Wildlife

Global Warming Affects Births of Wild Dogs

Global heating is causing endangered African wild dogs in Botswana to give birth 23 days later than just three decades ago, according to researchers from the University of Washington.

Briana Abrahms and colleagues analyzed observations of when the canines had pups from 1989 to 2020, comparing them with temperature data from a nearby weather station. The dogs seem to prefer breeding when the weather is the coolest, which is coming later and later each year. The team says it found an almost parallel link between the shift in birthing dates and the warming climate.

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Wildlife

Heat Wave Victims

Spain’s earliest intense heat wave in 40 years killed hundreds of baby swifts after the hatchlings fled their sweltering nests too soon.

The threatened birds were seen littering the streets around the southern cities of Córdoba and Seville. Residents of both communities gathered all of the dehydrated and starving birds they could find so they could be nursed back to health. “You would walk down the street and there would be 100 chicks, lying at the foot of a building … some barely alive,” said biologist Elena Moreno Portillo of the urban conservation group Ecourbe.

New Zealand sea sponge populations ‘dying by the millions’ due to climate change

Shocking images have emerged from New Zealand showing millions of once-velvety brown sea sponges bleached bone white, the worst mass bleaching event of its type ever recorded, marine scientists say.

The alarming discovery comes amid a continued rise in ocean temperatures, a trend that scientists say is overwhelmingly due to planet-warming fossil fuel emissions. New Zealand scientists discovered thousands of bleached sea sponges in May of this year, in cold waters off the country’s southwestern coast. Further findings showed the damage was far worse, with millions — possibly tens of millions — of sea sponges affected throughout the Fiordland region.

Wildlife

Climate change is causing “mass die-offs” of animals

Rising temperatures lower many species survival rates due to changes that lead to less food, less successful reproduction, and interfering with the environment for native wildlife. Increased precipitation from climate change is contributing to more frequent and extreme weather events such as flooding. The higher frequency of flooding has detrimental effects on wildlife because they can destroy key pieces of ecosystems and habitats.

Recent “mass die-offs” of the flightless little blue penguin, which is native to New Zealand have been reported. Hundreds of the birds have washed up dead on New Zealand beaches since May. All the birds were at least half the normal weight, they had no fat on them at all and their muscle tissue had wasted away. Tests were performed on the birds to rule out disease and biotoxins, and it was determined that the birds died from starvation.

While it’s not unusual for animals like the little blue penguin to die from severe weather, the fact that they’re now dying this frequently, and in this high of number, is what’s alarming. Taylor points out that mass deaths of this size usually happen around once a decade, not three times in six years.

The U.S. has witnessed similar “mass die-offs” in recent months. Earlier this week it was reported that thousands of cattle died from extreme heat stress in feedlots in southwestern Kansas.

Wildlife

Secret population of polar bears found living in seemingly impossible habitat

A secret population of polar bears in Greenland has been discovered in a seemingly impossible habitat — one that, for most of the year, lacks the floating platforms of sea ice the beasts use to hunt. The unusual group, which scientists previously thought was part of another nearby population, has been hiding in plain sight for hundreds of years.

The bears live on the steep slopes around fjords — long and narrow coastal inlets, where glaciers meet the ocean — and hunt on a patchwork of glacial ice that breaks up in these inlets. The new discovery suggests that some polar bears, at least, may be able to adapt to sea ice disappearing as climate change worsens, the study suggests.

Glacier ice may help small numbers of polar bears survive for longer periods under climate warming, but it is not available for the vast majority of polar bears. This is because this type of glacier ice is only found near a small fraction of other polar bear populations.

Wildlife

White-nose Syndrome – Bats

Idaho Fish and Game received confirmation that six bats tested positive for a fungus that leads to a deadly disease known as “white-nose syndrome.” The bats were located in Minnetonka Cave in Bear Lake County, and it’s the first case of the fungus ever being detected in Idaho after a decade of testing.

Wildlife

Carnivorous Turkeys

An Australian researcher came across a brush turkey eating roadkill instead of its typical meals of seeds, worms and grubs. It is the first time the ancient species, which has prehistoric nesting behavior more similar to crocodiles than other birds, has been observed eating meat.

John Martin at the Taronga Institute of Science and Learning found the dominant male fiercely defending the dead bandicoot from other lurking brush turkeys at a beach community near Sydney. “It literally grabs a chunk of blood-red steak and wolfs it down,” said Martin. “I had never seen that before.”

Wildlife

China Blocks Protection for Emperor Penguins

China has blocked efforts to step up protection of emperor penguins that are increasingly threatened by the effects global warming is having on their natural habitat in Antarctica, officials said Friday.

Dozens of countries had backed giving the world’s largest penguins special protection status at a 10-day meeting in Berlin of parties to the Antarctic Treaty. The treaty was forged in 1959 to ensure that the continent remains the preserve of science, and free of arms.

While a formal decision was “blocked by one party,” it said that most countries attending the meeting planned nevertheless to put in place national measures to protect emperor penguins.

Wildlife

Largest Clone

Scientists have discovered that a massive underwater seagrass meadow off Western Australia has cloned itself into the largest single organism on the planet. Known as Poseidon’s ribbon weed, the plant is about 4,500 years old.

