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« Reply #1620 on: Today at 05:03 AM »

New York judge says chimpanzees may have legal rights someday, but not now

Judge throws out Nonhuman Rights Project’s attempt to have two chimps released from research at a university, saying she is bound by a previous decision

Reuters in Albany, New York
Thursday 30 July 2015 18.06 BST

Claims that intelligent animals should have limited legal rights may someday succeed, a Manhattan judge said on Thursday, but she denied an animal rights group’s bid to get two chimpanzees used in research at a state university released to a sanctuary.

“The similarities between chimpanzees and humans inspire the empathy felt for a beloved pet,” New York state supreme court justice Barbara Jaffe wrote. “Courts, however, are slow to embrace change.”

Chimpanzee representatives argue for animals' rights in New York court...Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/27/chimpanzee-animals-rights-new-york-court

Jaffe threw out the Nonhuman Rights Project’s attempt to have the chimps, Hercules and Leo, relocated to Florida, saying she was bound by a decision from a state appeals court that dismissed a similar case by the group.

It claimed that because chimpanzees are highly intelligent, autonomous animals, they have a right not to be imprisoned against their will.

Led by its founder, Boston attorney Steven Wise, the group is using a type of legal challenge known as a writ of habeas corpus typically brought by prison inmates or, less often, in child custody cases.

Jaffe said that because no court had ever extended the right against unlawful imprisonment to animals, she could not go against the courts that dismissed the Nonhuman Rights Project’s other cases.

Wise, in an interview, said he would appeal against the decision, and that he viewed the ruling as a partial victory.

“Jaffe agrees that the issue is not one of biology and you don’t have to be a human being to be a ‘person,’” he said.

Chimpanzees granted petition to hear 'legal persons' status in court...Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/21/chimpanzees-granted-legal-persons-status-unlawful-imprisonment

Hercules and Leo are used in physiological research at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The university did not immediately have comment on the decision.

The group also brought court cases on behalf of chimpanzees named Tommy and Kiko, who live in upstate New York with private owners.

The Nonhuman Rights Project has asked the state’s highest court to hear the two cases after they were dismissed by mid-level appeals courts over the last year.


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« Reply #1621 on: Today at 05:05 AM »

Shooting industry must stop putting strain on countryside, says RSPB chief

Among other practices, 50m game birds released annually for shooting negatively impact existing wildlife and ecology, Dr Mike Clarke tells landowners

Caroline Davies
Friday 31 July 2015 00.01 BST
Guardian

More than 50 million game birds a year are being released for shooting, putting increasing strain on native wild birds and the ecology of the UK’s countryside, landowners will be warned on Friday.

As management of driven grouse moors intensifies, the shooting industry must take responsibility for the impact their industry has on biodiversity and the natural environment, RSPB chief executive Dr Mike Clarke will say.

In a speech to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) ahead of the so-called “Glorious Twelfth” – the annual 12 August official opening of the grouse shooting season – Clarke will highlight shooting management practices “of real concern”, and tell the industry it must take more responsibility for these issues.

“There are two key trends in particular. First, is the continuing increase in game birds released into the environment, now well over 50 million birds a year.

“It is ecologically naive (at best) to think that you can introduce this amount of biomass – of a similar magnitude to the biomass of all the wild birds in the countryside – without any impact on native species populations and food webs,” he will say.

“Secondly, there is a marked increase in the intensity of management on some driven grouse moors in the uplands, especially in England. As many of us know, our uplands are some of the most iconic landscapes, both for services they give people – such as water and as a carbon store – and for wildlife.”

Clarke highlights the extent of the practice of rotational heather burning on grouse moors, widely used to increase the number of red grouse available for recreational shooting.

He also draws attention to the plight of the hen harrier, a species now absent from vast swathes of English uplands. The disappearance of five male hen harriers in unusual circumstances earlier this year has led to investigations by several police authorities.

While the RSPB does not support current calls for a ban on driven grouse shooting, “the longer it takes any industry to address its problems, the stronger those calls will become,” Clarke will say.


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« Reply #1622 on: Today at 05:11 AM »

Britain's migrating birds are drastically declining, RSPB says

Nightingale and turtle dove among populations that have seen dramatic long-term fall in number, annual RSPB report says

Adam Vaughan
July 31 2015 00.02 BST

Bird populations that make the great journey between northern Europe and Africa – including the nightingale and turtle dove – are drastically declining, conservationists have warned.

Nearly half of the 29 summer migrants, who appear in the UK in spring to breed before returning in the autumn, show long-term population declines.

