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Just 106 Wild Tigers Left In Bangladesh

Just 106 Wild Tigers Left In Bangladesh

There are as little as 100 Royal Bengal tigers now living in Bangladesh’s Sunderbans forest which is much less that what was previously through according to the latest data. Based on a survey that made use of hidden cameras, forestry officials counted 106 wild tigers on the Bangladeshi side of the largest mangrove swamp in the world. It is estimated that on the Indian side there are about 74 tigers left.

Disappointing numbers

The numbers are incredibly disappointing, and mark a decline from 10 years ago when there were 440 tigers recorded. Experts say the fall in numbers is due to rampant poaching. They add however that numbers also represent the fact the surveying techniques are much more accurate. In previous counts, tiger paw prints which are unique to each tiger were used to count tigers. Hidden camera produce lower numbers that are more accurate. Gangs are killing tigers to profit from the trade in skins and body parts.

“The numbers have declined largely because of poaching, which is the main threat to the tigers in Sunderbans. The threat comes not only from stray poaching, which is rampant, but also from organised gangs of poachers. Unless we have an independent, dedicated anti-poaching unit, the future is not bright for the tigers in Bangladesh.” Dr Anwarul Islam, Professor of Zoology at Dhaka University said.

Less than 2,300 tigers left in the wild

There are less than 2,300 Bengal tigers left in the wild. These tigers roam mainly in Bangladesh and India however there are small populations that live in Myanmar, China, Bhutan and Nepal. The Sunderbans is a piece of land that is 10,000 square kilometres of dense forest that straddles Bangladesh and India.

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New Device Could Change The Way Conservationists Respond To Poachers

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Elephants, tigers and rhinos could all be saved from the threat of poaching by a collar which monitors their heart rates combined with a video camera and a global-tracking device. According to Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific adviser for British conservation company Protect, the instant a poaching event occurs, the heart rate monitor will trigger an alarm that pinpoints the animal’s location within a few metres. This essentially means park rangers can be at the scene of the event within minutes by helicopter leaving not enough time for poachers to harvest the animal parts or make an escape.

Lots of animals being poached

Last year there were 1,215 rhinos illegally killed in South Africa which was a record. Since 2010 the elephant population in Tanzania has fallen by an astonishing 60 per cent as a result of increased poaching. The number of tigers left in the wild in countries such as India and Vietnam are falling. The good news is that Protect is ready to start testing the invention in the field.

“We finally have the technology to catch these people red handed, and if they know that, then they’ll think twice before killing another beautiful rhino. Finally we might have a fighting chance of saving this astonishing species from extinction.” Ricky Gervais, British comedian, actor and anti-poaching activist, said in the statement.

Device could be a game changer

Most of the last remaining rhinos in the world live in South Africa and poaching is on the rise. Demand for their horns has increased in countries such as Vietnam and China because of the misguided belief that they can cure diseases such as cancer. Dean Peinke, specialist mammal ecologist for the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency in South Africa says that it requires a lot of resources to patrol the vast landscapes and poachers still manage to find a way through. He adds that these devices may tip the balance in the conservationist favour. If poaching events can be identified as they happen, the response can be much faster and it may become possible to apprehend the poachers.

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Global Warming Is Leaving Polar Bears Starving

Global Warming Is Leaving Polar Bears Starving

Polar bears have not been able to adapt to warmer summers in the Arctic which has meant that less food is available. Previously scientists thought that the bears would enter into a type of walking hibernation when deprived of food, however the latest research suggests that when food is scarce in hotter conditions, polar bears simply starve.

Lack of sea ice is the problem

The authors of the research says prospects for the species survival in a world which is much warmer are grim. In 2008, polar bears were listed as being a threatened species in the United States. Back then the government agency responsible for conservation highlighted the fact that the greatest threat the species faced is the dramatic decline in sea ice. Polar bears mainly feed on seals which are hunted on the sea ice. However because of the reduction in sea ice, there has been a reduction in seal numbers which means the bears are finding it hard to find food to feed on.

Walking hibernation

In the past some scientists have suggested that the polar bear would be able to survive with less food by entering into a state which they call walking hibernation which is very similar to the way many species of bear deal with the winter. Researchers embarked on a very dangerous and expensive trial to test this idea, attaching satellite collars and other tracking devices to track the movements of bears.

The study looked at over 24 bears in the in the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska and it was concluded during the summer months, the bears did not slow down and when food was in short supply, they simply starved.

