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« Reply #7410 on: Sep 23, 2020, 02:58 AM »

Pigs like to interact with humans just like dogs do — but they’re independent problem solvers

Pigs are intelligent and seem to exhibit behavior both similar, and different to dogs.

Mihai Andrei

Pigs were also faster than dogs in solving the task researchers handed to them, adding more weight to the intelligence of these mammals.

We’ve known for quite a while that pigs are intelligent, emotional, and cognitively complex. They love to play, they exhibit a wide range of emotions and relationships, and they’re quite good at problem-solving.

In a new study, researchers at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest (ELTE) compared the problem-solving attitudes of dogs to those of humans.

In neutral situations, both dogs and pigs look to humans for interaction. But when faced with an unsolvable problem, dogs exhibit spontaneous human-oriented behaviors, attempting to initiate communication. In other words, dogs look to humans for help when it comes to problem solving.

Meanwhile, pigs tend to be more independent thinkers. Much like wolves and other animals, pigs attempt to solve problems on their own, without the help of humans.

    “Similarly socialized wolves and cats communicate less with humans than dogs in the same problem-solving context, but maybe it is because wolves are not domesticated, and cats are not a social species. So we designed a study to compare dogs’ behavior with that of another domestic and social species, the pig,” explains Ph.D. student Paula Pérez.

To put the hypothesis to the test, they tested 10 companion miniature pigs, raised as pets (just as people raise dogs). Since the pigs were exposed to a similar environment to pet dogs, this puts them on an equal footing and eliminates the impact of the environment in which the animals grew up in.

    “We launched the Family Pig Project in 2017 at the Department of Ethology, Budapest. The animals are raised in a similar environment as family dogs, providing the basis for unique comparative investigations between the two species,” explains Attila Andics, principal investigator of the MTA-ELTE ‘Lendület’ Neuroethology of Communication Research Group.

In the study, the animals first had to solve a simple problem: a transparent plastic container containing food that they had to turn upside down to get access to the food.

Then, the problem became unsolvable, and the container was fixed in place. There were two goals: the first one was to see how easily pigs solve the problem compared to dogs. The second was to see how pigs behaved when they couldn’t solve the problems.

As it turns out, pigs were faster than dogs (although this could be attributed to their ease of turning the container).

However, when they couldn’t solve the problem, they didn’t look for external help, and instead tried to handle things on their own.

    “We used the so called ‘Unsolvable task paradigm,’ where the animal first faces a problem that he can solve, in our case an easy-to-open box with food inside. After some trials, the problem becomes unsolvable because the box is securely closed,” adds Pérez. “When the box was first in the room without food in it, pigs and dogs performed similar human-oriented behaviors,” says Linda Gerencsér, research fellow at the Research Group. “The differences appeared when we put food in the box and opening it became an exciting challenge. Pigs were faster than dogs already in solving the task and getting the reward, perhaps due to their better manipulative capacities. Then, when the task became unsolvable, dogs turned to the humans more than before. In contrast, pigs performed less human-oriented behaviors, but they were more persistent than dogs in trying to solve the task, which may reflect their predisposition to solve problems independently.”

Like all of us, pigs enjoy the beach more than they enjoy problem-solving. Image credits: Forest Simon.

This is the first study to directly compare family dogs and pigs’ problem-solving abilities, and shows just how able pigs really are. They are as smart, and a bit more independent than our best friends.

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« Reply #7411 on: Sep 24, 2020, 03:08 AM »

'They were having a real go': Scottish man recounts Orca attack

Graeme Walker tells of how the animals rammed his yacht off the west coast of Spain

Sam Jones in Madrid
Thu 24 Sep 2020 09.49 BST

A little after dawn on Tuesday morning, Graeme Walker felt a shudder move through his 15-metre (48ft) yacht as it passed off Cape Finisterre. Then the wheel locked.

Watch: https://youtu.be/wL3O4CVG3f8

His first thought was that something had gone wrong with the autohelm. But when the wheel started shifting hard to left and right, the retired chief financial officer remembered an article he’d read recently and quickly realised his boat, the Promise 3, was not to blame.

The culprits were overzealous orcas, also known as killer whales, whose rough encounters with boats off the north-west coast of Spain have prompted the maritime authorities to order smaller vessels to give the area a wide berth. But the instruction came a little late for Walker, his wife, Moira, and their friend Stephen Robinson.

“While the wheel was being ripped out of my hands, one of the orcas broke surface to get air,” he told the Guardian.

“We were conscious of the fact that there were two whales and then a third one joined, and it was huge. The head of the third one was massive. They were having a real go at the rudder. You couldn’t hold the wheel; you’d have broken your arm because the wheel was spinning from one lock to the other.”

While the whales passed underneath the yacht, which was spinning to port and then to starboard, Walker called the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Finisterre.

They told him to stop the boat and sit tight, adding that the orcas would probably lose interest after 10 minutes or so.

The estimate proved optimistic and the trio, who were sailing home to the Clyde in Scotland from Almería in south-west Spain, ended up sitting tight for 45 minutes, their lifejackets on and their grab-bags at the ready.

“The MRCC called us back after 15 minutes and said, ‘Are things OK?’. We said, ‘It’s still going on’, which they said was really unusual.”

