Thursday 30 April 2015

Weird-winged dino sets science world aflutter (w/ Video)

The discovery of a pigeon-sized dinosaur with bat-like wings has exposed bizarre twists in the early evolution of birds, said scientists in China Wednesday whose conclusions were immediately challenged.

Named Yi qi, for "Strange Wing" in Mandarin, the creature was an odd and unexpected addition to a long list of failed evolutionary experiments in flight—having sported wings of membrane rather than feathers, they said.

"It is definitely an example showing how much experimentation occurred," said palaeontologist Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, who co-authored a study in the journal Nature.

"Close to the origin of birds (from dinosaurs)... many lineages tried in a different way to get into the air, but finally only one group succeeded."

California fisherman pulled overboard by a sea lion

Dan Carlin was posing for a picture with a fish he had just caught when a sea lion leaped from the water and dragged him 20 feet under the sea

Associated Press

Thursday 30 April 2015 03.07 BSTLast modified on Thursday 30 April 201513.14 BST

Dan Carlin’s wife told him to smile for a picture on their boat as he held up one of the yellowtail fish they had caught that day off San Diego. Then a sea lion leaped out of the water, bit into his hand and yanked him overboard.

The animal, weighing hundreds of pounds, smashed the 62-year-old accountant against the boat’s side and sent his legs flying into the air like a rag doll’s before it dragged him some 20 feet (six metres) underwater, Carlin said on Wednesday, more than three weeks into his recovery after the incident on 5 April.

“After 15 seconds, I thought I was going to die,” Carlin said. “I continued to struggle, but thought this is the way I was going to die. It was unbelievable to me.”

Then, as quickly as the attack happened, Carlin was released. He swam towards the surface as the sea lion bit his foot, puncturing a bone.

He managed to make his way back to his boat. He and his wife, Trish, moved it closer to land while his hand gushed blood and he struggled to breathe because of his battered chest. At one point, Carlin said, he lost his vision.

Saving the sound of summer – Pollinating the Peak campaign launches

A major Peak District-based campaign to help bumblebees launches today (Thursday 30 April 2015) with a unique Pollination Conference in Chesterfield and the arrival of a stunning bumblebee wood sculpture at the town’s world-famous Crooked Spire.

The three-year Pollinating the Peak initiative – run by Bumblebee Conservation Trust with Chatsworth, Chesterfield Borough Council, HSG UK, Little Green Space, Moors for the Future Partnership and Plain Green – will involve communities in conservation and creating bee habitats, and encourage people to take part in BeeWalk, a national bumblebee recording scheme.

If successful, the campaign will be rolled out in other areas of the UK by Bumblebee Conservation Trust, a conservation charity dedicated to securing the future of the country’s bumblebees.

“Bumblebees keep us healthy by pollinating our fruit and vegetables, but they’re in trouble. Their populations have crashed, with some species already extinct and others threatened. We want to raise awareness about these iconic insects and how we can all help save the sound of summer,” said Gill Perkins, Bumblebee Conservation Trust conservation manager.

The all-day Pollination Conference at Chesterfield’s Winding Wheel Theatre – to be opened by the town’s Mayor, Alexis Diouf – features interactive workshops, beekeeping and cookery demonstrations, children’s activities, films, and bees working in a ‘bumblearium’.

Speakers and guests include former Peak District National Park Authority chief executive Jim Dixon, pollination scientist from Dublin’s Trinity College Erin Jo Tiedeken, writer and entomologist Tim Gardiner, Bumblebee Conservation Trust chief executive Lucy Rothstein, and other experts. Acclaimed author William Kirk will speak about gardening for bees and will be signing copies of his book, Plants for Bees.

Venom-Squirting Scorpions Blind Enemies with Toxin

by Joseph Castro, Live Science Contributor | April 30, 2015 07:34am ET

Some scorpions are able to spray their venom, an ability they use defensively to try to temporarily disable predators, allowing the stinging arachnids to escape the jaws of death, a new study suggests.

From skunks to bombardier beetles, a wide range of animals spray chemicals defensively. But only a relatively few species are known to squirt highly toxic venom when threatened, most notably spitting cobras.

In the 1960s and 1970s, researchers discovered that at least seven species of the Afrotropical scorpion in the genus Parabuthus could also defensively spray venom. At the time, researchers thought this ability was reflexive, something the scorpions did uncontrollably when startled. [Watch the Venom-Spraying Scorpion (Video)

Berlin lizards impede Lenin's resurrection

Lenin has lain in a sandpit at the southeastern edge of Berlin since 1991 when the city, desperate to rid itself of the painful reminders of its division, cut the 19-meter (62-foot) statue into more than a hundred pieces and buried them.

