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WWF Thrilled That Wild Tiger Numbers Are On The Rise


According to the latest data from WWF and the Global Tiger Forum the world’s population of tigers in the wild has increased from an all-time low of 3,200 to 3,890. WWF expressed its pleasure at the latest statistics with the organisation’s international director-general, Marco Lambertini saying that after decades of constant decline, for the first time, the number of wild tigers is on the rise. In fact, this is the first time the global wild tiger population has risen since 1900 when there were 100,000.

Most tigers are in India

More than half the world’s wild tiger population are in India. It is estimated that as many as 2,226 live in reserves that are spread across 18 states according to a census performed in 2014. There was also an increase in tiger numbers across Russia, Nepal and Bhutan. Whilst experts were pleased they urged caution because some of the increase may be attributed to better data gathering techniques as well as improved protection.

Steep declines throughout Asia

In 2010 Bangladesh saw a steep decline in tigers from 440 in 2010 to just 106 last year, however conservationists believe this could be attributed to an over estimate of the population in 2010. In Indonesia, tiger numbers have dropped precipitously as a result of intense habitat destruction. Cambodia is thinking about re-introducing the species after recently declaring them functionally extinct. There has been no evidence of the big cat in the country since 2007. Deforestation and habitat destruction as well as poaching have devastated tiger numbers throughout Asia.



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Recently Discovered Sumatran Rhino Dies In Captivity

WWF Worried By Rhino Poaching

Less than a month after being discovered and captured, a rare Sumatran rhino has died. According to Indonesian environmental officials, the female rhino died of an infection to her leg. Arnold Sitompul WWF’s Indonesian conservation director says the death it still being investigated however it appears as if the infection was severe and was most likely caused by snares from an earlier poaching event. The death is tragic because the rhino’s discovery was hailed as a success as the species had thought to be extinct in the region.

 “This demonstrates the threats faced by the Sumatran rhino and underscores why we need to continue our efforts with the strong support of the government and other experts to save the remaining population of Sumatran rhinos in the area,” Mr. Sitompul said.

Numbers have declined dramatically

Of the five species of rhinoceros, the Sumatran rhino is the smallest and hairiest. Sumatran rhinos were once ubiquitous throughout South-East Asia, however poaching and habitat destruction caused by agriculture and mining has resulted in a dramatic fall in their numbers. Last year they were declared by the Malaysian part of Borneo as being extinct in the wild. Conservationists could not tell whether the elusive species sill lived in Indonesian Borneo. In 2013 however camera traps captured images of one and it was estimated that roughly 15 of the animals lived in Indonesian Borneo whilst another 85 lived in Sumatra.

Amazingly in March humans found a Sumatran rhino in Indonesian Borneo for the first time in over 4 decades when the animal fell into a pit trap. WWF lauded the capture as being a huge achievement for Indonesian rhino conservation.

 “This is an exciting discovery and a major conservation success,” Efransjah, the chief executive of WWF-Indonesia, said at the time. “We now have proof that a species once thought extinct in Kalimantan still roams the forests, and we will now strengthen our efforts to protect this extraordinary species.”

Death might have been prevented

At the time WWF said the rhino would be transported by helicopter to a protected forest roughly 90 miles away. It was intended for the forest to become Indonesia’s second Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. The International Rhino Foundation which also participates in managing Indonesia’s existing Sumatran rhino factory expressed its anguish at the captured rhino’s death in a post on Facebook. The organisation said the death could have been prevented had the animal been taken to the established facility.

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Rare Sumatran Rhino Discovered In Borneo

Rare Sumatran Rhino Discovered In Borneo

For the first time in over 4 decades a rare species of rhino has been spotted in Kalimantan which is located in the Indonesian part of Borneo. The female Sumatran rhino was caught in a pit trap last month according to World Wildlife Fund which recently announced the discovery. There are only two species of rhino that exist in Indonesia and the Sumatran rhino is one of them.

“This is an exciting discovery and a major conservation success,” said Efransjah, the CEO of WWF-Indonesia. “We now have proof that a species once thought extinct in Kalimantan still roams the forests, and we will now strengthen our efforts to protect this extraordinary species.”