Eventually, the orcas swam off, but those aboard the Promise 3 decided to give it half an hour before getting on their way again. Despite the encounter, the yacht’s steering was still working and Walker set sail “gingerly, in light winds”.

They sailed at between one and three knots for an hour before turning on the engine and heading for the port of La Coruña, which they eventually reached 10 hours later.

The incident was one of a series of encounters between orcas and boats that has baffled marine biologists and led Spain’s transport ministry to order some vessels out of the area over the next week.

On the same day in late August, a Spanish naval yacht surrendered part of its rudder to a pair of orcas, while a French boat was left with marks on its hull. Two weeks later, an 11-metre yacht on its way to the UK lost steering and had to be towed into port following another orca-related incident.

“The interactions with the orcas have, for the most part, affected medium-sized boats of 15 metres or less,” the transport ministry said on Tuesday as it banned boats of that size from sailing close to the coast between Cape Prioriño Grande and Estaca de Bares point in Galicia.

“All the encounters have taken place between two and eight nautical miles from the coast and while the boats were travelling at between five and nine knots.”

The statement said boats affected by the order could sail perpendicular to the no-go area to reach port or head out into open water. The decision, it added, had been taken “to guarantee the safety of people and the orcas themselves”.

Orcas are usually spotted off Galicia each September as they make their way up from the Gulf of Cádiz and follow tuna into the Bay of Biscay, but experts say the incidents seen over the past few weeks are very rare.

Bruno Díaz, a biologist at the local Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute, said orcas were attracted to small yachts because of their size, and that the animals in question – probably “immature teenage” orcas – had probably just got a bit carried away.

“We’re not their natural prey,” he told the Associated Press. “They’re having fun – and maybe these orcas have fun causing damage.”

Walker is waiting for the Promise 3 to be lifted out of the water so that he can get a proper idea of the damage done by the fun-loving orcas. But he can already see that there’s “a big chunk missing out of the bottom of the rudder”.

Meanwhile, the Walkers and Robinson are getting over the shock of the encounter – “we had a few drinks” – and are keen to get home.

“The boat weighs about 12 tonnes but these animals were chucking the thing around like it was just something else,” said Graeme Walker. “It wasn’t pleasant.”

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« Reply #7412 on: Sep 24, 2020, 03:10 AM »

Scientists take temperatures of butterflies to uncover climate threat

Study finds some species are less able to control their body heat and are more vulnerable

Patrick Barkham
Thu 24 Sep 2020 05.01 BST

Catching nearly 4,000 wild butterflies with handheld nets and taking the temperature of each tiny insect must rank among the more arduous of scientific endeavours.

However, researchers have discovered significant differences in the ability of British butterflies to maintain a suitable temperature, raising fears that global heating will threaten the populations of some species.

Butterflies are ectotherms – unable to generate their own body heat – and require warm temperatures to fly. However, extreme temperatures can pose problems, particularly for those butterflies that must find shady habitats to regulate their body temperature.

The study shows that larger, paler butterflies, such as the large white and brimstone, are best able to protect themselves from extreme temperatures, angling their reflective wings in relation to the sun to direct heat away from or on to their bodies.

Darker, large species, such as the peacock and red admiral, have greater difficulty controlling their body temperature, but even they are better than “thermal specialists”, which rely on finding a spot at a specific temperature in a landscape – a “microclimate” – to control their body temperature.

The species that depend on microclimate, such as the small copper and the brown argus, have suffered larger population declines over the past 40 years than species that regulate their temperature via their colour or by angling their wings.

“Butterfly species that aren’t very good at controlling their temperature with small behavioural changes, but rely on choosing a microhabitat at the right temperature, are likely to suffer the most from climate change and habitat loss,” said Dr Andrew Bladon, of the University of Cambridge, and lead author of the study.

“We need to make landscapes more diverse to help conserve many of our butterfly species. Even within a garden lawn, patches of grass can be left to grow longer – these areas will provide cooler, shady places for many species of butterfly. In nature reserves, some areas could be grazed or cut and others left standing. We also need to protect features that break up the monotony of farm landscapes, like hedgerows, ditches, and patches of woodland.”

After being caught in butterfly nets on British nature reserves, the 29 different species of butterflies’ temperatures were taken with a fine probe. The surrounding temperature of the butterfly’s perch, or air temperature, was also taken, which indicated the degree to which butterflies were seeking specific locations to regulate their body temperature.

The study, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, found that butterflies were either “thermal generalists” or “thermal specialists”, and this different approach to regulating temperature did not always correspond to existing scientific categorisations. Butterflies are commonly viewed by conservationists as “habitat generalists” or “specialists” with the latter requiring targeted conservation work to preserve specific habitat, such as chalk grassland.

“As we plan conservation measures to address the effects of climate change, it will be important to understand not only the habitat requirements of different butterfly species, but also their temperature requirements,” said Dr Ed Turner, of the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, who led the work. “With this new understanding of butterflies, we should be able to better manage habitats and landscapes to protect them, and in doing so we’re probably also protecting other insects too.”

