Great Barrier Reef – More bleaching
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is suffering its third mass coral bleaching event in five years, with some reefs that had survived earlier episodes being affected again.
A new survey reveals that 80 reefs between Tully and Townsville have been badly bleached.
“We could see that some of those corals were big enough that they must have survived the 2017 bleaching and now they re-bleached,” said reef expert Terry Hughes.
Some Wildlife Photography Award Finalists
Monkeys in Japan taking a bath in hot springs
Climate change forcing whales into dangerous shipping lanes
Climate change is imperilling the world’s largest animals by increasing the likelihood of fatal collisions between whales and big ships that ply the same waters.
Warming ocean temperatures are causing some species of whales in pursuit of food to stray more frequently into shipping lanes, scientists say.
The phenomenon already has increased ship strikes involving rare North Atlantic right whales on the East Coast and giant blue whales on the West Coast, researchers say.
When whales are killed in a ship collision, they often sink and don’t always wash ashore. So scientists and conservationists say fatal ship strikes are dramatically under-reported.
Vessels strikes are among the most frequent causes of accidental death in large whales, along with entanglement in fishing gear.
Scientists say the changing ocean environment and a shift in food sources with global warming is causing right whales and some other species to stray outside protected zones designed to keep them safe from ships.
A new study finds why some birds thrive in cities while others go extinct due to human activities — they can either grow large brains or produce more offspring.
“On the one hand, species with large brains, like crows or gulls, are common in cities because large brain size helps them deal with the challenges of a novel environment,” said lead author Ferran Sayol of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg.
“On the other hand, we also found that small-brained species, like pigeons, can be highly successful if they have a high number of breeding attempts over their lifetimes.”
Fish and even dolphins have returned to the now-calmed waters of Venice’s famed canals due to the shutdown of tourism and daily life during Italy’s coronavirus health crisis.
The hundreds of speeding motorboat taxis and tourist boats that used to churn La Serenissima’s canals are now docked in silence. The huge cruise ships are also gone, while even most of the gondolas are moored.
The city’s typically turbid canals are now clear enough to see the native seaweed and returning schools of fish.
Even though the number of monarch butterflies that reached their wintering grounds in Mexico decreased by more than half this season, experts said the plunge is not alarming.
The Mexico director of the World Wildlife Fund told reporters that the previous winter’s numbers were unusually high because the first generation of the migrating insects in the spring of 2018 had encountered favorable breeding conditions as they headed northward toward the eastern U.S. and Canada.
But those fluttering northward in 2019 encountered colder conditions in Texas, which made them less able to reproduce.
Early reports from Texas this spring say the monarchs have arrived at least three weeks earlier than expected, thanks to unseasonably warm weather in Mexico.
A refuge that is home to many of East Africa’s mountain gorillas has been closed to protect the endangered primates from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Officials at Congo’s Virunga National Park say they will bar visitors until at least June 1 after experts warned that the gorillas are likely susceptible to complications from the coronavirus.
Similar actions have been taken in neighboring Rwanda to protect that country’s gorillas and chimpanzees.
Further Effects of Australian Wildfires
Many waterways in Australia that have been inundated with ash and debris following the devastating bush fires this spring and summer, killing fish and other aquatic life and fouling drinking water supplies. The thick dark mud flowing into creeks and streams is killing insect larvae, tadpoles, freshwater shrine, crayfish oysters along with many protected species of fish. One of the primary impacts of the large pulse of ash was a rapid decline in dissolved oxygen levels in the water.
Illegal Wildlife Trade under Attack in Vietnam
Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has asked the country’s agriculture ministry to draft a directive to stop illegal trading and consumption of wildlife over fears it spreads disease.
The directive, seen as a victory for animal rights organisations, will lead to a clamping down on street-side markets dotted across the country, increase prosecutions of online traders and ideally put pressure on thousands of farms with known links to illegal wildlife trading.
Vitenam’s move to ban the wildlife trade follows similar moves by the Chinese government, after the new coronavirus pandemic appeared to have emerged from a wet market in Wuhan.
Both illegal and “legal” wildlife trading flourishes in Vietnam, where the trade has grown into a billion-dollar industry. There are thousands of markets around the country, many of which include stalls selling animals for food or as pets. Anyone walking around some of the street-side stalls of the Mekong delta can see fish tanks stuffed with sea turtles or skinned-alive frogs.
“Ruminant Plague” Threatens Populations of Wildlife
A disease already known for causing massive die-offs of wildlife in Asia is spreading.
Publishing their findings in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, a team of scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and more than 20 other organizations say that the spillover of the Peste des Petits Ruminants virus (PPRV) from sheep and goats to wildlife has global implications for biodiversity.
