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« Reply #6390 on: Oct 19, 2019, 04:20 AM »

The week in wildlife – in pictures

A plucky otter, a mysterious blob and a Florida panther on the prowl

Compiled by Eric Hilaire
19 Oct 2019 17.17 BST

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2019/oct/18/week-wildlife-in-pictures-otter-blob-panther

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« Reply #6391 on: Oct 19, 2019, 04:21 AM »


We had to take down the thread we had on animals because of being notified by the Guardian newspaper out of England that we had to do so because we had been posting article from their website. Anyway, I am a great lover of animals, and a champion for their well being. So I want to start up a new thread that will not post articles from the Guardian. Hopefully, what I do post from whatever source will just let us be because, in the end, it is about doing whatever we can to help our animal friends.

God Bless, Rad


All friends of animals,

I would like to direct your attention to a world wide organization who is doing all it can for our animals friends. They really need all the support and help possible, including donations of money. Please visit their website at http://www.worldanimalprotection.org/ to learn more about all that they do, and how you can donate to them if you feel so inclined. Below is just some of the incredibly important things that they are doing. Please help them if you can.

God Bless, Rad

                                          World Animal Protection

We move the world to protect animals.

Animals in communities: We move the world to protect the one billion animals that live in communities.
We move the world to protect the one billion animals that live in communities

Animals in farming: We move the world to protect the 70 billion animals farmed each year.

Animals in disasters: We move the world to protect and rescue animals in disaster zones. Animals in disasters

We move the world to protect and rescue animals in disaster zones

Animals in the wild: We move the world to protect wild animals – and keep them in the wild.

Global animal protection: We move the world to put animal protection at the heart of global thinking.

Education: We move the world to teach students and vets that animal protection is vital.


                                                Hope For Paws

Here is another outfit called Hope For Paws that is just doing incredible work for animals that need help that really needs financial support to help them keep doing what they do. Here is there web address so you can see what they do: https://www.hopeforpaws.org/. And here their address do donate: https://www.hopeforpaws.org/donationrecurring. And here is an example of what they do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q3PDuU17P4

Hope for Paws is a 501 C-3 non-profit animal rescue organization (E.I.N: 26-2869386). We rescue dogs, cats and other types of animals suffering on the streets or neglected in the wild. Through rescue and education, Hope For Paws works to raise awareness for abandoned animals.
Hope For Paws was founded on June 11, 2008 by Eldad Hagar.

For eight years, Eldad volunteered with other rescue organizations in the Los Angeles area. Because he gravitated towards the most challenging rescues, often saving animals with the most pressing and complex medical conditions, rescue organizations need thousands of dollars to care for the new animals. At one point, Eldad started to feel like a burden on the main organization where he was volunteering and decided it was time to be responsible for his own fundraising. Eldad spent a few hours thinking about a name for the new rescue organization, and came up with Hope For Paws.
When and why did you decide to start posting videos on YouTube?

A friend of Eldad's mentioned one day: "If I didn't personally know you, I would have never believed the stories you're always sharing with me".  She continued to say "Why don't you take a camera with you, and show me... take me with you on a rescue journey".  YouTube was a fairly new platform, and the first video uploaded by Hope For Paws was seen 14 times (10 of the views were from Eldad's Mom).  The channel has grown significantly since that first video in 2009, and as of today, Hope For Paws has almost 3 million subscribers and over 660,000,000 views!

Please help these folks and the animals they rescue.


                                                Howl Of A Dog

Howl Of A Dog is a small nonprofit animal rescue organization located in Romania.

We rescue abandoned, neglected, injured and abused animals from the streets and from over-crowded shelters, we offer them the medical care they need and find them loving forever homes.

To help reduce dog overpopulation which is a huge problem in our country and to prevent abandonment, we provide free neuter/spay programs and we also support and help low-income families pay for veterinary care and lifesaving medical treatment for their dogs.

At the same time, our efforts aim to build a more compassionate and responsible society. We want to raise awareness and show the world how amazing all animals are and how their unconditional love, loyalty and friendship can bring joy and happiness and improve the lives of their human companions.

Through the stories of our rescued animals we are trying to inspire and help humans learn to respect and protect the lives of other species we share this planet with, resulting in better lives for both the animal and human communities.

Many of the dogs we rescue are seniors or dogs with special needs that would otherwise have very few chances of surviving by themselves on the streets and would be usually scheduled for almost immediate euthanasia in over-crowded shelters from Romania. Being unfairly considered “less-adoptable” because they are old, blind, abused, traumatized or injured, these dogs wait for a home much longer than the average adoptable pet does, sometimes even years. For some of them, we may even be the only family they will ever have.

While waiting for their forever families, our rescued animals are provided with everything they need, from veterinary care and adequate nutrition to basic training and lots of affection. They even have their own parties, on Christmas and other special occasions!

All the animals we rescue are being fostered by us, at our house. They are accommodated in a very nice, clean and cozy facility that we built specially for them and they have a play yard and a large fenced-in area, with grass and trees where they can run and play safely. And of course, they also have full access to our house. They live with us as part of our family and are considered and treated as family members, being given all the love and attention they need to be happy.

Our commitment is to find the most suitable adoptive homes for the animals we save, where they will live happily, being loved and cherished. We also facilitate international adoptions and many of our rescue dogs found forever homes in the USA, Canada and Europe.

Howl Of A Dog does not receive any government funding, our life saving work relies entirely on the support and generosity of compassionate animals lovers like you.

Thank you for helping us give neglected animals the chance to live a better and happier life!

Diana Badescu, Co-Founder
Catalin Stancu, Co-Founder

Howl Of A Dog Organization
Registration Number 33570458, Romania
E-mail: contact@howlofadog.org
Website: www.HowlOfADog.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HowlOfADog
YouTube: www.youtube.com/HowlOfADog
Instagram: www.instagram.com/howlofadog
Twitter: twitter.com/HowlOfADog

Please help these folks by donating here: https://www.howlofadog.org/make-a-donation/

Some of there rescue videos can be viewed here: https://www.howlofadog.org/howl-of-a-dog-rescue-videos/


      Pegasus Society: rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing of horses and donkeys in Israel

The Pegasus Society was founded by Zvika Tamuz of "Moked Hai" ("Living Hotline"), who has been rescuing animals since 1993.

Zvika has been taking care of horses for over twenty years. In 2004 he became aware of how prevalent the abuse of equestrian animals in Israel had become. Different animal welfare organizations began referring him cases involving these animals, knowing that he had the know-how as well as facility to care for them. News that somebody is actually rescuing and caring for neglected and abused horses and donkeys spread quickly. The National Traffic Police, the National Roads Association and municipal vets, who did not know how to help these animals, also started calling Zvika whenever they encountered a stray horse or donkey wandering alone in a place where they were endangering themselves and others (such as on busy roads).

