Bee Recovery

Beekeepers across the U.S. report that their colonies have rebounded from the losses suffered last year.

While the deadly 2018-2019 winter season saw a record 37.7% of the colonies die off, there was only a 22.2% loss last winter, the smallest in the last 14 years. But losses had continued through the summer of 2019, when beekeepers reported a 32% death rate — much higher than the average for summer losses.

Honeybees are threatened by mites, diseases, pesticides and climate change, which experts say are part of the new normal the bee industry must cope with.

More Locusts

Swarms of desert locusts have invaded a suburb of New Delhi for the first time in recorded history, prompting residents to bang pots and pans to ward off the insects.

Neighboring Pakistan has battled infestations for weeks. But since the insects arrived between the last harvest and the next planting season, there have so far not been any reports of significant crop losses.

A new generation of the ravenous insects is now devastating crops that are emerging in East Africa.


Over 400 Botswana elephants killed in mystery mass die-off

The carcasses of more than 400 elephants have been discovered north of the Okavango Delta and nobody yet knows what’s killing them. The government appears to be dragging its heels in pursuit of answers.From the air, a dead elephant torn into by scavengers is a grisly sight. In north-east Botswana the presence of at least 400 must have been overwhelming.

The first carcass was found near Seronga on May 11 by researchers in a helicopter trying to discover why an elephant with a satellite tracker hadn’t moved for some time. What they found was shocking.

The dead elephants were dotted near natural waterholes in mopane woodland and along trails. They had collapsed on their chests, almost in mid-step, suggesting sudden death — almost what a chemical nerve poison would do.

A further eight elephants in the area appeared to be weak and lethargic, some walking with difficulty or in circles, suggesting neurological impairment. Puzzlingly, no young elephants appear to have died.

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Antarctic Penguin Boom

Antarctic penguins could experience a ‘population boom’ due to global warming as melting sea ice means they have to spend less time foraging for food. Japanese scientists describe the Adélie species of penguin, which is native to Antarctica, as a ‘rare global warming winner’ thanks to melting ice.

In low-ice conditions, penguins are able travel more by swimming than by walking, which increases their access to foods such as fish and krill. For Adélies, swimming is four times faster than walking, meaning faster access to food and, in turn, healthier offspring and longer lifespans.


Tortoise Success

A group of aging giant tortoises that helped save their species from the brink of extinction in the Galápagos Islands was released into the wild after four decades of tireless breeding.

The number of giant tortoises plummeted to just 15 individuals in the 1970s as the captive breeding program was launched. There are now more than 2,000 living on Española Island, meaning the species’ survival is assured and the breeding program can end.

One tortoise named Diego, famous for his virility, sired some 800 offspring. He and 14 other breeding veterans have been relocated to an area of the island where their favorite snack of cactus is abundant. Wildlife experts say this setting should make their transition to life in the wild easier.


China removes pangolin from traditional medicine list

China has removed pangolin parts from its official list of traditional medicines, state media reported on Tuesday, days after increasing legal protections on the endangered animal.

Pangolins were left out of the official Chinese Pharmacopoeia this year, along with substances including a pill formulated with bat faeces, the state-owned Health Times reported.

The pangolin, the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal, is thought by some scientists to be the possible host of the novel coronavirus that emerged at a market in China’s Wuhan city last year. Its body parts fetch a high price on the black market as they are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, although scientists say they have no therapeutic value.

China’s forestry authority on Friday gave pangolins the highest level of protection in the country due to its threatened status.

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White-Nose Syndrome spreads to bats in North Dakota, USA

Little brown bats found dead in western North Dakota died of white-nose syndrome. In early May, the Southwest District Health Unit in Dickinson contacted the North Dakota Game and Fish Department with reports of dead bats found in Medora.


Wildebeest on the Move

Officials in the southern African nation of Botswana say they are relocating about 1,000 wildebeests from an area where they are coming into contact with livestock and infecting them with a deadly disease.

There is currently no treatment for malignant catarrhal fever spread by the migratory animals, and there have been 74 deaths from it in cattle since March. Helicopters and a team of 40 on the ground will help move the wildebeests to a conservation area away from the affected farms by late July.


Great Barrier Reef Suffers Most Severe Bleaching to Date

February 2020 was the hottest month on record since records began in 1900, Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, told Reuters.

“We saw record-breaking temperatures all along the length of the Great Barrier Reef, there wasn’t a cool portion in the north, or a cool portion in the south this time around,” Hughes said.

“The whole Barrier Reef was hot so the bleaching we have seen this year is the most extensive so far.”

Hughes added that he is now almost certain that the Reef is not going to recover to what it looked like even five years ago, not to mention thirty years ago. If the global warming trends continue the Great Barrier Reef will be destroyed, he said.

“We will have some sort of tropical ecosystem, but it won’t look like coral reef, there might be more seaweed, more sponges, a lot less coral, but it will be a very different ecosystem.”

