There is a world somewhere between reality and fiction. Although ignored by many, it is very real and so are those living in it. This forum is about the natural world. Here, wild animals will be heard and respected. The forum offers a glimpse into an unknown world as well as a room with a view on the present and the future. Anyone able to speak on behalf of those living in the emerald forest and the deep blue sea is invited to join.
--- Peter Broekhuijsen ---

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Animal News (Except Bigcats)

United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 05-14-2019, 10:42 AM by BorneanTiger )

I had been wondering what the nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean during the Cold War (a period of tension between the USA-led West and USSR/Russian-led Eastern bloc, in which they didn't fight a direct war, but had proxy wars, as in, support countries or groups that would do the fighting on opposite sides) would do to the ecosystem there, and an answer is here:  Disappointed https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/13/asia/...+-+Asia%29

"Decades after the nuclear bomb tests of the Cold War, traces of radioactive carbon have been found in the deepest parts of the ocean.
Crustaceans found in the deepest trenches of the Pacific Ocean showed high levels of radioactive carbon in their muscle tissues, according to a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in April.
The "bomb carbon" found its way into their molecules from nuclear tests performed in the 1950s and '60s -- and it's been found miles down into the ocean where these creatures live. The results show how quickly human pollution can enter the ocean's food chain and reach the deep ocean, according to the study's authors.

It's a disturbing discovery that shows how the actions of humans can harm the planet.
"We didn't expect such high levels of carbon-14 (radioactive carbon)," co-author Weidong Sun, a professor of marine geology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, China, told CNN. "That means the ocean has been polluted by human activities.""


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The study by Chengde et al., linked in blue to the phrase "Geophysical Research Letters" above: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/...18GL081514
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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A reason why people tend to be vegetarians is to avoid having animals killed for them, but this (https://www.birdguides.com/news/millions...terranean/, https://www.birdguides.com/news/millions...terranean/) shows that even plant-farming can kill a lot of animals. Who'd imagine that harvesting olives can lead to millions of birds being killed annually?


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"The olive harvest is killing millions of birds (Getty)

Millions of birds are being vacuumed up and killed during nocturnal suction olive harvesting in Spain and Portugal.

In Spain, 2.6 million birds die every year from being vacuumed, and in Portugal, 96,000 birds die per year.

Birds from northern Europe winter in these countries, and are at risk while roosting at night, according to [b]BirdGuides[/b].

The noise and light of the machines dazzle the birds, which are sucked into suction olive harvesting machines and killed."
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In one case, a Russian guy who was illegally trying to collect deer antlers in Siberia, so that he could sell them in the black market, almost got killed by a brown bear, before biting its tongue off, and thus scaring him, but now, he's injured and there's a police case against him: https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/man-vs-...82055.html

In another case, a German guy who was hiking with his English girlfriend in the Carpathian mountains of southern Romania, even though they were warned by priests not to scale the mountains, got attacked by a 6-foot tall mother bear, getting his leg ripped in the process, before heeding his girlfriend's advise to punch it in the eye, which made the mother bear flee: http://www.ladbible.com/community/inspir...e-20190609

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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 06-21-2019, 03:48 PM by BorneanTiger )

Did poachers poison the carcasses of 3 elephants to kill 537 vultures (468 white-backed vultures, 17 white-headed vultures, 28 hooded vultures, all critically endangered, and 14 lappet-faced vultures and 10 cape vultures, also endangered) and 2 tawny eagles in northern Botswana, because vultures help rangers to track poaching activity by circling in the sky where there are dead animals?

White-backed vultures: https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/over-500...na-2056740

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Cape vulture: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/21/afric...-intl-hnk/

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Finland Shadow Online
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( This post was last modified: 06-21-2019, 08:07 PM by Shadow )

(06-21-2019, 03:26 PM)BorneanTiger Wrote: Did poachers poison the carcasses of 3 elephants to kill 537 vultures (468 white-backed vultures, 17 white-headed vultures, 28 hooded vultures, all critically endangered, and 14 lappet-faced vultures and 10 cape vultures, also endangered) and 2 tawny eagles in northern Botswana, because vultures help rangers to track poaching activity by circling in the sky where there are dead animals?

