California Court Approves Ban on Federal Wildlife Poisoning, Trapping

In response to a lawsuit filed by wildlife advocacy groups, a federal animal-killing program must restrict its use of bird-killing poisons in Northern California and stop setting strangulation snares and other traps in places like the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The court order further ends most beaver-killing in waterways where endangered wildlife depends on beaver-created habitats. The order also spells out several measures to protect California’s endangered gray wolves from being accidentally killed in traps set for other carnivores.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals. Most of the killing is in response to requests from the agriculture industry.

In 2018 Wildlife Services reported killing nearly 1.5 million native animals nationwide. That year, in California, the program reported killing 26,441 native animals, including 3,826 coyotes, 859 beavers, 170 foxes, 83 mountain lions and 105 black bears. The 5,675 birds killed in 2018 in California included blackbirds, ducks, egrets, hawks, owls and doves.

It is hoped that Courts in other areas will similarly restrict the Trump administration’s arrogant disregard for wildlife interests.


Great Barrier Reef suffers worst-ever coral bleaching

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered its most widespread coral bleaching on record, scientists said in a dire warning about the threat posed by climate change to the world’s largest living organism.

James Cook University professor Terry Hughes said a comprehensive survey last month found record sea temperatures had caused the third mass bleaching of the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) reef system in just five years.

Bleaching occurs when healthy corals become stressed by changes in ocean temperatures, causing them to expel algae living in their tissues which drains them of their vibrant colours.

“We surveyed 1,036 reefs from the air during the last two weeks in March to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching throughout the Barrier Reef region,” Hughes said.

“For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef –- the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors.”

The damage came as February brought the highest monthly sea temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef since Australia began keeping records in 1900.


Pumas in Santiago, Chile

For the second time in a little over a week, a wild puma was spotted roaming the streets of the Chilean capital Santiago on Wednesday night. With the city under lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, wildlife experts say the animals are taking advantage of the empty streets to search for food.


Wildlife Return to Urban Areas

Streets and other urban landscapes emptied out around the world in recent weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic are becoming repopulated by wildlife that had historically roamed the areas.

Rafters of turkeys are rambling through Oakland, California, while pumas stalk the streets of Santiago, Chile, returning to habitats once taken from them.

Foxes “change their behavior very quickly. When a place becomes quiet, they’re straight in there,” Romain Julliard, of the French Natural History Museum, told AFP. Lawns left unmowed are also providing conditions for bees and butterflies to thrive, Julliard added.

Trump’s industry-friendly rollback could kill billions of birds

The Trump administration intends to end the long-established practice of threatening criminal penalties to pressure companies into taking action to prevent unintentional bird deaths.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) allows for fines or prosecution for oil and gas, construction, communications and other companies who do not take steps to protect bird populations.

The most notable enforcement case bought under the MBTA resulted in a $100m settlement by BP, after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 killed approximately 100,000 birds.

The Trump administration is swiftly pushing through industry-friendly rollbacks on dozens of environmental protections ahead of the election in November.

A rollback on vehicle emission standards was announced on Tuesday. In January, a rule to remove environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater was completed.

The Trump administration says deaths of birds that fly into oil pits, mining sites, telecommunications towers, wind turbines and other hazards should be treated as accidents not subject to prosecution. The proposal would cement that into federal regulation.

The threat of fines and prosecution meant that companies took steps to protect birds such as red lights on communication towers, sirens and loud noises these to prevent birds landing on toxic water sites.

Most notable was the destruction last fall of nesting grounds for 25,000 shorebirds in Virginia to make way for a road and tunnel project. State officials had ended conservation measures for the birds after federal officials advised such measures were voluntary under the new interpretation of the law.

The move to relax the bird law, combined with Trump rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act puts birds and their habitat at greater risk, said Audubon Society vice president Sarah Greenberger.


China Makes Wildlife Ban Permanent

The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen has issued the most sweeping ban yet on the breeding and consumption of wild animals.

The Shenzhen regulations permanently ban the trade in and consumption of wild animals, a step beyond the temporary ban issued by the central government at the start of the current outbreak. Along with snakes, lizards and other wild animals, it also bans the consumption of dog and cat meat.


Great Barrier Reef – More bleaching

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is suffering its third mass coral bleaching event in five years, with some reefs that had survived earlier episodes being affected again.

A new survey reveals that 80 reefs between Tully and Townsville have been badly bleached.

“We could see that some of those corals were big enough that they must have survived the 2017 bleaching and now they re-bleached,” said reef expert Terry Hughes.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Some Wildlife Photography Award Finalists


Orangutang Drinking

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Monkeys in Japan taking a bath in hot springs


Climate change forcing whales into dangerous shipping lanes

Climate change is imperilling the world’s largest animals by increasing the likelihood of fatal collisions between whales and big ships that ply the same waters.

Warming ocean temperatures are causing some species of whales in pursuit of food to stray more frequently into shipping lanes, scientists say.

The phenomenon already has increased ship strikes involving rare North Atlantic right whales on the East Coast and giant blue whales on the West Coast, researchers say.

When whales are killed in a ship collision, they often sink and don’t always wash ashore. So scientists and conservationists say fatal ship strikes are dramatically under-reported.

Vessels strikes are among the most frequent causes of accidental death in large whales, along with entanglement in fishing gear.

