Tuesday 31 March 2015

WA shark policy allowing killing of great whites will not be reviewed

Environmental Protection Authority says exemption allowing use of drumlines in case of a ‘serious threat’ is unlikely to significantly affect the environment

Monday 30 March 2015 20.23 BST

The Environmental Protection Authority will not review Western Australia’s policy of using drumlines to catch sharks that pose a “serious threat” because it is unlikely to have a significant effect on the environment, the authority’s chairman has said.

WA Greens MP Lynn MacLaren referred the policy to the EPA in January.

It grants fisheries officers an exemption to kill great white sharks, which are protected under federal laws, in the event of a shark attack or when a “high hazard” shark is reported to have a continuous presence near a popular beach.

The definition of a high hazard shark incident was broadened last year when the “imminent threat” policy, introduced in 2012, was rebadged as a “serious threat”.

Conservationists said the new policy could potentially kill more great white sharks than the now-defunct shark cull, which caught 172 sharks before the EPA declared it environmentally unacceptable and it was dumped.

British tiger parts trader gets 120 hours community service

The British courts have again shown contempt for endangered species as a tiger parts trader – Catherine Emberton 29yrs, of Gleadless Road, Sheffield – was given a 120 hour community service order and forced to pay a £60 victim surcharge. Emberton had an international market via ebay in selling her jewellery that contained tiger claws and teeth. With just 3,000 tigers left in the wild her activities were in breach of international laws through the CITES treaty.

With British politicians, officals and even royals going around the world telling countries to tighten up on poaching and smuggling activities perhaps they should save the airfare and look closer to home and encourage the British courts to get serious about the impact of illegal wildlife trade on species.

Emberton’s lenient sentence comes despite His Honour Judge Moore at Sheffield Crown Court at an earlier hearing saying the she could face a custodial sentence. The maximum sentence for trading in tiger parts is 5 years in prison.

Emberton was caught after officers from the South Yorkshire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit investigated items being sold on Ebay. Emberton claimed that the jewellery she was shipping around the world was exempt from a permit requirement because her items used antique tiger parts.

The investigation though showed this to be false and the tiger parts she was using was covered by Appendix A of the CITES treaty. Many of the items of jewellery she was selling contained raw tiger bone set in metal.

Striped marlin study may reduce overfishing

March 30, 2015

Eric Hopton for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

The marlin’s beauty and strength make them the ultimate prize for many game fishermen, but the biggest threat to marlin populations is commercial overfishing. In particular, the Pacific striped marlin are being consistently overfished in the Western and Central North Pacific Ocean. However, a new study may help reduce this.

In 2010, Greenpeace International added the striped marlin to its seafood red list. The list includes “fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.”

To reduce the risks of overfishing, we need good scientific data, especially direct field observations of their vertical habitats. To date, there have been few worthwhile studies in this field. But a new study, the largest so far, tracked striped marlin in the Pacific Ocean. A team of marine ecologists has identified the preferred habitat of this valuable commercial and recreational fish by using direct observations collected by satellite tags. Their findings have been published in the journal Fisheries Research.

The team studied the striped marlin’s spatial and oceanographic associations across multiple regions in the Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Southern California, Baja California, Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador) and analyzed behavioral data from pop-up satellite archival tags.

The findings
Lead author of the study, Chi Hin “Tim” Lam, said that the data revealed the vertical habitat of the fish. It’s defined by the light-penetrated, uppermost part of the ocean known as the epipelagic layer, within 8 degrees C of sea surface temperature.

Five years after Deepwater Horizon, wildlife still struggling dolphins dying in high numbers; sea turtles failing to nest

March 31, 2015

National Wildlife Federation

As the five-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig approaches, a new report looks at how twenty species of wildlife are faring in the aftermath of the disaster.

