Insect Invaders

Researchers say they have found different types of insects that have managed to get a foothold in Antarctica, apparently able to survive on and around the frozen continent.

It is not known if Eretmoptera murphyi, the subantarctic flightless chironomid midge, arrived by boat or plane, in the clothing of scientists or from larvae in a container of water. But scientists say it presents a potential danger to the delicate ecosystem and can’t be eradicated with insecticide.

Uruguayan polar scientists found an invasive crane fly, Trichocera maculipennis, which also threatens to expand its territory.


Climate Confusion

As one research station on the Antarctic Peninsula experienced its hottest temperature on record with a high of 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit, freak warmth in Siberia awakened badgers early from hibernation.

The animals typically remain in slumber until late February. But above-freezing temperatures 46 degrees warmer than a year ago have caused them to stir.

An unusually warm December caused similar hibernation confusion among bears in Russia and Ukraine.

Last winter, hundreds of brown bears in a southern Russian reserve didn’t hibernate at all due to the unusual warmth.


Australia’s Bushfires Brought 113 Species Closer to Extinction

On Tuesday, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment released a list of 113 species with the highest urgent need for conservation action due to the damage they’ve suffered from this tragic situation. The list includes species such as the Kangaroo Island dunnart and Pugh’s frog, both of which are “at imminent risk of extinction,” per the report, because of how much habitat the fires destroyed.

These species were endangered before this year’s bushfire season kicked off. Now, things have gotten worse when they need to be getting better. Most have lost at least 30 percent of their range, but many have lost even more. The endemic red browed treecreeper, for instance, saw almost half of its range burn. This priority list features animals such as the golden-tipped bat, which likes to dwell in the forests and caves of the fire-stricken eastern coast of Australia, is among those included. This list is focusing on species with key functions in the ecosystem.

Many of the other species on the list—13 birds, 19 mammals, 20 reptiles, 17 frogs, five invertebrae, 22 crayfish, and 17 freshwater fish—also face severe habitat disruption.

Screen Shot 2020 02 12 at 15 55 08


The future is looking dire for bumblebees

Bumblebees are vanishing at a rate consistent with widespread extinction, and climate change is playing a big role. The dire analysis comes from a new study published in the journal Science today. The authors found that the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in any given place within North America and Europe has dropped by an average of 30 percent as temperatures have risen.

Pesticides, habitat loss, and pathogens have already hit bumblebee populations hard. The new study, however, is able to isolate the effect that hotter temperatures are having on bumblebees. Sadly, bees are having a hard time adapting to a warming world.

Some bee populations are colonizing new territories that were previously too cold. But those gains are overshadowed by losses in areas where the bees once thrived but are now too hot.

Screen Shot 2020 02 08 at 12 40 09


Wild Food Ban – China

A network of environmental groups from 74 countries has urged China to make permanent its new ban on the sale of wildlife for food in public markets to help prevent future animal-bourne pathogens from infecting people.

It is believed the Wuhan coronavirus made the leap from wildlife to humans in that city’s market, where the flesh from dogs, turtles, bats, snakes, giant salamanders, crocodiles, hedgehogs and marmots was sold.

Experts believe the outbreak originated from human exposure to an infected snake or bat from the market.

The Friends of the Earth and Friend of the Sea also point to the overall environmental damage that the public markets are causing through their exploitation of wildlife.


Kidnapped Lion Cub

A male baboon in the Kruger National Park in South Africa “stole” a lion cub from its pride while foraging for food and then took it up a tree to groom it. It is not known what happened to the cub, but the male baboon would not know how to raise the lion cub, which would probably have died if not reunited with its pride.



Missing Monarchs 2020

The number of wintering monarch butterflies along the coast of California has not recovered significantly from last year’s record low.

While about 4.5 million of the colourful monarchs fluttered through forest groves there in the 1980s, that number had plunged to about 27,000 last year and has risen by only 2,000 since.

The disappearance is being blamed on destruction of the milkweed they feed on along their migratory route, as well as agricultural use of pesticides and herbicides.

The western monarchs migrate from areas west of the Rockies to winter at more than 200 sites in coastal California each year.

Their eastern counterparts migrate to Mexico from summer habitats in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.

Desert Survivous

Scientists are scrambling to save a species of critically endangered frog that lives in a tiny oasis of water and reeds in Chile’s otherwise parched Atacama Desert, the world’s driest.

Because pollution, habitat loss and an expanding nearby mining city threaten what few of the tiny, dark-spotted amphibians that have survived, 14 of the last remaining Lao River water frogs were airlifted to Santiago’s Metropolitan Zoo. Only one failed to survive the move.

Osvaldo Cabeza, the zoo’s herpetology supervisor, says a team will work to encourage the survivors to feed and reproduce in captivity as the species’ only chance of survival.

The range of Telmatobius dankoi is now limited to just 4 square miles of dried-up riverbed outside of the city of Calama.

Unique pink slug feared wiped out by Australia’s bushfires found alive and well

A bright pink slug species, found only on one mountain in Australia, has survived the devastating bushfires that ripped through much of its habitat. The unique, eye-catching creature only lives on the slopes of an isolated inactive volcano in New South Wales, Mount Kaputar, from which they take their name.

After recent rainfall, rangers from New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service found “about 60” Mount Kaputar slugs alive.

Screen Shot 2020 01 31 at 13 39 34


Half a Billion Animals Killed in Australia Wildfires

Ecologists now say wildfires that have scorched huge swaths of Australia have killed half a billion animals, revising a previous estimate of more than 2 billion animals killed. Nearly a third of the continent’s koalas has been wiped out—and some other species face total extermination as high temperatures and drought fuel the blazes. “Many of the affected animals are likely to have been killed directly by the fires, with others succumbing later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources and predation from introduced feral cats and red foxes,” the team from University of Sydney said.