Landscapes with a structural diversity of heights and different features such as scrubland and grassland provide a greater range of temperatures than flat, monotonous ones, and can help create microclimates required by butterflies to regulate their temperature.

While global heating is broadly good news for warmth-loving butterflies, allowing many British species to expand their range northwards, the ranges of species adapted for cooler environments – such as the mountain ringlet – are shrinking. Conservationists fear that in a landscape where high-quality, diverse wild habitat is fragmented, butterflies will not easily be able to find new temperature-appropriate habitat.

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« Reply #7413 on: Sep 24, 2020, 03:12 AM »

Forensic method could help the pangolin and bring poachers to justice

Researchers are using gelatin to get the fingerprints of poachers.

Fermin Koop

The one good thing about the coronavirus pandemic? It might actually save the pangolins.
Examples of fingerprints lifted from pangolin scales

As China finally starts to take the protection of pangolins seriously, researchers have discovered a new forensic method that could disrupt poachers and traffickers and help them bring them into justice.

A group of wildlife forensic experts from the University of Portsmouth have discovered a way to lift fingerprints from pangolin scales by using gelatin, a common way that forensic scientists pick up prints from surfaces. The lift can be easily applied, removed and scanned and afterward the fingermarks can be graded for ridge detail.

The first trial using this method was done in 2018 and since then it has been further developed with training and workshops in Asia and Africa. Wildlife personnel worked with the researchers to improve their capability in using the methods that are most suitable in their areas and circumstances.

    “We found that wildlife crime officers across Africa and Asia have extensive expertise and knowledge in relation to the wildlife, the crimes committed and the behavior of the traffickers, but they had little experience of forensic methods and practice,” said in a statement Brian Chappell, co-author of the study.

Gelatin is essentially a soft material that picks up almost anything left on a surface. That’s why it has been used in forensics science for over a century. By pressing a sheet of gelatin onto the surface, the gel adheres to the surface and picks up fingerprint impressions.

That’s true whether the surface is a table, a glass, or a pangolin scale. The gel also picks up other substances apart from fingerprints, such as soil and pollen, which could give scientists more information into where the pangolins are being traded. That’s why using gel is better than dusting for fingerprints, despite what you may see on popular tv shows.

    Dr Paul Smith, co-author of the study, said in a statement: “The low-tack adhesive gelatine lifters have been used in crime scene and forensic practice for over 100 years, but we adapted bespoke packs and lifted evidence successfully off pangolin scales. This technique was easy to use, effective and suitable for practice.”

Beyond pangolin scales, the method could even be used for other smooth surfaces, like ivory tusks, according to the researchers. At the same time, using gelatin could also help keep people safe when they are tracking down poachers. It’s low-tech, easy to use, and allows wildlife rangers to quickly get in and out of a scene.

That’s important because illegal wildlife trade is a dangerous activity, especially for those who are trying to stop it. A 2018 study found that more than 100 wildlife rangers died in the line of work in just one year. Of those deaths, 48 people were murdered while working.

The study was published in the journal Forensic Science International.

Pangolins under challenge

Pangolins are a highly endangered species as they are valued for their meat and scales.. They are often considered the most endangered species in the world.

The humble pangolin is a scale-covered insectivore, highly valued in Asia and some parts of Africa for its scales and meat. The pangolin’s main defense strategy is to curl up into a ball and use its scales for protection — which renders it completely powerless against poachers. There are eight different pangolin species found in Asia and Africa.

Pangolin scales are made of keratin and their use is promoted by traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed that they improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation, although the scientific evidence is lacking. Last year alone, more than 130 tons of pangolin related products were seized by the government, which represents up to 400,000 animals — and that’s just what was captured.

Pangolins have been in the spotlight since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as studies have suggested they may have been the intermediate host that transmitted the virus to humans. Nevertheless, no positive identification was obtained yet, with experts suggesting a 100% identification will be difficult.

The latest edition of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, a government compendium of Chinese and Western medicine, doesn’t include pangolin scales on its list of approved ingredients anymore. The decision was explained by the government due to “wild resources exhaustion.”

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« Reply #7414 on: Sep 24, 2020, 03:14 AM »

It’s not just humans. Native bees may also be facing their own pandemic

Research has been limited thus far and the situation could be worse.

Fermin Koop

It seems that bees, and not just humans, are forced to deal with a pandemic of their own. A new study has found that a fungal pathogen known as Nosema has been infecting bees around the world for the past two decades. The infection has been documented across Europe, Canada, and even in Kenya.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

The pathogen has almost exclusively affected the European honeybee, a well-known commercial pollinator. Nothing is known yet about the impact on native and solitary bees, which represent most of the 20,000 bee species that can be found on the planet, the researchers argued.

    “More work needs to be done to understand Nosema infections in native bee species and the potential consequences to native ecosystems, if native bees suffer a similar fate as honeybees when infected,” said Arthur Grupe II, lead author and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Native bees are important as pollinators in their local ecosystems and also contribute to the pollination of agricultural crops. One out of every three pieces of food we eat is owed to a pollinator, according to Grupe. But bee populations are being challenged by the colony collapse disorder, a combination of pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and pesticides.

