Wildlife

African penguins succumb to avian flu in the Cape

African penguins have succumbed to the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu along the coastline of the Western Cape.

The department of agriculture confirmed on Monday that seven cases from six different sites across the province had tested positive in penguins. Of the seven cases‚ one has survived.

Infected birds are being treated‚ as African penguins are an endangered species. Treatment protocols are similar to those for flu in humans. They include nutrition‚ hydration‚ vitamins and administration of anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics for secondary infections‚ if necessary.

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Wildlife

Climate Change Affecting Bat Migrations

What started out as a simple study of how to safely monitor migrating bat colonies turned into a major discovery. Climate change is causing bats to migrate sooner, and in some cases, not migrate at all.

When they travel, bats usually do so in a swarm consisting of millions. When Mexican free-tailed bats bats migrate from Mexico to the Bracken Cave in San Antonio, Texas, the size of the swarm is so large it can be tracked using weather radar.

The researchers found that the bats are migrating to Texas roughly two weeks earlier than they were 22 years ago. They now arrive, on average, in mid March rather than late March.

Additionally, as of 2017, roughly 3.5 percent of the bat population is staying through the winter. Climate change is causing spring to begin sooner, in turn prompting insects to move to Texas sooner and giving the bats something to eat without having to migrate.

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Wildlife

Ant Triage

A species of sub-Saharan ant has been observed administering medical care to wounded comrades after battle by intently licking the injury.

Matabele ants are among the largest on Earth, and were already known to carry those wounded in battle back to the nest for treatment, where most lived to fight again.

In further studies, lead researcher Erik Frank of the University of Lausanne found that the soldier ants actually conduct a type of triage on the battlefield.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Frank said it is actually the wounded ant that decides whether it lives or dies by simply not cooperating with the helpers if it feels too injured to recover.

Wildlife

Scores of monkeys killed in Rio yellow fever panic

Fears of spreading yellow fever are behind the illegal killing of scores of monkeys in Rio de Janeiro, complicating efforts to fight the virus, authorities say.

Locals, mistakenly believing that the animals can spread yellow fever to humans, are blamed for the surge in killings.

Just this year, 238 monkeys have been found dead in Rio state, compared to 602 in all of 2017, said the city sanitation service, launching a campaign against the killings.

Of those, 69 percent showed signs of human aggression, mostly being beaten to death and some poisoned. Last year, the proportion found killed by humans was 40 percent.

The rest died of natural causes.

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Wildlife

Plastic Threat

Scientists warn that tiny bits of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and other bodies of water are putting filter-feeding marine animals like whales and manta rays at great risk of contamination. That’s in addition to the nearly 600 other species thought to be harmed by the pollution.

“Marine filter-feeders are likely to be at risk because they need to swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of water daily in an effort to capture plankton,” researcher Elitza Germanov of Australia’s Murdoch University explained in her findings. “They can ingest microplastics directly from polluted water or indirectly through contaminated prey.”

Wildlife

Polar Bears Face Food Shortage Crisis Amid Climate Change

New research published in the journal Science on Thursday found that polar bears have metabolic rates 60 percent higher than scientists previously thought, meaning the animals require more food to survive their harsh Arctic environment than was previously known.

Polar bears already face challenges due to the effects of climate change on natural habitats, and the new information means their ability to adapt to receding sea ice will become even more difficult.

The polar bear’s diet is high in fat, supplied largely by hunting seals, but with less Arctic ice, scientists worry that the bears will have to walk or swim greater and greater distances for food with each passing year.

The researchers used radio collars to track nine female polar bears near the Beaufort Sea. Using collected blood samples, scientists found that five of the bears lost body mass due to malnutrition. Four of the bears lost 10 percent body weight in just a 10-day period.

Over 77,000 square miles of winter sea ice have disappeared in the last 40 years, leaving the polar bears with an enormously reduced hunting area.

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Wildlife

Seismic Spawning

The powerful earthquake that rocked much of Alaska and triggered a Pacific tsunami alert on Jan. 23 also shook one of the world’s rarest species of tiny fish into spawning.

Seismic waves from the temblor caused the water to slosh in a small pool at Death Valley National Park, which is the Devils Hole pupfish’s lone natural home. Only about 115 of the critically endangered species live there.

The sloshing water was a trigger for the males to gain a brilliant blue color, typical during spawning.

While this phenomenon has been observed after deep earthquakes in the past, park officials say it always amazes them.

