Save jaguars in Mexico


This 2014 video is called The jaguar [full documentary].

From Wildlife Extra:

Mexico signs historic agreement to protect jaguars

The Mexican government has signed an historic agreemant with global wild cat conservation organisation, Panthera, to work towards the protection of jaguars.

Senator Gabriela Cuevas, President of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Mexican Senate, led a group of senators in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Panthera’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Alan Rabinowitz.

Panthera will work with the Senate, academia, and non-governmental organisations in Mexico to raise awareness of the importance of conserving jaguars in the country and assist in the implementation of science-based conservation actions.

The jaguar is an historic icon in Mexico, but their range throughout the country has been reduced in recent years by over 50% leaving them in danger of extinction through habitat destruction, which has led to a decline in their prey. They have also been victims of poaching.

The Mexican government will formulate an official recovery plan for jaguars and Panthera will develop a plan to work alongside existing jaguar conservation activities in the country, and to implement similar measures as those that are currently employed in 13 other Latin American countries which are part of Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative (JCI).

At the signing, Senator Cuevas said: “The jaguar is a symbol of the culture and history of Mexico. It is the most representative American feline and is emblematic of biodiversity and conservation of species.

“Rarely are such diverse causes intertwined with so many issues, ranging from foreign affairs and protection of the environment, to climate change, education and agriculture.”

Alan Rabinowitz said: “We are thrilled to join forces with the Senate and to contribute to the protection and conservation of the jaguar and the corridors between their populations in Mexico.

“Mexico is the northern border for the distribution of jaguars and maintaining connectivity between populations of jaguars is vital for the survival of the jaguar and the biodiversity that lives within these areas.

“We hope to collaborate with Mexican biologists, legislators, academics, government agencies, and non-governmental organisations dedicated to conservation, and to complement and enhance their efforts to promote the protection of this majestic feline.”

Jaguars currently inhabit 18 countries in Latin America, from Mexico through Central and South America to Argentina, and occasionally in the United States.

Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative (JCI) comprises nearly six million square kilometers through a mosaic of environments within these countries.

The JCI seeks to connect and protect jaguar populations, especially those that live and move through landscapes dominated by humans, helping to maintain genetic diversity and thus increase the long-term survival of this species.

Panthera researchers are exploring possibilities to establish a long-term study in the states of Guerrero, Michoacan and Colima, in order to have a more precise understanding of the distribution of jaguars and their prey. Mexico’s signing represents Panthera’s eighth jaguar conservation agreement with Latin American countries.

Russian gray whale Varvara, longest mammal migration


This video from the USa is called Gray Whale Migration.

From Treehugger.com:

Longest mammal migration ever recorded measures in at 14,000 miles

Melissa Breyer

April 16, 2015

And the remarkable journey is raising questions about the status of a critically endangered whale species.

In a study using satellite-monitored tags to track three western gray whales, a team of U.S. and Russian researchers recorded a stunning round-trip trek of 14,000 miles. The trio traveled from their primary feeding ground off of Sakhalin Island in Russia across the Pacific Ocean and down the west coast of California to Baja, Mexico and back home again.

One of the whales, dubbed Varvara by the scientists, visited the three major breeding areas for eastern gray whales, which are found off North America.

For a long time it was believed that western gray whales had gone extinct, but a small group was discovered in Russia off Sakhalin Island; they now number around 150 individuals and have been monitored by scientists from Russia and the U.S. since the 1990s. Meanwhile, populations of eastern gray whales were also in a tight spot, but conservation efforts have brought them back – today they are believed to have a population of some 18,000.

But here’s why Varvara’s visit to the eastern gray whales is interesting. Not all experts believe that the two species are in fact distinct, separate species. A number of scientists have proposed that western and eastern gray whale populations are not isolated and that the gray whales found in Russian waters are a part of an eastern population that is restoring its former range.

“The fact that endangered western gray whales have such a long range and interact with eastern gray whales was a surprise and leaves a lot of questions up in the air,” said Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “Past studies have indicated genetic differentiation between the species, but this suggests we may need to take a closer look.”

