Wildlife

Endangered Giant Salamanders of Mexico

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When the Aztecs settled the Valley of Mexico in the 13th century, they found a large salamander living in the lake surrounding the island where they built their capital, Tenochtitlán. They called the salamander “axolotl” after Xolotl, their god of fire and lightning. Xolotl was said to have transformed into a salamander, among other forms, to avoid being sacrificed so the sun and moon could move in the sky. He was eventually captured and killed.

In the same vein, axolotls were commonly killed for food by the Aztecs and are still eaten today in Mexico. They’ve also become one of the world’s most popular pets, thanks to their easy care and charisma. The creatures’ extraordinary regenerative abilities have made them an interesting study subject for scientists. But in their native home, the salamanders have almost disappeared.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources considers axolotls critically endangered and their population declining. Surveys in 1998 and 2008 found that the population density had dropped from about 6,000 individuals per square kilometer to 100 individuals per square kilometer. A more recent survey in 2015 found about 35 individuals per square kilometer.

Pollution has been particularly detrimental to the species. Poor waste regulations and increasing tourism in Mexico City mean that trash, plastics, heavy metals and high levels of ammonia spilled from waste-treatment plants clog the canals where the salamanders live.

Aussie bats suffer mass starvation event

A mass starvation event affecting bats in the Australian State of Queensland has left rescue organizations inundated and prompted a call to the public to leave food out in their backyards to support the struggling creatures.

The affected population are a native species known fruit bats, or flying foxes, which normally feed on fruit and nectar.

With the recent drought, developments and deforestation, there’s just not enough food supply and especially with the recent bushfires which aggravated the situation because there has been a lot of habitat loss.

Aggravating the problem is the issue that a number of bats are now failing to return to their colonies during the day and are instead remaining with food sources, leaving them vulnerable to birds, people and other dangers. They’re so desperate for food, when they do find a food source, they’re staying there and they’re guarding it and they’re refusing to leave.

Residents in the Gold Coast region are being told if they want to help the bats they can thread apples onto wire and hang them at least two meters from the ground in their gardens where the bats can feed safely during the night.

Disease

Eastern Equine Encephalitis – Michigan, USA

In a follow-up on the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) situation in Michigan, state health officials are urging residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites as four additional cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have been confirmed in Southwest Michigan – including two that were fatal. To date, seven confirmed human cases of EEE have been reported in Michigan with onset dates in July.

Bats – Australia

Queensland, Australia health officials are reminding people not to handle bats–dead or alive–after six Wide Bay people have required treatment after being scratched or bitten in the past 16 days. Officials say all bats are potential carriers of Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) and any bite or scratch from a bat poses a risk of infection, which is why only trained and vaccinated professionals should handle them.

African Swine Fever – South Korea

South Korea is the latest country to confirm an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF). The outbreak of ASF in South Korea was announced by the agriculture minister on Tuesday. Around 4,000 pigs will be culled and the disease alert level has been raised to the maximum.

Wildlife

New Stone Age

A small group of wild monkeys on a Panamanian island appears to have entered into its own version of the stone age, scientists say.

While only a handful of the many white-faced capuchin monkeys that live on Jicarón have displayed the ability to use stones to crack open nuts and shellfish, they join only three other groups of nonhuman primates that have used stones for tools.

Other species that appear to have learned the practice by chance include chimpanzees in West Africa, macaques in Thailand and other species of capuchins in South America.

Until a few decades ago, it was believed humans were the only species to turn stones into tools.

Party Crasher

The rare sight of a southern right whale frolicking in New Zealand’s Wellington Harbor forced officials to postpone the city’s annual fireworks display. The untimely arrival of the marine mammal coincided with the Maori new year celebration known as Matariki.

Concerns from experts that the flashes and sounds of the pyrotechnics could cause the whale to harm itself or the boats in the harbor loaded with people wanting to enjoy the festivities, prompted the event to be postponed for a week.

New Bat Species

Two species of lemon-yellow bats were recently discovered in Kenya.

