Ocean Sanctuary

About 735,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean have been declared one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries as the Cook Islands moves to help protect its territorial waters for future generations.

The island nation has a population of only about 10,000, living on 15 islands. But its position between New Zealand and Hawaii with no nearby neighbors means it controls a huge maritime territory.

The move to establish the marine reserve, known as Marae Moana, was approved by the country’s traditional leaders.


Climate change threatening survival of African wild dogs

Climate change is threatening the survival of African wild dogs.

Rising temperatures have cut the endangered animals’ hunting time‚ and pups’ survival rate is plunging as a result.

The warning‚ by a team of researchers led by Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London‚ comes soon after scientists suggested a “biological annihilation” of wildlife means Earth’s sixth mass extinction is under way.

Woodroffe’s paper‚ published in the Journal of Animal Ecology‚ is one of the first to show the impact of global warming on wildlife thought to be well adapted to heat.

Only 6‚600 African wild dogs survive in the wild‚ and the 1‚400 adults leave their pups in dens when they set off on early morning and late evening hunts‚ avoiding the worst heat of the day.

The scientists found rising temperatures in Kenya‚ Zimbabwe and Botswana cut the time the dogs were active‚ reducing the amount of meat they were able to regurgitate into the mouths’ of their young‚ thereby endangering the survival of pups.

In Botswana‚ the average number of pups that reached their first birthday fell by 35% from 5.1 per litter between 1989-2000 to 3.3 between 2001-2012‚ with temperatures rising 1.1C in the same period. Yearlings fell by 31% in Kenya and 14% in Zimbabwe.



Wildlife at Risk After Monsoon Floods in India

Police are patrolling for poachers as rhinoceros, deer and wild buffalo move to higher ground to escape floods devastating parts of northeast India, including a famed wildlife preserve.

Kaziranga National Park in Assam state has the world’s largest population of the one-horned rhinoceros and is home to many other species.

The flooding situation in the park is grave after heavy monsoon rains in the past three weeks. Forest guards have found one carcass of a rhino that died in the floods, and vehicles on a highway knocked down six deer over the weekend.

Most forest guard posts in the park have flooded, and police are ordering drones to keep watch on the national park spread over an area of 500 square kilometers (195 square miles).


A Last Resort

Mexican officials announced that they will enlist mine-hunting dolphins trained by the U.S. Navy to help save the last few remaining vaquita marina porpoises still living in the northern Gulf of California.

Only about 30 of the world’s smallest porpoises are believed to have survived the gill nets illegally used to catch prized totoaba fish. The totoaba’s swim bladder can fetch $20,000 per kilogram in China for use in a soup believed to increase fertility.

The Navy dolphins will join boats and aircraft to track down the vaquitas and herd them for relocation to a large pen. Conservationists then plan to breed them and increase their population, but such a technique has yet to be proven effective.


Large-scale study shows neonic pesticides harm bees

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The most extensive study to date on neonicotinoid pesticides concludes that they harm both honeybees and wild bees. Researchers said that exposure to the chemicals left honeybee hives less likely to survive over winter, while bumblebees and solitary bees produced fewer queens.

The study spanned 2,000 hectares across the UK, Germany and Hungary and was set up to establish the “real-world” impacts of the pesticides.

Neonicotinoids were placed under a temporary ban in Europe in 2013 after concerns about their impact on bees. The European Commission told the BBC that it intends to put forward a new proposal to further restrict the use of the chemicals.

Prof Richard Pywell, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxfordshire, who carried out the research, told BBC News: “Our findings are a cause for serious concern. “We’ve shown for the first time negative effects of neonicotinoid-coated seed dressings on honeybees and we’ve also shown similar negative effects on wild bees. “This is important because many crops globally are insect pollinated and without pollinators we would struggle to produce some foods.”

However, Bayer, a major producer of neonicotinoids which part-funded the study, said the findings were inconclusive and that it remained convinced the pesticides were not bad for bees.

A second study published in the journal Science looked at commercial corn-growing areas of Canada. The scientists found that worker bees exposed to neonicotinoids had lower life expectancies and their colonies were more likely to permanently lose queens.

African Ark

Thousands of wild animals are being moved across parts of Africa in an attempt to restore their populations in Mozambique, where a bloody 15-year civil war nearly wiped them out.

Neighboring Zimbabwe is donating and transporting 50 elephants, 100 giraffes, 200 zebras and 200 water buffaloes to Mozambique’s Zinave National Park in one of Africa’s largest ever wildlife transfers.

In total, about 7,500 wild animals from Zimbabwe, South Africa and elsewhere in Mozambique will be relocated during the next three years to help Zinave officials restore the park’s diversity.

Gelatinous Invasion

Scientists are baffled by the mounting invasion of jellylike organisms that are clogging fishing gear from California to British Columbia this year.

The glowing, tubular pyrosome clusters are typically found in the tropics far from shore, but they have spread northward right along the Pacific Coast in recent years.

There are now reports of them as far north as Sitka, Alaska.

Some West Coast fishermen say there are now so many of the “sea pickles” in the water that it is impossible to catch anything else.

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Wasted Fish

Fishing fleets dump about 10 percent of the fish they catch back into the ocean in an “enormous waste” of low-value fish despite some progress in limiting discards in recent years, scientists said on Monday.

