work lead to the arrest of 1,549 offenders, the recovery of 68 fire arms, 2,630 rounds of ammo, 10,106kg of bush meat, and 13.5 tonnes of contraband ivory.

Seal teeth reveal environmental change at Lake Baikal

Scientists at Wellesley College are focusing their research on the teeth of Baikal seals in order to uncover the effects of pollution and climate change on Lake Baikal in Russia.

The lake is the deepest, oldest, and most bio-diverse lake in the world, and the Baikal seal, or the nerpa, is found only here. In addition, it is the only seal in the world to live solely in fresh water.

The reason why the seals’ teeth are of special importance to the scientists is that they are essentially a chemical record of the lake. Living up to between 40 to 50 years, the layers of dentine in the teeth of the seals can be studied in relation to environmental patterns and changes.

The Baikal seal is at the top of the food chain in the lake, which makes them particularly interesting for the scientists due to biomagnification – the process by which the concentration of a substance increases with each level of food in the food chain.

Ancient African cattle first domesticated in Middle East, study reveals

March 28, 2014

University of Missouri-Columbia

The genetic history of 134 cattle breeds from around the world has been completed by a group of researchers. In the process of completing this history, they found that ancient domesticated African cattle originated in the 'Fertile Crescent,' a region that covered modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Israel.

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding on a Petition To Downlist the Arroyo Toad (Anaxyrus californicus), and a Proposed Rule To Reclassify the Arroyo Toad as Threatened by USF&WS - via Herp Digest

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007; FXES11130900000-145-FF09E42000]
RIN 1018-AY82

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule and 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 12-month finding on a petition to reclassify the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973,as amended (Act). After review of all available scientific and commercial information, we find that reclassifying the arroyo toad as threatened is warranted, and, therefore, we propose to reclassify the arroyo toad as threatened under the Act. We are seeking information and 
comments from the public regarding this proposed rule.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before May 27, 2014. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section by May12, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Comment submission: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Search box, enter FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Information Requested section below for more information).
    Document availability: A copy of the Species Report referenced throughout this document can be viewed at, at under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007, or at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office's Web site at ventura/.

Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003; telephone 805-644-1766; facsimile 805-644-3958. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.


Executive Summary

    Purpose of Regulatory Action. In December 2011, we received a petition to reclassify the arroyo toad from endangered to threatened,based on analysis and recommendations contained in our August 2009 5-year status review of the species. On June 4, 2012, we published a 90-day finding that the petition presented substantial information indicating that reclassifying the arroyo toad may be warranted (77 FR 32922) and initiated a status review. After review of all available scientific and commercial information, we find that the petitioned action is warranted and propose to reclassify the arroyo toad from an endangered species to a threatened species on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This document constitutes our 12-month finding in response to the petition to reclassify the arroyo 
toad from endangered to threatened.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, we can determine that a species is an endangered species or threatened species because of any of five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B)overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. We must consider whether or not the species is an endangered species or threatened species because of the 
same factors when we consider reclassifying or delisting a species.
    We have determined that there are still significant threats 
impacting the arroyo toad currently and into the future, particularly operation of dams and water diversions (Factors A and E); urban development (Factors A and E); introduced predator species (Factors A and C); and drought (Factors A and E). However, despite the existence of these ongoing threats, we conclude that the overall magnitude ofthreats impacting the arroyo toad has decreased since the time of listing, due in part to implementation of conservation and management actions. Furthermore, we find that the intent of the recovery criteria 
for downlisting of the arroyo toad has been met, and that the arroyo toad now fits the definition of a threatened rather than an endangered species.

Information Requested

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available, and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from other governmental agencies, tribes, the scientific community, industry, or other interested parties concerning 
this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) Reasons why we should or should not reclassify the arroyo toad under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).
    (2) New biological or other relevant data concerning any threat (or lack thereof) to this species.
    (3) New information concerning the distribution and population size or trends of this species.
    (4) New information on the current or planned activities within the range of the arroyo toad that may adversely affect or benefit the species.
    (5) New information and data on the projected and reasonably likely impacts to the arroyo toad or its habitat associated with climate change.
    (6) New information on threats or impacts to the arroyo toad in the Mexico portion of its range.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.''
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We requestthat you send comments only by the methods described in the ADDRESSES section. If you submit information via, yourentire submission--including any personal identifying information--will be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Public Hearings

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, if requested. We must receive your request within 45 days after the date of this Federal Register publication. Send your request to the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. We will schedule public hearings on this proposal, if any are requested,and announce the dates, times, and places of those hearings, as well as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in the Federal Register and 
local newspapers at least 15 days before the hearing.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (50 FR 34270), we will seek the expert opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding this proposed rule. A thorough review of information that we relied on in preparing this proposed rule--including information on taxonomy, life history, ecology, population distribution and abundance, and potential threats--is presented in the arroyo toad Species Report 
(Service 2013) available at (Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007). The purpose of peer review is to ensure that decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. The peer reviewers will conduct assessments of the proposed rule, and the specific assumptions and conclusions regarding theproposed downlisting. These assessments will be completed during the public comment period.
    We will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period on this proposed rule as we prepare the final determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this proposal.

Previous Federal Action

    We proposed to list the arroyo toad as an endangered species under 
the Act on August 3, 1993 (58 FR 41231), based primarily on threats 
from urban development, agricultural conversion, construction of new 
dams, roads and road maintenance, recreational activities, introduced 
predator species, and drought. We published a final rule listing the 
arroyo toad as an endangered species on December 16, 1994 (59 FR 
64859). We published a recovery plan for the arroyo toad in 1999 
(Service 1999). Critical habitat was designated in 2001 (66 FR 9414, 
February 7, 2001) and revised in 2005 (70 FR 19562, April 13, 2005) and 
2011 (76 FR 7246, February 9, 2011).
    Under the Act, we maintain the Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants at 50 CFR 17.11 (for animals) and 17.12 (for 
plants) (Lists). We amend the Lists by publishing final rules in the 
Federal Register. Section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Act requires that we 
conduct a review of listed species at least once every 5 years. Section 
4(c)(2)(B) requires that we determine: (1) Whether a

[[Page 17108]]

species no longer meets the definition of endangered or threatened and should be removed from the Lists (delisted), (2) whether a species listed as endangered more properly meets the definition of threatened and should be reclassified to threatened (downlisted), or (3) whether a species listed as threatened more properly meets the definition of endangered and should be reclassified to endangered (uplisted). In accordance with 50 CFR 424.11(d), using the best scientific and commercial data available, we will consider a species for delisting 
only if the data substantiate that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for one or more of the following reasons: (1) The species is considered extinct; (2) the species is considered recovered;or (3) the original data available when the species was listed, or the interpretation of such data, were in error.
    We published a notice announcing active review and requested public comments concerning the status of the arroyo toad under section 4(c)(2)of the Act on March 5, 2008 (73 FR 11945). We notified the public of completion of the 5-year review on May 21, 2010 (75 FR 28636). The 5-year review, completed on August 17, 2009 (Service 2009), resulted in a recommendation to change the status of the species from endangered to threatened. A copy of the 2009 5-year review for the arroyo toad is available on the Service's Environmental Conservation Online System (


References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is available on the Internet at under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007 or upon request from the Field Supervisor,Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section).


    The primary author of this proposed rule is the Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Sacramento, California, in coordination with the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office in Ventura, California (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

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