Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Printable Version

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RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Jeffrey - 10-29-2018

USA: Recognising recovery of grizzly bears would spur further conservation

In 2016, the Obama administration proposed de-listing the Yellowstone population [of grizzly bears], which now numbers 700. The grizzly would become only the 39th US species de-listed under the ESA due to recovery (out of more than 1,500 that have been listed). Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, describes this accomplishment as “a true American conservation success story.” Many environmentalists agree.

But the view is not unanimous. And the story took a dramatic turn when a federal court struck down the de-listing on behalf of dissenting environmental groups ...

... we should pause to consider the consequences of keeping recovered wildlife on the Endangered Species List. Failing to acknowledge and reward recoveries can undermine the incentives to recover other species. And the strict regulations needed to prevent a species’ extinction generate lots of conflict and, consequently, are a poor means of spurring ambitious and collaborative conservation efforts ...

Source: https://lasvegassun.com/news/2018/oct/25/recognizing-grizzlys-recovery-would-spur-further-c/

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RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Jeffrey - 11-02-2018

‘At capacity’? A Nepali park reckons with its rhinos

An investigation into a recent increase in natural deaths among the 600 greater one-horned rhinos in Chitwan National Park suggested the park may have reached its carrying capacity for the species.

The park and its resources are facing pressure both from a growing population of rhinos within the park and from increasing human settlement on its periphery.

Assessments of the park’s carrying capacity for rhinos vary wildly, ranging from 500 to more than 2,000, leading to differences of opinion about the role overcrowding could play in rhino deaths.

Source: https://news.mongabay.com/2018/11/at-capacity-a-nepali-park-reckons-with-its-rhinos/

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RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Matias - 11-23-2018

Two iconic birds make a striking comeback, but much work remains

by Shreya Dasgupta on 22 November 2018

  • BirdLife International has revised the information for the conservation status of more than 2,300 bird species this year.
  • Overall, 31 species of birds were moved to lower threat categories, while 58 species were uplisted to higher threat categories.
  • The pink pigeon, which has been downlisted to vulnerable from endangered, and the northern bald ibis, which has been downlisted to endangered from critically endangered, have shown some of the most dramatic improvements.
The pink pigeon, found only on the island of Mauritius, was once nearly declared extinct. Another bird, the northern bald ibis, underwent catastrophic declines across much of its habitat in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

But now, both species are on the path to recovery, according to the latest assessment of the world’s birds by BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations.

In 2018, BirdLife, which serves as the official Red List Authority for birds for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, revised information on more than 2,300 bird species, based on information gathered by professional and citizen scientists, NGO staff, and birdwatchers from around the world. The assessed birds represent about 22 percent of all the world’s bird species.

“These updates have varied from minor amendments to the text or map for certain species, to comprehensive revisions of the factsheets for species where new information has become available, especially in cases where the species’ threat status has changed so much that they have now been reclassified to a different Red List category,” Ian Burfield, global science coordinator at BirdLife International, told Mongabay.

Overall, in this year’s assessment, BirdLife International moved 31 species of birds to less dire threat categories. (The categories range, in ascending order of threat, from “vulnerable” to “endangered” to “critically endangered.”) Of these, the pink pigeon and the northern bald ibis showed some of the most dramatic improvements.

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Link: https://news.mongabay.com/2018/11/two-iconic-birds-make-a-striking-comeback-but-much-work-remains/

RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 11-27-2018

From AI to Drones, Smart Technology is Firing Up Wildlife Conservation Globally
India News By Kalyani Prasher. 2 days ago TWC India 01:58

Can Big Tech Protect the World's Endangered Wildlife?
We take a look at the future of technology-enabled conservation.

