News Article | February 24, 2017
A target of both the recreational fishing and shark-fin trade, the global population of the instantly recognizable Great Hammerhead shark is estimated to have declined by ~80% over the last 25 years. The Great Hammerhead has been listed on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as endangered since 2007. It has also recently been included in CITES Appendix II, which regulates the international trade of threatened species. Despite recognition of its threatened status, effective protection and management has so far been hampered by a lack of information about the shark's behaviour. However, new research published in Frontiers in Marine Science, gives a ray of hope. By defining the sharks' use of particular areas, this study gives marine management and conservation officials the ability to limit the sharks' interaction with their greatest threat – humans. Importantly, this study looked at the temporal as well as the spatial aspect of the sharks' movements. Dr Tristan Guttridge, who led the study at the Bimini Biological Research Station, Bahamas, explains why this is so vital: "Knowing when the animals are likely to be in certain places will be critical in developing effective management strategies" he said. "For example, our data could be used to create so-called 'time-area closures', where certain areas are closed to particular activities, like fishing, at different times. The aim would be to reduce harmful interactions with the sharks." Dr Charlie Huveneers of the Southern Shark Ecology Group in Flinders University, Australia, agrees. "New information about movements of Great Hammerheads will help managers and regulators to ensure sustainable catches, and to improve international regulation and management" he said. "Thanks to the combination of methods used by the authors, the study has revealed complex movement patterns, with broad-scale migrations across jurisdictions as far North as Virginia, USA, as well as seasonal site fidelity in Florida and the Bahamas." The team of researchers tagged the sharks with both acoustic and satellite tags, and used photo identification and laser photogrammetry. They were able to observe return-migrations of over 3000km. They also discovered that the sharks came "home" after migrating away to find food, pup or mate, and that they returned to the same sites for up to five months. This type of predictable behaviour makes them particularly vulnerable to fisheries. "Recreational fishing in the USA is likely having quite an impact on great hammerheads" explains Guttridge. "We know that hammerheads are the third most common shark reported by Florida recreational fishing charter boats, and great hammerheads specifically are considered one of the most attractive species to catch by clients," he added. This study is the first to provide evidence that Great Hammerheads return to particular areas after migrations, rather than the perhaps more common perception of these sharks as "ocean wanderers." This discovery has great implications for marine management, and the development of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas). However, many challenges remain in securing a safe future for these sharks. Like these highly migratory animals, management strategies will need to cross jurisdictional and international borders in order to be effective. "We have only just scratched the surface of defining key spatial hotspots, but clearly for these highly mobile sharks, we need international cooperation" said Dr Guttridge, "and unfortunately, sharks refuse to acknowledge national boundaries." The implications of the temporal aspect of migrations will also need further investigation. The sharks will be more vulnerable at different times. "For our team, the next challenge is identifying what they are doing in these locations" said Guttridge, "as there are more sensitive life stages, such as pupping/mating sites that are a priority for conservation efforts." Explore further: Study says marine protected areas can benefit large sharks More information: Tristan L. Guttridge et al. Philopatry and Regional Connectivity of the Great Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna mokarran in the U.S. and Bahamas, Frontiers in Marine Science (2017). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00003
News Article | February 24, 2017
New information on the migration patterns of the Great Hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, will help to protect this endangered species, scientists suggest. A target of both the recreational fishing and shark-fin trade, the global population of the instantly recognizable Great Hammerhead shark is estimated to have declined by ~80% over the last 25 years. The Great Hammerhead has been listed on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as endangered since 2007. It has also recently been included in CITES Appendix II, which regulates the international trade of threatened species. Despite recognition of its threatened status, effective protection and management has so far been hampered by a lack of information about the shark's behaviour. However, new research published in Frontiers in Marine Science, gives a ray of hope. By defining the sharks' use of particular areas, this study gives marine management and conservation officials the ability to limit the sharks' interaction with their greatest threat - humans. Importantly, this study looked at the temporal as well as the spatial aspect of the sharks' movements. Dr Tristan Guttridge, who led the study at the Bimini Biological Research Station, Bahamas, explains why this is so vital: "Knowing when the animals are likely to be in