Public urged to help save mammals, birds and insects whose habitats and food supplies have come under pressure. The Guardian reports
Britain‘s continued freezing weather is threatening ever greater numbers of wild animals, birds and insects across the country, experts have warned. The current cold spell – one of the longest on record – is particularly affecting creatures that are already struggling to survive the loss of their habitats and changes in climate.
Examples include the hedgehog, which has already suffered a devastating loss of numbers over the past three decades and is now badly affected by the cold weather. In addition, threatened reptiles such as the grass snake and slowworm require sunny, warm conditions when they emerge from hibernation. Such a prospect is still remote, say meteorologists.
Even birds such as the barn owl and tawny owl are facing problems. “Owls like the tawny and barn rely on hearing their prey – mainly voles, shrews and mice – as they scuttle across the ground. But in snow or hardened ground that is very difficult,” said Ben Andrew of the RSPB. “As a result, owls need to hunt during the daytime, leaving them open to attacks by other birds or collisions with motor vehicles.”
Wild animals can deal with harsh weather, experts acknowledge, but the length of the current cold spell is unprecedented, with forecasters warning that temperatures are unlikely to return to their average level until the end of April. By that time, a great deal of harm could have been done to the nation’s wildlife. Frogs have spawned only for their ponds to have frozen over, while many plants and insects are emerging late, which has a knock-on effect on species that feed on them.
Storms are also having an unwelcome impact. “Seabirds along the east coast of the UK – in particular, puffins – are struggling to catch fish in the current conditions,” said Andrew. “They become malnourished and weak and eventually die and are being washed up on shores in their hundreds. Guillemots, razorbills, cormorants and gulls are also affected. In addition, small birds such as goldcrests, long-tailed tits and wrens, which mainly feed on small insects, are finding the current cold weather particularly tricky.”
For hedgehogs, the prolonged cold weather has had a particularly severe impact. “Many animals that went into hibernation in November or December last year are still sleeping,” said Fay Vass, chief executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society. “The weather is not yet warm enough to wake them. Usually they would be up and about by now.”
The problem was that the longer a hedgehog remained asleep, the weaker it got and the less energy an animal had to restore itself to wakefulness, added Vass. “It depends just how healthy and well-fed an animal was when it went into hibernation. But in general, the longer the cold weather lasts, the greater the number of animals that will not wake up at all.”
The problems facing those hedgehogs that had already woken up from hibernation were no better, said Vass. “They are having a hard time finding any food and we are getting increasing numbers of reports of animals appearing in gardens in daytime desperate for something to eat.”
In the 1980s, there were estimated to be around 30m hedgehogs in the UK. Today, there are fewer than a million, thanks to major erosion of the animals’ habitats. The impact of this year’s long winter and the prospect of continued grim conditions only worsens prospects for this once ubiquitous mammal.
For the nation’s butterflies the situation is less perilous, at least for now. However, continued icy weather could have serious implications. “April is wake-up time for butterflies,” said Richard Fox, surveys manager at Butterfly Conservation. “If they do that when it is still freezing, that could have very serious consequences for their ability to get food. Many could starve if these conditions persist.”
Species that will be the worst affected include the high brown fritillary (Fabriciana adippe). This is Britain’s most threatened butterfly, found in only a few scattered locations in the south and west of England. “Persistent cold weather is only going to makes things even harder for the high brown,” added Fox.
Other species of butterfly that are seriously threatened in the UK and are vulnerable to continued cold weather include the Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) and the pearl-bordered fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne).
Experts stress that the public can help. The RSPB has urged householders to keep bird feeders regularly topped up with high-energy, high-fat food and to keep water dishes filled. Similarly, the Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends leaving plentiful water supplies and also food, either meaty cat or dog meals or specialist hedgehog food.
- British butterflies suffer devastating year after 2012′s wet summer (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Butterflies ‘hurt by cold, wet 2012′ (bbc.co.uk)
- ‘Catastrophic’ 2012 rain means Britain’s butterfly populations drop (rawstory.com)
- Hundreds of dead puffins found on the east coast could have died of starvation due to wintry weather (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- UK & World News: 2012 ‘catastrophic’ for butterflies (journallive.co.uk)
- UK News: 2012 ‘catastrophic’ for butterflies (walesonline.co.uk)
On Thursday, the China Wildlife Conservation Association signed a public appeal urging people to refuse to put wild animal meat on dining tables, saying the increasing consumption is at the root of poaching and illegal trading.