White-backed vultures: https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/over-500...na-2056740

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Cape vulture: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/21/afric...-intl-hnk/

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These incidents are those, which leaves in a way speechless. There would be a lot to say, but nothing suitable for public forum like this, when trying to keep things civilized. But poachers and especially those people who are behind it, people who pay big money for ivory, rhino horns and so many other things, I consider them as cancer of humanity. Greed is worst disease there is. Combine that then again with superstitions and there we go.... I mean the reasons why for instance rhino horns are wanted... are there really so many desperate and impotent people nowadays with too much money? And that was rhetorical question.

This is one thing, where public pressure against those greedy and irresponsible people should be got in higher level. When there is no-one wanting to buy, then there is no reason to kill these animals for nothing. But when someone pays, then there is always someone who needs desperately money.
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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Now for something positive, and funny: https://news.sky.com/story/seals-can-cop...s-11745715

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Who'd imagine that a slug would cause a power outage that halts dozens of trains, like it happened in southern Japan, similar to what a weasel did to the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, 2016? https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/a-dead-s...rs-2057829https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48729110

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Netherlands peter Offline
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POLAR FOX WALKS FROM NORWAY TO CANADA IN LESS THAN 3 MONTHS

We know about the impressive distances covered by young male tigers in India and the Russian Far East, but the records of other animals are just as impressive, if not more so. Let's take polar foxes.

A collared polar fox walked from Norway to Canada in 76 days. The largest distance covered in 1 day was 155 km.

Found the article (that has a photograph of our champ) today on the site of the Dutch National Broadcasting Company. Reliable, that is. Use the translator (Dutch-English):

https://nos.nl/artikel/2291586-poolvos-loopt-in-76-dagen-van-noorwegen-naar-canada.html
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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A 4 m (13 ft) croc got temporarily followed by a slightly smaller shark in February this year:



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The USA, lobbied by scientists, wants to dump 3,000 pounds of Brodifacoum-25D (rat poison) on the Farallon Islands, about 27 miles (43.45 km) west of San Francisco City in the State of California, to kill mice or rodents that were introduced there about 200 years ago and have posed a threat to the local ecosystem, particularly young seabirds and vegetation: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/08/us/sa...Stories%29

Gulls in 2006:

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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 07-17-2019, 01:11 PM by BorneanTiger )

(06-21-2019, 03:26 PM)BorneanTiger Wrote: Did poachers poison the carcasses of 3 elephants to kill 537 vultures (468 white-backed vultures, 17 white-headed vultures, 28 hooded vultures, all critically endangered, and 14 lappet-faced vultures and 10 cape vultures, also endangered) and 2 tawny eagles in northern Botswana, because vultures help rangers to track poaching activity by circling in the sky where there are dead animals?

White-backed vultures: https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/over-500...na-2056740

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Cape vulture: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/21/afric...-intl-hnk/

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It's not as severe as what happened to the vultures in Southern Africa, but in a scene that would resemble a horror movie, primary school children got traumatised after seeing about 60 corella birds (a kind of cockatoo) in Adelaide, South Australia, dying after "falling from the sky", in a suspected case of poisoning. At least 57 of the birds were long-billed corellas (a protected species), and a few of them were short-billed corellas (unprotected). Hopefully, they can trace who did this after doing a report on toxicology, which may nevertheless take several weeks to complete, because in Australia, people are required to register if they purchase poisons, according to Sarah King, founder of Casper's Bird Rescue, who witnessed the horrific deaths, and also said that the type of poison was a slow one that takes several weeks to work. It is also worth mentioning that the local Alexandrina council had called for short-billed corellas to be culled for damaging crops and chewing on street lights, damaging built infrastructure such as buildings and sporting equipment, and displacing other native species of birds and bees, possums and others: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/worl...712998001/, https://www.newsweek.com/dozens-birds-sk...ie-1448934, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48960065, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/j...-poisoning

