Monday 30 November 2015

Wolves return to Poland more than 50 years after being wiped out

National park outside Warsaw says several of the animals seem to have settled there again after government cull in the 1960s

Agence France-Presse in Warsaw

Wednesday 25 November 2015 18.51 GMTLast modified on Wednesday 25 November 201519.53 GMT

Wolves have returned to a large national park on the outskirts of Warsaw, decades after they were wiped out there under a hunt launched by the communist authorities.

“We’re really happy,” said Magdalena Kamińska, spokeswoman for the 150sq mile (385sq km) Kampinos national park, Poland’s second largest. “The fact that wolves have returned to our park, from which they completely disappeared in the 1960s, means that nature is in good health and is renewing itself.”

Park employees spotted a first wolf in 2013, but the animal was just passing through. Now there are several and they appear to have settled in for the long haul, Kamińska said.

A young male wolf was caught on a hidden camera just a few days ago, and in September another was spotted drinking at a watering hole.

Poland’s communist regime organised a vast wolf cull in the 60s in response to their perceived danger, paying residents for every animal shot dead. The park’s last wolf pack was killed in 1964.

Humpback Whales Make Migration Pit Stops at Underwater Mountains

by Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | November 27, 2015 02:41pm ET

Underwater mountains are key stopovers in the migratory routes of an endangered population of humpback whales in the South Pacific, new research shows.

Humpback whales are found in all of the world's oceans, from icy to tropical waters. They migrate farther than any other mammal, traveling great distances from their summer feeding grounds to their winter breeding and birthing grounds. In fact, a record-setting female humpback was recently discovered swimming from Brazil to Madagascar, a voyage of at least 6,090 miles (9,800 kilometers).

Many aspects of humpback migrations remain mysterious, as they mostly occur far away from humans. Previous research had revealed that humpback whales migrating from breeding grounds off the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa swim in nearly straight lines in the Atlantic Ocean without noticeable stops and in relatively narrow corridors. Similar migration patterns were seen among humpbacks migrating from breeding grounds off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

World's rarest ape is teetering on the edge of extinction

A new count suggests there are only 26 Hainan gibbons left in China’s rainforests – is it too late to save them?

By Melissa Hogenboom
27 November 2015

It's not a great title to carry. Being the rarest of anything indicates that you may well soon disappear altogether.

On first sight, prospects do look grim for the Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus). These apes are not only the rarest primate in the world, they are the rarest mammal alive today.

Half a century ago we didn't know much about the Hainan gibbon

There are thought to be as few as 26 individuals remaining, and they all live in a small part of the rainforest in China's Hainan province, an island off the coast of southern China.

Although protected, their habitat shows sign of gradual decline as locals scour the forest for edible or medicinal plants, occasionally hunting the other animals that share the gibbons’ environment. 

Half a century ago we didn't know much about the Hainan gibbon. There were about 2,000 individuals at that point, but it wasn’t clear whether they actually constituted a unique species. By the time we learned that they do, over-hunting and logging in their forests had reduced their numbers dramatically. But new insights into their lives may yet help save this rare, beautiful ape.

Rats: Sniff and track, or run and scan?

Date: November 24, 2015
Source: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

It's dinnertime, and the smell of delicious food makes your tummy rumble. However, it's dark because of a powercut and you can't see very clearly. Should you try to 'follow your nose' to locate food? Or should you simply guess and peek into the kitchen, or the dining room or the veranda -- the likeliest places for dinner to be served? A recent study shows that the latter method -- dubbed 'run-and-scan' -- may actually be more efficient in finding your target than just following your nose.

Research by Urvashi Bhattacharyya and Upinder Bhalla from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore, reveals that while searching in a familiar area with limited choices, a run-and-scan strategy is more efficient than a tracking strategy. In a recently published paper in the journal eNeuro, Bhattacharyya and Bhalla used rats to study how animals choose navigational strategies when presented with an odour signal.

Japan to resume whaling in Antarctic despite court ruling

28 November 2015 

Japan has announced it will resume whaling in the Antarctic early next year after a break of more than a year.

The decision comes despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Japan cease all whaling.

The Japanese government says it has taken into account the court ruling and its "scientific" whaling programme will be much smaller.

