Bushmeat Hunting, Wildlife Declines, and Fish Supply in West Africa
The multibillion-dollar trade in bushmeat is among the most immediate threats to the persistence of tropical vertebrates, but our understanding of its underlying drivers and effects on human welfare is limited by a lack of empirical data. We used 30 years of data from Ghana to link mammal declines to the bushmeat trade and to spatial and temporal changes in the availability of fish. We show that years of poor fish supply coincided with increased hunting in nature reserves and sharp declines in biomass of 41 wildlife species. Local market data provide evidence of a direct link between fish supply and subsequent bushmeat demand in villages and show bushmeat’s role as a dietary staple in the region. Our results emphasize the urgent need to develop cheap protein alternatives to bushmeat and to improve fisheries management by foreign and domestic fleets to avert extinctions of tropical wildlife.
Elephant Deaths Mystery in Botswana
The mystery surrounding a mass die-off of elephants in Botswana is deepening after initial test results ruled out poisoning and anthrax.
Wildlife officials had earlier ruled out poaching as no ivory had been taken. But officers have discovered more carcasses as the death toll surpasses 100.
Samples would now be sent to neighboring South Africa for further tests.
Mice are Shrinking
According to a well-studied but controversial principle known as Bergmann’s Rule, species tend to be larger in cold climates and smaller in warm ones. As human impacts heat the planet, will animals shrink over time?
To test this, a new study, published today in Scientific Reports, analyzed 70 years of records of the North American deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, one of the most common mammals in the U.S. and the best-documented rodent in North American museum collections and surveys.
Unexpectedly, researchers found deer mice are generally decreasing in mass over time, but this trend may not be linked to changes in climate or human population density, a proxy for urbanization. In another surprise finding, larger-bodied deer mouse populations are getting smaller and smaller-bodied populations are getting larger.
Thousands of tame elephants in parts of Thailand are facing starvation because the COVID-19 pandemic has kept away the tourists they once toiled to entertain, leaving their owners unable to feed them.
More than 100 of the lumbering animals have traveled on foot up to 100 miles to areas where they can now feed themselves in their home habitats.
The Save Elephant Foundation in the northern province of Chiang Mai helped bring the unemployed elephants to where they can live alongside villagers in a sustainable manner. One owner said the elephants made happy noises upon their first return home in 20 years.
Global warming is changing where birds breed
Global warming is shifting the behavior of migratory birds in the eastern regions of North America. Researchers have discovered that the breeding range of some birds is shrinking, while for others this range is expanding.
According to the study, birds that both breed and winter in North America are extending their ranges north where warming temperatures have created new, suitable places to breed.
The findings indicate that bird species such as Carolina wrens and red-bellied woodpeckers will be able to adapt to future climate change.
On the other hand, some birds have breeding ranges that are dwindling. Neotropical migratory birds breed in North America during the summer and migrate to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America for the winter.
Neotropical migrants include warblers, orioles, flycatchers, and other species that birdwatchers look forward to spotting in the spring. The researchers found that Neotropical birds are not expanding north, yet their suitable southern range is shrinking.
Over the past five decades, Neotropical bird populations have decreased by about 2.5 billion individuals.
Cicadas Return – After 17 Years
The drone of untold millions of singing insects will soon echo across parts of the eastern United States from a group of cicadas that emerges from the ground only once every 17 years.
The mating songs of brood IX are among the noisiest of their kind. Their habitat stretches from North Carolina to West Virginia, where as many as 1.5 million can surface per acre.
Cicadas are large, clear-winged insects with bulbous eyes that emerge every year or in cycles of 13 or 17 years. They then shed and leave their brown husks behind on trees and other objects. After breeding, their nymphs crawl into the ground for a 17-year slumber.
A new deadly virus spreading among US rabbit population
Humans aren’t the only ones facing a pandemic — rabbits across the U.S. are currently battling a deadly disease outbreak of their own. The virus has spread to at least six states, threatening to completely wipe out the country’s wild rabbit population.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus type 2 (RHDV-2) spreads quickly and is highly lethal, with the latest outbreak originating in New Mexico. According to the wildlife officials, the virus is not a coronavirus, but rather a calicivirus, and does not affect humans or animals other than rabbits, hares and possibly pikas.
Rabbits may experience fever, swelling, internal bleeding, lack of appetite and liver failure, or they may suddenly die without exhibiting any symptoms, officials say.
Starving seagulls in Italy have begun hunting rats, pigeons and other small birds since the coronavirus crisis began depriving them of their usual diet of scraps from tourists, according to a zoologist from Tor Vergata University of Rome.
“They are going back to being predators,” Bruno Cignini told the Corriere della Sera daily. “It mainly hunts pigeons, which are slaughtered, and all the other birds that come within range. … Luckily, it even eats rats.” Cignini added that the hungry birds have also been seen going after fish in the Tiber River.
