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« Reply #1185 on: May 26, 2015, 05:30 AM »

Swifts migrate from Beijing to southern Africa without landing

New research uncovers mystery of migration route of bird that spends up to three years in the air after leaving its nest

Emma Graham-Harrison in Beijing
Monday 25 May 2015 17.41 BST
Guardain

Swifts born in Beijing’s old imperial palaces travel 16,000 miles every year to southern Africa and back again without touching ground, and over a lifetime clock up enough miles to get halfway to the moon.

New research suggests that after they leave their nests for the first time, the birds spend up to three years in the air, eating, drinking and mating on the wing.

They come down to earth only to rear their own chicks, having already made a 16,000-mile round trip to their winter homes at least twice. Over the course of their lives, the average Beijing swift will travel nearly 124,000 miles.

“That this tiny bird – that can fit into a human hand – travels to southern Africa and back every year without landing once, is simply awe-inspiring and proof that the natural world is the greatest source of inspiration there is,” said Terry Townshend, founder of Birding Beijing.

    — Birding Beijing 北京观鸟 (@BirdingBeijing)
    May 24, 2015

    Out of Africa! The Beijing Swift’s Incredible Journey Charted At Last http://t.co/WxW3IpeFTU pic.twitter.com/OrADUaYcci

The birds have been visitors to the Chinese capital for hundreds of years, nesting in its gatehouses and palace eaves. They are so closely associated with the city that a subspecies carries its old English name, the Peking swift or Apus apus pekinensis.

The number of swifts in Beijing has dropped by over half in the last three decades, however, and conservationists are trying to find out more about the birds’ habits. Their largely airborne lives mean they are difficult to study and although their winter and summer bases were well known, their migration route was largely a mystery before this research.

A group of British, Swedish, Chinese and Belgian scientists and bird lovers worked together in a project that began last year with the trapping of 31 birds at a pavilion in the Summer Palace of China’s former rulers. They were fitted with tiny light-sensitive geo-locator devices, then released to make the annual migration.

So loyal are the birds to their nesting grounds in the city that this year the research team was able to trap more than a third of the swifts in the same pavilion and retrieve data about their flight. It showed that when they started their long migration in July, the birds swept north through Mongolia then down to Iran and across to Africa, heading for Namibia and the Western Cape, where they stayed for the winter.

In February they began retracing the same long route back, flying incredibly fast – the swifts have been recorded hitting speeds of more than 110km/h.

“Swifts have a special place in the hearts of Beijingers and their screaming flights at dusk around many of our major landmarks are one of the most enchanting features of our summer,” said Fu Jianping, president of the China Birdwatching Society.

“For years we have waved them goodbye at the end of July not knowing where they go. Thanks to this project, now we do.”


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« Reply #1186 on: May 26, 2015, 05:34 AM »

Australia to import micro wasp to wage war against plague of crazy ants

Scientists hope the Malaysian wasp will severely dent populations of crazy ants, which have been blamed for killing red crabs on Christmas Island

Oliver Milman
Guardian
Tuesday 26 May 2015 09.18 BST
    
A diminutive Malaysian wasp is set to be imported to Australia in order to wage war against a plague of destructive crazy ants on Christmas Island.

The tiny wasp, which is just 2mm long, doesn’t sting or build nests but, it is hoped, will severely dent crazy ant populations.

It will do this, scientists believe, by preying upon an insect that produces a sugary substance called honeydew that crazy ants consume.

“By reducing the ants’ food supply, we hope to interrupt their breeding, and potentially stop them from building their devastating super colonies,” said Dr Peter Green, a La Trobe University researcher who is leading the project.

Park Australia, a federal government agency that oversees Australia’s leading national parks, is backing a move to import the micro wasps to Christmas Island this year.

Crazy ants were thought to have originally been brought to the island by south-east Asian traders in sea cargo. A horde of the pests is blamed for killing tens of millions of Christmas Island’s red crabs over the past 20 years. The loss of these crabs has had a negative knock-on impact upon the island’s entire ecosystem.

The importing of species to deal with another destructive species hasn’t always been stunningly successful in Australia. The cane toad was introduced to Queensland in the 1930s in an attempt to eradicate the cane beetle, which damage sugar cane crops. Instead, the toad spread across northern Australia and has been blamed for the decimation of native wildlife.

Australian cane toads meet their match

However, Green said five years of research into the micro wasp show that it will be safe for people, pets and native wildlife.

“Other types of micro wasps are already used extensively for biological control on mainland Australia and overseas, so we know this can be safe and successful,” he said.

“We’ll be monitoring the roll-out carefully and we hope to see results within two to three years.”