Nosema is part of those threats. It’s a fungal pathogen that survives by infecting the stomachs of the bees, where it germinates. While it passes through the digestive tract, the pathogen can infect other cells in the bee’s body, sickening the bee and contaminating flowers, pollen, and hives along the way. It can even lower the sperm count of bumblebees, reducing their reproduction ability.

The strains of Nosema known as Nosema apis, Nosema ceranae, and Nosema bombi are the most common ones to cause infections in bees. There are a few treatments available, such as plant extracts, as well as breeding methods for resistance and microbial supplements. But most research in native bee populations has been limited.

That’s why it’s important to better understand how these Nosema strains travel throughout the globe and affect native and solitary bees, which are the majority of all bee species, the researchers argue. The strains could lead to more bee pandemics and wider problems with bee colonies.

For example, some flowers can only be pollinated by a bee or insect with the right size and weight. If that specific bee goes extinct, problems could be severe. Flowers are also where solitary bees meet their mates. If those flowers die off, bees wouldn’t have a place to find their reproductive partners.

Pathogen spillover also represents a major threat to native bees. This happens when infected bees from commercial hives leave the fungus on flowers and native bees pick it up. These native bees, having never encountered this pathogen before, could be much more susceptible to its negative effects.

The same thing could happen the other way around. If a new, more aggressive strain of Nosema mutates in native bees, it could find its way back into commercial honeybee populations, which wouldn’t be able to resist that particular version of the pathogen.

    “We know so little about the biology of what’s happening,” said in a statement Alisha Quandt, co-author and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “That’s one of the reasons why we think it’s so important for people to start doing this kind of surveillance work, going out there and sampling more native bees.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS.

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« Reply #7415 on: Sep 25, 2020, 03:15 AM »

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet review – stark climate emergency warning

4 / 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars.

This terrifying documentary looks back over the 93-year-old’s career – but at its heart is a short, sharp, shocking lesson

Cath Clarke
Fri 25 Sep 2020 08.00 BST

‘I am David Attenborough and I’m 93. This is my witness statement.” There is a tremendously moving sense of finality about Attenborough’s terrifying new documentary on the climate emergency. It is being marketed as a retrospective, a look back at his life and 60-years-plus career. But make no mistake about its true agenda: Attenborough is here to deliver a stark warning that time is ticking for the planet. It is a personal film – and political, too. There is emotion and urgency in that familiar soothing voice. At one point he rubs his eyes, reddened and damp.

You could rename it The Dying Planet, a short, sharp, shocking 80-minute lesson on global heating. There is an obligatory dramatisation of Attenborough as a boy in short trousers collecting fossils. And, of course, clips from the BBC of him as a hearty young man rolling around with baby gorillas in Rwanda. What he didn’t know then, he says mournfully, was how much damage we were inflicting on the planet. “The forests and seas were already emptying.”

Click for the trailer: https://youtu.be/ad7mGfM-6kg

The statistics on the screen are brutal. The “before” and “after” footage is even worse. Before: orangutans swinging through the rainforest in Borneo. After: no forest, a single orangutan attempting to clamber up a branchless tree trunk.

But, just when you think the film is bludgeoning you with bleakness, Attenborough lets the light in. His message in the final 30 minutes is that it’s not too late if we act now. Halt the growth in the world’s population. Create no-fishing zones. Stop eating meat. It’s not about saving the planet, it’s about saving ourselves.

It occurred to me afterwards: what happens when Attenborough is no longer around to coax us out from behind the sofa? He is a one-man Extinction Rebellion.

• David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is in cinemas from 28 September, and on Netflix on 4 October.

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« Reply #7416 on: Sep 25, 2020, 03:17 AM »

Hawk or dove? Birdwatching world's feathers ruffled over Taiwan independence

Plea to remember ‘birds do not know borders’ amid spat between Taiwan’s largest bird conservation group and UK-based BirdLife International

Helen Davidson
Fri 25 Sep 2020 05.38 BST

Birdwatchers around the world may have to decide whether they are hawks or doves when it comes to the thorny issue of Taiwan independence.

Long-running geopolitical tensions spilled into the conservation world this month after UK-based NGO BirdLife International severed ties with a Taiwanese group, after it refused to sign a declaration it would not advocate for independence – something the apolitical group maintains it never does anyway.

In response, Taiwan’s group announced on Friday it was changing its name from Chinese Wild Bird Federation (CWBF) to Taiwan Wild Bird Federation (TWBF) and issued a plea to remember that “birds do not know borders”.

“We are conservationists, not political actors. In fact, it was BirdLife who asked us to take a political stance by insisting we sign an overtly political declaration and by describing us as a ‘risk’, without ever clearly defining what that risk was,” CWBF said.

With no resolution and the conservation community still in a flap, TWBF also took the drastic step of releasing internal correspondence with BirdLife to support its claims.

The saga came to light earlier this month, when BirdLife International revoked the partner status of CWBF, Taiwan’s largest bird conservation organisation, for refusing to sign documents promising not to promote Taiwanese independence, and to remove from its name and stationery references to “Republic of China” – the official title of Taiwan.