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Wildlife

Climate Change Affecting Bat Migrations

What started out as a simple study of how to safely monitor migrating bat colonies turned into a major discovery. Climate change is causing bats to migrate sooner, and in some cases, not migrate at all.

When they travel, bats usually do so in a swarm consisting of millions. When Mexican free-tailed bats bats migrate from Mexico to the Bracken Cave in San Antonio, Texas, the size of the swarm is so large it can be tracked using weather radar.

The researchers found that the bats are migrating to Texas roughly two weeks earlier than they were 22 years ago. They now arrive, on average, in mid March rather than late March.

Additionally, as of 2017, roughly 3.5 percent of the bat population is staying through the winter. Climate change is causing spring to begin sooner, in turn prompting insects to move to Texas sooner and giving the bats something to eat without having to migrate.

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Wildlife

Boiled’ Bats Fall from Sky in Australian Heat Wave

More than 200 bats have lost their lives to southern Australia’s ongoing heat wave.

As temperatures rose to 111.5 degrees Fahrenheit (44.2 degrees Celsius) in Campbelltown in the Australian state of New South Wales, a colony of that lives near the town’s train station felt the effects. Volunteers struggled to rescue the heat-stricken bats, , but at least 204 individual animals, mostly babies, died.

“They basically boil,” Kate Ryan, the colony manager for the Campbelltown bats, told the newspaper. “It affects their brain — their brain just fries and they become incoherent.”

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Wildlife

Seahorses Return

A breeding population of short-snouted seahorses has been discovered living in England’s River Thames in what biologists say is proof the once-polluted waterway is becoming cleaner.

The creatures are typically found from the Mediterranean Sea and Canary Islands to the English Channel.

Announcement of the discovery was delayed until the species became protected under law, with fines or imprisonment imposed on those found killing, injuring or capturing the seahorses.

Bat Slaughter

The carcasses of dozens of rare grey-headed flying foxes have been found along Australia’s Queensland coast after a slaughter locals describe as “horrific.”

The protected species is Australia’s largest bat and is crucial for pollination in Queensland’s forests.

The killings are the latest in a spate of animal mutilations that have mainly been focused in Victoria state, and include kangaroo, wallaby and koala.

Those who found the bat carcasses said they tried to help the baby bats whose mothers had been killed, but were able to save only two.

Wildlife

White-nose Syndrome – Bats

Biologists have confirmed white-nose syndrome (WNS) in the southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius) for the first time. The species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease.

The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), causes WNS, which affects many, but not all bat species that come into contact with it. Of those affected, bat populations have declined by more than 90 percent.

Wildlife

Humpback Resurgence

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Super-groups of humpback whales have been observed with increasing frequency during the past five years off South Africa’s Atlantic coast.

The species hadn’t normally been considered all that social, usually being found in pairs or small groups that congregated only briefly. But research missions in 2011, 2014 and 2015 found humpbacks feeding and frolicking in groups of up to 200.

The whale had been hunted nearly into extinction, but its populations have seen an unexplained resurgence.

Scientists believe the super-group gatherings could possibly be the return of a previously unobserved feeding strategy thanks to the newly abundant population.

White-nose Syndrome discovered for 1st time in Texas

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The fungus known to cause White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease that has decimated hibernating bat populations in the United States and Canada, has been discovered for the first time in Texas. The fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) was detected on three species of hibernating bats in northern Texas: the cave myotis, Townsend’s big-eared bat, and the tri-coloured bat.

‘Devastating’ coral loss in South China Sea

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Scientists are warning of another “devastating” loss of coral due to a spike in sea temperatures. They say 40% of coral has died at the Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea.

Nothing as severe has happened on Dongsha for at least 40 years, according to experts.

The Dongsha Atoll, located in the South China Sea, near south-eastern China and the Philippines, is rich in marine life and is regarded as one of the world’s most important coral reefs.

The researchers said on its own, a 2 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures was unlikely to cause widespread damage to coral reefs in the region. But, a high-pressure system caused temperatures to spike to 6 degrees, leading to the death of 40% of coral over the course of six weeks. Coral reefs are shallow water ecosystems and a tweak in the local weather can turn that 2 degrees Celsius into a 6 degrees Celsius warming.

