Friday, 31 October 2014

Video: Watch the amazing moment a beluga whale gives birth in Chinese aquarium

Incredible footage has emerged from an aquarium in China that shows the moment when one of their beluga whales gave birth to a calf she had been carrying for nearly 15 months.

The video which was taken by staff at the Changsha Underwater World in central China on 29 October shows the exact moment when the tiny calf enters the world.

According to a spokesman from the zoo, the mother, eight-year-old Zhuo Ya, had been in labour for five hours before the tiny calf appeared before amazed onlookers.

It is the first time that such an event has happened at a zoo in China and has provided Chinese marine biologists an important insight into labour process for Beluga whales.

Alaska mayor vetoes law aimed at protecting moose

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The mayor of Anchorage has vetoed an ordinance passed by the municipal assembly intended to protect moose from impaling themselves on fences decorated with metal spikes.

The ordinance would have banned new spiked fences and required homeowners to modify existing fences less than 7 feet tall within five years.

The number of moose wounded or killed by such fencing is "very, very low," Mayor Dan Sullivan said Wednesday in his veto statement, adding that the cost of redoing fences outweighs the benefit of saving a few of the animals.

Moose are a common sight for the nearly 300,000 residents of Alaska's largest city. Moose feed on natural and ornamental foliage.

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Female frogs modify offspring development depending on reproduction date

October 30, 2014

Plataforma SINC

Global warming is altering the reproduction of plants and animals, notably accelerating the date when reproduction and other life processes occur. A new study has discovered that some amphibians are capable of making their offspring grow at a faster rate if they have been born later due to the climate.

New Study: Deadly Skin-eating Fungus Threatens to Wipe Out Salamanders-International Trade Could Bring Highly Lethal Disease to United States PRESS RELEASE - 10/30/14 CENTER FOR BIOLGICAL DIVERSITY- via HerpDigest

WASHINGTON— The journal Science today published a study documenting a new threat to the world’s salamanders from a deadly skin-eating fungus. A relative of the killer chytrid fungus that has devastated frog populations, the new disease called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bs, is sweeping through salamander populations in Europe. While the disease has not yet reached the United States, scientists found that imports of infected individuals pose a risk of spreading the highly lethal disease to native salamanders in the United States.

“If this disease is allowed to spread here in the United States, our salamanders will die off in mass numbers,” said the Center’s Collette Adkins Giese, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney and biologist who works to save endangered reptiles and amphibians. “Chytrid fungus, along with the white-nose syndrome that’s wiping out millions of our bats, has shown the devastating impacts of wildlife diseases. We need to do everything in our power to protect our nation’s amphibians and prevent the spread of this disease.”

The new fungus appears to specifically target salamanders and has practically wiped out fire salamanders in the Netherlands, reducing that population to only 4 percent of what it was just four years ago. It kills the amphibians by eating through their skin, exposing them to lethal bacterial infections. Luckily for other amphibians, the new fungus does not appear to kill frogs and toads.

Results from lab tests show that the disease is especially lethal to newts, which are a kind of salamander. Several species of newts are found in the United States, including the eastern newt, a common aquarium pet that is collected from the wild or purchased. The striped newt, found in Florida and Georgia, has been a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection since 2011.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must act fast to keep this disease from infecting wild salamanders in the United States,” said Peter Jenkins, President of the Center for Invasive Species Prevention. “With nearly 200 species, the United States is a global hotspot of salamander biodiversity. If we don’t act fast, we could lose these vital and popular animals from the wild.”

Infected individuals could reach the United States through the extensive commercial salamander trade. For example, more than 2.3 million individuals of Chinese fire-bellied newt were imported into the United States from 2001 to 2009. According to the study published today, the new fungus can effectively be transmitted across multiple salamander species through direct contact. The study warns that “the process of globalization with its associated human and animal traffic can rapidly erode ancient barriers to pathogen transmission” and these pathogens have “the potential to rapidly pose a threat of extinction.”

Scientists have developed a DNA-based test for detecting Bs, and infected animals held in captivity can be effectively treated with antifungal baths. But once the disease enters wild populations, it is nearly impossible to stop its spread to new populations. Environmental groups are calling for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to suspend all imports of salamanders into the United States unless they are certified to be free of the fungus. 

