Wildlife

Wildlife summit votes down plan to allow sale of huge ivory stockpile

An attempt to allow a huge sale of stockpiled elephant ivory has been defeated at an international wildlife conference. The rancorous debate exposed deep divisions between African nations with opposing views on elephant conservation.

About 50 elephants are still being poached every day to supply ivory traffickers and all countries agree the world’s largest land animal needs greater protection. But southern African nations, which have some of the largest elephant populations, want to allow more legal sales of ivory to fund conservation and community development. But 32 other African nations argue all trade in elephants must end, including the trophy hunting legal in some states.

The new sale proposal was comprehensively voted down by 101 votes to 23.

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Giraffes to be protected as endangered species for the first time

The Cites nations did give new protection to the giraffe by voting to end the unregulated international trade in the animal’s parts.

There are fewer giraffes alive than elephants and their population has plunged by 40% since 1985 to just 97,500. However, this debate also exposed the same north-south divide in the continent.

The proposal was passed when countries voted by 106 to 21.

New Mexico proposes ban on wildlife trapping near cities

New restrictions on wildlife foot traps and wire snares were proposed Thursday by regulators seeking to resolve conflicts over trapping traditions and evolving attitudes about animal suffering.

The New Mexico Game and Fish agency outlined a proposal to ban traps and snares on select tracts of public lands outside of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Taos, along with a half-mile no-trapping buffer at officially recognized hiking trailheads.

The proposal includes mountainous areas east of Albuquerque that are popular for outdoor recreation, along with swaths of national forest along mountain highways leading to ski areas near Santa Fe and Taos. Trappers would be required to attend training. Also, design specifications for traps and snares are being suggested to reduce the risk of animals being maimed by snares and to ensure they don’t walk away with traps attached.

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Wildlife

California to build largest wildlife crossing in world

Hoping to fend off the extinction of mountain lions and other species that require room to roam, transportation officials and conservationists will build a mostly privately funded wildlife crossing over a major Southern California highway. It will give big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safe route to open space and better access to food and potential mates.

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Wildlife

Freshwater species on a fast decline

Freshwater species have declined 88 percent since 1970 — twice the decline of animals on the land or ocean, according to recent research, yet large gaps remain in monitoring and conservation efforts. The two main threats, they found, are overexploitation and the loss of free-flowing rivers. “The results are alarming and confirm the fears of scientists involved in studying and protecting freshwater biodiversity,” said Sonja Jähnig, of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries.

Thousands of birds killed during hailstorm

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More than 11,000 waterfowl and wetland birds were killed after “baseball-sized” chunks of hail fell on a Montana wildlife management area last weekend, state officials said Friday. Ducks and shorebirds with broken wings, smashed skulls and other signs of internal bleeding were found on the shores around Big Lake Wildlife Management Area in Molt, Montana.

Biologists who surveyed the area estimated that between 11,000 and 13,000 birds were found dead or badly injured after the hailstorm. Most of the injured birds are not expected to survive. About 20 to 30 percent of the entire bird population at the lake died in the storm.

Panama – A Broken Link in an Intercontinental Wildlife Route

The expansion of human populations has left animals such as white-lipped peccaries, jaguars, giant anteaters, white-tailed deer and tapirs isolated throughout Panama, a study recently published in Conservation Biology found. The nation represents the narrowest portion of a system of protected areas and connecting corridors that extend through the length of Central America and part of Mexico, known as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC).

The results of the study strongly suggest that the bridge [through Panama] is broken. Until a few decades ago, many of these large mammal species still occurred continuously throughout the isthmus.

Now the animals live in forest “islands,” surrounded by cattle ranches, fields of crops, roads and other human developments that jeopardize their ability to move from one place—and, correspondingly, from one group—to another. The habitat fragmentation prevents animal movement and gene flow between populations, which can be detrimental to their long-term survival.

Panama has always played a crucial role in the movement and gene flow of numerous neotropical forest species. When the Isthmus of Panama, connecting North and South America, emerged about 2.8 million years ago, the event led to the Great American Biotic Interchange, allowing species to migrate between the two continents.

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Wildlife

World’s nations gather to tackle wildlife extinction crisis

From giraffes to sharks, the world’s endangered species could gain better protection at an international wildlife conference.

The triennial summit of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), that began on Saturday, will tackle disputes over the conservation of great beasts such as elephants and rhinos, as well as cracking down on the exploitation of unheralded but vital species such as sea cucumbers, which clean ocean floors.

Extraordinary creatures being driven to extinction by the exotic pet trade, from glass frogs to star tortoises, may win extra protection from the 183-country conference. It may even see an extinct animal, the woolly mammoth, get safeguards, on the grounds that illegal elephant ivory is sometimes laundered by being labelled as antique mammoth tusks.

The destruction of nature has reduced wildlife populations by 60% since 1970 and plant extinctions are running at a “frightening” rate, according to scientists. In May, the world’s leading researchers warned that humanity was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the planet’s natural life-support systems, which provide the food, clean air and water on which society ultimately depends.

