Sunday 30 September 2012

How ‘Silent Spring’ Ignited the Environmental Movement – via Herp Digest

By ELIZA GRISWOLD, New York Times September 21, 2012, On June 4, 1963, less than a year after the controversial environmental classic “Silent Spring” was published, its author, Rachel Carson, testified before a Senate subcommittee on pesticides. She was 56 and dying of breast cancer. She told almost no one. She’d already survived a radical mastectomy. Her pelvis was so riddled with fractures that it was nearly impossible for her to walk to her seat at the wooden table before the Congressional panel. To hide her baldness, she wore a dark brown wig. 

“Every once in a while in the history of mankind, a book has appeared which has substantially altered the course of history,” Senator Ernest Gruen­ing, a Democrat from Alaska, told Carson at the time.

“Silent Spring” was published 50 years ago this month. Though she did not set out to do so, Carson influenced the environmental movement as no one had since the 19th century’s most celebrated hermit, Henry David Thoreau, wrote about Walden Pond. “Silent Spring” presents a view of nature compromised by synthetic pesticides, especially DDT. Once these pesticides entered the biosphere, Carson argued, they not only killed bugs but also made their way up the food chain to threaten bird and fish populations and could eventually sicken children. Much of the data and case studies that Carson drew from weren’t new; the scientific community had known of these findings for some time, but Carson was the first to put them all together for the general public and to draw stark and far-reaching conclusions. In doing so, Carson, the citizen-scientist, spawned a revolution.

“Silent Spring,” which has sold more than two million copies, made a powerful case for the idea that if humankind poisoned nature, nature would in turn poison humankind. “Our heedless and destructive acts enter into the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves,” she told the subcommittee. We still see the effects of unfettered human intervention through Carson’s eyes: she popularized modern ecology.

If anything, environmental issues have grown larger — and more urgent — since Carson’s day. Yet no single work has had the impact of “Silent Spring.” It is not that we lack eloquent and impassioned environmental advocates with the capacity to reach a broad audience on issues like climate change. Bill McKibben was the first to make a compelling case, in 1989, for the crisis of global warming in “The End of Nature.” Elizabeth Kolbert followed with “Field Notes From a Catastrophe.” Al Gore sounded the alarm with “An Inconvenient Truth,” and was awarded the Nobel Prize. They are widely considered responsible for shaping our view of global warming, but none was able to galvanize a nation into demanding concrete change in quite the way that Carson did.

What was it that allowed Carson to capture the public imagination and to forge America’s environmental consciousness?

Saint Rachel, “the nun of nature,” as she is called, is frequently invoked in the name of one environmental cause or another, but few know much about her life and work. “People think she came out of nowhere to deliver this Jeremiad of ‘Silent Spring,’ but she had three massive best sellers about the sea before that,” McKibben says. “She was Jacques Cousteau before there was Jacques Cousteau.”

The sea held an immense appeal to a woman who grew up landlocked and poor as Carson did. She was born in 1907 in the boom of the Industrial Age about 18 miles up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh, in the town of Springdale. From her bedroom window, she could see smoke billow from the stacks of the American Glue Factory, which slaughtered horses. The factory, the junkyard of its time, was located less than a mile away, down the gently sloping riverbank from the Carsons’ four-room log cabin. Passers-by could watch old horses file up a covered wooden ramp to their death. The smell of tankage, fertilizer made from horse parts, was so rank that, along with the mosquitoes that bred in the swampland near the riverbank called the Bottoms, it prevented Springdale’s 1,200 residents from sitting on their porches in the evening.

Her father, Robert Carson, was a ne’er-do-well whose ventures inevitably failed; Carson’s elder sister, Marian, did shift work in the town’s coal-fired power plant. Carson’s mother, Maria, the ambitious and embittered daughter of a Presbyterian minister, had great hopes that her youngest daughter, Rachel, could be educated and would escape Springdale. Rachel won a scholarship to Pennsylvania College for Women, now known as Chatham University, in Pittsburgh. After graduation, she moved to Baltimore, where she attended graduate school for zoology at Johns Hopkins University and completed a master’s degree before dropping out to help support her family. The Carsons fared even worse during the Depression, and they fled Springdale, leaving heavy debts behind.

Carson became a science editor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency founded under the New Deal. Eager to be a writer, she freelanced for The Atlantic and Reader’s Digest, among other publications. Driven by her love of the sea, she wrote on everything from where to go for summer vacation to what to do with the catch of the day to the life cycles of sea creatures. Carson believed that people would protect only what they loved, so she worked to establish a “sense of wonder” about nature. In her best-selling sea books — “The Sea Around Us,” “The Edge of the Sea” and “Under the Sea-Wind” — she used simple and sometimes sentimental narratives about the oceans to articulate sophisticated ideas about the inner workings of largely unseen things.

Carson was initially ambivalent about taking on what she referred to as “the poison book.” She didn’t see herself as an investigative reporter. By this time, she’d received the National Book Award for “The Sea Around Us” and established herself as the naturalist of her day. This was a much folksier and less controversial role than the one “the poison book” would put her in. Taking on some of the largest and most powerful industrial forces in the world would have been a daunting proposition for anyone, let alone a single woman of her generation. She tried to enlist other writers to tackle the dangers of pesticides. E.B. White, who was at The New Yorker, which serialized Carson’s major books, gently suggested that she investigate pesticides for The New Yorker herself. So she did.

“Silent Spring” begins with a myth, “A Fable for Tomorrow,” in which Carson describes “a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.” Cognizant of connecting her ideal world to one that readers knew, Carson presents not a pristine wilderness but a town where people, roads and gutters coexist with nature — until a mysterious blight befalls this perfect place. “No witchcraft,” Carson writes, “no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.”

Carson knew that her target audience of popular readers included scores of housewives. She relied upon this ready army of concerned citizens both as sources who discovered robins and squirrels poisoned by pesticides outside their back doors and as readers to whom she had to appeal. Consider this indelible image of a squirrel: “The head and neck were outstretched, and the mouth often contained dirt, suggesting that the dying animal had been biting at the ground.” Carson then asks her readers, “By acquiescing in an act that causes such suffering to a living creature, who among us is not diminished as a human being?”

Her willingness to pose the moral question led “Silent Spring” to be compared with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” written nearly a century earlier. Both books reflected the mainstream Protestant thinking of their time, which demanded personal action to right the wrongs of society. Yet Carson, who was baptized in the Presbyterian Church, was not religious. One tenet of Christianity in particular struck her as false: the idea that nature existed to serve man. “She wanted us to understand that we were just a blip,” says Linda Lear, author of Carson’s definitive biography, “Witness for Nature.” “The control of nature was an arrogant idea, and Carson was against human arrogance.”

“Silent Spring” was more than a study of the effects of synthetic pesticides; it was an indictment of the late 1950s. Humans, Carson argued, should not seek to dominate nature through chemistry, in the name of progress. In Carson’s view, technological innovation could easily and irrevocably disrupt the natural system. “She was the very first person to knock some of the shine off modernity,” McKibben says. “She was the first to tap into an idea that other people were starting to feel.”

