Friday, 13 April 2018

Birds may have the ability to see the Earth's magnetic fields

The mystery behind how birds navigate might finally be solved: it's not the iron in their beaks providing a magnetic compass, but a newly discovered protein in their eyes that lets them "see" Earth's magnetic fields.

These findings come courtesy of two new papers - one studying robins, the other zebra finches.

The fancy eye protein is called Cry4, and it's part of a class of proteins called cryptochromes - photoreceptors sensitive to blue light, found in both plants and animals. These proteins play a role in regulating circadian rhythms.

There's also been evidence in recent years that, in birds, the cryptochromes in their eyes are responsible for their ability to orient themselves by detecting magnetic fields, a sense called magnetoreception.

We know that birds can only sense magnetic fields if certain wavelengths of light are available - specifically, studies have shown that avian magnetoreception seems dependent on blue light.

This seems to confirm that the mechanism is a visual one, based in the cryptochromes.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Beijing philanthropist commits S$2 billion to wildlife conservation

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - This Saturday (Oct 14) in Monaco, He Qiaonv will announce the first step in a US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) plan that may represent the largest-ever personal philanthropic commitment to wildlife conservation.

The number isn't the only thing that's surprising about the announcement. The source might equally raise eyebrows: The donation isn't coming from a known Western conservationist like Paul Allen, but from a landscape planner-turned-environmental steward who's based in Beijing.

Madame He represents a new wave of self-made Chinese philanthropists unafraid to spend; her seven-year pledge stands at more than a third of her current US$3.6 billion net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

"(China is) pivoting to a new narrative in record speed," said Tom Kaplan, founder and chairman of Panthera, the leading wild cat conservation organization and He's first international partner. "Their (global) reputation has suffered by being viewed as the scourge of the elephant and tiger-and they want to reverse this."

Original article by Environmental Investigation Agency.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Goldfish produce alcohol to survive cold weather

Scientists have long wondered how goldfish and crucian carp can survive in ice covered lakes with little oxygen and then recover with no apparent ill effects when the weather warms up.

What they have discovered is that in low temperatures they can turn lactic acid in their bodies into alcohol. In the absence of oxygen, eating carbohydrates generates lactic acid which will kill them in high concentration, so the fish have a set of proteins that are activated in cold weather to produce the alcohol which is then excreted via the gills.

In normal times a different set of proteins send the carbohydrates to the mitochondria, where they are used to generate energy.

The longer the fish are in freezing airless conditions the higher the alcohol levels become. It can be above the legal drink drive limit of many countries. However you still very unlikely to get drunk eating them.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Lynx may be reintroduced to the UK

Plans to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx 1,300 years after it became extinct in the UK will be submitted soon, campaigners have said.

The Lynx UK Trust hopes to obtain six lynx from Sweden to reintroduce into the Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

The five year plan plan may go to Natural England by September.

It has been criticised by some residents and sheep farmers.
The scheme would see four to six lynx wearing radio tracking devices introduced, with Kielder chosen due to its dense woodland and low number of roads.

The trust said the animals would help control deer numbers as well provide a tourism boost.

Although farmers will naturally protest, I can't see the Lynx making much of an indent in sheep numbers, and I'm pretty sure they would get more than adequate compensation for their losses. They usually do.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Mountain gorilla population bounces back

The largest population of mountain gorillas in the world has grown to four times the size of its once-dwindling number, as poaching has become virtually non-existent in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The numbers have gradually increased from around 250 about 30 years ago to 1000 now, thanks to efforts to protect them from poachers. Only one has been poached since 2007.

The Viunga foundation a UK based charity, set up in 2005 has created a good atmosphere in the area by building schools and facilitating businesses and also run a $22 million hydroelectric project in the area which provides power and jobs. These investments have yielded tangible benefits to the people of North Kivu.

The foundation also boosted the salaries of park rangers to  $200 a month, which is eight times the average salary in DR Congo – to reduce the temptation for corruption.

Much credit must go to Chief Warden of Virunga National Park; Emmanuel de Merode.

Anthropologist, conservationist, pilot, Emmanuel worked to control the bushmeat trade and protect endangered wildlife in Central and Eastern Africa. His main focus has been support for African wildlife rangers in remote and difficult national parks and reserves. His work was primarily in the parks of eastern DRC, working to sustain the national parks through the DRC’s 15-year civil war.