Hunting of Grizzly Bears in Alaska Refuges

The U.S. Senate voted, mostly along party lines, on Tuesday (March 21) to abolish a regulation that prohibited certain types of hunting in Alaska national wildlife refuges.

In the 52-to-47 vote, the Senate used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn a so-called midnight regulation that President Barack Obama’s administration passed in their last hours in office last year.

The justification for the abolition was that states, not the federal government, should shape regulations regarding wildlife within their borders.

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Disease

White-nose Syndrome Research: Grants Awarded

Bat Conservation International (BCI) and the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are pleased to award $100,000 in funding to support critical research in the fight against White-nose Syndrome (WNS). Together, BCI and TNC reviewed and selected three solution-oriented projects that aim to identify and develop tools to improve survival of bats vulnerable to WNS.

White-nose Syndrome is a devastating disease that has killed more than six million bats in North America since its arrival in 2006. The disease is confirmed in seven different species of bats and is in 29 states and five Canadian provinces.

Wildlife

“Grolar” Bears – Polar bears and Grizzly bears starting to mate more often

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A hunter has shot and killed a rare ‘grolar bear’ in Canada as researchers warn the existence of the hybrid could ultimately spell the end of the polar bear, the world’s largest land carnivore.

Polar and grizzly bears are increasingly mating with each other as the warming Arctic allows the two species to come into contact more often. A number of hybrids have been DNA tested in recent years.

However researchers have warned the existence of hybrid pizzlies or grolars could lead to the death of the polar bear species, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Normally grizzlies are put off going into polar bear territory because they struggle in deep snow.

But higher temperatures mean they have been extending their range in recent years with roaming males coming into contact with female polar bears.

While first generation hybrid bears are equally grizzly and polar bear, further breeding with grizzlies will gradually reduce the level of polar genes.

Bat Invasion – Australia

Batemans Bay, just south of Sydney, has been overrun by an influx of arts which is terrorising locals. The enormous influx of the species of megabats has easily overtaken the town which has a human population of just 11,000.

Experts believe that one in four grey-headed flying foxes that live in Australia have now made their home in the town.

Residents have complained about the foul odor and terrible screeching noise emitted by the unwanted inhabitants. The bats set up a colony in the town years ago but their numbers have rapidly multiplied recently. Bats can now be spotted on nearly “every surface and in every tree” according to residents.

The destructive bats have caused power cuts, kept tourists away and hit property prices. But this is nothing compared to the inconvenience and trauma it has caused the residents.

The New South Wales Government announced that the community will receive 2.5 million Australian dollars to help with the relocation of the bats.

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Wildlife

Lions Mysteriously Fall Ill in Northern Uganda

Wildlife officials in Uganda are stumped by a mysterious illness among the lions of Kidepo Valley National Park that has left the big cats emaciated and “docile”.

Kampala’s The Observer newspaper reports that within the past month, the sickness has affected almost all of the park’s lions, located in the north of the country near the borders of South Sudan and Kenya.

Charles Tumwesigye, the deputy director in charge of conservation at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, says experts will examine samples taken from some of the sick lions.

“We have a feeling that it could be partly starvation because we don’t seem to have very many prey animals for the lions in Kidepo,” Tumwesigye told the daily.

He adds that the larger animals currently roaming the park, like buffaloes, are not easy for a lion to take down.

A regal male lion photographed earlier this year in Uganda’s remote Kidepo Valley National Park, where the bigcats have mysteriously fallen ill.

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Bats facing extinction on Western Ghats, India

Wildlife experts and conservationists have warned that bats are facing extinction in India’s Western Ghats due to increasing human activities and destruction of forests. Several species of bats residing in India are finding it increasingly difficult to adjust with varying landscape resulting due to deforestation. They cites reasons including increased use of agricultural land and growing human population for the impact on bats. A team of experts from University of Leeds in Britain, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore and National Centre for Biological Sciences conducted a survey of different bats species in the southern Western Ghats in order to study the impact of plantation and rainforest fragmentation on them.

