Friday 30 November 2012

Gaza sewer crocodile captured - via Herp Digest

AL JAZEERA (Doha, Qater) 11/5/12  A crocodile that has been roaming the pipes of the sewer basins network in the besieged Gaza Strip has been captured, according to Bregadier General Mohammed Abu Sissi, a police officer. 

"We have been chasing the crocodile to catch it before it grows more and becomes a real threat for civilians. We have used all possibilities including fishermen and civil defence men to catch it alive. We could have sniped it but we preferred to catch it alive and bring it back to the nearby zoo where it fled from," Abu Sissi said. 

The crocodile, whose length is estimated at 1.7m, has been living in the sewage network for two years according to Rajab al-Ankah, head of the Northern Gaza Sewage Station. 

The crocodile escaped from one of the nearby zoos called Bissan and sought refuge in the sewers,” al-Ankah said, adding that it escaped capture several times. 

“The nets were set up to capture the crocodile, but it managed to escape. The slippery ground in the area around the swamps near Beit Lahia in northern Gaza made the escape easier and the crocodile disappeared once more.” 

According to local residents, the crocodile used to come out of the sewage basins to look for food then disappeared quickly for fear of being captured. 

“It came as a baby and now it is huge and the more it grows the more dangerous it becomes for the residents of the area and their livestock,”  al-Ankah said.

One of the farmers in Beit Lahia had already reported that the crocodile ate two of his goats when they were grazing near one of the sewage basins.  

This raised concerns about the possibility of the crocodile attacking human beings in the future if it was not captured shortly.

Mysterious stranding on Irish beach involved up to 50,000 starfish

By: Pete Thomas,

It was a surreal and somewhat ghostly sight: that of perhaps 50,000 starfish that somehow had come ashore overnight, en masse, and perished on a secluded beach in Ireland. The Belfast Telegraph reports that harsh weather might have been responsible for last week's peculiar and mysterious event, on Lissadell Beach.

Bill Crowe, a marine biologist at Sligo Institute of Technology, theorized that the starfish (also called sea stars) might have been lifted ashore while feeding on mussel beds in the nearshore tidal zone. They were spread over nearly 500 feet of coastline.

"The most likely explanation is that they were feeding on mussels, but it is a little strange that none of them were attached to mussels when they were washed in," Crowe said.

A toxic algae bloom would seem another possible explanation, but no other type of marine life was affected. Only starfish, mostly adult size, were found on the beach.

Equally mysterious is that virtually all of the starfish were dead, meaning they had succumbed surprisingly quickly after coming or being delivered ashore.

Other experts agreed that the most likely explanation is stormy weather, and perhaps high surf that deposited the starfish on the beach.

"They turned up almost certainly as a result of an exceptional storm event," said Tim Roderick, an officer with Ireland's National Parks and Wildlife Service. "A storm hit the seabed where these sub-tidal animals were and lifted them up and washed them ashore."

The bizarre incident, like a smaller-scale die-off that occurred earlier this year on another beach in Ireland, remains under investigation.

Starfish, which can live up to 35 years in the wild, are among the most interesting critters in the world oceans. They possess no brains, and no blood. According to National Geographic: "Their nervous system is spread through their arms and their 'blood' is actually filtered sea water."

They're carnivorous and feed largely on clams, mussels and oysters.

"Using tiny, suction-cupped tube feet, they pry open clams or oysters, and their sack-like cardiac stomach emerges from their mouth and oozes inside the shell," National Geographic explains. "The stomach then envelops the prey to digest it, and finally withdraws back into the body."

It remains unclear who collected the 50,000 dead specimens on Lissadell Beach, and what became of them.

Human Disturbances Keep Elk On High Alert

ScienceDaily (Nov. 28, 2012) — University of Alberta researchers discovered that elk are more frequently and more easily disturbed by humans such as ATV drivers than by their natural predators like bears and wolves.

The U of A researchers, led by biologist Simone Ciuti, spent 12 months in southwestern Alberta. The study involved elk herds made up of females and their offspring. The researchers observed the animals' reactions to different rates of human disturbances in the form of traffic on nearby roads and off-road, all-terrain vehicles.

