Namibia still committed to habitat conservation…

At this time when our wild life is in grave danger ,Namibia’s commitment towards  the protection of wildlife and habitat conservation is an applaoudable  effort.

We’re all familiar with the themes dominating headlines about Africa’s declining wildlife.

Lions, elephants and tigers, one might think, will exist only in sad tales told to children in a decade or two.

Yet amid the disturbing news, one African wildlife success story stands out like the sun rising over the Serengeti — and it’s great news for travelers.

With sustainable wildlife tourism as the long-term goal, the southern African nation of Namibia has been making ambitious commitments to habitat conservation since its independence in 1990.

Almost half of country protected

The nation of 2.2 million people was the first African country to write environmental protection into its constitution. More than 40% of Namibia is now under some form of conservation management.Wildlife series from Namibia

Officially inaugurated in March 2012, the KAZA (Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area) initiative established a 100,000-square-mile, five-nation conservation zone — the world’s largest.

Encompassing the entire Caprivi Panhandle in Namibia, KAZA’s “conservation beyond borders” approach protects wildlife corridors shared by Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Central to the effort are the communal conservancies — rural communities that share the proceeds of wildlife ventures equitably between members — that now cover one-fifth of the country and affect 250,000 rural Namibians

Human-wildlife conflict reversed

In many cases, poachers have become protectors, as Namibians have come to appreciate the long-term benefits of living with wildlife.

Generations of human-wildlife conflict are being reversed, while communities are made stakeholders.

Much of Namibia’s wildlife is now flourishing.

This is also good news for travelers.

With more than 30 conservancy lodges dotting the Caprivi Panhandle and north-central regions — Namibia’s wildlife hotbeds — visitors are privy to some of the most unforgettable wildlife encounters in Africa.

Socorro Dove back in Mexico

Yet another happy news of re-habitation. This time from the North American country of Mexico. The Socorro Dove bird, which moved away from its Mexican home 40 years back is now back to the original land. Through the constant efforts of conversationalists and Biologists of Mexico city, the Socorro dove has now made Mexico its home for breeding once again.
Earlier this month, conservation groups and scientists celebrated the return of the Socorro dove (Zenaida graysoni) to Mexico, where it was last seen in its natural habitat in 1972. The Socorro dove is endemic to Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, but introduced mammals drove the bird to extinction by predation and habitat destruction.
Socorro Dove

The Socorro Dove Project was started in 1987 by Dr. Luis Baptista, and today more than 20 institutions have conservation breeding projects dedicated to its recovery. Groups such as the Frankfurt Zoo, Albuquerque Biological Park, and Africam Safari manage ex-situ, or “off-site” conservation, and breed the doves outside of their natural habitat. The Institute of Ecology (INECOL) and Island Endemics Foundation coordinate in-situ, or “on-site” conservation, and breed the doves in their natural habitat. In 2004, the Mexican Navy and Island Endemics Foundation funded a breeding station on Socorro Island, but in 2005 an outbreak of avian influenza prevented re-introduction of the doves to the wild. In April 2013, ex-situ breeding was extended to Mexico thanks to efforts by Africam Safari.
The scientists and researchers that worked on the Socorro Dove Project are pleased the dove has returned to Mexico, but the ultimate goal is for the dove to return to its native habitat of Socorro Island in the near future.

Italy’s Iconic Marsican Bear on the verge of extinction

Killing of animals seems to never stop. After making thousands of animals removed out of the equation, men are still greedy to remove even more. The iconic Italian Marsican bear could soon add its name to the long list of animals that are now out of this world. This happens just miles from the Italian capital city, the Rome, despite the Italian Government spending millions of Euros on their conservation.
The Marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) is only found in the Italy’s Central Apennines, less than 200 kilometers from Rome. The last reliable research carried out in 2011 by the University La Sapienza in Rome estimated a population of around 49 bears. Not surprisingly, the Marsican bear is at extremely high risk of extinction and is considered Critically Endangered on the Red List of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