The rhino will be moved to a safe space

WWF has always believed that Sumatran rhinos were not extinct in Indonesia because footprints had been spotted and one had been caught on camera. This particular specimen will be transferred to a protected forest a few hundred miles away. The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of the five species of rhino that roam the planet. The species is covered with patches of stiff hair particularly around its ears.

Solitary animals

This species is dark red in colour and prefers to reside in mountain forest which is dense. The Sumatran rhino is extremely elusive and are usually solitary animals that live on fruit, leaves and twigs. They have the ability to find one another by leaving scent trails which they are able to pick up because they have a keen sense of smell.

One of the rarest animals on the planet

An adult Sumatran rhino can weigh as much as 1,760 pounds (800 kilos) and can reach a length of between 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3.2 metres). The species is extremely endangered and it is estimated that there are only 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, most of which are located on the island of Sumatra which means they are one of the rarest animals on the planet.

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Huge Colony Of Adélie Penguins Under Threat

Huge Colony Of Adélie Penguins Under Threat

A whole colony of Adélie penguins is facing the prospect of extinction after an iceberg that is bigger in size than Luxembourg ended up landing at Commonwealth Bay and is blocking the penguins access to the sea and forcing the birds to travel considerably further in order to feed. The population of the colony has dramatically dropped from 160,000 to 10,000 since the iceberg hit the shore in 2010.

Penguins are trapped

The iceberg has effectively trapped the colony of penguins which used to thrive courtesy of easy access to Commonwealth Bay. However once the iceberg became grounded, the distance required for the penguins to travel and feed became 75 miles round trip. Adélie penguins tend to return to the same colony where they were hatched as well as return to the same mate to nest and it is very rare from the species to deviate from this behaviour.

“They don’t migrate, they’re stuck there. They’re dying …The ones that are surviving are clearly struggling. They can barely survive themselves, let alone hatch the next generation. We saw lots of dead birds on the ground … it’s just heart-breaking to see.”Chris Turney, professor of Climate Change and Earth Sciences at the University of New South Wales said.

Global warming not helping

The iceberg measures 1,120 square miles and comes in at a whopping 60 miles long. Unless the iceberg moves or breaks up the entire colony  of Adélie penguins at Cape Denison could be destroyed by 2020. Dr Turney says that as the earth warms, more ice will melt and the reality is that there will be more icebergs released from Antarctica that will end up embedded along the coastline which make the distance some of these colonies have to travel for food much further than they ever have been.

Melting ice could also be a boon

There is however some positive news, because some of the fast ice that is associated with the iceberg has started to break up in Commonwealth Bay over the last year says co-author of the study Chris Fogwill of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre.

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Adelie Penguins Populations Expected To Rise

Adelie Penguins Populations Expected To Rise

If you are a penguin lover then there is some great news. Glaciers in the East Antarctica region have been shrinking which has resulted in a higher birth rate of the Adelie penguin. According to research over the last 14,000 years the population of Adelie penguins has expanded by as many as 135 times, largely as a result of more breeding sites coming online as glaciers retreat. The explosion in the penguin population suggests that the present conditions of the environment are more favourable to the Adelie penguin when compared to the end of the last ice age.

“Shrinking glaciers appear to have been a key driver of population change over millennia for Adelie penguins in East Antarctica,” said Jane Younger from University of Tasmania in Australia who led the study.

Climate change is the driver

When we study the response of these birds to previous climate change events, it is possible to predict how well the species of penguin will respond in future she adds. Until now the research has only looked at short term changes that take place of years or decades, however the climate change that is taking place today is likely to have effects spanning millennia

“We need to consider millennial-scale trends alongside contemporary data to forecast species’ abundance and distribution changes under future climate change scenarios,” Younger noted.

Effects will not be consistent

Despite the massive rise in numbers of penguins, the research suggests that the impact of climate change will be far from consistent. There will be large geographic variability which means distant populations of Adelie penguins will see very different environmental impacts. The authors of the study believe that in some parts of Antarctica, penguin numbers may actually decline.

Over a million breeding pairs

30 per cent of the global population of Adelie penguins live in East Antarctica and it is estimated there are about 1.14 million breeding pairs. As climate change continues it is expected that ice sheets and glaciers in Antarctica will retreat further. The penguin species are very sensitive to changes in sea ice because they combine to create breeding colonies on land which is free from ice along the coast of the continent and forage for food in the pack ice when mating season takes place.

