Olive production leads to bird killings on ‘catastrophic scale’

Olive production leads to bird killings on ‘catastrophic scale’

SOURCE: MSN DATE: May 17, 2019 SNIP: Hundreds of thousands of legally-protected birds are killed in southern Europe every year after being sucked out of trees and into machines which are harvesting olives. During the winter months from October to January, millions of birds from northern Europe, including the UK, flock to Mediterranean countries to escape the cold weather. It is thought around 96,000 birds die every year in Portugal alone as a result of harvesting for olive oil production during the night-time. France and Italy also carry out the practice, but specific numbers are not known. The Andalusian government in Spain, where an estimated 2.6 million birds used to be vacuumed up annually, has now stopped the practice. Other big olive-producing countries should follow their lead, say researchers. The problem of birds being vacuumed from the bushes is on a “catastrophic scale”, according to the findings reported in the journal Nature. Birds such as robins, goldfinches, greenfinches, warblers and wagtails are among those that suffer the biggest casualties. It is believed there are around 100 dead birds in each harvest trailer during a night-time operation. The trees are stripped of the fruits at night because cooler temperatures help to preserve the olives’ aromatic flavours. But in the dark there is less chance of the birds spotting the machines because they are sleeping. However, if the harvesting happened during the day they could see them and then escape. Martin Harper from the RSPB told Sky News: “We do know that sustainably managed olive grows are not only possible but very beneficial to wildlife and we need to encourage those.”...
Border wall along Mexico to go up in national monument, wildlife refuge

Border wall along Mexico to go up in national monument, wildlife refuge

SOURCE: Salt Lake Tribune DATE: May 15, 2019 SNIP: The U.S. government plans to replace barriers through 100 miles of the southern border in California and Arizona, including through a national monument and a wildlife refuge, according to documents and environmental advocates. The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday once again waived environmental and dozens of other laws to build more barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Funding will come from the Defense Department following the emergency declaration that President Donald Trump signed this year after Congress refused to approve the amount of border wall funding that he wanted. Barriers will go up at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a vast park named after the unique cactus breed that decorates it, and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, which is largely a designed wilderness home to 275 wildlife species. The government will also build new roads and lighting in those areas. Environmental advocates who have sued to stop the construction of the wall say this latest plan will be detrimental to the wildlife and habitat in those...
Tropical forests ’empty’ as illegal hunting slashes large mammal populations, study warns

Tropical forests ’empty’ as illegal hunting slashes large mammal populations, study warns

SOURCE: Independent DATE: May 14, 2019 SNIP: Illegal hunting is causing catastrophic declines in mammal populations living in the world’s remaining tropical forests, a new study has warned. Jaguars, leopards, elephants and rhinos have seen population declines of 40 per cent in just 40 years and the study warned that hunting – half of which is done illegally – has left many tropical forests “empty” of wildlife. Even the world’s most pristine jungles are having their ecosystems damaged as key species are wiped out by hunters looking to collect valuable horns and bones, an international team of researchers lead by the Radboud University in Holland, found. Within the tropics, only 20 per cent of remaining habitats are considered intact. The biggest declines were seen in Western Africa, with more than 70 per cent population reductions. Researchers found primates and pangolins were most at risk. Declines have largely been caused by increased human accessibility to remote areas. The decline of mammals may have profound implications for ecosystem...
Yellowstone’s Grizzlies Wandering Farther from Home and Dying in Higher Numbers

Yellowstone’s Grizzlies Wandering Farther from Home and Dying in Higher Numbers

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: May 14, 2019 SNIP: Wally MacFarlane calls them ghost forests. You can tell they didn’t burn because the needles are still intact, the branches flawless except for the gray where there used to be green. When MacFarlane flew over Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding area 10 years ago, the forests were a sea of red, hundreds of thousands of acres lit up by mountain pine beetle infestations, the magnitude of death only visible from above. “The level of destruction is hard to even fathom until you take people up to see it,” said MacFarlane, a senior research associate at Utah State University who conducted aerial surveys of whitebark pine trees in the region in 2009 and again in 2018. “It’s the deforestation of this ancient forest, arguably something in the order of one of the greatest losses of old-growth forests in the United States, in just the scale.” Over the past 200 years, these forests provided a last refuge for grizzly bears in the contiguous U.S. from the westward expansion of towns, farms and ranches. In the high-altitude forests, the bears could rely on squirrels’ caches of whitebark pine seeds as an abundant and important food source. Today, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of just two places—along with Glacier National Park—where large populations of grizzly bears can be found in the Lower 48. But those dying forests signaled trouble for Yellowstone’s grizzly bears and their already diminishing food supply. As warmer winters allowed the beetles to spread and devastate the whitebark pines, the bears have been increasingly wandering out of the Greater...
Koala Bears Are Now “Functionally Extinct”

Koala Bears Are Now “Functionally Extinct”

SOURCE: Return to Now and The Conversation DATE: May 9, 2019 SNIP: Today the Australian Koala Foundation announced they believe “there are no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia”, making the species “functionally extinct”. That’s down from 330,000 just three years ago. While this number is dramatically lower than the most recent academic estimates, there’s no doubt koala numbers in many places are in steep decline. It’s hard to say exactly how many koalas are still remaining in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, but they are highly vulnerable to threats including deforestation, disease and the effects of climate change. Once a koala population falls below a critical point it can no longer produce the next generation, leading to...