The nightingale, famed for its song and for inspiring English poets, is one of a group of birds that spend winter in the African humid zone of Sierra Leone, Senegal, the Gambia and Burkina Faso that are suffering particularly badly.

Of this group of 11 humid zone species, eight are declining in number.

Other migrants such as cuckoos, whinchats and spotted flycatchers are being found in the UK at half the number they were two decades ago.

The birds face pressures in the UK, on their journey between continents and in Africa too, according to the annual State of the UK’s Birds report by the RSPB and seven other nature organisations. It is the first time the report has grouped the health of birds by their migration strategies.

In the UK, birds have lost habitat to farmland and housing. Nightingales and other species are under threat from rising deer numbers, as the deer browse on young woodland.

On their great journeys across the Mediterranean, many birds are also shot and caught in nets; an estimated 2 to 4 million turtle doves are killed in southern European countries each year, contributing to the 95% decline in turtle dove populations since 1970.

Malta, a hotspot for illegal bird hunting, became the focus of a campaign by birders including BBC broadcaster Chris Packham in May, and the recent nomination of a member of the Maltese government as the EU’s new environment commissioner sparked fresh controversy over the country’s wildlife crime record.

In Africa, the report’s authors say birds are losing habitat as forests are cleared for fuel and to make way for farming, and wetland ecosystems are being drained and dammed.

“In the humid zone, we know there is large scale environmental change occurring, due to human requirements for growing food. There is a lot of change, particularly on irrigation for crops. Lots of habitats are being changed or degraded,” said Daniel Hayhow, a conservation scientist at the RSPB.

But the conservationists say the length of the birds’ journeys makes it hard to pinpoint when the greatest stresses are being brought to bear.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “Their nomadic lifestyle, requiring sites and resources spread over vast distances across the globe, makes identifying and understanding the causes of decline extremely complex. The problems may be in the UK or in West Africa, or indeed on migration in between the two.”

Climate change is also adding to the migrants’ problems, creating a “phenological mismatch” where warming temperatures meaning the caterpillars that birds feed on are not out in high numbers at the right time. However, the report says some declining species, such as wood warblers, are adapting by switching to other food such as spiders and flying insects.

Not all of the 29 summer migrants are doing so badly. Those that winter north of the Sahara, such as blackcaps and chiffchaffs, have seen substantial increases since the mid-1980s. But overall, the report shows, populations of migrants are doing much worse than species that don’t migrate and are comparatively stable in number.

Knowledge of the routes migrants take is still relatively patchy, but has begun to improve as increasingly small and affordable GPS tagging has been developed.

A cuckoo-tracking project that started in 2011 has shown that while each bird tends to take different routes, individuals show a “lot of consistency” and tend to stick to their routes, Hayhow said. Such technology would help target research and conservation efforts along the migrants’ routes, he said.


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« Reply #1623 on: Today at 05:15 AM »

Warblers and turtle doves join RSPB list of birds at risk of dying out

Bad weather and loss of habitat blamed as more breeding native species are at risk of extinction

Jamie Doward and Atoosa Gitiforoz
July 32 2015
Guardian

Any true love who wants to give their significant other two turtle doves to celebrate the second day of the 12 Days of Christmas may soon be looking for an alternative gift.

In a move that will dismay ornithologists and poets alike, the bird, immortalised in verse by Shakespeare and Wordsworth, could shortly find itself on the near 100-strong list of the rarest birds in the UK as compiled by the RSPB's rare breeding birds panel – a sign that its numbers are plummeting by such a degree that there are fears it could become extinct in the UK within a decade.

The list compiled by the panel, now in its 40th year, is based on sightings by dedicated bird watchers who provide the society with a wealth of information that is used to track the fortunes of different species over time and is the envy of wildlife organisations around the world.

During the last four decades a number of species have been identified as extinct or at risk of extinction within the UK. While the turtle dove's fate has been a concern for several years, the increasingly rapid pace of its decline – a 96% drop in numbers since the panel was started – suggests it is rivalled only by the once common willow tit, whose numbers have plunged by 83% since 1995, for the unwanted distinction of being the UK's fastest disappearing bird.

The last estimate of the turtle dove population, in 2009, suggested there were just 14,000 pairs in the UK but, according to the RSPB, its numbers are halving every six years, meaning it will soon be on the critical list.

If so, bird lovers will be hoping that it does not go the way of the wryneck, a brown, sparrow-sized woodpecker, that was common in every county in England and Wales in the 19th century but has not bred since 2002. Now believed to be extinct, the bird is so rare that it is not even included on the panel's list which records only those species of which there are thought to be fewer than 2,000 pairs in the UK. Among those on the "last chance to see" list is the marsh warbler, a spirited songster which was down to just seven pairs in 2012, compared with 78 in 1973, when the panel was founded.