Although the Chinese Communist party has never governed Taiwan, it maintains Taiwan is a part of China and has never ruled out taking it by force. Beijing has put increasing pressure not just on the island, but on any country or organisation – no matter how small – which appeared to support Taiwanese sovereignty.

Letters dating back to December 2019 and published on Friday show BirdLife insisting CWBF must change its name and sign the pledge, as BirdLife was committed to “United Nations protocols on countries and territories”. BirdLife’s chief executive said that by associating with CWBF it was “effectively and implicitly contravening the UN position by aligning itself to a political position that does not support our charitable purposes”.

CWBF said it had been “staunchly apolitical” as a Birdlife International partner, and since 1996 had changed its name three times and stepped back from international events to accommodate Birdlife’s concerns. It said conservation was “beyond politics”, and suggested their time was better spent protecting the black-faced spoonbill.

Unmoved, Birdlife reiterated its demands with deadlines, and declared it wouldn’t participate or have its brand associated with any even organised or funded by the Taiwanese government.

“We are saddened that it has become necessary to release this correspondence,” CWBF spokesman Scott Pursner told the Guardian.

“However, it was the only way to address the false allegations raised as the reason behind our removal. The letters show that we always negotiated in good faith, even offering to discuss the name change, but that wasn’t enough.”

Birdlife International has been contacted for comment.

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« Reply #7417 on: Sep 25, 2020, 03:20 AM »

Tragedy in Tasmania: what are pilot whales, and why do they strand themselves?

Pilot whales – actually large dolphins – are vulnerable because of their close bonds and way of communicating

Graham Readfearn
25 Sep 2020 23.48 BST

About 380 pilot whales have died in Tasmania in one of the biggest mass strandings of the marine mammals on record.

Rescuers saved at least 70 of about 470 animals that got stuck on sandbanks and beaches mostly inside Macquarie Harbour on the state’s remote western coast.

But as a rescue mission turns to retrieving and carting hundreds of dead mammals into the open ocean, some weighing more than a tonne, many are asking how such a tragedy could unfold.
What are pilot whales, and are they really whales?

Long-finned pilot whales are known for stranding in mass groups. But these “whales” are misnamed.

“The name doesn’t fit them – they’re actually a large dolphin,” says Dr Emma Betty, of the Cetacean Ecology Research Group at Massey University in New Zealand.

“All their life history and evolution makes them more related to a bottlenose dolphin than to a humpback whale.”

Betty is an expert on the life history of long-finned pilot whales and stranding events. Much of what is known about the species, she says, comes from stranding events.

Pilot whales spend almost all of their time in the deep ocean, making them hard to study.

Long-finned pilot whales feed on squid and fish below 200m, but can dive to 1,000m and hold their breath for half an hour.

Betty says they spend time in pods of 20 or 30, but sometimes form temporary “super pods” of up to 1,000 individuals – a behaviour she says is probably to help them feed en masse or to avoid inter-breeding.

David Hocking, a marine mammal scientist at Monash University, says these mammals push air through their nasal cavity and then through a bulge on their skull – known as a melon – that allows them to focus their clicks.

“It means they can hunt in the dark and catch fast-moving fish and squid,” he says.

Evidence suggests female pilot whales can live to 40 years or more – about 10 years longer than males. They form tight-knit groups, with some individuals staying in the same pod for life.

Pods are usually led by dominant females and they can use their echolocation to communicate. They can alert the group to a food source, potential danger, or that one of them is in distress.

But it is these traits – the close bond and the ability to communicate with echolocation – that can be their undoing if they find themselves too close to shore.

Why would so many get stuck in that spot?

Macquarie Harbour is a known hotspot for pilot whale strandings, which frequently occur in shallow, sloping and sandy areas.

Betty says: “What continues to be the strongest factor is the topography that forms natural whale traps. The whales are unfamiliar with this topography and also probably how the water rushes in and out with tides.

“They have trouble with the echolocation. Because of the shallow slope they don’t get a clear picture. They’re failing to detect the proximity of the shore until it’s too late, whereas coastal species don’t have that problem.”

Kris Carlyon, a wildlife biologist with the Tasmanian government’s marine conservation program, has said the pod may have come close to the shore to feed, although the exact reason may never be known.

Once the pod was close to shore, Betty says, it’s likely they became disorientated. If a few took a turn into the harbour, the rest may have followed.

If some of those whales got stuck on a sandbank they could have sent out a distress call, with more and more of the pod following in.

Was the Tasmania stranding unusual?

Pilot whales are the most susceptible of any of the cetaceans – that’s whales, dolphins and porpoises – to mass strandings.

The five largest stranding events in Tasmania have all involved pilot whales. Australia’s previous biggest stranding event also involved pilot whales – 320 of them got stuck in Western Australia in 1996.

There is no global database of cetacean strandings, but Betty says the 470 at Macquarie Harbour may be the third largest on record.

Still considered to be the biggest was a 1918 stranding of about 1,000 pilot whales at Chatham Islands in New Zealand.

In 2017, about 600 long-finned pilot whales stranded in Golden Bay on New Zealand’s South Island.
Could there have been a human cause?

There is no evidence the Macquarie Harbour stranding was anything more than anatural tragedy.

While there is evidence that seismic testing and sonar can interfere with some marine mammals, Betty says the location and the similarity to past events all point to a natural phenomenon.