In 2015, the company Dimension Data teamed up with CISCO to launch Connected Conservation, a programme to protect the world’s endangered wildlife population through technology. Their pilot project was at South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where poachers were a great threat to the rhino population. By 2017, rhino poaching in the sanctuary was reduced by a whopping 96% – a resounding success that has resulted in the expansion of this programme to Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique this year.
This amazing conservation effort was made possible with a combination of technologies like digital data mapping of tourist traffic, thermal imaging, closed circuit TV cameras, biometrics, connection of rangers via multiple devices, the use of IoT (the Internet of things) to share and control information, and cloud backup of all the data. The entire fence line of the park was equipped with sensors and a strong Wi-Fi network ensured that any suspicious movement was immediately notified to the rangers.
Elsewhere in the world, too, technology is proving to be a handy collaborator in wildlife conservation. In June in Cambodia, for instance, the conservation outfit Global Park Defence System set up by Wildlife Alliance, a global conservation network, saved a critically endangered pangolin from being poached when the rangers got alerted of suspicious movement by a hidden camera. Pangolins are the most trafficked animals in the world and some species are critically endangered.
But it’s not just the pangolins that are at risk here. Over the last six years, Wildlife Alliance has removed 109,217 snares (traps that can injure or kill anything from elephants to mice) from a single park in Cambodia: an alarming number that only highlights the need for the protection of wildlife in this region.
Connected Conservation is now in talks with some state governments in India to protect the endangered Asiatic lion and the tiger. Their approach to technology in conservation efforts takes a step away from trackers and microchips for animals. Instead, they focus on tracking the movement of people coming in and out of wildlife parks to avoid human-wildlife conflict and poaching. One cannot help but wonder if such use of technology could have prevented the loss of life, both animal and human, in the Avni tiger-killing case.
The use of technology in wildlife conservation is not new. In India, technology has earlier revived the tiger population of Panna National Park, where poachers had finished the entire tiger population in 2009. There was not even one tiger left in Panna, and India cut a sorry figure in the international community. Wildlife conservationists then introduced tigers from neighbouring parks like Kanha and Bandhavgarh into the park and put trackers on the tigers to save them from poachers. Today, Panna has over 20 adult tigers and several cubs, making it one of India’s best conservation success stories.
The exciting future
It is now time for next-gen technology, which interferes less with the animal and protects from a distance. Satellite imaging is one such option. After successfully using Google Earth’s imaging to save tigers in Sumatra, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been using Google Earth to help people track their work and learn about endangered species and their habitats. Drones can help with aerial review of animals without disturbing them, too, but some animals are shy and are not easy to spot, which is when thermal imaging steps into the fray, providing a more accurate picture of animal movement, especially in the dark when poachers are most likely to strike.
Artificial Intelligence has also come to the aid of the wild, with bots and algorithms combing the internet for data such as animal sightings and other useful information that can help protect threatened species. In Tasmania, drones, IoT and AI have come together to save eagles from hitting wind turbines, remotely shutting down a turbine at the slightest risk of a collision. (This is a double bonus as the wind turbines also provide clean energy!)  
All sorts of exciting possibilities exist today – including the use of technology and science to fake elephant tusks to reduce the poaching, as well as using acoustics to protect marine wildlife—and surely more will come in the future with the advancement of technology. Technology giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Alibaba, eBay and more are doing their bit by forming a global alliance with the WWF, TRAFFIC (a monitoring network) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare to stop illegal wildlife trafficking online. They have taken a pledge to reduce online trafficking by 80% in the next two years. Perhaps we can be a little optimistic of the future after all – perhaps, in the future, we won’t ever have to debate again if we humans have indeed wiped out 60% of the world’s animal species.


RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Rishi - 11-30-2018

(11-30-2018, 08:24 PM)Sanju Wrote: Very very sad news yaaa..rr!!!
Another giant has left us: the Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild
Published on 24 Apr 2015
Lorenzo Brenna
Leggi l'articolo in italiano
In the Malaysian state of Sabah there are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, the Environment Minister says.
The eastern Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni), also known as the Bornean rhino, is the world’s smallest rhino. It’s a subspecies of the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and is a shy and solitary creature that inhabits Bornean forests.

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A Sumatran rhino
Poaching and deforestation behind their extinction
Or better, it used to inhabit. In fact, according to Environment Minister Masidi Manjun, there are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah. About 50 rhinos lived there in 2008, five years later there were only ten individuals left, and today they’re likely to be extinct.
The decline of this species is mainly linked to two factors: poaching for rhino horns (the horn actually doesn’t have any medical properties, contrary to many people’s beliefs), and habitat loss due to deforestation, mainly carried out to make place for oil palm plantations and human settlements.

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Sumatran rhinos
The end of an ancient species?
There are currently only three surviving Sumatran rhinos in Sabah, two females and one male (Iman, Puntung and Tam), held in fenced, natural conditions at the Borneo Rhinoceros Sanctuary (BRS). But they seem to have problems reproducing.
“There is still hope to save the species from extinction. The only way to achieve that now is to use in vitro fertilisation,” according to John Payne, the Executive Director of the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and one of the world’s top experts on the species.
Sumatran rhinos originate from the Pleistocene, when they lived freely in the forests of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China, until 1930, when people started hunting them for their horns, which were traded with Chinese people in exchange for porcelain objects.  

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A Sumatran rhino
Gradually, rhinos started hiding in thick forests, but humans deforested these areas allowing poachers to reach them. Another animal species is on the brink of extinction, due to humanity’s endless lust for blood.
There’s still hope to save these mammals that appeared on Earth 20 million years ago, and to allow them to continue roaming wild in our planet’s forests.

Dude, you almost have me a heart attack! This is a 2015 news...

Sumatran rhinos on Malay Peninsula & Borneo of Malaysia were declared extinct that year after decades of no sightings. But there were two cases confirming their presence in 2016, one in Indonesian Borneo another in Malaysia.

They are critically endangered but still present on islands of Sumatra & Borneo.

RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 12-13-2018

Six-foot croc rescued from Kodinar village

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Read more at:

RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 12-13-2018

10-Kilometre Area Around 21 National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries To Be Eco-Sensitive Zone

The 21 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries are located in nine states including Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, UP and West Bengal.
All India | Press Trust of India | Updated: December 11, 2018 20:02 IST by Taboola

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The government told the top court there are 662 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country

New Delhi: 
The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to declare "at the earliest" 10 km area around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country as Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) to protect wild birds and animals.
The areas close to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are notified as ESZ by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notifies, with an aim to create "shock absorbers" for the protected animals and birds, by regulating and managing the activities there. It can direct that certain industries and operations are not carried out, or subjected to safeguards, in ESZs.
The bench, comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, was informed that there were 662 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country, and state governments and Union territory administrations have not even moved any proposal to the Centre for declaring ESZ in 21 such areas.
"Under the circumstances, we direct that an area of 10 Kms (kilometres) around these 21 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries be declared as Eco-Sensitive Zone by the MoEF. The declaration be made by the MoEF at the earliest," the bench noted in its order.
"Liberty is granted to the state governments to move an application for modification of this order along with proposal only two weeks after submission of the proposals to the MoEF."
The 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries - without ESZ declaration - are in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the top court that there are 662 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country.
"The proposals for declaring areas around these National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries as Eco Sensitive Zone have been received from state governments/UT Administrations for 641 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries," he said, adding: "No proposals have been received in respect of 21 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries."
The law officer also said the Centre has accepted and notified Eco-Sensitive Zones for 289 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, as of November 26 this year, and draft notifications for 206 are ready.
"We expect the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to actively pursue the preparation of the draft Notification and to issue a final Notification at the earliest," the bench ordered.
Some prominent national parks and wildlife sanctuaries without operational ESZs include Pobitora Sanctuary of Assam, Hemis High Altitude National Park and Kishtewar National Park of Jammu and Kashmir, Jogimatti Sanctuary of Karnataka, Deolgaon Rehekuri Sanctuary of Maharashtra, Siroi National Park of Manipur, Baghmara Pitcher Plant Sanctuary of Meghalaya, Fakim Sanctuary of Nagaland and Pilibhit Sanctuary of Uttar Pradesh.


RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 12-13-2018

Save the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) from Extinction!

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Devesh Gadhvi
A GIB that collided with high-tension power lines and was electrocuted near the Kutch Bustard Sanctuary.

Powerlines in GIB habitat should go underground. Deadly powerlines in bustard country Is this the End of the Line for the Critically Endangered GIB?
The critically endangered Great Indian Bustard has disappeared from over 90% of its former range due to habitat loss, hunting, disturbance and lack of protection in many ‘lekking’ and nesting sites (see 2013 CI campaign). Now, overhead power transmission lines that crisscross its habitat are sounding the death knell of this low-flying, ground-dwelling species (see attached map). According to a study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), as many as 10 GIBs have lost their lives in collisions with power lines in the last decade alone (2007-2017). There is a solution — replace overhead power lines with underground cables. There is no time to lose! So, let’s urge the Minister of State (IC) for Power and New and Renewable Energy to act immediately. Please read and sign the letter below addressed to the minister.

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Wildlife Institute of India
A WII map that depicts power lines crisscrossing GIB habitat.

  • Sub: India's pride on the brink of extinction!
    Shri. Raj Kumar Singh Minister of State (IC)  Ministry of Power, and New and Renewable Energy Hon’ble Minister,It is a matter of great pride that India is listed amongst the most biodiverse countries in the world. Our rich natural heritage includes diverse, wild habitats and many endemic species that are found nowhere else. It is even more remarkable that despite a human population of over 1.2 billion people, no wild species in the history of independent India has gone extinct. Given this record of conservation, we were shocked to learn that the endemic Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is now critically endangered and at threat of imminent extinction.In 1969, over 1,000 Great Indian Bustards roamed the country’s grasslands. Today, this beautiful bird has vanished from 90 per cent of its geographical range, and has a global population of fewer than 150 individuals. The majority of the surviving birds live in the fragmented grasslands of Rajasthan and Gujarat, along with a few individuals in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Though many of the threats to the Great Indian Bustard, such as habitat loss, are being addressed there is one swinging axe that could seal the bird’s fate. The overhead power transmission lines that crisscross GIB habitat are killing these low-flying, ground-dwelling birds. According to a study by the Wildlife Institute of India, 10 GIBs have lost their lives in power line collisions in the last decade (2007-2017). The erection of power lines in and around GIB habitat is against the 2013 guidelines for the recovery of the species given by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Unfortunately, vital grasslands are not given the strict environmental scrutiny they deserve before developmental projects are sanctioned. India’s push towards renewable energy is laudable, but power transmission strategies need to be in line with this green vision and Bustard Recovery Guidelines. While private companies generate clean energy, it is up to India’s Ministry of Power, and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to ensure that this energy reaches its destination without causing extinction of any species. Fortunately, we have a solution. Overhead transmission lines can be placed underground. Yes, this is more expensive, but experts confirm that such an intervention has reduced mortality of another bustard species, the Great Bustard, in West Pannonia. This can work in India too.India is the only home of the Great Indian Bustard. Protecting this bird is a matter of national pride. We urge your ministry to dismantle overhead power lines and place them safely underground in and around GIB habitat on priority. The fate of this iconic species is in your hands, and we look forward to a public statement on your commitment to the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard in India.