The elk in the study were found on a variety of land types -- public, private and inside Waterton National Park.

The research data showed that starting with a rate of just one vehicle passing by an elk herd every two hours, the animals became disturbed and more vigilant. In this state the elk consume less food, which can affect their health and possibly their calving success.

The researchers found that the highest level of disturbance happened on public lands where the effect of hunting and ATV use was cumulative.

Largest whale's acrobatic ambush

Blue whales perform underwater acrobatics to attack their prey from below, scientists have found.

The massive mammals are known for lunge-feeding; gulping up to 100 tonnes of krill-filled water in less than 10 seconds.

Using suction cup tags, US researchers have recorded the surprising manoeuvrability of the giants.

They found that the whales roll 360 degrees in order to orientate themselves for a surprise attack.

The results are published in the Royal Society journal Biology Lettersby Dr Jeremy Goldbogen and colleagues for the Cascadia Research Collective based in Washington, US.

"Despite being the largest animals to have ever lived, blue whales still show an impressive capacity to perform complex manoeuvres that are required to efficiently exploit patches of krill," said Dr Goldbogen.

Fighting fish 'take a breather'

Siamese fighting fish take gulps of air from above water so they can continue to clash, say scientists.

Males of the species, known for their aggressive territorial displays, can also take in oxygen from both the air and water.

Scientists analysed how the fish harness this ability in order to maintain energy during a fighting bout.

They found that males incorporate visits to the surface into their battles to boost their oxygen uptake.

"It seems their smaller gills, a result of living in low oxygenated water, cannot keep up with the vigour of the fight, and more air breathing is required," explained Dr Steven Portugal from the Royal Veterinary College, London.

He worked with colleagues from the University of Queensland, Australia on the study published in the journal Comparative Biology and Physiology Part A.

Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) are found throughout south-east Asia where they live in low-oxygenated pools and rice paddies.

IUCN cries foul over trade in python skins but CITES issued 400,000 export licences

International Trade Centre have launched a report - Trade in South-East Asian Python Skins

Study raises concern over international trade in python skins

November 2012. A new study finds that close to half a million python skins are reported as exported annually from South-East Asia. The main importer is the European fashion and leather industry. The study raises concerns over the illegality in parts of the trade, animal welfare issues and the trade's impact on the conservation of python populations.

Concerns raised about legal quotas.
Wildlife Extra raised concerns in May 2012 about the sustainability of the trade in python skins - Purely based on CITES export quotas, which make them legal transactions. One of the striking facts revealed by the 2011 quota is the vast trade in pythons from around the world, but mostly from West Africa & Indonesia. The 2011 quota for pythons was more than 400,000! Now it isn't always possible to tell exactly what that number means, but it includes live animals and skins, and, most worryingly, gall bladders. Why on earth are CITES issuing permits for while IUCN are raising concerns about the trade?

Aside from gall bladders, the annual quota for 2011 of 400,000 items seems totally unsustainable - And when you look closer at the figures more than half of this total is for exports from Indonesia - who have a quota for 212,000 pythons or python skins (and an extraordinary 135,000 spitting cobras too!).

Gall bladder permits - Why?
Why does CITES permit trade in python (or any other) gall bladders when the only demand for them is from sad misguided people who believe that it has curative properties for many ailments. CITES also gave permits for 3000+ kilograms of galls and gall bladders to be exported from Russia to Korea alone (many other permits were given too.

To access the CITES database, please click here.

TREE OF LIFE: You really must play with this (or at least that's what Max told me)

Interpol’s most wanted wildlife criminals

Interpol are stepping up their drive against wildlife crime
November 2012. Interpol maintain a list of their most wanted criminals from around the world, and they have a section for wildlife criminals. The seven men (They are all men) currently listed include 4 from China and one each from USA, New Zealand and Nepal.
Amongst those wanted are Jason Shaw, a New Zealander who ran was at the centre of the biggest animal-cruelty case in the U.S. US officials issued an arrest warrant for Shaw, 37, owner of the pet and wildlife wholesaler U.S. Global Exotics, where agents seized more than 26,000 animals - many dead or dying.

