Wildlife

Dought-hit Zimbabwe readies mass wildlife migration

Zimbabwe is planning an enforced mass migration of wildlife away from a park in the country’s south, where thousands of animals are at risk of death due to drought-induced starvation. At least 200 elephants have already died at two other parks due to lack of food and water, along with scores of buffalo and antelope.

The animals will continue to die until the rains come. The biggest threat to the animals right now is loss of habitat. The El Nino-induced drought has also taken its toll on crops, leaving more than half of the population in need of food aid.

Zimparks plans move 600 elephants – as well as giraffe, lions, buffalo, antelope and spotted wild dogs – from Save Valley Conservancy in southern Zimbabwe to three other national parks.

This is the biggest translocation of animals in the history of wildlife movement in Zimbabwe across distances of more than 1,000 kilometers.

It will start once the summer rains come. Those are expected to start this week, which would offer major relief for the stricken animals and for farmers who are preparing for the 2019/20 planting season.

The migration will also help to save the conservancy’s ecosystem by depopulating it because the animals “are now becoming a threat to their own survival.Zimbabwe is home to some 80,000 elephants, around a fifth of Africa’s total, conservationists estimate. Overall numbers have declined sharply in recent years, mostly due to a combination of poaching, illegal hunting and drought.

Wildlife

Zimbabwe Drought Killing Wildlife

Elephants, zebras, hippos, impalas, buffaloes and many other wildlife are stressed by lack of food and water in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, whose very name comes from the four pools of water normally filled by the flooding Zambezi River each rainy season, and where wildlife traditionally drink.

At least 105 elephants have died in Zimbabwe’s wildlife reserves, most of them in Mana and the larger Hwange National Park in the past two months, according to the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Many desperate animals are straying from Zimbabwe’s parks into nearby communities in search of food and water.

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Wildlife

Mobile Roaming Charges for Eagle Trackers

Russian researchers studying eagle migration with trackers that use mobile phone networks ran up huge SMS roaming charges when the birds unexpectedly flew southward into airspace over Iran and Pakistan.

The data stored in the birds’ trackers while they were outside the domestic coverage areas in Russia and neighboring Kazakhstan were later transmitted en masse through the foreign mobile carriers’ networks.

The volunteers tracking the birds were later able to pay off the roughly $1,600 bill through a crowdfunding appeal dubbed “Top up the eagles’ mobile.”

Sea Urchins Plunder Kelp Forests

The population of ravenous purple urchins in parts of the Pacific off California and Oregon has soared 10,000 percent since 2014, which an Oregon state scientist says has ravaged the kelp forests and other species in the marine environment.

The loss of the kelp to the echinoderms has created vast “urchin barrens,” where the kelp was once so thick that boats could not navigate through it.

While vast numbers of the urchins are starving to death on the now-empty seabed, the species can go dormant without reproducing and live for years without food. Experts warn that this means the kelp forests may never be able to rebound.

Scientists say climate change is likely a factor in the urchin explosion.

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Wildlife

Elephants Die in Botswana

Officials with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks say more than 100 elephants have died in recent months and anthrax is the likely culprit. According to a Reuters report, preliminary investigations suggest the elephants are dying from anthrax while some died from the effects of drought over the past two months.

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

Whales Using Bubble ‘Nets’ to Hunt

Some cetaceans use “nets” to catch their food. Like humpback whales. They’ll dive down and swim in a ring around their prey, blowing out bubbles as they go. That rising ring forms a column that traps fish, allowing other whales in the group to swim up from below, mouths agape, through the bubble cylinder to feast.

Global Warming

North American Birds under Threat

Two-thirds of bird species in North America are at risk of extinction if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a new report from scientists at the Audubon Society. A total of 389 species, out of 604 studied, are expected to experience declines in their populations as a result of warmer temperatures, higher seas, loss of habitat, and extreme weather, all driven by climate change.

Among those birds most at-risk are the greater sage grouse, Baltimore oriole, common loon, and the wood thrush. The new study comes less than a month after research found the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds since 1970, equal to losing one out of every four birds.

