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Oldest Known Killer Whale Turns 105

Killer Whale

This orca was swimming in the ocean before the Titanic made its ill-fated voyage across the Atlantic. This means she has survived two world wars and her existence pre-dates than women’s right to vote. The orca name J2 Granny was spotted last week and estimates put her age at 105 years old. According to the Orca Network, J2 Granny was spotted swimming in high spirits just of the coast of Washington state.  News reports suggest the Orca is thought to have been born in 1911 which would make her the oldest known living killer whale.

Margin of error

The Orca Network has said there is a margin of error of about 12 years surrounding her age. This means J2 Granny could be as young as 90, however that would still far exceed the average lifespan of a killer whale in the wild which ranges from between 60 to 80 years. During her lifetime J2 Granny has been seen swimming up the coast of Washington and Canada. She has even managed to dabble in politics in between her migrations. Granny was recently awarded the title of Honorary Mayor of Eastound Washington and gave a mayoral address back in June.

Whales should be left in the wild

Whilst her age is impressive, Granny is not a loner she is frequently spotted travelling with the J-pod which is a group of approximately 25 killer whales the Orca Network says. Researchers are able to tell her apart from the other whales by her dorsal fin which has a grey patch right behind it. Many have held up the ancient orca as reason for keeping whales out of captivity and allowing them to remain in the wild. According to the Orca Network, killer whales rarely survive more than ten years in captivity as a result of extreme stress and injuries.

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Researchers Optimistic Wild Tiger Numbers Can Double

Tiger Poaching On The Rise

A new study suggests that wild tiger numbers could be on course for doubling. Research published in the journal, Science Advances used the latest satellite technology to study the decline in wild tiger numbers in 13 countries between 2001 and 2014. The results of the study suggested that the loss was far less than was expected. The study was ambitious, taking in vast tracts of land that spanned multiple jurisdictions which proved to be challenging. Nevertheless, the researchers are hoping they have found a solution not just for tigers but other species which are also being threatened.

Monitoring required

During a 2010 conference on tigers held in St. Petersburg many countries and conservation groups came together and set the goal of doubling the wild tiger population. Delegates to the conference identified 76 tiger habitats of which 29 were highlighted as being critical requiring monitoring at east every couple of years. Whilst that is fine in theory, the question was how this monitoring should take place. Whilst most countries have made efforts to comply, the approach has been rather piecemeal and there is now wide ranging study that considers all tiger habitats until now.

Technology has made more things possible

As technology has leapt forward it is now possible to undertake complex analysis of vast areas of land. The researchers have clearly taken advantage of this fact and are now laying a foundation for popular participation going forward. The researchers made use of information that was freely available from NASA satellite as well as the processing power of Google Earth. The scientists said what they found was remarkable with just 7.7 per cent of tiger habitat was lost to conversion during the period of study.

Lots of work needs to be done

There were a couple of reasons why predicted habitat loss had been higher than in reality. Firstly, there were 13 countries involved, some so which are the fastest growing economies in the world. Secondly the 29 highest priority tiger habitats are surrounded by the highest rural population densities on the planet. The stunning result shows that government and park authority efforts have been real. Had that not been the case, then there would have been much greater loss the study authors said. It goes without saying however that whilst the news was good, much work remains to be done.

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Indian Wildlife Officials Arrest 18 Lions In Hunt For Man Eater

Lions On The Lose In Nairobi

Indian wildlife officials have “arrested” 18 lions as they seek to determine which of the lions is a man eater that its alleged to have killed three people. Forestry officials in Gujarat, which is a state in India where the county’s last remaining Asiatic lions live will conduct tests on the lion’s excrement and paw prints in order to identify the killer lion. Once the lion has been identified it will be moved to a zoo where it will spend the rest of its life. The other lions will be released back to the Gir Sanctuary officials say.

Responding to attacks

So far there have been six attacks near the sanctuary and in response, JA Khan Gujarat’s top forest official said the only response was to arrest the lions over the last couple of months. The animals are all being housed in separate cages whilst experts carry out their tests. Mr. Khan says they believe they have identified the lion in question but before they draw any conclusions they are waiting on the results on a further nine lions.

