Wildlife

Turtle Traffickers Caught

Florida, USA wildlife officials have uncovered a trafficking ring of thousands of smuggled turtles following a long-term undercover investigation. The poachers would target habitats known for specific species of turtles and “depleted the species so much” that they had to expand to other parts of the state. The turtles were sold wholesale for up to $300 each and retailed for as much as $10,000 in Asia. In one month alone, an estimated $60,000 worth of turtles were trafficked out of Florida.

Turtles are one of the most threatened animal groups on the planet. The illegal trade of turtles is having a global impact on many turtle species and our ecosystems. More than 600 turtles were returned to the wild as a result of the investigation.

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Wildlife

World’s Rarest Giant Turtle Loses Last Known Female, All But Guaranteeing Extinction

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is considered the most critically endangered turtle in the world, with only four known individuals left on Earth. On Saturday (April 13), that population fell to three, as the species’ last known female died in a zoo in Suzhou, China.

The captive turtle was more than 90 years old and died shortly after an attempt to artificially inseminate her. No complications from the insemination procedure (which was the turtle’s fifth) were reported, and the cause of death is being investigated.

The rare turtle is survived by one male, who also lives in the Suzhou Zoo and is believed to be about 100 years old. Scientists had been trying to breed the pair for years, but were unsuccessful due, in part, to the male’s damaged penis.

The world’s final two known R. swinhoei turtles live in separate ponds in Vietnam. Their genders are unknown. The species used to be widespread in the fresh waters of China and Vietnam, but have dwindled to near-extinction due to hunting and habitat loss.

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Wildlife

Climate change strands sea turtles on Cape Cod shores

At the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in a repurposed shipyard building south of Boston, the casualties of climate change swim in tanks as they recover after being pulled stunned from the beach.

Every year, as autumn turns to winter and ocean temperatures off Massachusetts drop below 10C (50F), dead, dying and stricken sea turtles wash up on the shores of Cape Cod as those shelled reptiles that have failed to migrate south start to die in the chilly waters.

In the 1980s, the number of sea turtles stranded on the shores of Cape Cod every year averaged in the dozens. That average went up through the 1990s and 2000s, but over the past decade it has risen dramatically: 2014 saw more than 1,200 turtles make landfall. This year, more than 790 sea turtles have washed up on Cape Cod so far. Some 720 of those are Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, a critically endangered species that nests on the shores of the much warmer Gulf of Mexico.

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Reindeer now smaller and lighter due to climate change

Reindeer herders in Finnish Lapland are concerned their prized animals are getting smaller because of climate change.

Finland’s reindeer population reaches 200,000 in the wintertime with around 1,500 herders relying on them for their livelihood, breeding Santa’s favourite animal for its meat, milk and fur. They are also a major tourist attraction with 300,000 people visiting the area annually for sleigh rides.

But climate change in the region — mean temperatures in Lapland have increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 150 years — make it harder for reindeer to graze on their food as warmer winters mean more rain. Reindeer can’t dig the lichen from the ground through the ice.

Research conducted over 20 years on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago found that although reindeer numbers had doubled, their size and weight had decreased — mostly due to greater competition for food. The survey, released in 2016 by the James Hutton Institute, found that adult reindeers born in 1994 weighed 55kg while those born in 2012, weighed 48kg.

Meanwhile, the number of caribous or wild reindeer in the Arctic region has decreased by more than 50% since the mid-1980s, according to a report released earlier this month by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. The study found that “climate indicators accounted for 54% of the variability in vital rates.”

Wildlife

Dead Sea Turtles Wash Up on Mexico Beach, and No One Knows Why

Over a period of less than three weeks, more than 100 endangered sea turtles washed up dead on an 18-mile (30 kilometers) stretch of beach on the Pacific coast of Mexico near Guatemala, and authorities aren’t sure why.

The mass mortality event began on July 24, when 26 dead turtles were discovered in the small tourist beach town of Puerto Arista in the state of Chiapas, Mexico’s Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) reported. In the following days, officials recorded dozens more dead sea turtles in the area.