Other birds at risk of disappearing altogether are the beautiful Slavonian grebe with its striking golden ear tufts, down by 56% to 34 pairs; the common scoter, down to 39 pairs by 2012, a decline of 81%; and the golden oriole which has a resplendent luminous yellow coat and a distinctive whistling signal and, since it has not bred in the UK since 2009, is thought to be already extinct.

The panel also identifies the red-backed shrike as extremely rare. Its unmissable pale blue scalp and black face was once a common sight across farms and heaths, and, while it was thought to be extinct in the late 1980s, a couple of pairs have been sighted in Devon in recent years.

The panel's latest annual report, published this week, covers 2012 when a wet and stormy late spring and the wettest June for a century meant flooding and damage to trees. This had serious consequences for a number of rare birds including the honey buzzard, red kite, little ringed plover, short-eared owl and black-tailed godwit.

"A lot of species can accommodate a bad year but it's if we get into a pattern then there are problems," said Dr Mark Eaton, chair of the panel. Better weather last year suggests this concern will not be realised. But a more profound worry is the impact that dramatic changes to habitat both around the world and in the UK are having on birdlife.

Migrant birds such as the turtle dove and the golden oriole winter in Africa where desertification and forest clearance have devastated swaths of land that once provided shelter. Many rare species have also been affected by profound changes in the UK's countryside.

"We know certain species have been seriously impacted by changes in our farming," Eaton said. "Intensification has reduced the availability of wild flower seeds they depend on. Many birds thrive in marginal areas around farms, in scrub and thick hedges, but these types of places are disappearing."

Some common species are suffering, too. The latest Breeding Bird Survey, published yesterday, revealed that all three UK breeding wagtail species are in long-term decline. Eaton suggested a decline in the standards of woodland management was another factor. Copicing, the cutting back of trees so that it encourages dense woodland, suitable for nesting, has declined significantly since the second world war.

However, it is not all bad news. The panel reports that some birds are thriving. There are now 90 known pairs of the little egret, a pearl coloured, elegant bodied bird which did not breed in the UK until 1996. The UK also boasts 26 pairs of whooper swan, which started breeding only in the late 80s.

A more dramatic success story has been the rise of the osprey. Only 16 pairs of the fish-eating bird of prey were reported in 1973, compared with 209 in 2012. The stone-curlew, with its distinctive yellow eyes, is making a slow recovery. Only 90 pairs were identified in 1973, compared with 473 pairs in 2012.

The avocet, the black-and-white bird that has become the RSPB's symbol, is now up to almost 2,000 pairs from just 149 in 1973.


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« Reply #1624 on: Today at 05:23 AM »

The night-time hunt for the secretive urban slender loris of Bangalore

Implausibly, this elusive nocturnal animal has somehow survived in Bangalore, a mushrooming megacity of 10 million people. But a catastrophic loss of trees in what was formerly known as India’s ‘garden city’ threatens their future

Elizabeth Soumya
Friday 31 July 2015 06.00 BST
Guardian

It’s 7pm on a Saturday night and a park in the heart of the city is teeming with people. The pathways are crammed with jostling walkers, park benches are spilling over with couples and senior citizens. In all the bustle, a group of people carefully trail the walkway armed with torches that they shine across the park’s treetops. They’re looking for something. They find ant nests, a spotted owlet and bats hanging upside down – but they keep moving. They reach the end of the park’s walkway and a swathe of light from a torch hits a tall tree outside the park boundary. A pair of eyes glowing in the dark stare back and begin floating in the dark. They’ve found what they’re looking for – a small and extremely elusive furry creature – a slender loris. With wide, unblinking eyes and long, skinny limbs, these peculiar squirrel-sized primates live on trees in the forests of southern India and Sri Lanka.

But the park where the group spots the loris is far from a pristine forest. The roundabout next to it is clogged with traffic, drowned in a cacophony of horns and city noises. Bangalore, known as India’s Silicon Valley, is one of the world’s fastest-growing cities with a population of 10 million.

And yet, somehow, the lorises have survived, hidden in the heart of the city despite its relentless urbanisation. Until a few decades ago, the lorises – called Kaddu paapa (forest baby) in the local language of Kannada – were found in parts of the city, including MG Road in Bangalore’s central business district. Snake charmers with lorises in their pockets were a common sight and the lorises were sometimes sold as pets. But lorises were thought to have disappeared from the inner city as jackals and mongooses had. Today, few know what a slender loris is, let alone that the peculiar looking animal could be sharing their neighbourhood.