With the price of iron going up, many residents of the occupied territories began scouring the border area of the Sharon plain, collecting (and quite often stealing) scrap iron. That process marked a new era in terms of the numbers of horses and donkeys in very poor physical condition working in the area. An influx of calls was received from people from Kfar Saba, Ra'anana, Hod HaSharon etc. – appalled by the sight of these emaciated and injured animals pulling carts piled high with very large and heavy loads of scrap iron, beaten mercilessly by their owners to keep them going, many of which simply collapsed on the street, unable to go on. The different animal welfare societies who received these calls referred them to Zvika Tamuz.

In August of 2006 Ms. Eti Altman, spokesperson of the "Let the Animals Live" organization, wrote to several government and state agencies, alerting them to the grave hardships endured by horses and donkeys in Israel and demanding that the government will take responsibility for the rescue operations and, for the expensive upkeep of these animals which, up until then, was being paid for by Zvika Tamuz out of his own pocket.

As a result of this effort, the Ministry for Environmental Protection began funding the rescue operations of donkeys and horses, but there still remained the problem of keeping and caring for them during the long rehabilitation periods they required. There was an urgent need for an organization that would take responsibility of these animals in Israel. Dozens of horses and donkeys were rescued by Zvika, at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. No report of a horse or a donkey in distress was left unattended to. The fear that the owners would try stealing them back or harming them in any way prevented Zvika from making public the rescue stories, and he emphatically requested that the police would never divulge his name or address.

In May of 2007 a team of the International WAP (formerly WSPA) came to Israel on a visit and was taken by Ms. Rivi Meier, founder of The Society for Cats in Israel, to visit Zvika Tamuz's ranch. This surprise visit provided the basis for the founding the Pegasus Society.

In collaboration with WAP the Pegasus Society started on a new path with a clear vision of establishing an educational center and a visitors center that would convey the message of the plight of these animals and supply the tools that would enable the general public to recognize states of distress in horses and donkeys.

In the 'Susita' sanctuary run by the Pegasus Society these horses and donkeys are being rehabilitated both physically and mentally. Some of them remain at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives and become permanent residents.

One of the upcoming projects the Pegasus Society intends to launch in the near future is an educational program, in the Jewish and Arab sectors alike, with the intention of passing on the message of compassion and caring for animals to the younger generation.

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

Here is there homepage: https://www.pegasus-israel.org/en/home

And to donate: https://www.pegasus-israel.org/en/home#!88


                                                       WOLF HAVEN

Wolf Haven International is a nationally recognized wolf sanctuary that has rescued and provided a lifetime home for 250 displaced, captive-born animals since 1982. Guided 50-minute walking visits offer guests a rare, close-up view of wolves. Wolf Haven provides a variety of educational programs, participates in multi-agency Species Survival Plan programs for critically endangered wolves and advocates for wolves in the wild.

Main website: https://wolfhaven.org/

To Donate: http://store.wolfhaven.org/donate.asp


                                                  ANIMAL AID UNLIMITED

Animal Aid Unlimited is a life-changing place for both people and animals in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.

Founded in 2002, our mission is to rescue and treat the un-owned street animals of Udaipur, Rajasthan, who have become ill or injured. Through their rescue we inspire the community to protect and defend the lives of all animals.

Animal Aid’s hospital has approximately 370 animals of different species with us under treatment on any given day, and our sanctuary is home to 150 animals.

Our work focuses on the vital moment when a resident of Udaipur sees an animal who needs help, and stops to help. Taking action is the pivotal experience that can change everything for good.

By providing a phone number someone can call and a shelter and hospital, we are inspiring action in the community. Action that though small at first, maybe just a phone call on our helpline, is the first step for someone on the road of becoming the person that animals desperately need.

Our ultimate goal is equality and protection of all animals and a complete end to the use and abuse of animals. We are working for the day that every dog, donkey, cow, pig, fish and mouse can live their lives in freedom.

Based out of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, our emergency rescue team responds to calls on our help-line reporting sick or wounded animals in need of help throughout the day, every day. Animal Aid is the life-line for thousands of animals who otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance.

With the involvement of thousands of Udaipur residents who have become aware of street animal’s needs, we have rescued more than 90,000 injured or ill dogs, cows, donkeys, birds and cats to date.

Website: https://animalaidunlimited.org/what-we-do/attachment/street-animal-rescue/

To Donate: https://animalaidunlimited.org/how-to-help/donate/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/AnimalAidUnlimited?&ytbChannel=null
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« Reply #6392 on: Oct 19, 2019, 01:04 PM »

Sulphur-crested cockatoo survives after being shot five times by two guns

The bird, called Mr Cocky by rescuers, was treated at Sydney animal hospital and seems largely unaffected by ordeal

Michael McGowan
19 Oct 2019 07.36 BST

A cockatoo has survived after it was shot five times by at least two different rifles in Sydney’s west.

Dubbed Mr Cocky by its rescuers, the sulphur-crested cockatoo was found in a Sydney backyard last month.

Unable to fly and with a “reduced range of motion” in its left wing, the bird was taken to the Avian, Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital in Camden in the city’s west.

After an x-ray, veterinarian Lorenzo Crosta discovered three pellets – which came from the same gun – lodged in the bird’s body, while another two – from a separate airgun – had lodged in its shoulder and head.

The motive for the attack is unknown. Crosta said he wasn’t sure who delivered Mr Cocky to the practice – “we receive so many birds” – and it is unclear whether the bird was known to its attackers.

“They [sulphur-crested cockatoos] are pretty loud,” he said. “Maybe it was annoying someone, or maybe two kids being stupid. Maybe he was just really unlucky and got shot by one person and flew away and got shot by someone else.

“I really don’t have any idea why. I can understand someone who shoots a rabbit or a deer to eat it, and these are invasive species. But shooting a cockatoo? Why? It’s a native bird. It is very common, I agree, but what’s the point? It’s not even fun. If you want to prove you are a very good shooter, shoot a pigeon that is quick at least.”

Motive aside, Crosta said Mr Cocky had taken the shooting stoically.

“How can I tell you this?” he said.

“When we receive a wild bird we first do a triage and if there is a chance we can fix them, we fix them. Otherwise, if the bird cannot go back to the wild, it unfortunately goes immediately to meet its ancestors. In this case we thought, okay, he is moving the wing he seems to be okay, so why not?”

The shot to the head “did not seem to affect” the bird and the three to its body had not been causing it considerable discomfort. Crosta will wait until the bird fully recovers before making a decision about whether to remove the final pellet in its shoulder.

Harming wildlife is prohibited by the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act.

An individual could face a fine of up to $88,000 for harming an animal such as the sulphur-crested cockatoo.

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« Reply #6393 on: Oct 21, 2019, 03:43 AM »

Australia's birds: pretty and sweet or just a pack of bastards?

Sean Dooley

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count begins on Monday and an exceptionally dry 2019 could see a changing of the guard in the top 10

21 Oct 2019 02.37 BST

Since BirdLife Australia launched the Aussie Backyard Bird Count in 2014, the number of participants has risen from 9,000 to over 70,000. Unsurprisingly, the amount of birds that have been counted in our cities and towns has also risen – from 850,000 to more than 2.75 million birds last year.

