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Nov 15, 2018, 01:21 PM
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Author Topic: ANIMAL NEWS FOR DAEMON SOULS AND ALL ANIMAL LOVERS  (Read 986314 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #5445 on: Nov 13, 2018, 05:22 AM »


Country diary: may the barnacle geese be protected from all unkind fates

Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd: Their faces were white-masked; barred wings flickered stroboscopic silver; pale bellies and rumps glowed in the dimity light

Jim Perrin
Guardian
13 Nov 2018 05.30 GMT

Idling down to Abergafren on a dank autumn evening, I heard the calls high above – a yapping and yelping like a litter of young pekingese dogs, a sound that used to be one of the identifying features of this lovely estuary of the Dwyryd. Reaching the shore, I took out my glass and focused on a flight of seven birds, gliding down towards Glastraeth. Their faces were white-masked; barred wings flickered stroboscopic silver; pale bellies and rumps glowed in the dimity light. Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) – one of my favourite birds, down from their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

Thirty years ago I used to walk here daily, often with my good friend and near-neighbour, the sculptor and writer Jonah Jones. We’d encounter on a regular basis huge flocks of barnacle geese, curlew, pintail. Whether through climate change or disturbance by the very active local wildfowling fraternity I don’t know; but none of these species is now present in anything like their former numbers. I do know the flood of pleasure this glimpse of a small remnant of the place’s former glories gave me, as I watched the ragged little band’s flight down to sandy rhines and samphire pastures on the farther shore to feed.

These beautiful, medium-sized geese have a strange presence in medieval bestiaries. Folklore had it they were the adult form of goose barnacles. Gerald the Welshman wrote of them in his Topographia Hiberniae that “Bishops and religious men in some parts of Ireland do not scruple to dine off these birds at the time of fasting, because they are not flesh nor born of flesh”. Pope Innocent III whipped the recusants into line early in the 13th century, noting with sound good sense that since in all particulars they behaved like geese, geese they must be, and therefore not to be eaten during Lent.

I like the passage from the Book of Changes, the classic Chinese text also known as the I Ching or Yi Jing, which describes cries of the wild geese as “like the red threads that bind us to our fates”. May the geese be protected from all unkind fates!


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« Reply #5446 on: Nov 13, 2018, 05:32 AM »

New species of crocodile found in Africa right under our snout

Ecowatch
11/13/2018

Scientists have identified a new species of crocodile for the first time in more than 80 years. The species, dubbed Mecistops leptorhynchus or the Central African slender-snouted crocodile, did not suddenly appear out of nowhere — it has been hiding in plain sight all along. Up until now, the animal was thought to be the same species as Mecistops cataphractus, its West African counterpart.

Matthew Shirley poses with juvenile Central African slender-snouted crocodiles. Credit: Florida International University.

It took Matt Shirley, study lead author and a researcher at Florida International University, more than ten years of painstaking work to come to a new species designation for the Central African croc. During this whole time, Shirley traveled through more than a dozen African countries, paddling across thousands of miles in search for crocs and scoured through museum samples around the world. He even caught malaria 16 times. To make things even more challenging, the M. cataphractus holotype—the specimen used to originally identify the species— was destroyed when the Nazis bombed the National History Museum in London. But, in the end, it was all worth it.

The West African croc was first described in 1835, but scientists have always had a hunch that there may be a second, very similar species.

In a new study published in the journal Zootaxa, Shirley and colleagues showed that there are two slender-snouted crocs. The main difference between the two is that the Central African crocs have softer, smoother scales than their West African cousins. Another defining feature is that the Central African crocs don’t have bony crests on their skulls, unlike their counterparts.

A genetic comparison of the two species suggests that the two diverged more than eight million years ago. The volcanic activity of a volcano in Cameroon led to the formation of mountains that were impenetrable to the crocs. In time, different populations isolated from one another speciated. They’re still very similar but different enough to be called distinct species.

The study is also somewhat bad news for Mecistops cataphractus, which is now down to only 500 individuals left in the wild, following the new designation. Both species are affected by habitat loss and poaching, and Shirley hopes that his work will help boost conservation efforts.

National Geographic reports that Shirley and colleagues are currently working with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to breed the animals in captivity. Ultimately, the plan is to release more than 30 of the animals currently residing at a zoo in Côte d’Ivoire. Hopefully, Africa’s slender-snouted crocodiles can be saved, just like the American alligator, which was on the cusp of extinction in the 1960s but can now be easily observed in nature thanks to protective measures.