Collette L. Adkins Giese
Amphibian and Reptile Senior Attorney
Center for Biological Diversity

Bats will hang out with their friends this Halloween

October 30, 2014

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

New research has shown that despite moving house frequently, bats choose to roost with the same social groups of 'friends.' The study found that different social groups roost in separate, though adjacent, parts of woodland. The findings have important implications for conservation.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Two new lizard species found in Queensland rainforest

Cape Melville rainbow skink and Cape Melville bar-lipped skink bring the tally of species unknown to science that have been found in small, remote area to eight, Thursday 30 October 2014 06.17 GMT

Two species of lizard previously unknown to science have been uncovered in a remote part of far north Queensland.

Dr Conrad Hoskin, a researcher at James Cook university, found the two species after landing by helicopter in a largely inaccessible area of rainforest on top of the Melville range, about 170km north of Cooktown.

The species have been named as the Cape Melville rainbow skink and the Cape Melville bar-lipped skink. The scientific names of the species – Carlia wundalthini and Glaphyromorphus othelarrni – were chosen by local Aboriginal leaders in a nod to previous traditional owners of the land.

Hoskin said the discoveries were “very exciting” and added to three other species he uncovered during a series of trips to Cape Melville last year: a leaf-tailed gecko, a boulder frog and a golden lizard.

“In each of those cases, as soon as I saw them I knew they were new species,” he told Guardian Australia.

Private zoos boasting exotic animals – the new status symbol of Armenia's elite

Government accused of turning blind eye to importation of endangered species with cheetahs, lions, tigers and bears kept as pets. reports

Marianna Grigoryan for, part of the New East network, Thursday 30 October 2014 10.33 GMT

The neighbours of Mher Sedrakian, an MP in Armenia’s rulingRepublican party, have a persistent problem with noise. But this is not about wild parties or car horns. Rather, it is about lions.

The lions that Sedrakian allegedly keeps as pets at his home in the Armenian capital Yerevan roar continuously, his neighbours complain.

Increasingly, many Armenians can understand that concern. Private zoos with lions, tigers and bears are emerging as a popular hobby for the wealthy and powerful, and the government does not seem inclined to intervene.

Instead, recent amendments to wildlife legislation seem to facilitate this pastime. Private citizens are allowed to own wild animals, including endangered species, as long as they provide areas for the animals that ensure their “life, health and safety”, and prevent escape from captivity, the law says. Supervision is supposed to be “constant”. 

But it is not. Last November, tiger cubs were found in the streets of Etchmiadzin, a town about 12 miles from the capital, Yerevan, local media reported.

Although tigers, as an endangered species, cannot be exported from the wild, their import from zoos is allowed. 

A search of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) database for 2008 to 2013 shows the import of six tigers to Armenia, including three Siberian tigers from Ukraine. The others came from Belgium, Chile and Kazakhstan.

Long-Lost Species Returns Home After A Century In Exile

For the last 100 years, cougars have been absent from the forests of Wisconsin, a state where they once roamed. The Department of Natural Resources confirmed two cougar sightings on trail cameras this week — bringing the total number of sightings in 2014 to three. These, coupled with a handful of others in the past few years, have led experts to say that the cougar is likely back in Wisconsin for the first time since 1910.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it's possible that the two sightings could’ve been of the same animal — they were spotted about 90 miles away from one another about three weeks apart. 

Plump turtles swim better: First models of swimming animals

October 29, 2014

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bigger is better, if you're a leatherback sea turtle. For the first time, researchers have measured the forces that act on a swimming animal and the energy the animal must expend to move through the water.

A surprising finding: Longer, slender turtles are less efficient swimmers than more rotund turtles, which get better stroke for their buck.

New frog species found in the urban jungle of New York City

When thinking about where a new frog species might be discovered, the dense rainforests of Papua New Guinea, the humid jungles of Central Africa or other equally remote and tropical destinations instantly come to mind. But surprisingly, the latest new frog species to have been discovered has been found in the urban jungle of New York City and surrounding coastal areas.

The new species of leopard frog, Rana kauffeldi, was first identified in the New York City metropolitan area, but its range extends to the north and south, following a narrow and predominantly coastal lowland area from central Connecticut to northeast North Carolina.