The 1918 stranding off New Zealand occurred before sonar or seismic exploration was being used.
What is it like to witness a whale stranding?

Betty has attended several mass pilot whale strandings and, while they’re widely accepted to be natural events, she says they are still a tragedy.

“They are horrible things to have to deal with, but we do know that if you can refloat them, then there’s a chance of success. If they’re healthy, there’s a chance to save them.”

She says some of the “vocalising” that rescuers hear will include distress calls, or mothers calling out for their calves.

This also makes saving the mammals a challenge.

On the first day of the Macquarie Harbour rescue, at least two whales that were led into the open ocean returned to their stricken pod mates – such is the strength of the instinct to be together.

Betty says: “They are communicating as a group. They do have an ability to communicate different things.”

There is no reliable estimate of how many pilot whales there are in the ocean or if their numbers are going up or down.

“We don’t know how much of an impact this [mass stranding] could have on the population,” Betty says.

“We don’t know the impacts of losing numbers in large events like this.”

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« Reply #7418 on: Sep 25, 2020, 03:22 AM »

'Close to 100% accuracy': Helsinki airport uses sniffer dogs to detect Covid

Researchers running Helsinki pilot scheme say dogs can identify virus in seconds
Jon Henley Europe correspondent
25 Sep 2020 11.09 BST

Four Covid-19 sniffer dogs have begun work at Helsinki airport in a state-funded pilot scheme that Finnish researchers hope will provide a cheap, fast and effective alternative method of testing people for the virus.

A dog is capable of detecting the presence of the coronavirus within 10 seconds and the entire process takes less than a minute to complete, according to Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is overseeing the trial.

“It’s very promising,” said Hielm-Björkman. “If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places” such as hospitals, care homes and at sporting and cultural events.

After collecting their luggage, arriving international passengers are asked to dab their skin with a wipe. In a separate booth, the beaker containing the wipe is then placed next to others containing different control scents – and the dog starts sniffing.

If it indicates it has detected the virus – usually by yelping, pawing or lying down – the passenger is advised to take a free standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, using a nasal swab, to verify the dog’s verdict.

In the university’s preliminary tests, dogs – which have been successfully used to detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes – were able to identify the virus with nearly 100% accuracy, even days before before a patient developed symptoms.

Scientists are not yet sure what exactly it is that the dogs sniff when they detect the virus. A French study published in June concluded that there was “very high evidence” that the sweat odour of Covid-positive people was different to that of those who did not have the virus, and that dogs could detect that difference.

Dogs are also able to identify Covid-19 from a much smaller molecular sample than PCR tests, Helsinki airport said, needing only 10-100 molecules to detect the presence of the virus compared with the 18m needed by laboratory equipment.

Authorities in Vantaa, the city where Helsinki’s international airport is located, said the pilot programme, which is due to last four months, was costing €300,000 (£274,000) , which it said was significantly lower than for laboratory-based testing methods.

Watch: https://youtu.be/63lDeAkyOrM

Although Covid-19 is known to infect mink and cats, dogs do not have the receptors necessary for the virus to readily gain a foothold and do not appear to be easily infected, according to Hielm-Björkman. There is no evidence that they can transmit the virus to people or other animals.

A Finnish organisation that specialises in training animals in scent detection, Wise Nose, is training a total of 16 dogs for the project, 10 of which are eventually expected to be able to work at the airport. Working in shifts of two, four of them – ET, Kossi, Miina and Valo – started on Wednesday.

Researchers in countries including Australia, France, Germany and Britain are reportedly working on similar projects but Finland is the first country in Europe to put dogs to work sniffing out the coronavirus. A similar trial started at Dubai international airport last month.

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« Reply #7419 on: Sep 26, 2020, 03:40 AM »

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Eric Hilaire
26Sep 2020 19.04 BST

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2020/sep/18/the-week-in-wildlife-in-pictures

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« Reply #7420 on: Sep 26, 2020, 03:41 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


Symbolically Adopt a Polar Bear

Polar bears depend on sea ice to survive. But as temperatures rise, their sea ice melts more every year. They need our help now.

Will you help us protect polar bears and vulnerable wildlife and wild places around the world? Symbolically adopt a polar bear today.

Monthly gifts provide WWF with the dependable stream of support we so critically need for our global conservation efforts.

When you donate at least $8 a month, you can receive a symbolic polar bear adoption kit as our way of saying thank you.



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 #7421 on: Sep 28, 2020, 02:30 AM »

Native Americans honor Lolita the orca 50 years after capture: 'She was taken'

For years, the nation has tried to bring Lolita, also known as Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, back to her family from the Miami Seaquarium

Cara McKenna
28 Sep 2020 10.15 BST

On the 50th anniversary of an orca’s captivity, members of the Lummi Nation traveled to Florida to hold ceremony outside the Miami aquarium where the whale is being kept.

The southern resident orca, whom the Washington state-based nation calls Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, was taken from waters off Penn Cove in Lummi territory when she was four years old.

The whale arrived at the Miami Seaquarium on 24 September 1970, where she is known as Lolita. The orca is now 54 – out-surviving a dozen other southern residents that were captured at the same time as she was.

