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Genetic Copy Of Extinct Caspian Tiger Could Be Reintroduced

Tiger Poaching On The Rise

Soon you could spot a wild tiger roaming in Central Asia once again. One of the largest of big cats to ever live was the Caspian tiger which used to wander throughout large swathes of Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and North West China before becoming extinct. Researchers now reckon they have the ability to bring back a sub species that is genetically nearly identical to the Caspian tiger. Scientists have been discussing this possibility for more than ten years, however a recent study that was authored by researchers from the State University of New York and the World Wild Life Fund actually suggests a plan for the very first time.

Caspian and Siberian tigers nearly identical

Previous studies have already proven that Caspian tigers and Amur tigers have a near identical genetic structure. The most recent study highlights two specific areas in Kazakhstan where the subspecies could well flourish. There are however a number of obstacles such as water regulation by Kazakhstan and its neighbour China, plus there needs to be a restoration of the tiger’s prey and safety of local populations must also be considered. All of this needs to be dealt with before beginning the experiment. Researchers reckon that once they receive approval they can increase the tiger’s population from 40 to about a 100 within 50 years.

Questions remain

It is still not known exactly when and why the Caspian tiger went extinct. The IUCN declared the species extinct 14 years ago, although some people claim no one has seen a Caspian tiger since the 1950’s. The species probably went extinct due to Soviet policy which funded bounty hunters and developed irrigation projects that destroyed their habitats. According to James Gibbs who was part of the research team, the Caspian tiger roamed through a vast territory and when they went extinct, the number of countries that hosted tiger populations dropped by 50%. The estimate for the global population of wild Amur tigers is between 520 and 540 and they are the only subspecies that has increased in population over the last 65 years. Kazakhstan supports the idea of tigers living in its territory because it believes it will create jobs and increase wildlife tourism.

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Experts Worried About Decline In Cheetah Numbers

Sick Cheetah Cub Becomes Best Friends With Puppy

It’s no secret that many wildlife species in Africa are experiencing population declines. However, conservationists are particularly worried about the cheetah, the fastest land animal on the planet. It is estimated that there are about 7,100 cheetahs living in the wild, spread out across Africa and in a tiny sliver in Iran. The sad reality however is humans have been encroaching on their historic habitat pushing them out of 91 per cent of land they previously used to roam in.

Status needs to be redefined

A new study says that the cheetah’s status should be defined as “endangered” rather than the less serious “vulnerable” on the IUCN official watch list of globally threatened species. Sarah Durant an expert on the cheetah at the Zoological Society of London who was is also lead author of the report says this period is crunch time for species that require lots of land to roam around in such as cheetah’s.

The species is not protected

According to the results of the study, 77 per cent of the habitat’s cheetah’s roam around in fall outside wildlife reserves or other protected areas. This means governments and villages alike need to be educated to protect a carnivore that sometimes feed on livestock. Aside from the loss of their habitat, cheetahs are often attacked by villagers angry at the loss of antelopes or other prey that are killed by people for their meat. They are also poached for their skins and baby cheetah cubs are often taken for illegal trafficking.

No certainty on population

The vast majority of the world’s cheetahs live in Southern Africa where human populations tend to be relatively sparse. The species has been completely wiped out in Asia aside from 50 cats that live in Iran. Ms Durant says there was no certainty on the estimate of 7,100 cheetahs living in the wild. The estimate is based on data from experts in areas where cheetahs are known to live as well as other areas. Cheetahs are hard to find because they roam throughout vast regions.

Some protection measures being taken

Zimbabwe’s cheetah population fell from an estimated 1,500 in 1999 to between 150 and 170 according to the results of a survey that was conducted between 2013 and 2015. Angola is in the process of developing a strategy to protect cheetahs and African wild dogs that may yield more reliable data for the species in a country that produces relatively thin data. Despite habitat loss throughout Africa Kenya’s Mara area and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania still provide sanctuary for the cheetah.

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Polar Bears Being Poisoned By Toxic Chemicals

New Home Could Be Found For Sad Polar Bear

Apex predators in the Arctic that are already struggling to cope with climate change are also at risk of chemical poisoning by as much as 100 times above levels that would ordinarily considered safe for adult polar bears according to the results of a new study. The situation is even worse for bear cubs who are being forced to feed on milk that is 1,000 times more contaminated the researchers said in the report which was published in the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry journal.

“This work is the first attempt to quantify the overall risk of persistent organic pollutants” — known as POPs — “for the Arctic ecosystem,” said lead author Sara Villa, a toxicologist at the University of Milano Bicocca in Italy.

4 decades of data examined

The researchers looked at 40 years’ worth of data on the exposure of polar bears, seals and Arctic cod to deadly compounds. The sample examined bears that lived between Alaska and the Svalbard Islands above Scandinavia. POP’s are easily transmitted throughout an ecosystem and can remain with natural environments for decades. As time passes they become more concentrated as they pass upwards through the food chain. By the time they reach polar bears, the compounds transform into highly toxic doses.