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Moscow whales kept in cramped conditions for nearly a year

Following the news of ten wild orcas being captured in the Far East of Russia, with two being transferred to Moscow for captivity (which we reported here), the backlash against the city’s new exhibition centre VDNKh for keeping the whales continues. The Independent reports that Russian animal activist group Vita, along with other supporters, battles to gain public support and raise awareness of what they claim is animal cruelty. 

The two killer whales were to be transferred to the centre’s new aquarium – said to become Europe’s largest – in spring 2014, but delays in construction have meant the whales have been kept in temporary housing since their arrival 10 months ago. 

Aleksandr Burdin, Director of the Far East Russia Orca Project, supports Vita in their campaign and compares the orcas’ current living situation with “putting a human in a barrel with water and keeping him or her there for a long time,” while Head of Vita Irina Novozhilova claimed in a statement the animals are living in ‘solitary confinement cells’. 

Koala chlamydia vaccine trial raises hope Koala waiting to be vaccinated in Maroochydore, Queensland, Australia. 29 Oct 2014 Chlamydia causes blindness and infertility in koalas, and can be fatal Continue reading the main story Related Stories Threat to an Australian icon Koalas 'could face extinction' Australian scientists say they have successfully tested a vaccine aimed at protecting wild koalas from chlamydia. The disease has ravaged the native marsupial, which is under increasing threat. Microbiologists in Queensland now hope to protect some of the remaining population after successfully trialling a vaccine developed over five years. Koala numbers have plummeted in recent years and there are believed to be as few as 43,000 left in the wild. In some areas, numbers have dropped by as much as 80% in the past 10 years. The strain of chlamydia that affects koalas can lead to blindness, infertility and death among the animals. In the trial, microbiologists from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland gave 30 koalas the vaccine while 30 others were left unvaccinated. All 60 were then fitted with radio collars so they could be monitored in their natural habitat at Moreton Bay, north of Brisbane. Of the 30 vaccinated, some were already infected with chlamydia, some were healthy and some were showing symptoms of the disease such as eye infections and reproductive tract infections. Researchers said that seven out of eight koalas suffering from eye infections who received the vaccine showed an improvement. But in the unvaccinated group, four of six koalas with eye infections saw their conditions worsen. Koala map The researchers also found that koalas infected with the chlamydia strain did not go on to develop the full-blown disease after they were vaccinated. "It's all very promising and it's not just that it's doing the right thing from an immune response point of view, but it's actually protecting a significant number of them out in the wild climbing around trees," Professor Peter Timms told AFP news agency. The Australian government has classified the koala as a vulnerable species as its numbers plummeted due to habitat loss, disease and other factors. Prof Timms said chlamydia was one of the "tipping points" contributing to the decline of the animal and it was crucial to stop its spread. "The vaccine would actually make a difference," he said. Researchers intend to continue the trial in areas where koalas are most at risk. More on This Story Related Stories Threat to an Australian icon 25 APRIL 2013, MAGAZINE Koalas 'could face extinction' 10 NOVEMBER 2009, ASIA-PACIFIC From other news sites Japan Times Scientists hope vaccine can save koala population ravaged by chlamydia 4 hrs ago Marsupial STD cure? Koala chlamydia gets a vaccine 11 hrs ago Mail Online UK Koalas CURED of chlamydia after Australian scientists carry out successful vaccine trial 24 hrs ago Bangkok Post Hopes raised after 'success' of koala chlamydia vaccine trial 29 hrs ago ABC Online Chlamydia 'breakthrough' in fight to protect koalas 35 hrs ago About these results Share this page ShareFacebookTwitter EmailPrint More Australia storiesRSS A gloved hand on keyboardData retention bill introduced Data about phone and computer use will be kept by telecommunications companies for two years if a bill introduced to the Australian parliament is passed. No impact study for wetlands dumping Peris emails 'part of family dispute' Top Stories

Australian scientists say they have successfully tested a vaccine aimed at protecting wild koalas from chlamydia.

The disease has ravaged the native marsupial, which is under increasing threat.

Microbiologists in Queensland now hope to protect some of the remaining population after successfully trialling a vaccine developed over five years.

Koala numbers have plummeted in recent years and there are believed to be as few as 43,000 left in the wild.

In some areas, numbers have dropped by as much as 80% in the past 10 years.

The strain of chlamydia that affects koalas can lead to blindness, infertility and death among the animals.

