Tuesday 31 May 2011

Bradford Council launches investigation after big cat sighting in Shipley

A sighting of a lynx has been reported in Shipley
9:50am Saturday 21st May 2011
By Marc Meneaud

Bradford Council is investigating a reported sighting of a “three-foot lynx” cat near the River Aire in Shipley. A woman dog walker from Bingley spotted what she was convinced was a big cat dash out of woodland – chasing a deer – near Nab Wood.

Former RSPCA officer Pam Laking said the woman, who did not want to be named, had reported the sighting to vets and Bradford Council’s countryside service.

Bob Thorp, the Council’s trees and woodlands manager, said Lynx are not native to Britain, but it was “not impossible” that a lynx could have escaped from someone who had imported it as a pet.

Mrs Laking, who is chairman of the Friends of St Ives group in Bingley, said: “This woman was convinced that what she saw was a big cat. She was walking her dog by the river between Nab Wood and Hirst Wood and suddenly a deer shot out in front of a three-foot lynx.

“I can totally believe it. Everybody is ringing everybody else saying ‘be careful’ when they are walking their dogs.”

Mr Thorp said: “It is unlikely that a lynx cat is living in Hirst Wood as we have not had any other reported sightings, but then again it is not impossible as it could have escaped from someone who had imported it.

“The lynx is not native to Britain, so if it is a lynx – which has not been verified – it must have been brought in from outside the country.”


Bigfoot Sightings: Spokane River, WA / Green Mountain Falls, CO

Click for video

It's not wreaking havoc like the Mississippi River by any means, or all those little creeks in southeastern Montana that are really screwing people on the Crow reservation, but the Spokane River has officially topped flood stage, and may just have flushed one of nature's most (only?) elusive (fictional?) man-apes into the open.

Yesterday, a YouTube user with the handle Samantha13950 posted a video that shows hikers wending their way down to the river. The video then goes dark and asks, "did you see it?" The video resets and plays again, in slow motion. Yep, sure enough. In the upper right corner — conveniently and beautifully illuminated by a ray of sunlight — a black, hulking man in a gorilla suit real effing sasquatch!!!???!! figure of unknown provenance walks through the frame:

Samantha13950 says on the post that no one noticed Big Foot until after they got home and checked the video (if they taped the entire lumbering hike that must have made for a less than exhilarating editing room sesh).

The Inlander has a team of 80 forensic videographers checking on the authenticity of this. In the meantime, though, can I just make a plea, on behalf of Big Foot, for humanity to step up its game?

The sasquatch have been playing hide and seek with us for millenia, and it's pretty obvious who's winning. I mean, they're always right there, crossing into a clearing — dappled sunlight creating a halo of light that may as well be a flashing "Big Foot here" sign — just as there's a camera rolling. - inlander

UPDATE: Samantha13950 says she isn't interested in "[getting] involved in a news story," but she did tell us where the footage was taken, and with what:

"I will let you know that we were in downriver park where the big hill starts to flatten out down by the river. The video is from my iphone. I was filming my friends slapping at ginormous mosquitoes and trying to get through some thick weeds."

There's no visible slapping of mosquitoes in the video, but it would be reasonable to edit that out when the focus of the video shifted from insects to a giant lumbering figure in the woods. The comment string on the video is already full of cryptid hunters debating the merits of the video, so we'll leave the analysis to them. (The best conversation happens between someone named BFResearchSE and someone named DistendedPerineum, for what that's worth.)

NOTE: another day...another Blobsquatch. What are your thoughts? Lon


Caught On Cam: Bigfoot In Colorado?

Is Bigfoot real? It’s a question that many have asked since the first sightings back in the 1800s when explorers began talking about an ape-like creature that walked like a man. Many scientists have brushed off reports that the creatures exists, and so far no real proof has been presented.

Daniel Masias hopes to be the one to prove Bigfoot’s exists. His fascination began in 1982 when he claimed to have seen two of the creatures near his Green Mountain Falls home one morning.

“In the winter, when there was snow, we noticed there were footprints. The prints didn't have shoes on them; they were just bare feet," he recalled. Masias described the creatures as hairy and less than 6 feet tall, but the footprints they left behind were not human-like. Masias said one creature has a foot span of about 12 inches, the other about 7 inches.

”So, not really big, about average human size," he said.

When asked why no one has seen these creatures or taken pictures with current technology, Masias said he thinks the creatures are coming through a wormhole, an intergalactic travel portal from one galaxy to another.

Masias isn’t the only one to have claimed to have seen Bigfoot. Ken French, a ranger for the Pikes Peak District, remembers seeing a strange creature near Centennial Point, near the summit of the peak. “I saw a dark uniformed color individual walking on the snow, and I stopped my tour bus and ask for binoculars,” recalled French.

He thinks the creature was about 1,000 yards away. "It was big and dark and it had a big gate, so it looked unusual to me.” French remembered that it walked like a person, but he felt it was odd at the time.

"It's not unusual to see people on a snow slope, usually on a ridge line walking, but you do see people up there occasionally, but it's usually a couple of people,” said French.

After the numerous sightings on Pikes Peak, ranger put up a Bigfoot crossing sign to warn visitors of what they could be in store for when they drive up to the 14,110 foot summit.

Masias is convinced he will get a picture of the creature, he thinks is Bigfoot. His motion-sensor camera already has snapped pictures that no one can explain, including one he said is an alien. - krdo - video available


Mysterious Killer Canid Stalking Bowen Island, B.C.

Residents of a small community in British Columbia have a mysterious killer in their midst and are taking steps to protect their pets, farm animals and small children.

An animal thought to be part timber wolf has been stalking Bowen Island, just off the coast of Vancouver, for about six months -- preying mainly on dogs and cats.

"Anyone who has family, has pets, and anyone who has seen it, seen the way it looks at you, knows that it's dangerous to have around," said island resident Stacey Powers.

Her husband John recently caught the animal on video, and saw it snatch a gosling out of a nearby pond.

The animal has "shown no fear of coming up close to the house," he said, "and obviously you don't want to have a concern that he's there and all of a sudden the kids are in his range." The family is keeping its pets indoors and young children nearby.

A local veterinarian believes it is part dog, part wolf and that it may have been abandoned after being brought to the island.

"They are a mixed-up species. They are part domestic with the instincts of a wolf," said Dr. Alastair Wescott. "They don't react normally and so people can't manage them, and so dumping them is a common thing to do."

It is thought to be a young male weighing about 90 pounds.

Missing pet signs are posted all over the island. The animal has killed at least three dogs, more than a dozen cats and two sheep. Many deer carcasses have also been found.

The municipality has set up a hotline, bought a tranquilizer gun, and enlisted both Westcott and a professional trapper to find the animal.

Once caught, it is expected to be euthanized. Rescue organizations have been contacted, but the animal's behaviour has been so vicious they say there's no chance of rehabilitation. - ctv

Click for video


Hunting the wolf-dog of Bowen Island

Since appearing on Bowen Island, B.C., in December, an animal believed to be a wolf-dog hybrid has killed five dogs, six sheep and “more cats than we even know” says Chris Buchanan, the island’s bylaw services supervisor. It has taken numerous geese, raided two chicken coops and littered the island with deer carcasses.

“He’s definitely getting more bold,” says Stacey Powers, a resident of this 50-square-kilometre island located 20 minutes by ferry from West Vancouver. “I definitely don’t let my dog out, or my cats, or my kids.”

The island’s only veterinarian, Alastair Westcott, mounted a private campaign to stop the animal, his $2,000 high-powered tranquilizer rifle purchased especially for the task. He is intimately acquainted with the animal carcasses strewn about the island by the creature, but is yet to spot the canine itself.

“It’s my nemesis,” he says.

This week, local authorities — who have advised Bowen Islanders to “take precautions when hiking, or when allowing small children or pets outdoors unattended” — called in a professional trapper. He arrives just as the animal has begun targeting sheep. The attacks have come at dawn, with the animal leaping into a pen and tearing the throat out of several lambs and ewes in a matter of minutes.

