Monday, January 26, 2015

Warming Arctic



Little Auks Adapt to Warming Arctic

Last month I gave you a little glimpse into my experience traveling to the Antarctic.
Today, I would like to take you to the opposite pole, to the Arctic, and share some recent findings by researchers who studied the Little Auk, a small black and white bird that is a so-called sentinel species, one that can be used as a proxy for the health of an entire ecosystem, much like the polar bear.  It is a fascinating story and video involving the migration of southern krill to the northern waters as the ocean waters warm and the glaciers melt.

So by studying this little bird, that looks kind of like a flying penguin, scientists are rethinking how polar ecosystems are changing in our warming world.


Little Auks [Copyright Hopkins]

In July of 2013, a team of scientists from France, Russia and the United States descended upon an uninhabited archipelago in the Russian Arctic called Franz-Josef Land, the northern most archipelago in the world. There they spent two months at Tikhaya Bay on Hooker Island, one of the archipelago’s 191 islands, tagging and studying a small black and white seabird called the little auk (Alle Alle), which nests on cliffs and dives for its dinner in the frigid water.

Their findings call into question some models of climate change impacts on polar ecosystems, argues David Grémillet, the lead scientist of the group, in research published in Global Change Biology in mid-January.

Given its remote high-Arctic location, Franz-Josef Land has long been considered a kind of Arctic Eden, sheltered from the impacts of climate change. Nearly 85 percent of its land mass is blanketed by glaciers and its islands are surrounded by extensive sea ice. But temperatures in the Arctic are rising, and are predicted to increase by as much as 14 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Grémillet and his colleagues wanted to measure how the ecosystem of this icy Arcadia is responding.


Little Auks in Franz-Joseph Land [Copyright Cory Richards]

They chose the little auk as a subject because it is a so-called sentinel species, one that can be used as a proxy for the health of an entire ecosystem, much like the polar bear. The most abundant seabird in the Atlantic Arctic, with over 40 million individuals, the little auk is a major part of the food chain in polar ecosystems. Previous research has suggested that the little auk is quite flexible in the face of changes to its environment. But Grémillet and his colleagues suspected the bird might reach a breaking point due to its high energy costs and metabolic rate, as well as a diet primarily made up of copepods—tiny crustaceans that are themselves highly reactive to changes in sea ice and water temperature.



 


Using remote sensing data, the scientists measured changes in the volume and area of sea ice and glaciers between 1979 and 2013. They also tagged a number of little auks from one colony with tiny electronic devices affixed to legs or breast feathers to track their foraging behavior. These devices, called miniaturized temperature–depth recorders, provided information on the depth and duration of every dive, as well as the hours spent each day gathering food. The researchers then compared current and historical data on the diet, body weight and chick growth of little auks at Franz-Josef Land.
The data they collected revealed some bad news and some good news. The bad news: Sea ice in the Franz-Josef archipelago has, in fact, retreated markedly during the last decade, disappearing entirely during summer by 2005—a harbinger of future conditions elsewhere in the Arctic Ocean. Coastal glaciers have also retreated, dumping large volumes of meltwater into the sea. The good news: while disappearing sea ice curtailed the birds’ traditional feeding grounds, retreating glaciers created new ones. The little auks were able to adapt, feeding at the boundaries where glacier melt discharged into coastal waters at Tikhaya Bay, close to the their breeding areas. Local zooplankton were shocked by cold temperatures and dramatic contrasts in salt concentrations between the fresh meltwater and saline oceans, making them easy prey. The little auks were able to maintain chick growth weights, while adults lost just 4% of body mass.

Frozen Franz-Joseph Land, August 2011 [Copyright NASA Earth Observatory]
The little auks’ adaptability in Franz-Josef raises questions about previous research on the birds. In a 2010 paper, Nina Karnovsky of Pomona College predicted that 40% of all little auks would disappear from the Atlantic Arctic by the end of the 21st century, Grémillet and his colleagues note. They argue that this prediction must now be revisited. They also call for further study of little auks at other Arctic geographies, to see if they are as adaptable as the ones making a home at Franz-Josef Land.
The Franz-Josef little auk findings support the conclusions of other recent research on Adélie penguins in the Antarctic and seabirds and marine mammals in Alaska that suggest glacial melt can, in some cases, compensate for disappearing sea ice to support new feeding habits, benefitting certain animals within an ecosystem, according to the authors of the paper.
“There is currently a huge demand for predicting the fate of Arctic biodiversity exposed to ongoing climate change,” the authors write. “At the species level, this is achieved by building habitat models.” But if the models don’t take certain environmental interactions into account, inaccurate predictions will be made.
This article is republished by EarthSky.org [with permission from GlacierHub. This post was written by Kristen French.]
 