In the trial, microbiologists from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland gave 30 koalas the vaccine while 30 others were left unvaccinated.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Badger cull campaigners lose legal battle

Court of appeal rules against Badger Trust’s claim that lack of an independent panel to monitor government’s latest round of culls is unlawful, Wednesday 29 October 2014 11.05 GMT

A legal challenge to how the government monitors the humaneness of it badger culls has been defeated.

The Badger Trust applied for a judicial review in August to declare the lack of an independent team monitoring of a second round of culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire unlawful.

But on Wednesday the court of appeal rejected the Trust’s challenge, meaning any future culls would be able to go ahead without such monitoring.

The first culls, which took place last year in a bid to tackle bovine TB which can be spread from badgers to cattle, were deemed to have failed the humaneness test by an independent expert panel. Not enough badgers were shot in the pilot culls, leading to the abandonment of plans for a nationwide roll-out.

Figures obtained by the Guardian suggest the second round of culling this year has failed, with just 253 badgers killed in Gloucestershire out of a minimum target of 615 after a six-week cull. If fewer badgers than the minimum target are killed, it can increase bovine TB infections due to the perturbation effect of making badgers move around more than usual.

Pond project awarded £1.3m

People, ponds and water scheme will train thousands of ‘citizen scientists’ to monitor and protect freshwater wildlife, Wednesday 29 October 2014 12.22 GMT

More than £1.3m has been awarded to a scheme that will train thousands of “citizen scientists” to monitor and protect wildlife-rich ponds and streams.

The funding aims to help tackle the drastic declines in freshwater wildlife, which have seen populations tumble by three-quarters globally since 1970, according to conservation charity WWF’s recently-released Living Planet report.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded £1,344,500 to the Freshwater Habitats Trust for a three-year project involving volunteers, ranging from schoolchildren to water sports enthusiasts, to help reverse the fortunes of English and Welsh freshwater habitats.

Rare bush frog breeds in bamboo, researchers discover

October 28, 2014

National University of Singapore

Researchers have discovered a new reproductive mode in frogs and toads -- breeding and laying direct developing eggs in live bamboo with narrow openings -- which was observed in the white spotted bush frog (Raorchestes chalazodes). This critically endangered frog is currently only one of two species known to adopt this novel reproductive strategy.

27 new species found in Tanzanian forests

A recent study revealed that 27 new vertebrate species have been found in the forests of Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains. Of these, 23 were amphibians and reptiles. Of the total species that were identified in the region, the study found that there are 211 vertebrate species that are found only in the Eastern Arc Mountains, and 203 of them are found in Tanzania alone. These findings, says the study, re-enforce the importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains as one of the top locations on Earth for biological diversity and uniqueness.

“The Eastern Arc Mountains were already known for the unusually high density of endemic species,” explains Neil Burgess, a leading expert on Africa's biodiversity and vice-chair of the TFCG, “however we lacked comprehensive data from at least six of the 13 mountain blocks.”

The study was conducted by an international team, and included researchers from the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) and MUSE-Science Museum in Italy, and was financed by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

The Eastern Arc Mountains are an isolated chain of geologically ancient mountains that extend from southern Kenya to south-central Tanzania. According to scientists, the forest has existed on the mountains for more than 30 million years and was once connected to forests in the Congo Basin and West Africa.

Source: Z News

70,000-Year-Old Mammoth Skeleton Uncovered in Idaho

by Megan Gannon, News Editor | October 28, 2014 02:58pm ET

The skeleton of a mammoth was discovered this month on the banks of a reservoir in Idaho. Paleontologists have rescued part of its skull and a tusk, but there could be a lot more buried below the surface.

"We may even have a complete mammoth," said Mary Thompson, a vertebrate paleontologist and senior collections manager at the Idaho Museum of Natural History. "This is very unique for us."

Every year, when water levels drop in Idaho's American Falls Reservoir, teams of paleontologists and volunteers with the Bureau of Reclamation walk the beaches in search of fossils. The ancient bones of camels, bison latifrons, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed cats and other extinct Ice Age beasts sometimes poke out of the freshly eroded reservoir banks. 

Giant tortoises gain a foothold on a Galapagos island

October 28, 2014

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

A population of endangered giant tortoises has recovered on the Galapagos island of Española, a finding described as “a true story of success and hope in conservation.”

