South American bears need water


This 2016 video says about itself:

The Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, is sometimes called the Paddington bear, after the fictional bear in children’s books written by Michael Bond. The spectacled bear is the only bear species in South America, and its numbers are dwindling. In Peru, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, has set aside land as a rescue center for the bears.

From San Diego Zoo Global in the USA:

Bear necessities: New study highlights importance of water resources for Andean bears

January 15, 2019

A new study is shedding light on the importance of one critical resource for Andean bears living in the dry mountain forests of Peru: water. The study — a collaboration between the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and San Diego Zoo Global, with assistance from the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society-Peru — found that Andean bears focus much of their tree-rubbing behavior on shrubs and trees that are located on trails near water holes. Bears typically bite, claw and rub their body parts on trees, which is believed to be an important form of communication with other bears in the region. The discovery that this behavior occurs near water holes could have implications for future conservation programs.

“It may seem obvious that water holes would be an important resource for Andean bears living in tropical dry forests — however, these results suggest that water holes are significant not just as sources of drinking water, but also as important sites where bears communicate with one another,” said Russ Van Horn, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global scientist. “Because water holes are often the focus of activity by humans and their livestock, conservation planners will need to balance the interests of people and Andean bears in future programs.”

A paper detailing results of the study, recently published in the journal Ursus, reported that while Andean bears didn’t show a particular preference for tree-rubbing species, the locations of rubbed trees and shrubs were concentrated on trails near water holes. In the tropical dry forests of Peru, water is a relatively rare, albeit critical resource. Consequently, since livestock in the area also make use of water resources, conflicts may result between humans and bears.

This study is part of a larger effort by San Diego Zoo Global researchers and local partners to better understand Andean bear behavior and ecology. Andean bears are considered an umbrella species in the region, meaning that conservation programs aimed at protecting Andean bears will indirectly benefit other species in the Andes Mountains.

Andean bears are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They are native to the Andean countries of South America, and are sometimes known as spectacled bears because of white or light fur around their eyes. San Diego Zoo Global has been working with local partners to research and protect Andean bears in Peru. Andean bear habitat is being lost at a rate of about 2 to 4 percent per year as it is destroyed for mining operations, farming and timber harvest. The construction of new roads also fragments bear habitat. In addition, climate change is altering the bear’s habitat in unpredictable ways. Andean bears now primarily live in dense mountain forests, making the species difficult to study. The dry tropical forest where this study occurred is more open than other kinds of Peruvian forests, making field research easier.

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Young giant otters’ swimming lesson


This video from Peru says about itself:

Otter Cubs Get a Swimming Lesson | BBC Earth

These six baby giant otters have one of their swimming lessons, an otter‘s number one skill for survival.

Giant otters and piranhas in Peru


This 22 July 2018 BBC video says about itself:

Giant otters love fishing and eating piranha – but how do they catch them without being bitten?

Giant otters are one of the toughest creatures in the Amazon jungle. Not only are they living in a lake in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon, but they are also surrounded by three hundred black caiman, anaconda, jaguar and puma. Diablo the giant otter also has six unruly pups to keep from harm, and educate in the ways of the jungle. This otter dad certainly has his paws full. Leading wildlife cameraman Charlie Hamilton-James follows the family in their remarkable location over the course of a whole season, through their ups, downs, and the start of a new generation of otters.

LED lights can save seabirds’ lives


This 2016 video sdays about itself:

This mini-documentary explores the astounding seabird colonies of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The tiny islands of the Chagos Archipelago are havens for nesting birds, and a precious resource in the vastness of the Indian Ocean. Stewart McPherson was given rare access to visit several islands of the Territory to document the astounding diversity of birds that call this remote corner of the Indian Ocean home. In this film, we follow conservation efforts that aim to clear the islands of invasive rodents and coconut palms to allow the natural bird numbers to recover.

From the University of Exeter in England:

LED lights reduce seabird death toll from fishing by 85 percent

July 11, 2018

Illuminating fishing nets with low-cost lights could reduce the terrible impact they have on seabirds and marine-dwellers by more than 85 per cent, new research has shown.

A team of international researchers, led by Dr Jeffrey Mangel from the University of Exeter, has shown the number of birds caught in gillnets can be drastically reduced by attaching green battery-powered light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

For the study, the researchers compared 114 pairs of gillnets — which are anchored in fixed positions at sea and designed to snare fish by the gills — in fishing waters off the coast of Peru.

They discovered that the nets fitted with the LEDs caught 85 per cent fewer guanay cormorants — a native diving bird that commonly becomes entangled in nets — compared with those without lights.