Til next time,
Meggi
 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Antarctica


Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica, the Land of Ice - Penguins - Elephant seals - Albatross - and so much more

Magellanic Penguins

It was just about a year ago that I embarked on a long journey to Antarctica.  That was my second trip all the way to the tip of South America and then beyond.

It was a journey of many superlatives:  Seeing 500,000 King Penguins on a beach in South Georgia, experiencing the magnificence of the 9-foot wingspan of albatross when gliding over the water, hearing the King penguin chicks chirp to get food from the parents, maneuvering through a field of fur seals who can sometimes be aggressive, climbing up the uncharted hills to find the albatross nest and chicks, gliding soundlessly over the water when the zodiac's motor was shut off and just observing nature all around me.  There are many, many stories to tell but my memory all came back when I saw this National Geographic video by film maker Richard Sidey [all the way below], that I want to share together with some of my own images from this trip.

I visited the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.  I always said before the trip that the rough voyage through the Drake's Passage is the part of the price of entry - and although we only crossed through it on the return trip to Ushuaia, it was rough and I had never experienced breakers rolling all the way over the ship.  I stood on the captains bridge [behind glass] and felt at times I was under water.  Quite an experience.  I had taken enough antiemetic drugs to be able to be on my feet most of the time - I did not want to miss this!  During the 4+ weeks in the Southern Ocean, I was reminded how
beautiful unspoiled nature is.  Here the animals are not afraid of people, they are often actually curious.  Young elephant seals were approaching me when I sat still on the beach and King Penguins walked just by me, chatting all the way in their funny 'waddle' and 'talk'.  Words fall short of describing the incredible feeling of awe.  It was a journey of a lifetime!  And I feel thankful that I am healthy and fit to be able to journey into far away lands.  It gives me great pleasure to share just a glimpse of the incredible wildlife in the southern hemisphere.
Sit back and enjoy the images!

Cara Cara with chick, Falkland Island

Black-browed Albatross

Black-browed albatross - when these big birds take off, they run across the water until airborne

Juvenile Elephant Seas - a sleeping giant

Landing in Grytviken, South Georgia, in heavy snowfall.  
This is an old whaling station that is now a museum.

Magellanic Penguin

Antarctic Peninsula

Beautiful blue ice of a floating Iceberg

Squabbling Macaroni Penguins

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Just above Antarctica, off the island of South Georgia, lies a breeding hot spot for elephant seals and king penguins known as Gold Harbour.  Filmmaker Richard Sidey captures incredible raw footage and the natural sound of this wild bounty for part of his series, Speechless.  With the absence of narrative, the viewer is left to create their own narrative and their own experience, without being told what to think.  "It gives everyone the possibility of seeing these places for what they are without the restrictions of cost and the environmental impact,” he says.


This video was first published by National Geographic on 12 Dec 2014.
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Before I sign off for today, I want to thank all of my readers for their continued support, for your comments and notes - that make my day!  At times I wonder if my posts interest you, if anyone even reads them....  but finding a response from you in my inbox, makes all the efforts worthwhile.

Thank you!  You are a wonderful crowd.


As the year nears its end, I wish you a happy Holiday Season and health, fun, happy travel and all the best for the New Year 2015!  I hope to see you all sometime during the next year, maybe for a coffee, maybe for photographing together or just for a chat.

...til then,
Meggi


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PAWS-GoodBye to Annie

PAWS Says Goodbye to Beloved Asian Elephant Annie

Dear Friends,

It’s been a while that I shared stories from my travel and my wildlife conservation work with you.  In the fall, I spent almost 5 weeks in Europe visiting with family and celebrating my sister’s 70ties birthday.  It was nice to see the whole family together.  I further had a chance to travel to Turkey, Czech Republic and former East Germany, all places that were new to me.  Eventually, I will share my impressions and images with you. 

