Elephants poisoned for Poaching

In a cruel case of poaching, the poachers killed as large as 81 elephants and a variety of other animals with cyanide. This cruel case happened in the protected wildlife sanctuary of Zimbabwe. The experts from the Government of Zimbabwe visited the national park and confirmed that they were indeed the work of poachers. The culprits usually kill elephants by shooting them down, but such mass elephant poisoned and killed is cruel beyond words.
09 Elephants poisoned for Poaching


“When we left Hwange National Park on Sunday, the total number of elephants that had died from cyanide poisoning was 81,” said Jerry Gotora, a director of the Zimbabwe parks department.

“Several other animals have also died, but we don’t have the total number yet.”

More than 25,000 elephants were poached last year, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The animals’ tusks are highly sought after for Asia’s ivory trade.

Nine people have been arrested on suspicion of poisoning watering holes in the game park to kill the elephants for their tusks.

However, Mr Gotora said the poison had been “put at places where elephants graze, not in water as was being reported”.

Two years ago nine elephants, five lions and two buffalo died from cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park.

Just 50 rangers patrol the 5,660-square mile park, and wildlife authorities say 10 times that number are needed.

There are more than 120,000 elephants living in Zimbabwe’s national parks.

Renting a luxurious yacht is similar to a holiday in a floating caravan

Planning to go on a holiday with lots of money?? You should think of cruise holidays or you could plan to hire a private yacht for your family. This way of stylish Holiday is quite luxurious as many of the yacht come with all the usual stuff – such as pool fun, sports, high ropes and great kid clubs. Plus it’s got plenty of restaurants, bars and choice of bedrooms – from standard and family, to swim-up rooms with a pool outside and deluxe which have the full works. Apart from yacht or cruise holidays you can also opt for caravan holidays. Caravan holidays are like camping holidays which I believe every person would Love to do.

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If you had unlimited wealth would you really want to spend your holidays on a yacht?

I was in St Tropez recently which is full to bursting with very rich people on very big yachts; actually bigger than very big – these ocean-going behemoths were massive. So big, in fact, that many of the yacht captains had to tackle the large right-angled exit out of the harbour in stages

And I thought then: what’s so great about being on a yacht?

In case you suddenly get very rich, bear what I say next in mind: yachts are caravans. Admittedly they are big, plush, well appointed caravans which can go to sea – but at the end of the day a yacht holiday has much in common with a caravan holiday.

No privacy: You can’t get away from people either on or off the yacht. Imagine, say, you’re Simon Cowell: on board you have to go to breakfast and have coffee (probably with UHT milk like you do at a caravan site) with Sinitta and other people you invited along on your holiday in a moment of weakness – and they’are all, like, right on top of you. No chance even of going out for a walk to get away from them. And on board you have to make annoying chit-chat with all the crew (who probably hate you).

Once you’re tied up in St Tropez you have to run the gauntlet of paparazzi and crowds of gawping tourists whenever you have to pop ashore for tea bags, a sliced white and 10 Bensons.

It’s eye-gougingly expensive: Owning a big yacht, as someone said, is like standing in a cold shower tearing up wads of £50 notes. Apart from the weekly crew cost and diesel fuel and other running costs (somewhere near £150,000 week for a big boat), there are the astronomical costs of berthing (expect to pay around £3000 per day in St Tropez).

Very rich people are a bit dull: You get to be a billionaire by never having much fun (on your battle to the top, for example you never have time to go on holiday). As a consequence rich people, even rich people from the entertainment business, have little idea what to do on their holidays.

Asian Cheetah is at the verge of Extinction!

Cheetahs have the unique distinction of being the fastest animal on land. Once spread across the south and east of Asia, these big cats have almost extinct in most parts of these lands. Their last known habitat was Iran, in the middle east of Asia. Due to the political crisis within the country, the data about Asian Cheetah could not be recorded earlier. But now a study reveals that even Iran is not a safe abode for these cats. Their population is on the decline and they are on the verge of being extinct.