Toxic chemicals are ubiquitous

Persistent organic pollutants are used in both agriculture and industry and you can also find them in many consumer products such as fabric flame retardants. During the 1970’s industrial chemicals known as PCB’s were banned after it emerged that they cause cancer and do damage to hormones. Despite the ban concentrations in Arctic mammals such as polar bears continue to remain at high levels, well into the 1990’s and traces remain even till today.

Extremely high concentrations found in polar bears

Whilst PCB levels have fallen a new source of toxic chemicals have emerged to take their place and pose an even greater threat to polar bears according to the results of the study. The study notes that Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is considered extremely toxic for mammals and the concentration of such chemicals in the bodies of polar bears is surprisingly high. It is estimated they are 100 times higher than the concentration found in seals. This is because the bears are eating contaminated seals which results in the concentration increasing by 34 times. In contrast to PCB’s, the polluting chemicals continue to be produced and accumulate.

Climate change the main threat

The Canadian government has come to its own conclusion that these chemicals pose a threat to the environment and wildlife. Even with the risk of these chemicals, recent studies suggest that the total polar bear population which is estimated at 26,000 will decline by a third by the middle of the century. The main issue is climate change which is causing a rapid decline in sea ice which the bears use to hunt seals. Global warming in the Arctic is occurring at twice the pace of the global average and could end with completely ice free summers in the Arctic Ocean with twenty years.

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World’s Oldest Killer Whale Believed To Be Dead

Killer Whale

The world’s oldest killer whale known as Granny, estimated to be 105 years old and matriarch of small pod of Puget Sound orcas has not been seen for months and is presumed dead. Researchers say her death is a huge blow to what is already a struggling population. Ken Balcomb of the Centre for Whale Research in North America’s Pacific Northwest says his organisation considers her deceased. Mr Balcomb has been studying the pod for nearly forty years says he had last seen Granny with her pod North through the Haro Strait as they were on the hunt for food.

Easy to identify

Over the last few years’ researchers had witnessed Granny assume the leadership role of the J-pod which is one of three family groups that comprise the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. These killer whales are genetically unique and are made up of about 80 or so orcas that are classified as endangered in both the US and Canada. Granny was easy to tell apart from other killer whales thanks to her half-moon nick on her dorsal fin. Researchers first identified Granny during the 1970’s and estimated she had been born in 1911 with a 12-year margin of error.

Been a bad year for killer whales

The disappearance of Granny marks the end of a difficult year for orcas that ply the Salish sea. There have been at least six other whales from the population that researchers say are either missing or presumed dead. This stands in sharp contrast to 2015 when the population added eight new baby orcas. The population has not had an easy relationship with its neighbours on the West Coast. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s dozens of killer whales were caught and sold to aquariums and theme parks all over the world. The ones that were left behind had to deal with exposure to chemicals that local industry allowed to run off into the sea. This made the population some of the world’s most contaminated marine mammals.

Struggle to survive

In the most recent years the killer whales have faced a struggle to survive which has intensified as a result of declining stocks of salmon and an increase of vessel traffic in the waters they swim through. Canadian researchers have also warned that an oil pipeline project that was recently approved by the Canadian government would result in a huge increase in oil tanker and barge traffic which would pose a further threat to the population.

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Man Fends Off Cougar Attack On His Pet Dog

Cougar Attack

If anyone should be considered for “Pet Owner of the Year” it should be Will Gibb. Mr Gibb deserves the award after managing to save his dog named Sasha by fighting off multiple attacks from a cougar. Yes, you heard that correctly! He single-handedly managed to ward off a cougar in attack mode. Mr Gibb rather innocently allowed his two husky’s Sasha and Mongo off his truck and into a Tim Horton’s parking lot where he was meeting his friend. A cougar suddenly appeared and attacked Sasha and Mr Gibb heard his cries and ran to investigate.

“I saw something wrapped around her so I ran up and punched it in the side of the head. at that point I realised it was a cougar.” Gibb said, in an interview.

Punching a cougar

He then punched the cougar on its head to save Sasha. If the story ended there it would still be incredible but that is only half the tale. After punching the cougar Mr Gibb tried to shoo the big cat back into the woods following which he turned his back to tend to his dog who naturally was quite rattled from the attack and ended up biting him. The cougar then reappeared and began its attack on Sasha again.

“[Sasha] was fighting for her life, and I was trying to keep the cougar at bay with my right, and it was pawing at me and I was throwing punches at it.”

To summarise, on boxing day there was a man in a Tim Horton’s parking lot with a dog latched on to his right hand trying to fend off a cougar attack with his left hand. The story continues with Sasha running off at which point the cougar turned its attention to Mr Gibb second dog Mongo who was also in the parking lot.