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The population was once distributed over a large area of the Apennines, but during the last two centuries Marsican bears were devastated by hunting. Now they mostly live in a core area limited to the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise (PNALM) and some surrounding territories. Experts believe that due to its “long-term isolation from the other brown bear population,” the Marsican bear is “a unique evolutionary and conservation unit, based on genetic and morphological traits,” according to a paper from 2008.
Researches stated that bear’s high mortality rate is unacceptable and remains the biggest obstacle to the survival of the population. Poachers and collisions with cars are the biggest killers of Marsican bears, though for half of the deaths we do not have a definite diagnosis.
During the period of 1971 to 2013, 93 bears died. In the 1980s bears were mostly killed by poachers; in the 1990s most bears died as result of car accidents; and from 2000 on most deaths have been caused by poisoning. Two bears, an adult female and a yearling male were poisoned in 2003; three—an adult female, an adult male, and a subadult male – were poisoned in 2007 together with five wolves and eighteen wild boars. No one was found guilty for these crimes.

 

Another attempt to poison the remaining population of Marsican bears took place only this year: in May thirty poisoned baits were found in the heart of the Park. Two foxes, one wolf, and maybe a golden eagle died from the poisoning. In the aftermath of the discovery, specialized teams from the Forest Service destroyed the poisoned baits and no bear was killed.

 

Nevertheless, mortalities continue. In April a bear died in a collision with a car after climbing a fence on the highway. In June, a bear nicknamed “Stefano” was found dead but investigations on this death are still ongoing. Though the first results excluded mortality by poisoning or shooting, the medical necropsy uncovered four bullets in the bear’s body, but they are not considered the primary cause of death.

Marsican bears disappears into the forest. Photo by: Gaetano de Persiis. The bears are also threatened by disease that can be transmitted by livestock, wild animals and especially stray dogs. In January twelve wolves were found dead, some of them due to canine distemper. A few months later, over 30 wolves died mainly for the same plague, along with hundreds of dogs and stray dogs. A vaccination campaign has been launched covering Abruzzo and Molise regions in order to restrain the plague, which also poses a threat to the Marsican bear.

Furthermore, vets have found other diseases like tuberculosis and clostridium in cattle in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise.

 

Researchers from La Sapienza highlighted in a paper paperpublished in 2008, that the “development of a new strategic approach to overcome the traditional division among authorities and to coordinate all conservation efforts” is needed to save bear’s population. At the time, an interagency commitment called PATOM, (Action Plan for the Conservation of the Apennine Brown Bear) was signed by 24 administrations—including all national, regional and provincial administrations – and NGOs involved in Apennine brown bear conservation. The Plan aims at coordinating all the institutions involved in the management of Marsican bear conservation.
At the present time, however, the PATOM objectives’ deadlines have expired, and no information on the achievements of this agreement is available to the public.
However, a new conservation project dubbed Life Arctos, funded by the EU Life Program, started in 2011 and is due to finish in 2014. Life Arctos is undertaking various actions, many of which were outlined in PATOM, including: interventions for livestock husbandry more compatible with the presence of the bear; reduction of conflicts arising from human activities; management of Marsican bear natural resources; campaigns to spread information and raise awareness; as well as educational activities. While these initiatives are expected to be monitored on the website, at the moment only technical reports have been published.

 

If they are to survive Marsican bears need to spread into other protected areas in the central Apennines, according to experts. For this to happen, authorities must create functional wildlife corridors.
However, even as experts suggest creating more room for the vanishing bears, the Abruzzo Region local government is discussing reducing the borders for Sirente Velino Regional Park. Experts have identified this park as a possible target for bear expansion, but unfortunately it is also attractive for hunters and luxury development. Despite warnings from NGOs and the park’s staff, the regional government, which signed the PATOM years ago, continues to push the project. According to a local newspaper, Il Centro the Russian company Gazprom has proposed to build a large ski resort in an area once-frequented by the Marsican bear, wiping out forever the possibility of Italy’s bear returning to these mountainsides.

Alert: Your handbag contains E.Coli!