$10 billion per year industry
Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, recently issued a stern warning against illicit trafficking of wildlife products. She announced that the U.S government is keen to pursue a policy on non-trafficking and wildlife security. Clinton said that the global value of illegal wildlife trafficking is as much as $10 billion per year, ranking it as one of the largest criminal transnational activities worldwide along with arms, drugs and human trafficking.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Ancient Microbes Found in Buried Antarctic Lake

Beneath the icy surface of a buried Antarctic lake, in super-salty water devoid of light and oxygen that is also cold enough to freeze seawater, researchers have now discovered that a diverse community of bacteria has survived for millennia.

The findings shed light on the extreme limits at which life can live not just on Earth, but possibly alien worlds, scientists added.

Researchers analyzed Lake Vida, which lies encapsulated within ice at least 60 feet (18 meters) beneath Antarctica's surface. Past studies revealed the brine in the lake has been isolated from the surface for at least 2,800 years.

Read on:

Ice Age warmth wiped out lemmings, study finds

Lemmings became "regionally extinct" five times due to rapid climate change during the last Ice Age, scientists have found.

Each extinction was followed by a re-colonisation of genetically different lemmings, according to the study.

It investigated how Europe's small mammals fared during the era when large numbers of megafauna became extinct.

Previously, experts believed that small mammals were largely unaffected during the Late Pleistocene.

But when the international research team analysed ancient DNA sequences from fossilised remains of collared lemmings (Dicrostonyx torquarus) from cave sites in Belgium, they were surprised by the results.

"What we'd expected is that there'd be pretty much just a single population that was there all the way through," said research team member Dr Ian Barnes from the school of biological sciences at Royal Holloway University in Surrey.

Woman arrested after 'joyriding manatee in Florida'

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez was detained last Sunday at her workplace at Sears for contravening the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act that states it is illegal to 'annoy, molest, harass or disturb' the endangered species.

Two-month-old pictures of her apparently straddling the animal arose via the media following reports a woman was seen riding a manatee at Fort Desoto Park on September 30.
The 53-year-old turned herself into the Pinellas County Sheriff's office a couple of days after the snaps appeared.

She confessed to the illegal ride, saying 'she is new to the area and did not realise it was against the law to touch or harass manatees,' according to the authorities.

If the 53-year-old did indeed joyride, she was lucky to not injure herself as the animals can grow to a massive 12ft (3.7m) and weigh a colossal 1,800 pounds (818 kilograms).

It is not clear what punishment she would face if convicted.

Read more:

Brazilian fisherman chokes to death after trying to hold catch in his teeth

The man was fishing with friends on a beach in Icapui, in the state of Ceara, at the time. 
After he reeled in a sole fish, he had bet with friends that he could hold the catch between his teeth. 

But the sole slipped down his throat and became trapped in his windpipe. 

The man managed to drive two miles to hospital, but collapsed and died when he got there.

Icapui’s police chief Carlos Alberto said doctors removed the fish, but it was too late.

He said: 'It was a silly thing to do, but he didn’t deserve to die because of it.'

On Tuesday the wife of the unnamed man posted a tribute to her husband on a social networking site.

She said: 'Only one thing comforts my heart, that I was the best wife and friend that I could have been. 

'The best woman that I could be, there, in every hour and in every moment.'

Read more:

Military's dogs of war also suffer post-traumatic stress disorder

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Not long after a Belgian Malinois named Cora went off to war, she earned a reputation for sniffing out the buried bombs that were the enemy's weapon of choice to kill or maim U.S. troops.

Cora could roam a hundred yards or more off her leash, detect an explosive and then lie down gently to signal danger. All she asked in return was a kind word or a biscuit, maybe a play session with a chew toy once the squad made it back to base.

"Cora always thought everything was a big game," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Garry Laub, who trained Cora before she deployed. "She knew her job. She was a very squared-away dog."

But after months in Iraq and dozens of combat patrols, Cora changed. The transformation was not the result of one traumatic moment, but possibly the accumulation of stress and uncertainty brought on by the sharp sounds, high emotion and ever-present death in a war zone.