“When he kills the sheep, he doesn’t really eat them … it almost seems to be a game,” says Mr. Westcott.

Normally, wolf-plagued communities need only call up the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, which sends in a team to capture or kill the animal. However, after officers examined some grainy video images of the Bowen Island creature, they determined that the animal was an escaped wolf-dog hybrid – and thus out of their jurisdiction.

Private attempts to kill the creature have been hampered by an island-wide ban on firearms.

“As you can appreciate, Bowen Island is a bedroom community to the Greater Vancouver area … the province has determined this is a no-shooting area,” says Cpl. Don Southern with the Bowen Island RCMP.

Illegal or not, local gun-owners are keeping their rifles close at hand, says resident Ed Booiman. In January, Mr. Booiman was the first Bowen Islander to get a good look at the creature when he came upon it eating his pet Sheltie. “Everybody’s hoping that someone will take this animal down,” he says.

The island’s mailboxes, bulletin boards and trailhead signs are now plastered with posters instructing residents to report sightings to a dedicated “Hybrid Hotline.” When residents phone in the animal’s position to the hotline, Mr. Westcott attempts to head it off by taking up a position in one of seven hunting blinds he has set up around the island.

“Initially, I just went out for a couple hours every few days or so,” says Mr. Westcott. “Now, it’s three to four hours a day.”

Wolves are notoriously hard to hunt, especially in a thickly wooded island about half the size of Manhattan. The municipality of Bowen Island has left traps for the animal, but to no avail.

In February, a loose wolf-dog was shot and killed by a farmer on nearby Salt Spring Island after it killed more than a dozen of his lambs. After discovering lamb carcasses on his property, farmer Ted Akerman grabbed his 12-gauge shogun and spent the night staking out his flock from the cab of his pickup truck. He was able to kill the dog when it came back for his sheep in the morning.

“People come to the island with a dog they can’t handle and they leave it here,” says Mr. Akerman. “I’ve had ferry workers tell me about people coming over with a big dog, and when they come back they don’t have it.”

Although domestic wolves are illegal in B.C., residents are allowed to own wolf-dog hybrids.

“It’s one of the real messes of wolf biology that people want to breed them because they think it’s sexy to have a wolf – and then they get loose and disappear,” says Bob Hayes, former wolf biologist for the Yukon Territory. The B.C. SPCA has long taken a strong stance against ownership of wolf-dog hybrids. “Crossing a wolf and crossing a dog generally undoes 12,000 years of domestication,” says Robert Busch, general manager of operations for the B.C. SPCA. The animal may seem friendly and dog-like, but it can easily “snap” and revert to its wild state.

Mr. Westcott still suspects that the animal could be a common wolf. - nationalpost

Original post: Wolf-dog hybrid puts B.C.’s Bowen Island in ‘lockdown’


Wolf-dog hybrid puts B.C.’s Bowen Island in ‘lockdown’

Postmedia News Feb 18, 2011 – 12:02 PM ET
by Sean Sullivan

Residents of British Columbia’s Bowen Island are in “lockdown” as a marauding wolf-dog hybrid that has killed at least one dog continues to be spotted across the island, leading fearful residents to keep children and pets indoors.

The community, just north of Vancouver, has called in a private trapper to catch the mysterious animal, which was first sighted on Jan. 20 by resident Ed Booiman after it had killed his dog Penny.

“It’s awful to witness,” he said. “It basically killed my dog within 50 feet of the house and then dragged it into the bush.”

Mr. Booiman, who had gone to look for Penny when she didn’t turn up for dinner, interrupted the animal as it was eating his dog.

Since then, one Husky-cross dog and a string of cats have gone missing, he said, and partially eaten deer carcasses have been found on the island. One of the island’s prized swans has also been found dead.

“(The sightings) have helped tie a lot of pieces of the puzzle together here on Bowen Island with respect to missing animals,” Mr. Booiman said. “It’s got everybody so nervous.”

Chris Buchanan, the island’s bylaw services supervisor, said he’s now receiving reports of sightings “almost daily.”

“The municipality has contracted a trapper to come to the island to capture the beast,” Mr. Buchanan said Thursday. “It could be someone’s pet, we don’t know, so we’re using a humane trap.”

The B.C. Conservation Service is not involved, Mr. Buchanan said, as it doesn’t respond to incidents related to domestic or feral dogs — only wildlife.

The island has no coyotes, and no wolf packs are known to live within 100 kilometres of Bowen Island, RCMP said. Discharging firearms is prohibited on the island, so it’s unlikely a citizen will dispose of the animal.

Mr. Buchanan said reports indicate the wolf-dog weighs about 45 kilograms.

Residents won’t feel safe until the animal is trapped and euthanized, Mr. Booiman said.

“Parents aren’t letting their children walk to the school bus and everyone’s keeping their pets on leash,” Mr. Booiman said.

“That’s not what life here is like.”

Postmedia News

Global carbon emissions reach record, says IEA

Power station World leaders agreed last year to curb emissions and limit the rise in global temperature to 2C

Energy-related carbon emissions reached a record level last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The watchdog says emissions rose again after a dip caused by the financial crisis in 2009, and ended 5% up from the previous record in 2008.

China and India account for most of the rise, though emissions have also grown in developed countries.

The increase raises doubts over whether planned curbs on greenhouse emissions will be achieved, the group says.

At a meeting last year in Cancun, Mexico, world leaders agreed that deep cuts were needed to limit the rise in global temperature to 2C above pre-industrial levels.

But according to the IEA's estimate, worldwide CO2 emissions from the energy sector reached a record 30.6 gigatonnes in 2010.

The IEA's Fatih Birol said the finding was "another wake-up call".

"The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2C target is to be attained," he added.

"Unless bold and decisive decisions are made very soon, it will be extremely challenging to succeed in achieving this global goal agreed in Cancun."


Butterflies close wings to avoid sex

Copper butterflies copulating (Image: Jun-Ya Ide) Female copper butterflies mate once in their life

In the fleeting existence of a female small copper butterfly, sex is a one-time affair.

And scientists in Japan have observed that the butterflies have a simple way to avoid the unwanted attention of persistent males; they close their wings.

By folding away their bright, striking wing patterns, the females make themselves less visible to males.

The scientists describe their findings in the journal Ethology.

Lead researcher and butterfly lover Jun-Ya Ide from the Kurume Institute of Technology in Fukuoka, had noticed that female small copper butterflies often closed their wings when other copper butterflies flew very close to them.

"I also found that she closed the wings at a lower rate when other butterfly species flew nearby," said Dr Ide. And he set about trying to find out why this might be.

Copper butterfly (Image: Jun-Ya Ide) Without their wing patterns on show, the butterflies are far less visible to potential mates

"Persistent mating attempts" from males can harm the delicate females, so Dr Ide thought the females might close their wings as an harassment avoidance strategy.

"He used a model of a male copper butterfly to trigger a reaction in the females.

"When I brought the model close to a mated female, she often closed the wings," he told BBC Nature.

Virgin females, on the other hand, left their wings open.

"So, I concluded that, since females don't need more copulations, they close their wings to conceal themselves," Dr Ide said.

Whereas virgin females that want to mate "keep their wings open to be conspicuous".

"The wing closing behaviour has evolved," he said, "to avoid sexual harassment."

Sunday 29 May 2011

Bubbling sea signals severe coral damage this century

Bubbling CO2 This area is on the slope of a dormant volcano, and CO2 emerges from the seafloor naturally

Findings from a "natural laboratory" in seas off Papua New Guinea suggest that acidifying oceans will severely hit coral reefs by the end of the century.

Carbon dioxide bubbles into the water from the slopes of a dormant volcano here, making it slightly more acidic.

Coral is badly affected, not growing at all in the most CO2-rich zone.