But the announcement has been condemned by environmental groups and the Australian and UK governments.

"We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called 'scientific research'," said Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

"We are deeply disappointed with Japan's decision to restart whaling in the Southern Ocean," said the UK environment ministry, Defra. "This undermines the global ban on commercial whaling which the UK strongly supports."

Sunday 29 November 2015

Britain's rivers becoming hotbed of crime as organised gangs steal fish on a huge scale

'Organised crime has been having it away for years undetected and under the radar'
Tom Bawden Environment Editor 

Friday 27 November 2015

Britain’s rivers are becoming a hotbed of crime as organised gangs are stealing fish on a huge scale and eastern European migrants catch pike to feed their families, a leading “fish policeman” has said.

The Angling Trust’s chief investigator Dilip Sarkar said the crime was hurting businesses, fuelling racial tension and increasing the pressure on Britain’s dwindling stocks.

“Organised crime has been having it away for years undetected and under the radar, happily getting on with it,” said Mr Sarkar, a retired policeman and lifelong angler.

But in recent years the homegrown crime syndicates, which focus on smuggling giant carp from France into the UK and selling them for a fortune, have been joined by fishing lawbreakers from eastern European countries such as Poland and Lithuania.

In some cases this is down to innocent cultural differences, he said, but in others it is intentional crime .

Tarantulas evolved blue colour 'at least eight times'

By Jonathan Webb
Science reporter, BBC News

28 November 2015 

Tarantulas have evolved almost exactly the same shade of vibrant blue at least eight separate times.

That is the conclusion of a study by US biologists, exploring how the colour is created in different tarantula species.

The hue is caused by tiny structures inside the animals' hairs, but those shapes vary across the family tree.

This suggests, the researchers say, that the striking blue is not driven by sexual selection - unlike many other bright colours in the animal kingdom.

This argument is also supported by the fact that tarantulas have poor colour vision, and do not appear to show off their hairy blue body parts during courtship.
Blue branches

Nonetheless, Bor-Kai Hsiung and his colleagues found that 40 out of 53 groupings (genera) of tarantula exhibit a very vibrant blue.

Bat immune receptors are one of a kind

Date: November 26, 2015
Source: Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)

An international team of scientists discovered that in bats, Toll-like receptors, the first-line defense mechanism against invading pathogens, are different from other mammals. This suggests that the way bats recognize certain pathogens may be different than in other species and help explain why bats appear to suffer little from some pathogens which cause serious disease or mortality in other mammals. The study has been published in the scientific journal Molecular Ecology.

International scientists have characterized the evolutionary patterns of a specific type of immune receptors called "Toll-like receptors" (TLRs) in different bat species. They compared these with receptors of other mammals and discovered that the bat receptors show unique differences. This may have consequences for the functional recognition of specific pathogens and therefore the resistance against these pathogens, and may help explain why bats are not affected by many pathogens which are a serious challenge to many other mammalian species.

The study was conducted by an international team from the Department of Wildlife Diseases of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin in close collaboration with the Centre for Geogenetics of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, the National Center for Research in Animal Microbiology of Mexico (CENID-INIFAP) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

100kg of ivory seized at Heathrow

More than 100 kilograms of illegal elephant tusks and other ivory items have been seized at Heathrow Airport.

The seized ivory at Heathrow Airport, which included raw elephant tusks along with carved bangles and beads, was discovered in baggage left abandoned at Terminal 4 in transit from Angola on its way to Hanover in Germany. Border Force has described the haul as one of the biggest that has been found in the UK, totalling 110kg

Phil Douglas, Director, Border Force Heathrow said: “This is one of the largest seizures of its kind made in the UK and it demonstrates the vigilance of our officers. The illicit trade in animal products like ivory is a serious contributory factor in the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species and that is why the rules around it are so strict.

“Border Force takes its role in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking very seriously and, working together with our partners in the UK and internationally, we are determined to bring it to an end.” 

The Internet Is Losing Its Mind Over Alleged Sightings Of The Legendary Goatman


This year-old video, which hails from the the Strange Mysteries Channel on YouTube, details the history of the fabled Goatman. This hybrid creature has peppered popular culture since 1957 when it was first spotted in Maryland. I guess we could call this fella a cryptid, as he is presumably half-human and half-goat, but the video’s lead-in photo plays like a jokester who likes to hit the gym and enjoys fooling folks with goat-themed cosplay.