Warning – distressing content: https://www.facebook.com/7NEWSAdelaide/v...713938011/




Getty Images: 

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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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Freckles the manta ray "doing well" after being freed from hooks, and that was after apparently asking divers for help: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/fr...89511.htmlhttps://abc7news.com/pets-animals/manta-...p/5397064/, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48981458


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Image by Jake Wilton:

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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 08-08-2019, 11:20 PM by BorneanTiger )

1) Who new that cleaning tanks with corals would be deadly because corals can emit toxins? https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/08...-cleaning/

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2) Biggest parrot species discovered in New Zealand, the "Hercules parrot" (Heracles inexpectatus, nickname 'Squawkzilla'), measuring about 1 m or 3 ft, and apparently it was cannibalistic: http://theconversation.com/meet-the-herc...red-121437https://www.ndtv.com/science/sqawkzilla-...nd-2081957https://cosmosmagazine.com/palaeontology...arrot-ever

Credit, Bryan Choo: http://theconversation.com/meet-the-herc...red-121437

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India Sanju Offline
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( This post was last modified: 08-08-2019, 11:55 PM by Sanju )

The wolf of Bangladesh: A true story

by Jeremy Hance on 7 August 2019

  • The last wolf in Bangladesh was seen in 1949 – until this year.
  • The wolf, an adult male, was killed by local villagers in the Sundarbans, a suboptimal habitat for wolves.
  • But could there be more wolves in the Sundarbans? Is there a breeding population? Time will tell.

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For Muntasir Akash, it all started with a photo in a news report in early June. The photo showed a canine-like animal, beaten and dead, legs splayed, hanging from makeshift posts. It was killed by local people in the remote village of Taltoli in the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, straddling both Bangladesh and India.
“Here the story begins,” says Akash, a wildlife biologist at the University of Dhaka. What first struck this expert on carnivorous mammals most was the dead animal’s “white patch around the cheek and throat.”
Akash sent emails to his colleagues, Jan Kamler and William Duckworth, both of whom agreed with Akash’s initial suspicion: the animal was a wolf. The only problem? There are no wolves in Bangladesh.

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Measuring the newly killed wolf in Bangladesh before the first burial. Photo by: Hairaj Majhi.

At least, there hadn’t been a documented wolf in the country since 1949, a time when Bangladesh was still part of Pakistan.
Hooked at this point, Akash reached out to other colleagues, many of whom thought it was a golden jackal (Canis aureus). Jackals are not quite common in Bangladesh.
Akash was able to secure more unpublished photos from the deputy commissioner at the time of Barguna district, where the animal was killed. The new photos increased both his and his colleagues’ belief that this was indeed an Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), a subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) though there has been ongoing debate as to whether the population in India is a distinct species in its own right.
By the evening of the next day, Akash was on a boat from Dhaka heading toward Taltoli, one of the most far-flung places in the Sundarbans.
Digging up a dead wolf
Getting to Taltoli proved challenging: after the first boat, Akas had to jump on a rickshaw, then transfer to a motorbike, another boat, then a final, third boat to reach the village by lunchtime the next day.
By the time Akash got there, the animal had been dead for a week, its body buried near the local branch office of the Bangladesh Forest Department. With the help of a local ranger, Akash went about the grisly business of digging up the mystery animal.
“On first look on the skull, the idea became firm,” he says. “It could never be a jackal or any lesser canid species. It was a wolf for sure.”
A week of decomposition meant the skin was rotting away;  Akash describes it as “greasy” but otherwise “intact.”

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Digging up the dead wolf for proof. Photo by: Muntasir Akash.