Now, after administrative battles with reluctant authorities and grumbling from Berliners who thought they had got rid of the old communist forever, a museum plans to resurrect the 3.5-ton, 1.70-meter head this summer for a planned museum of disgraced monuments from the city's tumultuous history.

There's just one little problem left to solve before it can finally glimpse the light of day: lizards. Sand lizards, to be precise, strictly protected by European wildlife conservation rules.

Approaching the site with the crane, bulldozers and truck that will be needed to shift Lenin would disturb the striped creatures just as they're getting ready for the mating season, during which they turn green. So they must be encouraged to move away before the exhumation can commence. That's the law.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Harbor lights can adversely affect marine life

April 29, 2015

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

The artificial lights used in harbors during the nighttime is changing the behavior of animals that attach themselves to the hulls of sailing vessels, causing some creatures to be lured and others to be scared off by the illumination, according to a new study.

In research published Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters, University of Exeter ecologist Dr. Thomas Davies explained that the artificial lighting is attracting types of marine life that could damage ships and boats, and that light pollution from coastal development and other sources could be altering the composition of marine epifaunal communities.

“The presence of lighting at night can change the composition of these marine communities,” Dr. Davies told BBC News. “There is also what we call an ‘ecosystem disservice’. The presence of artificial lighting might actually increase ‘fouling’ species that can damage boats.”

Measuring the impact of light pollution

According to the British news agency, researchers have estimated that nearly 25 percent of the world’s coastal regions (not including Antarctica) are subject to some form of artificial lighting at night. Harbors, marinas, fisheries, and oil rigs all contribute to this phenomenon.

Bumblebees use nicotine to fight off parasites

Date:April 27, 2015

Source:University of Queen Mary London

Summary:Bumblebees that have been infected by parasites seek out flowers with nicotine in the nectar, likely to fight off the infection, new research has found. The nicotine appears to slow the progression of disease in infected bees but has harmful effects when consumed by healthy bees.Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL), gave bumblebees the option to choose between a sugar solution with nicotine in it and one without. Those bees infected with the Crithidia bombi parasite were more likely to go for the nicotine-laced nectar than those that weren't infected.

Escaped Eurasian beavers breeding in Scotland but pose challenge to farming

More than 150 beavers living in the wild in Perthshire and Angus after fleeing private collections, but study says animals could cause drainage systems to fail

Severin Carrell Scotland correspondent

Wednesday 29 April 2015 16.04 BST
Last modified on Wednesday 29 April 201519.42 BST

Naturalists have confirmed that more than 150 beavers are now living and breeding successfully in the wild in the southern Highlands of Scotland after escaping from nearby private collections.

The Eurasian beavers, which were once native to the UK, have been found living across hundreds of square miles of lochs and rivers in Perthshire and Angus after they began escaping from private collections nearly a decade ago.

An expert report for Scottish Natural Heritage said the beavers were adapting very easily but were posing serious challenges for farmers, landowners and drainage systems in some places along the river Tay which could require intervention.

Hunted to extinction around 400 years ago, they were disease-free and adapting well, the researchers said, suggesting they would be an ideal group to use to reintroduce the species Scotland-wide if ministers agreed.

Burmese python habitat use patterns may help control efforts

Date:April 28, 2015

Source:United States Geological Survey

Summary:The largest and longest Burmese python tracking study of its kind -- here or in its native range -- is providing researchers and resource managers new information that may help target control efforts of this invasive snake.

South African Airways bans transport of hunting trophies

As South African Airways (SAA) pushes ahead to be one of the most sustainable airlines in the world the company has announced an immediate ban on the transport of hunting trophies on its passenger and cargo planes. The decision was made last week and formally announced yesterday.

In January this year SAA was only the second global airline to pass stage 2 of the IATA Environmental Assessment Programme in order to be independently recognised for the sustainability of it’s operations.

This new announcement goes even further and helps to recognise that most passengers that SAA carry go to Africa to enjoy the sights and sounds of living creatures and do not go there to kill it’s most wonderful species and wildlife.