Cora — deemed a "push-button" dog, one without much need for supervision — became reluctant to leave her handler's side. Loud noises startled her. The once amiable Cora growled frequently and picked fights with other military working dogs.
When Cora returned to the U.S. two years ago, there was not a term for the condition that had undercut her combat effectiveness and shattered her nerves. Now there is: canine post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Dogs experience combat just like humans," said Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas Gehring, a dog handler assigned to the canine training facility at Lackland Air Force Base, who works with Cora daily.

Wild coyote attacks, kills family's dog in Hazelwood

HAZELWOOD, Mo. ( -- A Hazelwood couple is grieving after a wild coyote came into their backyard and killed the family's dog.

The coyote attack reportedly happened at a home in the 1300 block of Eagles Way Court on Sunday morning.

The couple told News 4 they let their small dog outside in the morning, then found her dead 10 minutes later in the woods behind the home. Around the same time, the couple says they saw a coyote fleeing from the area.

Some neighbors say the attack has them concerned about the safety of their pets and small children.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reports coyotes are common to the area this time of year, but officials say attacks on dogs are rare.

Because the attack happened in a residential neighborhood, MDC officials say they will investigate and set traps if necessary.

Dogs Hear 'Get the Ball!' Differently Than You

Dogs can learn the names of objects, but they likely focus on different features when learning words than humans do, new research finds.

When toddlers learn words for objects, they focus on shape. This means that once your kid gets that a tennis ball is called a "ball," they're quick to realize the same word applies to beach balls, basketballs and golf balls.

Kids wouldn't, however, assume that a stuffed teddy bear is a ball just because it has the same fuzzy texture as a tennis ball. Nor would they call something a ball just because it is the same size as the balls they are familiar with. This tendency to categorize objects based on shape above other features is called "shape bias."

Darkened Fjord Waters Mean Fewer Fish, More Jellyfish

ScienceDaily (Nov. 19, 2012) — The seawater in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and Norway's coastal waters and fjords is gradually getting darker. Researchers are observing signs similar to those from overproduction of organic compounds. The result may be fewer marine areas with fish, and more jellyfish.

Marine biologist Dag L. Aksnes of the University of Bergen has analysed the impacts of the declining optical conditions in Norwegian coastal waters. The process has likely been taking place over many decades, and there is strong evidence that changes in weather and climate are causing it to accelerate. And it could prove difficult to reverse.

Coloured matter from fresh water causing problems
Fresh water from rivers and lakes flows into the sea, mixing with coastal seawater. "This fresh water contains far more coloured dissolved organic matter (CDOM) than marine water, so our coastal waters are darkening," explains Professor Aksnes.

His research project receives some of its funding from the Research Council of Norway's research programme on the Oceans and Coastal Areas (HAVKYST).

Major differences between fjords
For many years, Professor Aksnes and his colleagues have been studying two fjords, Lurefjorden and Masfjorden, in northern Hordaland county on Norway's western coast. The fjords are similar and located close to each other, but with one important difference: Masfjorden contains far more seawater than Lurefjorden, which contains lower-salinity coastal water all the way down to its seabed. The study shows that while Masfjorden still has an ecosystem dominated by fish, its darker neighbouring fjord is heavily populated by the jellyfish Periphylla periphylla.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Villagers mystified by strange animal

SERIAN: An Indonesian plantation worker and a 75-year-old farmer got the shock of their lives when they were attacked by an unknown animal species in two separate occasions earlier this month.

The farmer, Aris Kuna of Kampung Paon Gahat, was attacked by the rare animal while attending to his pepper garden about noon. The foreigner, however, was attacked a week later at a plantation near Kpg Baing while gathering oil palm fresh fruit bunches around 9am.
The animal that attacked the duo was described as having a ‘bear and wild boar’ resemblance. Fellow workers and villagers who saw the carcass, brought by the Indonesian, could not identify the animal species.

“It’s a rare species. None of the villagers could identify it when we saw the body and pictures of it. Some even took to the Internet to find out but to no avail. Could it be one of those already considered extinct?

“In all my life venturing into the jungle, hunting and such, I’ve never come across this species,” 62-year-old Louis Nyaoi said when met at his house in Kpg Mentung Marau, some 50km from here yesterday.

His son Jimmy Tubo, 27, believed that the rare animal could have reappeared due to the opening of the nearby jungle for agriculture and other developments.

