Saving Asian vultures from extinction


This video says about itself:

Yula Kapetanakos: Asian Vulture Study

19 July 2012

Despite their grisly lifestyle, vultures play an important role in nature and are even important for protecting human health—but in southeast Asia several species are facing extinction from exposure to a drug used to treat livestock. Cornell graduate student Yula Kapetanakos tells us about her doctoral research on White-rumped Vultures in Cambodia.

She extracts genetic samples from dropped feathers and uses them to determine how many vultures remain and how closely related they are. Since the birds naturally shed these feathers, her work doesn’t affect the birds at all; and since she is able to accurately identify individuals through their genetic fingerprints, her counts have revealed population levels that exceed those estimated with previous techniques—good news for an imperiled species.

From BirdLife:

Major breakthrough in fight to save Asian vultures from extinction

By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 28/08/2015 – 09:32

A major step for the future of vultures in Asia has been announced by the Indian Ministry of Health. A ban of multi-dose vials of human formulations of diclofenac, which is responsible for the death of tens of millions of Asia’s vultures, has come into force with immediate effect.

The painkiller was banned from veterinary use in India in 2006 because of its lethal effects on vultures that feed on the carcasses of treated cattle and buffaloes, but human formulations of the drug have been illegally used to treat animals since then. The ban sees diclofenac production now restricted to human formulations in a single 3ml dose.

Chris Bowden, RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and SAVE vulture programme manager said, “Despite diclofenac being illegal for veterinary use since 2006, human formulations have been made readily available in large vials by irresponsible drug companies, making it cheap and easy to use illegally to treat cattle and buffalo. This ban means that the large vials can no longer be manufactured and sold, making it more difficult to use illegally for animals and thereby removing it from the primary source of food for Asia’s vultures.  This is a huge step closer to bringing vultures back from the brink of extinction.”

Veterinary diclofenac caused an unprecedented decline in the three species South Asia’s Gyps vulture populations – White-rumped, the long-billed and the slender-billed vulture. Oriental white-backed vultures declined by more than 99.9% between 1992 and 2007, with the loss of tens of millions of individuals.

After years of campaigning by conservationists, the governments of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan banned veterinary formulations of diclofenac between 2006 and 2010. Recently, experts have recorded a slowing of Gyps vulture declines as a result of the bans. However, human formulations of diclofenac are still widely available and illegally used to treat livestock, the carcasses of which are the main food source for vultures in South Asia.

The RSPB is a member of SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction), which is a consortium of international organisations created to oversee and co-ordinate conservation, campaigning and fundraising activities to help the plight of South Asia’s vultures.  Since it was created, SAVE has requested pharmaceutical companies to cease production of the large vials of human formulations of diclofenac, which, at 30ml, are ten times the size of the dose required to treat a human (i.e., 3ml).  Only three companies voluntarily ceased manufacture ahead of this regulation, while more than 70 in India ignored the requests. Health professionals do not think that the banning of large vials poses any significant threat for the legitimate use of diclofenac in treating humans.

Vibhu Prakash, a scientist from the Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife in India) said, “Probably the most important step in vulture conservation since diclofenac’s ban for veterinary use in 2006, this latest announcement shows how much progress has been made. But there is still a job to do to make sure that safe alternative drugs are used.  Unfortunately, many alternatives, like ketoprofen, are not vulture-safe and more remain untested. In fact, there is only one vulture-safe alternative – meloxicam.”

Meloxicam is becoming more widely used now that the cost to manufacture it has been reduced by lifting its patent in South Asia.  However, other drugs known to be toxic or with unknown effects remain legal and are still being used.

Closer to home, an Italian company was, incredibly, given the green light to produce diclofenac for the Italian and Spanish veterinary markets, eight years after India’s first ban on the drug. Vultures inhabit both countries and feed on livestock carcasses, some of which will be treated with diclofenac. Vulture conservationists fear that this will cause declines in Europe’s vultures similar to that seen in South Asia. However, these fears have not been taken seriously by the European Medicines Agency who did not advise a European Union-wide ban on diclofenac.

Toby Galligan, RSPB Vulture Research scientist, said: “Again the government of India has made a strong decision to protect its vultures. Something that Europe has failed to do. It is truly shameful.”

SAVE is working to stop veterinary use of diclofenac by advocating vulture conservation to governments and raising awareness of alternative drugs that are just as effective in treating cattle to veterinarians and livestock owners.  While these issues are being tackled in situ, SAVE has established captive breeding populations of vultures at centres in India, Nepal and Pakistan. The birds will be released to supplement surviving wild populations, but only when it is safe to do so.

