Death by Rail: What We’re Finally Learning About Preventing Wildlife-Train Collisions

Death by Rail: What We’re Finally Learning About Preventing Wildlife-Train Collisions

SOURCE: EcoWatch DATE: April 8, 2019 SNIP: Last year a terrible accident in India made headlines around the world. Late one February night, a speeding train struck a herd of elephants crossing the tracks, instantly killing two adults and two calves. A third adult died soon after. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Over the past 30 years train collisions have killed more than 220 elephants in India alone. Most of those incidents don’t generate international headlines; nor do the deaths of thousands of additional animals killed by trains worldwide each year. In fact most wildlife-train collisions go unnoticed, their fatalities left uncounted — which has made it difficult for experts to study the problem and mitigate its impacts. Like roads, railways fragment habitat and can affect all kinds of wildlife in varying ways. Collisions are the most common cause of mortality, but some animals die from electrocution or being stuck between the rails, leaving them susceptible to predation, starvation or dehydration. “The mammal species receiving the most attention are frequently the larger ones, such as moose, bears or elephants as they cause more damage to trains, disrupt the normal operation of the train network, or hold higher conservation and economic status,” according to the editors of the 2017 book Railway Ecology. Rail tracks can make for tough times if you’re a toad — even a big one. In Brazil a 2018 study found an estimated 10,000 Cururu toads (Rhinella marina) and related species, often called giant toads, were dying every year along a 500-mile stretch of railway. Researcher Rubem Dornas says they still don’t know exactly why so many...
‘Unprecedented’ Number of Dead Whales Have Washed Up in Scotland and Ireland

‘Unprecedented’ Number of Dead Whales Have Washed Up in Scotland and Ireland

SOURCE: LiveScience DATE: October 29, 2018 SNIP: A total of 80 deep-water whales have been found dead on the Atlantic coasts of Scotland and Ireland since early August — more than 10 times the usual number over that time in previous years. Marine mammal scientists say the presence of the washed-up whales suggests an “unusual mortality event,” or UME, that could have killed up to 1,000 Cuvier’s beaked whales in the North Atlantic Ocean in recent months. The cause of the whale deaths is unknown, but scientists fear they may be the result of warships using active sonar to hunt for enemy submarines, or naval anti-submarine exercises. Around 26 of the carcasses were Cuvier’s beaked whales, a species that lives mainly in the deep ocean, while the rest were either Sowerby’s beaked or northern bottlenose whales. Typically, just two or three dead beaked whales would wash up on the Irish coast each year. Marine biologist Nicholas Davison, who heads the team of scientists that monitors marine mammal strandings in Scotland, said a total of 50 dead beaked whales had been found on the western coasts of the Scottish mainland and islands between mid-August and early October. “It is absolutely unprecedented,” Davison told Live Science. “The average for a year is about two and a half, so you can see that we’ve got an exceptional event going on.” Scientific research has shown that Cuvier’s beaked whales are sensitiveto the very loud sounds caused by anti-submarine sonar, which is used by warships hunting for enemy submarines and during naval anti-submarine exercises. Scientists suspect theloud sonar sounds cause intense pain to beaked...