Green turtles in the Cayman Islands


This 2017 video says about itself:

Green Turtle‘s Battle For Survival | Planet Earth | BBC Earth

From the moment they are born, these plucky Green Turtles from the Ascension Islands will face a huge battle to survive. Those that do survive, like their mothers did before them, will return to exactly same beach where they hatched.

From the University of Barcelona in Spain:

Green turtle: The success of the reintroduction program in Cayman Islands

At the limits of survival due human overexploitation

January 18, 2019

The reintroduction program for the green turtle in the Cayman Islands is crucial in order to recover this species, which are threatened by the effects of human overexploitation, according to a study published in the journal Molecular Ecology and led by the experts Marta Pascual and Carlos Carreras, from the Evolutionary Genetics laboratory of the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona.

The new study, with its first author being Anna Barbanti (UB-IRBio), represents the first genetic study of the reintroduction project of this endangered species, and the wild population of green turtles in the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory.

According to the conclusions, the current wild population of green turtle in the Cayman Islands has been recovered as a result of the reintroduction process; it presents a high genetic diversity and shows no difficulties regarding breeding. However, the authors of the study recommend conducting a genetic monitoring of the species in this Atlantic Ocean region since it shows a differential genetic heritage compared to other populations of the Caribbean. Other participants in this study were Clara Martín and Víctor Ordóñez (UB-IRBio), and other experts from the University of Exeter, the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF) and the Department of Environment of the Cayman Islands Government (United Kingdom).

At the limits of survival due human overexploitation

The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) is a migratory species globally distributed in tropical and subtropical latitudes -nesting beaches in the Mediterranean basin- which has been quite exploited by human activity. This species is the biggest one within the family of Cheloniidae -adults can weigh over 200 kg- and one of the species of marine turtles with a more natal phylopatric behaviour (it comes back to their birth place to lay its eggs). Factors such as marine pollution, loss of natural habitat, fishing pressure and bycatches endanger the survival of these turtles, classified as an endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

During the eighties, overexploitation of the green turtle in the Cayman Islands caused the disappearance of nesting populations. To recover this endangered population, a program of reintroduction of the species was launched, with individuals of the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF). Forty years later, data show that the nesting population of the Cayman Islands has been restored but researchers did not know if this was the result of the reintroduction process or the natural recovery of the population for the improvement of threatening factors.

In the new study, experts analyse several genetic markers to see the degree of parentage of the natural population of the green turtle in the Cayman Islands with the breeding individuals in the farm, and therefore evaluate the effect of the reintroduction process on wild population.

“In wildlife, genetic diversity is a key factor that eases the adaptation of populations in the natural environment and their tolerance to environmental changes. In this context, it is crucial to conduct a genetic monitoring of the reintroduction processes to evaluate their success and the potential consequences for the target species of the reintroduction,” says Carlos Carreras, member of the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics of the UB and IRBio. “A threatened population -he continues- reduces their survival options due excessive inbreeding but a poorly planned reintroduction can have negative consequences because of the mix of genetically different beings, since they could create hybrids that are not feasible to the environmental conditions of the population.”

The population of the wild green turtle has a tight genetic relationship with the ones in CTF, the new study reveals. According to Marta Pascal, member of the mentioned Department and IRBio, “90 % of the wild individuals were related to the captive stock. This means the reintroduction process was very important in the recovery of threatened populations.”

The reintroduction process started in the farm with individuals of distant populations, and this explains why the genetic diversity of first generation turtles is higher than their parents’. This genetic diversity of the initial population has been changing as a consequence of the captivity process -as expected- but also because of the effects of the CTF population management. For instance, they use beings from the same cohort as reproductive adults to replace the losses hurricane Michelle caused in 2001, a strategy that has increased the degree of parentage among reproductive individuals in the farm. Therefore, scientific studies like the one in Molecular Ecology, are essential tools to take the right decisions in the management of threatened species.

Lights and shades in the reintroduction of endangered species

Current labelling studies show that there is a population between one hundred and one hundred and fifty reproductive female adults in the Cayman Islands. In this situation of biodiversity protection, the reintroduction programs for endangered species can become an effective tool of preservation but can also be inefficient, and can even have negative consequences for the threatened populations and natural ecosystems. “Therefore, it is essential to design these programs of reintroduction of threatened species with scientific rigor and to conduct a long term scientific monitoring to assess its success and the potential consequences for the species,” warn the experts.

The genetic studies carried out by the Evolutionary Genetics team of the UB and IRBio are part of the first scientific initiative to assess the global impact of the reintroduction of the species Chelonia mydas in the Cayman Islands from different sides: social and economic, commercial, and even gastronomic. This research study has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER), as well as the Darwin project, with the support of Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (FBG) of the UB and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (United Kingdom).