Scientists say the changing ocean environment and a shift in food sources with global warming is causing right whales and some other species to stray outside protected zones designed to keep them safe from ships.


Urban Avians

A new study finds why some birds thrive in cities while others go extinct due to human activities — they can either grow large brains or produce more offspring.

“On the one hand, species with large brains, like crows or gulls, are common in cities because large brain size helps them deal with the challenges of a novel environment,” said lead author Ferran Sayol of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg.

“On the other hand, we also found that small-brained species, like pigeons, can be highly successful if they have a high number of breeding attempts over their lifetimes.”

Venetian Revival

Fish and even dolphins have returned to the now-calmed waters of Venice’s famed canals due to the shutdown of tourism and daily life during Italy’s coronavirus health crisis.
The hundreds of speeding motorboat taxis and tourist boats that used to churn La Serenissima’s canals are now docked in silence. The huge cruise ships are also gone, while even most of the gondolas are moored.
The city’s typically turbid canals are now clear enough to see the native seaweed and returning schools of fish.


Monarch Decline

Even though the number of monarch butterflies that reached their wintering grounds in Mexico decreased by more than half this season, experts said the plunge is not alarming.

The Mexico director of the World Wildlife Fund told reporters that the previous winter’s numbers were unusually high because the first generation of the migrating insects in the spring of 2018 had encountered favorable breeding conditions as they headed northward toward the eastern U.S. and Canada.

But those fluttering northward in 2019 encountered colder conditions in Texas, which made them less able to reproduce.

Early reports from Texas this spring say the monarchs have arrived at least three weeks earlier than expected, thanks to unseasonably warm weather in Mexico.

Coronavirus Risk

A refuge that is home to many of East Africa’s mountain gorillas has been closed to protect the endangered primates from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Officials at Congo’s Virunga National Park say they will bar visitors until at least June 1 after experts warned that the gorillas are likely susceptible to complications from the coronavirus.

Similar actions have been taken in neighboring Rwanda to protect that country’s gorillas and chimpanzees.


Further Effects of Australian Wildfires

Many waterways in Australia that have been inundated with ash and debris following the devastating bush fires this spring and summer, killing fish and other aquatic life and fouling drinking water supplies. The thick dark mud flowing into creeks and streams is killing insect larvae, tadpoles, freshwater shrine, crayfish oysters along with many protected species of fish. One of the primary impacts of the large pulse of ash was a rapid decline in dissolved oxygen levels in the water.


Illegal Wildlife Trade under Attack in Vietnam

Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has asked the country’s agriculture ministry to draft a directive to stop illegal trading and consumption of wildlife over fears it spreads disease.

The directive, seen as a victory for animal rights organisations, will lead to a clamping down on street-side markets dotted across the country, increase prosecutions of online traders and ideally put pressure on thousands of farms with known links to illegal wildlife trading.

Vitenam’s move to ban the wildlife trade follows similar moves by the Chinese government, after the new coronavirus pandemic appeared to have emerged from a wet market in Wuhan.

Both illegal and “legal” wildlife trading flourishes in Vietnam, where the trade has grown into a billion-dollar industry. There are thousands of markets around the country, many of which include stalls selling animals for food or as pets. Anyone walking around some of the street-side stalls of the Mekong delta can see fish tanks stuffed with sea turtles or skinned-alive frogs.


“Ruminant Plague” Threatens Populations of Wildlife

A disease already known for causing massive die-offs of wildlife in Asia is spreading.

Publishing their findings in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, a team of scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and more than 20 other organizations say that the spillover of the Peste des Petits Ruminants virus (PPRV) from sheep and goats to wildlife has global implications for biodiversity.

Initially discovered in Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa in 1942, Peste des Petits Ruminants (French for small ruminant plague) is now recognized as a major global burden on the health and production of sheep and goats along with the human communities who depend on them for their livelihoods. This severe disease is typically observed as respiratory and digestive symptoms frequently followed by death. Until recently PPR has been considered a disease of domestic small ruminants, but there have been several recent outbreaks in wildlife, including the 2016-2017 outbreak in the Mongolia saiga antelope, which reduced the population of this critically endangered species by 80 percent.

There is growing evidence that wildlife species from the ‘mountain monarchs’ like the Siberian Ibex and Mountain Sheep to the wild ruminants of the great plains of Asia, like the Saiga antelope and Goitered gazelle, can be infected with PPRV.


Burnt Koalas Starve Weeks after the Bushfires

Koalas that survived the flames are now dying from starvation, dehydration, smoke inhalation and other hazards.

Over the past three weeks in one wildlife conservation property alone, our rescue team found koalas recently crushed under fire-damaged trees, and koalas with burnt paws after descending to the smouldering ground after the inferno had passed, hoping to change trees and find food. One of our most recent rescues was an orphaned, emaciated koala with all four paws burnt.

Koalas are also at risk of dying from infections associated with these injuries, or from the ongoing effects of smoke inhalation. Even uninjured koalas are struggling to find food in their burnt habitat and may soon starve.

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Poaching Loss

The world’s last female white giraffe and one of its calves have been killed by armed poachers in Kenya, leaving only one of the slain female’s white offspring still alive.

The mother was first spotted in eastern Kenya’s Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in 2017.

Their alabaster coats were caused by leucism, which is different from albinism, as dark pigments continue to grow in the animals’ soft tissues, giving them dark eyes.