This Great Indian Bustard Campaign is a collaboration between Sanctuary Nature Foundation, The Corbett Foundation and Conservation India and will be officially launched at the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards, on December 7, 2018, in Mumbai, and will make an earnest appeal to an audience of concerned citizens and conservationists across the country.
Further reading: http://www.conservationindia.org/campaigns/gib2018?platform=hootsuite

RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 12-31-2018

Indian Wild Ass makes a comeback in Rajasthan

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Indian Wild Ass
Written By Kartikey Dev Singh  Updated: Dec 27, 2018, 05:55 AM IST

A new chapter is unfolding in the natural sphere of the state. After probably over a hundred years, a species that was once found in abundance in the dry plains of the state, the Wild Indian Ass is making a comeback.
Although less in numbers at present, a little push from the forest department could go a long way in boosting their numbers and allowing them to thrive again. Efforts have been made for its revival here, but officials believe that large-scale plans need to be drawn and put on the ground.
The Indian Wild Ass, found in large groups in the Rann of Kutch, was once present in the desert swathes of Rajasthan and particularly in the salty and rocky plains of the state's Marwar region. And this is where a few of them are being seen for the past several months.

"According to well-documented historical accounts of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Wild Asses were seen in that time all the way till Haryana. With indiscriminate hunting, and loss of habitat, the number dwindled rapidly, so much so, that by the time the British Raj ended, their major stronghold remained the salty Rann, which could offer protection as it is hard for humans to live there," said Rajpal Singh, a member of NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority).

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In 2016, a group of officials touring Jalor district came across a handful of these animals and on questioning the villagers, learnt that though these were only recently seen in the area, their sighting has been fairly common since.

"It was then decided that proper conservation efforts must be made for the animals, which are trying to make another stronghold on their own. Nature is carrying on its course and if we can provide a little push, then we must," said Raghuvir Singh Shekhawat, retired IFS.
Singh was Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Jodhpur division when the discovery was made and he set out to fulfil the basic necessities of these animals.
"The discovery was made in Rankhar area near Sanchore town in Jalore district. We decided to build water reservoirs for them, along with check posts and posted officials while drawing a proper plan for the activities to be carried out by officials to monitor their movements," he said. "Rajasthan would be the second state where Wild Asses could be found if appropriate efforts are made. The department should draw and execute long-term plans to that effect," Singh added.

Driven Away, Killed By Humans

Quote:“According to well-documented historical accounts of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Wild Asses were seen in that time all the way till Haryana. With indiscriminate hunting, and loss of habitat, the number dwindled rapidly, so much so, that by the time the British Raj ended, their major stronghold remained the salty Rann, which could offer protection as it is hard for humans to live there,” said Rajpal Singh, a member of NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority)


A year of reminders
Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/year-reminders-710383.html

RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 12-31-2018

RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 01-02-2019

Bringing 'Asia's zebras' back to the steppe
By Abdujalil Abdurasulov BBC News, Altyn Emel, Kazakhstan 25 December 2018

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Image copyright Petra Kaczensky/NINA
"Do you see them?" the radio crackled in the old Russian 4x4.
The driver tried to steer away from pits and ravines that he could barely see in the dark. The lights of another car flashed in the distance. After a prolonged silence came the answer. "No."
The two drivers navigating around a national park in the dead of the night are Kazakh rangers trying to capture Asiatic wild ass, known locally as kulans.
It is a part of the operation to reintroduce these animals to the steppes of central Kazakhstan, where they disappeared a century ago.
Kulans are the zebras of Asia. They used to roam on a massive territory stretching from Syria to Mongolia but today their populations are fragmented and vulnerable. Kulans in Central Asia are in particular danger.
Although they are a protected species, they are hunted for their meat and their skins in some areas.
Due to hunting and habitat conversion, they now inhabit only 3% of the territory where they formerly ranged.
Their population in Kazakhstan is now estimated at about 4,000 and almost all of them are in the Altyn Emel national park in the country's south-east.
Now scientists want to relocate a group of healthy animals some 1,500 km (932 miles) away - from Altyn Emel to an area known as Altyn Dala or the Golden steppe.
"This is a huge landscape of steppe, which is approximately as big as France and almost totally devoid of human habitation," explains Dr John Linnell, a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

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Scientists hope that kulans can establish a new population in Altyn Dala because the Altyn Emel park is becoming too crowded for them.
Last year the first group of nine kulans was moved to Altyn Dala but in order to have a sustainable population there scientists need to relocate several dozen more animals.
A recent operation to capture the donkey-like animals, however, did not go according to plan.
UAZ jeeps criss-crossed the area in search of kulans. The chase always takes place at night as kulans can easily escape during the daytime. Rangers use a spotlight to guide the animals into an enclosure: its beam turns into a sort of a fence, which animals are afraid to cross. On the first night, the rangers couldn't even get close to the animals. The spotlights danced across the steppe as the cars hit holes and bumps in the dark. Frustrated rangers kept shouting to each other on the radio, but all their attempts to herd the animals were unsuccessful.
"We didn't have enough cars to chase," Albert Selimgereyev, a co-ordinator at the Association for Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan complained.
"The second problem was the strong wind. It's very difficult to push kulans against the wind. Usually they never go against the wind."

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Reintroducing an animal to an area is probably the most complex type of conservation project, says Dr Linnell.
It involves an "incredible" amount of planning and detail, he says. "Like building boxes, building the capture equipment, paperwork and permissions. You have to get trucks and airplanes and more trucks to co-ordinate, you have to build a bridge because the bridge collapsed.
"And all [the details] have to fall into place on the same day at the same time. And of course the wild animals have to co-operate and the weather has to co-operate and you can never count on wild animals and weather."
And when the BBC joined the mission, the weather certainly didn't co-operate. One night it was too windy; the next night it rained and spotlights became useless. On the third night, it was a bright moon, which defeated the whole point of chasing the animals at night.