Parks Australia, which is waiting for final approval for the plan, said the new approach will be a “lifesaver” for Christmas Island’s wildlife.

Christmas Island is home to a diverse range of species, including 20 types of crab, 28 species of butterfly, 28 species of bird and a handful of scorpions. The wasp will be deployed to aid these animals, pending final government approval.

“Red crabs are the keystone species for Christmas Island, so it’s crucial to protect them,” said Sally Barnes, director of National Parks.

“Until now, our only option has been intensive baiting with fipronil to kill the ants. That means dropping baits from choppers and sending rangers out to bait by hand – a very costly exercise that has to be repeated every few years.


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« Reply #1187 on: May 26, 2015, 05:40 AM »

Dog uses trampoline to escape and follow owner to work - video

Guardian
5/26/2015

A clever dog surprised its owner on a train after making a spectacular escape from its kennel by using a trampoline to bounce over a 6ft fence. Owner Thomas McCormack was surprised when his four-year-old pet, Paddy, unexpectedly followed him on his morning commute, only to discover from his neighbours that the dog had been using a trampoline to jump over the fence.

Click to watch:

<iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/world/video/2015/may/26/dog-uses-trampoline-escape-follow-owner-to-work-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


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« Reply #1188 on: May 26, 2015, 07:52 AM »

Danish radio station kills baby rabbit with bicycle pump

Agence France-Presse
26 May 2015 at 08:28 ET 

A Danish radio station on Tuesday defended the live killing of a baby rabbit with a bicycle pump on one of its shows, saying it wanted to highlight cruelty in the farming industry.

“We didn’t do it for the sake of entertainment,” talk radio station Radio24syv wrote on Twitter.

“Thousands of animals die each day so that people can eat them,” it added.

The broadcaster said radio host Asger Juhl on Monday killed baby rabbit Allan with repeated blows to the head to highlight “hypocrisy” in Danes’ attitudes towards animal welfare.

“We buy and eat animals that have had an awful life. And animals that have been killed under the same controlled conditions as the rabbit in the studio,” it wrote in a statement.

Reality TV show star and animal rights activist Linse Kessler tried to grab the animal and chased Juhl around the studio several times before being asked to leave.

“They wanted to see if they could kill him during the last show or if they had gotten too attached to him,” she said in a video clip on her Facebook page.

Kessler said she thought she was capable of wresting the animal from Juhl but feared it would die a more painful death if she grabbed it.

“I hit it hard over the neck twice so that the cervical vertebrae fractured,” Juhl told broadcaster TV 2.

“I was instructed by a zookeeper from Aalborg Zoo who hits several baby rabbits every week (to feed) the snakes,” he added.

Juhl said he had brought the dead rabbit with him home — where he had skinned and cut it up with his children, aged six and eight — and that he later would have rabbit stew for dinner with fellow morning host Kristoffer Eriksen.

A Copenhagen zoo prompted international outrage last year by putting down a healthy giraffe, known as Marius, and then dissecting it in front of children.

That incident, just like the radio station’s stunt, drew a mixed response in Denmark where agriculture is a key export industry.

“To provoke and to promote itself,” Twitter user Steffen Andersen in Aarhus wrote, while journalist Brian Esbensen tweeted: “What if people were just as outraged over drowned refugees.”

Radio24syv said it wanted to put more focus on “one of the world’s most industrialised agriculture sectors.”

Danish farming “allows 25,000 piglets to die every day because farming has been streamlined and (breeds) pigs that give birth to far more offspring than the mother pig can handle,” it said.


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« Reply #1189 on: May 26, 2015, 07:53 AM »

Poachers kill half of Mozambique’s elephants in 5 years: survey

Agence France-Presse
26 May 2015 at 08:30 ET 

Poachers have killed nearly half of Mozambique’s elephants for their ivory in the past five years, the US based Wildlife Conservation Society said Tuesday.

A Mozambique government-backed survey showed a dramatic 48 percent decline in elephant numbers from just over 20,000 to an estimated 10,300, the WCS said in a statement.

“This decline is due to rampant elephant poaching in the country’s most important elephant populations,” the statement said.

Remote northern Mozambique, which includes the Niassa national Reserve, was the hardest hit, accounting for 95 percent of elephant deaths, reducing the population from an estimated 15,400 to an estimated 6,100.

The aerial survey found that in some parts of the country nearly half the elephants seen were already dead.

Across Africa, up to 30,000 elephants are estimated to be killed illegally each year to fuel the ivory trade, mainly to China and other Asian countries.

A total of 470,000 wild elephants remain in Africa, according to a count by the NGO Elephants Without Borders.


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