Polar bear, whale and fish conservation news


This video is about a polar bear and her two cubs.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Governments agree on new protections for polar bears

Convention on Migratory Species meeting in Ecuador adds listings for Cuvier’s beaked-whale, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish

Adam Vaughan

Monday 10 November 2014 14.17 GMT

Polar bears are among 31 species approved for greater protections by more than 100 countries, in a move hailed by conservationists as an important step to saving the endangered mammal.

The Convention on Migratory Species conference in Ecuador closed on Sunday, with new listings for a whale capable of the world’s deepest ocean dives, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish. A proposal to list the African lion, however, was rejected due to a lack of data.

The Norwegian proposal to protect the estimated 20,000-25,000 remaining polar bears, which are threatened by melting ice, Arctic oil exploration and hunting, saw the species gain an Appendix II listing. That means countries must work together to put in place conservation plans, as opposed to the stronger Appendix I listing which requires strict protections such as bans on killing an animal.

Dr Masha Vorontsova, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare Russia, said: “We are pleased to see the polar bear joining a growing list of threatened migratory species protected under CMS. Appendix II does not mean that sufficient conservation action will be taken to protect the well-being of polar bears.

“What gives us hope is that this listing means that 120 countries are now recognising the threats that polar bears face from the shrinking of their ice habitat to pollution and hunting. This is an important first step, but it must not be the last if we wish to save the polar bear.”

The top level of protection, Appendix I, was issued for the rarely-seen Cuvier’s beaked-whale (Ziphius cavirostris), which scientists have recorded as diving as deep as 3km below the water’s surface.

The meeting in Quito also agreed that the 120 parties to the convention should pass laws to ban the capture of live whales and dolphins for use in travelling shows and entertainment.

Cathy Williamson of Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: “This very positive development from CMS sends a clear message of international concern about the impact of live captures for the aquarium industry on wild whale and dolphin populations.”

Campaigners praised the new protections for rays and sharks, with countries agreeing to take steps to stop the practice of finning, where sharks are caught and their fins cut off for use as soup at Chinese banquets.

Humane Society International’s Alexia Wellbelove said: “Today’s commitment at CMS by countries to provide greater protection for shark and ray species is an unprecedented step forwards in the conservation of sharks and rays worldwide.”

Governments agreed that the use of lead shot should be cut down to stop the poisoning of migrating birds, despite the UK initially opposing the move. The resolution also called for the phasing out of the veterinary drug diclofenac, and rodenticides, insecticides and poison baits.

Martin Harper, RSPB director of conservation, said: “I would like to congratulate the UK government for its role in helping to find a way forward. The UK showed leadership on the issue of poisoning by providing financial support to set up the CMS Preventing Poisoning Working Group, which produced the guidelines that have been ratified.”

Guidelines were also settled for the first time on how best to protect birds and bats from wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy.

Bradnee Chambers, the convention’s executive secretary, said: “Like never before in the 35-year history of CMS, migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time. From plastic pollution in our oceans, to the effects of climate change, to poaching and overexploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all.”

POLAR BEARS HAD A BAD DECADE The polar bear population dropped 40% in the area north of Alaska and northern Canada. [HuffPost]

Morpho butterflies and young grebes at the botanical garden


This video says about itself:

Blue Morpho Butterfly – Found around 1700m amsl, Cordillera del Condor, South Ecuador.

I saw blue morpho butterflies today. I did not find them in Ecuador; but in the Victoria amazonica hothouse of the botanical garden. Pupae of various butterfly species were there as well.

Before we arrived there, a young great crested grebe swam under a bridge into a canal. A coot then drove it away.

In the botanical garden, near the astronomical observatory, a grey heron on the canal bank.

Another young great crested grebe swims past. Every now and then, it dives.

In the lawn there, the figures 425, formed by autumn crocus flowers; because the garden is 425 years old.

Migratory birds killed by lead ammunition


This video is called Bird migration, a perilous journey – Alyssa Klavans.

From BirdLife:

Banning lead should not be a toxic issue

By Martin Fowlie, Wed, 05/11/2014 – 20:35

RSPB‘s Agriculture Policy Officer, Ellie Crane, is attending the Convention on Migratory Species Conference of the Parties in Quito – vital decisions are in the process of being made – here’s a guest blog just in from Ellie.