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After seven frustrating nights of cold, wet and wind, the rangers and scientists had to give up, without having captured any kulans. In any case, the plane that was to meant to transport the animals was no longer available.
It is a big setback for the reintroduction project. Yet the scientists are still determined to continue the work and come back next year.
There is one big lesson from this failure, says Chris Walzer, a veterinarian from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
"This shows how important it is to really conserve wildlife in wild places as restoring and reintroducing species is really inherently difficult and takes a lot of effort and a lot of funding. So any [wildlife] place that's out there needs to be preserved as best as possible."


RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 01-02-2019

In Manipur, the world’s only floating national park and its dancing deer are losing ground to humans
Jul 29, 2018 · 01:30 pm Sahana Ghosh
The Loktak Lake is the last natural refuge of the critically endangered Sangai deer.

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Fisherfolk in action at Loktak. | Rajiv Kangabam

Manipur’s iconic Loktak Lake and its floating islands (phumdis), the last natural refuge of the critically endangered Sangai deer or the Indian Eld’s deer (Rucervus eldii eldii), are losing ground to mushrooming agricultural practices and human settlements, reports a study.
These changes in land use patterns may be linked to the construction of the Ithai barrage in 1979 at Ithai (downstream of Manipur river) for the Loktak Hydroelectric Project, the study notes.
The 246.72 square km lake, slightly smaller than the Caribbean islands of St Kitts and Nevis, is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance cradled in the floodplain of the Manipur river. About an hour and a half from Manipur’s capital Imphal, the lake and the resident Sangais are the principal attractions for travellers.
It is also northeast India’s largest freshwater lake and like a jewel in a crown, it is positioned almost centrally in the state of Manipur that shares borders with Myanmar (earlier known as Burma). Teeming with a diverse range of flora and fauna, the lake ecosystem lies in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot.
A source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply, the lake has become a hotbed of tourism and related developmental activities. And since time immemorial, the ancient water body has nurtured fishing and agriculture shaping, the region’s socio-economy.

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The Loktak lake is nestled within the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. Photo Credit: Rajiv Kangabam
According to the folklore of the Meitei, Manipur’s culturally dominant indigenous group, the lake was home to India’s very own Loch Ness monster, a mythical horned python called Poubi Lai.
Now, the wetland system is in the crosshairs of development and tradition with environmental conflicts underpinned by changes largely ascribed to the 40-year old barrage.
Using satellite data from 1977 to 2015 (from the pre-barrage to post-barrage period), scientists have mapped the decline of the phumdis that are critical in supporting the weight of these animals (also called dancing deer for their dainty gait) as they negotiate their way through the floating islands.
“We have observed a loss in phumdi area that is equivalent to more than double the increase in agricultural areas in a span of 38 years from 1977 to 2015 (from the pre-barrage to post-barrage period),” Rajiv Kangabam, from Assam Agricultural University and lead author of the study, told Mongabay-India.

The floating national park and the dancing deer are under threat. Video Credit: Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay.

Deer that dance across the phumdis
Protecting the wetlands ecosystem with the phumdis is crucial to conserve the Sangais, because the beautiful animals are concentrated in the 40 square km Keibul Lamjao National Park, that is actually a floating meadow or island (phumdi) in the southern rim of the lake. It is considered as the only floating reserve in the world.
Only 260 dancing deer remain, as per the forest department while wildlife biologists from Wildlife Institute of India stack the figure at less than 100 adult breeding individuals. The endemic Sangai was believed to have gone extinct until a remnant population was discovered in the early 1950s.
Ubiquitous in folk art and lore, the Sangai is also the state animal of Manipur. The emblematic species also lends its name to the annual festivities (the Sangai festival) organised by the state government each year in November. The Keibul Lamjao National Park was created in 1977 to conserve the last of the Sangais and the lake biodiversity within the phumdi ecosystem.

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Manipur’s Keibul Lamjao National Park is the last natural refuge of the critically endangered Sangai deer or the Indian Eld’s deer (Rucervus eldii eldii). Photo Credit: M. Ningombi
Tourists who opt for boat rides in the waterways within the phumdis can step on them and feel them pulsate.
This is because phumdis are floating mats of soil, plants and organic matter at various stages of decomposition all naturally bundled together. Part submerged, part floating they are the elements that impart uniqueness to the Loktak ecosystem. Two-thirds of the saucer-shaped lake is dotted by these floating meadows.
The study highlights the loss of floating islands from the southern and northern part of Loktak as a “major concern” that will lead to the “destruction of the only floating national park in the world.” It indicates an increase in open water area, human population and agricultural area.
In the study, in terms of land use changes, the highest loss is reported in phumdis with thin vegetation (49.38 square km) followed by phumdis with thick vegetation (around nine square km), while there was an overall increase in open water bodies (27 square km), agricultural areas (25.33 square km) and settlement (5.75 square km).
Kangabam said the rapid growth in human settlements is associated with the submergence of vast swathes of agricultural lands, a fall out of the construction of the Ithai barrage.
“It was estimated that 20,000 ha (83,000 ha unofficial) of arable land was submerged resulting in the loss of employment of the local people. This led to increase in human pressure on the lake resources leading to increase in human settlement and a high demand for fish,” he said.
Loktak lake over the years. Slide to view the disappearing phumdis.

