Wildlife

World’s Fish Migrating To Escape Global Warming

For several years now, some fishers have been noticing changes in their nets. In places, new species are being caught. Sea bass and red mullet have moved north into British waters. Pacific salmon have swum to the Beaufort Sea, where – according to Dan Pauly of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada – the Inuit have no name for them.

Elsewhere, staple catches are vanishing fast.

But whether this is a global effect and what is behind the change have been unclear. Are fish being ousted from their original habitats as climate change warms the waters? Are disappearances due to overfishing?

Now, Pauly and colleagues have found that the mix of fish in all the world’s major fisheries has changed since 1970, as fish that prefer warmer waters move in. The average temperature preference of fisheries has risen by nearly 1 ºC in temperate regions. The effect correlated closely with local increases in sea surface temperatures, but not with fishing pressure or other oceanic features such as currents.

Ominously, the temperature preference of tropical fisheries also rose initially, until the 1980s, then levelled off. Cooler-water species moved out, but there are no heat-loving species to replace them. The species that are abandoning tropical fisheries may also be the most important food species for coastal communities that subsist on fishing.

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Wildlife

Elephant Tramples Poacher in Zimbabwe

In a grim karmic twist, a suspected poacher illegally hunting African elephants was trampled to death by his prey in Charara National Park near Lake Kariba in northwestern Zimbabwe.

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Populations of forest elephants have plummeted by 62 percent over the past 10 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Wildlife

Poaching Pushes 2 Madagascar Tortoises to Brink

Illegal poaching is “raging out of control” and pushing radiated and ploughshare tortoises to the brink of extinction, according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

More than 1,000 of the animals have been confiscated from smugglers in the first three months of 2013 alone, the environmental group reported. A total of 54 ploughshare tortoises were intercepted in Thailand, and the species is “now the most common tortoise for sale in Bangkok’s infamous Chatuchak wildlife market,” according to the statement.

The ploughshare tortoise was once common in northern Madagascar but as of 2008 it was estimated that there were only 400 individuals left in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These reptiles can grow up to 19 inches (47 centimeters) long and weigh up to 42 pounds (19 kilograms).

The radiated tortoise lives in the country’s south. Its dark brown or black domed shell is covered with bright yellow or orange starlike patterns and can grow up to 16 inches (40 cm) long. They can live for an estimated 100 years, according to the IUCN.

“These tortoises are truly one of Madagascar’s most iconic species,” James Deutsch, executive director of the Africa Program at WCS, said in the statement. “This level of exploitation is unsustainable. Unless immediate action is taken to better protect the wild populations, their extinction is imminent.”

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Wildlife

Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations.

Wild species such as honey bees are said by researchers to be responsible for pollinating around one-third of the world’s crop production.

There is heated debate about what has triggered the widespread decline in bee populations. Besides chemicals, many experts point to the parasitic varroa mite, viruses that attack bees and neglect of hives.

Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban – not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids.

The UK did not support a ban – it argues that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four abstained.

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Wildlife

Measles Virus Kills 100 Dolphins off Italian Coast

A viral strain that causes measles in humans has killed more than 100 striped dolphins that have washed up along Italy’s western coast from Tuscany to Calabria, as well as the island of Sicily so far this year.

The country’s National Institute of Marine Sciences said that the death rate among the striped dolphins has dropped abruptly this month, possibly indicating the outbreak has run its course.

The epidemic mostly affected young dolphins under the ages of 15 to 20 years.

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Wildlife

Tanzania Dolphin Slaughter Linked to Shark Fin Trade

Local fishermen in coastal Tanzania are killing dolphins to be used as bait for sharks. The high demand for shark fin soup is causing an alarming rise in the killing of dolphins off the coast of Tanzania, which an official says fishermen use illegally as bait for the predatory fish.

Most dolphins have been protected by the country’s fisheries regulations since 2009.

Tourists have reported seeing the “distressing” killing of dolphins within plain sight.

Dolphins are being actively targeted by dynamite fishermen around the city of Dar es Salaam because “their flesh makes a very good bait for sharks.”

While the slaughter of dolphins to feed the illicit shark fin market is disturbing to many, researchers recently warned that as many as one in 15 of all sharks on the planet are fished from the oceans each year.

The trend threatens to put the species on the path to extinction.

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Wildlife

Locusts Invasions in Central and Southern Madagascar

Swarms of locusts have invaded Madagascar. The central and southern regions are the most affected, hampering the already fragile recovery efforts from the effects of cyclone “Haruna” in February 2013.

This invasion by the locusts has brought about a new humanitarian crisis in the country. Over 60% of the country is currently infested and the locust infestations, if untreated, could wipe out food crops and livestock grazing lands – and with it the family’s ability to provide for itself.

The government has no funds, no pesticides and no equipment to spray pesticides, even if they had them.

Wildlife

17-Year Cicadas About to Emerge in Eastern U.S.

Eerie sounds like those out of a science fiction film are about to ring ears across the eastern United States.

Every 17 years at this time, like clockwork, Brood II cicadas crawl out of the ground from North Carolina to New England.

The bugs live underground for nearly two decades, feeding off fluids that gather near the roots of plants.

They will eventually emerge by the billions when the temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Brood II, red-eyed cicada is smaller than the larger common cicada, which has green eyes and comes out every year.

They last emerged in 1996 and will fill the air with high-pitched buzzes that can be so loud they disrupt outdoor events.