But a citizen science mission has brought the spotlight on these hidden lorises for the first time. The Urban Slender Loris Project (USLP), with its local volunteers, has been surveying the city for the last six months investigating urban lorises. With absolutely no data to fall back on, they had to begin from scratch. Their first goal was to assess where the lorises had survived. They divided the city into 5 sq km grids and acquired the necessary permissions to scrutinise after dark public green spaces (such as parks, lakes, institution campuses), as well as residential areas and other possible loris habitats. One hundred and fifty Bangaloreans have volunteered in 26 night trails. There have been 61 loris sightings.

Kaberi Kar Gupta, the principal scientist behind USLP has studied slender lorises in the wild for a decade. In 2013, Gupta and some wildlife experts looked for lorises in a city university campus and were rather surprised. “They were everywhere. Their density was much higher than what I saw when I did my PhD,” she recalls. The reason slender lorises are here is because the city falls in the natural distribution zone of the animal. “You would expect them here, but we didn’t expect they could be living inside the city, especially with the way Bangalore has been growing in the past 20 years,” she adds.

The lives of Bangalore’s lorises are shrouded in mystery. Even in the wild, these curious primates have not been studied much. Gupta’s research in the forests of Tamil Nadu is the only radio-collared study of slender lorises. Weighing around 200g or less, these small creatures are hard to spot. They are arboreal and nocturnal, foraging for tiny fruits and insects. It is perhaps these characteristics that have helped the loris stay out of sight even in a big city.

    Snake charmers with lorises in their pockets were once a common sight in Bangalore

A slender loris spotted in Bangalore. Video by Adarsh Raju... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcss2iL7uFI

The USLP team have encountered odd behaviour in the urban loris. While slender lorises are usually found perched at an average height of 5 metres, the city lorises were seen a greater height. “They’re probably avoiding disturbance from human activities and using Bangalore’s availability of large trees,” explains Padma Ashok, a core volunteer in the project. Lorises have also been spotted on unusual plants such as bougainvillea and two rare sightings on a coconut tree and a Christmas tree were reported. These shy mammals have even been spotted near lamp-posts catching moths that were attracted by the light.

The presence of lorises, as an indicator species, suggests the presence of other creatures in the ecosystem – and, accordingly, the USLP has also recorded frogs, snakes, birds, insects and other mammals on its walks. But the lorises have very specific ecological requirements and are therefore picky about their homes. “They need continuous horizontal tree canopy to move along treetops, and they prefer small branches that they can hold with their slender limbs,” explains Gupta. They don’t sleep in nests or tree holes and, because of the way they sleep – they roll up, tuck in their heads and sleep in the canopy thickets – they need very specific sleeping sites. “Given these very particular needs,” Gupta adds, “how is it they survive in a city?”

Without connected tree canopy, slender lorises can’t move from one green patch to another. “Bangalore, like many large cities, has patchy green cover, but continuous canopy is particularly important for mobile species such as lorises, bats and butterflies. It’s also critical for their genetic viability in the long term,” says urban ecologist Harini Nagendra.

Until a decade ago, many city roads were buried under the cooling shade of avenue trees that overlapped and kept treetops connected. These not only provided food and shelter, but were midway points for species moving between habitats in the city – especially crucial for canopy creatures such as lorises.

In the past decade, Bangalore – once famous as India’s “garden city” for its green spaces – has lost most of its trees. According to an estimate by the Environmental Support Group (ESG), a Bangalore based NGO, 50,000 trees were felled to widen a series of streets in the late 2000s. Between 2011 and 2014, 9,281 trees were felled for the city’s metro and other road-widening projects. The city’s peri-urban outskirts – once full of orchards – have also lost hundreds of thousands of trees to allow for the expansion of a city whose 47% growth rate between 2001 and 2011 was the highest in India.

“The orchards were connected to inner-city parks and open spaces through avenue trees, and served as wildlife corridors,” explains Leo Saldana of ESG. “This isn’t merely an aesthetic or environmental loss, but has been ecologically disastrous with an irreplaceable loss of biodiversity,” he says.

In April, citizens from the USLP spotted five slender lorises in a small city forest adjoining one of Bangalore’s busiest roads. The green patch is being developed as a city park and the felling of trees for a walkway has begun.

While development is essential for a city, Gupta recommends that developers and city authorities work with environmental experts for solutions. “Urban areas are not sterile; they can create refuge for wildlife. But, unlike protected areas, in cities the pressures are too many,” she says.

