Global Warming

Great Barrier Reef corals have more than halved

Corals on the Great Barrier Reef have more than halved over the past 25 years, according to a study that prompted scientists to again warn the world-famous landmark will become unrecognisable without a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers from the Townsville-based ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies assessed coral communities and size between 1995 and 2017 and found the number of small, medium and large corals had fallen more than 50%.

Wildlife

Devils Return

A small number of Australia’s iconic Tasmanian devils have been transplanted to a forest near Sydney in a test project to repopulate the predators on the mainland.

The devils died out there more than 3,000 years ago after dingos were likely brought to Australia by prehistoric immigrants from Indonesia. And about 90% have been wiped out in their only remaining habitats on Tasmania by a deadly tumor cancer since the 1990s. The “rewilding” project of healthy devils by Aussie Ark is designed to ensure the survival of the species and help restore Australia’s ecological balance.

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Wildlife

USA ‘Wildlife Services’ Killers

The arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed approximately 1.2 million native animals in 2019, according to new data released by the program this week.

The multimillion-dollar federal wildlife-killing program targets wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals for destruction, primarily to benefit the agriculture industry in states like Texas, Colorado and Idaho. Of the 2.2 million animals killed last year, approximately 1.2 million were native wildlife species.

According to the latest report, the federal program last year intentionally killed 301 gray wolves; 61,882 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 251 destroyed dens; 364,734 red-winged blackbirds; 393 black bears; 300 mountain lions; 777 bobcats; 124 river otters plus 489 killed “unintentionally”; 2,447 foxes, plus an unknown number of red fox pups in 94 dens; and 24,543 beavers.

The program also killed 14,098 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 35,226 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated. These figures almost certainly underestimate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.

According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed more than 2,624 animals in 2019, including bears, bobcats, mountain lions, a wolf, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons and turtles. Its killing of non-target birds included ducks, eagles, swallows, herons and turkeys.

Wildlife

Rowdy Orcas

Yachtsmen off the coast of northwestern Spain have experienced some terrifying moments in recent weeks as orcas inexplicably rammed their vessels, causing damage to rudders and hulls. Officials have since banned sailboats less than 50 feet in length from navigating the affected coastal waters except for a specific route to the high seas. Biologist Bruno Díaz of Spain’s Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute told reporters that the ramming is probably being done by “immature teenage” orcas getting rowdy.

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Wildlife

Whale Stranding – Australia

Australian wildlife officials began disposing hundreds of dead pilot whales on Saturday, Sep. 26 after concluding there was no longer any hope of rescuing any more.

In Australia’s biggest whale beach, 470 whales were first spotted on a wide sandbank during an aerial reconnaissance in Tasmania on Sep. 21.

After days of difficult and dangerous rescue attempts, wildlife officials said they rescued 108 whales, with the rest now believed to have died.

Whales are very social marine mammals, and they typically travel together. The whales are believed to have gotten stuck and stranded together in the area, and were not able to get out.

The bodies of the dead whales are being separated into groups and enclosed with water booms to try keep them in one place- and isolated from sharks and other predators.

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Wildlife

Botswana Elephant Death Mystery Solved

GABORONE, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana this year, officials said on Monday, announcing the result of an investigation into the deaths which had baffled and alarmed conservationists.

Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Not all produce toxins but scientists say toxic ones are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.

The number of dead elephants had risen to 330, from 281 reported in July, while other animals in the Okavango Panhandle region appeared unharmed.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, about 25 elephant carcasses were found near the country’s biggest game park and authorities suspect they succumbed to a bacterial infection.

The animals were found with tusks intact, ruling out poaching and deliberate poisoning. Parks authorities believe the elephants could have ingested the bacteria while searching for food. The carcasses were found near water sources.

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Wildlife

More Trump Administration Wildlife and Environment Abuse

The National Park Service released a management plan amendment today for Point Reyes National Seashore that would enshrine commercial cattle ranching in the California park at the expense of native wildlife and natural habitat. It also calls for the killing of native tule elk and would authorize new agricultural uses that will put other wildlife at risk.

“This is a disaster for wildlife and a stunning mismanagement of one of America’s most beautiful national parks,” said Jeff Miller at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Park Service is greenlighting the slaughter of native wildlife in Point Reyes. After the elk, the next likely victims will be birds, bobcats, foxes and coyotes. This plan is illegal and immoral, and we’re going to do everything we can to stop it.”