Carson’s was one of several moral calls to arms published at the start of the ’60s. Jane Jacobs’s “Death and Life of American Cities,” Michael Harrington’s “Other America,” Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed” and Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” all captured a growing disillusionment with the status quo and exposed a system they believed disenfranchised people. But “Silent Spring,” more than the others, is stitched through with personal rage. In 1960, according to Carson’s assistant, after she found out that her breast cancer had metastasized, her tone sharpened toward the apocalyptic. “She was more hostile about what arrogant technology and blind science could do,” notes Lear, her biographer.

“No one,” says Carl Safina, an oceanographer and MacArthur fellow who has published several books on marine life, “had ever thought that humans could create something that could create harm all over the globe and come back and get in our bodies.” Safina took me out in his sea kayak around Lazy Point, an eastern spoke of Long Island, to see three kinds of terns, which zipped around us over the bay. We then crossed the point in his red Prius to visit thriving osprey, one species of bird that was beginning to die out when “Silent Spring” made public that DDT weakened their eggshells. As we peered through binoculars at a 40-foot-high nest woven from sticks, old mops and fishnets, a glossy black osprey returned to his mate and her chicks with a thrashing fish in his talons. Safina told me that he began to read “Silent Spring” when he was 14 years old, in the back seat of his parents’ sedan.

“I almost threw up,” he said. “I got physically ill when I learned that ospreys and peregrine falcons weren’t raising chicks because of what people were spraying on bugs at their farms and lawns. This was the first time I learned that humans could impact the environment with chemicals.” That a corporation would create a product that didn’t operate as advertised —“this was shocking in a way we weren’t inured to,” Safina said.

Though Carson talked about other pesticides, it was DDT — sprayed aerially over large areas of the United States to control mosquitoes and fire ants — that stood in for this excess. DDT was first synthesized in 1874 and discovered to kill insects in 1939 by Paul Hermann Müller, who won the Nobel Prize in 1948 for this work. During World War II, DDT applied to the skin in powder form proved an effective means to control lice in soldiers. But it wasn’t just DDT’s effectiveness that led to its promotion, Carson maintained; it was a surfeit of product and labor. In her speeches, Carson claimed that after the war, out-of-work pilots and a glut of the product led the United States government and industry to seek new markets for DDT among American consumers.

By the time Carson began to be interested in pesticides, in the mid-1940s, concerns related to DDT were mounting among wildlife biologists at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Md., which was administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and elsewhere. Controversy over pesticides’ harmful effects on birds and plants led to high-profile lawsuits on the part of affected residents who wanted to stop the aerial spraying.

Carson used the era’s hysteria about radiation to snap her readers to attention, drawing a parallel between nuclear fallout and a new, invisible chemical threat of pesticides throughout “Silent Spring.” “We are rightly appalled by the genetic effects of radiation,” she wrote. “How then, can we be indifferent to the same effect in chemicals that we disseminate widely in our environment?”

Carson and her publisher, Houghton Mifflin, knew that such comparisons would be explosive. They tried to control the response to the book by seeking support before publication. They sent galleys to the National Audubon Society for public endorsement.

The galleys landed on the desk of Audubon’s biologist, Roland Clement, for review. Clement, who will turn 100 in November, currently lives in a studio on the 17th floor of a retirement community in New Haven, about a mile from Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where Carson’s papers are kept. “I knew of everything she wrote about,” he told me over lunch at his home this summer. “She had it right.”

The book, which was published on Sept. 27, 1962, flew off the shelves, owing largely to its three-part serialization in The New Yorker that summer. “Silent Spring” was also selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club, which delighted Carson. But nothing established Carson more effectively than her appearance on “CBS Reports,” an hourlong television news program hosted by a former war correspondent, Eric Sevareid. On camera, Carson’s careful way of speaking dispelled any notions that she was a shrew or some kind of zealot. Carson was so sick during filming at home in suburban Maryland that in the course of the interview, she propped her head on her hands. According to Lear as well as William Souder, author of a new biography of Carson, “On a Farther Shore,” Sevareid later said that he was afraid Carson wouldn’t survive to see the show broadcast.

The industry’s response to “Silent Spring” proved more aggressive than anyone anticipated. As Lear notes, Velsicol, a manufacturer of DDT, threatened to sue both Houghton Mifflin and The New Yorker. And it also tried to stop Audubon from excerpting the book in its magazine. Audubon went ahead and even included an editorial about the chemical industry’s reaction to the book. But after “Silent Spring” came out, the society declined to give it an official endorsement.

The personal attacks against Carson were stunning. She was accused of being a communist sympathizer and dismissed as a spinster with an affinity for cats. In one threatening letter to Houghton Mifflin, Velsicol’s general counsel insinuated that there were “sinister influences” in Carson’s work: she was some kind of agricultural propagandist in the employ of the Soviet Union, he implied, and her intention was to reduce Western countries’ ability to produce food, to achieve “east-curtain parity.”

But Carson also had powerful advocates, among them President John F. Kennedy, who established a presidential committee to investigate pesticides. Then, in June 1963, Carson made her appearance before the Senate subcommittee. In her testimony, Carson didn’t just highlight the problems that she identified in “Silent Spring”; she presented the policy recommendations she’d been working on for the past five years. When faced with a chance to do so, Carson didn’t call for a ban on pesticides. “I think chemicals do have a place,” she testified.

She argued vehemently against aerial spraying, which allowed the government to dump pesticides on people’s property without their permission. She cited dairy farmers in upstate New York, whose milk was banned from the market after their land was sprayed to eradicate gypsy moths. As Carson saw it, the federal government, when in industry’s thrall, was part of the problem. That’s one reason that she didn’t call for sweeping federal regulation. Instead, she argued that citizens had the right to know how pesticides were being used on their private property. She was reiterating a central tenet of “Silent Spring”: “If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.” She advocated for the birth of a grass-roots movement led by concerned citizens who would form nongovernmental groups that she called “citizen’s brigades.”

The results of her efforts were mixed, and even her allies have different opinions of what Carson’s legacy actually means. Carson is widely credited with banning DDT, by both her supporters and her detractors. The truth is a little more complicated. When “Silent Spring” was published, DDT production was nearing its peak; in 1963, U.S. companies manufactured about 90,000 tons. But by the following year, DDT production in America was already on the wane. Despite the pesticide manufacturers’ aggression toward Carson and her book, there was mounting evidence that some insects were increasingly resistant to DDT, as Carson claimed. After Roland Clement testified before the Senate subcommittee, he says, Senator Abraham Ribicoff, the Democrat from Connecticut who was chairman of the committee, pulled him aside. “He told me that the chemical companies were willing to stop domestic use of DDT,” Clement says, but only if they could strike a bargain: as long as Carson and Clement would accept the companies’ continued export of DDT to foreign countries, the companies would consider the end of domestic use. Their message was clear, Clement says: “Don’t mess with the boys and their business.”