“The ability of the whales to navigate across open water over tremendously long distances is impressive and suggests that some western gray whales might actually be eastern grays,” Mate said. “But that doesn’t mean that there may not be some true western gray whales remaining.

He adds, “If so, then the number of true western gray whales is even smaller than we previously thought.”

Does this spell doom for the western whales? Protecting them has proven challenging. Five western grays have perished in Japanese fishing nets within the last 10 years and their feeding grounds off Japan and Russia include fishing areas, shipping corridors, and oil and gas production – as well as future sites oil sites. But with this new research, hopefully fresh data and visibility will inspire some momentum in conservation efforts. With so few of these wandering giants left, and maybe even fewer than we thought, the time is now.

Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, new book


This video says about itself:

7 May 2012

Leonora Carrington (born April 6, 1917 in Clayton Green, South Lancaster, Lancashire, England) is a British-born artist, a surrealist painter and while living in Mexico, a novelist.

Her father was a wealthy industrialist, her mother was Irish. She also had an Irish nanny, Mary Cavanaugh, who told her Gaelic tales. Leonora had three brothers. Places she lived as a child included a house called Crooksey Hall.

Educated by governesses, tutors and nuns, she was expelled from many schools for her rebellious behavior until her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose’s Academy of Art. Her father was opposed to an artist’s career for her, but her mother encouraged her.

By Paul Simon in Britain:

Gripping tale of woman artist’s fights and flights

Thursday 19th March 2015

Leonora by Elena Poniatowska (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99)

RENOWNED Mexican novelist Elena Poniatowska has crafted a mightily expansive and breathlessly fictionalised biography — a “free approximation” as she terms it — of Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, whose story is one of a constant but very individualised fight and flight rebellions against the expectations of her upper-class family.

Carrington died in 2011 and in this work, translated by Amanda Hopkinson, Poniatowska has ensured that the woman behind the paintings can be fully appreciated and understood.

The daughter of the owner of Imperial Chemical, Carrington was expelled from an endless number of educational institutions for insubordination but was still on the conveyor belt of presentation at court and a soulless marriage before fleeing to Paris and freedom.

There she took up with Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Peggy Guggenheim and others who made up the artistically fissiparous but financially astute Surrealists.

The book pivots around her love affair with the intoxicating, disloyal and rather weak Ernst as they escaped Paris for the south, before he was arrested as an alien in the weeks before France fell to the nazis.

There is a vivid description of the distraught and raging Carrington being smuggled out of the country and into Francoist Spain, where she suffered a breakdown and subsequent imprisonment and medical torture in a Santander asylum.

Well-connected friends helped her resume her life and painting, but without Ernst.

He’d been released and found a new love, firstly in New York and then in Mexico where Carrington spent the rest of her life, and where the author built up a long-term and observant friendship with her.

So this is first and foremost a book about one woman’s constant need for flight and exile in the face of circumstances beyond her control.

It is also a testament to her resistance to, and curious intoxication with, the controlling presence of men — her father, Ernst and her posh-boy patron Edward James included. Carrington emerges as a fragile but determined survivor, eclectically alighting on new ideas — everything from Jung to the Kabbalah but without really engaging in the material realities around her.

She was certainly vehemently anti-nazi when directly threatened but, as with most of the bitchy Surrealists, she failed to recognise the broader class struggles taking place whether in Spain in the 1930s or later in Mexico as the government brutally attacked protesters in the run-up to the 1968 Olympics.

Yet her utter need for freedom, gloriously expressed in her paintings, makes her a vital and influential artistic figure.

Monarch butterfly news


This video is called Monarch Mania! Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle.

From mongabay.com:

Monarch butterfly population rises a little, but still perilously low

Jeremy Hance

January 28, 2015

The world’s migrating monarch butterfly population has bounced back slightly from its record low last year, but the new numbers are still the second smallest on record. According to WWF-Mexico and the Mexican government, butterflies covered 2.79 acres (1.13 hectares) in nine colonies this year in the Mexican forests where the insects overwinter. This is a 69 percent increase from last year’s nadir of just 1.65 acres (0.67 hectares), however, the new numbers remain hugely concerning.