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« Reply #5447 on: Nov 13, 2018, 06:06 AM »

“Fascinating”: Crows are even smarter than we thought

BGR
11/13/2018

Are you even surprised? This seems to happen quite a lot lately: we knew crows are smart, but a new study shows they’re even smarter — and it’s happened yet again. This time, New Caledonian crows combined individual tools they’ve never seen before to form a long-reaching tool.

We used to consider tool-making as a uniquely human ability, but now we know that’s not nearly the case. Not only do a number of other primates employ simple tools, but other, more different creatures (like crows) do the same thing. Several studies have documented the remarkable tool-making ability of crows (particularly New Caledonian crows), but now, they’ve surprised researchers once again: not only are they capable of using tools, but they can develop compound tools from individually-useless components.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EryZPmOxwC0

    “Except for few observations in captive great apes, compound tool construction is unknown outside humans, and tool innovation appears late in human ontogeny. We report that habitually tool-using New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) can combine objects to construct novel compound tools,” the study reads.

The scientists gave eight crows a “puzzle box” which contained food. Naturally, the crows wanted it. However, the treat was placed behind a door that only left a narrow gap along the bottom. The crows could see the food deep inside the box, but couldn’t access it. They were then given short sticks — way too short to reach the prize — and left to sort things out for themselves, with no demonstration.

But scientists did give the crows a bit of help: the sticks they left behind were designed to be combinable — one was hollow, allowing the other one to be slotted inside. Four of the eight birds had no problems figuring this out, and one bird, ‘Mango’, was able to make compound tools out of three and even four parts.

    “The finding is remarkable because the crows received no assistance or training in making these combinations, they figured it out by themselves,” says Auguste von Bayern, first author of the study from the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology and University of Oxford.

Mango, as it turns out, was somewhat of a moody genius. He exhibited remarkable abilities, but sometimes, just didn’t want to do the task. His accomplishment, however, is particularly remarkable since it’s the first time any non-human animal has designed a tool using 3 or more parts.

    “The successful birds acted in a seemingly purposive manner, using the compound tools to aim at the food immediately after creating them. This typically required transporting the compound to the box for use,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

    “Except for one individual, Mango, a bird with apparently fluctuating motivation, the successful subjects also solved the task in the 3 opportunities that followed their first success. Mango refused to participate in 2 follow-up trials but succeeded continuously afterwards.”

The fact that the crows — who have such a different anatomy and mental structure compared to humans — were able to do this is remarkable. Tool-related behavior, especially innovative tool manufacture, is intimately associated with human evolution. Many anthropologists believe that this ability co-evolved with specific neurological capacities, particularly planning and complex task coordination. So how come crows developed this ability?

The species seems to have an innate propensity to build tools, and a remarkable ability to innovate. But understanding how their mind works remains a challenge for future research.

Alex Kacelnik from the University of Oxford says:

    “The results corroborate that these crows possess highly flexible abilities that allow them to solve novel problems rapidly, but do not show how they do it. It is possible that they use some form of virtual simulation of the problem, as if different potential actions were played in their brains until they figure out a viable solution, and then do it. Similar processes are being modelled on artificial intelligences and implemented in physical robots, as a way to better understand the animals and to discover ways to build machines able to reach autonomous creative solutions to novel problems.”

Journal Reference: A. M. P. von Bayern, S. Danel, A. M. I. Auersperg, B. Mioduszewska, A. Kacelnik. Compound tool construction by New Caledonian crows. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-33458-z


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« Reply #5448 on: Nov 14, 2018, 05:17 AM »


China Restores Rhino and Tiger Parts Ban After International Fury

Ecowatch
11/14/2018

Great news from China! Following intense international backlash, the Chinese government said Monday that it has postponed a regulation that would have allowed the use of tiger bone and rhino horn for medicine, research and other purposes.

In October, China alarmed animal rights activists around the world when it weakened a 25-year-old ban on the trading of the animal parts. Conservationists said it would be akin to signing a "death warrant" for endangered tiger and rhino populations.

Ding Xuedong, the executive deputy secretary-general, told the state news agency Xinhua that the October regulation was "postponed after study."

China will continue to enforce its 1993 ban on the import, export and sale of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts, he said.

"I would like to reiterate that the Chinese government has not changed its stance on wildlife protection and will not ease the crackdown on illegal trafficking and trade of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts and other criminal activities," Ding added.

The October plan would have allowed the trade of rhino horns and tiger bones from captive animals for use in medical and scientific research, education and "cultural exchanges," Reuters reported.

Conservation groups say that relaxing any ban on the trade of those parts would confuse consumers and authorities on which products were legal, provide cover for black market sales, stimulate demand for the products and spur more poaching.