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Comprehensive monitoring

To rectify this a comprehensive monitoring program was initiated by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) in partnership with Iran’s Department of Environment, the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project and Panthera to understand demographic characteristics of the cheetahs in Iran between 2011 and 2013. As a result of extensive research & camera trapping, a population of just 40 to 70 individuals is now accepted for the entire country, significantly fewer than the previous estimate of 70 to 100.

Camera traps are reliable tools which are extremely useful for investigating population of elusive marked cats, such as the cheetahs. However, this technology has been rarely applied to the species due to its elusive nature and low density. In Iran, due to political sanctions, necessary equipment have been hard to come by which prevented a thorough status assessment previously due to the lack of sufficient camera traps.

Thanks to various donors and partners, the monitoring program was launched to fill this gap in knowledge. Accordingly, 10 reserves within Iran were covered by infra-red camera traps to provide reliable estimates of the cheetah population.

Thought to be declining

However, since no basic figure is available about the cheetah population for previous years, it is difficult to judge the population trends of the Asiatic cheetahs in Iran. Meanwhile, based on sporadic data available from previous years, it seems that the cheetah population has a decreasing in recent years, indicating it is probably at its lowest ever.

It is highly desirable to involve experienced conservation agencies to revise existing protection efforts in Iran in order to safeguard cheetah survival in the country.

4 New Lizard species Discovered

Just when we think we know everything about this world, and everything on it, Earth throws in some surprise. Such a surprise was what the Scientists have experienced when they found out 4 entirely new lizard species of Legless lizards in California. What makes it interesting is that the lizards were not found in deep forests but in a well populated semi-industrial are in the city, at the border of the Los Angeles Airport.

“This shows that there is a lot of undocumented biodiversity within California,” said Theodore Papenfuss, a reptile and amphibian expert, or herpetologist, with UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, who discovered and identified the new species with James Parham of California State University, Fullerton. The discoveries raise the number of California legless lizard species from one to five.

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Legless Lizard

Legless lizards

Legless lizards, represented by more than 200 species worldwide, are well-adapted to life in loose soil, Papenfuss said. Millions of years ago, lizards on five continents independently lost their limbs in order to burrow more quickly into sand or soil, wriggling like snakes. Some still have vestigial legs. Though up to eight inches in length, the creatures are seldom seen because they live mostly underground, eating insects and larvae, and may spend their lives within an area the size of a dining table. Most are discovered in moist areas when people overturn logs or rocks.
Discovered at the airport!

For the past 15 years, Papenfuss and Parham have scoured the state for new species, suspecting that the fairly common California legless lizard (Anniella pulchra), the only legless lizard in the U.S. West, had at least some relatives. They discovered one new species – yellow-bellied like its common cousin – under leaf litter in protected dunes west of Los Angeles International Airport. They named that species A. stebbinsi.
Cardboard shelters lured new species

Because many sandy, loamy areas, including dunes and desert areas, offer little cover for lizards if they emerge, Papenfuss distributed thousands of pieces of cardboard throughout the state in areas likely to host the lizard. He returned year after year to see if lizards were using the moist, cool areas under the cardboard as resting or hunting grounds.
This technique turned up three other new species in the Central Valley (see sidebar): A. alexanderae, named after Annie Alexander, who endowed the UC Berkeley museum in 1908 and added 20,000 specimens to its collections; A. campi after Charles Camp, because of his early-career discovery of the Mt. Lyell salamander in the Sierra; and A. grinnelli after Joseph Grinnell, who in 1912 first noted habitat destruction around Bakersfield from agriculture and oil drilling.