Ivory Coast primates being wiped out because of world demand for chocolate

Cocoa plantations do not provide suitable habitat for primates

Researchers from Ohio State University have discovered that much of the protected land in the country's national parks and forest reserves in the Ivory Coast have been turned into illegal cocoa farms.

Between 2010 and 2013 the researchers surveyed 23 protected areas, they say in a recently published report, and found that about three-quarters of the land had been turned over to cocoa production.

The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate, which represents more than one-third of the available supply.

There is a growing worldwide demand for chocolate and Ivory Coast produced a record 1.7 million metric tons of cocoa last year.

Many of the older, legal cocoa plantations in the country have been blighted by disease or are not producing at earlier levels as previously, which has led some growers moving on to create new farms. Migrants from outside the country have moved into Ivory Coast and have turned to farming to survive.

Devon heathland saved for native wildlife

Clayhidon Turbary nature reserve that sits in the heart of the Blackdown Hills in East Devon is being nursed back to health thanks to the work of a leading local wildlife charity.

This area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 34 acres and is made up of heathland, marshy areas and wet woodland – a series of landscape types that were once common but which have disappeared from much of the English countryside in recent decades.

Clayhidon Turbary was once used by local people who grazed their cattle there and who also cut peat from the site to use as fuel to heat their homes.

However, in recent years these uses have declined and the heathland has begun to lose its special character with scrub and young woodland colonising its once open areas.

If this situation had been allowed to continue then the area’s special character and wildlife would soon have been lost.

Monday 30 March 2015

How male damselflies aim to win their fights

The transparency of a damselfly's wings can be an indicator of strength

Male damselflies, like many other winged insects, engage in energy-consuming aerial stand-offs to secure the best mates and territory. 

But these potentially damaging fights are not just randomly entered into, researchers have discovered.

Before they embark on aerial sparring, a male damselfly will first works out its strategy.

It gives its opponent’s wings a once-over to assess its strength, knowing that more transparent wings and larger red spots generally show a stronger rival.

Those who then decide to engage in long fights either try to wear their opponent down, or dazzle them with brilliant aerial moves that are too hard to follow.

These damselfly war game strategies are set out in a study published in Springer’s journal The Science of Nature – Naturwissenschaften.

The results come from two research groups united forces - one based in Brazil, led by Rhainer Guillermo-Ferreira, and the other in Germany, led by Stanislav Gorb.

'Super' Termite Hybrid May Wreak Havoc on Florida

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | March 30, 2015 07:37am ET

The two most invasive termite species in the world are shacking up, producing a potentially powerful new termite hybrid in south Florida, a new study finds. The "super" pest can reproduce more quickly than either parent species and might have a larger range, opening it to new habitats, the researchers said.

Together, the Asian (Coptotermes gestroi) and Formosan (Coptotermes formosanus) subterranean termite species cause an estimated $40 billion worth of damage worldwide, the researchers said. The Asian termite is from tropical Southeast Asia, while the Formosan hails from the more temperate China and Taiwan. Both types of termite have evolved separately for hundreds of thousands of years, but now human movement and trade have brought the invasive speciestogether in Taiwan, Hawaii and South Florida.

Researchers in South Florida have observed the two mating, raising concerns the hybrid offspring might have a temperature tolerance that stretches from North Carolina to Brazil, said the study's lead researcher, Thomas Chouvenc, an assistant research scientist of entomology at the University of Florida.

Japan's whaling fleet abides by UN ruling and catches no whales

A fleet of Japanese whaling ships have returned to the port of Shimonoseki, a major whaling base, after their voyage to the Antarctic, report the Japan Times.

This year, however, for the first time in nearly 30 years, they returned empty-handed following last year's ruling by the UN's International Court of Justice that mandated the end to the annual hunt.

The two ships, the 724-ton Yushin Maru and the 747-ton Yushin Maru No 2, contained no catch when they docked. This was the first time they had not caught any whales since 1987.

The government had pledged that this season’s research excursion would not involve lethal hunting, and harpoons normally used in the capture of whales were removed from the vessels.