Initially discovered in Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa in 1942, Peste des Petits Ruminants (French for small ruminant plague) is now recognized as a major global burden on the health and production of sheep and goats along with the human communities who depend on them for their livelihoods. This severe disease is typically observed as respiratory and digestive symptoms frequently followed by death. Until recently PPR has been considered a disease of domestic small ruminants, but there have been several recent outbreaks in wildlife, including the 2016-2017 outbreak in the Mongolia saiga antelope, which reduced the population of this critically endangered species by 80 percent.
There is growing evidence that wildlife species from the ‘mountain monarchs’ like the Siberian Ibex and Mountain Sheep to the wild ruminants of the great plains of Asia, like the Saiga antelope and Goitered gazelle, can be infected with PPRV.
Burnt Koalas Starve Weeks after the Bushfires
Koalas that survived the flames are now dying from starvation, dehydration, smoke inhalation and other hazards.
Over the past three weeks in one wildlife conservation property alone, our rescue team found koalas recently crushed under fire-damaged trees, and koalas with burnt paws after descending to the smouldering ground after the inferno had passed, hoping to change trees and find food. One of our most recent rescues was an orphaned, emaciated koala with all four paws burnt.
Koalas are also at risk of dying from infections associated with these injuries, or from the ongoing effects of smoke inhalation. Even uninjured koalas are struggling to find food in their burnt habitat and may soon starve.
The world’s last female white giraffe and one of its calves have been killed by armed poachers in Kenya, leaving only one of the slain female’s white offspring still alive.
The mother was first spotted in eastern Kenya’s Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in 2017.
Their alabaster coats were caused by leucism, which is different from albinism, as dark pigments continue to grow in the animals’ soft tissues, giving them dark eyes.
China bans consumption of wildlife
China has banned the consumption of wild animals following the outbreak of COVID-19, which is thought to have jumped from bats to humans at a market in Wuhan.
The ban prohibits the hunting, trade, transportation and consumption of all terrestrial wild animals whether captive-bred or wild caught, where the end purpose is to eat.
Campaigners say the ban is an important first step in keeping people safe and halting China’s wildlife trade, but want Beijing to close loopholes that still allow wild animals to be used in Chinese medicine.
Britain to Restore Sea Meadows
Seagrass meadows were once common around the UK coast, but more than 90% have been lost as a result of algae-boosting pollution, anchor damage and port and marina building. The meadows, however, store carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforests and harbour up to 40 times more marine life than seabeds without grass, facts that are driving the effort to bring them back.
The Seagrass Ocean Rescue project will ultimately place 20km of rope and a million seeds on the shallow seafloor in Dale Bay, Wales, where they will sprout through the growbags and restore the habitat. Plans are in place to expand the project around Britain.
World Wildlife Fund Warning
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 60 percent of the world’s wildlife has been killed by human activity since 1970. This is an alarming statistic, and the Fund warns that urgent action is required to reverse the devastation. The Fund says the greatest cause of wildlife loss is the destruction of natural habitats to create farmland. The next greatest threat to wildlife is animal species, about 300 of them, that are being hunted or fished into extinction by an expanding human population. Pollution is yet another major killer of wildlife. Tanya Steele, head of the World Wildlife Fund, says, “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.”
Farmers in parts of Pakistan are battling the worst locust plague in nearly 30 years after heavy rains from earlier tropical cyclones provided perfect conditions for unprecedented breeding and explosive population growth of the insects.
While most recent headlines have highlighted the damage the vast desert locust crisis has inflected on eastern Africa, other swarms have spread eastward from around the Red Sea to Iran, Pakistan and into parts of India.
Stony Corals Seem to Be Preparing for a Mass Extinction
Stony corals provide habitat for an one-fourth of the ocean’s species. They serve as the centerpiece of a rich and diverse ecosystem, which is why their recent behaviour has scientists concerned. New research shows that stony corals around the world are hunkering down into survival mode as they prepare for a mass extinction event, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.
They noticed a suite of behaviors that correspond to a survival response commensurate with how they behaved during the last mass extinction 66 million years ago. The scientists looked at the traits of corals that survived the last major extinction event. They found that the colourful, wavy corals that attract scuba divers did not last. The ones that did survive are the ones that form small colonies and seek out deep water, which are the same ones showing signs of thriving today.
The researchers witnessed how corals are now exhibiting the same traits as they did at the last major extinction event. Corals seem to be preparing to jump across an extinction boundary, while humans are putting their foot further on the pedal.
Coral reefs around the world are struggling. Recently, a mysterious virus has wiped out large swaths of Caribbean corals, a marine heatwave is threatening the health of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the climate crisis threatens to wipe out most corals by 2100, and corals in the Red Sea are struggling to spawn.