certain places will be critical in developing effective management strategies" he said. "For example, our data could be used to create so-called 'time-area closures', where certain areas are closed to particular activities, like fishing, at different times. The aim would be to reduce harmful interactions with the sharks". Dr Charlie Huveneers of the Southern Shark Ecology Group in Flinders University, Australia, agrees. "New information about movements of Great Hammerheads will help managers and regulators to ensure sustainable catches, and to improve international regulation and management" he said. "Thanks to the combination of methods used by the authors, the study has revealed complex movement patterns, with broad-scale migrations across jurisdictions as far North as Virginia, USA, as well as seasonal site fidelity in Florida and the Bahamas". The team of researchers tagged the sharks with both acoustic and satellite tags, and used photo identification and laser photogrammetry. They were able to observe return-migrations of over 3000km. They also discovered that the sharks came "home" after migrating away to find food, pup or mate, and that they returned to the same sites for up to five months. This type of predictable behaviour makes them particularly vulnerable to fisheries. "Recreational fishing in the USA is likely having quite an impact on great hammerheads" explains Guttridge. "We know that hammerheads are the third most common shark reported by Florida recreational fishing charter boats, and great hammerheads specifically are considered one of the most attractive species to catch by clients" he added. This study is the first to provide evidence that Great Hammerheads return to particular areas after migrations, rather than the perhaps more common perception of these sharks as "ocean wanderers". This discovery has great implications for marine management, and the development of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas). However, many challenges remain in securing a safe future for these sharks. Like these highly migratory animals, management strategies will need to cross jurisdictional and international borders in order to be effective. "We have only just scratched the surface of defining key spatial hotspots, but clearly for these highly mobile sharks, we need international cooperation" said Dr Guttridge, "and unfortunately, sharks refuse to acknowledge national boundaries". The implications of the temporal aspect of migrations will also need further investigation. The sharks will be more vulnerable at different times. "For our team, the next challenge is identifying what they are doing in these locations" said Guttridge, "as there are more sensitive life stages, such as pupping/mating sites that are a priority for conservation efforts".
News Article | February 23, 2017
BEIJING (AP) — An American-born panda started settling into her new home Thursday in southwest China where she will eventually join a breeding program. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo in Washington to panda parents on loan from China. Under an agreement between China and the U.S., such panda cubs must be returned to China before they are 4 years old, the earliest age at which they might begin breeding. The 3-year-old landed in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province on Wednesday after a 16-hour flight in a Boeing 777 emblazoned with a picture of a giant bamboo-eating panda. She was accompanied by a veterinarian panda keeper Marty Dearie from the National Zoo, which had put on six days of commemorations to mark her departure. Transported to the nearby Dujiangyan panda breeding base, Bao Bao emerged from her crate looking somewhat timid and curious, but soon settled in with a snack of fresh bamboo, according to a news release from the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas. Bao Bao, whose name means "precious" or "treasure," will first go through a month-long quarantine at the Dujiangyan base, the research center said. Keepers will monitor her diet, activities and health during that time, including checking her blood and feces, it said. "Once Bao Bao the panda completes this month of quarantine, she'll go on display to the public and I welcome everyone to come see her then," research center expert Li Desheng was quoted as saying in the news release. A 100-square meter (1,100-square foot) enclosure has been prepared for her at the base, including both indoor and outdoor play areas, equipped with rubber balls and a tires swing for entertainment and fresh bamboo and apples for eating. Keepers will work on helping Bao Bao adapt to local bamboo and Chinese steamed bread made from corn, soybeans, rice and eggs, the official Xinhua News Agency said. She is the 11th panda to be born overseas and returned to China, and since she does not understand commands in Chinese, she'll be looked after for a time by an English-speaking keeper, Xinhua said. China's unofficial national mascot, giant pandas live mainly in the mountains of Sichuan, with some also found in neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. They have long considered one of the world's most endangered animals, although last year a leading international group lowered its classification to "vulnerable." The International Union for the Conservation of Nature cited conservation efforts that helped the wild panda population jump to 1,864 in 2014 from 1,596 in 2004. However, the Chinese government rejected the group's decision, saying the panda's status was no less serious because its natural habitats have been splintered by human and natural causes. More than 200 giant pandas also live in captivity.
