News Article | February 5, 2017
A rare frog that had not been seen in decades has been found in Zimbabwe, researchers have said. The Arthroleptis troglodytes, also known as the “cave squeaker” because of its preferred habitat, was discovered in 1962, but there were no reported sightings since then. An international red list of threatened species tagged the frog as critically endangered and possibly extinct. Robert Hopkins, a researcher at the natural history museum in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, said his team found four specimens of the frog in its known habitat of Chimanimani, a mountainous area in the east. The team found the first male specimen on 3 December after following an animal call that they had not heard before, Hopkins said. They then discovered another two males and a female. Hopkins said he been looking for the cave squeaker for eight years. “I was not with my team when they were found. I was at the base. I can no longer climb the mountains as I am 75,” Hopkins said. Researchers plan to breed more of the frogs and then reintroduce them to the mountain summit. The frog is tiny and light-brown with dark spots. Authorities fear for the frogs’ security, especially from “the scientific world” whose huge interest could result in the frogs being captured and illegally exported. Hopkins said 16 specimens are on display at various museums, including the British Museum. “We are expecting an influx of scientists looking for it. We will do everything in our power to protect and conserve the frog,” said Caroline Washaya-Moyo, spokeswoman for the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. She said a park management plan will be devised to protect the cave squeaker.
News Article | May 22, 2017
A Nepali park worker burns wildlife parts seized from poachers at Chitwan National Park on May 22, 2017 (AFP Photo/STR) Kathmandu (AFP) - Nepal destroyed thousands of valuable animal skins and other parts seized from poachers on a giant bonfire Monday in a symbolic gesture against the illegal wildlife trade. More than 4,000 animal parts, including endangered tiger skins and rhino hides, were burned in a large pyre at Chitwan National Park, the nation's most important conservation area. "As a country committed to conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, Nepal has destroyed animal parts stored over 20 years," Maheswor Dhakal from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation told AFP. "With this we want to send a message that these body parts of endangered animals are not meant for trade." The stockpile included 67 tiger skins, more than 350 rhino hides, hair from elephant tails and other items. The bonfire was timed to coincide with International Day for Biological Diversity on Monday. Another 1,100 kilograms of ivory is still in storage since it requires a higher temperature to incinerate. Dhakal said the storage and security of the animal specimens was also a financial burden for the small and impoverished country. George Phocas, the regional attaché for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said the torching of the specimens was "very significant". "It is both a way to prevent them from going to market... and it is also a statement that the government of Nepal and the people believe that it (the animal) should be in the wild," Phocas said. "These are priceless but they don't have a value if they are dead and in the closet." Nepal suffered rampant poaching during a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006. The government ordered officials guarding wildlife sanctuaries to abandon their posts to fight Maoist rebels. But conservation groups have praised the Himalayan nation for its progress since then in combating poachers, who mainly hunt tigers and rhinos in its national parks.
News Article | May 22, 2017
More than 4,000 animal parts, including endangered tiger skins and rhino hides, were burned in a large pyre at Chitwan National Park, the nation's most important conservation area. "As a country committed to conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, Nepal has destroyed animal parts stored over 20 years," Maheswor Dhakal from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation told AFP. "With this we want to send a message that these body parts of endangered animals are not meant for trade." The stockpile included 67 tiger skins, more than 350 rhino hides, hair from elephant tails and other items. The bonfire was timed to coincide with International Day for Biological Diversity on Monday. Another 1,100 kilograms of ivory is still in storage since it requires a higher temperature to incinerate. Dhakal said the storage and security of the animal specimens was also a financial burden for the small and impoverished country. George Phocas, the regional attaché for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said the torching of the specimens was "very significant". "It is both a way to prevent them from going to market... and it is also a statement that the government of Nepal and the people believe that it (the animal) should be in the wild," Phocas said. "These are priceless but they don't have a value if they are dead and in the closet." Nepal suffered rampant poaching during a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006. The government ordered officials guarding wildlife sanctuaries to abandon their posts to fight Maoist rebels. But conservation groups have praised the Himalayan nation for its progress since then in combating poachers, who mainly hunt tigers and rhinos in its national parks. Explore further: Rare one-horned rhino killed by poachers in Nepal
