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.

Morbillivirus – a common cause for Dolphin’s Death

A spate of bottlenose dolphin deaths along the Mid-Atlantic coast this summer has been linked to morbillivirus. So far, 357 dolphins have washed ashore dead or dying since July, and the number of stranded dolphins continues to rise. As many as 32 dolphins have tested positive for the virus. While officials are not ruling out other possible contributing causes such as chemical exposure, the deaths have so far only been linked to the virus. Morbillivirus is a common marine virus that affects marine mammals. It ravaged bottlenose dolphin populations in the Mid-Atlantic region in the late 1980s, killing more than 700 dolphins.

Friendly nature of dolphins could be what’s killing them.
Morbillivirus connected to deaths

A spate of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) deaths along the Mid-Atlantic coast this summer has been linked to morbillivirus, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

So far, 357 dolphins have washed ashore dead or dying since July, and the number of stranded dolphins continues to rise. As many as 32 dolphins have tested positive for the virus, according to NOAA. While officials are not ruling out other possible contributing causes such as chemical exposure, the deaths have so far only been linked to the virus.

Morbillivirus is a common marine virus that affects marine mammals. It ravaged bottlenose dolphin populations in the Mid-Atlantic region in the late 1980s, killing more than 700 dolphins. The virus — similar to canine distemper in canines and measles in humans — suppresses the immune system, leaving infected animals vulnerable to other illnesses like pneumonia. No vaccines are available, and experts say the deaths could continue into next spring, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Although not harmful to humans, NOAA officials caution beachgoers to keep a safe distance of at least 100 yards away from stranded dolphins and to avoid swimming with open cuts or scratches as secondary infections can be contagious.

The Orangutan Social Network

He is the head of his group. He plans their trips. He plots the route they have to take. He then ‘shares’ it with everyone in his group about the journey and the route. The only difference is he uses his own voice instead of Facebook to share. Because he is an Orangutan, the most intelligent ape. Scientists have discovered this peculiar social sharing character or Orangutan in a recent study. They were even able to record the audio. Could an orangutan social network really exist?

A new study of 15 wild male orangutans finds that they routinely plot out their next day treks and share their plans in long calls, so females can come by or track them, and competitive males can steer clear.

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‘This guy basically thinks ahead,’ Mr van Schaik said. ‘They’re continuously updating their Google Maps so to speak. Based on that, they’re planning what to do next.’ The apes didn’t just call once, but they keep at it, calling more than 1,100 times over the 320 days. ‘This shows they are very much like us in this respect,’ Mr van Schaik said. ‘Our earliest hominid ancestor must have done the same thing.’

Scientists had seen such planning in zoos and controlled experiments, but this study provides solid evidence of travel planning in the wild, said Frans de Waal of Atlanta’s Emory University, who was not part of the study. Mr Van Schaik said he and colleagues happened upon the trip calls by accident nearly 20 years ago, first with the dominant male Arno, who they followed more than the other 14 males.

They waited to publish the results because he thought few people would believe orangutans could do such planning. But in recent years, the lab and captivity studies have all shown such planning. Based on previous studies and monitoring, Mr van Schaik figured the male lets the world know his plans so females can come to him or stay close. Some females may want to stay within earshot in case they are harassed by other males and need protection. Others can come to mate.

Jurassic Park will remain just a fiction

For all the Jurassic park fans who are delighted with the announcement of the 4th part, here is some news you might not like to hear. The technique to re-construct an actual Dinosaur from a DNA as portrayed in the actual 1993 film and buildup a real Jurassic Park will remain just a fiction. A study to find out the possibilities of such techniques proved that with the technology that we have, we might not actually do that in any near future.

In the Spielberg movie, scientists extract dino DNA from ancient mosquitos trapped in 130-million year old amber. The year before the film was released, scientists in California claimed to have extracted fragments of DNA from an extinct species of bee
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The year before the film was released, scientists in California claimed to have extracted fragments of DNA from an extinct species of bee. But a study by the the Natural History Museum, London, found it was impossible to replicate.

Using highly-sensitive ‘next generation’ sequencing DNA techniques on insects in copal, the sub-fossilised resin precursor of amber, researchers found the 1990’s studies provided ‘false positives’ mistaken for genuine ancient DNA.

In fact they could find not detect ancient DNA in relatively young- 60 years to 10,600 years old- sub-fossilised insects and said the earlier results are thought to come from cross contamination between modern and ancient DNA.

Study co author Professor Terry Brown, who carried out the study in full forensic suits in the ancient DNA lab at the University of Manchester, said: ‘In the original 1990s studies DNA amplification was achieved by a process called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which will preferentially amplify any modern, undamaged DNA molecules that contaminate an extract of partially degraded ancient ones to give false positive results that might be mistaken for genuine ancient DNA.