When relating the ordeal of the foreign worker, Jimmy said the Indonesian had claimed that the animal gave a strange noise, firstly sounding like a hen followed by a wild boar sound, before proceeding to attack.

The victim alleged that the animal stood up on its hind legs when charging at him. He immediately swung his sickle, killing the animal instantly.

Jimmy, who works with the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) added that the animal which attacked the Indonesian measured two feet long.

Muscle Powers Spearing Mantis Shrimp Attacks

ScienceDaily (Nov. 22, 2012) — A hungry mantis shrimp may be the last thing that a passing fish sees before it is snatched from the water by the predator. Maya deVries from the University of California, Berkeley, says 'Spearer mantis shrimps stay in their sandy burrows and they wait for a fast-moving prey item to come by, but then they come out of nowhere and grab the prey with their long skinny appendages.' However, little was know about how these vicious predators unleash their lightning-fast attacks.

According to deVries, the spearing shrimp are closely related to smasher mantis shrimps, which pulverise the shells of crustaceans and molluscs with a single explosive blow from their mighty claws. Having decided to find out how the crustaceans unleash their deadly assaults, deVries says, 'We thought that the spearers would be just as fast -- if not faster -- than the smashers because they have a smaller time window in which to capture their prey.' deVries and her colleagues publish their discovery that Lysiosquillina maculata spearer mantis shrimps power their mighty spears with muscle alone while smaller Alachosquilla vicina spearer mantis shrimps use a more conventional catapult mechanism in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

Identical sea snakes are 2 completely different species

University of Queensland researchers discover that the Australian and Asian beaked sea snakes are two unrelated species despite their identical appearance.

Deadly sea snake has a doppelganger
November 2012. Scientists have discovered that the lethal beaked sea snake is actually two species with separate evolutions, which resulted in identical snakes. The University of Queensland's Associate Professor Bryan Fry said the Australian and Asian beaked sea snakes were originally thought to be from the same species, however, in comparing their DNA, the research team had found these two snakes were unrelated.

Could have been a fatal mistake
"This mixup could have been medically catastrophic, since the CSL sea snake antivenom is made using the venom from the Asian snake based on the assumption that it was the same species," Associate Professor Fry said.

"Luckily, the antivenom is not only very effective against the Australian new species but actually against all sea snakes since they all share a very stream-lined fish-specific venom."

Convergent phenotypic evolution phenomenon
Associate Professor Fry said the finding was an example of a situation where two species evolved separately but ended up looking similar, known as the convergent phenotypic evolution phenomenon.

Associate Professor Fry said that the ‘beaked' morphology of the species could be associated with the extremely specialised niche the snakes occupy, even though both species evolved from different ancestors and were not even close relatives. He added that the two species occupy the same specialised habitat of silt-filled shallows of tropical estuaries throughout the Asian and Australian regions.

Responsible for many deaths
These snakes are responsible for the majority of deaths and injuries to fishermen handling nets in these habitats.

New species of lion discovered - In Ethiopian zoo?

DNA confirms genetically distinct lion population for Ethiopia
November 2012. A team of international researchers has provided the first comprehensive DNA evidence that the Addis Ababa lion in Ethiopia is genetically unique and is urging immediate conservation action to preserve this vulnerable lion population.

Large and darker manes
While it has long been noted that some lions in Ethiopia have a large, dark mane, extending from the head, neck and chest to the belly, as well as being smaller and more compact than other lions, it was not known until now if these lions represent a genetically distinct population.

Genetically distinct from all lion populations
The team of researchers, led by the University of York, UK, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, has shown that captive lions at the Addis Ababa Zoo in Ethiopia are, in fact, genetically distinct from all lion populations for which comparative data exists, both in Africa and Asia.

The researchers compared DNA samples from 15 Addis Ababa Zoo lions (eight males and seven females) to lion breeds in the wild. The results of the study, which also involved researchers from Leipzig Zoo and the Universities of Durham and Oxford, UK, are published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.

Antarctic marine wildlife is under threat, study finds

Marine snails in seas around Antarctica are being affected by ocean acidification, scientists have found.

An international team of researchers found that the snails' shells are being corroded.

Experts says the findings are significant for predicting the future impact of ocean acidification on marine life.