News Article | May 16, 2017
Cheetahs' rarity and elusiveness poses a problem for conservationists. To conserve the species, we need to know where they still persist, and whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing. But how can we quickly and cheaply estimate their abundance? Over more than two decades of studying and conserving cheetahs, I have tried many ways of counting them. I have tried simply looking for cheetahs and individually identifying them. This works well. But it requires cheetahs that don't flee from vehicles, an open habitat – and a lot of time and patience. In short, this approach only works on the Serengeti plains and has been key to our long-term Serengeti Cheetah Project which has gathered information on individually known cheetah for decades. I have tried counting spoor – cheetah footprints left in the dust of dirt roads. Even in the Serengeti, where cheetah densities are at their highest, I had to drive an average of 50km to find just a single spoor. At least 30 such observations are needed for a reliable density estimate. Remote camera traps can also work in some circumstances and citizen science in tourist areas. But none of these methods work across different habitats, and all need substantial infrastructure and considerable investment in time. Could the answer to finding cheetah lie with another animal? Dogs have some of the world's most sensitive snouts. We put these to the test in a remote corner of Zambia. One of the things dogs can sniff out very successfully – as any canine's owner will know – is poop. But poop has important properties beside smell. Food, as it passes through the digestive tract and rectum, accumulates DNA from the intestinal and rectal walls, which becomes embedded within the poop. This DNA is a unique genetic signature of individuals. Therefore if you can find cheetah scat, you can extract DNA and identify the genotype of that individual. Cheetahs defecate at least once a day, hence cheetah scat should occur across a landscape more frequently than the cheetah themselves. It follows that, if you can find enough scat and extract DNA from it, you may be able to estimate the numbers of individual cheetah in the population. Finding scat, rather than cheetah, has the added advantage in that scat doesn't run away. So far, so good. But there is a flaw in this plan. Cheetahs, who are largely non territorial, don't defecate in nice, easy to find, prominent locations. As a result, their scat is extremely difficult to detect. Harnessing the power of the canine snout This is where the poop-detecting power of the canine snout comes into play. Domestic dogs are increasingly playing an important role in conservation. Organisations such as Working Dogs for Conservation, and Green Dogs specialise in training domestic dogs for conservation work. They harness the dogs' natural poop detection ability, by training them to find poop of a particular species, signal their trainer when they have found it, and, above all, resist the temptation to eat any poop they find. Could domestic dogs be the key to counting cheetah? Together with my colleagues from the Zambian Carnivore Programme and the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife, we teamed up with Working Dogs for Conservation and Green Dogs to put domestic dogs to the test. This is what brought a team of large carnivore conservationists, two dogs (Faust and Pepin) and their trainers to a remote corner of western Zambia, where a low density, but unknown, population of cheetah still survives in and around the Liuwa Plain National Park. At first, the dogs struggled to find scat on our pre-designated dog walking transects. This was when we started to notice the conspicuous absence of the dogs' poop around our camp. On closer inspection, we were alarmed to discover that, no sooner had a new deposition of poop been made, a small army of dung beetles appeared and started rolling it away in large bundles. A large healthy pile of steaming dog poop could disappear completely in a matter of hours. Having been an observer of cheetah poop in the Serengeti over many years, this was a first for me, and it caused me a substantial amount of anxiety. Fortunately, as the dogs moved south, they started to find cheetah scat laden with bone and hair. This, presumably, was much less appealing to a passing dung beetle. In fact, the dogs turned out to be very successful at finding cheetah scat. In all, they found 27 scats over a survey area of 2,400km2. Humans, on similar transects looking for spoor, found none. This neatly demonstrated the superiority of the canine snout over the human eye when it came to detecting the presence of cheetah. These scats were combined with a number of opportunistically collected scat. The DNA extracted from the scat samples were of poor quality, and so interpreting the genotypes wasn't always easy. However, we were able to generate an estimate of between 17-19 cheetah in the area, with a density of 6-7 individuals per 1000km2. The preliminary estimate of genetic effective population size was low, at just 8-14 individuals, and requires further investigation. Many areas where cheetah still survive are remote and difficult to access. Prior to this study, there were no viable methods for obtaining reliable information on cheetah abundance in most of these areas. The beauty of using detection dogs was that surveys could be conducted on foot, and the whole survey took not much more than three weeks, although genetic work could take substantially more time. Our study, therefore, provides an important step forward in our ability to detect cheetahs across large landscapes, monitor them and assess population trends. Such information is critical for mobilising conservation action and resources to halt the global decline of this elusive and secretive big cat. Explore further: Using dogs to find cats
