Wildlife

Sharks and Rays get Entangled in Plastic Waste.

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Scientists counted more than 1,000 documented instances of sharks and rays becoming tangled in our plastic debris in a recent study published yesterday (July 4) in the journal Endangered Species Reports. The actual number is probably much higher.

Sharks and rays are at higher risk of extinction than most other animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with only 23% of species classified as “least concern.”.

In 2016, while conducting research in Winyah Bay, South Carolina, researchers pulled on board a sandbar shark that had become badly entangled in plastic packaging twine. The plastic had sliced a ring all the way around the shark’s body, horrifying the researchers.

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The USA to Dump Rat Poison on Farallon Islands

For most humans, life on these jagged islands off the coast of San Francisco would be a nightmare: Waves lash the shore with treacherous force, the stench of guano fills the air, and the screech of seagulls is so loud that resident scientists wear earplugs to bed.

But wildlife thrive on “the Devil’s Teeth” — the name given to the Farallon Islands by sailors over a century ago.

The islands boast one of the world’s largest breeding colonies for seabirds, including the rare ashy storm-petrel, and their beaches are covered with lolling sea lions and seals. The waters surrounding the islands teem with 18 species of whales and dolphins.

The islands also host tens of thousands of house mice — an invasive species that is wreaking havoc on the native ecosystem, according to biologists.

The explosive growth in mice has attracted burrowing owls, who not only eat the mice but also prey upon the storm-petrels, a rare bird with a declining population.

The federal government contends that the only way to get rid of the mice is to drop 1.5 tons of rat poison pellets from a helicopter onto the islands. But Bay Area conservationists are worried that the poison, an increasingly controversial rodenticide called brodifacoum, will kill other species and make its way up the food chain.

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Wildlife

Manta Nursery

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The world’s first known manta ray nursery has been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, solving a mystery that had baffled scientists.

Young mantas are virtually never seen swimming in the world’s oceans, leaving researchers with few clues about their early life.

But a researcher at California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography worked with NOAA to pinpoint the manta nursery in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, about 120 miles southeast of Houston.

Wildebeest Buffet

The world-famous wildebeest migration across East Africa is being slowed this year by a bounty of fresh grass left along the route by heavy rains that nourished the Serengeti last year, and again during much of May.

The Tanzania Daily News reports the migration is now nearly two months behind its typical pace, meaning the grazers are going to be considerably delayed in reaching Kenya’s Maasai Mara. The wildebeest crossings of the Grumeti and Mara rivers, typically during July, are popular safari attractions

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Wildlife

A Sanctuary for Manta Rays

Last month, Indonesia established the world’s largest sanctuary for manta rays — those enormous, finned fortresses that can reach nearly 30 feet across. For the first time, manta ray hunting and export is banned within the entire 2.3 million square miles of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The sanctuary is a victory for conservationists and the manta rays, as Indonesia was home to some of the largest ray fisheries in the world.

But the decree may not have been motivated solely by the plight of the rays, whose populations are dwindling in the archipelago. A study published last May in PLoS ONE calculated the measure of a manta and concluded the immense rays are worth much more alive than dead. For starters, the study reports that Indonesia earns an estimated $15 million in manta ray tourist revenues annually — compared to the ray fisheries, worth about $500,000.

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Wildlife

Floods Spark Manta Ray Feeding Frenzy

Queensland researchers have spotted an unusually large group of manta rays in a feeding frenzy near Lady Elliot Island.

Up to 150 manta rays were feeding in the area last month, the most ever recorded. The phenomenon was a result of recent flooding in Bundaberg, with excess levels of water sending a surge of nutrients into the ocean, leading to a spike in plankton.

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