Though Clement was a supporter of Carson’s, he believes that she got both too much credit and too much blame after “Silent Spring” came out. “It’s a fabrication to say that she’s the founder of the environmental movement,” Clement says. “She stirred the pot. That’s all.” It wasn’t until 1972, eight years after Carson’s death, that the United States banned the domestic sale of DDT, except where public health concerns warranted its use. American companies continued to export the pesticide until the mid-1980s. (China stopped manufacturing DDT in 2007. In 2009, India, the only country to produce the pesticide at the time, made 3,653 tons.)

The early activists of the new environmental movement had several successes attributed to Carson — from the Clean Air and Water Acts to the establishment of Earth Day to President Nixon’s founding of the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1970. But if “Silent Spring” can be credited with launching a movement, it also sowed the seeds of its own destruction.

The well-financed counterreaction to Carson’s book was a prototype for the brand of attack now regularly made by super-PACs in everything from debates about carbon emissions to new energy sources. “As soon as ‘Silent Spring’ is serialized, the chemical companies circle the wagons and build up a war chest,” Souder says. “This is how the environment became such a bitter partisan battle.”

In a move worthy of Citizens United, the chemical industry undertook an expensive negative P.R. campaign, which included circulating “The Desolate Year,” a parody of “A Fable for Tomorrow” that mocked its woeful tone. The parody, which was sent out to newspapers around the country along with a five-page fact sheet, argued that without pesticides, America would be overrun by insects and Americans would not be able to grow enough food to survive.

One reason that today no single book on, say, climate change could have the influence that “Silent Spring” did, Souder argues, is the five decades of political fracturing that followed its publication. “The politicized and partisan reaction created by ‘Silent Spring’ has hardened over the past 50 years,” Souder says. Carson may have regarded “Silent Spring” and stewardship of the environment as a unifying issue for humankind, but a result has been an increasingly factionalized arena.

Carson was among the first environmentalists of the modern era to be charged with using “soft science” and with cherry-picking studies to suit her ideology. Fifty years later, the attacks on Carson continue. Her opponents hold her responsible for the death of millions of African children from malaria; in Michael Crichton’s novel “State of Fear,” one character says that “banning DDT killed more people than Hitler,” a sentiment Crichton publicly agreed with. The Web site, which is run by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy group based in Washington, makes a similar charge: “Today, millions of people around the world suffer the painful and often deadly effects of malaria because one person sounded a false alarm.”

But much of Carson’s science was accurate and forward-looking. Dr. Theo Colborn, an environmental health analyst and co-author of a 1996 book, “Our Stolen Future,” about endocrine disrupters — the chemicals that can interfere with the body’s hormone system — points out that Carson was on the cutting edge of the science of her day. “If Rachel had lived,” she said, “we might have actually found out about endocrine disruption two generations ago.”

Today, from Rachel Carson’s old bedroom window in Springdale, you can see the smokestacks of the Cheswick coal-fired power plant less than a mile away: an older red-and-white, candy-striped stack and a newer one, called a scrubber, installed in 2010 to remove sulfur dioxide. It later needed repairs, but with the approval of the Allegheny County Health Department, it stayed open, and the plant operated for three months without full emission controls. The plants says it is in compliance with current E.P.A. emissions standards for coal-fired plants, though new ones will take full effect in 2016.

Springdale’s board of supervisors supports the plant’s business. As David Finley, president of Springdale Borough put it, the noise from the plant used to bother a handful of residents, but it “sounds like money” to many others. The plant buys fresh water from an underground river that runs through the borough and has paid for things like Little League uniforms and repairs to the municipal swimming pool. Springdale has been nicknamed “Power City” since the days Carson lived there. The high-school sports teams are called the Dynamos; their mascot is Reddy Kilowatt, the cartoon character of the electricity lobby.

A few months ago, two citizens in Springdale volunteered to be representatives in a class-action suit, which charges that the coal-fired plant “installed limited technology” to control emissions that they claim are damaging 1,500 households. One of the plaintiffs, Kristie Bell, is a 33-year-old health care employee who lives in a two-story yellow-brick house with a broad front porch, a few blocks from Carson’s childhood home. Bell said it was “Silent Spring” that encouraged her to step forward. “Rachel Carson is a huge influence,” Bell said, sitting at her kitchen table after work on a sultry evening last summer. “She’s a motivator.” For Bell, Carson’s message is a call to mothers to stand up against industry to protect the health of their families.

Detractors have argued that the lawsuit is the creation of personal-injury attorneys. (Because of the difficulty of making a clear health case, the plaintiffs are claiming property damage caused by corrosive ash.) But Bell said that it’s not about money. “I never sit outside on my front porch because I don’t know what’s coming out of that smokestack,” she said. One hundred years ago, when Carson was a child, residents of Springdale had the same concern — one that informed Carson’s worldview. “When we start messing around with Mother Nature,” Bell said, “bad things happen.”

Eliza Griswold is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship.

Editor: Sheila Glaser

New Jersey Meadowlands -Diamondback Terrapins & other turtles may be falling prey to poacher - via Herp Digest

September 20, 2012, by Brian Anderson, Staff Writer,, Turtles in the Hackensack River may be falling prey to poachers. The Riverkeeper contends he witnessed poachers attempting to set traps recently. The turtles were saved as the poachers’ boat wouldn’t start. 

But for Captain Bill Sheehan of the Hackensack River, it was a disconcerting sight to see a group of men, armed with turtle traps, looking to trap the diamond terrapins in the Hackensack River a few weeks ago. Sheehan said though this group of men wasn’t able to hunt any turtles that day (their boat broke down while still on shore), they had a permit from the state of New Jersey to hunt and sell turtles, and were looking to sell the turtles for human consumption.

Sheehan said the permit allowed them to trap turtles in three rivers: the Passaic, Hackensack and Rahway.

"That’s what upset me most about these guys—they had a permit," he said.

Sheehan said these turtles live longer than other aquatic life in the Meadowlands, and eat the smaller creatures found in the river. It’s a problem because the Hackensack River has a history of pollution. These turtles likely accumulate contaminants from the river. If the turtles are eaten, Sheehan said, the "bioaccumulation" becomes part of the individual who eats the turtle.

Sheehan said the men told him they were planning on selling the turtles to restaurants in other states, such as New York’s Chinatown.

However, officials from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) say there is no permit for hunting diamondback terrapin turtles, and that selling turtles is illegal in the state.

Bob Considine, a spokesman at the NJDEP, said the agency grants only one type of permit in regards to diamond terrapins. Under a study/collection permit, researchers and scientists can learn about the diamond terrapins found in New Jersey waters. The study must be approved and must show to have a positive effect on the species’ conservation, public welfare or the environment, he said.

"This permit does not allow someone to collect these animals to keep them long term," Considine said. "Catching diamondback terrapins is not permitted in the state, and violators can face a fine."

