Northern and southern light videos


This is a northern light video from the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This video, Comet and the Northern Lights, is from Tromsø in Norway.

This video is from Oregon in the USA.

This video is from Michigan in the USA.

This video is called Aurora Australis TimelapseTasmania, Australia – May Day 2013.

This video is from Alberta in Canada.

This video says about itself:

12 Nov 2013

Flying on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York when the aurora forecast was high, I balanced my camera on a rucksack and left it snapping away out the window … what an amazing spectacle was to be seen! You can see some of the still pictures that formed this time-lapse here.

Tasmanian ‘developers’ destroy shearwaters’ nests for golf course


This video from Australia is called The Mutton Birds of Bass Strait (1956).

From Wildlife Extra:

6000 Muttonbird nests destroyed on Tasmania to make way for a golf course

Muttonbirds left homeless on Tasmania

October 2013. Developers on Tasmania‘s King Island have destroyed thousands of burrows in a Short-tailed Shearwater breeding colony at Cape Wickham. Why? To make way for a golf course.

Huge migration

The burrows were due to be occupied by the birds in a few days, as the shearwaters are currently returning to Bass Strait on the return leg of their epic migratory flight back from the northernmost waters of the Pacific Ocean. The islands of Bass Strait form the stronghold of the species, with most of the world’s population breeding there. Each year the birds usually return to the same colony, with most breeding in the same burrows they used in previous years.

“Shearwaters are about to return to their colonies from their annual migration to the North Pacific,” said Dr Eric Woehler, Convenor of BirdLife Tasmania, “but when the birds return to Cape Wickham, many will find their colony – one that’s been used for decades – is now a golf course.”

6000 burrows bulldozed

The colony hosted an estimated 45,000 burrows, of which at least 6000 have been bulldozed to make way for the golf course at the northern end of King Island. Some of these burrows may have been occupied by the same shearwaters for up to 40 years.

“It’s going to have an impact on the population,” said Dr Woehler.

Approval from local ministry

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) gave the project its approval on the condition of the construction ‘respecting’ the birds during their breeding season and that an alternative site ‘adjacent the golf course’ is offered as an offset, supposedly providing another area for the birds to nest in.

“It beggars belief to think that a wild bird which has nested in one location for many years will happily pick up and settle down ‘adjacent the golf course’ just because the [King Island] Council, DPIPWE and the developer prefer them to do so,” continued Dr Woehler. “The birds should decide where to lay their eggs and raise their young, not the developers of a golf course”.

This situation highlights the folly of allowing developers to use offsets in the pretence that their activities will not adversely affect the wildlife that their developments have displaced.

Profound lack of understanding of the muttonbirds

“The approval by DPIPWE and associated conditions underlines the profound lack of understanding of the muttonbirds’ biology and breeding requirements, and is a manifest comprehensive failure to protect the species,” he added. “The lack of any effort to protect these birds and their colony suggests that golf courses are more important than this nationally- and internationally-protected species.”

Saving South African albatrosses


This video from Australia says about itself:

A rare visit to Albatross Island in NW Tasmania, breeding ground for the Shy Albatross.

From BBC Radio 4 in Britain:

Bronwyn Maree

Bronwyn Maree has been described as a ‘marine warrior’ and there is no doubt that her battle to save the albatross has required a tough constitution and a passion for her work. Five years ago, she joined the Albatross Task Force – a global team set up by the RSPB and BirdLife International to prevent the albatross from becoming extinct. Since 2008, Bronwyn has worked mainly on South African deep-sea trawlers and has combated terrible seasickness to spend weeks out at sea with initially dubious all male crews as she worked to persuade them to change their fishing methods to save endangered seabirds. Her success has led to a decline of 80% in albatross deaths and this year, she was nominated for the prestigious Future For Nature Young Conservationist Award. Bronwyn talks to Jenni Murray about her work.

Save the Albatross

Amazing Albatross

Saving Tasmanian devils


This video from Australia is called Tasmanian Devil.

From Wildlife Extra:

Hope for threatened Tasmanian devils with scientific breakthrough

Research paves way for the development of a vaccine for the contagious cancer which is driving Tasmanian devils to the brink of extinction.