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The UK Celebrates Earth Hour By Going Dark

The UK Celebrates Earth Hour By Going Dark

A number of iconic London and UK landmarks went dark for an hour last Saturday to mark the occasion of Earth Hour. The buildings in London that went dark included Buckingham Palace, The Shard, The Palace of Westminster and Ritz Hotel. Across the rest of the country, Old Trafford and Edinburgh Castle were also among a number of other famous British buildings that dimmed their lights. Across the rest of the world many famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower and Tokyo Tower all faded into the night sky. In fact as many as 350 global landmarks participated in the event which required the lights to be dimmed between 8.30 pm to 9:30 pm local time last Saturday.

Now an institution

Earth Hour has become an institution that was started by WWF in Sydney back in 2007 and is now a worldwide phenomenon that encourages people to demonstrate that they care about the future of the environment by switching their lights off. This year as many as 10.4 million people in the UK participated in the global blackout which now counts 178 countries worldwide that celebrate the event.

People throughout the UK took part

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon came together with as many as 30 MP’s to join the event and uploaded their photographs to social media using the hash tag £passthepanda. In Wales there was huge support for the event which saw all 22 local councils sign up for the blackout. People throughout the UK took to social media to post candle-lit selfies. The theme of this year’s celebration was titled “places we love” which includes forests, beaches, national parks, reefs, river and mountains, all of which are facing existential threats from climate change.

Taking care of the Planet’s future

In a statement made just before the event WWF said Earth Hour has now become a global celebration where both individuals and iconic buildings turn their lights off to show their solidarity with one another and to express the fact that they care about our planet’s future. The event is symbolic and when the lights go out it sends a big message that we need to take care of our planet.

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Rhinos Increasingly Threatened By Poachers

Rare Sumatran Rhino Discovered In Borneo

According to the latest data from international researchers, the number of rhinos slaughtered has increased for the sixth consecutive year. It is estimated that poachers killed 1,338 rhinos for their horns in Africa during 2015. That number represents the largest loss of rhinos during a single year since a wave of poaching began recently. An estimated 5,940 rhinos have been poached since 2008, with scientists worrying that the actual number could be much higher.

Losses continue to rise

The research was undertaken by the International Union Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Despite more robust anti-poaching techniques such as strengthening patrols, making use of satellite technology and improving intelligence gathering, losses continue to occur. According to the IUCN increasing demand from South East Asia is responsible for the rise in number of rhino deaths. In that part of the world it is wrongly believed that the rhino horn has medicinal properties.

Nowhere is safe

Despite all the bad news there are some bright spots. For example in South Africa, the rate of increase in rhino poaching has slightly fallen. South Africa is home to the largest population of rhinos and last year the number of rhinos killed in the country fell for the first time since 2008.

Some bright spots

Dr. Richard Emslie of the IUCN says it is always alarming whenever there is an increase in rhino poaching, however there are some positives. When poaching first began to escalate in 2008 there was continuous exponential growth in poaching year after year. However over the last couple of years the rate of increase has fallen. Dr. Emslie noted success in South Africa, however improvement in one part of the country has also been followed by sharp increases in losses in other countries. For example over the last two years, the number rhinos killed in Namibia quadrupled whilst losses in Zimbabwe doubled during the same period.

They could be gone for good

Craig Bruce, a rhino specialist with the Zoological Society of London says the situation is dire and despite moderate success in the Kruger National Park, there is no reason to celebrate. Mr. Bruce reckons that if the situation continues at the same rate of loss, then within five to ten years there will be no more rhinos left in the wild and all that will be left is rhinos in very controlled captivity scenarios.

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Florida Seeks To Get Rid Of Invasive Burmese Python

Florida Seeks To Get Rid Of Invasive Burmese Python

The Burmese python has worn out its welcome in Florida and for the second time since 2013 the state’s wildlife officials are asking people far and wide to search for the snake in the Everglades. Depending on where the invasive species are seen, people participating in the hunt can either kill or capture the snakes which usually measure up to 2 metres in length. The snakes are well camouflaged with their brownish markings but so far 1035 volunteers have managed to catch 106 snakes, which is far more than the 68 snakes participants caught in the last drive which took place in 2013.

