Bird Bins

The new ability of sulfur-crested cockatoos to open trash bins in search of food appears to be spreading to more cities across southeastern Australia because the birds are copying each other’s behavior. The complicated process was first observed in 2018 and has since spread around metropolitan Sydney. It has been seen by citizen observers and researchers alike in 44 suburbs, where the birds are causing a growing mess by flinging out the rubbish they don’t want to eat. The birds have learned to grab a bin lid with their beaks, pry it open, then shuffle far enough along the edge to cause the lid to fall backward, revealing the tasty trash.


Primate vs Primate

Deadly unprovoked attacks by chimpanzees on gorillas have for the first time been observed in the West Africa nation of Gabon. Researchers at Loango National Park say two dozen chimps went after five gorillas in December 2019. An infant separated from its mother didn’t survive the assault.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists say more research is needed to determine what is behind the new lethal behavior. ”At first, we only noticed screams of chimpanzees and thought we were observing a typical encounter between individuals of neighbouring chimpanzee communities,” author Lara M. Southern said in a statement. “But then, we heard chest beats, a display characteristic for gorillas, and realized that the chimpanzees had encountered a group of five gorillas.”


Nature – Images

In rare wildlife encounter, whale watchers in Japan recently saw a pair of white orcas swimming side by side in a pod off the coast of Hokkaido.



Baboon Raids

Ferocious baboons are terrorizing farmers in western Kenya with such intensity that conventional weapons such as clubs and spears cannot keep the marauders at bay. The Nation reports that some of the primates have invaded homes to scavenge for food without fear of humans. This has forced some farmers to gather packs of dogs to protect their crops and other property. “My dogs sometimes sustain serious injuries,” Nicanor Odongo told the daily.

Other farmers complain that the Kenya Wildlife Service is not doing enough to protect them from the baboons, but local officials say the agency is making plans to relocate the aggressive animals to a game park.

Flamingo Tragedy

The dried-up lake bed of central Turkey’s Lake Tuz is littered with the remains of thousands of flamingos that became the victims of a devastating regional drought and what some say were reckless irrigation practices this summer.

Environmental advocates say a canal that usually feeds the shallow lake was redirected for use by farmers. Typically, as many as 10,000 flamingo chicks hatch at Lake Tuz each year, but most of the 5,000 that hatched this year died. Visitors to the UNESCO-protected lake say not a single live flamingo could be seen.


Moonfish washes up on Oregon, USA Shore

A 100-pound opah fish, also known as a moonfish, was recently found washed up on a beach in Oregon hundreds of miles from its normal habitat.



More Heat Victims

Wildlife experts are expressing concern over recent avian behavioral changes and the deaths of birds due to excessive heat.

The international organization Hot Birds Research Project says that in Australia, the southern U.S. and Africa’s Kalahari Desert, the mounting episodes of excessive heat are having profound effects on birds.

Record heat in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal state last November saw scores of birds fall dead, the country’s first reported bird fatalities from heat.

Ornithologist Susan Cunningham of the Hot Birds Research Project says, “Some bird species are spending more time trying to stay cool as they deal with increased numbers of hot days. Birds are forced to shelter in the shade when they should be foraging.”


Manatees are dying in record numbers in Florida

A record-breaking number of manatees have died this year in Florida’s waters, mostly due to starvation. Between Jan. 1 and July 2, 841 manatees died near and off the coast of Florida, according to a preliminary mortality report published by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Florida’s previous deadliest year for manatees was 2013, when 830 manatees died, mostly from exposure to toxins from a harmful algal bloom known as red tide.

The main cause of this year’s die-off, however, is starvation. Most of these manatees died during the colder months, when they migrated to and through the Indian River Lagoon, a group of three lagoons located southeast of Orlando, on Florida’s east coast, where most seagrass had died out.



Sea Life Bakes

The deadly heat wave that roasted the U.S. Pacific Northwest and western Canada also cooked more than a billion seashore animals to death, leaving a putrid stink near Vancouver, B.C.

University of British Columbia experts say the heat, combined with low tides in the middle of the afternoon, created dangerous combinations for animals like clams and mussels for more than six hours at a time.

Observers say temperatures above 122 degrees Fahrenheit occurred on some rocky shoreline habitats. Professor Dave Sauchyn of Canada’s University of Regina says this summer’s unprecedented heat occurred years earlier than predicted by models, in a sign that the climate emergency is deepening faster than expected.


Epic Migration

A species of butterfly migrates thousands of miles from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe during years when the weather is favorable. The painted lady’s 8,700-mile migration is the longest known in the insect world.

“We know that the number of painted lady butterflies in Europe varies wildly, sometimes with 100 times more from one year to the next,” said Tom Oliver of England’s University of Reading. That variability can now be explained by the weather, which may also affect other insects as the climate warms. “We enjoy seeing the beautiful painted lady butterflies in our gardens in Europe, but climate change will also lead to shifts in invasive species that are crop pests or those that spread diseases,” Oliver warns.


Avian Mystery Disease

Birds from Washington, D.C., to Kentucky have recently been found suffering from a mysterious illness that causes them to have crusty eyes and swollen faces that prevent them from flying.

The affected species have so far been blue jays, common grackles and European starlings. People who have discovered the ill birds say they act like they are blind and are not afraid of people.

