Wildlife

Insect Apocalypse Warning

A new report suggests that half of all insects on the planet have been lost since 1970 from a combination of habitat destruction, climate change and the increased use of pesticides.

Published in the journal Biological Conservation, the report warns that 40% of the 1 million insect species known to science are facing extinction.

But conservationists say many of those insects can be rescued by slashing pesticide use and making areas around our global communities more wildlife friendly.

“If we don’t stop the decline of our insects, there will be profound consequences for all life on Earth [and] for human well-being,” said Dave Goulson of Britain’s University of Sussex.

Amazon Losses – Update

Deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon region soared to its highest level in a decade as agribusiness, miners, loggers and developers felled portions of the world’s largest rainforest.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research announced that 3,769 square miles of forest were lost during the 12-month period ending in July, or about a 30% spike from the previous 12 months.

Environmental advocates blame the increase on Brazil’s president, who has slashed the budgets and staff of the agencies in charge of preventing such illegal activities in the Amazon.

Wildlife

Great Barrier Reef annual mass coral spawning begins

A mass coral spawning has begun on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with early indications the annual event could be among the biggest in recent years.

Buffeted by climate change-induced rising sea temperatures and coral bleaching, the world’s largest reef system goes into a frenzy once a year with a mass release of coral eggs and sperm that is synchronised to increase the chances of fertilisation.

The natural wonder, which has been likened to underwater fireworks or a snowstorm, occurs just once a year in specific conditions: after a full moon when water temperatures hover around 27℃ to 28℃. Soft corals are the first to release, followed by hard corals, in a process that typically spans between 48 and 72 hours.

Coral along large swathes of the 2300km reef have been killed by rising sea temperatures linked to climate change, leaving behind skeletal remains in a process known as coral bleaching.

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Wildlife

Rhino, calf and zebra electrocuted by collapsed power pylon

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A female rhino, her calf and two zebra were electrocuted when an Eskom electricity pylon collapsed at Tshwane’s Rietvlei Nature Reserve near Pretoria, South Africa. Scrap metal thieves have been targeting electricity pylons across Gauteng Province, removing structural members to sell as scrap metal to illicit dealers. It seems that this may have been the cause for the failure of one leg of the pylon.

Poachers killed in motor vehicle accident – South Africa

Eight people died in a head-on collision between a bakkie and car on the R531 road between Hoedspruit and Swadini, Limpopo Province, on Saturday. One of two injured people transported to hospital for treatment after the crash died later. The police endangered species unit was called to the scene after buckets containing snake skins, starfish, crabs and other dead sea creatures were found scattered about the crash site.

Wildlife

Dought-hit Zimbabwe readies mass wildlife migration

Zimbabwe is planning an enforced mass migration of wildlife away from a park in the country’s south, where thousands of animals are at risk of death due to drought-induced starvation. At least 200 elephants have already died at two other parks due to lack of food and water, along with scores of buffalo and antelope.

The animals will continue to die until the rains come. The biggest threat to the animals right now is loss of habitat. The El Nino-induced drought has also taken its toll on crops, leaving more than half of the population in need of food aid.

Zimparks plans move 600 elephants – as well as giraffe, lions, buffalo, antelope and spotted wild dogs – from Save Valley Conservancy in southern Zimbabwe to three other national parks.

This is the biggest translocation of animals in the history of wildlife movement in Zimbabwe across distances of more than 1,000 kilometers.

It will start once the summer rains come. Those are expected to start this week, which would offer major relief for the stricken animals and for farmers who are preparing for the 2019/20 planting season.

The migration will also help to save the conservancy’s ecosystem by depopulating it because the animals “are now becoming a threat to their own survival.Zimbabwe is home to some 80,000 elephants, around a fifth of Africa’s total, conservationists estimate. Overall numbers have declined sharply in recent years, mostly due to a combination of poaching, illegal hunting and drought.

Wildlife

Zimbabwe Drought Killing Wildlife

Elephants, zebras, hippos, impalas, buffaloes and many other wildlife are stressed by lack of food and water in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, whose very name comes from the four pools of water normally filled by the flooding Zambezi River each rainy season, and where wildlife traditionally drink.

At least 105 elephants have died in Zimbabwe’s wildlife reserves, most of them in Mana and the larger Hwange National Park in the past two months, according to the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Many desperate animals are straying from Zimbabwe’s parks into nearby communities in search of food and water.

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Wildlife

Mobile Roaming Charges for Eagle Trackers

Russian researchers studying eagle migration with trackers that use mobile phone networks ran up huge SMS roaming charges when the birds unexpectedly flew southward into airspace over Iran and Pakistan.

The data stored in the birds’ trackers while they were outside the domestic coverage areas in Russia and neighboring Kazakhstan were later transmitted en masse through the foreign mobile carriers’ networks.