Some 40 years after the first captive-bred tortoises were reintroduced to the island by the Galapagos National Park Service, the endemic Española giant tortoises are reproducing and restoring some of the ecological damage caused by feral goats that were brought to the island in the late 19th century.

"The global population was down to just 15 tortoises by the 1960s. Now there are some 1,000 tortoises breeding on their own. The population is secure. It's a rare example of how biologists and managers can collaborate to recover a species from the brink of extinction, " said James P. Gibbs, a professor of vertebrate conservation biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and lead author of the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Norway to remove seal trade subsidies

Norway’s seal trade could be over if the government’s decision to cut its 12 million kroner ($1.8 million) subsidy from next year’s budget goes ahead, The Local (Norway’s news in English) has reported.

The Government said it was a decision based purely on economics as seal hunting businesses are run on 80 percent subsidies
 and during 2014 just three boats and their crew caught 11,980 seals.
The government denied they were bowing to pressure from animal right campaigners and the EU, which placed a ban on the trade of seal products within the European community in 2009. This was a decision Canada and Norway challenged in 2013 through the World Trade Organization to overturn the EU ban on seal products. The WTO Appellate Body however upheld the ban in May 2014 on moral issues.

However this argument was not believed by Norway’s Centre Party 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

First Great British Bee Count reveals allotments make the best bee habitats

Allotments produced more bee sightings than parks, gardens and the countryside over the 12-week summer count, Tuesday 28 October 2014 11.25 GMT

Allotments are the best habitat for bees according to the results of the first Great British Bee Count this summer.

More bees were seen on allotments than on any other habitat including parks, gardens, and the countryside during the 12-week bee count from June to August.

More than 23,000 people across the UK took part in the count using a smartphone app to log their sightings of 830,000 bees.

An average of 12 bees per count were spotted on allotments compared to 10 in the countryside, eight in gardens, seven in parks and only four on roadside verges.

US Regulators Move To List African Lions As A Threatened Species

28th October 2014

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online

In the wake of research suggesting that African lions faced the danger of extinction due to increased conflicts with humans and the loss of both habitat and prey, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed listing the iconic big cats as a threatened species.
According to Darryl Fears of the Washington Post, the proposal would make the African Lion the last of the big cats to receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, and comes as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that their population has decreased by 30 percent over the past two decades.

“The African lion – a symbol of majesty, courage and strength – faces serious threats to its long-term survival,” FWS director Dan Ashe said in a statement Monday. “Listing it as a threatened species will bring the full protections of U.S. law to lion conservation, allowing us to strengthen enforcement and monitoring of imports and international trade.”

The agency explained that, in recent years, human settlements and agricultural activities had expanded into lion habitats and protected areas. Grazing activities have also spread into these areas, it said, putting more livestock in closer proximity to lions. With humans hunting the creatures’ prey base down to unsustainable levels, lions have been forced to kill more livestock, which in turn leads humans to kill them in retaliation and defense of their cattle.

Indian poachers threaten lesser-known animals

NEW DELHI: Wildlife poachers, hindered by India's efforts to protect majestic endangered animals including tigers and rhinos, have begun to think smaller. And activists say scores of the country's lesser-known species are vanishing from the wild as a result.

The Indian pangolin — a scaly critter whose defense mechanism of rolling up into a ball is no help against humans — and the star tortoise — a popular pet that maxes out at a foot in length — are just two of the species that are being killed or smuggled in increasing numbers while conservation efforts focus on such iconic animals such as tigers and elephants.

"The problem is that we were turning a blind eye to all lesser-known species and suddenly this very lucrative trade has been allowed to explode," said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, an advocacy group.

Rare Breed Pigs to Help Dorset's Endangered Species

24 October 2014

UK - A herd of rare breed pigs is helping to create the perfect habitat for endangered species in Dorset.

For the first time, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has recruited six Mangalitsa pigs to restore its Arne nature reserve to natural heathland through grazing.

It is hoped the site will then become an ideal home for species such as the Dartford warbler, nightjar, smooth snake, sand lizard and stonechats.

"It is an experimental project that we hope will produce fantastic results for nature at our Arne reserve," said Mark Singleton, RSPB Dorset reserves operations manager.

Last year, the RSPB's State of Nature report found that 60 per cent of UK species have declined over the past five decades. Mr Singleton said the rare breed pig project is "one of many that the RSPB is carrying out to tackle this problem and try to reverse these declines."