In today’s “final environmental impact statement,” the Park Service selected Alternative B, which extends 20-year commercial leases to 15 private dairy and beef cattle ranches on 26,100 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area lands in Marin County. The plan authorizes continued overgrazing and does little to address ongoing damage by cattle to water quality and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife.

Wayward Whales

Three humpback whales on their way to Antarctic waters made a wrong turn into a crocodile-infested river in far northern Australia. While two appear to have turned back, one continued swimming upstream, where wildlife experts say it has little chance of being attacked by the much smaller reptiles. But there was concern that the lone whale could get stranded in a very remote area miles upstream where rescue efforts would be impossible, and it would then become “croc bait” as it foundered.

Wildlife

Avian Tragedy

Scientists are trying to determine what caused untold thousands of migratory birds to fall from the sky dead or dying across parts of the southwestern U.S.

The songbird fatalities could be linked to the thick pall of wildfire smoke they flew through en route from Alaska and Canada to their winter grounds in Central or South America.

Or they could have used up their fat reserves trying to fly around it before they perished in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and parts of Nebraska. Some fear the smoke damaged their lungs. “They’re literally just feathers and bones,” New Mexico State University graduate student Allison Salas wrote on social media.

Mosquito Plague

A mosquito population boom in the wake of Hurricane Laura’s fury in late August along the Gulf Coast has led to deer, cows, horses and other livestock being killed by the insects.

Animals as large as bulls have been drained of their blood and stressed to fatal exhaustion, according to veterinary experts at Louisiana State University.

The pests became so pervasive that several Louisiana parishes launched aerial spraying operations. Similar swarms occurred after Hurricane Lili in 2002 and Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Wildlife

Wildlife Populations Plummet

Global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to rampant over-consumption, experts said Thursday in a stark warning to save nature in order to save ourselves.

Human activity has severely degraded three quarters of all land and 40 percent of Earth’s oceans, and our quickening destruction of nature is likely to have untold consequences on our health and livelihoods.

The Living Planet Index, which tracks more than 4,000 species of vertebrates, warned that increasing deforestation and agricultural expansion were the key drivers behind a 68 percent average decline in populations between 1970 and 2016.

It warned that continued natural habitat loss increased the risk of future pandemics as humans expand their presence into ever closer contact with wild animals.

The last half-decade has seen unprecedented economic growth underpinned by an explosion in global consumption of natural resources.

Whereas until 1970, humanity’s ecological footprint was smaller than the Earth’s capacity to regenerate resources, the WWF now calculates we are over using the planet’s capacity by more than half.

While aided by factors such as invasive species and pollution, the biggest single driver of species lost is land-use changes: normally, industry converting forests or grasslands into farms.

This takes an immense toll on wild species, who lose their homes.

But it also requires unsustainable levels of resources to uphold: one third of all land mass and three quarters of all freshwater are now dedicated to producing food.

The picture is equally dire in the ocean, where 75 percent of fish stocks are over exploited.

And while wildlife is declining rapidly, species are disappearing faster in some places than others.

The index showed that the tropical regions of Central and South America had seen a 94 percent fall in species since 1970.

Singing Dogs

A rare species of dog that can sing, or more accurately yodel, has been rediscovered in the wild in the remote highlands of the Indonesian part of New Guinea.

The howls of the canines have been compared to the calls of humpback whales. There are about 200 captive descendants of the eight dogs that were gathered in the 1970s, but they are now seriously inbred.

While none have been seen in the wild for half a century, a new expedition returned to the capture site and found 15 of the wild dogs there are genetically similar enough to their captive cousins to provide them fresh genes.

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Wildlife

Elephant Deaths – Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean wildlife authorities are investigating the deaths of 12 elephants last week in a forest north of the country’s famed Hwange National Park.

Zimbabwe’s wildlife agency said on Wednesday it had discovered more elephant carcasses near a major game park, bringing the number of dead animals suspected to have been killed by a bacterial infection to 22, double the initial figure.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has already ruled out poaching and cyanide poisoning for the death of elephants in Pandamasuwe Forest in western Zimbabwe, between the largest wildlife sanctuary Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls.

Zimparks spokesman Tinashe Farawo said the latest elephant carcasses were found on Tuesday and Wednesday. Most of the animals were young, with the oldest being 18 years.