“Their metabolism is very much like a typical food limited mammal rather than a hibernating bear. If you or I were to be food-limited for weeks on end we would look like the bears’ data.” said John Whiteman from the University of Wyoming.

Polar bears have an amazing ability to swim

Whilst the bears were unable to change how they behave when it comes to food, they do display an an amazing adaptation which enables them to swim in cold water. Polar bears can allow their outermost portion of the body to cool off which keeps their inner most vital organs protected said Dr. Whiteman. The researchers gave one example of the extraordinary swimming ability of polar bears with one female surviving a nine day, 400 mile swim from shore to ice. When the bear was next captured about two months later, she had lost 22 per cent of her body weight and a cub.

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Internet Expresses Outrage At The Death Of Cecil The Lion

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Last month an extremely popular lion in Zimbabwe known as Cecil, was killed just outside Hwange National Park sparking outrage across the internet. Authorities have identified the hunter as a dentist from Minnesota who paid US$55,000 for the privilege of killing Cecil. Apparently tour guides were said to have lured Cecil beyond the park boundaries at which point the hunter shot Cecil with a crossbow.

The lion was being studied

Cecil was a powerful 13 year old lion with a beautiful black mane. The lion was wearing a GPS collar at the time of his death which was attached as part of a study that was being conducted by Oxford University. Sadly Cecil’s body was found completely skinned on private property that lies adjacent to Hwange National Park.

Disbelief and anger

Cecil’s killing was met with disbelief by staff at Hwange and intense outrage by social networkers on the internet. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Cecil’s death was long and drawn out. Cecil was first wounded with a cross bow and was then tracked for another 40 hours before being shot with a rifle.

Hunter remains in hiding

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force says the hunting party made use of an animal carcass to get Cecil to leave the boundaries of the park and because he was wearing a GPS tracker, it was relatively easy to trace the final movements of the big cat. Many lions are lured to legal hunting zones before being killed, however authorities in Zimbabwe maintain this was an illegal hunt. So far they have arrested two individuals associated with the hunt, though the trigger man, Walter Palmer remains in hiding.

Cecil’s cubs are in danger

Cecil was very popular with tourists having become accustomed to them at Hwange National Park. He could often be found by the main road which was used by visitors making him the most photographed animal at the park and its icon. Cecil’s death means there is now a void in his pride which will be filled by another male. This means Cecil’s cubs are now in danger because the new alpha male will seek to establish his dominance over the pride by killing cubs in order to encourage the remaining females to mate.

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Zimbabwe To Re-Introduce Rhinos Into National Parks

Zimbabwe To Re-Introduce Rhinos Into National Parks

Zimbabwe is set to reintroduce rhinos into its second largest national park despite the fact that elephant poaching in the Gonarhezhou reserve is surging. The park which measures 5,053 square-kilometres will introduce 40 black rhinos over two years according to , Hugo van der Westhuizen of the Frankfurt Zoological Society which is working with the Zimbabwean authorities on the project.

“We would want to grow the number to a big number, but first we still have to address the issue of manpower on the ground. There is a lot of pressure of poachers coming from the Mozambican side.” Dr. van der Westhuizen said.

Only 700 rhinos left in Zimbabwe

Rhinos disappeared from the park during the 1930’s and 40’s due to hunting. There was an attempt to reintroduce the species during the 1970’s however those animals were killed by poachers and the species vanished from the region again by the beginning of the 90’s. There are 700 rhinos left in Zimbabwe today.

Poachers hunting rhino’s into extinction

Poachers coming in from Mozambique are already hunting the park’s population of elephants and this year have killed between 25-30 animals. Last year the park lost just 10 elephants according to Aaron Manyawi, a park ranger. Whilst elephants are primarily hunted for their ivory tusks, rhinos are targeted for their horns which many people in South East Asia erroneously believe cures cancer. Last year South Africa’s Kruger National Park lost 800 rhinos mainly to poachers crossing the border from Mozambique.

Conservation has had some success

Poachers don’t just shoot the animals, they also lace waterholes with poison Mr. Manyawi said. In Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Trust which is a private conservancy that contains both white and black rhinos, there are as many as 80 rangers that protect the animals through regular patrols. The white rhino is much larger than their black cousins.

Park numbers growing

The constant patrolling means that all the rhinos in the park are consistently tracked and identified. The trust has declined to reveal the exact number of rhinos in the park however they did say the population was growing by 8.6 per cent a year.

“We have had problems with poachers, but the situation is under control because of the effective conservation methods we have,” he said. “We still believe having men on the ground is the most effective way.” A spokesperson for the park said.