Diamondback terrapins can often be found in the marshes of the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area, along the banks of the Hackensack River, and other Meadowlands marshes. Three native species of Meadowlands turtles—the diamondback terrapin, the painted turtle and snapping turtle—regularly sun themselves along the marshy banks.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) is currently conducting a study on the diamondback terrapin, said Mike Newhouse, NJMC researcher. A group of researchers have been studying the diamondback terrapin population in the Hackensack River since 2009. Hundreds of turtles have been tagged since the study began, and researchers at the NJMC continue to tag turtles—a sign that the population of the diamondbacks in the Hackensack River is likely growing.

Last year, DEP issued 39 permits for studying these turtles, according to officials. When scientists apply for the permit, they must indicate where they will be working and what the study is about.

Both Sheehan and the DEP say that turtle meat, especially form turtles in the Hackensack River, could contain toxins and contaminates as a result of long-term pollution in the Hackensack River. The blue claw crabs found in the Hackensack River are highly polluted, and along the banks of the river, signs advise against eating the crabs.

Diamondback terrapins and blue claw crabs both feed on similar food—small invertebrates, fish and vegetation on the riverbed. Though there is no official ban or advisory on consumption of turtle meat, Considine advises against it.

"However, one can assume is if there are crabbing or fishing restrictions in that area, other creatures can accumulate contaminants in their system, and caution is urged," Considine said.

Considine confirmed there is no trapping permit for terrapin turtles, but the state does permit the hunting on snapping turtles throughout New Jersey. Residents with a valid fishing license can catch up to three snapping turtles per day, and hunting season for snapping turtles is between Jan. 1 - April 30, and June 16 - Dec. 31.

Whether they are hunted or admired from a distance, Meadowlands area turtle species are a pleasant sight to behold.

State inmates raise frogs, butterflies to aid researchers - via Herp Digest

By Phuong Le, Littlerock, Thurston County, AP 9/22/12 — Taylor Davis has dedicated himself to saving endangered Oregon spotted frogs. He spends hours each day tending to eggs or doting on tadpoles, feeding, nurturing and meticulously recording their development. 

He's in no hurry.

"We have nothing but time here," said the 28-year-old Davis. "It's perfect for a prison setting."

Washington state inmates such as Davis have been working as ecological research assistants, partnered in recent years with scientists doing conservation projects. Their efforts include breeding threatened butterflies and growing native flowers and prairie grasses.

The programs are part of a push by the state Department of Corrections that has gained momentum lately, with one project earning an expansion grant from a federal agency this year and prison officials from across the country visiting Washington penitentiaries in recent weeks to inspect the various projects.

At Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a medium-security prison in Western Washington, Davis and another inmate, Mathew Henson, have been nurturing a batch of small, black-spotted frogs that will be ready for release into the wild Monday.

Freedom for the frogs will be an ironic twist. Davis is serving 10 years for stealing cars. And Henson is doing more than five years for robbery and assault.

But both have earned a high level of confidence.

"It's quite a leap of faith to let someone handle endangered frog eggs," said Dan Pacholke, prisons director for the state Department of Corrections.

Prison officials say it's a logical pairing. They consider inmates ideal candidates for conservation projects because they can work in a controlled environment and have a lot of time to dedicate. The research also allows inmates to contribute to a broader social good, officials say.

Pacholke codirects the Sustainability in Prisons Project, a partnership with The Evergreen State College that involves regional zoos, nonprofit groups, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other state and federal agencies.

"We have inmates at the table who are making substantive contributions" to science, said Carri LeRoy, a faculty member at Evergreen who codirects the project.

Their efforts have gained the attention of the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency, which gave the sustainability project money to explore spreading such work to prisons across the nation.

Corrections officials from states as far-flung as Maryland, Ohio and Utah visited prisons across Washington state this month to see some of the programs in action.

In one project, at the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair, Mason County, inmates last year began helping state biologists, the Oregon Zoo and others breed an orange-and-black-flecked butterfly known as the Taylor's checkerspot.

The offenders had success in their first season as more than 700 Taylor's checkerspots were released onto south Puget Sound prairies this year. The inmates also raised more than 3,600 caterpillars for release next year, about 50 percent more than expected.

A Department of Defense grant paid for a new greenhouse at the prison because the military has an interest in boosting the rare butterflies' declining population.

The Taylor's checkerspot is a candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, and one of its prime habitats is near an artillery range at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. If the butterfly becomes federally protected, the military could be forced to change how it operates to protect the insect's habitat, project officials said.

Inspired by the frog program and other operations, a Washington State University professor this year began working with inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla to raise and tag monarch butterflies to track their migratory path.

In their first attempt, the inmates were able to raise about 500 butterflies from a batch of about 600 to 700 eggs.

David James, associate professor of entomology at WSU, said, "If we reared them, we'd be lucky to have half (that survival rate)."

James explained that prisoners are uniquely equipped to do the work.

"Often when you're rearing butterflies, you need to spend a lot of time with them. You can't just go away for the weekend or leave the lab overnight," he said, adding "there's no doubt that this type of program can be beneficial to them, as well as conservation and scientific research."

At Cedar Creek, south of Olympia, Davis and Henson spend time noting frog deformities or deaths and feeding them crickets — many of which they raise in a shed outside the prison fences.

They earn about 42 cents an hour, less than other prison jobs such as making furniture, but Henson said it's worth it.

"The research helps a very big cause," said Henson, 25, who explained the frogs face decline because of habitat loss and predators such as bullfrogs. "Being on the forefront of this research is payment enough."

Added Davis: "It's a good job. It's something different in a prison setting."

The battle to find sasquatch

The sasquatch is just waiting to be discovered in B.C., but too few want to admit or investigate it, says a Vancouver Island wildlife biologist and author.

"And we have what has to be the best sasquatch habitat anywhere on the planet right here on the B.C. coast," said Courtenay's John Bindernagel, author of the 2010 book The Discovery of the Sasquatch.

"The question for me is no longer 'Does the sasquatch exist or not?' but 'Why has the existence of the sasquatch been resisted for so long?' " Bindernagel said.

Now 70, he believes enough sightings, tracks and other evidence of the large ape-like sasquatch - Coast Salish for hairy man - have been collected to provide evidence of the creature's existence in B.C. and North America.

Bindernagel has collected casts of massive, human-like tracks from Strathcona Provincial Park and even heard a "whoo, whoo, whoop" call. It's similar to a chimpanzee's call in Uganda, but he believes it is a sasquatch calling out for its own kind.

Bindernagel comes to the investigation of the sasquatch as a scientist. He studied at the University of Guelph and the University of Wisconsin and holds a PhD in wildlife biology. He has worked in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America, teaching, conducting research, surveys and preparing and implementing wildlife management plans and conservation measures before returning to Vancouver Island, where he worked as a consultant.