Speaking to media yesterday Tim Clyde-Smith, SAA’s Country Manager, Australasia said, “Hunting of endangered species has become a major problem in Africa and elsewhere with the depletion to near extinction of wildlife that once roamed in prolific numbers. SAA has taken the step of banning all transportation of animals killed in hunting activity as a result,” 

He continued, “In consultation with key authorities, SAA will no longer support game hunters by carrying their trophies back to their country of origin. The vast majority of tourists visit Africa in particular to witness the wonderful wildlife that remains. We consider it our duty to work to ensure this is preserved for future generations and that we deter activity that puts this wonderful resource in danger,”

Convergent evolution: Diverse sea creatures evolved to reach same swimming solution

Date:April 28, 2015


Summary:Moving one's body rapidly through water is a key to existence for many species. The Persian carpet flatworm, the cuttlefish and the black ghost knifefish look nothing like each other -- their last common ancestor lived 550 million years ago, before the Cambrian period -- a new study uses computer simulations, a robotic fish and video footage of real fish to show that all three aquatic creatures have evolved to swim using the same mechanical motion.

Endangered loggerhead turtles losing their battle with egg-stealing goannas

Red flags and hot chilli powder do not stop the yellow-spotted goannas from raiding nests on Wreck Rock beach, Queensland

Wednesday 29 April 2015 07.24 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 29 April 201507.27 BST

Scientists are working to find out ways to prevent goannas devouring the eggs of endangered loggerhead turtles after deterrents such as red flags and attempts to smother nests with hot chilli powder failed.

Researchers have focused their efforts at Wreck Rock beach, between Bundaberg and Gladstone, in Queensland. The beach is the second largest nesting site for loggerhead turtles in Australia but there is a growing problem of goannas feasting on turtle eggs.

It is estimated goannas raid about half the 500 nests laid by turtles on the beach between November and February. Each nest has 100 to 120 eggs, so this means several thousand never become hatchlings.

The problem was identified by local volunteers who realised that while foxes, which previously preyed upon the eggs, had successfully been killed off with poisoned bait, goannas had taken their place in recent years.

A coalition of academics, conservation volunteers, Aboriginal rangers and the WorldWildlife Fund have been given funding by state and federal governments for a two-year project to tackle the problem.

However, initial hopes that chilli powder and red flags would work have been dashed, says the University of Queensland, which is leading the project.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Children's knowledge of nature is dwindling, study finds

By Agency

12:31PM BST 28 Apr 2015

Britain's knowledge of nature is dwindling to worrying new levels with younger generations now less clued up than ever, according to a new study.

Nearly double the number of parents aged over 51 (49 per cent) said nature was one of the most important things to teach children, compared to just one in three aged under 30.

And the naivety of younger adults revealed just six in ten (58 per cent) 25 to 30 year olds knew a vixen was a female fox - a fact nearly all parents over 51 (96 per cent) knew.

In fact, one in six (17 per cent) of the younger generation of parents believed female foxes were called "sows" - the name for a female pig.

The research, by collectible toy company Sylvanian Families, revealed some startling insight into the nation's poor grasp of outdoor life.

Nine in ten over 51s (92 per cent) identified the fact male rabbits were called a "buck", which just over half (53 per cent) of 25 to 30 year olds knew.

Chinese delegate to elephant conference asks about buying trunk and penis

As we start to build up profiles of organisations and people involved in the Tanzania ivory storage project that is being funded by the UK taxpayer I came across an interesting story about a happening at the Kisane Elephant Summit in Botswana last month concerning the Chinese delegation.

One of the trustees of Stop Ivory, a UK charity behind the Elephant Protection Initiative, is Dr Ali Kaka, as well as being a trustee of the Stop Ivory charity he is also Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa at the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Apart from his trustee status and position at the IUCN Dr Kaka is also a member of hunting organisation CIC International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, he’s also an editor of their newsletter and an important lobbyist for hunting. The IUCN and CIC works closely together in partnerships to promote the role of hunting as part of conservation and sustainability.

In his role as a member and lobbyist for the CIC he was instrumental in reversing the hunting ban that was introduced by Zambia as an emergency measure to protect its wildlife.

There is still lots to do in forming the network of contacts and we wait for supplier and contractor details on the ivory stockpile project.

Meanwhile onto the story that grabbed my attention.

Dr Kara attended the Kinsane conference as the official representative of CIC. The CIC was the only hunting organisation invited to attend the elephant conference probably because of its close ties with the IUCN. Dr Kara wrote up an article about the meeting for the African Indaba newsletter.

