Wildlife

Giant Moth

A gigantic moth that is almost never seen by humans was recently found on a building site at a school in Australia. The colossal insect is so heavy that it can’t fly, and reaches its full size just a few days before mating. And then it dies.

Giant wood moths (Endoxyla cinereus) are the largest species of moth in the world. When fully grown, the females, which are around twice the size of the males, can weigh up to 1 ounce (30 grams) and reach a wingspan of 10 inches (25 centimeters).

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Wildlife

Adapting Butterflies

Western monarch butterflies from the Pacific Northwest to California may not be going extinct as earlier feared, but are instead changing their breeding habitats and adapting to climate change.

A Washington State University expert says last winter’s count of the colorful insects revealed a sharp drop, especially across much of Southern California, where the number plunged from about 300,000 three years ago to just 1,914 in 2020.

But entomologist David James says large populations were observed by citizen scientists in metropolitan Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, where they had seldom been seen wintering before.

Wildlife

Wandering Whale

A young gray whale, born in California’s coastal waters, has been wandering around the western Mediterranean in recent weeks as the first of its species to ever appear there.

Marine biologists believe it got lost while feeding in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea and eventually wound up in the Atlantic rather than its Pacific home waters.

While apparently healthy, the whale looks unusually thin because the Mediterranean doesn’t have the kind of food it is used to. Experts hope the lost whale can make it down the Spanish coast, through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic, where it has a better chance of survival.

Manatee Deaths

An average of seven manatee deaths have been reported each day in Florida so far this year as the U.S. government and local marine mammal experts try to find what’s behind the spike in fatalities.

About 675 manatee carcasses were found from January 1 to mid-April, compared to 637 in all of last year. Nearly half of the sea cow fatalities occurred around the Indian River Lagoon. Recent algae blooms and pollution have killed off the area’s seagrass beds, which the manatees feed on.

Development and habit loss are also adding stress to the animals, as is chronic exposure to pesticides such as glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup. Red tide outbreaks from the widespread use of fertilizers are also polluting manatee habitats.

Wildlife

Turtle Die-off

Staff at the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge in western Minnesota are investigating a turtle die-off discovered along the Minnesota River in the refuge over the weekend.

Staff members are currently collecting the turtles to determine the extent of the loss. They are estimating more than 200 dead turtles. Collection efforts are ongoing and that is not a final count

The dead turtles include both painted and snapping turtles of various sizes. It’s not known if other species were affected. The turtles were discovered in the river water and on the riverbank along an approximate half-mile stretch of the river. At this point, the cause of the die-off is not known.

Wildlife

‘Pizzly’ Bears

‘Pizzly bears’, which are a crossbreed of polar bears and grizzly bears, could soon start growing in number as a result of global warming, a leading biologist has warned.

The animal, also known as a grolar bear, was reported to have first been spotted in 2006 after an American hunter shot a creature with white fur and brown patches.

A DNA test of the animal, which also had the long claws and humped back commonly associated with a grizzly bear, revealed that it was the new hybrid.

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Wildlife

Lion Famine – Namibia

A protracted drought and unbridled livestock grazing, which have parched parts of Namibia, are also causing desert-adapted lions to perish or appear emaciated near human settlements in the southwest African nation.

There was an outcry after images of an emaciated lioness, too weak to get up next to a goat enclosure on a communal farm, appeared on social media. Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation told The Namibian daily that the hyper-arid conditions have caused several of the big cats to either die from starvation or be euthanized by the environment ministry.

Wildlife

White-Nose Syndrome – Bats

White-nose syndrome has killed over 90% of northern long-eared, little brown and tri-colored bat populations in fewer than 10 years, according to a new study published in Conservation Biology. White-nose syndrome is a disease that affects hibernating bats and is caused by an invasive, cold-loving fungus. The fungus grows on bats’ skin, disturbing their hibernation and resulting in dehydration, starvation and often death. First documented in New York in 2006, white-nose syndrome has since spread to 35 states and seven Canadian provinces and has been confirmed in 12 North American bat species.

There is no known cure for white-nose syndrome, but scientists worldwide are working together to study the disease and determine how it can be controlled. Bats eat insects and are critical pest controllers. In the United States alone, bats are estimated to save farmers at least $3.7 billion per year in pest control services. The loss of so many nighttime insect predators can have cascading effects on the environment, with potential to affect forestry, agriculture and human health.

Numerous States have enacted protections for the bats, taking measures to ensure the disease does not spread further.

Wildlife

4 dead gray whales wash up around San Francisco

Four dead gray whales have washed up on the shores of the San Francisco Bay Area in just eight days, prompting fears that the species is under threat from human activity in the area. The whales probably represent just a small fraction of the number dying in the area.

In 2019, 73 dead gray whales were found washed up along the west coast of North America during a six-month period.

Necropsies have revealed that the main causes of death for gray whales are malnutrition due to climate change, entanglement in fishing gear and trauma from ship strikes.

Wildlife

Large Sawfish

The longest sawfish ever measured washed up in Florida, not far from another large specimen.

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Wildlife

Easter Bunny Hunt

New Zealand hunters resumed their annual tradition of shooting thousands of invasive bunny rabbits over the Easter weekend after a four-year break in the slaughter. The fundraising event was launched more than 25 years ago with teams gathering from across the country.