If you're a patient at Rhode Island's Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, there's one visitor you don't want stopping by your bed: a white and tortoiseshell cat named Oscar.
Not because Oscar isn't friendly -- by all accounts he is -- but because according to a doctor who works there, David Dosa, Oscar has the mysterious power to predict who's going to die.
He is said to wander the building, stopping to see patients who only have a short time to live -- in some cases surprising the staff with the predictions. The cat is credited with correctly predicting at least 50 deaths at the nursing home over the past five years.
Oscar first rose to prominence in 2007 when Dosa wrote a piece in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine about the cat, and later in a popular 2010 book titled "Making the Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat."
What might explain Oscar's strange powers?

'Dragon' rumours scare Kashmir residents

Authorities in Kashmir have launched a hunt for a 'large mysterious' lizard, which created panic in a village in the outskirts of the capital Srinagar. 

People in Lawaypora locality are frightened for the past couple of days after an 'unusual lizard-like' creature appeared in the
village. Nobody in the village knows exactly what the creature is. Rumours were rife across the city that "a great African lizard" has appeared. Others talked about the giant carnivorous Komodo dragon walking through roads in the locality.

"Scared villagers informed us about a very big reptile, something which is unheard of in the valley," said Ghulam Mohiuddin, station house officer of the concerned police station. He said wildlife officials were informed on Friday and they had now set up a trap to nab the reptile.

"We have laid a snare at the mouth of a septic trench as the residents said the creature went inside it and had not appeared since then," said wildlife warden at the nearby Hokersar wetland, Abdul Rouf.

The official said he believed the creature would probably be a monitor lizard. "If we go by what the villagers described, then I think it is surely a monitor lizard, which is usually 3 feet long. These creatures move around at night and we are hopeful we'll catch hold of it," he added.


Dingo repopulation could control feral animals

Scientists say governments need to seriously consider reintroducing dingoes to the landscape in order to protect vulnerable native species.

Dingoes cause hundreds of thousands of dollars damage each year to livestock and there have been huge efforts to cull them by laying poisonous baits and shooting them.
But this has allowed feral species like cats and foxes to thrive and experts say the current approach is counter-productive.
About 40 per cent of the country's native species are listed as threatened or close to extinction, thanks to the explosion in numbers of feral cats and foxes.
Dr Tony Friend, the president of the Australian Mammal Society, says trying to control these animals is a losing battle.

"We are getting reasonably good at controlling foxes in the local areas but cats are a huge problem, partly exacerbated by removing foxes, so once the foxes are taken out, cats do well and basically step into the feet of the foxes," he said.
Research is being conducted Australia-wide to see if bringing back dingoes will help control these pests.

One recent study in South Australia's north recorded a reduction in feral cat and fox numbers with the introduction of dingoes.

Wildwood defends badgers against the cull - via Gavin Lloyd Wilson

As the first badgers in England are about to be slaughtered under Government license Wildwood Trust are coming to their defence.
The story behind why the badgers are being killed has been explored by Wildwood Trust Chief Executive, Peter Smith, in a campaign video being sent to the Canterbury based charities’ 54,000 members and available on their website & on YouTube.  Wildwood Trust is calling on their supporters to join Dr Brian May OBE, & sign the Government e-petition he has created and push it over the 100,000 signatures needed to make the issue debated in Parliament.
Watch the Wildwood Campaign Video here :
Click here for the Government e-petition:
In the film, Peter, a conservation scientist whose first degree was in Medical Biochemistry, investigates the science between badgers, TB and the cattle industry. Peter uncovers the myths behind the science and just who is peddling those myths for their own economic advantage.
Peter comments:
“There is no good science that links badgers with the spread of TB in cows, but for nearly 40 years the factory farming lobby have used badgers as a scapegoat to disguise criminal activity, poor farming practices and profiteering that are the real causes of the spread of bovine TB”
“This appalling and senseless slaughter of badgers has many origins; discredited science, financial interests, animal cruelty & criminality have come together to try and disguise the plain and simple truth that it is modern framing practices that is causing the spread of Bovine tuberculosis.”
Peter, who has studied and lectured on how we can create economic systems that boost the economy and wildlife, has proposed an innovative set of solutions that can save the taxpayer money and solve the crisis of TB in cows. These are quickly implementable solutions that can save British farming, cows and badgers until advances in vaccines can be implemented on the ground.
These include:
·         Abolishing taxpayer subsidies that encourage illegal and damaging farming practices and to replace subsidies with private insurance of cattle farmers that rewards good animal husbandry and financially punishes illegal and poor farming practice
·         Shifting the economic policies to favour Land Value Taxes to stop monopolies from forming in the food chain that exploit government subsidies and poor farming practices. Such a policy would also make lower intensity cattle farming more economically competitive & favor less densely packed cattle herds, thus reduce Bovine TB transmission.
·         Reintroducing the strict cattle quarantine systems of the post war period that eliminated Bovine TB, the abolition of these practices being chiefly responsible for the health problem we see today
·         Invest in proper, unbiased, scientific research into Bovine TB and effective control through cattle vaccinations.
Click here for the Government e-petition:

Saturday 29 September 2012

Yikes! This Fish Sports a Penis With 4 Hooks

Scientists have described a new species of fish in Mexico with a male that has some fearsome genitalia. Equipped with four hooks, the male's sex parts might allow him to grab onto a resistant female during mating, researchers say.

The freshwater llanos mosquitofish, or Gambusia quadruncus, was described this month in the Journal of Fish Biology by a team led by researcher Brian Langerhans of North Carolina State University. Langerhans explained that the male's hooked genitals may be a counter-response to the female's own defenses against undesirable mates.

"Typically, reproduction is more costly in females, so females favor ways of reducing mating with 'lower quality' males, but reproduction is cheap in males and so selection favors ways of mating with as many females as possible," Langerhans said in a statement.

Whale of a Tale: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Arctic Adventure

The surgeon aboard the whaling vessel Hope was often covered in the blood of seals and other animals, his clothes frozen enough that he'd have to stand next to the ship's stove to thaw before undressing.
A first-time sailor, he wasn't supposed to take part in the clubbing of seals, but he did, and repeatedly fell into the frigid waters, nearly freezing to death.

A journal by the young man, written at age 20 in 1880, was published yesterday. The author? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


'Scar free healing' in mice may give clues to human skin repair, says study

Mice with brittle skin, which tears off in order to escape predators, may offer clues to healing wounds without scarring, according to US researchers.

Some African spiny mice lost up to 60% of the skin from their backs, says the study published in the journal Nature.

Unlike wounds in other mammals, the skin then rapidly healed and regrew hairs rather than forming a scar.

Scientists want to figure out how the healing takes place and if it could apply to people.

Salamanders, some of which can regrow entire limbs, are famed for their regenerative abilities. It has made them the focus of many researchers hoping to figure out how to produce the same effect in people.

Mammals, however, have very limited ability to regrow lost organs. Normally a scar forms to seal the wound.