The are currently only 3,900 tigers and 30,000 rhinos left in the wild. The animals are threatened by poaching and habitat loss.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) celebrated China's reversal.

"WWF welcomes the news that China has postponed lifting its ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn and tiger bone, signalling a positive response to international reaction," Margaret Kinnaird, WWF's wildlife practice leader, said in a press release. "Allowing trade from even captive animals could have had devastating impacts on wild rhino and tiger populations. This move helps maintain the leadership role China has taken in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and reducing market demand."


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« Reply #5449 on: Nov 14, 2018, 05:19 AM »


Farming industry to blame for TB crisis, not just badgers – report

Movement of cattle and poor fencing hamper control efforts, says government review

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
14 Nov 2018 06.01 GMT

Frequent trading of cattle and poor biosecurity on farms is “severely hampering” efforts to tackle the crisis of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in England, according to an independent review commissioned by the environment secretary, Michael Gove.

It was wrong to blame badgers as the main cause of the outbreaks, the scientists said, although Gove had told them not to assess whether the current badger culls were working. The scientists did say it was “highly desirable” to move from culling to vaccination of badgers.

TB in cattle costs taxpayers £100m in compensation every year, with 33,000 infected animals slaughtered in 2017. Gove approved a huge expansion of badger culling in September, with up to 42,000 to be shot this year.

The new report is highly critical of both farmers and ministers. Poor use of measures such as secure fencing to prevent TB transmission on farms is “severely hampering disease control measures”, it concluded, as are the 2 million movements of cattle every year as they are bought and sold.

The standard test used misses many infections, meaning diseased cattle are still moved around the country. Furthermore, the review said that TB levels in cattle were not falling: “Current governance arrangements poorly serve bovine TB control.”

Professor Charles Godfray, at Oxford University, led the review and said: “It is wrong to put all the blame on badgers and to use this as an excuse not to make hard decisions in the industry, which unfortunately is going to cost them money.”

“We are still concerned about the amount of cattle movements that happen in this country,” said Godfray, who chairs the science advisory council at the environment department. “The number is really high.”

Farming minister George Eustice welcomed the review: “As a government we are committed to eradicating bovine TB and have always been clear that there is no single measure for tackling it. That’s why we have pursued a range of interventions, including cattle movement controls, vaccinations and controlled culling in certain areas.”

To date, the government has spent about £40m on badger culling, with £700,000 offered for badger vaccination over four years.

The government will respond to the review’s recommendations next year, but its summary of the report states: “Industry must take greater responsibility for on-farm controls, biosecurity and safe trading practices to stop the disease spreading.”

The recommendations include what Godfray called “desperately needed” research on the effectiveness of badger vaccination, the potential use of microchips to track cattle movements and the use of a more accurate test in high-risk areas, even if this leads to more false positives.

“The report is very clear that cattle are more likely to acquire TB from other cattle than from badgers,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, at the Zoological Society of London and part of an earlier landmark experiment called the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), said: “It states repeatedly the desirability of replacing culling with a non-lethal alternative – specifically, it emphasises the need for a proper evaluation of badger vaccination.”

Prof John Krebs, at the University of Oxford and who commissioned the RBCT, said: “The report is a valuable, impartial summary of the current evidence. Unless the government and the farming industry now tackle [biosecurity, trading of infected cattle and testing], TB will not be eradicated or controlled.”

Stuart Roberts, from the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “The NFU wishes to see the eradication of bovine TB as quickly as possible while retaining a viable cattle industry. To tackle this disease it is crucial that we use every tool available to us.”

He said that farmers were already improving biosecurity but were often unsure which measures worked best, and that the NFU supported making more information on TB risk available to cattle buyers.

However, wildlife groups called for the badger cull to end. The Badger Trust’s Dominic Dyer said: “The badger cull is a disastrous policy that is failing farmers, taxpayers and badgers. It’s time to stop playing the badger blame game and bring this cruel, costly and ineffective policy to an end.”

In September, Eustice said data from badger culls that began in 2013 showed the government’s strategy was “delivering results”. However, the report containing the data stated “these data alone cannot demonstrate whether the badger control policy is effective”. On Monday, some vets accused ministers of telling “barefaced lies” on the issue.

The new review said badger culling based on RBCT methods could deliver “modest” reductions in TB, though critics say the new culls have been set “ridiculously easy” targets.

Godfray said: “There are passionately held, irreconcilable differences between people who believe it is unconscionable to kill wildlife such as badgers and those that believe it is absolutely necessary. It is not a science decision – it has to be made by ministers.”