New Zealand stoats provide an ark for genetic diversity

Date:April 27, 2015

Source:University of ExeterSummary:

British stoats suffered a dramatic loss in genetic diversity in the 20th century but extinct British genes were preserved in the stoat population of New Zealand, a new study has found. The research reveals that stoats, which were introduced to New Zealand, have greater genetic diversity there, than in their native Britain. The results are unusual because introducing a species to a new area is usually associated with a loss in its genetic diversity.

Mexico signs historic agreement to protect jaguars

The Mexican government has signed an historic agreemant with global wild cat conservation organisation, Panthera, to work towards the protection of jaguars.

A jaguar caught by a camera trap in Mexico
Senator Gabriela Cuevas, President of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Mexican Senate, led a group of senators in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Panthera’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Alan Rabinowitz.

Panthera will work with the Senate, academia, and non-governmental organisations in Mexico to raise awareness of the importance of conserving jaguars in the country and assist in the implementation of science-based conservation actions. 

The jaguar is an historic icon in Mexico, but their range throughout the country has been reduced in recent years by over 50% leaving them in danger of extinction through habitat destruction, which has led to a decline in their prey. They have also been victims of poaching. 

Bats use both sides of brain to listen -- just like humans

Date:April 27, 2015

Source:Georgetown University Medical Center

Summary:Researchers have shown that, like humans, mustached bats use the left and right sides of their brains to process different aspects of sounds. Aside from humans, no other animal that has been studied, not even monkeys or apes, has proved to use such hemispheric specialization for sound processing -- meaning that the left brain is better at processing fast sounds, and the right processing slow ones.

Invasive lionfish discovered in Brazil

DNA links specimen to fish population that has spread through Caribbean.
27 April 2015

Lionfish have overwhelmed ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean over the past three decades, eating or out-competing native species in what has been called the worst marine invasion ever. Now the fish seem to have extended their range to South America.

Researchers reported the first confirmed lionfish in Brazilian waters on 22 April in PLoS ONE1. The piscine pioneer was spotted by a group of recreational divers on 10 May 2014 in a reef off Cabo Frio, a municipality of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil. The divers returned to the site the next day with hand spears, and captured the fish so that scientists could study it.

When the researchers analysed the fish’s DNA, they found that it matched the genetic signature of the Caribbean lionfish population, and not that of specimens from their native Indo-Pacific region. This suggests that the fish may have reached Brazil through natural larval dispersal from the Caribbean, the study’s authors say.

But Mark Hixon, a marine ecologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says that ocean currents typically flow in the wrong direction for larval dispersal from the Caribbean to the southeastern Brazilian coast. He says that it is just as likely that the lionfish was brought to Brazil by humans. “Lionfish are easy to capture and make beautiful pets,” says Hixon. “It’s easy to imagine boaters carrying lionfish as short-term pets in bait tanks or other containers on their vessels.”

Monday 27 April 2015

At home with the world's last male northern white rhinoceros

With rhino numbers collapsed due to poaching for their horns, a lot rides on one pampered animal in the Kenyan savannah doing his best to further the species

Murithi Mutiga in Ol Pejeta

Monday 27 April 2015 05.00 BSTLast modified on Monday 27 April 201512.18 BST

Mohamed Doyo seems to have a dream job. Every evening, he patrols the Kenyan savannah, glimpsing lions chasing down darting Thomson’s gazelles, hearing the calls of red-chested cuckoos and, when there is a full moon, seeing the majestic, snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya in the distance.

But Doyo can scarcely stop to admire the extraordinary views because he and a large squad of rangers perform an extraordinary job: they must keep poachers away from one of the rarest species on earth, including the star attraction at the 135 sq mile conservancy, Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino.

“This responsibility weighs so heavily on our shoulders,” says Doyo. “It is sad what human greed has done and now we must keep watch every minute because it would be unimaginable if the poachers succeeded in killing these last few animals.”

The precipitous decline in the number of wild rhinos is the result of the dramatic rise in poaching in the 20th century.

About half a million rhinos roamed in Africa and Asia in 1900. That figure had fallen to 70,000 by 1970, with some species near to disappearing.

By 2011, the western black rhino had been declared extinct, an abrupt end to a species that had walked the earth for 5m years.

Recent conservation efforts have rallied overall rhino population numbers to 29,000, but poaching remains a real threat.