Slender lorises are an endangered species accorded the highest protection under Indian law. While they continue to be threatened by poaching for superstition and the illegal pet trade, the gravest danger they face in a city is habitat destruction. For how much longer can Bangalore have these rare creatures? “That really depends on whether we can co-exist,” says Gupta. “I believe we can.”


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« Reply #1625 on: Today at 05:28 AM »

The leopards of Mumbai: life and death among the city's 'living ghosts'

India’s second city is home to an estimated 20 million people ... and 21 leopards. The 250,000 residents with homes inside the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi national park must find a way to live with their big-cat neighbours

Elizabeth Soumya in Mumbai
31 July 2015 09.45 GMT
Guardian

Hawa hawa oh hawa … a 90s Hindi hit blares from the radio in Kusum’s mud house. “I play music till 1am every day,” says the elderly lady. She says she is not much of a music fan - but her loud playlist keeps the leopards away. Meanwhile, just down the road, 35-year-old Dilip Changverlekar recently renovated the house where his family has lived for generations. He added tin sheets to the roof and walls to make it difficult for leopards to climb.

Mumbai is India’s richest city and home to a human population of around 20 million, but it also contains one of the largest protected urban forests in the world. The Sanjay Gandhi national park (SGNP) spans 104 sq km - the size of 30 Central Parks - and is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals. Here in Chuna Pada, a tribal hamlet of 40 houses inside the park’s boundary, seeing a leopard is not a scandal but a routine, and residents receive a visit from the big cats several times a week.

In 2012 a forest camera-trap counted as many as 21 leopards in the park, and footage of the big cats in the slums, residential complexes and schools of urban Mumbai has shaped what many think of SGNP’s leopards. It has also given the impression that the creatures are entering the city more often than ever before. But are there really more leopards?

The leopards were here long before millions of people turned Mumbai (which once had a sizeable population of tigers, too) into a bustling megacity. The park’s peripheral areas have never been so densely populated, and Vidya Athreya, India’s leading expert on leopard-human conflict, thinks this has led to the increase in sightings.

“Eye shine” is the easiest way to spot the cats, who have a tapetum lucidum structure at the back of each eye that reflects light back and helps them see more clearly in the dark. “People used to go to bed earlier, and there weren’t so many vehicles or so many lights,” says Athreya.

The presence of leopards living alongside humans is a case of two highly adaptable species sharing space, says Athreya, who calls the animals “living ghosts” for their ability to be elusive.

The very idea that the leopard shouldn’t live near humans is a completely urban construct, she says. “If you got to rural India, people know leopards have always been around. The adivasis [ethnic and tribal groups of India] have always lived with them and see the animal as part of their cultural identity.”

The leopards come close to human settlements looking for food, says SGNP wildlife researcher and conservationist Krishna Tiwari. Around 90% of their diet consists of dogs, rodents and wild boar, with stray dogs - attracted by the garbage dumped on the edge of the park - accounting for 60%.

Mumbai’s leopards have generally coexisted peacefully with their human neighbours. But a spate of attacks a decade ago reinforced the notion of them as bloodthirsty man-eaters. Of the 176 reported attacks between 1991 to 2013, 84 occurred between 2002 and 2004. Nine people were killed by leopards in the month of June 2004 alone.

During this period, leopards rescued from other parts of Maharashtra state were being released in the SGNP. The authorities thought the park would be a haven for leopards, but instead the relocated cats were forced to fight for territory and food. “What we ended up having in the park was stressed-out predators,” says Athreya. “Highly territorial animals who were displaced and had to find food in an unfamiliar place.”

After the relocations stopped in 2006, the number of attacks decreased dramatically and there were no fatalities or injuries from leopard attacks in the Mumbai suburbs from 2009-11. Yet, since November 2011 there have been six fatalities; the last three deaths were all reported in Aarey Milk Colony, to the south of the SGNP. The most recent was in October 2013, when a seven-year-old boy was killed.

Tiwari, who grew up in a residential building just outside the SGNP, has worked in the park for almost two decades. The encroachment of the city today is unparalleled, he says. Illegal settlements - including nagars (settlements by non-indigenous people), padas (tribal settlements) and high-rise buildings - continue to swell in and around the park. More than 54 illegal settlements and two villages - with a combined population in excess of 250,000 - are inside the park itself.

With this encroachment of the city into the park, Athreya fears that conflict with humans is the prime threat to Mumbai’s leopard population. How people living around the park deal with the presence of these animals will determine the future for the big cats.