Once back, I had organized a Photo Walk at the PAWS Sanctuary [Performing Animals Welfare Society] in early November.  As most of you know I support the organization and offer these Photo Walks to raise awareness about issues surrounding animals in captivity.  Elephants suffer greatly in circuses and zoos.  PAWS has for the last 30 years given sanctuary not only for a variety of performing or captive animals including 39 tigers, but has created a wonderful habitat for 11 African and Asian elephants at the PAWS ARK 2000 in the Foothills of the Sierra.  Our group of 11 had a great day “Seeing the Elephants” and I will share some comments and a very insightful summary of the experience by one of my participants in my next blog.

Today though, I am saddened by the latest PAWS news [November 20, 2014] of the death of Annie, one of the Asian Elephants.  Please learn about her life in captivity in zoos prior to finding sanctuary at PAWS 1995.  Her last 20 years at PAWS were spend in an environment much closer to her natural needs with pastures to roam, a pond to swim and a warm barn with natural ground [not cement] to rest at night.  She was 55 when she succumbed to her severe arthritis and foot disease – a frequent affliction for captive elephants.  In the wild, these magnificent animals can live  to over 70 years, however, 55 years of age is old for a captive elephant.  Her last 20 years allowed her to gently age with dignity under the loving care at PAWS.

I remember Annie from my many visits at PAWS - here enjoying a “bath” from one of her keepers:



Rest in Peace, Annie, and be reunited with your natural family in elephant heaven.

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Below is the Newsletter released by PAWS on November 20, 2014:

PAWS Says Goodbye to Beloved Asian Elephant Annie

It is with very heavy hearts that we at PAWS share news of the passing of our dear friend, Asian elephant Annie - best known for her joyous romps in the lake that is part of our Asian elephant habitat at the ARK 2000 sanctuary. She had endured severe arthritis and foot disease, which gradually worsened over many years. After it became clear that the medications and treatments used to treat her chronic conditions were no longer providing relief, she was humanely euthanized on Tuesday, while lying on soft soil and surrounded by those who cared for and loved her. At age 55, she was among the oldest Asian elephants in North America.

"Everyone at PAWS will miss Annie. She was a very special elephant," said PAWS
president Ed Stewart. "I'm proud we were able to give her a peaceful and more natural life at the PAWS sanctuary for nearly 20 years. We restored her dignity and gave her the care and respect she deserved."

Annie was born in Assam, India, around 1960, and taken from her mother at a very early age for use in the zoo industry. She was immediately put on display in a zoo in Wisconsin, where she spent much of her life chained to a concrete floor.

In 1994, the nation was shocked by videos showing Annie and her companion Tammy being cruelly trained. While held by ropes and chains handlers "broke" the elephants, mercilessly beating them into submission. This was no undercover video; the zoo recorded the training session as instruction for other keepers. (This footage was included in the 2013 HBO documentary, "An Apology to Elephants," narrated by actress and comedienne - and friend of PAWS - Lily Tomlin.) Under public pressure, the zoo opted to relocate the elephants to PAWS. 

Annie arrived at PAWS in 1995, rescued from the Wisconsin zoo with Tammy, who passed away in 2003 at age 52 from chronic foot disease and arthritis - the leading causes of death for elephants in captivity. Despite their great intelligence and size, in captivity elephants are forced to live in small, barren enclosures that cause a multitude of physical and psychological harms. Their social, physical and psychological complexities may make them one of the most deprived of all captive wild animals.

Annie's life at the PAWS ARK 2000 sanctuary was far closer to what elephants naturally need. She had a sprawling habitat in which to roam, elephant companions, soft grass to lie down and nap on, and a lake in which she loved to bob, splash and swim. It was always a joy to see Annie enjoying her habitat - something we often shared with you on our Facebook page and on YouTube.

Over the years, Annie experienced a variety of health problems, including an injury caused by a bull elephant during forced mating. Her arthritis and foot problems had progressed, including a severe foot abscess. In 2012, Annie tested positive for tuberculosis, but never exhibited symptoms of the disease. Her general condition remained good, including normal appetite and weight, but Annie's arthritis and foot disease ultimately made movement unbearably painful for her. Tuberculosis has been diagnosed in many elephants used for circuses and to give rides, and in zoos such as the Oregon Zoo and St. Louis Zoo.

It is a sad fact that by the time most elephants come to PAWS they are suffering the debilitating effects of a life spent in inadequate captive conditions. Annie was no exception. Had she remained in her native home, she likely would have been leading a full and enriched life today, surrounded by a family of her own.

