Tag Archives: Zoological Society of London

WILDLIFE : Beaver and bison among European species making a comeback

From the Guardian : Beaver, bison and eagles are among the species that have made a successful comeback in Europe in the past 50 years, according to a major survey published by a coalition of conservation groups on Thursday.

The report selected 37 species that have showed signs of recovery, studied changes in their numbers and range since 1960, and examined the reasons driving their comeback.

Of the species that live or have been reintroduced to the UK, three species of geese, the common crane, red kite, white-tailed eagle, seal, deer, wild boar and beaver all showed signs of recovery.

But the report, Wildlife Comeback in Europe, which features contributions from the Zoological Society of LondonBirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council and was commissioned by Rewilding Europe, cautioned that despite these success stories, biodiversity is still being lost around the world.

It found that numbers of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber), once widely distributed but reduced to 1,200 individuals at the beginning of the 20th century due to hunting and habitat loss, have seen a 14,055% increase in population since 1960 to around 337,500 individuals today. With the help of hunting restrictions and reintroduction schemes, the species has also expanded its range by 650% across the continent, and is now found in at least 25 countries, including the UK.

European beaver (Castor fiber)

Numbers of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) have seen a 14,055% increase since 1960. Photograph: blickwinkel/Alamy

The European bison (Bison bonasus), the largest herbivore in Europe, became extinct in the wild in the early 20th century due to severe hunting pressure and habitat loss. After a large-scale breeding and reintroduction programme, wild populations have been re-established in areas of central and eastern Europe, with strongholds in Poland and Belarus. The population now totals nearly 3,000 individuals, and has increased by 3084% since 1960.

Targeted conservation projects were behind many of the comebacks, the report said. Prof Jonathan Baillie, ZSL director of conservation, said the findings represented a major success given that biodiversity continues to decline worldwide: “It’s really refreshing to see that these recoveries are actually the result of targeted conservation efforts. We’re seeing increased legislation, and directly in response, we’re seeing species comeback. We’re seeing commitments to leaving space for nature, and in turn we’re seeing improved status of species. So the conditions and conservation actions on the ground are working, and that’s extremely promising.”

Of the 18 mammals surveyed, only the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is still declining, with a decrease of 84% since 1965 and only 279 individuals thought to remain in the wild.

Of the 19 species of bird studied, the biggest population increase was the individual numbers of the Svalbard breeding population of the barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis). Its population size has increased by 7,650% since 1947 due to reduction in hunting pressure and improved site protection.

The white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), one of the largest birds of prey in the world, has made an impressive recovery following dramatic declines and extinctions in many countries between 1800 and 1970. Following legal protection, the European population grew from less than 2,500 pairs in 1970 to 9,600 pairs in 2010, and the species has recently recolonised parts of its former range in northern and central Europe. The Spanish imperial eagle has also increased significantly by 734% rise in breeding pairs since 1974.

Biodiversity 100 UK: White-tailed eagleWhite-tailed eagle. Photograph: Pal Hermansen/Getty Images

“The legislation and the policy frameworks that are in place have enabled spectacular recoveries in the species that we looked at. For example, bird species increased by 5% per year and doubled their population size within 15 years once the conservation actions were put in place,” said Christina Ieronymidou, European research assistant, Birdlife International.

Analysis shows that while the 37 species studied have all increased in abundance since the 1960s, there is great variation between species and regions, with an increase in red kites of less than 10%, but more than 3,000% for the European beaver. Mammal increases were the greatest in southern and western Europe.

As well as conservation efforts by governments, individuals and NGOs, measures including actively boosting existing or setting up new animal populations, reduction in hunting pressure, protection from persecution and the phasing out of toxic chemicals were also key to species recovery, the report found.

The wildlife comeback is not limited only to the wildlife species that are presented in this study, the authors said, there are many more showing similar patterns of recovery.