Women carry handbag everywhere they go. It’s no surprise that it will be filled with stuffs like make-up kits and refreshments. But what even they do not know is that they carry a huge amount of threatening bacterias with them. Even more shocking fact is that one-third of the women say they never bothered to clean their handbag! There is no surprise that they carry such a large amount of diseases in their handbag.
Researchers took swabs from inside the fashion accessories, as well as from laptops and gym holdalls.
Toxic terrors included deadly E.coli, which causes food poisoning, faecal Streptococcus, which is a cause of pneumonia, ear infection and meningitis, plus Coliforms, from the faeces of warm-blooded animals, and Pseudomonas, the second most common form of infection in hospital patients.

And as 33% of women admitted that they never clean their bags, it is no surprise that they are contaminated.

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Men are cleaner, but only just, with 28% saying that they never wash their bags.

 

Of those quizzed, many people admitted they carried shoes, dirty socks, pants, snotty tissues and even DIY equipment with them on a daily basis.
Up to 20% said they would happily chew a piece of gum they found loose in the bottom of their holdall, unaware of the hygiene horrors.
And they confessed that they would eat the gum if they had forgotten to clean their teeth, before a first date or even before going to a big job interview.
And some people even admitted to blowing fluff off a piece of gum before popping it in their mouth.
The revealing swab tests were carried out on thousands of people by Mentos Pure Fresh Gum to look at our handbag habits.
Claire Powley, from Mentos Gum, said: “Our research results prove extremely shocking, particularly as so many of us wouldn’t think twice about eating loose gum found in the bottom of our bag, completely unaware to the harmful bacteria we are putting into our mouths at the same time.”

 

Last week, scientists revealed most holy water at places of worship contains harmful bacteria and should come with health warnings.

Mites in Eco-roof forces a School to close

However good a product or invention maybe, there are some disadvantages associated with it. The Eco-roofs installed across various schools and other buildings in the United Kingdom, have an untold problem, the mites. For the harvest mites, these Eco-roofs are a safe haven. A haven that they like very much. Such an instance happened at a School in Cumbria, where the pupils were sent home early, as the mites began to bite them.
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Fumigation teams were called to deal with the pests, which the secondary school described as “still an ongoing problem“.

Dennis Laird, chair of governors at Walney School, told the North West Evening Mail: “As a result of an insect infestation, the school’s management team took the decision to close the school today at lunchtime.

“We are now working closely with the county council to resolve this issue and it is anticipated that the school will re-open on Monday as normal.

“Clearly it is not acceptable and pupils and parents will rightly expect the problem to be solved quickly.”

Walney School said the pest control company fumigated the venting systems throughout the weekend and used smoke bombs to keep the mites at bay. Acting headteacher Helen Collis admitted the problem lies “with the type of roof that has been installed”, and said a council representative would be meeting with the Department for Environment to resolve the issue.

The grass eco-roof has been in place for around 12 months.

A Cumbria County Council public health spokesperson said: “Although a bite can be itchy and uncomfortable, harvest mites in the UK do not carry any diseases that present a risk to humans.

“The best way to get rid of mites on the body is a hot bath or shower, and to make sure clothes are washed at a normal temperature.”

Birds in woods are at high risk

Woodlands are the natural home for the birds. They are believed to be safe there. And we also assume that due to the urbanization and converting forest areas into towns, we destroy their livelihood , render them homeless and put these birds at high risk . Though that is partially true, a study now has revealed that it is birds in woods and not in towns, that is High risk  for the breeding of these birds. The study iterates that the breeding of such birds are high in towns rather than in the woods.

They found that those living in urban areas were better able to cope during spells of exceptionally cold and wet weather because they were less dependent on a single food source to feed their chicks.

Birds nesting at all three sites suffered during the harsh spring of 2012, which was particularly cold and the wettest year on record, raising fewer chicks than usual with a lighter body weight than average.

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But those studied at the Brampton Wood nature reserve, a site of ash, oak and maple woodland, were worse affected than those at the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens in Cambridge city centre and Cow Lane nature reserve, a riverside area of willows and reed beds.