According to a 1999 survey of 20,000 people by the State Forestry Administration and China Wildlife Conservation Association, nearly half of 1,381 restaurants across the country had wild animal meat on the menu, and 46 percent of respondents said they had eaten wild game.
The four-month poll was carried out in 21 large and medium-size cities, where people generally have more money to spend on such delicacies.
“Although years have passed, such strong demand for eating wild animals has not changed or faded in China,” said Zhao Shengli, deputy secretary-general of the association. “In fact, even more people, especially rich people, have started to eat them in recent years.”
The group’s appeal to the public comes after China Central Television reported that restaurants in hilly Zixi county, Jiangxi province, had State-protected wild animals on their menus, including macaques, badger pigs, Chinese bamboo rats and wild geese.
Footage from CCTV on Tuesday showed monkeys were killed illegally on mountains and sold at farmers markets, or gruesomely slaughtered and served in several restaurants.
Monkey meat can sell for 560 yuan ($90) per kg, while monkey brain can fetch 1,600 yuan per kg, according to the report.
On Wednesday, two men were detained, and authorities said more arrests were possible as the investigation continues. Four officials, including the county’s forestry bureau chief, have been sacked.
On the same day, authorities in Guangdong province said more than 1,300 restaurants and hotels and 102 people involved in poaching, transporting and trading migrant birds and other wild animals have been punished.
A series of strict campaigns against poaching and trading in endangered wild animals will be launched across the country in the coming days, Yan Xun, chief engineer of the department of wildlife conservation and nature reserve management of the State Forestry Administration, was quoted as saying by CCTV on Thursday.
China is abundant in wildlife. More than 10 percent of the world’s wild vertebrate species – more than 6,000 species – are found in China, according to the State Forestry Administration.
“But people in some parts of China maintain the centuries-old custom of eating exotic wildlife as a delicacy, which is a major reason for the severely declining number of wild animals now,” said Feng Zuojian, a researcher at the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“Refusing to eat wild animals is one of the signs of civilization. In many foreign countries, especially in Europe, there are no restaurants that serve wild animals,” he said.
Under the Chinese Criminal Law, those who illegally catch or kill endangered wildlife species can be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Animal rights campaigners are urging authorities to tighten supervision – and make punishments stronger – to eliminate poaching and illegal sales of wild animals.
- Chinese TV investigation leads to forestry officials sackings (wildlifenews.co.uk)
- Dutch government prepared to ban use of wild animals in circuses (timesofmalta.com)
- China vows to protect migratory birds (vancouverdesi.com)
- Arrests after wild animals ‘killed by hunting dogs’ (itv.com)
- Stop Shooting Harmless Wild Animals in North Carolina (forcechange.com)
- WILDLIFE UPDATE : Exotic animal trade thrives in China (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Poisoned rare Oriental storks trigger calls for intensified animal protection (wantchinatimes.com)
- Attractive Wildlife Animals (photospring.wordpress.com)
- Local wildlife important in human diet: Researchers (updatednews.ca)
- Raccoon tests positive for rabies (savannahnow.com)
This one comment - Hey guys! The Kakapo Recovery team here in New Zealand LOVE your video…we’ll be sharing it!
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From the Guardian
Walkers are joining forces with conservationists to help bring the Tasmanian devil back from the brink of extinction. In a unique tourism experiment, guests on guided walks through Tasmania‘s remote Tarkine rainforest will help scientists track local populations of the Australian island state’s most iconic creature by collecting data from 45 motion-sensing cameras set up along the trails.
The world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial is endemic to Tasmania, and the pristine wilderness in the island’s north-west corner is one of the last areas to remain untouched by an aggressive facial cancer that has obliterated overall devil numbers by more than 80% over 15 years. The size of a small dog with powerful jaws, the animal was thought to live only in dry, coastal or open woodland. But the discovery of a thriving and disease-free population in Tarkine’s dense rainforest offers scientists a valuable new opportunity to study their behaviour in the wild and develop a better understanding of how the disease is spread.
“Contrary to common assumption, we’ve known for years that there are devils living in rainforest, and now we’ve got the proof,” said Mark Davis, owner of Tarkine Trails, whose guides retrieved the first two months’ worth of images from the cameras, which they’ll continue to service with memory cards and batteries throughout the year. “Every single camera we placed caught images of devils and not one has displayed signs of the facial tumour disease, which is a huge relief. Along with our walkers, our guides act as field researchers where it has previously been too expensive to conduct research.”