In 2008 he was appointed by Congolese Government as Director for Virunga National Park. 360 rangers fall under his command and much of his work is focused on protecting the park’s exceptional wildlife, that include a critically important population of Mountain gorillas, elephants, okapis and chimpanzees.

Don't let them drill for oil in Virunga!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Donald Trump betrays all life on Earth

June 1st 2017 is a day to remember.

It's the day that Donald Trump sold out everyone, and I mean everyone, whether they support him or not, on the planet. 

He sold out you, he sold out your kids, and he sold out your grandkids, even the as yet unborn ones. 
He sold out the wildlife and he sold out the plants. Not one person or living form is unaffected.

He told us all - I don't give a toss about you, your future and the future of this planet. I just care about the here and now and I have no concern about wrecking this World for everyone.

How a supposedly intelligent human being can ignore the overwhelming evidence from all over the globe that the climate is changing, how he can ignore the melting glaciers, the rivers drying up, the encroaching deserts, the bleaching corals, the disappearing polar ice shelves the droughts and the storms, is beyond comprehension.

And how a supposedly intelligent population can be so blinkered and insular and self centred and ignorant in their view of the World and be taken in by him enough to vote him President of the United States of America simply beggars belief.

They have taken their country a giant step backwards, reverting to a mentality of 'I'm all right Jack so stuff you'. They have damaged the credibility and stature of the US and voted for all that is wrong in human nature.

I could weep for the blow he has delivered to this beautiful planet on this day.

I can only hope that sanity prevails soon and he is ousted before the damage is irreparable and catastrophe befalls us all. 

Take a look at Mars everyone.

 Ngorongoro Crater - Earth
 Gale Crater - Mars

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Climate change severely impacts endangered species

More than 700 currently Endangered species are being impacted by climate change, according to a major scientific review in Nature. Nearly half of the land mammals (47%) and 23% of birds on the IUCN Red list of endangerd species are negatively affected, particularly including some of our most iconic creatures like elephants and primates. The findings urge action to lessen the impact and safeguard the future of these important species by securing healthy and functioning environments.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Pangolin feast in China

An investigation will begin in China (where else)  after online images were found showing local officials enjoying a banquet of meat from pangolins – the most trafficked animal in the world.

Pangolin meat is regarded as a delicacy in China, and extravagant feasts are common to show great hospitality.

Pangolins are now very rare in Asia and are being wiped out in Africa to satisfy the demand in China for the meat as a luxury and the scales for Chinese medicine. Animals are often kept alive and have the scales ripped off them as needed.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

China announces a complete ban on its ivory trade by the end of 2017

On Friday December 30th China announced a complete ban on all ivory trade, and processing, to be implemented by the end of 2017.

The sale and processing of ivory by the first batch of traders will stop by 31st March 2017 and all registered traders will be phased out by the end of the year.

It is thought that 70%  of the trade in ivory takes place in China. Other big traders are Hong Kong and Japan, although the Japanese deny (wrongly) that there is any illegal ivory in their domestic market and state that they do not need to close it as it does not contribute to the poaching crisis.

International attention is now focusing on Japan, which voted against all CITES proposals to protect elephants. But a recent report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that the nation’s elephant tusk registration system is being subject to fraud and allows for poached tusks  from Africa to be sold legally in the domestic market.

Hong Kong has announced previously that it will also close its domestic market.

This is a massive step towards saving the elephant and for once I cannot praise the Chinese government enough for their decision.

However - let's hope that this does not simply mean that the trade will mushroom in other states such as Laos, Cambodia or Burma (Myanmar).

                                                                   "Thank you China"

Monday, 31 October 2016

We are in the sixth mass extinction

More than two thirds of the world's wildlife could be gone by the end of the decade if action isn't taken soon, a new report from the World Wildlife Fund revealed on Thursday.

Since 1970, there has already been a 58% overall decline in the numbers of fish, mammals, birds and reptiles worldwide, according to the WWF's latest bi-annual living planet index.
If accurate, that means wildlife across the globe is vanishing at a rate of 2% a year.
"This is definitely human impact, we're in the sixth mass extinction. There's only been five before this and we're definitely in the sixth," WWF conservation scientist Martin Taylor told CNN.