Lead is nasty stuff. If it gets inside the human body it has multiple toxic effects – for example in children it damages the developing brain and can have lasting effects on IQ and behaviour. We have known about the problems of lead for years, which is why we’ve phased it out of paint and petrol.

But we are still releasing lead into our environment, in the form of lead ammunition used by hunters. It’s not only people who are at risk from eating game shot with lead ammunition: birds are under threat too.

Large numbers of birds suffer and die from lead poisoning every year. They can eat gunshot that has fallen to the ground, mistaking it for food or grit. Many gamebirds survive shooting but carry shot in their flesh. These, along with animals that have been shot but not retrieved, are eaten by predatory and scavenging birds such as white-tailed eagles, that consequently ingest ammunition fragments.

This week the world has a historic opportunity to eliminate the threat of lead once and for all, at the international Convention on Migratory Species conference in Quito, Ecuador. A proposal is on the table to phase out all use of lead ammunition and replace it with readily available non-toxic alternatives. Right now, government representatives from the UK, Europe and across the world are closeted in meeting rooms deciding whether or not to support this proposal.

There can be no doubt that this phase out of lead needs to happen, for the sake of both people and wildlife. Last month a group of 30 eminent European scientists issued a statement summarising the overwhelming evidence for harm for lead and calling for a phase out of lead ammunition. This follows a similar statement from American scientists.

Some countries have already taken partial action to tackle the lead problem, but this has mostly proved ineffective. In England, for example, the use of lead gunshot for shooting wildfowl was banned in 1999 but monitoring shows that most wildfowl continue to be shot (illegally) with lead gunshot and birds continue to die of lead poisoning. Some countries have had more success: for example Denmark banned the use of lead gunshot for all shooting as long ago as 1996. Danish hunters have embraced the shift to non-toxic ammunition and there has been no negative impact on the sport.

So the decision on whether to phase out lead ammunition across the whole world really is a no-brainer. The eyes of the world are on Quito.

Two new global agreements have been reached that will help save migratory bird species across the world. The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) agreed a set of guidelines to tackle causes of poisoning and ratified a ground-breaking action plan to save more than 400 bird species: here.

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.

Rare spectacled bear discovery in Ecuador


This video is called BBC Natural World – Spectacled Bears, Shadows of the Forest – Full Documentary.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare Spectacled Bear found in new Ecuador reserve

There have been sightings of Spectacled Bear in Ecuador’s new Antinsanilla Reserve, confirming the animal’s presence in the area.

The reserve was primarily established to protect the rare Andean Condor, which numbers only around 50 in Ecuador today. It is also the habitat of a number of extremely endangered amphibians, making it a vital location for threatened Ecuadorian wildlife.

Antinansilla Reserve spans 6,100 acres, and was created with support from the Rainforest Trust, the Amphibian Survival Alliance, the Andrew Sabin Foundation and other conservation organisations working in collaboration with Ecuadorian Partner Fundación Jocotoco.

A Spectacled Bear was recently sighted in the reserve by park guard Manual Cuichan in September. “This marks the second time Spectacled Bears have been spotted in the reserve this year,” says Jocotoco’s Conservation Director Francisco Sornoza, “And it’s wonderful news since it’s clear that the bears are now using the reserve as a real refuge.”

Although the endangered Spectacled Bear – South America’s only bear species – is versatile and able to survive in cloud forests, alpine areas (known as páramo) and deserts, they are under continual threat from poaching and habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, road construction and other development. If current trends continue, their numbers are expected to decline by more than 30 per cent in the next thirty years.

“One of the iconic mammals of the Andes, the endangered Spectacled Bear has always been relatively rare, and now it is much persecuted almost throughout its range for alleged cattle depredations,” says President of Rainforest Trust, Dr Robert S Ridgley. “I knew that Spectacled Bears used to occur at Antisanilla and I hoped maybe one might wander in,” Ridgely added. “But never did I think that, hardly six months after Antisanilla’s purchase, two bears would have already been sighted on the páramo!”

Galapagos islands, new film


This video says about itself:

Galapagos 3D Narrated by Jeff Corwin – Official | Digital 3D Version

In the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, there is a paradise unlike any other: the Galapagos. Amongst these remote volcanic islands, life has played out over millions of years in relative isolation. The result is a wonderland of nature, with a remarkable collection of plants and charismatic animals that have all adapted to this unique environment. Meet giant half-ton tortoises and marine iguanas that spit sea-salt. Dance with the tropical albatrosses and hunt fishes with the colorful blue-footed boobies. Swim with tiny penguins thousands of miles away from their natural habitats. This is a story of discovery, of survival against the odds, and of nature’s ingenuity, all brought to life in stunning 3D.

