zondag 29 april 2012

Living up to their good luck: Rare Philippine turtles smuggled to Hong Kong returned to Manila

The original article can be found here

MANILA, Philippines — Turtles represent longevity and good luck, and that’s certainly true for 18 rare smuggled turtles that were returned from Hong Kong to their native Philippines.
Philippine Wildlife Bureau head Mundita Lim says the pond turtles were confiscated at the Hong Kong airport in February from a Chinese student, along with 13 more common box turtles.

Pond turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis) live only in forests on Palawan Island southwest of Manila. Only about 120 remain in the wild. Lim says they are prized as novelty pets or food.
Philippine officials took the unprecedented step of traveling to Hong Kong and retrieving the turtles because they are so rare. Palawan’s governor received the turtles at the Manila airport Friday.
The 18 will be rehabilitated before being released in the wild.

Chambal sanctuary a killing field for gharials

The original article can be found here

KANPUR: Illegal fishing in the National Chambal Sanctuary is killing endangered gharials like the one found dead in the Chambal river in Etawah on Thursday last. The tragedy continues unabated despite the fact that now there are very few gharials left in the region.

The gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) have been declared as a 'critically endangered specie' by the International Union For Conservation of Nature. The National Chambal Sanctuary, which falls in UP as well as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, is a known as a habitat for the endangered gharial and other aquatic animals. It is spread in an area of 5,000 sq km.

Experts say illegal fishing, using boat and synthetic net, is posing a serious threat to the endangered gharials nesting in the sanctuary. Only on Monday, a 16-ft-long gharial was found hacked into pieces at Lal Pura Khar in Bhareh area of Etawah and on Monday a boat and a large synthetic fishing net was seized by the forest department personnel of the National Chambal Sanctuary.

Such illegal practices are still on despite a ban on fishing by authorities in the sanctuary to ensure the safety of the aquatic animals. There is an urgent need to check the rampant killing of gharials and other rare aquatic animals, including dolphins and turtles and to strictly enforce the ban. Nesting of the endangered gharial have recently been sighted along the Chambal river, at present, there incubation period is underway and hatching of egg is expected to take place in the last week of May or first week of June, the National Chambal officials said.

"The female gharial lays 30 to 40 eggs in each nesting site. These eggs are incubated and hatched due to sand's heat. Then the baby gharials emerge from their eggs and creep into the river," the expert informed.

"Areas known for the notoriety of hunters start from Panchnada to Bansuri, which is nearly a 15 km of stretch, then from Siddhbaba temple upto Pali, a 6km spread of land downstream, besides from Barchauli to Kasauwa, Ranipurwa to Lakhanpurwa and from Gati to Kheda," said a forest department official. 

Most of these reptiles are victims of by-catch in fishing nets. Sand-mining also poses one of the most significant threats to gharials, Gangetic dolphins and turtles in the Chambal sanctuary. "What is more shocking is that these endangered aquatic species are being killed by fish poachers as these reptiles become victim of by-catch. Sand-mining is other illegal practice within the sanctuary, but there is no one to check those involved in the illegal trade," says Rajiv Chauhan, secretary, Society for Conservation of Nature.

He further informed that earlier there was a guard especially employed for guarding gharials in the region but the post has been lying vacant since the past eight-nine years following retirement of the previous staff.

Fishermen are active both in the upstream (Madhya Pradesh) and downstream in (Uttar Pradesh).

Another wildlife enthusiast claimed that big contractors are in cahoots with local fishermen and use them for fishing. "Such contractors are least bothered about the welfare of the environment and are using every possible means available to earn quick money," he said.

"This is a big problem and there's a lot of manpower needed to trap these illegal fishers. However, we will leave no stone unturn to check the illegal fishing practice to save endangered species," says Uma Shanker Dohre, Wild Life warden, while talking to TOI.