News Article | November 17, 2016
The New South Wales government’s controversial biodiversity laws have passed their final hurdle in parliament, with farmers winning greater power to clear their land from next year. The changes, which the government says were developed through a “rigorous, transparent, scientific and evidence-based process”, allow farmers more freedom to clear land without having to find equivalent areas of offsets. Conservation groups have argued the bills significantly weaken wildlife, soil and water protections in the state, put 2.2m hectares of koala habitat at risk, allow a significant increase in broadscale clearing and increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. One of four scientific advisers on the government’s changes, University of Queensland biologist Hugh Possingham, resigned from the government’s independent biodiversity legislation review panel in protest, saying its advice was being ignored. He warned that broadscale clearing could double in NSW as a result of the changes. Farmers will be allowed to clear native vegetation without approval in many cases and others will have access to “offsets”. In Possingham’s resignation letter he said that despite the government agreeing to adopt and implement all the recommendations of his panel, it did not do so. “A key intent of the report is that broadscale land-clearing would only be possible through the biodiversity offsetting process,” he said. “Biodiversity offsetting, by definition, means no net decrease in the quality and quantity of native vegetation.” Possingham said despite that, the proposed legislation contained “a series of “codes”, such as ‘the equity code’, that will enable broad-scale clearing of hundreds of hectares of native vegetation on individual farms without offsetting”. As a result of the changes, as well as plans to continue allowing logging of native forests, a recent report by the National Parks Association said endangered koala populations in NSW were “under siege”. “The NSW government is completely failing to conserve and protect koala habitat,” the report said. “Koalas can lay claim to be the most poorly managed species in eastern Australia at present – which is hugely disappointing in light of their beloved status.” Mark Speakman, the state’s environment minister, said the reforms contained strong environmental safeguards, including sensible limits on clearing, offset requirements and exclusions. “This legislation is supported by a record investment of $240m over five years in private land conservation, plus $70m per year after that,” he said. “This is in addition to $100m for the Saving Our Species program.” NSW Farmers welcomed the changes, which it said were the “beginning of the long road to comprehensive reform”. “We will be keeping a close eye on the reforms as outstanding elements are finalised and rolled out, including regulations and codes,” the association’s president, Derek Schoen, said. “It’s extremely important that Local Land Services is resourced and ready to carry out its important functions to engage farmers on the ground,” he added. The new laws, which are expected to come into force in 2017, will scrap three pieces of existing legislation: the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Nature Conservation Trust Act. Parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act will also be repealed. The Native Vegetation Act, which came into force in 2005 was designed to prevent mass land clearing and was largely successful in doing so. According to a WWF report, NSW experienced an 88-fold reduction in areas approved for clearing from 80,000 hectares per year (from 1998 to 2005) to 911 hectares per year (from 2005 to 2013). However, the laws were deeply unpopular with farmers, who argued they should be entitled to clear trees on their own land without government permits. The Coalition promised to review the laws when it came to power and in June 2014, appointed an independent biodiversity legislation review panel to recommend on changes to the laws. In July 2014, NSW environment officer Glen Turner was shot and killed by farmer Ian Turnbull while he was investigating allegations of illegal land clearing. Turnbull was later tried and convicted of murder. It prompted renewed debate on the laws with one Nationals MP, Andrew Fraser, blaming the murder on resentment felt by landowners to the Native Vegetation Act. “It’s a tragic event that I think has been brought about by bad legislation,” Fraser said. • Australian Associated Press contributed to this report
News Article | February 6, 2017