Tests being conducted

Ruchi Dave a wildlife experts said the lions are being tested by studying their faecal matter and pug marks. Officials are also checking out the behaviour of the animals because man eaters tend to become aggressive when they see human beings. Revtubha Raizada who is also an expert on lions said the offending lion would have to remain in captivity for the rest of its life because it is simply not safe for a man eater to be released back into the wild.

Conservation efforts have been too successful

The Asiatic lion population has been thriving in the Gir forest leading some experts to claim that the success of the protected population is the reason behind some of the unusual behaviour the animals have been displaying. Govind Patel who was formerly the top wildlife official in Gujarat said that the Gir Forest could only sustainably accommodate 270 lions, this has resulted in some prides locating outside the sanctuary grounds.

Lions ordered to be relocated

The Supreme Court of India has recently ordered that some of the lions in Gujarat must be relocated to other states to avoid the possibility that that entire population could be wiped out as a result of some disaster. Gujarat is reluctant to obey the order and has so far not complied.

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Wild Elephant Seeks Help For Bullet Wound

Hong Kong Customs Bust Illegal Ivory Shipment

An elephant that was shot in the head was forced to wander around a wildlife park in Zimbabwe for weeks before it was able to receive treatment for the injury. When he finally came across some humans he essentially motioned for their help. The elephant is being called Pretty Boy and was shot in the forehead which experts say was too high for a kill shot. Assistance was provided inside Mana Pools National Park.

Lucky there were vets present

According to AWARE’s Facebook page, the elephant approached veterinarians Dr. Keith Dutlow and Dr. Lisa Marabini. The two vets who work for the Animal and Wildlife Area Research and Rehabilitation Trust or AWARE, examined the elephant and then tranquilized the animal so they could obtain X-ray images in order to get a better understanding of the injury. Upon examination of the elephant they found that the bullet was located just 5 centimetres away from the open wound in the animal’s forehead.

They wrote on Facebook: “The X-ray, which in our opinion, confirms the presence of a ‘mushroomed’ bullet that has glanced off the skull and lodged under the skin – which has caused a fracture of the sinus turbinate bones at the level of the entry wound. The opacity in the sinuses adjacent to the entry wound is suggestive of pus in that area.”

The elephant is going to be okay

Dr. Marabimi added that Pretty Boy was very lucky because the bullet must have ricocheted of the surface of his skull and following the shot the elephant must have turned to flee. Whoever is responsible for the attack must have fired a second shot aimed at the animal’s heart because Pretty Boy had a second abscess in his shoulder. Once Pretty Boy recovered from the tranquilizers he slept for another half an hour with his head pressed up against a tree. The elephant is recovering inside the park and the vets will return for routine checkups.

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Tiger Poaching On The Rise In India

Tiger Poaching On The Rise

Whilst the numbers of tigers in the wild is rising, poaching has also risen at the same time says the Wildlife Protection Society of India. A recently released census report shows that the number of illegally poached tigers in the country this year is already higher than the total tally for 2015. The results of the survey show that as of April, there were at least 28 tigers that had been captured or killed which is 3 more than last year’s final count.

The results are alarming

Many conservation groups find the results extremely alarming and as a result they have intensified their efforts in the fight against illegal poaching. Guardians of the Wild an environmental agency launched an initiative to train as many as 7000 wildlife protection officers in 2011 which at the time was a third of India’s total anti-poaching forces. The guards had a mandate to investigate poaching activity in India, Bhutan and Nepal. Tito Joseph the group’s program manager said he was deeply troubled by the statistics.

The good news is tiger numbers are also rising

Tiger body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine and are sold on the black market. The big cat’s pelts are also traded as a luxury good. The Wildlife Protection Society of India says that poachers use a number of techniques to kill their prey including guns, steel traps, electrocution and poison. The results of the census come less than a year after as another report claimed that the global population of wild tigers could be rising.  In 2015 conservation groups counted 3,890 wild tigers which is higher than the 2010 count which estimated there were just 3,200 wild tigers which was an all-time low.  To put that into context at the turn of the last century there were at least 100,000 wild tigers says WWF.

