US African lion trophy hunting finished?


This video is called Born Wild: The First Days of Life | Lion Cubs.

By Miguel Llanos, NBC News in the USA:

African lions could end up on US endangered species list

If wildlife activists have their way, U.S. hunters trekking to Africa soon won’t be able to bring back any lion skins or skulls as trophies.

Acting on a petition by those activists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday said it will study whether the species warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Born Free USA, one of the petition groups, called the review “the necessary first step toward ensuring a chance at survival for this beleaguered species.”

African lion populations have seen “a substantial decline” over the past two decades and are estimated to be around 32,000, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which monitors species numbers globally.

The threats include not only trophy hunters, but loss of habitat, humans eating lion meat, and commercial sale of their body parts, said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA.

As humans move into lion habitat, he added, that increases “retaliatory killings, including by gruesome poisoning,” of lions that go after livestock.

The Fish and Wildlife Service began a 60-day period to receive public and expert comment on whether to list the species. The Asian lion was listed as endangered in 1970.

In their petition, the activists cited U.S. trade figures showing that more than 5,600 wild Africa lions were hunted and then exported as trophies between 1999 and 2008, with 64 percent of those trophies being imported into the U.S.

The U.S. has listed non-native animals before since the act is meant to ensure the U.S. citizens “do not contribute to the further decline of that species in its native habitat,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in its announcement.

See also here.

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Galapagos tortoises migration


This BBC video is called The Galápagos Tortoise.

From the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Germany:

27 November 2012

Galapagos tortoises are a migrating species

This press release is available in German.

The Galapagos giant tortoise, one of the most fascinating species of the Galapagos archipelago, treks slowly and untiringly across the volcanic slopes. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, together with the Charles Darwin Foundation, have used GPS technology and modern 3D acceleration measurements to find out that especially the dominant male tortoise wanders up to 10 kilometres into the highlands of the island. Only the fully grown animals migrate, the young tortoises stay year round in the lowlands. The reason for this and the question of why the animals don’t rest during the dry season are not known yet.

Even Charles Darwin anticipated that the giant tortoises wandered large distances. In the cool dry season, the highlands of Santa Cruz are engulfed in fog which allows the vegetation to grow despite the lack of rain. In the lowlands, however, there is no thick layer of clouds and the tortoises’ vegetation is not available year round. Adults, which can weigh up to 250 kilogram, spend the dry season in the higher regions at an elevation of 400 meters above sea level. However, since the food is not as nutritious there, they trek back to the lower zones where there is succulent vegetation in abundance as soon as the rainy season begins.

In order to study the migratory pattern more closely, Stephen Blake from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and his colleague Washington Tapia from the Galapagos National Park secured GPS loggers with 3D acceleration monitors onto 17 adult tortoises. This allowed the scientists to determine the animals’ exact position and behaviour over a period of two years. In order to gather information on the entire population, the researchers noted the size, sex and location of each tortoise they met on their monthly hikes along the volcanic hillsides. They combined the GPS data with the temperature data and information about availability of vegetation.

The results show that the tortoises have a partial migration system, where not every individual migrates. Only the adult animals wander and only the larger specimens are more likely to move. In June they start their slow, tedious march which can be up to ten kilometres long into the highlands. Adult females remain in the lowlands until they lay their eggs and then they also make their way to the highlands. In contrast, the smaller tortoises stay in the lower elevated areas all year round.

Although giant tortoises are able to survive for up to one year without nourishment, which made them a popular staple for seamen, they nevertheless wander for large distances searching for food as this study shows for the first time. Why don’t they just look for a shelter? The question of why the younger animals don’t migrate hasn’t been answered by the scientists yet. “Either the energy expenditure of this strenuous hike is too high, or there is still enough food available for the smaller animals.” Stephen Blake suspects, “perhaps the younger animals can’t tolerate the wet cold climate of the higher regions.”