Launch of European Red List of Bees: Fostering bee-friendly agricultural practices

22 April 2015 | News story

The recent release of the European Red List of Bees had found that 9.2% of Europe’s 1,965 wild bee species were threatened with extinction. This trend affects a broad variety of stakeholders, given the bee’s key role in the pollination of crops and wild flowers, which is essential to society and agriculture.

Pollination provides not only economic value, but it is also essential for securing food production and delivering important ecosystem services. The intensification of agriculture has been identified as one of the main culprits for the decline of bee species, but at the same time, the agricultural sector is most affected by a decline in pollination services from bees. 

Hong Kong Officials ask Pakistan to Receive 751 smuggled turtles - Herp Digest

by Faiza Ilyaa - Karachi-Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2015 

The Hong Kong authorities have recently approached Pakistani officials with a request to receive a consignment of 751 black pond turtles that were being smuggled into their territory over a month ago, it emerged on Sunday.

According to sources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) management authorities of Hong Kong had contacted their Pakistani counterparts last month and informed them about the seizure of 751 black pond turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii).
The freshwater species consignment with an international protected status, the sources said, was concealed in a fishing vessel sailing in the Hong Kong waters in February this year.
Although the Hong Kong officials haven’t yet confirmed the origin of turtles and the case is still under investigation, a request was sent to the CITES management authorities of Pakistan to consider receiving and releasing these turtles into the wild since Hong Kong is not the range state of these turtle and the species might be smuggled out of Pakistan.
The Hong Kong officials that also offered to bear the delivery cost, sources said, had asked Pakistani counterparts to provide information on turtle smuggling in their region.
According to sources, Pakistani officials had informed the Hong Kong officials about the Hongda Trading Company that was involved in a recent turtle smuggling case reported at Karachi port. The company had previously sent three shipments to Hong Kong in the cover of a certificate declaring these turtles as fish maw.
The Hong Kong authorities, sources, said, were investigating the company’s links in their territory. In the meantime, the federal officials had asked the Sindh wildlife department for their opinion over the matter.
Majority of the officials in Sindh, the sources pointed out, were in favour of receiving the turtles from Hong Kong considering the depleting population of freshwater turtles in the province and its subsequent impact on ecology.
“Yes, the issue is being debated and soon a decision will be taken,” confirmed the Sindh wildlife conservator, adding that if the Sindh government decided to take and release the turtles into the wild, all the required scientific protocols would be met.
It is noteworthy that a Hong-Kong bound consignment of dried body parts of over 4,000 freshwater turtles was confiscated at the Karachi port last month. It was officially declared as the largest seizure involving turtles in the country’s history.
The body parts were identified as those of Indian narrow-headed softshell turtles, a critically endangered and protected reptile in the country.
Last September, over 200 black pond turtles were confiscated at the Karachi airport.
The species were found in the luggage of a man who had arrived from Lahore. Forty-five turtles died due to suffocation and injuries they suffered during travel while over 170 turtles that survived were later released into the Haleji Lake.
The same month, another batch of 200 smuggled black pond turtles was released into the Indus River (in the Kalar block) near the Rohri forest. They were smuggled out of Sindh and confiscated in Taxkorgan, China. The turtles were handed over to Pakistani officials in a ceremony held at Khunjrab Pass on the Pakistan-China border.
Eight different species of freshwater turtles are found in Pakistan — five of them are globally threatened species — namely Indian soft-shell turtle, Indian peacock soft-shell turtle, Indian narrow-headed soft-shell turtle, Indian flap-shell turtle, black pond turtle, Indian roofed turtle, brown roofed turtle and crowned river turtle.
All these species are listed in the CITES Appendices I & II that means their import and export without a legal permit is prohibited. These turtles are found in the entire Indus River system. The range states of the black pond turtle include southern Pakistan (Indus and Ganges River drainages), northeastern India (Assam), and Bangladesh.
The Sindh government last year declared all freshwater turtle/tortoise species found in Pakistan as protected and included them in the Schedule II of the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance 1972. Rules were also framed to impose heavy penalties on turtle poachers and smugglers.
The information gathered from the internet shows that illegal turtle trade is thriving in the region. Last year, 88 black pond turtles destined for Bangkok were seized at the Chennai airport and 230 endangered Hamilton turtles which were smuggled from India were seized at the Bangkok airport.

Hey, that's my cappuccino! Coyote captured outside lower Manhattan cafe

April 25, 2015 2:44 PM


A coyote is shown after being captured by the New York City Police Department in New York April 25, 2015. …

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police captured a young, female coyote outside a cafe in a residential area of lower Manhattan on Saturday, the latest in a series of coyote sightings in New York City, where an increasing number of the predators are making their home.