In 2007, from November till March 2008, more than 112 gharials died in the Chambal due to unknown reasons. Further investigations by the IVRI suggested the possibility of poisoning by metal pollutants. Just 200-300 gharials are believed to be left in the Chambal and Katarnia Ghat. All over India, there are 2,000-3,000 gharials left. 

Limbless amphibian species found

The original article can be found here

A UK-Indian team of scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of limbless amphibian.
The animal was identified by accident in the Western Ghats area in the state of Kerala, South India.
The specimens were found inside moist soil after digging the shrub-covered bank of a mountain stream.
The creature - about 168mm in length and pink in colour - belongs to an enigmatic, limbless group of amphibians known as the caecilians.
Ramachandran Kotharambath, lead author of the report, told the BBC Tamil Service that the animal was identified as a new species following extensive comparisons with other, similar examples from this amphibian group.
According to the researchers, specimens of the novel caecilian - named Gegeneophis primus - were collected during field works in two consecutive monsoons, first in October 2010 and then in August 2011.

The caecilians are an enigmatic group of limbless amphibians

They were discovered at a valley on a plantation in the Wynad district of Kerala.
Active collaboration The new finding was made as part of a longstanding research collaboration between the department of zoology at the University of Kerala and London's Natural History Museum. The Central University at Kasargod in Kerala also contributed to of the discovery.
The finding has been reported in the latest edition of the academic journal Zootaxa.

The wider distribution, natural history and habitat preferences of the species are yet to be determined.
The discovery of this species indicates that the caecilian amphibians might have great diversity all along the Western Ghats area said Mr Ramachandran.
"The discovery on a plantation points out that these elusive animals are very vulnerable to anthropogenic activities and are living silently right under our feet," he explained
The new species do not face any immediate threat as long as the habitat structure is maintained, according to the scientists.
They also say that they need to know how far and wide this species is distributed and what are the habitat requirements.
Though these tiny amphibians are at least safe now, any major modification in the plantation structure could dangerously affect the species survival, said Mr Ramachandran
Co-author Dr Oommen says the discovery was significant since the finding ended a hiatus of almost half-a-century. "It highlights the fact that the knowledge of caecilian amphibians of the Western Ghats remains incomplete and in need of further study."

More about these animals

dinsdag 24 april 2012


RATTLESNAKE TORTURED for Photo Opportunity in Apache

This rattlesnake was tortured for photo opportunities in Apache, Oklahoma. They freeze the snakes (which starts the crystallization of their blood) and then sew their mouths shut. Snakes are then used like props for photos and are left baking in the hot sun all weekend long. Snakes feel pain and suffer just like any other living being does.
Rattlesnake roundups & felony animal cruelty are OK in Oklahoma? THIS weekend in Waurika & Waynoka, Oklahoma they will hold their annual rattlesnake roundups. Waurika is one of the towns where they have sewn snake mouths shut & put them on display. To help put an end to rattlesnake roundups and to learn more about them please visit these sites and share this with others...

People who do this should be put in a freezer for three days...


donderdag 19 april 2012

A turtle baby boom

The original article can be found here

Green Turtle nesting boom in Philippines

A turtle baby boom on the Baguan Island of Turtle Islands in the Philippines has produced a record 1.4 million eggs according to Conservation International (CI) Philippines citing figures from the Department of Environment and Resources (DENR).
In 2011, a total of 14,220 Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests were counted on Baguan Island, the highest number since recording at the site began in 1984. This adds up to over 1.44 million eggs which will provide a huge boost to the population of the Green Turtle which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
“1.44 million green turtle eggs in one year is an astounding number for a nesting beach that’s only a little over one kilometer in length. This definitely presents great hope for boosting green turtle populations,” said Romeo Trono, CI Philippines Country Executive Director and IUCN SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group Member. “With an average of 90% hatching success and 1% survival rate up to sexual maturity, Baguan in 2011 alone could contribute up to 13,000 to the adult turtle population.”
Baguan is one of the nine islands in the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected area (TIHPA), a protected area which is jointly managed by two countries; Malaysia and the Philippines. Baguan is one of six islands in the Philippines’ Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctaury and there are three islands located in Malaysia’s Sabah Turtle Islands Park (TIP).