“The population increase is welcome news, but the monarch must reach a much larger population size to be able to bounce back from ups and downs,” said researcher Tierra Curry with the Center for Biological Diversity, adding that “this much-loved butterfly still needs Endangered Species Act protection to ensure that it’s around for future generations.”

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would consider adding the vanishing insect under the country’s Endangered Species Act. Currently, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is not at risk of extinction, but its migration is. Monarch butterflies in the Eastern U.S. are famous for their epic migration spanning some 1,900 to 4,500 kilometers (1,200 to 2,800 miles) from Canada to the mountains of central Mexico every year. Each migration takes several monarch generations to complete, often three to four.

In the 1990s—when scientists first started counting the area filled by migrating monarch butterflies in Mexico—the overwintering habitat never dipped below 13 acres (five hectares). The largest population covered 44.95 acres (18.19 hectares) in 1993. But the trend over the last decade has been one of extensive decline, with various rises and falls.

A decade ago, conservationists were largely concerned with deforestation and illegal logging in Mexico’s overwintering forests. However, due to work by indigenous groups, locals, and the Mexican government that threat has been largely neutralized, at least for the time being. Today the biggest threat is the loss of food and habitat across the U.S. and Canada due to herbicides and increasingly intensified agriculture.

According to WWF, herbicide use in the U.S. for soy and corn killed off 58 percent of the country’s milkweed from 1999 to 2010, resulting in a monarch decline of 81 percent. The development of genetically modified crops has exacerbated the situation as these crops are resistant to the popular herbicide, Roundup. However, Roundup and other herbicides containing glyphosate decimate milkweed populations. Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed solely on milkweed, meaning the species requires a road of milkweed from Canada through Eastern and Central U.S. down to Mexico in order to survive. But agriculture policy in the last couple decades, especially in the U.S., has resulted in a massively fragmented milkweed route.

“The 2.79 acres occupied by monarchs this winter should serve as additional motivation for the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to translate the commitment they made in Mexico in February 2014, to concrete and immediate actions,” said Omar Vidal, Director General of WWF-Mexico. “It is crucial that we restore and protect the habitat of this iconic species in all three countries, but above all that we limit the use of herbicide and land conversion in the United States and maintain efforts to avoid deforestation in Mexico.”

Conservationists say that planting milkweed in gardens may benefit the monarch, however gardeners must plant the right variety of milkweed and make sure the milkweed hasn’t been coated with a popular insecticide in the neonicotinoid family. Research has shown that neonicotinoids may harm pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Monarch butterflies aren’t the only pollinators in trouble, many of the world’s pollinators have undergone drastic declines in recent decades. Experts point to possible impacts such as pesticides, habitat loss, and disease.

For monarch butterflies, loss of migration means more disease: here.

Monsanto’s Roundup system threatens extinction of monarch butterflies – report.

Burrowing owls flying from Montana to Mexico


This video from the USA is called Burrowing Owl Family with 5 Owlets.

From the Billings Gazette in the USA:

Burrowing owls flew almost 2,000 miles, study finds

By Brett French

Just like retirees traveling south to escape the snowy winter, two female burrowing owls have been documented traveling almost 2,000 miles to central Mexico from Eastern Montana for the first time.

“Now we’re learning more about how incredible these birds are,” said David Johnson, of the Global Owl Project.

Last year, GLOW fitted 30 burrowing owls in the Northwest and Canada — including three from the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana — with tiny backpacks containing satellite transmitters. The devices track their migration routes and destinations in an attempt to give researchers insight into the birds’ population decline.

No one has completed a survey to arrive at a population number for the birds in Montana, according to Steve Huffman, executive director of Montana Audubon. “If you polled a bunch of owl experts, though, you’d probably find the range of the species is declining and Montana is no exception to that,” he said.

In Canada the bird is listed as an endangered species because of “habitat loss and fragmentation, road kills, pesticides, food shortage, fewer burrow providers and mortality on migration and wintering areas,” according to Parks Canada.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lists the bird as “potentially at risk because of limited and/or declining numbers, range and/or habitat, even though it may be abundant in some areas.” The Forest Service and BLM consider the owl a sensitive species.

With its burrowing owl migration study, Johnson said GLOW is hoping to keep the birds off the endangered species list in the United States by developing conservation strategies.

