Wildlife

Namibia to Auction Wildlife

Namibia will auction one thousand of its wild animals because a severe drought is threatening their lives. Namibia has successfully managed to grow its wildlife population in recent years, but this severe drought is putting immense pressure on it. The Ministry of Agriculture reported this April that 63,700 animals died in 2018 due to severe weather conditions.

The government expects to raise nearly one million euros (17 million Namibian dollars) for wildlife conservation by selling the following: buffaloes, oryx, elands, impalas, giraffes, kudus, springboks, wildebeest and elephants. The proceeds will be invested into the Game Products Trust Fund which manages income derived from trophy hunting, donors funds and wildlife auctions.

Wildlife

Rare Giraffe to Give Birth

Kenya Wildlife Services announces rare white giraffe is pregnant. Ishaqbini Hirola Sanctuary, located in Ijara sub-county is home to the critically endangered Hirola Antelope and the only white giraffe in the world.

Screen Shot 2019 06 17 at 2 22 05 PM

Wildlife

Elephant Poaching in Botswana Rises

Botswana—widely considered a safe haven for elephants in Africa—appears to be suffering from its own surge in poaching, according to aerial survey work published today in the journal Current Biology. Botswana is estimated to be home to more than 130,000 savanna elephants—about a third of Africa’s remaining population. Until recently, the southern African country had largely escaped the scourge of elephant killings for ivory, still in high demand in China and elsewhere.

In 2014 there were no incidents of suspected elephant poaching in Botswana. But in 2018, across five areas, 156 fresh or recent carcasses whose skulls had been cut open and the tusks removed were counted. Many of the carcasses were hidden under bushes, suggesting, that those animals were victims of the illegal ivory trade.

Zero elephants poached in a year in Northern Mozambique Park

One of Africa’s largest wildlife preserves is marking a year without a single elephant found killed by poachers, which experts call an extraordinary development in an area larger than Switzerland where thousands of the animals have been slaughtered in recent years.

The apparent turnaround in Niassa reserve in a remote region of northern Mozambique comes after the introduction of a rapid intervention police force and more assertive patrolling and response by air, according to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the reserve with Mozambique’s government and several other partners.

Aggressive poaching over the years had cut the number of Niassa’s elephants from about 12,000 to little over 3,600 in 2016, according to an aerial survey. Anti-poaching strategies from 2015 to 2017 reduced the number killed but the conservation group called the rate still far too high.

Following the new interventions, the last time an elephant in the Niassa reserve was recorded killed by a poacher was May 17, 2018.

Although the low number of remaining elephants is also a factor in the decline in poaching, a year ago, it was estimated that fewer than 2,000 elephants remained in Niassa, now preliminary analysis of data from a survey conducted in October and not yet published indicated that about 4,000 elephants are in the reserve.

A year that appears to be free of elephant poaching in the sprawling reserve drew exclamations from some wildlife experts. “It is a major and very important development that poaching has ceased. This represents a major success.”

Wildlife

Plant Extinctions

After analyzing the populations of more than 330,000 seed-bearing plants around the world, the study authors found that about three plant species have gone extinct on Earth every year since 1900 — a rate that’s roughly 500 times higher than the natural extinction rate for those types of plants, which include most trees, flowers and fruit-bearing plants. Unsurprisingly, human activity plays a key role in this elevated extinction trend.

The researchers found that, while roughly 1,300 seed plant species had been declared extinct since 1753, about half of those claims were ultimately proven to be false. In the last 250 years, more than 400 plants thought to be extinct have been rediscovered, and 200 others have been reclassified as a different living species. That leaves approximately 571 species confirmed extinct in the last 250 years, vanishing at a rate of roughly 18 to 26 extinctions per million species per year.

Wildlife

Lightning strike kills two giraffes

Officials at a Florida wildlife park say two giraffes that died last month were killed by lightning.

Lion Country Safari posted Tuesday that recent pathology results confirmed that the giraffes died as a result of a lightning strike and that the deaths were instantaneous.

Officials at the facility in Palm Beach County say Lily and Jioni were in a pasture on May 3 when a severe thunderstorm quickly developed. The giraffes had access to numerous shelters in the multi-acre habitat if they chose to use them.

62435255 10157141010421664 3821153444572430336 n

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Last summer, a Russian man was strolling along the shore of the local Tirekhtyakh River in Yakutia when he came upon a grisly sight: the severed head of an ancient wolf. The head had been well preserved by the permafrost and still sported a full head of hair and sharp fangs.

Scientists dated it to over 40,000 years ago, or the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Their analysis also revealed that the wolf was fully grown and was between 2 and 4 years old when it died. The severed head is 16 inches (40 centimeters) long. That’s about half the size of a modern wolf’s body.

Screen Shot 2019 06 11 at 11 35 39 AM

Wildlife

Plastic Hive

Scientists in Argentina say they have found a wild bee nest made of plastic debris. Mariana Allasino, of the National Agricultural Technology Institute, made the discovery after examining nests at the edges of crops in San Juan province.

One of the nests she and colleagues encountered had been built with bits of blue strips the consistency of plastic shopping bags, along with thicker pieces of other plastic material.