Coupled with previous research conducted by the same team, that showed LED lighting also reduced the number of sea turtles caught in fishing nets by 64 per cent, the researchers believe the lights offer a cheap, reliable and durable way to dramatically reduce the capture and death of birds and turtles, without reducing the intended catch of fish.

The research is published in the Royal Society journal Open Science on Wednesday, July 11 2018.

Lead author Dr Mangel, from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University’s Penryn Campus, said: “We are very encouraged by the results from this study.

“It shows us that we may be able to find cost-effective ways to reduce bycatch of multiple taxa of protected species, and do so while still making it possible for fishers to earn a livelihood.”

Peru’s gillnet fleet comprises the largest component of the nation’s small-scale fleet and is conservatively estimated to set 100,000km of net per year in which thousands of turtles and seabirds will die as “bycatch” or unintentionally.

The innovative study, carried out in Sechura Bay in northern Peru, saw the LED lights attached at regular intervals to commercial fishing gillnets which are anchored to the bottom of the water. The nets are left in situ from late afternoon until sunlight, when the fishermen collect their haul.

The researchers used 114 pairs of nets, each typically around 500-metres in length. In each pair, one was illuminated with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) placed every ten metres along the gillnet floatline. The other net in the pair was the control and not illuminated.

The control nets caught 39 cormorants, while the illuminated nets caught just six.

A previous study, using the same LED technology, showed they also reduced the number of sea turtles also caught in gillnets. Multiple populations of sea turtle species use Peruvian coastal waters as foraging grounds including green, olive ridley, hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherback.

For that study, the researchers found that the control nets caught 125 green turtles while illuminated nets caught 62. The target catch of guitarfish was unaffected by the net illumination. They are now working with larger fisheries in Peru and with different coloured lights to see if the results can be repeated and applied with more critically endangered species.

Professor Brendan Godley, who is an author of the study and Marine Strategy Lead for the University of Exeter, said: “It is satisfying to see the work coming from our Exeter Marine PhDs leading to such positive impact in the world. We need to find ways for coastal peoples to fish with the least impact on the rest of the biodiversity in their seas.”

Amazonian birds helping each other


This 2016 video says about itself:

Wingbeats to the Amazon – The Secrets of Nature

Flourishing in the wilds of South America is a greater variety of birds than anywhere else on Earth. Like its people, the continent’s birds are unique and flamboyant.

From San Francisco State University in the USA:

Amazonian ‘lookout’ birds help other species live in dangerous neighborhoods

Study could inform rainforest bird conservation

May 22, 2018

Usually, birds of a feather flock together — but in the Amazon, some flocks feature dozens of species of all shapes and colors. A new study by San Francisco State University biologists singles out one reason why these unusually diverse flocks exist: lookout species that call in alarm when they spot dangerous predators.

Researchers have pondered the existence of these mixed-species flocks for decades, especially because of their stability. “You come back to the same habitat after 20 years, and the same flocks are using the same areas of the forest”, explained San Francisco State Professor of Biology Vance Vredenburg. “It defies a lot of expectations.”

But scientists did have a few clues. One ubiquitous group of flock members are species whose calls alert their neighbors to the presence of threats like hawks or falcons. “People have thought for a while that maybe these ‘sentinels’ promote the ability of other species to use risky parts of the forest”, said lead author Ari Martinez, who was a postdoctoral researcher at SF State during the study. By opening up new habitat to their neighbors, they might also bring together species that would normally flock on their own.

To put that idea to the test, the team captured alarm-calling dusky-throated antshrikes (Thamnomanes ardesiacus) from eight mixed-species flocks in southeastern Peru and kept each bird in an aviary for several days.

After the team removed the antshrikes, birds in each flock responded in a matter of hours. In three flocks, birds retreated to areas of denser cover at the same vertical level in the forest, while in another the members joined new flocks high in the canopy, another area that affords more cover from predators. Birds in control flocks, where the researchers captured antshrikes but immediately released them, tended to stay out in the open. The team reported their results today in the journal Ecology.

The results support the idea that alarm-calling species might allow their neighbors to live in dangerous neighborhoods. “These flocks occupy a middle layer of the rainforest that’s not quite the ground and not quite the canopy”, explained coauthor Eliseo Parra, a lecturer and researcher at San Francisco State. “A lot of literature suggests that this area is more dangerous. There are more opportunities for a predator to be hidden and still have a quick flight path.” Remove the antshrikes and their former flockmates are left exposed, so they retreat to safer habitats.