But the report warned that despite the return of this impressive number of European birds and mammals, biodiversity is still being lost. “The results of this report must be viewed in the context of large historical declines. For carnivores like the Eurasian lynx and grey wolf, and many bird species including the red kite, distributions and abundances had already declined dramatically from their historical levels by the mid-20th century. Wildlife resurgence must therefore be assessed cautiously, as many species have not yet reached the level necessary to secure sustainable populations,” the report said.

Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, said the report showed that wildlife could bounce back if humans allowed it. “With continued and strong legal protection, active boosting of existing wildlife populations and reintroductions to bring back lost species, combined with an increasing tolerance towards wildlife, more species will surely follow.”

Schepers said the report was commissioned in 2011 to find out how species recovery could boost his organisation’s efforts to “rewild” huge areas of Europe. With five huge initiatives already under way in Spain/Portugal, the eastern and southern Carpathians, the Danube delta and the Velebit Mountains in Croatia, it aims to rewild 1m hectares of land by 2020, creating 10 areas in different geographical regions of Europe made up of different habitats and species, where nature would be allowed to take its course.

Their efforts to create space for nature is being helped by the rate at which agricultural land is being abandoned, he said, where it is being returned to suitable habitat for many species and providing economic benefits in the form of tourism and ecosystem services.

“Rewilding would allow people to create businesses and shift from a marginal, subsidised-based agriculture to a local wildlife-based economy. There are millions of hectares of land that are being abandoned in Europe as we speak and this has been happening for decades. Research shows that between 12 and 18 million hectares of land will be abandoned in Europe by 2030, where people don’t want to live and agriculture is marginal. This is a historic opportunity,” he said.

Top five mammal increases

Beaver 14,055% increase since 1960

European bison 3,084% since 1960

Grey seal 893% since 1977

Pyrenean ibex 855% since 1960

Southern chamois 537% since 1970

Top five bird increases

Barnacle goose Svalbard population 7,650% increase since 1947; Russia/Baltic 4,506% since 1951 and Greenland 875% since 1960

Pink-footed goose Iceland/Greenland population 4,056% increase since 1951

White-headed duck 3,368% increase since 1975

Spanish imperial eagle 734% increase since 1974

Common crane Western European population 650% increase since 1977

WILDLIFE UPDATE : Reptiles are in trouble….One in five reptile faces extinction

Reptiles Galore

Reptiles Galore (Photo credit: Wes & Eli)

The green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta ) is among the world’s reptiles that face extinction. Photograph: Ruchira Somaweera/IUCN/ZSL

Nearly one in five of the world’s estimated 10,000 species of lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodiles and other reptiles are threatened with extinction, according to a study conducted by 200 experts.

But the risk of extinction was found to be unevenly spread throughout the extremely diverse group of animals. According to the paper, an alarming 50% of all freshwater turtles are close to extinction, possibly because they are traded on international markets.

The study, published by the Zoological Society of London in conjunction with the IUCN species survival commission, is the first of its kind summarising the global conservation status of reptiles, and used 1,500 randomly selected reptiles worldwide.

Out of the estimated 19% of reptiles threatened with extinction, in order of magnitude of danger, 12% are classified as critically endangered, 41% endangered and 47% vulnerable.

Three species were found to be possibly extinct. One, a jungle runner lizard, Ameiva vittata, has only ever been recorded in one part of Bolivia. In Haiti, six of the nine species of anolis lizard included in this study have an elevated risk of extinction, due to extensive deforestation affecting the country.

Reptiles threatened with extinction : Chamaeleo LaterispinisChamaeleo laterispinis, found in the mountains of Tanzania, is also on the list of reptiles facing extinction threat. Photograph: Michele Menegon/IUCN/ZSL

The spread of farming and deforestation in tropical regions represents two of the greatest threats to reptiles, says the paper.

“The proportion of threatened reptile species is highest in freshwater environments, tropical regions and on oceanic islands, while data deficiency was highest in tropical areas, such as central Africa and south-east Asia,” the paper says. “Levels of threat remain particularly high in tropical regions, mainly as a result of habitat conversion for agriculture and logging.”