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Photo Credits: Before Google Earth After Google Earth

The authors also identified the need for the proper implementation of the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006 in order to guide the increasing anthropogenic activities in the lake area, to protect the Loktak through sustainable management and conservation of the rich biodiversity.
The analysis also underscored the need for regular monitoring and implementing proper land use practices in and around the lake in order to restore the degraded ecosystem plagued by pollution and an altered aquatic regime.
“There is a need to balance ecological protection and human needs. Without provision of alternative livelihood options, the human pressure on the lake will go up and this will be disastrous for the lake,” Kangabam said.
Oinam Rajen of All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union Manipur agreed with the inference.
“At least two lakh people are directly dependant on the lake for fishing. The demand for fish has increased. However, adequate fish is not available in the lake. This is mainly because the migratory fish from Chindwin-Irrawaddy river system to Manipur river system have declined steadily after the barrage came up. Human settlements have gone up and so has paddy cultivation,” said Oinam Rajen.
However, Rajen demanded scrapping of the 2006 Act.
“This is compounded by the fact that we are prevented from carrying traditional fishing equipment inside the lake as per provisions of the Act. Rights of fisherfolk are being curtailed in the name of conservation. We are importing fish from other states to make up for the deficiency,” rued Rajen.

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Fisherfolk in action at Loktak. Photo Credit: Rajiv Kangabam

Fading phumdis
Around nine percent of the total population of Manipur (0.2 million/2.2 lakh) dwell in 12 towns and 52 settlements placed in and around the lake, earlier dubbed a “lifeline” of the people of Manipur.
By absorbing the annual monsoon flood, the lake plays an important role in flood control and conserves water through the dry months.
The cultivation of paddy is the traditional practice in the phumdis, explained Kangabam, adding that it also the source of livelihood for the rural fisherman who inhabit the surrounding villages and also on the phumdis in traditional huts called “khangpoks.” Some paddy varieties can also grow in the submerged conditions of the phumdis.
Resembling green rings, man-made aquaculture ponds called “athaphums”, created by segregating portions of phumdis, are used for fishing. Fresh and fermented fish hold sway in the Manipuri diet.

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Huts on a phumdi. Photo Credit: Ak Santikumar Singh

The operationalisation of the Ithai barrage in 1983 for hydroelectric power generation and irrigation purposes, without proper planning, has been linked to a multitude of problems shrouding the once pristine lake.
In 1986, the Manipur government constituted Loktak Development Authority to check the deteriorating condition of the lake and to bring about improvement of the lake ecosystem along with development in the field of fisheries, agriculture and tourism while conserving the catchment area.
Decline in fish resources affecting the livelihoods of the fisher communities, enhanced soil erosion leading to wetland sedimentation due to shifting cultivation and loss of vegetal cover in the catchment area, reduction in water holding capacity of wetlands as a consequence of siltation, encroachments and prolific growth of aquatic vegetation are some of the problems listed by the Loktak Development Authority on its website.
Gradual degradation of the lake and associated swamplands sparked international concern with the water body being included in the Montreux Record in 1993 as a result of problems such as “deforestation in the catchment area, infestation of water hyacinth, and pollution.”
Serving as the receptacle for about 30 rivers and streams, the lake has turned into a dumping ground for the untreated waste that is drained into it from these water bodies, including the highly polluted Nambul and Nambol rivers. The barrage is the only outlet for the rivers.
“In addition, the establishment of the Ithai barrage has disrupted the normal flushing pattern of the lake and also interfered with the natural process of synthesis and breakdown of the phumdis,” Kangabam said, referring to the unique sink and swim cycle of the floating islands critical to its growth and function.

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The Ithai Barrage. Photo Credit: Rajiv Kangabam

Earlier, during the monsoons when the water level would go up, the phumdis would float on the lake surface and in the dry season they would sink to the lake bed and sponge off the nutrients there which were essential for the growth of vegetation.
When the rain came, the islands with nutrient-laced plant roots would float again. However, the Ithai barrage (10.7 metres high and 58.8 metres long) for the Loktak hydroelectric project has resulted in “permanent flooding” of the lake.
“Now, there is continuous storage of water in the park area as a result of the barrage and islands float throughout the year even during the winter season. This has prevented nutrient uptake by the islands, thereby reducing their thickness,” said Kangabam.
Kangabam and co-authors of the study have flagged this reduction in thickness as a “major concern” for the Sangai.
Oinam also pointed out that water pollution and resulting enrichment of nutrients, fuelled the growth of the aquatic weeds and led to the proliferation of the phumdis at a certain point in time after the barrage came up.
“Before the construction of the Ithai barrage, the phumdis would proliferate and during the rainy season, they would be discharged from the lake to the Manipur river thereby maintaining the population. But the construction of Ithai barrage blocked the passage and changed the flushing mechanism,” Kangabam said.
Oinam claims it was due to the efforts of the fishing communities that the phumdis were prevented from pervading the entire lake.
“We took it upon ourselves to clear off the excess phumdis. Since time immemorial, the fishing communities have maintained the lake,” Rajen said.
The subsequent decrease of phumdis from the central part of the lake is due to the removal of the biomass (by authorities) to maintain the water quality, said Kangabam.
“The proliferation of phumdis has decreased from the central part. In the northern and southern part the phumdis remain as it is. But human activities have increased in those parts so overall phumdi area has gone down,” Kangabam said.