Experts fear the plastic lining of the nest cells could harm the bees by trapping moisture and harboring disease-causing organisms. Others say somewhat disingenuously that the nest indicates that bees can adapt to human influences on their habitats by making use of our rubbish.

Wildlife

Early Migration

East Africa’s annual wildebeest migration began nearly a month early due to unusual weather patterns this season. The premature start in late May caught many safari resorts and tour operators off guard.

“Climate changes such as heavy rains in Tanzania as well as depletion of resources in one area are among the reasons we are having an early wildebeest migration,” said Shadrack Ngene of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Kenyan weather experts say the rainy seasons have become unreliable and do not follow the schedules of just a few decades ago.

EWCOLOR

Wildlife

Gray Whale Deaths

Since January, more than 70 dead gray whales have washed up on the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada. That’s the most in a single year since 2000, and scientists are concerned.

So far this year, 73 dead whales have been spotted on West Coast beaches: 37 in California; three in Oregon; 25 in Washington; three in Alaska; and five in British Columbia, Canada. Most of them were skinny and malnourished, which suggests they probably didn’t get enough to eat during their last feeding season in the Arctic.

The condition of the dead whales also suggests there are many that scientists aren’t counting because emaciated whales tend to sink. The numbers that actually wash up do represent a fraction of the true number. Some estimates suggest it’s as few as 10%.

These gentle giants were once severely threatened by whalers. There were only around 2,000 of them left in 1946, when an international agreement to stop gray whale hunting was initiated to help the population recover, according to The Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals in California. Gray whales were removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1994, when the population was estimated to be about 20,000. In 2016, scientists estimated there were about 27,000.

Screen Shot 2019 06 05 at 1 35 41 PM

USDA Kills Millions of Animals

The arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed nearly 1.5 million native animals during 2018, according to new data released by the agency 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. Of the 2.6 million animals killed last year, nearly 1.5 million were native wildlife species.

According to the latest report, the federal program last year intentionally killed 357 gray wolves; 68,186 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 361 destroyed dens; 515,915 red-winged blackbirds; 338 black bears; 375 mountain lions; 1,002 bobcats; 173 river otters plus 537 killed “unintentionally”; 3,349 foxes, plus an unknown number of fox pups in 133 dens; and 22,521 beavers.

The program also killed 17,739 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 47,547 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 2,700 animals last year, including bears, bobcats, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons and turtles. Its killing of non-target birds included chickadees, cardinals, ducks, eagles, hawks, herons, owls and turkeys.

Dozens of domestic animals, including pets and livestock, were also killed or caught. Such data reveals the indiscriminate nature of painful leg-hold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and other methods used by federal agents.

“The barbaric, outdated tactics Wildlife Services uses to destroy America’s animals are appalling and need to end,” said Collette Adkins of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help balance the web of life where they live. They should be protected, not persecuted.”

The wildlife-killing program contributed to the decline of gray wolves, Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets, black-tailed prairie dogs and other imperiled species during the first half of the 1900s and continues to impede their recovery today.

4,000 live reptiles rescued

Global police forces have carried off the largest reptile trade bust to date, arresting 12 suspects and seizing more than 4,000 live reptiles at airports, breeding facilities, and pet stores across Europe, North America, and elsewhere throughout April and May.

The initiative, dubbed Operation Blizzard—a play on words referring to the deluge of activity around lizards—was coordinated by Interpol and Europol in response to the illegal trade in snakes, turtles, and other protected reptiles. Trafficking of these animals is threatening some species with extinction and also fueling disease outbreaks among humans.

The exotic reptile trade has exploded in the past two decades, with millions of the animals now imported—legally and illegally—into the European Union and United States as household pets. Some reptiles are also coveted for their skins, made into high-end fashion items such as shoes, belts, and handbags.

Wildlife

Beaver Cull – Indiana, USA

Wildlife officials are culling beavers and demolishing their dams in a swampland nature preserve in southwestern Indiana to protect a species of oak tree rarely found in the state.

Overcup oaks thrive in swamps, but beaver dams in the Twin Swamps Nature Preserve have elevated water levels so high that the trees have been damaged or killed.

Now, the state has stepped in to combat the threat at the 500-acre (200-hectare) property in Mount Vernon. Despite the delicacy of the habitat and the apparent destruction of the beavers, the goal isn’t to eliminate the beaver population from the preserve altogether, but to reduce it.

Screen Shot 2019 06 03 at 12 57 49 PM

Wildlife

Mass Die-Off of Puffins

Hundreds of “severely emaciated” puffin carcasses have washed ashore on an Alaskan island, and researchers believe thousands more have died at sea as warming waters continue to shrink their food supply.

Between October 2016 and January 2017, inhabitants of St Paul Island in the Bering sea found the starved bodies of more than 350 seabirds, primarily tufted puffins.

Analysing the location of bird carcasses and wind data, Timothy Jones at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues estimated that between 3000 and 9000 birds died in total.

