Fishermen are cutting off the beaks of endangered albatrosses

Fishermen are cutting off the beaks of endangered albatrosses

SOURCE: Natural History Museum DATE: November 17, 2020 SNIP: Some fishermen targeting tuna, swordfish and halibut in the southwest Atlantic are cutting the beaks off live albatrosses to free them from hooks, before tossing the birds back into the ocean to die. The accidental catch of marine mammals, turtles and seabirds in fishing gear is one of the biggest causes of the global decline of these animals. Lots of work in recent years has tried to limit or reduce the impact that commercial fishing has on these creatures, from lights and acoustic pingers on nets, to setting gear at night and reducing the profile of nets when they are in the water. However, a worrying trend is emerging involving seabirds that are caught on the hooks of longline fishing equipment. A picture posted on social media in 2015 showed a live albatross with the top half of its beak sliced clean off. This led to a group of researchers gathering as many records of this kind of seabird mutilation as they could. What they found revealed a worrying trend that has emerged in the south-west Atlantic Ocean. Dr Alex Bond, Senior Curator in Charge of Birds at the Museum, has been involved in documenting these cases. His work has revealed that the practice is likely far more common than anyone suspected and dates back over two decades. ‘It appears to be a very specific thing that fishermen in this region are doing,’ explains Alex. ‘It’s clear that some operators are literally taking a blade and cutting the bill off to more expeditiously unhook the bird, and then tossing the...
UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: October 29, 2020 SNIP: Human damage to biodiversity is leading us into a pandemic era. The virus that causes COVID-19, for example, is linked to similar viruses in bats, which may have been passed to humans via pangolins or another species. Environmental destruction such as land clearing, deforestation, climate change, intense agriculture and the wildlife trade is putting humans into closer contact with wildlife. Animals carry microbes that can be transferred to people during these encounters. A major report released today says up to 850,000 undiscovered viruses which could be transferred to humans are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. The report, by The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), says to avoid future pandemics, humans must urgently transform our relationship with the environment. The report says, on average, five new diseases are transferred from animals to humans every year – all with pandemic potential. In the past century, these have included: the Ebola virus (from fruit bats), AIDS (from chimpazees), Lyme disease (from ticks), the Hendra virus (which first erupted at a Brisbane racing stable in 1994). The report says an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of these, 540,000-850,000 could infect humans. But rather than prioritising the prevention of pandemic outbreaks, governments around the world primarily focus on responding – through early detection, containment and hope for rapid development of vaccines and medicines. This approach can also damage biodiversity – for example, leading to large culls of identified carrier-species. Tens of thousands of wild animals were culled...
‘It’s pretty messed up’: Americans’ deadly love for tigers

‘It’s pretty messed up’: Americans’ deadly love for tigers

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 11, 2020 SNIP: More tigers are now held in captivity in the United States than survive in the wild in Asia. That is the grim statistic that underpins Americans’ growing appetites for posing for pictures with big cats and their offspring, a desire that is today being met by thousands of tigers that are caged and displayed in private roadside zoos across the US. Young tigers are taken from their mothers just after their birth and bottle fed and handled by humans. Then they are used as props until they are about 12 weeks old when they become too dangerous to hold. Many develop bone and joint problems because they were removed so early from the adult female and not given proper nutrition. At the same time, mother tigers are returned to cages to provide future supplies of cubs. “This is done repeatedly,” says wildlife photographer Steve Winter. “It’s inhumane.” For the past two years Winter has tracked the fates of tigers across the US and recorded scenes of their confinement, maltreatment and exploitation. Some of the most powerful of these images will be highlighted this week when a portfolio of his tiger photographs receives a special commendation at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards at the Natural History Museum, London, on Tuesday. Winter told the Observer last week that some roadside zoo customers will spend several hundred dollars on visits to tiger enclosures where they can handle young animals and pose with older ones. When challenged, these individuals will often justify their behaviour by saying the zoos were helping to conserve animals,...
Federal Government Admits Killing over 1.2 Million Native Animals in 2019

Federal Government Admits Killing over 1.2 Million Native Animals in 2019

SOURCE: WildEarth Guardians DATE: October 7, 2020 SNIP: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife killing program has just announced its shocking death toll of wildlife killed last year. In 2019, USDA’s Wildlife Services program spent millions of taxpayer dollars to kill 1,258,738 native species. “This mass slaughter is carried out in our backyards, on public lands, and in beloved parks; there is no limit to the program’s reach,” stated Samantha Bruegger, Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “Year, after year, Wildlife Services ignores the public’s desire for coexistence with wildlife, opting instead to kill bears for scratching trees in the woods, coyotes for making dens on public land, and wolves for preying on unattended cattle in the wilderness.” In 2019, Wildlife Services killed: 62,002 coyotes, 24,543 beavers, 800 bobcats, 1,362 gray foxes, 1,280 red foxes, 400 black bears, 302 gray wolves, and 308 cougars. Wildlife Services targets the most vulnerable and defenseless animals by destroying dens with countless young animals inside: 35,226 prairie dog burrows, 251 coyote dens, and 96 fox dens obliterated in 2019. Primarily at the behest of agribusiness and using taxpayer dollars, USDA’s Wildlife Services uses traps, snares, poisons, and aerial gunning to inhumanely slaughter wildlife, while simultaneously threatening public safety. Due to the indiscriminate nature of most of Wildlife Services’ lethal tools, the program almost accidentally killed a teenage boy in 2017 with a M-44 sodium cyanide bomb left baited on Idaho public lands. The boy is fortunate to be alive, but sadly had to witness his dog die from the poison to which they were both exposed. In total, 146 dogs died at the...
Wild Elephants Spotted Foraging for Food in Trash Dump Encroaching on Their Land in Sri Lanka

Wild Elephants Spotted Foraging for Food in Trash Dump Encroaching on Their Land in Sri Lanka

SOURCE: People.com DATE: October 1, 2020 SNIP: A herd of elephants were recently spotted foraging for meals in the middle of a trash dump in Sri Lanka. Photographer Tharmaplan Tilaxan of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, captured a series of snapshots that document the large wild animals sifting through an open-area landfill located next to a nearby jungle. Sharing the striking images with Cover Images, Tilaxan told the news service that the elephants “normally travel over 30 kilometers per day and seed up to 3,500 new trees a day,” adding that for the elephants, “many things have changed, and their changed behavior will change our landscape.” Elephants eating plastics and other dangerous human garbage in landfills isn’t a new occurrence. Back in 2018, Asian elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene told AFP that hundreds of Sri Lanka’s 7,500 native elephants are believed to forage through waste, sickened by what they ingest in the process. “Sri Lanka considers elephants to be a national treasure, but we see these animals reduced to eating rubbish,” said Jayewardene at the time, adding about the issue of illegal dumping, “They have become docile and got so used to tractors bringing them garbage.” “These elephants no longer forage in the jungle. They are like zoo animals. It is a sad sight to see national treasures picking through rotting rubbish,” he added of some of the elephants who have become dependent on trash dumps for food. Plastics and other toxic materials have been detected in the elephants’ excrements in the area, worrying animal experts. “Elephants are getting sick by eating plastics,” said...