He took samples of hair and tissue from one of the legs. The DNA results, which would come in July, confirmed it: this was no jackal. It was a wolf. The wolf of Bangladesh.
The once-buried body was reburied, though Akash plans to return and dig it up again for measurements.
The wolf’s death — beaten and hung — is not an unusual response to carnivores in Bangladesh.
“[In Bangladesh] the trend is: anything wild and mobile is to be captured and killed if the animal looks like a cat [or] dog. Civets and fishing cats are the most reported species lynched to death in Bangladesh,” Akash says, adding that the work of conservationists and animal rights activities has helped rein in some of the killing, especially of tigers.
Mangrove wolves?
Not only are wolves not supposed to be in Bangladesh anymore, they aren’t supposed to be in the Sundarbans either. Indian wolves are creatures of the grasslands, scrub, deciduous forests and the areas between wilderness and agriculture.
Still, this wasn’t the first wolf recently found among the dense, muddy, watery mangroves. In 2017, wildlife photographer Riddhi Mukherjee took a remarkable photo of a wolf on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, more than 300 kilometers (190 miles) from the nearest known wolf population in Purulia district.

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Map of the Sundarbans, which spreads to both India and Bangladesh.

“The 2017 news of wolf from the Indian Sundarbans was in my mind and bolstered me,” Akash says of his quest.
Sometimes animals do weird things, like showing up in strange places. Indian wolves are known to potentially migrate some 300 kilometers from their birthplace. And some animals are just eccentric and spurred to find new territory.
But does that mean the wolf of Bangladesh could have been the same wolf seen in the Indian Sundarbans two years earlier? Is this just surprising behavior from a single wolf, and nothing more?
“This is definitely not the same individual. It can never be,” Akash says. “True, a wolf can cover a great distance. The Sundarbans, on the contrary, is a formation of mangrove islands and compartments separated by creeks, and formidable rivers in cases. To be at Taltoli, that individual [would have] needed to cross the entire Sundarbans, then, one of the largest river mouths of the mangrove, then several localities. An impossible distance to cover.”
According to Akash, local journalist Hairaj Majhi had another theory. The community’s problems with the wolf didn’t start until after Cyclone Fani passed through the region in early May. Then, all of a sudden, livestock were being attacked by an unknown animal; a calf was killed. Some locals believed it was a tiger, of which around a hundred inhabit the Bangladeshi Sundarbans. But “a dog-like animal [was] sighted on four occasions,” Akash says, adding that after a while, “the locals [ran] out of patience and trapped [it].”
Akash says he believes the wolf of Bangladesh got caught up in the cyclone, was swept into this remote region of the Sundarbans, and survived by lying low in a nearby protected area, the Tengragiri Wildlife Sanctuary. It lived there, hunting in the village, before its demise at the hands of the locals.
Akash says he doesn’t believe a wolf pack survives in Tengragiri, because the prey there is sparse (he says there are no deer) and the nearby villages have not experienced recent wildlife conflict. But Akash says he also dismisses the idea that this was some lone wolf, an eccentric that found itself among the mangroves. Instead, he says he thinks this is a howling clue to a previously unknown, unidentified breeding population.

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If there is a wolf population in the Sundarbans, they would need to deal with a much larger and potent predator: the Bengal tiger. Here a Bengal tiger checks out the conditions before getting into the canal at Sundarban Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, India. Photo by: Soumyajit Nandy / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

“There must be a population of wolf in the Sundarbans,” he says. The prey is abundant enough in many areas, he says, including plenty of boar and deer. Akash also says he believes this potential cryptic population has already been photographed numerous times during camera-trap surveys for tigers over the past five years. He says he thinks the photos of wolves have simply been erroneously identified as jackals.
Akash is currently in the process of trying to access the camera-trap photos from the Bangladesh Forest Department.
The wolves of Mowgli
But not every expert agrees with Akash about a breeding wolf population in the Sundarbans.
Iravatee Majgaonkar, a wildlife biologist who studies the interaction between wolves and people in India, says it’s unlikely there is a population in the Sundarbans.
“It is possible that this animal was present close to mangrove habitats in the recent past or, since it’s so adaptable, moved through mangrove habitats while dispersing,” she says.