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« Reply #5450 on: Nov 14, 2018, 05:23 AM »


Endangered species: iny frog takes giant leap for the world's endangered species

Humans have proven adept at wiping out vast numbers of animals. Can we atone by saving species through captivity breeding?

Tony Carnie in Durban
Guardian
14 Nov 2018 06.00 GMT

When 200 captive-bred frogs were set free in an ancestral swampland in South Africa recently, their simple homecoming ceremony gave scientists several reasons to cheer loudly.

The tiny Pickersgill’s reed frogs – each the size of an adult thumbnail – were making history of a kind, by hopping one step further away from the abyss of extinction.

It was a small dose of encouraging news at a dismal time for conservationists. Study after study shows how human encroachment is annihilating wildlife and insect populations. The latest WWF estimate this week found that people have wiped out 60 percent of animal populations since 1970.

The question is: can we become as good at saving species as we are at destroying them?

In the case of the frogs, rapid expansion of farming and other development near the South African port city of Durban has reduced their remaining kingdom to a land area of only 144 sq km (56 sq miles).

But thanks to captive breeding, the 20-strong population has multiplied tenfold in only one year in a project run by frog experts Dr Adrian Armstrong and Dr Jeanne Tarrant.

They are not sure how many will reach old age in the wild, but the turbo-boosted population growth gives them hope that this threatened species has a better shot at survival, in combination with other conservation action.

The Durban frogs are not alone in being on the brink of survival, and their rescue begs a question: can species be rescued by programmes like this in which they are bred in captivity?

Worldwide, more than 26,000 wild species face extinction and are listed as such on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Dr Richard Young, head of conservation science at the UK-based Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, says the true number facing extinction is likely to be much, much higher, as scientists have yet to formally classify or assess the multiple forms of life on our planet.

Of the more than 93,500 species assessed so far, Young says it looks like 41% of amphibians are threatened with extinction, along with 25% of mammal species, 13% of birds and 33% of corals.

No surprise then that conservation experts are resorting to some pretty desperate measures to protect and multiply vulnerable species before it’s too late.

Breeding them rapidly in captive or semi-captive conditions is one strategy, largely pioneered by Welsh ecologist and Durrell chief scientist Prof Carl Jones, who was awarded the 2016 Indianapolis Prize for his role in saving nine species of wildlife from extinction.

Over the last 35 years, Jones and fellow scientists have been involved in projects to protect more than 50 threatened species, mainly in Mauritius and Madagascar.

Numerous similar restoration projects are underway globally, says Dr Kathy Traylor-Holzer, senior program officer at the Conservation Planning Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

She says examples include the Iberian lynx in Spain, the Eastern sarus crane in Thailand, the Kihansi spray toad in Tanzania, golden lion tamarins in Brazil or American burying beetles in the US.

And while the conservation benefits of captive breeding and other techniques to artificially boost the number of threatened species may seem obvious, there are still some question marks about just how far scientists should go in managing or manipulating the living conditions of species they are trying to save.

Young and his Durrell colleague Dr Andrew Terry acknowledge that intensive breeding is “something of a last resort”.

“These programmes are expensive, complicated and difficult,” says Terry. “If you are breeding species with the intention of putting them back in the wild, you have to monitor the outcomes very carefully and also ensure that you don’t introduce new diseases or pathogens back into the wild by accident.”

Because they are dealing with species that often have very low genetic diversity, project managers must also guard against the potential for inbreeding.

“You can’t always breed animals in captive conditions and simply open the cage doors. Sometimes they need a bit of time to adapt to predators and learn what to eat in their new environment.”

He cites the example of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Project in Assam, India, where captive-bred hogs are released into a large enclosure containing plants found in their wild environment.

“They still receive supplementary feed in the enclosure but we try to eliminate all human contact so that the young animals start to learn to support themselves. Then we move them to soft release areas to acclimatise, and to leave at their own speed. After three to four weeks, we find them coming back less often for supplementary food.”

Young says the survival rate for captive-bred animals varies greatly, depending on the species: “With amphibians you expect a high mortality rate, but when we released ploughshare tortoises back to the wild, we experienced a near 100% survival rate.”

Is there a point that should not be crossed with intensive management and other emerging de-extinction projects?

“Yes, in my view, there probably is a line,” says Young. “We need to focus more on the species that are still with us, rather than those that are already extinct. There are possibly 70-80 Sumatran rhinos left alive, so it does not feel right to be investing in trying to bring the woolly mammoth back to life, instead of saving the Sumatran rhino.”

Following the recent death of Sudan, the last Northern white rhino male, Edinburgh Napier University ecologist Dr Jason Gilchrist panned expensive plans to resuscitate extinct or near-extinct species.