Great ape habitat in Africa has dramatically declined

Great apes, such as gorillas, chimps and bonobos, are running out of places to live, say scientists.
They have recorded a dramatic decline in the amount of habitat suitable for great apes, according to the first such survey across the African continent.
Eastern gorillas, the largest living primate, have lost more than half their habitat since the early 1990s.
Cross River gorillas, chimps and bonobos have also suffered significant losses, according to the study.
Details are published in the journal Diversity and Distributions.
"Several studies either on a site or country level indicated already that African ape populations are under enormous pressure and in decline," said Hjalmar Kuehl, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who helped organise the research.

Abundance of Spiders Weaving Scores of Webs

Above-average temperatures from the spring and summer have created the ideal conditions for spiders to thrive in many U.S. locations.
More spiders, of course, also means more spiderwebs. Why are there so many spiders? Does the increase in spiders mean a harsher winter?

Michael Raupp, a professor with the University of Maryland Department of Entomology, has the answer.

Read on:

Dolphin shot in Louisiana

Dead dolphin found in Louisiana died from bullet lodged in animal's lung
September 2012. Marine law enforcement staff (NOAA) and US marine mammal experts received a report a bottlenose dolphin that had been found dead on Elmer's Island in Louisiana. A necropsy revealed the dolphin died of a gunshot wound; the dolphin had been shot on the right side just behind the blowhole, probably with a small calibre firearm. The bullet was discovered lodged in the dolphin's lung. 

Not the first time a dolphin has been shot
In June 2006, Don G. Walker, the Captain of a fishing boat in Alabama, pleaded guilty to shooting of a dolphin in the Gulf of Mexico.

Members of a fishing party complained to officials that Don Walker had shot at a dolphin that was attempting to eat a fish off a fishing line. A member of the party took a picture of a bullet spraying the water near the dolphin.

Don Walker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to pay $1,000.00 fine. In addition, he was required to make a $1,000.00 contribution to the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida for the development of a public service announcement reminding others of the consequences of harassing bottlenose dolphins.

Reward offered
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) is offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal and cruel acts that led to the death of a protected bottlenose dolphin.
NOAA officials seek information from anyone who may have details of this incident. Please call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline as soon as possible at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.
Harassing, harming, killing or feeding wild dolphins is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Violations can be prosecuted either civilly or criminally and are punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation.

'Zombie' Honeybees Spread Along West Coast

Earlier this year, researchers discovered that fly parasites were turning honeybees across the San Francisco Bay area into disoriented, zombie-like wanderers that dropped dead with maggots ready to burst out of their bodies. Other cases were reported in commercial hives in South Dakota and central California. And now the parasite has hit honeybees in Oregon and Washington State, the researchers confirmed.
Scientists first reported the discovery of the Apocephalus borealis infections in January. Several months later, they launched, a website that tracks where the "zombie" bees have been documented. The group encourages citizen scientists to send in samples of dead bees they think might be infected with the parasite — a strategy that led to the confirmation of more cases along the West Coast.

"I joke with my kids that the zombie apocalypse is starting at my house," novice beekeeper Mark Hohn told The Seattle Times. Hohn collected dead honeybees on his property in Kent, near Seattle, and sent them to the researchers.


18 Beluga whales in captivity for shipment to Georgia Aquarium

Help WDCS stop 18 whales being condemned to imprisonment and an early death
September 2012. The US Georgia Aquarium is seeking to import 18 wild-caught belugas from the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia. Belugas in this area were subject to intensive hunting until the early 1960s and the population is still recovering. 

The Aquarium's excuse for the import request is that the captive beluga collection makes an important contribution to marine conservation and public education and is necessary to maintain the captive breeding population in the US.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) rejects these excuses
The commercial display industry plan to use Russian transport planes to carry the whales to Belgium - where the whales will undergo multiple transfers between shipment containers and airplanes before flying to the US and becoming the property of the Georgia Aquarium. This will subject the whales to considerable stress. Man-made noise like jet engines is a known stressor for whales, which have very sensitive hearing. It is simply not acceptable to put the whales through this - it is inhumane and violates the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.
They will be subjected to attempts at ‘breeding.' Yet, despite five decades of effort, the captive beluga breeding programme has been unsuccessful. As a result, the commercial captive industry seeks new whales to replenish its ‘stocks'.

Friday 28 September 2012

Immediate actions planned to conserve Scottish wildcat

Recent research showed that Scottish wildcat faces extinction within months
September 2012. A range of national actions to save the Scottish wildcat look set to be agreed over the next six months. The move follows the first-ever meeting of a diverse group of land management, research and conservation organisations (see below).
The main threat to wildcats is hybridisation with feral domestic cats which raises many challenges in correctly identifying wildcats from often fleeting sightings. The first action agreed by the group was an immediate targeted survey to identify the best surviving populations of wildcats. Survey work will be coordinated with the intention of identifying key regions to focus research and conservation actions within.
Other possibilities discussed included innovative approaches such as captive breeding and translocation of cats in the wild. However, the current emphasis is to obtain more up to date information on wildcat numbers and distribution which in turn will be used to prioritise action on the ground.
The group aims to have a comprehensive action plan underway by next spring forming a Scotland-wide approach to wildcat conservation overseen by SNH.

Scientists Predict Major Shifts in Pacific Ecosystems by 2100

ScienceDaily (Sep. 23, 2012) — What if you woke up every day to find that the closest grocery store had moved several miles farther away from your home? Over time, you would have to travel hundreds of extra miles to find essential food for yourself and your family. This is potentially a scenario faced by thousands of marine animals affected by climate change.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change examines the distribution of various open ocean animals in the North Pacific and explores how that could change over the next century as global ocean temperatures increase and productivity levels shift. The researchers conclude that some critical ocean habitats could undergo significant changes in location, moving more than 600 miles from where they are now, while other habitats could remain relatively unchanged.

Among large animals, loggerhead turtles, some sharks and blue whales may face the harshest impacts of climate change while some seabirds may actually benefit. Not only are species at risk, but also coastal communities and industries could feel the impact since top predator habitat shifts can result in the displacement of fisheries and ecotourism, such as whale watching.


Rhino carnage - 9 rhinos killed in 1 day in KwaZulu-Natal and 3 in India

Will this only stop when there are no more rhinos left?
September 2012. Reports from South Africa have revealed a terrible day for rhino conservation in KwaZulu Natal. 8 white rhinos were killed at Hluhluwe/Umfolozi, the park where they were rediscovered in 1895 having been thought extinct. KwaZulu Natal has suffered much less than other parts of South Africa from the scourge of rhino poaching, until now. Additionally, a black rhino was killed at iSimangalo Wetland Park (see more below) and a further white rhino was deemed to have died of natural causes.
Dead rhinos spotted from the air
The dead white rhinos were first spotted by Ezemvelo's Bantom aerial surveillance plane before game scouts joined the search. Finally, the carcasses of seven poached white rhinos were found in the Ngqumeni area of the Hluhluwe section of KZN's Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP). One was a pregnant cow with her foetus dead. Another was a dead cow but Ezemvelo saved her infant and took it to the game capture bomas for protection. Two other poached rhinos were found in Ndumo Game Reserve and the black rhino at iSimangaliso Park.
Altogether nine rhinos were found poached whilst one other was found but it was ascertained it had died of natural causes. Ezemvelo recovered the horns from one of the poached rhino.

