Saturday 30 November 2013

Loch Lomond goat cull: Sanctuary offers to re-house animals and update

An animal sanctuary has offered to re-home feral goats from the eastern shore of Loch Lomond to prevent them being culled.

Hillside Animal Sanctuary urged RSPB Scotland to halt the cull, which is being carried out to protect Pollochro Woods.

The area is viewed as a site of special scientific importance.

RSPB Scotland said it would consider alternatives solutions in March, but that the cull will continue until then.

Challenges of habitat management update
29 Nov 2013 12:47 PM 
Recently there has been some coverage about goats at our Inversnaid Reserve. Our previous blog explained the specialness of the reserve and the reasons that we need to control the goats at the site.

In the past 2 days we have been alerted to the suggestion that we have rejected an offer from an animal sanctuary in Norfolk to provide a home for the goats of Inversnaid. This is not the case. In the past 24 hours we have been in contact with Scotland for Animals, who have identified themselves as the organisation that set up the offer from the Norfolk animal sanctuary and we will be meeting with them shortly to discuss options.

Cat Stuck On Viaduct Rescued After 2-Day Mission By Firefighters (VIDEO)

A curious cat was stuck atop a Manchester, U.K. viaduct, blissfully unaware that firefighters were trying to save him for two days.

The black-and-white kitty was finally snared by a humane trap Thursday night, Manchester Evening News reports. Officials named him Lucky and are seeking a new home.

Lucky was first spotted on a ledge, 90 feet above a railway in Stockport on Wednesday afternoon. Kishore Kapoor, 55, who works at a cabinet making shop under the viaduct, saw Lucky and alerted the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, according to the Daily Mail.

At the time, Kapoor was worried about the little guy's safety.

The Elephant Emergency - One killed every 15 minutes

The African elephant is the world’s biggest land mammal; walking the earth at a dignified pace, the elephant has earned its place in the folklore and legend of many cultures. But this impressive creature is being slaughtered at alarming rate for it’s ivory: it is estimated one elephant is killed every 15 minutes. Check the time now; mark the moment the next grey giant falls. An emergency summit addressing the problems of the illegal ivory is to be held in Gaborone, Botswana at the beginning of December. 

President Ian Khama of Botswana will open the summit, and Heads of State and representatives of African elephant range countries will be in attendance, along with high-level representatives from transit and destination countries.

The summit will aim to address the following topics: penalties for ivory trading, law enforcement, population monitoring and public awareness. 

Forest giraffe joins growing number of threatened species

November 2013: The okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, and the national symbol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is now on the brink of extinction the IUCN has declared in its latest red list update. 

The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a close relative of the giraffe and unique to the rainforests of the DRC. It has been listed by the IUCN as Endangered, only one step away from the highest risk of extinction, Critically Endangered, with numbers dwindling across its range. Poaching and habitat loss, as well as the presence of rebels, elephant poachers and illegal miners, are the principal threats to its survival. 

“The Okapi is revered in Congo as a national symbol – it even features on the Congolese franc banknotes,” says Dr Noëlle Kümpel co-chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group and manager of ZSL’s range-wide okapi conservation project. “Sadly, DRC has been caught up in civil conflict and ravaged by poverty for nearly two decades, leading to widespread degradation of Okapi habitat and hunting for its meat and skin. Supporting government efforts to tackle the civil conflict and extreme poverty in the region are critical to securing its survival.” 

David Cameron to tackle illegal wildlife trade with global summit

Fifty heads of state invited to London summit, which will aim to halt surging demand for elephant and rhino products

David Cameron will host the highest level global summit to date on combating the illegal wildlife trade in London.

The summit next February, to which 50 heads of state have been invited, aims to tackle the $19bn-a-year illegal trade in endangered animals, such as elephants and rhinos, by delivering an unprecedented political commitment along with an action plan and the mobilisation of resources.

The Prince of Wales and his son the Duke of Cambridge, who will both attend the summit, have previously highlighted the strong links between wildlife poaching, international criminal syndicates and terrorism and threats to national security. "We face one of the most serious threats to wildlife ever, and we must treat it as a battle – because it is precisely that," said Prince Charles in May.