News Article | February 17, 2017
Bees are in danger. The falling population of the pollinators has led bumblebees being recommended to the endangered species list. Worries are escalating as to what would happen to food production if pollinators disappeared so rapidly. In this bleak scenario, Iowa town Cedar Rapids is leading by example as it initiated a novel step of creating a bee paradise in 1,000 acres of land and is starting with 188 acres by seeding wild flowers and prairie grasses. According to scientists, the pollinator crisis has been aggravated by the loss of habitats triggered by excessive use of pesticides, pathogens and after effects of climate change. The loss of natural habitat is accentuated by farming, mowing of lawns, parking lots and human developments, which have displaced fields of wildflower. Now Cedar Rapids' gesture may give pollinators fair places to nest and feed on the flowers. Mooted by Daniel Gibbins, Superintendent of Cedar Rapids Park, the 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative is coming up under a partnership with the Monarch Research Project that is aiming to bolster monarch butterfly populations. "With the agricultural boom around 100 years ago, about 99.9 percent of all the native habitat of Iowa has been lost," said Gibbins. The plan is to convert the entire stretch of 1,000 acres into a habitat of bees for which funding of $180,000 has been committed by the MRP and state agencies. He said the bees' habitat would help birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and everything that relies on native vegetation. To fortify the habitat of bees, Cedar Rapids is developing a mix of grasses and wildflowers for wider diversity. As flowers draw bees and butterflies, the prairie grasses will thwart weeds and invasive species from choking out the flowers. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been sued by an environmental group for delaying the entry of rusty patched bumblebees into the list of endangered species. The plan was to add the species to the list on Feb. 10 after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed in 2016 that the creature must be brought under the federal protection list. Bumblebees are predominantly found in the Midwest and the Northeastern United States. The Natural Resources Defense Council reasoned that the delay followed a review ordered by the White House on the rules issued by the Obama administration in the domain of environment and public health. In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in New York, the group accused wildlife officials of breaching a law by suspending the listing of bumblebee without any comment or public notice. "The science is clear – this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections," Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement. Native bumblebees in the United States and Canada are spread in 47 varieties with a quarter under threat of extinction, said the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Meanwhile, lawmakers and beekeepers in Western Maryland are demanding protection for apiarists who would shoot black bears to save the bee colonies from attack. Though using force against black bears to defend livestock is held legal, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is not recognizing bees as animals and have classified them as insects. "Currently by law, if you are defending your property, your livestock, you can shoot at a bear to save the livestock," McKay said. He wanted bees and bee colonies granted the same protection as other farm animals. In the region, the risk is that bees – being classified as insects and not animals — offers no legal protection to anyone who harms a bear while protecting a bee colony. The Department of Natural Resources website says it is illegal to kill a bear unless it attacks livestock or threatens a person's life. It implies that killing a black bear for a bee colony will attract same penalties as in any other case of endangerment with maximum $1,500 fine and six months' imprisonment. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | January 18, 2017