Coordinated enforcement is needed

As of the last census, India has the world’s largest wild tiger population with over 2,200 roaming the country. Penalties for poaching in India can include up to three years in prison and fines of as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars. For his part Mr. Joseph says that poaching can only be halted when there is a coordinated intelligence led enforcement operation. This is because the illegal wildlife trade involves citizens of many countries making it a transnational organised crime.

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Hugging Your Dog Causes It Stress

Hugging Your Dog Causes It Stress

New research suggests that dog lovers should stop cuddling their pets because the animals tend to find it uncomfortable and stressful. According to Dr Stanley Coren a canine behaviour scientist at the University of British Columbia, pet owners who regularly hug their pets are mistaking signs of anxiety for affection. Dr Coren said owners were blindly posting photos on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram of themselves hugging their dogs without understanding their pets are displaying clear signs of discomfort.

Clear signs of distress

Dr Coren looked at 250 images and found that in 80 per cent of the pictures he looked at, the animals were displaying obvious signs of distress. In a paper published in Psychology Today, the researcher said that people posting such pictures online, tend to do so to demonstrate the love they feel for their pets, however it is clear that the dogs are looking into the camera and thinking they would really rather not participate.

Stifling evolution

The Canadian university professor says dog gestures such as raising a paw, yawning or even licking an owners face are often mistake for being affection when instead they were really signs of stress. Dr Coren adds that dogs feel uncomfortable when they are cuddled because the act prohibits their natural response to escape from danger. The basic animal response to situations which are considered stressful or threatening is to run away. When owners hug their dogs, they are taking away the ability of the animal to respond in the fashion that evolution designed them to respond, the professor said.

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Lion Shot Dead By Kenyan Wildlife Service

Lions On The Lose In Nairobi

A stray male lion that was wandering on the outskirts of Nairobi was shot dead by Kenyan wildlife rangers following an attack which resulted in a local resident getting injured according to Kenyan Wildlife Service. The agency said that a mob quickly formed around the animal which resulted in the rangers having to shoot the lion so that further injuries could be avoided.

“It had injured somebody. There was a crowd that had formed around it, so it was practically impossible to capture it the way we planned to,” Paul Udoto, communications manager for the wildlife service said.

Third incident

Over the last few months this was the third lion to wander outside Nairobi National Park which is located on the outskirts of the city. Whilst no one was injured in the first case, one man received injuries during the second incident. On the two previous occasions when lions have strayed, wildlife officials were able to capture the animals and return them to areas where they are protected. During the latest incident, images were uploaded to social media showing the lion walking in a grassy area next to the fence which separates the city from the national park. Images also show people gathering around the animal.

“The mob had formed and in the process somebody got injured, and by the time the veterinary and security teams got to the ground it was already beyond salvation,” Udoto said. “With that commotion we risked more injuries or even possible deaths.”

Human animal conflict

Nairobi National Park is located on the outskirts of the city and visitors are confronted by the strange juxtaposition of lions, zebras, giraffes and rhinos against a backdrop of skyscrapers. Occasionally lions are seen in the city very near the park after managing to get through the fences which separate the built up areas near the reserve.

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Female Tiger Dies During Mating Attempt

Tiger Poaching On The Rise

Mating is not easy for any species and this is especially the case for tigers. Recently a female tiger that was housed in California’s Sacramento Zoo died following an attack by a male tiger during a mating attempt that went horribly wrong. Mohan the male tiger was sent from the Memphis Zoo to mate with a female tiger Baha. However according to a statement by Sacramento Zoo, Mohan became aggressive with Baha during a physical introduction.

The first time the tigers met

This was the first physical meeting of the Sumatran tigers. The Zoo has been keeping an eye on the behaviour of the two tigers for a number of moths. Both the male and female had engaged in eye contact, however this was probably for all the wrong reasons. Officials from zoo decided the two tigers were ready to meet, but the male tiger Mohan became aggressive as soon as Baha entered the enclosure. Handlers of the animals quickly tried to separate the two tigers.

