Thousands of Snow Geese Die in Migration Over Idaho

About 2,000 snow geese fell dead from the sky in southeastern Idaho from an outbreak of what officials say was probably avian cholera.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game told reporters that the bacterial infection can cause convulsions and erratic flight among infected birds.

The geese were en route from their winter homes in the southwestern U.S. or Mexico to their summer breeding grounds in Alaska or Canada.

It’s unclear where they picked up the bacteria, which poses only a small risk to humans but can quickly spread through bird populations.

“The important thing is to quickly collect as many of the carcasses as possible, to prevent other birds from feeding on the infected birds,” said Steve Schmidt, a regional Idaho Fish and Game supervisor.



Migrating Songbirds Slaughtered for Snacks on Cyprus

An international bird conservation group reports that more than 2 million migratory birds were illegally trapped and killed in Cyprus during the past year to be served up as local delicacies.

Birdlife Cyprus says the birds were indiscriminately killed in nets or on sticks dipped in sticky lime.

Songbirds are a popular dish on the Mediterranean island, which lies on a key migratory route.

Diners often pay up to $7 per fried or grilled bird at restaurants that ignore Cyprus’ ban on the killing and selling of wild birds.

Birdlife accuses authorities of doing little to halt the island’s illicit bird trade.

A European robin caught on a limestick trap in Cyprus.



Extinct Woolly Rhino Discovered

A hunter and businessman stumbled across a rare find in a frozen riverbank in Siberia: The remarkably complete remains of a baby woolly rhino which roamed the Earth more than 10 000 years ago.

Woolly rhino body

Millions of starfish die on the West Coast, USA

With millions of starfish dying all along the West Coast, Washington state Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives say it’s time for Congress to intervene and find out why.

The outbreak, first noticed in the state by rangers in Olympic National Park in June 2013, has hit 20 species of starfish, also known as sea stars.

After getting lesions on their bodies, the sea stars begin curling up and soon lose their legs, shrivelling up and disintegrating into mush.

Researchers fear the epidemic may be the result of a virus caused by climate change, with the disease showing its fastest progression in warmer ocean waters.

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Sick, starving sea lion pups wash up on California coast

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Along the length of the California coastline, an extraordinary rescue effort is underway. In January and February alone, 1,450 malnourished or dying sea lion pups have washed up on shore – compared with just 68 in the same period last year.

Marine biologists and climate scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the culprit is a mass of warm coastal water that’s imperiling breeding and nursing colonies of California sea lions. The so-called “unusual mortality event” – following a much smaller bubble of sea lion strandings and deaths in 2013 – has triggered questions about the overall health and volatility of the California ocean environment.

Scientists say the warmer waters can prevent sea lion mothers from finding sufficient quantities of anchovies, mackerel, sardines and other fish to provide nutrition for nursing. So they are leaving behind their pups, mostly born each June on four islands in Southern California, to forage for food for extended periods – far beyond their normal two or three days at sea.

As a result, tens of thousands of pups birthed last summer are believed to be dying on the islands as others, fearing their mothers have abandoned them, set out into the ocean and drift or wash ashore sometimes hundreds of miles away.

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Nature – Images

Interesting Images:

The woodpecker and the weasel

Amateur photographer Martin Le-May, from Essex in England, has recorded the extraordinary image of a weasel riding on the back of a green woodpecker as it flies through the air. The weasel was subsequently distracted: when the woodpecker landed it managed to escape and the weasel ran into the grass.

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New Zealand – Avian Disease Outbreak on Kapiti Coast

More than 40 birds have died on the Kapiti Coast after a suspected outbreak of a paralysing disease. A number of duck species and one shag have been found dead, many near lagoons at Awatea Avenue and Waterstone Estate in Paraparaumu, says the Kapiti Coast District Council.

The SPCA believes the birds may have died of avian botulism, which causes paralysis in birds. The birds are being tested to establish how they died, but the council says there have been outbreaks of the disease in other parts of the country.

Although the disease is unlikely to pose a threat to humans, the council’s urging dog and cat owners not to allow their pets to eat the carcasses as other animals could catch the disease.


Zimbabwe to Slaughter Elephants to Celebrate President’s Birthday

President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 35 years, celebrated his 91st birthday on Saturday as supporters prepared a party at Victoria Falls at which two elephants are to be slaughtered.