Unique bird

Burrowing owls date back in the fossil record millions of years, Johnson said. They may be one of the very few birds to nest underground, an adaptation to their prairie home where few trees exist.

Instead, the birds use abandoned badger, swift fox and prairie dog dens to nest in, often as far as 10 feet underground to escape the reach of predators like coyotes.

The owls are small, averaging about 9.5 inches long with 21-inch wingspans and tipping the scales at only 5 ounces. In addition to bugs, the owls will eat small mammals like mice and voles, birds, reptiles and snakes.

Most of the owls live about five to six years. The females migrate south around October to stay healthy for the spring breeding season when they return north. The exception is California’s burrowing owls, which reside there year-round.

“One of the things I’ve learned is how incredibly tough these birds are,” Johnson said.

When initially fitted with transmitters, the antenna was made of 70-pound test fishing line. The birds chewed through that, so Teflon tubing was substituted for the line. The satellite transmitters are expensive, costing $3,500 apiece, but they provide a clearer picture of the birds’ migration.

Every 48 hours the solar-charged devices turn on for 10 hours and send a signal every minute before going silent for another 48 hours. From these transmissions, Johnson has learned that the birds travel about 100 to 200 miles in a night, averaging 30 mph.

“When they migrate it seems to be pretty darn direct,” he said. “They don’t waste time.”

CMR biologist Randy Matchett watched the migration data pop up on his computer screen, impressing him with the birds’ speed and ability to fly high. Although the transmitters don’t contain an altimeter, it was evident by their route that the owls were flying over 10,000-foot peaks, he said.

“Everyone knows birds migrate long distances, but it is kind of neat to watch it alive in real time,” Matchett said.

Johnson said one of the surprises GLOW discovered when tagging some burrowing owls in Oregon was that a male flew north, rather than south, for the winter.

“The male’s goal was to go someplace to tough it out and get the best burrow” for the following spring’s mating season, Johnson said. “As the males get older, they get tougher.”

Newer gear

The satellite transmitters are a big step up from the old technology. As far back as 1912, ornithologists captured and placed numbered bands on birds to try to track them. Trouble is, the bands could only be recovered if the bird was recaptured or found dead, and they were no help in identifying migration routes.

Bands were more recently replaced by tiny light-sensitive monitors that could track the duration of sunlight hitting them, giving researchers an indication of where the birds had gone based on the length of days at different latitudes. The transmitters are relatively inexpensive — about $200 — compared to satellite trackers, but again they gave only a vague indication of migration routes and the birds had to be recaptured to recover the data.

The more expensive satellite transmitters – which weigh in at 6 grams compared to 3.2 grams for the ambient light geolocators – track the birds’ location within 150 meters, the battery’s voltage and the temperature. The units also have small solar cells to recharge the battery.

“It’s amazing it works at all, actually,” Johnson said.

Southbound

The Montana owls migrated south by traveling east of the Rocky Mountains to north of Mexico City. One has settled northeast of Guadalajara and the other is in the state of Durango. The third Montana owl was found dead before it left, possibly dinner for a predator.

Off the 22 GLOW-tagged owls that started their migration in October, 17 are now in Mexico. By March or April, the urge to fly north should send them migrating again.

“Now we’ll wait to see how they come back,” Johnson said.

Showing just how amazing the birds are, in 2013 a burrowing owl captured near Baker, Ore., came back to the exact same burrow after wintering south of San Francisco.

As a follow-up to the satellite transmissions, Johnson said GLOW will be examining the habitat conditions where the owls are wintering.

The study of owls has been a personal mission for the 58-year-old Johnson since a screech owl landed on his tent when he was an 11-year-old boy in Minnesota.

“It called for 20 minutes. Ever since then I’ve seen owls as close friends,” he said. “So I say I didn’t pick owls, they picked me.”

Since 1976 he’s been working on owl projects full time.

“I’m going to work on conservation of owls till my last breath,” he said. “Because the more I’ve studied and observed them, the more impassioned I’ve become.”

Monarch butterfly migration news


This video, in Spanish is about the Sierra Gorda nature reserve in Mexico.