“As soon as staff (was) able to get the male tiger into a secure location veterinarians rushed to care for Baha, but unfortunately she had already passed,” the zoo said.

Successful breeding program

For its part Sacramento Zoo said it has successfully bred tigers since the 1960’s. Baha has been living at the zoo since 2002 and is survived by five offspring from earlier successful breeding attempts with the zoo’s former breeding male tiger named Castro. Castro however had to be euthanized in 2014 after being treated for Lymphoma. Castro was 16 ½ years old making him the oldest breeding male in the United States when he was alive.  Mohan has also participated in successful breeding attempts making the incident very unusual. He has been removed from the public viewing area and is now being monitored.

Over the last hundred years, four of nine tiger subspecies have become extinct in their natural habitats Sacramento Zoo said in a statement. It is believed that there are less than 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild with a further 200 living in zoos around the world.

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New Video Footage Gets Animal Rights Activists Up In Arms Over Killer Whales In Captivity

Killer Whale

A video that was recently posted which appears to show a captive killer whale at SeaWorld beaching herself for over 10 minutes during a show has animal rights activists up in arms. Activists say they think the behaviour suggests the whale was trying to kill herself, however Sea World has shot back saying the behaviour is perfectly natural.

Potential suicide attempt

Rick O’ Barry of the Dolphin Project which is an animal rights group posted the video recently. The video shows a killer whale called Morgan lying motionless beside a tank following a performance at a water park in Tenarife Spain. The killer whale is currently on loan to the park from SeaWorld. Whales have been known to beach themselves whilst they are hunting on occasion, however if they stay on land for too long, they will die because their internal organs and muscles end up being crushed by their own weight.

The Dolphin Project released a statement saying they could not explain the reason for the orca’s behaviour, it was unsettling to say the least that a previously wild animal was now locked in park’s performance area.

The park itself shot back a response:

 “It is absolutely illogical and absurd to assume that the length and the quality of such video would be sufficient to make a conclusion and declaration of such nature,” the park said. “A voluntary stranding is a natural behaviour of orcas living in the wild. … The orcas at Loro Parque are trained to leave the water on their own accord. This behaviour is used for manifold purposes, for example, for presenting the animals to the public, for conducting corporal check-ups, for inspecting their blowholes, as well as for testing hearing abilities of the orcas.”

“There are no concerns with Morgan sliding out as shown in the video as the whales do this with some regularity,” SeaWorld told Fox News.

Target on its back

SeaWorld has long been a target for animal rights activists and just this year has yielded to pressure, deciding to phase out its killer whale show. The decision follows critics questioning the risks of keeping such large animals in captivity following the release of controversial documentary Blackfish.

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South Africa To Go High Tech In Fight Against Rhino Poachers

Three Rare Javan Rhino Calves Born

South Africa is expanding its use of technology to keep poachers away from rhinos. The country is keeping track of people coming in and out of a game reserve that is very near Kruger National Park. Authorities are tracking people regardless of how they enter and exit the park whether it be landing by helicopter, cutting through a fence or driving past a gate.

Project being tested

South African based Dimension Data has partnered with Cisco Systems in carrying out a test project. So far the two companies have finished the initial phase of rolling out a secure network in the reserve complete with Wi-Fi hotspots. The next stage will make use of infrared cameras, thermal imaging drones and vehicle tracking, so that even at night time, people’s movement can be tracked. The techniques being used will have no effect on the animals themselves such as darting rhinos to insert chips into their horns or under their skins.

Rhinos could be extinct in South Africa by 2025

In 2014 at least 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa said the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs. If poaching continues at that rate, by 2018, the number of rhino deaths will exceed the number of rhino births and by 2025, there could well be no rhinos left in South Africa according to a report.

“Every day, hundreds of staff, suppliers, contractors, security personnel and tourists enter and exit game reserves. The human activity in these environments is not monitored because, typically, the reserve is in a remote location with basic IT infrastructure and access control, manual security processes and very limited communication.” Dimension Data Group Executive Bruce Watson said in a statement.

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