On Saturday (Aug. 18), PROFEPA reported that by Aug. 13, the number of dead turtles totaled 102 olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), six hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) and five Pacific black sea turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizii). All three species are classified by the Mexican government as critically endangered.

The dead turtles were all adults, including both males and females, and in various stages of decomposition. PROFEPA is performing necropsies on a few of the specimens and collecting tissue samples to help determine the cause of the deaths.

Wildlife experts suspect that some of the turtles died from interactions with fisheries operations in the area. Several of the turtles found on July 24 had injuries that appeared to come from a hooks or fishing nets.

The coastal waters off Puerto Arista are part of a protected marine sanctuary, but sea turtles in the area are occasionally caught in legal fishing nets and drown. On Aug. 2, authorities met with fishers in the region and urged them to practice responsible fishing techniques that ensure protection of the endangered sea turtles.

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Nature – Images

Interesting Images

In the Amazon, when turtles weep, butterflies drink. This image shot in the Peruvian Amazon shows an astonishing sight: colorful butterflies drinking tears directly from the eyes of turtles basking by the river.

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Wildlife

Hawksbill turtle eggs hatched successfully in Singapore

More than 100 infant turtles got successfully hatched on a Singapore beach before entering the sea, according to reports. The baby turtles are known as Hawksbill turtles, and at present, the Hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species. Hence, the latest hatching of more than 100 Hawksbill turtles has given some good news for the scientists and environmental enthusiasts who were worried about the dwindling Hawksbill turtle population.

The latest hatch marked for the third time that the Hawksbill turtle eggs hatched on the beaches of Singapore since August. But the important thing is that after a gap of eight years, the Hawksbill turtles hatched on Sentosa again.

Due to the increasing human-made activities like pollution, coastal developments poaching and fishing, the natural habitat of the Hawksbill turtles have been damaged, and the population has decreased significantly. These turtles are an easy target for hunters and poachers. They use their body parts to make turtle soup, and also their shells are used in powered form In Jelly dessert.

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Wildlife

Medications, pesticides, found in blood of sea turtles on Great Barrier Reef

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Heart and gout medications, pesticides, herbicides and other industrial chemicals have all been found in the blood of green sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef, according to researchers.

The discovery was made as part of project led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which compared samples from turtles in urban areas to the more remote locations.

Chemical exposure has been linked to stress and other side effects in wildlife, and the indications of inflammation and liver dysfunction were found in some green turtles.

The scientists said the worrying thing was there are more chemicals they could not identify than chemicals they could identify.

Faceless Fish

An Australian museum expedition has come across a species of fish not seen near the country since 1873. It has no visible eyes, gills or any other facial features except for two nostrils and a mouth at the bottom of its body.

Dubbed the “faceless cusk,” the fish measures roughly 22 inches in length and was captured by trawling a deep ocean trench off Australia’s eastern coast at a depth of around 2 miles.

According to Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the creature, known as a cusk eel, has been previously observed from the Arabian Sea, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Japan to Hawaii. But living at depths of up to 14,000 feet, it is rarely seen.

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Wildlife

Turtle Disease Mystery

Turtles in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have suffered from a variety of illnesses that some experts believe may be caused by cobalt pollution.

The first outbreak began in 2010 when two-thirds of the green turtles examined in Brisk Bay developed a herpes virus infection that caused tumours to grow on their eyes, shells, tails, flippers and organs. Two years later, 100 green turtles washed up onshore at nearby Upstart Bay, suffering seizures and uncontrolled head movements that led to a mass death.

The latest ailments have recently left some of Upstart Bay’s turtles with mysterious eye infections.

Wildlife

Sea turtles with tumours fill Florida hospital

As the population of green sea turtles rebounds in and around the Florida Keys, cases of fibropapillomatosis have exploded too, filling the corridors of the United States’ oldest rescue and rehab facility, known simply as the Turtle Hospital.

“When I first started here 20 years ago, I would do six to eight of these a month,” says veterinarian Doug Mader, as he injects a local anaesthetic, then cuts off the cauliflower-like growths with a carbon dioxide laser.

“Now we are doing six to eight a week,” he says as the air fills with the smell of saltwater, alcohol wipes and burning flesh.