More than half of the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises are now threatened with extinction as agriculture and industrial activities destroy forest habitats and the animals’ populations are hit by hunting and trade. In the most bleak assessment of primates to date, conservationists found that 60% of the wild species are on course to die out, with three quarters already in steady decline. The report casts doubt on the future of about 300 primate species, including gorillas, chimps, gibbons, marmosets, tarsiers, lemurs and lorises. Anthony Rylands, a senior research scientist at Conservation International who helped to compile the report, said he was “horrified” at the grim picture revealed in the review which drew on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, peer-reviewed science reports and UN databases. “The scale of this is massive,” Rylands told the Guardian. “Considering the large number of species currently threatened and experiencing population declines, the world will soon be facing a major extinction event if effective action is not implemented immediately,” he writes in the journal Science Advances, with colleagues at the University of Illinois and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The most dramatic impact on primates has come from agricultural growth. From 1990 to 2010 it has claimed 1.5 million square kilometres of primate habitats, an area three times the size of France. In Sumatra and Borneo, the destruction of forests for oil palm plantations has driven severe declines in orangutan populations. In China, the expansion of rubber plantations has led to the near extinction of the northern white-cheeked crested gibbon and the Hainan gibbon, of which only about 30 or animals survive. More rubber plantations in India have hit the Bengal slow loris, the western hoolock gibbon and Phayre’s leaf monkey. Primates are spread throughout 90 countries, but two thirds of the species live in just four: Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In Madagascar, 87% of primate species face extinction, along with 73% in Asia, the report states. It adds that humans have “one last opportunity” to reduce or remove the threats facing the animals, to build conservation efforts, and raise worldwide awareness of their predicament. The market for tropical timber has driven up industrial logging and damaged forest areas in Asia, Africa and the neotropics. Mining for minerals and diamonds have also taken a toll. On Dinagat island in the Philippines, gold, nickel and copper mining endanger the Philippine tarsier. In the DRC, hunters working around the tin, gold and diamond mine industry are the greatest threat to the region’s Grauer’s gorilla. The industries at work in tropical forest areas are expected to be served by an extra 25m km of roads by 2050, further fragmenting the primates’ habitats. While some species are resilient and adapt to the loss of traditional habitats, survival in patches of forest and urban areas is unlikely to be sustainable, the authors write. One of the more unusual threats facing lemurs and chimps who come into contact with humans is infection with diarrhoea-causing bugs. Another major force driving primates to extinction is commercialised bushmeat hunting, which has expanded to provide food to the growing human population. The report cites accounts that claim 150,000 primates from 16 species are traded each year in Nigeria and Cameroon. In Borneo, between 2,000 and 3,000 orangutans are killed for food each year, a rate that is far from sustainable. Russell Mittermeier, another Conservation International scientist and co-author of the study, said that it was crucial to target conservation on the most threatened forests and species. “Clearly we need to deal with the drivers of extinction, from commercial agriculture to mining and logging. But if we focus all of our efforts on that, by the time we have had an impact, there won’t be anything left. So we must first protect the last remaining pieces of habitat and if no protected areas exist, we must create them. “I’m an optimist and I believe we can come up with solutions, but we have to be very targeted now to make sure we don’t lose anything,” he said. Writing in the journal, the authors add: “Despite the impending extinction facing many of the world’s primates, we remain adamant that primate conservation is not yet a lost cause.”
