Wildlife

Blue Whales Return

Critically endangered blue whales, the largest creatures ever known to have existed, are returning to Britain’s sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.

U.K. scientists say the whales appear to be growing in numbers around the island after being nearly wiped out by whaling 50 years ago. While only a single blue whale was seen there between 1998 and 2018, 58 were spotted in a survey in February of this year.

Another recent study found that humpback whales are also returning to the same waters.

Wildlife

Regal Death

The oldest lion in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve died peacefully and with dignity after a 16-year reign in the park. Olorpapit had sired many offspring while shuttling between five separate prides, according to the reserve.

“It was a celebrity lion that was a darling to tourists,” Chief Warden James Sindiyo told the Nairobi News. It reports that as soon as word went out that the famous lion had passed, hundreds of tourists and wild cat lovers who had interacted with him sent condolences. The lion was said to have been injured when younger territorial lions attacked him a few weeks ago.

Wildlife

Rhinos Return

Conservationists will repopulate Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park with black rhinos before the end of the year, bringing the critically endangered animals back 27 years after they went locally extinct.

The Gonarezhou Conservation Trust has hired 39 game rangers, mainly from areas around the park, and trained them to protect the returning rhinos. South Africa’s CAJ News reports the animals first went extinct in the area sometime in the 1930s or 1940s.

A similar reintroduction project between 1969 and 1977 saw rhino numbers increase to about 140 before a civil war in neighboring Mozambique caused the park to close. By 1994, the rhinos were extinct there again.

Wildlife

Efforts to Save Penguins

Scientists in South Africa are trying to save from extinction the only penguin that breeds in Africa by establishing a new colony at a protected site about 140 miles southeast of Cape Town.

More than 1 million pairs of what was once South Africa’s most abundant seabird thrived back in the 1920s. But people began harvesting their eggs for human consumption, helping to cause the populations to plunge to around 13,000 breeding pairs last year. Dwindling fish stocks and climate change have also contributed to the decline. About 50 hand-raised juvenile birds, abandoned by their parents, will be released each year to try to establish a colony at the De Hoop nature reserve.

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Covid-19 Threat to Wildlife

Canadian researchers warn that whales and other marine mammals could become infected with COVID-19 through inadequately treated sewage effluents.

While no such cases have been reported, scientists at Dalhousie University say their genomic mapping determined that almost all whale, dolphin and porpoise species have the same or higher susceptibility to the coronavirus as humans. “Many of these species are threatened or critically endangered,” said Dalhousie’s Graham Dellaire. “In the past, these animals have been infected by related coronaviruses that have caused both mild disease as well as life-threatening liver and lung damage.”

Wildlife

Iceberg on Collision Course

The world’s most massive iceberg appears to be taking dead aim on a remote British territory in the South Atlantic, where it could have devastating consequences for the island’s wildlife.

Iceberg A-68A, roughly the size of Cyprus, broke off from Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf in 2017 and is predicted to run aground in the shallow waters surrounding South Georgia in less than a month. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey warn the massive chunk could block foraging routes for many thousands of the three penguin species that populate the island. This could threaten their chicks, as well as seal pups on the island, with starvation.

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Wildlife

Galapagos Bounty

Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park says populations of the archipelago’s penguins and flightless cormorants have seen a record increase since 2019, reaching the highest levels since 2006.

Galapagos penguins are the only ones that live on the equator. They have grown in numbers from 1,451 in 2019 to 1,940 this year. The flightless cormorant population has increased from 1,914 to 2,220 during the same period.

The park says La Niña conditions have helped provide more food for both species, allowing their populations to increase.

Wildlife

New Coral Reef Discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

A coral reef taller than the Empire State Building has been discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Standing at 500 metres, it is located at the North end of the Great Barrier Reef around 80km east of Cape Grenville, which is roughly 150km south of the tip of Cape York on the east coast of Queensland. Its base is 1.5km long and at its highest point, the reef is around 127ft below the ocean surface.

Importantly, the new reef shows minimal signs of having been affected by global warming and appears largely healthy.

Wildlife

Kamchatka Kill

The massive deaths of sea creatures along the eastern coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula are being blamed by officials on a natural bloom of toxic algae and not on man-made pollution.

Images of dead seals, octopuses and other marine life started appearing on social media in early October, accompanied by reports of local residents complaining of being sickened as well. Russia’s Investigative Committee said the deaths were entirely due to natural causes. But initial tests found levels of oil products and phenol, used to make plastics, in the water.

Wildlife

Seal tragedy

More than 5,000 seal mothers have aborted their pups at a key breeding colony along the coast of Namibia since early September, worrying marine scientists. Biopsies and tests have yet to determine why the miscarriages occurred on such a massive scale.

Experts from Ocean Conservation Namibia say similar events happen every few years, but never before on such a large scale. They add that the mothers often sit beside their aborted pups, or carry them around for a few days in grief. It’s believed that starvation, disease or pollution could be behind the disaster.