"Our job at PAWS is to restore dignity to captive elephants and, for elephants like Annie and Tammy, give them a life free from beatings and chains," explained Ed. "We did our best for them, and continue to make a significant difference in the lives of all the elephants and other wild animals under our care."

As is customary for all elephants that pass away at PAWS, a necropsy is being performed on Annie's remains by pathologists from U.C. Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and tissue samples sent to a laboratory. 

PAWS thanks everyone who has ever cared about and supported Annie and helped give her - and all of the wild animals at PAWS - a life of dignity, serenity, and love. On behalf of Annie and everyone at PAWS, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Annie goes swimming:


YouTube Video Published by PAWS on Jul 11, 2013


With quiet reflection and gratitude to PAWS,
Meggi

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Elephants-Ecosystem-Biodiversity

Why Should We Care?
Asian Elephants in Thailand Copyright M.Raeder-Photography

Brilliant 4 Minute Animation Will Convince Anyone why it’s Important to Protect Big Animals…Like Elephants

produced by www.Iworry.org






Elephants are great, right? You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who cringes at the sound of the word “elephant,” because frankly, these gentle giants are not only super cool and interesting, they’re also irresistibly adorable. Really the whole package for a creature we should want to protect…or so you would think.
Turns out not everyone on the planet is such a huge fan of elephants, or maybe they are–they’re just more concerned with the economic value of that elephant, than it’s intrinsic value as part of its native ecosystem. Elephants across Asia and Africa are being put in critical danger of extinction due to aggressive poaching related to the illegal ivory trade. While it may seem like a far off problem to those of us located in North America, the disappearance of elephants gradually impacts all life on Earth…making it our problem.
So, let’s say, for example, you live in Nebraska–why in the world would you need to take an interest in the protection of elephants? Saying “because we’re all connected” just doesn’t seem to do this point justice, so check out this video for the real science behind why you should care. If you don’t care “because we’re all connected,” maybe you will care because, well…”science.” P.s. it’s not just elephants, but all big animals too!
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I hope you enjoyed the video.  It really brings the importance of biodiversity home.  And let's not forget the same issues a prevelant wherever the habitat of wildlife is lost!
Til next time, Meggi
Elephants in the savanna in Tanzania, Copyright M.Raeder-Photography

Monday, August 18, 2014

Golden Gate Under Low Clouds



Golden Gate shrouded in low-hanging summer clouds

The best laid plans....

It was supposed to be an evening with great night photography at the Golden Gate during the blue hour, Palace of Fine Art and later at the Bay Bridge to see the moon rising in the late evening.  I had made these plans for an out-of-town visitors to whom I already explained that the city experiences more of a winter cold wind and fog during our summer days.  As I drove up on 280, the ominous clouds were unmistakable in the early afternoon pushing in from the ocean over the sunset district of the city.  From the high point at Divisadero, the business district was bathed in sunshine with only puffy clouds making it that far into the Bay.  As the afternoon proceeded the low cloud overcast pushed more and more over the city and into the Bay.

View through the North Tower from Battery Spencer

I hadn't been on Hawks Hill on a Saturday late afternoon in August - and the vista points along the road were not just packed but there was chaos on the road with the parking lots overloaded.  Walking up to Spencer Battery, we were greeting by fierce wind funneling into the Bay.  The tip of the Golden Gate towers previously still visible were progressively swallowed in clouds with more fog rolling in.  Timing our arrival before sunset, any hopes to catch the blue hour with the light coming on were blown in the wind or swallowed in fog!

It was time for alternative options!  By now the cloud cover extended pretty much all the way into the bay and maybe Fort Baker on the East side of the bridge would give us a better view.  Sandwiches, hot tea and granola bars bridged the time until the light fell.

Golden Gate shrouded under a low cloud ceiling

With all the moisture in the air, the warm colors of the night were reflected in the water.

Next alternate stop was the Palace of Fine Art with its reflection pond that invites any night photographer to stop and linger.

Palace of Fine Art

Forgetting moon rise at the Bay Bridge (!) our next stop was at the Legion of Honors.  I had photographed there in the past and experienced a nice reflection in the pond, but tonight the fountain was going giving us a different experience.