“I could see the cougar going for him, so I got between him and the cougar and started swinging and screaming at it, and called for my brother and friend to come give a hand,” Gibb said. “And then I reached down for the closest, biggest stick that I could find and I ran back into the trees to go fight the cougar.”

All’s well that ends well

After managing to fend off three attacks from a big cat, the animal made a retreat back into the woods. Mr Gibb rushed his dog to a vet who treated her for bite wounds and cuts but is otherwise unharmed and recovering well. Mr Gibb had some cuts on his arms. The cougar was found by police in the woods and put down.

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World’s Oldest Captive Panda Passes Away

Bei Bei The Panda Unveiled To The General Public

The world’s oldest living captive male panda died at the end of last year. Pan Pan was extremely virile and a quarter of all captive pandas can trace their origins back to Pan Pan. The panda is survived by more than 130 direct descendants living in zoos all over the world. Pan Pan’s nick name was “hero father” passed away on Wednesday 28th December in Sichuan Province China said the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Great Panda. By the time he reached 31 years of age, Pan Pan was the equivalent of a 100 year old human.

Extremely virile

Pan Pan was born in the wild back in 1985 and was brought to the facility in Sichuan province at just 2 months old according to a Chinese newspaper report. Pan Pan was well known for both his strength and agility. His most important quality however was his virility which was critical in growing the global population of pandas. The Huaxi City Daily, a Chinese newspaper says that Pan Pan was only one of four males with the ability to engage in natural mating during the late 80’s and early 90’s. He first became a father in 1991 and has since then sired many more direct descendants until old age prevented him from further breeding.

Quarter of all captive pandas can trace their origin back to Pan Pan

As was said earlier, there are now more than 130 pandas in zoos all over the world that can trace their origin back to Pan Pan and it is estimated that a quarter of all captive pandas around the world are from Pan Pan’s lineage. Some notable descendants incline Bai Yun who currently lives at the San Diego Zoo in California as well as Tai Shan and Hua Mei both born in the United States and subsequently returned to China.

Died of cancer

The Panda Research Centre’s official Weibo account stated the grand old panda’s health was deteriorating over the last year as a result of cancer. The illness took its final turn just a few days before Pan Pan passed away. Pan Pan’s death was preceded by the death of the oldest living captive female panda, Jia Jia in Hong Kong earlier in the year.

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Giraffe’s Are Now Vulnerable To Extinction

giraffe status changed

Over the last 3 decades there has been a dramatic drop in the number of wild giraffes. The drop has been so precipitous that the world’s tallest land mammal is now being classified as vulnerable to extinction. To get a sense of how grave the situation is, in 1985 there were approximately 155,000 wild giraffes. That number has fallen to 97,000 in 2015 says the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The reasons behind the drop are poaching, habitat loss and civil war in parts of the African continent.

A change in status

Until recently the IUCN had considered the status of giraffes as “least concern” however, in its latest Red List of threatened species the organisation reclassified the species as “vulnerable” which means that in over three generations the population of the species has fallen by more than 30%. Dr Julian Fennessy who is part of the giraffe specialist group at the IUCN says that we are witnessing a “silent extinction” of the species.

“If you go on a safari, giraffes are everywhere. While there have been great concern about elephants and rhinos, giraffes have gone under the radar but, unfortunately, their numbers have been plummeting, and this is something that we were a little shocked about, that they have declined by so much in so little time.”

Human encroachment

The growth in human populations has meant that more land is now used for farming or other types of development. This means that the giraffe’s range has become extremely fragmented in large parts of Africa. Civil unrest has also had a major impact on giraffe numbers. Dr Fennessy adds that in war torn areas giraffes are basically war fodder. It is basically a large animal that can feed a lot of people

Solutions exist

It is believed by researchers that local populations of giraffes may not make it, however they are also optimistic about the species long term future which they think can be secured.  For example, giraffe numbers in Southern Africa have been kept high and that success boils down to how the game parks are managed for tourists. Experts also believe the additional attention resulting from the IUCN listing will benefit the species.

Take the right conservation steps

Chris Ransom of the Zoological Society of London says a good example is South Africa which has managed wildlife where lots of animals are moving between different conservation areas. The situation in the rest of Africa however is very different. Mr Ransom says he believes giraffes will be able to survive provided the right conservation steps are taken. The most recent edition of the IUCN Red List now contains 85,000 species of which 24,000 are at risk of extinction.

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Burmese Python Kills And Eats Three Deer In Florida

Florida Seeks To Get Rid Of Invasive Burmese Python

A Burmese python living in the Florida Everglades seems to have developed a tasted for venison, gobbling three whole deer including one doe and two fawns. The python was stopped from its rampage by wildlife officials who captured and euthanized the snake according to the results of a new study. The feat actually represents a new record because it is the first time an invasive species of snake (Burmese python) has been caught with three deer in its gut said one of the lead authors of the study Scott Boback.

