Good Galapagos tortoise news


This video says about itself:

Island-hopping in Galápagos: meet the world’s rarest tortoise and the birds of Española Island

10 October 2011

In the second part of his Galápagos island-hopping adventure, Andy Duckworth talks to naturalist guide Robert Naranjo, seeks out sea lions, a friendly hawk, dancing albatrosses and more prancing blue-footed boobies. He also meets Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise and the rarest creature on the planet

From the BBC:

28 October 2014 Last updated at 19:16 GMT

Giant tortoise makes ‘miraculous’ stable recovery

By Jonathan Webb, Science reporter, BBC News

Where once there were 15, now more than 1,000 giant tortoises lumber around Espanola, one of the Galapagos Islands.

After 40 years’ work reintroducing captive animals, a detailed study of the island’s ecosystem has confirmed it has a stable, breeding population.

Numbers had dwindled drastically by the 1960s, but now the danger of extinction on Espanola appears to have passed.

Galapagos tortoises, of which there are 11 remaining subspecies, weigh up to 250kg and live longer than 100 years.

The study, based on decades of observations of the variety found on Espanola, was published in the journal Plos One.

Slow release

It offers some good news that contrasts with the tale of Lonesome George, the very last of the related subspecies found on Pinta, on the other side of the archipelago. George’s death, at the age of about 100, made international news in 2012.

Lead author Prof James Gibbs told BBC News the finding on Espanola was “one of those rare examples of a true conservation success story, where we’ve rescued something from the brink of extinction and now it’s literally taking care of itself”.

Prof Gibbs, from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York (SUNY-ESF), said he felt “honoured” to be reporting the obvious success of the reintroduction programme, which the Galapagos Islands National Park Service commenced in 1973.

His team has found that more than half the tortoises released since that time are still alive, and they are breeding well enough for the population to plod onward, unaided.

“It looks like we can step back out of the picture,” Prof Gibbs said.

It is quite a contrast to the 1960s, when just 12 females and 3 males roamed the island.

“They were so rare at that point, they couldn’t find one another. Many of the females had lichens growing on their backs, and fungi, that indicated they hadn’t been mated in a very long time.”

Those animals were taken to an enclosure [on] another island, to concentrate on breeding. Over the subsequent decades, more than 1500 of their captive-raised offspring have been released on Espanola.

Competing for cacti

It wasn’t as simple as putting the tortoises back, however. Their problems began when feral goats were introduced in the 1800s and devoured much of the island’s vegetation, severely disrupting the ecosystem.

“They can literally turn a rich ecosystem into a dustbowl,” Prof Gibbs said.

The goats even learned to feast on very tall cactus plants, whose dropped pads are a key food source for the tortoises in the dry season.

“They would feast on the roots… and chew away at the bark, and eventually that would topple these cacti. And then they had an incredible buffet of maybe 500-1000 years of cactus growth, demolished in a week or two.”

Conservationists set about culling the goats in the 1970s and finally eradicated them in the 1990s.

Their legacy, Prof Gibbs discovered, remains.

Analysis of the island’s plant life and its soil show that it has seen a major shift to bigger, woodier vegetation in the 100 years since the goats started stripping the undergrowth.

These shrubs and trees are a problem both for the tortoises and for their summer food of choice, the cacti.

The trees even get in the way of an endangered albatross that breeds on the island, making it difficult for the big, ungainly birds to take flight.

“Population restoration is one thing but ecological restoration is going to take a lot longer,” Prof Gibbs said.

Dr Rebecca Scott, an ecologist who studies turtles at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, said the results showed how important it is to monitor reintroduction carefully.

“Reintroducing these large, keystone species, in combination with reducing the spread of invasive species, can really help return ecosystems to native state.

“This work highlights the merit of well-managed reintroduction programmes, but also of really monitoring how these animals do.”

Dr Gerardo Garcia, a herpetologist at Chester Zoo, agreed that the situation was complex and the programme had succeeded because of careful, long-term management.

“It’s a long process but it’s quite normal for it to take decades,” he told BBC News.

“Nothing gets released and stable in less than 20 or 30 years.”

See also here.

Red fox and badger, video


This video is about a red fox and a badger in the Netherlands.

Gerrie van der Meulen and her brother Theo made the video.

Dutch shrew video


This is a video about a shrew in the Netherlands.

Beerke made the video.

Wild chimpanzees plan their breakfast


This video says about itself:

Backstage in the Wild: Yale Insights into Chimpanzee

20 April 2012

In the Ugandan national park Ngogo, Yale anthropologist David Watts and colleagues at the University of Michigan study the behavior of chimpanzees. Watts, who served as a consultant for newly released Disney nature Chimpanzee, describes his experiences with our with our primate cousins – and the urgent need to protect them in the wild.

From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Wild chimpanzees plan their breakfast time, type, and location

Significance

How do large-brained primates maintain high rates of energy intake when times are lean? By analyzing early-morning departure times and sleeping nest positioning of female chimpanzees as a function of the ephemerality of next day’s breakfast fruit and its location, we found evidence that wild chimpanzees flexibly plan when and where they will have breakfast after weighing multiple factors, such as the time of day, their egocentric distance to, and the type of food to be eaten. To our knowledge, our findings reveal the first clear example of a future-oriented cognitive mechanism by which hominoids, like great apes, can buffer the effect of seasonal declines in food availability and increased interspecific competition to facilitate first access to nutritious food.