In space-deprived Mumbai, any open land attracts a premium, and the wall around the national park is “for people to stay out, not for leopards to stay in,” Tiwari says. “Real estate ads sell ‘nature’ as if the park is their private property. People want to live close to nature, but don’t want to live with the leopards that come with it.”

He now limits his conflict awareness to those living in informal settlements, such as tribal hamlets and slums. “If you are in a building there’s no need to worry,” he says. “All attacks on humans have happened in [slum] areas, except one in Powai.” In settlements that lack toilets or electricity, 80% of the leopard attacks happen when people go out to answer nature’s call after dark.

Chandunushay Jadhav lives in Aarey Milk Colony, where a record high number of leopards attacks have been recorded, including the most recent death. But Jadhav says there are more important things to worry about than leopard attacks: “Don’t tell us to be scared of the leopard, give us facilities,” says the 64-year-old, who sleeps in a doorless structure on his farm where three leopards are regular visitors. “I am not afraid, I don’t even have electricity. Don’t tease it, don’t disturb it and it won’t attack you.”

Jadhav knows that leopards have roamed the area for generations and doesn’t think the creatures will disappear anytime soon. In the old times, the cats had enough space in the jungle and ample prey, so “why are we making towers where the leopards are? The leopards will visit Mumbai again and again because this is where they live,” he says. “It is really their home.”


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« Reply #1626 on: Today at 05:30 AM »

First sighting for 150 years of fly thought to be extinct

Expert naturalist finds metallic-green coloured Rhaphium pectinatum in Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve

Press Association
Friday 31 July 2015 00.58 BST

A fly that is thought to have been extinct for almost 150 years has been found alive in Devon.

The last known recording of the Rhaphium pectinatum fly was on 19 July 1868 when the renowned Victorian entomologist George Verrall caught a male and female in Richmond, Surrey.

In the decades since it was presumed that the fly was extinct but it has been spotted again – at the Devon Wildlife Trust’s Old Sludge Beds nature reserve, near Exeter.

The discovery was made by expert naturalist Rob Wolton, a member of the Devon Fly Group and the Dipterists Forum, which specialises in the study of flies.

Wolton said: “I took a recent trip to Devon Wildlife Trust’s Old Sludge Beds nature reserve on the outskirts of Exeter specifically to look for flies. I examined my catch that evening to find it included a fly that was presumed extinct in Britain, not having been seen for 147 years. Definitely one to add to the list of Devon specialities.”

Little is known about the metallic green-coloured fly, apart from that it is part of the family dolichopodidae, known colloquially as long-legged flies. Most members of the family live in tropical areas of the world.

“Nothing is known about its biology, but it seems that it may like brackish conditions like those found at the Old Sludge Beds, and may even be associated with the extensive tidal reed beds nearby at the head of the Exe estuary,” Wolton said.

“Finding the fly here demonstrates the importance of the work the Devon Wildlife Trust does looking after these unusual and special habitats.”

Wolton condeded that flies are not the most popular animals among the general public: “To most people, the only good fly is a dead one. But only a tiny proportion of the flies in Britain are pests, while many are important for pollination and for ensuring efficient recycling of the nutrients in dead plant material.

“And they are an important part of the food web – many of our birds rely on them. Without flies, there would be no swallows, and not many bats. Nor, incidentally, would we have any chocolate – the cacao tree is pollinated by midges, a kind of fly.”

Steve Hussey, from the Devon Wildlife Trust, added: “So often we have to break the news of species that are disappearing, so it’s good to be able to announce the discovery of an animal that was thought to be extinct.

“This is a very exciting find for Devon Wildlife Trust. We’ve worked hard at the Old Sludge Beds nature reserve in recent years to maintain a patchwork of reed beds, ponds and lagoons which now provide a home to local wildlife including rare dragonflies, birds and amphibians.

“The presence of this special fly means that we must be doing something right in supporting many of the species that make our county so special.”


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« Reply #1627 on: Today at 05:41 AM »

Zimbabwe calls for extradition of dentist who killed Cecil the lion

Environment minister wants Walter Palmer to face trial for financing illegal hunt, as American authorities investigate whether any US laws were broken

Jessica Elgot, Mahita Gajanan in New York and agencies
Friday 31 July 2015 10.41 BST

The Zimbabwean environment minister has called for the dentist who killed Cecil the lion to be extradited from the US to face trial for financing an illegal hunt.

Oppah Muchinguri told a news conference that Walter Palmer, 55, was a “foreign poacher” and said she understood Zimbabwe’s prosecutor general had started the process to have him extradited.