From the California Science Center in the USA:

Explore the Wonders of the Galapagos Islands in a Stunning New 3D Film

Wildlife Conservationist Jeff Corwin featured in “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” Opening on October 5, 2014 at the California Science Center

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23, 2014 — The California Science Center invites audiences to an exploration of a paradise unlike any other, with the breathtaking IMAX film, “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” narrated by Jeff Corwin, premiering this October 5th.

“Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” brings to the giant screen these remarkable volcanic islands, home to some of nature’s most incredible living creatures. Located close to the equator in the Pacific Ocean, at the confluence of several nutrient-rich currents, the Galapagos archipelago has developed over millions of years in relative isolation. The result is a living museum of nature, with an abundance of species of plants and unique animals that have adapted to thrive in this challenging environment. Giant half-ton long-necked tortoises lumber among dancing blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants. Small penguins living thousands of miles from their natural habitats share the seas with unique marine iguanas that spit sea-salt. This is an incredible story of discovery, of survival against the odds, and of nature’s ingenuity.

“I was thrilled to provide the narration for this amazing project,” said Corwin, wildlife conservationist and Emmy award-winning TV host. “When I saw the film for the first time, it literally took my breath away. Despite traveling the world for 20 years hosting and creating documentaries, I was thoroughly impressed with this incredible journey.”

After viewing the film, Science Center visitors are encouraged to visit the “Ecosystems” exhibition, where concepts from the film like adaptation are illustrated through a blend of live plants, animals, and hands-on exhibits in 11 immersive environments, or zones. “Ecosystems” occupies 45,000 square feet and contains more than 250 species of plants and animals. Guests will find out why isolation breeds change and visit a simulated tropical island research station in the “Island Zone,” where they will learn about evolution by studying some of the unique animals that make these isolated habitats their homes. In the “Extreme Zone,” guests explore the desert, rocky shores, and more to discover how environmental factors test the limits of plants and animals—and how they have adapted to flourish, just like the animals featured in “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland.”

“There are not too many places more powerful than the Galapagos Islands when it comes to understanding our planet,” said Corwin. “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” perfectly captures what makes the creatures living there such unique characters.”

Produced by Anthony Geffen, written by David Attenborough and narrated by Jeff Corwin, “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” is directed by Martin Williams and features original music composed by Joel Douek. The film is a Colossus Productions presentation in association with SKY 3D, distributed by nWave Pictures Distribution.

“Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” was filmed on location over a ten- month period in 2012 and 2013, followed by five months of post-production. Using breakthrough digital 3D filmmaking technologies and featuring 4K ultra-high resolution imagery, the producers have brought to life the extraordinary world of the Galapagos archipelago in a way that has not been possible before. The Galapagos Islands are governed by Ecuador and lie some 600 miles from the coast of South America.

The film’s official website is here.

See also here.

Noddy tern’s Galapagos symbiosis with brown pelican


Brown noddy tern and brown pelican, photo SOLENT NEWS

From the Daily Express in Britain:

A cheeky bird that booked a free ride and meal on pelican

THIS naughty seabird perches on the head of a pelican… just waiting for the chance to claim any fish dropped by its feathered rival.

By: John Ingham

Tue, August 19, 2014

And the smaller brown noddy bird clearly comes out on top.

“The noddy takes advantage of the pelican’s fishing style to cash in on a free meal,” said wildlife photographer Tui De Roy, who snapped the uninvited guest in action off the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific.

“Neither the noddy nor the pelican fear each other. Both are well accustomed to the relationship, even if it is one-sided.”

The large-billed pelican feasts on small fish, with the noddy grabbing a quick snack if it sees the chance.

Tui, 60, who grew up on the islands, added: “Several pelicans were working the shallows, diving every few minutes. Each was followed by several noddies that settled on their heads, snatching fish trying escape.

“I suspect the pelican doesn’t really appreciate the hitchhiker, but it is used to it and there’s nothing it can do to shake it off while its beak is still full of water.”

Perhaps the pelican should just send it the bill…