Species had previously been collected but not recognised

Interestingly, all these species had been collected before and were in collections around California, but when preserved in alcohol, the lizards lose their distinctive colour and look identical. Papenfuss and Parham identified the species through genetic profiling, but they subsequently found ways to distinguish them from one another via belly colour, number and arrangement of scales, and number of vertebrae. However, two species – the previously known common legless lizard of Northern California and the newly named southern species found at LAX and apparently broadly distributed south of the Tehachapi Mountains – remain indistinguishable except by genetic tests or, now, the location where they are found.
Species of special concern

Papenfuss and Parham are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to determine whether the lizards need protected status. Currently, the common legless lizard is listed by the state as a species of special concern.
“These species definitely warrant attention, but we need to do a lot more surveys in California before we can know whether they need higher listing,” Parham said.
Papenfuss noted that two of the species are within the range of the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, which is listed as an endangered species by both the federal and state governments.
“On one hand, there are fewer legless lizards than leopard lizards, so maybe these two new species should be given special protection,” he said. “On the other hand, there may be ways to protect their habitat without establishing legal status. They don’t need a lot of habitat, so as long as we have some protected sites, they are probably OK.”
Papenfuss says they are not yet in danger of going extinct, since he has found some of the lizards in protected reserves operated by the CDFW, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and a private water reserve outside Bakersfield, in addition to the El Segundo Dunes near LAX.
Papenfuss and Parham reported their discovery on Sept. 17 in the journal Breviora, a publication of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

China launches campaign to save Sharks

For people in mainland China, the fins of a shark are a favorite dish. And hence hunting of shark is robust in and around the Chinese water bodies. The Government of China understating that such mass killing of sharks would result in the species becoming extinct, has launched a campaign to save Sharks in partnership with WildAid to reduce the demand for Shark Fin dishes. The campaign called as “I’m FINished with Fins”, saw people along with celebrities take pledge not to eat Shark Fin anymore.

When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too

Following WildAid’s “When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too” campaign, led by Yao Ming and the Chinese government’s 2012 ban on shark fin soup at official functions, “I’m FINished with Fins” will continue to raise awareness that saying “no” to shark fin soup is socially acceptable. The campaign will be primarily promoted online through China’s burgeoning social media platforms.

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Large decrease in demand recorded

According to the South China Morning Post, the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong reported that shark fin imports have reduced from 10,292 tons to 3,087 tons from 2011 to November 2012; over a 70% decline. Additionally, the chairman of the Hong Kong-based Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association told the South China Morning Post “the whole industry has recorded a 50% decrease of sales in the last year…mainly due to the omnipresent advocacy by green groups.”

“CCTV and other Chinese media have helped to reduce demand and cut the financial incentive to kill and fin sharks. The government set a leadership role through the media and by banning shark fin at their official events, which is now being adopted by Hong Kong and we hope will be emulated throughout Asia,” said Peter Knights, WildAid’s Executive Director.

“I’m FINished with Fins” was originally launched by Shark Savers in partnership with WWF-Hong Kong, Nat Geo Wild, National Geographic, and WildAid in Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan. The campaign is currently seeking 100,000 Hong Kongers to pledge through an online platform not to consume shark fin soup.

Thai Police captured smuggled Elephants!

What do people smuggle? The common answer would be money or commodities like Gold. But the Royal Thai Police captured smuggled Elephants, more than a dozen! These elephants were not registered with the Government and were not obtained proper licenses. Thailand is known for its elephant population and incidents like these are increasing in the country. Having an elephant without proper registration is illegal in the country.

The animals were removed from camps in key tourist locations popular among Thai and international visitors. The operation started with the removal of two elephants from a camp in Ko Chang, in Trad province, and following up, authorities seized five elephants in Phang Nga, seven in Phuket and two in Krabi.
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Taken from Myanmar

The seizures follow the discovery of a number of elephant identification certificates issued for animals that were not residing in their specified locations. Police believe that elephants were taken from the wild, either in Myanmar or elsewhere, smuggled into Thailand where they were trained, transferred to the camps, and then registered at a later date using these falsely provided certificates. Both Thailand and Myanmar are party to CITES which prohibits any cross border trade in elephants.

The co-ordinated effort across the provinces was jointly managed by the Royal Thai Police, Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Department of Livestock.