“Unfortunately it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin,” she told a news conference. “We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so that he be made accountable.”

A bilateral extradition treaty between the US and Zimbabwe has been in effect since April 2000 in cases where an individual is charged with what would be a criminal offence in both countries.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) said on Thursday it was investigating the illegal killing of the lion by the Minnesota dentist and whether any US laws were broken.

Palmer, a keen big game hunter who posts pictures of his kills on social media, is said to have paid around $50,000 (£32,000) for the chance to kill Cecil, a protected 13-year-old lion famous for his black-fringed mane, in Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park earlier this month.

The lion was reportedly lured to outside the park’s boundaries and wounded with a bow and arrow, before being shot dead hours later.

Edward Grace, the USFWS deputy chief of law enforcement, said the service was investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil. “That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead,” he said, adding that the service “will assist Zimbabwe officials in whatever manner requested”.

Grace said: “It is up to all of us – not just the people of Africa – to ensure that healthy, wild populations of animals continue to roam the savanna for generations to come.”

The USFWS proposed listing African lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act last October.

Grace also urged Palmer “or his representative [to] contact us immediately”, noting that “multiple efforts to contact Dr Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful”.

Palmer on Thursday wrote to to his patients to say he he was sorry for killing the beast, but described hunting as his passion.

“I don’t often talk about hunting with my patients because it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic,” he wrote. “I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting.”

Repeating his claim made in an earlier statement, Palmer said he had no idea the lion he killed was “a known local favourite” and said he would assist the Zimbabwean authorities.

The dentist has a kill list of 43 different animals including a polar bear, a mountain lion, an elephant and an African lion he killed in 2005, according to records obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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Dentist killer of Cecil the lion apologises as US wildlife service launches inquiry

Walter Palmer repeats his claim that he had no idea that the lion was ‘a known local favourite’ and says he would assist the Zimbabwean authorities

Jessica Elgot in London, Mahita Gajanan in New York and agencies
Thursday 30 July 2015 18.51 BST

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the illegal killing of a beloved Zimbabwean lion by a Minnesota dentist, who has since found himself at the centre of an international storm.

Walter Palmer, a keen big game hunter who posts pictures of his kills on social media, is said to have paid around $50,000 (£32,000) for the chance to kill Cecil, a protected 13-year-old lion famous for his majestic black-fringed mane, in Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park earlier this month.

The lion was reportedly lured outside the park’s boundaries and wounded with a bow and arrow, before being shot dead many hours later.

Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement, said in a statement to the Guardian that the service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil.

“That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead,” he said, adding that the service “will assist Zimbabwe officials in whatever manner requested. It is up to all of us – not just the people of Africa – to ensure that healthy, wild populations of animals continue to roam the savanna for generations to come.”

The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing African lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act last October.

Grace also urged Palmer “or his representative [to] contact us immediately,” noting that “multiple efforts to contact Dr Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful” at this point in time.

Safari Club International, which promotes big-game hunting worldwide, has also suspended Palmer’s membership. The club said that it wants a “full and thorough investigation” into the lion’s death, and said memberships for Palmer and his guide in Zimbabwe, Theo Bronkhorst, will be on hiatus until investigations are complete.

Meanwhile, Palmer has written to his patients to apologise, as crowds gathered around his suburban practice calling for him to face charges.

In the letter to his patients at River Bluff Dental, reported by WCCO radio, the dentist said he was sorry for killing the famous beast, but described hunting as his passion.

“I don’t often talk about hunting with my patients because it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic,” he wrote. “I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting.”

Repeating his claim made in an earlier statement, Palmer said he had no idea the lion he killed was “a known local favourite” and said he would assist the Zimbabwean authorities.

“The media interest in this matter – along with a substantial number of comments and calls from people who are angered by this situation and by the practice of hunting in general – has disrupted our business and our ability to see our patients,” he wrote, adding that he would work with patients to have them referred to other practices.

Palmer, 55, has not been charged with any offence, although Zimbabwean officials have said they would like to question him. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was investigating whether any US laws were violated in the lion’s killing and would assist Zimbabwean officials, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

Zimbabwean hunter Theo Bronkhorst has been charged with “failing to prevent an illegal hunt” after he organised the expedition. His co-accused Honest Ndlovu was charged with allowing an illegal hunt on his land. Both have been bailed.

About 200 people protested on Wednesday outside Palmer’s suburban Minneapolis dental office, calling for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face charges.

“Walter, you are a murderer, you are a terrorist,” said Rachel Augusta, coordinator at the Animal Rights Coalition which organised the protest.