Writing in journal Nature Climate Change, the scientists say this "lab" mimics conditions that will be widespread if CO2 emissions continue.

The oceans absorb some of the carbon dioxide that human activities are putting into the atmosphere.

This is turning seawater around the world slightly more acidic - or slightly less alkaline.

This reduces the capacity of corals and other marine animals to form hard structures such as shells.

Projections of rising greenhouse gas emissions suggest the process will go further, and accelerate.

"This is the most realistic experiment done to date on this issue," said Chris Langdon, a coral specialist from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami, US.

"So I don't have any qualms about believing that what we found will apply in other parts of the world."

Coral and seagrass Coral gives way to seagrass around the vents - the shape of things to come?

The water becomes progressively more acidic closer to the vents that are bubbling CO2.

This allows the researchers to study the impacts on coral at different levels of acidity.

Seawater has an average pH of about 8.1; this is already about 0.1 lower than before the industrial age and the large-scale human emissions of greenhouse gases associated with it.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that by the end of the century, emissions may have risen so much that pH may fall to 7.8.

In the Papua New Guinea site, few types of coral grew at pH7.8.

Reefs still formed, but were dominated by one particular type, the Porites, which form massive shapes largely devoid of the branches and fronds that characterise reefs rich in species.

"We saw only a few speces of coral, and none of the structually complex ones that provide a lot of cover for fish," Professor Langdon told BBC News..

Ocean pH levels (Image: BBC)
  • The oceans are thought to have absorbed about half of the extra CO2 put into the atmosphere in the industrial age
  • This has lowered its pH by 0.1
  • pH is the measure of acidity and alkalinity
  • The vast majority of liquids lie between pH 0 (very acidic) and pH 14 (very alkaline); 7 is neutral
  • Seawater is mildly alkaline with a "natural" pH of about 8.2
  • The IPCC forecasts that ocean pH will fall by "between 0.14 and 0.35 units over the 21st Century, adding to the present decrease of 0.1 units since pre-industrial times"

"The much simpler forms support many fewer species, and theory suggests they create an environment that would be very vulnerable to other stresses."

In an even more acid part of the study site, with a pH of 7.7, the scientists report that "reef development ceased".

Here, seagrasses dominate the floor - but they lack the hard-shelled snails that normally live on their fronds.

This is the second published study of a "natural lab" for ocean acidification.

The first, from a site in Mediterranean, found snails with their shells disintegrating; but the PNG site offers a snapshot of the future that might be more applicable to the world's tropical coral hotspots.

"The results are complex, but their implications chilling," commented Alex Rogers from the University of Oxford, who was not part of the study team.

"Some may see this as a comforting study in that coral cover is maintained, but this is a false perception; the levels of seawater pH associated with a 4C warming completely change the face of reefs.

"We will see the collapse of many reefs long before the end of the century."

The scientific team behind the new research, drawn from Australia, Germany and the US, suggests that the picture from PNG may underplay the threat.

Reefs in the acidic zones of the study site receive regular doses of larvae floating in from nearby healthy corals, replenishing damaged stocks.

This would not be the case if low pH levels pertained throughout the oceans.

In addition, corals at the site are only minimally affected by other threats; there is little fishing, local pollution, or disease.

By contrast, a major survey published earlier this year found that three-quarters of the world's reefs were at risk - 95% in southeast Asia - with exploitative and destructive fishing being the biggest immediate threat.


Tests show Arctic reindeer 'see in UV'

Wild reindeer foraging for food on the Arctic island of Svalbard Wild reindeer foraging for food on the Arctic islands of Svalbard

Arctic reindeer can see beyond the "visible" light spectrum into the ultra-violet region, according to new research by an international team.

They say tests on reindeer showed that the animal does respond to UV stimuli, unlike humans.

The ability might enable them to pick out food and predators in the "UV-rich" Arctic atmosphere, and to retain visibility in low light.

Details are published in the The Journal of Experimental Biology.

Seeing predators

UV light is invisible to humans. It has a wavelength which is shorter (and more energised) than "visible" light, ranging from 400 nanometres down to 10nm in wavelength.

The researchers first established that UV light was able to pass through the lens and cornea of the reindeer eye by firing light through a dissected sample. The tests showed that light down to a wavelength of about 350nm passed into the eye.

They then sought to prove that the animals could "see" the light, by testing the electrical response of the retina of anaesthetised reindeer to UV light.

"We used what is called an ERG (electroretinography), whereby we record the electrical response to light by the retina by putting a little piece of gold foil on the inside of the eyelid," co-author Professor Glen Jeffery of University College London told BBC News.

The tests showed that photoreceptor cells or "cones" in the retina did respond to UV light.

"If you're a bumblebee, you wouldn't think much of what this animal is doing because it's seeing in what's called 'near UV' (about 320 to 400nm), but that's still very high energy stuff."

A wolf in the snow UV vision might enable reindeer to "see" their traditional predator, the wolf

The researchers believe UV vision could enable the reindeer to distinguish food and predators in the "white-out" of the Arctic winter and the twilight of spring and autumn.

Lichen, on which the animal feeds, would appear black to reindeer eyes, they say, because it absorbs UV light. The animal's traditional predator, wolves, would also appear darker against the snow, as their fur absorbs UV light.

Urine in the snow would also be more discernable in UV vision, which might alert reindeer to the scent of predators or other reindeer.

Neither did the animal appear to suffer any damage as a result of seeing in UV, say the researchers, or suffer the "snow blindness" humans can experience in the UV-rich Arctic environment.

Polar vision

Professor Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University London, who has explored the UV capabilities of bees, said the study showed what we call the "visible" spectrum did not apply to most of the animal kingdom.

"It's further evidence that UV sensitivity across animals is the rule rather than the exception, and that humans and some other mammals are actually a minority in not having UV sensitivity," he said.

Professor Chittka was not surprised the UV light appeared to do no damage to the reindeer retina. He said the tests suggested the eye would only admit lower-frequency UV light ("UV-A light") rather than more damaging higher-frequency light ("UV-B").

Further modelling and behavioural tests would also be needed to verify that reindeer's apparent capacity to detect UV light really did result in "better detection of predators and arctic lichens", he said.

The same research team which conducted the reindeer tests will soon repeat the same experiments on seals to see whether they can see into the UV region. Professor Jeffery believes many Arctic animals are likely to have the capacity.

"There's no evidence that Arctic foxes or polar bears suffer from snow blindness, so I bet you that most of the Arctic animals up there are seeing into UV."


Saturday 28 May 2011

Mystery Mersey ‘monster’ baffles marine life experts

by Laura Jones, Liverpool Echo
May 25 2011

A MYSTERY sea creature spotted in the Mersey has experts baffled.

The “monster” was snapped off Seacombe Ferry at 9am yesterday by photographer Mark Harrison.

Paul Renolds, from the Blue Planet Aquarium, who studied the photos, said: “It is virtually impossible to actually identify, but this is the time of year when large numbers of basking sharks, the second largest shark species in the world after whale sharks, head towards waters off the Isle of Man.”

He added: “If it is not a basking shark, it could be a smaller species of whale or a dolphin because there are around 23 different species in UK waters.”


Nazis tried to build army of talking dogs to help win World War Two

Dr Jan Bondeson's dog research has revealed Nazi canine to human telepathy experiments (Pic: BNPS)
The Nazis attempted to build an army of dogs that could read, talk and spell, research by Cardiff University lecturer Dr Jan Bondeson has revealed.

Daniella Graham - 24th May, 2011

Adolf Hitler apparently felt man's best friend could be the Allies' worst enemy with a little bit of help, so a special 'dog school' was set up by the Germans where gifted mutts could hone their talents.

The Nazi canine recruits were trained to speak and tap out signals using their paws, with one reportedly able to say 'Mein Fuhrer' when asked to identify the Nazi dictator himself.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the school, named the Tier-Sprechschule, was set up in the 1930s and ran throughout the war period.