Crew members on the two boats only carried out “sighting surveys” and took skin samples , news reports said. And the two ships were not subjected to any attacks by anti-whaling activists.

The International Court of Justice ruled in March last year that Tokyo was abusing a scientific exemption set out in a 1986 moratorium on whaling. The court concluded Tokyo was carrying out a commercial hunt under a veneer of science.

Survey of salmonella species in Staten Island Zoo's snakes

March 29, 2015

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)

To better understand the variety of salmonella species harbored by captive reptiles, Staten Island Zoo has teamed up with microbiologists.

China takes steps to save remaining endangered finless porpoises

The critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise has received a lifeline, reports the WWF.

The Chinese government has recently executed a plan to move a small group of the species to a new home.

Four finless porpoises were moved from Poyang Lake in Jianxi province to holding pens in the neighbouring Hubei province in central China on 21 March, under a strategy developed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

They were released into a secure new habitat in the He-wang-miao/Jicheng-yuan oxbow on 27 March.

Four other individuals will be moved to Tian-e-zhou oxbow to boost the genetic diversity of the existing population in that location.

These eight finless porpoises—part of an estimated population of just over 1,000—were captured earlier this month using the safe, scientifically approved “acoustic drive netted method".

The Yangtze finless porpoise numbers are now so low there are fewer of them than the country's iconic giant pandas. Their decline has been blamed on pollution, over-fishing and heavy beat traffic in their ancestral river home.

Sunday 29 March 2015

500 million-year-old lobster-like predator found in Canada

March 28, 2015

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

(Credit: University of Toronto)
Fossils of an ancient, lobster-like creature that is the forerunner of a diverse group of creatures including lobsters, butterflies, and spiders have been identified by paleontologists at the University of Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, and Pomona College in California.

The species, Yawunik kootenayi, is described as a marine predator that had two pairs of eyes and prominent frontal appendages that could have been used for grasping. They believe that it lived more than 508 million years ago, or 250 million years before the first dinosaurs.

Yawunik kootenayi is believed to be the first new species to be described from Toronto’s Marble Canyon site, part of the renowned Canadian Burgess Shale fossil deposit, the researchers said. A paper describing the discovery was published this week in the journal Palaeontology.

On St. Patrick's Day, here's the real reason Ireland has no snakes - via Herp Digest

By Chris Gaylord, Staff writer, Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2015

Tuesday marks St. Patrick's Day, named after the 5th-century missionary who was famous for banishing all of the snakes from Ireland. With staff in hand, the Christian preacher cast the slithering critters into the sea, never to return – at least that's the story.
The Emerald Isle is indeed one of very few places in the world without snakes, not counting the few serpents kept in zoos or as pets. But can an ancient saint really take credit for Ireland's curious lack of snakes?
The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin has combed through the country's fossil records. As far as its researchers can tell, there's no evidence that snakes ever lived in Ireland. In other words, St. Patrick couldn't have banished many snakes, because there weren't any native snakes to begin with. 
Rather than trusting a 1,000-year-old legend, scientists think the real answer reaches back more than 10,000 years. 
Long before St. Patrick, an ice age gripped Europe. At the time, Ireland was too cold for reptiles. Yet, as the ice thawed, some animals migrated from continental Europe over a land bridge to Britain and then west to Ireland. Boars, brown bears, and lynxes arrived in Ireland around this time.
Snakes, however, moved north much more slowly. Three species slithered into Britain – the adder, the grass snake, and the smooth snake – but they arrived too late to reach Ireland. Around 8,500 years ago, melting glaciers caused ocean levels to rise, cutting off the Emerald Isle. Some animals could still swim over, but scientists have never found a snake species that could migrate across open ocean. (For this reason, several other large islands don't have snakes either, including Greenland, Iceland, and New Zealand.)
The rising waters kept away more than just snakes. In fact, Ireland has only one species of native reptile, the viviparous lizard. 
If Ireland never had snakes, why make such a big deal about St. Patrick? Many think the snake legend is symbolic. Several pagan religions in and around Ireland used serpent imagery. So when stories say that St. Patrick cast out the snakes, they actually mean that Christians cast out the pagans.
Snakes have became a favorite pet among rich Irish, who enjoyed defying the legend by importing high-end species, according to a The New York Times report from 2013. But as Ireland's economy turned several years ago, some snake owners couldn't afford their scaled pets. Many snakes were set loose. "A California king snake was found [in 2012] in a vacant store in Dublin," reports the Times, "a 15-foot python turned up in a garden in Mullingar, a corn snake was found in a trash bin in Clondalkin in South Dublin, and an aggressive rat snake was kept in a shed in County Meath."
Perhaps Ireland could use a modern-day St. Patrick, one who could make the legend a reality. 