Common Cold Infects Chimps

The same virus that inflicts the common cold on humans has been discovered in a population of wild chimpanzees that was ravaged by the pathogen.

The outbreak occurred in Uganda’s Kibale National Park in 2013, and scientists have just published a report on how almost 10 percent of chimps there died after being infected by the human rhinovirus C.

“We think this human common cold virus represents a grave threat to chimpanzees all across Africa,” said Tony Goldberg of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Humans have developed genetic resistance to the virus while living close to each other for the past 8,000 years, but chimps are extremely vulnerable to being infected by humans who intrude into their habitat.

Wildlife

Elephant Raiders

A northern Namibian village was raided by a herd of 28 elephants that wrecked 18 homes, uprooted trees and destroyed the village borehole well.

Residents of Otjorute say the animals frequently arrive from a nearby conservation area during harvest time, but this month’s raids are unprecedented.

The villagers say the pachyderms arrived early one morning in mid-January amid much noise and chaos, leaving a trail of uprooted or damaged trees.

The New Era daily reports at least one elephant followed people’s footprints until it got into their houses.

Avian PTSD

The cacophony of manmade sounds in the modern world may be causing symptoms in birds similar to what humans experience when suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History studied birds exposed to the constant noise of natural-gas compressors and found skewed stress hormone levels, possibly due to increased anxiety, distraction and hypervigilance.

Report co-author Rob Guralnick believes the noise could act as an “acoustic blanket,” muffling the sound clues birds rely on to detect predators, competitors for food and their own species.

“They’re perpetually stressed because they can’t figure out what’s going on,” said Guralnick.

Wildlife

Why 200,000 Saiga Antelope Dropped Dead in 3 Weeks

One day in May of 2015, a handful of critically endangered saiga antelope dropped over, dead. This wasn’t necessarily alarming to the scientists in the area who were busy monitoring the herd; the saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica tatarica) of the Central Asian steppe are stressed in springtime, which is calving season, and deaths happen every day. But the next day, more antelope died. On day three, they were dropping by the hundreds.

Within three weeks, — 62 percent of the world’s population — were dead. And now, scientists have learned that the killer was lurking inside the animals all along.

A new study reveals that the ruminants were killed by a bacterium that normally lives in the antelopes’ tonsils without causing any problems. But unusually warm, moist weather apparently triggered the overgrowth of the bacteria, Pasteurella multocida, which subsequently found its way into the antelopes’ bloodstream and killed them. []

Unfortunately for the antelope (and the steppe ecosystem), climate change seems to be promoting warmer, moister weather in the region, said study leader Richard Kock, a wildlife veterinarian at the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London.

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Wildlife

Hawksbill turtle eggs hatched successfully in Singapore

More than 100 infant turtles got successfully hatched on a Singapore beach before entering the sea, according to reports. The baby turtles are known as Hawksbill turtles, and at present, the Hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species. Hence, the latest hatching of more than 100 Hawksbill turtles has given some good news for the scientists and environmental enthusiasts who were worried about the dwindling Hawksbill turtle population.

The latest hatch marked for the third time that the Hawksbill turtle eggs hatched on the beaches of Singapore since August. But the important thing is that after a gap of eight years, the Hawksbill turtles hatched on Sentosa again.

Due to the increasing human-made activities like pollution, coastal developments poaching and fishing, the natural habitat of the Hawksbill turtles have been damaged, and the population has decreased significantly. These turtles are an easy target for hunters and poachers. They use their body parts to make turtle soup, and also their shells are used in powered form In Jelly dessert.

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Wildlife

Ganga River Dolphins

Gangetic river dolphins, primarily found in the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, are categorised under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and have been placed on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which signifies that the species is on the verge of extinction. These dolphins are one of the three surviving freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other two are found in the Indus in Pakistan and the Amazon in South America. A fourth species, the Yangtze river dolphin in China, has gone extinct.

The Gangetic river species are blind and find their way and prey in the river waters through sonar echoes. They live by echolocation and sound is everything to them. They navigate, feed, flee from danger, find mates, breed, nurse babies and play by echolocation alone.

The Gangetic river dolphins are being pushed to extinction due to increased pollution, decreased water flow and shrinking fish populations in the Ganga.