Regardless, the creature known colloquially as “The Pope Lick Monster” has recently (and allegedly) been spotted throughout Wisconsin, Texas, and Kentucky. That’s quite a stretch for a creature who would presumably be limited in gait as “a horned man with the cloven hooves of an ungulate.” His legends hold that he also possesses the strength to tear hikers apart with ease. Perhaps Goatman also moves with the ungodly speed of Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil? Stranger things have happened.

These scattered sightings of the creature arrive not too long after the release of J. Nathan Couch’s book, Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? Couch, a Wisconsin-based ghost hunter, dug into the decades-deep history of the Goatman, who has frightened generations of teenagers who would otherwise hang freely in the woods for rampant makeout sessions. Well, maybe the Goatman did serve a purpose.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Ancient snake skull found in Argentina could reveal why the reptiles have no legs

The research challenges the theory that snakes originally became limbless as they began to live in the sea

A fossilised snake skull found in Argentina may have solved the mystery of how the animals lost their legs.

Rather than shed them to become better swimmers as they began to inhabit aquatic environments, the skull, from 90 million years ago, suggests legs became an evolutionary disadvantage as the ancestors of modern snakes wriggled into increasingly narrow burrows in pursuit of prey.

The research challenges the theory that snakes originally became limbless as they began to live in the sea. The secret of the lost limbs was revealed by an examination of the inner ear of Dinilysia patagonica, a two-metre long relative of the modern snake.

Using Computed Tomography (CT), scientists found a distinctive structure in its bony canals and cavities that was also turned out to be present in modern burrowing snakes and lizards.

But the structure, which may assist with the detection of prey and predators, was missing from snakes that live in water or above ground. Lead scientist Dr Hongyu Yi, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “How snakes lost their legs has been a mystery to scientists but it seems this happened when their ancestors became adept at burrowing.

“The inner ears of fossils can reveal a remarkable amount of information and are very useful when the exterior of fossils are too damaged or too fragile to examine.”

Friday 27 November 2015

South Africa High Court rules to allow domestic rhino trade

The South African High Court decision to allow domestic trade in rhino horn to resume with immediate effect, has been greeted with dismay by conservation charities.

The ruling has been made as a South African Government Committee of Inquiry into the feasibility of international trade in rhino has yet to release its conclusions. Depending on the outcome of the Inquiry the government will decide on whether or not to make a submission at the Johannesburg 2016 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Without a legal domestic market, it would be unlikely that CITES would allow the lifting of a ban on international trade on rhino horn.

“The question has to be asked: ‘Who is going to buy rhino horn in South Africa?’ This is all part of a bigger campaign to push for international trade and is driven purely by the economic motives of a few who wish to trade rhino horn” said Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Persian dwarf snake consists of six species, scientists discover

Date: November 23, 2015
Source: Ghent University

The Persian dwarf snake is wrongly classified as one species, scientists say. New research shows it is composed of six different species, a finding which might be important for the conservation of the snake.

The Persian dwarf snake or Eirenis persicus lives in an area stretching from southern Turkey to the northeast of Pakistan. Mahdi Rajabizadeh, a former PhD student of Ghent University professor Dominique Adriaens, decided to investigate its biodiversity.

Together with researchers from six other countries, he examined 30 male and 30 female specimens, based on extensive field expeditions and museum specimens. The scientists used advanced techniques such as geometric morphometrics, molecular phylogeny and ecological niche modeling.

Six different species
The research, which was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, revealed that the Persian dwarf snake is not a single species at all. It is composed of 6 different species, wrongly classified as the species Eirenis persicus. A molecular clock analysis revealed that the divergence and diversification of the E. persicus species group mainly correspond to Eocene to Pliocene orogeny events subsequent to the Arabia-Eurasia collision.