Reptiles threatened with extinction : Chamaeleo Lyriocephalus ScutatusLyriocephalus scutatus, another lizard species on threatened list. Photograph: Ruchira Somaweera/IUCN/ZSL

Monika Böhm, lead author of the paper, said: “Reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world. But many species are very highly specialised in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes.”

Reptiles have a long and complex history, having first appeared on the planet about 300m years ago. They play a number of crucial roles in the proper functioning of the world’s ecosystems, in their roles as predators as well as prey.

Philip Bowles, co-ordinator of IUCN’s snake and lizard red list authority, said the findings sounded alarm bells on the state of reptiles.

“Tackling the identified threats, which include habitat loss and harvesting, are key conservation priorities in order to reverse the declines in these reptiles,”

BADGER UPDATE : Cull is ‘mindless’, say scientists

Britain’s top animal disease scientists have launched a devastating attack on the government’s “mindless” badger cull, accusing ministers of failing to tell the truth and demanding the immediate abandonment of the killings. The Observer reports

The intervention by dozens of the nation’s most senior experts, in a letter in the Observer, comes as farmers prepare to begin the cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset, possibly as early as tomorrow. The government’s own chief scientist has refused to back the killings.

More than 30 eminent animal disease experts describe the cull as a “costly distraction” that risks making the problem of tuberculosis in cattle worse and that will cost far more than it saves.

TB in English cattle is an increasing problem, with the 26,000 infectedanimals slaughtered in 2011 costing £90m in compensation. Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, argues that more than a decade of research shows that culling badgers, which can carry bovine TB, could reduce infections by 12%-16% if undertaken intensively for many years and over large areas.

However, the scientists reject the idea of scientific support for the cull, which could wipe out 100,000 badgers, a third of the national population. The cull policy is “mindless”, according to Lord John Krebs, one of the UK’s most eminent scientists and the architect of the landmark 10-year culling trials that ended in 2007. “The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case.”

Another signatory, Lord Robert May, a former government chief scientist and president of the Royal Society, said: “It is very clear to me that the government’s policy does not make sense.” He added: “I have no sympathy with the decision. They are transmuting evidence-based policy into policy-based evidence.”

The current government chief scientist, Professor Sir John Beddington, refused to back the cull. Asked if it could make a meaningful contribution to tackling TB in cattle, he said: “I continue to engage with Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] on the evidence base concerning the development of bovine TB policy. I am content that the evidence base, including uncertainties and evidence gaps, has been communicated effectively to ministers.”

A Defra spokesman said: “The leading experts Defra brought together in April 2011 agreed that the evidence shows that culling done in the right way can reduce the spread of the disease to cattle, with benefits remaining for many years. The culling policy has been developed to maximise the benefits shown in previous trials, and to minimise the impact of badgers spreading disease beyond the cull area by including hard boundaries such as motorways and rivers.”

But scientists say the two-page document produced by the April meeting does not support the cull. Professor Rosie Woodroffe, of the Zoological Society of London, said: “The document simply does not endorse the policy.”

The cull has provoked the largest animal rights campaign since fox hunting in the 1990s, with some activists pledging to disrupt the nocturnal shootings by marksmen. More than 150,000 people have signed a government e-petition to stop the cull, entitling it to be considered for a debate in parliament. MPs say they are confident this will be granted when the decision is made on Tuesday.

The scientists, whose letter is also being sent to Paterson, claim scientific opinion in the UK is overwhelmingly against the cull. “I just don’t know anyone who is really informed who thinks this is a good idea,” said Professor John Bourne, who led the decade-long trial.

The scientists reject other statements from ministers and even David Cameron, who said last week: “I believe this is the right policy for healthy badgers as well as healthy cattle.”