News Article | February 15, 2017
An environmental group is suing U.S. President Donald Trump for the delay in an action that would protect the rusty patched bumblebee through an endangered species designation. The Natural Resources Defense Council, filing the suit Tuesday, said the listing proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back in September has been delayed until March 21 as part of a bigger freeze imposed by the White House. The rule formalizing the listing was published in the Federal Register Jan. 11 and was supposed to take effect last Friday. The rusty patched bumblebee is the first bee species to be classified as endangered in the continental United States. It once buzzed on the East Coast and a large portion of the Midwest, until the 1990s and today when only scattered groups are spotted in 13 states. "The science is clear — this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections," said the group’s senior attorney Rebecca Riley in a statement, as reported by Reuters. According to the lawsuit filed in New York, the federal wildlife managers had violated the law when they abruptly suspended the bumblebee’s listing without notifying the public or seeking comment. Technically, the rule is already final given it was published in the Federal Register, it added. The suit urged that a judge declare the USFWS’s delaying of the listing an unlawful one, as well as order the agency, which falls under the Interior Department, to rescind the said move. Officials from the Interior Department and USFWS could not be reached for comment. In declaring the bumblebee endangered last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harped on the species’ environmental importance, stressing that they contribute to food security and healthy ecosystem functioning as pollinators. “Bumble bees are keystone species in most ecosystems, necessary not only for native wildflower reproduction, but also for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife as diverse as songbirds and grizzly bears,” the agency’s website stated. Featuring a striped black and yellow marking on its back as well as a long black tail, the rusty patched bumblebee has been historically found in 28 states in the East and upper Midwest, along with parts of Canada. Its crash took place so rapidly that few scientists took special notice, with the number and range of its colonies dropping by about 87 percent since the late ‘90s. In fact, it disappeared from about 90 percent of its historical range in recent years, the lawsuit contended. The plummeting numbers of the bee species has been linked to factors including loss of prairies and grasslands, increased pesticide exposure, and climate change. It is among the 47 varieties of bumblebees native to the United States and Canada, and it’s not alone in this challenge: over a quarter of those species also face the threat of extinction, warned the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In related news, scientists in Japan have explored insect-sized drones, featuring horsehairs on their backs and a special gel for picking up and releasing pollen grains, as a potential aid of bees in pollination. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 13, 2017
The impact of climate change on threatened and endangered wildlife has been dramatically underreported, with scientists calling on policymakers to act urgently to slow its effects before entire species are lost for good. New analysis has found that nearly half (47%) of the mammals and nearly a quarter (24.4%) of the birds on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species are negatively impacted by climate change – a total of about 700 species. Previous assessments had said only 7% of listed mammals and 4% of birds were impacted. “Many experts have got these climate assessments wrong – in some cases, massively so,” said Dr James Watson of the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society, who co-authored the paper with scientists in the UK, Italy and the US. Published in the Nature Climate Change journal, the analysis of 130 studies reported between 1990 and 2015 painted a grim picture of the impact of the changing climate on birds and mammals already under threat. Most researchers tended to assess the impact of climate change on one species or ecosystem, and often cast forward 50 or 100 years, ignoring the fact the climate is already altered, said Watson. “I think that’s a real problem with how the scientific community has communicated the issue, because people are always labelling it as a future threat. When you combine the evidence, the impact on species is already really dramatic.” Some species were more vulnerable than others, with elephants and primates’ ability to adapt to changing conditions curtailed by their slow reproductive rates. Rodents that could burrow to escape extreme environments would be less impacted. Mammals with specialised diets were “already far more affected” than others, as were species of birds living at high altitudes. Animals found in tropical and subtropical forests under an existing threat of habitat degradation faced an additional challenges from climate change. Watson said many assessments of red listed species had assumed that hunting, deforestation and loss of habitat posed greater and more immediate risk than climate change. “Many risk assessments are simply blind to the fact that climate change is happening now. If you read a scientific paper on climate change and species, it’s always that things will get worse in the future, not that it’s happening now.” The extent of the problem was likely to be much worse than even Watson’s analysis had found, he said, because mammals and birds were the subject of the most studies. “These are the species that you’d hope we’d be most accurate on. Amphibians, reptiles, fish, plants – we are almost certainly out by a massive order of magnitude in our current assessments of vulnerability to climate change. “We’ve got this wrong for birds and mammals, which are our most studied groups – what are we getting wrong for species we don’t know much about, like corals, bats, frogs, fungi?” Governments needed to act urgently to lessen the impact of climate change by slowing its progress by drastically reducing emissions and strengthening the reliance of species and ecosystems, said Watson. “We’ve got to give nature a fighting chance – that means we have to ensure systems are healthy and functioning. We cannot allow degradation and fragmentation of ecosystems, and we need to manage invasive species. “Policymakers can’t just put it off. They have to realise that every decision they make now impacts species’ chances, and by not acting – by allowing the status quo to continue – we will lose nature’s ability to rapidly adapt in future.” With the IUCN red list the “global standard” by which every nation assessed its progress towards saving threatened species, Watson said he and his co-authors were hopeful that their analysis would influence intergovernmental policy as well as upcoming revisions of the strategic plan of the UN framework convention on climate change. “But just getting the list right isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s got to go beyond documenting a crisis – this study shows we’ve got to act on it.”