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Spotted nutcracker searches food, video


This 15 January 2019 video shows a spotted nutcracker searching food.

This species is a rare migrant in the Netherlands. This individual has been present around Wageningen town in the Veluwe region ever since November 2018.

Everdien vd Bijl made this video.

Bees in London, England


This 11 January 2019 video from London, England says about itself:

The incredible secret life of London’s bees – BBC

With enormous open spaces available, London’s bee population is thriving, discovering innovative and new ways to adapt to city living.

More than a billion people around the world commute into cities each day, and they are not alone. The world’s wildlife is commuting too. A steady flow of animals journey in and out of cities to find food and shelter or to start a family. Leaving the wilderness they must overcome the unique challenges that the urban world throws at them to benefit from the opportunities on offer. This episode explores whether the secret to an animal’s success in this fast-changing world is to keep one foot in the wild and one in the city, becoming a wild commuter.

Belgian students’ pro-climate marches growing


In this 11 January 2019 Belgian TV video, 17-year-old student Anuna De Wever is interviewed.

She was one of the organizers of the 10 January 2019 anti-climate change march in Brussels by 4,000 striking students.

This video is about that 10 January Brussels demonstration.

This video is about a strike and march on the same day by over 550 students in Kortrijk, a much smaller city than Brussels.

This is another, 12 January 2019, interview with Ms De Wever. She is asked why students go on strike. She replies there have been earlier, big pro-climate marches in Belgium, not during school hours, but the government did not listen. So, the struggle has to become more confrontational.

And today, the anti-climate change movement became even bigger.

17 January 2019 Brussels striking students demonstration, photo NOS/Bijou van der Borst

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

More than 12,000 Flemish young people skip school today to draw attention to their demands of a more ambitious climate policy. They march past European Union institutions in a long demonstration from Brussels Central Station.

Brossen voor de bossen, is the slogan: truancy for the forests. That started exactly a week ago, with a modest demonstration of 3000 students.

Not 3,000, but 4,000, according to (right-wing) Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws.

Yesterday, the 17-year-old organizers of that protest, Anuna De Wever and Kyra Gantois, had a meeting with three ministers. They were given a powerpoint presentation in which the Belgian climate policy was explained, but afterwards they were not convinced.

Because they believe that measures to prevent global warming must be taken more quickly, they are taking to the streets again today, together with thousands of others. This time the protest is more organized and pupils have come forward in schools to organize actions.

Cardboard signs

In the train from Antwerp the protest starts already. Young people with cardboard signs on their laps sitting between businessmen on their way to work, while the students shout “Brossen voor de bossen”. They also dance in the corridors to music by Bob Marley.

“We want to organize more and get action also outside school days,” says Roel Segers of Heilig Graf, a school in Turnhout. “This is how politicians will see that we mean it and this is not just playing truant.” Next Sunday, we want to organize a cleanup action in our village. ”

Some school managements support the protest, but not all. Students who have an exam today and are not present will get a zero grade. Teachers who support the protest ask their students to make a selfie in Brussels as proof, with the railway ticket on the photo.

Railway ticket

Parents also seem to be divided over the demonstration. A student reports that his parents blocked his bank account so that he could not buy a train ticket. His friends donated the amount so that he could still come to Brussels.

There will be a new demonstration in Brussels next week.

This 18 December 2018 video shows a speech by Swedish 15-year-old climate activist and striking student Gretha Thunberg at the COP24 climate summit.

Alaska wolf, bear killing unscientific


This 2014 video says by itself:

Grizzly Bears Catching Salmon | Nature’s Great Events | BBC

It’s the time of year when the salmon make their annual pilgrimage upstream to spawn, but leaping past the waiting hungry bears is no easy task.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

‘Outdated’ management plan increases risks to Alaska’s large carnivores

January 15, 2019

Alaskan wildlife management that prioritizes reducing bear and wolf populations so hunters can kill more moose, caribou and deer is both backward and lacks scientific monitoring, ecologists say in a paper published today in PLOS Biology.

Paring populations of large carnivores not only fails to meet the goal of creating a “hunting paradise” but may also interfere with important ecosystem services that predators atop the food chain provide, the scientists assert.

“Gray wolves, brown bears and black bears are managed in most of Alaska in ways designed to significantly lower their numbers,” said study co-author William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “Alaska is unique in the world because these management priorities are both widespread and legally mandated.”

The paper notes that favoritism toward moose, caribou and deer over large carnivores acquired legal backing in Alaska with the 1994 passage of the state’s Intensive Management Law. The legislation effectively calls for cutbacks in big carnivores to increase how many hoofed game animals are taken by humans.