The decade-long Tarkine Devil Project is being funded by the Tasmanian government as part of a broader rescue programme begun in 2003 that includes captive breeding of immune animals, habitat management and laboratory research into the disease. First identified in 1996, Devil facial tumour disease causes growths around the mouth that hinder the animal from feeding, so it eventually starves to death. The mysterious and rare form of contagious cancer is thought to spread through the devils biting each other while squabbling for food.
Until the late 1990s, Tasmanian devils were commonly found all over the island. But the illegal introduction of the red fox, increased road traffic accidents and the rapid spread of facial cancer have seen its numbers plummet to just 10,000, with the species being declared in 2008 as endangered. Once seen as a threat to livestock and prized for its pelt, only official protection in 1941 stopped the devil from being hunted to extinction – a fate that had already befallen its close relative the Tasmanian tiger (or thylacine) in 1936.
- Cancer spreads to last Tasmanian devil refuge (theage.com.au)
- Cancer spreads to last Tasmanian devil refuge (smh.com.au)
- Trouble in the Tarkine (theage.com.au)
- Call for heritage listing of the Tarkine to head off tin mine (smh.com.au)
- The day a Scotch terrier killed a thylacine (retrieverman.wordpress.com)
- Dangerous Australia: 6 Cute Animals That Can Still Kill You (stumbledownunder.com)
The Asian appetite for animal products is creating demand which, rumours have it, threaten zoos. What, if anything, can be done to reduce the demand?
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From The Independent
After a rumour that it could cure cancer, the horn is now worth more than $40,000 a kilo, and gangs have been breaking into museums and auction rooms in Britain and Europe to steal trophy rhinoceros heads. The fear is zoos – and live rhinos – may be next.
In an unprecedented alert, all 15 British zoos and wildlife and safari parks which hold rhinos – they have 85 animals between them – have been warned by the National Wildlife Crime Unit to tighten security and report anything suspicious to the police at once.
Concern is growing that criminals will try to break into a British zoo at night, kill or tranquillise rhinos, and cut off the horns. The potential profits might be very tempting, as a single big horn could weigh more than 5kg and be worth more than $200,000.
In the past four years rhino poaching has exploded in Africa – South Africa especially – going from a total of 13 animals killed for their horn in South Africa in 2007 to 448 in 2011, the highest number ever recorded. Twelve have already been killed in South Africa this year.
The head of Biaza (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariaums), Miranda Stevenson, said she was “horrified” at the threat, but that, while security made it difficult to get into zoos, “it isn’t impossible. Rhinos are big animals and in good weather most zoos will leave them out at night.”
A source from a big zoo in southern England said: “We are aware of the warning but our security is pretty tight. We have keepers living on site and they make night patrols.”
Detectives first became aware of the threat to zoos after a man was caught trying to smuggle a rhino horn out of Britain to Asia – which turned out to have come from an animal which had died of natural causes in Colchester Zoo.
Powdered rhino horn has long been used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine, where it is reputed to lessen fevers.
However, an urban myth about a senior Vietnamese politician who reputedly had his cancer cured by rhino horn swept across Asia in 2008, even though the politician has never been identified or come forward.
Andrew McVey, Species Programme Manager at WWF-UK, said, “A lot of effort is going into addressing the poaching, but we have not been as successful as we would like to be,” he said.
The knock-on effects have involved almost 50 targeted burglaries of museums holding rhino heads in Britain and the Continent.
In February, the mounted head of a black rhino was taken from Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, and in May a similar head was taken from the Educational Museum in Haslemere, Surrey.
- Medical myth is dooming the rhino to extinction (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- South Africa boosts rhino wardens (bbc.co.uk)
- Rhino Crisis Round Up: Hope for Asian Rhinos & More (planetsave.com)
- South Africa: 448 Rhinos Killed in 2011 [Warning: Graphic] (planetsave.com)
- Rhino Poaching Hits New Record High in South Africa (treehugger.com)
- Rhino horn price spike drives record poaching (go.theregister.com)
- Rhino poaching soars, horns worth more than gold (msnbc.msn.com)
- Desperation shows after black year for rhinos (earthtimes.org)