A team from the University of Western Australia found that it has spread from a single seed to now cover about 200 square km. The researchers analyzed 18,000 shoots from across the plant and discovered it is a single living thing. The expansive cloning may be due to the extreme conditions of intense sunlight along with large fluctuations in temperature and salinity in its Shark Bay home.

Wildlife

Monarch Recovery

Experts at Mexico’s El Rosario butterfly sanctuary say there were 35% more monarch butterflies spending the past winter there than during the previous season. They suggest the colourful insects could be adapting to the changing climate by adjusting the date they begin migrating northward to the United States and Canada for the summer. “They left very late. We still had butterflies in April,” said Gloria Tavera of Mexico’s National Commission for Natural Protected Areas.

The migration has been challenged by more extreme bouts of heat and drought, along with a loss of the milkweed that their caterpillars feed on north of the border. Illegal felling of trees around the sanctuary also threatens the species.

Vanishing Birds

Almost half of all known bird species are suffering population losses as the winged creatures die from climate change, habitat loss and overexploitation, according to a new report. “We are now witnessing the first signs of a new wave of extinctions of continentally distributed bird species,” says conservation biologist Alexander Lees from Britain’s Manchester Metropolitan University.

He and colleagues at Cornell University and other institutions document in the report State of the World’s Birds how approximately 48% of all bird species are believed to be experiencing population declines. They say climate change is the greatest factor in the bird losses.

Wildlife

Starving Manatees Gain Some Relief

Wildlife officials working to prevent threatened Florida manatees from starving to death say they’re encouraged that some of the marine mammals’ favorite food is growing naturally in a key area.

Seagrasses have been found growing recently in small areas of the Indian River Lagoon along Florida’s east coast where chronic pollution has wiped out much of it, officials said.

The lack of seagrass forage during winter months has triggered an unprecedented die-off of manatees, including a record of more than 1,100 last year. The deaths recorded so far in 2022 are at 551, according to commission statistics.

The FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March completed an experimental program that fed manatees more than 202,000 pounds (91,600 kilograms) of donated lettuce near a power plant where the animals gather during colder months. Officials say a similar program is in the works for the coming winter.

Wildlife

Breaching humpback whale body slams boat in Mexico

Watching a gigantic whale fly through the air as it breaches the ocean’s surface is one of the most beautiful sights in the natural world. But for the crew of one boat in Mexico, that experience quickly turned into a nightmare when they got too close to a 7-ton (6.4 metric tons) humpback whale that subsequently body slammed them, wrecking the vessel and injuring everyone on board.

The humpback — a juvenile despite its hefty size — rose out of the water and landed directly on top of a small boat. Local authorities have suggested that the “Andrea” had been harrassing the humpback whale, which may have caused the distressed cetacean to purposefully breach on top of the vessel.

Wildlife

Nature’s War Victims

The coastlines, forests and wetlands of southern Ukraine have suffered untold destruction and contamination by Russia’s war on the country.

The bombardments and missile attacks have inflicted damage to wildlife and the environment that will take decades to recover once the war ends, according to Yevhenia Zasiadko of the Ukrainian environmental organization Ecoaction. “We are seeing a frightening amount of landscape damage,” Zasiadko told Spain’s RTVE.

Russia’s military has targeted many of Ukraine’s mines, refineries, fuel depots and chemical plants, polluting the surrounding areas.

Wildlife

Collateral Damage – Dolphins

Beyond the human casualties, destruction and misery from Russia’s war on Ukraine, Turkish marine life experts say they believe the conflict is also causing a sharp rise in dolphin deaths along the Black Sea coast.

They believe underwater noise pollution from about 20 Russian navy vessels has been driving the marine mammals southward, where they are becoming stranded or caught in fishing nets.

Neighbouring Bulgaria also reports an increase in dolphin strandings. “Acoustic trauma is one of the possibilities that come to mind,” said Bayram Öztürk of the Turkish Marine Research Foundation. He adds that while the underwater noise may not directly kill the dolphins, it could cause them to head into unfamiliar territory.

Wildlife

South Asia Heat

Wildlife rescuers in western India’s Gujarat state say they are picking up large numbers of dehydrated and exhausted birds that have fallen from the sky as the region remains in the grip of unprecedented heat.

Birds that were still alive were treated with water injections into their mouths and fed vitamin tablets. The heat has also been responsible for the deaths of more than two dozen humans across India.

Since the country suffered its hottest March in more than 100 years, the relentless heat has caused water shortages, power cuts and widespread misery, with temperatures soaring well above 40 degrees most days.

Wildlife

Butterflies Tagged

Scientists have created tiny sensors that can be attached to the backs of monarch butterflies to track their migration.

Millions of the colourful and threatened monarchs migrate each autumn to a cluster of mountain peaks in central Mexico’s Michoacan state. The new wireless sensing platform called mSAIL includes a chip that weighs only 62 milligrams and measures only 4 millimetres in width.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh say the sensors store information during the migration until the butterflies arrive at specific checkpoints and their destinations, where the data can be collected wirelessly. They say the tiny devices do not interfere with the monarchs’ flying ability or other normal activities.