Bad for the ecosystem

A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it is bad for the ecosystem when there is an invasive species living in the area. The Burmese Python has done very well in the Everglades where summers are hot and humid and winters are mild. There have been reports of alligators eating pythons and vice versa but beyond that the only way to get rid of the species seems to be the Python Challenge. Nobody knows for sure how the pythons established themselves in the Everglades but there are two competing theories. It is thought that perhaps pet owners released captive snakes into the wild, or they escaped from captivity during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Pythons can grow up to 8 metres

It takes approximately 15 hours to spot a python in the wild, though volunteers in this year’s challenge will have better luck if they confine their search to open areas, marshes, canal banks and pine rocklands. There is the additional benefit of holding the challenge during winter when the snakes spend more time basking in the sun as a result of the colder weather. In some areas participants can kill snakes but in other areas, the snakes must be brought in to be euthanised. Currently the longest wild python captured in Florida measured 5.5 metres long however they have been known to grow up to 8 metres in their home environment of South East Asia.

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Lions On The Lose In Nairobi

Lions On The Lose In Nairobi

Recently two lions escaped from Nairobi’s national park and wandered into densely populated areas of the Kenyan capital. The Kenyan Wildlife Service issued an appeal to the public for help getting both lionesses back after they strayed. Armed rangers as well as vets from the wildlife service have been armed with dart guns and have been scouring bush and agricultural land besides on the largest slums in Africa known as the Kibera district.

“Lions are dangerous wild animals. Avoid provoking the lions by confronting them,” said KWS spokesman Paul Udoto.

Two escapees

It is believed that at least two lionesses escaped from the park which measures 117 square kilometres and where rhino and buffalo roam less than 7 kilometres away from the centre of the city. Some local media outlets were reporting that as many as six lions may be on the loose. This is not the first incident where lions have entered populated areas. The big cats are losing their habitat as one of Africa’s fastest growing cities continues to expand onto ancient hunting grounds. On some occasions, lions are killed by farmers who are seeking to keep their herds protected and on other occasions they prowl leafy gardens giving a fright to the people who live there.

“These are highly populated areas and that is why we are intensifying the search. Anyone with information about them should share it with us immediately.”Mr. Udoto said.

Lion population decimated

It is estimated that the lion population in Africa has fallen by as much as three-quarters since 1980. They now occupy less than 10 per cent of their historic range across the continent. The park itself is fenced in on the city side and there are some bars which have terraces where patrons can sit have a drink and view the animals. On the other side, the park is open sided to enable the annual wildlife migration. The land faces increasing pressure from increasing urbanization and agriculture. This means the routes used by migrating herds seeking greener pastures as well as the animals that hunt them are growing narrower.

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New Population Of Lions Discovered In Ethiopia

New Population Of Lions Discovered In Ethiopia

A population of 100 lions that was previously unknown was recently discovered by a wildlife charity in North Western Ethiopia. The charity which discovered the lions is called the Born Free Foundation and says it has obtained images from camera traps as well as identified the tracks of lions roaming in the Alatash area which is a very remote part of Ethiopia close to the border with Sudan. Previously it was thought that the area had lost its entire lion population during the 20th century as a result of habitat destruction and hunting. Africa’s lion population has fallen by over half since the 1990’s.

It is thought that the lions are a sub species endemic to Central Africa. Prior to the discovery of the lion population it was believed that there were only 900 of such lions known to be left said Mark Jones of Born Free Foundation.

“Even though the team only visited the Ethiopian side of the park because of logistics, lions were likely to exist in the larger, adjacent Dinder National Park across the border in Sudan,” he said.

The discovery will be celebrated

Dr. Hans Bauer of Oxford University who himself is a renowned lion conservationist and led the expedition said it was the first time that lions had been confirmed to be living in the area. Dr. Bauer estimated that the area had the ability to host a population of lions numbering between 100 to 200. The discovery will be celebrated by conservationists in Africa who are concerned by the rapidly declining numbers of lions in West and Central parts of the continent.

“It is an important finding because knowing where the lions are will help us work with local people and wildlife authorities in order to improve protection and education around why lions are important and why it’s important to protect them,” Mr. Jones added.

Lion populations on the decline

A study conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that many lion populations have either already disappeared or are expected to go within a few decades. Last year the killing of Cecil a famous lion in Zimbabwe by an American dentist sparked global outrage.

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