“The law does also identify habitat management as a form of intensive management, but habitat management hasn’t been used effectively as a tool to increase abundance of these ungulates,” said corresponding author Sterling Miller, a retired research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Therefore, the default tool is predator control, the most widespread form of which is liberalizing state hunting and trapping regulations for large carnivores. This liberalization has been most extreme for brown bears, as this species used to be managed very conservatively.”

The paper points out that reported kills of brown bears by hunters have more than doubled over the past three decades and that since 1980 regulations intended to reduce predators have been in effect even in Alaska’s 11 national preserves, which are managed by the National Park Service.

“Since 2000, state wildlife managers have done no studies to determine trends in brown bear populations anywhere in Alaska where intensive management for moose and caribou is ongoing and harvests of brown bears have, correspondingly, increased,” Miller said. “Basically, managers have liberalized regulations for large carnivores in a strategy of ‘kill as many as possible and hope that it is OK in the end.’ This is not science-based management.”

The authors stress that brown bears have the lowest reproductive rates of any large mammal in North America and are particularly susceptible to overharvest, and that the Alaskan government is the only wildlife-managing entity in the world whose goal is to reduce bear abundance.

“There are some places in Alberta, Canada, where wolves are being managed to reduce their abundance in the hope of keeping very small populations of woodland caribou from going extinct,” Miller said. “This is different because the objective of that management is a conservation objective and not an objective of middle-class people putting more wrapped packages of moose meat in their freezers.”

State and federal priorities for “subsistence hunting” are also somewhat problematic but only where they allow for harvests that aren’t really of a subsistence nature, the authors say.

“It is also worth noting that subsistence hunting occurs in most Alaska national parks and monuments as mandated by the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, known as ANILCA,” Miller said. “The act also mandates that Alaska national preserves are open to hunting and doesn’t have a restriction on it being limited to subsistence hunting.”

Many of the preserves are adjacent to national parks and both the parks and preserves were created by ANILCA. But with the loosening of hunting regulations for large carnivores in Alaska, the same more-lax regulations largely apply to the preserves as well, meaning predator control is occurring there too.

“Science-based management of large carnivores in most of Alaska will require the political will and wisdom to repeal Alaska’s Intensive Management Law,” the paper states. “Alternatively or additionally, it will require professional wildlife managers to resist adoption of predator reduction regulations that are not conducted as experiments and/or do not include adequate monitoring programs of both carnivores and ungulates.”

Co-authoring the paper with Ripple and Miller were John Schoen, who is retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Sanford Rabinowitch, who is retired from the National Park Service.

Additional information on trends in brown bear hunting regulations and harvests in Alaska is available in a 2017 paper by some of the same authors as the PLOS Biology article.

Haida Gwaii’s northern goshawks in danger


This video from Canada is called Rare goshawk chick in the old growth forests of Haida Gwaii – August 2009

From the University of British Columbia in Canada:

Genomic study finds Haida Gwaii’s northern goshawks are highly distinct and at-risk

January 15, 2019

Haida Gwaii’s small population of northern goshawks — already of great concern to conservationists — are the last remnant of a highly distinct genetic cluster of the birds, according to a new genomic analysis by University of British Columbia researchers.

Goshawks across the British Columbia Coast appear to be declining, however, the distinct Haida Gwaii population is at a particularly high risk of extinction with such a small population size,” says Kenneth Askelson, a researcher with the UBC Department of Zoology and Biodiversity Research Centre, who co-led the study.

Latest counts puts the population on the archipelago at roughly 50. The genomic findings add new context and impetus to efforts to save this vulnerable pocket of goshawks, which are one of BC’s most iconic birds of prey.

“Accurate knowledge of geographic ranges and genetic relationships among populations is important when managing a species or population of conservation concern,” said Darren Irwin, senior author on the paper. “This is a major step in drawing those boundaries for one iconic species.”

The diminishing population of northern goshawks across British Columbia’s Coast (estimated at roughly 1,200 within B.C.), and continued habitat loss, have led to the laingi subspecies being listed as threatened under the Canadian Species at Risk Act.

But debate over which individual northern goshawks should be considered part of the threatened laingi subspecies — and the crucial question of what geographic areas should be considered within their range — has complicated conservation efforts.

The paper, published today in Evolutionary Applications, is one of the first to use genomics to inspect biodiversity on Haida Gwaii.

“This underscores the importance of conservation-related studies of genetic variation — too often, biodiversity vanishes invisibly,” says Armando Geraldes, who co-led the study with Askelson.

The researchers estimate the distinct population of birds may have been evolving separately on Haida Gwaii for 20,000 years. Percy Algernon Taverner (a prominent Canadian ornithologist) was the first to describe the laingi goshawk on Haida Gwaii in 1940 — identifying them as darker than other examples of the bird.

“There may be many unique subspecies that occur only on Haida Gwaii — an indication that the area is a very unique biogeographic region with many distinct lineages of species that have been poorly studied,” says Askelson.