Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Pyrenean ibex, Baiji Dolphin, Western Black Rhinoceros and the Japanese River Otter have all recently been declared extinct. How long until the Giant Panda(Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is to join this list? With less than 2000 recorded in the wild and only a handful more in captivity, the Giant Pandas time, sadly, may come sooner rather than later if conservation efforts do not prove successful.

The Panda used to found in both lowland and mountainous areas across China; however deforestation and farming has restricted their natural habitat to the mountains in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. The broadleaf/coniferous forest areas in which the Pandas reside are often found so high up the mountains they are surrounded by clouds. As solitary animals, Pandas spend most of their lives alone, coming together only to mate, and communicating through scents and calls.

Tian Tian (Sweetie) at Edinburgh Zoo - Photo by Milca G photography (check out her facebook page link at bottom article)

Tian Tian (Sweetie) at Edinburgh Zoo – Photo by Milca G photography (check out her facebook page link at bottom article)

While their digestive system is designed for a carnivorous diet, they feed almost entirely of bamboo. Given the poor nutritional value of bamboo they have to eat very large quantities each day, up to a third of their own weight. This specialist diet is also a player in their endangerment due to the damage of bamboo forests limiting their habitat further. Occasionally they will eat small rodents and eggs, but this makes up only about 1% of their diet. The Panda is active both night and day and spends most of its time eating, finding food and sleeping.

A female Panda is only fertile for 2-3 days, once a year, and the duration of a pregnancy is varied. This leaves very little margin for error and if that window is missed, there is another years wait. A Panda will usually give birth to two young, however in the wild it is very common for only one to survive. There are reintroduction programs in place; however they have not seen much success over the years and Pandas numbers in the wild continue to decline.

Yang Guang (Sunshine), the male Panda at Edinburgh Zoo - Authors own

Yang Guang (Sunshine), the male Panda at Edinburgh Zoo – Authors own

These majestic creatures are currently listed as endangered and it looks to remain so for a very long time. One can only hope their situation does not get worse and we can sustain the wild population that is present with hopes of an increase over the years. The WWF, Chengdu Research Base, Pandas International etc are all organisations which work for Panda conservation worldwide. Zoo’s across the world are also involved in Panda conservation by means of raising money for research, sanctuaries and breeding programs, as well as being involved in breeding programs themselves.

The photos featured in this article were taken in Edinburgh Zoo this year. Edinburgh Zoo are one such zoo which aid in Giant Panda conservation by means of putting money back into conservation and educating their visitors about the Giant Panda. They are currently home to two beautiful Pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, with whom they are hoping to successfully breed from over the coming years while they are on loan. I one day hope to see Giant Pandas in the wild, but for now seeing them in Edinburgh was truly inspiring.

 

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Did you know that there are less than 1000 Bactrian Camels left in the wild? The number is currently estimated to be around 500-600. This is a startling number, considering how popular these two-humped ungulates are in zoos and circuses across the world, not to mention thousands of Bactrian camel herds which have been bred domestically over the years living in large herds (app 2million).

The wild Bactrian Camel is currently found only in Northwest China and in Southwest Mongolia (Gobi Desert).In order to survive the harsh conditions of their main habitat the Bactrian Camel features a double set of eyelashes, a hair lined inner ear and thin nostrils to protect against dust and sandstorms. After the harsh winters they can quickly shed their thick shaggy coats to adjust effectively to the changing seasons.

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Batrian Camel shedding lumps of fur for the warmer weather.

Food and water are not always readily available and the Camel has a great coping mechanism for this as well , being able to last sometimes for months on end without water. They do this by converting the fat stored in their two large humps into water when resources are scarce. It also helps that they can feed on dry and sometimes thorny plants that most herbivores avoid as well as drink salt water when fresh food and water are hard to find.

The Bactrian Camels demise is entirely down to human interference. The main reasons for their endangerment being: Habitat loss due to industrial development, and increasing human population forcing the mixing of wild populations and domestic herds. While they are masters of survival in their harsh habitats the battle against humans and extinction is proving one battle they may not win unless conservation efforts see a huge turn around in the future.

For more information on the conservation of the wonderful Bactrian Camel check out :

http://www.wildcamels.com/

http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=8

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Photo by Milca Gabb

Photo by Milca Gabb

The Burmese Python, native to South-East Asia, has established a healthy breeding population where they are not welcome, in Florida. This is thanks to the exotic pet trade which led to several of these giant constrictors escaping or being released into the wild over the course of the 20th century. It is now estimated that between 30,000 and 150,000 Burmese Pythons call the Everglades National Park their home meaning all sorts of trouble for the native inhabitants.