The ritual in his honour involving the slaughter of elephants at the party have drawn fire being described as unethical and disgusting by legitimate local wildlife agencies.

Meanwhile, Tendai Musasa, who heads the Woodlands Conservancy in Victoria Falls, said he donated the elephants for slaughter because “it speaks volumes about how I hold the president in high esteem.”


Nature – Images

Interesting Images:

The shark, believed to be a dusky whaler, was reportedly dumped on Lennox Head Beach in Queensland yesterday after ferocious winds and tides lashed down on the tourist town from tropical Cyclone Marcia.

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High Seas Fishing Ban Proposed to Protect Stocks

Commercial fishing would be banned on the high seas under a proposed agreement designed to create a “fish bank” to ensure the survival of the most overexploited species.

Approximately half of the world’s fish stocks are being caught to their maximum sustainable limits, as well as to levels causing commercial extinction for some species.

Researchers and policymakers from Canada, Australia and elsewhere say commercial trawlers should be limited to operating within 200 nautical miles of the maritime countries that hold rights to fishing in those waters.

They claim the move would have only a tiny impact on the global fishing economy while providing a vast safe place for species to survive.

According to their study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, less than 1 percent of the global catch comes from the high seas.

The bulk of the world’s fisheries actually come from fish stocks that straddle both territorial waters and the high seas.

This unexpectedly high level of exchange means that most fish stocks would still be available to be fished even if the high seas were closed to trawlers.



Northwest Seabirds Pitted Against Endangered Fish Species

Two sets of conservationists in the western United States are at odds over plans to kill 11,000 double-crested cormorants on Oregon’s East Sand Island to protect endangered juvenile salmon and steelhead trout from the Columbia River.

The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to cull the live birds with shotguns and pour oil on the nests of about 26,000 birds to prevent their eggs from hatching.

The move has drawn criticism from the Audubon Society of Portland and Care2.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission counters that it’s hard enough for the fish to make it through a network of dams on the river without being eaten up by a large number of cormorants at the river’s mouth.

“This is a difficult situation,” said Corps spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. “We are trying to balance the salmon and steelhead versus the birds.”



Almost the end for Kenya’s northern white rhino


This is what extinction looks like.

No meteor from outer space, no unstoppable pandemic, no heroic, ultimately futile last stand. Instead poor sperm, weak knees and ovarian cysts mark the end of a lifeline cut short by human greed, ignorance and indifference.

With just five northern white rhinos left on earth, the animal’s end is inevitable.

Scientists and conservationists hope that advancements in genetics and in vitro fertilisation might allow for its test tube resurrection in the future, but before that the northern whites will die, one by one, over the next few years.

“We are down to five, so they are very close to extinction, perhaps in a few years,” said Jan Stejskal of the Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic which, thanks to acquisitions in the 1970s, owns all the remaining northern whites.

“I still believe there is a hope we will be able to save them. The best we can do now is harvest sperm and egg samples for future in vitro fertilisation, and wait until the time the techniques are developed enough to give us a good chance of reproduction,” said Stejskal.

The last living male, named Sudan, is found on a 36 400-hectare reserve of savannah and woodlands in central Kenya, along with two of the remaining females. The other two females live alone in zoos in the Czech Republic and the United States. Two other males – Angalifu and Suni – died last year.

At 43, Sudan is elderly by rhino standards and vets say his sperm is low quality. Nola at San Diego Zoo is also beyond reproductive age while Nabire at Dvur Kralove Zoo is 31, but suffers from ovarian cysts. In Kenya, Najin (25), cannot mate because of her weak hind legs, while her daughter Fatu (14) is infertile.

Modern rhinos have plodded the earth for 26-million years. As recently as the mid-19th century there were over a million in Africa. The last northern whites disappeared from the wild a decade ago and will soon follow the western black rhino, declared extinct in 2011.

To deter poachers the northern whites are escorted by armed wardens at night and their horns are trimmed back to uneven stumps.

The horns are worth more than $65 000 a kilo on the Asian black market, and sought after by Asian consumers who are falsely convinced that the ground-up keratin – the same substance as human fingernails and toenails – contains powerful medicinal properties.


Python Capture Patrols Set Up in Infested South Florida, USA

Florida wildlife officials are asking for volunteers to help control the population of invasive Burmese pythons, which have now spread across the state to the point that it’s impossible to eradicate them.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold monthly sessions to train the general public on how to identify and even capture the troublesome snakes.