And while the dogs were intended to help officers in concentration camps, one plucky canine decided he had other priorities – barking the German for 'Hungry! Give me cakes.'

Dr Bondeson uncovered the extraordinary story while researching for his latest book, Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities.


First stage play with dog and cat cast debuts in Bangkok

Khoomsap is one of the stars of Thailand
Fantasy The Musichong (EPA)
Theatregoers in Bangkok were treated to the premiere of what was billed as the first ever stage play performed by dogs and cats on Saturday.

METRO WEB REPORTER - 21st May, 2011

'Dog and Cat First on Stage: Thailand Fantasy The Musichong' debuted at M Theatre with a cast that included 11 canines, one feline and six humans.

The charity show, which is raising money for Kasetsart University's animal hospital, tells the story of a group of dogs who help to save Thailand's tourism industry and their owners' travel company.

Scriptwriter and director Wanwilai Boonlon was delighted to put on a groundbreaking play for a good cause, but told the Bangkok Post working with the animal cast had posed some unusual problems.

'There's the challenge of getting man and dog to perform together, and so the human cast have to be animal lovers, who understand and can communicate with the dogs,' she said.

'In addition, the actors as well as the voiceover team have to promptly deal with any mishaps on stage.'

Despite the lack of opportunities for pets who wish to pursue a career on stage, 140 ambitious animals turned up for the auditions.

Some were looking to branch out from their film work, while others were trying to secure their first break in show business.

The male lead eventually went to mongrel Richard, a veteran of soaps and horror movies, while Maltese Porjai grabbed the female lead.


They didn't croak after all! World's rarest toads found in area less than half the size of a football pitch

Under threat: The toad's home is a biodiversity hotspot
threatened by deforestation and climate change
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 3:49 PM on 24th May 2011

The world's rarest toad has been found by scientists living in an area of just 300 square metres in the wild.

Living in a section of a forest reserve less than half the size of a football pitch in Tanzania, East Africa, the discovery that the population of Wendy's forest toad is still in existence has delighted zoologists who thought the species was dying out.

The toads are thought to be hyper-endemic - found in one very small area and nowhere else in the world.

Scientists from a project run by the the Whiteley Wildlife Conservation Trust - based at Paignton Zoo, Devon - and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group have been carrying out a rapid ecological assessment of key sites along the Uzungwa Scarp forest reserve - a biodiversity hotspot threatened by deforestation and climate change.

Hamidu Seki, the project's team leader, found several critically endangered Wendy's forest toads while walking throughout the area. The species is thought to live in a range no bigger than 300 square metres in the Uzungwa mountains.

Mike Bungard, Paignton Zoo's curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates, said: 'This is not a newly-discovered population but it is fantastic to find evidence that they are still here.

'This project is already paying off. These species are thought to be hyper-endemic, which means they are found in one very small area and nowhere else in the world.

'Sadly, there is no sign of the Poynton's forest toad in the area where it was seen ten years ago, though we are still searching.

'Small populations in small areas are so vulnerable to disease or disaster.'

Mike and Andy Bowkett, overseas conservation officer for the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, spent a month working in Tanzania before Christmas.

Andy, who returns to Tanzania in June, said: 'There are species recorded in one spot in the world. 'That may be because no-one has bothered to look again, or they have become extinct.

'It is very strange for multiple species - our three target species - to be observed many times over the years in the same spot but never anywhere else.

'Having said that, we still need to find out for sure whether they are hyper-endemic, or whether they are found elsewhere.'

The target species are Nectophrynoides wendyae - Wendy's forest toad - and Nectophrynoides poyntoni - Poynton's forest toad (both listed as Critically Endangered) and Hyperolius kihangensis, the Kihanga reed frog, which is classed as Endangered.

Mike Bungard added: 'This project is already providing new information on which we can base our long-term conservation efforts.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1390244/Worlds-rarest-toad-area-half-size-football-pitch-Tanzania.html

Mutant turtles terrorising London ponds

Evening Standard
25 May 2011

Hybrid turtles are taking hold of London's parks and ponds.

Experts studying 1,600 square kilometres of London and the home counties were shocked to find 10 species and several hybrids. They even found rare African turtles in a Camden park.

Despite culls, numbers are growing. Tom Langton of the London Natural History Society said: "We found a big increase in the sightings of terrapins, a type of turtle popular in the Eighties due to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon series."

A government ban in 1997 has led to "lookalike" species being sold cheaply in pet shops. Mr Langton said he hoped all terrapins would be banned in the UK.


Friday 27 May 2011

Thailand jungles mask surprise rise in tiger numbers

Experts film previously unknown group on hidden cameras – but loss of habitat and threat from poachers cloud new-found hope

Deep in the jungle, armed forest rangers trek through the palms on a mission to confirm some rare good news: the discovery of a wild tiger population in an area of Thap Lan national park previously written off by wildlife experts.

Working with foreign conservationists, the rangers have been gathering evidence from camera traps over the past two years that suggests this single national park in Thailand may have more tigers than China.

Thap Lan, with its spectacular forests of saw-bladed plan palms, is an oasis of biodiversity amid expanding human development. Elephants, clouded leopards, spotted linsang, boar and deer thrive below the canopy, which is filled with the song of myna, lapwings, laughing thrushes and other exotic birds.

Locals have long insisted that tigers also prowl in this area. Camera traps, triggered by heat and movement, have been left strapped to trees for a month. Some have been destroyed by wild elephants or infested by nesting ants, but the memory cards inside have yielded a treasure trove of images of bears, leopards, itinerant monks, as well as tigers and – worryingly – armed poachers.

More than half the park has still to be checked, but rangers have already confirmed eight tigers. This is not yet enough to be classified as a sustainable population, but park managers are optimistic more animals will be found. "I'm very happy as this is beyond expectations," said Thap Lan's superintendent, Taywin Meesap. "There are areas deeper inside where we haven't placed camera traps yet. Given the results so far, there could be 20 to 50 tigers here."

The conservation group that provided much of the training and equipment for the operation said the results showed a gap in understanding and the need to invest more in research and protection.

Tim Redford of Freeland, a Bangkok-based group that helps rangers in south-east Asia, said: "This place was supposed to be devoid of tigers. But we did a course here and were surprised to find signs of tigers. The more we looked, the more we found. That led me to believe the forest must have tigers throughout and there is a big gap in our knowledge of where they live."

He called for further studies across countries where other small populations may have been missed.

The difficulty of measuring tiger numbers was evident when India increased its estimate by 10% compared with a survey in 2008.

The discovery comes amid a fresh global push to reverse a precipitous decline in the numbers of wild tigers, down 97% compared with a century ago. At the St Petersburg tiger summit last year, participants, including the World Bank, NGOs and range states, pledged $329m (£200m) to help double the predators' numbers in the wild from the current level of about 3,200.

But the new hope in Thap Lan is mixed with old fears. Thailand is thought to be home to between 250 and 300 wild tigers, but they are vulnerable. The biggest threat is a loss of habitat. Although nominally protected, Thailand's national parks are being encroached upon by human development, particularly monoculture plantations, roads and second homes for Bangkok's rich.

Many locals also subsidise their incomes by poaching and illegally logging aloe and tropical hardwood. Park managers and police are worried that poachers and illegal traders would target the tigers once news gets out about their numbers in the area.

Rangers mount night patrols and public education campaigns to halt these activities. It can be dangerous work. A Thap Lan ranger was killed in a gun battle with poachers three years ago. In Cambodia, forest protectors have been murdered in hand grenade attacks.

The stakes are high. According to conservationists and police, poachers are paid 7,000 to 15,000 baht – £150 to £300 – per kg for a tiger carcass.

Middlemen then sell the animals on for about 10 times that amount, mostly to customers in China and Vietnam, where the animal's bones and penis are used in tonics and aphrodisiacs. Yet penalties for wildlife offences remain absurdly low, with fines ranging from 500 to 40,000 baht.