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Verge of Extinction

More than 500 species of land animals could be lost within 20 years as Earth’s sixth mass extinction of wildlife accelerates, scientists warn. They say that such losses could pass the tipping point for the collapse of civilization as we know it.

“When humanity exterminates other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,” said Stanford University’s Paul Ehrlich.

An international research team writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Extinction breeds extinctions.” They say that wildlife trade and other activities have already wiped out hundreds of species.


Bushmeat Hunting, Wildlife Declines, and Fish Supply in West Africa

The multibillion-dollar trade in bushmeat is among the most immediate threats to the persistence of tropical vertebrates, but our understanding of its underlying drivers and effects on human welfare is limited by a lack of empirical data. We used 30 years of data from Ghana to link mammal declines to the bushmeat trade and to spatial and temporal changes in the availability of fish. We show that years of poor fish supply coincided with increased hunting in nature reserves and sharp declines in biomass of 41 wildlife species. Local market data provide evidence of a direct link between fish supply and subsequent bushmeat demand in villages and show bushmeat’s role as a dietary staple in the region. Our results emphasize the urgent need to develop cheap protein alternatives to bushmeat and to improve fisheries management by foreign and domestic fleets to avert extinctions of tropical wildlife.


Elephant Deaths Mystery in Botswana

The mystery surrounding a mass die-off of elephants in Botswana is deepening after initial test results ruled out poisoning and anthrax.

Wildlife officials had earlier ruled out poaching as no ivory had been taken. But officers have discovered more carcasses as the death toll surpasses 100.

Samples would now be sent to neighboring South Africa for further tests.


Mice are Shrinking

According to a well-studied but controversial principle known as Bergmann’s Rule, species tend to be larger in cold climates and smaller in warm ones. As human impacts heat the planet, will animals shrink over time?

To test this, a new study, published today in Scientific Reports, analyzed 70 years of records of the North American deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, one of the most common mammals in the U.S. and the best-documented rodent in North American museum collections and surveys.

Unexpectedly, researchers found deer mice are generally decreasing in mass over time, but this trend may not be linked to changes in climate or human population density, a proxy for urbanization. In another surprise finding, larger-bodied deer mouse populations are getting smaller and smaller-bodied populations are getting larger.

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Elephants Starving

Thousands of tame elephants in parts of Thailand are facing starvation because the COVID-19 pandemic has kept away the tourists they once toiled to entertain, leaving their owners unable to feed them.

More than 100 of the lumbering animals have traveled on foot up to 100 miles to areas where they can now feed themselves in their home habitats.

The Save Elephant Foundation in the northern province of Chiang Mai helped bring the unemployed elephants to where they can live alongside villagers in a sustainable manner. One owner said the elephants made happy noises upon their first return home in 20 years.


Global warming is changing where birds breed

Global warming is shifting the behavior of migratory birds in the eastern regions of North America. Researchers have discovered that the breeding range of some birds is shrinking, while for others this range is expanding.

According to the study, birds that both breed and winter in North America are extending their ranges north where warming temperatures have created new, suitable places to breed.

The findings indicate that bird species such as Carolina wrens and red-bellied woodpeckers will be able to adapt to future climate change.

On the other hand, some birds have breeding ranges that are dwindling. Neotropical migratory birds breed in North America during the summer and migrate to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America for the winter.

Neotropical migrants include warblers, orioles, flycatchers, and other species that birdwatchers look forward to spotting in the spring. The researchers found that Neotropical birds are not expanding north, yet their suitable southern range is shrinking.

Over the past five decades, Neotropical bird populations have decreased by about 2.5 billion individuals.

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Cicadas Return – After 17 Years

The drone of untold millions of singing insects will soon echo across parts of the eastern United States from a group of cicadas that emerges from the ground only once every 17 years.

The mating songs of brood IX are among the noisiest of their kind. Their habitat stretches from North Carolina to West Virginia, where as many as 1.5 million can surface per acre.

Cicadas are large, clear-winged insects with bulbous eyes that emerge every year or in cycles of 13 or 17 years. They then shed and leave their brown husks behind on trees and other objects. After breeding, their nymphs crawl into the ground for a 17-year slumber.


A new deadly virus spreading among US rabbit population

Humans aren’t the only ones facing a pandemic — rabbits across the U.S. are currently battling a deadly disease outbreak of their own. The virus has spread to at least six states, threatening to completely wipe out the country’s wild rabbit population.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus type 2 (RHDV-2) spreads quickly and is highly lethal, with the latest outbreak originating in New Mexico. According to the wildlife officials, the virus is not a coronavirus, but rather a calicivirus, and does not affect humans or animals other than rabbits, hares and possibly pikas.

Rabbits may experience fever, swelling, internal bleeding, lack of appetite and liver failure, or they may suddenly die without exhibiting any symptoms, officials say.