Wildlife

Bees take advantage of Wildfires

What looks like total destruction after a wildfire is actually a boon to bees.

Oregon State University researchers found 20 times as many bees in places where trees were wiped out by high-severity fire. Their study published this month is the first to show that the worse fire is for trees, the better it is for bees.

With trees gone, more sunlight hits the ground — triggering an explosion of wildflowers and blooming bushes. The smorgasbord of pollen and nectar sends bee numbers soaring. Trees damaged by wildfire also attracted insects that bore into wood. Cavity-nesting bees were able to turn those holes into homes.

Wildlife

Botswana Considers Culling Elephants

People living on the outskirts of Botswana’s game parks are anxiously waiting to see if the government is going to do anything to stop roaming wildlife from killing villagers and eating and destroying their crops.

The government is in the process of debating whether to cull elephants, revoke the 2014 ban on hunting or try to keep the wildlife off villagers’ land.

Communities living on the outskirts of fence-less, state-owned parks and forest reserves say their lives are proof that wild animals cannot coexist harmoniously with human beings.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi appears to be sympathetic to the plight of these communities who are attacked and killed by wild animals and whose crops are eaten and destroyed.

Culling and hunting options have sparked widespread opposition and criticism from animal rights groups and conservationists.

In what appears to be a political crusade to justify culling and hunting as options, the Botswana government has said:

– 25 people have been killed by elephants between 2009 and this year so far;

– Botswana has an elephant population of 130 000 against its carrying capacity of 54 000;

– More than 70% of the elephant population lived outside their designated areas.

Wildlife

Butterfly Bonanza

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Residents of Israel and Lebanon have been treated to the flutter of millions of butterflies that have appeared this spring in numbers not seen in more than 100 years.

The massive migration of Vanessa cardui butterflies from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait came after a winter that saw unusually heavy rainfall. Experts say this gave the species’ caterpillars a bumper crop of plants to thrive on.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority says the butterflies have reached Cypress on their way to Spain and other parts of Europe for the summer.

Bleak Future for Corals

Unprecedented coral bleaching events at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during 2016 and 2017 have left the World Heritage Site without enough juvenile coral to rebuild, scientists warn.

A report in the journal Nature says the number of “coral babies” trying to repopulate the reef has fallen by 89 percent.

While there are ongoing small-scale efforts to transplant juvenile coral to the reef, researchers say that the efforts are likely to be futile due to the high probability of more severe coral bleaching events brought on by a warming world.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Living ‘Balloon on a String’

The depths of the Indian Ocean are home to some bizarre creatures — including one that looks like a balloon on a string. Explorers captured a video of this gelatinous creature in a recent dive to the Java Trench, the bottommost part of the Indian Ocean.

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Wildlife

Wildlife bridges over highways make animals safer

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Roaring traffic doesn’t stop big mammals like moose and bears from crossing highways—nor does it keep myriad smaller creatures from being squished by car tires. In just two years along one stretch of highway in Utah, 98 deer, three moose, two elk, multiple raccoons, and a cougar were killed in car collisions—a total of 106 animals. In the United States, there are 21 threatened and endangered species whose very survival is threatened by road mortalities, including Key deer in Florida, bighorn sheep in California, and red-bellied turtles in Alabama.

There’s one solution, however, that’s been remarkably effective around the world in decreasing collisions between cars and animals crossing the road: wildlife under- and overpasses. One can get reductions of 85 to 95 percent with crossings and fencing that guide animals under or over highways.

Wildlife Officers Rescue Birds Stuffed in Tiny Cages in India

Despite massive conservation efforts, the illegal wildlife trade continues around the world, putting endangered species at risk and threatening millions of vulnerable animals. In India, the trade of pet birds is a big issue. Thus, this makes the recent news of 550 protected Indian birds being rescued from an illegal pet market in Kolkata even more harrowing.

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Wildlife

World’s Rarest Giant Turtle Loses Last Known Female, All But Guaranteeing Extinction

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is considered the most critically endangered turtle in the world, with only four known individuals left on Earth. On Saturday (April 13), that population fell to three, as the species’ last known female died in a zoo in Suzhou, China.

The captive turtle was more than 90 years old and died shortly after an attempt to artificially inseminate her. No complications from the insemination procedure (which was the turtle’s fifth) were reported, and the cause of death is being investigated.

The rare turtle is survived by one male, who also lives in the Suzhou Zoo and is believed to be about 100 years old. Scientists had been trying to breed the pair for years, but were unsuccessful due, in part, to the male’s damaged penis.

The world’s final two known R. swinhoei turtles live in separate ponds in Vietnam. Their genders are unknown. The species used to be widespread in the fresh waters of China and Vietnam, but have dwindled to near-extinction due to hunting and habitat loss.

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Wildlife

Birds vs Buildings

A new study finds that hundreds of millions of birds die by crashing into U.S. buildings each year during their migrations.

Songbirds are among the greatest victims at night because they emit chirps that signal other birds to follow and sometimes crash into the structures.

City lights and glass windows that appear as clear air to the birds are also threats. Chicago is said to be the most deadly city for bird crashes, with Houston and Dallas coming in second and third.

Researchers say that since half of migratory birds pass through a particular city during six nights in the spring and seven nights in the fall, cities could cut down on bird deaths by dimming their lights during those brief periods.

Whale Liberation

The Kremlin has intervened to free nearly 100 whales that have been held in small pens in Russia’s Far East following months of pressure from animal rights groups and Hollywood stars.

It is believed the whales were caught last year for sale to Chinese marine parks, which pay millions of dollars for them. Surveillance by Greenpeace and other groups revealed that the whales have suffered from hypothermia, skin lesions and flipper deterioration.

An international group of scientists, including the famed marine expert Jean-Michel Cousteau, announced that the whales will be released in phases under the new agreement with Moscow.

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Wildlife

The Impact of Plastic on Wildlife

A plastic bag or a six pack ring floating by in the ocean would cause someone to cringe. Large pieces of plastics are easy to spot, campaign around and clean up. But who cleans up the nearly invisible pieces of plastic floating around bodies of water – microplastics? The tragic effect of plastic on wildlife is often overlooked.

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Island Culls

Some scientists are proposing that feral cats and dogs, rodents, pigs and goats should be culled on 169 islands to save critically endangered species.

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE argues that the invasive animals often occupy islands where the entire native population is at risk of extinction.

Most of the invasive animals were inadvertently introduced to the islands by visiting ships or brought there intentionally by humans.

Successful culls have been conducted on islands such as South Georgia, which is now rat-free for the first time in two centuries.

Wildlife

Endangered Wildlife seized in the Philippines

A large seizure of 450 live wild animals from the island of New Guinea has been made in the southern Philippines, comprising hundreds of birds, dozens of reptiles, and a single Critically Endangered Western Long-beaked Echidna Zaglossus bruijni. The discovery comes a year after a similarly large seizure of Indonesian wildlife was made close to the Philippine capital, once again highlighting this illegal wildlife trade route in Southeast Asia.

Rarely seen, even in trade, the Western Long-beaked Echidna is found in Indonesian Papua and is often described as one of earth’s most mysterious mammals. This egg-laying mammal is threatened by hunting and habitat loss.

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Wildlife

Anthrax – Kenya

Officials with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) are reporting the death of ten buffaloes at Lake Nakuru National Park. Anthrax infection is the suspected cause of the die-off of the animals. The area is suffering an extreme drought. Anthrax tends to manifest itself during times of stress in wildlife.

Wildlife

Rare White Whale

A whale-watching guide struck white gold last month when he encountered a rare, albino gray whale breaching off the west coast of Baja California, Mexico. The sighting has drawn comparisons to Moby Dick, the white whale of literary legend described by Herman Melville in 1851. Unlike Moby, who was a gargantuan sperm whale with an appetite for New England mariner limbs, the gray whale recorded here was probably just chilling in the area for its annual mating season.

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Wildlife

Rare Reptilian

Australian researchers say they have documented the previously unknown ability of a three-toed skink to lay three eggs, then weeks later give birth to a live baby from the same litter.

Camilla Whittington from the University of Sydney said it was the first time a vertebrate animal has been seen with such an ability.

Skinks are normally “bimodally reproductive,” giving birth in some places while laying eggs in others.

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Global Warming

The Effects Of Global Warming Have Reached The World’s Southernmost Coral Reefs

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Previously unaffected areas have also started exhibiting damage now. One such area was the southern parts of Australia, house to the world’s largest coral reef. Bleaching is not the same as dying but, the health of the coral is definitely under extra stress and can lead to eventual death.

This is exactly what has been spotted in the corals near Lord Howe Island, which is 600 km away from the coast of Sydney. This area was previously undamaged from the effects of global warming when the Great Barrier Reef faced severe bleaching in 2017. These are the southernmost coral reefs along the Australian coast and researchers have found them to be around 90% bleached already.

The corals in the deeper regions of the marine park were relatively healthier and didn’t exhibit any bleaching. These effects are also elevated due to the onslaught of summer in the southern hemisphere. The extent of damage is still within the realm of recovery and the scientists will be returning to Lord Howe Island to evaluate if these corals have any chance of recovery. If the water temperatures drop, the corals can recover back to a healthier state, and be attractive for algae to populate them once again.

So technically, there is still hope for these corals to flourish. But if history is any indication, we haven’t really been successful at restoring and undoing the damage caused by global warming, the Great Barrier Reef posing as a poster boy for that statement. At the end of the day, this is another reminder for us, humans, to urgently take up practices that don’t put so much strain on the planet.

Changing snow harms Arctic wildlife

Snow is crucial to survival for Arctic wildlife. But climate change is altering the extent, timing and properties of Arctic snow and little is known about the detail of these changes.

In November 2013 tens of thousands of reindeer starved to death after a “rain on snow” event in Russia’s Yamal peninsula. Just as the reindeer reached their winter foraging grounds, rain created a layer of ice, preventing the reindeer from scraping away the snow to reach the vegetation beneath. It was a classic case of “the wrong kind of snow” and was hard to detect remotely.

Such events are anticipated to become more frequent as climate changes but our knowledge is limited because it’s tricky to observe them directly. Scientists describe three case studies.

For polar bears it’s snow drifts that matter. “In the winter the females den up to have their pups – on sea ice or on land – and the main condition is a sufficient accumulation of snow on the lee side of a ridge of a particular size.

Dall sheep, a species endemic to the mountain ranges of Alaska, seek out wind-exposed patches of vegetation along ridge-lines during the depths of winter. Trends of increased winter precipitation may put the sheep at risk, with the snow too deep to have enough of these windblown “holes”.

Caribou in central Canada undertake their massive spring migration a few weeks before snowmelt begins in earnest. They time their arrival at their calving grounds for when the snowmelt is about to start so that “greening up” of the landscape is imminent. Exactly which cues caribou use to determine when to start their journey isn’t known, but it’s likely they take note of snow depth and hardness.

The scientists propose further studies to better understand the relationship between existing snow patterns and the wildlife that rely on the snow for their survival.

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Wildlife

Another Dead Whale Full of Plastic – This Time, in Italy

Yet another whale carcass has washed up with a stomach full of plastic. This time, it was a female sperm whale with 49 lbs. (22 kilograms) of plastic in her stomach. She washed up on a beach in Porto Cervo, a popular tourist destination in Sardinia, Italy.

She was pregnant and had almost certainly aborted before (she) beached. The fetus was in an advanced state of decomposition.

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Wildlife

Elephant Rescue

Six baby elephants separated from their parents and trapped in a muddy pit for days have been rescued by park rangers in rural Thailand.

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