Another consequence of the removal is that almost all of the members of mixed-species flocks spent less time with the bulk of the flock. “Some species would retreat to one habitat, and some individuals to another,” said Parra. “From an anecdotal perspective, you no longer saw a flock.”

Even if they don’t look the part, this makes alarm-calling birds similar to “keystone species” that have an unusually big effect on their environment, like beavers and wolves. Antshrikes may not have a large impact on their physical environment, but they influence the behavior of many other species by creating a safe zone from predators. “It’s a way that species diversity might be maintained in the forest”, said Martinez, adding that this could make them valuable targets for conservation efforts.

A species of Central American cuckoo, the greater ani, forms groups of two or three females that nest communally to protect their eggs from predators, but sometimes a female will go outside the communal group and lay an egg in an outsider’s nest. A team of researchers found that the birds know best when to place all their eggs in one basket and when to spread them around: here.

How an ancient Peruvian queen looked


This video says about itself:

15 December 2017

Scientists reconstructed the face of a Peruvian queen nearly 1,200 years after her death. Using a 3D print of her skull as a base, her facial features were rebuilt by hand. Found in 2012, the woman was buried in a tomb that also contained 57 other noblewomen.

New antbird species discovery in Peru


This video says about itself:

20 January 2017

Watch this amazing video from the Cordillera Azul project! You will realize how beautiful is the tropical rainforest in Peru and how its conservation is giving hope to the local populations and helping to tackle climate change.

From Louisiana State University in the USA:

New antbird species discovered in Peru

December 14, 2017

Summary: LSU describes a distinctive new species of antbird from humid montane forest of the Cordillera Azul, Martin Region, Peru.

It was July 10, 2016 when Dan Lane, Fernando Angulo, Jesse Fagan, and I rolled into the coffee-growing town of Flor de Café in north-central Peru. This town lies in the Cordillera Azul — a picturesque series of outlying Andean ridges hardly explored by ornithologists. In fact, the first ornithological inventory in the region was only in 1996, when a team of researchers from the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science (LSUMNS), bushwhacked into the extremely remote eastern Cordillera Azul. It was on this expedition that Dan, then a beginning graduate student at LSU, discovered the distinctive Scarlet-banded Barbet (Capito wallacei) on “Peak 1538.” Now, twenty years later, we were back to see this iconic species, which graces the cover of the Birds of Peru field guide.

Flor de Café, in the somewhat more accessible western Cordillera Azul, has become the hub for barbet-chasers since LSUMNS associates Todd Mark and Walter Vargas confirmed its presence here in 2011. Thus, we were not surprised to run into another bird watcher, Josh Beck, as we moved our gear into the single guest house in town. Within moments of meeting, Josh began telling us of a strange, ground-walking antbird he had encountered the previous day and documented with a sound recording. We quickly realized that his bird was a species new to science.

Fast-forward a year and a half. Today, December 13, 2017, the Auk has published the formal description of the Cordillera Azul Antbird (Myrmoderus eowilsoni).

This 12 December 2017 video from the USA is called A new species of antbird is being named after Dr. E.O. Wilson to honor his contributions to conservation.

Based on our initial visit and a follow-up expedition led by LSU graduate student Oscar Johnson, we’ve learned a few things about this new species: its closest relative is the Ferruginous-backed Antbird (of which the nearest populations are about 1,500 km to the east in lowland forests of Brazil), it eats insects, the males and females sing different songs, it lives in pristine understory of humid forest, and its future near Flor de Café is very grim.

Chainsaws were an overwhelming component of the soundscape around town. We even asked some locals to delay cutting activities so that we could get better voice recordings of the antbird. Sun-coffee farming, which necessitates clear-cutting, is the main source of income for the residents of Flor de Café. By contrast, birding ecotourism benefits only a few residents, leading to some unfortunate and ongoing tensions within the town. There is clearly a great need for environmental education and conservation work in the region.

What I haven’t yet mentioned is that Flor de Café is located very near the Cordillera Azul National Park, which was created in 2001 and contains over 13,500 km2 of pristine habitat. We are very optimistic that future exploration within the park will produce new localities for the antbird and barbet, both presently facing severe habitat loss around Flor de Café.

From an ornithological perspective, the Cordillera Azul remains mysterious and tantalizing. Perhaps it holds a new hummingbird or tody-tyrant? Regardless of any future discoveries to be made in the Cordillera Azul, I hope that the new antbird brings attention to the incredibly biodiverse and distinctive avifauna of the region. I also hope that this discovery serves as a potent reminder of how far we still have to go in cataloguing the diversity of life on this planet!