The already endangered Gangetic river dolphins are facing a clear and present danger from climate change, which has adversely affected their habitat. With their population registering a steady decline, the Gangetic dolphins in different parts of the eastern state of Bihar are now fighting for survival. Climate change has impacted the population of fish in the river, thus reducing the food supply of the dolphins.

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Wildlife

Monarch Migration

A large number of Monarch butterflies have been seen in their migratory funnel in Cape May. N.J. instead of across the Texas-Mexico border. This delayed migration is not normal, and it alarmed monarch researchers across the country. The Cape May stragglers were only a sliver of the record number of monarchs reported in the Northeast in November and December — news that sounded good initially to conservationists. But seeing butterflies so far north so late in the year suggested that few of these latecomers would reach their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists fear that climate change is behind what they’re calling the latest monarch migration ev er recorded in the eastern United States, and they worry that rising temperatures pose a new threat to a species that saw its population hit record lows in recent years.

Known for their complex, improbable migrations, most monarchs embark on 2,000-mile journeys each fall, from breeding grounds as far north as Canada’s maritime provinces to the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico. (A separate western population heads mostly to Southern California.) They mate in Mexico, then fly back north to lay their eggs (and die) in the spring.

Because they’re so delicate — each weighs less than a gram — monarchs are particular about the conditions they’ll fly in, and especially vulnerable to extreme weather systems. Major storms, high winds, early freezes — all pose large-scale dangers, and the butterflies faced all of those this year. But more pernicious than that, scientists believe, are the warmer temperatures, probably a sign of climate change, which manipulated the monarchs’ instincts and pushed their migration back.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of monarchs has dropped from a billion in their heyday to about 33 million in 2014 — or more than 80 percent since the mid-1990s.

For decades, scientists have focused on two main causes to explain what was happening to the monarchs: loss of their habitat to development in the United States and in the Mexican winter grounds and widespread agricultural use of pesticides, which destroy milkweed, their favorite plant. But now they are looking at climate change as a new threat to this icon of conservation.

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Wildlife

Animals are Collateral Damage in Africa

Wildlife in more than 70 percent of Africa’s nature preserves was decimated by the ravages of war between 1946 and 2010, causing populations to enter what a new report describes as a “downward spiral.”

Writing in the journal Nature, Joshua Daskin and Robert Pringle of Princeton University point to the deaths of 90 percent of the large herbivores in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park during that country’s decades-long struggle for liberation from Portugal and subsequent civil war.

The decline in wildlife across Africa has also been compounded by poaching for ivory, hides and other animal parts, often sold on the black market to purchase weapons.

Wildlife

Animals Are Shrinking and Freezing to Death in a Changing Arctic

Unusual weather brought by climate change is making it tough for muskoxen to get food—and sometimes even entombs them in ice.

Muskoxen, the plant-chomping, long-haired mammals that huddle on the Arctic tundra, are being born smaller in parts of the far north, as pregnant mothers struggle to find food.

One reason, according to new research published Thursday in Scientific Reports: Muskoxen eat most of the year by pawing through snow with their hooves. But rising temperatures mean precipitation increasingly falls as rain, only to then freeze on the surface, encasing plant life in inaccessible ice.

Meanwhile, in a type of freak weather event likely to become more common, more than 50 muskoxen died swamped in ice, as gusts of howling winds drove ice and freezing waters from a tidal surge so far inland that fish were found a half-mile from shore. Rising seas are making such surges bigger and more common.

During one February flight in 2011, one of Berger’s co-authors was in a plane, photographing 55 muskoxen standing in a lagoon. A couple of weeks later, 52 of them were dead, most almost completely buried in ice. One animal had chunks of ice in its throat. The only animal not completely encased was standing and appeared to have been trying to walk.

By piecing together weather anomalies, Berger and crew figured out the most likely scenario: the animals had fallen victim to an odd type of localized tsunami. High winds pushed average tides near the site 16 times higher than normal, propelling thick ice and waves inland. Five-meter-long plates of ice up to 50 centimeters thick were found piled near the muskoxen.

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Wildlife

No-fishing zones help endangered penguins

Small no-fishing zones around colonies of African penguins can help this struggling species, new research shows.

Working with the South African government, researchers from the universities of Exeter and Cape Town tested bans on catching “forage fish” such as sardines and anchovies – key prey for the endangered penguins – from 20km around their breeding islands.

The body condition and survival of chicks improved when the no-fishing zones were in place.

More research is needed, but the scientists say the fishing closures should continue in South Africa and should be considered elsewhere.