An emergency operator fielded a 911 call early Saturday morning reporting a coyote sighting at North Cove Marina near Battery Park City, said Detective Annette Markowski, spokeswoman for the New York Police Department.

Armed with a tranquilizer gun, officers spent an hour trying to corner the animal near a cafe with an outdoor seating area. Eventually they "contained, darted and secured" the animal, police said. It was placed in a cage and transported in a police cruiser to Manhattan Animal Care and Control for examination.

Iridescent animals shine to startle predators

Date:April 23, 2015

Source:University of Lincoln

Summary:Animals which appear to shimmer and shine may have evolved these qualities as a way to startle predators, new research suggests.

Iridescent animals, such as kingfishers, peacocks and dragonflies, can produce a mesmerising display of colour depending on the angle of illumination or observation. However, until now there has been limited scientific understanding of the function of iridescence and why this quality, known as 'interference colouration', has evolved independently several times in insects such as beetles and butterflies.

In a new study, published in the scientific journal Biology Letters, Dr Thomas Pike, a behavioural and sensory ecologist at the University of Lincoln, UK, suggests that for some organisms, iridescence evolved as a way to confuse predators. By producing startling changes in colour and brightness, the animal is able to briefly surprise a potential predator, increasing its chance of escape.

British public vote in favour of lynx reintroduction

The majority of the British public would like to see the lynx back in the British countryside a survey carried out by the Lynx UK Trust shows.

More than 9,000 people took part in the survey, with 91% supporting a trial reintroduction and 84% believing it should begin within the next 12 months.

Almost seven weeks ago the Lynx UK Trust, a team of international wildlife and conservation experts, announced their hopes to carry out a trial reintroduction of Eurasian lynx to the UK. Wiped out in the UK over 1,300 years ago by fur hunters, lynx have been successfully reintroduced across Europe, and the team hope that reintroduction here will provide a valuable natural control on the UK's overpopulated deer species, leading to forest regeneration and a boost to the entire ecosystem.

Dolphins use extra energy to communicate in noisy waters

Date:April 23, 2015

Source:NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

Summary:Dolphins that raise their voices to be heard in noisy environments expend extra energy in doing so, according to new research that for the first time measures the biological costs to marine mammals of trying to communicate over the sounds of ship traffic or other sources.

Sunday 26 April 2015

Western Pond Turtle Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Protection - via Herp Digest

Turtle Battling Steep Declines in California, Oregon, Washington
Press Release - Center for Biological Diversity 
For Immediate Release, April 9, 2015
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to a 2012 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and several renowned scientists and herpetologists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceannounced today that Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted for the western pond turtle. The agency will now conduct a one-year status review on the turtle, which faces declines of up to 99 percent in some areas, including Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
“The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful tool available to save western pond turtles, so I’m really happy that these amazing reptiles are a step closer to the protection they so desperately need,” said Collette Adkins, a Center biologist and lawyer who works to protect reptiles and amphibians. “Western pond turtles are integral to the wild places where they live. Losing them would impoverish those places and our own connection with the natural world.”
Western pond turtles are declining in abundance rangewide, especially in the northernmost portion and the southern third of the range. The animals are listed as state endangered in Washington, sensitive/critical in Oregon, and a species of special concern in California. Although habitat destruction is one of the biggest threats to the turtle, none of these state laws provides effective habitat protection. 
“Threats like habitat destruction from urbanization and agriculture are driving western pond turtles toward extinction,” said Adkins. “Much-needed federal protection of these turtles would help ensure that rivers and wetlands across the West Coast are protected, both for the turtles and for people.”
Today’s finding responds to a 2012 petition that sought protection for the turtle and 52 other amphibians and reptiles found across the country — the largest ever petition focused on protection of amphibians and reptiles. The Fish and Wildlife Service must next issue a “12-month finding” on the turtle that will propose protection under the Endangered Species Act, reject protection under the Act or add the turtle to the candidate waiting list for protection.
Western pond turtles are found from western Washington south to northwestern Baja California. The name “pond” turtle is something of a misnomer because this species more frequently lives in rivers and spends a lot of time in terrestrial habitats. Western pond turtles are highly opportunistic eaters and will consume almost anything they can catch and overpower.
In June of 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of new research revealing that the western pond turtle is actually at least two species, each of which is therefore more endangered than previously thought. According to that study, all populations north of the San Francisco Bay area and populations from the Central Valley north (including the apparently introduced Nevada population) are now known as Emys marmorata. Turtles in the southern portions of the range — the central coast range south of the San Francisco Bay and the Mojave River — are described as Emys pallida. Turtles from Baja California are tentatively also considered Emys pallida,but these animals may represent another distinct species pending results from additional analysis. 
An upper respiratory disease epidemic in Washington in 1990 left a total population of fewer than 100 western pond turtles in the state. They are essentially extirpated in the lower Puget Sound, and only two populations remain in the Columbia River Gorge. In the Willamette Valley in Oregon, western pond turtles appear to have declined to a level that represents roughly 1 percent of historic levels. In California’s Central Valley, where most of the natural habitat has been eliminated, surveys detected turtles at only 15 of 55 sites, with sizable populations only at five sites. Pond turtles from Southern California are in precipitous decline, with few stable, reproducing populations known between Los Angeles and the Mexican border.
Contact: Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821

Coyote on the loose after police hunt in New York's Upper West Side

Wily canine evades police helicopter as experts warn feral populations set to expand across America's urban areas

12:17PM BST 24 Apr 2015

A large, feral coyote is roaming the streets of New York's Upper West Side, evading police hunts and causing fear among the affluent neighbourhood's residents.

Wily Coyote Photo: NYPD
The animal was first spotted in Manhattan on Wednesday. Taking no chances, police dispatched a helicopter to track it down, but had to give up after three hours when the wily canine took refuge in the thick foliage of Riverside Park.

"The coyote is deeply nestled in the brush," the NYPD tweeted. "Operations have concluded."

“It’s real big,” an officer told the Daily News. “It’s a pretty good-sized coyote.”

It remains at large, and was spotted again on Thursday morning. Reports on Twitter suggested the animal had wandered as far south as 60th Street.

15 loose buffaloes that crossed New York highway are killed

By JOHN KEKIS and MICHAEL HILL17 hours ago

COEYMANS, N.Y. (AP) — Fifteen buffaloes that escaped from a farm were intentionally shot and killed Friday after they dashed past a group of police, crossed a major highway and ended up near some schools, authorities said.

"The last thing we wanted to do was put these animals down," Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said. "But it wasn't a safe scene."

Three men hired by the farm opened fire on the animals Friday afternoon in woods in the town of Coeymans, about 10 miles south of the capital.

Bethlehem police Lt. Thomas Heffernan said the decision was made after experts agreed tranquilizers would not be effective and no portable corrals or trailers could hold the animals.

They escaped Thursday from a farm across the Hudson River in the Rensselaer County town of Schodack. The owner believes they swam across the river to the town of Bethlehem, where they wandered across a busy stretch of Interstate 87 and into neighboring Coeymans as a police helicopter tracked them.

Read on ...

Garter snakes return home - Reptiles moved from Burnaby Sunday back to their hibernaculum at Boundary Bay dike, Canada - via Herp Digest

Jessica Kerr / Delta Optimist, March 25, 2015 
The hundreds of snakes rescued from Boundary Bay earlier this month were returned home over the weekend.
On Sunday afternoon, the more than 500 garter snakes were moved from their temporary home at the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. in Burnaby back to their hibernaculum on the dike.
The snakes were unearthed earlier this month as construction crews from SNC-Lavalin were slated to begin repair work on a section of the dike. A group of Beach Grove Elementary School students helped alert the crew to the presence of the snakes by posting signs around the area where the work was taking place.
The Corporation of Delta's environmental consultant then assessed the situation and a rescue plan was put into place. The plan included removing the snakes and moving them to Wildlife Rescue. The operation took three days and in the end more than 500 snakes had been rescued.
Each snake was examined and placed in a large plastic container with a thick layer of damp wood shavings and a dish of distilled water where they could continue hibernating.
The snakes are still in a state of hibernation and were returned to the dike on Sunday to allow then to emerge in a familiar location, mate and disperse as usual.
The snakes were tagged prior to their release so that a team of biologists can follow their progress over the next few days and throughout the rest of the year.
"This operation has been a tremendous joint effort and we are pleased that over 95 per cent of the snakes have survived the ordeal and will be returned safely to their home," said Gordon White, acting executive director of Wildlife Rescue. "We applaud Delta and SNC-Lavalin for having a rescue plan in place before they started the work. Human activity can impact wildlife in so many ways but by being proactive, they minimized the disruption caused and ensured that the vast majority of snakes were unharmed."

New studies find that bees actually want to eat the pesticides that hurt them

By Rachel Feltman April 22 

A pair of new studies published Wednesday in Nature are disturbing when taken separately, but so much more chilling when laid out next to each other: The first provides new evidence that neonicotinoid insecticides can have a negative effect on bees, adding weight to the theory that these chemicals could contribute to colony collapse disorder and endanger our food supply. In the second study, another group of researchers found that bees don't avoid these harmful pesticides. They may actually seek them out and get addicted to them.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Questions remain over UK’s support for Tanzania’s ivory stockpile

As more details are finalised and publicised on the deal between the UK and Tanzania the more it supports the fears we first raised back in July 2014. When the UK said it was only going to support a count of the ivory the information we were provided with from Tanzanian sources was that the UK was going to do far more than this.

The information we were provided with was that the UK would fund the counting of the ivory, the building of high-tech storage for keeping the ivory in good condition and for the treatment of ivory and tusks to help prevent the stockpile from deteriorating in quality.

While the government and Minister for Africa fervently denied this investment in Tanzania’s ivory stockpile it’s quite clear now which information is correct and that raises question of should the UK be paying multi-million pounds in grants to protect the economic value of tusks and ivory when across the world other countries are destroying their stockpiles.

The UK has announced that it will be giving Tanzania £10 million towards an African elephant action plan the bulk of which is designated to be used by Tanzania to count, store and monitor its estimated 112 tonnes of tusks.

This story has issues that keep coming up that indicates that there is something not quite right with the situation.

Our nearest animal cousins deserve better rights

A court in the USA appeared to give two chimpanzees the right of habeas corpus. That is the least we can do for these richly social, infinitely complex beings

By Desmond Morris

6:10AM BST 23 Apr 2015

Should Hercules and Leo be granted human rights – given the fact that they are chimpanzees, not humans? This is at the heart of an ongoing struggle in the American courts, where the two primates, kept for research at Stony Brook University, have been the subject of a habeas corpus bid to free them. This fundamental writ against unlawful detention has been used in this country for more than 800 years. For people, that is.

Like other animals, apes are protected from acts of physical cruelty by humans, but for them this is hardly enough. They are so close to us in intelligence and sensitivity that they are capable of suffering acutely from mental cruelty, and keeping a chimpanzee in solitary confinement in a research or zoo cage is always going to involve that, as they are deprived of freedom of movement and denied a social life that is part of their natural existence in the wild.

Back in the 1950s, before we knew much about them as social animals, I spent three years studying the behaviour of a young male chimp at the London Zoo. He was called Congo and he appeared with me every week on a live television programme that we transmitted from the zoo, becoming a much-loved celebrity. He lived with us in the zoo’s television unit and we became his family. The more I learned about his behaviour the more alarmed I became about the fact that we had “humanised” him.

Why animals fight members of other species

April 24, 2015

Brett Smith for – @ParkstBrett

Biologists have long wondered why some animals ignore other species and others aggressively combat interlopers from another species.

A new study from UCLA researchers has revealed that rubyspot damselfly males fight off males from other damselfly species because of competition for mating females – even though female rubyspot damselflies are not interested in inter-species mating.

“We were surprised to see how well the degree of reproductive interference — the competition for mates between species — predicts the degree of aggression between species,” said study author Jonathan Drury, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

Damsels in dsitress
In the study, researchers daily tracked more than 100 damselflies along rivers and streams in Texas, Arizona and Mexico. They found a substantial link between inter-species violence and similar coloration patterns. The biologists recorded some instances where aggression between species disappeared due to substantial divergence in wing coloration. However, in most of the pairs of species they studied, there is very little alteration in color, and males are as hostile to males of a different species as to males of their own species.

“Male damselflies often have difficulty distinguishing between females of their own species and another species when making split-second decisions about whether to pursue a female,” said study author Gregory Grether, a UCLA professor of ecology. “I think that’s the root cause of the persistence of male territorial aggression.”

After their observations, the team designed and confirmed a mathematical simulation projecting that as competition for mates rises, male aggression rises, and displaying at what point hostility against a different species becomes beneficial.

“Low levels of reproductive interference are associated with low levels of aggression, and high levels of reproductive interference are associated with high levels of aggression,” Grether said.

Related Posts with Thumbnails