GettyImages 1185446528 jqpgdz


Worst Locust Swarm to Hit East Africa in Decades

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said that Ethiopia and Somalia had not seen a swarm this bad in 25 years, while Kenya was facing its largest infestation in 70 years. Vulnerable families that were already dealing with food shortages now face the prospect of watching as their crops are destroyed before their eyes.

The desert locust swarm came across the Red Sea from Yemen and was encouraged by heavy rains in late 2019, according to BBC News. The UN was already warning that the infestation could spread from Ethiopia in November. Some farmers in the country’s Amhara region lost 100 percent of their crops, and a swarm forced an Ethiopian passenger plane off course in December.

Locusts can travel 93 miles a day, and each adult can eat its weight in food in the same time span. A small swarm can eat enough food to feed 35,000 people in 24 hours, The Associated Press reported, and the locusts have already infested around 172,973 acres of land in Kenya.

Rainy conditions expected in March could cause the locust swarms to grow by a factor of 500 before drier weather is expected in June, the UN said.

Screen Shot 2020 01 28 at 13 28 59


Human Footprint

Around 85% of Earth’s wildlife is now being trampled by intense human pressure, which researchers say is putting some of those species into an extinction crisis.

Scientists from the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups point to land species with small ranges as being disproportionately exposed to human competition from factors such as grazing livestock, agriculture and urban sprawl.

The study’s “Human Footprint” report also lists other influences, such as population density, transportation networks, and mining and utility corridors, for their impacts on wildlife.


Radioactive Habitat

Wildlife is thriving in the most contaminated areas around Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered meltdowns following a devastating 2011 offshore quake and subsequent tsunami.

Photos from automatic cameras set up by the University of Georgia showed that more than 20 species are flourishing in various areas of the irradiated landscape.

They found almost three times as many species such as wild boar, hares, macaques, pheasants and fox living there than in the slightly contaminated areas where people are able to live.

The research does not address the health and welfare of the animals in the presence of such radiation.


Prolific Tortoise

A species of Galapagos giant tortoise once on the brink of extinction has been saved with the help of a half-century of tireless breeding from one of only three surviving males.

Since 1976, “Diego” has fathered 800 of the now 2,000 Chelonoidis hoodensis of Española Island. But since the species is no longer in danger and the successful captive breeding project is ending, the pressure is now off for the approximately 130-year-old Diego.

Experts say the playboy has a “big personality” and is aggressive, active and vocal while mating. Diego will be allowed to live out his golden years in leisure after finally being released back into the wild on his native Española Island, where he was captured by scientists 80 years ago.



A blob of hot water in the Pacific Ocean killed a million seabirds

Screen Shot 2020 01 16 at 13 34 43

As many as one million seabirds died at sea in less than 12 months in one of the largest mass die-offs in recorded history — and researchers say warm ocean waters are to blame.

The birds, a fish-eating species called the common murre, were severely emaciated and appeared to have died of starvation between the summer of 2015 and the spring of 2016, washing up along North America’s west coast, from California to Alaska.

Now, scientists say they know what caused it: a huge section of warm ocean water in the northeast Pacific Ocean dubbed “the Blob.”

A years-long severe marine heat wave first began in 2013, and intensified during the summer of 2015 due to a powerful weather phenomenon called El Nino, which lasted through 2016.

The heat wave created the Blob — a 1,000-mile (1,600 km) stretch of ocean that was warmed by 3 to 6 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 10.8 Fahrenheit). A high-pressure ridge calmed the ocean waters — meaning heat stays in the water, without storms to help cool it down.

Those few degrees of warming wreaked havoc on the region’s marine ecosystems. There was a huge drop in the production of microscopic algae that feed a range of animals, from shrimp to whales. The warmth caused a massive bloom of harmful algae along the west coast, that killed many animals and cost fisheries millions of dollars in lost income.

Other animals that experienced mass die-offs include sea lions, tufted puffins, and baleen whales. But none of them compared to the murres in scale.

About 62,000 dead or dying murres washed up on shore — but the total number of deaths is likely to be closer to one million since only a small fraction of birds that die at sea wash up, said researchers from the University of Washington,

The murres likely starved to death because the Blob caused more competition for fewer small prey. The warming increased the metabolism of predatory fish like salmon, cod, and halibut — meaning they were eating more than usual. These fish eat the same small fish as the murres, and there simply wasn’t enough to go around.


Australian Wildfire Rescue

Specialised animal rescue teams have been deployed to Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia after unprecedented bushfires ripped through one-third of the island’s bushland. Humane Society International has been building food and water stations for animals still in the wild while also searching for koalas, possums and wombats that may have survived.


Airdrops of Food of Australian Wallabies

The Australian government is using helicopters and airplanes to help feed starving animals displaced by the country’s wildfire crisis.

The New South Wales government used aircraft to drop more than 4,000 pounds of food, mostly carrots and sweet potatoes, to colonies of brush-tailed rock-wallabies that were left stranded as massive wildfires ravaged their habitat.

The brush-tailed rock-wallaby was already endangered in southeastern Australia before the fires began in September and government officials said their survival could be complicated further by the ongoing crisis. The fires are estimated to have killed more than a billion animals and scorched more than 8.4 million hectares — about twice the size of Maryland.

Screen Shot 2020 01 13 at 13 51 24