News Article | February 18, 2017
A female black lemur (Eulemur macaco) looks at a camera in its enclosure at Bioparc Fuengirola in Fuengirola, near Malaga, southern Spain, on February 8, 2017. —Observing lemurs in the jungles of Madagascar is no easy task. “We find the group,” explains Stacey Tecot, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology, “and then we watch them for a little bit, we get our bearings ... and then we start to collect our data.” Doing so is an all-day process of recording each individual, more or less continuously. But lemurs typically live in “troops” of up to 15 individuals. To get solid data, Dr. Tecot tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview, “you really have to know that who you're watching is who you think you're watching.” Biologists usually tell individuals apart using distinctive traits such as scars, or give them tags or radio collars. But in a recent study, scientists tested an easier, higher-tech way to keep track of lemurs: facial-recognition software. “This is completely non-invasive,” says Tecot, one of two senior authors of a paper published Friday that describes the study. “It's something that can be used during training so everyone can learn who individuals are, but then also make sure that you're being accurate in your identification.” Using a database of faces also makes it possible to track individuals as they enter and leave a population, “so there's implications for long-term research as well.” Tecot explains that she and the paper’s other lead author, Rachel Jacobs, both struggled to distinguish lemurs in the course of their research. They began exploring non-invasive means to identify different lemurs, and “face-recognition just kept coming back, because they have such distinct faces, and color patterns.” After reading about the work of Anil Jain, a computer science professor at Michigan State University whose work focuses on biometrics and face recognition, “we realized this is something that was actually possible.” While facial-recognition programs help Facebook tag photos and police identify suspects, adapting the systems to a different primate proved challenging. “The texture characteristics of the human skin is different from that of the lemur skin,” Professor Jain tells the Monitor in a separate interview. “There's a lot more facial hair.” The team taught their program, called LemurFaceID, using a “training database” of 462 photos of 80 different red-bellied lemurs. Over the course of 100 trials, the system recognized individuals correctly 98.7 percent of the time, with about a 2-percent margin of error. Jain expects its accuracy to improve further as it analyzes more images. Ultimately, the study’s authors aim to bring this system to the field. “Really the idea is that it could be an app in the mobile phone, and the field worker, instead of [needing] a bulky laptop, or a camera, can just point the mobile phone camera towards the lemur, and know whether we have seen the lemur before,” Professor Jain tells the Monitor. He points out that many Android phones already have facial-recognition capability for humans. Bringing LemurFaceID to the platform is “a question of resources and time.” Population counts and observation data are seen as a necessary part of conservation efforts for species ranging from birds to frogs. Lemurs are also in dire need of protection: Twenty-six members of the genus lepilemur are currently on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” of threatened and endangered species. In 2015, the BBC reported that hunting and deforestation could wipe out wild lemurs within 25 years. If deployed, LemurFaceID could help reverse this trend. “This could be used by all different kinds of people,” says Tecot, “including anyone who's tracking wildlife trafficking or something like that.” But while the animals’ plight creates a clear need for better research tools, new technologies present a learning opportunity for scientists in Madagascar, where lemurs make their home. As Dr. Tecot explains, “our long-term plan is to work with the ecological monitoring team in Madagascar that's run by Malagasy researchers and continue to build the database and develop the software, as well as help train people in how to manipulate and adapt these algorithms for other species.”