Famous Begging Dolphin Found Dead

A dolphin known as "Beggar" for his tendency to approach boaters for food has been found dead, possibly as a result of his poor diet.

Beggar was found floating in the water near Albee Road Bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway in Sarasota, Fla., on Friday (Sept 21). His body was partially decomposed, making it impossible to determine the exact cause of death. However, the dolphin's digestive tract contained fishing hooks, squid beaks (not usual prey for dolphins in the area) and ulcers, suggesting that humans may have contributed to his demise.

According to the Mote Marine Laboratory, for the past 20 years, Beggar has been hanging out in the area where he was found dead. He was known to approach boats looking for food. During 100 hours of observations over several months in 2011, researchers with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program observed Beggar interacting with humans 3,600 times. People tried 169 times to feed Beggar an impressive range of 520 foods, including beer and hot dogs. On 121 occasions, boaters tried to pet the dolphin. Nine times, they were bitten for their efforts.


Scientists Reveal Vampire Squid's Strange Eating Habits

(ISNS) -- The sinisterly named vampire squid dwells in water far too harsh for any of its relatives. Now scientists find it survives there by feeding on unliving matter instead of live prey, unlike any known living squid or octopus.

The creature's scientific name Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which means "vampire squid from hell," was awarded for skin that can look black, eyes that can appear red, and cape-like webbing between its arms. It has a relatively small body reaching up to 5 inches long, which has a gelatinous consistency similar to a jellyfish.

The name "vampire squid" is actually a misnomer. Although Vampyroteuthis is a cephalopod just as squid, octopuses, cuttlefish and nautiloids are, it is the only known living member of a distinct order of animals. Like octopuses, it has eight arms; like squid, it has two extra limbs, but while squid possess a pair of feeding tentacles used to catch prey, Vampyroteuthis has two retractable filaments up to eight times the length of its body that have puzzled researchers for years.


Human Brains Outpace Chimp Brains in Womb

ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2012) — Humans' superior brain size in comparison to their chimpanzee cousins traces all the way back to the womb. That's according to a study reported in the September 25 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that is the first to track and compare brain growth in chimpanzee and human fetuses.

"Nobody knew how early these differences between human and chimp brains emerged," said Satoshi Hirata of Kyoto University.

Hirata and colleagues Tomoko Sakai and Hideko Takeshita now find that human and chimp brains begin to show remarkable differences very early in life. In both primate species, the brain grows increasingly fast in the womb initially. After 22 weeks of gestation, brain growth in chimpanzees starts to level off, while that of humans continues to accelerate for another two months or more. (Human gestation time is only slightly longer than that of chimpanzees, 38 weeks versus 33 or 34 weeks.)

Read on:

Bees Decrease Food Intake, Live Longer, When Given Compound Found in Red Wine

ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2012) — The idea that drinking red wine may provide health benefits -- or possibly even extend your life -- is an appealing thought for many people. Now, there may be added attraction. Researchers have found that when given resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, bees consume less food.

Previous scientific studies on resveratrol show that it lengthens the lifespan of diverse organisms ranging from unicellular yeast to fruit flies and mice. Since bees are social animals like humans, a team of scientists from Arizona State University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and Harvard Medical School, decided to test the effects of the chemical on the honey bee.

In a series of experiments published in the journal Aging, the scientists tested the effects of resveratrol on the lifespan, learning ability, and food perception in honey bees.


RSPG go batty at Westonbirt Arboretum

Nocturnal explorers are being invited to grab their torches and wrap up warm on an RSPB guided bat evening at Westonbirt Arboretum.

As dusk falls, bat enthusiasts from RSPB will be on-hand to give participants an extraordinary glimpse of the lives of these elusive and fascinating creatures.

“Fourteen species of bat have previously been recorded at Westonbirt - only 18 species exist in the UK in total - so we should be spoilt for choice when it comes to seeing and hearing them on this event” said on-site RSPB Information Assistant Amy Martin.

“I’ve seen suspect Brown Long-eared bats hawking insects at Westonbirt,” elaborated Matt Brierley, RSPB’s People Engagement Officer for Gloucestershire, “but we’ve never picked them up on a detector. We’re in for an exciting evening.”

Bat detectors will be provided to work out what species are encountered as they fly about hunting for food, which could include rare species like barbastelle bats.

Booking for this event, which will be held on Saturday 6th October, is essential. £5 per person. Spaces are extremely limited so please book early. For more information please call Amy Martin on 07747618141 or email

For more information about Westonbirt Arboretum, which is managed by the Forestry Commission, visit

Thursday 27 September 2012

Urban Coyotes Never Stray: New Study Finds 100 Percent Monogamy

ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2012) — Coyotes living in cities don't ever stray from their mates, and stay with each other till death do them part, according to a new study.

The finding sheds light on why the North American cousin of the dog and wolf, which is originally native to deserts and plains, is thriving today in urban areas.

Scientists with Ohio State University who genetically sampled 236 coyotes in the Chicago area over a six-year period found no evidence of polygamy -- of the animals having more than one mate -- nor of one mate ever leaving another while the other was still alive.

This was even though the coyotes exist in high population densities and have plenty of food to eat, which are conditions that often lead other dog family members, such as some fox species, to stray from their normal monogamy.

To cat around, as it were.


Inquiry launched into neonicotinoid safety

Buglife applaud Committee inquiry on bees and neonicotinoids

September 2012. Yesterday the Environment Audit Committee launched a new inquiry into the impact of insecticides on insects.

Matt Shardlow, Buglife CEO said "Bees, butterflies and hoverflies across Britain applaud this announcement. There is robust scientific evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides have dire effects on bees and other pollinators - Government continues to dismiss the mounting evidence on increasingly flimsy grounds; this is not a sustainable position."

In light of Defra's review of research into neonicotinoid insecticides and bees published on the 18th September 2012 the Committee will investigate whether Defra's decision not to take action is justified with the available evidence.

Matt Shardlow, Buglife CEO said "For four years Buglife has been campaigning for a precautionary ban on Neonicotinoid insecticides - in all that time the Government has failed to produce evidence that these chemicals are safe. This enquiry should focus on the key legal question - has it been proven than these pesticides are not damaging key parts of our environment"

Asiatic cheetahs forced to hunt livestock

Asiatic cheetahs, one of the world's most endangered animals, are forced to eat livestock in areas where their wild prey is in decline, a study has found.

An international team of scientists working in Iran investigated what the animals ate in places where game numbers had been reduced by poachers.

They found the cats had turned to hunting domestic animals because they could not survive on smaller prey.

Safeguarding the cats needs a clamp down on poaching, the scientists found.

The study is published in the Journal of Arid Environments and addresses a conflict that emerged among Iranian conservationists over the Asiatic cheetah, a subspecies of the cheetah that is "critically endangered" according to the IUCN's Red List.