When they examined some of the bodies, they found no signs of infection or unsafe levels of toxins. “Collected specimens were severely emaciated, suggesting starvation as the ultimate cause of mortality,” Jones wrote.

Tufted puffins, which accounted for 79 per cent of the bird carcasses found, eat fish and marine invertebrates, which in turn eat phytoplankton. But changes to atmospheric conditions, including the ongoing heatwave, have massively disrupted the marine ecosystems, he wrote. There is less winter sea-ice, and warmer temperatures have been linked to fewer forage fish, crustaceans and other prey animals as they either die off or move north to cooler waters.

Almost all the puffins they found were adults in the process of moulting, which makes them flightless for up to 40 days and requires more nutritional energy than normal.

Tufted puffins st paul island 900 isaac sanchez cc by 20

Wildlife

Extinction Looms for Sumatran Rhino

Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino has died, leaving just one of the rhinos, a captive female, in the entire country, a region that was once replete with the two-horned beasts.

Screen Shot 2019 05 29 at 5 01 16 PM

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Albino Panda Spotted in the Wild for the First Time

Pandas are known for their furry black-and-white markings, so wildlife experts were stunned to see an all-white panda with red eyes tramping through a bamboo forest in China last month.

Screen Shot 2019 05 29 at 4 58 24 PM

Wildlife

Botswana Lifts Ban on Hunting Elephants

Botswana, which has the world’s biggest population of elephants, lifted its suspension on hunting, a move that is likely to spark further debate on a politically charged issue in the southern African nation.

The government would ensure that “reinstatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner” and in accordance with the law and regulations, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism said in emailed statement Wednesday.

The number of elephants in Botswana has almost tripled to 160,000 since 1991, increasing conflict between farmers and the animals, which at times destroy crops and kill villagers.

Critics, including former President Ian Khama, say the drive is politically motivated, being geared to win rural votes in an October election and could damage tourism, which accounts for a fifth of the economy.

Wildlife

India’s soaring wildlife crime

In February this year, customs officials at Chennai International Airport in southern India heard unusual squeaks coming from the luggage of a man who had arrived from Bangkok. Inside his bag was a tiny leopard cub in a basket.

The customs department in Chennai has been seizing star tortoises, sea cucumbers and pangolin scales being smuggled out of the country for years. Officials now say exotic species being smuggled in are on the rise. But where the exotic wildlife being smuggled into India is going is anybody’s guess.

The illegal trade in wildlife is driving species all over the globe to the brink of extinction. In India, the trade is expanding rapidly, driven by demand for rare species—headed for the pet market—as well as for species believed to have medicinal properties. The main consumer markets are China and South East Asia, but wildlife—alive or as body parts—is also smuggled to the Gulf, Europe and Northern America. Beyond India, the main transit countries are Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Indian wildlife species and products commonly smuggled out of the country are tiger and leopard skins, their bones and other body parts, rhino horns, ivory, turtles and tortoises, sea horses, snake venom, mongoose hair, snake skins, tokay gecko, sea cucumber, chiru fleece, musk pods, bear bile, medicinal plants, red sanders timber and caged birds such as parakeets, mynas, munias. Most people probably don’t even realize that this wealth of species even exists in India. But they are perishing fast, with a population of only about 25 of the chiru remaining.

The most trafficked species are pangolins, seahorses and tortoises:

– In 2018, TRAFFIC India released a study which revealed that at least 5,772 pangolins were captured in India from 2009 to 2017 for illegal trade.

– The Patagonian seahorse (hippocampus patagonicus) is one of the three sea horse species which is trafficked for its use in medicine.

– The Indian star tortoise is now the most trafficked tortoise worldwide as it is in high demand as a pet.

The tokay gecko has come into the picture recently after a number of seizures, mainly in northeast India. The trade is believed to be fueled by unfounded claims it can be used as a cure for AIDS. A crackdown by agencies in several Indian states has led to the arrest of more than 300 gecko traffickers in the past year. More than 1,000 geckos have been confiscated in India during this period and released back into the wild.

Rat poison affects peri-urban wildlife in Cape Town, South Africa

Urban rat poisons are spilling over into Cape Town’s natural environment, threatening species such as caracal, mongoose, otter and owl, a team of University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers in the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild) has discovered.

In their recent paper, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, the researchers found that anticoagulant rat poisons are infiltrating Cape Town’s peri-urban wildlife food chains. They identified six predator species at risk: caracal, Cape clawless otter, Cape eagle owl, large spotted genet, honey badger and water mongoose. Others are likely affected as well.

They detected at least one of the four most toxic rat poison compounds, all available in over-the-counter products, in six of the seven species tested. Caracals living in or near vineyards had the highest exposure to rat poisons but the route to exposure is unclear.

One of the most significant findings of the study is that exposure occurs at all ages. Several lactating female caracals were sampled in the study and found to be exposed to rat poisons, suggesting that kittens may be exposed through their mother’s milk.

Screen Shot 2019 05 21 at 2 40 41 PM

As consumers, we need more eco-friendly alternatives to rat poison and the simplest solution is well within everyone’s reach – improve the management of waste which attracts rats in the first place.