Yet when it comes to the top 10 most commonly seen birds, the song remains the same, with the same species entrenched firmly at the top every year. It’s the birding equivalent of tuning into Countdown in the 70s to find Abba’s Fernando top of the charts for the 27th week in a row.

Birds are not only the soundtrack to our daily lives, they are an expression of the landscape – the continent’s original songlines. When you change the habitat of the country, you alter the soundscape too. If we had run the Aussie Bird Count back in the 70s when Abba were inescapable in the music charts, the top 10 list would have looked quite different because the urban centres where the vast bulk of Australians live have radically changed. We have planted native trees such as flowering gums in our yards and streetscapes, attracting larger, nectar-feeding birds such as rainbow lorikeets, noisy miners and red wattlebirds. We have also seen the decline of traditional English cottage-style lawns and rose beds so favoured by sparrows, starlings and blackbirds. Yet at the same time we saw the emergence of outer suburban sprawl and inner suburban infill, where houses and apartments are built to the edge of the block with little room for the greenery that smaller birds such as wrens and thornbills depended on.

Very few native birds have been able to adapt to this alien environment, yet only two of our top 10 urban species are introduced birds, the house sparrow and the common (or Indian) myna. So what is it about the others in the top 10 that have managed to thrive in the modern urban environment when all about them have fallen? At first glance they are an eclectic bunch, comprising three parrots, two honeyeaters, the magpie, silver gull and welcome swallow. Quite a disparate bunch in terms of size, shape and preferred food but what unites them all is that they are aggressive, adaptable or highly intelligent, or in some cases all three.

The silver gull did not evolve eating chips; there were very few verandas for swallows to nest on, yet they have adapted. The others tend to survive the mean streets by ganging up and becoming bullies. We are all familiar with stories of the notorious ‘Indian’ mynas killing other birds, but did you know that the similarly named, yet entirely native noisy miner is an even greater bully, driving almost all birds the same size or smaller than itself out of its territory? In some areas rainbow lorikeets seem to be out-muscling even the mynas.

There have been far more losers than winners in the bird world since we began radically altering the Australian landscape 230 years ago. Particularly hard hit have been the quiet birds, the specialists, whose livelihoods have been overtaken by the brash, the aggressive, the opportunistic. Sound familiar?

However, like in the human society they reflect, there is a looming threat on the horizon to the ascendency of these current winners. Climate. Last year the crested pigeon – the dove-like bird with the punk black, spiky crest that historically inhabited the arid inland – almost cracked the top 10. In previous droughts they have spread towards the coasts and infiltrated our cities. Many never left. With 2019 being yet another exceptionally dry year, this could be when we begin to see a changing of the guard, as the reality of a hotter, drier climate starts to hit home.

But we will never know if we don’t get the data. This year, more then ever, we need as many people as possible to join in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count so that our annual snapshot of Australian birds becomes clearer and more finely detailed than ever before.

To join the Aussie Backyard Bird Count download the #aussiebirdcount app or go to aussiebirdcount.org.au

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« Reply #6394 on: Oct 21, 2019, 03:45 AM »

Second whale found dead in Thames in less than two weeks

Discovery of whale’s body near Gravesend follows death of young humpback this month

Aamna Mohdin
21 Oct 2019 17.26 BST

A second whale has been found dead in the Thames less than two weeks after a humpback nicknamed Hessy died near the same stretch of water.

The Port of London Authority confirmed the suspected fin whale was discovered in the river at Denton, near Gravesend, on Friday morning.

Martin Garside, a spokesperson for the PLA, said he was surprised to receive a call at 10am about a second dead whale as there had been no live sightings.

“We are as baffled as anyone by it. When I took the first call this morning, I thought the person was confused and they imagined the whale sighting,” he said.

The PLA sent a patrol boat to go and look, with the same crew that found Hessy’s body, who quickly confirmed it was a dead whale. The crew managed to get a line around the whale and gently towed it to a PLA site, where the animal was lifted from the water and taken to the Zoological Society of London for a postmortem analysis, Garside said.

Rob Deaville of ZSL’s cetacean strandings investigation programme said: “Experts are hoping to access the whale to perform an examination over the next few days, but there is no reason to assume the two recent whale strandings in the Thames over the past week are in any way linked.”

Hessy was first seen swimming in the Thames 11 days ago. The whale died a few days later.

A detailed postmortem examination found Hessy was an 8.37-metre (27ft) juvenile female that had not eaten recently and was “nutritionally compromised”. While experts found a heavy burden of parasites within the humpback’s intestine, there was no evidence of plastic ingestion.

Deaville said: “The main finding was a large wound on the underside of the head, associated with a fracture along the length of one of the mandibles (lower jaw). Traces of blood clots around the fractured jaw and haemorrhage around the cut/torn surfaces indicate that the damage occurred before death and it was the team’s opinion that the injuries were most likely a result of ship-strike, and this is considered to be the primary cause of death.”

Deaville could not rule out the possibility that the whale could have been struck before it entered the Thames, and already had its injuries when it was seen swimming in the river.

Garside described the deaths of the two whales as a “random coincidence”. While it was rare for a whale to end up in the Thames, he said, a handful had been seen over the past decade.

In 2009, a juvenile male humpback was found dead near the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Last year, a beluga whale was sighted off Gravesend, more than 1,000 miles (1,600km) from its usual habitat in the Arctic.

Garside said the discovery of the dead whales was “both poignant and quite moving at the same time”. He said he hoped that recovering the whale’s body and giving it to scientists would lead to an explanation for its death.

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« Reply #6395 on: Oct 21, 2019, 03:50 AM »

'It's warm water now': climate change strands sea turtles on Cape Cod shores

The Gulf of Maine’s rapidly warming waters draws in larger numbers of Kemp’s ridley turtles, enticing them to stay longer

Josh Wood in Quincy, Massachusetts

At the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in a repurposed shipyard building south of Boston, the casualties of climate change swim in tanks as they recover after being pulled stunned from the beach.

Every year, as autumn turns to winter and ocean temperatures off Massachusetts drop below 10C (50F), dead, dying and stricken sea turtles wash up on the shores of Cape Cod as those shelled reptiles that have failed to migrate south start to die in the chilly waters.

In the 1980s, the number of sea turtles stranded on the shores of Cape Cod every year averaged in the dozens. That average went up through the 1990s and 2000s, but over the past decade it has risen dramatically: 2014 saw more than 1,200 turtles make landfall. This year, more than 790 sea turtles have washed up on Cape Cod so far. Some 720 of those are Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, a critically endangered species that nests on the shores of the much warmer Gulf of Mexico.

It is an event unmatched in magnitude anywhere else in the world.

Those who study sea turtles say part of the reason that annual strandings are up in Massachusetts is that efforts to conserve and boost Kemp’s ridley populations have been successful. But the other part is that the Gulf of Maine is rapidly warming in the face of climate change and proving to be a more hospitable environment for turtles than it used to be, drawing them in larger numbers and resulting in them staying longer into the year.