Namadgi's endangered northern corroboree frogs are bouncing back, ecologists say - via Herp Digest

Craig Allen, 3/15/15, Australian Broadcast Company

A population of critically endangered northern corroboree frogs in Namadgi National Park, west of Canberra, is rebounding after nearly being wiped out by fire and a killer fungus, ecologists say.

During the current breeding season, for the first time in more than a decade, male frogs were heard calling in small numbers.
The fluorescent yellow and black striped frogs were once plentiful in the ACT's alpine bogs, while a southern variant of the species still lives around Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales.
However, the deadly flesh-eating chytrid fungus, which has decimated frog populations globally, severely reduced numbers in Namadgi National Park over several decades from about the 1980s.
The frogs' habitat was then ravaged by the 2003 bushfires, which badly damaged much of the ACT's fragile sphagnum moss ecosystem.
"When the 2003 fires hit and devastated their habitat, we had serious concerns that we'd actually lost the species," ACT government ecologist Murray Evans said.
"It was very heartening to find some corroboree frogs had survived up there, and we were able to collect eggs."
The scientists took the eggs they had found to a purpose-built, climate-controlled breeding centre made from shipping containers at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to Canberra's west.
In frigid conditions, mimicking the alpine climate the frogs were accustomed to, they successfully raised the eggs and now care for about 600 individuals in captivity.
In 2011, the first 200 frogs were finally released into the wild.
Those frogs should now have reached breeding age.
Frog calls lift the spirits of scientists
Scientists recently surveyed the ACT's fragile alpine bogs and found tell-tale signs of breeding - adult male frogs calling for a mate.
They found two frogs calling at one site, but seven at another, which is the highest number recorded since 2003.
Although the numbers heard calling were small, it was still an exciting result for ecologists.
They believe the actual populations could be higher, as female frogs do not call and other frogs could still be immature.
"Some of the corroboree frogs we released from this institution, captive bred frogs, have survived in the wild. So they've survived four years to reach breeding age," Dr Evans said.
"It's survival of the fittest, so not all of those frogs [we released] would have survived.
“Some of them would've succumbed to natural mortality, but for corroboree frogs there's that added hurdle of chytrid fungus which is still present in the wild.
"We're hoping that this is the start of natural resistance for chytrid fungus in corroboree frogs, and hopefully one day we may actually hear the many hundreds, or even thousands that we used to hear in the 1980s."

Texas man who won hunting auction to be allowed to import black rhino trophy

US Fish and Wildlife Service says importing carcass will benefit conservation
Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 to shoot endangered species in Namibia

Associated Press

Friday 27 March 2015 17.08 GMTLast modified on Friday 27 March 201517.23 GMT

The US government will allow a Texas man to import the trophy of an endangered black rhinoceros if he kills one in Africa as part of a conservation fundraiser.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said on Thursday that importing a carcass from Namibia meets criteria under the Endangered Species Act of benefiting conservation.

Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 last year in a Dallas Safari Club auction billed as a fundraising effort to save the black rhino.