The nesting success has been attributed to the combined conservation efforts of CI Philippines, DENR, local government and the Malaysian park management authority Sabah Parks. A protection area was set up around Baguan and law enforcement to prevent poaching, egg collection and habitat destruction was strengthened by training park wardens, law enforcers and community volunteers. Patrolling efforts were also increased and the enforcements team included officers from the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy Marines.
“Bold protection measures such as the establishment of Baguan no-take zone and the complete protection status of the Turtle Islands Park in Sabah have been instrumental in ensuring a safe haven for turtles while other beaches in the region were being lost to coastal development,” says Dr. Nicolas Pilcher, director of Sabah-based Marine Research Foundation and Co-Chair of the
International Union for Conservation of the Nature Marine Turtle Specialist Group.
Dr Nicolas Pilcher and Romeo Trono, who are both members of the IUCN SSC Marine Turtles Specialist Group, along with Dr. Mundita Lim and Renato Cruz at DENR, Joel Palma at WWF Philippines and Paul Basintal at Sabah Parks, who are all also members of the IUCN SSC Marine Turtles Specialist Group, have been leading turtle conservation projects in Malaysia and the Philippines for over 20 years. They have worked closely to link government agencies and NGOs and have developed a joint network of protected areas to safeguard turtles at all stages of their life cycles. Records kept by DENR show there are more Green Turtle nests on Baguan when the area is protected proving that conservation action and protection can work.
“The hatchlings that emerge from the Turtle Islands still face great risks throughout their lives as they journey through the ocean,” added Romeo Trono, “but at least here in the Turtle Islands, we are determined to provide them with a good start.”

Related links:

International Union for Conservation of Nature Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

Frogs at front of germ warfare

A TINY frog that lives in the rainforests of North Queensland could provide humans with a cure for deadly bacterial diseases. 

Nuclear scientists are searching for ways to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as golden staph, which kills thousands of hospital patients each year.
They have found chemicals secreted from the skin of two amphibians, the Australian green-eyed tree frog and the growling grass frog, can form a defence to the bacteria.
The cutting-edge research is being carried out at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation's nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney.
Melbourne University Professor Frances Separovic, who is leading the project team, said they had characterised several small proteins - known as peptides - from the skin glands of the frogs, which had been found to host defence compounds with strong antibacterial activity.
The peptides work by attacking the membranes of unwanted bacteria found on the frogs' skin, killing them before they can present a danger to the frog.
HOPE: Researchers hope frogs can help
unlock a cure for deadly bacterial diseases.
Litoria genimaculata

"By understanding their 3D structure and mechanism of action at the molecular level, we may be able to increase their antibiotic potency or antimicrobial potency and specificity," Prof Separovic said.
The nuclear reactor is being used to analyse, on a molecular level, how and why peptides from the frog skin secretions work, and how well they can kill bacterial cells.
"Given that we don't want them to attack healthy human or frog cells, we also need to establish whether and how these antimicrobial peptides are selective for bacterial cells," Prof Separovic said.
It is hope the research will be completed by the end of the year, providing a blueprint for scientists to develop new drugs that can combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The two frog species have been selected for the project, as the skin secretions from the animals are known to protect the frogs against a broad range of bacteria.
The green-eyed tree frog, also known as the tapping green-eyed frog, lives in rainforests in North Queensland, often found near rocky creeks.
The species gets its name from the brilliant green colour over the brow of each eye. The frog grows to about 7cm long. It has adapted its appearance to blend in with the moss-covered forests, with most having a brownish-green body with rust-coloured blotches that match the lichen-covered rocks of the creeks and streams of its habitat.