“It’s warm water now,” said Bob Prescott, the director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary on Cape Cod.

The Mass Audubon tracks turtle strandings and is on the frontline of turtle rescue. “What we don’t think they understand is the change in the seasons. These are tropical and sub-tropical turtles and I don’t think they understand the change in season, cold fronts and the water getting colder and colder,” Prescott said.

The Gulf of Maine, which the Cape Cod peninsula juts into like a flexing arm, is warming faster than 99% of the world’s waters. This year marked the gulf’s third-warmest year on record. The warming is responsible for a boom in the lobster industry in Maine and has invited new fish species, such as the black sea bass, to the area. But for turtles, it has proved dangerous.

“It’s actually a good foraging habitat for them, really,” said Kate Sampson, the sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Massachusetts. “It’s just unfortunate that it brings them right into this area that has a trap.”

That trap is Cape Cod, which many sea turtles counterintuitively have to swim north and then east to get around in order to flee to warmer waters when winter approaches.

“Cape Cod Bay we often call a deadly bucket,” said Tony LaCasse, the New England Aquarium’s spokesperson. As turtles swim north, they run into colder water “and their instinct tells them something is wrong … their instinct tells them to retreat back into the shallow warmer water of the bay and wait it out. But the problem is it’s the end of the season and there’s no way to get out”.

Kemp’s ridley turtles begin their lives on beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. The few that survive the mad dash from their eggs to the water and the predators of the shallows settle down for the first few years of their lives in sargassum, floating forests of seaweed that offer safety to the tiny adolescent turtles. The Gulf Stream carries sargassum north and it is believed that the turtles washing up on Massachusetts’ coast – which are largely between two and four years old according to Sampson – are exploring a coastal habitat for the first time.

Kara Dodge, a research scientist who focuses on sea turtles at Boston’s New England Aquarium, said beyond the Gulf of Maine’s warming, changes to ocean circulation patterns due to climate change could also affect the magnitude of stranding events by bringing more young sea turtles up from the Gulf of Mexico into the western Atlantic.

If climate change continues as expected, she said, “the prediction is that we will continue to see these high-stranding events, hundreds of animals, for the foreseeable future”.

Cold-stunning events sometimes affect sea turtles elsewhere, such as along the Gulf coast off Florida and Texas, but they are generally short-lived, the result of a sudden cold snap. The challenge in Massachusetts, researchers say, is that turtles washing up on shore have largely been exposed to long-term hypothermia.

The large-scale turtle stranding events that Massachusetts has seen in recent years have resulted in the rise of a large, complex network of rescuers working to save as many turtles as possible.

Employees of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and an army of volunteers patrol Cape Cod’s northern beaches in November and December looking for stranded turtles. Cold-stunned turtles recovered on Cape Cod are then driven to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, near Boston, where hypothermic, emaciated and often sick turtles are rewarmed, treated and rehabilitated. The process usually takes months.

The sea turtle hospital in Quincy has treated more than 400 turtles so far this year. However, it has struggled to keep up with the sharp rise in strandings and moves stabilised turtles to treatment facilities elsewhere in the country when it reaches capacity.

Edward Filangeri is a volunteer pilot who helps the organisation Turtles Fly Too to move turtles from Massachusetts to other facilities. Every year since 2014, Filangeri has flown his single-engine aircraft up from New York’s Long Island, where he lives, to Massachusetts to pick up turtles packed in banana boxes and ferry them south. By flying during November and December he has to contend with winter weather while also working to keep the temperature in his small aircraft turtle-friendly.

“When we get the temperature just right they want to start swimming and I know we’re doing a good job when I hear a lot of cardboard rubbing in the back of the plane,” he said.

Those working to save the turtles say every bit of help they can give is worth it.

“Personally I spend a lot of my time doing this and the network spends a lot of their time doing this because we all believe that this does make a difference,” said Sampson, the Noaa turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator. “These are an endangered species, we have to do all we can to help recover their population.”

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« Reply #6396 on: Oct 21, 2019, 03:53 AM »

Living colour: the intricacy and beauty of budgies – in pictures

Leila Jeffreys

Leila Jeffreys started photographing birds in 2008. In this series she takes the birds out of their natural habitat, and by stripping the environment back to the bare minimum and using neutral backgrounds she shows the intricacy and beauty of the feathered creatures. Her latest exhibition, High Society, is on at the the Olsen Gallery, Woollahra, Sydney from 16 October until 9 November

• Birds of a green and yellow feather flock together in artistic glory
• You can vote for the budgie in the Guardian/Bird Life Australia 2019 bird of the year poll from 28 November

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2019/oct/19/living-colour-the-intricacy-and-beauty-of-budgies-in-picture

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« Reply #6397 on: Oct 22, 2019, 03:44 AM »

Fowl language: Amazonian bird's mating call noisiest in world

White bellbird’s call reaches same volume as pneumatic drill during courtship ritual

Daniel Grossman produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center
22 Oct 2019 16.20 BST

A bird in the Amazon has shattered the record for the loudest call to be recorded, reaching the same volume as a pneumatic drill.

The white bellbird, which lives in the mountains of the north-eastern Amazon, was recorded at 125 decibels (dB), three times louder than the next bird in the pecking order, the screaming piha.

Mario Cohn-Haft, an ornithologist at the National Institute of Amazonian Research and the author of a paper published in the journal Current Biology, captured a male white bellbird specimen in the Brazilian state of Roraima in 2017.

It was about 30cm (12in) long from beak to tail, said Cohn-Haft. He dissected it in the field, removing the skin and some organs to prepare it to be added to his collection. Something caught his eye under the bird’s pure white feathers: a muscular, sculpted chest. “It had a six pack,” he said, with tissue five times thicker than that of most birds its size.

Cohn-Haft enlisted the help of Jeff Podos, an animal behaviour specialist at the University of Massachusetts and a co-author of the paper, to study the white bellbird. They suspected that the bird’s muscular physique might explain its earsplitting song: the male sings an explosive two-toned cry.

Cohn-Haft and Podos returned to Roraima and crept up to within 40 metres (130ft) of white bellbirds singing from bare branches. They had brought a directional microphone and a precision audio recorder. In order to make accurate measurements, they had to make recordings with the birds facing them, with no intervening obstacles.

The scientists also had front row seats to watch the birds’ bizarre courtship rituals. The female alights on a branch about a metre from the male, which promptly begins singing the louder of the two songs in its repertoire. Cohn-Haft said the male faces directly away from the potential mate for the first of the song’s notes. Then, in a fraction of a second, he swivels around and yells the second note “right in her face”.

“She knows it’s coming,” said Cohn-Haft, because just before the second note she flutters back a few metres. The male has a long black wattle hanging down from the top of his head that whips around when he turns his head. “If she didn’t know any better she’d get it in the face,” he said.

The bird’s song was recorded at 125dB, which Cohn-Haft and Podos say raises many questions. For starters, said Podos, “how can they do this without going deaf?”