It was a long time coming but a rare frog in Zimbabwe was spotted again since it was discovered in 1962. Called the Arthroleptis troglodytes, the frog was prioritized in 2015 as one of the top 10 southern African species in need of conservation research, with its rediscovery tagged as high priority. It is also known as the "cave squeaker" because it prefers living in caves. There are only 16 specimens of the frog in collections today, all of which were likely acquired at the top of Zimbabwe's Mount Chimanimani near or in the Bundi River. Likely to live in micro habitats located at altitudes 5,000 feet or more, the cave squeaker was considered extinct or near extinct and was listed as critically endangered in 2004. Headed by Robert Hopkins, a team of researchers traveled to Chimanimani Mountain, the cave squeaker's known habitat, on Dec. 1, 2016. The researchers left for the summit on Dec. 2 and Hopkins received a call later in the day from Francois Becker telling him that a cave squeaker has been located. The researchers continued with their examination of the area and were able to find three more of the frogs: one female and two males. The first cave squeaker they found was male. Photographs were taken and DNA clippings were gathered before the frogs were released. "I am able to state that this species is alive and well on the summit of Chimanimani, and is breeding well, there seems to be a very viable population," Hopkins wrote in a report. But while the cave squeaker's rediscovery is definitely good news, it also brought concerns. According to Hopkins, he is concerned there will be increased interest in the frog, resulting in the illegal exportation of specimens. Fortunately, Hopkins has the support of Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management. "We are expecting an influx of scientists looking for it. We will do everything in our power to protect and conserve the frog," said Caroline Washaya-Moyo, Zimparks spokesperson. Amphibians experience exposure to both land and water so they are used to gauge the overall health of an ecosystem. Unfortunately, worrying trends have presented themselves in recent decades. Completed in 2004, the Global Amphibian Assessment reported that 32 percent or a minimum of 1,856 species were at risk of extinction. Today's current conditions may have resulted in different figures but the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources said the assessment remains relevant. It's important to know which amphibian species are still out there for appropriate measures for conservation to be developed so the IUCN launched a six-month search for threatened species across 19 countries in 2010. The Search for Lost Frogs' aim was to look for amphibians that have not been seen in more than 10 years. Results for the search were dismal, with scientists only finding four of the 100 amphibian species they were aiming for by February 2011. However, scientists part of the search did not give up, and it was in one of their meetings in 2015 that Hopkins advocated for the cave squeaker. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | December 27, 2016
Horse, possum, camel and donkey will be available for sale from South Australian butchers from September next year if recommended changes to food safety regulations are adopted. The SA government, which has to update the regulations by 1 September 2017, has suggested the state should adopt the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards code definition of “game meat”, which governs what wild animals may be sold commercially for human consumption. The proposed change would broaden the range of animals available at butchers to include wild horses and donkeys, as well as wild buffalo, camel, deer, pig and possum. Domestic horses, like racehorses, would still not be allowed to be sold for human consumption. Eggs, foetuses and pouch young are still off the list. Wild goats, rabbits, hare, kangaroo, wallaby and any bird that may be legally hunted can already be slaughtered and sold for human consumption in SA. A spokeswoman from SA Health said the proposed changes would not change the laws around hunting or culling protected species. “Any South Australians wanting to hunt protected species in SA would need a permit as per the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 legislation,” she said. The move would make SA only the second jurisdiction to allow for the local production and sale of horse meat, after Western Australia adopted the broader national standards in 2009. The proposed change has been opposed by the Animal Justice party. “The newly proposed game industries are particularly obnoxious because they produce meats that people don’t even like,” convenor Geoff Russell told the Advertiser. According to the Humane Society, about 100,000 horses are slaughtered annually in Australia. Of those about 8,400 are processed through one of two abattoirs licensed to slaughter horses for export – Samex Peterborough in South Australia and Meramist in Caboolture, Queensland. The rest are processed by one of 33 knackeries and sold as pet meat. A Perth butcher, Vince Garreffa, received death threats from animal rights groups after he received ministerial permission to sell horse meat in 2010 and joked that his Inglewood butchery would “be known as the horse whisperers”. “You just whisper, ‘Can I have a kilo of horse meat please’,” he told Fairfax media. He later told the Courier Mail he was doing a roaring trade among French and Italian migrants, who say it “tastes of home.” Legally caught possums and wallabies can already be sold as game meat in Tasmania. Wallaby is said to taste like kangaroo, only “milder”, but possum has proved harder to describe, earning the qualified approval of one Tasmanian producer who said it was “quite a different meat.” The proposed SA regulations are open for public consultation until February.