Woodroffe pointed to research showing that just 14% of badgers in previous culls had TB and just one in a hundred had severe symptoms. “Furthermore, all the evidence shows that culling badgers increases the proportion of badgers that have TB,” she said.

In a separate development, nine leading vets have written an open letter, co-ordinated by the Humane Society, to Defra and Natural England. They warn that the shooting permitted by the cull licences “will inevitably result in the targeting of many pregnant sows and, if culling extends towards the end of the open season, could result in the shooting of lactating sows, leading to the starvation of dependent cubs”.

Naturalist and broadcaster Bill Oddie said: “I cannot believe they are going to be able to go out in pitch darkness – badgers are nocturnal – and shoot them. It is truly a horrific situation.”

Great Barrier Reef loses more than half its coral cover

English: A Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata) r...

English: A Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata) resting on hard Acropora coral. Lighthouse, Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Population explosion of coral-eating starfish, storms and acidification of oceans causing rapid decline, study finds. 

Coral cover on Australia‘s Great Barrier Reef has declined by more than half over the last 27 years according to marine scientists. The Guardian reports

Coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef has dropped by more than half over the last 27 years, according to scientists, a result of increased storms, bleaching and predation by population explosions of a starfish which sucks away the coral’s nutrients.

At present rates of decline, the coral cover will halve again within a decade, though scientists said the reef could recover if the crown-of-thorns starfish can be brought under control and, longer term, global carbon dioxide emissions are reduced.

“This latest study provides compelling evidence that the cumulative impacts of storms, crown-of-thorns starfish (Cots) and two bleaching events have had a devastating effect on the reef over the last three decades,” said John Gunn, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Coral reefs are an important part of the marine ecosystem as sources of food and as protection for young fish. They are under threat around the world from the effects of bleaching, due to rising ocean temperatures, and increasing acidification of the oceans, which reduces the corals’ ability to build their calcium carbonate structures.

The Great Barrier Reef is the most iconic coral reef in the world, listed as a Unesco world heritage site and the source of $A5bn (£3.2bn) a year to the Australian economy through tourism. The observations of its decline are based on more than 2,000 surveys of 214 reefs between 1985 and 2012. The results showed a decline in coral cover from 28% to 13.8% – an average of 0.53% a year and a total loss of 50.7% over the 27-year period. The study was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Two-thirds of the coral loss has occurred since 1998 and the rate of decline has increased in recent years, averaging around 1.45% a year since 2006. “If the trend continued, coral cover could halve again by 2022,” said Peter Doherty, a research fellow at the institute.

Tropical cyclones, predation by Cots, and bleaching accounted for 48%, 42%,and 10% of the respective estimated losses. In the past seven years the reef has been affected by six major cyclones. Cyclone Hamish, for example, ran along the reef, parallel to the coast for almost 930 miles (1,500km), leaving a trail of destruction much greater than the average cyclone, which usually crosses the reef on a path perpendicular to the coast.

The starfish problem was first recorded in 1962 at Green Island off Cairns. “When we say outbreaks, we mean explosions of Cots populations to a level where the numbers are so large that they end up eating upwards of 90% of a reef’s coral,” Gunn said. “Since 1962 there have been major outbreaks every 13-14 years.”

The evidence suggests that outbreaks of Cots start two or three years after major floods in northern rivers.

In September, scientists at the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that Caribbean coral reefs are on the verge of collapse, with less than 10% of the reef area showing live coral cover. The collapse was due to environmental issues, including over-exploitation, pollution and climate change.

David Curnick, marine and freshwater programme co-ordinator at the Zoological Society of London, said many of the most endangered coral species around the world were also under severe pressure from the aquarium trade.

“Corals are notoriously hard to propagate in captivity and therefore the trade is still heavily dependent on harvesting from the wild.”.”

He said the results of the Great Barrier Reef survey were not surprising and the challenge for conservationists was to limit the localised threats to give reefs a chance to recover and develop resilience against the effects of climate change. “This is challenging but entirely achievable and there are many community-led projects around the world demonstrating this.”