New, presumably tick-borne bacterium discovered in an Austrian fox

Date: November 27, 2015
Source: Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

Ticks can transmit various diseases to people and animals. Some well-known diseases spread by ticks include tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme disease. Researchers at the Vetmeduni Vienna are hot on the trail of pathogens carried by ticks. The parasitologists recently discovered a new form of the bacterium Candidatus Neoehrlichia in a red fox from the Austrian state of Vorarlberg. The pathogen might also be transmittable to humans. The results were published in the journal Parasites & Vectors.

Adnan Hodžić from the Institute of Parasitology at the Vetmeduni Vienna is searching for pathogens transmitted by ticks. He is especially interested in wild carnivores (foxes and wolves) which could be a possible reservoir and source of infection for humans and other animals.

One special pathogen, first discovered in 1999 in Ixodes ricinus ticks, is the bacterium Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM). The first case of CNM causing illness in a person was identified in the year 2010 in Sweden. Since then, the bacterium has been found several times in humans as well as in animals such as dogs, hedgehogs, shrews, bears, badgers, chamois and mouflons. In people, an infection with CNM bacteria causes fever, muscle and joint pain, and a higher risk for thrombosis and embolisms. Older and immunocompromised people are especially at risk.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Cobwebs Hold Genetic Secrets About Spiders and Their Prey

by Elizabeth Palermo, Associate Editor | November 25, 2015 02:09pm ET

You may want to think twice before vacuuming up any pesky cobwebs you find around your home — these messy spider lairs may contain valuable information (valuable to scientists, that is).

A spider's sticky web contains traces of the critter's DNA, as well as the DNA of whatever prey that was unlucky enough to get stuck in the web, according to a new study, which found that these tiny samples of DNA can be amplified and sequenced in a lab. In other words, an empty spider web isn't a mystery; it's a clue that can tell scientists what kind of spider built the web and what prey it snagged in its trap.

Knowing exactly which species of spider built a web in a certain area, as well as knowing what that spider feasted on, is important information for researchers in a variety of fields — from conservation ecology to pest management, said study lead author Charles C.Y. Xu, a graduate student in the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme (MEME) in evolutionary biology, a joint program hosted by four European universities and Harvard University in the United States.

New report shows shocking extent of UK exotic pet trade

Two animal welfare organisations are calling for a Government review of the exotic pet trade, as a worrying new report reveals the huge scale of unsuitable and potentially dangerous animals widely available to buy online.

The One Click Away report1, compiled by Blue Cross pet charity and the Born Free Foundation, found that at any one moment across a sample of just six websites, there were around 25,000 adverts2 offering more than 120 types of exotic animals for sale online. Animals for sale included reptiles, exotic birds and primates, many of which are particularly vulnerable to welfare problems when kept as pets. With little or no regulation of online sales, the charities are concerned for the health and welfare of the animals available to inexperienced owners, as well as the safety of the public and want to see laws surrounding the sales of exotic pets brought up to date.

Very few adverts offered advice on the animals’ history or how to care for them, potentially leaving new owners unaware of health or behaviour problems and sellers are not required to state whether an animal could be harmful.

Steve Goody, Blue Cross Deputy Chief Executive, said: “This report shows the shocking scale of the exotic pet trade and the urgent need for action. For the inexperienced, it can be difficult to care for many of these animals in a domestic environment and as a result the animals’ welfare often suffers.

Adapting to -70 degrees in Siberia: A tale of Yakutian horses

Date: November 23, 2015
Source: Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

From an evolutionary perspective it happened almost overnight. In less than 800 years Yakutian horses adapted to the extremely cold temperatures found in the environments of eastern Siberia. The adaptive process involved changes in the expression of a plethora of genes, including some also selected in human Siberian groups and the extinct woolly mammoth.

In a new scientific study, the comparison of the complete genomes of nine living and two ancient Yakutian horses from Far-East Siberia with a large genome panel of 27 domesticated horses reveals that the current population of Yakutian horses was founded following the migration of the Yakut people into the region in the 13-15th century AD. Yakutian horses, thus, developed their striking adaptations to the extreme cold climate present in the region in less than 800 years. This is one of the fastest examples of adaptation within mammals. The findings are reported in the PNAS early edition from November 23rd by an international team of researchers led by Dr. Ludovic Orlando from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

Cambridge scientists getting to grips with what makes stick insects stick.

It's long been a matter of some conjecture - how the stick insect is able to stick. Well, scientists in Cambridge may have discovered the reason.

They've found that geckos, tree frogs, spiders and insects all share a special skill – they can walk up vertical surfaces and even upside down using adhesive pads on their feet.

But geckos have ‘dry’ feet, while insects have ‘wet’ feet. Scientists have assumed that the two groups use different mechanisms to keep their feet firmly attached to a surface, but new research from David Labonte and Dr Walter Federle in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology provides evidence that this isn’t actually the case.

“It has generally been assumed that the fluid on their feet must be involved in helping insects like stick insects adhere to a surface by capillary and viscous forces – in the same way that a beer glass will stick to a glass table if it’s wet on the bottom.

"Our research shows that the fluid is likely used for something else entirely – it may even help insects unstick their feet.”

By measuring how much force was required to detach the foot of a stick insect from a glass plate at different speeds and applying the theory of fracture mechanics, Labonte and Federle found that only a ‘dry’ contact model could explain the data.

Headless boa constrictor is second snake found dumped in park in a week

15:04, 19 NOV 2015 UPDATED 15:46, 19 NOV 2015


The RSPCA is investigating the incident and has warned people to be aware of the amount of care exotic animals need before buying them as pets

An investigation has been launched after the body of a headless snake was foundjust days after a 6ft boa constrictor was rescued from the same public park .

The decapitated snake was discovered in the park just over a week after the boa constrictor was found by two dog walkers in the same area.

Dad-of-two Ian Willey and his sons, Calum, 12, and Evan, eight, made the discovery in Danson Park in Welling, Kent.

The family spotted the four-foot long dead reptile just yards from the children’s play area before reporting it to park rangers on Sunday.

The RSPCA says it is “extremely concerned” about the second snake, which is believed to be another boa constrictor.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Extremely rare, insanely adorable pygmy hippo born in UK

NOVEMBER 20, 2015

by Brett Smith

Classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, pygmy hippopotamuses are extremely rare in the wild, with only about 2,000 individuals thought to be left. So it's no surprise then that zookeepers at the Bristol Zoo in the United Kingdom are particularly excited about the recent birth of a baby pygmy hippopotamus.

Zookeepers told BBC News they don’t know the sex of the baby hippo yet, and as a result haven’t decided on a name.

"The calf is looking very strong and it certainly feeds well,” said Lynsey Bugg, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo. "It spends short periods of time in the water but is not quite as good at swimming as its parents.”

SHOCK WARNING: 8,690 tree species in Amazon on verge of becoming EXTINCT

MORE than half of the 15,000 species of tree found in the Amazon rain forest are now on the brink of extinction, it has been revealed.

PUBLISHED: 18:54, Fri, Nov 20, 2015 | UPDATED: 19:29, Fri, Nov 20, 2015

The worrying spectre of trees that could hold the secret to the cure of cancer and play host to the richest wildlife spectacular on the planet disappearing in our life times has been highlighted in a new study.

It reveals that between 36 and 57 per cent of Amazonian trees, that is as many as 8,690 different species, are likely to qualify as being globally threatened under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria.

The new study, published tonight in the journal Science Advances, reached its shocking conclusions after comparing results of forest surveys across the Amazon with maps of current and projected deforestation to estimate how many tree species have been lost, and whereabouts.

A global global team made up of 158 researchers from 21 countries and involving Britain’s University of East Anglia (UEA) carried out the study, which also concluded that Amazonian parks, reserves, and indigenous territories, if properly managed, can protect most of the threatened species.

Tiny one-month-old turtle the size of a 50p coin found dumped in a wheelie bin

13:47, 19 NOV 2015
UPDATED 13:53, 19 NOV 2015

The reptile, nicknamed Tiny Tina, was found cold, lethargic and hungry

This tiny baby turtle which is the size of a 50p coin is recovering after being found dumped in a wheelie bin.

The reptile, nicknamed Tiny Tina, is thought to be just one month old and can be seen walking around in this cute footage.

She was found cold, lethargic and hungry in a dustbin and handed to Heath Veterinary Clinic in Burgess Hill, West Sussex who have nursed her reptile back to health.

Practice Manager Sarah Solomon said: "We were really shocked to have a turtle brought into the clinic and upset to find out she had been dumped.