EU to ban fish imports from Belize, Guinea and Cambodia

Three countries banned and three more warned in first major sanction against nations that allow illegal fishing operations

Fish imports from Belize, Guinea and Cambodia are to be banned from the European Union, and three more countries have been warned their imports are in danger, in the first major sanction against countries that allow illegal fishing operations to carry on under their countries' flags.

The three countries to be banned were warned last year that the European commission was preparing to end imports of their fish and fish products, because of concerns that they had failed to take action over piracy and illegal fishing. It is the first time imports have been banned as a result of the widespread global trade in landing fish for which vessels do not have the correct fishing permits. EU vessels will also be banned in fishing in the waters of the three offending nations.

UK Government urged to use foreign aid to fight wildlife crime

MPs and charities are calling on the UK government to divert Foreign Aid money into helping fight wildlife crime like elephant poaching. An innovative Early Day Motion (EDM) has been tabled by Zac Goldsmith MP, asking the government to make a ‘substantial and strategically important contribution’ towards the protection of elephants across Africa.

Wildlife charity Care for the Wild International, helped draft the EDM, and is urging MPs and the government to debate the issue in Parliament.

Friday 29 November 2013

New species of wild cat identified in Brazil

A new species of wild cat has been identified in South America by using molecular markers, researchers claim.

By comparing DNA sequences, the team revealed that two populations of tigrina in Brazil do not interbreed and are evolutionarily distinct.

Results also show the two populations have contrasting interactions with the closely related pampas cat and Geoffroy's cat.

Guard Dogs Reduce Killing of Threatened Species

Nov. 26, 2013 — Research from the University of Kent has revealed that guarding dogs can significantly reduce conflict between livestock and large carnivores, such as cheetahs or leopards, helping to reduce unwarranted killing of endangered species in South Africa.

In a paper published in Wildlife Society Bulletin, entitled "Perceived Efficacy of Livestock-Guarding Dogs in South Africa: Implications for Cheetah Conservation," researchers from the University's School of Anthropology and Conservation studied the effect guarding dogs have on the protection of farm animals across South Africa.

'Wildlife at risk' from incoming ban on pesticide linked to bee deaths

Farmers and beekeepers warn that crop-growers may turn to older pesticides when EU ban on neonicotinoids begins

Wildlife could be at risk from an imminent ban on pesticides linked to bee deaths, farmers and beekeepers have warned.

On Sunday, a European Union-wide ban on three neonicotinoids will come into force, but the National Farmers Union (NFU) and British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) have said the restriction could fuel a rise in spray-based pesticides.They say such alternatives could harmbees, soil-dwelling insects and spiders, and lead to higher genetic resistance to pesticides among crop-eating insects.

40% of by-catch turtles die after being cut free

Kevin Heath

Spanish long-line fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea are thought to catch about 10,000 turtles a year as by-catch. Fortunately 95% are still alive and after the line is cut they can swim free. New research though suggests that 40% of these released turtles will die within 3 months due to being caught.

The biggest issue is not the hook that gets caught in the turtles mouth or taken into the stomach. The major cause of death appears to be the length of line that is cut.

Children to be banned from feeding birds in parks (Editorial)

Kevin Heath

In a measure that is certain to increase the alienation of wildlife from people Stoke City Council is set to ban the feeding of wildlife in its parks. Citing complaints of large congregations of ‘intimidating’ birds that are leaving droppings on footpaths and attacking people the council has decided that feeding ducks, swans and other wildlife needs to be stopped.

Many parents are unhappy that their children can no longer enjoy the simple pleasure of feeding the ducks on the park. At a time when there is an increasing disconnect between people and nature it also does nothing to help people appreciate the importance of wildlife in the environment.

The Collared Treerunner Is More Than a Single Species

Nov. 25, 2013 — The lowland tropics were once though filled with widespread species, while moderate and higher elevations were thought to contain species with more restricted distributions. That idea is turning out to be partially incorrect. Widespread species now appear to be the exception, instead of the rule. A new study describes four species once considered to be the collared treerunner, a lizard known to the scientific community as Plica plica.

The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The collared treerunner was originally described in 1758 and has been the subject of many biological, ecological, and behavioral studies in recent years. A new ZooKeys paper by John C. Murphy, Field Museum (Chicago) and Michael J. Jowers, Estación Biológica de Doñana (Sevilla, Spain) describe four new species formerly thought to be one.