A 45,000-Year-Old Leg Bone Reveals The Oldest Human Genome Yet - via D R Shoop

Researchers have successfully decoded the genes of a 45,000-year-old man from Siberia. The results offer clues about early human life outside of Africa as well as how humans interacted with Neanderthals and other groups around at the time.

The complete set of genes is the oldest genome of its kind, according to Svante Pääbo, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "It's almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced."

The work of Pääbo and his colleagues was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The bone was found along the Irtysh River in Siberia, which was pretty far north to live 45,000 years ago.Bence Viola/Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

The DNA came from a human femur found in 2008 by a collector scouring the Irtysh River in western Siberia. The femur was handed over to a local paleontologist who in turn gave it to Pääbo's team in Leipzig.

Musk deer leaving habitat

MYAGDI: Rising temperature and human activities are forcing the musk deer in the Himalayan region of Myagdi to leave their habitat.

The jungles in Mudi, Lulang, Gurja, Kuimemangale, Dana and Muna VDCs, located on the lap of Mount Dhaulagiri were the traditional home lands of the musk deer.

Global warming as an effect of climate change in the Himalayan region and lack of favourable environment and food are leading the musk deer to leave their habitat, says Ranger at the District Forest Office, Chandra Mani Sapkota.

Regarded as extinct animal, musk deer are reportedly moving towards the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve and in the jungles of Dolpa, Rukum and Mustang districts.

Just two years ago, the musk deer could be seen near the human settlements but now, one needs to travel up to the Himalayan region to get a glimpse of them, according to Ranger Sapkota.

Wild Red Pandas filmed in Myanmar for first time

A pair of endangered Red Pandas have been caught on film in Myanmar for the first time.

The team of scientists from Fauna & Flora International (FFI) captured a pair of pandas roaming the high-altitude, mixed bamboo and conifer forests of the Imawbum mountain range, in the country’s far north-east. The Red Pandas can be seen crawling slowly along a rocky landslide, caused by Chinese logging, up to the ruined forest to feed on bamboo leaves.

“When we encountered the two Red Pandas, we felt two emotions at the same time; incredibly happy for the direct sighting and for obtaining this first exciting footage, but terribly saddened seeing the state of their habitat and threats to the species’ survival,” said Saw Soe Aung, FFI’s field biologist who captured the couple on film.

With less than 10,000 mature individuals estimated to be left in the wild, the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. They are endemic to temperate mountain forests of the Eastern Himalayas ranging from Western Nepal to China.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bermuda: 'Extinct' snail found living in alley

A snail which conservationists thought was extinct has been found living in an alley in Bermuda, it's been reported.

The species of Bermudian land snail, known as Poecilozonites bermudensis, hadn't been seen on the island for more than 40 years. But now a colony of the creatures has been found flourishing in a "damp and overgrown alleyway" in the capital city, Hamilton, by a local resident, the Royal Gazette website reports. "For it to be found in Hamilton is unbelievable. It's the last place you would imagine that a small colony of rare snails would be discovered," says Dr Mark Outerbridge of the government's Conservation Service. It's thought that by choosing a concrete home, the snails were protected from the predators that wiped out the rest of their population, Dr Outerbridge says.

Secret wing colors attract female fruit flies

October 22, 2014

Lund University

Bright colors appear on a fruit fly’s transparent wings against a dark background as a result of light refraction. Researchers have now demonstrated that females choose a mate based on the males’ hidden wing colors.

End of the road for New Delhi’s elephants?

Life gets worse for eight working elephants remaining in Indian capital after they are forced from grazing land into crowded slum

Anu Anand in New Delhi

The Guardian, Sunday 26 October 2014 17.55 GMT

Heera the elephant has been the star attraction at many of New Delhi’s most lavish events. At weddings, the 50-year-old has been saddled with a silver howdah, his forehead and trunk decorated with pink, blue and green lotus flowers. At temples, Hindu devotees seek his blessings and feed him chapatis. And he marches in the Republic Day parade amid flags, children, tanks and fighter jets, showcasing India’s identity and pride.

“Elephants are a part of this city, a part of our culture,” said Heera’s owner, Rafiq Ahmed, whose family has kept elephants for five generations. “I’ve grown up with them and can’t imagine Delhi without them.”