Indian caecilians threatened by traffic


This music video from California in the USA says about itself:

Caecilian Cotillion

21 April 2014

Celebrating the 200th known species of caecilian (it’s Ichthyophis multicolor from Myanmar), another AmphibiaWeb song by the Wiggly Tendrils (supported by the California Academy of Sciences).

Download the song here at the Wiggly Tendrils’ Bandcamp.

From the Navhind Times in India:

Environmentalists concerned over rise in caecilian deaths on roads

July 21, 2015

SANKHALI: Environmentalists have rued the rise in number of caecilians that are killed by speeding vehicles on roads in Chorla Ghat area. Chorla Ghat comes under the jurisdictions of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka states and is home to many varieties of caecilians. Every year during monsoon season a large number of caecilians cross the road and come under the vehicles, observed environmentalists.

Well-known caecilian expert and wild-lifer associated with Bombay Natural History Society Doter Varadagiri said, “The Chorla Ghat region is rich in caecilian diversity. There is a need to study the unknown facets of their life.”

Gajanan Shetye, a volunteer of Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade said that they find many caecilian carcasses on the road. Nirmal Kulkarni, a wild lifer associated with Mhadei Research Centre, who was instrumental in discovering three species of caecilians, said, “Caecilians are important since they play important role in enriching soil nutrients and increasing its fertility.”

Good tiger news from Thailand


This video from India says about itself:

Tiger (Panthera tigris) in water pool during hot dry summer

13 February 2013

The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to 3.3 metres (11 ft) and weighing up to 306 kg (670 lb). It is the third largest land carnivore (behind only the Polar bear and the Brown bear).

Its most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underside. It has exceptionally stout teeth, and the canines are the longest among living felids with a crown height of as much as 74.5 mm (2.93 in) or even 90 mm (3.5 in).

In zoos, tigers have lived for 20 to 26 years, which also seems to be their longevity in the wild. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. This, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on Earth, has caused significant conflicts with humans.

After bad tiger news from Thailand, some better news.

From Mongabay.com:

Tigers expanding? Conservationists discover big cats in Thai park

Jeremy Hance

June 04, 2015

For the first time conservationists have confirmed Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti) in Thailand’s Chaloem Ratanakosin National Park. In January, camera traps used by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Thailand’s Department of National Parks took a photo of a tigress, confirming what had only been rumors. A couple months later the camera traps photographed a male tiger in the same park.

At 59 square kilometers, Chaloem Ratanakosin National Park is one of the smallest protected areas in the regions. But it is a part of Thailand’s vast and sprawling Western Forest Conservation Complex (WEFCOM), which is covers an area of 18,000 square kilometers—about the size of Fiji. WEFCOM is made up of 11 national parks and six wildlife refuges, and is considered one of the largest forests left in Southeast Asia.

The photos of tigers in Chaloem Ratanakosin National Park may be a sign that the species is expanding its range in the protected area complex.

“It’s great to have real evidence that tigers are found in a greater area of the WEFCOM than previously thought,” said Kittiwara Siripattaranukul, Tiger Project Manager at ZSL, based in Thailand. “Until now, there have only been unconfirmed reports of tigers in the area, but to capture photographs that prove their presence is really encouraging. We hope that the region will become a new territory for tigers.”

The IUCN estimates that there are only 202-352 Indochinese tigers left across possibly five countries: Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Thailand is believed to house the vast majority of these tigers with 185 to 200 individuals. Tigers have long persisted in the northern section of WEFCOM—with a population of 150-plus in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary—but this is one of the first documentations of the top predators in the south. Experts believe WEFCOM could one day house as many as 2,000 tigers.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, WEFCOM is also home to 150 mammals, 490 birds, 90 reptiles, 40 amphibians, and 108 fish species.

Classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, tigers are down to only about 2,500 animals in the wild. Their populations have been relentlessly punished by deforestation, poaching for traditional medicine, human-wildlife conflict, and prey decline. But tigers have also been the recipients of some of the largest conservation funds—and efforts—ever from both wildlife NGOs and governments.

Largest colony of olive ridley turtles discovered in Gabon


This video says about itself:

28 July 2010

An Olive Ridley Turtle lays eggs on a moonlit night at Rushikuliya beach in Orissa, India. Feel privileged to view this rare insight into the private life of the Ridley Turtle!

The Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific Ridley, is one of the smallest species of sea turtle. It is named for the olive-green color of its heart-shaped shell. Costa Rica is the one of the most important nesting sites. Ostional Beach in Guanacaste Province has the highest monthly concentration of these turtles. The “arribadas”—mass arrival and nesting—occur every month. October and November features the highest nesting rates (approximately 200 turtles per hour).

‘This clip of professionally-shot broadcast stock footage belongs to the archive of Wilderness Films India Ltd., and has been filmed on either Digital Betacam or 1080i HD.

From Wildlife Extra:

The Atlantic’s largest turtle breeding colony has been discovered

The central African country Gabon is providing an invaluable nesting ground for a vulnerable species of sea turtle considered a regional conservation priority say scientists from the University of Exeter

The scientists surveyed almost 600 km of Gabon’s coastline and uncovered the largest breeding colony of olive ridley turtles in the Atlantic. The results suggest that Gabon hosts the most important rookery for this species in the Atlantic, with estimates indicating that there could be up to 9,800 turtle nests per year compared with around 3,300 in French Guiana and 3,000 in Brazil.

Olive ridley turtles are one of the smallest of the sea turtles and are named for the greenish colour of their shell and skin. Although considered the most abundant of the marine turtles, there has been a net decline in the global numbers of the species, such that they are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Although a considerable proportion of nesting occurs within protected areas in Gabon, a range of illegal activities and external pressures continue to exist highlighting the need for continued conservation efforts.

Dr Kristian Metcalfe, lead author from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC) at the University of Exeter said: “Conservation efforts for sea turtles can be hampered by their migratory life cycles, which carry them across jurisdictional boundaries and international waters. That makes this first population assessment which covered extensive areas of Gabon’s coast outside of monitored regions all the more valuable and worthwhile, and demonstrates the importance of focusing beyond intensively monitored beaches”.

The data generated as part of this study was used to inform the development of a new network of marine protected areas covering nearly a quarter of Gabon’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Even after long years of nesting monitoring, there are still things that surprise us all. For the first time on Vamizi Island in Mozambique, on the turtle monitoring project that started over 10 years ago, four albino green turtle hatchlings were found on the island’s most successful nesting beach, two of which were still alive. What was even more interesting about these hatchlings, was their red eyes (lack of pigmentation), a common consequence of albinism: here.

Indian villagers protect rare bats


This video says about itself:

Vampire bats nesting in a cave – Expedition Guyana – BBC

1 April 2010

Canopy expert Justine Evans goes in search of red howler monkeys but instead comes across a group of animals with a fearsome reputation – vampire bats nesting in a cave deep in the forest.

From PTI news agency in India:

Meghalaya hamlet dedicates forest for conservation of bats

Pynurkba: A tiny hamlet in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district has dedicated its forest for the conservation of an extremely rare Wroughton’s free-tailed bats, considered to be a critically endangered species.

The decision in this regard was taken last month when the village elders were informed of the presence of these extremely rare bats, who are facing loss of habitat due to human encroachment, in their forests.

“The village council decided to declare ‘sacred’ a small forest which is roughly about one square kilometer for the conservation of these bat species,” Pynurkba village secretary Phillip Rymbai told PTI.

The decision followed after a long negotiation with the elders of the village because the forest belongs to the community and not a protected area of the government.

Conservation agencies have lauded the decision of the village and urged the state government to recognize the importance of such an initiative and call for rewarding those at the village with conservation schemes and livelihood programmes.

Though there are three caves in Lakadong area that these bats have made them their homes, biologist and researcher D K B Mukhim said the bat clusters at Pynurkba is the largest with over 55 individual bats spotted lately.

First discovered in 1913, these bats are confined to the Western Ghats area of the country and in a remote part of Cambodia besides the colonies here which were discovered last year, according to the researcher.

The cave is located inside a forest here where another mystery shrouds two streams flows directly into the cave and then disappear.

Locals have it that the cave is haunted and hence left undisturbed for years but biologists believe it won’t be too long before the habitat is destroyed.

“Their haunted stories have in a way helped conservation of the cave and its bio-diversity including the Wroughton’s free-tailed bat species in their caves,” Mukhim said.

The Meghalaya Adventurers Association (MAA) which is organizing expeditions to identify new caves in the south-western parts of the Jaintia Hills is also pleading for conservation of these habitats which are also home to many other life forms.

MAA chairman Brian Dally said at least 1,540 caves have been recorded and surveys are being done every year to help discover more caves.

Cavers have surveyed and mapped over 411 km cave formations in the state, one of the longest in the Indian sub-continent.

First Published: Sunday, June 7, 2015 – 11:26