Since bird feeders and birdbaths can spread disease among feathered creatures, experts advise residents in the affected region to stop feeding the birds and to clean their feeders and baths with a 10% beach solution, wearing gloves to avoid exposure to any pathogens.


Conservation Backfires

Conservationists in Tasmania may be ruing the decision to introduce endangered Tasmanian devils to a small island, after a new survey revealed that the alien invaders have wiped out the entire colony of little penguins living there.

Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii), the world’s largest carnivorous marsupials, were introduced to Maria Island — a 45-square-mile (116 square kilometers) island east of Tasmania in 2012. The government hoped to create a new devil population to prevent the species from being wiped out by a deadly disease that has decimated their numbers in Tasmania.

However, the introduction of one species has meant the end of another: The new DPIPWE survey showed that the introduction of devils to the island wiped out 3,000 breeding pairs of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) living on the island.


Mice Overrun Prison

The vast mouse plague that has ravaged Australian agriculture and wildlife for more than a year has also infested a New South Wales prison so badly that the entire prison population and staff had to be evacuated to other facilities.

The rodents gnawed through wiring and ceiling panels, and littered the prison with their dead carcasses. “The mice start decaying, and then the next problem is mites, and we just don’t want to expose staff and prisoners to anything that could cause harm to their health,” said Peter Severin, commissioner of the state’s corrective services department.


Travelling Elephants

A herd of wayward elephants that has mysteriously trekked about 300 miles across southern China this spring took a break to rest and to wait for an errant youngster to catch up.

State broadcaster CCTV reports that despite repeated calls from the impatient adults, the 10-year-old doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to reunite with the main group. Before the pachyderms’ respite, hundreds of trucks were dispatched to keep the 15 ambling migrants out of populated areas. Officials say they are planning to use food bait and roadblocks to help guide the herd to a new suitable habitat once it is moving again.

The elephants take a snooze during their journey.



Sea of Spider Silk

Many residents of Victoria, Australia, evacuated their homes to avoid disastrous floods last week — and upon their return, they found the land, trees and road signs coated in thick veils of shimmering spider silk.

As the residents of Gippsland evacuated their homes, local arachnids also fled for higher ground. Using a behavior called “ballooning,” spiders clambered atop vegetation and flung fine silk threads into the wind; as the threads caught air, the spiders got plucked from their perches and lifted to safety leaving the remarkable carpet of silk, called gossamer, covering shrubs or fields behind.



Secret population of blue whales discovered in Indian Ocean

Scientists have discovered an entirely new population of pygmy blue whales in the Indian Ocean, near the Chagos Islands which have managed to evade detection for decades despite their enormous size.

Researchers uncovered the secretive cetaceans by analyzing acoustic data collected by an underwater nuclear bomb detection array, which revealed a unique song scientists had never heard before.


Hero Retires

A giant African pouched rat named Magawa is retiring after five years of detecting 71 landmines and 38 other unexploded ordnance. The Belgian charity APOPO says Magawa is “beginning to slow down” after a very successful assignment in Cambodia.

The organization trains the rodents in their native Tanzania to detect the chemicals in explosives. The rats are light enough to scurry across minefields without detonating the explosives, doing in just 30 minutes what a metal detector would accomplish in four days.

APOPO gave Magawa a hero’s medal and says he will retire eating his favorite treats of bananas and peanuts.



24,000-year-old organisms found frozen in Siberia can still reproduce

A microscopic worm-like creature, labelled an “evolutionary scandal” by biologists for having thrived for millions of years without having sex, has now been shown to persist for at least 24,000 years in Siberian permafrost and then reproduce, researchers have found.

Multicellular invertebrates that are solely female, bdelloid rotifers are already renowned for their resistance to radiation and ability to withstand rather inhospitable environments: drying, starvation and low oxygen. They’ve also existed for at least 35m years – and can be found today in freshwater lakes, ponds, streams and moist terrestrial habitats such as moss, lichen, tree bark and soil.

These tough little critters – which have a complete digestive tract that includes a mouth and an anus – are able to survive hostile environments by halting all activity and almost entirely arresting their metabolism.

The rotifers found in the permafrost would have been under the feet of big woolly creatures – such as the woolly rhino – that are now extinct. Once thawed in a lab setting, the rotifers were able to reproduce, the researchers wrote in the journal Current Biology.


Wayward Elephants

A herd of 15 wild Asian elephants that left a Chinese nature reserve in April has destroyed crops, wrecked barns and wandered through communities as it trekked relentlessly for nearly 300 miles toward Yunnan’s provincial capital of Kunming.

No one knows why the pack of pachyderms has made the journey, but elephant expert Chen Mingyong told China’s official Xinhua news agency that the leader possibly “lacks experience and has led the whole group astray.” Officials have been tracking the animals with drones and a task force in 76 cars, and have used roadblocks and tons of food in an attempt to shift the elephants’ course.


Devilish Births

The first Tasmanian devils to be born on the Australian mainland in more than 3,000 years brought hope that the world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivore could reestablish its former habitats.

The animals, notoriously bad-tempered when threatened, were wiped out on the mainland by dingos and have since been confined to the island of Tasmania. But the group Aussie Arc released 26 adults into the wild in late 2020, and they have since produced seven new joeys. Those devils relocated to New South Wales’ fenced-in Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary are free of the contagious mouth cancer that has decimated up to 90% of the wild population on Tasmania.