Killer Wasps Arrive in USA
A giant and invasive bee-killing wasp, dubbed the world’s most venomous and intimidating insect, has arrived in Washington state, threatening agriculture. The Asian giant hornet is up to 2 inches in length and was first reported last fall along the Canadian border.
Its venom is seven times stronger than that of honeybees, and its stingers can even penetrate protective clothing. A few dozen of them can kill an entire colony of honeybees within a few hours. It’s believed the wasp arrived in a container ship from Japan or South Korea.It killed 50 people last year in Japan alone.
Some of the more colourful examples of how wildlife is reclaiming habitat during the global coronavirus lockdowns are the nearly 150,000 flamingos that have gathered in the wetlands around Mumbai, India.
Smaller numbers of the birds typically migrate to areas near the city from November until May. The Bombay Natural History Society believes there are around 25% more of the pink-winged visitors this year. It says they are now roosting in areas where they have never been seen.
Researchers say whales are probably among the creatures benefiting from the more quiet Earth, thanks to the reduction in worldwide human activities.
A consistent drop in underwater noise at frequencies known to affect marine mammals has been measured since January. This is mainly the result of sharp and ongoing declines in ocean shipping.
Whales are known to alter their calling behavior and suffer chronic stress when exposed to ship noise, and scientists want to know how they are now responding to the diminished din.
Climate Change Affecting Antarctic Seals
Crabeater seals have historically been quite successful. Their population ranges around 15 million, and conservationists haven’t had to worry too much about them—until now. Climate change is quickly changing the habitat of these cute Antarctic critters, and a new study shows that these seals will have to work harder for their food in a warmer world.
Despite the name, these ice-loving animals eat krill. In fact, that’s about all they eat. So the team followed seals and looked at their foraging patterns to predict krill habitat and project how that might change moving forward.
The results show that increased heat and loss of sea ice (which helps keep the sun’s heat out of the water) could reduce krill populations and push them to seek shelter farther south. That’s bad news for these seals that love to hang out near the coast on the ice where krill are typically found these days. If the krill move away from coastal waters—as the models in this study predict—the crabeater seals will need to swim farther to find them and eat.
The animals may spend more energy in search of a food source that may be less abundant. But understanding the changes here is crucial not just for the seals’ fate, but krill and other animals that rely on it as the base of the food chain.
The shift in krill habitat away from coastal waters in the north has big implications for species like penguins and fur seals, which can’t make long foraging trips because they have to come back to land to feed their offspring.
Farmed Fish Are Becoming More Dangerous to Eat
A report in Nature Communications has linked global warming to spreading antibiotic resistance in farmed fish and shellfish. This is why? Because seas and lakes are warming, albeit slower than our air; bacteria adore this warmer environment; fish farmers are dosing the hapless sea-life with ever increasing doses of prophylactic antibiotics, in the fond but futile hope of keeping them healthy long enough to be sold as food. All of this drives the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial species – which can and do confer their resistance unto nonresistant bacterial species. Aquaculture is now responsible for more than half the fish and seafood consumption around the world.
Insectageddon: They’re starving
A host of sources warn that locusts aside, insects are declining, which is seriously bad news for posterity. Now a study done in the canton of Zurich, representative of all central Europe, and reported in Ecological Applications, has isolated a cause beyond rampant pesticide use and habitat devastation: they’re starving. Farming has “captured” vast areas and the diversity of food plants the insects need has dramatically shrunk over the past 100 years, leaving bees, butterflies and, yes, flies unable to find the food they need. Even leaving aside fly rights, this is seriously bad news because insects play an unimaginably enormous role in the ecology.
Pollination without Bees
Israeli farmers are experimenting with an artificial method of pollinating crops because of fears that disappearing bees could threaten the future of some agriculture.
The method involves tractors pulling a mast equipped with small cannons that shoot out pollen into individual almond trees. The pollen is first extracted from budding trees with a mechanical harvester.
Eylam Ran, CEO of Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture, says the process can initially help out pollinating bees, then eventually replace them.
Wildlife During Lockdown
A white-bellied pangolin that was rescued from animal traffickers is seen at the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in Kampala, Uganda.
A squirrel runs across a fence as the sun shines in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district.
A fruit bat eats lettuce as it hangs from a rope during a behind-the-scenes interactive live stream from Oakland zoo in California, US, which remains closed to the public.
Nemophila flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Japan. The park has been closed to the public since 4 April to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
For the first time in decades, bald eagles have been found nesting in a saguaro cactus in Arizona, US. Kenneth ‘Tuk’ Jacobson, the Arizona game and fish department’s coordinator of raptor management, called the find ‘amazing’. According to Jacobson, the last known mention of such a sighting was in 1937.
Thousands of migrating swallows and swifts were found dead across parts of Greece during the first week of April after they were killed by freak high winds and downpours. Others were found gravely injured.
The country’s ornithologist association blamed currents that blew the birds from northern Africa into the strong winds from the north of the Aegean Sea, especially around the Greek Islands.
The association warned residents to take care not to drive or walk over exhausted birds that may have landed after flying for many hundreds or thousands of miles.