But for how much longer? Just eight licensed, working elephants are left in the capital of India, down from 14 a year ago. Six were discovered missing or dead during an official inspection this summer.

New Delhi’s wildlife authorities are locked in a battle with captive elephant owners in which no one seems to be winning, least of all the elephants.

The city, citing legitimate safety concerns, has stopped the elephants living on the banks of the Yamuna river where grazing is plentiful. Instead, they now stay in a crowded slum on the city’s northern outskirts where the rubbish-strewn lanes are barely wide enough for an elephant to pass. Access to the river is two-thirds of a mile away across dual carriageways choked with traffic.

World’s largest snake species has 'virgin birth'

A 20-foot python from a zoo in America has given birth without the help of a mate.

Thelma, an 11-year-old reticulated python - the longest species of snake in the world - laid 61 eggs in the summer of 2012. This is despite having had no contact with a male in her four years at Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, USA.

After six months of extensive tests on the shed skins of the mother and her daughters, a study published in July this year in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society confirmed that Thelma was the sole parent, in the first recorded example of virgin birth in the species.

Bill McMahan, Curator of Ectotherms at Louisville Zoo, told National Geographic: “We didn’t know what we were seeing. We had attributed it to stored sperm. I guess sometimes truth is stranger than fiction."

The research revealed that offspring were in fact the result of terminal fusion automixis, a process whereby cells known as polar bodies fuse with the egg to trigger cell division, effectively acting as sperm.

Maine bear bait vote sparks interest around US

WILTON, Maine (AP) — In Maine, a hunter can shoot a bear while it's nose-deep in a barrel of doughnuts, after it's been chased up a tree with dogs, or when it's snared in a cable trap — but that could change in days, and hunters and animal rights advocates around the country are watching.

Bears are hunted in 32 states but Maine has the most permissive rules. It is the only one that allows hunters to use three methods — bait, dogs and traps — decried by animal rights groups and targeted by a Nov. 4 ballot proposal that would ban them all.

National hunting groups oppose the ban because they believe it could set a precedent that prompts other states to try to roll back hunting rights. Some animal rights activists see it as a dress rehearsal for referendums in other states that allow hunting methods they perceive as cruel.

New breed of dolphins venture on land in hunt for food

Scientists have revealed that dolphins have started to venture on land in their pursuit of food.

Australian Humpback Dolphins, which were only classed as a species a few months ago, were discovered to display the incredible behaviour after a group of researchers tracked their movements.

A team from Australia’s Southern Cross University were following a pod of Dolphins up the Fitzroy River, Queensland, in September when splashing was heard in the distance.

When the group got closer, they discovered that the dolphins were engaged in strand-feeding (when they come to the shore in their pursuit of food).

Daniele Cagnazzi, a member of the research team, told Business Insider Australia:

‘The humpback dolphins were observed swimming a few meters away from and parallel to the shoreline. This behaviour probably allows dolphins to concentrate fish against the mud bank before charging at them at high speed’.

Four leopard skins seized in Burnley, UK

National Wildlife Crime Unit officers and local police from Lancashire have seized a range of illegal wildlife products including 4 leopard skins from a house in Burnley. The search was undertaken on 23rd October and a 23-year-old man later handed himself into a local police station.

During the search of the house a range of endangered wildlife items were discovered including:

four Leopard skins,
a Jaguar skull,
a Sperm whale tooth and
two stuffed Snowy owls

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Why bring wolves back to the UK?

How would reintroducing wolves and lynx back to Britain work, and what’s the point?

The Observer, Sunday 26 October 2014

Looking for a bit of ecological excitement? Rewilding ticks many boxes. Its premise is that habitats such as the uplands of the UK are anything but wild – they’ve been scarred and deforested. So we are haemorrhaging species and failing to stem ecosystem collapse.

According to rewilding organisations, such as Rewilding Europe, to rescue this land we need to make ecosystems whole again, even if this means looking to the Pleistocene epoch (2.6m to 11,700 years ago) for inspiration. And here’s the thrilling part: if we want to return arable land to wild and reforest the uplands, we need to introduce the apex predators, such as lynx and wolves, that went with it.

If this all sounds a bit Game of Thrones, take Scotland as an example – deer have reached carrying capacity in many areas (the maximum population size that can be supported by the environment) and the intense browsing of trees prevents them from growing. Rewilding would reintroduce an apex predator to regulate the deer. In time the forest would regrow and the natural ecosystem be restored.