Legion of Honor

Horse and Rider Sculpture at the Legion of Honor

As midnight approached, I bid good bye to my friends.  Although I had planned quite a different evening the city of course offers many wonderful sights during the day and the night, and  I was happy that we captured some nice images at these alternate locations.

By now, Bill and Russ are back in the Midwest, but I am sure they will come back during the winter time when the skies are clear and we again can go out, and this time hopefully can capture the Golden Gate in 'better light" during the blue hour and into the night.

Until then, happy travel wherever your journey takes you!

Meggi



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wild Horse Roundup


Wild Horse and Mustang Roundup by BLM

Here is the latest news in the struggle to keep the wild horses and mustangs on the open public land in the West.  In the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, BLM just rounded up 124 wild horses in one day.  Once it is all over, more than 400 wild horses and mustangs will be removed and this is the end of wild horses in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.  Please read the report below published by Return to Freedom, a wild horse and mustang refuge in California.

Here is how the US Fish and Wildlife Services summarize the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge as follows:  [http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/sheldon/]

The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, protects more than half a million acres of high desert habitat for large wintering herds of pronghorn antelope, scattered bands of bighorn sheep, and a rich assortment of other wildlife. The landscape is vast, rugged, and punctuated with waterfalls, narrow gorges, and lush springs among rolling hills and expansive tablelands of sagebrush and mountain mahogany. Elevations on the refuge range from 4,100 to 7,200 feet. Annual precipitation rarely amounts to more than a dozen inches, creating a harsh environment where a wide variety of wildlife manages to thrive. Although established for the protection of wildlife and habitat, the refuge encompasses other interesting features. The remains of old homesteads and ranches intrigue visitors. The lure of fire opals draws miners and rock collectors to the Virgin Valley mining district. Geothermal hot springs create a refreshing oasis in the heart of the refuge. The refuge's mosaic of resources and public interests generates significant management challenges.

Latest update: July 14, 2014  -
I wonder whether the update already took out the wild horses in anticipation of this cruel roundup?



          photo: Steve Paige                                      

Mobile Users Click Link Below
"This wild horse was put down at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge on Aug 11, 2014 after being rounded from beyond the distant horizon. It was then pushed for miles by a team of helicopters on a injured leg."
- Steve Paige, reporting from the Sheldon Roundup
August 14, 2014
Return to Freedom Wild Horse Ranger Steve Paige is on site to bear witness to the Sheldon Roundup. The end of an era is ushered out by the deafening sound of the helicopter and the thundering hooves of panicked horses.
​In the first two days, 124 horses were rounded up and chased into traps to be sorted and separated, the beginning of the end of for these horses. Before its over, over 400 wild horses -- all that remain on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge -- will be gone. 
"Sheldon FWS managers have for years experimented with permanent sterilization on the horses there - they could have let those horses live out their lives on the Refuge. At one point they had decided to manage 150 horses there. Now none . . . all gone, another vital link to our living history wiped out" laments Return to Freedom Founder Neda DeMayo. "I look at our Sheldon herd - the 50 horses we took from the 2000 roundup - and I know that they are safe because of our work, but their wild relatives are not and that breaks my heart" DeMayo continues.
Here we see a noble bay stallion on the outside, trying to keep his family in tact in the midstof the chaos. His effort will be futile in the end. And though we worked to make sure that unscrupulous horse traders would not get their hands on the Sheldon horses, we cannot be certain of their fate. 
This cruel disposal of our wildlife has to end! Please stand with us and help us fight these senseless roundups. 
Support Our Advocacy Work and help us fight to keep wild horses IN THE WILD!
Become a Member and help us feed and care for the horses we've rescued from past roundups.
P.S.
Our voice is being heard in Wyoming! The BLM has delayed its Wyoming Roundup due to pressure from our lawsuit. We await the court's decision in this precedent setting case!

Return to Freedom is dedicated to protecting the freedom, diversity and habitat of America's wild horses through sanctuary, education, and conservation while enriching the human spirit through direct connection with the natural world.


It saddens me to file this report and to see the demise of the beautiful wild horses 
in yet another area of the West.