The relocation and care of animals is being decided on a case by case basis. More unregistered elephants are expected to be removed from camps in four other provinces in the coming months.

Police said their initial investigations uncovered nine suspect elephant identification certificates in camps in Phuket and Phang Nga. Further investigations led to a discovery of 69 more such elephant identification certificates in the homes of two men in Chaiyaphum district. Police have issued a number of arrest warrants for each of these men.

Police have linked one of these suspects to all the camps it raided. The camps are believed to have purchased the identification certificates for these elephants from this suspect. Further, police have also confirmed that at least one registered owner of the animals, in the Koh Chang case, will also face prosecution under the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act and the Forestry Act.

The capture of wild elephants has been banned in Thailand since the 1970s, with Thailand’s Draught Animal Act B.E. 2482 under the Department of Provincial Administration and Ministry of Interior requiring that domesticated elephants be registered with the government from the age of eight years.

Once registered, these elephants are deemed to be commercial animals under the act and the owner then has the right to trade and use the animal at will. Registration certificates are usually only issued for animals born from female domesticated elephants, however the system does not require owners’ proof that the animals were born in captivity.

The system thus opens the door to the laundering of elephant calves, with criminals catching these calves from the wild, smuggling them into the country and registering them as domesticated elephants.

“The illegal live elephant trade poses a significant threat to wild Asian elephants, and TRAFFIC welcomes this significant move by the Thai authorities. It demonstrates their commitment to elephant conservation in the region,” said Naomi Doak, TRAFFIC’s Co-ordinator in the Greater Mekong region.

“TRAFFIC hopes the actions to protect Asia’s elephants will be matched by Thailand’s commitments to protect Africa’s elephants too.”

In 2009 TRAFFIC highlighted that at least 240 live elephants had been illegally exported from Myanmar to Thailand via the Three Pagoda Pass and other land border crossings. The study also found that over a quarter of all live elephant exports from Thailand between 1980 and 2005 could have been illegal due to incomplete and inaccurate declarations made on the documentation required under CITES.

The Red Squirrels are back!

The Red squirrels are back!! They are the native breed of squirrels in the North American continent. But when the Grey variant were introduced to North America, the red squirrels suffered a huge blow. Their numbers were decreasingly gradually and recently they dropped to an alarming rate. But a recent study reveals that after almost one and half centuries, the red squirrels numbers are on the rise.

5_red_squirrelThe numbers were getting dangerously low because of a pox virus carried by the greys, similar to myxomatosis, along with the greys’ superior adaptability.

However, a three-month study in 300 woodlands in the north of England has shown the number of red squirrels has risen by 7 per cent compared with the number in spring last year.

 

It is the first time in 140 years that a count of red squirrels has shown an increase in numbers. Volunteers for the wildlife group Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) also discovered that the number of grey squirrels was declining.

The future is less grey as red squirrels battle their big, bullying cousins 16 Nov 2011

RSNE said the red squirrels were revived by improvements to their woodland habitats. Conservationists have also started to turn the tide by spreading squirrel traps, then releasing the reds but killing the greys. Volunteers observed the rodents in Ambleside and Rydal in Cumbria for the first time in a decade.

Phil Bailey, of the Brampton Red Squirrel Group, in Cumbria, said: “The monitoring has helped us learn that there are now 20 squirrels close to our home here which inspires us to continue our efforts to save this native species.”

The number of red squirrels is rising rapidly in popular Cumbrian areas such as Skellghyll Woods in Ambleside and Betty Fold at Hawkshead Hill.

Simon O’Hare, of the RSNE, said the involvement of local people had been “crucial” in boosting numbers. “Reds are being seen throughout the area,” he said. “The effect on tourism is immeasurable. People never forget seeing red squirrels.”

Neil Salisbury, who owns Hawkshead Hill, where red squirrels were wiped out five years ago, said greys had been removed and reds were now using the feeders at the tea room.

The first grey squirrels were brought here from North America in 1876. More were introduced, notably by the Duke of Bedford to the park at Woburn Abbey, where they thrived.