The researchers suggested the unusual call may be the result of sexual selection. Cohn-Haft speculated that plentiful food in the bellbird’s mountain habitat had allowed the species to become unhitched from strict obedience to the dictates of survival of the fittest.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvK-DujvpSY

“Survival is easy enough, so these birds are free to develop traits that, whimsically or not, are attractive to each other.” He said these traits had more in common with the “beauty” of a song or a dance than utilitarian behaviours such as hunting or tools for fighting such as teeth and claws.

“This is an example of sexual selection gone wild,” said Podos.

He said there was no particular scientific benefit to identifying the most deafening birdsong, any more than there was to identifying the cheetah as the animal kingdom’s swiftest runner. But he said scientists garnered important insights from nature’s extremes. “It’s a good place to understand the limits of what nature can offer,” he said.

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« Reply #6398 on: Oct 22, 2019, 03:46 AM »

Squirrels listen to birds' chitchat to gauge if trouble's afoot – study

Research shows eavesdropping more widespread and broader than originally thought

Nicola Davis

Squirrels eavesdrop on the chatter of songbirds to work out whether the appearance of a predator is cause for alarm, researchers have found.

Animals including squirrels have previously been found to tune in to cries of alarm from other creatures, while some take note of “all-clear” signals from another species with which they co-exist to assess danger.

But the latest study suggests animals may also keep an ear out for everyday chitchat among other species as a way to gauge whether there is trouble afoot.

“This study suggests that eavesdropping on public information about safety is more widespread and broader than we originally thought,” said Prof Keith Tarvin, co-author of the study from Oberlin College, Ohio.

“It may not require tight ecological relationships that allow individuals to carefully learn the cues provided by other species,” he added, noting that the grey squirrels and songbirds in the study moved from place to place without regard for the other.

Writing in the journal Plos One, Tarvin and colleagues reported on how they made their discovery by observing 67 grey squirrels as they pottered about different areas in the parks and residential regions of Oberlin.

After 30 seconds of observing a squirrel, researchers played it a recording of the call of a red-tailed hawk, which lasted a couple of seconds – and their behaviour in the next 30 seconds was monitored.

The results revealed that in the 30 seconds after hearing the hawk call the squirrels increased the percentage of their time spent “vigilant” – showing behaviour such as freezing, fleeing or standing – compared with before the call, while they also looked up more often to scan the environment.

The squirrels were then played either a three-minute recording of several different species of songbird chattering on a feeder, or ambient noise.

The team noted that these songbirds were often wary of red-tailed hawks and were known to make alarm calls in response to these hawks, as well as to predators that prey on them as well as squirrels. However, they chatter when there is little sign of a threat.

Results from 28 squirrels that were played bird chatter and 26 squirrels that were played ambient noise were analysed – the others having scampered out of view before data could be collected.

Taking into account the animals’ responses to the hawk call and whether they were in a tree or on the ground, the team found squirrels that were played bird chatter raised their heads less often during the recording than those played ambient noise, and the number of these “lookups” dropped off faster over time.

Squirrels showed similar levels of vigilant behaviour during both types of recording but those exposed to bird chatter seemed to reduce this behaviour more rapidly than those exposed to ambient noise.

“Recognition of bird chatter as a sign of safety is likely adaptive, as squirrels that can safely reduce their vigilance level in the presence of bird chatter presumably are able to increase foraging success,” the authors wrote.

However, they noted there was more work to be done to unpick whether the squirrels were listening to particular species, and whether they were focusing on the chatter or rather the general foraging and jostling of birds – sounds that were also present on the recording.

The team suggested that with levels of human-made noise increasing, squirrels may find it harder to eavesdrop on birds, meaning they may have to spend more time being alert and less time foraging.

Dr Jakob Bro-Jorgensen, an evolutionary ecologist from the University of Liverpool who was not involved in the study, said the research shows that animals can assess predation risk not only from alarm calls but also from non-alarm signals, even from species that they do not usually hang out with.

“The study calls attention to how animals can gather information from their environment by using cues that may at first glance seem irrelevant,” he said. “And it makes you wonder how the more and more pervasive impact of human activities on natural soundscapes may compromise survival of wildlife in ways we haven’t thought of.”

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« Reply #6399 on: Oct 22, 2019, 03:48 AM »

Investing in flashy display pays off for species that mate for life

Male finches continuously fight for their partner's attention -- and it seems like it's in both their interests to do so.

Tibi Puiu
October 22, 2019

Darwin’s theory of natural selection predicts that it is more advantageous for males to seek out as many mates as possible. Some species, however, mate for life and often the males continue to dazzle females with courting rituals even after the pair has bonded and the female starts ovulating. Such mating behaviors have been more challenging to explain from an evolutionary standpoint.

Biologists at the University of Chicago and the University of North Carolina have developed an evolutionary model that explains why many birds continue to make elaborate displays of plumage and dances after they mate with a female. This all makes sense, the model suggests, because the male’s investment also elicits more investments on the female’s side, which devotes more energy into the brood. But, this form of sexual cooperation, it turns out, involves a delicate balance of inputs and outputs.

    “Many bird researchers can tell a story like the experience I once had in the UK. I caught a female goldfinch, placed her in a bird bag and carried it back to the banding station. All the way back to the station, her mate followed, calling,” said UChicago biologist Trevor Price, who is the senior author of the new study.

    “He waited impatiently in a nearby tree as I banded the female, and when I released her the pair flew off together in close company, twittering. This kind of thing happens in many other species, too, so forming a strong pair bond and emotional attachments between a male and female is evidently not only a feature of humans.”

In the 1980s, ornithologist Nancy Burley showed that slipping red bands onto the legs of male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) turned them into sex magnets. The male finches, which already have red beaks, may elicit greater excitement in females by being even more flashy with the red bands. Burley famously showed that the female zebra finches respond to this mating display by working harder for the brood, raising more young.

However, while this strategy works very well for males, which now get to have more offspring that pass on their genes, females seem to be at a disadvantage because they have to invest more energy, lowering her chances of raising more healthy offspring in the future.

In their new study, Price and colleagues developed a mathematical population genetic model that evaluated various mating scenarios. The model weighed the cost of investment with the number of hatchlings that a pair could raise over many generations.

As an example, a female bird might lay three eggs, but a male with more blue coloration would cause the female to lay four eggs. Because blue males will have more offspring than duller males, blue males will become increasingly common over generations.

At the same time, caring for four eggs instead of three comes at a great cost to the female. Those females who only have to care for three eggs are at an advantage, so they become more common among the population. Running this game will ultimately result in all males being blue and all females laying three eggs. What happens, however, is that males that do not invest in display will prompt females to lay only two eggs, which is not good for either.

The evolutionary model produced by the researchers shows that the most mutually beneficial strategy is for males to stick around and display their key reproductive traits. This turned out to be true for any color or kind of display. What’s more, the female can become so dependent on a male’s display that she may stop ovulating in the absence of the male, as previously shown in ring doves.