Thailand has much to protect. The country is home to some of the most biodiverse tropical forests in south-east Asia. Just two hours from Bangkok, the Guardian's car almost ran over a King Cobra, which expressed its indignation by rearing up angrily and flickering its tongue.

Despite this ecological wealth, wildlife crime was a low priority for law enforcement authorities for many years. But there are signs that attitudes may be changing. Thai customs officials have made several high-profile arrests in the past two years, including that of a woman who attempted to smuggle a live baby tiger cub through Bangkok airport in a case full of stuffed animal toys.

A sting operation last week apprehended a United Arab Emirates citizen whose belongings concealed two leopards, two panthers, an Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys.

More impressive still was an undercover operation by the Thai police this year that exposed a large tiger-trading syndicate. Its ringleader, a woman known as "J", remains at large, partly because her husband is a police officer, but investigators said they were closing in.

"I believe she may have been selling 100 tigers per year for 10 years," said Colonel Kittipong Khawsamang, deputy head of the wildlife crime division as he leafed through police photographs of tiger carcasses kept on ice.

"We know she is a big trader and have been collecting evidence, but we don't yet have enough for a prosecution."

Khawsamang said recent raids have shown Thailand has become a hub of the tiger trade, due to its location between other range nations in south-east Asia and China, the main market.

The business is also supplied by Thailand's many tiger farms, some of which claim to operate as zoos while covertly breeding animals for sale. The most notorious is the Sri Racha zoo near Pattaya, which police have raided on several occasions, confiscating hundreds of animals.

Tourists still flock to watch the farm-bred tigers jump through flaming hoops, suckle at pigs and walk around on their hind legs to the music of the Can-Can and laughter from the audience.

Police and conservationists believe "zoos" encourage poaching both as a source of breeding stock and by sustaining the market for tiger products.

General Misakawan Buara, commander of Thailand's natural resources and environmental crime division, said: "The problem is, we can only check permits and the inventory, but we can't check which tigers and going in and out because we are police, not animal experts. We need more DNA checks, implanted chips or a tagging system so we can verify the origins of tigers."That – like training and equipping rangers – is not cheap. But little of the money pledged at St Petersberg summit is evident yet at the grass roots, where the budgets for rangers and wildlife police are unchanged "Tiger conservation at the top and the bottom are two different worlds.

The people who are high paid researchers and biologists jet-set around the world," said Freeland's Redford.

"The rangers are paid almost nothing. They get $50 to $200 a month to go out and face armed poachers. We need to give them every support we can if we expect to keep tigers into the future.

"There is not a shortage of money, we just have to get it focused in the right places."

Tiger number
There are believed to be about 3,200 tigers left in the wild and more than 13,000 in captivity – half of which are in China.

Assessing populations in the wild is notoriously difficult, given the remoteness of the habitat and the animals' tendency to avoid human contact. It is believed numbers have fallen by 97% over the past century and the trend remains downwards, but several revisions have taken place in recent years.

• In March, India unveiled a new census that put the total number of wild tigers in the country close to 1,550 – 10% up on 2008.

• In Indonesia, camera traps have recently caught images of 12 Sumatran tigers, including a mother playing with cubs. The WWF estimates there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. A recent study conducted by Wildlife Conservation Sociey said the population could be much larger than previously believed.

• About 350 adult Siberian or Amur tigers – physically, the largest subspecies – are left in the wild, with 95% inhabiting the far east of Russia.

• Thailand is thought to be home to 250 to 300 wild tigers, though camera traps have revealed that Thaplan National Park has more of the animals than previously believed.

• Bangladesh has between 400-450 wild tigers, mostly in the Sunderbans mangrove forests which overlap with India. Last year, they killed 44 people.

Jonathan Watts


Red rodent shows up at Colombian nature lodge after 113 years

The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis) had not been recorded since 1898 and was thought possibly extinct—that is until one showed up at 9:30 PM on May 4th at a lodge in El Dorado Nature Reserve in northern Colombia.
"He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement he was causing," said Lizzie Noble, a British volunteer with FundaciĆ³n ProAves a conservation group in Colombia focusing on birds.

The nocturnal rodent hung out for a couple hours, allowing Noble and another volunteer, Simon McKeown, to take photos. Noble and McKeown were there to monitor endangered amphibians, but on this night, at least, they found themselves captivated by a long-lost rodent.

Described as about the size of a guinea pig, the red-crested tree rat—or if that's not long enough for you: the red crested soft-furred spiny-rat—had only been known from two skins previously. But the species was odd enough to be given its own genus, Santamartamys.

With its long absence it's almost certain the species is quite rare, and researchers say they expect it will be listed by the IUCN Red List as is Critically Endangered. Already, the species is believed to be imperiled by feral cats.

Located in the Santa Marta mountain range, the 2,000 acre (809 hectare) El Dorado Nature Reserve, which was established by ProAves and other groups, has been the site of a number of remarkable incidents recently. In 2007 the Santa Marta screech owl (Otus gilesi) was discovered in the reserve—still undescribed by researchers—while last year the first ever photo of a living Santa Marta Sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus), a hummingbird, was taken in the park. But the red-crested tree rat may be the biggest surprise yet.

"We are so proud that our El Dorado Nature Reserve has provided a safe haven for this enigmatic little guy to survive," said Lina Daza, Executive Director of ProAves. "The discovery exemplifies why we buy forested properties known to be important for endangered wildlife yet at imminent risk of being destroyed."

The reserve is home to a high number of endemic birds and amphibians, some globally threatened with extinction.

"The El Dorado Nature Reserve represents the ultimate Noah's Ark, protecting the last populations of many critically endangered and endemic flora and fauna; a living treasure trove like no other on earth," said Dr. Paul Salaman, a scientist with World Land Trust-US who confirmed the identity of the species.

ProAves established the El Dorado Nature Resevere in 2005 with support from American Bird Conservancy, World Land Trust-US, FundaciĆ³n Loro Parque and Conservation International, and the US's Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.

"Had we not worked with our partners to establish this reserve, it is reasonable to believe this species would still remain something that was only talked about in science journals," said George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. "Now we need to work with our partners to take steps to see that this species continues to be a part of our world,"

Jeremy Hance
May 18, 2011


new bat uncovered in the Caribbean

Researchers have declared a new species of bat from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. While the new bat had been documented before, it was long believed to be a member of a similar species that is found throughout South America and a few Caribbean Islands, that is until PhD student Peter Larsen noticed it was far larger than its relative down south.

"A year or so went by [after collecting the species] and I happened to look at this species […] and compared it to what we thought it was–a species from Trinidad. But the St. Vincent bat was huge comparatively speaking," said Larsen, who is studying at Texas Tech University, in a press release.

Larsen told mongabay.com that the bat is "a few grams heavier and is a few millimeters longer in most measurements that we took" than its closest relative the aptly named little big-eared bat (Micronycteris megalotis). While this may not sound like much, the nre bats weigh only around 8 grams and measure around 30 millimeters, so a few grams and millimeters here or there makes a big difference in these animals.

The paper describes the bat as "medium-sized" in comparison to the nine or so other known species of Micronycteris bats.

Researchers believed the new bat species became stranded from the mainland population between 600,000 and a million years ago, theorizing that sea-level rise due to melting glacier eventually cut St. Vincent off. Once stranded, the bat species took its own evolutionary path, including becoming noticeably larger and changes in its cranium.

Larsen and his team decided to name the species the Garifuna big-eared bat (Micronycteris garifuna) after the Garifuna people who inhabit St. Vincent and other areas of the Caribbean and Central America. The Garifuna ancestry includes native Carib, Arawak, and West African.

The Garifuna bat preys on insects, providing an ecosystem service to the island by keeping insect populations in check. In fact, according to another graduate student, Lizette Siles, who worked on the study, the Garifuna bats are especially adept hunters.