But not everyone thinks the civilian python patrols are a good idea.

“This is ridiculous,” University of Florida senior herpetologist Kenneth Krysko told Reuters. “You can’t have Joe Schmo grabbing these snakes.”

He told the news agency that civilian patrols are likely to be ineffective in reducing the python population.

The snakes became the leading predator in Florida’s ecologically sensitive Everglades after some were released as unwanted pets or managed to escape into the wild on their own.

It’s believed that there are now about 150,000 Burmese pythons living in the southern half of the state.


Global Warming

Warming Oceans Bring Big Challenges for Fish

Marine researchers have found that many species of fish around Australia are moving southward or otherwise shifting their ranges and egg-laying patterns in response to warming ocean waters.

Using a network of 62 GPS stations across the volcanic island, lead researcher Kathleen Compton of the University of Arizona found that some sites are rising as much as 1.4 inches per year.

“We found a mixed bag—some positive and some negative,” lead researcher Gretta Pecl told The Guardian. “Some species are shifting south and increasing their range while others are already at their tolerance for temperature, and as it warms, their range will shrink.”

The University of Tasmania scientist said that ocean temperatures off southeastern Australia are warming four times faster than the global average.

Other warming hotspots include the Atlantic off Brazil, parts of the Indian Ocean and the North Sea.

Pecl says species that are highly sensitive to temperature, will see their rate of growth and amount of energy needed for oxygen consumption will be altered by the warming.

Research published in 2013 found that fish species were being pushed towards the poles by warming oceans at a rate of about 4.3 miles every year, chasing climates in which they can survive.



Tanzanian Villagers Fear Lion ‘Revenge’

The killing of six lions near northern Tanzania’s Olasiti village has residents living in fear of “revenge” attacks by the predators. Six lions were killed by Tanzanian villagers who say they lost livestock to the protected predators.

The Arusha Times reports the lions were killed by young warriors “proving their manhood,” while also eliminating the threat of future attacks on the village’s livestock.

People now venturing outside their homes are staying in groups, armed with traditional weapons such as sticks, machetes and spears.

Five of the warriors who were injured while slaughtering the lions later fled into the bush out of fear of being arrested once they were treated for their wounds.

Villagers complained to the daily that the government doesn’t react when humans or livestock are killed by wild animals, but said it does respond quickly and decisively when any wildlife is killed.

A resident of Olasiti, Saning’o Ole Nigi, said that communities surrounding wildlife areas have always been guardians of the animals by preventing poaching. However, it does not seem that the villagers took any steps to protect their livestock from the predators – choosing rather to kill the lions.



England’s First Wild Beavers in Centuries Can Stay

England’s first beavers to live in the wild for more than 400 years will not be evicted from a Devon river and taken to a zoo, thanks to the efforts of locals, tourists and wildlife campaigners.

But Natural England says that the approximately nine beavers living in the River Otter must be proven to be of Eurasian origin and free of disease.

The nongovernmental public body also licensed the Devon Wildlife Trust to conduct a five-year study on the returning beavers’ impact on the environment.

Results of the study could eventually lead to the reintroduction of the toothy dam builders in other waterways across England.

Beavers were hunted to extinction during the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century.

But last January, night-vision footage revealed that a few had set up home along the river.

Plans to remove them prompted a public outcry. If the small group of wild beavers being studied in the River Otter doesn’t pose environmental risks, the animals could later be reintroduced elsewhere in England.


Rare Red Fox Reappears in Yosemite Park

The elusive and rare Sierra Nevada red fox has been spotted in Yosemite National Park for the first time in nearly a century, park officials said yesterday.

Camera traps caught the sleek animal in a remote northern corner of the park on Dec. 13, 2014, and again on Jan. 4 of this year.

here hasn’t been a verified sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox inside Yosemite National Park since 1916, said Ben Sacks, director of the University of California, Davis Veterinary School’s Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit. That year, two animals were killed in Yosemite’s Big Meadows, northeast of El Portal, for the University of California, Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Until recently, only a handful of Sierra Nevada red foxes were thought to still exist in the wild, in a remnant population near Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California. The subspecies, which is genetically distinct from other red foxes, once ranged more widely, across the snowy high mountains from Oregon to California.

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