    “The models enable us to see the wide ranges of conditions that can cause displays to become stuck in the population, evolutionarily, and that can lead to this result,” said Maria Servedio, a researcher at the University of North Carolina and co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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« Reply #6400 on: Oct 23, 2019, 03:58 AM »

Specieswatch: polecat returns to England

Gamekeepers nearly wiped out species but it has spread back from its last refuge in Wales

Paul Brown
23 Oct 2019 21.30 BST

The chances of spotting a polecat (Mustela putorius) – except the ones that have been run over – is pretty slim, the ranger said cheerily, but that is how we know they are back.

And back they are – resident in vast swaths of England, returning to places where they were exterminated. Overzealous gamekeepers had nearly wiped out the polecat by 1915, but it has spread back from its last refuge in the west of Wales across England as far as East Anglia.

Most of them are purebred, but in some places they have interbred with their domesticated relative, the ferret Mustela putorius furo. The Furo, meaning thief in Latin, is essentially the same creature but tamed roughly 2,500 years ago to hunt rabbits. If escapees mate with polecats the resultant offspring, although slightly lighter in colour, go native and generally thrive.

Polecats, with distinctive black and white furry “bandit” faces, generally eat rabbits and are small enough to live and breed in disused rabbit burrows. In autumn they move closer to humans in farms and outbuildings and eat rats, which are more plentiful, so this is the best time of year to see one.

In spring they will eat frogs, eggs and birds, which is why gamekeepers killed them, but now they are protected.

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« Reply #6401 on: Oct 23, 2019, 04:00 AM »

Weatherwatch: how a Siberian sprite 'reverse migrates' to Britain

If weather conditions are right, elusive Pallas’s warblers end up on the UK’s shores

Stephen Moss
23 Oct 2019 21.30 BST

The smallest British bird is the goldcrest, along with its much scarcer cousin, the firecrest. Both are just 9cm long and weigh 5-6 grams – roughly the same as a single sheet of A4 paper or a 20p coin. Yet one species of warbler is just as small, though a gram or so heavier. Despite its size, Pallas’s warbler – named after an eighteenth-century Prussian ornithologist – travels all the way from its Siberian breeding grounds to Britain.

Until the 1980s this Siberian sprite was a very rare vagrant, with only a few occurring each autumn. All that changed in October 1982, with a record influx of at least 120 Pallas’s warblers, mainly along the east coast. Six years later, in October 1988, two more influxes occurred, turning the species from a major rarity into a regular arrival.

But given that Pallas’s warblers usually spend the winter in south-east Asia, why are they coming to Britain at all? It appears that some are heading in more or less the opposite direction from what would be expected, a phenomenon known as “reverse migration”. Many perish en route, but if the weather conditions are right – an anticyclone over Scandinavia bringing easterly winds across the North Sea – they end up on the UK’s shores.

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« Reply #6402 on: Oct 23, 2019, 04:04 AM »

The US lawyers rolling back wildlife protection one species at a time

Backed by conservative funders – and with contacts inside Washington – Pacific Legal Foundation are weakening safeguards for animals bit by bit

Jimmy Tobias
23 Oct 2019 12.18 BST

As political officials at the US Department of the Interior were settling into their new jobs in April 2017, a conservative lawyer named Jonathan Wood started a campaign of emails and calls over a pair of petitions he had filed on behalf of cattle ranchers and business interests.

The petitions asked the department to roll back a key regulation under the Endangered Species Act. The regulation, known as the blanket 4(d) rule, provides threatened species with strong protections, but is also reviled by ranchers, mining interests and developers. Like his clients, Wood, a senior lawyer at the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), wanted to get rid of it.

Ranchers oppose the law because it can limit their ability to access grazing resources on public and private lands and control predators like grizzly bears and grey wolves.

“It has been a little over a year since the petitions were filed and I was hoping to find out whether they’re being considered, or if there’s any additional info I can provide to help the administration make its decision,” Wood wrote to officials, according to documents obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act request.

After multiple inquiries over many months, Wood ultimately got an audience with Daniel Jorjani, a former adviser to the billionaire Koch brothers who now serves as the interior department’s top lawyer. According to public records, Woods and Jorjani scheduled a meeting on 9 April 2018 to discuss in detail Wood’s petitions to roll back protections for threatened species.

Little more than three months after Jorjani and Wood met, the interior department would officially unveil a proposal to do what Wood and his clients wanted. The department publicly announced in July 2018 that it planned to eliminate the blanket 4(d) rule as part of a broader effort to water down federal enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. In doing so, the agency garnered national headlines and sent shockwaves through the wildlife conservation community, which denounced the move as an assault on a bedrock environmental law.

But Wood’s efforts are part of a bigger picture. Across the US today, a quiet war is taking place.

On the one hand, environmental activists, lawyers and citizens are struggling to continue the work begun over a century ago by conservationists: protecting wildlife and the environment, and keeping water clean, species intact and wilderness open.

On the other, a network of conservative lawyers, activists and business interests are determined to pursue what they see as equally important American values: the protection of individual rights and the rolling back of government regulations – especially those relating to commercial enterprise.

Their commitment runs deep. Wood has spoken about the childhood experiences that drew him to the cause, describing how he witnessed his father struggling in the real estate business.

“My dad had this dream, from as far back as I can remember. He had a rather large ranch in Texas that he wanted to develop and build small family homes,” Wood explained in a filmed interview for the Liberty Forum. “And when I was 10 he finally decided to see if he could pursue his dream.”

His father went to the county to see what permits would be required, Wood recounted. “He came back with a stack of documents that seemed almost as big as I was at the time, and became completely discouraged.”

This experience appears to have had a lasting impression on Wood, and he has made a career out of campaigning for the unfettered property interests of private landowners, major industry groups and more.

Wood’s firm, the little-known but influential PLF, is a non-profit law firm with about $52m (£40.4m) in net assets as of 2017 and 73 attorneys and staff dedicated to fighting against federal laws and regulations like the Endangered Species Act.

Founded in 1973 by a group composed mainly of Ronald Reagan’s former staff, and headquartered in Sacramento, California, PLF describes itself as “the first public interest law firm dedicated to the principles of individual rights and limited government”. With deep connections to commercial interests, including big agriculture, PLF has long enjoyed funding from some of the wealthiest entities and individuals in the US, who are drawn to the firm’s libertarian free-market philosophy. According to a 1999 article in the Washington Post, Richard Mellon Scaife, the conservative billionaire heir to the Mellon family fortune who died in 2014, provided the group with “at least half the group’s budget in its early years”.

Over the years PLF has received support from ExxonMobil and a slew of arch-conservative foundations. The Adolph Coors Foundation – founded by the Colorado-based family of beer brewing fame – provided the group with at least $580,000 between 2010 and 2016, according to tax documents seen by the Guardian. In that same time period, PLF took more than $600,000 from the Searle Freedom Trust, a foundation set up by Daniel Searle, a now-deceased Illinois-based executive involved in the pharmaceutical and agriculture industries. It has also received donations from entities like the Charles Koch Foundation and Donors Capital Fund, a donor-advised fund that has been described as the “dark-money ATM of the conservative movement”.