Abstract

Not all tropical fruits are equally desired by rainforest foragers and some fruit trees get depleted more quickly and carry fruit for shorter periods than others. We investigated whether a ripe-fruit specialist, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), arrived earlier at breakfast sites with very ephemeral and highly sought-after fruit, like figs, than sites with less ephemeral fruit that can be more predictably obtained throughout the entire day.

We recorded when and where five adult female chimpanzees spent the night and acquired food for a total of 275 full days during three fruit-scarce periods in a West African tropical rainforest. We found that chimpanzees left their sleeping nests earlier (often before sunrise when the forest is still dark) when breakfasting on very ephemeral fruits, especially when they were farther away. Moreover, the females positioned their sleeping nests more in the direction of the next day’s breakfast sites with ephemeral fruit compared with breakfast sites with other fruit.

By analyzing departure times and nest positioning as a function of fruit type and location, while controlling for more parsimonious explanations, such as temperature, we found evidence that wild chimpanzees flexibly plan their breakfast time, type, and location after weighing multiple disparate pieces of information. Our study reveals a cognitive mechanism by which large-brained primates can buffer the effects of seasonal declines in food availability and increased interspecific competition to facilitate first access to nutritious food. We discuss the implications for theories on hominoid brain-size evolution.

The research was in Ivory Coast.

Red pandas filmed in Myanmar, first time


This video says about itself:

26 October 2014

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) biologists have captured Myanmar’s first ever wild footage of the red panda.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wild Red Pandas filmed in Myanmar for first time

A pair of endangered Red Pandas have been caught on film in Myanmar for the first time.

The team of scientists from Fauna & Flora International (FFI) captured a pair of pandas roaming the high-altitude, mixed bamboo and conifer forests of the Imawbum mountain range, in the country’s far north-east. The Red Pandas can be seen crawling slowly along a rocky landslide, caused by Chinese logging, up to the ruined forest to feed on bamboo leaves.

“When we encountered the two Red Pandas, we felt two emotions at the same time; incredibly happy for the direct sighting and for obtaining this first exciting footage, but terribly saddened seeing the state of their habitat and threats to the species’ survival,” said Saw Soe Aung, FFI’s field biologist who captured the couple on film.

With less than 10,000 mature individuals estimated to be left in the wild, the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. They are endemic to temperate mountain forests of the Eastern Himalayas ranging from Western Nepal to China.

Hunting and wildlife trade, alongside accelerated deforestation caused by illegal logging are the main threats for the species in Myanmar. FFI’s Red Panda Conservation is working to increase awareness amongst local indigenous people for the protection of the species, while supporting the Myanmar Forest Department to designate a new protected area, Imawbum National Park.

“We hope that the National Park designation combined with Myanmar’s recent raw log export ban will encourage the Chinese government to stop loggers venturing into Myanmar,” said Frank Momberg, FFI’s Myanmar programme director.

Find out more about Red Pandas by reading our field guide to the species, which is crammed with Red Panda facts and figures.

Ancient settlements discovery in Peruvian Andes


Stone tools found at Cuncaicha and Pucuncho sites in Peru. Image credit: Kurt Rademaker et al.

From Sci-News:

Archaeologists Discover Two 12,000-Year-Old High-Altitude Settlements in Peru

Oct 24, 2014

Archaeologists from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Peru, have discovered two ancient settlements in the Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes – named Cuncaicha and Pucuncho – which they say are the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world.

One scientific theory about high altitude colonization suggests that people cannot live in high altitudes until genetic adaptation occurs, like the sort we find in Andean people today.

Andeans have genetically adapted to their high altitude environment.

Key differences in the Andean people include a higher metabolic rate, larger lung capacity and higher hemoglobin concentrations then the average person, all of which allow them to overcome a lack of oxygen.

“Was this adaptation present 12,000 years ago? We don’t know for certain,” said Dr Sonia Zarrillo of the University of Calgary, who is a co-author of the paper published in the journal Science.

The first site Dr Zarrillo and her colleagues discovered, Cuncaicha, is a rock shelter at 4.5 km above sea level, with a stone-tool workshop below it.

According to the archaeologists, it was occupied about 12,400-11,500 years ago.

The second site, Pucuncho, is an ancient workshop where stone tools were made at 4.4 km above sea level. It dates to around 12,800-11,500 years ago.

“We don’t know if people were living there year round, but we strongly suspect they were not just going there to hunt for a few days, then leaving. There were possibly even families living at these sites, because we’ve found evidence of a whole range of activities,” Dr Zarrillo said.

“Climatic conditions in both sites are harsh, with factors including low-oxygen, extreme cold and high levels of solar radiation making life in the region a challenge for any humans.”

She added: “our team hiked up to three or four hours to get to these sites. That was a climb, carrying all of our gear, camp equipment and food. And it freezes every night. Sometimes it snows. These are incredibly hard sites to access.”

Archaeological evidence found at the sites includes signs of habitation such as human skull fragments, animal remains and stone tools.

The Pucuncho site yielded 260 stone tools, such as projectile points, bifaces and unifacial scrapers. The Cuncaicha rock shelter contains a “robust, well-preserved and well-dated occupation sequence.”

“Most of the stone tools at Cuncaicha were made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, and are indicative of hunting and butchering consistent with limited subsistence options on the plateau. In addition to plant remains, bones at the site indicate hunting of vicuña and guanaco camelids and the taruca deer,” the scientists said.

“At Cuncaicha we found remains representing whole animals. The types of stone tools we’ve found are not only hunting tools but also scraping tools used for processing hides to make things like clothing, bags or blankets,” Dr Zarrillo said.