South Africa pushes for trade in endangered wildlife

The South African government, together with those of the DRC, Namibia and Zimbabwe, is proposing measures which, if enacted, could open the door to the international trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and other endangered species.

In a submission to the eighteenth conference of the parties (CoP18) to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to be held in Switzerland in September 2019, the countries argue for a major overhaul in the way in which the organisation operates.

They believe they should be allowed to sell threatened wildlife species anywhere in the world in the same way that mineral resources and mass-produced plastic trinkets are traded on global commercial markets.

In essence, the countries proposing these changes to CITES are upset that current rules prohibit them from deriving profits from wild animals which they consider to be valuable products that they should be entitled to harvest and sell as they see fit.

South Africa is one of the best examples of this philosophy in action. Over the past decade or so, the government, guided by economists promoting extreme free-market policies and the unrestricted commodification and commercialisation of nature, has succeeded in crafting laws and regulations that explicitly lay out this interpretation of sustainable use, for instance in the case of lions and rhinos.

The government-supported industry of breeding lions in captivity in South Africa provides an illustration of the outcomes of this philosophy. Supposedly proud of its global wildlife conservation status, the country now hosts more of these caged and commodified lions than live in its national parks and nature reserves.

The problem is that wild animals are not the same as commercial goods and lions bred in captivity for the sole purpose of becoming targets for wealthy trophy hunters and a ready supply of bones for the market in traditional Chinese medicine, are neither capable of surviving in the wild nor have any conservation value whatsoever. In fact, one could argue that they are no longer truly lions in an ecological sense.

Given the current extinction crisis, we should do everything to protect endangered species, not expand ways to exploit them to their greatest commercial potential and it is extremely short-sighted and irresponsible for South Africa and other countries to make proposals that would diminish CITES’ effectiveness.

Wildlife

Cyanide Bombs Banned in Some States

Notwithstanding the Trump administration’s reauthorization of the use of sodium cyanide in wildlife-killing devices called M-44s “cyanide bombs”, wildlife advocacy groups in a number of States have successfully campaigned to ban their use, including Wyoming (2019), California (2019 and 2017), Oregon (2018), Colorado (2017), Arizona (2017) and Idaho (2019 and 2018).

Wildlife

Trump Administration Guts Endangered Species Act

The new rules, which the administration says will benefit businesses, tell regulators not to consider science alone when making decisions about endangered species.

Back in May, the United Nations warned that 1 million species are at risk of extinction, and that time is running out to save them — posing a severe risk to human life. Now, the Trump administration has significantly weakened the Endangered Species Act, a bipartisan 1973 law designed to prevent the most threatened species from going extinct.

The Endangered Species Act bans harassing, hurting or capturing species deemed endangered, and it requires agencies to enact rules designed to protect their ecosystems. Its goal, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), is to help species recover to the point that they no longer need federal protection. The most famous species that ecologists credit the FWS with preserving is likely the bald eagle. There were just a few hundred breeding pairs left in the U.S. in the 1970s, according to the American Bird Conservancy. Now, there are thousands.

The Trump administration’s argument for scaling back the act rests on the idea that it’s a burden to businesses.

The first key change to the act, according to The New York Times, involved requiring regulators to take economic costs into account when making decisions related to protecting species from extinction. The law previously required regulators to rely entirely on science in their decision-making.

The second key change has to do with the term “foreseeable future” that’s used in the act, according to the Times. Currently, regulators can take into account the effects of heat and drought and other impacts that result from ongoing climate change as part of making decisions related to the foreseeable future. The tweak, according to the Times, could lead to disregarding climate science as part of decision-making to protect endangered species.

“Over the objections of nearly everyone, the Trump Administration has eviscerated one of our nation’s foundational environmental laws. Poll after poll shows Americans support the Endangered Species Act as a lifeline to the wildlife it protects. The Administration ignored the hundreds of thousands of objections from scientists, wildlife experts and the American people who overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act,” Rebecca Riley, legal director for the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in the statement.

Wildlife

Droves of Blacktip Sharks Are Summering in Long Island for the First Time

Sharks making their annual northward migration from Florida have a new summer vacation destination: Long Island.

Blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus), which range from 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 meters) long, spend much of the year in Florida before heading north to cooler waters. In the past, the Carolinas were the sharks’ destination of choice. But not anymore. Because of climate change, the waters off North and South Carolina are no longer cool enough in the summer. So blacktips are seeking waters farther north — and Long Island fits the bill.

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Wildlife

Heatwaves kill coral reefs faster than believed: Study

Marine heatwaves are killing coral reefs far more quickly than previously believed, according to a new study released yesterday.

Scientists have known that rising sea temperatures blamed on global warming can severely damage reefs through a process of “bleaching”, where the high temperatures kill the colourful algae that nourish the coral animals. Coral anemones build calcium carbonate skeletons that create the reefs and rely on algae for most of their food. In return, the algae get a home to live in.

Repeated “bleaching events”, such as ones that hit Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017, can eventually kill the coral in a process which takes months or years. If sea temperatures ease, some bleached corals are able to regenerate.

But the new study found that severe marine heatwaves can actually degrade the skeletal structure of the coral, potentially killing the organisms in a matter of days or weeks.