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An Indian wolf photographed at Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Pune – Maharashtra, India. Photo by: Rudraksha Chodankar / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

She points both to the wolf’s ability to travel far and wide and its hardiness.
She says it’s really impossible to know how long this wolf might have been in the Sundarbans and whether it was dispersing — looking for a new home and new wolves — or not.
Majgaonkar says it’s also possible this is the same wolf photographed in India in 2017, given both were adult males. However, she adds that even if that’s the case, it would be quite surprising, because it would mean an individual wolf surviving for several years among the mangroves.
Mangroves are suboptimal habitat for Indian wolves, according to Majgaonkar, lacking many of their common prey animals and the large open areas that the wolf has evolved for.
“However, animals are adaptable and they can change their behavior to be able to survive in modified landscapes,” she says.
The most recent estimate of wolves in India was 2,000 to 3,000 animals, but Majgaonkar says that estimate is long out of date.
While wolves are ostensibly legally protected in India, Majgaonkar says “on [the] ground, there isn’t much focus on them in terms of active protection, protected areas, monitoring for population trends.” India’s wolves, who inspired Rudyard Kipling’s characters of Raksha and Rama, the adoptive parents of Mowgli, and Akela and Grey Brother in The Jungle Book, have run into conservation neglect, especially when compared to the country’s other large mammals like tigers and elephants.

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An illustration from the original The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling showing Shere Khan confronting the wolves over Mowgli (seen in the background). Illustration by his father, John Lockwood Kipling.

However, that may soon be changing: a number of researchers in India are working on the Wild Canids – India Project to map the distribution of wolves, hyenas and other canids across the country and come up with more accurate numbers.
“It is only in recent years that conservation research on Indian wolves has gained some traction,” says Arjun Srivathsa, a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida and a research associate with the Wildlife Conservation Society – India, who, along with Majgaonkar, is working on the project. “Based on preliminary insights, we think that Indian wolf populations may be stable in some regions and declining in other areas.”
Srivathsa says wolves are imperiled by human-wildlife conflict, diseases and possibly hybridization with stray dogs (India has more than 30 million strays, he says), and habitat destruction.
“Unfortunately, natural savannah grasslands and scrublands are termed ‘wastelands’ in India and often diverted for commercial use,” Srivathsa says.
It may be that as wolf populations are losing their normal habitat they are moving wherever they can, including into the Sundarbans.
A wolf in jackal’s clothes?
The Sundarbans wolf may not be a new phenomenon.
In 1953, a local hunter claimed to have killed a wolf in Noakhali, on the edge of the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, though many thought it was a jackal.

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A golden jackal photogtraphed in the Upper Bhavani region, Nilgiris district, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by: Prabukumar84 / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

“I think [the hunter] was correct,” Akash says. “There is saying: [the] jackal of the mangrove never howls [because of its] fear of tigers. Who knows what ‘jackal’ [local people] are referring to?”
It may be that wolves never really went fully extinct in Bangladesh. It may be they hunkered down and held on; it may be they posed as jackals and fooled everyone.
It may be.
If Akash is right, it may be that some wolves, under tremendous pressure elsewhere from deforestation and the destruction of grasslands, are turning to a less suitable, but perhaps more secure, habitat: the Sundarbans mangroves. In an attempt to escape humans, the Indian wolf may be evolving some new tricks.

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Akash collecting the samples that would prove the animal was no jackal. Photo by: Akash Muntasir.

Akash says he believes now is the time to search for this alleged population, including looking at old and future camera traps, surveys for a cryptic population, and interviewing local people.
If a population is there, conservation measures must be put in place, allowing these wolves a chance to thrive — and continue to surprise.
“All in all, there is a viable population of wolf in the Sundarbans — the mangrove wolf — first of its kind,” Akash says. “I can bet everything on their presence.”