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Removal of phumdi biomass from the lake. Photo Credit: Rajiv Kangabam

Bioprospecting for bacteria in the phumdis
Saving the lake is also advantageous for bioprospecting of potential bacteria for their use in agriculture as plant growth promoters (biofertilisers).
Recently, a team of scientists isolated 26 bacterial strains from the phumdi sediment and lake water, which they say, can be used in sustainable agriculture.
These isolates from Loktak Lake have the potential to be used for the production of industrially important enzymes and in agriculture as plant growth promoters (such as siderophores, indole acetic acid or IAA), said Milind Mohan Naik of Goa University’s department of microbiology in a study.
For example, among the 26 Loktak bacterial isolates, Enterobacter tabaci strain KSA9 is found to produce siderophore, IAA, involved in nitrogen fixation, phosphate solubilisation and ammonia production.
The presence of plant growth promoting microorganisms was expected from phumdi sediment, due to the fact that the local people use phumdi sediment as a biofertiliser in agriculture. It exhibits good plant growth promotion that may be attributed to the presence of bacteria. The bacterial diversity is facing threats due to the overall disturbance of ecosystem.

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Boatride inside phumdi waterways. Photo by Rajiv Kangabam

Trading barbs
Beset with dwindling water quality and ecosystem, the lake has been battleground between the Loktak Development Authority and a section of fishermen with both parties trading charges on who is responsible for destroying the wetlands.
The fishermen’s union claims that in the name of cleaning the lake, the Loktak Development Authority is damaging lake while the authority alleges the fishermen and their floating huts are the ones harming the lake.
“Enforcing the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, the government (under the then Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh) began to clear the lake of human settlements in 2011. There were 1100 huts built on the phumdis. 777 huts were burnt and hundreds of families and more were evicted since then. The fisherfolk were dubbed ‘occupiers’,” Rajen said.
According to activist and researcher Ram Wangkheirakpam of Indigenous Perspectives, the Loktak Protection Act requires a “proper review” for the fact that it does not conform to the requirement of the Ramsar Convention nor to the more recent National Wetland Convention Rules 2017.
“The Act does not cover the whole of the lake. It excludes the water sports area at Takmu that they have carved out as also the Keibul Lamjao National Park. There are two resorts,and two hotels coming up, they are also trying to evict some 450 families for the resort in the name of tourism promotion in the state,” the activist said, adding that Loktak Development Authority is a failed institution and requires a comprehensive revamping of its constitution and composition.
“It is clear that this Act has been twisted to fit in certain kind of activities while putting traditional users as victims. Traditional livelihood options have somehow been sidelined while non-traditional activities are being promoted. The local community must be included in conserving this wetland,” Wangkheirakpam said.

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A rally of fishermen under the banner All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen Union, Manipur (Allafum) demanding scrapping of Loktak Protection Act 2006. Photo Credit: Ram Wangkheirakpam


RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 01-04-2019

Endangered species are key to our survival
Animal, plant and marine biodiversity keeps our ecosystems functional.
editorials Updated: Jan 04, 2019 07:53 IST Hindustan Times

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Quote:The endangered species (birds and animals) in conservation priority include Asian wild buffalo, Asiatic lion, Brow-antlered deer or Sangai, Dugong, Edible Nest swiftlet, Gangetic river dolphin, Great Indian bustard, Hangul, Indian rhino or Great one-horned rhinoceros, Jerdon’s course, Malabar civet, Marine turtles, Nicobar megapode, Niligiri tahr, snow leopard, swamp deer and vultures.(HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Last week, India submitted its sixth national report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The report was a mixed one: While the country is on track to meet most of its national biodiversity targets, the bad news is that the list of animal species from the country under the international ‘red list’ in the critically endangered, endangered and threatened categories has been increasing over the years. It is clear that there is severe stress on biodiversity and wild habitats. The report states that India is working on preventing the extinction of species by developing a landscape- and seascape-based approach. This aims at holistic, systemic approaches to integrate biodiversity concerns with social and economic values and development aspirations. The endangered species (birds and animals) in conservation priority include the Asian wild buffalo, Asiatic lion, Brow-antlered deer or Sangai, Dugong, Edible Nest swiftlet, Gangetic river dolphin, Great Indian bustard, Hangul, Indian rhino or Great one-horned rhinoceros, Jerdon’s courser, Malabar civet, Marine turtles, Nicobar megapode, Niligiri tahr, snow leopard, swamp deer and vultures.