The elephants, which had their tusks intact, had died in similar circumstances to those first discovered last week.

Zimbabwe is home to some 80,000 elephants, around a fifth of Africa’s total, conservationists estimate. Overall numbers have declined sharply in recent years, mostly due to a combination of poaching, illegal hunting and drought.

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Mauritius Oil Spill

The 1,000 tons of fuel oil that spilled around Mauritius from a grounded Japanese tanker in July appear to have left at least 40 dolphins dead. Dead fish, turtles, whales and crabs were also observed. Fishermen say they saw a mother dolphin using the last of her energy in a futile attempt to keep her faltering calf alive. While the country’s fisheries minister said that at first glance, the deaths didn’t appear related to the spill, local oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo told reporters the deal dolphins smelled of fuel.

Wildlife

Dolphins Die in Mauritius

At least 40 dolphins have mysteriously died in an area of Mauritius affected by an oil spill from a Japanese boat, officials and witnesses said on Friday.

Environmentalists have demanded an investigation into whether the dolphins were killed as a result of the spill from a Japanese ship, which was scuttled on Monday after running aground in July and leaking oil.

The death toll may rise: fishermen say they saw between 25 and 30 apparently dead dolphins floating in the lagoon on Friday morning, among scores of the animals that fishermen were trying to herd away from the pollution.

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Wildlife

Whales Strand in Mauritius

Eighteen melon-headed whales washed upon the shores of Mauritius on Wednesday. The whales, some of them still alive when they were found, later died. They stranded on the soutyhj-eastern beaches of Grand Sable and some of them had injuries. The Department of Fisheries. Reported that they had no trace of hydro-carbons on them and their deaths appear unrelated to the oil still off Mauritius.

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Migratory Tragedy

More than 300 wildebeests perished during a suspected stampede while crossing the Mara River on Aug. 23 in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

The Nation daily reported that the bloated carcasses littered the river, filling the air of the country’s most famous game park with the stench of death. The park’s deputy chief game warden, Eddy Nkoitoi, said there were so many dead wildebeests in the water that the crocodiles and vultures couldn’t eat them all. Those that drowned unfortunately picked a part of the river to cross that was swollen by heavy rains upstream.

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Wildlife

Alaska salmon getting smaller

Alaska salmon have gotten smaller in recent decades, a downsizing that appears to be largely driven by climate change and increased competition for food as hatcheries release some 5 billion young fish into the North Pacific each year, according to a study published this month by U.S. and Canadian researchers in the science journal Nature Communications.

Alaska provides the vast majority of the United States’ wild salmon, and their smaller size is reducing the number of eggs that these fish produce and their value to commercial and other fishermen.

That decline encompasses salmon runs all over the state but varies by species and region. Chinook returning across a broad expanse of western and northern Alaska were some 10% smaller than the average size before 1990. Meanwhile in southeast Alaska, sockeye salmon declined — on average — by only about 2%.

Many of these salmon appear to be returning from the ocean earlier to freshwater spawning grounds, and that’s why they are smaller as they reach coastal-area harvest zones.

Wildlife

Elephant-shrew Rediscovered After 50 Years

Conservation group World wide Wildlife Conservation (GWC) announced the rediscovery of the “romantically monogamous” Somali sengi on Tuesday. The elephant-shrew was on the organization’s 25 Most Preferred Lost Species record.

GWC introduced the 1st scientific documentation of a single Somali sengi in a variety of photographs showing the mouse-like animal standing on some rocks. The insect-eater has a trunk-like nose and is more closely linked to elephants than ordinary shrews.

The study group caught an elusive Somali sengi in a lure baited with peanut butter, oatmeal and yeast.

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Wildlife

Early Magpie Mayhem

A changing climate appears to be extending the season when Australia’s magpies swoop down and terrorize cyclists and pedestrians, according to bird experts.

While the aggressive birds, which swoop to protect their hatchlings, typically don’t begin calling for a mate until the last full moon of August, they have already been menacing the human population for weeks.

Behavioral ecologist Darryl Jones of Griffith University says that the early swooping is probably because the magpies were tricked into nesting early by recent warmer winters and erratic weather. Authorities warn not to make eye contact with the birds, to carry umbrellas and to walk not run in areas where magpies are nesting.