Even if emissions stop, carbon dioxide could warm Earth for centuries say scientists

November 2013: Even if carbon dioxide emissions came to a sudden halt, the carbon dioxide already in Earth's atmosphere could continue to warm our planet for hundreds of years, say researchers.

Princeton University-led research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that it might take a lot less carbon than previously thought to reach the global temperature scientists deem unsafe.The researchers used a computer model of Earth to test what would happen if after 1,800 billion tons of carbon entered the atmosphere, all carbon dioxide emissions suddenly stopped.

Two New Beautiful Wasp Species of the Rare Genus Abernessia

Nov. 25, 2013 — Two new beautiful wasp species are added to the rare pompilid genus Abernessia, which now contains a total of only four known species. The two new species A. prima and A. capixaba are believed to be endemic for Brazil alongside the rest of the representatives of the genus. Both wasps are distinguished by the large size (almost 3cm in length) and the beautiful black color with metallic shine typical for the family. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The enigmatic genus Abernessia is part of the spider wasp family Pompilidae. Spider wasps take their name from the preference of the representatives to parasitize spiders. The females paralyze the prey by stinging it, which is then put in a specifically built nest. The female then lays a single egg on the abdomen of the spider and bury it carefully marking any signs that might give away the nest.

Thursday 28 November 2013

EU ban on importing seal fur is upheld

November 2013: The EU ban on importing seal fur has been upheld by the World Trade Organization (WTO) despite a challenge from Canada and Norway.

The WTO panel has found the EU seal trade regulation, which prevents commercially hunted seal products from being sold in the EU, to be compliant with WTO law. According to them the EU can ban the trade in seal products on the basis of public moral concerns over animal welfare.

The panel also recognised that seal hunting inherently leads to poor animal welfare outcomes because of the circumstances and difficulties of the hunt.

Nature Studies: Animals are also victims of war - and in Congo, that means the beautiful okapi


Tuesday 26 November 2013
For ages, it was just a myth; soon, it may be just a memory. The okapi, the "forest giraffe" from the Congo - that gentle, fascinating beast known to Western science only since 1901 - is now threatened with extinction. War, illegal hunting and habitat destruction are going to do for it.

How quickly it all seems to be going, does it not? This mammal and that bird, this turtle and that frog…so many of them sliding down the slope to oblivion, all around the world, as revealed today in the latest annual update of the Red List of threatened species, compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Polar bear numbers in Hudson Bay of Canada on verge of collapse

Climate change is warming the Arctic and melting its ice cover, with grave consequences

Polar bear populations are a sensitive topic for the Canadian government, which has faced international criticism for its policies on climate change and for allowing limited hunting of bears, mainly by indigenous communities.

The Canadian environment minister provoked outrage last October when she discounted abundant scientific studies of polar bear decline across the Arctic, saying her brother, a hunter, was having no trouble finding bears. Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk, spoke of a "debate" about the existence of climate change.

Seahorses stalk their prey by stealth

By James Morgan, Science reporter, BBC News

Seahorses may appear slow and awkward but they are ferocious and ingenious predators, according to a new study.

The beautiful creatures are famously bad swimmers, but they have a secret weapon to sneak up on their prey.

Their peculiar snouts are shaped to create very few ripples in the water, effectively cloaking them as they creep up and pounce on tiny crustaceans.

To their victims, seahorses are more like sea monsters, say scientists from the University of Texas at Austin.

Contented Males Fare Better With the 'Ladies'

Nov. 25, 2013 — Happy, sane males have better love lives -- at least for mink.

A first-ever study from the University of Guelph reveals that relaxed, content male mink raised in enriched environments -- cages complete with pools, toys and swings -- are more successful in the mating season.

The research, led by animal welfare expert Prof. Georgia Mason and her doctoral student Maria Diez-Leon, was published recently in PLOS ONE, an international journal published by the Public Library of Science.

The keeping of exotic animals as pets should be restricted say vets

November 2013: The keeping of exotic animals as pets needs to be restricted says the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), which represents veterinary surgeons from 38 countries, and have called upon the governments of to take action.

Whilst dogs and domestic cats may be the most conventional and numerous companion animals, or ‘pets’, wild animals, such as snakes and lizards, parrots and even meerkats and monkeys, are increasingly in demand across homes in Europe. Wild in nature and often unpredictable, these animals not only require specialised care, but they are potentially dangerous to people, can inflict severe physical injury and transmit harmful diseases. 