Blue tits and great tits usually lay one egg per day until their clutch is complete and then start to incubate them, but the birds at Brampton Wood delayed their incubation in the cold weather, meaning their chicks hatched later.

Great tits were particularly badly affected, with the average span from laying the first egg to hatching lasting 32 days. The figure for birds at urban sites was 17 days.

A delay in hatching generally leads to a smaller brood, and fewer chicks leaving the nest.

Writing in the PLOS ONE journal, the researchers said this was most likely because the weather had led to a scarcity of caterpillars, a key type of prey. Those in urban areas had a wider range of other food sources with which to compensate.

Rainfall, which washes caterpillars off leaves and makes them harder for birds to find, and cold temperatures, which affect their reproduction and growth, were found to be the main factors.

Dr Nancy Harrison, one of the researchers, said: “The birds breeding in the good woodland habitat really struggled during last year’s cold, rainy spring.

“Blue tits and great tits in urban areas often forage for other prey and so are less reliant on one particular food source. These ‘urban scavengers’ were better able to cope in 2012 when these caterpillars were in short supply.”

Over the whole of the ten-year study woodland birds produced larger and healthier broods, but this may not always be the case, she added.

“The breeding season is controlled by a hierarchy of factors including daylight and temperature, with temperature playing a key role in caterpillar reproduction and growth.

“If these extreme weather events become more commonplace due to the effects of climate change, then birds living in urban environments may have the advantage.”

Zambian Rhinos on the rise

Poaching of Rhinos is very common in the African nations where they are hunted for its precious horns. The poaching has reached a limit where it threatens the very existence of the Species in the continent. Though various Governments are taking steps to control poaching, it is very difficult to control such crimes among the illiterate population. As a good news for the African nation of Zambia, studies have unveiled that the Zambian Rhinos population in the country is slowly on the rise giving hopes to the National Government.

Through the partnership known as the North Luangwa Conservation Programme, an agreement between the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) & Zambia Wildlife Authority, poaching was brought under control and by 2001 a proposal was put forward to reintroduce black rhino to NLNP. In 2003 the first of four deliveries took place with the arrival of five black rhino to NLNP. Ten more arrived in 2006, five more in 2008 and the last five were delivered in 2010.

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No rhinos poached, but elephant poaching worse than ever

Since 2003, eight animals have died naturally, there have been no black rhinos poached, & thirteen calves have been born, giving a populations today of 30. Three calves were born in 2013 alone. However, poaching is on the increase and elephant poaching in the ecosystem has taken a significant uptick in the last five years. 2013 poached elephant records will exceed all others over the past 20 years. The threat to the black rhino population is very real and present. A sobering thought: in the 1970s there were 12,000 rhinos in Zambia; just over a decade later, there were none. In 2013, there are less than 12,000 elephants left in Zambia; where will be a decade from now?

NLCP supports law enforcement and protected area management activities in an area covering about 16,000km² (3/4 the size of Wales). In that area ZAWA has 24 base camps where the rangers scouts are based and from where they deploy on patrol.

Training & back up

NLCP provides housing, training, vehicles, patrol rations, equipment, radios, GPS units, and uniforms for ZAWA Wildlife Police Officers to carry out their anti-poaching duties fully and effectively. NLCP also provides support to the five intelligence and investigations units to make follow ups and ensure the full extent of the law can be applied to transgressors.

NLCP supports infrastructural development such as airstrips, roads, bridges, offices and outpost buildings to strengthen management and tourism activities. We contract a local builder to take on the works that we design, budget and fundraise for, such as scout houses, school buildings, offices, etc. We supervise all this and effectively manage the construction work. NLCP also directly employs teams of men to help clear, dig and fix roads, as well as use the NLCP grader with our driver to annually maintain, clear and grade more than 700 kilometers of roads and three bush airstrips.

NLCP engages with local communities through their Lolesha Luangwa conservation education programme, which reaches about 1500 Grades 5-7 children in 22 schools surrounding NLNP.