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/08/the-wo...HaJDNxiaY8#
When Need turns to Greed, our Extinction happens.
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 08-13-2019, 04:03 PM by BorneanTiger )

From trying to get a wall built which could stop Mexican jaguars from migrating to the USA, and thus risk making wild jaguars extinct in the latter country, to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Trump now announces an overhaul to the Endangered Species Act, and look who's happy or unhappy:

BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49323321
"Environmentalists warn Trump 'weakening' endangered species protections
The US federal government has announced an overhaul of the way it enforces the Endangered Species Act, a law credited with preventing countless extinctions.
Trump officials say the new plan will reduce regulations, but environmental groups warn it will "crash a bulldozer" through the landmark 1973 legislation.
The plan removes automatic protections for threatened species and allows economic factors to be considered.
Critics say the new rules will speed extinction for vulnerable wildlife.
Ten state attorneys general have announced plans to sue over the new regulation.
The Endangered Species Act, which Republican President Richard Nixon signed into law in 1973, protects more than 1,600 plant and animals species today, and is credited with saving the California condor, the Florida manatee, the gray whale and grizzly bear among others.

What's in the new regulation?
The new rules, which go into effect in 30 days, will for the first time allow economic factors to be considered when weighing what protections should be provided to vulnerable species.
Under current law, wildlife management decisions are only allowed to be based on science and "without reference to possible economic or other impacts of determination".
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, announced the change on Monday, saying the change allowed the law to "ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal - recovery of our rarest species," he said.
"An effectively administered act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation."
Gary Frazer, assistant director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters that cost of care will be disclosed to the public, and will not violate Congress' stipulation that economic costs not be weighed.
"Nothing in here in my view is a radical change for how we have been consulting and listing species for the last decade or so," he said.
'A wrecking ball'
Critics said the rule change would speed the extinction of many species, and was done just to allow industries to expand onto land required for ecological diversity.
Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director, said in a statement: "These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act's lifesaving protections for America's most vulnerable wildlife."
"For animals like wolverines and monarch butterflies, this could be the beginning of the end," Mr Greenwald added
Drew Caputo, from the group Earthjustice, threatened to sue, saying: "This effort to gut protections for endangered and threatened species has the same two features of most Trump administration actions: it's a gift to industry, and it's illegal."

Several critics noted a UN report from May, which warned that more than one million plants and animals are facing global extinction due to human development and climate change.
Democrat Senator Tom Udall, who represents the state of New Mexico, said the new regulation will "take a wrecking ball to one of our oldest and most effective environmental laws".
"

Inside Climate News: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13082...s-wildlife
"Trump Weakens Endangered Species Protections, Making It Harder to Consider Effects of Climate Change

The changes also let the government consider economic interests and could open doors to oil and gas drilling and mining in sensitive areas, including the Arctic.

Sabrina Shankman
BY SABRINA SHANKMAN
 

AUG 12, 2019


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Polar bears are listed as threatened due to their dependence on sea ice. As a result of that listing, parts of the U.S. Arctic have been listed as critical habitat. Credit: Susanne Miller/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Trump Administration announced major changes Monday to the way it will implement the Endangered Species Act, weakening protections for threatened species and critical habitat and making it harder to take future risks from climate change into account.
The act has been credited with keeping 99 percent of listed species from becoming extinct, including humpback whales and bald eagles.
The new changes aren't a matter of just "nibbling at the edges" of the act, said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is among those vowing to take legal action to stop the Trump administration from weakening the act.


The revisions weaken the Endangered Species Act in key ways. They make it harder to take climate change into account when deciding whether a species needs protection, and they limit protections for critical habitat. They also allow the agencies to consider economic interests when deciding whether to list a species—something that was explicitly forbidden in the past.
And they make it harder to list threatened species—those with populations that appear to be stable but which face risks from expected loss of habitat, like ice-dependent species or those susceptible to sea level rise.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that the revisions "fit squarely within the President's mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species' protection and recovery goals."
The oil and gas industry, which has long argued that the Endangered Species Act restricts its ability to pursue natural resources by putting some areas off limits, would benefit from the revisions, and the American Petroleum Institute said it welcomed the Interior Department's changes. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, whose president was with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt for the announcement, also applauded the move, calling it "regulatory relief."