Meggi


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Here is a way to visit wild horses at Return to Freedom:



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wild Horses in the West


Last Light of the Day

The Battle over the Freedom of the Wild Horses in the West

News from Return to Freedom - Wild Mustang Sanctuary

A battle is raging in the west . . . America's wild horses are caught in the middle of greed, politics and fierce competition to lay claim to our natural resources and public lands. 
—  We're Bringing The Fight To Washington —

Return to Freedom Brings the Voice of the Public To Congress

Today will be much like any other day for Hopi - a Navajo stallion who was sold for ten cents a pound for his meat when we found him. That almost fatal day is long behind him and today, like yesterday, he will enjoy the companionship of his herd mates, the freedom to stretch his powerful legs as he gallops across the rolling hills of the sanctuary. He will have food and clean water and nothing or no one will threaten his life, his family or his home. That is the promise of the sanctuary. This safe haven that we work so hard to provide is only possible with your support. Thank you.

But 3000 miles away,our Founder Neda DeMayo will be leading a group of advocates through the halls of Congress today. Young and old alike have come from around the country as part of our Wild Horse Rangers program. This program provides members of the public with the education, information and direct experience they need to advocate effectively for our wild horses. The voice of the American people is what led to the creation of the 1971 Wild Horses and Burros Act. The act has been systematically dismantled over the years by special interest and corporate ranchers who want our public lands for their own profit. We're not going to stand by and let that happen. Today - our voices will be heard. And we won't stop here. We will keep lobbying Congress, attending roundups, and being the first line of defense against all that threatens our horses.  

Wild Horse Rangers is part of RTF's Advocacy In Action program designed to empower the public to advocate effectively for America's wild horses.


You can visit Return to Freedom and learn about the fate of the wild horse and mustangs in the West by joining me for a great Photo Tour  on August 23-24, 2014.  The wild mustangs are in the cross-hair of big ranching business, the BLM and other mining corporations who want the public land for their exploitation.


All details for the Photo Tour here.

Til next time, 
Meggi

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Barn Owl as Rodent Control

Barn Owl [M.Raeder-Photography]

Barn Owl as Rodent Control

In one of my recent Nature TidBits on April 24, 2014, I focused on the Monarch, a migratory butterfly, and how the extensive use of pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids [e.g. Roundup] has destroyed the monarch’s Milkweed habitat adjacent to mono-culture farms in the Midwest by 60%.  As a consequence, these beautiful butterflies have declined in numbers by 80%.  Butterflies and well as bees and other insects are pollinators and their decline directly effects the production of vegetable, fruits and nuts.  You might have heard of the devastating honey bee Colony Collapsing Disease that was identified in ~2004 and after much research and detective work, here too the neonicotinoids are the culprit.  Farmers say they need to use the pesticides to increase the yield of their crops, specifically those grown in monoculture.  Yet, 30% of our food needs to be pollinated by bees and insects to produce it.  So are we destroying the very mechanism that is necessary for food production?  There is an excellent documentary “Vanishing Bees” that tells the story of this honey bee crisis. 

Sometimes it feels there is no good news out there. 

But today I want to share two hopeful stories that show that there are ways to combat pests in a natural way:

One comes from Israel where the introduction of barn owls and kestrels has lead to the natural elimination of rodents that can destroy the harvest if unchecked.  The heavy use or rodendicites previously had almost eradicated the natural predators.  About 10 years ago, the barn owl was introduced again in Israel.  The excellent documentary “The Use of Barn Owls and Kestrels as Biological Control Agents” tells the remarkable journey to environmental-friendly farming and is very informative and worth watching.  These 2 voracious rodent predators work 24 hours a day:  the owls hunt at night and the kestrel by day and together they are eradicating thousands of crop destroying rodents!


The second story comes from the UK where 2014 turns out to be a highly successful year for the barn owls.  The British Trust for Ornithology estimates there are about 4,000 breeding pairs of barn owls in the UK helping to naturally reduce rodents in the farming areas.

The use of Barn Owls and Kestrels as Biological Control Agent


This film won first prize in the expert and instructive films category at the Agrofilm Festival held in 2011 at Nitra, Slovakia.
This award-winning film was produced by Yuval Dax.