FZS financial input is about 45% of overall annual activity running costs, excluding salaries, which are paid for by ZAWA.

A new Genus of Rats discovered

New species are discovered around the world almost every week. But discovering a new genus is not such an easy task. It also does not happen frequently. Such a rare occurrence happened recently in Indonesia. Biologists here in Indonesia have discovered a new rat last month in a place where Sir Alfred Wallace discovered a new genus of rodent mammals exactly a century ago. Sir Wallace is known for his theory of evolution simultaneously developed with Charles Darwin. It is this place which inspired his theory.
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Mining and deforestation

One hundred years after the death of Sir Alfred Russel Wallace, an international team of zoologists discovered the new genus of mammal in the Halmahera Island in Indonesia. It is located in Wallacea, an Eastern Indonesian region named after the British Naturalist himself. The team was surprised to find the new endemic rodent close to the locality of Boki Mekot, a mountainous area under severe ecological threat due to mining and deforestation.

The species is only known in this locality and is named Halmaheramys bokimekot. Project leader Pierre-Henri Fabre from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate states: “This new rodent highlights the large amount of unknown biodiversity in this Wallacean region and the importance of its conservation. It constitutes a valuable addition to our knowledge of the Wallacean biodiversity and much remains to be learned about mammalian biodiversity across this region. Zoologists must continue to explore this area in order to discover and describe new species in this highly diverse, but also threatened region.”

Terrestrial spiny rat

Halmaheramys bokimekot is a terrestrial spiny rat of medium body size with brownish grey fur on its back and a greyish white belly. Together with its other characteristics it represents a unique set of features that has never been reported before in the Moluccas.

The region that inspired Wallace

It is clear that the region had a profound influence of Wallace’s thinking as it was from the Moluccan province of Indonesia that Wallace wrote his famous letter about natural selection and evolutionary theory to Charles Darwin. The two naturalists both published their findings in 1858.

The unique nature of the plants and animals found within the region and the large floral and faunal differences to the neighbouring region of Australia, later inspired Wallace to define a zoogeographical boundary dividing the Indonesian archipelago into two distinct parts: a western portion in which the animals are largely of Asian origin and an eastern portion where the fauna reflect Australasia. This is known as the Wallace line.

New rat reveals a rare migration event

“The Halmaheramys discovery supports Wallace’s idea of an important faunal breakup in this region. Most of the species on the island of Halmahera reflect eastern origins, but our genetic analysis revealed a western origin of the new rat genus. That reflects the unique transition zone found in the Indo-Pacific, and warrants much greater scientific investigation,” says Pierre-Henri Fabre.

Zoogeographical boundaries

Last year he and colleagues from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate provided an update of Wallace’s zoogeographical world map from 1876 based on modern technology such as DNA analysis and hundreds of thousands of species records. The study showed that in spite of lacking modern techniques Wallace’s zoogeographical boundaries of the world were remarkably accurately.

“Such a remarkable island setting inspired one of the greatest biologists of all time, and if Sir Alfred Russell Wallace were alive today he would surely be excited by the prospect of further conservation and biodiversity study within the Moluccas,” says Pierre-Henri Fabre.

The international team of zoologists that made the discovery was led by the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Indonesia and the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen

Otters are back in Surrey!

It’s been a month of re habitation. Over the past month, we have seen a number of species returning to their old homes. Its one such a story from the United Kingdom. The Otters, which were unable to be tracked for more than 50 years by now, are now confirmed to exist in the suburbs of Surrey. A researcher has filmed an entire otter family living in the banks of river in Surrey, almost after half-a-decade of their endangerment.

In the 1970s, otters were close to extinction, but they are slowly recovering in Britain given the ban on pesticides and the improvement in water quality and related fish stocks. Aaron Mason, a PhD researcher at the University of Surrey, has filmed the otters during his research project, called ‘Wildsense’, working closely with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Surrey Wildlife Trust.
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Family filmed

Jim Jones of the Surrey Wildlife Trust said: “The cameras have captured members of an otter family, one adult and two juveniles about 14 times in the summer. This is the first time we have had photographic evidence of otters and the first evidence for breeding otters in Surrey for 50 years so it’s very exciting.”