Almost 10 million tonnes of about 100 million tonnes of fish caught annually in the past decade were thrown back into the sea, according to the “Sea Around Us” review by the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Australia.

Industrial fleets often throw back fish that are damaged, diseased, too small or of an unwanted species. A trawler with a quota only to catch North Atlantic cod, for instance, may throw back hake caught in the same net.

Discards are an “enormous waste … especially at a time when wild capture fisheries are under global strain amidst growing demands for food security and human nutritional health,” they wrote in the journal Fish & Fisheries.


Arctic Migrants

An Inuvialuit hunter high in the Canadian Arctic came across the first beaver anyone in the region has ever killed — another sign climate change is driving the species northward.

“We saw something walk toward us and it was a beaver. So I drove up to it and I shot it,” said Richard Gruben, vice president of the Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Association.

The invading beavers pose a significant threat to the Arctic ecosystem because of the way they reshape the landscape with dams. Gruben says some lakes have already dried up because of beaver dams.

Serengeti Invasion

Non-native plants that have been brought in by visitors or planted for decoration around tourist lodges threaten to spread across East Africa’s Serengeti-Mara landscape, where they could disrupt the annual migration of 2 million grazing animals.

A survey by an international team of researchers reveals that the invasive plants are now on the edges of the vast savannas, home to Africa’s famed wildebeest, zebra and gazelle populations.

The researchers say that if the plants were to spread and displace native vegetation, it would mean less forage for the wildlife.


Yellowstone Grizzlies Lose Endangered Status

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species List yesterday.

About 700 bears currently inhabit the GYE — up from 136 individuals in 1975 — and their range covers 2,500 square miles (6,475 square kilometers). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) found the population to be stable and sustainable, determining that the bears had reached a recovery point that no longer required federal protections, representing “one of America’s great conservation success stories.

Snake fungal disease identified in wild British snakes

Europe’s wild snakes could face a growing threat from a fungal skin disease that has contributed to wild snake deaths in North America, according to an international collaborative study.

Caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, snake fungal disease (SFD) can lead to symptoms including skin lesions, scabs and crusty scales, which can contribute to the death of the infected animal in some cases. SFD was first recognised in wild snakes in eastern North America around a decade ago. Prior to this study, the only wild populations found to be affected had been those in the central and eastern United States.


Late Nesting Habits

Birds and bumblebees that nest later in the year are under threat and declining in population because of habitat losses.

Researchers from the University of Exeter discovered that species that nest in April or May rather than in February or March are disappearing more rapidly. A loss of wild shrubs and trees that line fields and roads, along with disappearing meadows in many countries, are factors in the declining populations.

“Fighting over nest sites may be part of the reason — when nest sites are hard to come by, the species that will suffer most are those that nest later in the year,” said researcher Andrew Higginson.


White-nose Syndrome – Bats

Biologists have confirmed white-nose syndrome (WNS) in the southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius) for the first time. The species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease.

The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), causes WNS, which affects many, but not all bat species that come into contact with it. Of those affected, bat populations have declined by more than 90 percent.


Rat Mob!

Villages in a southwestern region of Myanmar were recently deluged with thousands of rats, according to local officials. The swarm of vermin descended following heavy flooding that may have driven them from their nests in nearby caves.

In two locations — the towns of Zee Chaing and Kyauk Chaung — villagers, police officers, health officials and other government representatives killed over 1,000 rats on June 5, with the remainder retreating to the area’s forests.

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One of Malaysia’s Last Sumatran Rhinos Dies

One of the last three Sumatran rhinoceroses in Malaysia has died, the Borneo Rhino Alliance has announced.

The rhino, named Puntung, was about 20 years old. Her keepers at Malaysia’s Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah euthanized her on June 4, eight days after discovering that the critically endangered animal had squamous cell cancer. The cancer had spread rapidly, and intensive treatment would have bought Puntung only a few more months of life penned in an indoor enclosure, the Borneo Rhino Alliance reported on its Facebook page.

Sumatran rhinoceroses (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) are the smallest of all rhino species. They’re also the most endangered, according to the International Rhino Foundation (IRF). With Puntung’s death, there are only two individuals left in Malaysia: Tam, a middle-age male; and Iman, a female. Both are kept at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The Sumatran rhino is now extinct in the wild in Malaysia. In Indonesia, fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in the wild. Poaching has sliced the population in half over the past 20 years, according to the IRF.

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Medications, pesticides, found in blood of sea turtles on Great Barrier Reef

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Heart and gout medications, pesticides, herbicides and other industrial chemicals have all been found in the blood of green sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef, according to researchers.

The discovery was made as part of project led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which compared samples from turtles in urban areas to the more remote locations.

Chemical exposure has been linked to stress and other side effects in wildlife, and the indications of inflammation and liver dysfunction were found in some green turtles.

The scientists said the worrying thing was there are more chemicals they could not identify than chemicals they could identify.

Faceless Fish

An Australian museum expedition has come across a species of fish not seen near the country since 1873. It has no visible eyes, gills or any other facial features except for two nostrils and a mouth at the bottom of its body.

Dubbed the “faceless cusk,” the fish measures roughly 22 inches in length and was captured by trawling a deep ocean trench off Australia’s eastern coast at a depth of around 2 miles.

According to Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the creature, known as a cusk eel, has been previously observed from the Arabian Sea, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Japan to Hawaii. But living at depths of up to 14,000 feet, it is rarely seen.