In an article published in The Conversation, Gilchrist argued that instead of investing in “Jurassic Park” technology, such money was better spent on protecting the Southern white Rhino, Asian rhinos and other threatened species.

“You can’t just pluck a species off the extinct-shelf, like the woolly mammoth, and put it back in an ecological niche that no longer exists. But, we are facing an absolute crisis,” says Terry. “So there is also a place for new cutting-edge technology. Some might seem outlandish today, but in a few decades they will become commonplace.”

“What we find so frustrating is that global biodiversity loss is happening under the radar, whereas there should be international outrage before it slips away,” says Terry.

“It should be right at the top of the global political agenda.”

This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the world’s most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at theupside@theguardian.com


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« Reply #5451 on: Today at 05:05 AM »


Queensland has systematically failed threatened species, auditor general says in scathing report

Efforts to protect native fauna and flora ‘lack purpose, direction and coordination’

Ben Smee
Guardian
15 Nov 2018 18.24 EST

Queensland has systematically failed the state’s growing list of threatened species, delaying declarations by up to seven years and botching its conservation management responsibilities, a scathing report by the state’s auditor general has found.

The report, tabled in the Queensland parliament on Tuesday, criticised the government for having no strategy or framework to manage threatened species. Its slew of criticisms included:

    Long delays by a succession of state ministers to act on recommendations to list threatened species. On average, ministers waited more than three years to approve a listing.

    A lack of information on some species to determine whether they are eligible for listing.

    Efforts to manage threatened species “lack purpose, direction and coordination”.

    The state does no planning to determine where it should devote its resources to protect habitats, mitigate threats and reduce species decline. Its efforts are mostly reactive rather than addressing the common causes of threats.

    Ineffective engagement between the government, conservation groups and landholders.

    Incomplete monitoring and reporting of outcomes to mange threatened species.

    Failure to curb soaring deforestation rates and protect animal habitat.

“The [Department of Environment and Science] previously developed a strategy which it never implemented,” the audit found. “Because it has no strategy, its efforts in managing threatened species lack purpose, direction and coordination. The department has not determined its priorities, clear action areas or measurable targets for the recovery of threatened species and habitats.”

In one case, an unnamed species was listed as threatened more than seven years after it was assessed for the list. Once listed, species are not periodically reviewed and the department “does not know whether the extinction risk for these species has changed or remained steady”.

1:00..WWF report warns annihilation of wildlife threatens civilisation – video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwC-7sjHas0

“Delays in listing result in delays in species protection,” the report said. “Overall, the [department’s] response to conserving threatened species lacks cross-program coordination and is unlikely to effectively conserve and recover many threatened species.

“This is because the department has not taken a strategic approach, and has no system to prioritise, coordinate and report on recovery activities, threatened species population trends and the effectiveness of conservation management.”

It said conservation groups and other stakeholders had expressed “frustration and disillusionment”.

The impact of land clearing on native species habitat led the government to pass new laws this year aimed at curbing soaring deforestation rates. The audit said the rates of clearing had accelerated the loss of habitat of more than 300 threatened flora and fauna species.

“By 2015, 26% of remnant threatened fauna habitat and 35 per cent of remnant threatened flora habitat had been cleared statewide,” the report said.

The World Wide Fund for Nature has listed eastern Australia as a “deforestation front”, mainly because of the rates of clearing in Queensland.

The Wilderness Society said the findings pointed to a need for a national approach to conservation and to halt deforestation.

“Australia needs new effective environment laws and an independent environment watchdog to stop such environmental devastation happening and from threatened species going extinct,” said the Wilderness Society’s Queensland campaign manager, Gemma Plesman.

“The Queensland government recently reintroduced laws to curb deforestation and habitat destruction but unfortunately these laws do not go far enough to fully protect threatened species like the koala, which is vulnerable to extinction.”

“You can still drive bulldozers through threatened-species habitat with little to no oversight. If anything the listing of a species is a death warrant because once a species go on they rarely, if ever, improve.

“The solution is simple: we need urgent action from our state government and real leadership from our federal government.”


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« Reply #5452 on: Today at 05:09 AM »


Polar bear numbers in Canadian Arctic pose threat to Inuit, controversial report says

Report bitterly contested by scientists who say threat comes from climate change, which has pushed bears closer to humans – not because the population is growing

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
Guardian
15 Nov 2018 17.22 GMT

Too many polar bears are roaming the Canadian Arctic, and the growing population is posing an increasing threat to Inuit communities, according to a controversial new government report which has been bitterly contested by environmental scientists.