In a letter to the agency in December, the club’s executive director, Ben Carter, said the money raised from such auctions is “critical to supporting the Namibian government in their efforts to stem the tide of commercial killing of these animals”.

12ft Florida alligator becomes a golf course celebrity, but he's not alone

Locals aren’t sure what’s so special about the giant reptile, nicknamed Goliath, since ‘where there’s water, there’s alligators in Florida’ – but he’s a social media hit

Jessica Glenza in New York

Friday 27 March 2015 21.16 GMTLast modified on Friday 27 March 201521.36 GMT

 A large alligator believed to be Goliath lies on the green.
Photograph: Myakka Pines Golf Club/Handout/EPA
A 12ft American alligator has become a minor celebrity for doing what he does best: gobbling turtles and roaming from pond to pond across the putting green of a Floridagolf course.

Golfers first captured the large gator, nicknamed Goliath, in early March, after he (it’s probably a male) walked near golfers at the seventh hole of the Myakka Pines Golf Course. On Thursday, staff captured the large alligator, which is believed to be the same reptile, devouring a turtle for breakfast.

“Lots of people are asking what alligators eat … here is Goliath having a turtle for breakfast. (Sorta nasty to see but it’s the reality of wild animals),” Myakka Pines posted on Facebook, only to have news outlets worldwide reach out about the creature.

“He’s not the only alligator we’ve got on the golf course,” said Mickie Zada, the general manager of Myakka Pines. “Where there’s water, there’s alligators in Florida.”

Why Jane Goodall Believes in Bigfoot (Video)

David Gerlach, Blank on Blank   |   March 28, 2015 10:34am ET


Saturday 28 March 2015

Malawi to burn its £5m ivory stockpile this week - and demonstrate its commitment to wildlife conservation

Plans for the world's most expensive bonfire proves that saving the elephant is ultimately worth more to the impoverished country

Sunday 29 March 2015
The world’s poorest country is to make the world’s most expensive bonfire. On Thursday, Malawi will set fire to ivory worth more than £5m, in an extravagant gesture designed to demonstrate its commitment to wildlife conservation and the fight against the colossal worldwide business of wildlife crime.

Almost four tons of ivory is held in Malawi’s stockpile, and it is going to burn the lot. This will be done on the roof of the parliament building, and the march to the incineration will be led by the president, Peter Mutharika, wearing a polo shirt bearing the message “Stop Wildlife Crime”.

The plan follows the burning in Ethiopia earlier this month of six tons of tusks and carved ivory. There are reports that Kenya will burn a further 15 tons in the coming week. But the Malawi burning is the most remarkable.

Scientists try to help humble turtles stay afloat - via Herp Digest

By Darlena Cunha, Florida, Gainesville Sun, Correspondent
Published: Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 12:38 p.m.