In Images: Rare Amur Leopard Cubs Spotted on Camera

Hong Kong returns 33 rhino horns to South Africa

33 rhino horns with about £1.5 million have been returned to South Africa together with a consignment of ivory. The horns and ivory were returned by the Hong Kong government to allow for further forensic investigation. The wildlife products come from 2 interceptions dating back to 2011 by Hong Kong customs officials.

The rhino horns and ivory arrived at OR Tambo International Airport and will be use by the specialist environmental crimes unit, the Hawks, to try a track down those responsible for the killing of the rhinos and elephants.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

The stealth tax that says to hell with North Sea cod stocks

Through the government body Seafish, the public is paying lobbyists to torpedo a campaign to protect the natural world

It's a stealth tax about which the government has kept very quiet. When you hear the details, you will know why. I doubt whether one in a thousand people is aware that it exists. Every time you buy fish in the UK, you pay a fee to support an organisation which opposes campaigns to protect fish stocks and marine ecosystems.

Seafish – its full name is the Seafish Industry Authority – says two things about itself: it "represents the UK seafood industry" and it's a "government body". You might wonder how it could be both, especially when it answers to a government that boasts about its free-market credentials. Why is an industry lobby group sponsored by the Westminster government (as well as the UK's three other national governments) and funded by a compulsory consumption tax?

What price nature? £23bn a year to Scotland - the first country to value its natural environment

Scotland will become the first state in the world to put a price on the value of its natural environment and the benefits it provides, in a pioneering project which could transform the way it makes decisions on planning.

Academics have estimated that nature is worth between £21.5bn and £23bn a year to Scotland’s economy, but Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond wants a far more in-depth study. Supporters of the scheme argue that because most development decisions are based on narrow economic considerations, in terms of the direct costs and benefits, natural resources such as peat should be valued in the same way to ensure their importance is not overlooked.

Climate change may disrupt butterfly flight seasons

Butterflies are highly sensitive to climate change 

November 2013. The flight season timing of a wide variety of butterflies is responsive to temperature and could be altered by climate change, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) that leverages more than a century's worth of museum and weather records.

Researchers from UBC, the Université de Sherbrooke and the University of Ottawa combed through Canadian museum collections of more than 200 species of butterflies and matched them with weather station data going back 130 years. 

New Genomic Study Provides a Glimpse of How Whales Could Adapt to Ocean

Nov. 24, 2013 — In a paper published in Nature Genetics, researchers from Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, Korea Genome Research Foundation, BGI, and other institutes presented the first in-depth minke whale genome and their new findings on how whales successfully adapted to ocean environment. The data yielded in this study will contribute to future studies of marine mammal diseases, conservation and evolution.

Whales roam throughout all of the world's oceans, living in the water but breathing air like humans. At the top of the food chain, whales are vital to the health of the marine environment, whereas 7 out of the 13 great whale species are endangered or vulnerable. The minke whale is the most abundant baleen whale. Its wide distribution makes it an ideal candidate for whole reference genome sequencing.

Shocked woman finds Mexican black king snake slithering through hallway

Friday 22 Nov 2013 8:55 am

A woman received a slithery shock upon leaving her house when she ran into a two-foot long Mexican black king snake.

She spotted the lost serpent, which has been named Treacle, in the landing outside her flat in Glenrothes on Monday afternoon before calling the Scottish SPCA.

Animal rescue officer Kieran Smart explained: ‘The lady who found Treacle was rather brave and managed to contain him in a pillowcase until I arrived.

‘Although Treacle was flicking his tail and letting us know he wasn’t best pleased that we’d put an end to his adventure, he soon settled down after a short ride to our centre in the back of my van.

‘He actually seems to be a fairly docile chap who is in good overall health.’

'Solar-powered' sea slugs can survive in the dark

The creatures may not rely on the photosynthetic ability of the chloroplasts that lend them their colour.

They’ve been called 'solar-powered slugs' and 'leaves that crawl' — species of sacoglossan sea slug that assimilate the photosynthetic organelles in the algae they eat, causing their bodies to turn bright green. But it turns out that these slugs can survive months of starvation even when their photosynthetic capacity is massively reduced, casting doubt on the widely-accepted theory that they rely on photosynthesis to feed themselves when there’s nothing around to eat.