March 2013. New research paves the way for the development of a vaccine for the Tasmanian devil, currently on the brink of extinction because of a contagious cancer.

100% mortality

It has been less than two decades since scientists discovered the contagious cancer devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) which causes 100 per cent mortality in the endangered marsupials. The facial cancer, which spreads when the devils bite each other’s faces during fighting, kills its victims in a matter of months. As it has already wiped out the majority of the population with sightings of devils reduced by 85 per cent, scientists are desperate to find out more about the mysterious cancer which somehow manages to evade the devils’ immune system.

Complex problem

Until now, scientists have believed that the tumours were able to avoid detection by the immune system because the Tasmanian devils have very little genetic diversity (preventing the immune system from recognising the tumour as foreign). However, a University of Cambridge led collaboration with the Universities of Tasmania, Sydney and South Denmark has discovered that the explanation is more complex.

On the surface of nearly every mammalian cell are major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. These molecules enable the immune system to determine if a cell is friend or foe, triggering an immune response if the cell is foreign and a potential threat. The new research, published in the journal PNAS, reveals that DFTD cancer cells lack these critical molecules, thereby avoiding detection by the devils’ immune system.

Professor Jim Kaufman, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Pathology, said: “Once it was found that the cancer was escaping from the devils’ immune system, scientists needed to figure out how.”

Cure?

The researchers found that the DFTD cells have lost the expression of MHC molecules, but that the genes that code for these molecules are still intact. This means that these genes could potentially be turned back on. Indeed, the scientists showed that by introducing signalling molecules such as interferon-gamma, a protein which triggers the immune response, the DFTD cells can be forced to express MHC molecules.

Dr Hannah Siddle, lead author of the paper from the University of Cambridge, said: “Developing a vaccine based on our research could tip the balance in the favour of the devil and give them a fighting chance.”

“However, we still face some hurdles. The tumour is evolving over time and any vaccine programme would have to take this into consideration. Also, because of the difficulties of vaccinating a wild population, it may be more efficient to use a vaccine in the context of returning captive devils to the wild.”

Contagious cancer

Although the only other contagious cancer has been found in dogs (canine transmissible venereal cancer), the rapid development of DFTD highlights how quickly they can emerge.

Professor Kaufman added: “Our study has implications beyond the Tasmanian devil. Sooner or later a human strain of contagious cancer will develop, and this work gives us insight into how these diseases emerge and evolve.”

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Information courtesy of Cambridge University.

Tasmanian devils evolve resistance to contagious cancer: here.

Healthy Tasmanian Devils found in major breakthrough for mission to save species from extinction. Isolated population scavenging whales and seals along island’s south-western shore show no sign of disease that had killed four out of five of the species: here.

Scientists have discovered genes and other genetic variations that appear to be involved in cancerous tumors shrinking in Tasmanian devils. Their research could have important implications for treating cancer in humans and other mammals: here.

A new study of Tasmanian devils has revealed that a transmissible cancer which has devastated devil populations in recent years in unlikely to cause extinction of the iconic species: here.

Good Australian parrot news


This video from Australia is called Critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot.

From Wildlife Extra:

Encouraging breeding season for Critically Endangered Orange-bellied parrot

At least 23 fledglings counted in Tasmania

March 2013. According to Mark Holdsworth, Tasmanian Recovery Program Coordinator for the Orange Bellied Parrot, volunteers at Melalueca, where the entire population of Orange-bellied parrots spend the winter, have spotted 4 unbanded juvenile parrots together at the feedtable. With 19 juveniles already banded , this means there are now at least 23 juvenile birds this season and possibly more. Considering there were 14 juveniles last year, this is very encouraging news for the species survival in the wild.

Wild birds breeding

“The other news during the 2012 breeding season was encouraging, with all known adult females participating in breeding at Melaleuca and at least 14 young fledging. The team decided it wasn’t necessary for any more wild birds to be taken into captivity this year as part of the Captive Breeding program.”

Captive breeding

“The successful captive breeding program, based at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, as well as at other facilities in Tasmania, NSW and South Australia, now has more than 200 birds and the team is considering the possibility of a release of captive-bred birds in the near future.”