The study showed that some bat species can adjust with coffee plantations. Experts said that the reaming part of the forest and wildlife friendly agriculture can help save the bats from extinction. Western Ghats is among the most biodiverse regions in the world and it is also densely populated. The modern development and land-use transformation have left just 6 per cent of the natural habitat. The experts used Geographic Information System (GIS) computer modelling to study association between different bat species.

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Wildlife

A Promising Treatment for Deadly Bat Infection

Scientists say they have found a way to treat and protect bats from a deadly fungus that has killed an estimated 5.7 million of them in the United States and Canada over the past seven years.

Many caves in eastern parts of both countries have experienced a 78 to 100 percent reduction in the number of bats since white-nose syndrome emerged.

The fungus interrupts the bats’ winter hibernation, causing them to starve to death.

But researchers have found a common soil bacteria, Rhodococcus rhodochrous, appears to inhibit the growth of the cold-loving fungus.

They conducted experiments last fall in which diseased bats were treated with compounds produced by the bacteria.

Many of the treated bats survived the winter and experienced improvements in their health.

Scientists say the results are promising, but caution that more research is needed.

Biologists have released bats that had white-nose syndrome last fall but were successfully treated during a field trial over the past winter.

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Wildlife

Bats Drop Dead From Trees in Blistering Australian Heat

Thousands of fruit bats fell dead from trees in one area of eastern Australia as a heat wave pushed temperatures as high as 111 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday.

The dead mammals, also known as flying foxes, piled up on the ground in Casino and the Richmond Valley of northern New South Wales, where wildlife officials warned residents not to touch the animals due to the danger of catching viruses or other illnesses.

Hundreds of infant bats left orphaned were being cared for by animal-rescue workers who said they were overwhelmed by the environmental disaster.

“Some areas along the riverbank are inaccessible, and the stench from the rotting carcasses will be quite unbearable for some time yet,” council manager John Walker told Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph.

Last January, an unprecedented heat wave in neighbouring Queensland killed as many as 100,000 flying foxes.

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Wildlife

Bats Fall Dead From Sky During Australian Heatwave

A spell of scorching summertime weather in Australia’s southern Queensland state killed as many as 100,000 bats in an environmental disaster officials called unprecedented.

Many of the flying foxes, or fruit bats, fell dead from the sky while the carcasses of others hung on branches.

Local residents said the stench of decay was unbearable as temperatures reached nearly 110° F in Brisbane.

At least 16 people were reportedly receiving anti-viral treatment after coming into close contact with a bat.

The animals sometimes carry lyssavirus, which can cause paralysis and even death in humans.

But wildlife officials say the flying foxes are a key part of the ecosystem, and such a massive loss to their populations will have consequences.

“I don’t necessarily like the bats, but I don’t like seeing them dead,” Dayboro resident Murray Paas told Guardian Australia.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was caring for many young bats left orphaned by the heat disaster.

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Wildlife

Bats vs. Turbines

A new study estimates that more than 600,000 bats are killed each year by the rotation of wind turbines in the continental United States.

Wildlife experts say those deaths are in addition to the large numbers of the flying mammals that are being killed by white-nose syndrome, which is caused by a fungus that has spread rapidly to bat caves and mines across North America.

Writing in the journal BioScience, University of Colorado researcher Mark Hays notes that the actual number of bat deaths from the turbines could be much higher than the conservative estimate of 600,000.

The majority of bat species produce only one young per year, meaning that their populations are slow to recover.

Most bats don’t die from actual contact with the turbines since their sonar allows them to avoid the blades.

But subtle changes in barometric pressure created by the rotating blades cause the bats’ capillaries to burst, resulting in deadly internal hemorrhaging.

Birds’ circulatory systems are different from that of bats, keeping them from being victims of such “barotrauma.”

Most bat deaths occur when winds are relatively light because bats can’t fly in high winds. And since most turbines shut down when winds go below about 9 mph anyway, experts say increasing the “cut-in speed” to 11 mph would reduce bat deaths by at least 44 percent.

As much as 93 percent of bat fatalities due to turbine barotrauma could be avoided if the cut-in speed was lifted to 15.6 mph, experts say.

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