According to Orca Network, five southern residents died during the capture five decades ago, while seven were sold to marine parks around the world, all of which died in captivity except Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut.

Raynell Morris (Squil-le-he-le) and Ellie Kinley (Tah-Mahs) held ceremonies for Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We felt it was critical … to give her prayer, love and support, to let her know she is not forgotten,” Morris said Thursday.

On Wednesday, Morris and Kinley – along with Samuel Tommie of the Seminole Tribe of Florida – boated to waters in view of the Miami Seaquarium.

After laying a wreath of cedar brought from the Pacific Northwest into the ocean, Morris, Kinley and Tommie played a flute song and drummed for Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, mournfully calling her name across the water in hopes that the sound would carry to her.

“We promised when you hear a drum, it’s your heartbeat, it’s our heartbeat,” Morris called.

“You know you’re not alone, we love you, your people love you …We’ll bring you home.”

Kinley has previously compared the capture of Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut to the federal government’s efforts to assimilate Native American children in church-run boarding schools.

“She was taken from her family and her culture when she was just a child, like so many of our children were taken from us and placed in Indian boarding schools,” she said in July.

In Lummi’s language, the word for killer whale “qwe’lhol’mechen,” means “our relatives who live under the sea.”

For years, the nation has been trying to bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut back to the Salish Sea to gradually rehabilitate her and introduce her back into her family pod.

In captivity, Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut still sings a whale song specific to the her whale family, known as the L-pod, according to Lummi, and her mother is still alive in the wild.

Representatives from the nation have been working with experts on a comprehensive “retirement plan” for the orca that involves transporting her via flatbed truck to a netted-off cove where the L-pod often travels.

Representatives from the Miami Seaquarium are against that plan, saying at 54-years-old, the orca is better off staying in captivity.

Miami Seaquarium curator Chris Plante said in a written statementthat the whale’s longevity is a testament to the “excellent care” she receives daily from animal training and veterinary care staff over five decades.

“She is a remarkable animal and we are devoted to her,” Plante said.

“Instead of focusing on a perilous move that could endanger the life of Lolita, a 54-year-old orca, the attention of those concerned should be on the plight of the critically endangered orcas currently residing in Puget Sound.”

Recently, Lummi has held ceremonial feedings for endangered southern residents in their territory, which have been struggling to find chinook salmon to fit their particular diets.

However, the nation also continues to focus on Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut in particular.

Morris and Kinley have recently acquired legal representation from the Earth Law Centre as they seek to sue the Miami Seaquarium.

Earth Law Centre executive director Grant Wilson said the Miami Seaquarium’s failure to return the orca to the Salish Sea violates Lummi’s Indigenous rights for their “sacred family member”.

“This is a tragic story that has lasted 50 long, grueling years,” Wilson said. “But there are still a couple of chapters left.”

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« Reply #7422 on: Sep 28, 2020, 02:31 AM »

Grouse moors under fire after golden eagle tag found in Scottish river

Investigators say discovery of satellite tag wrapped in lead sheeting is a breakthrough after spate of bird disappearances

Severin Carrell Scotland editor
26 Sep 2020 13.40 BST

The satellite tag from a golden eagle which vanished in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor four years ago has been found in a river, wrapped in lead sheeting.

The tag was recovered earlier this year from the River Braan in Perthshire in what wildlife crime investigators believe is a breakthrough in their attempts to detect and combat bird of prey persecution.

Scores of golden eagles, sea eagles and hen harriers which had been tagged as part of projects to rebuild their populations to natural levels have gone missing in mysterious circumstances across the UK, most frequently on grouse moors.

Their bodies are rarely recovered and tags have suddenly stopped transmitting without warning. In one case, the tag on a golden eagle which disappeared in the Pentlands near Edinburgh stopped transmitting for several days before briefly coming to life again out in the North Sea.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the latest discovery, in an area which has become infamous for bird of prey persecution, strengthened their demands for grouse moors in Scotland to be regulated.

Scottish ministers are due to set out their plans for licensing grouse moors later this year following recommendations from independent review overseen by Prof Alan Werritty, in a further effort to police the industry.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland’s head of species and land management, said he found this incident “doubly distressing” since he had personally fitted the tag recovered from the Braan to the missing eagle in 2014.

“It has long been suspected that tags are routinely destroyed by wildlife criminals in a deliberate attempt to conceal evidence,” he said. “More disappearances of tagged birds this year, as well as shooting and poisoning cases, destroy any pretence the grouse shooting industry is able to self-regulate, even during a national pandemic.

“It is abundantly clear the only way to stop this culturally ingrained and organised criminality against Scotland’s protected raptors is through robust, and immediate, regulation.”

RSPB Scotland said it had recorded 24 persecution incidents around Strathbraan since 2000 involving poisoned red kites, trapped buzzards and other tagged hen harriers, and the disappearance of golden eagles.

Last year the naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham publicised the disappearance of two satellite tagged golden eagles within hours of each other on Auchnafree estate in April 2019. There is no suggestion the estate was involved in either of those incidents.