"They can actually pick their insect prey off the surface of rocks and leaves," Siles explained in a press release. "Not all insectivores can do that, because most insectivores catch their prey on the fly. Their big ears, wide wings and membranes between the rear feet and tail allow them to maneuver better."

Bats are one of the most diverse mammal families in the world (second only to rodents) with around 1,100 known species. Although they are often unfairly loathed by people, they provide a number of important services including pest control and seed dispersal.

Thousands of new species are discovered every year, but new mammals are among the least likely. In 2008, researchers documented the discovery of 18,225 new species, only 41 (0.22 percent) of which were new mammals.

CITATION: Peter A. Larsen, Lizette Siles , Scott C. Pedersen, Gary G. Kwiecinski. A new species of Micronycteris (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae) from Saint Vincent, Lesser Antilles. Mammalian Biology (2011). doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2011.01.006.

Jeremy Hance
May 26, 2011


Thursday 26 May 2011

White kiwi chick hatched

Manukura - the little white kiwi. from Mike Heydon on Vimeo.

Last updated 11:46 24/05/2011

A rare white kiwi chick has been born - the first to be hatched in captivity.

The chick, named Manukura, is not an albino but the rare offspring of some North Island brown kiwi from Little Barrier Island.

He was born at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, 24km north of Masterton, on May 1, weighing approximately 250 grams.

The Little Barrier Island kiwi were transferred to Pukaha in May last year.

Elders from the Rangitane o Wairarapa iwi gave the chick his name, which means "of chiefly status".

Rangitane chief executive Jason Kerehi said tribal elders saw the white chick as a "tohu" or "sign" of new beginnings.

"Every now and then something extraordinary comes along to remind you of how special life is," Kerehi said. "While we're celebrating all 14 kiwi hatched this year, Manukura is a very special gift."

Manukura is being hand-reared in Pukaha Mount Bruce's new kiwi nursery. He will remain in the nursery until the end of May, where visitors can view him in his nocturnal brooder box and at his daily weigh-in at 2pm.

The white chick will then remain in captivity with other chicks at Pukaha for at least four to six months. When it is old enough to protect itself, it could potentially be released into the sanctuary.

Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers, who manage the kiwi programme at Pukaha, will ensure the best interests of the bird remain a priority.

"A white kiwi might really stand out making it more vulnerable," said DOC area manager Chris Lester.

"We want to ensure that as many people as possible get a chance to see it, and that we keep it as safe as possible."


Bones of elephant ancestors discovered in Oman

Fossil discovered in Dhofar region in south of Oman.
Omani Barytherium was found in Dhofar by a joint team from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Stony Brook University, US, and Sultan Qaboos University

Staff Report
Published: 17:13 May 21, 2011

Muscat: A team of geologists from the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) have confirmed discovery of remains of the oldest ancestors of elephant (Barhtyerium), according to a press release from the university Saturday.

The Omani Barytherium, the first one to be found in Oman, was discovered in Aidum area in Dhofar by a joint team of archaeologists from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Stony Brook University, US, and geologists from SQU.

The archaeological team was led by Dr Erick Seifert from the Stony Brook University.

The SQU team of geologists, including Prof Dr Sobhi Nasir and Dr Abdulrahman Al Harthy joined the Heritage Ministry consultant at the site in south of the country and assisted in establishing the discovery.

The joint team found a huge area of elephant bones, known as elephant grabs, and collected large quantities of bones to be identified in a laboratory at the SQU.

The group of researchers from SQU, SBU and the Ministry of Heritage are still working on these bones and are expecting new discoveries in the area.

The team has said that this finding is extremely important as it gives the first evidence of the oldest ancestor of elephant found in the world.

The scientists named the new finding as Barytherium Omansi.

Barytherium (meaning heavy beast) is a genus of an extinct family (Barytheriidae) of primitive proboscidean that lived during the late Eocene and early Oligocene in North Africa. The Barytheriidae were the first large size proboscideans to appear in the fossil records and were characterised by a strong sexual dimorphism.

The only known species within this family is Barytherium grave, found at the beginning of the 20th century in the Fayum, Egypt.

More complete specimens have been found since then, at Dor el Talha Libya. In some respects, these animals would have looked similar to a modern Asian Elephant, but with a more slender build.

Eight tusks

The most visible difference, however, would have been the tusks Barytherium had eight very short tusks, four each in the upper and lower jaws, which resembled those of a modern hippopotamus more than those of an elephant. The upper pairs were vertical, while the lower pairs projected forwards from the mouth horizontally. Together, these would have created a shearing action for cropping plants.

Palaeontologists know a lot more about Barytherium's tusks, which tend to preserve better in the fossil record than soft tissue, than they do about its trunk.

This prehistoric elephant had eight short, stubby tusks, four in its upper jaw and four in its lower jaw, but to date no one has unearthed any evidence for its proboscis (which may or may not have looked like that of a modern elephant).


'Deadly' spider forces Crosby family from home

20 May 2011

A spider found in a bunch of bananas forced a Merseyside family to leave their home after they learnt it could be one the world's most poisonous.

Mandy and Darryl Ryan and their three young children moved out of their house in Crosby for eight days.

Mrs Ryan thought the spider was dead and before it ran off she took a photo of it. The picture showed it could be a deadly Brazilian wandering spider.

The family moved back in after Mr Ryan trapped it in a sandwich box.

He wore protective gloves and used a small mirror to look behind kitchen units at the family home on College Road North.

Pet shop

After setting sticky insect traps, the spider was found alive in the dishwasher.

Mrs Ryan said: "I brought the shopping home and noticed in a little bag of bananas that it was all black.

"It looked like one had rotted, so I opened the bag and the spider was sitting on top.

"I thought it was dead so I took a few photos of it. Then all of a sudden it jumped over my hand.

"I tried to catch it with a glass but it escaped into the dishwasher."

The spider is to be passed on to a pet shop which specialises in spiders and lizards.


Wednesday 25 May 2011

Endangered gourmet sea snail could be doomed by increasing ocean acidity

Public release date: 25-May-2011

Increasing levels of ocean acidity could spell doom for British Columbia's already beleaguered northern abalone, according to the first study to provide direct experimental evidence that changing sea water chemistry is negatively affecting an endangered species.

The northern abalone--prized as a gourmet delicacy--has a range that extents along the North American west coast from Baja California to Alaska. Even though British Columbia's northern abalone commercial fisheries where closed in 1990 to protect dwindling populations, the species has continued to struggle, largely due to poaching.

To better understand the impact climate change — and specifically, increasing ocean acidity — has on this endangered species, UBC researchers exposed northern abalone larvae to water containing increased levels of CO2. Increases from 400 to 1,800 parts per million killed 40 per cent of larvae, decreased the size of larvae that did survive, and increased the rate of shell abnormalities.

"This is quite bad news, not only in terms of the endangered populations of abalone in the wild, but also the impact it might have on the prospects for aquaculture and coastal economics," says Christopher Harley, Associate Professor with the Department of Zoology and one of the authors of the study.

"And because the species is already thought to be limited by reproductive output and recruitment, these effects are likely to scale up to the population level, creating greater limits on population growth."

Average CO2 levels in the open ocean hover at 380 parts per million, a number which is excepted to increase slowly over the next century.

What concerns the researchers are the much higher spikes in dissolved CO2 that are already being observed along the BC coast, particularly in late spring and early summer when northern abalone populations are spawning.

The findings were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

"While we're looking at a single species that is culturally important as a source of food and artistic inspiration for many coastal Pacific Northwest First Nations, this information may have implications for other abalone species in other parts of the world," says Ryan Crim, lead author on the paper who conducted the research while a graduate student with the UBC Department of Zoology.

Other species of abalone are farmed around the world, principally in China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. The black, white and pink abalone are also endangered on the west coast--red abalone are still an economically viable food species.