Black rhino running in this direction on Flickr

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Lions To Return To Rwanda after Twenty Year Absence

Lions To Return To Rwanda after Twenty Year Absence

After an absence of over two decades lions are set to return to Rwanda according to wildlife officials. The country’s population of the endangered species was completely wiped out following the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. The first intake of lions will include five females and two males which are being transported from South Africa to the Eastern Akagera National Park.

Lions lost after the genocide

The park is located on the border with Tanzania and measures 27,680 acres and officials say the reintroduction of lions represents a ground breaking conservation effort. Rwanda lost its lion population after the genocide in 1994 where an estimated 800,000 people were killed. Refugees fleeing the violence occupied a portion of the park which led to lions being displaced and killed as people sought to protect their livestock.

The lions that are being reintroduced come from parks South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. The parks from which they are being taken are relatively confined which means it is occasionally necessary for surplus lions to be removed. The seven lions making the move were chosen based on their future potential for reproduction and include a mix of genetic make-up and ages.

Conservation milestone

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, at the global level, the lion is considered a vulnerable species. In Eastern Africa, lion numbers have fallen rapidly despite historically being a stronghold for the species. The IUCN has warned that the trade in body parts which are used in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa is the main threat to the species. In Western Africa, lions are listed as critically endangered as a result of dwindling prey and over-hunting.

Whilst Akagera National Park is fenced the lions will still be fitted with satellite collars to ensure the animals do not wander into inhabited areas. The park says the collars have a two year life, at which point the park will have learned about the dynamics of the pride and will re-collar the dominant individuals. The park has plenty of wildlife diversity and potential prey for the lions and serves as home to many species of antelopes, buffaloes, zebras and giraffes as well as elephants and leopards.

Lions, Krugersdorp game reserve on Flickr

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IUCN Warns That Thousands Of Species At Risk Of Extinction

IUCN Warns That Thousands Of Species At Risk Of Extinction

A top conservation body is warning that there are almost 23,000 species that are at risk of going extinct including the world’s rarest sea lion as well the mighty African lion. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has updated its “Red List” of threatened species which has also shown some clear improvements in conservation of endangered species such as the Iberian Lynx. However the agency is warning that the number of successes has been dwarfed by a large number of declines in a range of species.

Animals increasingly vulnerable

IUCN chief Inger Andersen has warned of an increasing vulnerability of our natural world and is urging that we increase the efforts being made to save species that are most at risk of extinction. Ms. Andersen pointed to rising numbers of the Iberian Lynx which she says shows that effective conservation strategies can produce results which are truly outstanding.

The mighty lion is in danger

Whilst there have been some achievements, a number of other mammals have not done so well because of habitat destruction and hunting. On a global level, the lion is listed as a vulnerable species, in particular its Western African sub-population has been tagged as being “critically” endangered because of dwindling prey and over-hunting. There has also been an alarming fall in the number of lions in Eastern Africa which has historically been a stronghold for the species. The IUCN has warned that trade in body parts for traditional medicine in both Asia and Africa is the main threat to the species.

We could lose the New Zealand Sea Lion

The IUCN also drew attention to the African Golden Cat which is an extremely reclusive species that is about twice the size of a house cat and lives in Central Africa and is now listed as ‘vulnerable”. The IUCN has listed the New Zealand Sea Lion which is one of the world’s rarest species of sea lion as being endangered.

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Study Shows Kangaroos Are Left Handed

Study Shows Kangaroos Are Left Handed

A new study suggests that kangaroos in the wild tend to prefer using their left hands when performing common tasks such as feeding and grooming. The researchers arrived at their conclusion after spending many hours observing multiple wild species. They found two kangaroo species and one species of wallaby displaying a left handed tendency. Other species of marsupials which walk on all fours did not display the same tendency.

The study is important

The research was undertaken by scientists from the St. Petersburg State University who collaborated with Janeane Ingham from the University of Tasmania. Ms. Ingham said some of her colleagues questioned the value of studying left handed macropods however she rejects the criticism because such study contributes to the understanding of brain symmetry and mammalian evolution.

Handedness not unique to humans

Dr Yegor Malashichev the senior author of the study said the previously it was believed that handedness was unique to humans, however research conducted over the last couple of decades shows that asymmetry in brain structure and behaviour is in fact quite wide spread. He adds that examples of handedness tend to be attached to specific actions and were not consistent across the entire population.

“As one of our reviewers pointed out, laterality is also obvious in how parrots hold their food or how your dog shakes hands. But these examples of lateralisation have not been proven at the population level.” Ms Ingram said.