In other species, the largest and the most dominant individual does not migrate because it can best defend itself against its competitors. It doesn’t have to leave to survive. However, among the Galapagos tortoises, it’s usually the largest and most dominant individual which takes on this arduous journey.

Future studies on giant tortoise species of the other Galapagos Islands with varying ecological conditions will show how environment influences the migration scheme of these closely related reptiles. The scientists also want to include factors such as age, size, sex and morphology in their studies to see why the behaviour changes in different lifetime stages and what the trigger of migration is.

Despite the threat of hunting, invasive species such as goats and rats, and the loss of habitat due to man, the Galapagos Tortoise still shows its original migrating behaviour. This and future studies will help to maintain this behaviour with the help of effective measures such as establishing corridors, preserving key habitats, keeping tortoise-friendly roads and maintaining less urban development. Based on its importance to the Galapagos Archipelago ecosystem as an herbivore and seed disperser, the annual migration of the tortoise must be preserved.

See also here.

Urban foxes in Paris


This video from England is about young foxes playing in London.

From Discovery News:

Foxes Run Wild in Paris: DNews Nugget

by Christina Reed

Tue Nov 27, 2012 05:52 AM ET

In the 1990s, the city of lights exterminated all their foxes in an anti-rabies campaign. Now about 15 wild foxes have returned to the streets of Paris, where an estimated 40 to 70 pounds of leftover food per person is thrown away each year, according to Food Industry Minister Guillaume Garot.

The foxes are taking advantage of the leftover food trash, and have skipped the forested parks along the borders of the city in favor of the more touristic and restaurant-lined gardens in the center, such as Jardin du Luxembourg. Philippe Jacob, head of the newly set up Parisian Biodiversity Observatory, said their return was an encouraging sign of a healthy ecosystem. About 10,000 foxes are said to inhabit London.

Iraq, Afghanistan military dogs get PTSD


From Discovery News:

Military Dogs Suffer From PTSD

Analysis by Jennifer Viegas

Tue Nov 27, 2012 08:38 AM ET

'Jackson', a military dog, on a mission in Iraq; Credit: Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall

Dogs and humans can both suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to veterinarians and senior dog handlers at Lackland Air Force Base.

Military dogs appear to be most at risk, but it’s likely any intense, stressful period could induce the debilitating condition.

“This is something that does not get better without intervention,” Walter Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine and military working-dog studies at Lackland, told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re essentially broken and can’t work.

He estimates that 10 percent of dogs sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to safeguard U.S. troops have developed canine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment may involve conditioning, retraining and drugs like Xanax. That anti-anxiety drug, as for many meds, comes with its own laundry list of side effects documented in humans. With or without drugs, recovery from canine PTSD is often only partial.

One dog with a relatively mild case is Cora, a Belgian Malinois who used to sniff out buried bombs. For just verbal praise, a short play session or a food treat, she’d search over long distances. When she detected an explosive, she’d lie down as a visual cue.

“Cora always thought everything was a big game,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Garry Laub. He trained Cora before she deployed. “She knew her job. She was a very squared-away dog.”

After months of active duty in Iraq, however, Cora changed. The once-independent dog hated to be alone. Loud noises made her jump, and the previously friendly canine started to growl and pick fights with other dogs.

“Dogs experience combat just like humans,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas Gehring, a dog handler at Lackland who works with Cora.

Physically, she looks fine. Cora is a fit, 60-pound dog with a shiny coat. But it sounds like she now suffers from permanent mental scars. She used to anticipate her handler’s orders and show excitement about her military work.

That’s now all in the past. The Cora of today is moodier and less eager. She’s a bit older now, of course, but age isn’t the only explanation for her change in behavior. At least she still enjoys head pats and doggy biscuits. She’s again one of the more treatable, mild cases.

Game of Thrones inspired Huskie craze goes cold as owners give up on dogs: here.

Pentagon’s giant blood serum bank may provide PTSD clues: here.