The draft report was prepared by the Nunavut government, and consists of submissions from Inuit community groups across Canada’s northernmost territory. Public consultations are set to start on Tuesday before the government unveils the final report later in the year.

“Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern,” said one section of the report, according to the Canadian Press. “Public safety concerns, combined with the effects of polar bears on other species, suggest that in many Nunavut communities, the polar bear may have exceeded the coexistence threshold.”

The renewed focus on polar bears comes after a tragic summer for the region: two people were killed by bears in separate attacks, including father Aaron Gibbons, who died protecting his children.

Researchers agree that polar bears represent a growing threat to Inuit communities, but say that is because climate change has pushed them closer to human settlements – not because the bear population is growing.

“There seems to be a divergence between scientists and Inuit on the threat that climate change poses to this species,” said Andrew Derocher, a polar bear researcher at the University of Alberta.
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Scientists and conservation groups have warned that a warming climate has reduced sea ice and the availability of prey, pushing bears on to the mainland – and closer to humans.

But Inuit argue their own observations are often ignored, and the new report highlights a growing tension between scientific research and Inuit knowledge based on from thousands of years of living in the region.

“We know what we are doing, and western science and modelling has become too dominant,” wrote the Kitikmeot regional wildlife board as part of its submission to the report.

“Our knowledge, is not the same as thousands of years ago. If your life depended on it, you’d better know what the ice condition is,” said Gabriel Nirlungayuk, an Inuk hunter of Rankin Inlet. “Our knowledge has always evolved.”

Aerial surveys are often used by scientists to determine the population health of bears. But Nirlungayuk said that some of the best hunting conditions for polar bears are during stormy, foggy weather that grounds aircraft – when bears can sneak up closer to their prey.

The polar bear hunt remains a critical and lucrative component of life in the northern communities. Hunters can receive as much as $10,000 for pelts, with residents parcelling up and sharing the meat for food. Canada has long resisted legislation that would terminate the harvest.

While Inuit and scientists disagree on the population of the bears, they both foresee problems in the future.

Derocher worries bears will continue to show up in communities, drawn in by numerous attractants – putting both humans and bears in harm’s way.

“We’ve been saying this for years: we’re going to have a lot more problem bears. And if we don’t get on top of it, we’re going to see a lot more issues coming down the road,” he said.

Nirlungayuk agrees. “We want to enjoy being out on the land with our families. But today, people need to carry a rifle all the time just to enjoy the great outdoors.”


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« Reply #5453 on: Today at 05:13 AM »


Conservation and 'Renewed Hope': Mountain Gorilla Numbers Rebound

First, the good news. Collaborative conservation efforts have brought "renewed hope" for mountain gorillas and two large whale species, according to today's update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The mountain gorilla subspecies moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered" due to anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions. In 2008, their population dropped to as low as 680 individuals––but the new estimates reveal that the number of mountain gorillas has increased to more than 1,000 individuals—the highest figure ever recorded for the eastern gorilla subspecies, the IUCN said.

Meanwhile, the fin whale's status moved from "endangered" to "vulnerable" and the western subpopulation of the gray whale moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered."

"These whales are recovering largely thanks to bans on commercial hunting, international agreements and various protection measures," Randall Reeves of the IUCN cetacean specialist group said in a press release. "Conservation efforts must continue until the populations are no longer threatened."

Now, the bad news. The Red List update shows that other flora and fauna are under threat due to overexploitation, including the globally important vene timber tree (now "endangered"), the aquilaria agarwood that's prized for its fragrant wood (13 out of 20 species are threatened with extinction), the giant bolson tortoise of North America (now "critically endangered"), and the pungent and endangered "corpse flower" that is now in decline due to logging and destruction of the plant's habitat from palm oil plantations.

Not only that, the assessment also shows that 13 percent of the world's grouper species and 9 percent of Lake Malawi fish are now threatened with extinction.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™: November 2018 Update: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qItuzVxDC1c

"At least two billion people depend directly on inland freshwater fisheries such as Lake Malawi for their survival," William Darwall, head of IUCN's Freshwater Species Unit, explained in the press release. "Almost 80 percent of catch from freshwater fisheries comes from food-deficit countries—where the general population does not have sufficient food to meet recommended daily calorie intake—yet freshwater resources are not prioritized on national or international agendas. Target 6 of the UN Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, focused on avoidance of overfishing, will therefore be missed. This omission puts local livelihoods at risk and increases the risk of food insecurity across the world."

The Red List now includes 96,951 species of which 26,840 are threatened with extinction. The report was released as governments gather for the Convention on Biological Diversity conference this week in Egypt.