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Barn owl bumper brood in Cambridgeshire celebrated - UK



Conservationists are celebrating after barn owls nesting at a Cambridgeshire farm hatched twice as many chicks as this time last spring. Three pairs of birds at Lark Rise farm have produced 17 chicks in total and may have a second brood this summer. The UK barn owl population was hit badly last year after a late spring.
[left image: Photo Credit Amir Ezer]




Vince Lea, from The Countryside Restoration Trust which runs the farm, said the brood was “the biggest ever” in the 12 years since the owls arrived.
“We had no owls in this area for a long time, then eventually they started to nest and generally we’d have about three chicks per pair each year,” he said.
“These record-breaking numbers of barn owl chicks are a direct result of the trust’s wildlife-friendly farming methods.  "The increase was “astonishing evidence of a comeback”, he added.
Meadows, grass margins and hedgerows had “helped create an ideal barn owl habitat”, Mr Lea said, as well as encouraging other wildlife including water voles – “their favorite snack” to the area.
Dead voles had been found stored in one of the three nesting boxes on the 450-acre (182 hectares) arable farm near Cambridge, which Mr Lea said was proof of an abundance of that species on the farm.
Double the number of chicks have been born at the farm compared to 2013.  But Colin Shawyer, from the Barn Owl Conservation Network, which monitors the species, said 2013 had been “an exceptionally poor breeding year”.    "Lark Rise’s brood is most definitely a sign that 2014 is going to be a good one for barn owls.   Two of the females have not gone into molt yet, which is a good sign they will attempt a second brood,” he said.
The British Trust for Ornithology estimates there are about 4,000 breeding pairs of barn owls in the UK, and lists their conservation status as “amber” indicating the species is, or has recently been, in decline.
This article was first published by BBC News Cambridgeshire.
[Ref: http://focusingonwildlife.com/]

Til next time,
Meggi

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Elephants-Keystone Species for Survival


I came across the below article by Lauren Shuttleworth of the Project Elephant and it is an excellent summary why we need to fight for the survival of the elephant, a keystone species.  Please read below how important the elephants are as ecosystems engineers:

 " In the African savannah, elephants push over and strip trees, making way for a plethora of grass species. The grass feeds the grazing herbivores such as zebra, antelope and buffalo, which in turn feed the carnivores, such as lions and leopards. Asian elephants and African Forest elephants are hugely important for seed dispersal, as they eat the fruit of various pant species and ‘deposit’ it across vast distances."

However the threats to their survival are numerous from habitat loss to poaching for ivory.

The excellent article below shows that the consequences of extinction of the elephants are wide ranging and impact our own survival.

Thank you to all of my readers for your interest and for helping making the planet a better world for all.

Til next time, 
Meggi

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Why Saving the Elephants Could Save the World

 by Lauren Shuttleworth;  Project Elephant

If the current rates of population decline continue, 
elephants will be lost from the wild within 12 years. 
A world without elephants is not one we want to live on!


I should probably begin this post by confessing that I am a huge animal lover (surprise!).
I care deeply about the welfare and conservation of all species, and believe that we should be invested in their protection simply because it is the right and just thing to do. Considering that human activity has contributed almost exclusively to endangerment, I think we have a moral responsibility to step up and take action. But outside of that, there are some key reasons as to why the preservation of particular species is seriously important. And in my somewhat biased opinion, one of the most significant of these animals is the elephant. The impact they have on the environment, national economies, international security and even the human spirit is so large that it has to be said; if we can save the elephants, we might just save the world. Here’s how:

Elephants are a Keystone Species, playing the role of Ecosystem Engineers.
To borrow the trusty Wikipedia definition, ‘a keystone species is a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance’. Basically, they play a critical role in the creation and survival of their ecosystem. And considering that elephants span across the African and Asian continents, we’re talking about a pretty large ecosystem indeed.

In the hierarchy of keystone species, elephants score the pretty cool job title of ‘Ecosystem Engineers’. In the African savannah, elephants push over and strip trees, making way for a plethora of grass species. The grass feeds the grazing herbivores such as zebra, antelope and buffalo, which in turn feed the carnivores, such as lions and leopards. Asian elephants and African Forest elephants are hugely important for seed dispersal, as they eat the fruit of various pant species and ‘deposit’ it across vast distances. In one study, it was found that elephants dispersed seeds over 57km, whereas most animals will just spread seeds a few hundred meters away from the source. This ensures the diversity and health of many of the world’s largest rainforests, which in turn are responsible for stabilising the climate of the ENTIRE WORLD. So elephants can pretty much add ‘Climate Change Superheros’ to their resume.