Man rescues fox and finds his new best friend (VIDEO)

Cropper was found on the side of a road and rescued by The Fox Project in Turnbridge Wells. Seriously injured and ill (toxoplasmosis), he could not be returned to the wild. There were only two choices: euthanize Cropper or find him a home.

Mike Trowler gave Cropper a home. A retired engineer, Mike is fascinated by fox behavior and spends a great deal of time with them. In addition to nursing injured foxes back to health, he also takes in orphaned fox cubs and raises them until they can be released back into the wild. He does this by releasing them into his nine acre garden. A few remain to be fed each night, some stay in the area for several years, while others take off to establish their own territories further afield.

Three wolves shot dead after escape from Colchester Zoo

A WOLF which escaped from Colchester Zoo this morning has been shot dead.

The escaped animal was reported missing today at 8am. One wolf remained in the enclosure, one returned immediately, one was stunned and returned and two others died after being shot after getting out of the damaged enclosure.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Poisonous Spiders Found In Grapes At Supermarkets In Four States

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Purchasing a bunch of red grapes at the local supermarket last week nearly turned out to be a fatal decision for one Pennsylvania woman, who was almost bitten by a venomous black widow spider.

As reported by the Daily Mail on Saturday, the woman, Yvonne Whalen, was washing the produce in a colander when she observed a spider-leg crawl over the top of one of the grapes and immediately dropped the container into the sink.

“Mrs. Whalen quickly did an internet search in an attempt to identify the type of spider she found,” Lara Stielow of the Las Vegas Guardian Express. Ultimately, she contacted a spider expert, who came to her home and identified the arachnid as a young female Latrodectus or black widow spider, whose venomous bite is dangerous and potentially fatal to humans.

Bear Cubs Play 'Ring Around The Rosie,' And We All Fall Down From Cuteness Overload (PHOTOS)

bears2This family of baby brown bears is making our wildest fairytale dreams come true. Just look. These three siblings -- two little guys and their sister -- were photographed playing a game of "Ring Around The Rosie."

Valtteri Mulkahainen, a 52-year-old PE teacher, spotted the bears while traveling in Finland, according to Solent News. He watched the cubs hold each others' hands and dance around in a circle, while Mama bear chaperoned from just a few feet away.

Leopard group seeks crowdfunding for new camera system

The Ingwe Leopard Research has launched a crowd funding project to help fund a new camera trap system for their work in South Africa. The new system will allow images from the cameras to be sent to citizen scientists to take part in the research and help sift through the data gained.

The group need $30,000 to put in place the developments and framework needed to get the system up and running.

The Ingwe Leopard Research has put the proposal together because they want to stop the hunting of leopards and increase their protection in South Africa. They believe that the figures for population number held by CITES is an overestimate and they want more research carried out into the population levels to find out just how many leopards are still free living in the country.

Nature Studies: Could we one day see pine martens in the woods of southern England?

The radical idea that we should bring back to Britain the large carnivores we long ago wiped out – lynx, wolf, even brown bear – is increasingly being discussed as part of the topic of “rewilding” the impoverished natural world of our country; and it is provoking a fair amount of heated debate. Just a fortnight ago, Paul Lister, the multimillionaire heir to the MFI furniture fortune, told The Independent that he wanted to bring back all three – yep, bears included – to his large private estate in the wilds of northern Scotland.

Merseyside red squirrels show signs of pox resistance

Red squirrels at a National Trust reserve in Merseyside have shown signs of resistance to the pox virus that has blighted the species, say researchers.

They found that 10% of its squirrels had pox antibodies in their blood.

Canada's refusal to protect polar bears comes under scrutiny

Canada's closest allies and neighbours have called for a formal investigation into the government's refusal to offer full protection to polar bears threatened with extinction because of climate change.

The secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) said this week there were "central open questions" about Canada's decision to offer only limited protection to polar bears. The CEC, which was set up by America, Canada, and Mexico under the North America free trade agreement, went on to call for an investigation.