National Day of the Hedgehog: can the prickly favourite be saved from extinction?

Hedgehog numbers have dropped from more than 30 million in 1950 to under a million in 2015. Martin Fletcher meets the men trying to save them

By Martin Fletcher

12:01AM GMT 21 Nov 2015

It is dark and raining. Two figures – a man and woman – move quietly through the trees and fields surrounding Hartpury College in rural Gloucestershire. They track this way and that. With a powerful torch, they search the land around them. Periodically, the woman stops, holds an aerial above her head and listens for beeps on a transmitter.

An onlooker might mistake these two nocturnal prowlers for poachers, perhaps. Or thieves. Terrorists, even, in this day and age. But they would be wrong. The pair are simply seeking to ensure the survival of one of Britain’s most endangered animals: the humble hedgehog.

"A new estimate released today says that their numbers have declined by a further half in rural areas, and a third in urban areas"

The man is Hugh Warwick, the country’s most prominent hedgehog champion. The 49-year-old ecologist admits to having conducted a ‘passionate affair’ with the spiky little creatures for three decades. From Devon to the Outer Hebrides, he has spent countless nights tramping the countryside in search of them. He has written two books on them, including the definitive history of hedgehogs in art, music, literature, philosophy and the media.

He is the public face of the 11,000-member British Hedgehog Preservation Society. He speaks about hedgehogs at schools, universities and Women’s Institute meetings up and down the country. He has a hedgehog tattooed on his ankle. He once journeyed to a remote region of central China in a fruitless search for his namesake, Hemiechinus hughi, a hedgehog so rare that only 12 sightings had been recorded in the past century.

Scientists discover new camouflage mechanism fish use in open ocean

November 19, 2015

Scientists have solved a longstanding mystery about how some fish seem to disappear from predators in the open waters of the ocean, a discovery that could help materials scientists and military technologists create more effective methods of ocean camouflage.

In a paper published this week in Science, a team led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin reports that certain fish use microscopic structures called platelets in their skin cells to reflect polarized light, which allows the fish to seemingly disappear from their predators.

Polarized light is made up of light waves all traveling in the same plane, such as the bright glare you sometimes see when sunlight reflects off the surface of water.

Under the surface of the water, light tends to be polarized. Many fish—and sophisticated modern satellites—have the ability to detect variations in such polarized light.

Rare neon Blue Dragon slug spotted in Australia

NOVEMBER 22, 2015

by Chuck Bednar

An unusual, neon-blue creature spotted earlier this month on a beach in Queensland, Australia might resemble a tiny Targaryen dragon, but in reality the bizarre lifeform is a type of sea slug commonly called the Blue Dragon.

Video footage captured by locals show the amazing striped creature wriggling around the waters of Queensland’s Broadbent beach, and according to Tech Times and Mental Floss, it is officially named the Glaucus atlanticus. These slugs float on their backs and move using the water’s surface tension, and are typically found in moderate to tropical bodies of water.

The slug feeds on venomous jellyfish, but instead of being harmed by its prey’s toxic sting cells (nematocysts), the Blue Dragon digests them and stores the venom on the outside of its body. It uses this as a defense mechanism against would-be predators or nosy humans, and as one would expect, experts recommend not touching the slug, no matter how incredible it may look.

In addition, G. atlanticus, which typically grows to between 3-4 centimeters (1.18-1.57 inches) in length, uses its strange stripes as camouflage to hide from potential threats from both above and below. As it floats along, its blue underside helps it blend in with the water’s surface, while its silver back creates the illusion of the shimmering surface of its oceanic home.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Northern white rhino dies in US, leaving only three alive

One of the world's last four remaining northern white rhinos has died in a zoo in the United States.

The condition of Nola, a 41-year-old female, had deteriorated after surgery and she was put down on Sunday.

Nola had been a popular attraction at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1989.

The remaining three northern white rhinos - all elderly - are kept closely guarded at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Surrogacy programme
Nola underwent surgery on 13 November to drain a hip abscess. However, her health deteriorated a week ago and worsened again over the weekend and it was decided she should be put down.

The northern white rhino population was devastated by poachers seeking their prized horns, and was declared extinct in the wild in 2008.