Scholz M.,University of Edinburgh |
Harrington R.,National Parks and Wildlife |
Carroll P.,Waterford County Council |
Mustafa A.,University of Edinburgh
Desalination | Year: 2010
The aim of the project was to assess the nutrient removal within integrated constructed wetlands (ICW). The study was based on twelve free-water surface ICW treating farmyard runoff in Ireland. The principal design criterion leading to adequate effluent water quality (i.e. molybdate reactive phosphate (MRP) less than 1 mg/L) from ICW is that the total wetland area needs to be sized by a factor of at least 1.3 times the farmyard area. It is common practice to construct at least four wetland cells in series with individual aspect ratios of less than 1:2 (width to length). Most of the MRP concentrations after ICW treatment were in agreement with Irish urban wastewater standards for discharge to sensitive waters, which can be used as a benchmark to measure ICW performance and which are usually applied to ICW even if it may appear to be too stringent. Furthermore, the number of denitrifying bacteria detected in the benthos of ICW systems is higher than the number of ammonia-oxidising bacteria. Anoxic conditions at the wetland bottom create conditions which are favourable for denitrifying bacteria. It follows that sediment and litter components of the ICW system support denitrification. The outflow water quality was within recommended guidelines. The study suggests that phosphorus exported from an ICW system was similar to the typical background concentrations of phosphorus export rates from land to water. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Kayranli B.,University of Edinburgh |
Scholz M.,University of Edinburgh |
Mustafa A.,University of Edinburgh |
Hofmann O.,University of Edinburgh |
And 2 more authors.
Water, Air, and Soil Pollution | Year: 2010
The performances of a new and a mature integrated constructed wetland (ICW) system treating domestic wastewater were evaluated for the first time. The new ICW in Glaslough (near Monaghan, Ireland) comprises five wetland cells, and the mature system in Dunhill (near Waterford, Ireland) comprises four cells. The performance assessment for these systems is based on physical and chemical parameters collected for 1 year in Glaslough and 5 years in Dunhill. The removal efficiencies for the former system were relatively good if compared to the international literature: biochemical oxygen demand (BOD, 99.4%), chemical oxygen demand (COD, 97.0%), suspended solids (SS, 99.5%), ammonia nitrogen (99.0%), nitrate nitrogen (93.5%), and molybdate-reactive phosphorus (MRP, 99.2%). However, the mature ICW had removal efficiencies that decreased over time as the Dunhill village expanded rapidly. The mean removal efficiencies were as follows: BOD (95.2%), COD (89.1%), SS (97.2%), ammonia nitrogen (58.2%), nitrate nitrogen (-11.8%), and MRP (34.0%). The findings indicate that ICW are efficient in removing BOD, COD, SS, and ammonia nitrogen from domestic wastewater. Moreover, both ICW systems did not pollute the receiving surface waters and the groundwater. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
News Article | February 17, 2017
At 7am on 12 February, 37-year-old wildlife ranger Rodrick Ngulube was gunned down by poachers in Zambia’s West Petauke game management area, according to reports from the country’s Game Rangers Association. Ngulube and fellow rangers had been tracking seven poachers since the night before when the incident occurred. The slain ranger is survived by his wife and seven children. The sound of a gunshot the day before had set off the team of six rangers, including Ngulube, to track down its source. Forced to give up the search when it got dark, the team picked up the poachers’ trail again the next morning until they discovered the carcasses of a warthog and zebra. “As they were trying to search the area they heard a gun shot and a scream from one of the rangers. When they reached [Rodrick Ngulube] for possible first aid, it was too late,” said William Soko, chair of the Game Rangers’ Association of Zambia. The poachers who killed Ngulube remain at large, but the government of Zambia said it is pursuing them. The tourism and arts minister, Charles Banda, told local reporters that ZAWA’s (Department of National Parks and Wildlife) rangers should not lose heart over the death. “I urge the officers not to give up, but step up their patrols,” he said. “Government will do everything possible to supplement the efforts that you are putting in to combat the crime that seems to be on the upswing.” Located in the Luangwa Valley, West Petauke game management area covers more than 4,000 square kilometres and is home to many iconic African species. While considered a conservation area, West Petauke is also open to trophy hunting, including for elephants, lions and leopards. Zambia initiated a ban on trophy hunting in 2013, but lifted it 20 months later due to a loss in revenue, according to authorities. As the illegal wildlife trade – targeting everything from elephants and rhinos to pangolins and lions – decimates animal populations worldwide, rangers in many countries put their lives on the line every day. The Thin Green Line Foundation, which supports the families of rangers who have lost their lives, says 112 rangers were killed in the line of duty in 2015 worldwide. Of course, the human toll of this wildlife war includes poachers as well, many of whom are killed in firefights with the rangers protecting endangered species. Some parks, such as Kaziranga in India, have initiated the controversial policy of shooting poachers on sight. Officials have returned Ngulube’s remains to his home village where it was buried. “[Ngulube’s] wife is devastated and cried all the way to the grave, wondering how she will keep and educate the children,” Soko said.