In the spring and fall of each year, dozens of tiny turtles scramble through grass, around oaks and under fences in the Gainesville area, trying desperately to get to a waterway. Often, their path intersects with a street and cars slow down or move around them.
Sometimes, they are crushed into the asphalt.
Getting past the juvenile stage as a turtle is tough around here, but if they do, the creatures can have a lifespan of 30 years or more, according to Dr. Ken Dodd, courtesy associate professor of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida.
But even adult turtles must survive a plethora of dangers to make it through each day.
“They’ve got a lot of things going against them. A lot of the babies are hit by cars, and the nests taken by predators,” said George Heinrich, a wildlife biologist, environmental educator and founder of Heinrich Ecological Services.
Add to that human development and trapping, and conservationists say the outlook of turtle survival becomes grimmer.
Jerry Johnston, a professor of biology at Santa Fe College, spends his days monitoring the turtle populations in the Santa Fe River and the springs, where they play an important ecological role. The Suwannee cooter, for example, eats the invasive plant species hydrilla, which (along with algae) becomes abundant when nitrate levels in the water increase and effectively ruins the springs as we know them today.
But turtles’ value extends beyond those specific waterways.
“Turtles play an important role in Gainesville’s food webs,” Johnston said. “Some species, like snapping turtles, are scavengers. They are the unsung heroes of populations, going around and keeping things clean. Other species are very important in seed dispersals to help create healthy plant populations.”
Gainesville has 13 native turtle species, according to Johnston. Within Alachua County, there are 15 different native turtle species, and all of them are helping to keep ecosystems in check by eating and being eaten, or simply by building their own homes.
“The gopher tortoises dig burrows for themselves, but when they move on, those tunnels provide homes for hundreds of other animal species,” Johnston explained.
Those burrows, however, face grave danger in the form of human construction and development.
“Developers want to build on high, dry ground, and that’s where the tortoises live,” said Heinrich. “These days, if you want to develop on a hatching ground, you have to relocate the turtles. You can’t just build over them. We used to allow people to just bury them alive.”
Heinrich said that while there are certain protections in place now for the turtles, many people ignore them. “Right now, there are fines if you do build on top of turtles, but the laws have to be enforced, and there has to be concrete evidence that it happened,” he said. “By the time the paperwork catches up, the turtles are gone.”
The scientists said residents trapping turtles is another large threat to the population. Whether turtles are getting caught in crab traps unintentionally or being purposefully hunted for food, many river turtles never make it out alive. And when they’re on land, it can be even worse.
“One of the major hazards for turtles is all these roads we have around here,” Johnston said. “Someone could pick up a turtle and take it home as a pet, or it gets run over.”
The scientists agree that if you see a turtle trying to cross the street, you should help it across, but only move it in the direction it was already going. Heinrich says many people make the mistake of taking a turtle and tossing it in the nearest pond, where it may or may not belong.
“Don’t try to think for the turtle,” Johnston said. “It knows what it’s doing.”
Dodd warned not to hold turtles too close to their heads or you could get bitten, and said always use extreme caution when moving them through traffic, as there have been human fatalities on the roads when do-gooders attempt to save turtles. Johnston also emphasized that there are multiple ways to help our important turtle population.
“Never take turtles home as pets. If you’re in a boat on a lake or a river, drive slowly. Don’t hit the turtles with your boat. It sounds like common sense, but I’ve seen hundreds of turtles horribly damaged by boats driving too fast.
“Don’t eat turtles. It is illegal to eat turtles. As much as possible, leave the turtles alone; they will figure out what to do. There are springs on the Santa Fe River that serve as nurseries for the turtles, so do whatever you can to preserve the springs.”
Johnston said his mission is to figure out how our turtles survive in a human-dominated landscape.
“Some do well, others not so much, but most people never give the turtles a second thought,” he said. “We’ve got something really special here that a lot of people take for granted.”

Tagged sea turtles return to Gahiramatha for nesting (Olive Ridleys) - via Herp Digest

Ashis Senapati,The Times of India 3/16/15

KENDRAPADA: A dozen Olive Ridley sea turtles, which were earlier tagged, have returned to Gahiramatha, considered the world's largest rookery of the creatures, in Kendrapada district for laying eggs this year.

Around two lakh turtles have reached the beach for mass nesting.

The forest department in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, fitted tags on flippers of turtles between 1998 and 2010.

"We have spotted turtles with metallic flipper tags. The recovered tags are marked 'Gahiramatha', 'WII' and a number. This proves female turtles return to the same beach where they had laid eggs," said principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) S S Srivastav.

"The tagging helps us in studying the turtle's migratory route and areas of foraging," added the forest officer.

Sea turtles are also tagged to obtain information on their reproductive biology, movements and growth rate, said a forest officer.

Tagging and satellite telemetry to track their movements help us improve mass nesting sites and augment protection measures, the officer added.

In April 2001, for the first time, the forest department and WII along with turtle biologist Jack Frazier fitted platform transmitter terminals on four turtles at the Devi beach, facilitating online monitoring of migratory routes.