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Wildlife

Devils Return

A small number of Australia’s iconic Tasmanian devils have been transplanted to a forest near Sydney in a test project to repopulate the predators on the mainland.

The devils died out there more than 3,000 years ago after dingos were likely brought to Australia by prehistoric immigrants from Indonesia. And about 90% have been wiped out in their only remaining habitats on Tasmania by a deadly tumor cancer since the 1990s. The “rewilding” project of healthy devils by Aussie Ark is designed to ensure the survival of the species and help restore Australia’s ecological balance.

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Wildlife

USA ‘Wildlife Services’ Killers

The arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed approximately 1.2 million native animals in 2019, according to new data released by the program this week.

The multimillion-dollar federal wildlife-killing program targets wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals for destruction, primarily to benefit the agriculture industry in states like Texas, Colorado and Idaho. Of the 2.2 million animals killed last year, approximately 1.2 million were native wildlife species.

According to the latest report, the federal program last year intentionally killed 301 gray wolves; 61,882 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 251 destroyed dens; 364,734 red-winged blackbirds; 393 black bears; 300 mountain lions; 777 bobcats; 124 river otters plus 489 killed “unintentionally”; 2,447 foxes, plus an unknown number of red fox pups in 94 dens; and 24,543 beavers.

The program also killed 14,098 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 35,226 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated. These figures almost certainly underestimate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.

According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed more than 2,624 animals in 2019, including bears, bobcats, mountain lions, a wolf, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons and turtles. Its killing of non-target birds included ducks, eagles, swallows, herons and turkeys.

Wildlife

Rowdy Orcas

Yachtsmen off the coast of northwestern Spain have experienced some terrifying moments in recent weeks as orcas inexplicably rammed their vessels, causing damage to rudders and hulls. Officials have since banned sailboats less than 50 feet in length from navigating the affected coastal waters except for a specific route to the high seas. Biologist Bruno Díaz of Spain’s Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute told reporters that the ramming is probably being done by “immature teenage” orcas getting rowdy.

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Wildlife

Whale Stranding – Australia

Australian wildlife officials began disposing hundreds of dead pilot whales on Saturday, Sep. 26 after concluding there was no longer any hope of rescuing any more.

In Australia’s biggest whale beach, 470 whales were first spotted on a wide sandbank during an aerial reconnaissance in Tasmania on Sep. 21.

After days of difficult and dangerous rescue attempts, wildlife officials said they rescued 108 whales, with the rest now believed to have died.

Whales are very social marine mammals, and they typically travel together. The whales are believed to have gotten stuck and stranded together in the area, and were not able to get out.

The bodies of the dead whales are being separated into groups and enclosed with water booms to try keep them in one place- and isolated from sharks and other predators.

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Wildlife

Botswana Elephant Death Mystery Solved

GABORONE, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana this year, officials said on Monday, announcing the result of an investigation into the deaths which had baffled and alarmed conservationists.

Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Not all produce toxins but scientists say toxic ones are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.

The number of dead elephants had risen to 330, from 281 reported in July, while other animals in the Okavango Panhandle region appeared unharmed.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, about 25 elephant carcasses were found near the country’s biggest game park and authorities suspect they succumbed to a bacterial infection.

The animals were found with tusks intact, ruling out poaching and deliberate poisoning. Parks authorities believe the elephants could have ingested the bacteria while searching for food. The carcasses were found near water sources.

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Wildlife

More Trump Administration Wildlife and Environment Abuse

The National Park Service released a management plan amendment today for Point Reyes National Seashore that would enshrine commercial cattle ranching in the California park at the expense of native wildlife and natural habitat. It also calls for the killing of native tule elk and would authorize new agricultural uses that will put other wildlife at risk.

“This is a disaster for wildlife and a stunning mismanagement of one of America’s most beautiful national parks,” said Jeff Miller at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Park Service is greenlighting the slaughter of native wildlife in Point Reyes. After the elk, the next likely victims will be birds, bobcats, foxes and coyotes. This plan is illegal and immoral, and we’re going to do everything we can to stop it.”

In today’s “final environmental impact statement,” the Park Service selected Alternative B, which extends 20-year commercial leases to 15 private dairy and beef cattle ranches on 26,100 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area lands in Marin County. The plan authorizes continued overgrazing and does little to address ongoing damage by cattle to water quality and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife.

Wayward Whales

Three humpback whales on their way to Antarctic waters made a wrong turn into a crocodile-infested river in far northern Australia. While two appear to have turned back, one continued swimming upstream, where wildlife experts say it has little chance of being attacked by the much smaller reptiles. But there was concern that the lone whale could get stranded in a very remote area miles upstream where rescue efforts would be impossible, and it would then become “croc bait” as it foundered.