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.

Wildlife

Avian Tragedy

Scientists are trying to determine what caused untold thousands of migratory birds to fall from the sky dead or dying across parts of the southwestern U.S.

The songbird fatalities could be linked to the thick pall of wildfire smoke they flew through en route from Alaska and Canada to their winter grounds in Central or South America.

Or they could have used up their fat reserves trying to fly around it before they perished in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and parts of Nebraska. Some fear the smoke damaged their lungs. “They’re literally just feathers and bones,” New Mexico State University graduate student Allison Salas wrote on social media.

Mosquito Plague

A mosquito population boom in the wake of Hurricane Laura’s fury in late August along the Gulf Coast has led to deer, cows, horses and other livestock being killed by the insects.

Animals as large as bulls have been drained of their blood and stressed to fatal exhaustion, according to veterinary experts at Louisiana State University.

The pests became so pervasive that several Louisiana parishes launched aerial spraying operations. Similar swarms occurred after Hurricane Lili in 2002 and Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Wildlife

Wildlife Populations Plummet

Global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to rampant over-consumption, experts said Thursday in a stark warning to save nature in order to save ourselves.

Human activity has severely degraded three quarters of all land and 40 percent of Earth’s oceans, and our quickening destruction of nature is likely to have untold consequences on our health and livelihoods.

The Living Planet Index, which tracks more than 4,000 species of vertebrates, warned that increasing deforestation and agricultural expansion were the key drivers behind a 68 percent average decline in populations between 1970 and 2016.

It warned that continued natural habitat loss increased the risk of future pandemics as humans expand their presence into ever closer contact with wild animals.

The last half-decade has seen unprecedented economic growth underpinned by an explosion in global consumption of natural resources.

Whereas until 1970, humanity’s ecological footprint was smaller than the Earth’s capacity to regenerate resources, the WWF now calculates we are over using the planet’s capacity by more than half.

While aided by factors such as invasive species and pollution, the biggest single driver of species lost is land-use changes: normally, industry converting forests or grasslands into farms.

This takes an immense toll on wild species, who lose their homes.

But it also requires unsustainable levels of resources to uphold: one third of all land mass and three quarters of all freshwater are now dedicated to producing food.

The picture is equally dire in the ocean, where 75 percent of fish stocks are over exploited.

And while wildlife is declining rapidly, species are disappearing faster in some places than others.

The index showed that the tropical regions of Central and South America had seen a 94 percent fall in species since 1970.

Singing Dogs

A rare species of dog that can sing, or more accurately yodel, has been rediscovered in the wild in the remote highlands of the Indonesian part of New Guinea.

The howls of the canines have been compared to the calls of humpback whales. There are about 200 captive descendants of the eight dogs that were gathered in the 1970s, but they are now seriously inbred.

While none have been seen in the wild for half a century, a new expedition returned to the capture site and found 15 of the wild dogs there are genetically similar enough to their captive cousins to provide them fresh genes.

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Wildlife

Elephant Deaths – Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean wildlife authorities are investigating the deaths of 12 elephants last week in a forest north of the country’s famed Hwange National Park.

Zimbabwe’s wildlife agency said on Wednesday it had discovered more elephant carcasses near a major game park, bringing the number of dead animals suspected to have been killed by a bacterial infection to 22, double the initial figure.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has already ruled out poaching and cyanide poisoning for the death of elephants in Pandamasuwe Forest in western Zimbabwe, between the largest wildlife sanctuary Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls.

Zimparks spokesman Tinashe Farawo said the latest elephant carcasses were found on Tuesday and Wednesday. Most of the animals were young, with the oldest being 18 years.

The elephants, which had their tusks intact, had died in similar circumstances to those first discovered last week.

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.

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Mauritius Oil Spill

The 1,000 tons of fuel oil that spilled around Mauritius from a grounded Japanese tanker in July appear to have left at least 40 dolphins dead. Dead fish, turtles, whales and crabs were also observed. Fishermen say they saw a mother dolphin using the last of her energy in a futile attempt to keep her faltering calf alive. While the country’s fisheries minister said that at first glance, the deaths didn’t appear related to the spill, local oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo told reporters the deal dolphins smelled of fuel.

Wildlife

Dolphins Die in Mauritius

At least 40 dolphins have mysteriously died in an area of Mauritius affected by an oil spill from a Japanese boat, officials and witnesses said on Friday.

Environmentalists have demanded an investigation into whether the dolphins were killed as a result of the spill from a Japanese ship, which was scuttled on Monday after running aground in July and leaking oil.

The death toll may rise: fishermen say they saw between 25 and 30 apparently dead dolphins floating in the lagoon on Friday morning, among scores of the animals that fishermen were trying to herd away from the pollution.

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Wildlife

Whales Strand in Mauritius

Eighteen melon-headed whales washed upon the shores of Mauritius on Wednesday. The whales, some of them still alive when they were found, later died. They stranded on the soutyhj-eastern beaches of Grand Sable and some of them had injuries. The Department of Fisheries. Reported that they had no trace of hydro-carbons on them and their deaths appear unrelated to the oil still off Mauritius.