Investigative journalist Jane Mayer claims these wealthy foundations, and others like them, have spent huge sums of money in recent decades funding a network of conservative legal, academic and political institutions across the US. According to Mayer’s book, Dark Money, they have done so in an effort to challenge “the widely accepted post-second world war consensus that an activist government was a force for public good. Instead, they [argue] for ‘limited government’, drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry, particularly in the environmental arena.”

The Endangered Species Act, a powerful environmental statute that grants the government immense authority to limit industrial development, was always a key target of this effort to rollback the regulatory state. The law is anathema to some conservatives because it has the power to restrict human activity on entire landscapes in order to protect species like the grey wolf, the grizzly bear and the bald eagle. If an endangered or threatened species lives in your neck of the woods, the US government may no longer allow you to graze cattle, drill for oil, or develop real estate wherever you please.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is not the only right-leaning legal group that targets the Endangered Species Act – others include the Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, both of which have received money from some of the same conservative funders that back PLF.
'One kind of bee lives in snail shells': a passion for pollinators – in pictures

PLF’s goal is to methodically change US laws in ways that weaken government power, according to John Echeverria, a professor at the Vermont Law School and a long-time observer of PLF. Its ultimate objective, he says, is to overturn long-standing precedents that prop up statutes like the Endangered Species Act, or at least render such laws ineffective on constitutional and procedural groups.

“They are very patient,” he says, “and they are focused on the long-term.”

In a 2017 testimony submitted to the House natural resources committee, Wood said the act “is known as the ‘pit bull’ of environmental law. And for good reason. As many economic-development and infrastructure projects proponents have learned the hard way, once the Endangered Species Act sinks its teeth into you, it does not let go easily.” In other writings, Wood has criticised the law’s “burdensome – and controversial – regulations on property owners” and the “immense costs” of its “command-and-control approach”.

To combat what it views as intrusive government overreach, PLF has filed lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and other government agencies that enforce the Endangered Species Act.

PLF’s attorneys have sued on behalf of the Texas Farm Bureau to strip protections from a small bird called the black-capped vireo. They are suing on behalf of New Mexico livestock interests to roll back critical habitat protections for the endangered jaguar. They have sued on behalf of Idaho ranchers to challenge the federal government’s greater sage grouse conservation plans. They have filed a flurry of briefs in support of other anti-Environmental Species Act lawsuits. And they regularly write comment pieces, appear in the media, and testify in front of legislative bodies to attack the law.

As of 2017, according to tax forms, PLF was working on more than 15 cases meant to roll back, block, weaken or otherwise alter state and federal wildlife protections, many of them on behalf of farmers, ranchers and landowners in the West.

With Big Ag and other corporate interests by its side, PLF’s attorneys employ a variety of tactics to combat the Environmental Species Act.

One tactic is its use of petitions and lawsuits to try to force the FWS to remove specific species from the endangered species list. The organisation has been working since at least 2014 to force the agency to delist the imperilled coastal California gnatcatcher, a small grey songbird that lives in coastal sage scrub in the southern part of California. On behalf of a group of property owners, agriculture groups and other business interests, PLF filed a lawsuit against FWS, arguing that the threatened gnatcatcher is not a scientifically-valid subspecies and so is not entitled to protection under the Environmental Species Act. This is just a taste of the litigation PLF regularly pursues.

The organisation has petitioned or litigated to remove, weaken or deny protections for many different species, including the golden parakeet, the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, the black-capped vireo, the lesser long-nosed bat, the gypsum wild-buckwheat, the wood stork, the West Indian manatee and the wolverine – a highly imperilled animal that is threatened by both human development and the climate crisis. PLF brought a number of these cases on behalf of agriculture industry clients, including the Farm Bureau Federation and ranchers’ associations.

PLF’s lawyers are some of the most tenacious opponents of endangered species protections in the US. By picking sympathetic clients, and bringing cases in different jurisdictions across the country, the group is working hard to fundamentally alter, if not debilitate, America’s most famous wildlife conservation law, which currently protects some 1,600 imperilled species in the US in an era when wildlife extinction is on the rise globally.

Patrick Parenteau, a professor at the Vermont Law School who specialises in endangered species issues, calls PLF “a mouthpiece for agriculture and other industries that are the primary cause of habitat loss and species endangerment”.

But Jim Huffman, an emeritus dean and professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, as well a member of the conservative Federalist Society, argues that the PLF should be seen as a pro-property rights “counterbalance” to environmental litigation groups like the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund.

“They, like the environmental litigation groups, are out to establish precedent or overturn precedent,” he says. “They, like the environmental litigation groups, select their cases based on what they perceive to be the likelihood of establishing useful precedent.”

The PLF, for its part, has been celebrating some major victories in the Trump era. When the interior department finalised its Endangered Species Act rollbacks, Wood called the move the “most significant gain for property rights under the Endangered Species Act in decades”.

PLF also explicitly took credit for the elimination of the blanket 4(d) rule, though it did not mention its inside access to top Interior department political appointees, such as Jorjani.

“There is a plan at work,” says Echeverria. “They are pushing cutting edge conservative arguments as the judiciary becomes increasingly conservative.” And they are working the inside track in Washington as well.

PLF declined to answer questions for this article.

“At this time we do not have anyone to speak on this issue,” wrote Kate Pomeroy, PLF’s media director, in an email.

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« Reply #6403 on: Oct 24, 2019, 04:09 AM »

Chris the sheep, famed for record-breaking fleece, dies

on October 24, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

An Australian sheep that entered the Guinness World Records after being found with an enormously overgrown fleece has died, its carers announced.

Chris the merino sheep made global headlines after being found wandering alone outside Australia’s capital Canberra with masses of wool sagging from its frame in 2015.

A champion shearer was brought in to shave off the fleece, a life-saving intervention for the sheep.

They quickly entered the record books for the largest fleece removed in a single sitting, with the wool weighing in at 41.1 kilograms (91 pounds).

The fleece was donated to the National Museum in Canberra, while Chris was re-homed at a hobby farm in neighbouring New South Wales state.

Little Oak Sanctuary, which cares for dozens of ex-farming animals, announced on social media Tuesday that Chris had died.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of this sweet, wise, friendly soul,” it posted on Facebook.

Sanctuary co-founder Kate Luke told the Canberra Times that Chris had died on Tuesday morning of natural causes.

“He’s been really happy and healthy recently. His death came out of the blue. His system just gave way,” she said.

Luke said that Chris — a favourite among visitors for its friendly nature — was almost 10 years old.

Sheep usually live to between 10 and 12 years old.

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« Reply #6404 on: Oct 24, 2019, 04:12 AM »

The warming climate is making baby sea turtles almost all girls

Danielle Paquette
WA Post
24, 2019 at 3:09 PM EDT

A marine biologist helps a newborn sea turtle reach the sea on Cape Verde’s Boa Vista island. (Credit: Danielle Paquette)

BOA VISTA, Cape Verde — She emerged from the ocean just before midnight, clambering up the shore as her ancestors have for 200 million years.