Ants Have Internal Compass to Navigate

There are specific special qualities with the wild life that puts us into surprise beyond words. One such thing is the navigation of Ants. Leafcutter ants, commonly found in the forests are known to travel a long distance without missing their path. Scientists have now decoded the mystery behind their march. They use a compass, just like humans, to navigate. The only difference is that their compass is built in within their body. All Ants have internal compass to navigate.

A few years ago, biologists Robert Srygley and Andre Riveros accidentally discovered that the ants were also using an internal compass to navigate. When the researchers used a powerful magnetic pulse to disrupt the local magnetic field, foraging leafcutters lost their way. When the magnetic field was reversed, some of the ants marched off in the opposite direction—making them the only insect known to use such a built-in compass.

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If that weren’t remarkable enough, the ants are also known to use landmarks and even stars to help keep track of their positions while they’re out and about. (See “Dung Beetles Navigate Via the Milky Way, First Known in Animal Kingdom.”)

Herding Ants

In the new experiments, the scientists tested the responses of two groups of leafcutters to a change in the local magnetic field.

One group consisted of wild leafcutters taken from a natural ant colony. Using flakes of barley, the scientists lured these ants to an outdoor feeder that they set up. After two days, the ants had forged a new trail to the feeder. (Also see “How Leafcutter Ants Evolved From Farmers Into Cows.”)

The other group consisted of ants reared in a lab, in plastic boxes that lacked soil, where they stayed for about a year, explained Srygley, who is with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

The scientists then set up an outdoor, circular arena, which they filled with sand and surrounded with a coil made of copper wire that they could use to manipulate the local magnetic field.

Next, the team took ants from both groups and plunked them down separately inside the arena. They then shifted the local magnetic field by 90 degrees in the horizontal direction and watched what happened, according to the study, published in the August issue of the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. (Watch a video of leafcutter ants.)

The ants raised in a soil-free environment managed to find their way home, but the soil-exposed ants seemed confused. They marched in a direction that faced neither home nor the direction of the shifted magnetic field.

Magnetic Mineral

What was going on? The scientists think that the indoor ants navigated using a less precise sense, called proprioception, that allows them to keep track of how far they go and in which direction they turn.

This “proprioception compass” appears to work well for short distances, but over longer distances small errors can add up, making this compass less reliable. (Also see “New Theory on How Homing Pigeons Find Home.”)

For longer distances, the scientists think leafcutters rely on their internal magnetic compasses. Other studies have linked this magnetic sense to specks of magnetite (a magnetic mineral found in soil) in their antennae. This explains why the wild ants seemed to lose their way when the magnetic field was shifted.

The indoor ants were raised in a soil-free environment, and thus lacked access to magnetite, so they didn’t have magnetic compasses that could be confused by the magnetic field change (the sand in the arena lacked magnetite).

Getting Magnetized

While the new findings strengthen the link between magnetite found in soil and the leafcutter’s magnetic compass, questions remain about how the particles are incorporated into the ants’ bodies.

Leafcutters aren’t known to ingest soil directly, and they primarily feed on the fungus they raise in their colonies.

One idea, Srygley said, is that the leafcutters are inadvertently feeding magnetite-packed soil to their fungus, in addition to leaves.

“The [magnetite] would then be fed to the larvae, and the larvae would incorporate it into their antennae when they get close to adulthood,” Srygley said.

Birds have a Scoial Life

There is a proverb that everyone knows, “Birds of same feather flock together”. It isn’t just a proverb. Studies have determined that it is the way of Birds’ social activity. Scientists say that a bird would always prefer the company of birds that match their characters. For example, a shy bird with another shy one. These networks are used to search food, build nests and breed the little ones. Birds have a Scoial Life.

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Researchers associated with the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology at the University of Oxford in England studied great tits (Parus major) in Wytham Woods, near Oxford, to determine how personality affects social behavior.