The Orange-bellied Parrot is a migratory bird, which breeds only in coastal south-west Tasmania and spends the winter in coastal Victoria and South Australia.

The Orange-bellied Parrot National Recovery Team consists of representatives of the Commonwealth, Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian governments, Zoos Victoria, Adelaide Zoo, Birdlife Australia, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and threatened species experts.

To get the latest update, go to the Orange-bellied parrot Facebook page.

Tasmanian tiger extinction, new research


This video says about itself:

Here is a combination of all the footage of the Tasmanian Tiger, now believed to be extinct.

From Wildlife Extra:

Humans alone responsible for extinction of Tasmanian Tiger

February 2013. Humans alone were responsible for the demise of Australia’s iconic extinct native predator, the Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine, according to a new study led by the University of Adelaide.

Using a new population modelling approach, the study contradicts the widespread belief that disease must have been a factor in the thylacine’s extinction.

Government sponsored hunting

The thylacine was a unique marsupial carnivore found throughout most of Tasmania before European settlement in 1803. Between 1886 and 1909, the Tasmanian government encouraged people to hunt thylacines and paid bounties on over 2000 thylacine carcasses. Only a handful of animals were located after the bounty was lifted and the last known thylacine was captured from the wild in 1933.

“Many people, however, believe that bounty hunting alone could not have driven the thylacine extinct and therefore claim that an unknown disease epidemic must have been responsible,” says the project leader, Research Associate Dr Thomas Prowse, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environment Institute.

“We tested this claim by developing a ‘metamodel’ – a network of linked species models – that evaluated whether the combined impacts of Europeans could have exterminated the thylacine, without any disease.”

The mathematical models used by conservation biologists to simulate the fate of threatened species under different management strategies (called population viability analysis or PVA) traditionally neglect important interactions between species. The researchers designed a new approach to PVA that included species interactions.

“The new model simulated the directs effects of bounty hunting and habitat loss and, importantly, also considered the indirect effects of a reduction in the thylacine’s prey (kangaroos and wallabies) due to human harvesting and competition from millions of introduced sheep,” Dr Prowse says.

Disease not a factor

“We found we could simulate the thylacine extinction, including the observed rapid population crash after 1905, without the need to invoke a mystery disease. We showed that the negative impacts of European settlement were powerful enough that, even without any disease epidemic, the species couldn’t escape extinction.”

The study ‘No need for disease: testing extinction hypotheses for the thylacine using multi-species metamodels‘, which also involved Professors Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute, Professor Chris Johnson from the University of Tasmania, and Dr Bob Lacy, Chicago Zoological Society, has been published online in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Is the Tasmanian tiger really extinct? Here.

Extinct Tasmanian tiger now back in 3D. Using 3D scanning, researchers are peeking under the preserved skin of Tasmanian tiger specimens to reconstruct its growth and development. By Dr Nerissa Hannink, University of Melbourne.

Saving Australia’s orange-bellied parrots


Neophema chrysogaster male

From Wildlife Extra:

Critically Endangered Orange-bellied parrot mystery

The ‘Orange’ Pimpernel? – Disappearing parrot intrigues recovery team

September 2012. With a wild population of less than 50, it’s not surprising that the location of a summer hide-out used by a male Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is of great interest to the team trying to save the species from extinction.

Where does the bird go in the breeding season?

In its 2012 update, the Orange-bellied Parrot recovery team has revealed that an eight year old male bird, seen during winter around Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay, has not been seen for several seasons at the only known breeding site for the species at Melaleuca on Tasmania’s west coast.

Recovery Team member Peter Menkhorst, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s (DSE) Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) said: “We have been aware of this bird since he was banded as a juvenile at Melaleuca in the summer of 2004/05 and he has been seen in Victoria over several winters, but we still don’t know where he goes during the breeding season. With such small numbers in the wild it is of great interest to the recovery team to find out if there is another, previously unknown, site where this species breeds,” Mr Menkhorst said.

No undiscovered population

“Unfortunately, no matter where he is going, we know from the small numbers coming to the winter feeding grounds in Victoria and South Australia that there is no large undiscovered breeding population of these birds.”