Canadian officials may not have given enough importance to research predicting the loss of two-thirds of the world's polar bears by 2050 due to melting of Arctic sea ice, the secretariat suggested. The 2007 study by US Geological Survey researchers said a number of polar bear populations inside Canada would disappear entirely, or be severely decimated.

Changing food source bodes ill for whales, cod

By Doug Fraser
November 25, 2013

WOODS HOLE — A marine ecosystem expert is warning that the effect of changes in water temperature and plankton blooms may have ripple effects up the food chain.

"We believe that the changes in the timing of warming events have affected plant and animal reproduction," wrote oceanographer Kevin Friedland of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole in an ecosystem advisory released last week.

Mice with just two 'male' genes father babies

Researchers have shown that just two genes from the Y chromosome — that genetic emblem of masculinity in most mammals — are all that is needed for a male mouse to conceive healthy offspring using assisted reproduction. The same team had previously reported1 that male mice missing only seven genes from their Y chromosomes could father healthy babies.

Monday 25 November 2013

Designer Monika Jarosz creates luxury bags using dyed cane toad skins; sell for up to $360 - via Herp Digest

 AFP, October 24, 2013

YOU may know cane toads as a poisonous ecological invader, but one fashion designer has turned them into a hot fashion accessory.
Polish designer Monika Jarosz's luxury Kobja brand inspired by the fairytale idea of the "toad that transforms itself into Prince Charming".
Introduced from South America decades ago to control the native cane beetle, the cane toad may have outstayed its welcome in the South Sea Islands and in Australia, but today their skins have become a much-prized luxury fashion material.
A friend unknowingly set the wheels of innovation in motion by giving Ms Jarosz a stuffed frog from New Zealand as a gift.
"(It) disgusted me but ended up by fascinating me," she said.
Three short years later, and her luxury accessory business is producing bags, belts and purses made from whole skins, set with semi-precious stones or Swarovski crystals in place of the eyes.
The high-end leather items, which come in an array of colours including vermilion red, emerald green, turquoise, fuchsia and black, are now sold in Asia, Europe and the US.
A purse can cost between between 220 and 250 euros ($300 and $360), depending on the country, while a large bag would be priced at around 1200 euros.
Ms Jarosz came to France from Poland 12 years ago to work as a model before developing an interest in design, in particular working with unusual materials.
Fascinated by the stuffed frog, she recalled that the more she stroked it the more the idea of creating something "really good like a jewel" from a similar material started to take shape.
But finding skins to work with presented a problem. In vain, Ms Jarosz made inquiries with restaurants serving frogs legs.
Then she discovered the existence of the toads of the South Sea Islands where they had proliferated to such an extent they were in the process of destroying several local species.
Animal defence organisations had recommended that they be selectively eliminated.
With the help of a taxidermist in Cairns, Ms Jarosz set about transforming the skins into high fashion.
After the taxidermy, the skins are tanned, dried and coloured in France, ending up in a workshop in Paris where the leather is cut, stitched, set with crystals or stones and lined with lamb or goat skin.
"When I called Jean-Charles Duchene (who runs the tannery in Paris) for a quote, they thought it was a joke," she recalled.
"It was a challenge because we had to adapt to the material. The toad (skin) is denser than lamb, the dye is fixed quicker and it needs less," she added.
A symbol of fertility and prosperity in some cultures, the toad is also linked to sorcery, Ms Jarosz added.
Now sold in luxury goods shops or concept stores in Tokyo, Beijing, New York, Paris and Berlin, Ms Jarosz's quirky products have developed an almost cult-like following among some customers.
Some even give their bags names, she said, and regularly update her with news about them.