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Migratory Tragedy

More than 300 wildebeests perished during a suspected stampede while crossing the Mara River on Aug. 23 in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

The Nation daily reported that the bloated carcasses littered the river, filling the air of the country’s most famous game park with the stench of death. The park’s deputy chief game warden, Eddy Nkoitoi, said there were so many dead wildebeests in the water that the crocodiles and vultures couldn’t eat them all. Those that drowned unfortunately picked a part of the river to cross that was swollen by heavy rains upstream.

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Wildlife

Alaska salmon getting smaller

Alaska salmon have gotten smaller in recent decades, a downsizing that appears to be largely driven by climate change and increased competition for food as hatcheries release some 5 billion young fish into the North Pacific each year, according to a study published this month by U.S. and Canadian researchers in the science journal Nature Communications.

Alaska provides the vast majority of the United States’ wild salmon, and their smaller size is reducing the number of eggs that these fish produce and their value to commercial and other fishermen.

That decline encompasses salmon runs all over the state but varies by species and region. Chinook returning across a broad expanse of western and northern Alaska were some 10% smaller than the average size before 1990. Meanwhile in southeast Alaska, sockeye salmon declined — on average — by only about 2%.

Many of these salmon appear to be returning from the ocean earlier to freshwater spawning grounds, and that’s why they are smaller as they reach coastal-area harvest zones.

Wildlife

Elephant-shrew Rediscovered After 50 Years

Conservation group World wide Wildlife Conservation (GWC) announced the rediscovery of the “romantically monogamous” Somali sengi on Tuesday. The elephant-shrew was on the organization’s 25 Most Preferred Lost Species record.

GWC introduced the 1st scientific documentation of a single Somali sengi in a variety of photographs showing the mouse-like animal standing on some rocks. The insect-eater has a trunk-like nose and is more closely linked to elephants than ordinary shrews.

The study group caught an elusive Somali sengi in a lure baited with peanut butter, oatmeal and yeast.

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Wildlife

Early Magpie Mayhem

A changing climate appears to be extending the season when Australia’s magpies swoop down and terrorize cyclists and pedestrians, according to bird experts.

While the aggressive birds, which swoop to protect their hatchlings, typically don’t begin calling for a mate until the last full moon of August, they have already been menacing the human population for weeks.

Behavioral ecologist Darryl Jones of Griffith University says that the early swooping is probably because the magpies were tricked into nesting early by recent warmer winters and erratic weather. Authorities warn not to make eye contact with the birds, to carry umbrellas and to walk not run in areas where magpies are nesting.

Wildlife

Beavers Prosper in England

The growing number of beavers that have been making England’s River Otter their home since they began returning a few years ago have been told by officials that they can stay. It’s the first time a mammal extinct in England has been given government backing to be reintroduced.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said that going forward, the dam-builders will be considered a “public good” and that farmers and landowners would be paid to have them on their land. There are now 15 beaver families living in the waterway, building complex homes known as lodges.

Wildlife

Penguin Disovery

There are now 20% more known colonies of emperor penguins around Antarctica, thanks to satellite images that revealed more of the imperiled birds to scientists. Emperors are the only penguin species that breed on sea ice instead of on land, making them highly vulnerable to climate change. “Whilst this is good news, the colonies are small and so only take the overall population count up to … just over half a million penguins,” said lead researcher Peter Fretwell at the British Antarctic Survey. He made the discovery by examining images from Europe’s Sentinel-2 spacecraft. Fretwell says there still may be one or two other very small colonies yet to be discovered.

Wildlife

Low fish catch – India

Maharashtra witnessed lowest fish catch in 45 years in 2019. Fishers have also reported a 50% decline in their annual fish catch, attributing recurring cyclones for reducing their fishing window. Fish migrate from warm waters to cool waters, a phenomenon that has already begun as the Indian ocean is warming up is one of the reasons for lower fish catch. The marine algae that is the base of aquatic food web has been disappearing in the western Indian Ocean owing to rising sea temperatures.

Wildlife

Florida wildlife officials remove 5,000 pythons from the Everglades

Wildlife officials removed 5,000 from the Everglades, according to a statement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Burmese pythons are not naturally found in Florida. But the nonnative pests reproduce — and kill other species — so frequently that the state takes extraordinary measures to combat them. Each invasive python eliminated represents hundreds of native Florida wildlife saved. The invasive pythons became established as a result of escaped or released pets.

Amazon Deforestations at Record High

The first six months of 2020 were the worst on record for deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, with 3,069 square kilometres (1,185 square miles) cleared, according to INPE data, an area bigger than the nation of Luxembourg.

The number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon has risen by 28 percent from July 2019, satellite data showed on Saturday, fuelling fears the world’s biggest rainforest will again be devastated by fires this year.

Brazil’s national space agency, INPE, identified 6,803 fires in the Amazon region in July 2020, up from 5,318 the year before.

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Wildlife

Soil animals are getting smaller with climate change

The biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil and thus maintain its fertility is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. To their surprise, however, scientists have discovered that this effect occurs in two different ways: while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. Even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all negative consequences of climate change.

Largely unnoticed and in secret, an army of tiny service providers works below our feet. Countless small insects, arachnids and other soil dwellers are indefatigably busy decomposing dead plants and other organic material, and recycling the nutrients they contain. However, experts have long feared that these organisms, which are so important for soil fertility and the functioning of ecosystems, are increasingly coming under stress.

On the one hand, they are confronted with the consequences of climate change, which challenges them with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. On the other hand, they also suffer from over-intensive land use.