"Unfortunately, the latest update also underlines how threats to biodiversity continue to undermine some of society's most important goals, including food security," IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said in the press release. "We urgently need to see effective conservation action strengthened and sustained. The ongoing UN biodiversity summit in Egypt provides a valuable opportunity for decisive action to protect the diversity of life on our planet."


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The Age of Extinction: Birdwatching with Jonathan Franzen: 'Climate change isn't the only danger to birds'

‘The two things I love most are novels and birds, and they’re both in trouble,’ says The Corrections author, one of the world’s most famous birdwatchers

by Oliver Milman in Santa Cruz, California
Guardian
15 Nov 2018 19.37 GMT

Birdwatching was once an activity that elicited a sense of mild shame in Jonathan Franzen. The author stalked New York parks with binoculars in hand, rather than on a strap, carefully hiding from view the word “birds” on his field guide. Debonair friends in London recoiled in horror when told of his pastime. Franzen was furtive, almost embarrassed. Now, he is one of the most famous birdwatchers in the world.

“I totally let my freak flag fly now,” Franzen says as he scans for birds at a community garden near his home in Santa Cruz, California. His phone has an app that deciphers bird sounds. He travels the world to see recondite species. He has written about birds in essays, op-eds and novels.

“I was so socially unsuccessful in my youth and such a pariah in junior high that I really didn’t want to look like a dork,” says Franzen, the 59-year-old author whose best known works include The Corrections and Freedom. “I got over that. The success started to make me think: ‘Hey, it’s not me who’s got the problem.’”

Having taken up the birder habit in New York’s Central Park in his 40s, Franzen is now firmly ensconced in the world of twitchers, with their early mornings, their meticulously kept lists, their argot (the elastic harness attached to binoculars is called a “bra”). “Within the bird world the gull people are considered the super freaks,” Franzen confides. “They talk about ‘I think this is a worn alternate plumage of a second year whatever Iceland Gull which really looks a whole lot like a Herring Gull’. Oh, who cares.”

Unusually for most birdwatchers, Franzen’s circumstances have allowed him access to birds in places like Peru, Antarctica and Cyprus, the latter a place where he documented “the most intensive songbird-killing operations in the European Union”.

It has also provided him a glimpse of the existential perils that confront many bird species. In April, an exhaustive compendium of population data revealed that one in eight bird species are threatened with global extinction, with once widespread creatures such as puffins, snowy owls and turtle doves suffering punishing losses.

In all, 40% of all 10,000 or so bird species are in decline in the face of threats such as agricultural expansion, logging, invasive species and hunting. “The situation is deteriorating and the trends are intensifying,” said Tris Allinson, senior global science officer for BirdLife International, which produced the report.

The world’s population of seabirds, a group that includes gulls, terns, albatrosses and others, has dropped by around 230m, a 70% slump, over the past 60 years due to slightly different group of maladies that also includes overfishing and plastic and oil pollution.

“What does that tell us? Tells us something is not good,” Franzen says of the seabirds, as he pads the garden, looking at a couple of California towhees through his binoculars.

Towhees, essentially bulkier everyman sparrows, are Franzen’s favourite bird, which is perhaps surprising given the planet is inhabited by cassowaries, bald eagles and iridescent birds of paradise. The birds are the subject of a passage in Freedom, a book that has a cerulean warbler adorning its cover.

“Well, look what it’s doing,” Franzen, an angular figure who wears a plaid shirt and jeans, says of the towhee. It has taken him a decade to confidently identify different sparrows. “It’s hopping back and forth. Scratching in the dirt. It’s got this wonderful taupe and then the peachy accent underneath the tail and it’s very, very beautiful.

“Little brown birds hopping around quietly in the underbrush, picking at seeds. They’re shy. Hard to see. It’s friendly.”

Climate change looms as a further hammer to birds but Franzen has argued conservationists have gravitated to climate campaigning at the detriment of more immediate threats, such as the loss of wetlands or, in the case of seabirds in remote locales, rats that eat hapless chicks alive.

“Right now climate change is among the four or five minimal reasons for decline, (there’s) very little direct effect on seabird populations so far,” he says. “For the moment the one big reason is cats, rats, and mice. It’s that simple.” Line-caught tuna, Franzen said, is decimating albatrosses, which lay at most one egg a year, to the point of no return. “You can do the math but it’s like 20 years and they’ll be extinct,” he says.

In 2015, Franzen had a minor spat with Audubon, the US bird conservation group, over the organisation’s finding that around half of all North American bird species face potentially dire changes to their habitats from warming temperatures.