RSPB Scotland said the tag found in the Braan has been forensically examined by Police Scotland. Ian Thomson, the charity’s chief wildlife crime investigator, said they believed the lead bundle had been thrown off into Rumbling Bridge Falls, a beauty spot near Dunkeld, into the deep gorge below.

They suspect it was then washed downstream when the river was in spate and was spotted by a walker in May when the river’s water levels were unusually low following a long dry spell.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said the RSPB had no evidence the person who threw the tag in the river was responsible for killing the eagle, or that lead wrapping had been used in this way before.

“Satellite tags have become heavily weaponised by political campaigners. They elicit high levels of publicity and a person finding one on their land would not want it around, given the scrutiny they would come under,” a spokesman said. “We hope [the police] find the truth of what has happened, for everyone’s sake.”

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« Reply #7423 on: Sep 28, 2020, 02:34 AM »

'Sliding towards extinction': koala may be given endangered listing as numbers plummet

The species is among 28 animals being assessed for potential upgrade of their threat status, federal government says

Lisa Cox
28 Sep 2020 10.20 BST

The koala is being considered for official listing as endangered after the summer’s bushfire disaster and ongoing habitat destruction on the east coast forced the government to reconsider its threat status.

The iconic species, which is currently listed as vulnerable under national environment laws, is among 28 animals that could have their threat status upgraded, the federal environment minister, Sussan Ley, said on Friday.

The greater glider, which had 30% of its habitat range affected by the bushfire crisis, is also being assessed to determine whether it should move from vulnerable to endangered, while several frog and fish species, including the Pugh’s frog and the Blue Mountains perch, are being considered for critically endangered listings.

Several Kangaroo Island species, including the Kangaroo Island crimson rosella and Kangaroo Island white-eared honeyeater, are among birds being assessed for an endangered listing.

Ley has asked the threatened species scientific committee to complete its assessments by October next year.

The koala assessment will apply to the combined populations of New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT, where more than 10% of the population was affected by bushfire. Koalas on the east coast are also under multiple other pressures due to continued habitat destruction, drought and disease.

Environmental groups, which nominated the species for an endangered listing, said already severe populations declines had been made worse by the 2019-20 bushfire disaster.

“We welcome prioritisation for the koala but also hope the process can be sped up and the koala listed as endangered before October 2021,” said Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International.

Josey Sharrad, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said koalas on Australia’s east coast were “sliding towards extinction” and immediate action was needed to bring the species back from the brink.

A recent NSW parliamentary inquiry found koalas would be extinct in the state by 2050 without urgent intervention to protect habitat and help the species recover.

Ley said on Friday that because of the ongoing effects of the bushfires, the government would introduce additional nomination processes for the listing of threatened species over the next two years on top of the annual nomination process.

The 28 species included on the finalised priority assessment list for formal assessment in the 2020 period include two reptiles, four frogs, seven fish, six mammals and 12 birds, bringing the total number of species currently being assessed to 108.

After a species makes the priority list, it is assessed by the scientific committee, which then makes a recommendation to the minister regarding its threat status.

“This process is critical in ensuring threatened species are given strategic protection, are eligible for targeted funding and that awareness is raised about the issues impacting them,” Ley said.

A recent interim report from a review of Australia’s conservation laws found governments had failed to protect Australia’s unique wildlife and the environment was in unsustainable decline.

The government currently has a bill before the parliament to devolve decision-making powers under national environmental laws to the states.

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« Reply #7424 on: Sep 28, 2020, 02:37 AM »

Tasmania rescuers guide another pilot whale to freedom bringing survivor tally to 110

About 200 of 360 carcasses have been towed out of the harbour, but hope remains that more survivors will be found

Australian Associated Press

Almost a week after the worst mass stranding on record in Australia, rescuers on Tasmania’s rugged west coast have guided another pilot whale to freedom.

The mammal was set free from Macquarie Harbour on Sunday, bringing the total number of those saved to 110.

Crews were swiftly working to dispose of some 360 carcasses at sea after the pod of 470 got into trouble early last week.

They said they would also look for remaining survivors and have not ruled out finding more pilot whales alive.

“We think there may be a few still popping around that we’ve missed that aren’t fully beached but are in distress,” incident controller Robert Buck said.

About 200 carcasses were towed by several boats out of the harbour on Sunday, with authorities hopeful of removing the remainder before Wednesday, when bad weather is due to set in.

“Working on the west coast is extremely weather dependent, we’ve got the wildest ocean in the world at our front door. We’ve got to work within those constraints,” Buck said.

CSIRO modelling has been used to determine the best spot to dump the whales, a stretch of between five and 10 nautical miles, west of Cape Sorell.

Tragedy in Tasmania: what are pilot whales, and why do they strand themselves?..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/25/tragedy-in-tasmania-what-are-pilot-whales-and-why-do-they-strand-themselves

Buck warned that some carcasses may drift back to beaches in the area.

He said there had been one shark sighting during the protracted rescue, but no unusual activity.

Some 270 long-finned pilot whales were discovered stranded on sandbars on Monday morning and another 200 were found dead further inside the harbour two days later.

The stranding surpasses a beaching event in 1996 involving about 320 pilot whales in Western Australia.

Buck praised rescuers for their tireless work in icy waters and rough weather.

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