The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and conducted in collaboration with the Bamfield-Huu-ay-aht Community Abalone Project, a small abalone hatchery in Bamfield which has subsequently gone out of business. The dual mission of the hatchery was to produce cultured abalone for high end restaurants, and to restore endangered abalone by culturing and releasing larvae and juveniles to the wild.

Harley and Crim will continue to work with the aquaculture industry to study the effects of acidification on oysters and other shellfish.


Strange sea creature

19 May 2011

According to the Greek mythology, Hippo-campus was a fabulous sea creature with a horse’s head and a fish’s tail and it was believed that they drew Neptune’s chariot, the sea king.

But then what’s in a name? A seahorse is not a horse, instead is a fish unlike a fish. It swims almost upright with a graceful upper body. Its eyes operate independently of each other. Instead of scales it has protective bony plates and possesses a strong tail to grasp vegetation, coral or another seahorse.

There are about 40 species of seahorses in several colours and shapes, who are 5 to 30cm long, survive for one to four years. The most unique feature of these creatures is that instead of the females, male seahorses breed and may rise up to six broods in a single season.

They camouflage against their predators by changing colours or with leafy outgrowths on their body. Due to rigid armour plating, seahorses cannot move swiftly through the water thus glide along slowly. A tiny, vibrating fin at the back acts as propeller, it also helps them to regulate the volume of gases in their bodies thereby controlling their movement.

Interestingly adult male and female seahorses religiously dance every morning to confirm their bonding as well as their territorial rights. They swallow tiny crustaceans and planktons through their long tubular snorts, and anchor themselves in water with their apprehensible tails to seaweeds or other fellow beings to shun danger. Seahorses are found in the world’s warmer coastal waters ~ Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans apart from the north European waters.

Unfortunately, recent times have witnessed their dwindling numbers at a fast pace, mainly due to pollution and climate change. Another major threat is indiscriminate harvesting of the animal particularly in South-East Asia. Over 20 million seahorses are harvested each year and used in the traditional Asian medicines apart from being used as souvenirs.

Thus they are one of the endangered species and measures have been taken to improve their numbers through captive breeding, setting up of reserve marine areas and persuading fishing communities to reduce harvesting.

However, much depends upon our sensibilities and sensitivity.

bratin ghosh, Class VII
The Heritage School


Tuesday 24 May 2011

Greensboro bear reappears near Battleground Avenue

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
(Updated 2:11 pm)

GREENSBORO — The black bear that sauntered through a neighborhood near Battleground Avenue on Sunday reappeared and scrambled up a tree near the busy thoroughfare today.

Tuesday morning, it climbed a tree near Battleground just north of West Cornwallis Drive at Albright Drive. A black bear was spotted on Quail Drive, just a few blocks west, on Sunday.

Joe Nelson, 56, of Summerfield was in the area running errands when he saw several police cars about 10:30 a.m. When he returned about 40 minutes later, he saw a throng of people.

"I just saw the crowd and figured it was the bear again," he said. "Sure enough."

Nelson wasn't the only one. About 11:20 a.m., about 30 people were standing behind yellow police tape on Albright Drive trying to take pictures of the bear.

Suddenly there was a rustling. The bear hit the ground and took off running.

"The bear!" "It's moving."

Most of the spectators hustled behind a hedge in the Cornwallis Square office park, and police strongly suggested that people get in their cars and go home.

The bear didn't go far. It scrambled up an oak tree a short distance away, near 2302 Albright Drive. About 70 feet off the ground, the bear laid down on a fork in the tree like he was settling in for a nap.

Once the bear seemed like he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, the spectators returned with their cameras and cell phones.

Lori Aycock, fresh off a tennis match, swung by with her 2-year-old son Tanner.

"Can you see it?" she said to the boy as she pointed to the bear in the tree.

"Bear!" the boy replied.

"You see it! Can you see how face?"

"Face!" the boy said.

Tamesha Frazier tried to get a picture of the bear with her cell phone, but the thick tree cover and the distance foiled her.

"I've been to the zoo twice this month and I wasn't this excited," Frazier said. "There's a bear in a tree! On Battleground!"

Police, meanwhile, are trying to keep people away from the animal's path.

Police say schools in the area have been notified of the bear's presence. Officials say the bear, which has not been aggressive, is scared and will come down when it no longer feels threatened.


Police offer these tips to discourage bears from roaming in the city:

• Secure bags of trash inside cans stored in a garage, basement or other secure area, and place the cans outside as late as possible on trash pick-up days – not the night before.

• Purchase bear-proof garbage cans or bear-proof your existing garbage container with a secure latching system.

• Stop feeding wild birds during the spring and summer, even with feeders advertised as “bear-proof.” Bears are still attracted to seed that spills on the ground.

• Don't leave pet food outside. If you must feed pets outdoors, make sure all food is consumed and empty bowls are removed.

• Clean all food and grease from barbecue grills after each use. Bears are attracted to food odors and may investigate.

The Wildlife Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for handling incidents of black bears in urban areas.

If you have questions, call the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at (800) 662-7137.


Chapel Hill, Durham police receive several bear sighting reports

By NBC17 Staff
Published: May 23, 2011


Authorities in Chapel Hill responded to several bear sighting reports Monday near the Finley Golf Course.

Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Kevin Gunter says the first report was received at 10 a.m. from someone saying a bear was spotted on the fairway. The bear then made its way to the 18th hole on the golf course, which is part of UNC Campus property.

A bear was then spotted on Highland Woods Drive, which is near Glenwood Elementary School. School officials were made aware of the situation and kept students inside until the bear left the area.

Lt. Gunter says the next report was received was around 12:30 p.m. The caller reported seeing a bear at Otey's Road near 15/501 going into the woodline.

Gunter adds that the bear never posed a threat or destroyed property.

Durham Police spokeswoman Kammie Michaels said they also received reported bear sightings around 7:15 a.m. near I-40 and Fayetteville Road and again, shortly before 8 a.m. near I-40 and NC 751.

Durham Animal Control also said there was a reported bear sighting in a residential area off Guess Road. Animal control officials say bears usually march around from dens around March and April and sometimes in May. A bear was also spotted Sunday night near 540 in Durham.

Last week, Wake County had at least three reported bear sightings, one in Garner, Raleigh, and Cary.


Black bear sighted on UNC's Finley golf course

By Mark Schultz
Staff writer
Posted: Monday, May. 23, 2011

State and local officials have responded to a black bear sighting at UNC's Finley Golf Course in Chapel Hill on Monday.

The bear was sighted on the third hole by golfers who called 911, said Chapel Hill police spokesman Lt. Kevin Gunter. State wildlife officials, Orange County Animal Control and campus police have been sent to the scene.

Last week, there were bear sightings Wednesday in Garner, Thursday in Raleigh and Saturday in Cary.

It’s unclear whether the sightings in Wake County were all of the same bear, though a state wildlife biologist said the sightings in Garner and Raleigh were likely of the same animal.

Biologist Greg Batts said the bear was likely a juvenile who accidentally wandered into the area while looking for a new home.


Sat nav-style technology used to track UK seabirds

24 May 2011

Tiny trackers are being fitted to the backs of seabirds in the UK as part of a Europe-wide effort to better understand their behaviour.

Scientists are tagging birds on the Fair Isle, Orkney and Colonsay in the Hebrides.

The project called Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (Fame) also includes species on Bardsey Island in Wales and the Isles of Scilly.

The RSPB said Fame used technology similar to car sat nav systems.

Trackers are also being fitted to birds in Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal.

Dr Ellie Owen, a scientist working on a European Union-funded project, said very little was known about the movements of birds as they hunted at sea.

She said: "We know more about the journeys of albatrosses in the Southern Ocean than we do about some of the seabirds around our own shores.

"For example, we know how many kittiwakes there are in the UK, and we know they've declined by 30% between 2000 and 2010.

"But we don't know where these ocean travellers are going to fish for their chicks' suppers. But now, just when these birds need our help, we're on the cusp of filling this information void with vitally-important data."