Parallel evolution

The results of the study showed that red-necked wallabies, red kangaroos and Eastern grey kangaroos all consistently displayed left-handed bias regardless of whether the animals were just propping themselves up, feeding or grooming. Dr Malashichev says their discovery is an example of what he calls “parallel evolution” because handedness appears in both placental mammals as well as marsupials which are not related in the evolutionary tree.

Posture is important

The authors of the study also suggest that posture is another important factor. The tendency to be left handed is only displayed in species that stand upright on their hind legs and use their front limbs for tasks besides walking. Another possible conclusion is that as primates evolved into an upright posture they also developed handedness. It is not immediately obviously whether there are specific aspects of the brain in marsupials which were responsible for developing handedness or can explain why kangaroos tend to be left handed whilst humans are predominantly right handed.

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Japanese Zoos And Aquariums Pledge To Stop Purchasing Live Dolphins From Taiji

Despite intense criticism of the hunting technique used, a news report says that roughly half of the live dolphins captured in the Japanese coastal town of Taiji were exported to China and other countries. The method is known as the “drive hunt” and has been criticised around the world as being cruel. The criticism was so intense that many Japanese zoos and aquariums were forced to pledge to refrain from buying animals captured through the controversial technique.

Dolphins sold all over the world

According to Kyodo News, an estimated 760 live dolphins were sold between 2009 and 2014 in Japan. The agency looked at data from the Japanese Fisheries Research Agency as well as other sources in order to come up with an estimate. The data suggests that 354 dolphins were sent to 12 countries, with 216 going to China, 35 to South Korea, 15 to Russia, 36 to Ukraine and a single dolphin went to the United States. Thailand, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Georgia, Tunisia, Egypt and the Philippines all took delivery of dolphins during the time frame.

Intense criticism

Data from the United Nations shows that all the dolphins that were exported from Japan between 2009 and 2013 almost entirely went to aquariums or zoos Kyodo news agency said. Live dolphins are supplied from Taiji which came to global attention following the Oscar winning documentary The Cove. The documentary shows pods of dolphins being forced into a bay and then slaughtered by knife in a mass killing which left the water red with blood.

Controversial hunting technique

Live dolphins are often captured as well and then sold on to zoos or aquariums that purchase them for about US$8,000. In May zoos and aquariums in Japan pledged to stop buying dolphins caught using the controversial technique as was demanded by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza). The pledge was in response to Waza’s suspension of the Japanese chapter in April over the issue.

Practice not economically viable

Waza considers drive hunting fishing “cruel”. This is where pods of cetaceans are herded into a bay using a wall of sound and then slaughtered. Local fisherman reject the charge. Most of the dolphins are slaughtered for food, however activists say there is not enough demand for the meat which is not very popular to make the hunt economically viable. Activists claims the high prices for live dolphins suggest they are only thing that sustain the hunt.

 

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The Last Surviving Central London Hedgehogs

Only a few hedgehogs remain in a central London park and they have managed to survive because they have learned to avoid busy roads according to the results of a new study. The species used to be extremely common throughout the UK but over the last 60 years their numbers have declined steeply largely as a result of road deaths.

Keeping clear of the roads

One of the places which has experience the largest declines is central London with its heavy traffic. These days very few remain in Regents Park, however there is still a small population that survives because they have learned to steer clear of the roads. The Royal Parks Foundation has tagged a number of hedgehogs living in the park and say they now have a decent idea of where they are going. There is no indication that the hedgehogs are leaving the park or crossing any of the main roads. Neither are there any records of any squashed hedgehogs around of the park.

Other parks have no hedgehog population

No hedgehogs are known to survive in the other four Royal Parks which include Kensington Gardens, Green, Hyde and St. James’s Park. Back in the 1970’s all five of the main central parks in London had hedgehog populations. It is estimated that there are now less than a million hedgehogs in the United Kingdom, down from 36.5 million in the 1950’s. The population of hedgehogs in Regents Park was discovered after a survey was conducted in 2014 by the Royal Parks Foundation. The discovery resulted in changes to the location and frequency of grass cutting to ensure the park was friendlier to the species.

“Last year’s research findings has led to a change in habitat management. Grassland adjacent to hedges will be left to grow longer to provide a richer environment for hedgehog foraging and nesting. The findings from Regent’s Park will also be shared with other urban green spaces to help with the creation of more hedgehog friendly-habitats.” Nick Biddle, park manager at Regent’s Park, said.

 

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