News Article | February 15, 2017
Climate change and overfishing off Africa’s southern tip have set a “trap” for endangered African penguins leaving their nests. The young penguins swim thousands of miles from where they hatched, following biological signposts advertising a buffet of anchovies and sardines. What they don’t realize is the buffet seems to have closed. When the birds arrive, their favorite food is almost gone, replaced by less nutritious gobies and jellyfish. This is what scientists call an “ecological trap,” in which animals mistakenly settle in habitats degraded by environmental changes. A new study in Current Biology describes a recently discovered trap off the coast of South Africa and Namibia that has likely reduced local penguin populations by 50% and hurt juvenile birds’ chances of survival. The research team, led by ecologist Richard Sherley of the University of Exeter, attached satellite trackers to 54 young penguins from colonies across the species’ breeding range in Namibia and South Africa. When the birds are old enough, they tend to disperse westward and northward. The penguins follow the sure signs of edible fish: low ocean temperatures and the scent of plankton. “These were once reliable cues for prey-rich waters, but climate change and industrial fishing have depleted forage fish stocks in this system,” the study authors wrote. In Namibia, penguins are instead finding more gobies and jellyfish. Though these substitutes are edible, they don’t provide as many calories. In recent decades, warming ocean temperatures and changes in salinity have also pushed traditional prey east, out of range for penguins living west of Cape Agulhas, Africa’s southernmost tip. This has triggered an 80% decline in the western penguin population. Losing the fish has essentially broken a link in the middle of the food chain. This causes a “mismatch” in the ecosystem, in which penguins get faked out when they find lots of plankton but no fish. Young penguins must learn to forage for themselves, and it may take them years to fully get the hang of finding their food. During this vulnerable period, they’re at risk of choosing the wrong habitat or falling into an ecological trap. This is exactly what seems to be happening. Between 1978 and 2015, Namibia’s penguin population declined from more than 12,000 breeding pairs to about 5,800. In South Africa, the population shrank from 70,000 to 19,300 in the same time period, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. To ease the burden on the birds, Sherley and colleagues suggest limiting fishing in penguin areas when fish populations fall below critical thresholds. Concerned about Trump, scientists are leaning into politics How scientists plan to reduce the temperature in Los Angeles by 3 degrees As bee populations dwindle, robot bees may pick up some of their pollination slack
News Article | February 23, 2017
Villagers on the Indonesian part of jungle-clad Borneo island often keep the critically endangered apes as pets even though the practice is illegal. Wildlife officials and environmentalists rescued seven-month-old Vena earlier in February from someone in Kendawangan district who had been looking after her. Vena is now being cared for at a centre run by NGO International Animal Rescue (IAR), whose staff ensure she stays clean by regularly changing her diapers and feed her bottles of milk mixed with vitamin supplements. Last year IAR saved 22 orangutans that were either kept as pets or whose natural jungle habitat had been destroyed by huge forest fires started to clear land for plantations. Even when they are well looked after, such as in Vena's case, environmentalists stress keeping orangutans as pets is bad because it means they will later struggle to survive in the wild. "Many people don't realise that keeping orangutans as pets is illegal and could make them lose their instincts for living in the wild," said Ruswanto, an official from the wildlife protection agency who like many Indonesians goes by one name. Vena was being kept as a pet by a lady called Bariah, who found the ape in a neighbouring village. She was rescued after villagers reported the case to authorities. It was the second time Bariah, a mother of seven, was caught illegally caring for a baby ape—she already had to give one up to IAR in 2016. "I know orangutans are protected, I was not killing or harming them, I was only taking care of them," the 50-year-old told AFP. After being rescued, young apes are sent to a "jungle school", where they spend years learning to fend for themselves before being released into the wild. Rampant logging and the rapid expansion of paper and palm oil operations have reduced their habitat, with about 100,000 estimated to remain in the wild on Borneo, which is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature last year changed its classification of the Bornean orangutan from "endangered" to "critically endangered". Explore further: Baby ape recovers after ordeal in Indonesia, finds new playmate