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The grizzly bear population in and around Yellowstone National Park was restored to threatened status under the federal Endangered Species Act this year. Climate change threatens some of its key food sources. Credit: Terry Tollefsbol/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The revision to the act comes just months after a major United Nations report found that a million species are at risk of extinction, and that climate change is a key driver. In order to save ecosystems from collapse, the report called for "urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change."
"It's sad. It's just so myopic," said Thomas Lovejoy, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation who has studied biodiversity for 30 years. What's frightening, he said, is that "it's very easy to actually do a poor economic analysis, which basically sets it up so that the endangered species take it in the chin."
What Will It Mean for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge?
Under the new application of the rule, a species can only be listed as threatened if its population is going to be affected in the "foreseeable future," allowing decisionmakers in the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA to ignore long-term threats like climate change.
"These are code words for, 'Don't look too far into the future and don't rely on models,'" said David Hayes, a former deputy secretary of the Interior who is now director of the State Impact Center, which works with state attorneys general to defend clean energy and climate policies.
"It's the playbook that the anti-Endangered Species Act folks have been using to challenge species that are encountering climate problems," he said.

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An appeals court ruled in 2018 that ringed seals must be protected under the Endangered Species Act because they are losing their sea ice habitat as the planet warms. Credit: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

One species that has benefitted from the protections due to projections of future impacts is the polar bear. The bears are listed as threatened due to their dependence on sea ice and because of the scientific consensus around the loss of that habitat as climate change progresses.
As a result of that listing, parts of the U.S. Arctic that are attractive to the oil and gas industry—including the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—have been listed as critical habitat.
Steven Amstrup, the chief scientist for Polar Bears International and a former career polar bear biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said he can see how the changes announced today could play out in the refuge.
"If critical habitat is somehow changed by this proposal, that might be easier for oil and gas development there to go forward," he said. And if the economics are allowed to be taken into account, "people might make an argument that the short-term gain is valuable and not look at what the long-term costs of these things are."
"We could see potentially oil and gas development on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the possibility being enhanced by these actions," he said. "And that would have long-lasting effects."
The revisions to the act change the way that threatened species are protected. Until now, there has been a blanket set of protections that apply to species once they are listed under the act, unless an exemption was passed. The new changes turn that on its head—instead, now each species will be assessed individually by the Fish and Wildlife Service, allowing regulators to pick and choose protections.
How States Plan to Challenge the Revisions
Supporters of the Endangered Species Act plan to challenge the changes in court.
"We're going to do everything we can to oppose these actions that put our local communities and our environment at risk," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy.
Healy said she expects a group of attorneys general to argue that the changes were arbitrary and ignored scientific evidence; that they failed to review environmental impacts and didn't account for the public comments, as required by the law; and that they violated the text and purposes of the Endangered Species Act.
"Gutting the Endangered Species Act sounds like the plan of a cartoon villain, not the work of the president of the United States," Healy said.

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Florida's Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1983 specifically for the protection of the endangered West Indian Manatee. Credit: David Hinkel/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Although the changes do not explicitly state an intention to remove climate considerations from decisions to list species or habitat, Becerra said the goal is obvious.
"It's clear that these rules were drafted more by attorneys than by scientists," he said. "They are trying to be a little too clever in attacking climate change."
Hayes said the move by the Interior Department "fits into a pattern—an anti-wildlife pattern and anti-biodiversity pattern."
"You had the reversal of decades of interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. You have the re-do of the greater sage grouse protections that had been voluntarily entered into, so there can be more oil and gas drilling," he said. "And they're pushing hard for a final environmental impact statement so they can start oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is part of a pattern."
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