Franzen wrote that he “felt bullied” by the dominance of climate campaigning, calling it “seductive to organisations that want to be taken seriously” and a distraction from other threats. In response, Audubon said the author was guilty of “extreme intellectual dishonesty.” The group refused to comment further when contacted by the Guardian. Franzen, meanwhile, claims that Audubon still “hates me” and that green groups’ focus on climate change is predicated on bolstering donations.

In the US, a direct and current threat is unarguably cats, with an average of 2.4 billion birds a year torn apart by ostensibly cuddly felines. “I’ve met cats I like,” Franzen says carefully, trying to not wander into a fraught debate that has, in recent years, seen the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Morrissey lambast a cull of feral cats in Australia to stem the mass mortality of native fauna.

“It seems like our best shot is to try to continue education efforts about the hazards to your cat by having them outside and to publicize the scale of killing by outdoor cats. I fear the latter thing is effective in only a minority of cat owners.”

Trudging to a nearby body of water, Franzen sweeps the scene with a mounted lens and glumly notes the lack of birds, save for a couple of horned grebes. A red-tailed hawk circles overhead.

Franzen has lived full time in Santa Cruz for the past four years - a poster of North American birds hangs on the wall of an elegant home on the edge of town. Even though he could see a riot of migratory birds in Central Park, far more that would be possible near his new abode, New York “has changed and I don’t like it anymore. It’s become a place only of money and doesn’t feel like home,” he says.

Another former New York resident, Donald Trump, has expressed concern for birds only in relation to their demise in the blades of wind turbines. “They kill so many birds,” the president said in August. “You look underneath some of those windmills, it’s like a killing field.”

This stance – wind turbines obliterate a fraction of the birds killed by the drilling and mining operations of fossil fuels, an industry Trump supports – has enraged bird aficionados almost as much as the Trump administration’s lifting of a ban on lead ammunition, which causes eagles to be poisoned.

“It’s like there’s not a lot of room for facts in his head, but that seems to be a fact that got in there,” Franzen says, shrugging. “You know, it’s always such a word salad with him.”

We move onto a coastal preserve thronged with eucalypts and sea fig. Franzen excitedly thinks he’s caught sight of a Californian thrasher, a long-tailed songbird with a curved beak. “This is such a good bird,” he says, darting forward to a bush where the bird is hidden and imitating its chirp. “This is not really the time of day or year when you really would expect them to to be seen. I think that it’s kind of...thrashing around in there.”

The thrashing thrasher refuses to be seen further, so we push on to observe a downy woodpecker - “love a woodpecker”, Franzen mutters – and stop for a few moments to discuss his feelings on ducks. “Duck is the one thing I don’t eat because they are really badly behaved,” he says, describing in detail the corkscrew-shaped penises of male ducks, which routinely attempt to rape females. “You shouldn’t be too sentimental about ducks.”

When Franzen is writing, he does so in the mornings, which is prime birdwatching time. The success of The Corrections allowed him to “goof off for a couple of years” and watch birds but Franzen’s time is is more cluttered now.

His enthusiasm is undimmed, however. Hiding in plain sight, for most of his life, was an astonishing array of creatures that survived other dinosaurs and can be found in every corner of the world, traversing huge distances of the planet in herculean feats of endurance and speed.

And now he sees them, everywhere. He later emails a list of birds seen on our walk – 26 species in all. Most of us only glance at these birds, if at all. But once seen - properly seen - they are hard to ignore again.

“I think as nature recedes from human’s experience, younger people especially, care less about it,” Franzen says, as he looks at a flock of Heermann’s gulls skim low across a raft of seaweed on the Monterey Bay. “I do have a sort of self-inflicted sense of responsibility to keep reminding people that nature may have receded but it hasn’t entirely disappeared.”

Franzen ponders if his birdwatching is a passion or obsession, or both. We are standing near the hulking skeleton of a blue whale on display and it’s starting to get chilly. “The birds are leaving us,” he says. “Something in my character makes me sympathize with threatened things, the same way that people don’t read novels like the way they used to.

“It makes me want to advocate for literature. And birds in trouble makes me want to advocate for them. I love them. The two things I love most are novels and birds, and they’re both in trouble, and I want to advocate for both of them.”

Franzen grapples with his tripod, curses as it refuses to buckle to his will before it finally relents. He walks back to his car, which is partially filled with tennis balls. He says enjoys going on court but can give away easy points. “I get distracted when I see a bird and the ball just goes past me,” he says.

• Jonathan Franzen’s new book, The End of the End of the Earth, a series of essays, is released on 15 November 2018.


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