Aaron said: “It took several weeks to finally get proof from the cameras. We went for weeks with no activity and thing then we repositioned our cameras. I was getting instant automatic email updates from the internet-connected camera but all the photos were triggered by other activity such as wind movement or falling leaves so I was getting quite concerned. Then we moved the camera position and about a week later I woke up one morning to check the emails as usual and was delighted to get the images proving otters were back at last. It’s about time they came back where they truly belong.”

Surrey Wildlife Trust has been working hard to encourage otters back in to Surrey. They have been liaising with the Environment Agency (EA) on the Otters and Rivers Project since 1997, improving conditions for otters by providing animals with places to rest up and build homes or ‘holts’ and encouraging them to breed.

Professor Paul Krause, of the University’s Department of Computing, who is supervising Aaron’s project, explained: “Aaron’s automatic cameras are able to augment the evidence from otter “spraints” (droppings) with good quality photographs and videos.

“From analysis of the time and location of the photographs, the Surrey Wildlife Trust are now able to collate information about the movements of the otters without intruding on the behaviour of the otters.”

Tigers

He added that there are plans to widen the scope of the research which is already being applied to monitoring Tiger movements in India as part of the ‘Tiger Nation’ project.

Aaron calls it a ‘citizen’s science project,’ as people are contributing to science with their findings.

Aaron said: “It’s really exciting to be involved with Surrey Wildlife Trust for such an important project. I am very pleased that Wildsense is proving effective and making an impact. These are just the early stages of the project which has potential for tracking animals on a much larger scale.”

Surrey Wildlife Trust has created an Otter Spotter’s Guide as members of the public often mistake minks for otters. The guide states: otters are milk chocolate brown with a long, tapering sleep tail, minks are plain chocolate brown with a round, fluffy tail. Otter droppings have a hay like smell, mink droppings give off a rancid fish oil scent.

A Pill to erase painful Memories

There is no backspace or CTRL+Z in life. Whatever once happened, could never be changed forever. If it is a painful thing, then the memory will haunt us for our entire life. Not anymore, says Scientists of MIT. They have discovered a pill that will erase  painful memories from our brain and let us lead a peaceful and happy life.

It sounds like a plot from a Hollywood sci-fi movie, but neurologists believe they have come a step closer to being able to erase those haunting memories you’ve never been able to shake.

Echoing the 2004 Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a group of researchers think they have identified the gene, called Tet1, which performs the fascinating role of ‘memory extinction’.

The process, which occurs when old memories are replaced by new ones, is being treated as the key to arriving at a stage where memories can be managed and even deleted completely.

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Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have conducted the research, say that if a way can be found to amplify the activity the Tet1, it could lead to medical advances such as treating the memories of those who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As part of their study, the researchers compared learning behaviour of mice with the Tet1 to mice who had their version of the gene inhibited, or as the scientists put it, ‘knocked out’.

Both sets were trained to fear a certain cage by giving them a mild electric shock each time they were placed inside.

The mice whose tet1 has been ‘knocked out’ learned to associate the cage with the shock, just like the normal mice.

But when the researchers put the mice back in the same cage without delivering the shock, the two groups behaved differently.

To the astonishment of scientists, mice with the Tet1 gene did not fear of the cage, because their memory of being hurt had already been replaced by new information.

The ‘knockout’ mice, whose memories had not been replaced, were still traumatised by the experience.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, study co-author Andrii Rudenko, said in a written statement: ‘They don’t relearn properly.

‘They’re kind of getting stuck, and cannot extinguish the old memory.’

After the animal test, the researchers now say that if they can find a way to boost the activity of the Tet1 gene, it might be possible to help people suffering from addiction as well as PTSD.

Rudenko said: ‘We think the most likely way to boost Tet1’s activity would be to use some drug: a type of pharmacological activator – such an activator still needs to be identified.’