The volunteers tracking the birds were later able to pay off the roughly $1,600 bill through a crowdfunding appeal dubbed “Top up the eagles’ mobile.”

Sea Urchins Plunder Kelp Forests

The population of ravenous purple urchins in parts of the Pacific off California and Oregon has soared 10,000 percent since 2014, which an Oregon state scientist says has ravaged the kelp forests and other species in the marine environment.

The loss of the kelp to the echinoderms has created vast “urchin barrens,” where the kelp was once so thick that boats could not navigate through it.

While vast numbers of the urchins are starving to death on the now-empty seabed, the species can go dormant without reproducing and live for years without food. Experts warn that this means the kelp forests may never be able to rebound.

Scientists say climate change is likely a factor in the urchin explosion.

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Wildlife

Elephants Die in Botswana

Officials with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks say more than 100 elephants have died in recent months and anthrax is the likely culprit. According to a Reuters report, preliminary investigations suggest the elephants are dying from anthrax while some died from the effects of drought over the past two months.

Wildlife

Turtle Traffickers Caught

Florida, USA wildlife officials have uncovered a trafficking ring of thousands of smuggled turtles following a long-term undercover investigation. The poachers would target habitats known for specific species of turtles and “depleted the species so much” that they had to expand to other parts of the state. The turtles were sold wholesale for up to $300 each and retailed for as much as $10,000 in Asia. In one month alone, an estimated $60,000 worth of turtles were trafficked out of Florida.

Turtles are one of the most threatened animal groups on the planet. The illegal trade of turtles is having a global impact on many turtle species and our ecosystems. More than 600 turtles were returned to the wild as a result of the investigation.

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Wildlife

Whales Using Bubble ‘Nets’ to Hunt

Some cetaceans use “nets” to catch their food. Like humpback whales. They’ll dive down and swim in a ring around their prey, blowing out bubbles as they go. That rising ring forms a column that traps fish, allowing other whales in the group to swim up from below, mouths agape, through the bubble cylinder to feast.

Global Warming

North American Birds under Threat

Two-thirds of bird species in North America are at risk of extinction if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a new report from scientists at the Audubon Society. A total of 389 species, out of 604 studied, are expected to experience declines in their populations as a result of warmer temperatures, higher seas, loss of habitat, and extreme weather, all driven by climate change.

Among those birds most at-risk are the greater sage grouse, Baltimore oriole, common loon, and the wood thrush. The new study comes less than a month after research found the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds since 1970, equal to losing one out of every four birds.

Wildlife

Bears Starving in Canada

Grizzlies in Canada are starving as the salmon population withers amid climate change. Excruciatingly thin grizzly bears in Canada are fresh evidence of the dire consequences of climate change and vanishing food sources for wildlife. Salmon, a key food source for grizzlies, is at an all-time low, affected by climate change. Fisherman say the salmon population is the smallest they’ve seen in 50 years.

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Bird Populations in Mojave Desert Collapse

Bird populations in the Mojave Desert have collapsed over the last century, and now scientists say they know why: The animals’ bodies can’t cope with the hotter and drier weather brought on by global warming.

The discovery, described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, draws upon historical records and high-tech virtual bird modeling to explain how climate change has caused such drastic population losses — and how it will likely cause even deeper losses in the future.

As climate change and habitat destruction due to human activity continue across the globe, many species have found themselves in decline or under threat. A recent study in the journal Science, for instance, found that there are nearly 3 billion fewer birds in North America today than there were in 1970.

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Wildlife

Earthworms vs Plastic

A new study finds that one of the world’s most common earthworms cannot thrive in ground polluted with high levels of microplastics.

Lead researcher Bas Boots of Britain’s Anglia Ruskin University says the finding adds to the growing body of evidence of how increasing plastic pollution is affecting the natural world.

“These effects include the obstruction and irritation of the digestive tract, limiting the absorption of nutrients and reducing growth,” Boots said.

Wildlife

Jellyfish Population Surges

Human activities are allowing jellyfish numbers to surge in the world’s oceans, which a new U.N. report says are undergoing profound and dangerous changes.

French researchers say that the population of jellyfish is increasing because of man-made factors such as overfishing, deep-sea trawling and the heating of the oceans in the deepening climate crisis.

Overfishing is eliminating some of the jellies’ natural predators, such as tuna and sea turtles, especially those that feed on plankton, giving the jellyfish more of the plankton to feed on themselves and thrive.

Whale Stranding – South Carolina, USA

South Carolina wildlife officials say five pilot whales were found stranded on Edisto Beach Saturday morning. Beachgoers found the mammals on the shore and tried to rescue them, but four of the whales died and at least two of them were calves. Officials said one of the whales was dead before crews could get to the beach to help and some of them had to be put down because they were too sick or injured.