Read on:

Minke whale found on Northumberland beach dies

A female 26ft (8m) minke whale has been put down after it was stranded on a North Sea beach in Northumberland.

Experts from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDLMR) charity went to her aid when she was found in Druridge Bay at about 07:00 BST.

A vet was also called out and the whale was assessed as being too thin to be returned to the sea.

Veterinary surgeon Sam Prescott said: "The most humane thing to do was going to be euthanasia."First stranding

Mr Prescott added: "Myself and other vets have now done that and it's now a case of salvaging the whale and making it available for post-mortem.

Read on:

United Nations discuss wildlife crime for the first time

UN recognizes wildlife crime as threat to rule of law

September 2012. Poaching and the illicit trafficking of wildlife products were raised on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly for the first time on Monday 24th September , during discussions on strengthening national and international governance.

World leaders gathering in New York for the global body's 67th annual meeting highlighted wildlife trafficking along with other severe threats to the rule of law such as corruption and drug running.

Estimated to be worth $5 billion
In a written statement, permanent Security Council member United States highlighted "the harm caused by wildlife poaching and trafficking to conservation efforts, rule of law, governance and economic development." The rapidly-growing illicit international trade in endangered species products, such as rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger parts, is now estimated to be worth $5 billion per year globally.

Read on:

UK’s most wildlife friendly farmer is in Wiltshire

Wildlife and food production together

September 2012. Henry Edmunds, of Cholderton Estate in Wiltshire, has been crowned the UK's most wildlife-friendly farmer 2012. Henry is the first English winner of the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award having received the highest number of votes out of the 17,000 cast by members of the public. Cholderton is a mixed organic farm, and their motto is 'sustainable agriculture in practice'. Henry has spent more than 30 years balancing modern agriculture and the preservation of the countryside.

Corn bunting, lapwing and grey partridge
On the farm Hampshire Downs sheep graze chalk grassland that is alive with flowers and buzzing with insects, including rare bumblebees, moths and butterflies. Corn bunting, lapwing and grey partridge thrive amongst the crops, alongside the diminutive harvest mice and rare arable plants such as cornflower and pheasant's-eye. This abundance of wildlife sits neatly alongside food production where the harvest delivers a healthy landscape, economy and environment.

Tracé Williams, speaking for the RSPB in Wiltshire, said: "Cholderton Estate is an impressive example of what it's possible to achieve for wildlife within a commercial farming system, and shows that conservation needn't clash with profitability."

Henry Edmunds said; "I am delighted to win the Nature of Farming award for 2012. This represents the culmination of many years of habitat improvement on the Cholderton Estate. The whole process has been underpinned by the organic farming regime which has allowed many rare and endangered plants, birds and butterflies to flourish. The farming system is based on permanent and temporary grassland with mixed cropping, with an emphasis on sustainability. Large areas of chalk downland are being restored and populations of ground nesting birds like Lapwings are encouraged and protected."


7-foot-long leatherback sea turtle released off coast of Harwich Saturday after 2 days of care

A 655-pound leatherback sea turtle that had been stranded in thick mud in Truro Wednesday night was released off the coast of Harwich Port Saturday morning, New England Aquarium officials said.

A Massachusetts Audubon Society staff member spotted the 7-foot long black male turtle in Pamet Harbor Wednesday night, as high tide approached, said Connie Merigo, the aquarium’s rescue director.

Aquarium staff and volunteers, along with Audubon Society and International Fund for Animal Welfare staff, brought the turtle to the aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy near dawn Thursday.

The sea turtle was about 100 pounds underweight, had low blood sugar, and an older injury on his front right fin, Merigo said.

“When he first got here he was fairly lethargic, especially out of the water,” head veterinarian Dr. Charles Innis said.

The turtle, which aquarium staff members did not name, was given an injectable sugar solution, vitamin and mineral supplements, steroids, and antibiotics to stave off infection, Innis said.

“We were fairly aggressive with this turtle because we have not been successful the last two leatherbacks we’ve had,” Innis said.

In the last 40 years, the New England Aquarium has only encountered four other leatherback turtles on shore. One, found in Chatham, was released and likely died shortly after. Another died on the beach as Aquarium workers tried to care for it.


Scottish Budget: RSPB Scotland call on budget to ‘invest in nature’

As the Scottish Government proposes its draft budget to Parliament, RSPB Scotland has said there is a need for adequate Government spending to ensure the country’s outstanding natural environment is protected and restored.

RSPB said as well as being important in its own right, such investment would contribute to ‘green growth’ by underpinning many industries including tourism, farming and crofting, fishing and Scotch Whisky. It would also help maximise the contribution of nature to the fight against climate change.

RSPB Scotland will be seeking a number of commitments when Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP delivers his Draft Budget for 2013-2014 including continuation of adequate funding for Scotland’s agri-environment schemes, to support farmers and crofters choosing to manage land in an environmentally friendly manner; a real commitment of £12m a year over ten years to fund peatland restoration across Scotland, both for its wildlife value but also for its carbon storage and capturing capacity; and adequate resources for Scotland’s statutory nature conservation body, SNH, and other public bodies, such as SEPA, the National Parks, etc, so that they can grasp the challenges of managing and protecting our special wildlife sites (SSSIs) and that of meeting the Government’s 2020 targets for biodiversity.


Wednesday 26 September 2012

3 separate ivory seizures in Kenya totalling more than 380 ivory tusks as well as 5 rhino horns

Largest seizure in Kenya in recent history
September 2012. Two suspects were arrested and 317 pieces of raw elephant ivory, weighing 2 tonnes, and five rhino horns were seized at Nairobi Airport. Investigations are continuing over the source and sender and recipient of the illegal cargo, which had been disguised as avocado fruits. 

The tusks may have been collected from natural deaths of about 150 elephants over the last 20 years, and DNA tests will be conducted to determine the tusks actual origin.
The cargo was destined for export to Malaysia via Dubai. The cargo which was falsely declared as containing only fresh avocado fruits was packed in 12 wooden boxes which raised a red flag due to its mode of package, weight and destination.
The ivory was packed amongst avocado fruits and wrapped in black polythene paper and banana leaves in wooden boxes. This packaging was intended to disguise the true content of the cargo to evade security detection. 
This is the largest seizure of elephant ivory in Kenya in the recent past which has caused great concern to law enforcers and conservationists as Kenya continues to experience increased elephant and rhino poaching.
62 pieces ivory seized
On September 14th, 62 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 255 kilograms were seized at Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta Airport (JKIA). The tusks were packed in two metallic boxes, labelled as ‘avocados'. However, they were detected and seized by a joint security team comprising of the Kenya Airports Police Unit, the Kenya Revenue Authority (Customs Department) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
The cargo had been sprayed with pepper and tobacco to avoid detection by sniffer dogs.
Preliminary investigation reveals that the cargo was destined for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, aboard Qatar Airways via Doha.
Third seizure
Police in Kenya also arrested a man who was found with two elephant tusks and four pieces of fake ivory.

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