Photo by Milca Gabb

Photo by Milca Gabb

While Burmese Python populations continue to grow in Florida, declines have been recorded in potential prey species such as racoons, rabbits and opossums, a clear indication that this invasive species means trouble. They also eat birds, fish, amphibians, other reptiles and the older and larger Burms have been known to feast on deer. In response to identifying the Burmese Python as an invasive species it is now illegal to release exotic animals into the wild in the State of Florida and special hunting permits can be obtained to hunt listed invasive species and sell them for their skin and meat.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have recently initiated a new “plan” to control the number of Burmese Pythons: The Python Challenge. After registering, paying a $25 entrance fee and completing a 30 minute online training session anyone over the age of 18 can participate. Over 1000 people have signed up and are now equipped with a special hunting permit which allows them to hunt Burmese Pythons between the 12th January and the 12th February and submit their catch to be measured as part of the competition. The FWC figured this would make a great dent in Python numbers and increase awareness of the problem. So how are they doing so far?

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Photo by Milca Gabb

One week in and so far 21 Burmese Pythons have been killed. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the problem, never mind the probability that the majority of people doing the killing are just “regular Joes” out for a bit of fun. It is not hard to imagine that most of the Pythons killed will not go, for lack of a better word, “peacefully”. While I am all for species control and conservation, and recognise the seriousness of the problem in Florida, in my opinion, this was a terrible idea. As well as raising awareness to the problem of invasive species in Florida, this campaign is also increasing the popularity for hunting. Will all 1,000 + of these participants adhere to the rules and only kill Burmese Pythons in the requested way? I doubt it. The Python Challenge provides a lovely disguise for avid hunters to bag themselves some additional animals in the strict “no hunting zone” that is the Everglades.

The FWC need to sit down and come up with some better ideas, as it would appear that this one is already proving itself as a failure.

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(Nearly 2 months since my last post SORRY , I am going to blame it on Christmas 😉 )

Authors Own : Arnhem Zoo

Authors Own : Arnhem Zoo

South Africa is very well known for its Rhinoceros populations and it is no wonder given it is home to over ¾ of the worlds Rhinoceros. The five main species alive today are the White, Black, Javan, Sumatran and Indian Rhinoceros, with 3 of these 5 on the critically endangered list. As if the outlook wasn’t bad enough, poaching in South Africa is on a scary rise, putting the pressure on the already fragile White and Black species of rhinoceros.

2008: 83
2009: 112
2010: 333
2011: 448
2012: 668

The figures above represent the number of Rhino’s killed in South Africa over the last 5 years. In the short space of time between 2010 and 2012 the number of killings doubled. Frightening to think what 2013 could bring if poaching is not dealt with once and for all.

Authors Own : Blijdorp Zoo

Authors Own : Blijdorp Zoo

So why are so many Rhinos being killed every year? These strong and beautiful animals are being killed simply for their horns, which are in high demand in Asia (mainly China and Vietnam) for use in “medicine”. They believe they have great healing powers and most recently has become a popular hangover remedy in Vietnam. A Rhino horn consists mainly of keratin which has no medicinal value and is found in human hair, skin and nails. In other words, there is no reason for so much killing, you could eat some hair and it would be much the same effect as a Rhino horn.

 

Unfortunately it is difficult to educate when people are so bent on cultural traditions and the demand will be there for Rhino horns for some time, so the problem of poaching will ever increase alongside demand. How can we stop this? ? Provide better education for people living along side Rhinos and areas with a demand for Rhino horns, better security against poachers in high risk areas, stricter laws on the trading of Rhino horns and other body parts. These are all areas which need to be looked at, however for all this money will always be an issue.

2013s figure could easily hit 1000 if killing continue to increase like they have over the last couple of years , scary when you put it like that isn’t it ?

Authors Own: Chester Zoo

Authors Own: Chester Zoo

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(Sorry for the MASSIVE delay between posts, got a new job, big changes, no time :p )

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So the badgers are safe for another year. With the lack of research and evidence to support such an operation it is a relief to see they are going to give it a bit more thought. Fingers crossed they see sense by 2013!

If only the good news could continue, but this time, it is the Grey Seals in Canada that are taking the hit. In October, the Senate Committee in Fisheries announced they would endorse a four year plan for the culling of thousands (if not over a 100,000) Grey Seals in the Golf of St Lawrence in a bid to increase Cod stock. The fishing industry wants something done about the depletion in cod stocks and under the pressure, the seal cull, is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, “bright idea”. Getting to be a bit of a running theme this year, numbers in one species fall or money is threatened, cull down the unfortunate species that is being blamed.

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There is off course, as with the proposed badger cull in the UK, little evidence to support that a cut in seal numbers will lead to an increase in Cod numbers so how they can merit spending millions of dollars in the murder of the shy and un-deserving Grey seal, is a subject which angers me deeply. Am I alone on this? I would hardly think so. In fact better fishery management and sustainable fishing measurements in the first place would have prevented this and evidence would sway more towards over fishing then the seals being the main cause of a fall in Cod stocks.