Hatchling lizards are smarter than you think - via Herp Digest

October 21st, 2013  ( —A collaborative research team from Macquarie University and Sydney University have discovered that young (hatchling) lizards are capable of learning complex tasks, particularly if they hatched from eggs incubated at warmer temperatures.
The team, lead by Associate Professor Martin Whiting from Macquarie University's Lizard Lab, tested the intellectual abilities of 14 week-old three-lined skinks by challenging them to first remove a cap covering a 'well' to access a food-reward, and secondly to correctly identify which coloured cap shields the food-reward.
"In the final stage of the testing, we complicated the challenge for the lizards by switching the reward to a different container, with a different coloured lid," said Associate Professor Whiting.
"We found that the lizards did not rely on previous spatial locations to locate the reward, but could discriminate between the colours to identify where to look first.
"Some of the lizards we tested never really got it, but others solved every challenge we threw at them. Our results add to a growing body of literature that shows that at least sometimes, lizards can be far smarter than many scientists previously believed."
A key element of the study was to compare the learning rates and abilities of lizards that had been incubated in warmer compared to cooler temperatures, with the former performing more successfully overall.
"The lizards from the 'hot' incubation temperatures were generally larger, but even the largest 'cold' incubated hatchlings did not progress beyond the training phase. Therefore, success at the motor task was due to more than just body size," said Whiting.
"It looks like the temperature of a nest influences the problem-solving ability of a young lizard. These results are significant because they underlie the importance of an animals developmental environment on learning ability and cognition."
The research paper has been published in full online in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.
More information: Benjamin, F. et al. (2013) Colour discrimination and associative learning in hatchling lizards incubated at 'hot' and 'cold' temperatures, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.
Provided by Macquarie University

Two men rescue moose-eating beached shark

Two men successfully rescued a beached shark on the coast of northeast Newfoundland, Canada. Derrick Chaulk was driving in Norris Arm North when he saw what he thought was a beached whale. As reported by CBC News, when he left his vehicle and got closer, he saw that it was a Greenland shark that was still alive and estimated it measured approximately 8 feet and weighed 253 pounds. Greenland sharks are rare in that area but what also seemed unusual was that the animal had a large moose hide sticking out of its mouth. About the hide Derrick told CBC, "It had the fur and all the liner on it — it was about two feet long, maybe."

Horse, man make trek across country

HAMPTON — If you happen to see a rugged-looking man on the back of a horse trotting through town on Saturday and feel like you've been transported back to the Old West, you won't be far off.

The horse, a 5.5-year-old Tennessee Walker mare named Pepper, and its rider, 37-year-old Alex Jesse McNeil, literally took the Pony Express and Oregon Trail to get here.

"There was one section for 20 miles it felt like it was 1843 again," McNeil said.

They've been clopping their way across the country for about eight months, from Brookings, Ore., about 10 miles north of the California border. And they're nearly done. By stepping into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean around 3 p.m. Saturday, McNeil will complete his quest: On The Hoof, Sea to Sea.

It's not the Warner native's first cross-country trip. Perhaps it's not even his strangest — after all, he's already driven a moped across the country, bicycled across Canada and flew an airplane from coast to coast.

But of all his trips, which he terms "just goofball things," it was certainly the hardest and slowest.

Pesticide ban keeps bees safe

Oregon will permanently ban certain pesticides from being used on linden trees after a massive bee die-off in Wilsonville last summer.

In June, about 50,000 bumblebees were found dead and dying in a Target parking lot under linden trees that had been sprayed with dinotefuran, part of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

An investigation into the incident won’t be completed until mid-December, Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, told a legislative committee Thursday afternoon.

But ODA already has taken steps to protect bees from neonicotinoids, Coba said.

Minneapolis police rescue fighting dogs in big sweep

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minneapolis Police animal crimes unit seized 15 dogs Wednesday in simultaneous raids on eight homes, as part of a crackdown on a suspected dog fighting operation.

Officers arrested one person as part of the sweep, and seized narcotics and illegal guns as well. They also found dog fighting paraphernalia and a "dog fighting training manual."

Sgt. Lindsay Herron told reporters the dogs, including 5 puppies, were all chained to the ground inside outdoor kennels that were padlocked shut.