Only stars glowed on this remote beach, where the sea turtle arrived to lay her eggs. She dodged plastic, fishing nets and oil spills to get this far. But another threat to her species lurks in the ground: sand temperatures that foster only one gender.

“One hundred percent girls,” whispered the biologist, crawling next to the pregnant reptile. “This nest will be 100 percent girls.”

As the earth gets hotter, turtle hatchlings worldwide are expected to skew dangerously female, scientists predict, making the animals an unwitting gauge for the warming climate.

On the tiny West African island nation of Cape Verde — home to a sixth of the planet’s nesting loggerheads — the disparity is stark. Eighty-four percent of youngsters are now female, researchers from Britain’s University of Exeter found in a July report.

Populations in Florida and Australia are also showing dramatic sex imbalances, sparking fears creatures that outlasted dinosaurs are plodding toward extinction.

“Males here could vanish in two or three decades,” said Adolfo Marco, a Spanish researcher who camps every summer on Boa Vista, one of Cape Verde’s 10 islands in the Atlantic. “There will be no reproduction.”

The past five years have been the hottest on record for the globe. Roughly a tenth of the planet has warmed beyond 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit),  according to a Washington Post analysis — the point at which scientists say rising temperatures can trigger irreversible damage to ecosystems. Here in Cape Verde, the warming is above average — about 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 Fahrenheit) just since 1964, based on records from the primary airport.

If the trend continues at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s lowest projection, researchers estimate that fewer than 1 percent of the country’s sea turtles will be born male by the century’s end. Higher rises could wipe them out completely.

This has raised alarm on the archipelago, which ties its economy to the roughly 30,000 sea turtles that annually swim here to nest. (Tourism accounts for 15 percent of economic growth.)

A sea turtle lays her eggs on a remote beach in the West African island nation of Cape Verde. (Credit: Danielle Paquette)

Turtle murals greet thousands of visitors each week. Turtle pottery rakes in cash. Turtle-shaped roundabouts ease traffic. Turtle signs urge four-wheelers to stay off the sand.

“Turtles are the brand of Cape Verde,” said Paulo Veiga, the country’s assistant secretary of state for the maritime economy.

The Cape Verdean government works with nonprofit organizations to protect the reptiles, tapping money from hotel taxes for beach cleanups, security to curb poachers and fences that keep predators like ghost crabs away.

Turtle guides on the islands, who lead visitors largely from Europe on overnight beach treks, are mandated to educate them about climate change.

“They see the turtles like toys,” said Manuel Delgado Rodrigues, who has arranged such tours for two decades. “We have to tell them about the problems.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Fund also supports conservation projects on the islands; it spent $53,800 on the effort in 2018.

Not everyone thinks such tactics stand a chance against boiling weather.

“Humans can do nothing about that,” said Djamilton Ramos, a Boa Vista City Council member.

Humans don’t know why the environment shapes the gender of some lizards, crocodiles and various species of sea turtles. Even slight shifts in the land can warp their reproductive fate.

Sea turtle eggs that incubate in sand below 81.86 degrees Fahrenheit produce males, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while nests in the mid-80s create a gender mix.

Anything higher than 87.8 degrees, though, is 100 percent girls.

A 2018 study on green turtles near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef found 116 female hatchlings for every male. The study found that 99 percent of hatchlings from the warmer northern beaches were female, while the share in the cooler south was much lower (69 percent).

A sea turtle returns to the sea after laying her eggs and covering them with sand to protect them from predatory crabs in Cape Verde. (Credit: Danielle Paquette)

NOAA researchers determined the gender chasm in Australia started widening after the early 1990s, when the temperature started climbing. Female turtles that hatched before that period outnumbered males by a dramatically smaller ratio — 6 to 1.

A 2015 report from San Diego also showed a shift after years of hotter nesting seasons: Sea turtles tested on the Southern California shores had gone from 65 percent to 78 percent female.

And researchers at Florida Atlantic University estimate that hatchlings on Boca Raton’s beaches these days are at least 90 percent female.

“All over the world, the sea turtle gender balance is being thrown way out of whack,” said Lucy Hawkes, the English ecologist who led the study on Boa Vista.

Tourists won’t see the effects immediately, Hawkes said, because the animals can live for 100 years and lay more than 1,000 eggs. Plus, sea turtles are polyamorous. One male can find dozens of romantic partners.

During nesting season on Boa Vista’s southeastern edge, 20 researchers and college biology students live in tents and on mattresses under a giant acacia tree. From a distance, the leaves hide any trace of human activity. Tourists who make the 90-minute, off-road drive here see only plants, sugar-cookie sand and endless ocean.

Sea turtles move in the dark, so the team from BIOS.CV, one of the island’s conservation groups, eats a spaghetti breakfast at 7:30 p.m. and works all night.

Scientists have been testing methods to cool the nests. Gently digging up eggs and moving them to shadier parts of the beach has proved to work. So do sprinkler systems and dividing offspring into smaller batches. (Eggs crammed together tend to warm each other up.)

Once replanted, the hatchlings burst from the ground some 50 days later in 1-by-1-foot enclosures, crawling in circles until someone scoops them into a crate and carries them to the shore, where they scramble into the waves.

Human guardians stand watch, ready to intervene if a crab attacks.

It all starts with tracking pregnant turtles.

On a recent September night, Marco, the camp’s senior biologist, carried a red flashlight — white distracts the reptiles — and followed stone markers to the pitch-black beach.

He was looking for mothers dragging their 100-pound shells from the sea, leaving behind flipper marks that resemble skimobile tracks.

Instinct propels them to Boa Vista each July through October. Noises and light can spook them back into the water, so researchers must tiptoe until the reptiles pick a spot. Then the contractions start, and nothing can stop nature’s plan.

“Here,” Marco said, pointing to the tracks.

He followed the lines to a sea turtle the size of a coffee table. She was frozen. Maybe asleep. Sometimes, the animals snooze after their long journeys.

Five minutes later — the signal. She slowly scooped up sand with her right flipper. Then her left.

Marco and two other researchers crouched beside her, taking her measurements. She looked healthy.

Everyone was on their bellies, watching the turtle dig deeper and deeper.

“It’s like 50 centimeters deep,” Marco whispered. “Oh, my God.”

An egg plopped down. Another. Another. They looked like shiny golf balls under the red light.

After about an hour, the mother was done. Marco’s team counted 74 eggs, slightly smaller than the average batch.

The sea turtle kicked sand over the hole and pushed away from her babies, never to see them again. The nest was about 150 feet from the water — the sand would be hot.

Marco waited for her to disappear in the darkness.

He collected the eggs into a sack that became as heavy as a bowling ball. Then he carried them behind a fence on the beach, where researchers  could ward off predators and watch their temperature.

Chris Mooney in Washington contributed to this report.

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