Wildlife

Bears Starving in Canada

Grizzlies in Canada are starving as the salmon population withers amid climate change. Excruciatingly thin grizzly bears in Canada are fresh evidence of the dire consequences of climate change and vanishing food sources for wildlife. Salmon, a key food source for grizzlies, is at an all-time low, affected by climate change. Fisherman say the salmon population is the smallest they’ve seen in 50 years.

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Bird Populations in Mojave Desert Collapse

Bird populations in the Mojave Desert have collapsed over the last century, and now scientists say they know why: The animals’ bodies can’t cope with the hotter and drier weather brought on by global warming.

The discovery, described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, draws upon historical records and high-tech virtual bird modeling to explain how climate change has caused such drastic population losses — and how it will likely cause even deeper losses in the future.

As climate change and habitat destruction due to human activity continue across the globe, many species have found themselves in decline or under threat. A recent study in the journal Science, for instance, found that there are nearly 3 billion fewer birds in North America today than there were in 1970.

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Wildlife

Earthworms vs Plastic

A new study finds that one of the world’s most common earthworms cannot thrive in ground polluted with high levels of microplastics.

Lead researcher Bas Boots of Britain’s Anglia Ruskin University says the finding adds to the growing body of evidence of how increasing plastic pollution is affecting the natural world.

“These effects include the obstruction and irritation of the digestive tract, limiting the absorption of nutrients and reducing growth,” Boots said.

Wildlife

Jellyfish Population Surges

Human activities are allowing jellyfish numbers to surge in the world’s oceans, which a new U.N. report says are undergoing profound and dangerous changes.

French researchers say that the population of jellyfish is increasing because of man-made factors such as overfishing, deep-sea trawling and the heating of the oceans in the deepening climate crisis.

Overfishing is eliminating some of the jellies’ natural predators, such as tuna and sea turtles, especially those that feed on plankton, giving the jellyfish more of the plankton to feed on themselves and thrive.

Whale Stranding – South Carolina, USA

South Carolina wildlife officials say five pilot whales were found stranded on Edisto Beach Saturday morning. Beachgoers found the mammals on the shore and tried to rescue them, but four of the whales died and at least two of them were calves. Officials said one of the whales was dead before crews could get to the beach to help and some of them had to be put down because they were too sick or injured.

Wildlife

Disappearing Birds

Pollution, habitat loss and environmental degradation have led to North America’s bird population plunging by 2.9 billion since 1970, a new report says.

Writing in the journal Science, scientists say the greatest losses have occurred among species that live in grasslands, such as blackbirds, finches, sparrows and warblers. Their populations dropped by around 53% over the past half-century while overall bird losses were about 29%.

“Birds are the quintessential indicators of environmental health, the canaries in the coal mine, and they’re telling us it’s urgent to take action to ensure our planet can continue to sustain wildlife and people,” said co-author Peter Marra.

Wildlife

Walrus Attacks and Sinks Russian Navy Boat

While traversing frigid Arctic waters in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, a Russian Navy vessel met its match — a mighty mother walrus defending her calves. Battered by the tusked mammal’s attacks, the tugboat Altai sank into the sea. The boat’s crew of Navy service members and researchers made it safely ashore on a smaller vessel.

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.

Wildlife

Spotted Zebra

A rare polka-dot zebra foal has created a stir after pictures appeared this past week. The equine oddity was spotted at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, and is said to be a first for the park.Screen Shot 2019 09 19 at 1 08 33 PM

Wildlife

Birds lose weight, migrate later after consuming insecticide

Birds that have ingested seeds treated with a common insecticide experience weight loss and delay their migrations — effects that could reduce their chances of surviving and reproducing, researchers found.

In a study of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in Canada, biologists documented the effects in birds that eat the equivalent of just a few seeds treated with the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid — an amount they could be expected to consume in the wild from agricultural fields.

Researchers suspect these impacts could be related to a dramatic decline in some songbird populations.

Neonicotinoids are often applied as a seed coating to protect crops from harmful insects, but when the chemicals are exposed in the environment, studies have found they can affect pollinating insects as well as birds.

Researchers found that birds given a higher dose of the pesticide lost 6% of their body mass within six hours, causing the birds to stay an average of 3 ½ days longer than birds in a control group at the stopover site before resuming migration.

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