The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The marine snails, called "pteropods", are an important link in the oceanic food chain as well as a good indicator of ecosystem health.

"They are a major grazer of phytoplankton and... a key prey item of a number of higher predators - larger plankton, fish, seabirds, whales," said Dr Geraint Tarling, Head of Ocean Ecosystems at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and co-author of the report.

The study was a combined project involving researchers from the BAS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of East Anglia's school of Environmental Sciences.

MEPs vote to close 'shark finning' loopholes

By Mark Kinver Environment reporter, BBC News

Loopholes in current EU measures were not offering enough protection to sharks, said campaigners

MEPs have voted to close loopholes that allowed some EU fishing vessels to continue "shark finning".

Although the EU banned removing shark fins at sea and discarding the body, special permits allowed finning to continue legally.

Conservation groups, which said finning was threatening shark numbers, welcomed the European Parliament's decision.

The decision to back the European Commission's plans means the details will now be considered by EU ministers.

The resolution was adopted with 566 votes in favour, 47 against and 16 abstentions.

"Parliament's vote represents a major milestone in the global effort to end the wasteful practice," said Sandrine Polti, EU shark policy adviser for the Pew Environmental Group and the Shark Alliance.

"[We have] been working towards this and other fundamental reforms in European shark policies for more than six years and are thrilled with today's vote and the progress we expect to stem from it."

Largest Network Of Marine Reserves Announced

WDC’s contributions to work helping to secure the world’s largest network of marine reserves in Australia is paying off following the news today (16th November) that a new national network of reserves are to be created by law from midnight.

The law will ensure that more than 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean will now be permanently protected. Work on how the zones within these marine ‘parks’ will be managed will now begin.

"Australia now has, by a long shot, the world's largest network of marine reserves," says Erich Hoyt, WDC Research Fellow who heads its Global Marine Protected Area Programme. "It's a model for every country to emulate. WDC is pleased to have been able to be involved from the early stages, particularly in the Southwest Marine Region in the selection of proposed critical habitats to include whales and dolphins, and in the Coral Sea in terms of driving support for the highest levels of protection. We now look forward to working with our Australian partners on the management plans to make these marine reserve networks effective."

The new marine reserves have been proclaimed in five of Australia’s six large marine regions. These include the South-West Marine Region which extends from South Australia to Shark Bay in Western Australia is of global significance as a breeding and feeding ground for a number of protected marine species such as southern right whales, blue whales and the Australian Sea Lion.  Features in the South-West region include the Perth Canyon – an underwater area bigger than the Grand Canyon -- and the Diamantina Fracture Zone – a large underwater mountain chain which includes Australia’s deepest water. Also protected is the North-west Marine Region which stretches from the Western Australian-Northern Territory border through to Kalbarri and provides protection to the world’s largest population of humpback whales that migrate annually from Antarctica to give birth in the water off the Kimberley.

Other areas protected are:
The Coral Sea Region
The Temperate East Marine Region
The North Marine Region
The South-east Marine Region

Find out more about our campaigns to create homes for whales and dolphins.

Council threatens dinosaur extinction

Mining magnate Clive Palmer bragged about his life size replica dinosaur being an attraction at the prestigious PGA Championships Golf event on the same day a Sunshine Coast councillor voiced concerns about the billionaire's "tacky" plans.

Mr Palmer has previously announced plans to build 150 robotic dinosaurs at his Palmer Coolum Resort and has already erected a life size T-Rex he has nicknamed "Jeff", widely interpreted as a dig at Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney though Mr Palmer denies it.

The resort plays host to the Australian PGA Championship from December 13 and more than 36,000 spectators are expected at the grounds.

Sunshine Coast councillor Russell Green said the plans for 150 dinosaurs were tacky and Mr Palmer was in danger of turning the prestigious resort into a "version of Looney Tunes".

‘‘It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t pleased, it is just ridiculous,’’ he said.

Cr Green said he did not know if he would oppose the erection of 149 more dinosaurs as ‘‘you can’t pre-judge an application’’ but if Mr Palmer pushed forward with the plans the resort would become a theme park.