The young patient writhes on the operating table, kicking its flippers. A team of medical attendants turns it over, revealing an underbelly cluttered with tumours, some as big as golf balls.

This endangered green sea turtle, about two years old and too young for the staff to know yet whether it is male or female, is infected with fibropapillomatosis, a potentially deadly disease caused by a type of herpes virus.

Experts still don’t understand quite how the virus spreads, or what causes it, though some research has pointed to agricultural runoff, pollution and global warming.

Each turtle can require several operations to remove all the tumours, which cover their necks, underbellies, and eyes, blinding them and making it hard for them to find food.

Green sea turtles were first listed as endangered species in 1976, but are now nesting in record numbers — 28,000 nests counted last year in Florida, up from fewer than 500 decades ago.

Albino turtle found on Australia beach

Wildlife volunteers say they were stunned to find an extremely rare albino turtle on a beach in Australia.

The tiny creature was one of 122 hatchlings from a green turtle nest on Castaways Beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

The volunteers from Coolum and North Shore Coast Care were surveying the nest on Sunday when they found it.

“It was very chipper and just took off into the water as happy as can be,” said group president Linda Warneminde.

Ms Warneminde said typically only one in 1,000 green turtles survived to maturity and experts believed the chances for an albino turtle were even lower.

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Wildlife

Florida’s Light Pollution Rules Helping Turtles to Nest

Efforts by some Florida seaside communities to reduce light pollution in turtle nesting areas have overwhelmingly resulted in more turtle-friendly conditions during the past 20 years.

Inspired by a science fair project by high school students, researchers from the University of Central Florida gathered data on artificial light at night between 1992 and 2012 from the Defence Meteorological Satellite Program.

They compared it to the extensive data on nesting sea turtles collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The study found that even with a 40 percent increase in Florida’s human population during that period, two-thirds of beaches in communities with light pollution regulations had darker and more turtle-friendly beaches.

Light pollution is known to reduce the number of nesting sites and to confuse hatchlings during their scramble from the nest to the water.

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Spread of bee disease ‘largely manmade’

The global trade in bees is driving a pandemic that threatens hives and wild bees, UK scientists say.

A deadly bee disease, Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), has spread worldwide through imports of infected honeybees, according to genetic evidence.

Lead researcher Dr Lena Bayer-Wilfert of the University of Exeter said European bees are at the heart of the global spread of what she calls a “double blow” for colonies.

“This is clearly linked to the human movement of honeybee colonies around the globe,”

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) was a major threat to honeybee populations across the world with the epidemic “driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies”.

In the research, scientists at the University of Exeter, Sheffield and Salford tracked the emergence of DWV by analysing genetic samples from honeybees and Varroa mites in 32 locations of 17 countries.

They found that the epidemic largely spread from Europe to North America and countries such as New Zealand, with the European honeybee as the main transmitter.

“It supports the idea that DWV is the main cause for the colony losses associated with Varroa and that this comes from European bees,” he said.

Scientists believe the combination is particularly deadly because the parasite feeds on bee larvae, while also injecting the deadly virus into the body of grown bees.

The double threat is thought to have wiped out millions of honeybee colonies over recent decades.

Bee infected with the virus

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Global Warming

Panama turtle eggs could ‘fry’

Sea turtle eggs laid in the sand of beaches in Panama risk getting fried before hatching because of rising temperatures, an environmental protection group in the Central American country is warning.

With the rise of a couple of degrees in the overall average temperature, many species of turtle will disappear because the nests will fry,

The group has found that temperature spikes are risking the viability of eggs laid by thousands of sea turtles on two Pacific coast beaches it monitors.

The fact that the sand is warmer, too, increases the chances of female turtles hatching, throwing gender ratios out of balance.

Temperature spikes have reached 36°C. The eggs need a sand temperature range of 26 to 35°C to be viable. Higher than that and incubation is halted, with the proteins inside becoming cooked.

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Wildlife

Palawan turtles rescued from extinction

Thousands of rare forest turtles have been rescued from horrifying conditions of captivity in Palawan, saving the critically endangered animals from possible extinction, wildlife experts said Wednesday.