All four turtles stopped transmitting data within four months either due to technical snags or trawler-related mortalities, said turtle biologist and former wildlife scientist of WII B C Chaudhury.

In 2007, 30 turtles were fitted with PTTs by WII scientists with the help of forest department at Rushikulya beach, Devi beach and Gahiramatha, added Chaudhury.

A peek at the secret life of pandas

March 27, 2015

Michigan State University

The world is fascinated by the reclusive giant pandas, yet precious little is known about how they spend their time in the Chinese bamboo forests. Until now. A team of researchers who have been electronically stalking five pandas in the wild, courtesy of rare GPS collars, have finished crunching months of data and has published some panda surprises.

Bio-diversity hotspot in Vietnam saved as part of Forests of Hope programme

The future of one of South-East Asia’s richest biodiversity hotspots has been made more secure thanks to an innovative new agreement that aims to see such forests protected.

A 30-year environmental lease on 768 ha of lowland broadleaved evergreen forest at Dong Chau in north-central Vietnam, was signed by members of the Viet Nature Conservation Centre (an independent NGO), local Vietnamese authorities and environmental officials.

It is the first partnership agreement of its kind in Vietnam and was part of Birdlife International’s Forests of Hope programme, aimed at achieving large-scale forest conservation and restoration for the benefit of people and nature.

The announcement of the lease may have come just in time for Khe Nuoc Trong Forest.

Friday 27 March 2015

Albino badger left for dead after love rivals 'chewed his testicles' (but don't worry, he's all-white)

RSPCA staff in Somerset are caring for all-white 'Romeo' badger Alberto after a gang of jealous normal-coloured male badgers attacked him

10:21AM GMT 26 Mar 2015

An all-white albino badger is recovering after jealous rivals chewed his testicles and left him for dead in a toilet.

A rare albino badger is recovering
after being attacked by another 
badger Photo: Wessex News
The gang of normal-coloured male badgers feared "Romeo" Alberto would catch the eye of all the females with his sleek stripeless coat.

They set on him and left him with gaping bite marks on his neck and around his groin, hoping to put an end to his hopes of scoring with the ladies.

On Thursday Alberto was being nursed at the RSPCA's West Hatch wildlife hospital in Taunton, Somerset.

Continued ...

Great Barrier Reef protection zones help boost fish stocks 'to pre-European times'

Long-term study in the reef’s marine park finds an 80% difference in the biomass of coral trout between areas where fishing is allowed and no-go zones

Friday 27 March 2015 03.45 GMTLast modified on Friday 27 March 201503.48 GMT

The expansion of no-fishing zones across the Great Barrier Reef has allowed fish numbers to rebound in some places to levels not seen since European arrival in Australia, a long-term study of the ecosystem has shown.

Data taken from underwater surveys of about 40% of the reef’s marine park between 1983 and 2012 found that biomass of coral trout more than doubled in protected areas.

A separate analysis of two comparable reefs, one where fishing was allowed and one where it was banned, found an 80% difference in coral trout biomass.

Biomass is measured not only in the numbers of fish but also their size, demonstrating that coral trout, a popular species for fishers, grow much larger in no-fishing areas, allowing them to spawn more offspring.

About a third of the Great Barrier Reef’s marine park is off limits to any kind of fishing. These “green zones” were vastly expanded to their current size in 2004 – previously, only 5% of the marine park was fully protected.

Coorong fish hedge their bets for survival

March 26, 2015

University of Adelaide

Analysis of the ear bones of the River Murray estuarine fish black bream has revealed how these fish 'hedge their bets' for population survival. Fish ear bones provide much information through analysis of the trace elements they contain and the width of their growth rings.

Wolves make great foster parents

Wolves have a certain undeserved reputation; gnarly, bitey, good for hunting down deer, farmers' livestock and vampires, if you believe the movies.