Cancer-free Tasmanian Devils returned to homeland Cancer-free Tasmanian Devils returned to homeland in a bid to save species from extinction

By Telegraph Video, and Reuters

7:10PM GMT 19 Nov 2015

The largest group so far of disease-free Tasmanian devils has been released in the wild, as part of plans to save the carnivorous marsupials from a cancer threatening them with extinction.

A group of 22 of the creatures, made famous by their namesake Warner Bros cartoon character, was flown to the island state of Tasmania from a captive breeding facility near Sydney and released in native bushland.

The Tasmanian devil population has plummeted to around 10,000 from an estimated 250,000 before 1996, when Devil Facial Tumor Disease was first discovered. The disease causes large lumps to form around the animal's mouth and head, making it hard for it to eat.

"Tasmanian Devils in the wild have been absolutely decimated by this disease," Mike Drinkwater, operations manager at the Devil Ark recovery programme told Reuters. "It's a very, very nasty disease. After three months we see symptoms, after six months those devils are gone."

Bark-eating koalas shake expert consensus on dietary behaviour

Scientists amazed by isolated group of koalas in New South Wales that have developed a taste for the bark, as well as leaves, of eucalyptus tree species

An isolated group of koalas has baffled Australian ecologists by developing a taste for the bark, as well as leaves, of a particular species of gum tree.
The behaviour is widespread among several hundred koalas found in New South Wales – but is limited to the brittle gum, Eucalyptus mannifera, and only some individual trees.

Proposal to euthanise koalas with chlamydia divides expertsBark-eating has been observed in koala colonies in other parts of the country, but not on the same scale as among this population – found in the north-east Monaro region of southern NSW – spread over an area of between 20,000 and 30,000 hectares.

Landowners had reported the behaviour as long ago as 2003, but there was insufficient evidence to convince other scientists the scarring of tree trunks was not the work of other animals, such as cockatoos or yellow-bellied gliders, said Chris Allen, threatened species officer with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. “It was felt to be so unlikely that it was koalas,” he said.

Near-record eel pulled from Lady Bird Lake


A near-record 38-inch eel was recently found in Lady Bird Lake.

10984495_529159007238632_1679841702144279266_n.jpgTexas Parks and Wildlife pulled it out of the lake during a fish survey.

It's an American eel, native to Texas and found as far south as South America.

The Texas record is 42 inches, this one just four inches short.

The eel was released back into the lake.

Expedition explores remote Galapagos home of rare tortoises

Date: November 20, 2015
Source: SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Scientists have launched an expedition to a remote volcano in the Galapagos Islands to search out rare giant tortoises, some of which were found to carry the genes of two species thought, until recently, to be extinct.

Dr. James P. Gibbs, a conservation biologist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, New York, who is part of the team, said the expedition is focused on rescuing some of the tortoises so they can be bred in captivity, paving the way for the re-establishment of two species that were believed to have vanished from the archipelago. The team departed Nov. 18 for a trip to Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island.

"Our team from the Galapagos National Park Service, Yale University, and the Galapagos Conservancy discovered a small trove of extremely unusual tortoises on the remote Wolf Volcano on the northern end of Isabela Island," said Gibbs, shortly before he left Syracuse for the Galapagos. "There are actually thousands of tortoises native to the volcano there -- we don't know how many -- and amongst them are some rather special ones."

Gibbs credited his colleagues at Yale University with the genetic analysis that revealed in 2012 that some of the tortoises at Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island are descendants of the species of tortoises that are extinct on their native islands of Pinta and Floreana. The last known living Pinta tortoise was the famous Lonesome George. Floreana tortoises have not been seen for more than 100 years - Charles Darwin was one of the last to remark on them. Researchers launched a high-profile search for a mate for the iconic tortoise, but the effort was unsuccessful and Lonesome George died in 2012. Gibbs, who has worked with Galapagos tortoises since 1994, escorted George's body back to the United States to be taxidermied where it remains as preparations are made in Galapagos to build an exhibit hall for the tortoise.

Engineers develop new method to repair elephant tusks

Date: November 17, 2015
Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

When Birmingham Zoo veterinarians approached researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering to help them stop a crack from growing in their oldest elephant's tusk, the engineers saw an opportunity to use their expertise in materials science to improve the industry standard for the repair process.