But their periodic emergence and return to the ground help aerate the soil, and they return nutrients to the earth when they die. They also provide food for birds and other animals.

The 1.5-inch-long insects do not sting or bite. They spend their brief two-week lives above ground climbing trees, shedding their crunchy skins and reproducing.

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Wildlife

Bat Populations Decimated Across North America

White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease possibly imported from Europe on the boots of spelunkers (cave explorers), hits bats at their winter hibernation roosts. It was first identified in North America in New York in 2006/2007 and has since spread to 22 states and five Canadian provinces. White Nose Syndrome has decimated bat populations with mortality rates reaching 100 percent at some sites. In the northeastern United States, bat numbers have plummeted by at least 80 percent, says the USGS, with ~6.7 million bats killed continent wide. The Centre for Biological Diversity reports that biologists consider this the worst wildlife disease outbreak ever in North America.

Bats are supremely important for farming and for food security. They eat thousands of tons of insects, including crop pests, every year.

Researchers estimate the economic value of bug-eating bats to American agriculture at $22 billion, maybe as much as $53 billion a year. Yet federal funding for White Nose Syndrome research and disease response coordination has been scarce the past several years and is likely to become even scarcer in the 2013 and 2014 federal budgets.

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Wildlife

Starving Seal Pups Arriving at California Beaches

Unprecedented numbers of starving sea lion pups are swimming to shore in California, straining local animal care centres and puzzling marine biologists who have yet to determine what is ailing the sea mammals. According to marine biologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more fledgling sea lions have beached themselves along the central and southern California coast in 2013 so far than in the previous five years combined.

The agency says 948 sea lion pups, many of them less than a year old, have come ashore this year between San Diego in the south and Santa Barbara in the north as of March 24. That compares to only 88 strandings in all of 2012.

The pups are being found along the beaches malnourished, severely dehydrated and without their mothers. They are being taken to local marine mammal rescue facilities, like SeaWorld in San Diego.

Some are being sent as far as Northern California as regional facilities become overwhelmed. But many of the emaciated pups do not survive.

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Wildlife

Madagascar Hit By ‘Severe’ Plague Of Locusts

A severe plague of locusts has infested about half of Madagascar, threatening crops and raising concerns about food shortages. Billions of the plant-devouring insects could cause hunger for 60% of the population.

Currently, about half the country is infested by hoppers and flying swarms – each swarm made up of billions of plant-devouring insects. About two-thirds of the island country will be affected by the locust plague by September 2013 if no action is taken.

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Wildlife

19 Whales Beach In Cape Town, South Africa

Nineteen pilot whales were beached at Noordhoek Beach in Cape Town on Sunday morning. Five of the whales had died, but police, sea rescue and other services were on scene trying to hose down the 14 surviving whales.

The National Sea Rescue Institute said attempts were being made to help rescue the surviving whales.

“The option being looked at, if possible, is to try and refloat them or to have them driven to the naval base in Simonstown and have them taken out to sea”.

“At this stage we are keeping them alive on the beach using water and blankets.”

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Wildlife

Record Manatee Deaths Spread in Florida

A new wave of manatee deaths has struck Florida following a string of fatalities among the marine mammals due to red tide algae blooms along the state’s southwestern beaches. But marine biologists say they don’t know exactly what’s killing the manatees along the eastern coast since there have not been any reports of red tide there, and the weather hasn’t been cold enough to account for the deaths.

Nearly 200 manatees have died due to red tide along Florida’s Gulf Coast so far this year.

While lacking physical evidence to prove it, wildlife experts believe the deaths in eastern Florida are due to different types of algae blooms that have killed off vast amounts of sea grass the manatees typically feed on.

That may have caused the lumbering sea animals to instead ingest large amounts of macroalgae, which sent them into fatal toxic shock.

The east coast algae blooms were due to storm runoff that flushed fertilizers and other manmade nutrients into waterways.

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State biologists are also trying to determine what has killed about 100 brown pelicans so far this year in the same area where the Atlantic coast manatees perished. The birds were found emaciated and full of parasites.

There is so far no connection between the pelican deaths and those of the manatees.

Environment

World’s Largest Solar Plant Goes Online

The Shams 1 solar plant outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is the world’s largest solar power facility. It started producing electricity this month and will produce 100 megawatts of electricity at full capacity.

That’s enough energy to electrify 20,000 homes and could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 175,000 tons each year — roughly the equivalent of taking 35,000 cars off the road, according to EPA emission estimates.

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US Pushes for Antarctic Marine Protections

The US and New Zealand are to push for a marine protected area (or MPA) in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. If created, it would be the largest MPA in the world.

The Ross Sea is teaming with life, as the home to more than 1 million pairs of Adélie penguins; 28,850 pairs of emperor penguins; 30,000 to 50,000 Weddell seals; 5.5 million Antarctic petrels and 21,000 minke whales. And like many parts of the Antarctic ocean environment, the Ross Sea has been left relatively unscathed by human activities, with fewer pollutants and invasive species and less large-scale fishing than in other parts of the Earth’s oceans.

But global warming and increasing interest in the rich fisheries found in the Southern Ocean are putting pressure on this environment, those calling for the MPA have warned.

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Wildlife

Beached Giant Squid

Giant squid are almost never observed in the wild, but beached specimens have taught scientists about their anatomy.

Scientists estimate that giant squid can grow up to about 60 feet (18 meters) long, including their massive tentacles.

These are images of squid washed up in Australia/Tasmania:

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