Wild birds breeding

“The other news during the 2012 breeding season was encouraging, with all known adult females participating in breeding at Melaleuca and at least 14 young fledging. The team decided it wasn’t necessary for any more wild birds to be taken into captivity this year as part of the Captive Breeding program.”

Captive breeding

“The successful captive breeding program, based at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, as well as at other facilities in Tasmania, NSW and South Australia, now has more than 200 birds and the team is considering the possibility of a release of captive-bred birds in the near future.”

The Orange-bellied Parrot National Recovery Team consists of representatives of the Commonwealth, Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian governments, Zoos Victoria, Adelaide Zoo, Birdlife Australia, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and threatened species experts.

Captive breeding efforts to save the Critically Endangered Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster – Australia’s rarest bird with perhaps as few as 50 individuals in the wild – have suffered a major setback. Fourteen Orange-bellied Parrots were killed by rats during late 2015 at the Taroona (Hobart) captive-breeding facility, which is run by Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment: here.

Save Tasmania’s old forests


This video from Australia says about itself:

Green Left TV interviewed tree-sit protester Miranda Gibson. Miranda is in the eighth month (as of August 2012) of her indefinite campaign to have Tasmania‘s old growth forests protected from logging.

Follow Miranda at her blog observertree.org

Two new mines are being assessed within the Tarkine rainforest in north-west Tasmania. The Tarkine is well known for the public battles to save it from logging, and was given emergency National Heritage listing in 2009: here.

August 2012. The “sustainability roadmap” issued recently by controversial Indonesia deforester Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) dramatically backtracks on a series of promises it has made – and broken – previously, an analysis by the Riau NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest has found: here.

Tasmanian swift parrot endangered


This video from Australia is called The Swift Parrot – Lathamus Discolor.

From Emu, a journal of BirdLife Australia:

Nesting requirements of the endangered Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)

30 May 2012

Abstract

Declines in avian biodiversity are being reported worldwide. A better understanding of the ecology of many species is fundamental to identifying and addressing threatening processes and developing effective mitigation measures.

The Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) is listed as endangered and is an obligate migrant that breeds only in Tasmania, wintering in mainland Australia. The species nests in tree-hollows and forages primarily on flowers of the Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and Black Gum (Eucalyptus ovata) during the breeding season.

Surveys for Swift Parrot nests conducted over three consecutive breeding seasons identified 130 Swift Parrot nests in 117 trees. Sites were between 12 and 130 ha in area with up to 49 nests found at an individual site.

Swift Parrot nest-trees were characterised as being large eucalypts (mean diameter at breast height = 105 cm) with five or more potential hollows (mean = 8.6) and showing clear signs of senescence. Reuse of nests was uncommon over the 3 years and the infrequency of reuse was most likely related to poor flowering of Tasmanian Blue Gums around nesting sites in years following recorded nesting.

To protect the species, conservation actions need to account for the spatiotemporal variation in the availability of Swift Parrot breeding habitat and recognise there may be several years between the use of a particular site. Given the number of nests found at individual sites this will require the management or reservation of suitable forest stands with old-growth characteristics across the landscape, rather than focussing on individual trees or historical nesting sites.

Ground-based survey methods both overestimate and underestimate the abundance of suitable tree-cavities for the endangered Swift Parrot: here.

Tasmanian devil babies born


This video, from Taronga zoo, in Sydney, Australia, says about itself:

Taronga’s Tasmanian Devil Keepers got their first hands-on check of four little devil joeys, the first born at the Zoo this breeding season.

The youngsters, which were born to mother, Nina were snuggled tightly in their maternal nest and keepers gently lifted them out to check their body condition and determine their sex.

Closer inspection revealed that Nina had given birth to one female and three male joeys.

See also here.

October 2011. Culling will not control the spread of facial tumour disease among Tasmanian devils, according to a study published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology. Unless a way of managing the disease is found, the iconic marsupial could become extinct in the wild within the next 25 years: here.

October 2011: The release of 12 Gilbert’s potoroos into a tiny mainland population on Western Australia’s south coast is aiding the recovery of the world’s rarest marsupial: here.

Back from the dead: Gilbert’s potoroo: here.