More than 4,000 live freshwater turtles and 90 dead ones were found in a pond inside a remote warehouse in Palawan four weeks ago in one of the country’s biggest wildlife rescues, they said.

They included 3,831 Palawan forest turtles, a critically endangered species found only on the north of Palawan, as well as 160 Asian leaf turtles and 25 Southeast Asian box turtles.

The reptiles had apparently been stored without food and water for up to six months, and veterinarians worked round the clock to save the animals, she said in a statement.

The turtles were apparently destined for pet and food markets in Hong Kong and China, the statement said.

“This number equalled the estimated remaining population of Palawan forest turtle in the wild, hence bringing the species to the brink of extinction,” it added.

Many of the rescued turtles suffered from a variety of ailments and injuries, and some 360 others have since died. About 230 are still being treated, while the rest were released back into the wild, Schoppe said.

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Wildlife

Mass Turtle Strandings on Cape Cod

Wildlife rescue volunteers in Cape Cod have become overwhelmed during the past month by the nearly 1,200 stranded sea turtles that lingered too long this fall in the cooling waters of the North Atlantic.

Nearly all were young Kemp’s Ridley turtles, the most endangered turtle species, and were in a state of shock from exposure to the cold.

“Cold-stunning events are really hard things to explain,” Oregon State University biologist Selina Heppell told The New York Times.

“They are caused by local conditions, such as sharp changes in temperature, but the role of currents and turtle behavior and condition prior to the events are not well understood.”

Once rescued, the turtles were taken to the Wellfleet Audubon Society and the New England Aquarium for further treatment.

Many have since been driven or airlifted to other aquariums as far away as Texas for safekeeping until they are healthy enough to be released.

Wildlife

Largest-Ever U.S. ‘Critical Habitat’ Set for Loggerheads

Earlier this month, sea turtles gained a huge victory when the U.S. federal government announced the largest designation of critical habitat in the nation’s history for the loggerhead sea turtles on the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a joint announcement last week to designate 685 miles of beaches and more than 300,000 square miles of ocean as protected habitat for the creatures and their ecosystem.

Loggerheads spend most of their lives in the water, where they migrate tens of thousands of miles over their lifetimes to feed, grow, mate and nest. Unfortunately, fulfilling those basic needs puts them in harm’s way.

From birth, hatchling loggerheads are already at risk from being trampled by beach traffic or disoriented by artificial lighting, as they are hardwired to navigate by the moon’s light. If they safely reach the water, they find cover and food in mats of Sargassum algae, but must be careful not to ingest the millions of small pieces of plastic that also accumulate in the floating plants. As the young sea turtles grow into adults over the next twenty years, they can be captured in fishing gear, hooked on longlines, hit by speeding boats or coated in oil. Threatened by human activities throughout their entire lives, it is no surprise that this and other sea turtle populations have precipitously declined over the last decades.

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Wildlife

Oldest Known Bird Hatches a New Chick

The world’s oldest known wild bird just became a mother again.

The 63-year-old Laysan albatross named Wisdom was spotted taking care of her newborn earlier this month on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Biologists banded Wisdom in 1956 as she incubated an egg and have been following her ever since. The tough old bird has hatched a new chick for the past seven years in a row and has likely raised more than 30 chicks in her lifetime. She also survived a 2011 tsunami, which claimed 2,000 of her fellow adult albatrosses and about 110,000 chicks in the Midway wildlife refuge, an island habitat in the middle of the North Pacific.

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Baby River Turtles Hatch by the Thousands in Brazil

More than 200,000 baby turtles recently crawled out of their shells and swarmed sandy riverbanks in the interior of Brazil.

The mass hatching is an annual event for Great South American river turtles. Every time the dry season rolls around in the the Purus River basin in western Brazil, thousands of newborns emerge in one of the largest known mass hatchings for the species (Podocnemis expansa), according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Scientists with WCS and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation were on hand for the recent mass hatching in November 2013 in Brazil’s Abufari Biological Reserve. The team counted about 210,000 baby river turtles in total and rounded up 15,000 of those young creatures for a “mark and recapture” program.

By keeping tabs on marked turtles, scientists can estimate their population, monitor their travel and track their survival rates in the years to come.

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