From the World Land Trust:

Monarch Butterflies appear in large numbers in Sierra Gorda

27 November, 2014 – 12:51

Although three weeks late, Monarch Butterflies have started to appear all over Sierra Gorda, stopping off on their long migration to the fir forests further south.

Roberto Pedraza, Technical Officer of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, World Land Trust’s (WLT) conservation partner in Mexico took this photograph on 22 November 2014.

He told us: “As you know, Monarch Butterflies are extremely endangered thanks to logging, government ‘protected areas’ that aren’t protected, and industrialised agriculture in the US and Canada.”

Roberto found the big group of the butterflies in the highlands of Sierra Gorda. There were so many of them that the branches of the cedar were bowing under the weight.

He noticed that they had returned to the same place that he remembered them visiting when he was a child.

“When I was young, the oak branches bent under the weight of the butterflies. Now there is a cedar in the same spot, and the same oaks with some butterflies. Unfortunately they are nothing compared with their former numbers, but it’s amazing how they ‘remember’ their wintering grounds in central Mexico, and the good spots to have a nap and a rest during the long journey.”

Traditionally Monarch Butterflies arrive in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on the first two days of November, and according to Mexican folklore they are said to represent the souls of the dead.

More information

WLT has funded land purchase and conservation in Sierra Gorda since 2007. You can help save more habitat for Monarch Butterflies by making a donation to WLT’s Buy an Acre appeal.

Young hammerhead sharks, new research


This video is called Shark Academy: Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered juvenile sharks migrate into unprotected waters

The movements of a young female Hammerhead Shark have been tracked for the first time, revealing vulnerable gaps in the present protection plans.

Hammerhead Sharks are listed as threatened with the IUCN and numbers have declined by more than 90 percent in some parts of the world, particularly Scalloped Hammerhead sharks, found in the Gulf of California, Mexico.

These are susceptible to being caught by fishing nets while moving into the open sea, but little information exists on their exact movements, especially those of juvenile sharks as they go through the critical period of adolescence.

Current protection plans prohibit commercial fishing from large vessels within 50 nautical miles of the coast. However, findings from this study reveals the young sharks venture into the open seas to fish, meaning they are still vulnerable to being caught in fishing nets.

Researchers from the Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas, Mexico and the University of California, Davis, USA tagged three live juvenile hammerhead sharks in Mexico’s Gulf of California so they could be tracked through adolescence.

The results of one of these tags, which was downloaded after fishermen caught one of the sharks, revealed the female shark travelled 3,350 km, and helped pinpoint potential key sites needing protection.

She was found to swim within a school of fellow hammerheads at an offshore island during the day, but migrated away at night, diving to greater depths to feed on fish and squid, sometimes as deep as 270m.

This behaviour, the scientists believe, maximises her foraging opportunities and continuing growth, and partially explains the early migration of this juvenile female to off-shore waters for richer food. Scalloped Hammerhead Shark pups have high metabolic rates and as they grow older require higher ration levels to fulfil their energetic needs.

Study author Mauricio Hoyos from Pelagios Kakunjá (a Mexican NGO) said “The key to protecting this species is detecting their nursery grounds and protecting them in their more vulnerable stages. This is the first time ever that we have an idea of the behaviour of this life stage in this zone and this information will be important to design management plans to protect this species in Mexico.”

The research suggests that juvenile female hammerheads are trading off the risks of greater exposure to predators in the open sea, with better food sourcing opportunities.

However their ventures to the open sea means current management measures for sharks set by the Mexican government may not be sufficient for the conservation of this species.

This new information highlights hammerhead sharks may still be in danger, due to their use of both coastal and offshore waters during early life stages. The researchers say that coastal nursery grounds and offshore refuge areas for scalloped hammerheads are therefore critical habitats where protected marine reserves should be sited.

Study author James Ketchum from Pelagios Kakunjá (a Mexican NGO) said: “For the first time, we’ve seen the shift from a coastal-inhabiting juvenile to a migratory adolescent that remains mostly offshore in order to maximise growth and reproductive potential. Because of their dependence on both coastal and offshore waters during their early life-stages, we think that they may be more susceptible to fisheries than previously thought, and current protective measures in Mexico may unfortunately be insufficient.”