As well as over fishing, the changes in the climates and the pollution of the earth’s waters would also play a big part in the drop in Cod numbers. With the use of common sense one cannot simply say that to cull a large number of the seal population in the Golf would boost the Cod stock and make for happy fishing once again. The Fisheries department and politicians need to take a serious look into the situation and carry out appropriate research before taking any action. In the UK, farmers called for answers to the TB situation and under pressure the badger cull solution was thrown out. This is turning out to be a very similar case and hopefully things will be researched properly in order to prevent the outrage and confusion that occurred in the summer with the badger cull proposal.

Early days on this, but hopefully there will be more information soon ( positive information). I will try and do a better job of keeping you all updated this time 😉

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Well this little guy hardly needs much of an introduction being a very popular feature in many zoo’s across the world. Unfortunately the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is currently listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red list. This means that we need to take extra care in conserving the Red Panda in its small pockets of damp high-altitude forests in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and southern China or it may be joining the “critically endangered” list all too soon.

The Red Panda is a very good climber using its specially adapted feet with rotatable ankles to control downward climbs. They have very strong claws which they use to grasp branches and leaves when feeding. Bamboo makes up the most part of their diet however they occasionally eat eggs, berries or fruit depending on the availability of their main food during foraging. Mostly nocturnal, they forage by night and sleep by day, spending the majority of their time in the trees.

Their main form of communication is by means of body language however they are usually a solitary animal, rarely interacting with other Red Pandas apart from during mating and when caring for young. Even though they are born very small, females have a considerably long gestation period of up to 135 days and usually only have one or two at a time. This also presents limitations in captive breeding programmes and makes the management of their habitat all the more important as they are fragile reproducers.

The main threats to Red Panda populations in the wild are: habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and inbreeding depression. While human populations increase, Red Panda populations decrease as the humans claim more and more of their habitats for their own. This unfortunately is not restricted to the Red Pandas but uncountable different species worldwide suffer a similar threat and many unique habitats are suffering under the pressure. Road construction, commercial logging, localized logging and clearing for farm lands, being just some of the culprits in the fragmentation of habitats.

Poaching does not present as serious a threat to the Red Panda as habitat loss; however it is still a big problem mainly in China. They are hunted mainly for their fur and their beautiful tails. Outside China they are usually only killed by accident, caught up in traps meant for other animals and shot occasionally because the opportunity was there, rather than being deliberately hunted for.

Research and Habitat protection are vital for the survival of this species. They are known to be shy and due to their nocturnal behaviour observation and data collection can be difficult, so it is important that population studies are fronted in order to get a clearer picture of this secretive animal’s lifestyle. The more known about the Red Panda, the easier it becomes to protect. There are several protected areas covering some of the Red Pandas habitats across their home countries, however not near enough if they are to thrive in the long term and get the management and protection they need.

If you want to know more you can visit the Red Panda Network webpage. They are an organisation that focuses on education, research and conservation. All of which are important in the protection of a species.

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The resent death of a male surfer, off the coast of Western Australia after being attacked by a Great White Shark has spurred a debate as to whether or not this, the biggest of the shark species, should remain protected. This is the fifth fatal attack in this area since the start of 2012, recorded as the highest fatality rate in a given area due to Great White attacks. This has caused a bit of friction between the local fisheries/politicians and conservationists.

The question is: Who has the right to freedom in the waters surrounding Western Australia? The fatalities are no doubt tragic and I sympathise with the families of the deceased however my vote in this instant goes to the shark. They have been around much longer than humans have and while its behaviour is surrounded with a lot more mystery then a lot of its shark relatives, study suggests that humans are not considered a food source by the Great Whites. Why should Great white Sharks be culled for safer human recreation when there are much bigger threats to people out there which are not natural? Sharks just do what sharks do best, swim around, and occasionally chomp down on anything that looks like a potential food source.

Biologists have researched shark attacks for years and have come up with a theory for why sharks attack humans. They are a curious animal and may simply be “test biting” objects that intrigue them. It does not lessen the risk to people in shark inhabited areas but at least shows they are not simply “out to get us” as the film Jaws has suggested to people for years. Politicians are also suggesting that the Great White Shark population is increasing and that the ban, that was introduced in 1999 to protect them, should now be lifted in order to reduce the number of attacks. Sharks are difficult to survey but there is no evidence as of yet to support this. Plus the 5 fatalities could simply be a once off in statistics and it is too soon to launch out an attack on the Great White Shark based on a bad year.

At the end of the day, the surfers know the risks, and if wise will take as many precautions one can against a Shark attack. Potential Shark attack zones should be clearly marked and then people can make up their own minds about the risks before entering the water. Let the Great White sharks be, seeing as they are still listed by ICUN as “endangered” and let’s try to not get another species extinct due to human greed.

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