Cracks in elephants' tusks have historically been repaired by adhering a metal ring to the tusk in order to stabilize the crack and prevent it from growing any farther up the tusk.

The Birmingham Zoo asked the director of UAB's Materials Processing and Applications Development Center, Brian Pillay, Ph.D., to do just that, for Bulwagi, a 35-year-old male African elephant in their care.

Pillay's immediate response was to innovate the process, and apply some of the science the lab uses in other materials processes to create a new, more robust and seamless treatment for the crack.

"When the team at the Zoo asked me to create this metal ring, I thought, 'we can do better,'" Pillay said. "We can use what we know about materials development to make something that will work better for the elephant."

"This is something that's bridging the gap between what Dr. Pillay's lab does working with industrial settings and what we do working with a biologic situation," said Richard Sim, DVM, associate veterinarian at the Zoo. "It's a first of its kind in that way -- combining engineering that would normally be used in structures like bridges and applying it to an elephant."

Monday 23 November 2015

Conservationists urge Mauritius to halt cull of threatened fruit bat

A government cull of tens of thousands of bats has no scientific basis and is putting the survival of the species at risk, coalition says

Tuesday 17 November 2015 12.03 GMTLast modified on Thursday 19 November 201514.00 GMT

Conservationists are calling for an end to a government cull of tens of thousands of fruit bats in Mauritius that they say is putting the survival of the threatened species at risk.

Authorities began shooting 18,000 Mauritius fruit bats (Pteropus niger) on 7 November, despite protests and even though the species is protected on the Indian Ocean island and listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, the world’s conservation union.

The government claims the cull is necessary because the number of bats hassoared to almost 100,000 and is causing significant economic damage to the country’s lucrative fruit crops of banana, pineapple, lychee and mango.

But a coalition of conservation groups is calling for an immediate halt to the cull of the bats - also known as flying foxes - and says there is no scientific evidence to justify it.

“This catastrophic cull of the Mauritius fruit bat is indefensible and must end now,” said Frederick Kumah, WWF African regional director. “The people of Mauritius do not support this cull and nor do the world’s scientists and conservationists. There is no acceptable reason to continue with this destruction.”

The cull plans to kill 20% of the population by the end of the month, but the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation estimates the population is closer to 50,000, meaning the cull could wipe out almost 40% of the species. 

The NGOs, which include the African Conservation Centre, African Wildlife Foundation, Birdlife International, Conservation International and WWF, say the government has double-counted the number of bats.

Announcing the cull last month, environment minister, Jayeshwur Raj Dayal, said the bat was no longer an endangered species and “the aim is about getting the balance right so that we can continue to have a sustainable bat population but also agricultural production”. Local fruits are a source of income for many people, and the impact of bats was “quite severe”, he said.

Violent 'monster goldfish' has outgrown tanks four times and splashes water out if he doesn't get fed

13:03, 17 NOV 2015
UPDATED 14:09, 17 NOV 2015

Bob was just an inch-long when he was bought three years ago but a diet of Sunday lunches has seen him grow into a foot-long beast

A goldfish has become a FOOT-LONG monster who angrily splashes water out of his tanks if he spots a cat or does not get fed.

Bob the goldfish left his owner stunned with his refusal to stop growing which forced her to splash out on buying the brute FOUR new tanks.

Anne Cooper bought two inch-long goldfish from her local pet store three years ago but while one of them stayed small, the other continued to grow.

Big, bad Bob now even joins in on Sunday lunch and terrorises the family's two cats while also charges at anything he spots which is the colour red.

The three-year-old monster goldfish demands feeding twice a day and takes part in Sunday lunch by swimming to the surface to be fed garden peas BY HAND.

Anne, 56, who lives in Scarborough, Yorkshire, said: "Bob seems to be still growing and I have no idea when he will stop. How big can a goldfish grow? I am going to have to get another new tank now as he is now too big for this one - despite it being about five feet long.

"He is more than a foot in length and shows no signs of stopping. His size is quite intimidating to the cats who often approach him but if he moves suddenly then they run away in fright.

Related Posts with Thumbnails