'Dwindling food'

The tracking devices take a reading every 100 seconds, allowing the scientists to accurately pinpoint birds' movements between nesting colonies and the areas of sea the birds use to find food.

The RSPB said the technology was accurate to within a few metres.

In the UK, the Fame project has been tagging fulmar, shag, kittiwake, guillemot and razorbill.

Elsewhere, scientists are involved with other seabirds such as gannet, European storm petrel, Madeiran storm petrel and Balearic and Cory's shearwaters.

Dr Owen, who has fitted trackers to birds on Colonsay, said: "European seabirds face a variety of threats from dwindling food supplies, climate change, entanglement with fishing gear and pollution.

"By recording these birds' movements we are building a greater understanding of their requirements so we can begin to give these species the protection they need."

(Submitted by Dawn Holloway)

Monday 23 May 2011

Forget Nessie... big cat is stalking locals

05-23-2011 14:27

Spooked Loch Ness locals are being terrorized by a new monster - a giant cat that has savaged farm animals and pets, thesun.co.uk reported Saturday.

People living on the banks of the famous lake have urged police to hunt down the black beast amid fears it could attack and even kill a child, the report said.

The big cat has been spotted prowling in hills and around homes, and is thought to be behind maulings of a dog and a lamb.

Katrina Wallace is too afraid to let her three young kids outside at night after hubby Jim glimpsed the animal outside their home by the loch south of Inverness.

The mum, of Bunloit, said: "We have two black labradors and he thought it was one of those but then realized they were inside," according to the Sun.

She has taken photos of the body of a badly mauled lamb that had a large puncture wound on the back of its neck.

One of the family dogs was also attacked ― by something large enough to try to haul the labrador away. Terrified Katrina, 38, said: "The vet said it could only get an injury like that if it had been dragged," the newspaper said.

Highland Councillor Margaret Davidson said: "I believe this is a public safety issue. The police need to take this seriously."


Whipsnade Zoo Celebrates 80th Birthday

23rd May 2011, 14:27

Eight decades of looking after some of the world’s most endangered and exotic animals are marked celebrated at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo today (Monday May 23rd) on its 80th birthday.

Whipsnade first opened its gates on 23rd May 1931 as Europe’s first open zoo and is celebrated today as a much-respected and world renowned conservation and breeding centre.

To mark the big birthday two supersize figures of 8 and 0 in bold red will be mingling with some of the zoo’s favourite animals.

Zoological Director David Field commented on the anniversary and has been telling Heart:

"ZSL Whipsnade Zoo has, in its 80 years, gone from strength to strength, acting as a focus point for education and raising awareness of the plight of some of the world’s most endangered and exotic animals.

“Today it still provides a wonderful day out in an unrivalled setting. At Whipsnade we can honestly say that at the grand old age of 80 – we’ve only just begun.”


Request for hippo for India’s zoo

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP) in Vandalur, India could soon get a female pygmy hippopotamus from the Dehiwala Zoo under the animal exchange programme, ending nearly two decades of wait, Times of India reports.

The zoo in Vandalur, some 31 km from Chennai, has two male pygmy hippos who have been without a mate since 1992. The National Zoological Gardens at Dehiwala in April saw the birth of three pygmy hippos.

“We have sought from them (Colombo Zoo authorities) a female hippo under the animal exchange programme and are expecting a positive response,” India’s zoo director and chief conservator of forests KSSVP Reddy told The Times of India.

Currently, there is no animal exchange programme between the two zoos. But if the deal comes through, it will be a big boost for the captive breeding programme at the park, Indian zoo authorities said. Modalities, including the mode of transportation and the animals that have to be given in return by the Vandalur zoo, will be worked out once a formal letter of willingness is received.

“Once their willingness is conveyed to us, we will request union environment and forests ministry and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) for clearance and a health certificate for the endangered animal mandatory for species brought from abroad,” said zoo sources.

At present, the Vandalur zoo has two male pygmy hippos, 19-year-old Bharati and his father Chubbi. The latter came with a female hippo from the Honolulu zoo in the US in 1990. Two years later, after the birth of Bharati, the mother hippo died. Since then, the two have remained without females.

The widespread prevalence of the foot-and-mouth disease, common among hippos, and bird flu in some western countries convinced the zoo authorities to search for hippos in countries with similar climate and environment, and less cumbersome processes in this regard.

Pygmy hippos, originally inhabitants of West Africa are monogamous and nocturnal herbivores. They have in captivity a lifespan of up to 55 years.

Courtesy Times of India


Basking shark sighted off Cumbrae

Published 23 May 2011 09:30

A basking shark was spotted off the Isle of Cumbrae as the Marine Conservation Society urge shark spotters to record sightings as they happen with their mobile phone.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said that the sharks are once again being spotted in UK coastal waters as they cruise close to the shore, hoovering up vast amounts of plankton through their gaping mouths.

Through their long-running Basking Shark Watch programme, MCS has already been alerted by the public to sightings around Land's End, off the world famous Cobb at Lyme Regis, off Donegal, Northern Ireland, at Dingle and Kerry in southwest Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland.

The first basking shark of the year was seen very early - reported to MCS off the island of Canna, west coast of Scotland - in January, with the next two sightings reported in March, one close to Millport, Scotland and the other close to Newlyn, Cornwall.

As with all sightings of wild animals, MCS urges caution: "These impressive creatures can grow up to 11 metres long and weigh up to seven tonnes and, although they aren't dangerous to humans, their behaviour can be unpredictable and involve sudden leaping out of the water or 'breaching'," said Dr Solandt. "Seven tonnes of flailing basking shark has real potential to spoil your day if you get too close, so we urge people to keep a safe and respectful distance from them."

In collaboration with the Shark Trust, MCS has produced the Basking Shark Code of Conduct, which provides clear guidance on how the public can behave safely around basking sharks. You can find out more at www.mcsuk.org


Appeal to trace tiger toy owner after police alert

A concerned member of the public contacted police
believing the stuffed toy was a real tiger
22 May 2011

Police are trying to trace the owner of a life-sized tiger toy which sparked a major police alert in Hampshire over fears a real animal was on the loose.

Officers were deployed and a helicopter was scrambled with specialist thermal imaging cameras over the field, near Hedge End, on Saturday afternoon.

The scare stopped play at the Rose Bowl cricket ground for 20 minutes.

Hampshire police said the toy was being treated as lost property but they were investigating whether it was a hoax.

They said they did not know how it got there but was similar to one which would be won at a fair.

Tranquiliser darts

The alarm was raised by a member of the public who spotted what they thought was an escaped white tiger hiding in a field, through a camera's zoom lens.

Officers said they had responded as if it was a real incident, close to junction seven of the M27.

The stuffed toy is being treated as lost property
Animal specialists at nearby Marwell Zoo were enlisted by police to offer advice and were prepared to send a team with tranquiliser darts to overcome the tiger.

John Pullen, curator of mammals, said: "We offered advice to the police and we immediately gathered a team of staff who have been trained to deal with situations such as this.

"We were moments away from making the journey when we received a call from police to say it was a stuffed toy."

Golfers at County Golf Club were also escorted from the course and Saturday's cricket game between Hamsphire Academy and South Wilts was suspended for about half an hour.

Tony Middleton, Hampshire Cricket Academy director, added: "Rumours came round that there was a tiger on the golf course and we just carried on playing until a policeman came over and told us to clear the area.

"I assumed there was [a tiger] with everything that was going on, but we felt quite safe here."

Officers discovered it to be a stuffed toy after it rolled over in the down draft from the police helicopter.

"It is being treated as lost property but we don't know how it came to be in the field and whether it may have been a hoax.

"Police are keen to reiterate that they have a duty to protect the public and therefore take calls of this nature as serious as any other calls reporting potential dangers to members of the public," a spokeswoman said.

(Submitted by Sherri Joyce)
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