Corals can recover if given the chance. But this is slow – in the absence of cyclones, Cots and bleaching, the Great Barrier Reef can regrow at a rate of 2.85% a year, the scientists wrote. Removing the Cots problem alone would allow coral cover to increase at 0.89% a year.

Reducing Cots means improving water quality around the rivers at the northern end of the reef to reduce agricultural run-off – high levels of nutrients flowing off the land feed and allow high survival of Cots larvae. Another option is some form of biological control of populations – Gunn said there were promising results from research on naturally occurring pathogens that could keep Cots in check, but it was not ready to be applied in the field.

He said the future of the Reef lay partly in human hands. “We can achieve better water quality, we can tackle the challenge of crown-of-thorns, and we can continue to work to ensure the resilience of the reef to climate change is enhanced. However, its future also lies with the global response to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The coral decline revealed by this study – shocking as it is – has happened before the most severe impacts of ocean warming and acidification associated with climate change have kicked in, so we undoubtedly have more challenges ahead.”

Source

The 100 species at risk of extinction – because man has no use for them

English: Zoologists meeting at the Zoological ...

English: Zoologists meeting at the Zoological Society of London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The 100 species at risk of extinction – because man has no use for them! 48 countries, including Britain, urged to help prevent loss of our ‘weird and wonderful’ creatures. The Independent reports

The spoon-billed sandpiper, three-toed sloth and a long-beaked echidna named after Sir David Attenborough are among the 100 most endangered species in the world, according to a new study.

The list of at-risk species has been published as conservationists warn that rare mammals, plants and fungi are being sacrificed as their habitats are appropriated for human use.

More than 8,000 scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) helped compile the list of species closest to extinction, which was published by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Conservationists fear the species in 48 countries, including Britain, may die out because they don’t offer obvious benefits to humans.

The list is headed by the “weird and wonderful” spoon-billed sandpiper which breeds in Russia and migrates to Bangladesh and Myanmar. There are just 100 breeding pairs of the birds left in the wild with that number declining by a quarter annually.

There are also just 500 pygmy three-toed sloths left on the uninhabited Isla Escudo de Veraguas, 10 miles off the coast of Panama. They are half the size of sloths found on the mainland and are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world. But their numbers are declining with fishermen and lobster divers “opportunistically” hunting the small animals, the report said.

Within Britain, the brightly-coloured Willow Blister fungus which grows only on trees in Pembrokeshire is listed as being critically at risk of extinction due to “limited availability of habitat”. The report warns that a single “catastrophic event” could cause its total destruction.

Zaglossus attenboroughi, or Attenborough’s echidna, named after the eminent naturalist and BBC wildlife expert, is one of just five surviving species of monotreme, ancient egg-laying mammals found in Australia and New Guinea 160 million years ago. Today the mammal’s home is the Cyclops Mountains of the Papua Province of Indonesia but it has been listed as in danger due to the destruction of its habitat by loggers, agricultural encroachment and hunting.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL’s director of conservation, said: “The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people.

“This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the plant. While the utilitarian value of nature is important, conservation goes beyond this. Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”

The ZSL’s Ellen Butcher, who co-wrote the report, said: “All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist.”

Most endangered: facts and figures

Araripe manakin, Antilophia bokermanni 
Where found: Brazil
Numbers left: 779

Sumatran rhinoceros, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis 
Where found: Malaysia and Indonesia
Numbers left: 250 individuals

Pygmy three-toed slothBradypus pygmaeus 
Where found: Panama
Numbers left: 500

Spoon-billed sandpiperEurynorhynchus pygmeus 
Where found: Russia, Bangladesh and Burma
Numbers left: 100 breeding pairs

Tonkin snub-nosed monkeyRhinopithecus avunculus 
Where found: Vietnam
Numbers left: 200

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,199 other followers

%d bloggers like this: