Serengeti wildebeest, zebra migration, new research


This video is called Serengeti – The Adventure (Full Documentary, HD).

From Wildlife Extra:

New findings on what drives the great annual migration across the Serengeti

Across the Serengeti-Mara, millions of wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra are making their annual migration in one of the most spectacular sights of the natural world.

Six of these animals are currently wearing high-tech GPS collars, equipped with mobile phone technology – and over the past 10 years, a total of 40 have done so.

Scientists involved in this unique tracking programme analyse how these animals make decisions during their migration and use this information to devise effective mitigation strategies to ensure their survival.

The research, led by Dr Grant Hopcraft of the University of Glasgow’s Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health, sheds new light on the drivers behind the animals’ migratory decision-making.

The group’s findings suggest that although wildebeest and zebra migrate together, they move for very different reasons: wildebeest are constantly looking for fresh grazing, whereas zebra balance their need to access good food against the relative risk of being killed by a predator.

However, the results also show that both species are driven, above all else, by the need to avoid the threat of humans and human development.

“The impact of humans trumps everything else,” said Dr Hopcraft.

“This provides critical insights as to why other migrations are collapsing,” he added, pointing elsewhere, to the dwindling numbers of saiga (small antelopes) found on the Mongolian Steppes, the Mongolian gazelle, a horse-like animal called the kulan, the pronghorn antelope in the US state of Montana, and caribou and bison in North America.

The findings on the impact of human behaviour come at a time when the Tanzanian government has been considering a national highway through the Serengeti to create a trade route from Dar es Salaam and other Indian Ocean ports to Lake Victoria, offering access to countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda.

If built, the road is likely to carry as many as 3,000 vehicles across the Serengeti every day.

“A road would have catastrophic effects on how these animals migrate,” said Dr Hopcraft. “It would separate their dry season refuge from their wet season calving grounds.

“All 1.3 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra would have to cross that road in order to access the Mara River which is the only source of water during the dry season.”

Another threat to wildebeest and zebra is poaching. Evidence suggests there are about 80,000 wildebeest hunted illegally every year for the bushmeat trade.

“When these animals encounter areas of high poaching, both species attempt to exit the area as soon as possible by moving a long way and in straight lines, regardless of the food.

It appears as though these animals can detect risky areas and respond accordingly, which means if we want to protect migrations we need to focus on managing humans and not the animals.”

The lightweight tracking collars, which weigh 1kg and contain a GPS device, mobile phone engine and battery pack, can last up to two years and give the scientists real-time information about how the animals respond to the landscape around them.

The scientists select female animals which are reproductively active as they are most responsive to migratory decision-making.

Dr Hopcraft also reports a puzzling and previously unremarked phenomenon of migrations: when wildebeest and zebra encounter prime habitats with very good grazing, they move faster than when they are in areas with poor grazing.

“Moving fast when resources are good, rather than settling down in one spot and enjoying the feast, is counter-intuitive. Why move if you’re in a good spot? Every other species does exactly the opposite.

“We believe the difference in the wildebeest and zebra’s behaviour is down to the sheer density of the herds. It’s a numbers game,” he said.

When the grazing is at its peak, the prime grass is eaten almost immediately and individuals are then forced to find the next hotspot before everyone else does. In other words, the competition for food drives the race.

This unique eat-and-run feature of mass migrations suggests that we might be losing key ecosystem processes, without even realising it.

If animals such as bison behaved like wildebeest when they were in super-high concentrations, then the distribution and cycling of nutrients such as dung and urine was probably very different in these eco-systems historically, compared to today.

“These intact ecosystems where natural process such as migrations have occurred for thousands of years serve as a critical benchmark against which we can measure our own impact,” said Dr Hopcraft.

British politician’s domestic abuse


This video from Kenya says about itself:

Activists demonstrate in support of law against domestic abuse

24 July 2014

Civil society workers sent a petition to parliament seeking to protect the Protection against domestic violence bill which they did not want amended.

They wanted appropriate mechanisms for stopping or preventing domestic violence as well as providing effective sanctions and enforcement.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Domestic abuse MP David Ruffley should face sanction

Friday 25th July 2014

A TORY MP who assaulted his partner should “face strong disciplinary sanction,” women’s rights campaigners said yesterday.

David Ruffley announced last week that his now former partner had accepted an apology for the assault in March.

The Bury St Edmunds MP was let off with a police caution and a Conservative Party spokesman said he believed the case was closed after having been “dealt with at the time by the police.”

But feminist organisation Women’s Aid expressed concern over the whole procedure.

The charity’s chief executive Polly Neate argued that “physical violence in relationships is almost always accompanied by ongoing psychological control and abuse.”

Ms Neate added that she was surprised with the sluggishness of the Conservative Party to address the issue.

“We would expect that a parliamentarian who admitted committing a violent crime would face strong disciplinary sanction,” she said.

Mr Ruffley said he hoped the episode would “remain private” as a sign of respect for his ex-partner.

However Ms Neate pointed out that “domestic violence is a criminal, not a private matter” and that authorities should “take action accordingly.”

In Mr Ruffley’s constituency many have also come out with complaints about the MPs actions arguing his position is now “untenable.”

St Edmundsbury cathedral dean the Reverend Dr Frances Ward sent a letter to Mr Ruffley urging him to step down and arguing that he had “lost the confidence” of his constituents.

She sent copies of the letter dated July 18 to several several Tory frontbenchers — including new Chief Whip Michael Gove.

“It is my belief that you have lost the confidence of a significant proportion of your former supporters,” she wrote.

Dr Ward added that she “received sufficient comment and concern from a wide circle of people, both within the cathedral and through the town and county, to have arrived at the opinion that [Mr Ruffley’s] position is untenable.”

When contacted by the Star, the Conservative Women’s Organisation declined to make an extensive comment, but national chairwoman Niki Molnar labeled the case an “unfortunate incident.”

Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association has brought its annual meeting forward from September to next week given Mr Ruffley’s behaviour.

David Ruffley to stand down at the next election after assault on ex-girlfriend. MP has been under pressure to resign and will face constituents at local party meeting on Thursday to discuss his future: here.

New humpback dolphin sanctuary in Taiwan


This video says about itself:

First Film of Rare Humpback Dolphins with Bottlenose Dolphins in Watamu, Kenya

Thanks to Alex Simpson who edited the original footage with dolphin research photos to produce this video. Watamu Marine Association c/o Lynne Elson took this first ever footage of rare and elusive humpback dolphins on 10th April 2012. This family pod of 6-7 were associating with a pod of Bottlenose dolphins more commonly seen in Watamu Marine Reserve.

From Wildlife Extra:

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin sanctuary set up in Taiwan

A dwindling population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins will be protected with the creation of Taiwan’s first marine wildlife sanctuary. Dolphin numbers have dropped by around 50 per cent according to local conservation groups, because of habitat degradation, industrial expansion and pollution.

Tsai Chia-yang, head of the Chuanghua Environmental Protection Union, said: “Indo-Pacific dolphin population is a key index to measure the health of the maritime environment.”

The Council of Agriculture confirmed the sanctuary, which will be off the west coast of the country, will cover a large area of 76,300 hectare (188,461 acres).

Normal fishing in the area will be unaffected, as the government said a total ban was not feasible as the success of the sanctuary depends on the cooperation of local fishermen, but guidelines have been tightened for operators in the region and there will be tough punishments for illegal fishing of the endangered species. Dredge fishing has also been banned.

In a further step, officials announced that any development projects in the area will require government approval.

Anyone caught poaching the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin could face up to two years in jail and will be fined Tw$500,000 (US$16,530), and anyone caught seriously damaging the habitat could end up with a five years’ prison sentence.

“Illegal fishing has seriously ruined the coastal ecological environment, threatening the endangered dolphins,” said Kuan, referring to the fact that the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins eat mullet among other fish.

In 2011, President Ma Ying-jeou ruled an end to a controversial plan to build a massive oil refinery and more than 20 related petrochemical plants in western Taiwan. This was in reaction to a series of protests for the endangered humpback dolphins.

He said there was a need for Taiwan to balance economic development with environmental protection. The setting up of this sanctuary for Indo-pacific humpback dolphins is a big step forward for the species.

Scientists name new species of cetacean: The Australian humpback dolphin: here.

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Lioness, wounded by buffalo, saved


This video from Kenya says about itself:

9 April 2014

Early on 4th April, a call was received from Governor’s Camp in the Maasai Mara about an injured lioness. She had a deep, open wound on her lower left flank, the result of an encounter with a buffalo.

The DSWT immediately launched its SkyVets Initiative; collecting a Kenya Wildlife Service Veterinarian and flying from Nairobi to the Mara. Once on the scene, the vet set about darting the lioness, whose wound was extensive.

In an operation that lasted 1 1/2 hrs, throughout which the rest of the pride were kept a safe distance, the vet thoroughly cleaned the wound before suturing it closed. Long lasting anti-biotic drugs were administered, as well as packing the wound with green clay, to speed the healing process. With that, Siena the lioness could rejoin the pride and her cubs.

Working together effectively and efficiently, the DSWT, KWS, Narok County Council and Governor’s Camp were able to help this lioness and with that, ensure the return of a mother to her cubs.

With Africa’s lions are under serious threat, with less than 35,000 remaining today, our ability to help this dominant pride member and her cubs is critically important.

Read the full account of the Siena’s treatment on our website, where you can also choose to support our SkyVets Initiative, here.

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Zebra escapes from five lions, video


This video says about itself:

Maasai Mara zebra escapes lion ambush

A pride of lions awaits a convenient meal as the striped animal leisurely crosses a river before it makes an amazing U-turn in the national reserve in Kenya

February 24, 2014 by David Strege

Maasai Mara zebra escapes lion ambush …

Along with its extraordinary population of lions, leopards, and cheetahs, the Maasai Mara National Reserve in southwest Kenya is known for the Great Migration of zebra, wildebeest, and Thomson’s gazelle to and from the Serengeti each year.

But one zebra recently found itself on a lonely journey as it leisurely crossed a wide river, not knowing what was awaiting its arrival on the other side. Watch what happens when the zebra finds out a welcoming party was anything but friendly:

The 100100Channel told GrindTV in an email that the video entitled “Zebra came to the wrong neighborhood” came from one of its company agents during a safari in The Mara but offered little other details, not that many more are needed.

The zebra was taking its time crossing the river. The camera pans back to reveal four lions hiding in the brush and another over-eager lion sneaking up close to the river behind a berm. The over-eager lion exposed its position too soon, sending the zebra on a hasty retreat back across the river from whence it came.

The zebra was actually lucky on two counts: It was lucky to avoid five hungry lions, and lucky that no crocodiles were nearby.

See also here.

Zebra stripes are striking and beautiful, but what purpose do they serve? Read more here.

Ever wonder why Zebras were never domesticated… like horses? Here.

Prehistoric apes discovery in Kenya


This video says about itself:

1 Oct 2012

On Rusinga Island in Kenya‘s Lake Victoria, paleontologist Will Harcourt-Smith is leading an effort to recreate the environments inhabited by primitive primates—apes of the genus Proconsul. Studying the adaptive changes of our ancient ancestors helps scientists trace the origins of adaptability in modern humans.

Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.

From Science, Space & Robots:

Fossil Forest Discovery Sheds Light on Environment Inhabited by Early Apes

A fossil forest discovery by researchers from Baylor University and an international team of scientists has shed light on the environment inhabited by early apes on Rusinga Island, Kenya. Researchers found fossils of tree stumps, calcified roots and fossil leaves. Researchers say the fossil find indicates that Proconsul and its primate relative, Dendropithecus, lived in a dense, closed canopy tropical seasonal forest about 18 to 20 million years ago. The research was published here in Nature Communications.

Daniel Peppe, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the study, says in a Baylor release, “Our research findings provide direct evidence and confirm where the early ape lived about 18 to 20 million years ago. We now know that Proconsul lived in a closed-canopy, tropical seasonal forest set in a warm and relatively wet local climate.”

Fossils of a single Proconsul were also found among the geological fossil forest deposits.

Lauren Michel, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the geology department at Baylor, says, “The varying diameters of the tree stumps coupled with their density within the fossil soil, implies that the forest would have been comprised of trees with interlocking or overlapping branches, thus creating a canopy.”

Posted on February 27, 2014