NC beach communities wary of proposed turtle rules – via Herp Digest

By Martha Waggoner, The Associated Press, Saturday, October 19, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — One of the first sights visitors to Caswell Beach see are signs identifying the town as a turtle sanctuary. At the town hall, the best-selling T-shirt features turtles. And during loggerhead hatching season, volunteer residents watch over turtle nests and help the newborns reach the sea.
But Mayor Harry Simmons is concerned the intense focus on the turtles will be to the detriment of human residents and tourists, who he says could lose access to the beach if environmentalists get their wish to designate it a "critical habitat" for the turtles.
Environmentalists and federal government officials say a "critical habitat" designation will only affect actions by federal agencies in the area, not those of state and local governments. But Simmons and others say they have actually seen local communities affected: They've seen beaches closed to people farther up the coast, in Dare County, to protect turtles and birds, and they fear the same will happen at their beaches.
"I do think the people here are over the top in support of the turtles to the point that they will take some efforts to not have lights on on the oceanside of oceanfront houses" to avoid disorienting the turtles, Simmons said. "Does it mean, though, they want to tear down the houses and move to Chadbourn? No. The human habitat is as important. And it's a good balance we have now."
The proposals that have upset Simmons and other leaders of beach communities in North Carolina come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which regulates turtles on the beach, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which oversees turtles in the water.
One proposal would declare 739 miles of beaches from Mississippi to North Carolina as critical habitats for loggerhead turtles, which the government lists as a threatened species. In North Carolina, the proposal covers 96 miles of beaches in Brunswick, Carteret, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties.
The Fisheries Service, meanwhile, has proposed that waters near the designated beaches, as well as additional waters off North Carolina and Florida and migratory corridors between those two states, also be designated as critical. The federal agencies are expected to have a final rule ready in July 2014.
Environmental groups filed petitions and lawsuits, prompting the federal agencies to consider the loggerhead turtle not as one global population but as nine distinct populations, including the one that lives in North Carolina, now considered part of a northwest Atlantic population. The groups then sought and got the "critical habitat" designation assigned to each loggerhead population.
Chuck Underwood, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said if the designation is also given to the beaches, it won't change much because the turtle is already regulated as a threatened species. Beach communities are concentrating on a part of the proposal that lists threats to the turtles, including recreational activities on the beach. They need to read further where the service lists all the actions taken to alleviate that threat, he said.
"Yes, beach driving is a threat. Yes, beach access is a threat," he said. "That is absolutely true. But the consideration of that impact is already part of the current permitting process."
But Greg "Rudi" Rudolph, shore protection manager for Carteret County, and other beach community leaders say they believe that if the beaches themselves are now designated as critical habitats, groups will keep suing until access is limited to them just as it is in Dare County.
"If you talk to the FWS, you're going to hear, 'This is nothing,'" Rudolph said. But if the federal agencies don't change the way the beaches are managed, the same groups that sued for the critical habitat will then sue for more protections, he said.
Underwood didn't dispute that possibility. "We heard some concerns that third parties might use critical habitat as another argument in litigation," he said. "That would be up to those third parties."
The Carteret County Board of Commissioners in August filed a notice of intent to sue if beaches there are designated as critical habitats. Other beach communities have approved resolutions against the designation, and North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources has filed a public comment, asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to, among other things, clarify the potential effects of the designation.
"We can readily foresee increased planning, permitting, construction and monitoring costs — both monetary, and in time — for projects that are already subject to significant regulatory reviews and permit conditions," department officials wrote.
While much of the focus is on the land designation, fishermen are worried about additional restrictions in the water, said Britton Shackelford of Wanchese, president of N.C. Watermen United.
"Fishermen have been dealing with sea turtles for 10 years," he said, particularly regarding large-mesh gill-net fishing. "We've had the water-based issue of turtles. And now it's getting ready to cross into land."
The new proposed rules "are going to further exacerbate a very bad situation for fishermen now," he said.
Because the "critical habitat" designation requires federal agencies, but not private, state or local groups, to examine the effect of their actions on the turtle's environment, the beach communities don't need to worry so much, said Sierra Weaver, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, or SELC, a Chapel Hill-based advocacy group.
Since turtles have been protected for 40 years or so, the designation merely adds another layer of protection, she said.
"I think the big problem we have is misinformation," Weaver said. "There's a lot of concern about what this means. In reality, it is likely to have little to no impact on these local communities. North Carolina beach communities have a long history of sea turtle protections and having vibrant coastal economies. There's no reason that the 'critical habitat' designation should change that."
But local governments are as wary of the SELC as they are of the federal government, viewing the environmental group as one of several responsible for beach closures in Dare County and for blocking the state's preferred replacement for the Bonner Bridge, the only road link between Hatteras Island the mainland.

And the governments have their own public relations headaches: It's not easy to appear to be against protections for sea turtles along the North Carolina coast where people "have a strong affinity for those big brown eyes and flippers," Rudolph said. "Two-thirds of our restaurants seem to have turtle or tortuga (the Spanish word for turtle) in their name."
Related Posts with Thumbnails