‘Our approach, using “next generation” sequencing methods is ideal for ancient DNA because it provides sequences for all the DNA molecules in an extract, regardless of their length, and is less likely to give preference to contaminating modern molecules.’

Co author Dr David Penney, also from Manchester University, said: ‘Intuitively, one might imagine that the complete and rapid engulfment in resin, resulting in almost instantaneous demise, might promote the preservation of DNA in a resin entombed insect, but this appears not to be the case.

‘So, unfortunately, the Jurassic Park scenario must remain in the realms of fiction.’

Tiger poaching a major problem in India

As we all know tigers are getting extinguished day by day specially in a country like India because there are many people in these countries who kill tigers to make money by selling their skin, nails and even bones for the purpose of decorations and at times for medication also. Recently 5 men and a woman, a total of 6 tiger poachers have been jailed for 3 years in southern past of India. All of them were caught red handed in Bandupur Tiger Reserve a place comes under Karnataka state in India

skins

Six notorious tiger poachers have been jailed in Southern India in what is being described as a landmark conviction. The five men and one woman were sentenced to three years each by Karnataka High Court – a sentence made more remarkable by the fact that the conviction rate for tiger poaching in the country is 0.1%.

The gang travelled the country poaching tigers and other wildlife for sale into the international market – tigers would be carved into fur, bones and organs for use as decoration, tonics and medicine.

Caught red handed in Bandupur Tiger Reserve

They were caught red-handed with lethal ‘jaw’ traps in the Bandupur Tiger Reserve, and brought to justice by the Karnataka Forest Department with specialist legal assistance from the Care for the Wild-funded Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) Wildlife Crime Enforcement Team.

Care for the Wild CEO Philip Mansbridge said: “This conviction is a landmark for tiger conservation and sends a powerful message of deterrence to wildlife criminals who aim to poach India’s tigers. Our partnership with the WTI is instrumental in a huge number of cases per year alongside de-snaring and undercover enforcement activities. The team also work with government forest staff to ensure more arrests lead to convictions, just like this one, in the future.”

Disguises

Jose Louies, WTI, said the poachers were caught after two of the gang turned informer: “The gang moved across the country in various disguises, mostly adorning the facade of street vendors, setting up camps near tiger reserves. Once the camp is set up, the men break off into small groups and infiltrate tiger habitats. These poachers are renowned for their extraordinary tracking skills, and the ease with which they locate tiger tracks and place the deadly jaw traps exactly in the path of the tigers. The operation may take them any amount of time, and as these hunters are determined, they wait inside the forest, till they get what they came for – a tiger.

“Once they manage to trap their prized possession, they spear it in the mouth, swiftly kill it and remove the skin. The body is usually buried within the forest and they come back in a few weeks to recover the bones, which are also in high demand in various illegal markets.”

Endangered Blobfish World’s Ugliest Animal

Some animals are so ugly to look at, that no on cares to preserves them, or they fail to grab the attention and die a lonely extinction. To the rescue of endangered Blobfish, gelatinous squashy looking creature has won a public vote to become the official mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society.

blobfish
The Blobfish: world’s ugliest animal

This gives the fish the unofficial title of world’s ugliest animal. The society began as a science-themed comedy night and devised its mascot campaign to draw attention to “aesthetically challenged” threatened species.

The winner was announced at the British Science Festival in Newcastle. The blobfish tops a list that includes the huge-nosed proboscis monkey, the similarly afflicted pig-nosed turtle, an amphibian affectionately known as a “scrotum frog” and pubic lice.

Biologist and TV presenter Simon Watt, president of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, said he hoped the campaign would draw attention to the threats facing these weird and wonderful creatures.

“Our traditional approach to conservation is egotistical,” he told BBC News.

“We only protect the animals that we relate to because they’re cute, like pandas.

“If extinction threats are as bad as they seem, then focusing just on very charismatic megafauna is completely missing the point.

“I have nothing against pandas,” he added, “but they have their supporters. These species need help.”

Mr Watt said he hoped the vote would also bring a lighter side to conservation.

“It’s the most depressing type of science to be involved with,” he said. “It’s basically working out: What died today?”

For this campaign, Mr Watt worked with comedians, each of whom created a campaign message on YouTube for their chosen creature. The society asked the public to vote for their favourite.

The blobfish eventually won by almost 10,000 votes.

The bizarre creature lives off the coast of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania, at depths of between 600 and 1,200m, where atmospheric pressure is several dozen times higher than at sea level.

Its gelatinous body is just slightly more dense than water, and it spends its life “bobbing around” in the depths.

It feeds on crabs and lobsters and so suffers a significant threat from fishing trawlers. Although it is inedible itself, it gets caught up in the nets.