In some areas rewilding is up and running. In 1995 Yellowstone Park reintroduced the wolves 70 years after they had disappeared. A herd of bison (Europe’s largest mammals at 1,400lb per beast) has been established in the Romanian Carpathians in a project led by WWF Romania.

WA abandons shark culling program, but reserves right to kill again

Western Australia’s premier, Colin Barnett, announces application for baited drum line approval has been withdrawn, Friday 24 October 2014 04.11 BST

The Western Australian government has conceded defeat over its plan to systematically trap and kill large sharks near popular beaches, after scrapping a proposal to implement the strategy over the next three years.

Colin Barnett, the WA premier, confirmed on Friday that WA had withdrawn its application to the federal government for the shark culling to go ahead.

However, WA has struck an agreement with the federal government that will enable it to implement the policy without approval from Canberra in emergency situations of “imminent shark threat”. This will mean the capture of any shark that is “posing a threat” or that has just attacked someone.

Cockroach disrupts pest control chief's testimony

CHICAGO (AP) — A cockroach embarrassed a Chicago official in charge of pest control when it took a stroll near him in full view of some aldermen, and its stunt just might have cost it and its buddies their lives.

After Thursday's hearing in the City Council chambers, Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds had his office call a private contractor to come down to City Hall and do some exterminating.

The cockroach couldn't have picked a worse time to show its antenna on the wall of the City Council chambers: just as Reynolds was testifying during a budget hearing. Alderman Brendan Reilly wondered aloud how much money in Reynolds' department budget was devoted to pest control.

"I was mortified," Reynolds told reporters after the laughter died down.

Decrease of genetic diversity in the endangered Saimaa ringed seal continues

October 24, 2014

University of Eastern Finland

Pusa hispida saimensis ca 1956.jpgThe critically endangered Saimaa ringed seal, which inhabits Lake Saimaa in Finland, has extremely low genetic diversity and this development seems to continue, according to a recent study. Researchers analyzed the temporal and regional variation in the genetic diversity of the endangered Saimaa ringed seal. The population is only around 300 individuals divided into smaller sub-populations and with very little migration among between them.

Red Admiral tops 2014 butterfly count

2014 was a good summer for Red Admiral Butterflies in the UK, with the highest numbers of them being seen in Britain’s gardens for over four years. It started to be seen in gardens three weeks earlier than in 2013, and by the end of August 42.5 percent of those registered with BTO’s Garden BirdWatch scheme had reported seeing them, up a quarter from 2013 and the highest numbers for over four years.

Despite being migratory, Red Admirals are increasingly being reported well into the winter thanks to the mild weather, and unprecedented numbers were still being reported right up until early October. 

The butterfly was the clear winner in a year that was good for butterflies with many emerging early and appearing in high numbers thanks to the mild spring temperatures. 

Sight neurons recorded in jumping spider brain

October 22, 2014

Cornell University

For the first time, a team of interdisciplinary researchers have made recordings of neurons associated with visual perception inside the poppy seed-sized brain of a jumping spider using a hair-sized tungsten recording electrode.

Legal fight begins to save family of beavers in Devon

24 October 2014 Last updated at 10:48

Campaigners have begun legal action to prevent the government from capturing a family of wild beavers in Devon.

Friends of the Earth said because groups already live in the wild in Scotland, the beavers are protected in England under EU laws.

The River Otter beavers are believed to be the only wild ones living in England.

The government said they could be carrying disease and wants to test and re-home them in captivity.

The three beavers, thought to be two adults and a juvenile, were first reported to be living on the river in the summer of 2013 and no date has been set for trapping them.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Net closes on the Groenewalds as rhino poaching reaches 899

As the net closes in on the Groenewalds and their safari company Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris the South African government has announced that the latest rhino poaching stats for the country stands at 899. With just 10 weeks left in 2014 the number is set to beat last years record 1004 rhinos killed for their horn.

Yesterday the Groenewald brothers were charged in the United States with a range of indictments including fraud and selling illegal rhino hunts to US hunters and also the illegal trade in rhino horns.

The brothers have a long history of dubious rhino hunts with claims that they have worked with land grabbers in Zimbabwe to take hunters into the country on illegal big game hunts including rhino hunting. This was despite being banned from operating in Zimbabwe in 2004.

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