Eco-Tourism is a really, really big industry.
As outlined above, elephants are pretty essential to the health of their ecosystems. Without them, many other flora and fauna species would suffer – if not altogether perish. It’s easy to see the effect this would have on the eco-tourism industry, considering that millions of tourists travel to places in Africa and Asia each year, entirely for the purpose of viewing animals in the wild and experiencing the wonders of nature. In Africa, the eco-tourism industry is said to be worth some 50 billion dollars – hugely significant for many national economies and local communities. The Kenyan government has been particularly vocal about the economic impact of ivory poaching, claiming it threatens over 300,000 jobs alone.

Ivory poaching is funding terrorist organisations and international crime networks.
I’ve spoken before about the ties between ivory poaching and terrorist organizations and international criminal syndicates. The Somalia-based wing of Al-Qaeda raises $600,000 a month from poaching to fund its activities, as does Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army – the Ugandan rebel group notorious for abducting and enslaving children. Boko Haram – the group responsible for the recent kidnapping of 234 school girls in Nigeria – has also been explicitly identified as receiving funding from the ivory trade. A kilogram of ivory will sell for as much as $2,200 on the black market, and with a pair of bull tusks weighing around 120kg on average, that’s a hell of a lot of money. Chinese mafia organizations mostly do the buying and distributing of ivory once it has been obtained. If we can focus on putting an end to the demand of ivory through increased education and awareness in the Chinese market, as well as heighted protection in Africa, we would in turn dry up a significant portion of the funding for some of the world’s most notorious criminals.

Elephants hold a pretty special and powerful place in our hearts.
As our largest and perhaps most iconic land animal, elephants are revered across the world. Elephants are one of a handful of animals considered a flagship species, meaning they play an important role in promoting universal conservation awareness and engagement. By focusing on the protection of flagship species, organizations such as WWF are able conserve many other ‘umbrella’ species which share the same habitat or are vulnerable to similar threats. Additionally, it is the intelligence and human-like emotion of elephants that builds an important bridge of understanding for many people. Being able to relate to the social bonds and interactions of elephant brings an awareness that ALL animals are of importance, and that there right to live on this earth is as deserving and necessary as our own.

Published by Project Elephant
[Ref:  http://projectelephant.com.au]




Sunday, June 8, 2014

World Ocean Day 2014

Celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8, 2014



World Oceans Day is June 8 — it’s a time to celebrate the oceans and take steps to protect ocean health. Why celebrate the oceans? Whether you live on the coast or inland, we are all intimately connected to the oceans. The organizers of this year’s event are asking people to help spread awareness by taking a Selfie for the Sea. If you live near a beach, take a photograph of yourself cleaning it. Even if you don’t, try a selfie with a written promise to engage in an ocean-friendly activity. Post your photo to social media with the hashtag #WorldOceansDay.

Not into selfies? Just wear blue to celebrate the day!



A sticky-note stop animation made by one of our young World Oceans Day fans! 
Please share this World Oceans Day 2012 Sticky Note Stop Motion video.

Why celebrate Earth’s oceans at all? Whether you live near a coast, or not, we are all intimately connected with the oceans. Here are some of the ways:
  • Oceans cover 71% of Earth’s surface, and they hold 97% of our planet’s water.
  • The oceans help feed us and provide most of the oxygen that we breathe.
  • Oceans also play a key role in regulating the weather and climate. Water evaporating from the oceans falls inland as rain, which we then use to drink and grow crops.
  • A variety of life saving medicinal compounds including anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer drugs have been discovered in the oceans.
  • The oceans provide us with abundant opportunities for recreation and inspiration.

The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day is:
Together we have the power to protect the ocean.
Threats to the oceans include pollution, overfishing, invasive species, and rising ocean acidity due to the extensive use of fossil fuels. While these are indeed daunting problems, there are simple steps that you can to take to help protect the ocean.
For example, always recycle and use reusable water bottles and grocery bags to help reduce plastic pollution. You can reduce your carbon footprint by turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use and purchasing energy efficient products in the future. Making sustainable seafood choices is one of the most important things you can to do protect marine life, and there are now sustainable seafood guides available for many countries around the world.

Canada first proposed the concept for World Oceans Day in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In December 2008, a United Nations resolution designated June 8 of each year as World Oceans Day.

Visit: http://WorldOceansDay.org to learn more about this global day of celebration for our ocean!

[Ref: Also Published by EarthSky on Ocean Day, June 8, 2014 - http://earthsky.org/earth]