“The severity of these heatwave events is beyond the bleaching process, it’s actually a point where the coral animal itself is dying,” said Dr Tracy Ainsworth, a co-author of the study from the University of New South Wales.

Wildlife

Plastic instead of Coral

A team of divers cleaning up the waters off Greece’s Andros Island said they found a “gulf full of plastic coral.”

Waving on the ocean floor like a forest of kelp, the plastic debris probably wound up there eight years ago when a nearby makeshift landfill collapsed into the sea.

It was “like the paradise of the Caribbean Sea, where you find coral reefs everywhere of every color. It was the exact same thing, but instead of coral, it was bags,” said diver Arabella Ross with the group Aegean Rebreath.

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Wildlife

Record Number of Sea Turtle Nests in Florida, USA

“Amazing!” That’s the word turtle rescuers are using to describe the number of sea turtle nests found on Tampa Bay area beaches.

Sarasota and Manatee counties are seeing the highest number of sea turtle nests in 38 years. Mote Marine is tracking 5,063 nests along a 35-mile stretch of beach between Longboat Key and Venice. That includes 4,888 loggerhead nests, 170 green turtle nests, and five others.

Trump Administration Reauthorizes Wildlife-killing M-44 ‘Cyanide Bombs’

The Trump administration has reauthorized use of sodium cyanide in wildlife-killing devices called M-44s. These “cyanide bombs” received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency despite inhumanely and indiscriminately killing thousands of animals every year. They have also injured people.

The devices spray deadly sodium cyanide into the mouths of unsuspecting coyotes, foxes and other carnivores lured by smelly bait. Anything or anyone that pulls on the baited M-44 device can be killed or severely injured by the deadly spray.

Wildlife

High lead concentrations found in Amazonian wildlife

It is in industrialised countries and regions of the world where one can find the highest concentrations of lead, the world’s most widespread neurotoxical accumulative metal. Thus, it was presumed that the Amazon, the world’s largest expanse of tropical rainforest containing the highest levels of biocultural and cultural diversity, would contain a low amount of urban or industrial contaminants due to its remoteness and low human impact.

A group of researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology and the Department of Animal Health and Anatomy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), and the Central University of Catalonia/Vic University, for the first time have evaluated lead concentrations and isotopic fingerprints in free-ranging wildlife in remote areas of the Peruvian Amazon.

High concentrations of lead were found in the livers of Amazon wild mammals and birds, animals which are consumed daily by the local indigenous population. These values are higher than those observed among wild animals found in industrialised countries. The presence of this unexpectedly high level of lead in Amazonian wildlife poses a health risk for the local population, which relies on subsistence hunting.

The researchers also demonstrated that the main sources of lead are the extended use of lead-based ammunition, as well as pollution related to oil extraction. The toxic compounds entered the trophic chain mainly with the advance of oil extraction activities.

Wildlife

Tiger Population

A new census of India’s wild tiger population shows the number of the big cats has increased by more than 30 percent over the past four years thanks to conservation efforts.

By using a network of 26,000 remote motion-sensor cameras across known tiger habitats, wildlife experts determined there are now 2,967 tigers in the wild, compared to 2,226 in 2015. Neighboring Bangladesh also saw its big cat population jump from 106 to 114 over the period.

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 tigers roamed the South Asia region in 1900.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Sea Lion Nearly Swallowed

While humpbacks were lunge feeding on a school of anchovies near Monterey Bay, California, a sea lion apparently didn’t jump out of the way fast enough and got trapped inside the whales mouth! At some point the sea lion escaped and the whale seemed fine too as it continued to feed, but it must have been a strange experience for both parties.

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Wildlife

Whale Strandings – Georgia, USA

Beachgoers, wildlife officials and lifeguards in Georgia pitched in to help free dozens of stranded whales earlier this month. About 50 live short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) beached themselves or came dangerous close to beaching themselves on St. Simons Island in the state’s southeast. Some of the whales continued to try swimming ashore after being freed, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said that at least three of the whales died. Necropsies on these whales showed mild signs of disease, but nothing out of the ordinary. Researchers are unsure why the whales stranded themselves, but it could be due to faulty echolocation signals which don’t work as well in shallow water, or due their strong pod loyalty — as one whale gets beached, the others may have tried to help out.

Wildlife

More Than 200 Reindeer Found Dead from Starvation in Norway

Researchers recently found more than 200 dead reindeer on the island of Svalbard in Norway; the animals starved to death due to climate change, which is disrupting their access to the plants that they typically eat.

Climate change is bringing warmer temperatures to Svalbard, which means more precipitation. And heavy rainfall in December is thought to be responsible for the unusually high number of reindeer deaths.

After the December rain hit the ground, the precipitation froze, creating “tundra ice caps,” a thick layer of ice that prevented reindeer from reaching vegetation in their usual winter grazing pastures. This forced the animals to dig pits in shoreline snow to find seaweed and kelp, which are less nutritious than the reindeer’s usual fare.

With their pastures locked in ice, the reindeer also have to travel farther to find food. And when there is little to eat, the youngest and oldest animals are usually the first to die.

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