zondag 15 april 2012

Despite Deadly Fungus, Frog Imports Continue

A clerk serving Cantonese-speaking customers at a cluttered market in San Francisco’s Chinatown reached into a tub of American bullfrogs. She drew a one-pound frog from the top of the pile. She whacked its head, sliced its neck and placed its body in a plastic grocery bag.
The frog cost about $4. If it was sautéed, stir-fried or cooked in a clay pot and served with rice and vegetables, it could provide enough poultry-flavored white meat for a meal for at least two people.
Tests on the bullfrog by Raul Figueroa, a researcher at San Francisco State University, confirmed that it was infected with an invisible but virulent fungus. The chytrid skin fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or B.d., is harmless to humans but may have wiped out hundreds of amphibian species. Two other bullfrogs that The Bay Citizen bought from other Chinatown markets also tested positive.
The disease appears to affect only amphibians, and some species are immune to its effects while others succumb rapidly. It causes the amphibians’ skin to thicken and leads to cardiac arrest.
American bullfrogs are native to eastern North America but are reared in factory farms around the world. Two million bullfrogs are imported into the Bay Area every year, according to federal import records, and millions more are shipped to other major cities.
Scientists and conservationists fear that the global trade could lead to the extinction of countless species of frogs and salamanders. Amphibians play subtle but substantial roles in California’s ecosystem, eating insects and feeding wildlife.
American bullfrogs are an invasive species in California. State law requires markets to kill the bullfrogs when they are sold, although pet stores are allowed to sell them alive. Yet the bullfrogs make their way into rivers and lakes, where they spread the disease and devour everything from native tadpoles to ducklings.
Some of the bullfrogs that are free in the Bay Area are former pets. Buddhists may have released others during traditional ceremonies that liberate living creatures. Once in the environment, the frogs can reproduce.
Efforts to ban the live bullfrog imports have been strenuously opposed by Chinese-American leaders who defend their communities’ rights to a traditional part of their diet.
A study of 493 fresh-bought frogs from San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York found that 62 percent were infected with the chytrid fungus.
“We don’t know if the bullfrogs contributed to the introduction of B.d. into the U.S.,” said Lisa M. Schloegel, a disease ecologist and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Biological Conservation in 2009. “But the bullfrogs are a constant source of infection.”
Vance T. Vredenburg, a biology professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in amphibians. said he had seen “literally hundreds, and tens of thousands” of dead animals on the shorelines of lakes. “With this fungus pathogen, we have something the world has never seen before,” he said. “It’s jumping from species to species to species, and we have very little predictability about what species it’s going to have an effect on.”
American bullfrogs survive the pathogen but can transfer the fungus spores to other, less fortunate species. The fungus has torn through the Sierra Nevada, leaving the once-abundant mountain yellow-legged frogs on the brink of extinction. 

Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen
More than half the frogs imported into San Francisco
every year carry the chytrid skin fungus.

Proposals to ban the live imports into California were initially pushed forward by conservationists and animal rights groups in the mid-1990s. A few years later, scientists perplexed by worldwide amphibian deaths discovered B.d.
Assemblyman Paul Fong, Democrat of Cupertino, who championed a bill last year that outlawed the sale of shark fins, opposes a ban on live frog imports. So does Senator Leland Yee, Democrat of San Francisco.
“It’s a food stock that many Chinese-Americans rely on,” Mr. Yee said.
Pius Lee, chairman of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association in San Francisco, said he warned Buddhists that “pro-animal groups are watching you” and suggested they free animals from containers without releasing them into the wild.
But Kerry Kriger, an ecologist who founded the Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Save the Frogs after studying B.d. in Australia, said regulations were needed.
“People set them free on purpose. They escape, and the water they’re held in has chytrid in it — and that gets flushed out into the environment,” Dr. Kriger said. “You can ship in as much chytrid fungus into the United States as you want right now, and that’s what people do with the bullfrogs.”