Read more:

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Rare Bryde's whale killed by ship in New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf

Whale death in Hauraki Gulf highlights urgent need to address ship strike problem
November 2012. A necropsy on a Bryde's whale found dead on New Zealand's Motuihe Island has confirmed that the whale was hit by a vessel, highlighting the urgent need to address the ship strike problem to save the critically endangered population of Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf. The dead Bryde's whale was a female measuring 14.5 metres long.

New Zealand is one of the few places in the world with a resident population of Bryde's whale. The New Zealand population of Bryde's whales lives primarily in the Hauraki Gulf and is listed as critically endangered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).This is because it is small and reliant for its survival on one location. There are less than 200 Bryde's whales living in the gulf.

Killed by a ship
DOC Auckland Area biodiversity manager Phil Brown said "The necropsy has confirmed the Bryde's whale was alive when it was struck by a vessel and died as a result of the injuries it received. Ship strike poses the greatest threat to Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. This latest death highlights the urgent need to take action to address this problem,"

16 ship strikes in 16 years
In the last 16 years there have been 42 confirmed deaths of Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf. Eighteen of these dead whales were examined and 16 are most likely to have died as the result of being struck by a vessel.

DOC is working with a wide number of organisations and agencies to address the ship strike issue. The Environmental Defence Society, the Hauraki Gulf Forum and the University of Auckland have convened two workshops attended by shipping interests, iwi, DOC and other government agencies to develop a plan of action.

American Samoa ends shark fin trade & shark fishing in coastal waters

Territory now has strongest shark protections in U.S.
November 2012. American Samoa, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean, implemented a series of measures to protect sharks within its waters. Shark fishing is now banned in its territorial waters, and the sale, possession, and distribution of fins and other shark parts, is prohibited.

"Sharks have been an important part of our ocean, reef and cultural environments," said Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono. "Their disappearance would be devastating to the environment and our Samoan culture. An ocean without sharks is completely inconceivable to me. Sharks have supported the health of our ocean, our fisheries and our economy, and should remain that way for generations to come. American Samoa is committed to playing a serious role in ensuring that these wonderful animals survive for our future."

Last US Pacific Territory to ban shark fishing
Changes made this week to American Samoa's fishing regulations by the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources support an executive order the governor signed in August. American Samoa is the final U.S. territory in the Pacific to forbid the trade of shark fins. The Northern Mariana Islands and Guam banned the practice in 2011. Hawaii also prohibited the trade of shark fins, in 2010.

"American Samoa, through these important actions, has now closed off the flow of shark fins through the U.S. Pacific islands," said Jill Hepp, director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "Pacific island leadership is helping these animals, threatened by overfishing, to keep their place as apex predators. We are very pleased that American Samoa joins the growing chorus of Pacific island voices in support of shark conservation."

At the top of the food chain, sharks are critically important to maintaining balance for marine life. A recently released scientific study showed that only 4 to 8 percent of American Samoa's historic reef shark populations remain. Globally, up to 73 million sharks are killed each year, largely for their fins to supply the demand for shark fin soup.

"Their decline has risks for ocean health, but it's not too late for American Samoa's sharks," said Mike King, director of the Coalition of Coral Reef Lovers. "By taking action to protect the sharks of American Samoa, Samoans not only preserve their natural living resources but the linkage to the ocean that is so important to their heritage, Fa'asamoa, the Samoan way of life."

Eating Right Key to Survival of Whales and Dolphins

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2012) — In the marine world, high-energy prey make for high-energy predators. And to survive, such marine predators need to sustain the right kind of high-energy diet. Not just any prey will do, suggests a new study by researchers from the University of British Columbia and University of La Rochelle, in France.

Published November 21 in the online journal PLOS ONE, the study is the first to show that the survival of whales and dolphins depends on the quality of their diets and this plays an important role in conservation.

"The conventional wisdom is that marine mammals can eat anything," says co-author Andrew Trites, a marine mammal expert at UBC. "However, we found that some species of whales and dolphins require calorie rich diets to survive while others are built to live off low quality prey -- and it has nothing to do with how big they are."

The team compared the diets of 11 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, and found differences in the qualities of prey consumed that could not be explained by the different body sizes of the predators. The key to understanding the differences in their diets was to look at their muscle performance.

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