But wolves have a softer, more social side, one that has been embraced by a heart-warming new initiative.

In a bid to save some of Europe’s last wolves, scientists have explored the willingness of these supposedly fierce creatures to help others of their kind.

They offered female wolves unrelated wolf cubs, to see how they would react. Not only did the females care for these lost cubs, they accepted them as part of the family.

A new jumping spider with mating plug discovered from the 'Western Ghats'

March 26, 2015

Pensoft Publishers

Researchers have discovered a new species of jumping spider from 'Western Ghats' in southern India, one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. The spider, which has been named as Stenaelurillus albus, is remarkable for the presence of mating plugs or copulatory plugs, which are supposed to function as paternity protection devices.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Cane toads by the million lined up for export to China as anti-cancer remedy

Researchers at the University of Queensland hope to send ‘premium cane toads’ after discovering their venom has anti-cancer properties

Thursday 26 March 2015 06.04 GMT
Last modified on Thursday 26 March 201506.06 GMT

They may be Australia’s most hated pest, routinely clubbed to death by the public, but cane toads could soon prove an unlikely source of income – as an export commodity to China.

Researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered that cane toad venom is effective in fighting cancer, with the potency rivalling that of toads found in Asia that are used in Chinese traditional medicine.

The discovery opens up the possibility of sending millions of toads to China, where they would be systematically squeezed for their juices, which would then be mixed with herbs and consumed as medicine.

Harendra Parekh, from the university’s school of pharmacy, said Chinese companies were “queuing up” to get their hands on Australia’s cane toads.

“We don’t have any of the environmental pollution, such as heavy metal poisoning, that you see in China,” he told Guardian Australia. “So the Chinese see cane toads as living in a clean environment that doesn’t impact upon their venom.

Mitigating reptile road mortality

March 25, 2015


Ecopassages may be less effective reptile road mortality mitigation tools when fences fail to keep reptiles from accessing the road.

Roadways pose serious threats to animal populations and the use of tools, like fences and ecopassages, to mitigate road crossing mortality are becoming increasingly common. To evaluate the effectiveness of these tools, the authors of this study compared reptile abundance on an Ontario, Canada highway before and after fencing and ecopassage installation and at a control site from May to August in 2012 and 2013. Scientists used radio telemetry, cameras, and a tagging system to monitor reptile movements and use of ecopassages. Additionally, they conducted a willingness to utilize experiment to quantify turtle behavioral responses to ecopassages.

165 critically endangered geckos seized at Heathrow

Border Force officers have intercepted an attempt to import 165 critically endangered turquoise dwarf geckos from Tanzania. The geckos was found last month within a larger consignment containing other species such as chameleons, scorpions and frogs.

Turquoise dwarf geckos are critically endangered and are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They are currently only found in two locations in Tanzania.

After the seizure the case was passed to the National Crime Agency’s Border Policing Command. After investigations they arrested a man in Swindon on Friday 20th March. The 41-year-old is currently on police bail as investigations continue.

Grant Miller, head of the Border Force CITES team, said, “This was a highly significant seizure. This particular species of gecko is incredibly rare and there are strict laws against its capture in Tanzania.

“The movement of endangered species is part of an illicit and often cruel trade that Border Force, together with other agencies, is rigorously determined to stop.”

Micro-pig called Frances Bacon gets pub booze ban after stealing pints

A pig which lives in a London pub has been banned from the bar and given an alcohol ban after it started stealing pints and butting drinkers.

Vicky and Ian Taylor-Ross with Frances BaconThe micro-pig, called Frances Bacon, lives at the Conquering Hero in West Norwood but started "minesweeping".
Customers also started letting her drink beer and cider.

Landlords Ian and Vicky Taylor-Ross said they only realised the Vietnamese Pot-Belly was drinking alcohol when she started butting into customer's legs.

Regulars have now been warned not to give her any beer and her owners are making sure she doesn't drink from glasses left by drinkers.

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