Hours before the protest began on Wednesday afternoon, artist Mark Balma parked his Land Rover outside the dental clinic to paint a large portrait of Cecil, to quietly protest the animal’s killing.

“I really, really thought it was both so unnecessary, but also in today’s world, very shameful in the way it was done,” Balma told the Guardian. “He had a certain rapport with people. There was a sort of trust – a human trust. That was the huge thing that to me, was violated. They used that trust against him to lure him out.”

Balma, who has painted portraits of British prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, based his painting of Cecil off the many images circulating online.

Balma said the protests provided an inspiring atmosphere to paint.

“On one hand, there’s a lot of anger and a lot of disgust in what happened,” he said. “But it was a strong community showing there.” Some people, he said, drove hours to protest. Balma is not from Bloomington, but happened to be there before the protest began.

Police are investigating threats made against Palmer, but because most were online, authorities are having trouble determining if the threats are credible.

Palmer’s current location is unknown. A small memorial of stuffed animals has been placed outside the clinic’s door, with signs saying “Rot in Hell” and “Palmer there is a deep cavity waiting for you!”

The governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, weighed in to criticise Palmer. “It’s an iconic lion,” Dayton told reporters. “To lure the animal out of the preserve, I don’t understand how anybody thinks that’s a sport. I just think it is horrible.”

Palmer has been under official scrutiny for his hunting in the past, pleading guilty in 2008 to lying about a black bear hunt in Wisconsin two years earlier, for which he was fined and sentenced to one year’s probation.

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Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion also wanted to gun down an elephant: report

July 31, 2015
Vishakha Sonawane
International Business Times

Walter Palmer, the U.S. dentist who killed the lion Cecil in Zimbabwe, wanted to shoot a “very large elephant,” his guide and professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst told the Daily Telegraph Thursday. Palmer has gone underground amid an international outcry over the illegal hunt of the "iconic" lion.

Bronkhorst told the Telegraph that after killing the lion in Hwange National Park, Palmer asked him if he could find an elephant whose tusk weighed at least 63 pounds. "I told him I would not be able to find one so big, so the client left the next day," he said.

Prosecutors charged Bronkhorst Wednesday for failing to prevent Palmer from unlawfully killing Cecil. However, they are yet to charge Honest Ndlovu -- a second suspect and farm owner -- who has been named as an accomplice. Ndlovu appeared in court Wednesday.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said Tuesday that Palmer -- who paid $50,000 to kill Cecil -- and his group tied a dead animal to their car to lure the lion. According to the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, drawing in animals with a bait is unethical. The association, of which Bronkhorst is a member, has revoked his license.

According to Bronkhorst, Cecil -- "a magnificent animal" -- was spotted at about 10 p.m. on July 1.  He said Palmer shot an arrow at the animal after which it disappeared behind the tall grass.

"Bow and arrow wounds are different to gun wounds, and they don’t show much. But we couldn’t do anything that night," Bronkhorst told the Telegraph. After returning to the same place next day, Bronkhorst saw the collar around the lion's neck and realized that Palmer had killed Cecil.

"I was devastated," Bronkhorst said. "I could not have seen the collar at night. We would never shoot a collared animal. I was devastated, and so was (Palmer), we were both upset, and I panicked and took it off and put it in a tree. I should have taken it to [the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority], I admit that. ... We took the head and skin, as the client had paid for the trophy."

Palmer, a trophy hunter from Minnesota, left Zimbabwe few weeks ago, according to media reports.


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« Reply #1628 on: Today at 05:44 AM »

The extraordinary painted elephants of India – in pictures

Guardian
July 31 2015

The Elephant Festival takes over the city of Jaipur every year. The animals are draped with jewellery and given majestic multicolour makeovers (complete with pedicures), before doing a procession through the streets. Later they race, play elephant polo and take part in a human v animal tug-of-war. Charles Freger travelled to Rajasthan to get a sneak peek

Click to see all: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2015/jul/31/the-extraordinary-painted-elephants-of-india-in-pictures


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« Reply #1629 on: Today at 07:06 AM »

Baby sloth nursed with teddy by London zookeeper - video

Guardian
7/31/2015

London zookeeper Kelly-Anne Kelleher takes on the role of surrogate mother to raise a baby sloth with the help of a teddy bear. The seven-week-old, two-toed Edward, needed help when his mother stopped producing milk and was unable to care for her infant. The zookeeper uses a teddy bear she bought at a gift shop as a substitute for the sloth's mother

Click to watch: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/jul/31/baby-sloth-nursed-with-teddy-by-london-zookeeper-video


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