Previous research found evidence that birds with larger social networks can find more food, with the advantage going to individuals more apt to mingle.

The intersection of personality and social behavior is a new and growing area of study in biology and behavioral ecology, says study co-author Julie Morand-Ferron. “If you take the simple definition of personality as behaving consistently over time, then you can find personality traits in vertebrates and insects and all sorts of animals.”

 

For the purposes of this study, shy or “reactive” birds are slower to explore and less likely to take risks. Bold or “proactive” birds prefer high risks and high rewards.

Personality Tests

But researchers first needed to determine which great tits were shy, and which were bold explorers.

So they captured 221 great tits from the wild and released them one by one into a room containing five artificial trees. The scientists then recorded their movements.

“The very shy birds basically don’t move that much,” says Morand-Ferron. “They seem to be very careful. They hop from tree to tree, or they fly a bit.”

Bolder birds, on the other hand, “have a very high activity rate. They land on the ground. They fly quickly.”

With the personalities of the 221 captured birds established, the researchers released them back into the wild, where they tracked the birds’ movements.

Shy Guys

The great tits of Wytham Woods have been studied for more than six decades, and most of them wear plastic rings containing transponders around their legs. Sensors on the 65 feeding stations dotting the forest pick up the transponder signals whenever the birds come close enough.

Over the winter months, when great tits congregate in loose flocks, the researchers monitored where the tested birds were feeding and who they were hanging out with.

They discovered that male birds who exhibited shy behavior in captivity tended to stay in flocks with their shy friends in the wild for longer periods of time, while the bolder birds flitted from flock to flock.

In a previous paper, Morand-Ferron and her colleagues determined that birds with larger social networks—like those bold birds—find out about hidden sources of food quickly because they have access to more information.

But they’re not sure yet what evolutionary advantage shy males might gain from sticking together. In the paper, the authors hypothesize that the shy males are trying to avoid the more aggressive bold males, but Morand-Ferron emphasizes that this is a question for further study.

No word yet on whether a bird in the hand has been proved to be worth two in the bush.

World’s rarest black stilts bird gets increased

The wild population of black stilts bird witnessed an increase in the population when the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) released 91 young birds in the Mackenzie Basin. Biodiversity Manager, Dean Nelson said 65 of the birds had been raised at the Captive Breeding Centre run by DOC staff in Twizel. The remaining 26 birds had been raised at the Isaacs Wildlife Trust All the birds were set free near Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki, it was hoped that the nine month old birds would eventually disperse throughout the whole Mackenzie Basin.

black stiltsHuge boost for New Zealand’s critically endangered kakī
September 2013. The wild population of critically endangered kakī/black stilts received a much-needed boost when the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) released 91 young birds in the Mackenzie Basin.

DOC Biodiversity Manager Dean Nelson said 65 of the birds had been raised at the Captive Breeding Centre run by DOC staff in Twizel. The remaining 26 birds had been raised at the Isaacs Wildlife Trust aviaries in Christchurch and then transported to the release site.

Set free in two releases near Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, it was hoped that the nine month old birds would eventually disperse throughout the whole Mackenzie Basin.

Record breeding season
“These releases are a result of last summer’s record breeding season, with 171 eggs brought to the Captive Breeding Centre. Not all the eggs hatched, but the 91 birds that have made it this far are going to massively increase the wild population. We released 31 juvenile birds earlier in the year because the breeding season was so successful,” said Mr Nelson.

23 wild pairs
Another record was the number of adult kakī breeding pairs located last summer which now stands at 23 productive pairs in the wild.

Predator problems
“The kakī population has fluctuated over the years as DOC staff tackle escalating predator numbers around braided riverbeds and wetland areas,” says Mr Nelson.

Major trapping program
An extensive trapping programme is managed in the Tasman valley near Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. In the last year alone (from March 2012 to February 2013) 863 hedgehogs, 285 feral cats, 243 stoats, 60 ferrets, 43 possums, 12 weasels and 4 rats have been caught.