90 day killing spree

It is quite likely that the python killed and ate the deer at different times over a three month period Mr Boback said. Whilst 90 days may seem like a long time it is actually quite rare for snakes to eat three enormous meals within such a relatively short time span he adds.

“If a python is capable of eating three deer in three months,” what else are they eating that we don’t know about, he asked. “We don’t even know how many of them are out there [in the Everglades].”

No one knows how the python arrived in Florida

The Burmese python as its name would suggest is native to South-East Asia. However, they managed to establish themselves in the Florida Everglades during the 90’s and till date no one knows how that happened. The snakes can grow as long as 18 feet in the Everglades. In South-East Asia the species has been known to grow up to 26 feet long. Burmese Pythons use their muscles which are incredibly powerful to wrap themselves around prey constricting its blood flow until circulation ceases.

Deer trio

We still don’t know how the python was able to attack the deer, but it is theorised the python might have hidden itself in water, waiting for the deer to stop and take a drink. This would have left the deer vulnerable to a strike from the snake Mr Boback said. The snake was a 15.6 feet female and had almost completely digested its three huge meals before being captured. An autopsy conducted on the snake showed the snake had an empty stomach but had intestines filled with poop.

Python invasion

Pythons have huge appetites and have wreaked havoc on the ecosystem of the Everglades Mr Boback said. The snakes hunt and kill other species that are native to the region including mammals birds and at least on one occasion an American alligator.  Other studies have shown there is a relationship between the presence of pythons and a drop in the number of mammals. The latest study shows that it is possible for pythons to eat more than one deer within a short time span.

 

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Orangutan Achieves A Guinness World Record

Indonesian Wildfires Threatening Orangutans Of Borneo

A Sumatran Orangutan that lives at the Perth Zoo in Western Australia has been awarded the Guinness World record for being the oldest of her species in the world. The irony is she couldn’t care less. Puan is a 60-year-old female orangutan and is matriarch of the zoo’s orangutan colony. She was born in 1956 and has been at the zoo since 1968 after being presented as a gift by Malaysia’s Sultan of Johore.

Curmudgeonly great grandmother

Puan is a great grandmother that is famous for her attitude which her keepers say is a curmudgeonly introverted type who does not get on well with others. Puan has played an extremely important role in the zoo’s breeding and release program which has been very successful. Her main handler Martina Hart said in a statement that the orangutan has no problem telling you off and stamping her feet if her food is delayed too long. Ms Hart adds that nevertheless, Puan is the grand old dame of the zoo’s colony and all her keepers treat her with the respects that befits a woman of her age.

Queen of everything

Puan is considered the queen of everything and spends her days bathing in the sun eating lovely food that is fresh from the farm and staying low on the ground. She no longer like to climb these days. In the wild it is extremely rare that a female Sumatran orangutan will live past 50, so reaching the grand old age of 60 is a real achievement and makes Puan an international treasure. The Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered in the wild because of deforestation and poaching. Palm oil and rubber plantations have been replacing what used to be pristine rainforest which is a real shame.

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Three Pygmy Marmosets Stolen From A Wildlife Park In Australia

pygmy marmoset

At the end of last month, three pygmy marmosets were stolen from an Australian wildlife park. The species is incredibly rare so losing them was very bad news. The good news was whilst the marmosets were reported missing from their enclosure at Symbio Wildlife Park in South Sydney, the female marmoset Sophia and a baby were found alive the very next day. However, Gomez a male marmoset continues to remain missing.

Rare species

The pygmy marmoset is the smallest species of monkey in the world and people are prepared to spend as much as A$5,000 on the black market to acquire them. According to police, two men were pulled over in a car Southwest of Sydney and they were surprised to find the four-week old baby marmoset in the vehicle.  Police charged the two men aged 23 and 26 but are still on the hunt for the people that were actually responsible for the thefts. The adult female marmoset was found roughly 20 kilometres away in Campbletown.

The baby could have died

Zoo keepers were worried that the baby marmoset which has still not been named would die within 48 hours because it would not have been able to feed from its mother. Fortunately, the little critter was found just in time. John Radnidge who owns the wildlife park said the monkey was resting. According to Mr Radnidge, he was extremely frightened but his condition was reasonable.

“You cannot keep a critically endangered species without being detected. If you have the world’s smallest monkey in your home people are going to wonder where you got it.” Mr. Radnidge said.

Asking the public for help

It is believed that because it is the Chinese Year of the Monkey, demand for the species has spiked. Marmosets are a species that are native to South America. Police have reached out to the general public to help them find the third monkey.

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