Organizers say a total of 11,968 rabbits were shot, but they concede the cull isn’t expected to make much of a dent in the massive bunny population. The animals were brought to New Zealand in the 1800s and quickly overran the landscape, ravaging the native biodiversity and agriculture.

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Eagles Recover in USA

America’s iconic bald eagles have recovered from the brink of extinction brought on by the once-widespread use of the pesticide DDT half a century ago. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the national symbol now numbers nearly 317,000 individual birds with an estimated 74,400 nesting pairs.

Only about 417 pairs had survived by 1963 because of the eggshell-thinning phenomenon caused by the now-banned DDT. Martha Williams, deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, called the recovery “one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time.” She says she hopes all Americans get the chance to see at least one majestic bald eagle in flight.

Wildlife

Ursine Illness

California wildlife officials warn that a new unexplained neurological illness is causing some black bear cubs in the state to exhibit overly friendly “doglike” behavior with humans.

Several have been fearlessly eating and camping out in backyards as humans look on. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) says one young bear that was picked up was lethargic and underweight, displaying head tremors and a subtle head tilt.

Encephalitis, or brain inflammation, appears to be the cause. “At this point, we don’t know what causes the encephalitis, so we don’t know what, if any, health risks these bears might pose to other animals,” said CDFW wildlife veterinarian Brandon Munk.

Giraffe Disease

The Kenya Wildlife Service is investigating a mysterious skin disease that has killed more than 10 giraffes in the far northeast of the country. The illness was first reported last May, with six of the animals dying within the following five months. It eventually spreads to the mouth, where it interferes with the giraffes’ ability to eat.

The local reticulated giraffes, also known as Somali giraffes, have been recently under threat from poaching because livestock markets in the region have been closed due to the pandemic. Locals also believe the animals’ meat boosts libido, making them a target for slaughter.

Wildlife

Waste Personal Protective Equipment from Covid-19 is Killing Wildlife

Waste from lifesaving personal protective equipment is killing birds, fish and other wildlife across the globe, a study has found. Animals are fatally ingesting or becoming entangled in discarded latex gloves and disposable face masks, while others have started building their homes using the same material, researchers said.

Scientists found a fish trapped in medical latex gloves in a canal cleanup in the Dutch city of Leiden in August, which prompted researchers to explore whether there was a larger problem.

The biologists found hundreds of discarded face masks in Leiden’s historical canals over the course of a few months and soon realized a worrying picture was emerging. Those affected are not confined to small fish and birds, rather the entire animal kingdom globally will suffer from COVID-19 litter.

Wildlife

Horns Down

Wildlife experts in Africa say they have found it is safer to relocate the critically endangered black rhinoceros upside down, sedated and blindfolded by helicopter rather than by land.

It is sometimes necessary to move rhinos from local overcrowding and to make them less vulnerable to poaching. Their blood oxygen levels are higher when they are upside down, compared to lying on their side on a flatbed truck. Nearly 98% of black rhinos disappeared in the wild after the 1960s, when more than 100,000 roamed the deserts, shrublands and savannas from Kenya to Namibia.

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Wildlife

Cause of mysterious bald eagle deaths found

A mysterious neurodegenerative disease has been killing bald eagles and other animals at lakes across the United States. And after 25 years of sleuthing, researchers have finally figured out its cause. The disease, known as vacuolar myelinopathy (VM), was first discovered in 1994 when a large number of bald eagle carcasses were found near DeGray Lake in Arkansas.

Scientists eventually identified an invasive plant and later a particular species of cyanobacteria that seemed to be responsible. Now, a new study has uncovered the culprit: a neurotoxin called aetokthonotoxin that is produced under certain circumstances by the cyanobacteria living on the invasive plants.

Scientists discovered that VM was found only in lakes where an invasive plant species, Hydrilla verticillata, was also found. The Hydrilla, which is native to Central Africa, was first found in the U.S. in 1960 in Florida and has since become one of the most successful invasive plant species in history. It only takes a few fragments of the Hydrilla plant or some of its tubers to be introduced into a lake before it takes over and becomes almost impossible to remove.

It is highly unlikely that VM will ever be eradicated from U.S. lakes, but now that scientists better understand the toxin responsible for it, they can figure out ways to control the spread and manage the disease.

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Wildlife

Millions of dead jellyfish are washing up around the world

The by-the-wind sailor jellyfish (Velella velella) spends its days drifting aimlessly through the open sea, gorging itself on an endless buffet of complementary morsels.

Every year, on beaches around the world, colonies of sailor jellies become stranded by the thousands. There, they dry up and die, becoming a “crunchy carpet” of dehydrated corpses covering the sand. Sailor jelly strandings are common when seasonal winds change course, but some — like a 2006 event on the west coast of New Zealand — are on another level entirely, with the jellyfish corpses numbering not in the thousands, but in the millions. During spring months from 2015 to 2019, dead jellyfish littered more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) of continuous coastline

These exceptional jellyfish die-offs coincided with a massive marine heat wave known as “the blob.” Beginning in 2013, surface waters off the Pacific coast began heating up to levels never recorded before. The intense warming continued through 2016, tampering with every level of the marine food chain and resulting in mass die-offs of seabirds, baleen whales, sea lions and other creatures. According to a new study, it’s likely that the blob drove the mass die-offs of by-the-wind sailor jellyfish reported during those years.

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