The stress on India’s wildlife is increasing by the day. Almost every other day, there are reports of cases of man-animal conflict, thanks to the increasing human population and urbanisation. Just as often, there are reports of or animal deaths from accidents because project developers don’t take into account animal corridors while building infrastructure. Wildlife crime is also becoming a key threat due to the increased demand for wildlife derivatives ranging from tiger and leopard bones to pangolin scales and bear bile. India recorded 460 leopard deaths in 2018, the highest mortality rate of the big cat species in the country in the last four years, the Wildlife Protection Society of India said in December.

Read more
How does the loss of species alter ecosystems? The loss of iconic species is a tragedy with broad and deep impact. Animal, plant and marine biodiversity keeps ecosystems functional. Healthy ecosystems allow us to survive, get enough food to eat and make a living. When species disappear or fall in number, ecosystems and people — especially the world’s poorest — suffer. A recent study published in Nature reveals the extinction of plant or animal species from extreme environmental change, which we are witnessing now, increases the risk of an “extinction domino effect” that could annihilate all life on Earth.

Unfortunately, as this paper reported earlier this year, India might not meet the international target of identifying wildlife and marine-protected areas by 2020, making the challenge of conserving species much more difficult.

First Published: Jan 04, 2019 07:50 IST


RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 01-05-2019

George, the Last Hawaiian Land Snail, Passes Away

By Big Island Now January 3, 2019, 6:03 PM HST (Updated January 4, 2019, 8:18 AM)

The Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife reports that George the snail, the last known Achatinella apexfulva, died on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.

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George the snail passed away on Jan. 1, 2019. PC: DLNR

According to David Sischo, wildlife biologist with the Hawai‘i Invertebrate Program, George was approximately 14 years old. He was the last of his species.
The land snail’s namesake was in homage to the famous Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise known as Lonesome George, the last of his kind.
While from vastly different evolutionary lineages, these Georges lived simple lives in captivity. Both quietly carried millions of years of evolution—their entire genome and blueprint for how to make them—into oblivion.

Sischo said Achatinella apexfulva was the first of over 750 species of land snail from the Hawaiian Islands to be described by western science. This first description came from a shell on a lei given to Captain George Dixon while docked on O‘ahu around 1787. Apex fulva, or yellow tip, was a trait that many of their kind displayed and is what they were named for.
These snails were once widely distributed on O‘ahu in the central-northern Ko‘olau Mountains, and because they occurred in lower elevations that made them easily accessible, were heavily used for making lei due for the beauty of their shells.

In 1997, the last 10 known Achatinella apexfulva were brought to a laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i for captive rearing. A few babies were born, but when the lab experienced a die-off for unknown reasons, all the Achatinella apexfulva perished expect for one lone individual, and that was George.

George matured in a cage by himself, and although we called him a “he,” the snail was a hermaphrodite, having both male and female parts. Achatinella apexfulva seem to have been an obligate outcrossing species, meaning that they needed a partner to reproduce.
During his life, George was often in the limelight, an ambassador for the plight of the Hawaiian land snails. He was featured in many newspaper, magazine and online articles, and hundreds of school children and visitors to the lab eagerly viewed him, the last of his kind.
His passing is also a harbinger of what’s to come for our remaining Kāhuli (tree snails) if more is not done quickly to protect them from invasive species and climate change. Many of the island’s remaining land snails are facing imminent extinction.

In 2017, however, a small two-millimeter snippet of George’s foot was collected, using a sterile razor blade, and plopped into a vial of pink-colored media. This media kept the tissue alive while it was quickly mailed overnight to San Diego.
This snippet of living tissue from George now remains alive in a deep freeze at the San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo. While it is currently not possible to clone a snail, it will be some day.


RE: Animal News (Except Bigcats) - Sanju - 01-05-2019

This Park Is Killing Humans To Protect Rhinos

By Jhaneel Lockhart

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Are animal lives more important than human ones? One park in India seems to think so.

Officials at the Kaziranga National Park in India have been accused of torturing and killing poachers and local villagers in an effort to protect the country’s vulnerable rhinoceros population, according to the BBC. Park guards have essentially been given free rein to gun down would be-poachers and they face few, if any, legal consequences.

Quote:The guards killed 50 people in the last three years, and in 2015, more people died than the number of rhinos that were killed by poachers, according to the BBC’s detailed report. In some cases, innocent villagers were injured or killed for accidentally trespassing onto the park’s property at night.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Poaching is a big problem for the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, which is found in India and Nepal. Rhino horns sell for thousands of dollars in China, where it is believed to have medicinal properties.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which lists the Indian rhino as a vulnerable species, excessive hunting during the early 20th century and a decline in the quality of their habitat wiped out much of the population.

Quote:As of 2006, more than 70% of the world’s Indian one-horned rhinos live at the Kaziranga National Park.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

There’s no doubt that their efforts have been successful. Fewer rhinos have been poached in recent years, and the overall rhino population continues to increase. But some activists say these brutal measures go too far. Sad


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Massive ‘Siberian Unicorn’ Roamed the Planet with Humans

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African Elephants Evolving to Lose Tusks Thanks to Poachers

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China Lifts Ban on Using Rhino Horn and Tiger Bone for “Medicinal Purposes”

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This Jumping Spider Nurses Its Newborns With Milk